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Wisdom they were not able to reform themselves. Yet this was the Truth of the Casse; and it was not at random, and without Knowledge of the Fact, that St. Paul lays this to the Charge of the wise Men of the World, That, when they knew God, they gloTtfied him not as God, neither were thankful, hut became vain in their Imaginations, and their foolish Heart was darkened. Profejjing themselves to be wife, they became Fools; and changed the Glory of the uncorruptible God into an Image made like to corruptible Man, and to Birds, and four-footed Beafis, and creeping Things. .
To prove the Truth of the Apostle's Assertion, that even the wise Men, who knew God, did not glorify him as God, by an Induction of Particulars, would be undertaking a Work which could hardly be well discharged in this Place. But yet the Point is too material to be passed over in Silence. Let us then consider the Case of one only, but of One, who among the good Men was the best, and among the wise ones the wisest. I mall easily be understood to mean Socrates, the great Philosopher of Athens: And, were the wife Men of Antiquity to plead their Cause in common, they could not put their Defence into better Hands.
We have an Account of the speculative Opinions of many of the wise 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 Casse 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 so freely of the Heathen Deities, and the ridiculous Stories told of them, that he fell under a Suspicion of despising the Gods of his Country, and of teaching the Youth of Athenst to despise their Altars and their Worship. Upon this Accusation he is summoned before the great Court of the Areopagites j and happily the Apology he made for himself 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 worshipped the Gods of his Country, and that he sacrificed 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 Casse. 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 shew you what the Foolishness of Preaching could do in the very same Casse.
St. Paul was in the same Casse: 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 ASls. 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 worshipped the Gods of his Country, and as his Country worshipped them. Hear now the Apostle: Te Men of Athens, says he, / perceive that in all 'Things ye are too superstitious: For, as I pajfedby, and beheld your M 3 Devotions-,
Devotions, I found an Altar with this Inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worJhipr him declare I unto you: God that made the World, and all Things therein. This God, he tells them, is not worshipped with Men s Hands, as though he needeth any thing: -—Nor was tbt 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 he hath given Ajjurance unto all Men, in that he hath raised 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 his Opinion and Practice before his Judges out of any Fear, or Meanness of Spirit; Vices with which he was never taxed, and of which he seems to have been incapable.
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 solemnly, 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 considerable 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 ExM 4 periment,