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pared for the establishment and propagation of Christianity!

It was a time of transition and convergence, such as the nations had never before seen. The old dynasties were subdued, and Rome was every where dominant. . The languages of the most intelligent and aggressive civilizations, the Grecian and the Roman, spread with the advance of their conquering armies. Greece herself had fallen into decay, but her language, from a great variety of causes, had become almost cosmopolitan. It was spoken not only in its old native haunts, but throughout Asia Minor, and in many parts of Syria, especially in all the great centres of commerce and power, Rome, Damascus, Babylon, Jerusalem, Cæsarea, Antioch, and Alexandria. Thus the nations were brought together. Thus the streams of history were converging to some central issue.

Indeed, that was a most peculiar and critical era, which closed, in some sense, the troubled drama of the ancient world, and prepared mankind for a new order of things.

The existing religions, and consequent civilizations, all of which, with a single exception, embodied the element of idolatry, and what is worse, of selfishness and lust, had fallen into a state of dotage. Their old fiery hearts ceased to beat. A strange torpor seized them all. Indeed, mankind, in consequence of their advancing intelligence, had outgrown their religions, while their morals were becoming more and more corrupt. The splendid visions of Grecian polytheism had long been tarnished. Olympus was deserted. Mag

. nificent temples, beautiful poetry, exquisite statuary remained, but all earnest worship was lost. The whole was thoroughly penetrated by the spirit of doubt and lust. The stronger, but equally idolatrous faith of Rome gave signs of decay. Like the civil polity which it supported, it was tottering to its fall. Superstitions enough remained, but all profound and coherent faith, even in idolatry, was breaking to pieces, and vanishing away. The whole array of the priesthood began to be contemned, nay, what is more significant, began to contemn themselves. Philosophers, who despised the vulgar notions, often spoke with contempt of superstition; then again urged a more rational veneration of the popular divinities, but without the slightest success. The awe-struck imagination of the elder pagans, which prostrated itself in burning adoration before the starry host, the sacred fire, or the Olympian Jove, could nowhere be found. Sacrifices enough were offered, especially by the magistrates, but rather to appease the hunger of the populace than to attract the favor of the gods. Xenophon tells us that the common people regarded them only as a pleasant means of securing a good meal.* The festivals and ceremonies of religion were observed for amusement and pleasure. They did more to corrupt, than to preserve the morals of the people.

A new era, in fact, was opening upon the world; but what it was to be could scarcely be foretold, by reference to the existing state of things. For idolatry was replaced by scepticism, and scepticism resulted in anarchy and crime. Atheism, in its practical forms, was stealing into the halls of legislation, the cabinet of kings, and the closets of philosophers, and with it the most hideous crimes. “ Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." Abominable vices, vices which we do not even name in this age of the world, polluted every pagan country, not as unfrequent and startling enormities, but as common every day occurrences. Indeed, this taint always pervaded these countries, especially Greece and Egypt, and to some extent Rome; for even Plato and Cicero, in their pages, refer familiarly, and by way of illustration, to one of the most detestable of these vices. Free themselves from sensual indulgence, they speak of it, in such easy terms, as would indicate its extensive prevalence. But now vices of this kind had increased to an amazing extent. Occasionally checked by civil penalties, as in the case of the Bacchanals at Rome, they broke out again with fresh energy. Every where, also, slavery, in a form vastly worse than any thing in modern times, pervaded the Roman empire, and entailed upon all concerned the most fatal vices. Life was cheap, chastity still cheaper; and a man, especially a patrician, might maim or murder his slaves with impunity. Amid much exterior refinement, the greatest brutality of manners prevailed.

* In his Athen. Republica, c. 2.

+ See, in the Phædrus, the illustrations of love in its various forms. It is well known that both the Epicureans and Stoics allowed and Egypt, never distinguished for its morals, and Syria under wretched misgovernment, were sunk in venality and crime.* Greece was effeminate defended raidcpagria, as well as incest, reckoning these flagitious crimes among things (adıápopa,) indifferent. The classical reader will remember Virgil's Corydon amabat Alexin, as well as Horace's numerous allusions to the same thing. Plutarch tells us that even Solon practised this monstrous crime. Diogenes Laertius says the same of the Stoic Zeno.

Justice was sacrificed, in the terrible struggle of contending politicians, and the republic, so long the boast and glory of Rome, ignominiously fell. The most astounding debaucheries were mingled with the most terrible cruelties.

* We learn from Rosellini, Wilkinson, Bunsen, and others, who have made Egyptian history a special study, that the Egyptians, while eminently skilled in many of the arts of life, were coarse and disgusting in their habits. Their very monuments furnish indisputable evidence of their sensuality and cruelty. Their feasts end iu “ bestial excesses," on the part of both sexes. Gentlemen are carried home in a state of insensibility, and even ladies give token of their preceding intemperance. All know how licentious was the worship of Isis.

and powerless, hungering, as of old, after pleasure, but without the redeeming force and elegance of former times. The great Roman heart, which swayed the world, grew gross and languid, under the dominion of cruelty and lust. The dream of heroic virtue and freedom had passed away. Despotism, unprincipled and capricious, ruled the nations. The morals even of those called sages, with few exceptions, were rank and bestial. The condition of the hungry masses, in the Roman empire, grew more and more intolerable. What may be termed the higher philosophy, not yet entirely abandoned by thoughtful men, here and there shone, like a vessel on fire, amid the fury and darkness of a tempestuous night. At the best, it never reached the masses; and hence the doctrine of God and of the im. mortality of the soul, which lingered in books, and in the belief of a few lofty souls, left like rocks amid the tide of corruption, exerted upon the community no conceivable influence. Nay, this higher philosophy, at the time of which we are speaking, was itself becoming sceptical and lewd. The reign of Epicureanism was all but complete. A few philosophical spirits, like Cicero in Rome, or Philo in Alexandria, admired Plato,

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