Imágenes de páginas

cloathes himself in the might and 'majesty of unbounded power.

But this great and wonderful Being delights not so much in the name of the omnipotent and omniscient God, as of the God of the fatherless and of the widow. All nature is beheld and governed, but he dwells with especial complacency in the meek and contrite bosom, and peculiarly rejoices to heal the humiliated and broken spirit. While his decree prostrates the pride, and dashes in pieces the iron sceptres, of the tyrants of the earth, bis protecting care visits the poor in heart, and his staff sustains the simple and lowly in the toils of their pilgrimage. To nobles and kings, who load his altars with their oblations, he prefers the humblest of the peace-makers of the world, who labour to diffuse good-will among men.

It is not the sons of ambition and conquest, of whom it is declared that they shall see him; but the children of humility, of mercy, and of righteousness.. And the felicity of his kingdom, which is no where said to be especially reserved for the mighty and the great, is explicitly announced to the afflicted of the earth, who, for his sake, are reviled and persecuted. Nothing surely can be more lovely than this celestial portraiture of divine condescension and benevolence. Power may be feared and reverenced. Wisdom may be adored and obeyed. Glory may astonish and confound. . But when we behold Him who inhabits eternity, and clothes himself with light, and stretches out the heavens like a curtain, thus descending in graciousness and compassion to abide with the poor, the destitute, and the forlorn, we become sensible of emotions at once more delightful and more salutary, and we hasten to offer him, with ardent but humble acknowledgement, the holocaust of the heart.

The conclusion which follows from the whole of this detail, is as obvious, as it is important.

We have examined the religions framed in India, in Italy, and in Greece, by that unassisted reason whose pretentions are so lofty, and whose capacity is so extolled. What have we discovered ? Have we been instructed in the first and fundamental principles of all religion, and taught to contemplate a deity, 'worthy, in any sense, to be embraced by human faith? On the contrary, we have been repelled by the most gross and lamentable superstition ; and have found nothing better than a system of impossible or contradictory deities, invested by their very worshippers with unqualified folly or crime, and adopted and adored with a zeal as ardent as its objects were ludicrous and impure.

In this respect, the most savage hordes, in the most savage age, have not been surpassed by nations the most learned and refined; and the Scythian clan does not exhibit a more deplorable perversion of "reason and of faith, than the Braminical college, or the Grecian community. All, however variously endowed, the barbarous who implicitly assent, and the civilized who anxiously inquire, are here equal in the absurdity of their errors, and the fatuity of their creed. The mythology of one realm, however decorated by fancy, will not be found to excel that of another, however coarse and rude in its structure; and the Deity every where worshipped, can scarcely be regarded but as the monstrous phantom of a sick dream, or as the astonishing and whimsical production of the mingled powers of fantastic hope, and superstitious terror.

Even the faith of the philosopher and his sect was scarcely less absurd than the whimsical superstition

[ocr errors]

of the popular belief. Amid the shades of the Academy, the Portico, and the Lyceum, the jargon of contradiction and incoherency was perpetually heard; and the most sublime and comprehensive intellect frequently mingled, with its brighter and better convictions, doctrines and reveries, not less gross nor less idolatrous than those of the despised and credulous vulgar.

Under better auspices arose the aspiring and sagacious Arabian. He had learned to despise the idolatry of the polytheist; and the Pentateuch and the Gospel supplied him with the most beautiful and affecting representations of divinity. But he who could lay the foundations of a mighty empire, and mould and controul the passions of men, was also to fail as a religious instructor; and he never wandered from the guiding lights of Moses and of Christ, without affording an instance of incapacity to erect the structure of a pure religion, and displaying an ignorance of the nature and attributes of God, scarcely more enlightened than that of the Grecian, or Hindu mythologist.

That which the sagacity and learning of so many sages and legislators had been utterly unable to discover, is announced clearly, fully, and distinctly, in the gospel. Who instructed the son of an obscure carpenter to kindle this light? Where did the unlettered simplicity of Christ learn to promulgate a doctrine, in all its grandeur and purity, compared with which the noblest annunciations of deity by the master spirits of the earth, was absurd, impious, and corrupt? Shall we attribute to unassisted reason, in this meek and humble teacher, the discovery of truths to which the unassisted reason of so many

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


accomplished minds in so many ages had not been able to approach? Or shall we rather admit that his wisdom issued from a higher source, and was derived from heaven, for the guidance and illumination of mankind ?




The Providence of the Mythology of Greece and Rome-General

views sometimes sublime Particular doctrinesControuling power of chance, fortune, necessity, and fate -- Passions, frailties, and vices, exercised in the Divine governmentThe councils of the gods- Inconsistency, selfishness, injustice-Minor powers, jealous and vindictite-Consequences on popular belief-The opinions of the learned-Scholastic reveries-Impiety, superstition, and contentions of the philosophersTheir doctrines useless or pernicious to mankind.

HE foundations of religion are to be principally

laid, first, in the doctrines of the Being and Attributes of God, and, secondly, in those of the nature and operations of Providence.

The notions communicated on these subjects are, in the highest degree, of a practical nature. They are to affect the worship of man in the recesses of the temple, but they are also to influence his conduct in the walks of life. Every devotional and moral principle they are to reach, and tó vitiate or to dignify: What men are instructed to reverence, they will be inclined to imitate. According as the Deity is exhibited in his qualities, his operations, or his designs, he is held forth to mankind as a corrupt or sublime example; and that example will proportionally promote, because it will proportionally sanction, the vices or virtues of human life.

« AnteriorContinuar »