Page images
PDF
EPUB

lic and private history, in as far as we are acquainted with it, furnishes the most ample evidence. The conduct of the Lacedemonians towards their slaves, who were regarded as the common property of the state, and whom any one might injure with impunity, is revolting to every feeling of humanity. To prevent them from growing too numerous or powerful, it was a part of their policy to massacre them, on certain occasions, in cold blood, and without the slightest provocation. At one time, two thousand of them, whom they had armed for the defence of the state, and by whose fidelity they were materially assisted in bringing the war in which they were engaged to a conclusion, were deliberately and cruelly destroyed. Nor did the Romans treat their slaves with greater humanity. They very frequently sent those who were sick, or infirm, or old, into an island in the Tyber, where they were left to perish. It is affirmed by respectable historians, that they sometimes ordered them to be drowned in fishponds, that the fish might be more delicate.

I shall say nothing of the cruelty and carnage that accompanied their wars, undertaken from ambition, and conducted without a regard to justice ; nor of the indiscriminate slaughter which so often followed on their taking a city; nor of the custom of ordering the most distinguished of their prisoners, after employing them to grace their triumphal entrance, to be put to death. Their public amusements, which were attended by all ranks, and by the most illustrious females, are : sufficient to convict them of being what the Apostle styles them, murderers and unmerciful. In their

gladiatory shows, they beheld human beings fight with each other, or with wild beasts, till hundreds were killed before them. When we remember that these diversions were exhibited on almost all public occasions, and provided to the multitude by all who wished to acquire or retain popularity,--that they were frequent in all parts of the Roman empire, and eagerly sought after by all classes, we may form some notion of the extent to which inhumanity prevailed, and of the number of lives that were sacrificed for pleasure. It is estimated that a greater number of men was killed in these cruel sports, throughout the provinces, than was slaughtered in war.

That the heathen in general, and the more refined of them in particular, were often led to subdue their natural affection, and to exhibit on many occasions a total want of it, is clear, from the mode in which parents treated their children, and in which parents, in their turn, were dealt with by their own offspring. Among the Lacedemonians, the father was obliged by the laws, to bring his child to be examined by the men of his tribe; and if after viewing the infant they found it weakly or deformed, they caused it to be destroyed. The Romans were allowed by law, to destroy all their female children but the eldest; and it appears that parents of the best character availed themselves of this permission. Eminent philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and others, prescribed or approved this unnatural practice. Thus were mankind taught by law and by philosophy, to offer violence to one of the strongest and best affections of the heart, and to

reckon that the taking away of the lives of their children was not a crime. In like manner was it the custom in several ancient nations for children to ex. pose or destroy their sick or aged parents, under the pretence that this was better for them than to wait for their natural death. I shall lay no stress on Nero's murdering his mother Agrippina, because Nero was a monster of depravity ; but the reader of ancient history will meet with numerous examples to prove, that the heathen nations shewed a deficiency in natural affection.

They were also implacable. They were strangers to that disposition to forgive those who injure us, which the Gospel inculcates. Some of their philosophers considered it pusillanimous not to retaliate ; and in practice, all exhibited the spirit of revenge. They would not allow that forgiving mercy could form any part of a perfect character. They were not less deficient in general benevolence. With what cruelty and barbarity did the Greeks and Romans, especially the former, treat all other nations! And how common was it for the Gentiles, both as nations and as individuals, to be covenant-breakers, to be deceitful, false, and fraudulent, indifferent as to the means, provided they could attain their end. The most virtuous and the wisest of their philosophers taught them, that lying is lawful when it is profitable, and consequently led them to make light of their most solemn engagements.

It is somewhat remarkable, that with all this depravity they should have been distinguished, more

especially their learned men, for their pride and selfsufficiency. They were accustomed to speak of themselves as being on an equality with the gods, and in one thing to excel even the gods, their being wise and good by their own choice. What can be conceived more boastful and assuming than the following strain of a stoical philosopher: “I am excellent in wisdom; I have performed many difficult labours; I have vanquished pleasures; I have vanquished riches; I have vanquished ambition; I have wrestled against and

. subdued cowardice and flattery. Fear and intemperance have nothing to say against me; sorrow is afraid of me. For these things am I crowned by my. self, as being my own master, and under my own command. I shall not build altars to others, but others to me.” I would now observe,

I. That this survey of the impiety, idolatry, and gross immorality of the heathen world shews the universal depravity of mankind. It is true, the Apostle has only hitherto applied his charge of universal depravity to the Gentiles; but we should be entitled to conclude, (even though he had not proved the same charge against the Jews in the following chapter,) that the corruption which pervaded the whole heathen world, was the corruption which is natural to

A cause whose operation was so invariable, whose effects reached every individual and all classes, , and which were exhibited in the most monstrous idolatry and immorality, must be universal. It was not confined to any age or country, but common to all,acquiring greater strength as mankind advanced,

man.

[ocr errors]

prompting them to efface from their nature all that yet remained of the image of Him that made them,-and converting a world, which the voice of the Creator had once pronounced to be very good, into the theatre of impiety and crime, and wide-spreading ruin and death. These, though only some of the evidences, incontrovertibly prove, that all mankind are fallen and apostate,that they are in a state of rebellion against God,—that they are exposed to his displeasure, and under his righteous condemnation,—and that every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. What, then, are we better than they ? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin, as it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one *.”

Numerous and revolting as were the vices and crimes which filled the heathen world, they were only streams issuing from the polluted fountain of human nature. The heart which is their source we carry along with us; and the highest authority has declared this heart to be deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ;-to be enmity against God, and not subject to his law. And the alarming consideration that we are thus depraved,—that we have spiritually and morally undone and destroyed our

. Rom. iii. 10-20.

« PreviousContinue »