Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees ;
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates uns pent*.

In conformity with this doctrine, we find some of the Stoics, after proving the existence and providence of God, from the beauty and order of the works that are made, gravely maintaining that the world is an animal,

-reasonable, wise, and happy, and therefore is God. On this principle, whatever parts of the universe they chose to deify, were parts of God, and therefore entitled to religious worship. They themselves also, and their fellow-creatures, were parts of the divinity, a notion which tended to produce that pride and selfsufficiency for which the Stoics were so highly distinguished. On this absurd, but, to minds darkened and vain in their imaginations most plausible, ground, did the wisest and the best philosophers of antiquity advocate the system of polytheism and idol worshipa system which is so totally at variance with what we deem the light of nature, which was composed of rites, foolish, indecent, and cruel, and which sanctioned the grossest licentiousness and immorality. wonder that an apostle should think it necessary to caution the disciples of christianity to beware lest any man should spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit?

The history of the ancient world does not furnish us with a single example of a philosopher who at

Need we

* I am far from wishing to bring against the poet the charge of Spinosism and Pantheism. I have quoted his lines, because they are suscepti. ble of furnishing an illustration of the doctriue of the Anima Mundi to those who are unacquainted with it. See Note B.

tempted to turn men from the worship of images, statues, and dumb idols, to that of the living and true God. The accusation with which Socrates was charged, and which led to his condemnation and death, was not, that he dissuaded the people from worshipping the gods appointed by law, but that he himself did not esteem those to be gods which the city of Athens regarded as such, and that he introduced other new gods. It is mortifying to relate, that this great man on the day of his death, alluded to a hymn which he had composed in his prison-house to the idol Apollo. The doctrine which he and all other philosophers held, was, that all men should worship the gods of their respective countries: nor did they forget to reduce this maxim to practice, when they assumed the character of legislators, by prescribing to the people the giving of religious homage to a multitude of deities. When we remember that every man in those times who had any pretensions to letters, in all the ranks and offices of life, whether in the senate or at the bar, in the

army or upon the throne, was a disciple of one of the philosophical sects, and, consequently, the advocate for the established system of polytheism and idolatry,—that this system was interwoven with the civil constitution of every government in the world but one, and, therefore, had the power of the prince and the magistrate in its support,--that it had the aid and the influence of a priesthood that was neither unconcerned nor disinterested as to its continuance, and that the whole of mankind were its auxiliaries in the feelings of veneration for that supposed sanctity which it awakened, and in the base and potent passions for which it furs

nished gratification, we may form some feeble conception of the extent of that darkness that covered the earth when our Lord appeared, and of the gross darkness that covered the people. Yet, it was against this system, advocated by philosophers, entwined around the throne of princes, authorized by the laws, enforced by the magistrate, venerable from age, captivating to the senses, and having in its favour the full flow of public opinion, that the apostles of Christ went forth, unpatronised, unprotected, with no power to shield them but that of God, with no advantages, but the endowments of the Holy Spirit, with no weapon

but eternal truth, and with no less an aim than the entire subversion of idolatry over the world, by turning men from darkness to light, and from the dominion of Satan to the service of the living and true God. Their success proves that they were in reality what they professed to be,—the servants of the Most High God, commissioned to shew unto men the way of salvation.

Section V.-The Inexcusableness of Mankind in be

coming, and in remaining, Idolaters.

[ocr errors]

This is repeatedly intimated by the Apostle Paul; and their inexcusableness is stated as the ground of their having been given up to judicial blindness and insensibility. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them; so that they are without excuse. Their inexcusableness appears from the advantages which all mankind derived from the early revelation which

God made concerning himself, and the way in which he is to be worshipped ; from the manifold attestations of his being, perfections, and providence which the constitution of nature, and the order and government of the world, afford; and from the standing memorial of the character and majesty of the living God, exhibited to the nations in the selection and distinct preservation of the Jewish people, in the enjoyment of his ordinances and laws. On these grounds it can be proved, that at no time did God leave himself without a witness; that the apostasy of mankind, from the knowledge and worship of God to polytheism and idolatry, arose from the alienation and corruption of the heart; and that as it was wilful, it was therefore most culpable.

They had advantages from the early revelation which God made of himself, and of the way in which he is to be worshipped.

After the fall there was a series of divine communications made to Adam, and Noah, and others, the full benefit of which the whole human race enjoyed previously to their dispersion over the globe. In these communications the elements of what afterwards was more fully revealed were made known to them,—the holiness and mercy of God; the fallen and guilty condition of man; the forgiveness and reconciliation with God which they might obtain; the way of salvation through that great Deliverer, styled “the seed of the woman,” who should come into the world to redeem them; and the efficacy of his death, typified by the institution of sacrifice. These principles of divine truth the family of mankind carried with them when they separated on the plains of

Shinar, and went forth on the right and on the left to inhabit that earth which the bounty of the Creator had given them. It would then be their duty, and doubtless many performed it, to transmit the knowledge of divine things thus obtained to their posterity, that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children; that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. The impression of them would be cherished with delight and studious diligence by all who had any sense of their value; and through them the way of salvation would be made known in regions where the written record of the will of God may not yet have reached.

These impressions should have been maintained, if not deepened, by the legible characters of power, wisdom, and goodness, exhibited in the works of creation, and in the order of providence. That the consideration of these works, and of this order, sug. gests the idea of the universal presence, and the boundless benignity of the Lord and sovereign Ruler of all, has scarcely ever been disputed, and cannot be denied. “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth forth his handy work.” The constitution of man, in his corporeal and mental frame, without proceeding to the examination of the earth, the elements, and the lower animals, affords numerous and ever-recurring proofs that the Almighty Maker is infinite in intelligence, and that there is no searching of his understanding. The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly

« ElőzőTovább »