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From a superficial view of that system of education which is generally established in this country, an opinion has been sometimes entertained, that heathen literature occupies too large a portion of time. This opinion seems to have originated in an erroneous persuasion, that the attention of the classical student is directed to the works of Pagan antiquity, solely, with a view to the acquisition of languages, or to the attainment of that knowledge which is calculated merely to improve the taste, and to furnish amusement for the leisure hours of life.
It is obvious, indeed, that these are among the advantages which result from a study of the heathen writings, and undoubtedly not the least of them, is an accurate and critical knowledge of the languages into which the Scriptures of the Old Testament were translated, nearly three centuries before the birth of Christ, and in which the writings of the
New Testament, with a single exception, were originally composed. A little reflection, however, will suggest advantages of no inconsiderable importance, which may be drawn from a full and systematic examination of the remains of heathen antiquity, in philosophy, in history, and in poetry; and at the same time will convince us, that the objections which have been brought against such attention to classical studies, and the presumption that those studies lead to little information of a solid nature, argue a defective apprehension of the principal objects which should be in the contemplation of every well concerted plan of classical instruction, and which such a plan usually promotes.
It should be observed, that in many departments of the liberal arts, besides those of philology and criticism, already alluded to, and even in some of the departments of science, a basis is laid on classical ground. .
The most striking illustration, however, of the importance of heathen literature, arises from its connection with that of the sacred writings, from the evidence which it affords in confirmation of the doctrines, institutions and facts upon which Christianity is founded, or to which its records indirectly relate. In
deed, it may not unreasonably be presumed, that the writings of Pagan antiquity have been providentially preserved with peculiar regard to this great object, since, notwithstanding numerous productions of past ages have perished, sufficient remains are still possessed, to unite the cause of heathen literature with that of religion, and to render the one, subservient to the interests of the other.
Accordingly, the heathen writings substantiate, by an independent and collateral report, the occurrence of many of the events, and the accomplishment of many of the prophecies recorded by the inspired writers ; they establish the accuracy of many incidental circumstances, which are interspersed throughout the Scriptures, and above all, by the gradually perverted representations which they give of revealed doctrines and institutions, they attest the actual communication of such truths from time to time, and pay the tribute of experience to the wisdom and necessity of a written revelation.
On the other hand it must be admitted, that in proportion as the heathen writings are found to communicate these testimonies to the cause of religion, they receive an increased value, since whatever lustre they throw upon
it, is reflected back upon them, and tends to raise them in our esteem. :
But if the literature of the heathens presents much which strengthens the evidence of revealed religion, that of the Jews affords still more abundant confirmation of the authority of its institutions, and of the fidelity of its records. Without entering into the wide field of Rabbinical learning, (of which the earlier productions, amidst many vain traditions, authenticate and illustrate the fundamental doctrines of Scripture), and confining ourselves to the works of Philo and Josephus, we find that these eminent men every where appeal to the Scriptures, as to the oracles of God; deriving all their religious and moral convictions from them, stating events in the same manner, and nearly in the same words, which the sacred historians employ, and describing the accomplishment of prophecies delivered in the books of the Old and New Testament.
It need scarcely be mentioned, that the main proofs in favour of the authority and importance of the sacred writings, are to be drawn from the internal evidence of inspiration which they contain, and from the wonderful connection and harmony of a scheme, carried on with uniform design, and attested by men miraculously supported through successive ages; but the subsidiary proofs which are to be deduced from the documents of human learning, however inferior they may be, are still valuable, and the more so, because they are to be found casually scattered without connection or design, in various works, produced by writers who lived in periods remote, and in countries distant from each other, who were not engaged in any common views, and who had no interest to confirm the sacred accounts.
In order to prove, to what great extent the Jewish and heathen literature is capable of affording such tribute to religion, and consequently of illustrating the wisdom and government of Providence, the author will endeavour to sketch out, in the ensuing pages, an abstract of some of the particulars, which throw a light on the history, the prophecies, the doctrines, and the institutions of religion, following where it may be, the order of time in the production of the extracts. He trusts that he shall be able to shew, that the whole range of ancient learning presents a wide scope for such important disquisitions, though it is his intention to take rather a popular view,