Page images

production of holy principles and upright conduct, withont constraint, without reference to human observation *: they aim at effecting the renewal of a fallen nature, the re-establislıment of that similitude to God in which we were first created.

One of the characteristic proofs indeed of the divine origin and benerolent designs of the religion, revealed to us by God, is, that it inculcates internal purity with as much force as external actions, evidently demonstrating, that it is not the object of the Sacred Writers to engage merely nominal professors of their faith, but to produce a sincerity of attachment, of which God only can judge.

It is not indeed to be denied, that the Heathens sometimes inculcated the necessity of inward purity of intention ; and we know that Herodotus, the earliest of the Greek historians, relates a remarkable story of Glaucus, i ho, being regarded as a man of great integrity, upon an occasion of a considerable sum of money being deposited in his hands, and an opportunity occurring of his detaining it from the owners, if he would forswear himself, consulted the oracle

[ocr errors]

* 2 Chron. xxv. 1, 2. Psal. li. 6. Isai, lviii, 3–8. Pror. v. 21. Matt, vi. 18. Rom, ii. 29.

at Delphi as to what conduct he should observe : upon which he received for ansicer to this effect; “ihat it might appear adı anta“ geous for a short time thus to succeed by "" a false oath, and to take unjust possession “ of the wealth, and that therefore he might 46 swear, since death awaited even the “ faithful man, but that an invisible power 56 should arise from perjury, swift and re“ sistless to seize, which should destroy the " house and the whole race, while the genc

ration of the just man should best succeed 66 in the end *.”

The historian adds that Glaucus entreated -the gods to forgive him what he had expressed ; but he was informed, that to tempt God, and to commit the action, were all one; and, though he sent for the Milesian guests, whose money he had detained, and delivered it to them, yet the historian adds, that in his time there remained no progeny of the house of Glaucus, but it was entirely rooted out in Sparta. - Compare the words 66 of the oracle," says a learned writer, who comments upon this relation, “ with those of * Zechariah, in wbich he says, “I looked “ and behold a flying roll,-then he said


* Herod. lib. vi. c. 86.

“ unto me, this is the curse that goeth forth “ over the face of the whole earth,”—and “ it shall enter into the house of the thief, " and into the house of him that sweareth “ falsely by my name, and it shall remain “ in the midst of his house, and shall con• sume it with the timber thereof, and the 6 stones thereof *." '

Juvenal (who refers to the story) and Persius have expressed sentiments very similar to those which are introduced in the relation of Herodotus.

It is pleasing to see the former writer, who was a stern moralist, and who, amidst his coarse and indignant strictures against vice, delivers the most animated lessons of virtue, lay down principles, which might seem to be derived from the stores of rę. vealed wisdom.

" Whoever,” says he, "conceives any " wickedness within himself, has the same 6: guilt as if he had committed it.” Ovid had before delivered a sentiment not dissimilar, that “ he who does not commit an action “ merely because it is not lawful, does in

* See Lardner. Zech. v. 3, 4. + Sat. xiii. 1. 209, 210.

~ fact commit it;" that is, manifests a disposition equally culpable; again, “though " we should keep the body, yet, if the mind " is adulterous, adultery will be committed * in private." Seneca also observes, that “he “ is incestuous, even without incest, who de66 sires to commit the crime ;' and in another place, that “he is not undeservedly placed " in the number of offenders, who is modest

only from regard to reputation, and not " from respect to himself.” Persius finely represents a well ordered love of justice, and piety in the hallowed recesses of the heart, and a mind imbued with a generous rectitude, as more acceptable to the gods than the greatest offerings of wealth *. It is to be remembered, however, that some of these passages were written after the diffusion of Christian knowledge.

The sentiments are the more remarkable, as we find even Josephus intimating his opinion, that bad designs were not objects of divine displeasure till carried into execution: thus, the historian, speaking of Antiochus Epiphanes, observes, that “he confessed at " his death that he died for the injuries

Sat. ii. lib. 73–75.

65 stick he had committed against the “ Jess;" and Josephus adds, that she 5. wonders how 20 Heathen writer, (Poir““ bius) who had treated of him, coull say " that he perished because he bad purposed “s to plunder the temple of Diana, in Persia;" for, says Josephus, “ to intend a thing and “ not to perform it, is not worthy of punish“ ment;" a notion so erroneous, that it could proceed only from that judicial blindness, which characterized the Jews about the time that they rejected Cbrist, when they forgot the instructions of Solomon, who commanded them to “ keep the heart with all diligence, “ for out of it were the issues of life;" and the declarations of their prophets, that 5 God was of purer eyes than to behold “ evil *, and weighed the thoughts;" and when therefore, as Isaiah had foretold, “a “ marvellous thing was effected and a won“ der, for the wisdom of their wise men had “ perished, and the understanding of their “ prudent men was hid.”

The national spirit, which was cherished by the different states of Pagan antiquity,

* Habak. i. 13.

« PreviousContinue »