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may weaken and contract the powers of the mind, and by their very nature encourage arrogance and conceit: but when cultivated in subserviency to studies of higher importance, and, above all, when applied by piety and judgment to elucidate and confirm the sacred volume, they derive dignity, and demand attention, by reason of their beneficial tendency. The strong internal evidence which the Jewish Scriptures bear to their high antiquity, is strikingly apparent to those who are conversant with the writings of the earlier Greeks. Their style exhibits a surprising resemblance to the phraseology of the Old Testament; and many of its obscurities, which arise from our ignorance of ancient manners and customs, may be illustrated by means of these authors. Numberless' expressions in the New Testament must be explained by means of the Greek writers : nor can the spirit and peculiar beauty of classical allusions be felt, except by those who are familiar with classical antiquity. The scholar pictures to himself, in lively colors, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, reasoning at Athens, the most illustrious seat of ancient wisdom, as a philosopher among philosophers, before the venerable tribunal of the Areopagus; he listens with a more awakened interest to the animated and appropriate eloquence of the sacred orator, declaring to the Athenians the living and true God, whom they ignorantly worshipped : while the fact is authenticated by the impressive mention of the altar dedicated to the unknown God, and the accurate knowledge which is shown of the Athenian character. How energetically and how beautifully does the same apostle allude to the celebrated games of ancient Greece! But the force and beauty of the allusion are feebly felt by those who are unacquainted with the toilsome preparations, to which they, who strove for victory, submitted; the ardor with which the combatants were animated in the presence of assembled Greece, the uncertainty of their success, and the trifling reward which recommended the exertions of the conqueror.
The treasures of ancient literature, which the scholar has made his own in his intercourse with the classical authors, are also of important service in many other departments of theological inquiry: even the pleasing fables of their poets, which amused his youthful fancy, will not be without their utility.
Grecian mythology is conceived with a warmth of imagination peculiar to that lively people; and it has been adorned by their poets with the most brilliant coloring of fiction : these, combined with other circumstances, render it impossible to give a minute explanation of the subject. The ardor of many pious and learned men, who have labored to promote the interests of religion, has, in
this instance, often bordered on enthusiasm : with a design of doing honor to the Jewish history, they have endeavoured to explain, by means of it, the whole system of Grecian theogony. According to them, the patriarchs and illustrious men of the Jewish nation were deified and worshipped by the Greeks: and, in order to obviate the difficulty, which arises from the 'number of the Grecian deities, and the paucity of the Jewish worthies, they have discovered, that each of the latter was adored under various titles; and have traced ingenious but fanciful resemblances between the individual and the deities whom they supposed to represent him. We may however, without injury to the cause of religion, allow the earlier Greeks to bave felt towards those of their countrymen who contributed, in an eminent degree, to the public welfare, by their mental or bodily exertions, a warmth of gratitude natural to barbarous nations, which induces them to enrol the good, the valiant, and the wise, among their tutelary divinities. We may allow them to have viewed the powers and appearances of nature with that admiration, which prompts the savage to people every element with imaginary beings, and to address them, under various titles, as the objects of religious worship. But Grecian mythology, although it does not admit of such fanciful conjectures, yet powerfully confirms the truth of the Mosaic records, by its wonderful agreement with them, as far as they relate to the general history of the world.
T'he account of the creation of the world, and the formation of man, which we receive from the Greek and Roman poets, strikingly corresponds with the sober narrative of Scripture. That happy period, emphatically styled the Golden Age, when man was free from vice, and unacquainted with the miseries which now fall to the lot of human nature; when the serenity of the sky, and the vernal mildness of the atmosphere, yielded him perpetual delight ; while the earth poured forth her fruits for his sustenance, without subjecting him to the toils of agriculture; since it is applicable to no subsequent state of society, can only be considered as a poetical description of the happiness which our first parents enjoyed in the garden of Eden. The Age of Iron, which succeeded when this blissful state was entirely reversed, must refer to the fatal consequences which followed the disobedience of mau. A calamity so dreadful and so general as the deluge would never, we may suppose, have been entirely effaced from the memory of any race of men; accordingly we find that it forms a prominent feature in the traditions of antiquity. The early Greeks, as was natural to a barbarous people, applied it to their own pation, and blended it with the history of Thessaly, a country peculiarly subject to inundation, and remarkable for its lofty mountains. In the finely-imagined fable of the goddess Iris, who was the daughter of Wonder, and the messenger between gods and men, sume allusion may be discovered to the first appearance of the rainbow : the scholar indeed must be particularly struck with Homer's expression, when, describing the armour of Agamemnon, he thus speaks of this beautiful phenomenon:
Warburton's Divine Legation,
2 Herod. lib. 7.
Κυάνεοι δε δράκοντες όρωρέχατο ποτε δειρήν
'Εν νέφεϊ στήριξε ΤΕΡΑΣ ΜΕΡΟΠΩΝ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΩΝ. The researches of the learned in the East show, that the same resemblance exists in Oriental traditions ; they also prove, that these traditions were received too generally, and at too early a period, to have been derived from the narrative of the Jewish Lawgiver; whence we may, with much probability, infer, that the great outlines of classical mythology also were not borrowed from Judæa, but were imperfect remains of universal tradition, which was gradually so disguised by fabulous intermixture, that its real origin was forgotten, and it was applied by the barbarian to his own or neighbouring nations.
From this combined testimony of Grecian and Oriental mythology, an irresistible body of evidence has been fornied in confirmation of the Mosaic history. Since these traditions were not derived from the sacred historian, "and since we cannot suppose, that from a partial knowledge of these mystic fables, he could have framed an account which equally explains them all, we must acknowledge the truth of his relation, and believe that he received his information from the Deity.
In a niore advanced period of history, we learn, that an insatiable thirst after knowledge tempted the sages of Greece to leave the retirement of philosophic contemplation, and travel into foreign countries, in order to observe the religion, laws, and manners of other nations, and to profit by their wisdom. It was at this period that, through the medium of Egypt, the philosophers of Greece gained an imperfect acquaintance with the Jewish Scriptures. The divine Plato was thus enabled, in some degree, to explain the leading features of the national mythology. His sublime, though imperfect, conceptions of the creation, the happy state and subsequent misery of mankind, and the corruption of their moral and intellectual powers, strikingly correspond with the Mosaic account. He also, with other Greek authors, refers to a general deluge, which almost destroyed the whole race of man, and effaced the remembrance of the arts and sciences, which florished before this event. Tou the truth of these things, says the philosopher, (where
2 Plato de Legibus, lib. 3.
he describes the happiness of primeval man, and attempts to explain the causes of the change which followed,) to the truth of these things we have the testimony of our ancestors, whom many at the present time do not believe; but in this they are wrong.
After the dispersion of the human race in the plains of Shinar, history no longer flows in the same broad channel; and the Jewish Scriptures are chiefly confined to one of the many families of the earth. From this æra to the introduction of Christianity, our historical information must be derived from the Greek and Roman writers, who convey to us a variety of interesting knowledge, which throws light on the connected schemes of the Christian and Jewish dispensations. While in the sacred volume we follow, through the various periods of their eventful history, the people who were the peculiar care of Providence, we may turn to the page of the classical historian, and view the most enlightened nations of the heathen world (who in times of remote antiquity possessed a purer system of religious worship) immersed in the grossest idolatry. This is certainly a strong argument, that the Jews were immediately under the government of the true God : for, though prone to idolatry, and exposed to its contagious influence, they still acknowledged the unity and spirituality of the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and paid him that rational adoration which he claims from a rational creature.
The Jewish Scriptures however do not exclusively relate to that favored people. The fate of other nations, and the rise and fall of mighty empires, form the awful subject of their prophetic writings. Prophecy, although it only partially penetrates the obscurity of the future, yet gives a view of those leading and peculiar circumstances which strongly characterise the events foretold; it is the meteor, which, amid the darkness of the night, illumines the bolder and more prominent features of the landscape. Prophecy' is history compressed; history is prophecy unfolded; and the faithful records of past transactions furnish an unerring guide, by which the claims to prophetic inspiration are to be admitted or rejected. The want of Eastern histories is, in a great measure, supplied by the researches of the Greeks; whose testimony is the more valuable, as they were unacquainted with the prophetic writings, and were therefore unbiassed by prejudice. The prophecies which relate to the nations of the East may be compared with the event, through the medium of Diodorus Siculus, of Herodotus, and Xenophon; nor must it be forgotten that the figurative language of inspiration, with regard to two great empires, which succeeded to the dominion of the
world, can only be explained by continual reference to ancient history,
The New Testament, when considered in an historical light, receives very important confirmation from the Roman historians. From them we learn, that at the time of our Saviour's birth, a general expectation of some extraordinary personage prevailed throughout the East; whence we may infer, that at this momentous period, the Jews looked for the completion of those prophecies which related to the Messiah. Tacitus records the birth and ignominious death of the Divine Author of our religion. The sufferings of the primitive Christians, and the wonderful propagation of Christianity, are authenticated by historical narration : to which we may add the evidence of Pliny, whose public capacity demanded the greatest accuracy of information, and who also bears honorable testimony to the innocence of life which distinguished the followers of Christ.
That acquaintance with the state of the world at the introduction of Christianity, which may be gathered from the writers of imperial Rome, suggests, as connected with revelation, many useful and interesting reflections. Under the politic government of Augustus, the world enjoyed universal tranquillity. Imposture, which might have escaped detection amid the tumult of arms, or practised its frauds with success in the darkness of ignorance, must have shrunk from the keen eye of investigation, or have been exposed to public derision in this calm and enlightened season of peace and of philo. sophy. But as it was adverse to the arts of falsehood, so, on the other hand, it was most favorable to the simplicity of truth, which challenges the strictest scrutiny of reason: the introduction of Christianity therefore, at this time, effectually obviated those objections, which might have been made use of to invalidate its truth, had it been established in an ignorant age.
It is also worthy of observation, that, notwithstanding the intellectual excellence of this period, vice reigned triumphant throughout the world ; thus it was incontestably proved, that the urrassisted powers of human reason, however cultivated, were insufficient to enforce the practice of virtue.
It must be indeed acknowledged, that the influence of learning during the earlier ages of the Church was in some respects injurious to the true interests of religion. The convert to Christianity was often found among those who had been nurtured in the schools of ancient wisdon ; and the defender of revelation applied himself to the study of philosophy, that he might be better qualified to main, tain the truth with effect. The former, unable to eradicate those prejudices of education which had twined their roots with all the principles of his nature, ingrafted truth upon the stock of error :