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stronger curiosity. Though they affect at first (probably the philosophic part of his hearers) to treat him as an idle “ babbler,” and others (the vulgar, alarmed for the honour of their deities) supposed that he was about to introduce some new religious worship which might endanger the supremacy of their own tutelar divinities, he is conveyed, not without respect, to a still more public and commodious place, from whence he may explain his doctrines to a numerous assembly without disturbance. On the Areopagus the Christian leader takes his stand, surrounded on every side with whatever was noble, beautiful, and intellectual in the older world,—temples, of which the materials were only surpassed by the architectural grace and majesty ; statues, in which the ideal anthropomorphism of the Greeks had almost elevated the popular notions of the Deity, by embodying it in human forms of such exquisite perfection; public edifices, where the civil interests of man had been discussed with the acuteness and versatility of the highest Grecian intellect, in all the purity of the inimitable Attic dialect, when oratory had obtained its highest triumphs by
its highest triumphs by "wielding at will the fierce democracy;" the walks of the philosophers, who unquestionably, by elevating the human mind to an appetite for new and nobler knowledge, had prepared the way for a loftier and purer religion. It was in the midst of these elevating associations, to which the student of Grecian literature in Tarsus, the reader of Menander and of the Greek philosophical poets, could scarcely be entirely dead or ignorant, that Paul stands forth to proclaim the lowly yet authoritative religion of Jesus of Nazareth. His audience was chiefly formed from the two prevailing sects, the Stoics and Epicureans, with the populace, the worshippers of the established religion. In his discourse, the heads of which are related by St. Luke, Paul, with singular felicity, touches on the peculiar opinions of each class among his hearers ; he expands the popular religion into a higher philosophy, he imbues philosophy with a profound sentiment of religion.
It is impossible not to examine with the utmost interest the whole course of this (if we consider its remote consequences, and
it the first full and public argument of Christianity against the heathen religion and philosophy) perhaps the most extensively and permanently effective oration ever uttered by man. We may contemplate Paul as the representative of Christianity, in the presence, as it were, of the concentrated religion of Greece, and of the spirits, if we may so speak, of Socrates, and Plato, and Zeno. The opening of the apostle's speech is according to those most perfect rules of art which are but the expressions of the general sentiments of nature. It is calm, temperate, conciliatory. It is no fierce denunciation of idolatry, no contemptuous disdain of the prevalent philosophic opinions; it has nothing of the sternness of the ancient Jewish prophet, nor the taunting defiance of the later Christian polemic. “ Already the religious people of Athens had, unknowingly indeed, worshipped the universal deity, for they had an altar to the unknown God. The nature, the attributes of this sublimer being, hitherto adored in ignorant and unintelligent homage, he came to unfold. This God rose far above the popular notion; he could not be confined in altar or temple, or represented by any visible image. He was the universal father of mankind, even of the earthborn Athenians, who boasted that they were of an older race than the other families of man, and coeval with the world itself. He was the fountain of life, which pervaded and sustained the universe; he had assigned their separate dwellings to the separate families of man." Up to a certain point in this higher view of the Supreme Being, the philosopher of the Garden as well as of the Porch might listen with wonder and admiration. It soared, indeed, high above the vulgar religion : but in the lofty and serene Deity, who disdained to dwell in the earthly temple, and needed nothing from the hand of man, the Epicurean might almost suppose that he heard the language of his own teacher. But the next sentence, which asserted the providence of God as the active creative energy,- , -as the conservative, the ruling, the ordaining principle, -annihilated at once the atomic theory and the government of blind chance, to which Epicurus ascribed the origin and preservation of the universe. “This high and impressive Deity, who dwelt aloof in serene and majestic superiority to all want, was perceptible in some mysterious manner by man: his all-pervading prcvidence comprehended the whole human race; man was in constant union with the Deity, as an offspring with its parent.” And still the Stoic might applaud with complacent satisfaction the ardent words of the apostle ; he might approve the lofty condemnation of idolatry. "We, thus of divine descent, ought to think more nobly of our Universal Father, than to suppose that the godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device.” But this divine
the inexorable fatalism of the Stoic system. While the moral value of human action was recognized by the solemn retributive judgment to to be passed on all mankind, the dignity of Stoic virtue was lowered by the general demand of repentance. The perfect man, the moral king, was deposed, as it were, and abased to the general level; he had to learn new lessons in the school of Christ, lessons of humility and conscious deficiency, the most directly opposed to the principles and the sentiments of his philosophy.
The great Christian doctrine of the resurrection closed the speech of Paul; a doctrine received with mockery perhaps by his Epicurean hearers, with suspension of judgment probably by the Stoic, with whose theory of the final destruction of the world by fire, and his tenet of future retribution, it might appear in some degree to harmonize. Some, however, became declared converts ; among whom are particularly named Dionysius, a man of sufficient distinction to be a member of the famous court of the Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, probably of considerable rank and influence.
At Athens, all this free discussion on topics relating to the religious and moral nature of man, and involving the authority of the existing religion, passed away without disturbance. The jealous reverence for the established faith, which, conspiring with its perpetual ally political faction, had in former times caused the death of Socrates, the exile of Stilpa, and the proscription of Diagoras the Melian, had long died
With the loss of independence, political animosities had subsided, and the toleration of philosophical and religious indifference allowed the utmost latitude to speculative inquiry, however ultimately dangerous to the whole fabric of the national religion. Yet Polytheism still reigned in Athens in its utmost splendour; the temples were maintained with the highest pomp; the Eleusinian mysteries, in which religion and philosophy had in some degree coalesced, attracted the noblest and the wisest of the Romans, who boasted of their initiation in these sublime secrets. Athens was thus, at once, the head-quarters of Paganism, and at the same time the place where Paganism most clearly betrayed its approaching dissolution.
The cuckoo,-“ the plain-song cuckoo” of Bottom the weaver,—the “blithe new-comer," the “darling of the spring,” the “blessed bird" of Wordsworth,—the “beauteous stranger of the grove," the “ senger of spring” of Logan,—the cuckoo coming hither from distant lands to insinuate its egg into the sparrow's nest, and to fly away again with its fledged ones after their cheating nursing-time is over, little knows what a favourite is her note with school-boys and poets. Wordsworth's lines to the cuckoo
O blithe new-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice" are familiar to all. The charming little poem of Logan, which preceded Wordsworth's, is not so well known:
Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove !
Thou messenger of spring!
And woods thy welcome sing.
Thy certain voice we hear;
Or mark the rolling year?
I hail the time of flowers,
From birds among the bowers.
To pull the primrose gay,
And imitates thy lay.
Thou flyest thy vocal vale,
Another spring to hail.
Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
No winter in thy year!
We'd make, with joyful wing,
LOGAN. The Swallow has been another favourite of the poets, even from the days of the Greek Anacreon :
“Once in each revolving year,
Gentle bird ! we find thee here:
hours of verdure smile.
ANACREON, translated by MOORE. But “the bird of all birds” is the Nightingale. Drummond of Hawthornden, though he never heard the “jug-jug” in his northern clime, has left a beautiful tribute to this noblest of songsters :
“Sweet bird, that sing'st away the early hours
Of winters past or coming, void of care,