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So “ vain were they become in their imaginations ! So were their foolish hearts darkened !” (Rom. i. 21, &c.)
13. But this was only the first step. They did not stop here. “Professing themselves wise,” they yet sunk into such gross, astonishing folly as to “ change the glory of the incorruptible God,” (whom they might have known even from their own writers to be
The all-informing soul That fills the mighty mass, and moves the whole,) s into an image made like to corruptible man, yea, to birds, to beasts, to creeping things!” What wonder was it then, that after they had thus “changed his glory into an image, God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves?". How justly, when they had as changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator," did he “ for this cause, punishing sin by sin, "give them up unto vile affections. For even the women did change the natural use into that which is against na
Yea, the modest honourable Roman matrons, (so little were they ashamed!) wore their priapi openly on their breasts.
" And likewise the men burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly." What an amazing testimony of this is left us on record, even by the most modest of all the Roman poets!
Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexin ! How does this pattern of Heathen chastity avow, without either fear or shame, as if it were an innocent at least, if not laudable passion, Gf their burning in lust one toward another !” And did men of the finest taste in the nation censure the song, or the subject of it? We read nothing of this : on the contrary, the universal honour and esteem paid to the writer, and that by persons of the highest rank, plainly shows that the case of Corydon, as it was not uncommon in any part of the Roman dominions, so it was not conceived to be any blemish, either to him or his master, but an innocent infirmity.
Meantime how delicate an idea of love, had this favourite of Rome and of the muses? Hear him explaining himself a little more fully, on this tender point.
Eheu! quam pingui macer est mihi taurus in agro !
Idem amor exitium est pecori, pecorisque magistro. Idem amor! The same love in the bull and in the man! What elegance of sentiment! Is it possible any thing can exceed this? One would imagine nothing could, had not the same chaste poet furnished us with yet another scene, more abundantly shocking than this.
Pasiphaen nivei solatur amore juvenci ! “He comforts Pasiphæ with the love of her milk-white bull !” Nihil supra ! The condoling a woman on her unsuccessful amour with a bull, shows a brutality which nothing can exceed! How justly then
does the Apostle add, as “ they did not like” (or desire) “ to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to an undiscerning mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” In consequence of this, they were “filled with all unrighteousness,” vice of every kind, and in every degree: in particular * with fornication,” (taking the word in its largest sense, as including every sin of the kind,) “ with wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, with envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity: being haters of God,” the true God, the God of Israel, to whom they allowed no place among all their herd of deities : “ despiteful, proud, boasters,” in as eminent a degree as ever was any nation under heaven: “inventers of evil things” in great abundance, of mille nocendi artes, both in peace and war: “disobedient to parents," although duty to these is supposed to be inscribed on the hearts of the most barbarous nations : “ covenant-breakers," even of those of the most solemn kind, those wherein the public faith was engaged by their supreme magistrate : which notwithstanding they made no manner of scruple of breaking, whenever they saw good: only colouring over their perfidiousness, by giving those magistrates into their hands with whom the covenant was made. And what was this to the purpose? Is the king of France, or the republic of Holland, at liberty to violate their most solemn treaties at pleasure, provided they give up to the king of England, the amÞassador or general by whom that treaty was made ? What would all Europe have said of the late Czar, if instead of punctually performing the engagements made with the Porte when in his distress, he had only given up the persons by whom he transacted, and immediately broke through them all? There is therefore no room
Modo Punica scripta supersint,
Non minus infamis forte latina fides. Perhaps, if the Carthaginian writings were extant, Roman faith would be as infamous as Punic. We need them not. In vain have they destroyed the Carthaginian writings : for their own sufficiently testify of them; and fully prove that in perfidy, the natives of Carthage could not excel the senate and people of Rome.
14. They were as a nation, asogyoti « Void of natural affection," even to their own bowels. Witness the universal custom, which obtained for several ages in Rome, and all its dependencies, (as it had done before through all the cities of Greece,) when in their highest repute for wisdom and virtue, of exposing their own new-born children, more or fewer of them, as every man pleased, when he had as many as he thought good to keep, throwing them out to perish by cold and hunger, unless some more merciful wild beast shortened their pain, and provided them a sepulchre. Nor do I remember a single Greek or Roman, of all those that occasionally mention it, ever complaining of this diabolical custom, or fixing the least touch of blame upon it. Even the tender mother in Terence, who had some compassion for her helpless infant, does not dare to acknowledge it to her husband, without that remarkable preface, Ut misere superstitiosæ sumus omnes ; as we women are all miserably superstitious.
15. I would desire those gentlemen who are so very severe upon the Israelites, for killing the children of the Canaanites, at their entrance into the land of Canaan, to spend a few thoughts on this. Not to insist, that the Creator is the absolute Lord and Proprietor of the lives of all his creatures : that as such he may at any time, without the least injustice, take away the life which he has given : that. he may do this, in whatsoever manner, and by whatever instruments he pleases: and consequently may inflict death on any creature by whom he pleases, without any blame either to him or them : not to insist, I say, on this, or many other things which might be offered, let us at present fix on this single consideration. The Israelites destroyed the children for some weeks or months: the Greeks and Romans for above a thousand years. The one put them out of theiv pain at once, doubtless by the shortest and easiest way.
The other's were not so compassionate as to cut their throats, but left them to pine away by a lingering death. Above all, the Hebrews destroyed only the children of their enemies; the Romans destroyed their own. O fair pattern indeed! Where shall we find a parallel to this virtue ? I read of a modern, who took up a child, that fell from its mother's womb, and threw it back into the flames. (Pure, genuine human nature !), and reason good : for it was the child of an heretic. But what evil, ye worthies of ancient Rome, did ye find in your own children? I must still say, this is without a parallel, even in the Papal history.
16. They were implacable, unmerciful. Witness (one or two instances of ten thousand) poor, gray-headed Hannibal, (whom, very probably, bad we any other accounts of him than those which were given by his bitterest enemies, we should have reverenced as one of the most amiable of men, as well as the most valiant of all the ancient heathens,) hunted from nation to nation, and never quitted till he fell by his own hand. Witness the famous suffrage, “ Delenda est Carthago. Let Carthage be destroyed.” Why? It was imperii æmula: the rival of the Roman glory. These were open,
undeniable evidences of the public national placability and mercy of the Romans. Need instances of a more private nature be added ? Behold then one for all : In that glory of Rome, that prodigy of virtue, the great, the celebrated Cato. Cato the Elder, when any of his domestics had worn themselves out in his service, and grew decrepid with age, constantly turned them out to starve, and was much applauded for his frugality in so doing. But what mercy was this? Just such as that which dwelt in Cato of Utica, who repaid the tenderness of his servant endeavouring to save his life, to prevent his tearing open his wound, by striking him on the face with such violence, as to fill his mouth with blood. These are thy gods. O deism! These are the patterns so zealously recommended to our imitation !
17. And what was the real character of that hero, whom Cato. himself so admired? Whose cause he espoused with such eagerness, with such unwearied diligence? Of Pompey the Great ? Surely never did any man purchase that title at so cheap a rate ! What made him great! The villany of Perpenna, and the treachery of Pharnaces. Had not the one murdered his friend, the other rebelled against his father, where had been Pompey's greatness ? So this stalking-horse of a party procured his reputation in the commonwealth. And when it was procured, how did he use it! Let his own poet, Lucan, speak
Nec Cæsar ferre priorem,
Pompeiusve parem potuit.
Nor patriot Pompey could an equal brook! He would bear no equal! And this a senator of Rome! Nay, the grand patron of the republic! But what a republican himself, when this principle was the spring of all his designs and actions ! Indeed a less amiable character it is not easy to find, among all the great men of antiquity : ambitious, vain, haughty, surly, and overbearing, beyond the common rate of men. And what virtue had he to balance these faults ? I can scarcely find one, even in Lucan's account: it does not appear that in the latter part of his life, he had even military virtues. What proof did he give of personal courage, in all his war with Cæsar ? What instances of eminent conduct ? None at all if we may credit his friend Cicero; who complains heavily to Atticus, that he acted like a madman, and would ruin the cause he had undertaken to defend.
18. Let' none therefore look for placability or mercy in Pompey, But was there any unmercifulness in Cæsar?
“ Who than Julius hopes to rise,
More brave, more generous, or more wise ?” Of his courage and sense there can be no doubt. And much may be said with regard to his contest with Pompey, even for the justice of his cause. For with him he certainly fought for life, rather than glory : of which he had the strongest conviction (though he was ashamed to own it) when he passed the Rubicon. Nor can it be doubted but he was often merciful. It is no proof of the contrary, that he rode up and down bis ranks during the battle of Pharsalia, and cried to those who were engaged with the pretty gentlemen of Pompey's army, Miles, faciem feri; “Soldier, strike at the face.” For this greatly shortened the dispute, with those who were more afraid of losing their beauty than their lives, and so prevented the effusion of much bldod. But I cannot get over (to say nothing of the myriads of common Gauls whom he destroyed) a short sentence in his commentaries, Vercingetorix per tormenta necatus.
Who was this Vercingetorix ? As brave a man, and (considering his years) as great a general as even Cæsar. What was. his crime? The love of his parents, wife, children, country, and sacrificing all things in the defence of them. And how did Cæsar treat him on this account? He tortured him to death. O Roman mercy! Did not
Brutus and Cassius avenge Vercingetorix rather than Pompey? How well was Rome represented in the prophetical vision, by that beast, “ dreadful and terrible, which had great iron teeth, and devoured, and brake in pieces, and stamped under his feet” all other kingdoms!
II. 1. Such is the state, with regard to knowledge and virtue, wherein, according to the most authentic accounts, mankind was, from the earliest times, for above four thousand years. Such nearly did it continue, during the decline, and since the destruction of the Roman empire. But we will waive all that is past, if it only appears that mankind are virtuous and wise at this day. This then is the point we are at present to consider. Are men in general now wise and virtuous ?
Our ingenious countryman, Mr. Brerewood, after his most careful and laborious inquiries, computes, that supposing that part of the earth, which we know to be inhabited, were divided into thirty equal parts, nineteen of these are heathen still : and of the remaining eleven, six are Mahometan, and only five Christian. Let us take as fair and impartial a survey as we can, of the heathens first, and then of the Mahometans and Christians.
And, first, of the heathens. What manner of men are these, as to virtue and knowledge at this day ? Many of late, who still bear the Christian name, have entertained very honourable thoughts of the old heathens. They cannot believe them to have been so stupid and senseless as they have been represented to be : particularly, with regard to idolatry, in worshipping birds, beasts, and creeping things. Much less can they credit the stories told of many nations, the Egyptians in particular,
" Who are said
To have set the leek they after pray'd to." But if they do not consider who they are that transmit to us these accounts, namely, both those writers who, they profess to believe, spoke " as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and those whom perhaps they value more, the most credible of their contemporary heathens : If, I say, they forget this, do they not consider the present state of the heathen world ? Now, allowing the bulk of the ancient heathens (which itself is not easily proved) to have had as much understanding as the modern, we have no pretence to suppose they
Whatever therefore they were, we may safely gather from what they are: we may judge of the past by the present. Would we know then (to begin with a part of the world known to very early antiquity) what manner of men the heathens in Africa were two or three thousand years ago ? Inquire what they are now; who are genuine Pagans still, not tainted either with Mahometanism or Christianity. They are to be found in abundance, either in Negro-land, or round the Cape of Good Hope. Now what measure of knowledge have the natives of these countries? I do not say in
metaphysics, mathematies, or astronomy. Of these it is plain they I know just as much as their four-footed brethren. The lion and the