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• So much is certain, that most and to other gods, in fulfilment of the nations, of whom history of their vows. has preserved any correct ac- . In the Institution of Cyrus we counts, have believed in and see the sentiments of Xenophon worshipped some kind of gods, in regard to the worship of a suas the authors of creation and preme power. He represents the dispensers of good and evil. Cyrus, as declaring that he never Imperfect as have been the ideas undertook any enterprise, great of the pagan world, concerning or small, without performing his the being and attributes of God, duties to the gods. In addition most men have been so conscious to many instances mentioned, I of their own frailty, imbecility, cannot refrain from citing the and exposure to evils, which they passage, in which an entertaincould neither foresee nor resist, ment was concluded by an adas to acknowledge their depend- dress to the gods—sutch plevel tois ence on some superior being. Tsols to ugodepraying for prose Hence has originated, among perity ; an evidence that Xen. most pagan nations, that fear and ophon at least believed in the reverence of the supposed supe- propriety of giving thanks and rior or supreme agent, which is asking a blessing at table. denominated fiety. Of the prac- It was piety, which led the an. tice of piety among the ancient cients to the practice of vows ; pagans, many illustrious exam- or promises to perform certain ples are recorded, which, for acts to the gods, in case of sucsincerity, and the spirit of humil- cess in enterprises, or deliverity and submission to a superior ance froin danger. These vows power, which appear to have ac- were held sacred, like oaths. Becompanied them, would do hon- fore the battle of Marathon the our to a real Christian. Thus Athenians vowed to immolate to Herodotus relates that, when the Diana as many goats, as they Persians and Greeks were ar- should find Persians dead on the ranged for battle at Platea, both field of battle. armies offered sacrifices to the Extraordinary assemblies of gods; and in the midst of the the Athenians, holden in times battle, Pausanias, General of the of imminent danger, were introSpartans, looking earnestly to- duced with religious ceremonies. wards the temple of Juno, im- The place was lustrated with the plored the interposition of the blood of victims; a herald regoddess.
peated a formulary of vows and In the retreat of the ten thou- prayers, addressed to the gods sand Greeks under Xenophon, for the safety of the state. The sacrifices were offered to the Amphictyonic conncil also was gods, to procure their favour; opened by sacrifices, offered for and when the troops had arrived the public tranquillity ; and Ly. at Trebisond, on the Euxine, curguis commenced the work of which was considered as an ef- reforming the laws of Sparta by fectual escape from the dangers consulting the oracle of Delphi. of the march, sacrifices were of- The Romans, like the Greeks, fered to Jupiter, the preserver, reverenced the gods, and paid most sacred regard to the obli- testimonies of historians, the Rogations of an oath. In times of mans, in fidelity to their engagepublic calamity the senate direct- ments, have never been surpassed extraordinary ceremonies to ed by any Christian people
. be performed, to manifest their This is a remarkable fact, and one dependence on the superior pow. that should put modern Chrisers, to appease the wrath of the tians to shame, that the fear of gods, and implore their aid and pagan gods produced such improtection.
portant effects on the moral habIn the year of Rome 356, a its of a nation, when this effect • winter of unusual severity, fol- is contrasted with the disregard
lowed by a mortal pestilence, in- to oaths and promises, frequentduced the Senate to decree that ly observed in Christian counthe Sybilline books should be tries. In general, however, the consulted, and unusual ceremo- morals of the most refined panies of religion should be per- tions of antiquity were licentious, formed.
and their manners coarse, beyond The Dictator C. Cassus, in the what is observable in most Chrisyear 370, encamped before his tian nations. As they emerged enemies, and before commenc- slowly from barbarism, many of ing an attack, took the auspices, the rude customs, indecent and sacrificing a victim, and implor- inhuman practices of that state, ing the favour of the gods. were too firmly incorporated
l'abius, before he marched to into their habits, to be eradoppose Hannibal, offered sacri- icated by any thing short of fices to the gods; and before the a heavenly teacher and divine eventful battle at Cannæ, every commands. There are some ilmouth was repeating the oracles lustrious exceptions to this genof the sacred books; and vows, eral character of the ancients
. and prayers, and supplicatory - Religion," says Epictetus, " reofferings occupied the city of quires us to entertain correct Rome.
opinions concerning the immor In pursuance of this spirit of tal gods; to believe that they expiety, public thanks were gir- ist, and that they govern the en for remarkable deliverances world in the best manner, and from danger. The victories with rectitude ; that we should over the Samnites, in 459, were in all things, yield them oựr obefollowed by a thanksiving of dience, and acquiesce in their
ur days' continuance-quatri- dispensations, as proceeding from dui supplicatione publicum gau- a mind of supreme perfection. dium privatis studiis celebratum We ought to perform sacrifices est.
and offer libations to the gods, From the same principle of with first fruits, according to the reverence for the gods, sprung custom of our country, with pure the sacred regard, which the Ro- minds and sincere zeal, not with mans maintained for an oath ; serdid parsimony, nor yet with an effect, which extended its sai- useless prolusion, above our utary influence to innumerable means.” civil and military duties. In- * Our paths," says Xenopholi, deed, if we credit the concurring “ to which we have called the
SURVEY OF NEW ENGLAND
gods to witness, forbid us to be with a revelation of the divine enemies ; and that person, who character, the only object of true is conscious to himself of having piety and devotion.
A. neglected them, in my opinion can never be happy; for whoeve er becomes the object of divine wrath, I know no swiftness can save him, no darkness hide him,
CHURCHES. no strong place defend him, since in all places, all things are sub
(Continued from page 274.) ject to their power; every where
One cannot have lived long in they are equally lords of all.
New-England under advantages This is my opinion concerning to obtain information, without obboth our oaths, and the gods, serving that a growing contempt whom we have made the depos- of creeds and confessions of faith itories of our friendship."
is characteristic of the present It would fill a volume to cite
times.* They are abundantly the proofs of this reverence for decried, as useless inventions, superior beings, among the an- having no tendency to promote cient Pagans. Suffice it to say, the interests of truth and relithat all historical records abound' gion. They are represented, as with examples. And it is par fruitful sources of debate and conticularly observable, that the his- tention.
They are exclaimed torians constantly ascribe public against, as inconsistent with the calamities to the anger of the natural liberty of mankind, and gods. Earthquakes, plagues, the sacred freedom of Christiangreat disasters of every kind are ity. They are stigmatized, as represented, as the just punish- arbitrary impositions, engines of ment of men for their wickedness spiritual tyranny. In short, they and impiety ; and sacrifices to are loaded with all the reproachappease the gods and avert their
es, which distinguished wit and vengeance seem to have been co- learning can furnish. In conseeval with the human race.
quence of this, they are general" The gods (the only great and only ly undervalued, and, in inany of wise)
our churches, are falling into dis. Are mov'd by offerings, vows, and sacrifice;
As this is deemed a great evil, Offending man their high compassion and as there is, in these hazard
wins, And daily prayers atone for daily sins."
ous times, peculiar danger of its
gaining ground and increasing We see therefore sentiments its baneful influence ; we judge of piety have been common to the pagan, as well as Christian
For the substance of what is to world; but for want of just ideas be exhibited on confessions of faith, of the true God, and his will, this Pastor acknowledges himself indebted reverence of the pagan nations to a large preface to the Assembly's was ill-directed, and often mark- confession of faith, written by W.
Dunlop, Regius Professor of Divinity ed by the wildest absurdities. and Ecclesiastical History in the Uni. The Christian alone is blessed versity of Edjoburgh. Vol. II, No. 7. Ꭱ Ꭱ .
it necessary, as far as possible, men, who have scarcely retained to furnish a seasonable antidote. one principle of religion, and Accordingly, this will be the have embraced the most absurd subject of the present and some and impidus doctrines, have following numbers of the sur- usurped the honourable name of
We shall endeavour to Christians ; in consequence of remove the contempt which is which the multitude, confoundcast on creeds and confessions of ing all together, who bear the faith, by a brief statement of same title, have entertained views their design and advantages, and exceedingly injurious to the to invalidate the objections raised Christian cause. They have atagainst them by fair and rational tributed to the real disciples of Jeanswers. This discussion, it is sus, the errors and immoralities hoped, will lead the churches of those, who have been disciples of New-England to consider the in name only. It has, therefore, great evil of contemning and dis- been of the last importance, that using confessions of faith. true believers, by publishing
One use of confessions is, 10 summaries of the Christian faith, give to the world a fair and au- should distinguish themselves thentic account of the doctrines from every erroneous sect, and maintained by the Christian furnish the world with advanchurch. Mankind have frequent- tages to form some proper noly, if not generally, mistaken, and tions of their religion. misrepresented the faith of the This necessity existed in s church, and loaded Christianity high degree at the reformation. with groundless calumnies. The The papists, inspired with irrecreligion of the gospel, in its ten- oncileable enmity against the der years, was peculiarly expos- glory of Messiah's kingdom, used 'ed to abuse. Its Author, while every engine in their power to he lived, was persecuted by the obscure the light of divine truth, fury and barbarity of his ene- then breaking forth, and to stop mies. After his decease, they the progress of the reformation. endeavoured lo blacken his mem- They defamed the characters of ory and his doctrine by the vil- the reformers, and violently tra"est aspersions. His religion was duced their doctrines. Acdisguised with a false face, and cordingly, it was one great rendered unamiable and mon- end of the confessions of faith "strous by reproach. And the which they composed, to shew world were likely to form their the falsity of the charges pubopinion of it, not from a careful lished against them, and to conexamination of its nature, but vince princes, and emperors, and from the misrepresentations of the world, of the unreasonableits adversaries. In such circum- ness of their persecutors. stances, how evidently necessary The same reason had influ. was it for the honour of religion, ence with the assembly of dithat Christians should give a fair vines, who composed the Westrepresentation of the doctrines minster confession and catewhich they believed.
chisms. And the same reason This has been the more nec. justifies Christians at this day in essary, from age to age, because ihe use of confessions. Never
was a day, when a greater varie- every hostile weapon with greatty of false doctrines were propagated, and when error had more Secondly. By publishing plain talents and zeal engaged in its and solemn declarations of their cause. Nor was there ever a faith, believers design to shotu time, when the sentiments of be- that they on the doctrines of lievers were more openly calum- Christ with cheerfulness and zeul; niated, or when the church of that his religion, though hated and Christ was more disturbed and despised by the impious, is the obdisgraced by the multitude of ject of their veneration; that they false brethren. It is, therefore, glory in the gospel, as iheir most highly important, that the faith- valuable frossession, and feel grate. ful servants of Christ should ex- ful to God for such an unspeakıhibit a plain, and somewhat full ble gifl. account of their religious princi- When God bestows distinples. Not willing to be con- guishing gifts, his people should founded with all who bear the not bury them in ungrateful siChristian name, they crave this lence, but seize every opportunijustice, that the world would ty to make them known to the judge of them by the creed world, and to testify their gratiwhich they embrace, and the tude to the bountiful Giver, conduct which they practically Now in what way can God bless approve. From every mistaken a people more than by causing and slanderous representation, the pure light of truth to shine they make their appeal to those upon them? The gospel is the authentic vouchers of their sen- noblest privilege, the most pretimeuts, which are found in their cious gift. Christians should acconfessions of faith.
knowledge it with the sincerest Now if, according to the spirit praise, and embrace every opof modern catholicism, confes- portunity to testify their esteem sions of faith should be wholly for its heavenly doctrines. This laid aside, the world wouid be is done by the practice here recdeprived of one important advan- ommended. Every time the tage for distinguishing the faithful churches of Christ pubfriends of Christ from others, Jish their confessions, they own and so be in greater danger of their obligations to the infinite forming confused and unjust goodness of God for the gospel, conceptions of Christianity. In proclaim their adherence to the such a state of things, the faith divine truths contained in it, and of Christ's people must be judy- glory in them as their crown. ed by the opinions which com- As it is the duty of Chrisans, monly prevail. They would upon all proper occasions, to acWant the best advantage to clear knowledge with confidence the their principles from perverse re- truths of the gospel, and never proaches, and to designate them. to be ashamed to prosess them selves, as the faithiul advocates before men; so there are some
gospel truth. This effect of seasons which afford peculiar setting aside confessions would motives to this duty. For exam. gratify the enemies of the gos- pic, if any of the doctrines of pel, and give them power to use our holy religion should be in