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We have an Account of the speculative Opinions of many of the wife Men of Greece preserved to us in Authors of
great Credit; but of their Practice, and personal Behaviour in Life, little is said: Which makes it hard to judge how far their own Practice and Conduct was influenced by their Opinions, or how consistent they were in pursuing the Consequences of their own Doctrines. The Cafe might have been the same with Socrates, had not a very particular Circumstance put him under a Necessity of explaining his Conduct and Practice with respect to the Religion of his Country. He had talked fo freely of the Heathen Deities, and the ridiculous Stories told of them, that he fell under a Suspicion of defpising the Gods of his Country, and of teaching the Youth of Athens to defpise their Altars and their Worship. Upon this Accusation he is summoned before the great Court of the Areopagites ; and happily the Apology he made for himfelf is preserved to us by two the ablest of his Scholars, and the best Writers of Antiquity, Plato and Xenophon : And from both their Accounts it appears, that Socrates maintained and asserted before his Judges, That he worshiped the Gods of his Country, and that he facrificed in private and in public
upon the allowed Altars, and according to the Rites and Customs of the City. After this public Confession, so authentically reported by two so able Hands, there can be no Doubt of his Case. He was an Idolater, and had not, by his great Knowledge and Ability in Reasoning, delivered himself from the Practice of the Superstition of his Country. You see how far the Wisdom of the World could go: Give me Leave to Thew you
what the Foolishness of Preaching could do in the very fame Case.
St. Paul was in the same Cafe: He was accused in the same City of Athens of the same Crime, That he was a Setter-forth of strange Gods; and before the same great Court of Areopagites he made his Apology, which is likewise preserved to us by St. Luke in the seventeenth Chapter of the Afts. We have then the greatest and the ablest among the wise Men of Greece, and an Apostle of Christ, in the same Circumstances. You have heard the Philosopher's Defence, That he worshiped the Gods of his Country, and as his Country worshiped them. Hear now the Apostle: Ye Men of Athens, says he, I perceive that in all Things ye are too superfitious : For, as I passed by, and bebeld your
Devotions, I found an Altar with this Infcription; TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, bim declare I unto you : God that made the World, and all Things therein. This God, he tells them, is not worshiped with Men's Hands, as though he needeth any thing : Nor was the Godhead like unto Gold, or Silver, or Stone, graven by Art and Man's Device. He then calls upon them, in the Name of this great God, to repent of their Superstition and Idolatry, which God would no longer bear : Because he hath appointed a Day in which he will judge the World in Righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof be hath given Assurance unto all Men, in that he hath reised him from the Dead.
Which of these two now was a Preacher of true Religion? Let those who value human Reason at the highest Rate determine the Point.
The Manner in which Socrates died was the calmest and the bravest in the World, and excludes all Pretence to say that he dissembled bis Opinion and Practice before his Judges out of any Fear, or Meanness of Spirit; Vices with which he was never taxes, and of which he seems to have been free
Consider then, was it possible for any Man, , upon the Authority of Socrates, to open his Mouth against the Idolatry of the Heathen World, or to make use of his Name to that Purpose, who had so folemnly, in the Face of his Country, and before the greatest Judicature of Greece, borne Testimony to the Gods of his Country, and the Worship paid them?
But to proceed: The City of Athens soon grew sensible of the Injury done to the best and wisest of their Citizens, and of their own great Mistake in putting Socrates to Death. His Accusers and his Judges became infamous; and the People grew extravagant in doing Honours to the Memory of the innocent Sufferer: They erected a Statue, nay a Temple, to his Memory; and his Name was had in Honour and Reverence.' His Doctrines
upon the Subjects of Divinity and Morality were introduced into the World with all the Advantage that the ablest and politest. Pens could give; and they became the Study and Entertainment of all the confiderable Men who lived after him. It is worth observing too, that from the Death of Socrates to the Birth of Christ were, if I remember right, near four hundred Years ; which was Time sufficient to make the Ex
periment, how far the Wisdom of Socrates, attended with all the Advantages before mentioned, could go in reforming the World, And what was the Effect of all this? Can you name the Place where Religion was, reformed? Can you name the Man who was so far reformed, as to renounce the Superstition of his Country? No; none such are to be found; and how should there? since, the greater the Credit and Reputation of Socrates were, the more strongly did they draw Men to imitate his Example, and to worship as their Country worshiped.
Consider, on the other side, what was the Consequence of preaching the Gospel. St. Paul entertained the Athenians with no fine Speculations; but he laid before them, in the plainest Dress, the great and momentous Truths of Religion; he openly rebuked their Idolatry, and condemned their Superstition, The Gospel was published in the fame Man ner every-where. The first Preachers of it were enabled to support it by Miracles; and most of them shed their Blood in defence of its Truth. By these Means they came likewise to have Credit and Authority in the World. But in these two Cases there was this great Difference: The corrupt Example of Socrates was a dead Weight upon the