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behold the deformity of the idol, which, in compliment to human reason, they so
to be most wise, they became fools.” Rom. i. 22. To what lengths will a bad cause carry learned men? They knew God, but not rightly; then falsely; nor in any considerable degree; therefore not at all; for God is not discoverable by scraps or halves: they knew what their own ratiocination forced them to unknow, so far as to disbelieve his very existence. And after professedly laying out the whole effort of the human mind, to attain some wisdom in these sublimer subjects, they remained arrant fools; not knowing what, or why they worshipped. Nor will it mend the matter to glean a few detached sentences, scattered up and down the ancient writings, how charming soever they may be, and then cry out, Behold the strength of reason! but let a philosopher be named, even the divine Plato, who rightly judged, “ that nothing should be attributed to God, that is not consentaneous to his nature;" Rep. ii. p. 379. And if a thousand glaring absurdities, falsehoods, contradictions, and inconsistencies, are not to be found in him, (which Cicero saw and lamented in his Deus ille noster,) the cause shall be given up. If they occur in every page, the few bright sayings are no more than flashes of lightning, which may amaze, but not direct the benighted traveller, and only prove, that they heard of subjects, which they did not understand, and repeated a name, the true import of which they never knew.
It has also been acknowledged by heathens, as well as Christians, that man may as well have no God, as to entertain base, unworthy conceptions of Him. Yet,
often dignify with the distinction of being (if we may so call it) the elder brother of the Christian Revelation. Such was the wretched condition in which the most enlightened Professors of it were found, at the time when the Gospel of Christ was first introduced among them. So far as related to the knowledge of God and spiritual things, all was darkness, ignorance, and error. Even those who might have been better informed, had they been as eager to collect the rays of light, which, though greatly obscured, still beamed forth from Divine Revelation, as they were to become distinguished by worldly wisdom; who, from their proficiency in
by the tenor of the Gentile Catholic Faith, he was looked on as a material, impotent, and polluted Being.
The Scriptures account for all this; that the “ nations had forgot God.” Psalm ix. 7. After which, they never recovered the knowledge of Him, “nor called upon His name." Psalm lxxix. 6. “ And when they knew not God, they did service to them, which by nature are: not Gods.” Gal. iv. 8. For “they sacrificed to devils, not to God.” Deut. xxxii. 17.-1 Cor. x. 23. So that except belief and disbelief, knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, have changed places, the heathens were utter strangers to the true Jehovah.
some subjects of sublime speculation, might, with such aid, from the visible things of nature, have inferred the Being and attributes of Nature's God; even these were nearly as ignorant, with respect to the great subject which it most concerned them to know, as the most unlettered of their community. If they knew any thing of God, it was a knowledge of that unsettled kind, that never led them to glorify him as God. The information which they might, and which they occasionally did receive from the contemplation of the works, they had not grace to turn to the honour of the Worker, by either publicly acknowledging his power, or even attempting to introduce his worship to any people or nation, amongst whom they lived; for they could not communicate to others, what they themselves did not know.
One example, from among the nnmber of heathen sages, it will be sufficient to produce on this occasion ; because his case is that, on which the advocates for natural Religion are apt to lay great stress. The example I mean, is that of Socrates; who,
though he appeared unshaken on the brink of eternity, concluded, nevertheless, his famous apology with these remarkable words: “ It is now time that I go hence to
I die, and you to live; but which is best, no mortal, I think, can tell.” Still, it has been generally understood, that Socrates knew the true God. By those who maintain this opinion, his conduct in the closing scene of his life, remains to be accounted for; when, during his long imprisonment, he made a serious preparation for death, by composing verses to the dæmon of Delphos, and translating Æsop's Fables ; and in his last moments, called back, as it were, his departing soul, to order the discharge of a vow, by as stupid an act of idolatry, as the most ignorant savage was ever guilty of.
In reference, therefore, to the unprofitableness of the wisdom of the heathen sages in this respect, the Apostle proceeds to apply to them the words of the Prophet. “ It is written, (says he) I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nought the understanding of the prudent.” 1 Cor. i. 19. — Their wisdom and under
standing standing had been useless; for they had left the world uninformed on the most important of all subjects. “ Therefore did
“ God make foolish the wisdom of this world.” 1 Cor. i. 20. He put the vain possessors of it to shame; by employing poor
unlettered fishermen to teach that lesson to their disciples, which was not to be learned in the heathen academies; a lesson
a by which they might become wise unto salvation. « For (continues the Apostle) after that in the wisdom of God, the world, by wisdom, knew not God; it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” 1 Cor. i. 21.
“ To the wise men among the heathens, the preaching of the Cross appeared, as it does to the wise men of the present day, foolishness.” It affects not that vain parade of science and system calculated to flatter the pride of the human understanding ; but in the plain, though dignified language of inspired truth, teaches men what they most want to learn; the knowledge of God, and of themselves.
Let the preaching of the Gospel then be styled foolishness by the wise men of