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" Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit ivas stirred in him, when he saw (he city wholly given to idolatry. " ACTS xvn. 16. THE city was wholly given to idolatry full of idols. There is historical confirmation of the description from many sources. In the public opinion of those days Athens was considered to be supereminently a city of idols. Art had attained a higher state of perfection there than elsewhere. Their architecture jand sculpt ure were not equalled in that day have perhaps not been equalled in our day. This pre-eminence in art in connection with the exquisite taste which was a general characteristic of the people, greatly increased the public zeal in the worship of idols. When fine art, of the highest order of excellence, is consecrated to a false and sensual worship, it exerts a great power for evil. Modern Rome is in this respect like ancient Athens. The idolatry of the Papacy is fostered by the
A City given to Idolatry. 325 fine arts, especially music and painting. Art has been the sword-arm of Rome for modern conquests. And it is among the classes whose education lies more in <nesthetics than in thought that her converts have most frequently been made in our own times. For, as in ancient Athens, the imagination is captivated by voluptuous, art; and when the spirit is thus enslaved, it may be led over into the coarsest idolatry ! This intoxication of the soul is not unlike the intoxication of the body, whether you look to its soft, gradual ap proaches or to the giddy, swimming pleasure to
which the captive abandons himself or to the abject degradation to which the intoxicated submits when he is given over to the mysterious witchcraft. What emotion did the sight of Athenian idolatry excite in the missionary s breast! His spirit was stirred in him. A fire was kindled that would have consumed the man if it had been pent up. Allowed to get vent, it blazed forth, and precipitated him with all his force alone against the world. It is worthy of notice here, however, that it is not every human spirit that is kindled into a godly zeal by the sight of a neighbor s sins or sorrows. This same Saul was not always so tenderly susceptible. His heart had once lain still without a flutter within his iron bosom, when the blood of the martyr Stephen was shed, and the clothes of the murderers lay at his feet. The mar tyr s eyes were raised to heaven in his sight, and a light from God s countenance made his face to shine like an angel s before the time; the martyr s last prayer was uttered, and its gentle accents fell on the persecutor s ear " Lord, lay not this sin to their charge;" but Saul of Tarsus felt no pity thrilling in his cold heart no shudder of remorse trembling in his callous soul. Hard and dull and blunt as the nether millstone his spirit re mained under the most melting sights and sounds that can fall on human sense. A great change had passed on Paul between the time when he saw unmoved Christ s first witness die, and the time when the sight of Athenian idolatry lighted a flame of godly jealousy in his breast, and threw him headlong on the god of this world, at the spot where he was covered with all his panoply. Now Paul was
326 The CJntrck in the House.
himself redeemed, and it grieved him to see a brother lying under condemnation. Now he was himself de livered from the power of Satan, and he could not bear to see silly birds going blindfold into the fowler s snare. This is the rule: it is when we have ourselves been brought out of darkness that rivers of water will run down our eyes because men keep not God s law. It is at Christ s love to us that our hearts take fire for other men. Although the state of society is greatly advanced in our land and day, yet sights may be seen amongst us that should fire the heart of the observer as much as the idolatry of Athens fired the heart of Paul. A light and frivolous spirit is abroad altogether Athenian which seems to be rendering the generation incapable of ear nest moral purpose, or self-sacrifice for noble ends. There is an impatience of the sober, the real, and the true, with a corresponding chase after the new, the exciting, the fictitious. We have indeed some use for the men who lived great lives and died great deaths for God and man on our own soil in a former age; for we gather scraps of their weakness from history where with to adorn our tales; but true appreciation of their excellence does not seem to lie within reach of those who assume to lead opinion in these days. Some may be disposed to congratulate themselves that although the Athenian lightness be rife, yet the Athenian idolatry that grieved Paul does not venture to rear its head in Christendom. Even this comfort does not rightly belong to us. Without taking into account the Romish image-worship, which, in this country at least, is mainly confined to churches, and is not often obtruded before the public, idolatry in an other form is rampant; for " covetousness is idolatry." The old Greeks, like the modern Asiatics, worshipped with bended knee the idols that were made of gold: we worship in our hearts the gold of which their idols were made. The various vices that ravage our cities,
if not in themselves more hideous than those that greeted the apostle s eye in Athens, are fitted to stir into greater keenness the compassion of an observer, because they display their vileness in presence of a brighter and holier light than that of Greek philosophy. Consider-
The Philosophers. 327 ing our privileges and attainments, I suspect there is more to make an apostle shudder in Edinburgh and London than there was in Athens and Rome. Oh, it is pitiful, that near a whole cityful of comfortable chris tianized inhabitants, so many wretches in human form should be permitted to torment and destroy themselves and one another by open, organized, wholesale vice and crime. For dealing effectually with the plague-spots of the land and the plague-stricken of the people, we have already means and machinery in abundance. What is wanted is a great fire of love in human hearts to set the apparatus in motion. We have good meaning, but little might. We have principle already; it is passion that we want, passion such as burned in the heart of Paul when he looked on the idolatry of Athens. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000