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gory really has place in the heathen mythology is undeniable even on the least reHection. CUPID the son of VENUS; the Muses the daughters of memory ; PROMETHEUS, the wise brother, and EPIMETHEUS the foolish ; HYGIEIA or the goddess of health descended from ÆSCULAPIUS or the god of physic: Who sees not, in these, and in many other instances, the plain traces of allegory? When a god is supposed to preside over any passion, event, or system of actions, it is almost unavoidable to give him a genealogy, attributes, and adventures, suitable to his supposed powers and influence; and to carry on that similitude and comparison, which is naturally so agreeable to the mind of man. . ALLEGORIES, indeed, entirely perfect, we ought not to expect as the products of ignorance and superstition ; there being no work of genius, that requires a nicer hand, or has been more rarely executed with success. That Fear and Terror are the fons of Mars is just ; but why by Venus ? That Harmony is the daughter of Venus is regular ; but why by Mars (? That Sleep is the brother of Death is suitable ; but why describe him as enamoured of one of the Graces ? And since the antient mythologists fall into mistakes so gross and obvious, we have no reason surely to expect such refined and long-spun allegories, as some have endeavored to deduce from their fictions
The deities of the vulgar are so little superior to human creatures, that where men are affected with strong sentiments of veneration or gratitude for any hero or public benefactor ; nothing can be more natural than to convert him into a god, and fill the heavens, after this manner, with continual recruits from amongst mankind. Most of the divinities of the antient world are supposed to have once been men, and to have been beholden for their apotheofis to the admiration and affection of the people. And the real history of their adventures, corrupted by tradition, and elevated by the marvellous, became a plentiful source of fable ; especially in passing thro' the hands of poets, allegorists, and priests, who successively im. proved upon the wonder and astonishment of the ignorant multitude...
PAINTERS too and sculptors came in for their share of profit in the sacred mysteries ; and furnishing men with sensible representations of their divinities, whom they cloathed in human figures, gave great encrease to the public devotion, and determined its object. It was probably for want of these arts in rude and barbarous ages, that men deified plants, animals, and even brute, unorganized matter; and rather than be without a sensible object of worship, affixed divinity to such ungainly forms. Could any statuary of Syria, in early times, have formed a just figure of APOLLO, the conic stone, HelioGABALUS, had never become the object of such profound adoration, and been received as a representation of the solar deity %.
• Hesiod. Theog. 1.935.
pease the furies of her lover Mars: An idea not d Id. ibid. & Plut. in vita Pelop.
drawn from allegory, but from the popular relie ILIAD. xiv. 267.
gion, and which LUCRETIUS, as an EPICUREAN, f LUCRETIUs was plainly seduced by the strong could not consistently admit of. appearance of alegory, which is observable in the & Herodian. lib. v. JUPITER AMMON is repagan fi&tions. He first addresses himself to VE- presented by Curtius as a deity of the same kind, NUS as to that generating power, which animates, lib. iv. cap. 7. The ARABIANS and PessiNUNrenews, and beautifies the universe: Buc is soon TIANS adored also shapeless, unformed stones as betrayed by the mythology into incoherencies, their deity. ARNOB. lib; vi. So much did their while he prays to that allegorical personage to ap- folly exceed that of the EGYPTIANS.
STILPO SriLPO was banished by the council of AREOPAGUS, for affirming that the MINERVA in the citadel was no divinity ; but the workmanship of PHIDIAS, the Iculptor". What degree of reason may we expect in the religious belief of the vulgar in other nations; when ATHENIANS and AREOPACITES could entertain such gross conceptions ?
Thest then are the general principles of polytheism, founded in human nature, and little or nothing dependent on caprice and accident. As the causes, which bestow on us happiness or misery, are, in general, very unknown and uncertain, our anxious concern endeavors to attain a determinate idea of them; and finds no better expedient than to represent thein as intelligent, voluntary agents, like ourselves; only somewhat superior in power and wisdom. The limited influence of these agents, and their great proximity to human weakness, introduce the va. rious distribution and division of their authority; and thereby give rise to allegory. The same principles naturally deify mortals, superior in power, courage, or understanding, and produce hero-worship ; together with fabulous history and mythological tradition, in all its wild and unaccountable forms. And as an invisible spiritual intelligence is an object too refined for vulgar apprehension, men natu. rally affix it to some sensible representation ; such as either the more conspicuous parts of nature, or the statues, images, and pictures, which a more refined age forms of its divinities.
Almost all idolaters, of whatever age or country, concur in these general principles and conceptions, and even the particular characters and provinces, which they assign to their deities, are not extremely different. The Greek and Roman travellers and conquerors, without much difficulty, found their own deities every where ; and said, this is Mercury, that VENUS; this Mars, that NEPTUNE ; by whatever titles the strange gods may be denominated. The goddess Hertha of our Saxon ancestors seems to be no other, according to Tacitus ", than the Ma. ter Tellus of the ROMANS; and his conjecture was evidently just.
Sect. VI. Origin of Theism from Polytheism.
The doctrine of one supreme deity, the author of nature, is very antient, has spred itself over great and populous nations, and among them has been embraced by all ranks and conditions of persons : But whoever thinks that it has owed its success to the prevalent force of those invincible reasons, on which it is undoubtedly founded, would show himself little acquainted with the ignorance and stupidity of the people, and their incurable prejudices in favor of their particular superstitions. Even at this day, and in EUROPE, ask any of the vulgar, why he believes in an omnipotent creator of the world; he will never mention the beauty of final causes, of which he is wholly ignorant: He will not hold out his hand, and bid you contemplate the suppleness and variety of joints in his fingers, their bending all one way, the counterpoise which they receive from the thumb, the softness and felhly parts of the inside of his hand, with all the other circumstances, which
h Drog. Laert. lib. ii. bello Gallico, lib. vi.
i See Cæsar of the religion of the Gauls, De * De moribus Germ.
"render that meinber fit for the use, to which it was destined. To these he has been long accustomed ; and he beholds them with listlessness and unconcern. He will tell you of the sudden and unexpected death of such a one: The fall and bruise of such another : The excessive drought of this season : The cold and rains of another. These he ascribes to the immediate operation of providence: And such events, as, with good reasoners, are the chief difficulties in admitting a supreme intelligence, are with him the sole arguments for it.
MANY theists, even the most zealous and refined, have denied a particular providence, and have asserted, that the Sovereign mind or first principle of all things, having fixed general laws, by which nature is governed, gives free and uninterrupted course to these laws, and disturbs not, at every turn, the settled order of events by particular volitions. From the beautiful connexion, say they, and rigid obfervance of established rules, we draw the chief argument for theism; and from the same principles are enabled to answer the principal objections against it. But fo little is this understood by the generality of mankind, that, wherever they observe any one to ascribe all events to natural causes, and to remove the particular interposal of a deity, they are apt to suspect him of the groffest infidelity. A little philofophy, says my lord BACON, makes men atheists: A great deal reconciles them to religion. For men, being tauglit, by superstitious prejudices, to lay the stress on a wrong place ; when that fails them, and they discover, by a little reflection, that the course of nature is regular and uniform, their whole faith totters, and falls to ruin. But being taught, by more reflection, that this very regularity and uniformity is the strongest proof of design and of a supreme intelligence, they return to that belief, which they had deserted; and they are now able to establish it on a firmer and more durable foundation. .
CONVULSIONS in nature, disorders, prodigies, miracles, tho' the moft opposite to the plan of a wise superintendent, impress mankind with the strongest sentiments of religion; the causes of events seeming then the most unknown and unaccountable. Madness, fury, rage, and an inflamed imagination, tho' they sink men nearest the level of beasts, are, for a like reason, often supposed to be the only dispositions, in which we can have any immediate communication with the Deity. • We may conclude, therefore, upon the whole, that since the vulgar, in naa tions, which have embraced the doctrine of theism, still build it upon irrational and superstitious opinions, they are never led into that opinion by any process of argument, but by a certain train of thinking, more suitable to their genius and capacity.
It may readily happen, in an idolatrous nation, that, tho' men admit the existence of several limited deities, yet may there be some one God, whom, in a particular manner, they make the object of their worship and adoration. They may either suppose, that, in the distribùtion of power and territory among the gods, their nation was subjected to the jurisdiction of that particular deity; or reducing heavenly objects to the model of things below, they may represent one god as the prince or supreme magistrate of the rest, who, tho' of the same nature, rules them with an authority, like that which an earthly sovereign exercises over his subjects and vassals. Whether this god, therefore, be considered as their peculiar patron, or as Tet
the general sovereign of heaven, his votaries will endeavor, by every act, to insnuate themselves into his favor ; and supposing him to be pleased, like them. selves, with praise and Aattery, there is no eulogy or exaggeration, which will be spared in their addresses to him. In proportion as men's fears or distresses become more urgent, they still invent new strains of adulation; and even he who out-does his predecessors in swelling up the titles of his divinity, is sure to be outdone by his successors in newer and more pompous epithets of praise. Thus they proceed; till at last they arrive at infinity it felf, beyond which there is no farther progress : And it is well, if, in striving to get farther, and to represent a magnificent fimplicity, they run not into inexplicable mystery, and destroy the intelligent nature of their deity ; on which alone any rational worship or adoration can be founded. While they confine themselves to the notion of a perfect being, the creator of the world, they coincide, by chance, with the principles of reason and true philosophy; tho' they are guided to that notion, not by reason, of which they are in a great measure incapable, but by the adulation and fears of the most vulgar superstition.
We often find, amongst barbarous nations, and even sometimes amongft civilized, that, when every strain of Aattery has been exhausted towards arbitrary princes, when every human quality has been applauded to the utmost ; their fervile courtiers represent them, at last, as real divinities, and point them out to the people as objects of adoration. How much more natural, therefore, is it, that a limited deity, who at first is supposed only the immediate author of the particular goods and ills in life, should in the end be represented as sovereign maker and modifier of the universe?
Even where this notion of a supreme deity is already established ; tho' it ought naturally to lessen every other worship, and abase every object of reverence, yet if a nation has entertained the opinion of a subordinate tutelar divinity, saint, or angel ; their addresses to that being gradually rise upon them, and encroach on the adoration due to their supreme deity. The Virgin Mary, ere checked by the reformation, had proceeded, from being merely a good woman to usurp many attributes of the Almighty": God and St. NICHOLAS go hand in hand, in all the prayers, and petitions of the MuscoviteS.
Thus the deity, who, from love, converted himself into a bull, in order to carry off EUROPA ; and who, from ambition, dethroned his father, SATURN, became the OptiMUS MAXIMUS of the heathens. Thus, notwithstanding the sublime ideas suggested by Moses and the inspired writers, many vulgar Jews seem still to have conceived the supreme Being, as a mere topical deity or national protector.
" The JACOBIN“, who denied the immaculate and that his human nature was not a proper object conception, have ever been very unhappy in their of adoration, during that period. Without the doctrine, even tho' political reafons have kept the art of divination, one mighi foretel, that so grofs Romilh church from condemning it. The Core and impious a blasphemy would not fail to be . DELIERS have run away with all the popularity. anathematized by the people. I was the occasi. But in the fifteenth century, as we learn from on of great insults on the part of the JACOBINS ; BOULAINVILLIERS,, an ITALIAN Cordelier main- who now got some recompence for their misfor. tained, that, during the three days, when Christ tunes in the war about the immaculate conception. was interred, the hypostatic union was diffolved, See Histoire abregée, pag. 499.
Rather than relinquish this propensity to adulation, religionists, in all ages, have involved themselves in the greatesta bsurdities and contradictions.
Homer, in one passage, calls OCEANUS and Tethys the original parents of all things, conformable to the established mythology and tradition of the GREEKS: Yet, in other passages, he could not forbear complimenting JUPITER, the reigning deity, with that magnificent appellation ; and accordingly denominates him the father of gods and men. He forgets, that every temple, every street was full of the ancestors, uncles, brothers, and sisters of this JUPITER; who was in reality nothing but an upstart parricide and usurper. A like contradiction is observable in HESIOD ; and is so much the less excusable, that his professed intention was to deliver a true genealogy of the gods. .
Were there a religion (and we may suspect Mahometanism of this inconsistence) which sometimes painted the Deity in the most sublime colors, as the creator of heaven and earth; sometimes degraded him nearly to a level with human creatures in his powers and faculties ; while at the same time it ascribed to him suitable infirmities, passions, and partialities of the moral kind : that religion, after it was extinct, would also be cited as an instance of those contradictions, which arise from the gross, vulgar, natural conceptions of mankind, opposed to their continual propensity towards flattery and exaggeration. Nothing indeed would prove more strongly the divine origin of any religion, than to find (and happily this is the case with Christianity) that it is free from a contradiction, fo incident to human nature,
Sect. VII. Confirmation of this Doctrine.
It appears certain, that, tho' the original notions of the vulgar represent the Divinity as a very limited being, and consider him only as the particular cause of health or sickness; plenty or want ; prosperity or adversity; yet when more magnificent ideas are urged upon them, they esteem it dangerous to refuse their assent. Will you say, that your deity is finite and bounded in his perfections; may be overcome by a greater force ; is subject to human passions, pains and infirmities; has a beginning, and may have an end? This they dare not affirm; but thinking it safest to comply with the higher encomiums, they endeavor, by an affected ravishment and devotion, to ingratiate themselves with him. As a confirmation of this, we may observe, that the affent of the vulgar is, in this case, merely verbal, and that they are incapable of conceiving those sublime qualities, which they seemingly attribute to the Deity. Their real idea of him, notwithstanding their pompous language, is still as poor and frivolous as ever. • That original intelligence, say the MAGIANS, who is the first principle of all things, discovers himself immediately to the mind and understanding alone; but has placed the sun as his image in the visible universe, and when that bright luminary diffuses its beams over the earth and the firmament, it is a faint copy of the glory, which resides in the higher heavens. If you would escape the displeasure of this divine being, you must be careful never to set your bare foot upon the ground, nor spit into a fire, nor throw any water upon it, even tho' it were consuming a T E t 2