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with it the minutest distinctions in subjects the most abstruse. Wherever men thought and reasoned, and availed themselves of the labors of others, it was impossible that the Greek literature should not find its way. As long as it is the law of the mind to seek the best things that have ever been said on any subject, it is impossible that the Greek language and literature should not be the literature of the civilized world. Such is the language in which it pleased Divine Providence that the New Testament should be written. Of the causes which led to this result I shall speak in the next lecture.
Wherever this literature came, it produced a greater revolution than conquest or political institutions. It quickened mind, it produced an intellectual regeneration. It invaded the indolent and dreamy despotisms of Asia, and shook to the centre the mouldering fabrics of their ancient superstitions. It found its way into Egypt, and supplying that nation with a written language, divulged among the people that knowledge, which the priests had so carefully kept from them, and made the means of keeping them enslaved. It was carried by conquest into Judea. It enriched the Jewish mind, already possessing the pearl of great price in the knowledge of the true God, with a wide circle of ideas hitherto unknown. It led them to regard their sacred writings with the eye of philosophical speculation, as well as implicit belief. It made to them the great truths of their religion the subjects of reasonable conviction instead of dogmatic inculcation, and based their faith on individual persuasion rather than traditionary authority. It led them to see that their law was founded on the reason of things, instead of arbitrary enactment, and seeing the object of its forms and ceremonies, they perceived that it was possible to attain that object by a shorter and simpler process. Thus the Grecian philosophy served to prepare the Jews themselves for the coming of the Messiah, to appreciate and comprehend that sublime and spiritual teaching, which left not only their own law, but the sublimest flights of heathen wisdom far behind, and made them feel when they heard his wonderful discourses that they were listening to a teacher, who spake as never man spake.
The surprising development of mind which took place in Greece, and the vast extension of human knowledge, contributed to prepare the world for Christ and his religion in another way. It opened the eyes of mankind to the falsehood, the folly, and the abominations of the pagan religions. Before that period the strong religious faith and affections of mankind fixed themselves upon the imaginary deities of the heathen world. Their faith in them was real and practical. By their providence they thought all things to be governed, to them they thought themselves responsible by the indissoluble obligations of their moral nature. He was considered impious, who did not recognize his allegiance by prayer and sacrifice, by libation and festival. To these things the common people were strongly attached by long accustomed habit and hereditary veneration. It was this religious belief, erroneous as it was, which gave sanction to oaths, and cemented those moral ties by which the very elements of society are kept together. On the pillars of a false religion then, was sustained not only the lesser fabric of private society, but the vast edifice of the state. He then, who called in question the religion of his country, was thought not only irreligious, but unpatriotic, not only an impious but a dangerous man.
Not only so; the people, when they saw their religious belief called in question, not only felt themselves endangered, but insulted; for no injury ever excites a more bitter and unrelenting resentment than to call a man and his ancestors fools.
But it was impossible for Paganism to bear the examination of an enlightened mind. No man, who had reflected at all upon the necessary nature and attributes of the Designer, the Creator, the Sustainer, and Governor of all things, could worship as that perfect, eternal, and unchangeable Spirit, Jupiter the son of Saturn, who himself had once been a man and reigned in Crete. As men's minds became more and more informed, the silly legends which were related of their deities must have seemed more and more absurd and ridiculous. The consequence was, that the discrepancy gradually became so great between the necessary deductions of reason and the dogmas of popular faith, that the more intelligent not only rejected the commonly accepted opinions, but repudiated all religious convictions. Thus Paganism became a hindrance to religion instead of an aid. In this state of things the only use that was made of it was as an engine of state. The superstitious fears of men were used to keep them in order, and grave philosophers and official dignitaries were seen to bear a part in religious rites, which they secretly smiled at, and inwardly despised. Such a state of things could not long continue, and as mass after mass rose to an intellectual level which enabled them to see through the delusion, their religious ceremonies must just as fast have lost all reverence; and that which was once sacred must have become contemptible. The condition of things then had come precisely to this, that the more enlightened part of the heathen world must have a better religion or none at all. At that juncture the Almighty saw fit to interpose, and establish a religion in the world, which would satisfy the religious wants of man, and fill all his best conceptions in all stages of his advancement to the end of
time. When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son."
Those great and gifted men, whom God raised up as the agents in bringing about this vast advancement in the intellectual condition of the world, deserve the grateful commemoration of mankind. Though favored by no supernatural illumination, they made the best use of the light which was accorded to them, “they did what they could," and they accomplished much. I count it no irreverence to mention their names in this place consecrated to the teaching of the religion of Christ. I would not violate the reverence which all who cherish our common faith bear to the sacred and venerable name of Jesus, by exalting those men to a level with him, or by depressing him to an equality with them. To me, as I hope to you, the name of Jesus has a sacredness, which I feel for none except the Infinite Jehovah alone. He has been exalted by
. God to a dignity altogether unapproached. To me " there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” These men stood up as the interpreters of Nature. To us Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. They were the teachers of human wisdom. In Jesus dwelt the Wisdom and Word of God. They dealt in dim and fallible probabilities. Jesus knew and demonstrated by miracle, that his doctrine was from God. They of their own wills established a few schools of philoso