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when he dies he shall, through the goodness of God and the merits of his Redeemer, enjoy eternal happiness in a 'life to 'come: but till he believes in the truths of the Gos. pel, and has reduced those truths into a long and continued practice, his speculative opinions on the assertion in question are of no value; they are worse, they are deserving of the utmost contempt.
Another peculiarity in the character of our Saviour, and one so extraordinary, as of itself to be completely characteristic of his divinity, is, that, being born the son of a carpenter, he should be able to detect and expose the false and erroneous parts of the finest systems of ethics and philosophy which had appeared in the world. Thus whilst the most celebrated philosophers of Greece and Rome placed the excellency of the human character in the knowledge of physics, of abstract science, and in a vainglorious and ostentatious display of their parts and erudition; our Saviour, on the contrary, placed it in unaffected piety, in humility, in self-denial, and universal benevolence; and whilst they confined it to the accomplishment of the understanding only, he placed it in the perfection of the heart.
This, I must observe, is of itself decisive of our Saviour's descent from heaven; for it is impossible to suppose, if our Saviour had been merely a human being, and had possessed only a human intellect, and that uneducated and unimproved understanding of a carpenter's son, with which he was reproached by the Jews, “How knoweth this man letters, “ having never learned?” that he could have detected the abovementioned fundamental
It is much more difficult to suppose this, than that he descended from heaven to “ give his life a ransom for many;" to save from perdition millions, and millions, and millions of intellectual beings, created in the image of God; because no man in his senses ever imagined that a carpenter's son could rectify the learned and elaborate opinions. and systems of philosophers: whereas, that a celestial Being should descend from heaven to meliorate the condition of man, has never been supposed incredible by any people possessing a religious principle; which supposition, so agreeable to truth, to the
of God, and to the ignorance and imperfection of mąn, has been already proved in this treatise, both from the Old and New Testament; the former mentioning frequent in
stances of angels having been sent from heaven to earth; for example, to Abraham, Lot, &c. and the latter not only recording the opinions of the heathens on this point, in the instance that when Paul and Barnabas were at Lystra, the people said, The gods are come down to us in the shape of men; and the priest of Jupiter brought oxen and garlands, and would have offered sacrifice to them ; but likewise when St. Paul shook off the viper which had fastened on his hand, and the people thought he would have swollen, or fallen down dead, when he did not, they changed their minds, and said, he was a god.
It appears to me equally unnecessary and uncandid, in the appreciation of revealed religion, to undervalue heathen philosophy; for its wisdom nobly enlightened the few who attended to it, till a greater light arose : and it is impossible, I think, to read the sens timents of Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Antoninus, without being charmed with the eloquence, ability, and energy, with which these Stoics recommend and enforce the cardinal virtues ; and especially the very noble and dignified manner, in which, in opposition to the Epicureans, they inculcate a firm reliance and trust in Providence. It would
likewise be very unfair not to acknowledge, that both the Pythagoreans and Platonists taught and enjoined a sublime piety to their gods. And who can help admiring the truth and sublimity of Plato's assertion, that the chief happiness of man consists in his uniting his soul to God, and in his mind's energizing on divine subjects? or that of Socrates, who said, he neither wished nor expected greater happiness in this life, than the consciousness of making a progress in virtúe*? But it was far beyond their highest and sublimest ideas to define the nature of God; and accordingly neither of these sects' taught that their Zeus, or Upatos, or Jupiter, was "the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and “ gracibus, longsuffering, abundant in good
* If the soul of man is so constituted, as to be affected with delight in proportion to the real excellency of the ideas and things which vibrate its feelings, nothing is more natural than. that the wise and virtuous mind of Socrates, as well as those of all other men of similar complexion and temper, should adopt this conclusion. For if the perfection and highest satisfaction of the human mind consists (as it does in the opinion of Plato) in the contemplation of virtue, in adopting virtuous habits, and in the performance of virtuous actions, the reflex act of the mind on itself, arising from the consciousness of making a progress in these, must necessarily be the most grateful, the sublimest, the supremest vibration of delight it can experience on this side the grave.
“ness and truth, keeping mercy for thou“ sands, and pardoning iniquity, transgres“sion, and sin;" neither did their finest and most exalted precepts reach the height of that doctrine, which teaches, that the love of God and of our neighbour constitutes the chief and principal duty of man.
Where do we find that either Pythagoras, Socrates, or Plato, (who certainly excelled all other philosophers in virtue and piety,) taught, “ Thou "shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy * heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, " and with all thy strength. This is the first “ and great commandment. And the second “ is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neigh“ bour as thyself.”. Or where do they define the nature of true glory as it is defined in the following passage; “Thus saith the Lord; “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, “ neither let the mighty.' mani glory in his “ might; let not the rich man glory in his “ riches : but let him that glorieth glory in
this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteous
in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Where do we find in the writings of these philosophers such di