We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!
« Prev SECT. XI. The exceeding purity of its precepts,… Next »

SECT. XI. The exceeding purity of its precepts, with respect to the worship of God.

ANOTHER thing, in which the Christian religion exceeds all other religions that ever were, are, or eau be imagined, is the exceeding purity and holiness of its precepts, both in those things which concern the worship of God, and also in all ether particulars. The rites of the heathens, almost all over the world, were full of cruelty; as Porphyry has largely shewn;245245   In his book prohibiting eating living creatures; whence Cyril took many things, in his fourth against Julian. and as we are convinced, by those in our 98age, who have sailed to those places. For it is an established principle, almost every where, that the gods are to he pacified with human blood; which custom neither the Greek learning, nor the Roman laws, abolished: as appears from what we read concerning sacrifices offered up to Bacchus Omesta, amongst the Greeks;246246   Plutarch mentions them in his Themistocles, and also Pausanias. The like rites of the Messenians, Pellæans, Lictyans in Crete, Lesbians, Phocæensians, you have in the hortatory discourse in Clemens. concerning a Grecian man and a Grecian woman, and concerning a man and woman amongst the Gauls, that were sacrificed to Jupiter Latialis.247247   Dionysius Halicarnassensis tells us in his first book, that it was a very ancient custom in Italy to sacrifice men. How long it remained, Pliny says, book xxviii. ch. 2. “Our age hath seen in the beast-market a Grecian man and woman slain, or these of some other nation with whom they dealt.” This custom remained till Justin’s and Tatian’s time: for Justin, in his first Apologetic, addresses the Romans thus: “That idol which you worship, to whom not only the blood of irrational creatures is poured out, but also human blood; which blood of slain men is poured out by the most noble and eminent person among you.” And Tatian: “I find among the Romans, that Jupiter Latialis was delighted with human blood; and with that which flows from men that are slain.” Porphyry tells us, that these rites remained till Adrian’s time. That there was a very ancient custom amongst the Gauls of offering human sacrifices, we learn from Tully’s oration in defence of M. Fonteius; and out of Plutarch, concerning superstition. Tiberius abolished it, as we find in Pliny, book xxx. chap 1. See the same Pliny there, concerning the Britons, and Dion in Nero, and Solinus; also Hermoldus concerning the Sclavonians, book i. chap. 3. Porphyry, in his second book against eating living creatures, says, that it remained till his time in Arcadia, in Carthage, and “in the great city,” that is, Rome, where he instances in the rite of Jupiter Latialis. And the most holy mysteries, both of Ceres and of Bacchus, were full of lewdness; as was plain, when once the secrets of their religion began to be publicly discovered; as is at large declared by Clemens Alexandrinus,248248   In his hortatory discourse. 99and others.249249   Especially Arnobius. And there were such sights shewn upon those days, that were consecrated to the honour of their gods, that Cato was ashamed to be present at them.250250   See Martial, in the beginning of his epigrams; Gellius, x. 13. and Valerius Maximus, book. ii. chap. 10. In the Jewish religion, indeed, there was nothing unlawful or immoral; but to prevent that people, who were prone to idolatry,251251   This is the reason given for such precepts by Maimonides, whom Josephus Albo follows. from revolting from the true religion, it was burthened with many precepts, concerning things that were in themselves neither good nor bad: such as the sacrifices of beasts, circumcision, strict rest on the sabbath day, and the forbidding many sorts of meats; some of which the Mahometans have borrowed, and added to them a prohibition of wine. But the Christian religion teaches us to worship God, who is a most holy Being, with a pure mind,252252   John iv. 24. and with such actions as are in their own nature virtuous, if they had not been commanded.253253   Whence it is called a reasonable service, Rom. xii. 1. Phil. iv. 8. Thus, it does not bid us to circumcise our flesh, but our desires and affections:254254   Rom. ii. 28, 29. Phil. iii. 3. not to abstain from all sorts of works, but only from all such as are unlawful:255255   1 Cor. v. 8. not to offer the blood and fat of beasts in sacrifice to God; but, if there be a just occasion, to offer our own blood for a testimony of the truth:256256   1 Cor. x. 16. Heb. xii. 4. 1 Pet. ii. 21. and whatever share of our goods we give to the poor, we are to look upon as given to God:257257   Math vi. 4. Luxe xii. 33. 2 Cor. ix. 7. Heb. iii. 6. not to forbear certain kinds of meat or drink, but to use both of them with such temperance as may most secure our health;258258   Luke xxi. 34. Rom. xiii. 13. Ephes. v. 18. Gal. v. 21. 1 Tim. v. 3. 1 Pet. iv. 3. and sometimes, 100by fasting, to render our bodies more subservient to the mind, that it may with more freedom advance itself towards higher objects.259259   Matt. vi. 18. xvii. 21. 1 Cor. vii. 5. But the chief part of religion is every where declared to consist in such a godly faith,260260   John xii. 44. by which we may be framed to such a sincere obedience,261261   Luke xi. 28. John xiii. 17. and the following verses; 1 Cor. vii. 19. 1 Pet. i. 2. as to trust wholly upon God,262262   Matt. xxi. 21. 2 Tim. i. 12. and have a firm belief of his promises;263263   Rom. iv. 20. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Gal. iii. 29. whence arises hope,264264   Heb. vi. 11. Rom. viii. 24. xv. 4. and a true love both of God and of our neighbour, which causes obedience to his commands;265265   Gal. v. 6. 1 Thess. iii. 6. not a servile obedience,266266   Rom. viii. 15. proceeding from the fear of punishment, but because it is well-pleasing to him,267267   Heb. xii. 28. and because he is our Father,268268   Rom. viii. and rewarder,269269   Coloss. 24. 2 Thess. i. 6.—(To which we may add, that we can easily apprehend, that his precepts are most worthy of him, and so exactly suited to our nature, that better or more agreeable cannot be conceived by any one; therefore we ought to render ourselves obedient to him, out of a grateful sense of his commands, because they are the best and most excellent that can be; and this, though there were no punishment to be inflicted on the disobedient, beside the baseness of the fact itself: this is to obey God like sons, and not like servants. Le Clerc) out of his exceeding goodness towards us. And we are commanded to pray,270270   Matt. vi. 10. not to obtain riches or honours, and such other things, which many have desired to their own hurt; but, in the first. place, for such things as are for the glory of God; and so much only for ourselves of those 101perishable things as nature requires, permitting the rest to Divine Providence; being contented, which way soever they happen: but for those things that lead to eternity we are to pray with all earnestness, viz. for pardon of our past sins, and for the assistance of the Spirit for the future; that, being established firmly against all threats and temptations, we may continue on in a godly course. This is the worship of God required by the Christian religion, than which certainly nothing can be conceived more worthy of him.


« Prev SECT. XI. The exceeding purity of its precepts,… Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |