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perceived that all things are controlled by the will of the immortal gods."'* Respecting the practical influence of a belief in the existence of superior beings, and of a divine providence, Lord Bolingbroke has the following observations : “ The good effects of maintaining, and the bad effects of neglecting religion, had been extremely visible, in the whole course of the Roman government. Numa, the second founder of Rome, contributed more to the prosperity and grandeur of that empire than the first founder of it, Romulus, and all the warrior kings who succeeded him; for Numa established a religion, directed it, as others, both kings and consuls, did after his example, to the support of civil government, and made it the principle of all the glorious expectations that were raised in the minds of that people. His religion was very absurd; and yet by keeping up an awe of superior powers, and the belief of a providence that ordered the course of events, it produced all the marvellous effects which Machiavel, and writers more able to judge of them and their causes than he was, Polybius, Cicero, Plutarch, and others, ascribe to it. The inward peace of that government was often broken by seditions : Rome was in distress at home whilst she triumphed abroad; and at last, the dissolution of the commonwealth followed a long and bloody civil war. But the neglect of religion, not religion, was a principal cause of these evils. Religion decayed, and the state decayed with her. She might have preserved it; but even in her decay she gave it no wounds, nor festered like a poison in any.”+
4. Whatever may be thought of the truth or importance of the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, its antiquity cannot be doubted. A consciousness of accountability is so deeply inwrought in human nature, that the belief of the immortality of the soul is with difficulty separated from the idea of some species of retribution. And as it seems evident to most men that the awards of justice which they feel to be due to human character and action, are not administered in this world, it is natural that the period of retribution should be referred to that which is to come. The separation of future retribution from future existence appears to be rather the result of the repeated efforts of men to rid themselves of apprehension, than the dictate of nature. Cicero says of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, that all the ancients (those who in his day were called ancients) were agreed in it, and that they received
* De Harusp. Respons. $ 9.
+ Works, IV. 427, 428.
it rather from the teachings of nature than the reasonings of philosophy.* Seneca also represents this universal agreement as a strong argument in favor of a future existence. The great antiquity of the doctrine not only of future existence but of future retribution, is admitted even by those who are least of all disposed to receive it as a truth. Respecting the doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state, it is confessed by Lord Bolingbroke that “it began to be taught before we have any light into antiquity, and when we begin to have any we find it established.”I It is evident from many passages of the ancient historians, and indeed from the very structure of the ancient religions, that wise men and legislators were sensible that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments is necessary to the welfare of society. It is even contended by those who admit its importance while they deny its truth, that it was invented by ancient lawgivers for political purposes. “To give an additional strength to these motives,” [regard for the good of the whole] says Lord Bolingbroke," the ancient theists and polytheists, philosophers or legislators invented another; that, I mean, of future rewards and punishments, represented under various forms, but always directed to the same purpose.”$ That this was the general opinion at Rome in the time of Cicero, may be gathered from several passages in the writings of that orator, together with the speeches of Cato and Cæsar in the Roman senate, in the debates respecting the Catilinian conspiracy.ll
. It is evident from these passages, as well as from that before cited from Polybius, that the doctrine of future punishment was taught and believed among the early Romans." In the ancient and most virtuous times of the Roman republic," says Dr. Leland, “ the doctrine of a future state, and particularly of a future retribution, seems to have been generally received, and believed among the people.”T The same thing appears from the representations of the poets,** who were the popular divines of antiquity, and whose works exerted a much stronger in
* Tusc. Disp. I. 14. “But if the agreement of all is the voice of nature ; and if all everywhere agree that there is some. thing which belongs to those who have departed from life, we also ought to be of the same opinion, etc. † Epist. 117.
# Bolingbroke's Works, V. 237, 4to. § Ibid. IV. 288. Sallust. Bell. Cat. 52, 53. | Leland's Advantage and Necessity of Revelation, II. 386. ** Virgil's Æn. VI. 556 seq.
fluence over the people than the labored speculations of the philosophers. It is worthy of remark also, that those who believed, or wished the people to believe, the doctrine of future retribution, thought the punishments would not be sufficient to restrain from crime unless some of them were eternal. It is the opinion of Cicero, that the influence of this doctrine while it was held was highly salutary.* Nor is the utility of this belief denied even by the most distinguished of the infidels of modern times. Mr. Hume, in reply to the objections which he puts into the mouth of his skeptical friend, makes use of an unanswerable argument in favor of the doctrine. “Whether this reasoning of theirs [of the people, on which the belief in future punishment is based,] is just or not, is no matter; its influence on their life and conduct must still be the same: and those who attempt to disabuse them of such prejudices, may, for aught I know, be good reasoners, but I cannot allow them to be good citizens and politicians, since they free men from one restraint upon their passions, and make the infringement of the laws of equity and society in one respect more easy and secure.”+
And Lord Bolingbroke observes that, “Reason will neither affirm nor deny that there is to be a future state: and the doctrine of rewards and punishments in it has so great a tendency to enforce the civil laws, and to restrain the vices of men, that reason, which cannot decide for it on principles of natural theology, will not decide against it on principles of good policy.”I
An appropriate comment on this admission of the necessity of the belief in future retribution with a denial of its truth, is found in a remark of Neander upon the passage before quoted from Polybius (VI. 56.-See page 276)..“ This penetrating observer of human nature, to whom nothing but the light of divine wisdom was wanting, though he saw only with the natural eye, perceived clearly that the constitution of civil society existing on the earth, if it should not be held together by some higher bond connecting human affairs with heaven, could not maintain itself as something independent; but how wretched would human nature be if this bond could be maintained only by a lie, if there were need of falsehood in order to hold back the greater part of men from evil !"'$
After the proof which has been exhibited, it is not too much
DeLegibus, II. 7 (see p. 278). † Hume's Essays, II. 170.. I Works, V. 322. § Kirchengeschichte, I. ii.
to affirm that the religiones of the earliest Romans, which some writers regard as a foolish and useless system of superstition, embraced the essential elements of religion. The worship of a Deity (whether one or more) without images; a deep and settled reverence for the Divinity, and for sacred things; a belief in the doctrine of providence and human accountability; an undoubting conviction of the immortality of the soul; with the expectation of rewards to be bestowed on virtue, and punishments to be inflicted on vice in the future world ;-these are the first great principles of true religion. And it can hardly be supposed that when they are deeply fixed in the public mind, an influence should not be exerted for the suppression of crime, and the encouragement of morality. Such, accordingly, is found to have been the effect among the Romans. « Besides the advantages which the republic derived from the prevailing religion, that religion had an efficacious influence also on morality and national virtue. For although it had already degenerated in most of its features into superstition, yet along with it had been received the belief that the gods abhor vice and love virtue. Moreover, the reverence and awe which the Romans felt towards the gods, was increased to an uncommon extent by the prosperity of their government, the victorious success of their arms, and the imposing characteristics of most of the religious ceremonies, which they knew how to clothe in a dignified and fascinating dress. The religious disposition of the Romans showed itself not only in the conscientious discharge of their duties as citizens of the state, but also in the affairs of common life, and especially in the conscientiousness with which they observed an oath. But the decline of morals at Rome in process of time relaxed this mainspring of political and moral power, which had formerly operated so beneficially on the character and morals of the Romans.”* The principles from which originated the lustre of the Roman name, and the boundless extent of the Roman conquests, were domestic morality, love of country, and the fear of the gods ; these three, and the greatest of these was the last. It was the bond and security of the others, and therefore the grand procuring cause of all the results of the combination. While reverence for the gods remained, freedom and public happiness continued to be enjoyed, even without the diffusion of knowledge to more than a very limited extent.
Meyers Lehrbuch der römischen Alterthümer, 201.
But when religion declined, morality declined with it. When the fear of the gods was weakened, morality gave way before the violence of passion, and patriotism was displaced by private interest. And when the Epicurean philosophy began to remove all faith in the gods, and they ceased to exist in the estimation of the people, morality and patriotism perished with them. This we propose to show in a succeeding number.
ARTICLE I I.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE DECREES.
By Enoch Pond, D. D., Professor in the Theological Seminary, Bangor, Maine.
It is the object of this paper, not to prove the doctrine of Divine decrees or predestination, but to present a brief account of opinions and discussions in the church of Christ respecting it.
assume, therefore, in the outset, that the inspired writers held and taught the eternal and universal purposes of God. “He doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou ?" “ Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Such, indeed, are the teachings, not only of the Bible, but of nature and reason. We may infer as conclusively, from the light of nature, the eternal and universal purposes of God, as we can that there is a God of infinite wisdom and goodness. For in the possession of infinite wisdom, he must have discovered in eternity the best end, and the best means or plan of accomplishing it. And in the possession of infinite goodness, he must have preferred this plan, rather than any other. And this boundless plan of providence for accomplishing the noblest end, is but another name for the eternal and universal
purposes of God.
But how has this doctrine been held in the church? What diversities of opinion, what discussions have been had respect
SECOND SERIES, VOL. LX. NO. JI.