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cd fatisfaction with regard to these sublime subjects.
The common people were never likely to push their researches so far, or derive from reasoning their systems of religion; when philologers and mythologists, we see, scarcely ever discovered so much penetration. And even the philosophers, who discoursed of such topics, readily afsented to the groffest theory, and admitted the joint origin of gods and men from night and chaos; from fire, water, air, or whatever they established to be the ruling element.
Nor was it only on their first origin, that the gods were supposed dependent on the powers of nature. Throughout the whole period of their existence they were fubjected to the dominion of fate or destiny. Think of force of necesity, says Agrippa to the Roman people, that force, to which even the gods must submit *. And the Younger Pliny t, agreeable to this way of thinking, tells us, that amidst the darkness, horror, and confusion, which ensued upon the first eruption of Vesuvius, several concluded, that all nature was going to wrack, and that gods and men were perishing in one common ruin.
It is great complaisance, indeed, if we dignify with the name of religion such an imperfect fystem of theology, and put it on a level with latter systems, which are founded on principles more just and inore sublime. For my part, I can scarcely allow the principles even of MarCUS Aurelius, Plutarch, and some other Stoics and Academics, though much more refined than the pagan superstition, to be worthy of the honourable appellation of theism. For if the inythology of the heathens resemble the ancient European system of spiritual beings, excluding God
* Dionys. Halic. lib. vi.
† Epift. lib. vi.
and angels, and leaving only fairies and sprights; the creed of these philofopers may justly be said to exclude a deity, and to leave only angels and fairies.
Sect. V. Various Forms of Polytheism : Allegory Hero.
lliams by arguinen. they are derived
But it is chiefly our present business to consider the gross polytheisin of the vulgar, and to trace all its various appearances, in the principles of human nature, whence they are derived.
Whoever learns by arguinent, the existence of invisible intelligent power, muft reason from the adınirable contrivance of natural objects, and must suppose the world to be the workmanship of thật divine being, the original cause of all things. But the vulgar polytheist, so far from admitting that idea, deifies every part of the universe, and conceives all the conspicuous productions of nature, to be themselves so many real divinities. The fun, moon, and stars, are all gods according to his system: Fountains are inhabited by nymphs, and trees by hamadryads:- Even inonkies, dogs, cats, and other animals often become sacred in his eyes, and strike him with a religious veneration. And thus, however strong men's propensity to believe invisible, intelligent power in nature, their propensity is equally strong to reft their attention on sensible, visible objects; and in order to reconcile these opposite inclinations, they are led to unite the invisible power with some visible object.
The distribution also of distinct provinces to the several deities is apt to cause some allegory, both physical and moral, to enter into the vulgar systems of polytheisin. The god of war will
naturally naturally be represented as furious, cruel, and impetuous: The god of poetry as elegant, polite, and amiable: The god of merchandise, especially in early times, as thievish and dreadful. The allegories, supposed in Homer and other mythologists, I allow, have often been so strained, that men of sense are apt entirely to reject them, and to consider them as the production merely of the fancy and conceit. of critics and commentators. But that allegory really has place in the heathen mythology is undeniable even on the least reflection. 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 froin 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 fimilitude and comparison, which is naturally so agreeable to the mind of man. · Allegories, indeed, entirely perfect, we ought not to expect as the productions of ignorance and superstition'; there being no work of genius that requires a nicer hand, or has been more rarely executed with success. Thał Fear and Terror are the sons of Mars is just; but why by Venus * ? That Harmony is the daughter of Venus is regular; but why by Maret? That Sleep is the brother of Death is suitable; but why delcribe him as enamoured of the Graces I? And since the ancient mythologists fall into mistakes so gross and palpable, we have no reason surely to expect such refined and long-fpun allegories,
as some have endeavoured to reduce from their ictions.
Lucretius was plainly seduced by the strong appearance of allegory, which is observable in the pagan fictions. He first addresses himself to Venus as to that generating power, which animates, renews, and beautifies the universe: But is foon betrayed by the mythology into incoherencies, while he prays to that allegorical personage to appease the furies of her lover Mars: An idea not drawn from allegory, but from the popular religion, and which Lucretius, as an Epicurean, could not consistently adınit of.
The deities of the vulgar are so little superior to human creatures, that, where inen are affected with strong sentiments of veneration or gratitude for any hero or public benefactor, nothing can be inore natural than to convert him into a god, and fill the heavens, after this manner, with continual recruits from among mankind. Most of the divinities of the ancient world are supposed to have once been men, to have been beholden for their apotheosis to the admiration and affection of the people. The real history of their adventures, corrupted by tradition, and elevated by the marvellous, became a plentiful source of fable; especially in passing through the hands of poets, allegorifts, and priests, who successively improved 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 senlible 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 *.
ganized * Herodian, lib. v. Jupiter Ammon is represented by Curtius as a deity of the f:ine kind, lib. iv. cap. 7. The Arabians and Perûnuntians adored also shapeless unformed stones as their deity. Arnob. lib. vi. So much did their folly exceed that of the Egyptians.
Stilpo, was banished by the council of Areopagus, for affirming that the Minerva in the citadel was no divinity; but the workmanship of Phidias, the sculptor t. What degree of reason must we expect in the religious belief of the vulgar in other nations; when Athenians and Areopagites could entertain such gross conceptions ?
These then are the general principles of pou lytheism, founded in human nature, and little or nothing dependent on caprice and accident. As the causes, which bestow happiness or misery, are, in general, very little known and very uncertair. our anxious concern endeavours to attain a determinate idea of them; and finds no better expedient than to represent them as intelligent voluntary agents, like ourselves; only soinewhat superior in power and wisdom. The limnited influence of these agents, and their great proximity to human weakness, introduce the various 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.
+ Diod. Laert. lib. ii.