Imatges de pàgina
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and christian systems. The great duties of piety, consisting in the fear and love of God, and a chearful reliance on his providence, were, in a manner, unknown in antient times beyond the boundaries of Ludea. And what can more evidently tend to enlarge the comprehension and faculties of the hu, man mind, than the regards which are due to the maker and governor of the world?

While the attention of the heathens was wholly engrossed by sensible things, those who were fa. voured with divine revelation, even in its most imperfect state, were engaged in the contemplation of their invisible author. They considered the enjoyments of life as the effects of his bounty, and all the events of it as taking place according to the wife appointment of his providence. Thus was the power of association enabled to present to their minds the ideas of great and remote objects, by which their sentiments were influenced, and their conduct directed. By this means, limited as were the views of the ancient patriarchs, their conceptions were far more enlarged and consequently their minds more intellectual, than those of the Gentile world.

It is true that all the heathens were prone to superstition, and that a great number of their actions were infuenced by regards to invisible agents; but (not to say, what is very probable, that their religion was, in this respect, a corruption, of the patriarchal) all the Gods, they

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had any idea of, at least all with whom they maintained any intercourse, were local and territorial divinities, liable to the influence of low and vule gar passions, and limited in their powers and operations. It was not poflible, therefore, that their theology Thould suggest such sublime ideas, as must have been conceived by the Jews, from the peru. fal of the books of Moses ; in which we find the idea of one God, the creator and lord of heaven and earth, who established, and who controuls the laws of nature, and who superintends the affairs of the whole world, giving the kingdoms of it to whomsoever he pleases; a being of unspotted purity, and a friend and protector of all good men. So far were the notions which the Gentiles entertained of their Gods below the conceptions of the Jews, concerning the Jehovah, the lord of of heaven and earth, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, destroying their enemies in the Red Sea, and feeding them with bread from heaven for the space of forty years; that they could hardly have had any ideas to some of the finest expressions which occur in the sacred books of the Jews; as, Thou Malt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and many others, which express sentiments of the most pure and exalted devotion.

If any people have exalted and sublime ideas, they are sure to be found in their poetry; but how F 2.

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poor and low is the sacred poetry of the heathens in comparison with the Psalms of David ! The poems of Homer, of Hesiod, or of Callimachus, in honour of the Grecian gods, can hardly be read without laughter ; but the book of Psalms (the greatest part of which were written long before the works of any of those Grecian poets, and by persons who had travelled and seen far less than they had done) cannot be read without the greatest seriousness, and are still capable of exciting sentiments of the warmest and most exalted, and yet the most perfectly rac · tional devotion. They give us the most sublime ideas of the infinite power, wisdom, and goodness of God. This difference between the poetry of the Jews and the Greeks, in favour of the former, is so great, that I think it cannot be accounted for without the supposition of divine communications. In point of genius, the Greeks seem to have been evidently superior, and they were evidently superior, and they were certainly possessed of the art of composition in much greater perfection.

Whence, then could arise so manifest an inferiority in this respect? It must have been because the Jewish theology gave that nation ideas of a being infinitely superior to themselves, the contemplation of which, with that of his works, and of his providence, would tend to improve and exalt their faculties; whereas the heathen theology gave them no ideas of beings much superior to the

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race of man. In general the gods of the Greeks and Romans were supposed to have been mere men, beings of the same rank and condition with themselves ; and though their powers were supposed to be enlarged upon their deification, their passions, and morals were not at all improved, but continued just the same as before ; so that their greater powers were employed about the gratification of the lowest appetites. This theology, therefore, could not infuse that noble enthufiasm which was inspired by the Jewish religion, but must rather have tended to debase their faculties.

That extensive and perfect benevolence, which is so strongly inculcated in the New Testament, implies more enlarged fentiments, and greater perfection of the intellectual faculties, than that more limited benevolence, which is treated of by the heathen moralists, which was hardly ever thought to extend farther than to a love of one's own countrymen, and which admitted slaves to none of the privileges of men, but considered them as no other than the property of their masters. But, in the eye of a Christian, Few and Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, are all equal. The boasted attachments of private friend thip are not more endearing than that mutual love which Christ recommends to his disciples. But, whereas private friendship was, with the Greeks and Romans, the perfection, and almost the end of all virtue, the brotherly love of

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christians is only considered as a branch of a more extensive benevolence, and leads to the love of all the human race. " It is evident, that the duties of contentment, trust in divine providence, meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness of injuries, are more infifted on by Christ and his apostles, than by any of the heathen philosophers; and these virtues certainly require a greater comprehension of mind than any other social duties. Children are quick in their resentments, their anger is presently excited, and they are unable to conceal what little malice or revenge they are capable of; but, in proportion as men advance in age, in experience, and, con sequently, in intellect, they are able to overlook affronts, and to suspend, or wholly to stide their refentments; because they are able to take in more distant consequences of passions and actions; and the sentiments which are suggested by these extenfive views, moderate and overpower those which are prompted by their present sensations.

Christianity, therefore, by extending these du. ties, supposes, and thereby favours and promotes a still greater advance in intellectual perfection. To act like a christian, a man must be possessed of true greatness of mind, a felf-command, fortitude, or magnanimity, which is infinitely more superior to the disguised revenge of which some are capable, and which they can brood over for years, than this

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