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The disciples of ZOROASTER shut the doors of heaven against all but the MAGIANS*. Nuthing could more obstruct the progress of the PERSIAN conquests, than the furious zeal of that nation against the temples and images of the GREEKS. And after the overthrow of that empire we find ALEXANDER, as a polytheist, immediately re-eitabling the worship of the BABYLONIANS, which their former princes, as monotheists, had carefully abolishedt. Even the blind and devoted attachment of that conqueror to the GREEK superstition hindered not, but he himself sacrificed according to the BABYLONISH rites and ceremonies I.

So sociable is polytheism, that the utmost fierceness and antipathy, which it meets with in an opposite religion, is scarcely able to disgust it, and keep it at a distance. AUGUSTUS praised extremely the reserve of his grandson, Calus CÆSAR, when this latter prince, passing by JERUSALEM, deigned not to facrifice according to the Jewish law. But for what reason did Augustus so much approve of this conduct? Only because that religion was by the PAGANS esteemed ignoble and barbarous g.

I may venture to affirm, that few corruptions of idolatry and polytheism are more pernicious to fociety than this corruption of theism, when carried to the utmost height. The human facrifices of the CARTHAGINIANS, MEXICANS, and many barbarous nations t, scarcely exceed the inquisition and persecutions of Rome and MADRID. For besides, that the effusion of blood may not be so great in the former case as in the latter; besides this, I say, the hu. man victims, being chosen by lot, or by fome exterior signs, affect not, in so considerable a degree, the rest of the society. Whereas virtue, knowledge,

love * Hyde de Relig. vet. Perfarum. + Arrian. de exped. lib. iii. Id. lib. vii. | Id. ibid. Ø Sueton. in vita Aug. c. 93. || Corruptio optimi pelima. See NOTE (BBB).

love of liberty, are the qualities which call down the fatal vengeance of inquifitors; and when expelled, leave the society in the most shameful ignorance, corruption, and bondage. The illegal murder of one man by a tyrant is more pernicious than the death of athousand by pestilence, famine, or any undistinguishing calamity.

In the temple of DIANA at ARICIA near ROME, who ever murdered the present priest, was legally intitled to be installed his succeilor*. A very fingularinstitution! For, however barbarous and bloody the common superstitions often are to the laity, they usually turn to the advantage of the holy order.

Sect. X With regard to Courage or Abasement.

From the comparison of theism and idolatry, we may form some other observations, which will also conform the vulgar observation, that the corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.

Where the deity is represented as infinitely superior to mankind, this belief, though altogether just, is apt, when joined with superstitious terrors, to fink the human mind into the loweft fubmifsion and abase. ment, and to represent the monkish virtues of morti. fication, penance, humility, and paflive suffering, as the only qualities which are acceptable to him. But where the gods are conceived to be only a little fuperior 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 sometimes to a rivalship and emulation of them. Hence activity, spirit, courage, magnanimity, love of liberty, and all the virtues which aggrandize a people.

The heroes in paganism correspond exactly to the saints in popery and holy devises in MAHOMETANISM.

The Strabo, lib. v. Sueton. in vita Cal.

The place of HERCULES, THESEUS, Hector, RomuLus, is now supplied by DOMINIC, FRANCIS, ANTHONY, and BENEDICT. Instead of the destruction of monsters, the subduing of tyrants, the defence of our native country; whippings and fastings, cowardice and humility, abject submission, and flavish obedience, are become the means of obtaining celestial honours among mankind.

One great incitement to the pious ALEXANDER in his warlike expeditions was his rivalship of HERCULES and Bacchus, whom he justly pretended to have excelled *. BRASIDAS, that generous and noble SPARTAN, after falling in battle, had heroic honours paid him by the inhabitants of AMPHIPOLIS, whose defence he had embraced t. And in general, all founders of states and colonies among the Greeks were raised to this inferior rank of divinity, by those who reaped the benefit of their labours.

This gave rise to the observation of MACHIAVELI, that the doctrines of the CHRISTIAN religion, meaning the catholic (for he knew no other), which recommend only passive courage and suffering, had subdued the spirit of mankind, and had fitted them for Navery and subjection. An observation which would certainly be just, were there not many other circumstances in human society which control the genius and character of a religion. Brasidas seized a mouse, and being bit by it, let

There is nothing to contemptible, said he, but what may be safe, if it has but courage to defend itselfs. BELLERMINE patiently and humbly allowed the fieas and other odious vermin to prey upon him. We all have heaven, said he, to reward us for our sufferings: But these poor creatures have nothing but the enjoyment of the present life. Such difference is there between the maxims of a GREEK hero and a CATHOLIC faint.

Sect. • Arrian paffim.

+ Thucyd. lib. v. | Discorsi, lib. i. Plut. Apopth. || Bayle, Article BELLARMINE.

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Sect. XI. With regard to Reafon or Absurdity.

Here is another observation to the same purpose, and new proof that the corruption of the belt things begets the worst. If we examine, without prejudice, the ancient heathen mythology, as contained in the poets, we shall not discover in it any such monstrous absurdity as we may at first be apt to apprehend. Where is the difficulty in conceiving, that the same powers or principles, whatever they were, which formed this visible world, men and animals, produced also a species of intelligent creatures, of more refined substance and greater authority than the reft? That these creatures may be capricious, revengeful, passionate, voluptuous, is easily conceived; nor is any circumstance more apt, among ourselves, to engender such vices, than the licence of absolute authority. And in short, the whole mythological system is fo 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 ancient tradition, insisted on by heathen priests and theologers, is but a weak foundation; and transmitted also such a number of contradictory reports, supported, all of them, by equal authority, that it became absolutely impoflible to fix a preference amongst them. A few volumes, therefore, must contain all the polemical writings of pagan priests: And their whole theology must confift more of traditional stories and superstitious practices, than of philofophical 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 pontift; speculative reasoners naturally carry on their assent, and embrace a theory, which has been instilled into them by their earlist education, and which also posselles some degree of consistence and uniformity. But as these appearances are sure, all of them, to prove deceitful, philofophy will foon find herself very unequally yoked with her new affociate; and instead of regulating each principle as they advance together, The is at every turn perverted to serve the purposes of superstition. For besides the unavoidable incoherencies, which must be reconciled and adjusted, one may safely affirm, that all popular theology, especially the scholastic, has a kind of appetite for absurdity and contradiction. If that theology went not beyond reason and common sense, her doctrines would appear too easy and familiar. Amazement muft of ne: cessity be raised: Mystery affected: Darkness and ota {curity sought after: And a foundation of merit afforded to the devout votaries, who defire an opportunity of subduing their rebellious reason, by the belief of the most unintelligible fophisms. · Ecclesiastical history sufficiently confirms these reflections. When a controversy is started, some people always pretend with certainty to foretel the issue. Which-ever opinion, say they, is most contrary to plain sense, is sure to prevail; even where the general interest of the system requires not that decision. Though the reproach of heresy may, for some time, be bandied about among the disputants, it always rests at last on the fide of reason. Any one, it is pretended, that has but learning enough of this kind to know the definition of ARIAN, PELAGIAN, ERASTIAN, SOCINIAN, SABELLIAN, EUTYCHIAN, NesTORIAN, MONOTHELITE, &c. not to mention PROVol. II.



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