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“ fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil “ concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; " for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on “ the children of disobedience; in the which ye also “ walked some time, when ye lived in them.” Surely such persons were in themselves " vessels of wrath “ fitted for destruction.” In short, what passage can be cited, from either the Old or New Testament, which, fairly interpreted, gives us any better opinion of the heathen world at large, or of any nation in it, whether civilized or barbarous?
I need not quote at large the well known dreadful representation, which the apostle Paul has drawn of idolaters in general, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans: but I will venture to say, that one alto. gether as horrid might be formed from the most ad. mired writers of the Greeks and Romans, and almost in their very words. Sometimes indeed a satyrist inveighs against the atrocious vices of his neighbours, with an indignant severity: but far more commonly the most nefarious practices are spoken of with little commotion or reprehension, and often in a playful strain of jocularity. To write of the most heinous crimes imaginable, with calm indifference, as things of course, is an awful proof how low the standard of vir. tue was fixed, and how deplorably men's principles and consciences were depraved. The manner in which, not merely fornication and adultery, but even unnatu. ral practices, are spoken of, is more emphatically im. pressive on the serious mind, that “ all flesh had cor“ rupted bis way upon the earth," than the most ve. hement exclamations, or bitter invectives, could be: Vol. III.
for these would shew that some sense of right and wrong remained in men's consciences; but the other evinces that they were past feeling. The astonishing cruelty of many thousands butchered every year in the gladiatorial shews, to amuse Roman senators and la. dies; the savage and sanguinary measures generally adopted in war, which was alway's honourable if suc. cessful; the custom of sometimes massacreing the cap. tives, and generally selling them for slaves, with scarcely a remonstrance from moralists and philosophers; the extreme barbarity with which slaves were treated, and sometimes murdered by great numbers at once, les they should prove too powerful for their oppressors; the very common practice of exposing infants; * and all the system of rapine, fraud, and oppression, by which the Romans supported the most astonishing prodigality and sensuality, are too notorious to be denied, and
* Terence, not one of the most immoral of the Roman poets, introduces a young gentleman, who had a mistress supposed to be a slave, by whom he had a son. This son he meant to bring up; and on that account he is represented as a prodigy, not of natural affection or compassion, but of madness and folly! Had he murdered the babe, all had been very well.
Gravida e Pamphilo est:
ANDR. act. i. sc. 3. To be sure it is a slave, into whose mouth this sentence is put, but a poet. intimately acquainted with the chief nobility in Rome, would not have introduced any one speaking in this style, if the conduct censured had not been contrary to the estat. lisbed maxims and practice in that renowned city:
too detestable to be excused. Nor does it appear, that the lower orders were at all better, except as they had it not in their power to gratify their lusts to so great an excess. In short, the history of the several Gentile nations as handed down to us by pagan writers, when compared with the divine law, and divested of the false colourings with which it is commonly exhibited, is the most striking comment imaginable on the scrip. tural doctrine of human depravity, and of Satan's ty. ranny over our fallen race. Can we then wonder that the apostle should say of them “without Christ,“ without hope, and without God in the world?" -“Darkness covered the earth,” and “ the dark “ places of the earth were the habitations of cruelty” and of every abomination; till Christ sent his ministers " to open men's eyes, and to turn them from darkness “ to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, “ that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and an “ inheritance among them that are sanctified, by faith " in him.”
It has indeed become customary to admire the vir. tues of the ancient heathens: but no impartial man can deny, that the eulogiums passed on them contradict, not only Scripture, but the testimony of pagan writers; for very few indeed can be mentioned, even among their philosophers, who would in this country be deem. ed so much as moral characters, when the whole recorded concerning them was fairly investigated. In general their virtues, defectively as they delineate them, were only found in their declamations and writings, and were scarcely at all visible in their lives.
In like manner several modern travellers (who, by the help of their coadjutors the infidels, have often seemed to labour at proving that christianity is useless or needless,) launch out in commendation of the virtuous Hindoos, Chinese, or inhabitants of the Southsea islands: yet, it is undeniable, that the more these have been known, the fuller has been the proof, that they are exceedingly prone to vices of every kind; as well as given up to idolatry, or sunk in total ignorance concerning God and religion. So that it would not be very difficult to shew, from respectable testimony, that with variations arising from external circumstances, the character, drawn by the apostles of the ancient heathen, is realized, as to all its grand outlines, in that of modern pagans. And even thc Mahometans are not far, if at all, behind them; for though they do not pre. sent to our view altars reeking with human sacrifices, (vast numbers of which are still offered in divers parts of the world,) or with the grosser abominations of idolatry: yet the excessive licentiousness indulged by them, even on the principles of their detestable religion, in imitation of their debauched prophet, and in expectation of more refined sensuality in their promised paradise, are scarcely less shocking to the serious mind; especially as connected with the principle, that this paradise is secured to those who die in battle, at. tempting, by 'blood and slaughter, to propagate these licentious tenets!
On what ground then, can a christian conclude, that men, thus universally sunk in idolatry or the basest superstition, and in all kinds of vice and immo. rality, till they have almost obliterated the very sense of right and wrong, can be entitled to the reward of everlasting happiness, or meet for the enjoyment of its holy delights, without "repentance towards God and “ faith in our Lord Jesus Christ?” Certainly neither the promises of a Saviour; nor the covenant made with him, as a Mediator, nor his instructions to his apostles, nor their manner of executing their commission, nor their language concerning the Gentiles, give the smallest countenance to such a sentiment: but they always spake and acted, as if conversion to God by Jesus Christ was absolutely necessary, in order that any of the human race should be saved. And as “ it is “ appointed to men once to die, but after death the “ judgment,” at which solemn season all that do not go into eternal life, must go away into everlasting punishment; and “they who sin without law will perish “ without law;" we can allow nothing further than that it will be far more tolerable in the day of judgment for ignorant heathens, than for ungodly professors of christianity. The Scripture is decisive on the subject, however its determination may now be opposed, under the pretence of candour and charity
But it may be objected, that christians in general are as wicked as the Gentiles, or not much better: and we should answer this objection with tears and heartfelt grief!“ Woe be to the world because of offences! It “must needs be that offences come, but woe be to that “ man by whom they come.” It is however unreasonable to suppose that christianity will change those, who neither believe its doctrines, nor attend on its ordinances, nor obey its precepts; even as unreasonable as to expect, that a medicine should cure those who refuse to take it. And it is still more absurd to charge the blame on christianity, of all those abominations,