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I UNDERSTAND that many young persons who have read the “ Universal History” with interest, are expecting the Second Part ; and I am glad to have fulfilled my intention of writing again for their instruction. But let me tell you, my dear young friends, we shall lose the profit to be gained by studying history, if we read, in the disposition of righteous judges, of the characters and actions of others, rather than as fellow-sinners. If, in any respect, we differ from the most ignorant or the most wicked, it is God who has made us to differ by placing us in different circumstances, or restraining our evil passions. Let us never imagine, however great be the evil recorded, that we are reading the history of persons of a different nature from our own, and that we have anything of which we may boast. On the contrary, let us remember, this is the history of man,—of human nature; and therefore a history of the sin that dwells in us, manifested in its various frightful actings. The evil thoughts
(Matt. xv. 19), to which all are subject, are, as it were, the fountain-head of all the evil deeds that mark the history of unrestrained human nature. May you be taught by the Spirit of God to hate sin in yourselves, and so to feel its exceeding sinfulness, as to be constrained to flee to Him whose blood cleanses His believing people from all sin.
I cannot send forth another part of this Work without some mention of the dearly beloved and deeply lamented friend at whose request it was undertaken and continued. By the grace of God, and through prayerful study of the Scriptures together for many years, we were perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment : therefore, although my friend is sweetly fallen asleep in Jesus, this little book may still speak. With this thought I inscribe it with the deepest affection to the bereaved family at Coombe.
July 10th, 1843.
STATE OF THE WORLD AT THE TIME OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
THREE CLASSES OF INHABITANTS. — PHILOSOPHICAL SECTS AMONG THE GREEKS AND ROMANS. — RELIGIOUS STATE OF THE JEWS.
" When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made
of a woman, made under the law.”—Gal. iv. 4. The whole Roman world was in a state of outward tranquillity under the powerful rule of Augustus Cæsar. The stirring nations seemed to be hushed, and no remarkable event attracts our attention in other parts of the earth, whilst Judea becomes the scene of greatest interest to the thoughtful mind.
In the beginning of our history we were observing the creating power of the Word of God; we have now to contemplate that greater mystery of love," The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John i. 14)—in other words, “ God was manifest in the flesh ” (1 Tim. iii. 16).
In the ages we have passed through, we have seen, in many painful forms, Satan and the power of sin manifested in the flesh; and though among Jewish believers the power of the Spirit of God was sometimes very evident, till Christ Jesus came into the world it never could be said “ God was manifest in the flesh.” All human words are poor in describing this miracle of love : it is only the Holy Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and shews them to his people, that can enable us to understand it.
ROMANS, GREEKS AND BARBARIANS.
It will be instructive to mark the state of the world at large, as well as the circumstances of the Jewish people, at this period, as the greatness and universality of the existing evils must tend to magnify the riches of God's grace, and the depths of His wisdom in sending forth His Son at this very time.
We must consider the inhabitants of the world under three great classes, Romans, Greeks, and Barbarians. By Romans we do not understand merely the inhabitants of Rome or of Italy, but all throughout the empire who had obtained the same privileges as the Roman citizens, and were always classed with them. Rome, like an immense beehive, sent out its swarms from time to time into the countries which had been subdued by the legions; and these, mingling with the original inhabitants, introduced their own language, manners, arts, and sciences. And not only in this way were Roman citizens found in every part of the empire, but the most obedient or honourable provincials, being favoured with an admission to the same rank and obtaining the same rights, were added to the number.
The Roman colonists, or conquering armies, introduced their language among the western nations; and it was almost universally adopted in Africa Proper, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Pannonia : and, where the original language was not lost, it was mixed up with the Latin tongue.
By Greeks, we do not mean only the inhabitants of Greece ; for they, like the Romans in their prosperous days, had extended themselves by conquest or commerce far beyond the limits of their own country, and carried their own language, customs, &c., wherever they formed establishments. In Syria and Egypt, the Greeks exceeded the Romans in number, and there were Greek cities in Italy, Egypt, Asia Minor, and elsewhere ; but the luxurious Syrians and obstinate Egyptians cared little for the title or privileges of Roman citizens, and despised the language or manners of their conquerors. The Greeks everywhere naturally preferred their own language; and as Greece was the school- place of the noblest Romans, the beauty of that expressive tougue was acknowledged by the learned, and gradually became the language of science, so that almost all scientific terms are derived from the Greek.
By Barbarians, we mean all to whom the Romans and Greeks applied this term—that is, those whom they considered less
civilized than themselves; though in all cases our ideas on this subject would not agree with theirs. For instance, the Persians, who appear to have been highly civilized, were classed among the barbarians; and a Greek philosopher, quoting from St. John's gospel, speaks of the writer as a barbarian. In fact, all the Jews, except such as were born, as Paul was, in a city that had the freedom of Rome, were reckoned as barbarians.
The Romans and Greeks embraced the same extravagant system of polytheism, though the gods of the former probably far out-numbered those of the latter, as it was a part of their policy to adopt those of the people whom they conquered, in order to reconcile them to the yoke. Through the long-continued intercourse between the Greeks and Romans, the same sects prevailed among them; and it will be necessary to give a general sketch of them at this period, that Christianity, or “the sect of the Nazarenes," as it was contemptuously called, may appear in all the beauty of contrast with the false systems of men.
All their philosophical sects prided themselves on their superiority to the unreflecting multitude who believed in a plurality of gods ; but they attended the temples and sacrifices with the mass of the people, supposing it was well to support the national religion, as a means of preserving order in the world. In bowing down to images they accommodated themselves to popular ideas and customs : in their schools, and in conversation with each other, they ridiculed the common practice, or professed to worship one God under a variety of representations.
The Epicureans, who abounded at Rome in the Augustan age, first sprung up through the instrumentality of Lucretius, who introduced the doctrines of the sect in a poem said to be written (B.C. 50) during a violent delirium. They held that there was no Supreme Being, that the world was created by chance, that the soul died with the body; and that therefore it was true wisdom to enjoy the present time.
The Academics much resembled modern infidels in questioning all that was commonly believed, without having any thing better to offer in its place. The Aristotelians represented the Supreme Being as indifferent to human affairs, and happy in the contemplation of his own excellence. But as a proof how impossible it is that any who believe in the existence of God, can suppose he is unconcerned about the works of his own