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often capricious and unjust; a deity often negligent. of human sufferings, and cruel and partial in his decrees; an immortality almost without joy, or tendered only to awaken the fury of fanaticism and of persecution ; in a word, motives, frail, earthly, feeble, unfounded, or corrupt. On the other, we behold a God supreme in attribute, gracious in government, parental in correction, boundless in love; a futurity, where all wrong shall be redressed, all tears shall be wiped away, all righteousness, and all that is endured for righteousness sake, shall be abundantly recompensed; a Redeemer encircled with the beams of benevolence and of compassion, remembering and pitying the infirmities of man, and extending his arms to embrace, not a sect, a city, or a realm, but all nations, kindreds and tongues, not the pure and upright alone, who bring to his altar the oblation of obedience and of love, but the guilty, who, approach him only with the tear and the sigh of the contrite heart. The religions which are thus con-, trasted we presume not to compare ; but, while we are compelled to admit the utter insufficiency of human creeds, in their consolatory influence, let it not be denied, that the Gospel remedies the defect in a manner adequate to the consolation of afflicted man, and, if we may so speak, worthy of the goodness and wisdom of that God by whom it claims to be inspired
Spirit of the Greek and Roman devotion-External observances,
Imposing forms - Vicious Gods-Impious worship-Minute rites and rules of the national ritual— Monstrous and sanguinary oblations-Ver sacrum-Reverence of outward signs-Superstitious piety-Corrupt and corrupting ceremonies-Female ministrants of the temples –Magic - Evocation - SacrificeThe whole wor. ship sanctioned by the magistrate and the priest - The service political and mischievous, and calculated to delude and corrupt the people.
HE forms of worship adopted by nations or
individuals, are intimately connected with morals and manners. Their influence may be modified by the civil regulations of policy and of law; but it will be only modified. The disposition of the worshipper will still be governed by the character of the worship.' The qualities which are the objects of devotion, naturally become those of imitation; and all history warrants the opinion, that our judgments of man, whether in his civil or indivi- . dual state, may safely be determined by the temper, the tendency, and the ceremonies of his worship.
The worship, then, prescribed by any religion, is not to be considered merely in its reference to Deity. It becomes a test of the utility and wisdom of the religion itself; and in the purity or impurity of the stream we may detect the qualities of the fountain from which it flows.
It would be easy to select from the volumes of Greek and Roman antiquity, various passages, op the subject of devotion, of great excellence and beauty. As every heart was open to the divine inspection, every aspiration, it was said, was instantly detected in its most secret motives. The gods listened to no idle or hypocritical prayer. They grant not what is asked, but what is right. It is wise to solicit their favour and support, but the presumption of the votary is not to prescribe the time or the manner of the intervention*. Nor are the gods to be bribed by splendid oblations. When the Athenian sarcastically complained to the oracle of Ammon, that the favour of gods had been purchased by the contemptible offerings of the Lacedemonians, the Oracle replied, that the most costly sacrifices of Athenian ostentation were less acceptable than the cheap and simple oblations of Spartan piety t. And when the Thessalonian, in the pride of his magnificence and pomp, devoted to the gods an hundred oxen with gilded horns; and the humble sincerity of the citizen of Hermione tendered his little handful of flowers; it was declared by the voice of the presiding deity, that the splendid hecatomb of vanity was less grateful to heaven, than the blossoms laid upon the altar by upright poverty I.
Even the external observances of Grecian piety
See the concluding lines of the Tenth Satyr of Juvenal. They are beautiful, but surpassed by the Christian paraphrase of Johason.
* Plato in Alcibiad.
often afforded a beautiful and interesting spectacle. The extensive area before the temple, and the noble porticoes which generally surrounded it, were crowded by a devout and zealous multitude. The priests, or priestesses, in splendid garbs, appeared, at a little distance, in the vestibule, at the foot of the altar. After a solemn pause, one of the subordinate ministers, in order to excite the attention of the people, demanded, “Who are they who compose this as
sembly?” and a universal response was returned,
Upright and pious citizens.” The officiating priest then slowly advanced, and in a distinct and awful voice, exhorted the congregation “ to offer up their
prayers, and to supplicate the gods.” Prayers, adapted to the occasion, were next recited by the priest ; or hymns, in which the divine genius of the poet had celebrated the majesty of the gods, were chanted, by a chorus of youths and virgins, with such sweet and affecting melody, as frequently ex: cited the tears and kindled the admiration and enthusiasm of the auditory*.
Yet whatever may have been the excellence or utility of these or similar observances, the superstition of the Greek and Roman faith authorized persuasions more generally, which misdirected and
• Plato de Legib. lib. vii. tom. 2. p. 800. In the Carmen Seculare of Horace, the chorus of youths and virgins is occasionally alternate, and occasionally united. The poet opens his subject with great sublimity, and drives from the precincts of the temple the vulgar and the profane
Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.
Hor. lib. iii. Od. 1.
vitiated the worship of the people. Where the objects of devotion were multiplied divinities, not merely frail, but often criminal and cruel, the worship might have been zealous, but in proportion to its zeal must have been its mischief or its absurdity. We. accordingly, find, that the ritual of Grecian and Roman piety often stimulated the populace to acts of wantonness or of frenzy, and that it contributed less to enlighten and elevate the prostrate votary, than to confirm his delusion and to perpetuate his errors.
As far as the religion, indeed, concerned the mass of society, it was not a system of internal piety, but of external observances. The sacrifice was indispensable, but the sin might be retained *. If the hecatomb was offered, it was intended as a bribe to the gods, rather than as an acknowledgment of repentant crime. All sound and salutary doctrines gave way to the formal and minute observances of an imposing superstition f. The priest and priestess. were selected for the dignity of their deportment, and the majesty and beauty of their form; and, to increase the credulous veneration of the people, they were distinguished by the emblems of their appropriate deities I, and by magnificent garments, in which the names of the benefactors of the temple were
Appendix W. + The people assembled for worship were, at stated periods, to kiss the ground, to stand up, to kneel, to prostrate themselves on the earth, and to hold forth branches which were to be occasionally applied to their lips, extended towards heaven, raised-before the statues of the gods, and waved in the air with ceremonial exactness. Pott. Archæolog. lib. ii. c. 5. Appollon. Vit. lib. iv. c. 4. Theophrast. ch. xvi. Laert. in Diog. lib. vi. $ 37. Sophocl. in Edip. Tyrann.
I Appendix, Note X,