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Certabant pugnis, dein fustibus, atq; ita porro
And forg'd pernicious arms, and learnt the art to slay. What a difference is there between this, and the gay,
florid accounts, which many moderns give of their own species.
8. But to return to more authentic accounts. At the time when God brought the Israelites into Canaan, in what state were the rest of mankind ? Doubtless in nearly the same, with the Canaanites; with the Amorites, Hittites, Perrizzites, and the rest of the seven nations. But the wickedness of these, we know, was full: they were corrupt in the highest degree. All manner of vice, all ungodliness and unrighteousness reigned among them without controul. And therefore the wise and just Governor of the world gave them up to a swift and total destruction.
9. Of Israel indeed we read, that they “ served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over lived Joshua,” (Jos. xxiv. 31.) And yet even at that time, they did not serve him alone; they were not free from gross Idolatry. Otherwise there had been no need of his giving them that exhortation a little before his death.
Now, therefore, put away the strange gods which are among you, the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river,” (Jordan.) (ibid. ver. 23.) What gods these were, we learn by the words of Amos, cited by St. Stephen, “Oye house of Israel, have ye offered sacri“
. fices to me, by the space of forty years! Yea, ye took
up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them,” (Acts vii. 42, 43.)
10. The sacred history of what occurred within a short space
after the death of Joshua, for some hundreds of years, even till the time that Samuel judged Israel, gives us a
large account of their astonishing wickedness, during almost that whole period. It is true, just " when God smote them, then they sought him; they returned and inquired after God.
Yet their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant, (Psm. lxxviii. 34, 37.) And we find little alteration among them for the better, in the succeeding ages : insomuch that in the reign of Ahab, about nine hundred years before Christ, there were only “ seven thousand left in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal,” (1 Kings xix. 18.) What manner of men they were for the next three hundred years, we may learn from the books of the kings and from the prophets: whence it fully appears that except a few short intervals, they were given up to all manner of abominations; by reason of which the name of the Most High was the more abundantly blasphemed among the Heathens. And this continued till their open rebellion against God, brought upon the whole nation of the Jews, (an hundred and thirty four years after the captivity of the ten tribes, and about six hundred before Christ,) those terrible and long deserved calamities, which made them a spectacle to all that were round about them. The writings of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah, leave us no room to think, that they were reformed by those calamities. Nor was there any lasting reformation in the time of Ezra, or of Nehemiah and Ma. lachi: but they were still, as their forefathers had been, “ a faithless and stubborn generation.” Such were they likewise, as we may gather from the books of Maccabees and Josephus, to the very time when Christ came into the world.
11. Our blessed Lord has given us a large description of those who were then the most eminent for religion. “ Ye devour,” says he,“ widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers. Yę make your proselytes two-fold more the children of hell than yourselves. Ye neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. Ye make clean the outside of the cup, but within are full of extortion and excess. Ye are like whited sepulchres, outwardly
beautiful, but within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?” (Matt. xxiii. 14, &c.) And to these very men, after they had murdered that Just One, his faithful follower declared, “ Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye,” (Acts vii. 51.) And so they continued to do, till the wrath of God did indeed “come upon them to the uttermost;" till eleven hundred thousand of them were destroyed, their city and temple levelled with the dust, and above ninety thousand, sold for slaves and scattered into all lands.
12. Such in all generations were the lineal children of Abraham, who had so unspeakable advantages over the rest of mankind: “ To whom pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises :” among whom therefore we may reasonably expect to find the greatest eminence of knowledge and virtue. If these then were so stupidly, brutishly ignorant, so desperately wicked; what can we expect from the Heathen world, from them who had not the knowledge either of his law or promises ? Certainly we cannot expect to find more goodness among them. But let us make a fair and impartial inquiry : and that not among wild and barbarous nations, but the most civilized and refined. What then were the ancient Romans ? The people whose virtue is so highly extolled, and so warmly commended to our imitation? We have their character given by one who cannot deceive or be deceived, the unerring Spirit of God. And what account does he give of these best of' men, these heroes of antiquity? “ When they knew God,” says he, at least as to his eternity and power, (both implied in that appellation, which occurs more than once in their own poet, Pater mnipotens, Almighty Father) “ they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful,” (Rom. i. 21, &c.) So far from it that one of their oracles of wisdom, (though once he stumbled on that great truth, Nemo unquam vir magnus sine afflatu di
vino fuit; there never was any great man, without the afflatus or inspiration of God; yet almost in the same breath) does not scruple to ask, Quis pro virtute aut sapientia gratias diis dedit unquam? Who ever thanked God for virtue or wisdom? No, why should he; since these are “his own acquisition, the pure result of his own industry?” Accordingly, another virtuous Roman has left it on record, as an unquestioned maxim,
Hæc saties est orare Jovem quæ donat & aufert :
Wisdom and virtue to myself I owe. So "vain were they become in their imaginations! So were their foolish hearts darkened !” (Rom. i. 21, &c.)
13. But this was only the first step. They did not stop here. Professing themselves wise,” they yet sunk into such gross, astonishing folly as to “ change the glory of the incorruptible God," (whom they might have known even from their own writers to be
The all-informing soul That fills the mighty mass, and moves the whole,) s into an image made like to corruptible man, yea, to birds, to beasts, to creeping things!” What wonder was it then, that after they had thus '“ changed his glory into an image, God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves?" How justly, when they had “ changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator," did he “ for this cause, punishing sin by sin, “ give them up unto vile affections. For even'the women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” Yea, the modest honourable Koman matrons, (so little were they ashamed !) wore their
priapi openly on their breasts. “And likewise the men
. burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly.” What an amazing testimony of this is left us on record, even by the most modest of all the Roman poets !
Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexin ! How does this pattern of Heathen chastity avow, without either fear or shame, as if it were an innocent at least, if not laudable passion, “ their burning in lust one toward another!" And did men of the finest taste in the nation censure the song, or the subject of it! We read nothing of this : on the contrary, the universal honour and esteem paid to the writer, and that by persons of the highest rank, plainly shews that the case of Corydon, as it was not uncommon in any part of the Roman dominions, so it was not conceived to be any blemish, either to him or his master, but an innocent infirmity.
Meantime how delicate an idea of love, had this favourite of Rome and of the muses? Hear him explaining himself a little more fully, cn this tender point.
Eheu! quam pingui macer est mihi taurus in agro!. Idem amor exitium est pecori, pecorisq magistro. Idem amor! The same love in the bull and in the man ! What elegance of sentiment! Is it possible any thing can exceed this? One would imagine nothing could, had not the same chaste poet furnished us with yet another scene, more abundantly shocking than this.
Pasiphaen nivei solatur amore judenci ! “ He comforts Pasiphae with the love of her milk-white bull!” Nihil supra! The condoling a woman on her unsuccessful amour with a bull, shews a brutality which nothing can exceed! How justly then does the Apostle add, as “ they did not like" (or desire) “ to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to an undiscerning mind, to do those things which are not convenient." In consequence of this, they were “filled with all unrighteousness,” vice of every kind, and in every degree: in