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preface to the Tusculan Disputations of Cicero, he declares that he is so affected by the moral writings of that great man, and especially by his discourses concerning a good life, that he cannot doubt that the heart from whence they proceeded was the seat of some divine power.
Without some measure of divine enlightenment there could indeed be no real appreciation of righteousness and truth, no sense of honour and integrity, no regard for moral excellence and virtue. The mind of man would never have been able without higher direction to discern between good and evil, truth and error; nor could the conscience, save by divine instruction, have learned to approve the one or to condemn the other. Destitute of heavenly guidance, human reason would have been but a higher kind of animal instinct, more perfect in its operations than that of the brutes, because proceeding from a finer organisation and assisted by quicker senses and perceptions, but essentially of the same nature. God therefore not only manifested himself by his outward works to the eyes and senses of his creatures, but made his voice also to be heard in the inner man. While the great lights in the heavens declared his glory and proclaimed his handy work to all the world, some rays of heavenly wisdom penetrated also to the souls of his creatures, and taught them not alone to know, but to approve things excellent.
Nor can it be supposed that when, at a later period, God made choice of a peculiar people to be the recipients of his written law, and to be taught by a special revelation, other nations were deprived of those earlier sources of wisdom and direction which had, till then, been common to all. The Court of the Gentiles was still open for the world at large, though the inner temple was for the Jew alone; and the former, though excluded from the special privileges of the favoured race, were not therefore cut off from those opportunities of knowing and reverencing their Maker which they had before enjoyed, and which, during the first ages of the world, had supplied the place of the written commandment and the law of ordinances. The numberless examples of piety and virtue, of benevolence and moral rectitude, which we meet with in the history of pagan nations, and the general, though sometimes reluctant, admiration which these qualities evoked, and still more, the grand, and may we not say DIVINE, sentiments expressed by many of their philosophers on the subject of religion, forbid us to doubt that God did at all times shed, even upon the Gentiles, some purer, warmer rays of knowledge than the light of nature could alone impart.
Many remarkable proofs of this partial, yet divine illumination will, it
is believed, be found in the following pages. The opinions entertained by heathen philosophers, and the maxims of heathen moralists, are there compared, and in some instances contrasted, with the clear and perfect teaching of the Word of God; and it will be seen that, though their notions of religion are beset with error, and their ideal of moral excellence contracted and depraved, yet there is in both sufficient truth and justice to testify of their divine original. The pathway which, in the darkness of paganism, was dimly shadowed forth by the lesser light of natural religion, is the same which, under the brighter beams of heavenly revelation, "shineth more and more unto the perfect day.""
On the other hand, it is evident that the greater part of the knowledge possessed by the heathen was obtained either by tradition, or by more direct communication, from the written word of God. The moon shines with a borrowed light, and the alternations which she undergoes serve to indicate the source from whence her lustre is derived. The more directly her face is turned to the greater luminary, the more clearly and completely it is lighted up. So, in the history, philosophy, and ethics of the Gentiles we may discern the reflected light of divine revelation. The facts are, it is true, greatly disguised, and the doctrine much obscured, by the fallacies of human reason and invention; but as the shadow, though distorted, bears still an unequivocal resemblance to the object which it represents, so these traditions afford sure testimony to the realities which they so feebly and imperfectly reflect. The chief events in the history of the world, such as the deluge and the dispersion of mankind, were probably brought down to the first writers of profane history by independent tradition. These writers therefore substantiate by a collateral report, the truth of the events recorded by Moses; and it is deeply interesting to trace the points of agreement and difference in the several narrations, and to note the mixture of truth and error by which all the traditional or legendary accounts are characterised. Such a survey will shew the insufficiency of mere human tradition to preserve truth, even in matters of the most striking and universal interest; and will convince us, more than ever, of the necessity and value of a written revelation.
Other incidents and circumstances related by heathen writers not only confirm the truths of sacred history, but throw great light upon many
1 A writer in the British Critic quoted by Dr. Hartwell Horne, speaking of Dr. Gray's work on the connexion of sacred and profane literature, observes-"The concurrent lines of precept or instruction on this comparative survey, are such as establish a sufficient ground of evidence, that all moral goodness, and all sound wisdom are derived from one source and origin, and find their sanction in the will of Him, of whose perfections and of whose glory they are the manifest transcripts."
things which would otherwise, from our ignorance of the manners and customs of the times, be involved in obscurity. The classical literature of Greece and Rome assists the interpretation of holy writ, by explaining many of its allusions, and enabling us to enter more fully into the feelings, thoughts, and motives by which the men of those days were influenced; and though it may be objected that the Word of God has no need of such assistance from without, it may on the other hand be reasonably supposed that these relics of antiquity have been preserved through so many ages by the special providence of Him who ordereth all things according to His will, and who maketh even the wrath of man, and the ignorance of man, to praise Him. All truth is God's. He made the lesser light as well as the greater. The law of nature proceeds originally from Him as well as the law of revelation: and since there is in all his works a complete harmony of purpose and unity of design, the more we examine into and compare the diversities of his holy operations the more occasion we shall find to glorify his wisdom and his goodness. It was said of the men of Nineveh that they should rise up in judgment against those of a later and more favoured generation and condemn them. In like manner the religious and moral instructions of such men as Plato and Xenophon, Plutarch and Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, and other heathen philosophers, may put to shame many who in these latter days receive with indifference the lessons of divine truth and holiness revealed to them from Heaven.
The value of the particular kind of testimony offered in the following work is particularly noticeable in its application to prophecy. The events foretold by the holy prophets are shewn, by the matter-of-fact accounts of heathen writers, who had never heard of their predictions, to have been fulfilled; and that not in a general sense, which might be ascribed to accident, but in all their circumstances and with the greatest accuracy and minuteness. But for the histories bequeathed to us by Herodotus, Xenophon, Diodorus, Curtius, and Tacitus, we should never have known how fully the events foretold by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the so-called minor prophets, have been accomplished. We might have been still looking for the fulfilment of these prophecies, or even have been tempted, on account of their apparent failure, to doubt their authenticity and inspiration.
The very language of the classic authors, the poetical figures, grammatical idioms, and variety of expression in which they abound, assist us in apprehending some portions of the sacred writings which would other
wise be less easily interpreted. They give us an insight into the thoughts, tastes, and habits of the ancients, and enable us to appreciate more fully the style and language of the inspired penmen, by a more intimate acquaintance with those to whom their writings were addressed. At the same time it will be evident to all who take the trouble to compare them, even through the imperfect medium of a translation, that in dignity of thought and expression, in boldness and felicity of description, in the solemn grandeur of their periods, in their lofty flights of poetic imagery, and their touching depths of pathos, the compositions of those holy men of old who "wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God," are as far above all human productions as heaven itself is above earth.
It has often been said that in our public schools too much time is bestowed upon the study of the Greek and Latin classics. If the object of such study were merely the acquisition of languages, or if it were to be regarded only as a means of strengthening the mental powers and improving the taste, there might be some show of reason in the objection: but when it is remembered that the New Testament was written originally in Greek, and that the Old was translated with extraordinary care and fidelity into the same tongue nearly three centuries before the birth of Christ, the great value of a critical and accurate knowledge of that language will be at once admitted. A very superficial acquaintance with Greek will, it is true, enable any one to read the New Testament in the original, or the Septuagint version of the Old; or in other words, to substitute a private, uncertain, and at best, very imperfect translation for the authorised English version; but it is impossible to form anything like a correct judgment as to the signification and force of particular words and passages, without an accurate and familiar knowledge of the language in its various dialects and uses: and this can only be acquired by a careful and extended study of the best works of profane literature. It would indeed be a waste of time and labour, to say the least, if the best years of life and the freshness and vigour of the intellect were devoted to the study of heathen authors for their own sake only. The absurdities of heathen mythologists and the wanton impurities of heathen poets are no fit entertainment for a christian student, nor can they give him adequate conceptions of that which is beautiful either in language or sentiment. But the best Greek and Latin authors are for the most part free from these blemishes; and may be read not only for intellectual pleasure and improvement, but also with a special regard to higher and better uses; namely, to extract
from them information relative to the chronology, history, and geography of the sacred Scriptures, and to observe and apply all that may help to elucidate either the subject matter or the text of Holy Writ. By this means the study of ancient classical literature may be made subservient to the great end of all human education, to "make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
It is hoped that the following work may contribute, in a more general and popular manner to the same great object It consists almost entirely of extracts from authors of the classical ages of Greece and Rome, and forms what may be termed a Commentary e profanis on the Holy Scriptures. If the work had been intended only for the use of those who are conversant with ancient languages, the quotations would have been given in their original form but it is believed that the connection of sacred and profane literature will form an interesting study for many, both young and old, who would in that case have derived no assistance from this compilation. If these contemporary writings are found to contain information on some points connected with the Holy Scriptures which can be obtained from no other source, if they bear witness to the truths of sacred history, declare the fulfilment of prophecy, and give increased interest to the study of God's word, it is desirable that they should be brought within the reach of all to whom that word is precious.
The passages selected are those which seem either to corroborate, explain, or in some other way clearly and naturally to illustrate the texts to which they are respectively appended. The compiler has endeavoured to deal honestly with himself and with his readers, and to avoid all constrained or fanciful interpretations. The word of God is not to be trifled with for the sake of exercising ingenuity, or gratifying imagination; nor is it expedient to bring into parallelism with it anything that may suggest ideas at variance with those sentiments of reverence and awe with which it should ever be regarded. Many important illustrations have no doubt been overlooked, and others introduced which might have been omitted; but nothing has been knowingly set down which could mislead, or give offence to the most scrupulous. It may possibly be objected, with reference to some of the quotations in the latter portion of the work, that they are of earlier date than the sacred texts under which they appear, and that a comparison of the two would seem, on that account, to detract from the originality and
1 2 Tim. iii. 17.