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gone some way or other, which was not alloween in by the divinity. The festivals in honor to the gods give no pleasure to the superstitious, but fill him rather with fear and affright. He proves the saying of Pythagorus false in his own case,--that we are happiest when we approach the gods, --for it is just then, he is most wretched. Temples and altars are places of refuge for the persecuted; but where all others find deliverance from their fears, there the superstitious man fears and trembles the most. Asleep or awake, he is haunted alike by the spectres of his anxiety. Awake, he makes no use of his reason; and asleep, he finds no deliverance from what disturbs him. His reason always slumbers; his fears are always awake. Nowhere can he find an escape from his imaginary terrors. These men fear the gods, and fly to them for succor. They flatter them, and insult them. They pray to them and complain of them."*
A description more true to the life could not be given of the great mass of modern, than Plutarch has given of the ancient heathen, and if, as Strabo intimates, such a system was necessary for the untutored masses, it was verily a sad necessity.
But what advantage had the philosopher over the superstitious ? Did his system, though harder to learn, yet when learned, yield more consolation than superstition itself could afford ? In answering this query, we can do no better than refer to the author already quoted. To use his own words-—"They, who without any deep sense of religious need, were yet unable to make up their minds to a
Neander, volume 1, page 13.
total denial of religion, endeavored to content themselves with that dead abstraction, which is usually left behind, as symething to retire to, from the living forms of religion, when these are on the point of expiring, -a certain species of Deism,-a way of thinking which does not indeed absolutely deny the existence of a Deity, but yet places him at the utmost possible distance, in the back-ground of his works. An idle Deity is all that is wanted; not one every where active-whose agency pervades the whole life of things. Ile who to satisfy his religious wants requires any thing beyond this meager abstraction, he who would know anything more respecting man's relation to a higher world appears already, to men of this way of thinking, a fanatic or a fool. The inquiries that suggest themselves under the feeling of a more profound religious need, are to such minds unintelligible; for they are strangers to the feeling itself. In the notions entertained by many concerning the anger of the gods, and the punishments of the lower world, they see nothing but superstition, without recognizing in them a fundamental truth, namely, the undeniable need, which leads men into various delusions, only when misunderstood. But, by minds of this stamp, the whole is ridiculed alike as mere dreams and fancies of limited man, who transfers all his own passions over to his gods. As a representative of this class, we may take that satirical castigator of manners in the age of the Antonnies, Lucian, who characterizes himself as the hater of lies, cheats and charlatanry. And Justin Martyn observes of the philosophers in his time, that the greater part of them bestow no thought on the questions, whether there is one God, or whether there is a providence, or no providence; as if
knowledge of these matters were of no importance to our well-being.' * They rather seek,' says he, "to convince us also, that the divinity extends his care to the great whole, and to the several kinds, but not to me and to you, not to men as individuals. Hence, it is useless to pray, to him ; for everything occurs according to the unchangeable laws of an endless cycle."*
Such was the philosophy of the ancient, which does not materially differ from that of present races of heathen. It is apparent that such a system could no better answer the demands of man's spiritual nature than superstition. This wisdom of the world, we might show by numerous examples, is just what it was denominated by an apostle, foolishness. But do not such facts show the necessity of a religion, better calculated than either heathen superstition or heathen philosophy to answer the demands of humanity, and which should be equally adapted to the extremes of society? The Bible presented such a system to the world, especially in Christianity, the highest type of the religion it revealed. This was a system, which, while it gave meat to men, provided milk for babes. It took the wise in their own craftiness, and exalted those of low estate. It corrected the deism and fatality of the philosopher, and delivered the superstitious from extravagant views and groundless fears. Whatever the mental character of its subjects, it turned out every demon and presented them, before the world, clothed and in their right mind. Epictetus the Greek, and Paul the Jew, declare, almost in the same words :-"For the good that I would, I do not; but the
*Neander, volume 1: page 8.
evil which I would not that I do.” Now, the Gospel is that system which Epictetus needed, and which the Great Apostle found, to give them victory over themselves, and the same system was alike availing with the most unl rned and ignorant.
4. The world needed a religion to allay man's doubts, especially in relation to immortality.
How was it possible for the human spirit to rest with the uncertain knowledge, derived from the light of nature ? The elder Pliny very clearly expresses the sentiments of the more intelligent heathen of his day in relation to religion, God and immortality. Says he :-“ All religion is the offspring of necessity, weakness and fear. What God is,-if in truth he be any thing distinct from the world, it is beyond the compass of man's understanding to know. But it is a foolish delusion, which has sprung from human weakness and human pride, to imagine that such an infinite spirit would concern himself with the petty affairs of men. It is difficult to say, whether it might not be better for men to be wholly without religion, than to have one of this kind, which is a reproach to its object. The vanity of man, and his insatiable longing after existence, have led him also to dream of life after death. A being full of contradictions, he is the most wretched of creatures ; since the other creatures have no wants transcending the bounds of their nature. Man is full of desires and wants, that reach to infinity, and can never be satisfied. His nature is a lie,-uniting the greatest poverty with the greatest pride. Among these so great evils, the best thing God has bestowed on man, is the power to take his own life.”
So far from exercising unwavering faith in the great doctrine of the soul's immortality, it appears that some of the wise ancients maintained that even what has reference to the gods is subject to death.” With what cold and stoical resignation must such philosophers have submitted to the ills of life, and how feeble must have been the motives prompting them to a life of virtuous activity! Under the influence of this stoic principle, that prevailed in his time Marcus Aurelius asks :-"How happens it, that the gods, who have ordered all things well and with love to men, seem to overlook this one thing alone, that many very good men, who, by pious works and offerings, have stood on terms of intimate communion with the deity, having once died, return no more to existence, but perish eternally ? He thus answers :-“Although this is so, yet, be assured, that if it ought to have been otherwise, the gods would have so ordered it. For had it been right, it would also have been possible; and had it been in harmany with nature, áremos then nature would have allowed it. That it is not so, if it is not so, should satisfy us that it ought not to be so.
Such was the poor consolation afforded by this stoical system. Did not such minds much need a revelation that could bring life and immortality of light ?
True, there were many philosophers of antiquity, who
* In the first volume of Neander's Church History, we find the foregoing, and numerous other similar confessions of the wise ancients, faithfully recorded. We were anxious that these philosophers should speak for themselves, and hence we have quoted so largely from an author who has recorded their veritable sayings: with faithfulness.