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latter foi falfe, that even the credulityofarebikiteng he fays, could not engage them to believe it as
Is it ftrange, when mistakes are fo common, to find every one pofitive and dogmaticat? And that the zeal often rises in proportion to the error! Moverunt, fays SPARTIAN, & ea tempestate Judæi bellum qüod vetabantur mutilare genitalia I.
If ever there was a nation or a time, in which the public religion loft all authority over mankind, we might expect, that infidelity in Rome, during the CiceroNEAN age, would openly have, erected its throne, and that Cicero himself, in every speech and action, would have been its most declared abettor. But it appears, that, whatever sceptical liberties that great man might use, in his writings or in philosophical conversation; he
yet avoided, in the common conduct of life, the imputation of deism and profaneness. Even in his own family, and to his wife TERENTIA, whom he highly trusted, he was willing to appear a devout religionist; and there remains a letter, addressed to her, in which he seriously desires her to offer facrifice to Apollo and ÆscuLAPIUS, in gratitude for the recovery of his health ||
Pompey's, devotion was much more fincere: In all his conduct, during the civil wars, he paid a great - segard to auguries, dreams, and prophefies ta. AUGUSTUS was tainted with superstition of every kind. As it is reported of MILTON, that his poetical genius never flowed with ease and abundance in the spring i fo AugustỤS observed that his own genius for dreaming never was so perfect during that season, nor was so much to be relied on, as during the rest of the year. That great and able emperor
+ Claudii Rutilii Numitiani iter, fibi i: 1.386.
| Lib. 14. epift. 7.
was also extremely uneasy when he happened to change his shoes, and put the right foot fhoe on the left foot + In short, it cannot be doubted, but the votaries of the established superstition of antiquity were as numerous ih every State, as those of the modern religion are at prefent. Its Influence was as universal ; tho' it was not so great. As many people gave their asserit to it; tho that affent was not seemingly fo strong, precise, and affirmative.
We may observe, thaty notwithstanding the dogmatical, imperious style of all superstition, the convictioni of the religionists, in all ages, is more affected thän real, and scarce ever approaches, in any degree, to that solid belief and persuasion, which governs us in the common affairs of life. Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts, which they entertain on such subjects: They make a merit of implicit faith; and difguife to themselves their real infidelity, by the strongest alleverations and most positive bigotry. But näture is too hard for all their endeavours, and suffers not the obscure, glimmering light, afforded in those shadowy regions, to equal the strong impressions, made by common sense and by experience. The usual course of men's conduct belies their words, and shows, that the asserit in these matters is fome unaccountable operation of the mind bé. tween disbelief and conviction, but approaching much nearer the former than the latter,
Since, therefore, the mind of man appears of so loose and unsteady a contexture, that, even at preient, when fơ many persons find an interest in continually employing on it the chiffel and the bammer, yet are they not able to engrave theological tenets with any lasting impression; how much more muft this have been the case in antient
+ Sueton Aug. cap. 90, 91, 92. Plin. lib. ii. cap. 76 Vol. II.
Af en on 466 The NATURAL HISTORY of Religion. times, when the retainers to the holy function were so much fewer in comparison? No wonder, 'that "the apsome occasions, might seem determined infidels, and enemies to the established religion, without being so in 'reality; or at least, without knowing their own minds in
por 1 195 ridt that particular.
Ti to :91'* Another cause, which rendered the antient religions much looser than the modern, is, that the former were traditional and the latter are scriptural; and the tradition in the former was complex, contradictory, and, on many occasions, doubtful; so that it could not pollibly be reduced to any standard and canon, or afford any determinate articles of faith. The stories of the gods were numberlefs like the popish legends, and tho' every one, almost, believed a part of these stories, yet no one eould believe or know the whole: While, at the same time, all must have acknowledged, that no one part stood on a better foundation than the reft. The traditions of different cities and nations were also, on many occasions, directly opposite; and no reason could be assigned for preferring one to the other. And as there was an infinite number of stories with regard to which tradition was nowise positive; the gradation was insensible, from the most fundamental articles of faith, to those loose and precarious fictions. The pagan religion, therefore, seemed to vanish like a cloud, whenever one approached to it, and examined it piecemeal. It could never be ascertained by any fixed dogmas and principles. And tho this did not convert the generality of mankind from fo abfurd a faith; for when will the people be reasonable? yet it made them faulter and hefitaté more in maintaining their principles, and was even apt to produce, in certain dispositions of mind, some practices and opinions, which had the appearance of determined infidelity. 8.
To which we may add, that the fables of the pagan teligion were, of themselves, light, easy, and familiar ; without devils or feas of brimstone, or any objects, that could much terrify the imagination. Who could forbear smiling, when he thought of the loves of MARS and Venus, or the amorous frolics of JUPITER and Pan? In this respect, it was a true poetical religion ; 'if it had hot rather too much levity for the graver kinds of poetry.
find that it has been adopted by modern bards; nor have these talked with greater freedom and irreverence of the gods, whom they regarded as fi&tions, than the antient did of the real objects of their devotion. ir The inference is by no means juft, that because a fyftem of religion has made no deep impression on the minds of a people, it must therefore have been positively rejected by all men of common sense, and that opposite principles, in spite of the prejudices of education, were generally established by argument and reasoning. I know not, but a contrary inference may be more probable. The less importunate and affuming any species of superftition appears, the less will it provoke men's spleen and indignation, or engage them into enquiries concerning its foundation and origin. This in the mean time is obvious, that the empire of all religious faith over the understanding is wavering and uncertain, subject to all varieties of humour, and dependent on the present incidents, which stıike the imagination. The difference is only in the degrees. An antient will place a stroke of impiety and one of superstition alternately, thro' a whole discourse +: A modern often thinks in the same way, tho' he may be more guarded in his expressions.
† Witness this remarkable passage of Tacitus: " Præter multiplices
rerum humanarum casus, cælo terraque prodigia, & fulminum monitus, & “ futurorum præfagia, læta, triftia, ambigua, manifefta. Nec enim unquam " atrocioribus populi Romani cladibus, magifque justis judiciis approbatum
LUCIAN tells us exprefly *, that whoever believed not the most ridiculous fables of paganism was esteemed by the people profane and impious. To what purpose, in deed, would that agreeable author have employed the whole force of his wit and fatyr against the national en ligion, had not that religion been generally, belieyed by his countrymen and contemporaries? dro favidoololitos
Live + acknowledges as frankly, as any divine would at present, the common incredulity of his age a but ther be condemns it as severely. . And who can imagine, that a national superstition, which could delude fo great a man, would not, also impose on the generality of the people?
Seestrid zatiszt183 The Stoics bestowed many, magnificent and even im pious epithets on their sage; that he alone was richsfree, a king, and equal to the immortal gods i They forgoti to add, that he was not inferior in prudence and unders standing to an old woman. For surely nothing can be more pitiful than the sentiments, which that fect entertained with regard to all popular, fuperftitions; while they very seriously agree with the common augurs, that, when a raven croaks from the left, it is a good omen; but a bad one, when a rook makes a noise from the same quarter. PANÆTIUS was the only Stoic, amongst the GREEKS, who so much as doubted with regard to auguries and divinations I. Marcus ANTONINUS || tells us, that he himself had received many admonitions from
6. 'Monso X 1 " est, non efle curæ Diis fecuritatem nofrant, elle ultionoth."Hift. lib. io? AUGUSTUS's quarrel with NETTUNE is an instance ofs the same kind Had not the emperor believed NEPTUNE to be a real beings and co have dominion over the sea, where had been the foundation of this anget stands ifi live believed it, what madness) to proucke fill farthen that deity? Thes same observation may be made upon QUINC TIDian's riexclamation, con ack : count of the death of his childrent, lib. vi. Præf. 3 2UXX lo consispx? Prilópleuderia
* Lib. x. cap! 402 vs wla idain 3d TE.. 4'Cicero de Divin. lib. i. cap: 3. & 7 Tin Ni Lita is the openints sur
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