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worthy of note under the two general heads before mentioned, he will be astonished at the treasures of thought which will be thus disclosed, and hundreds of passages, which without such a directed aim would have appeared barren and uninteresting, will be found pregnant with the most important meaning Let him thus for example ever contrast Homer and Hesiod with Genesis and Job, the Grecian poets and orators with the Psalmist and prophets : let him compare Plato with Paul and John ; the ethics of Aristotle (the best uninspired system ever composed) with the morality of the New Testament; the fundamental doctrines of the trinity, the fall of man in Adam, and his recovery by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, with the same great truths as they are shadowed forth in the mythology of the Greeks, in their traditionary annals, their religious and sacrificial rites, all testifying to a deep sense in man, both of unholiness and guilt. Let him treasure in his thoughts the alrnost inspired sayings of some of their philosophers, and the sublime epithets which their poets have applied to the king of gods, epithets which unquestionably came down from a remote antiquity, and surviving the purer primitive source from whence they were derived, formed an incongruous mixture with the fables and corruptions of a later age. Let him rigidly pursue this course of study and we may dismiss the fears which some honest minds have entertained of the immoral tendency of the ancient classics. There are books now used in our seminaries of learning, which, although written by those who are nominally Christians, have a tendency to weaken that faith, which the study of Socrates and Cicero would confirm.
A signal benefit which would result from the close study of the classics, and the acquisition of a general taste for their beauties among the liberally educated portion of the commuity, would be the driving out of that mass of trash which passes under the denomination of the light literature of the day. This anomaly has resulted only from a a craving desire for something to fill the vacuum which has been produced by the long neglect of more elevated and soul satisfying studies, and which cannot be supplied by the interest taken in the physical sciences. Could the solid vein of ancient literature and philosophy be reopened in this country, we might expect it to be followed by the same effects as at the period of the revival of letters in Europe. An elevated seriousness of thought would take the place of frivolity—theology and the more religious branches of philosophy would regain that standing, from which they had been suffered to be driven by the contempt of fools, and the jargon which pretended advocates had introduced into their vocabularies -just criticism would be fixed on those foundations which nature, and the ancients, her best interpreters, had established-our dying language would feel its reviving influences-pedantry would disappear when, as in the days of Elizabeth, every one who aspired to the title of an educated gentleman was a finished classical scholar--and that foe of religion, morals, and all manly sentiment, which is found in the light literature with which our press is teemivg, would cease its enervating effects upon the public mind and taste.
The Greeks and Romans, to their honor be it said, had no light literature. Not only their history and philosophy, but also their poetry, had a seriousness and elevation, which cannot now be found, except in those great English masters who formed themselves upon the classic model, or lived in an age which was deeply imbued with classic influences.The ancient comedy had ever a grave end in view, and always showed itself the humbler of boasting folly, and the scourge of prating demagogues. Even the strains of the pleasure-loving Horace and Anacreon possessed an elegance and a dignity, and oft times a melancholy seriousness, which cannot be found in the sensual and sentimental rhapsodies of our modern Epicureans. The novel was a thing unknown. Their lyric poetry was sacred to the gods, or if custom compelled it to celebrate the victories in the public games, it was ever made the channel for the conveyance of the most elevated moral sentiments. The Grecian' drama would be degraded by a comparison with the stage as it now exists. No reader of their tragic poetry need be informed, that it
was, for the most part, not only serious, and even solemn, but essentially religious. It embodied and personated in frequent representations the national religion, and preserved in the public mind an awe inspiring sense of the presence and retribution of the invisible powers. In the tragedies of Æschylus and Sophocles, holy Themis or the goddess of justice is ever represented as seated with Jupiter on the throne, and his avenging eye is ever upon the actors presented to us.'Their moral is ever religious. Though they were not as expert casuists as some utilitarians, and nice calculators of the greatest good of the greatest number, yet their poems ever present to us a principle of far higher value. Wickedness, (according to their views of it,) is ever punished and virtue rewarded, not as the mere result of natural causes (the favorite philosophy of many of our works of fiction, and even of our graver systems of morality,) but by the direct interposition, and vindictive justice of the ever wakeful Jove, controlling and directing natural causes, when, and in what manner, it pleases him. Notwithstanding what is often said about the danger to the morals of our youth from the heathen classic poetry, yet it is a position which can be most fully sustained, that there is more which claims affinity with the devout spirit of the Old Testament, more which approaches the true religious fervor of the Psalmist, and the awful solemnity of the prophets, in the Grecian tragedies, than in a large portion of what passes as unexceptionable among the poetry and light literature of the modern press. We may even carry the comparison still farther, and contrast them with a class of productions which lay claim to more seriousness, and elevation of character. In some of their descriptions of their supreme divinity, he approaches nearer to the character of the holy and jealous God of the Bible, than the liberal and indifferent deity of modern rationalists; and we often find in them more of a religious Biblical morality, than can be met with among the sacred melodies and unmeaning sentimentalism of some of our most admired bards. Whatever is really noxious in heathenism may be neutralised, and even turned to good account, by ever associating the protecting influence of the study of the Bible, and whilst the student thus avoids the evil, he will often have his soul kindled and elevated by many a sublime sentiment of the ever serious, and oft times deeply solemn tragic muse of Greece.
In dwelling on the religious spirit which is manifested in the writings of the ancient world, and the inducements derived from this fact for the study of the classics, it may be permitted to digress a little farther. It manifested itself not only in their poetry and philosophy, but also in their moral and political writings. Whilst, in most modern productions of this kind a profound silence is observed, and a tacit compact seems entered into to avoid even the very mention of religion, the ancients seldom discussed moral or political subjects without giving a prominent aspect to their religious bearings. We find more allusions to a con trolling providence in some of Cicero's essays, than can be met with in whole libraries of modern political science. What lawyer of our day would devote a large portion, or any portion of his work, to an argument intended to prove that all law derives its sanctions, not from the people, but from the eternal law of God? How, in this respect, do our great American statesmen compare with the philosopher of Tusculum? The sentiments contained in the first two books of Cicero's treatise de legibus, if they were presented to the public as a modern production, would excite the loudest clamors of those who are such strenuous advocates for religious freedom, that they would banish the very names of religion and of God from all our legal codes and publie charters. If we except the professedly religious world, it is a fact beyond all contradiction, that there was among the ancient heathen a more direct acknowledgement of the great fundamental truths of natural religion,—the doctrine of a future state,-of a divine retribution--of the necessity of expiation of some kind,—and of a special providence,-than is now made by the great mass in nominally Christian countries. There was not that mean and timid shrinking from the express avowal of religious sentiments, which now is every where so prevalent. It seems as though the Gospel had set in a stronger light the atheistical and materializing tendencies, of that portion of the nominally Christian world, which rejects its direct influences. These remarks apply to almost all classes of the ancient world, but their truth is more especially manifested in the writings of its philosophers and statesmen. Let any one compare Cicero de Legibus, Plato's Republic, or Aristotle's Politics, with the best modern works on similar subjects, and judge which has most of the religious spirit; which in assigning the foundations of civil polity, and the true motives of human conduct, comes the nearest to the Bible, or has the best title to the epithet, Christian. Let us select Ferguson on Civil Society, as one of our best modern treatises, and as furnishing a clear illustration of this difference. This treatise was written by a Christian professor of moral philosophy, yet what barbarian from the reading of his book, would have any clue by which he might discover, whether the author was a Christian, or an infidel, or even an atheist. The whole argument is conducted as it would be if neither God
nor revelation was acknowledged. In treating of the state of nature, the early condition of mankind, and the origin of governments, what intimation does he give that he had ever heard of such a book as the Bible? Would Plato in the investigation of similar subjects, have thus slighted this most ancient and authoritative of all records, had it been placed within his reach? And yet the Christian author to whom we refer, and whom we have selected as furnishing one of the best specimens of modern political essayists, is not only profoundly silent as to its claim to give the most authentic information on these important matters, but also advances sentiments in direct contradiction of its account of that state of nature into which man, by transgression fell; and of the disorders which it has ever introduced into the moral and political condition of the world. What is said of Ferguson is true of the great mass of modern political writers.
On the other hand, how much more faithful to the truth, and to the Scripture account of man, is the heathen Tully: “As soon," says he, “ as we are born and brought forth to light, we are plunged into every species of depravity, and every perversity of false opinion ; so that we seem to have sucked in error with our mother's milk. Nert are we handed over to teachers, and are by them imbued with such varieties of falsehood, that truth yields to vanity, and nature is buried under confirmed error. But when there comes at last that greatest of all teachers, the people, the universal multitude every where with one consent rushing into folly, then we become utterly infected with depravity of sentiment, and imbibe the false opinion that nothing is better for man, nothing more desirable, nothing more excellent, than honors, offices, and popular glory.” The sages of antiquity fondly dwelt on the traditions of an ancient golden age, but they indulged in no dreams of future perfectibility by any means inherent in human nature.
They lamented the depravity of man, and whilst some looked on in mute despair, others expressed the feeble hope that Heaven might yet contrive some means to raise him from his fallen state, and bring home again the outcast who had been so long wandering from happiness and virtue.
Let our young men study the Bible and the classics. Then will they learn not only just and noble sentiments, but also the true elements of moral and political philosophy,