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It is a peculiarity which is worthy of notice, that although the Jews were so tenacious of religion, wherever they were placed, and preserved themselves distinct, by holding intermarriages with the heathen inhabitants, in abhorrence, they were in other respects social and accommodating: for in Chaldea, their intercourse with surrounding nations was so frequent and intimate, that their own language became corrupted, and, in some instances, it was totally forgotten. Those also who were settled in the Grecian provinces, acquired the title of Hellenists, from their familiar acquaintance with the Greek tongue.
These two opposite circumstances united in the promotion of the grand object. Their scrupulous attention to the peculiarities of their own religion, preserved it from being blended with Paganism, as had been the case with the Israelites in the land of Canaan; while their familiar intercourse with the surrounding Pagáns, not only softened prejudices, but implanted a conviction of the moral and religious superiority of this singular people.
The reason of man readily assents to the existence of one universal cause of all things; the reason of man informs him, that the existence of more than one is not necessary. The Monotheist must assert that superAuities are the creatures of the imagination. When he attends to the nature of superstition, he discovers that the Gods of human 'formation have a shape and character, analogous to the state and character of human minds. If these be savage, brutal, timid, the gods will be clothed with horrors, and become the Molochs of their worshippers. When a perception of benefits awakens the grateful feelings, and the designs of the cultivator, mechanic, or navigator prosper under-his endeavours, he contemplates and worships the imaginary sources of good, as the benefactors of the human species. Thus will Ceres, Pomona, Bacchus, Neptune, &c. take place of more ferocious deities. The personification of wisdom produced a Mi. nerva; of the arts and sciences, an Apollo ; of beauty, Venus, and the graces. The civilized imagination of poets finally became so playful that it delighted to populate woods and groves, rivers and mountains, with nymphs, naiads, fawns, &c. animating the dulness of rural scenery, and introducing a vivacity of language, to which the modernis themselves have recourse, in order to embellish their descriptions, notwithstanding the delusion no longer exists.
shipped, always indicate the character of the worshipper; and whatever has a tendency to reform this, will necessarily reform Paganism. The adın ission of the Great Jehovah of the Jews among the divinities of Pagan worship, and his acknowledged superiority, introduced a new æra in Paganism itself. He was doubtless their Jupiter, the father of gods and men; and notwithstanding the intermixture which absurd and impure imaginations sometimes made, he was considered not only as more powerful, but of a more perfect character than the others. The idea of a Supreme, reduced the other beings into a salutary subordination. Their empire was more limited, their morals were more pure. That great Being, whose condescension is infinite, winked at these times of ignorance, as the Apostle expresses it; resented not so unworthy an alliance; for by these means he was gradually leading forwards his untutored offspring, to a more perfect knowledge of himself.
The Apostle Paul observed, when he was at Athens, an altar erected to the unknown God. Whether this was a general confession of the ignorance and embarrassment of their minds, respecting the great first cause, as some suppose;
or referred, as others suppose, to the desire of the Athenians to honour some particular god, who had averted a great calamity from their city, it was still a confession of ignorance, and also an indication of a grateful disposition. Both were preparatory to the reception of the truths of revelation. To be conscious of our own ignorance is, in fact, an advancement in knowJedge. A mind perfectly in the dark cannot perceive its own darkness. Their more savage ancestors thought that they knew their gods most intimately, and that they perfectly resembled the most tyrannic and depraved models of the human species. When reason begins to doubt of the absurdities which had checked its exertions, it is weakening their influence. It will find its way through one class of errors; and should it not immediately arrive at truth, the new class of adopted errors will not be so formidable, or so tenacious of their hold. To doubt of the existence of beings whose attributes and characters are not as they should be, not only manifests the struggles of a superior mind, but it is a noble attempt to burst the chains of ignorance. It prepares the mind to yield to the force of evidence which may finally lead to truth. No season could be more opportune for Paul to preach the knowledge of the true God
to his audience, than when they confessed that they were worshipping an unknown God.
It is hoped that the above strictures willmanifest the designs of Providence in its various dispensations, respecting the heathen world:-silence the cavils of unbelievers, against occasional miracles, as if their sole object were to amaze and terrify :-enable us to trace an unity in the divine plan, amidst the diversity of operations; and
prove that this unity consists in the determined production of good by the diffusion of light and knowledge in exact proportion as the minds of men were prepared for their reception; that the heathen world was not excluded from the divine favour, by the selection of a particular people, to be the deposits of moral and religious truths; but that their interest was also consulted by the great father of all. In a word, we perceive that the human race, which was plunged into ignorance and vice, beyond the influence of their natural powers to extricate themselves, have been gradually conducted by a superintending providence, from palpable darkness to dawns of light, which increased in every age, until they became, as it were, the Aurora, which ushered in the Sun of Righteousness, destined to illuminate the world.