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(if we shall judge by exterior demeanour, as the rule that is given us;) I shall beg leave to give my reader this second story, which was thus:
Going with some gentlewomen to a play at Salisbury Court, I cast into the woman's box who sat at the door to receive the pay (as I thought) so many shillings as we were persons in number; So we passed away, went in, and sat out the play, returning out the same way; the woman that held the box as we went in was there again as we went out; neither I, nor any of my company knew her, nor she us; but, as she had observed us going in, she addresses me, and says, Sir, do you remember what money you gave me when you went in? Sure (said I) as I take it, I gave you twelve pence apiece for myself, and these of my company. Ay, Sir, (replies she,) that you did, and something more, for here is an eleven-shilling piece of gold that you gave me instead of a shilling; and if you please to give me twelve pence for it, 'tis as much as I can demand. Here had been, if the woman had been so minded (though a little) yet a secure prize. But, as many do probably conjecture, that Zaccheus, that made restitution to the shame of the obdurate Jews, was a gentile as well as a publican; so this, from one of a calling in disrepute, and suspected, may not only instruct the more precise of garb, and form of honesty, but show us that, in any vocation, a man may take occasion to be just aud faithful. And let no man wonder, that a person thus dealt withal, and lessoned into his duty by the practice of others to him, joined with his other obligations to goodness, be hereby prevailed upon to a greater care of his own uprightness and integrity, than perhaps without finding these might have been. I will not have the vanity to say these passages have rendered me better; nor am I ashamed to confess, that I have sometimes remembered them with profit. Sure I am, they ought not to lose their influence, nor to pass unheeded, when they shall reflect on ourselves. He that means to be a good limner, will be sure to draw after the most excellent copies, and guide every stroke of his pencil by the better pattern that lays before him: so, he that desires that the table of his life may be fair, will be careful to propose the best examples, and will never be content till he equals, or excels them.
[WILLIAM CAVE, a distinguished divine and voluminous theological writer, was born in 1637. He was of St. John's College, Cambridge, and received various preferments in the Church, without having reached any very important ecclesiastical dignity, during his long life. At his death he was Canon of Windsor, and Vicar of Isleworth. His 'Lives of the Apostles,' 'Lives of the Fathers,' and 'Primitive Christianity,' are works of standard value and authority.]
The Christian religion, at its first coming abroad into the world, was mainly charged with these two things, Impiety and Novelty. For the first, it was commonly cried out against as a grand piece of Atheism; as an affront to their religion, and an undermining the very being and existence of their gods. This is the sum of the charge, as we find it in the ancient Apologists: more particularly Cæcilius, the heathen in Minucius Felix, accuses the Christians for a desperate, undone, and unlawful faction, who by way of contempt did snuff and spit at the mention of their gods, deride their worship, scoff at their priests, and despise their temples, as no better than charnel houses, and heaps of bones and ashes of the dead. For these, and such like reasons, the Christians were everywhere accounted a pack of Atheists, and their religion the Atheism; and seldom it is that Julian the emperor calls Christianity by any other name. Thus Lucian, bringing in Alexander the impostor, setting up for an oracle-monger, ranks the Christians with Atheists and Epicureans, as those that were especially to be banished from his mysterious rites. In answer to this charge, the Christians plead especially these three things:
First, That the Gentiles were, for the most part, incompetent judges of such cases as these, as being almost wholly ignorant of the true state of the Christian doctrine, and therefore unfit to pronounce sentence against it. Thus, when Crescens the philosopher had traduced the Christians, as atheistical and irreligious, Justin Martyr answers, that he talked about things which he did not understand, feigning things of his own head, only to comply with the humour of his seduced disciples and followers; that in reproaching the doctrine of
Christ, which he did not understand, he discovered a most wicked and malignant temper, and showed himself far worse than the most simple and unlearned, who are not wont rashly to bear witness and determine in things not sufficiently known to them; or, if he did understand its greatness and excellency, then he showed himself much more base and disingenuous, in charging upon it what he knew to be false, and concealing his inward sentiments and convictions, for fear lest he should be suspected to be a Christian. But Justin well knew that he was miserably unskilful in matters of Christianity, having formerly had conferences and disputations with him about these things; and therefore offered the senate of Rome, (to whom he then presented his Apology,) if they had not heard the sum of it, to hold another conference with him, even before the senate itself; which he thought would be a work worthy of so wise and grave a council. Or, if they had heard it, then he did not doubt but they clearly apprehended how little he understood these things; or, if he did understand them, he knowingly dissembled it to his auditors, not daring to own the truth, as Socrates did in the face of danger-an evident argument that he was οὐ φιλόσοφος, ἀλλὰ φιλόδοξος, “ not a philosopher, but a slave to popular applause and glory."
Secondly, They did in some sort confess the charge, that, according to the vulgar notion which the heathens had of their deities, they were atheists, i. e. strangers and enemies to them*; that the gods of the Gentiles were at best but demons, impure and unclean spirits, who had long imposed upon mankind, and by their villanies, sophistries, and arts of terror, had so affrighted the common people, who knew not really what they were, and who judge of things more by appearance than by reason, that they called them gods, and gave to every one of them that name, which the demon was willing to take to himself. And that they really were nothing but devils, fallen and apostate spirits, the Christians evidently manifested at every turn, forcing them to the confessing it, while, by prayer and invocating the name of the true God, they drove them out of possessed persons, and therefore trembled to encounter with a Christian, as Octavius triumphantly tells Cæciliust. They entertained the most absurd and fabulous notions of their gods, and usually ascribed such things to + M. Fel. p. 23.
* J. Mart. Ap. ii. pp. 55, 56.
them, as would be accounted a horrible shame and dishonour to any wise and good man, the worship and mysterious rites of many of them being so brutish and filthy, that the honester and severer Romans were ashamed of it, and therefore overturned their altars, and banished them out of the roll of their deities, though their degenerate posterity took them in again, as Tertullian observes*. Their gods themselves were so impure and beastly, their worship so obscene and detestable, that Julius Firmicus advises them to turn their temples into theatres, where the secrets of their religion may be delivered in scenes; and to make their players priests, and that the common route might sing the amours, the sports and pastimes, the wantonness and impieties of their gods, no place being so fit for such a religion as they. Besides the attributing to them human bodies, with many blemishes and imperfections, and subjection to the miseries of human life, and to the laws of mortality, they could not deny them to have been guilty of the most horrid and prodigious villanies and enormities, revenge and murder, incest and luxury, drunkenness and intemperance, theft and unnatural rebellion against their parents, and such like; of which their own writings were full almost in every page, which served only to corrupt and debauch the minds and manners of youth; as Octavius tells his adversary, where he pursues this argument at large with great eloquence and reason. Nay, those among them that were most inquisitive and serious, and that entertained more abstract and refined apprehensions of things than the common people, yet could not agree in any fit and rational notion of a Deity; some ridiculously affirming one thing and some another §, until they were divided into a hundred different opinions, and all of them further distant from the truth than they were from one another; the vulgar in the meanwhile making gods of the most brutish objects, such as dogs, cats, wolves, goats, hawks, dragons, beetles, crocodiles, &c. This Origen against Celsus particularly charges upon the Egyptians.
"When you approach (says he) their sacred places, they have glorious groves and chapels, temples with goodly gates and stately porticos, and many mysterious and religious ceremonies; but when once you are entered, and got within their temples, you shall see
* Apol. p. 7.
De Err. prof. Relig. p. 9.
Min. Fel. p. 19. Vide Arnob. adv. gent. lib. i. p. 7. § Vid. Min. Fel. pp. 15, 16.
nothing but a cat, or an ape, or a crocodile, or a goat, or a dog, worshipped with the most solemn veneration!"* Nay, they deified senseless and inanimate things, that had no life nor power to help themselves, much less their worshippers †, as herbs, roots, and plants; nay, unmanly and degenerate passions, fear, paleness, &c. They fell down before stumps and statues, which owed all their divinity to the cost and folly of their votaries; despised and trampled on by the sorriest creatures, mice, swallows, &c., who were wont to build nests in the very mouth of their gods, and spiders to perriwig their heads with cobwebs; being forced first to make them, and then make them clean, and to defend and protect them, that they might fear and worship them, as he in Minicius wittily derides them: "In whose worship there are (says he) many things that justly deserve to be laughed at, and others that call for pity and compassion." And what wonder now, if the Christians were not in the least ashamed to be called atheists, with respect to such deities, and such a religion as this was?
Thirdly, in the strict and proper notion of atheism, they no less truly than confidently denied the charge, and appealed to their severest adversaries, whether those who owned such principles as they did could reasonably be styled atheists. None ever pleaded better and more irrefragable arguments for the existence of a supreme infinite Being, who made and governs all things by infinite wisdom and Almighty power; none were ever more ready to produce a most clear and candid confession of their faith, as to this grand article of religion than they. "Although we profess ourselves atheists, with respect to those whom you esteem and repute to be gods, (so their apologist tells the senate §,) yet not in respect of the true God, the parent and fountain of wisdom and righteousness, and all other excellencies and perfections, who is infinitely free from the least contagion or spot of evil. Him, and his only begotten son, (who instructed us and the whole society of good angels in these divine mysteries,) and the spirit of prophecy, we worship and adore, honouring them in truth, and with the highest reason, and ready to communicate these things to any one that is willing to learn them, as we ourselves have
Adv. Cels. lib. 3. p. 121.
Min. Fel. p. 20.
§ J. Martyr. Ap. i. pp. 56-60.