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tion 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 MUSCOVITESIS
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, the God of ABRAHAM, ISAAC, and JACOB, became the supreme deity or JEHOVAH of the Jews.
Rather than relinquish this propensity to adulation, religionists, in all ages, have involved themselves in the greatest absurdities 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 fifters of this JUPITER; who was in reality nothing but an upstart parricide and usurper. A like contradiction is
s! + The JACOBINS, who denied the immaculaté conception, have ever been very unhappy in their doctrine, even tho'political reasons have kept; -, the RÖMISH church from condemning it. The CORDELIERS bave run, away with all the popularity.' But in the fifteenth century, as we learn from BOULAINVILLIERS, an ITALIAN Cordelier maintained, that, dñr. ing the three days, when CHRIST was interred, the hypoftatic union was dissolved, and that his human nature was not a proper object of adoration, during that period. Without the art of divination, one might foreiel, so gross and impious a blasphemy would not fail to be anathematized by people. It was the occasion of great insults on the part of the JACOBINS; who now got some recompence for their misfortunes in the war about the ? immaculate conception. See Histoire abregée, pag. 499.
observable in Hesiod; and is so much the less excuf.
€ Were there a religion (and we may suspect Mahome-
in most sublime colours, as the creator of
human creatures in his powers and faculties;
SECT. VII. Confirmation of this Doctrine.
this, we may observe, that the aflent of the vulgar iss
That original intelligence, say the Magians, who
+ Hyde de Relig. veterum PERSARUM.
The Getes, commonly called immortal, from their steady belief of the soul's immortality, were genuine --theists and unitarians. They affirmed ZAMOLXIS, their deity, to be the only true god; and asserted the worship
all other nations to be addressed to mere fictions and chimeras. But were their religious principles any more Icfined, on account of these magnificent pretensions ?
Every fifth year they facrificed a human victim, whom they sent as a messenger to their deity, in order to inform him of their wants and necessities. And when it thundered, they were so provoked, that, in order to return the defiance, they let fly arrows at him, and declined not the combat as unequal. Such at least is the account, which HERODOTUS gives of the theism of the immortal Getest.
ŞECT. VIII. Flux and reflux of polytheism and theism.
It is remarkable, that the principles of religion have a kind of Aux and reflux in the human mind, and that men have a natural tendency to rise from idolatry to theism, and to fink again from theism into idolatry. The vulgar, that is, indeed, all mankind, a few excepted, being ignorant and uninstructed, never elevate their contemplation to the heavens, or penetrate by their disquisitions into the secret structure of vegetable or animal bodies; so as to discover a supreme mind, or original providence, which bestowed order on every part of nature. They consider these admirable works in a more confined and selfish view ; and finding their own happiness and misery to depend on the secret influence and unforeseen concurrence of external objects, they regard, with perpetual attention, the unknown causes, which go
+ Lib. iv.
vern all these natural events, and diftribute pleafure and pain, good and ill, by their powerful, but filent, operation. The unknown causes are ftill appealed to, on every emergence; and in this general appearance or confused image, are the perpetual objects of human hopes and fears, wishes and apprehenfions. By degrees, the active imagination of men, uneafy in this abftract conception of objects, about which it is inceffantly employed, begins to render them more particular, and to clothe them in shapes more suitable to its natural comprehenfion. It represents them to be sensible, intelligent beings, like mankind; actuated by love and hatred, and flexible by gifts and entreaties, by prayers and facrifices. Hence the origin of religion : And hence the origin of idolatry or polytheism.
But the fame anxious concern for happiness, which begets the idea of these invisible, intelligent powers, allows not mankind to remain long in the first simple con ception of them; as powerful, but limited beings; masters of human fate, but slaves to destiny and the course of nature. Men’s exaggerated praises and compliments still swell their idea upon them; and elevating their deities to the utmost bounds of perfection, at last beget the attributes of unity and infinity, simplicity and spirituality. Such refined ideas, being somewhat disproportioned to vulgar comprehension, remain not long in their original purity; but require to be supported by the notion of inferior mediators or subordinate agents, which interpose between mankind and their supreme deity. These demigods or middle beings, partaking more of human nature, and being more familiar to us, become the chief objects of devotion, and gradually recall that idolatry which had been formerly banished by the ardent prayers and panegyrics of timorous and indigent mortals. But as these idolatrous religions fall every day into grosser and more vulgar conceptions, they at last destroy themselves,