“An Illustration of Greek ‘Learning’” American Sentinel 12, 8, pp. 117, 118.

IN a recent number of the Christian Advocate, of this city, there was printed—and from a Doctor of Philosophy too—one of the most thoughtless articles we ever saw in a journal of any standing. We do not mention it here to criticise it, but to call the sober attention of thoughtful people, and of that kind of thoughtless people too, to an important consideration that is involved in it.

This Doctor of Philosophy was in Greece and sent to the Christian Advocate an account of his journey from Patras—which is the principal port of the Gulf of Corinth to Pireus, which is the port of Athens, with descriptions of the Acropolis of Corinth and the Acropolis of Athens.

In his description of the temples of the Acropolis of Athens he speaks of them repeatedly as “sacred”—“the sacred cella of her sacred house,” etc. He does not say that by the Greeks and other heathen anciently they were considered sacred. Nowhere in the article does it appear that he used the word with any such idea as that it is merely in accommodation to ancient notions. Every sentiment in the article bears irresistibly to the conviction that the writer himself considers those places sacred and uses the word in the same sense that the ancient Greeks did. In other words, the writer is evidently so imbued with Greek ideas, Greek conceptions, and Greek modes of thinking, that what to them was “sacred” is to him sacred.

But everybody knows that those Greeks were sheer heathen. And all who have read much know that they were heathen of such a sort that their very idea of sacredness was profanity, and their most sacred emblem an obscene symbol. That a man in this age, in the presence of [118] Christian ideas and in a Christian journal should speak of the places that to those heathen were “sacred,” and himself use the word in the same sense as did they, certainly shows a thoughtlessness that is remarkable.

But this is not all. Please read the following:—

“Thirdly comes the crown and pride of all temples made with hands, the Parthenon, the temple of the Athenian Virgin. To attempt any description of this superb shrine would be a work of supererogation alike distasteful to gods and men.”

“Distasteful to gods.” Is it true, then, that there are really such things as gods to whom things can be distasteful? Does this writer think that the Greek gods still have their habitat on the Acropalis of Athens and round about, so that if he should take the liberty of writing up their shrines for the consideration of the barbarian Americans, they would be displeased—does he? If not, what does he mean? And if he does, what does he mean?

Does he not know that such of the Greek gods as had any real identity, were devils? While Athens and Corinth were in their glory, and their gods were worshiped in all the corrupt and corrupting rites that became them, it was written to people who dwelt there: “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils.” But they sacrificed unto their gods. Are these devils the gods for whom this writer has so much respect that he would not do so slight a thing as to write a detailed account of their “sacred” shrines lest he should do that which was “distasteful” to them?

If not this, then does he believe that the mythical things of the vain imagination of the Greeks, were really gods, and of such enduring substance that they still continue in the ancient haunts; so that if a person should not there walk softly and with reverent mien or should attempt to write about them and their “sacred” places, they would be offended—at least in taste? Does he not know that they were “nothing?”

If he believes neither of these things, then why does he write so? For, as before suggested, there is no hint that he writes otherwise than with sobriety and from conviction. And if he believes either of them, then his article betrays a remarkable thoughtlessness.

It is not to be supposed that he takes devils to be these gods, and would hesitate to do anything distasteful to them. It is possible, however, that his mind may have become so thoroughly saturated with Greek ideas, his imagination so pervaded with Greek conceptions, and his admiration so engrossed with the “perfections” of Greek sentiment, that all these things appear to him just as they did to the Greeks themselves, that they are all as real to him and in the same way as they were to the Greeks themselves. And that this is indeed most probable, is strongly suggested in his statement that the Parthenon was “the crown and pride of all temples made with hands.” But this again betrays sheer thoughtlessness or worse. Did he never read the description of the Temple of God at Jerusalem that was built by Solomon. It far surpassed the Parthenon.

Surely every person who will think at all on the subject can see at once that the Greek gods were in conception nothing but the reflection of the imagination of the Greeks themselves. And every person who has reason knows that in disposition and character the Greek gods were perfectly devilish. And if then he will think for a moment he will see clearly that in disposition and character the Greek gods were but the reflection of the disposition and character of the Greeks themselves. He will see therefore that these gods were, so far as themselves were concerned, literally nothing; but were in fact only the Greeks themselves—and every one of them has been dead from a thousand to two or three thousand years.

Then as for the gods themselves, why should this writer think that he could do anything that would be distasteful to nothing? And as for the Greeks who were in fact their own gods, but who have been dead so long, why should he think he could do anything distasteful to them? And as the dispositions and characters of those Greeks when they were alive were so essentially devilish, why should he hesitate to do what might be distasteful to them even though they were all alive to-day. That the thing were distasteful or even offensive to them would be one of the best possible evidences of the essential virtue of it, and that it was the very thing to do.

An important question upon all this is, Where is the merit in Greek philosophy, religion, or art—for their art was but idolatry? What possible good can come to anybody from contemplating and absorbing such a mass of falsehood, corruption and vanity? The Latin field is the same. Yet these are the chief field, and the pride, and “learning,” in almost all the colleges in the world. It is so even in professed Christian colleges. But how is it possible for young men, or young women, or anybody in fact, to study such stuff as all that really is, without becoming essentially paganized? It is not possible.

But what was this paganism to Greece and Rome? What did it do for them? What did this philosophy, religion, and art, in its perfection, do for the Greeks and Romans? Was the result of all this with them, so altogether good and profitable, that it needs to be reproduced in the world? Every man who thinks, knows that the height of Greek and Roman development, when all this “shone” in its “brightest lustre,” was the deepest state of moral degradation that had ever been seen in the world since the day that Sodom and Gomorrah perished. Does it need to be reproduced in the world? Every decent man is compelled to say, No. Then why should that which produced it before be reproduced and glorified in the world? Can you indulge the cause and escape the effect? It is time that the people began to think.

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