Page images

from the centre of the world to the extremes, comprehends the whole body of the world, as it is extended throughout the universe, and so joins and conserves the whole. He taught the existence in the several elements of other demons also, which might be called intelligent gods, partly visible and partly invisible. He every where speaks of gods in the plural; and the objects of worship which he principally recommends to the people are heaven, and the heavenly bodies,—the sun, moon, and stars,-and the gods publicly adored and established by the laws. Besides all which, it should not be forgotten that PLATO, in common with many of the most celebrated Greek philosophers, travelled into Egypt and other parts in quest of knowledge, and might thus have gathered up many ancient traditions, or have derived his sublimer notions from the Scriptures of the Jews, which were now beginning to be known, and to be inquired after, in the places of their dispersion, and, soon after the time of PLATO, were rendered into the Greek language.*

I know it has been said, that PLATO and others concealed their real sentiments, from fear of the fate of SOCRATES. But in what a light does this apology place them! If it be true, it follows that their real sentiments cannot be known at all; nor, consequently, can they be appealed to as a ground of any argument whatever. It will also prove, that they were utterly insensible of the proper obligations of religion. Otherwise, among the thousands of that brave people who every day rushed upon death for the sake of their country, would one only have been found daring enough to die for the sake of truth? It exhibits, too, an interesting proof of the superior power of the Gospel upon the mind. Mark the difference. No sooner do those same heathens embrace the truth as it is in JESUS,-no sooner do they feel its power,-than every one of them becomes a SOCRATES. What do I say?—They do more. Men, women, and children, not only submit to death with fortitude ;-they offer themselves to martyrdom; they mock the cruellest tortures, and count not their lives dear unto themselves, that they may finish their course with joy. To conclude this point :-So far was the world, by wisdom, from knowing God, that just where philosophy and reasoning flourished most, just there precisely did superstition and idolatry also most abound. The fullest proof of this was given in Athens. At the time of which we speak, Athens was in her glory. Among other proud titles, she was called "one of the eyes of Greece; -"the home of the wise." Whatever therefore the light of nature, whatever the power of reason, with all the help of learning, could possibly discover of God, we might justly expect to find here. In this distinguished city at least we might hope to rest our wandering feet,-to enjoy the triumphs of sublime philosophy, and to meet with many whom reason

* The representations which have been given of these philosophical sects are somewhat various, though agreeing in the main. In the above summary I have chiefly followed MOSHEIM, STANLEY, and LELAND.

had freed from the gross superstitions, and absurd idolatry, which covered a dark and barbarous world. But what is the fact? O proud boaster of reason, who exaltest thyself against the revelation which God hath given of himself, here hide thy head! Athens, that school of wisdom,-that resort of philosophers,-Athens was full of idols, was buried in superstition, and knew not GOD. ST. PAUL testifies this from his own observations; and his testimony is amply confirmed by others.-" Ye men of Athens," said he, before the Court of Areopagus, "I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you,-GOD, that made the world.— Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of GoD, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."

Admitting the word which is rendered "too superstitious" to have a good sense, and to mean very religious, it must still be understood after the manner of the Athenians. And such was the fact. They were, indeed, the most religious of all the Greeks. But the meaning is, they were the most idolatrous. None excelled them in the fear and worship of the demons, and of the gods whom their laws acknowledged. Their superstitious fear of omitting any god among the multitude with which the world was filled, is supposed to have caused the erection of the altar with the inscription now in question. The whole inscription is said to have been,-"To the gods of Asia, and Europe, and Lybia: to the unknown and strange god." They crowd him among the rest of the demons, and by this, as well as by their inscription, proclaim their ignorance of him. It was this inscription, too, which enabled the Apostle to evade the law, by which it was made a capital offence to introduce a new god without the authority of the state. The unknown God, "whom ye ignorantly worship," (the word means, without knowing him,) "Him declare I nnto you,-God that made the world, and all things therein." Behold here the triumph of revelation. With what clearness and certainty does the inspired Apostle speak. He illuminates Athens. He teaches those who had been her Archons; and sheds the light of the knowledge of GOD upon her most illustrious Court.-It is a practical illustration of both parts of our subject. Philosophical Athens, in all the pride of her wisdom, knew not GOD. But "it pleased GOD by the foolishness of preaching" to save DIONYSIUS the Areopagite, DAMARIS, and others, who believed.-Here, then, we will leave the inventions of men. They are cold, and dark, and barren :-they are poor, and perplexed, and powerless. If we would find rest for our souls, we must look to some other source. And to whom shall we go but unto Thee, O LORD!-Thou hast the words of eternal life-In Thy light we shall see light!

(To be continued.)


For the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine. THE titles prefixed to many of the Psalms, as explanatory or descriptive of their contents, though of great antiquity, are not, I apprehend, considered of equal authority, and therefore may admit of inquiry.

That which is prefixed to the 51st Psalm, I have long suspected, from internal evidence, not to belong to it. The sin lamented was not an external transgression. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight:" this seems to imply, not in the sight of mạn, for otherwise there was no occasion to mark the all-seeing eye of GOD. The following verses, which relate to the state of moral defect and alienation from God introduced by the fall of ADAM, are certainly not meant as a vindication, or even as an excuse, but to express the conviction that no correctness of outward conduct, if it could be pleaded, would reach his case, or constitute the salvation which he sought; and further, that the sacrifices and offerings of the Levitical Law, though they might supply external defects, omissions of ceremonial obedience, could not be substituted for internal holiness.

Upon the whole, I am of opinion that the sin committed by DAVID in numbering the people, (2 Šam. xxiv.) is here meant. This was a heart-sin. The outward act was lawful. The people were twice numbered by MOSES; (see Num. iii. 16, and xxvi. 62;) and it was doubtless something more than the bare order, which gave occasion to JOAB, whose character was not that of scrupulosity, to remonstrate against the King's cominand. And though I allow that political motives were most likely to produce his dissatisfaction, yet it ag

gravated the sin of DAVID, that he did
not improve the check thus given
him, for further examination into the
principle of the measure.

The concluding prayer for the
prosperity of Jerusalem appears to
be in the faith of the future building
of a temple; the scite of which had
been made known to DAVID, when
his sacrifices in the threshing-floor
of ORNAN were accepted. (See
1 Chron. xxi. 28, and xxii. 1, and
compare 2 Chron. iii. 1.) "Do good
unto Zion,-build Thou the walls
of Jerusalem :" (be her protection.)
"Then shalt thou be pleased with
the sacrifices of righteousness, with
burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offer-
ings: then shall they offer bullocks
upon thine altar."

The objection which may be raised to this transfer of the subject of the 51st Psalm, grounded on the prayer, in verse 14, for deliverance from "blood-guiltiness," which has hitherto been thought to have reference to the death of URIAH, may well be answered from 1 Chron. xxi. 14: "So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel : and there fell seventy thousand men," (See the following verses.)

I should not dwell on this alteration of the title, if I did not think the Psalm itself would minister more edification when better understood. It stands in the front of the Penitential Psalms, and is very frequently referred to. No one can doubt but an attention to heart sins is more useful than the detail of external transgressions; these ought not to be familiarized; whereas the latent evil of corrupt motives, and the secret subtleties of self-love, cannot be too narrowly watched, or too carefully detected and exposed.


C. L.

Exhibited in M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND'S Description of the Present State of PALESTINE.

To the Editor of the Methodist Magazine. In a Volume of the last Series of your Miscellany, were inserted some Observations on the Divine Origin of the Scriptures and the Truth of Christianity;" (See the Number for

December, 1820, p. 879;) where I
briefly stated the argument deducible
from the fulfilment of Prophecy, and
adduced a remarkable example of
that kind, supplied by the accom-
plishment of our LORD's denuncia-

[ocr errors]

tion against the Jews, in the desolation of their city and temple; and that too in spite of an avowed attempt to frustrate the prophecy.

As a farther confirmation of the same argument, I beg leave to present your readers with another instance of the completion of prophecy. It is the infliction of that part of the terrible judgments with which MOSES, by the command of God, threatened the Jews in case of their apostasy, which related to the country in which they dwelt.

On that land, so much celebrated by ancient writers for its exuberant fertility, and which the Scriptures describe as "flowing with milk and honey," and as being "like the garden of Eden," did MOSES declare that the following dreadful curses should alight, if its inhabitants departed from the ordinances of their GOD. "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed." "So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath; even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD GOD of their fathers," &c. Deut. xxviii. 23, 24, and xxix. 22-25.

In how literal a manner these judgments have been executed upon this once fruitful country, the vivid description of M. de ChateaubRIAND shall inform your Readers. (See his "Travels in Greece, Palestine," &c.) "We pursued our course,' says that lively writer, "through a desert, where wild fig-trees, thinly scattered,

[ocr errors]

waved their embrowned leaves in the southern breeze. The ground, which had hitherto exhibited some verdure, now became bare; the sides of the mountains expanding themselves, assumed at once an appearance of greater grandeur and sterility. Presently all vegetation ceased: even the very mosses disappeared. The confused amphitheatre of the mountains was tinged with a red and vivid colour. In this dreary region we kept ascending for an hour, to gain an elevated hill which we saw before us; after which we proceeded for another hour across a naked plain, bestrewed with loose stones. All at once, at the extremity of this plain, I perceived a line of Gothic walls, flanked with square towers, and the tops of a few buildings peeping above them. At the foot of this wall appeared a camp of Turkish horse, with all the accompaniments of oriental pomp. El Cods! "The Holy City!" exclaimed the guide, and away he went at full gallop.-I paused, with my eyes fixed on Jerusalem, measuring the height of its walls, reviewing at once all the recollections of history, from ABRAHAM, to GODFREY of Bouillon, reflecting on the total change accomplished in the world by the mission of the SON OF MAN, and in vain seeking that Temple, not one stone of which is left upon another. Were I to live a thousand years, never should I forget that desert, which yet seems to be pervaded by the greatness of JEHOVAH, and the terrors of death.'

[ocr errors]

"As we advanced," (he was now journeying towards the Dead Sea,) the aspect of the mountains still continued the same, that is, white, dusty, and without shade, without trees, without herbage, without moss. We at length arrived at the last range of hills that form the western border of the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. The sun was near setting; we alighted, to give a little rest to our horses, and I contemplated at leisure the lake, the valley, and the river. The eastern chain of mountains, called the Mountains of Arabia, are the highest. The western range belongs to the mountains of Judea. The valley, bounded by these, exhibits a soil resembling the bottom of a sea that has long retired from its bed, a

beach covered with salt, dry mud, and moving sands, furrowed, as it were, by the waves. Here and there stunted shrubs with difficulty vege tate upon this inanimate tract; their leaves are covered with salt, which has nourished them, and their bark has a smoky smell and taste. Through the middle of this valley flows a discoloured river, which reluctantly creeps towards the pestilential lake by which it is engulfed.

"Such is the scene fåmous for the benedictions and curses of heaven. This river is the Jordan; this lake is the Dead Sea.

"When you travel in Judea, the heart is at first filled with profound disgust; but when, passing from solitude to solitude, boundless space opens before you, this disgust wears off by degrees, and you feel a secret awe, which so far from depressing the soul, imparts life, and elevates

the genius. Extraordinary appearances every where proclaim a land teeming with miracles; the burning sun, the towering eagle, the barren fig-tree, all the poetry, all the pictures of Scripture, are here. Every name commemorates a mystery; every grot proclaims the future; every hill re-echoes the accents of a prophet. Goo himself has spoken in these regions: dried-up rivers, riven rocks, attest the prodigy: the desert still appears mute with terror, and you would imagine that it had never presumed to interrupt the silence, since it heard the AWFUL VOICE OF THE ETERNAL."

It is proper to observe, that there are a few tracts in Palestine, (and as it seems, but few,) which are excep tions to the above general description of aridity and barrenness.

Tenterden, Nov. 7, 1821.


UNDER this Title, we propose to insert, occasionally, a SERIES OF PAPERS on subjects connected with the History, Doctrines, and Economy of the Wesleyan-Methodists. We are of opinion, that various useful topics may, in this form, be advantageously brought before the notice of our Methodist Readers; and that such a Series may be rendered, in process of time, a rich depository of sound principles, of important facts, and of valuable practical suggestions, in reference to the Body of Christians to whom it will be particularly addressed. Communications for this Series are respectfully requested from our intelligent Correspondents. We are happy to commence it with an able Paper, by the REV. RICHARD WATSON, on a subject universally interesting. It constitutes the Preface to a Work just published at the Methodist Book-Room, and entitled, "Sacred Harmony: a Set of Tunes, collected by the late REV. JOHN WESLEY, M. A., for the use of the Congregations in his Connexion: a new Edition, carefully revised and corrected by his Nephew, CHARLES


WESLEY, ESQ., Organist to His MAJESTY." We insert it without abridgment; and strongly recommend it to the attention of all who. are solicitous for the devotional character and moral efficiency of our Public Worship.


THE present Collection of Tunes, designed originally for the Methodist Congregations, having become scarce, it was thought that an acceptable service would be rendered to the lovers of that simple melody which characterized the singing of the pri mitive Methodists by republishing them; and thus, by a new Edition, recalling the attention of our congregatious to the music which animated the devotion of their forefathers, and which was sanctioned by the judgment of our venerable Founder.

It is not professed that all the airs in this Collection are equally good, or that none of them are liable to exception; nor is it to be understood, that their exclusive use is recommended. Many of them, however, have

« PreviousContinue »