Page images
PDF
EPUB

erally contrary to their words; and there was no dependance upon them in any matter.

As to their chastity, there were common baths in which the men and women bathed together; and it was ordered that the young maidens should appear naked in the public exercises, as well as the young men, and that they should dance naked with them at the solemn festivals and sacrifices. Husbands also were allowed to impart the use of their wives to handsome and deserving men, in order to the producing of healthy and vigorous children for the Commonwealth.

Children which were deformed, or of a bad constitution, were murdered. This inhuman custom was common all over Greece; so much so, that it was reckoned a singular thing among the Thebans, that the law forbad any Theban to expose his infant, under pain of death. This practice, with that of procuring abortion were encouraged by Plato and Aristotle.

The unnatural love of boys was so common in Greece, than in many places it was sanctioned by the public laws, of which Aristottle gives the reason: namely, to prevent their having too many children. Maximus Tyrius celebrates it as a most singular heroic act of Agesilaus, that, being in love with a beautiful barbarian boy, he suffered it to go no farther than looking at him and admiring him. Epictetus also praises Socrates in this manner: "Go to Socrates, and see him lying by Alcibiades, yet slighting his youth and beauty. Consider what a victory he was conscious of obtaining! What an Olympic prize! So that, by heaven, one might justly salute him, Hail, incredibly great, universal victor!" What an implication does such language contain of the manners of those times!

The Romans were allowed by Romulus to destroy all their female children, except the eldest and even with regard to their male children, if they were deformed, or monstrous, he permitted the parents to expose them, after having shown them to five of their nearest neighbours. Such was their cruelty to their slaves, that it was not unusual for their masters to put such of them as were old, sick, and infirm, into an island in the Tiber, where they left them to perish. So far did some of them carry their

luxury and wantonness as to drown them in the fish-ponds, that they might be devoured by the fish, to make the flesh more delicate! Gladiatory shows were common among them; in which a number of slaves were engaged to fight for the diversion of the multitude, till each one slew or was slain by his antagonist. Of these brutish exercises the people were extremely fond; even the women ran eagerly after them, taking pleasure in seeing the combatants kill one another, desirous only that they should fall genteelly, or in an agreeable attitude! They were exhibited at the funerals of great and rich men, and on many other occasions. So frequent did they become, that no war, it is said, caused such slaughter of mankind as did these sports of pleasure, throughout the several provinces of the Roman empire.

That odious and unnatural vice, which prevailed among the Greeks, was also common among the Romans. Cicero introduces, without any mark of disapprobation, Cotta, a man of the first rank and genius, freely and familiarly owning to other Romans of the same quality, that worse than beastly vice as practised by himself, and quoting the authorities of ancient philosophers in vindication of it. It appears also from Seneca, that in his time it was practised at Rome, openly and without shame. He speaks of flocks and troops of boys, distinguished by their colours and nations, and that great care was taken to train them up for that detestable employ

ment.

The religious rites performed in honor of Venus, in Cyprus, and at Aphac, on Mount Libanus, consisted in lewdness of the grossest kinds. The young people, of both sexes, crowded from all parts to those sinks of pollution; and, filling the groves and temples with their shameless practises, committed whoredom by thousands, out of pure devotion.

All the Babylonian women were obliged to prostitute themselves once in their lives, at the temple of Venus or Mylitta, to the first man that asked them: and the money earned by this means was always esteemed sacred.

Human sacrifices were offered up in almost all heathen countries. Children were burnt alive by their parents, to Baal, Moloch, and other deities. The Carthaginians, in times of public

calamity, not only burnt alive the children of the best families to Saturn, and that by hundreds, but sometimes sacrificed themselves in the same manner, in great numbers. Here in Britain, and in Gaul, it was a common practice to surround a man with a kind of wicker-work, and burn him to death, in honor of their Gods.*

In addition to the above, Mr. Hume has written as follows: "What cruel tyrants were the Romans over the world, during the time of their Commonwealth! It is true, they had laws to prevent oppression in their provincial magistrates; but Cicero informs us that the Romans could not better consult the interest of the provinces than by repealing these very laws. For in that case, says he, our magistrates having entire impunity, would plunder no more than would satisfy their own rapaciousness: whereas, at present, they must also satisfy that of their judges, and of all the great men of Rome, of whose protection they stand in need."

The same writer, who certainly was not prejudiced against them, speaking of their Commonwealth in its more early times, farther observes, "The most illustrious period of the Roman his. tory, considered in a political view, is that between the beginning of the first and the end of the last Punic war; yet at this very time, the horrid practice of poisoning was so common, that during part of a season, a prætor punished capitally, for this crime, above three thousand persons in a part of Italy; and found informations of this nature still multiplying upon him! So depraved in private life," adds Mr. Hume, "were that people, whom, in their history, we so much admire."t

From the foregoing facts, we may form some judgment of the justness of Mr. Paine's remarks. "We know nothing," says he,

"of what the ancient Gentile world was before the time of the Jews, whose practice has been to calumniate and blacken the char

*The authorities on which this brief statement of facts is founded, may be seen in Dr. Leland's Advantages and Necessity of the Christian Revelation, Vol. II. Part II. Chap. III. IV. where the subject is more particularly handled. See also, Deism Revealed, Vol. I. pp. 77, 78.

+Essay on Politics a Science.

acter of all other nations. As far as we know to the contrary, they were a just and moral people, and not addicted, like the Jews, to cruelty and revenge, but of whose profession of faith we are unacquainted. It appears to have been their custom to personify both virtue and vice by statues and images, as is done now-a-days by statuary and painting: but it does not follow from this that they worshipped them any more than we do."*

Unless heathens, before the time of the Jews, were totally different from what they were in all after ages, there can be no reasonable doubt of their worshipping a plurality of deities, of which images were supposed to be the representations. Mr. Paine himself allows, and that in the same performance, that prior to the Christian era they were "Idolaters, and had twenty or thirty thousand gods." Yet, by his manner of speaking in this place, he manifestly wishes to insinuate, in behalf of all the heathen nations, that they might worship idols no more than we do. It might be worth while for this writer, methinks, to bestow a little more attention to the improvement of his memory.

With respect to their being "just and moral people," unless they were extremely different before the time of the Jews from what they were in all after ages, there can be no reasonable doubt of their being what the sacred writers have represented them. If those writers have said nothing worse of them than has been said by the most early and authentic historians from among themselves, it will be easy for an impartial reader to decide whether heathens have been "calumniated and blackened" by the Jewish writers, or the Jewish writers by Mr. Paine.

But it is not by the state of the ancient heathens only that we discover the importance of Christianity. A large part of the world is still in the same condition; and the same immoralities abound among them, which are reported to have abounded among the Greeks and Romans.

I am aware that deistical writers have laboured to hold up the modern, as well as the ancient heathens, in a very favourable light. In various anonymous publications, much is said of their

+ Ibid. p. 5.

*

Age of Reason, Part II. pp. 39, 40.

[ocr errors]

simplicity and virtue. One of them suggests, that the Chinese are so "superior to Christians in relation to moral virtues, that it may seem necessary that they should send missionaries to teach us the use and practice of Natural Theology, as we send missionaries to them to teach them Revealed Religion." Yea, and some who wish to rank as Christians, have, on this ground, objected to all missionary undertakings among the heathen. Let us examine this matter a little closely.

""*

Almost all the accounts which are favourable to heathen virtue, are either written by the adversaries of Christianity, and with a design to disparage it; or by navigators, and travellers, who have touched at particular places, and made their reports according to the treatment they have met with, rather than from a regard to universal righteousness. An authentic report of the morals of a people, requires to be given, not from a transient visit, but from a continued residence among them; not from their occasional treatment of a stranger, but from their general character; and not from having an end to answer, but with a rigid regard to truth.

It is worthy of notice, that the far greater part of these representations respect people with whom we have little or no acquaintance; and therefore, whatever the truth may be, are less liable to contradiction. As to China, Hindostan, and some other parts of the world, with whose moral state we have had the means of acquiring some considerable degree of knowledge, the praises bestowed on them by our adversaries have proved to be unfounded. From the accounts of those who have resided in China, there does not seeem to be much reason to boast of their virtue. On the contrary, their morals appear to be full as bad as those of the ancient heathens. It is allowed, they take great care of their outward behaviour, more perhaps than is taken in any other part of the world besides; that whatever they do or say is so contrived that it may have a good appearance, please all, and offend none; and that they excel in outward modesty, gravity, good words, courtesy, and civility. But, notwithstanding this, it is said that the sin against nature is extremely common-that drunkenness is

Christianity as old as the Creation, pp. 366. 367.

*

« PreviousContinue »