Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

worship, formed it agreeably to that model, which the poets gave. Whether the poets invented these fictions, or only gave them a more alluring dress, I pretend not to determine, though the latter is probable. All that I would be understood to assert, is, that the religion adopted by the mass of the people, was the religion of the poets. This was the religion, which the legislators designed should be believed and maintained. The ceremonies of the established worship were so construed, as to preserve in the public mind, not only the virtues, but the vices of those mortals of either sex, whom they denominated gods and goddesses. Arnobius, as quoted by a writer, whose name has been frequently mentioned in this lecture, upbraids the heathen, for “ascribing the most base and unworthy actions to him, whom they described as father of gods and men, the chief God, the thunderer, who shakes heaven with his nod, and to whom they attributed the most divine titles. He thinks, that, if they had any regard to piety and decency, the public authority ought to interpose, by forbidding such representations. Instead of which they encouraged them and admitted them into their religion; whereas they would punish any man, who should cast such reflections on a senator or magistrate.” II. Let us, for a moment, compare the effects, which would naturally result from the worship of such deities, with those, which might be expected from the worship of the true God. To say nothing of such gods, as Bacchus, Venus or Mercury, how was it possible for the votaries of Jupiter to contemplate his character with reverence, or rational af. fection ? What was there to revere in a being, whose pasSions were more violent, and whose crimes were more numerous than those of human offenders ? With what sense of moral obligation could the ancient pagans have gone from Jupiter's temple, when they had been engaged in those rites, which brought his vices to their recollection ? Far from blushing at their sensuality, they must have justified it, as

we know they did, by the example of the god, whom they worshipped. “Whenever vice comes to be considered, as a divine quality, as well as an act of devotion, or, in other words, when it is practised, both in honor and in imitation of the gods, it is hereby authorized and sanctioned; and men must sink into the lowest degeneracy.” On the contrary, when men have been employed in the worship of that Being, whose dwelling is not with flesh;who is infinitely removed from human passions and human guilt;-whose irresistible power is under the direction of moral purity and infinite wisdom;-who regards with divine indignation, all the workers of iniquity;-and accepts that service only, which proceeds from uprightness and simplicity of heart;-they must perceive, that a virtuous life is essential, as well to their safety, as their duty. This conviction will be forced upon them, whenever they use a moment's reflection. Accordingly, in a christian country, nothing tends more directly to purify the morals of a community, than general attendance on public worship. | Among those, who entertain just notions of the Supreme Being, it is a natural sentiment, that divine judgments are to be averted by penitence and reformation. This sentiment appears to have made no part of the pagan creed. If public calamities were felt or threatened to appease the gods, and avert the impending evil, they had recourse to some trifling ceremony, but not to repentance and a reclaimed life. They might revive ancient rites, or institute new ones; but reformation of morals, saith Warburton, was never made part of the state's atonement. The fact was, as Dr. Priestly has remarked, that the heathen religion had nothing to do with morality. III. From the facts, stated in this lecture, we learn how to estimate a remark, not very unfrequently made, that, on supposition, a man is sincere, it is of little importance, what may be his creed. That there were many among the ancient heathen, sincerely attached to the prevailing mythology, it

would be unreasonable to doubt. Who can question, that, when the king of Moab took his eldest son, that should have reigned after him, and offered him for a burnt offering, he really believed, that by such a sacrifice, he should obtain divine aid against Israel? who can doubt, that when the Greeks were urgent with Agamemnon to immolate his daughter, they sincerely believed, that this sacrifice would procure for their fleet propitious winds? The same kind of sincerity might be possessed by the worshippers of Bacchus, of Venus, or Mercury. But, will it hence follow, that a sincere thief, a sincere prostitute, or a sincere drunkard, is quite as deserving a moral character, as he, who, with integrity of heart, worships the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ !

IV. From the representation now given of the worship and gods of the ancient heathen, we perceive, that St. Paul had good reason for charging the gentiles with atheism. Having no hope, and without God in the world.

“ It may be justly said,” observes Dr. Campbell, “ that their sacrifices were not offered to God; for, however much they might use the name God, the intention is to be judged of, not by the name, but by the meaning affixed to it. Now, such a being as the Eternal, Unoriginated, Immutable Creator, and Ruler of the world, they had not in all their system. For this reason, they are not unjustly called atɛ01, i. e. without the knowledge, and consequently, the belief and worship of him, who alone is GOD."

It appears, indeed, that, when Christianity made known such a Being, hostility to his character was openly avowed. Dr. Leland, in his Westminister Lectures, gives us the following very important information. “Whatever the Greeks could not accomplish by the sword, they endeavored to effect by the force of impious language. And such was the madness, with which they were inflamed, that they proposed rewards and honors to such of their poets and sophists, as should write most, wit and elegance, in opposition to the

Chris. Obs. Feb. 1811.

one, true, and incorruptible God, from whom descended to mankind the gift of eternal happiness by Jesus Christ.” I close the present lecture with a single remark, relating not to the ancient gentiles, but directly to ourselves, while professing to know God, may we not in works deny him; being disobedient and to every good work reprobate *

[ocr errors][merged small]

The Necessity of Revelation. as it appears from gods and worship of modern Pagans.

In the preceeding lecture, were considered the character of the heathen gods, and the moral tendency of that worship which they received.

As the facts, which were then stated, were chiefly such, as occured among the Greeks and Romans, the most learned and refined nations of antiquity, it is to be presumed, that should our investigations extend to modern pagans, far inferior to them in mental cultivation, appearances would not be more favorable. Inquries of this kind will constitute the present lecture. They will relate,

1. To the gods;

II. To the worship and religious ceremonies of modern pagans.

I. We are to inquire concerning the gods, worshipped in

those nations, where revealed religion is not enjoyed.

As the Hindoo religion is not confined to the vast country of Hindostan, but spreads itself in some form or other, over several divisions of the eastern continent, (Tibet, Birman Empire, Siam.) it is peculiarly entitled to our attention. It appears, likewise to be a religion of very great antiquity. Sir Wm. Jones, as quoted by Dr. Priestly, considers the institutions of JMence, one of their sacred books, as having been written about twelve hundred years before Christ. Their other sacred writings, called the Vedas, are said to have been written three centuries earlier.

Through the indefatigable labor of that illustrious scholar, whose name has been mentioned, and many learned coadjutors in India, the information which we have on the subject of the Hindoo religion, is somewhat extensive, and much to be relied on.

“They believe on a Supreme God, who created the world, though not all things pertaining to it.* This Supreme Being is said to have created a goddess, called Bawaney, who was the mother of three subaltern deities. Brimha, or Bramha, Visnou, and Sheevah. Brimha was endued with the power of creating the things of this world; Visnou, with the power of cherishing them; and Sheevah, with the power of . restraining and correcting them. Thus Brimha became the creator of man; and, in this character he formed four casts or classes, which are so distinctly preserved among the Hindoos. Besides these deities, they acknowledge a great number of gods and goddesses, whose characters and offices correspond considerably with the most noted deities of classic mythology. They have likewise numerous demigods, who are supposed to inhabit the air, the water, and the earth, and, in short, the whole world, so that every mountain, river, wood, town, village, &c. has one of these tutelary deities. By nature these demigods are subject to death; but are supposed to obtain immortality by the use of certain drink. Encycl. vol. viii. Art. Hindoos.

* Corries Scr. 26.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »