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flattéry; and so they lived and died, not indeed without prèsuinption, but without any well-grounded hope of future happiness. For every warranted hope of this kind must be derived from divine revelation. “ Life "and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel:" which fully assures us of a future and eternal state of retributions; and shews us the only way of escaping everlasting punishment and obtaining everlasting felis city. The plan of salvation, through the redemption of the Son of God, and sanctification by the Holy Spi. rit, is clearly revealed. The object of hope, and the ground of hope, are set before us in the gospel; the means of grace are appointed; and all who believe, and wait on the Lord in the honest use of these means, are assuredly made partakers of the blessing. So that the poorest and most illiterate true believer can give a vastly clearer and more intelligent account, and solid reason of his hope of happiness in a future world; than the whole company of ancient Pagan philosophers, and modern infidels together, ever did or ever cani give: while his character proves that it is hope and not presumption; “ for every man that has this hope in ." hin, purifieth himself, even as he" (his Lord and Saviour) “ is pure.”
In the judgment of the apostles, the Gentiles were also “ without God in the world,” or atheists, for so the word signifies. Not that they were in general avowed atheists; for indeed very few of them were. Yet the expression must denote more, than that they lived as if there had been no God: for this might with equal truth have been said of numbers among the Jews; and it now may be asserted of vast multitudes who are called christians. The meaning evidently is, that the idols which the heathen adored, were in all respects unworthy to be called God; as the apostle reasons in other places. “When ye knew not God, ye “did service to them which by nature are no gods."* " An idol is nothing in the world, and there is no " other God but one: for though there be, that are "called gods, whether in heaven or in earth; (as there “ be gods many and lords many;) but to us there is “ but one God, the Father, of whom are all things " and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by " whom are all things and we by him.”+-In one Fiew the idols of the Gentiles were nothing but“ gold,
silver, and stone, graven by art and man's device;' in another, they were demons, or the departed spirits of men, commonly very bad men; and in another, their idolatry was in fact the worship of Satan and his ángels, For “ the things which the Gentiles sacrifice " they sacrifice to devils and not to God, and I would “ not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Hence it is that Satan is called the god, as well as the prince, of this world; being the grand, though concealed, object of religious worship to mankind in general, as well as their lord and tyrant; “ For we know (says the apostle) that the whole world lieth in wick“edness,” or rather in the wicked one; and “the old “ serpent, called the devil and Satan,” (Abaddon, Apollyon, the destroyer,) “has deceived the whole “world.”
• Gal. iv..8.
t 1 Cor. viii. 406.
Thus the religion of the Gentiles, so far from hoc nouring God, was in his sight the most detestable of all their abominations: and it should be carefully ob. served, that the word abomination is used in Scripture for idolatry, more frequently than for any other crime, or indeed all other crimes taken together; and therefore the apostle declared idolaters to be without excuse, however it be at present fashionable to excuse them. The two first commandments in the law are expressly made against the two grand species of idolatry.—“ Jealousy is the rage of a man:" yet this vehe. ment indignation and deep resentment is ascribed to God, respecting idolatry, when he calls himself re. peatedly a jealous God. He will not give his glory to another; and the most indignant severity of language is used against all idolatry and idolaters: not to au. thorize us to persecute or hate them; but to caution · us against all approaches to so provoking a crime;
and to excite our compassion towards the poor Gentiles, and to animate our exertions, to recover them from the horrid and deplorable worship and service of the devil, in which they are at present sunk.
All the Gentiles without exception were and are idolaters, and consequently “ without God in the world;" for the few instances mentioned in Scripture of pious persons without the church of Israel, (such as Job and some others,) were not Gentiles in this sense of the word, though they lived among them. Even the philosophers, whose writings are now extolled, with an evident intention of depreciating the oracles of God; while they speculated about a supreme Being, conformed, and taught others to conform to the
prevailing gross idolatry; (perhaps with the solitary exception of Socrates, and it is doubtful whether he can be excepted.) And most of them reasoned themselves into some refined species of atheism or other, so that they too were atheists in the world; for “ Professing "themselves wise they became fools.”
The characters of the imaginary Pagan deities drawn by selfish and licentious poets, to please sanguinary tyrants, ambitious conquerors, luxurious nobles, or a profligate multitude, were completely suited to sanction, or even consecrate, the most detestable vices, and to render the worshippers vile in proportion as they became zealous. The ordinances, in which they served these filthy demons, combined every thing ponipous, jovial, and sensual, and often the most unnatural bar. barities. Their temples were the recesses of debauchery, and their priests and priestesses, in general, the most shameless wretches that ever disgraced human nature. So that, besides the direct criminality of giving the glory of God to creatures, which inevitably implies the basest ingratitude, rebellion, and contempt; all kinds of wickedness were cultivated, with great success, by such a religion. Savage cruelty, fraud and imposture, gross debauchery, and every species of immorality, flourished, as in a fertile well cultured soil, in proportion as their religion was earnestly attended on. And this explains the apostle's reasoning in the first chapter of Romans, in which he considers the most detestable vices as, through the just judgment of God, springing from the idolatry of the Gentiles, as from their genuine source. Whether we consult the Scriptures, or the writings of ancient idolaters, we
shall form the same judgment of the character of the Gentiles: provided we estimate it by the perfect standard of the divine law; and not by the erroneous prin. ciples and defective rules, which sinners have invented for themselves; according to which they “call evil “ good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, " and light for darkness; sweet for bitter, and bitter " for sweet."
The sacred writers speak of the Gentiles, as having « the understanding darkened, being alienated from " the life of God, through the ignorance that is in " them, because of the hardness of their hearts; who, s being past feeling, have given themselves over unto “ lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greedi. “ ness.”_"For it is a shame even to speak of those “ things which are done of them in secret." “ For " the time past,” says St. Peter, “ of our lives may " şuffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, “ when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of “ wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable ido. “ latries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not “ with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil “ of you."
And every mention of the character, born by Gentile converts in their heathen state, implies an excess of immorality as well as impiety. “ Be not deceived; “ neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor "* effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with man. “ kind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor “ revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom " of God: and such were some of you."-"Mortify “ therefore your members which are upon the earth;