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tized by the 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 imaculate conception.
Rather than relinquish this propensity to adulation, religionists, in all ages, have involved themselves in the greatest absurdities and contradictions.
Homer, in one paffage, calls Oceanus and Tethys the original parents of all things, conformably 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 'cons tradiction is observable in Hesiod; and is so much the less excuseable, as his professed intention was to deliver a true genealogy of the gods. · Were there a religion (and we may suspect Mahomeranisin of this inconlistence) which sometimes) painted the Deity in the most sublime colours, 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, parsions, 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 froin a contradiction, fo incident' to human nature..
a cont of that the licies, their languages
Sect. VII. Confirmation of this Do&rine. It appears certain, that, though the original notions of the vulgar represent the Divinity as a 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 pafsions, pains, and infirmties; has a beginning, and may have an end? This they dare not affirm; but thinking it safest to comply with the higher encomiums, they endeavour, 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 fun 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 though it were consuming a whole city *. Who can express the perfections of the Almighty ? say the Ma
hometans. * Hyde de Relig, veterum Perfarum.
thstandine Deity. ", which ible of
hometans. Even the noblest of his works, if compared to him, are but duft and rubbish. How much more must human conception fall short of his infinite perfections ? His finile and favour renders men for ever happy: and to obtain it for your children, the best method is to cut off from them, while infants, a little bit of skin, about half the breadth of a farthing. Take two bits of cloth t, say the Roman Catholics, · about an inch or an inch and a half square, join them by the corners with two strings or pieces of tape about sixteen inches long, throw this over your head, and make one of the bits of cloth lie upon your breast, and the other upon your back, keeping them next your skin : There is not a better secret for recommending yourself to that infinite Being, who exists from eternity to eternity. .
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 of all other nations to be addressed to inere fictions and chimeras. But were their religious principles any more refined, on account of these magnificent pretensions ? Every fifth year they sacrificed 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 theison of the immortal Getes I. Vol. 11. , Ff
Sect. VIIE. Flux and reflux of polytheifm and theifm.
It is remarkable, that the principles of religion have a kind of flux and reflux in the human mind, and that men have a natural tendency to rise from idolatry to theism, and to sink again from theifm 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 difquifitions into the secret structure of vegetable or a nimal bodies; fo far 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 happinefs and misery to depend on the secret infuence and unforeseen concurrence of external objects, they regard, with perpetual attention, the unknown causes, which govern all thefe natural events, and distribute pleasure and pain, good and ill, by their powerful, but filent Operation. The unknown caufes, are still appealed to on every emergence; and in this general appearance or confused image, are the perpetual objects of human hopes and fears, wishes and apprehensions. By degrees, the active imagination of men, uneasy in this abstract conception of objects, about which it is inceffantly employed, begins to render them inore particular, and to clothe them in shapes more suitable to its natural comprehension. It reprefents them to be sensible, intelligent beings, like mankind; actuated by love and hatred, and flexible by gifts and entreaties, by prayers and sacrifices. 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, hut limited being
the course of natu fill fùell'
powers, allows not mankind to remain long in the first simple conception of them; as powerful, but limited beings; masters of human fate, but naves to deftiny and the course of nature. Men's exaggerated praises and coinpliments still swell. their ideá úpon 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 inferioi 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 recal that idolatry, which had been forinerly banished by the ardent prayers and panegyrics of timorous and indigent mortals. But as these idolatrous religions fall every day into groffer and more vulgar conceptions, they ar laft destroy themselves, and, by the vile representations, which they form of their deities, make the tide turn again towards theism. But so great is the propensity, in this alternate revolution of human sentiments, to return back to idolatry, that the utmoit précaurion is not able effectually to prevent it. And of this, fome theists, particularly the Jews and Mahometans, have been sensible; as appears by their banishing all the arts of ftatuary and painting, and not allowing the representations, even of human figures, to be taken by inarble or colours; left the common infirmity of mankind should thence produce idolatry. The feeble apprehensions of men cannot be satisfied with conceiving their deity as a pure spirit and perfect intelligence; and yet their natural terrors keep them from imputing to him the least shadow of limitation and imperfection. They fluctuate between these