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"disobedient" to the plainest dictates of nature, reason, and conscience, "enslaved to divers" dishonourable "lusts and pleasures, living in "malice and envy, hateful" and abominable in themselves, and incessantly " hating" and worrying "one another."

It would be more easy than pleasant to make out this charge by a long induction of particulars. And, without having recourse to the most savage and uncultivated, the proof might be rested on the character of the two most celebrated and civilized nations, and at the time of their greatest refinement, the Greeks and the Romans. St. Paul has given us the result of their boasted improvements in arts and sciences, in war and commerce, in philosophy and literature; and he says no more than is abundantly confirmed by their own poets and historians. Nothwithstanding the marks and fruits of fine taste and exalted genius which were found amongst them, they were habitually abandoned to the grossest vices. Devoted to the most stupid "idolatry," they worshipped the works of their own hands; nay, erected altars to their follies and passions. Their moral characters were answerable to their principles. "Without natural affection," they frequently exposed their helpless infants to perish. They burned with "lusts" not to be named without horror; and this not the meaner sort only, or in secret, but some of their finest spirits

f "Enslaved." So the original term may be emphatically rendered; at the control of various and opposite passions, hurried about by them all in their turns, and incapable of resisting or refusing the motions of any.

8 Rom. i. from v. 21. to the end. An affecting comment on this passage might be collected from Horace, Juvenal, Sallust, and Suetonius.

and most admired writers were sunk so low as to glory in their shame, and openly avow themselves the disgrace of humanity. In their publie concerns (notwithstanding their specious pretences) they were "covenant-breakers, impla+ cable, unmerciful," and "unjust." Guilty of the severest oppression, while they boasted highly of equity and moderation; as was particularly manifested on the destruction of Carthage and Corinth: two memorable instances of the spirit of a government, so undeservedly admired in after-times. And as the Roman power, so the Grecian eloquence was perverted to the worst purposes; to palliate crimes, to consecrate folly, and to recommend falsehood under the guise and semblance of truth.


Such was the character of the people, reputed the wisest and the best of the heathens; and particularly so at the birth of Christ, when the Roman empire was at the summit of authority and splendour. A long experience had shown the general depravity to be not only inveterate, but incurable. For, during several preceding ages, a reformation had been desired and at tempted. The principal leaders in this commendable design were called philosophers, and many of their writings are still extant. It must be acknowledged, that some of them had a faint

See Virgil. Eclog. ii.

iSee Acts, xxvii. 42. The soldiers would have killed all the prisoners, right or wrong, rather than one of them should have a possibility of escaping: and in this, without doubt, they consulted their own safety, and the spirit of their laws. Why, then, were the Romans so much admired? Could there be a greater proof of cruelty and injustice found amongst the most barbarous nations, than to leave prisoners, who possibly might be innocent, exposed to the wanton caprice of their keepers?

view of several important truths; but, as they neither knew the cause and extent of the disorder, nor the effectual remedy, they met with little success. Their schemes were various, inconsistent, and even opposite; and each party more successful in opposing the fallacy of other sects, than in maintaining their own. Those who came nearest the truth, and were in earnest to promote it, were very few. Even these were ignorant of some things absolutely necessary to the attainment of the desired end. The best of them were restrained by the fear of men, and a regard to established customs. What they could and did propound, they had not sufficient authority, or influence, to impress upon the consciences of men. And if, in a few instances, they seemed to succeed, the advantage was only imaginary. Where they prevailed on any to relinquish intemperance, they made them full amends, by gratifying their pride. The business passed from hand to hand, from sect to sect, but all to no purpose. After innumerable disputations, and volumes, concerning the supreme good, the beauty of virtue, the fitness of things, and other high-sounding topics, they left matters as bad or worse than they found them. They could not effectually inculcate their doctrine upon a single village or family. Nay, they were but half persuaded themselves, and could not act up to their own principles, when they most needed their support.


A still more affecting view of the degeneracy of human nature we have in the history of the Israelites, whom God was pleased to set apart from the rest of mankind, for several important

* Witness the prevarication of Socrates, and the irresolution of Cicero, towards the close of their lives.

purposes. He revealed himself to this people when they were groaning under a heavy bondage in Egypt, from which they had neither spirit nor power to deliver themselves. He freed them from their captivity by a series of illustrious miracles. He led them through the sea and the desert. He honoured them with the symbols of his immediate presence; was a wall of fire round about them, and a glory in the midst of them. He spoke to them with an audible voice, and fed them with manna from heaven. He put them in possession of a good land, and fought against all their enemies. Might it not have been expected that a people so highly favoured and honoured should have been obedient and thankful? Some of them were so. His grace always preserved a spiritual people amongst them, whose faith in the Messiah taught them the true meaning of the Levitical law, and inspired them with zeal and sincerity in the service of God. But the bulk of the nation was always refractory and disobedient. While in the wilderness, they murmured against the Lord upon every new difficulty. Within a few days after the law had been delivered in flames and thunder from the top of Sinai, they formed a molten calf to worship, and would have made a captain who might lead them back into Egypt. They despised the good land; therefore their carcases1 fell in the wilderness. Their posterity

11 Cor. x. 5. They were overthrown in the wilderness. KαTEσTрwonσav, they fell in heaps, like grass before the scythe; and this, after all the great things they had seen and been partakers of. Of the many hundred thousands, who were above twenty years old, when they were delivered from Egypt, only two persons were spared to enter the promised land: a striking admonition to us, not to rest in the participation of external privileges of any kind. For these people

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retained the same spirit. They learned the ways of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before them. They adopted every idolatrous practice, they transgressed every divine command. During a long succession of warnings, chastisements, aud deliverances, they became worse and worse: so that, in Jeremiah's time, they equalled, or exceeded, the heathens around them in ignorance and wickedness. They mocked the messengers of God, despised his words, and misused his prophets, till his wrath arose against them, and there was no remedy. At length their land was laid waste, Jerusalem burnt, the greater part of the people destroyed, and the remainder carried captives into Chaldea.

Upon their return from captivity, they seemed, for a little while, to retain a sense of their duty, and of the judgments they had suffered. But all was soon forgot. Their wickedness now put on a new form, and discovered the evil of the heart of man in a new point of view. They were no longer prone to idolatry. They avoided the most distant appearance of it with scrupulous exactness; and professed the highest attachment to God. They boasted themselves in his law; and, from a presumption that they were his peculiar people, they despised and hated the rest of mankind. It is not our present concern, closely to follow their history. Let it suffice to say, that, by substituting a regard to the letter of the law, in the place of spiritual obedience, and by presuming to multiply their own inventions and traditions, and to hold them no



had seen the Lord's wonders at the Red Sea, had rejoiced in the destruction of the Egyptians, and been fed with manna from heaven.

m See one instance, Matt. xv. 5. The expression is rather obscure; but the sense is, "What you might expect from

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