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THE CONTEMPLATION OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY AN
EXCITEMENT TO MISSIONARY ZEAL.
The Missionary Society,
ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, MAY 13, 1818.
REV. RALPH WARDLAW,
PRINTED FOR THE SOCIETY.
SOLD BY WILLIAMS AND CO. STATIONERS' COURT, LUDGATE STREET;
AND J. NISBET, CASTLE STREET, OXFORD STREET.
ACTS, xvii, 16.
Now, while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was
stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to
idolatry. On a promontory, formed by the confluence of two classical rivers, stood Athens, the glory of ancient Greece. High in political eminence, and in military fame, it was still more distinguished for the learning, the eloquence, and the polished refinement of its inhabitants; and for the number, variety, and excellence of the works of art produced or collected within its walls : for those magnificent structures of which the very fragments are the admiration of modern nations ; for the most exquisite productions of painting and sculpture ; for its various schools of philosophy; and, in a word, for all that was elegant and admirable, in every branch of science, and art, and literature.
Such was the place, to which, when driven from Berea, as the preceding context informs us, by the persecuting fury of the Jews of Thessalonica, the Apostle of the Gentiles was conducted by his Christian friends.—Here was a richly diversified field of observation and inquiry. Here were sources of the highest gratification for the curiosity
of men of every profession, of every character, and of every peculiarity of genius. For the philosopher, there were the schools of learning, the lectures and the conversation of their celebrated masters, and their modes of defending their respective systems of doctrine. For the lover of the fine arts, there was the Acropolis, where he might pass days of delight, in surveying the beauties and elegances, measuring the proportions, and comparing the characteristic peculiarities, of the productions of the architect, the statuary, and the painter. For the man of pleasure and fashion, there were the haunts of amusement and dissipation; the old Athenian methods of killing time; the festivals, the theatres, the public shows. The mercantile man might direct his inquiries to the state of commercial intercourse with other nations, and to the practicable means of its extension and improvement:—the politician, to the principles of government; the civil institutes; the courts, supreme and subordinate, for the administration of justice :—the soldier, to the army and navy; the means of supply for both ; the customs of the city in war; its walls, ils 'harbours, its means of defence and of attack :—the historian, to the ar. chives of the city's early history; its progress and its fluce tuations; and all the points which are usually embraced by historical records.
There is no reason why we should conceive of Paul.as utterly regardless of every thing of a secular nature. The particulars specified were matters of interesting curiosity; and some of them were connected both with the progress of mind, and with the temporal happiness or misery of the Athenian population. But one thing, above all others, en. gaged the mind of this ambassador of Christ, this Christian Missionary;—the moral and religious character of the Athe. nians; their spiritual state, their relation, as accountable and immortal beings, to God, and to eternity. A Missionary now needs not, any more than then, to be a man devoid of all taste for the wonders of nature and of art, and of all curiosity about the secular pursuits and babits of the peopie amougst whom lie settles or sojourns. On the contrary, it is most desirable, for reasons various and