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bosom the temper and disposition required by the full meaning of the maxim, employ the best possible method of improving the benevolence, and of calming and rectifying the passions, of his nature? Whereas, in the very degree in which the rule is infringed, individuals and nations suffer. Evil dispositions are indulged, and evil effects follow. The happiness of society is impaired by private and public discord. The brightest virtues of charity are extinguished in the contests of conflicting spirits; and violence, and uproar, and confusion, prevail and riot in the habitations of men,
If we now advert to the moral doctrines and the moral influence of the Gospel, even as they have been here imperfectly displayed, we may be authorized to affirm the high and transcendant nature of that wisdom, which tenders its light and edification to the Cliristian disciple. The views which have been disclosed of the relationship of God to man, and of man to God; the rites and institutions of the religion, in their tendency, their object, and their design; the faith and hope which are enjoined as duties, and come to us in blessedness ; co-operate, powerfully and happily, with the more direct precept, to improve, to elevate, and to purify the heart. And what are the precepts? We behold them in their consistency, their tendency, and their universality, elevating the affections, and regulating the lives, of men ; promoting the dignity, the happiness, and the excellence of social beings; diffusing peace, harmony, and brotherly love, over the earth ; repressing all that is evil in our nature, and cherishing and promoting all that is good ; and sufficient, not merely for the guidance of nations and of times, but for the guidance and illumination of the whole human race,
in all times and in all nations. Instead, then, of comparing them with the frail and, often, conflicting dogmas of other religions, or with the loftiest maxims of philosophers and of schools, in the most distinguished periods of science and civilization, we embrace them as not unworthy of the inspiration to which they are attributed, and we bend in gratitude before the Religion by which they have been consecrated and sanctified for the perpetual benefit and edification of mankind.
Means of public instruction under the religion of Greece and Italy
The discussions of the schools undisturbed by religion or the lawsLiltle practical information derired from them- Popular ignorance and superstition perpetuated by the co-operating power of laws and priests—The lower orders of men considered as incapable of progressive instruction, and as requiring the restraint of religious despotism – Their creed a prescriptive and sanctified delusion, kindling the zeal but perpetuating the ignorance of their faith-No teaching in the temples — The lofty but unsupported pretensions of the Eleusinian mysteries—The initiuted few little edified, the uninitiated many neglected and despised — The sense of civil obligation, the love of fame, of glory, and of country, substituted for the impressions and motives of moral truth-Defects of the substitution.
N the constitution of the Greek republics, there
was little to retard, and much to accelerate, the progress of civilation and letters. Every individual was free to cultivate the learning, and assume the garb, of the philosopher. The schools of science were perpetually open to the multitude; and the knowledge acquired by the freeman and the sage, might frequently descend to illuminate the slave.
It was fortunate, as some have thought, that in Greece, there was no body of men set apart from their birth for the service of religion, and destined to become the guardians of the rights and institutions of worship.
The prevailing superstition was maintained with less vigilance, and religious persecution more rarely exercised. Philosophers of various sects arose, among whom, questions, calculated to exercise or to strengthen the faculties of men, were laboriously and zealously discussed. Theories of mythology were framed and admitted. If it might not be safe to resist with open and flagrant hostility the long established opinions of men on the subject of religion, and if the Diomedes of the schools might not dare to cope directly with the gods, a wide latitude was afforded to speculations which did not force themselves on the notice of the magistrate and the priest. The liberty was indeed to be exercised with discretion, and the popular faith was not to be insulted by the open impiety of philosophical objection; but it was easy to conform to a restriction which still left room enough for wide and ample speculation ; and it was found, in fact, that little notice was taken of the enquiries of schools, and that the interference of the laws and of the priesthood but rarely interrupted the speculations of the philosopher.
The result might have been favourable to scholastic knowledge, but was of no advantage to the cause
They who discovered the wild and mischievous absurdities of a system of twenty thousand gods, were led by their enquiries to mythological abstractions, at once useless, sophistical, and obscure. Theories were multiplied, but the predominant creed remained the same. Every sect had its peculiar tenets, but the tenets were heard only within the schools in which they had been engendered, or, if they extended further, were too dark or absurd to be intelligible or useful to the
people. There was much conflict, little certainty, ceaseless discord, no victory, rare conviction; and the more orthodox sophist who pretended to reverence the polytheism of his country, contributed as little to popular edification, as he who exchanged the credulity of superstition for the yet more flagrant credulity of the atheist, and impiously surrendered the world to the blind dominion of necessity or of chance.
It is, indeed, a fact which will scarcely admit of dispute, that the Greeks, in proportion as they advanced in politeness and erudition, became more corrupt and superstitious in their creed. They were so little satisfied with the number of the gods created by the fancy, or borrowed by the plagiarism, of their poets, that they were at all times ready to admit into the calendar of their pantheon the adopted divinities of the surrounding nations. Syria and Egypt, accordingly, augmented the celestial catalogue of the polytheist of Athens, of Sparta, and of Rome; and this infusion of foreign extravagance into the established religion of Greece, contributed to heighten the vices of the popular faith. There was no philosopher bold enough to oppose
progress of the torrent. The error and the mischief were sanctioned, instead of being repressed, by the laws. The Areopagus of Athens, the Ephori of Sparta, and a long list of statesmen and legislators, extending from an early period, to the age of the philosophic Julian, and the sage and imperial Antoninus, were equally zealous to lend their authority to the idols of their temples, and to perpetuate the creed by which the popular mind was darkened and misled. The people, in whom the light of nature