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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Paaagans who worship false gods, and are not acquainted either with the doctrines of the Old Testament or the Christian dispensation. For many ages before Christ, the nations at large were destitute of the true religion, and gave themselves up to the grossest ignorance, the most absurd idolatry, and the greatest crimes. Even the most learned men among the heathens were in general inconsistent, and complied with or promoted the vain customs they found among their countrymen. It was, however, divinely foretold, that in Abraham's seed all nations should be blessed; that the heathen should be gathered to the Saviour, and become his people, Genesis 22:18 . Genesis 49:10 . Psalms 2:8 . Isaiah 42:6-7 . Psalms 72:1-20 : Isaiah 60:1-22 : In order that these promises might be accomplished, vast numbers of the Jews, after the Chaldean captivity, were left scattered among the heathen. The Old Testament was translated into Greek, the most common language of the heathen; and a rumour of the Saviour's appearance in the flesh was spread far and wide among them. When Christ came, he preached chiefly in Galilee, where there were multitudes of Gentiles.
He assured the Greeks that vast numbers of the heathen should be brought into the church, Matthew 4:23 . John 12:20; John 12:24 . For 1700 years past the Jews have been generally rejected, and the church of God has been composed of the Gentiles. Upwards of 480 millions (nearly half the globe, ) however, are supposed to be yet in pagan darkness. Considerable attempts have been made of late years for the enlightening of the heathen; and there is every reason to believe good has been done. From the aspect of Scripture prophecy, we are led to expect that the kingdoms of the heathen at large shall be brought to the light of the Gospel, Matthew 24:14 . Isaiah 60:1-22 : Psalms 22:28-29 . Psalms 2:7-8 . It has been much disputed whether it be possible that the heathen should be saved without the knowledge of the Gospel: some have absolutely denied it, upon the authority of those texts which universally require faith in Christ; but to this it is answered, that those texts regard only such to whom the Gospel comes, and are capable of understanding the contents of it.
The truth, says Dr. Doddridge, seems to be this; that none of the heathens will be condemned for not believing the Gospel, but they are liable to condemnation for the breach of God's natural law: nevertheless, if there be any of them in whom there is a prevailing love to the Divine Being, there seems reason to believe that, for the sake of Christ, though to them unknown, they may be accepted by God; and so much the rather, as the ancient Jews, and even the apostles, during the time of our Saviour's abode on earth, seem to have had but little notion of those doctrines, which those who deny the salvability of the heathens are most apt to imagine, Romans 2:10-22 . Acts 10:34-35 . Matthew 8:11-12 . Mr. Grove, Dr. Watts, Saurin, and Mr. Newton, favour the same opinion; the latter of whom thus observes: "If we suppose a heathen brought to a sense of his misery; to a conviction that he cannot be happy without the favour of the great Lord of the world; to a feeling of guilt, and desire of mercy, and that, thought he has no explicit knowledge of a Saviour, he directs the cry of his heart to the unknown Supreme, to have mercy upon him; who will prove that such views and desires can arise in the heart of a sinner, without the energy of that Spirit which Jesus is exalted to bestow? Who will take upon him to say, that his blood has not sufficient efficacy to redeem to God a sinner who is thus disposed, though he have never heard of his name? Or who has a warrant to affirm, that the supposition I have made is in the nature of things impossible to be realized?" Newton's Messiah; Dr. Watts's Strength and Weakness of Human Reason, p. 106; Saurin's Sermons, vol. 2: p. 314; Grove's Mor. Phil. vol. 1: p. 128; Turret Loc. vol. 1: quxst. 4. $1, 2, 17; Doddridge's Lectures, lec. 240. vol. 2: 8 vo. edit. Bellamy's Religion Delineated, p. 105; Ridgley's Body of Div. qu. 60; Gale's Court of the Gentiles; Considerations on the Religious Worship of the Heathen; Rev. W. Jones's Works, vol.xii.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Heathen'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/h/heathen.html. 1802.