« ZurückWeiter »
priest, however, to make every thing fure and folid, still continued his instructions; and began the next day with the usual question, How many Gods are there? None at all! replies Benedict; før that was his new name. How ! None at all! cries the priest. To be füre, said the honest profelyte. You have told me all along that there is but one God: And yesterday I eat him.
Such are the doctrines of our brethren' the Catholics. But to these doctrines we are so accustomed, that we never wonder at them: Though in a futureage, it will probably become difficult to perfuade foine nations, that any human, two-légged creature could ever embrace fuch principles. And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed. to which they will give a molt implicit and most religious affent.
I lodged once at Paris in the same botel with 'an ambassador from Tunis, who, having passed fome years at London, was returning home that way. One day I observed his Moorish excellency diverting himself under the porch, with surveying the splendid equipages that drove along; when there chanced to pass that way fome Capucin friars, who had never seen a Turk; as he, on his part, though accustomed to the European dreffes, had never seen the grotesque figure of a Capucin : And there is no expressing the mutual admiration, with which they inspired each other. Had the chaplain of the embally entered into a dispute with these Franciscans, their reciprocal surprize had been of the same nature. Thus all mankind stand staring at one another; and there is no beating it into their head's, that the turban of the African is not just as good or as bad a fashion as the cowl of the European. He is a very
beating it into
just as good
He is a very
honest man, faid the prince of Sallee, speaking of de Ruyter, It is a pity be' were a Chriftian.
How can you worship leeks and onions? we shall fuppose a Sorbonnift to fay to'a' prieft of Sais. If we worship them, replies the latter ; at leaft, we do not, at the same time, eat them. But what ftrange objects of adoration are cats and monkies? fays the learned doctor. They are at least as good as the relics or rotten' bories of inartyrs, answers his no less learned antagonift. Are you' noe inad, insists the Catholic, to cut one another's throat about the preference of a cabbage or a cucumber? Yes, says the pagan; I allow it, if you will confels, that those are still madder, who fight about the preference among volumes of fophiftry, ten thousand of which are nóc equal in value to one cabbage or cucumber *.
Every by-stander will easily judge (but unfortunately the by-standers are few) that, if nothing were requisite to establish any popular system, but expofing the absurdities of other systems, every votary of every fuperftition could give a sufficient reason for his blind and bigotted attachment to the principles in which he has been educated. But without fo extensive a knowledge, on which to ground this assurance (and perhaps, better without it), there is not wanting a sufficient stock of religious zeal and faith among mankind. Diodorus Siculus + gives a remarkable instance to this. purpole, of which he was himself an eye-witness. While Egypt lay under the greatest terror of the Roman name, a legionary soldier having inadvertently been guilty of the facrilegious impiety of killing a car, the whole people rose upon him with the utmost fury: and all the efforts of the prince were not able to save him. The senate and peo
* See NOTE (CCC).
ple of Rome, I am persuaded, would not, then, have been so delicate with regard to their national deities. They very frankly, a little after that time, voted Augustus a place in the celestial mansions ; and would have dethroned every god in heaven, for his fake, had he seemed to desire it. Presens divus habebitur Augustus, says Horace. That is a very important point : And in other nations and other ages, the same circumstance has not been deemed altogether indifferent *.
Notwithstanding the sanctity of our holy religion, says Tully f, no crime is more common with us than facrilege : But was it ever heard of, that an Egyptian violated the temple of a cat, an ibis, or a crocodile? There is no torture, an Egyptian would not undergo, says the same author in another place I, rather than injure an ibis, an afpic, a cat, a dog, or a crocodile. Thus it is striệtly true, what Dryden observes,
« Of whatsoe'er descent their godhead be,
. ABSALOM and ACHITOPHEL. Nay, the baser the materials are, of which the divinity is composed, the greater devotion is he likely to excite in the breasts of his deluded votaries. They exult in their shame, and make a, merit with their deity, in braving, for his sake, all the ridicule and contumely of his ene
* When Louts the XIV th took on himself the protection of the Jesuits' College of Clermont, the society ordered the king's arms to be put up over the gate, and took down the cross, in order to make way for it: Which gave occasion to the following epigram :
Suftulit hinc Christi, posuitque insignia Regis:
Impia gens, alium nescit habere Deum. if Denat. Deor. l. i. ll Tusc. Queft. lib. v...
mies. Ten thousand Crusaders inlift themseves under the holy banners; and even openly triumph in those parts of religion, which their ad-, versaries regard as the most reproachful.
There occurs, I own, a difficulty in the Egyptian system of theology; as indeed, few system of that kind are entirely free from difficulties. It is evident, from their method of propagation, that a couple of cats, in fifty years, would stock a whole kingdom; and if that religious veneration were still paid -them, it would, in twenty more, not only be easier in Egypt to find a god than a man, which Petronius says was in some parts of Italy; but the gods must at last entirely itarve the men, and leave themselves neither priests nor votaries remaining. It is probable, therefore, that this wise nation, the most celebrated in antiquity for prudence and found policy, foreseeing such' dangerous consequences, reserved all their worship for the full-grown divinities, and used the freedom to drown the holy spawn or little fucking gods, without any scruple or remorfe. And thus the practice of warping the tenets of religion, in order to serve temporal interests, is 'not, by any means, to be regarded as an invention of these later ages.
The learned, philosophical Varro, discoursing of religion, pretends not to deliver any thing beyond probabilities and appearances: Such was his good sense and moderation! But the passionate, the zealous Augustin, insults the noble Roman on his scepticism and reserve, and professes the most thorough belief and assurance*. A heathen poet, however, contemporary with the saint, absurdly efteems the religious systein of the latter só false, that even the credulity Vol. II.
** De civitate Dei, 1. üü. e. 17.
of children, he says, could not engage them to
Is it strange, when mistakes are so common, to find every one positive and dogmatical? And that the zeal often rises in proportion to the error? Moverunt, says Spartian, & ea tempestate, Judæi bellum quod vetabantur mutilare genitalia I.'
If ever there was a nation or a time, in which the public religion lost all authority over mankind, we might expect, that infidelity in Rome, during the Ciceronian 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 take, 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 ferioufly desires her. to offer sacrifice to Apollo and Æfculapius, in gratitude for the recovery of his health il. , ,
Pompey's devotion was much inore sincere :" In all his conduct, during the civil wars, he paid a great regard to auguries, dreams, and prophesies g. Augustus was tainted with superftition of every kind. As it is reported of Milton, that his poetical genius never Aowed with ease and abundance in the spring; fo Augustus 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
+ Claudii Rutilii Numitiani iter, lib. i. 1. 386.