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Rome was to exhibit, as the natural and necessary penalty for the slaughter and enslavement of many nations. Henceforth violence and bloodshed were habitual internal vices of the Romans, and they practised upon themselves the cruelties they had inflicted on other nations. In the wars of the patrician and popular parties, headed by Marius and Sylla, the greatest atrocities were perpetrated. Sylla caused several thousand captive Romans to be butchered in cold blood, in hearing of the assembled Senate, and he confiscated the private property of his fellow citizens to a great extent. Servile wars, the inevitable result and just punishment of the Roman gigantic system of slavery, came also, to fill to the brim the cup of national suffering and woe. Servile wars desolated Italy and Sicily, endangered the safety of the commonwealth, were attended with defeat and disaster, and cost a million of lives. The whole system of Roman polity bore the stamp of cruelty.
The conspiracy of Cataline, the terrible patrician oppressions that caused it, and the assassination of the captive leaders of it by orders of Cicero the Consul, and the subsequent tragical fate of the great orator, present a striking illustration of the corrupt morals and bloody ferocity of the Romans. The triumph and assassination of Julius Cæsarthe victorious usurpation of the Triumvirate--their
sanguinary wars and terrible proscriptions, unfold to us the true character of the Romans, and the punishments self-inflicted, by the national sins of the conquering commonwealth. The Romans first robbed other nations, and at last they robbed each other. Such was Roman polity—such were Roman morals--and such were their fruits. She sought power, property, and dominion by the sword, and obtained them; and then, her corrupt and unprincipled people, practised at home the same atrocities learned in her victorious armies abroad. Cicero, in strains of eloquence, pourtrays this corruption and violence, and deeply deplores it in his ethical writings. Sallust, in his history of the conspiracy of Cataline, presents the same views. Such were the morals and polity of Athens and Rome, the two prominent States of antiquity.
All the Pagan States of that era, and of preceding ages, were inferior to the Greeks and Romans in civilization, in science, and in the arts. A particular examination of them is unnecessary.
It is remarkable, that the Jews, with whom God's law had been deposited, had so far forgotten or perverted it, that at the advent of Jesus Christ, many of them, with the heathen, denied the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the dead. Their character was ferocious and pagan, and by their crucifixion of the Lord of
Glory, they have earned the just punishment of eighteen centuries.
“Fallen is thy throne, O Israel,
Silence is o'er thy plains;
Such is the sad picture which the ancient world presents prior to the Christian era. Some improvement had indeed been made in the useful arts; and in sculpture and architecture, a high perfection had been attained. But in the higher departments of knowledge, little progress had been made. Sound ethics and international law were unknown, and remained to be discovered by the light of the Star of Bethlehem.
The ancients may then be justly considered but partially enlightened; and none need regret the loss of the Alexandrian library, or an inability to read the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians.
Antiquity was the era of force-brute force.
As we have heard much of the wisdom of the ancient philosophers, we will prove that they failed to establish any system of ethics or of sound morality. We have already shown, that prior to the advent of Christ, the world by its principles and practices was devoted to war, rapine, licentiousness and cruelty, and that the reign of ignorance was almost universal. The efforts of the
most distinguished philosophers of antiquity, had no sensible effect on this condition of the ancients. About 550 years before Christ, arose in China, Confucius, a descendant of the royal family-a man of high rank and great excellence. He must have been acquainted with the Old Testament, and have heard at a distance the thunders of Sinai, or the Almighty must in a still small voice have spoken to the soul of this just and good man revealing his law. This great and good moralist, taught the duty of doing to others, as we would they should do to us—and the doctrines of peace, justice, and equity. He enjoined upon all men, to conform their actions to right reason, which he called the sovereign good. Peace, he commended as the mother of plenty. He taught benevolence and pure morals; but he frankly informs us, that his instructions were without suc. cess, and that the Chinese princes and people failed to embrace or practise his excellent doctrines.
About a century and a half after Confucius, arose Socrates, the most eminent philosopher of antiquity. He rose far above Confucius, for while he taught the same sound morality and sweet benevolence, he ascended to the high truth of the immortality of the soul, and the existence of God, who created it. From the perfect purity and benevolence of the Deity, and the emanation of the
human soul from that fountain of excellence, he deduced the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, and its obligation to conform to its divine original. For proclaiming these truths, Socrates was arraigned as a criminal, tried, condemned, and executed by poison. The only effect of his philosophy which we can trace, is found in the writings of Plato and Cicero.
Cicero, the first orator and philosopher of Rome, lived in the age preceding the Christian era. He learned from Plato the doctrine of immortality, and his moral sense seems to have been more enlightened than that of any contemporary. But this great man maintained the right of nations to make wars, of conquest, glory, and to enslave captives; and he himself sold prisoners taken in war as slaves. He held that masters ought to compel their slaves to work, and to pay them for their services, as though they were hired laborers; but he seems not to have conceived of the injustice of enslaving a conquered people. At the time Cicero wrote, some Romans had 20,000 slaves, and slavery and war had destroyed the morals and industry of the people; yet Cicero did not discover the root of the evil. The conspiracy of Cataline, and the murder of his fellow conspirators at Rome by order of the consul Cicero and the Senate, and the subsequent assassination of Cicero,