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The Unknown God.

The Unknown God.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY JAMES GALLOWAY COWAN


Acts, xvu., 22, 23.

Ye men of Athens^ I perceive that in all things ye are
too superstitious. For as I passed 5y, and beheld ycvr
devotions, I found an altar with this inscription^ To
THE Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly
worship, Him declare I unto you.
BY JAMES GALLOWAY COWAN


Acts, xvu., 22, 23.

Ye men of Athens^ I perceive that in all things ye are
too superstitious. For as I passed 5y, and beheld ycvr
devotions, I found an altar with this inscription^ To
THE Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly
worship, Him declare I unto you.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 13, 2013
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01/29/2015

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THE UKOW GOD.BY JAMES GALLOWAY COWAActs, xvu., 22, 23.Ye men of Athens^ I perceive that in all things ye aretoo superstitious. For as I passed 5y, and beheld ycvrdevotions, I found an altar with this inscription^ ToTHE Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantlyworship, Him declare I unto you.nPHE city of Athens was wholly given to idol-atry. It was crowded with altars^ dedi-cated to the supposed superior deities, to deifiedmen, to abstract virtues, Love, Truth, Mercy,and the like. Whatever new god was describedand recommended to them was immediately re-cognised, and thenceforth worshipped ; and, be-sides, the Athenians' love of something new, ledthem to search out for and invent gods for them-selves. Hence it came to pass, that there weremore idols in that one city than in all the rest of Greece : so that Satirist did not much exaggeratewhen he said that in Athens you might moreTHE UKOW GODs 49easily find a god than a man. It belongs not toour present purpose to consider how this arose ;to contemplate the strange coexistence of so muchsuperstition and so much cultivation of intellect,or to strive to enter into the feelings which ani-mated Paul, when his spirit was stirred withinhim at the sight of the city wholly given to idol-atry. We pass on to the time when the Apostlestood on Mars's hill, in sight of many heathen
 
altars, surrounded by Epicureans and Stoics anddisciples of many other schools of philosophy,some striving to silence him, others intent uponhearing something new from him — to meet thecontentious gainsayings of the one, to enlist thecuriosity of the other ; to make use of their va-rious dispositions, of all that he saw and heard,in promoting the glory of God, and, if it mightbe, in leading them to salvation.It must be borne in mind that some of thesenews-seeking Athenians inconsistently enoughcontended with him, because he taught what wasnovel ; while others, on that very account, werefavourable to him, hoping that he would set forthsome strange gods — some additional objects of worship to whom they might erect altars. " Yemen of Athens," he said, " I perceive from actualobservation that you, more than other ^eo^l<e.^60 SERMO IV.have great regard for religion." This is the rightmeaning of the words translated: ^^In all thingsye are too superstitious." It is not likely thatthe Apostle would have commenced a speech in-tended to conciliate and enlighten them, withwords that would at once affront them, and makethem deaf to all else he had to say. Besides, it isdear from what follows, that he is not directlycalling upon them to abandon what was false, butto understand and accept rightly a truth whichthey held in ignorance. " I say nothing to younow upon the many gods whom you worship byname, but, pointing to an altar inscribed to theUnknown God (it was probably in sight) I an-swer those who contend with me for speakingabout the unknown, and gratify those who want
 
to hear something new, by taking that altar asmy text, and preaching to you about ^the Un-known God' — about no new god, for He isalready the object of your worship; but stillabout one of whom much that is new to you maybe said. Give ear to me, ye that are so full of reverence for the gods, while I describe to you anobject indeed of your present reverence, but oneof whose nature and operations and demands uponyou, you know nothing."Respecting the existence of such an altar, weTHE UKOW GOD. 51are told that the Athenians through the veryexcess of their idolatry (which led them to look for gods in every place and circumstance^ and toascribe every event, good or ill, to the influence of some deity) had on more than one occasion, whenan unusually severe pestilence had visited them,which they could not connect with any of theirknown gods, conjectured that it must be thedoing of some god whom they did not propitiatewith sacrifices, and, failing to find out who it was,and yet fearing to neglect his worship, had causedaltars without names to be erected, and offeringsto be made to the nameless being; and that incourse of time these altars came to be described,and to bear a corresponding inscription, as seve-rally the altars of an " unknown god." There is noreason to suppose that they meant to exalt thatgod above the others, that they had any clearlydefined ideas of the general operations of oneunknown Being, much less that they meant underthat title to worship the God of the Jews ; butwith a kind of natural instinct, a very vaguefeeling that something beyond and above what

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