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pearing 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 controuls 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
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.
Melanippidas, 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 shew what enlightened ideas were entertained by some of the nature of God. I will next adduce a few passages to shew 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?
Į 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
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 for ever in heaven.'
Euripides has the following passage: If any more tal flatters himself that the sin which he commits, can escape the notice of an avenging Deity, he indulges a vain hape, deceiving himself in a false presumption of impunity, because the divine justice suspends 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, exhibita ing the most elevated conceptions of the being and superintendance of one, supreme, all-seeing, inef. fable 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 attend 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 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 Clerc 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 reliques, 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 gene
rally the letter X, the initial of xoncov, (useful) and the collection afterwards made of these distinguished passages they called χρησομάθειαν. .
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 shew, in a general point of view, what had been the advances of human reason, before God enlightened the world by his special revelation.
If the deist, who contends for the all-sufficiency of natural religion, shall think that in these passages, which I have quoted in the preceding number, he has discovered fresh resources on the part of human reason as opposed to divine revelation, he will find himself involved in a very false conclusion. Though it were in my power to have collected every moral and religious sentence, which has fallen from the pens of the heathen writers antecedent to Christianity, and although it should thereby appear that the morality of the gospel had been the morality of right reason in all ages of the world, he would still remain as much unfurnished as ever for establishing his favourite position, that the Scriptures reveal nothing more than man's understanding had discovered without their aid. We may therefore console ourselves without scruple, in discovering that the hea