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tion, and diffused their benign influence through all the moral codes of the civilized world!
It is true that Zoroaster, Socrates, Plato, Confucius, Seneca and Cicero, entertained more rational and consistent views of the great First Cause of all things,_and of the moral and religious obligations of mankind: But the histories of their times prove to us that all the refinements of their philosophy failed to produce the most desirable effects upon their countrymen, and left them still in darkness, and under the shackles of a most despotic and cruel superstition. So that with all the lights and advantages of nature, reason and philosophy, the world groaned under the oppressive weight of ignorance and crime.
I have now briefly delineated the condition of man, without the friendly aid of revelation; and our hearts have recoiled and sickened at the imperfect picture of human enormities which prevailed throughout the most enlightened, refined and philosophical nations of the earth, which has been laid before you; notwithstanding we have been compelled by considerations of modesty, to draw a veil over the darkest shades of their abominations. What has been brought to the light, however, is sufficient for all the purposes of a clear and successful contrast. We shall now proceed to compare this deplorable state of society with what we find to be the condition of man under the influence and direction of revealed religion.
It is perfectly apparent from history, that in a short time after the deluge, idolatry became the prevailing religion of the whole post-deluvian world: That it was almost universally practised until the days of Abraham, to whom most important truths were communicated, and by him transmitted to his posterity; truths, embracing the character and designs of God, and opening and illustrating the moral duties of man to his Creator. Of this, the Patriarch appears to have been so fully convinced, that he totally forsook the idolatry of his Chaldean countrymen, and betook himself entirely to the worship of one God, as the Creator and Governor of heaven and earth.
History informs us that his sons observed the maxims of truth which he had received, and were, themselves, persuaded of the unity and universal government of God;
and that they practised a purer and more simple worship than their heathen neighbors.
Isaac, who was the legal heir of this Patriarch, with his son Jacob, received a confirmation of the truth revealed to their venerable sire, and transmitted it, with the duties of pure devotion and faith, to the twelve tribes of Jacob, who were trained up in the discipline and admonition of the wisdom and religion of their fathers: And among them, we hear nothing of idolatry for about four hundred years. There might have been, it is true, some examples of departure from the belief of a revelation to their ancestors, but if it were so, history is silent upon the subject.
From the time of the descent of the Israelites into Egypt, till about the period of their Exodus, we hear little of them except that a large company of them once revisited the land of their ancestors, to deposit the earthly remains of their revered father.
At length there appears to have been one of their number, reared up in the palace of the Egyptian monarch, who professed to be divinely inspired and instructed to deliver his countrymen and kindred from their bondage and slavery: That he actually led them from the bondage and tyranny of Egypt, and delivered to them a code of laws, professedly by divine authority, which they received, and acknowledged to be from God. (Whether his authority was divine for what he did, will be discussed in a future Lecture.)
After performing many astonishing prodigies (which we term miracles) for their deliverance and support, a law is presented to them, which sternly prohibits the worship of but one God, accompanied with the assurance that he created and governed the heavens and the earth, and was the proper Ruler and Moral Governor of the universe. It prohibited licentiousness of every description, and prescribed the duties of love and obedience to God, and the obligation of kindness, forbearance and benevolence to mankind. And it is strongly, and with much reason, suspected, that the wisest and best of the heathen philosophers drew the leading features of their systems of morality from this ancient and venerable code.
To the readers of ancient history, it is well known, that sacrifices hold a rank among the most ancient institutions of the earth: And it is equally obvious that all, and even the most polished nations of antiquity, were addicted to the barbarous custom of offering human sacrifices, to appease the wrath, or obtain the favor of the gods which were commonly worshipped among them. But in the institutions which were urged by Moses, no such offerings were encouraged, or even allowed. This simple fact, of itself, proves that the condition of human society was greatly meliorated and improved by the introduction of the Mosaic dispensation: So that in the very outset of the comparison, we see that a vast improvement was secured by the introduction of revealed religion.
Among the Egyptians, the astonishing number of 666 sacrifices of different kinds were ordained to be offered: but among the Israelites, a few, and only a few objects were selected for this ancient service.
The laws which were originated and enforced by human wisdom could only take cognizance of the actions of men; while the divine law took cognizance of the thoughts and intentions of the heart: For it commands-" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. To keep the commandments of the Lord, and the statutes which I command thee this day for thy good." Deut. v. 6. xi. 12. These few examples show the superiority of the divine laws, over those of all human legislators, in that they apply their authority to the temper of the mind or soul, and claim a sacred influence over the hearts and affections of their subjects.
They forbid injustice, theft and covetousness, and require the duties of justice, honesty, faithfulness and truth, in all our intercourse with human society; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Jewish law, for its liberality to slaves, holds a preeminent rank among all the institutions of ancient, or even modern times, where slavery has been permitted: And
were this law now observed among civilized nations, most of the horrors of slavery would soon be annihilated: For in case the master used or employed any such cruelty or severity as to deprive a slave of any of the principal members of his body, or even of a tooth, he forfeited all the right he before held in him; and the slave, so treated, was henceforth free from his master. The chastity of female slaves was carefully guarded by the same law, so that any violence of her master was a total forfeiture of his right to her serviccs, and her freedom was instantly restored.
Could we review all the laws of ancient nations, we should find nothing in them to equal the humanity and tenderness which is prescribed by the Jewish statute, for the poor, for widows, for orphans, and for slaves. The laws of almost every ancient nation abandoned slaves of both sexes to the lust and brutality of their masters. At Lacedemon, slaves were treated with the most inhuman barbarity, and could claim no protection from the laws.If a slave possessed a noble or elegant figure, and thus wore an appearance above his condition, he was demned to die Add to this, his master was fined, that he might feel the necessity of exercising such severity upon his other slaves as to prevent them from offending the eyes of the citizens by the beauty or accomplishments of their persons.
The Spartans were authorized by their laws to fall upon the Helots, while they were laboring in the fields, and massacre the ablest men amongst them: And this they did for mere exercise, and to prevent too great an increase of slaves! This was one of the laws of Lycurgus, so famous in the annals of Greece, for his moderation, wisdom and philosophy!
But Rome, still more barbarous, looked calmly on and beheld her opulent men slaughter their slaves, without the shadow of any cause for complaint against them. This they did, for the purpose of supplying their fish ponds with human flesh, “to make their lampreys more delicious by such nourishment !" An able writer* well observes, that "Even under the eyes of the magistrates, thousands of
* David Levi, from whose defence of the Old Testament these facts are borrowed.
these unhappy creatures expired in the amphitheatre, for the amusement of a fierce and cruel people; and some festival days caused more human blood to flow in the empire, than many days of battle."
Whoever has read the writings of Anacreon and Horace, has seen to what abominable excesses of incontinence and cruelty, both the Greeks and Romans were addicted. Their cruelty seems to be nearly without bounds: Yea, and it almost curdles the crimson flood, in the heart of sensibility, to read the Roman laws respecting slaves. By these laws they are compared to beasts of burden, and are exposed to the most cruel tortures. Did the master of a family happen to be assassinated, every slave beneath the same roof, and all others within such a distance as the human voice might be supposed capable of reaching, were condemned to death without distinction.
As might well be expected, the inevitable consequence of such cruel and barbarous institutions, was a most deplorable state of morals. Ambition and violence agitated states and kingdoms, while every pollution and nameless vice, spread moral desolation and darkness over the fairest portions of the globe.
In the view which has been taken of human society without a revelation, we have carefully avoided to notice all those countries, from whose inhabitants the light of science and philosophy have withheld their aid, and who have been for ages sunk in the grossest ignorance and barbarism; and treated only of the most polite, polished, scientific and enlightened nations in all the heathen world; where the most refined systems of philosophy have exerted their utmost influence to improve the condition of empires, kingdoms and states: And we have seen, that even these countries, of boasted science and reason, were polluted with every species of vice and cruelty, which degrade the character of man: That these abominations were not the mere outrages of a lawless banditti, but the common and lawful customs of the most refined nations; sanctioned and approved by the civil institutions of the wisest legislators of the whole pagan world.
And I now beg leave to address the plain and important question to your understandings-was not the condi