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Their constanfeffort was to free the mind from such fear of death as was occasioned by the apprehension of punishment after death.
“This examination of the views of men whose talents were undoubted, and industry great, will serve to show the true principle and character of modern infidelity. The chief source of this evil is pride,--self-confidence. These free-thinkers will not submit to the yoke of faith ; because they contend for the șufficiency, and therefore the superiority, of their own reason. But here they will find themselves undeceived. They cannot avoid the feebleness of human reason; and how vain are the efforts which it puts forth, when alone and unaided, to obtain the knowledge of Him who'dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto!" What did this boasted reason accomplish during the four centuries in which it reigned and laboured through the chiefs of the several schools, men illustrious for their talents and their knowledge ? "Let these une belio liers
they have only repeated the absurdities of their Pagan predecessors ; of whom Cicero" himself said
, that there was nothing, however absurd, which had not been said by some philosopher or other.
“One thing, indeed, it may be acknowledged that reason can accomplish. If it be insufficient for the discovery of truth, it can nevertheless detect errors. This Cicero shows us. » Destitute of those ' lively oracles' which teach us the knowledge of the true God, yet his reasoning evinced' to him the falsehood and the folly of atheism and idolatry. He knew not enough to establish what was right, but he did know enough to enable him to confute that which was wrong. He could meet and bafie the Stoics and Epicureans who, at Athens, set themselves in opposition to St. Paul, when he preached there. We might say that Divine Providence had raised up a man like Cicero to prepare the way for the advancement of Christianity, by the heavy blows which he struck at these two prevailing sects."*
Since preparing the above paper for the present month of The Youth's Instructer," we have been favoured, by an esteemed Correspondent, with the
to 9 THE RELIGION OF EARLY GREECE, 1 »T Bilgilas DELINEATED IN THE POEMS OF HOMER. No. I.
of one usages of
SENTIMENTS OF THE EARLY GREEKS, RELATIVE TO THE OBJECTS
OF THEIR WORSHIP AND THE FUTURE STATE. 41: In pursuing the study of antiquities, it is desirable to fix on particular periods in the history of a nation, and to examine separately the literature of these periods, so far as it may serve to develope the sentiments which then prevailed, and the institutions and customs which were then established. nuch a course of
of inquiry appears necessary to secure distinctness and accuracy; and it will enable the student, whose leisure allows him to adopt it, to proceed with certainty and confidence, to take more comprehensive views, and to form his general conclusions. The sentiments and period may be compared with those of another; the institutions and habits of thought which prevailed in different nations, may be viewed in their several points of resemblance and diversity, and the whole may be studied in relation to general principles, affecting the constitution of the human mind, and the respective influence of religious truth and error on the interests of soeiety, and the happiness of man.su to v syrit - The writer of this paper designs only a very small contribution to this accurate and extended view of
antiquities; since the claims of far higher
er and d dearer studies, leave him leisure or inelination to engage in those minute and laborious researches to which every antiquarian must submit
The subject to which his remarks will be limited, is the religion of early Greece, as delineated in the poems of Homer; a
qu buciki boil biond first of a series of pap Although there is a general similarity between his
“the Religion of early Greece, as delineated in the of ." subjeet and our own, yet there is an important difference in its particular aspects. He chiefly refers to the early poetry of Greece; we, to the later philosophy, as considered, likewise, by the Romans. Both subjects will, we hope, be profitably studied by our friends and pupils. They will, at all events; be rendered, increasingly thankful for the Scriptures of truth," which teach them the existence, and character, and service of God,
subject which the studies of former years, with the assistance of some works in his possession, may enable him to unfold.
The writings of Homer, whatever degree of credit may be given to some of the narratives which they contain, are, unquestionably, of the highest value, as shedding a clear light on the religious observances, the civil institutions, the domestic habits, and the military usages of ancient Greece. Their acknowledged antiquity gives them a peculiar authority in all our inquiries into the early state of that country; and they afford the most copious materials for a faithful and accurate delineation of those particulars which excite the interest of the antiquarian and the scholar.
The religious sentiments of the early Greeks involved an awful amount of error and confusion. That knowledge of the one living and true God, which was originally common to the human family, had been displaced by a system of polytheism, which presented to their fear, rather than their confidence and love, innumerable deities, actuated by human passions, and degraded by human vices. The objects of their worship, instead of affording a bright and perfect example of purity, rectitude, and love, were sensual, malignant, and revengeful. They were raised above their worshippers only by the vastness of the power which they possessed, and by the immortality which secured to them a continuance of their dignity and of their sensual indulgences. Thus there was no place for that mingled veneration and love which the character of Jehovah calls forth in the pious mind; nor for that cheerful submission and unwavering trust which his particular providence and his moral government are calculated to produce and sustain.
The Homeric poems furnish abundant evidence of the correctness of these remarks; and show us how utterly indifferent from every conception which the very name of deity suggests to a well-instructed mind, were the sentiments entertained by the early Greeks respecting the imaginary beings whom they adored. Their gods were supposed to exist in the human form; their life was sustained, not indeed by the food of mortals, but by ambrosia and nectar; and sleep was thought necessary to recruit their wasted strength. In the
fifth book of the Iliad, the poet, when speaking of Venus,
The fluid, such as flows from the blessed gods.
Il., v. 339-342.
It is a remarkable circumstance that some of the epithets by which particular deities were distinguished were derived from some peculiarity of their bodily features. Minerva, for instance, is celebrated by the poet for the penetration of her eye; Juno, for the lovely whiteness of her arms; and Jupiter, for the majestic dignity of his countenance.
The several deities differed in their tastes and pursuits ; there was no harmony of purpose or action between them ; and they were even brought, in some instances, into open collision by their opposite tendencies, and their vehement and unrestrained passions. To one, indeed, termed Zeus, or Jupiter, a governing power was ascribed. He was represented as the sovereign of Olympus, and the chief ruler of the world. He assigned to the other deities their several departments of action, dignity, and power; to him did they utter their complaints; and his irrevocable nod settled every question on which he chose to decide. And yet, the power of Zeus was not so exerted as to constitute the government of the world one harmonious system; but individuals were exposed to the capricious malevolence of particular deities, and were frequently involved, through that malevolence, in unmerited sufferings and distress. Thus is it apparent that the imaginary beings to whom, in the primitive times of Greece, divine honours were paid, were the creatures of a depraved heart, and a darkened imagination.
The early Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul. Their views of a future state were, however, obscure and gloomy; and utterly insufficient to console the mind under the
pressure of sorrows, or to sustain it in the exercise of arduous and difficult virtues. The soul was thought to be
enveloped, after death, with an atmospheric body, similar in
Wished to take hold of the soul of my deceased mother.
Od., xi., 203—207. The sad and dejected state of the dead generally, is illustrated by the reply which the shade of Achilles is represented as making to the congratulatory address of Ulysseş. The latter hero had said,
“ Than you, O Achilles, No man before was more blessed, nor shall there be hereafter. For in former days, when you were alive, we Greeks honoured
you equally with the gods; And now, also, being here, you are mighty among the dead. Wherefore be not sad, when dead, 0 Achilles.”
Od., xi., 481-485. To this the departed hero is represented as replying :“Speak not to me soothingly of death, O illustrious Ulysses :
I would rather, as a husbandman, serve for hire
Od., xi., 487-490.