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such fabulous and chimerical legends; and, indeed, it appears that opinions were permitted to pass without censure, very irreconcilable to the popular faith, and great latitude given to speculation in their reasonings upon natural religion; and what can be more gratifying to philanthropy than to trace these efforts of right reason, which redound to the honour of man's nature, and exhibit to our view the human understanding, unassisted by the lights of revelation, and supported only by its natural powers, emerging from the darkness of idolatry, and breaking forth into the following description of the Supreme Being, which is faithfully translated from the fragment of an ancient Greek tragic poet:

"Let not mortal corruption mix with your idea of God, nor think of him as of a corporeal being, such as thyself; he is inscrutable to man, now appearing like fire, implacable in his anger; now in thick darkness, now in the flood of waters; now he puts on the terrors of a ravening beast, of the thunder, the winds, the lightning, of conflagrations, of clouds. Him the seas obey, the savage rocks, the springs of fresh water, and the rivers that flow along their winding channels; the earth herself stands in awe of him; the high tops of the mountains, the wide expanse of the cærulean ocean tremble at the frown of their Lord and Ruler."

This is a strain in the sublime style of the Psalmist, and similar ideas of the Supreme Being may be collected from the remains of various heathen writers.

Antiphanes, the Socratic philosopher, says, "that God is the resemblance of nothing upon earth, so that no conception can be derived from any effigy or likeness of the Author of the Universe."

Xenophon observes, "that a Being, who controls

and governs all things, must needs be great and powerful, but being by his nature invisible, no man can discern what form or shape he is of."

Thales, being asked to define the Deity, replied, that "He was without beginning and without end." Being further interrogated: "If the actions of men could escape the intelligence of God?" he answered: "No, nor even their thoughts."

Philemon, the comic poet, introduces the following question and answer in a dialogue: "Tell me, I beseech you, what is your conception of God?” "As of a Being, who, seeing all things, is himself unseen."

Menander says, that "God, the lord and father of all things, is alone worthy of our humble adoration, being at once the maker and the giver of all blessings."

Melanippides, a writer also of comedy, introduces this solemn invocation to the Supreme Being: "Hear me, O Father, whom the whole world regards with wonder, and adores! to whom the immortal soul of man is precious.”

Euripides, in a strain of great sublimity, exclaims: "Thee I invoke, the self-created Being, who framed all nature in thy ethereal mould, whom light and darkness, and the whole multitude of the starry train, encircle in eternal chorus."

Sophocles, also, in a fragment of one of his tragedies, asserts the unity of the Supreme Being: “Of a truth there is one, and only one God, the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and all which it contains."

These selections, to which, however, many others might be added, will serve to show what enlightened ideas were entertained by some of the nature of God. I will next adduce a few passages to show what just

conceptions some had formed of God's providence and justice, of the distribution of good and evil in this life, and of the expectation of a future retribution in the life to come.

Ariston, the dramatic poet, hath bequeathed us the following part of a dialogue:

"Take heart; be patient! God will not fail to help the good, and especially those who are as excellent as yourself; where would be the encouragement to persist in righteousness, unless those who do well are eminently to be rewarded for their well doing?

"I would it were as you say! but I too often see men who square their actions to the rules of rectitude, oppressed with misfortunes; whilst they, who have nothing at heart but their own selfish interest and advantage, enjoy prosperity unknown to us.

"For the present moment it may be so, but we must look beyond the present moment, and await the issue, when this earth shall be dissolved; for to think that chance governs the affairs of this life, is a notion as false as it is evil, and is the plea which vicious men set up for vicious morals; but be thou sure that the good works of the righteous shall meet a reward, and the iniquities of the unrighteous a punishment; for nothing can come to pass in this world, but by the will and permission of God."

Epicharmus, the oldest of the comic poets, says, in one of the few fragments which remain of his writings: "If your life hath been holy, you need have no dread of death, for the spirit of the blest shall exist forever in heaven."

Euripides has the following passage: "If any mortal flatters himself that the sin which he commits can escape the notice of an avenging Deity, he indulges a vain hope, deceiving himself in a false presumption of impunity, because the divine justice sus6


pends for a time the punishment of his evil actions; but hearken to me ye who say there is no God, and by that wicked infidelity enhance your crimes. There is, there is a God! let the evil doer then account the present hour only as gain, for he is doomed to everlasting punishment in the life to come."

The Sibylline verses hold the same language, but these I have taken notice of in a former paper.

I reserve myself for one more extract, which I shall recommend to the reader as the finest which can be instanced from any heathen writer, exhibiting the most elevated conceptions of the being and superintendence of one supreme, all-seeing, ineffable God, and of the existence of a future state of rewards and punishments, by the just distribution of which to the good and evil, all the seeming irregularities of moral justice in this life shall hereafter be set straight; and this, if I mistake not, is the summary of all that natural religion can attain to. The following is a close translation of this famous fragment:

"Thinkest thou, O Niceratus, that those departed spirits, who are satiated with the luxuries of life, shall escape as if from an oblivious God? the eye of justice is wakeful and all-seeing; and we may truly pronounce that there are two several roads conducting us to the grave; one proper to the just, the other to the unjust; for if just and unjust fare alike, and the grave shall cover both to all eternity - Hence! get thee hence at once! destroy, lay waste, defraud, confound at pleasure! but deceive not thyself; there is a judgment after death, which God, the Lord of all things, will exact, whose tremendous name is not to be uttered by my lips, and he it is who limits the appointed date of the transgressor."

It is curious to discover sentiments of this venerable sort in the fragment of a Greek comedy, yet

certain it is that it has either Philemon or Diphilus for its author, both writers of the New Comedy and contemporaries. Justin, Clemens, and Eusebius have all quoted it, the former from Philemon, both the latter from Diphilus. Grotius and Le Clere follow the authority of Justin, and insert it in their collection of Philemon's fragments. Hertelius, upon the joint authorities of Clemens and Eusebius, gives it to Diphilus, and publishes it as such in his valuable and rare remains of the Greek comic writers. I conceive there are now no data, upon which criticism can decide for either of these two claimants, and the honour must accordingly remain suspended between them.

Sentences of this sort are certainly very precious relics, and their preservation is owing to a happy custom, which the Greeks had of marking the margins of their books, opposite to any passage which particularly struck them, and this mark was generally the letter x, the initial of xpnorov, [useful,] and the collection afterwards made of these distinguished passages they called χρηστομάθειαν.

It would be a curious and amusing collation of moral and religious sentences, extracted from heathen writers, with corresponding texts selected from the Holy Scriptures. Grotius hath done something towards it in his preface to the Collectanea of Stobæus; but the quotations already given, will suffice to show, in a general point of view, what had been the advances of human reason, before God enlightened the world by his special revelation.

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