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or national gods, no sort of delicacy was manifested; the greater part of them being indiscriminately composed of mortals renowned in history for their virtues, and others distinguished alone by the enormity of their crimes: such were Osiris, Seraphis, Typhon, Isis, and others. With the worship of these, was joined that of the constellations, the sun, the moon, the dog-star, animals of almost every kind, certain sorts of plants, &c. &c. Whether the religion of the state, or that which was peculiar to any province or city be considered, it will be found equally remote in its principles from every thing liberal, dignified, or rational. Some parts were ridiculous in the extreme, and the whole in no small degree contaminated by a despicable baseness and obscenity. In fact, the religion of the Egyptians was so remarkably distinguished by absurd and disgraceful traits, that it was made the subject of derision even by those whose own tenets and practice were by no means conspicuous for wisdom. The Egyptian priests had a sacred code peculiarly their own, founded on principles very different from those which characterised the popular superstition, and which they studiously concealed from the prying eye of the public, by wrapping it up in hieroglyphical characters, the meaning and power of which were only known to themselves.
The Persians derived their religious system from Zoroaster. The leading principles of their religion was, that all things are derived from two common governing causes: the one the author of all good, the other of all evil : the former the source of light, of mind, and of spiritual intelligence, the latter that of darkness and matter, with all its grosser incidents. Between these two powerful agents they supposed a constant war to be carried on. Those, however, who taught upon this system, did not all explain it in the same way, or deduce the same conclusions from it: hence uniformity was destroyed, and various sects originated. The most intelligent part of the Persians maintained that there was one Supreme God, to whom they gave the name of MYTHRA, and that under him were two inferior deities, the one called Oromasdes, the author of all good; the other Ariman, the cause of all evil. The common people, who equally believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, under the title of Mythra, appear to have confounded him with the sun, which was the object of their adoration; and it is probable, that with the two inferior deities they joined others of whom little or nothing is now known.
None of these various systems of religion appear to have contributed in any degree towards a reformation of manners, or exciting a respect for virtue of any kind. The gods and goddesses who were held up as objects of adoration to the multitude, instead of presenting examples of excellence for their imitation, stood forth to public view the avowed authors of the most flagrant and enormous crimes. The priests took no sort of interest in regulating the public morals, neither directing the people by their precepts, nor inviting them by exhortation and example to the pursuit of what is lovely and of good report: on the contrary, they indulged themselves in the most unwarrantable licentiousness, maintaining that the whole of religion was comprised in performing the rites and ceremonies instituted by their ancestors, and that every species of sensual gratification was freely allowed by their deities to those who regularly ministered to them in this way. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and of a future state of rewards and punishments, was but little understood, and of course only very partially acknowledged. Hence at the period when Christ appeared, any notions of this kind found little or no acceptance among the Greeks and Romans, but were regarded in the light of old wives' fables, fit only for the amusement of women and children. No particular points of belie!
the immortality of the soul being establisher
standards of religion, every one was at liberty to avow what opinion he pleased on that subject.
It can excite no reasonable surprise, therefore, that under the influence of such circumstances, the state of society should have become in the highest degree vicious and depraved. The lives of men of every class, from the highest to the lowest, were spent in the practice of the most abominable and flagitious vices. Even crimes, the horrible turpitude of which was such, that decency forbids the mention of them, were openly practised with the greatest impunity. Should the reader doubt of this, he may be referred to LUCIAN among the Greek authors, and to JUVENAL and PERSIUS among the Roman poets—or even to the testimony of the apostle Paul, in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. In the writings of Lucian, for instance, he will find the most unnatural affections and detestable practices treated of at large, and with the utmost familiarity, as things of ordinary and daily occurrence. And when we turn our attention to those cruel and inhuman exhibitions which are well known to have yielded the highest gratificationto both the Greeks and Romans, the two most polished nations of the world; the savage conflicts of the gladiators in the circus; when we cast an eye on the dissoluteness of manners by which the walks of private life were polluted; the horrible prostitution of boys, to which the laws opposed no restraint; the liberty of divorce which belonged to the wife as well as the husband; the shameful practice of exposing infants, and procuring abortions; the multiplicity of stews and brothels, many of which were consecrated to their deities ;-when we reflect on these and various other excesses, to the most ample indulgence in which the laws opposed no restraint, who can forbear putting the question, that, if such were the people distinguished above all others by the excellency of their laws, and the superiority of their attainments in literature and arts, what must have been
the state of those nations who possessed none of these avantages, but were governed solely by the impulses and dictates of rude and uncultivated nature.
Ties of the different Systems of Gentile Philosophy.
Ar the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, there were two species of philosophy that generally prerailed throughout the civilized world, the one that of Greece; the other what is usually termed the Oriental. The piireophy of the Greeks was not confined to that Lition, for its principles were embraced by all such of the Romans as aspired to any eminence of wisdom. The Oriental philosophy prevailed chiefly in Persia, (aldea, Syria, Egypt, and other eastern countries. Exith these species of philosophy were split into various sects but with this distinction, that those which sprang toan the Oriental system all proceeded on one common principle, and of course had many similar tenets, though they might differ as to some particular inferences and opinions: whilst those to which the philosophy of Greece gare rise, were divided in opinion respecting the elements or first principles of wisdom, and were mesequently widely separated from each other in the bule course of their discipline. The apostle Paul is generally supposed to have adverted to each of these Systems-to that of Greece in Coloss. ii. 8. and to the Oriental in 1 Tim. i. 4. ch. iv. 7. and vi. 20.in all which places, he strongly warns Christians to beware of blending the doctrines of either with the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. Happs had it been for the Christian church, could they hare taken the a snonition which was thus given them by the apostle ;
but vain and presumptuous man could not rest satisfied with “ the truth as it is in Jesus”- the wisdom that leads to eternal life, as it came pure from above, but must exercise his ingenuity in fruitless attempts to reconcile it, first of all with the principles of the Oriental philosophy, and afterwards to many of the dogmas of the Grecian sects.
The Greek philosophers, whose doctrines were also much cultivated by the Romans, may be divided into two classes: the first comprehended those whose tenets struck at the root of all religion-a species of Atheists, who, while they professed to support and recommend the cause of virtue, in reality nourished the interests of vice, giving colour to almost every kind of criminality: the other was composed of such as acknowledged the existence of a Deity, whom it was the duty of men to worship and obey, and who inculcated an essential and eternal distinction between good and evil, virtue and vice, but who nevertheless subverted these just principles, by connecting with them various notions absurd or trifling in their nature. Under the first of these classes may be ranked the disciples of Epicurus, and those who passed under the name of Academics.
The EPICUREANS maintained that the universe arose out of a fortuitous concurrence of atoms; that the gods, whose existence they hesitated absolutely to deny, were totally indifferent and unconcerned about all human affairs, or rather entirely unacquainted with them; that our souls are born and die; that all things depend on and are determined by accident; that in every thing voluptuous gratification was to be sought after as the CHIEF GOOD; and even virtue itself was only to be pursued, inasmuch as it might minister at the shrine of pleasure. The votaries of a system like this, which indeed included nearly all the children of prosperity, the rich, the noble, and the powerful, naturally studied to