« ZurückWeiter »
the vulgar observation, that the corraption of the best things gives rise to the worst.
31!!!sllads to Where the deity is represented as infinitely fuperior to mankind, this belief, though altogether just, isi apt; when joined with superstitious terrors, to link the human mind into the lowest fubmiffion and abasement, and to represent the monkish virtues of mortification penance, humility and paffive suffering, as the only qualities which are acceptable to him. But where the gods are conceived to be only a little superior to mankind, and to have been, many of them, advanced from that inferior rank; we are more at our ease in our addresses to them, and
may even, without profaneness, aspire sometime's to a rivalfhip and emulation of them. Hence activity, fpirit, courage, magnanimity, love of liberty, and all the virtues, which aggrandize a people.
The heroes in paganifin correspond exactly to the faints in popery and holy dervises in MAHOMETANISM. The place of HERCULES, THESEUS, HeeTOR, RoMULUS, is now supplied by DOMINIC, FRANCIS, ANTHONY, and BENEDICT. And instead of the destruction of monsters, the subduing tyrants, the defence of our native country; celestial honours are obtained by whippings and fastings, by cowardice and humility, by abject submission and Navish obedienice.
One great incitement to the pious ADEXANDER in his warlike expeditions was his rivalship of HERCULES and BACCHUS, whom he justly pretended to have excelled f. BRASIDAS, that generous and noble SPAR
after falling in battle, had heroic honours paid him by the inhabitants of AMPHIPOLIS, whose defence he had embraced 1. And in general, all founders of faces and colonies amongst the GREEKS were raised to this
† Arian, paflim.
| Thucyd, lib. V.
inferior rank of divinity, by those who reaped the benefit of their labours.
This gave rise to the observation of MACHIAVEL , that the doctrines of the CHRISTIAN religion (meaning the catholic ; for he knew no other) which recommend only pasive courage and suffering, had subdued the spirit of mankind, and had fitted them for slavery and subjection. And this observation would certainly be just, were there not many other circumstances in human faciety, which controul the genius and character of a religion..
BRASIDAs seized a mouse, and being bit by it, let it go. There is nothing so contemptible, says he, but what may be safe, if it has but courage to defend itself I. BELLẠRMINE; patiently and humbly allowed the feas, and other odious vermin to préy upon him. We all have heaven, says he, to reward us for our sufferings : But these poor creatures have nothing but the enjoyment of the present life g. Such difference is there between the maxims of a GREEK hero and a CATHOLIC saint.
Sect. XI. With regard to reason or absurdity.
Here is another observation to the fame purpose, and new proof that the corruption of the best things begets the worst. If we examine, without prejudice, the antient heathen mythology, as contained in the poets, wę shall not discover in it any such monstrous absurdity, as we may be apt at first to apprehend. Where is the difficulty of conceiving, that the same powers or principles, whatever they were, which formed this visible world, men and animals, produced also a species of intelligent
+ Discorsi, lib. vi. | Plut. Apopth.
creatures, of more refined substance and greater autho rity than the reft? That these creatures may be capri-. cicus, revengeful, paffionate, voluptuous, is eafily-conceived; nor is any circumstance more apt, amongst our selves, to engender such vices, than the licence of abfolute authority. And in short, the whole mythological system is so natural, that, in the vast variety of planets and worlds, contained in this universe, it seems more than probable, that somewhere or other, it is really carried into execution.
The chief objection to it with regard to this planet, is, that it is not ascertained by any just reason or authority. The antient tradition, insisted on by the heathen priests and theologers, is but a weak foundation ; and transmite ted also such a number of contradictory reports, supported, all of them, by equal authority, that it became abfolutely imposible to fix a preference amongst them. A few volumes, therefore, must contain all the polemical writings of pagan priests. And their whole theology must consist more of traditional stories and fuperftitious practices than of philosophical argument and controversy.
But where theism forms the fundamental principle of any popular religion, that tenet is so conformable to found reason, that philosophy is apt to incorporate itself with such a system of theology. And if the other dogmas of that system be contained in a sacred book, such as the Alcoran, or be determined by any visible authority, like that of the ROMAN pontif, speculative reasoners naturally carry on their affent, and embrace a theory, which has been instilled into them by their earliest education, and which also possesses fome degree of consistence and uniformity. But as these appearances are fure, all of them, to prove deceitful, philosophy will soon find her.
felt very unequally yoaked with her new affociate; and
Ecclesiastical history fufficiently confirms these reRec-
To oppose the torrent of fcholaftic religion by fuch feeble maxims as these, that it is impossible for the fame to be and not to be, that the whole is greater than a part, that two and three make five'; is pretending to stop the ocean with a bull-rufh. Will you set up profane reason against sacred mystery? No punishment is great
enough for your impiety. And the fame fires, which were kindled for heretics, will ferve also for the deftruction of philosophers.
,1 Sect. XII. With regard to Doubt or Convictionnons
ty11115) We meet every day with people fo sceptical with regard to history, that they affert it impossible for any na tion ever to believe fuch absurd principles as those of GREEK and EGYPTIAN paganism; and at the same time so dogmatical with regard to religion, that they think the same absurdities are to be found in no other communions. CAMBYSES entertained like prejudices; and very impiously ridiculed, and even wounded, Apisy the great god of the EGYPTIANS, who appeared to his profane senses nothing but a large spotted bull., But HERODOTUS * judiciously aferibes this fally of pasion to a real madness or disorder of the brain : Otherwise, says the historian, he never would have openly affronted any established worship. For on that head, continues he, every
nation are beft fatisfied with their own, and think they have the advantage over every other nation.
It muft be allowed, that the ROMAN Catholics are a very learned fect; and that no one communion, but that of the Church of ENGLAND, can dispute their being the most learned of all the Christian churches : Yet AVERROES, the famous ARABIAN, who, no doubt; had heard of the EGYPTIAN fuperftitions, declares, that of all religions, the most absurd and non-fenfical is that, wbofc votaries eat, after having created, their deity. As dit
I believe, indeed, that there is no tenet in all paganism, which would give so fair a fcope to ridicule as this of the real presence : For it is so absurd, that it eludes the
+ Lib. ii. c. 38.