« AnteriorContinuar »
would exist, and how they would think, and feel, and speak, and act, hundreds of years to come! No one says, What prescience he must have possessed, to know so long beforehand how Christ would appear on earth, what reception the Jews would give him; to tell exactly what words he would speak on the cross, and what the Jews would throw in his teeth! to discover that they would give him vinegar and gall in his thirst, and part his garments among them, casting lots who should have the whole of his robe. Every one says, This was not David's singular foresight or wisdom, as if he could search the hearts of men, and even know what they would think and feel, speak and act in future ages; but David himself, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, explains the affair when he says, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his words were in my tongue.' Then, why should we say what a revengeful spirit must have dwelt in David's breast, when he uttered the dreadful imprecation? We might as well ascribe the prescience to David's penetrating mind, as the ven. geance to his revengeful heart. The same inspiration which furnished him with the one, caused him to utter the other
The only material objection to this statement is, that many of the Psalms are composed on events in David's own life, and are thought directly to apply to his enemies, Saul, Doeg, or Ahitophel. But it is evident that David's whole character and history were typical, and adapted to convey the Divine mind in various important particulars. Thus, when he was meditating on events relative to himself, his spirit was transported to utter predictions of Christ and his history. Hence, what some would suppose the thoughts of his heart concerning his enemies, evidently are exact predictions of futurity, though it is the mind of God that they should be delivered as denunciations, and not as mere predictions.
If, then, I heard a person utter such things as proved him elevated above humanity, delivering the mind of the omniscient God, revealing not only my most secret thoughts and wishes, but even ascertaining what they would be years to come, which only God could know; if, in the midst of these, I heard him say, 'Let death seize upon him, and let him go down quick into hell,' I should no more attribute this to the evil disposition of his heart towards me, than I should ascribe the former to his knowledge of my heart, and of futurity; but I should tremble at the denunciations of a righteous God, convinced that the speaker was the mere organ of the Deity, to utter views and determinatious not his
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Acts xvii. 23.
What should we think of an altar thus inscribed at Boston, at Charlestown, at Cambridge, or any of our principal cities? Are there any such in America, whereon merely nominal Christians profess to worship God, without a spiritual knowledge of him? There is an altar to “the unknown God."
The altar that St. Paul observed was at Athens; Athens, the eye of Greece; the school of the arts; the seat of the muses; the place from whence the gods themselves were said to come! Much there was in that elegant city to attract the eye and ear of a man of taste, like Paul: but he was not entertained. His soul was vexed within him, and when, at length a favorable opportunity presented itself, he thus addressed the venerable court of the Areopagus. “Ye men of Athens, I observe that in all things ye are too much addicted to the worship of demons."
Superstitious they certainly were to an unusual degree. An ideot was executed for killing one of the sacred sparrows of Æsculapius: and a little child put to death for accidentally picking up a bit of gold that fell from the crown of Diana!
The erection of this peculiar altar is, by some, ascribed to Socrates, who "wished thereby to express his devotion to the one living and true God, of whom the Athenians had no notion; and whose incomprehensible being, he insinuated by this inscription, to be far beyond the reach of their understanding, or his own.”
Others account for it in a more extraordinary way. "Diogenes Laertius assures us that in the time of Epi. menides, (almost 600 years before Christ) there was a terrible pestilence at Athens; in order to avert which, when none of the deities to whom they sacrificed, appeared willing or able to help them, Epimenides advised them to bring some sheep to the Areopagus, and letting them loose from thence, to follow them till they lay down, and then to sacrifice them to the god near whose temple they rested. Now it seems probable that, Athens not being then so full of these monuments of superstition as afterwards, these sheep lay down in places remote from any temples, and so occasioned the rearing, what the historian calls anonymous altars, or altars, each of which had the inscription (eyvw5w Oɛw). meaning thereby, the deity who had sent the plague, whoever he were. One of these altars might have been repaired, and continued till St. Paul's time. Now, as the God, whom he preached, as Lord of all, was, indeed, the Deity who sent and removed this pestilence; the apostle might, with great propriety, tell the Athenians, he declared to them Him, "whom, (without know. ing him) they worshipped."*
It is our inexpressible happiness, that this glorious God has revealed himself to us, in his sacred word, without which, we had remained to this day, as ignorant of him, as Greece then was. “This is eternal life to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent!” Here we not only learn the unity and perfections of the Deity, but we see a God reconciled to rebels by the blood of the Lamb; we learn the way to approach him with acceptance: we obtain the privilege of access to him in daily prayer; and receive from him, every moment, supplies of grace. We learn to serve and honor him with all our powers; and we hope, ere long, to possess that fulness of joy which is at his right hand, and pleasures for ever more.
Among the ways in which we should prove our gratitude for the knowledge of God, this is one. Let us, like St. Paul, pity the millions of our fellow men who know
* Dr. Welwood (Pref. to the Banquet of Xenophon) cited by Dr. Doddridge, in his excellent note on this text, which sec.
him not. If there had been neither misery nor danger in the ignorance of the Athenians, Paul might have prudently avoided the disgrace of being accounted “a chattering fellow, and a preacher of foreign deities;" but his spirit within him was greatly moved, beholding the city devoted to idolatry; and neither reputation nor life was counted dear to him, so that he might publish salvation to these perishing, mistaken people. It is to the honor of thousands in our American Israel, that they are like minded with him; and may He who honored Paul's labors at Athens, by the conversion of Dionysius, Damaris, and others, succeed their laudable efforts with an extensive blessing! PHILANTHROPOS.
AN ALTAR FOR A MEMORIAL.
“And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe
Israel.” Gen. xxxiii. 20.
The practice of erecting altars on various occasions prevailed much in the patriarchal ages, as is abundantly evident from those set up by Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joshua, and others. The general design of erecting them was to perpetuate the recollection of God's wonderful and gracious dealings with the children of men. Gratitude was the leading motive. They were intended likewise to convey important instruction to the generations to come, to inspire them with a belief in God's providence and a hope in his grace.
“El-elohe Israel,” (i. e. God, the God of Israel) is a brief, but very expressive motto.
It conveys an idea of the mutual and lasting relation which subsists between Jehovah and his covenant people. Nor does it refer