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falsehood, and belies the inward sentiment. The heart secretly detefts such measures of cruel and implacable vengeance; but the judgment dares not but pronounce them perfect and adorable. And the ad. ditional misery of this inward struggle aggravates all the other terrors, by which these unhappy victims to superstition are for ever haunted.
LUCIAN* observes that a young man, who reads the history of the gods in HOMER or HESIOD, and finds their factions, wars, injustice, incest, adultery, and other immoralities fo highly celebrated, is much surprised afterwards, when he comes into the world, to observe that punishments are by law inflicted on the same actions, which he had been taught to ascribe to superior beings. The contradiction is still perhaps Itronger between the representations given us by some later religions and our natural ideas of generosity, lenity, impartiality, and justice; and in proportion to the multiplied terrors of these religions, the barbarous conceptions of the divinity are multiplied upon us t. Nothing can preserve untainted the genuine principles of morals in our judgment of human conduct, but the absolute necessity of these principles to the existence of society. If common conception can indulge princes in 4 system of ethics, somewhat different from that which should regulate private persons; how much more those superior beings, whose attributes, views, and nature, are so totally unknown to us?
Sunt superis Jua jura I. The gods have maxims of justice peculiar to themselves.
Sect. XIV. Bad influence of popular religions on mo
Here I cannot forbear observing a fact, which VOL. II.
may • Necyomantia. + See NOTE (EEE.)
Ovid, Meram. lib. ix. 501,
may be worth the attention of such as make human nature the object of their enquiry. It is certain that, in every religion, however sublime the verbal definition which it gives of its divinity, many of the votaries, perhaps the greatest number, will still seek the divine favour, not by virtue and good morals, which alone can be acceptable to a perfect being, but either by frivolous observances, by intemperate zeal, by rapturous ecftafies, or by the belief of myfterious and absurd opinions. The least part of the Sadder, as well as of the Pentateuch, consists in precepts of morality; and we may also be assured, that that part was always the least observed and regarded. When the old ROMANS were attacked with a pestilence, they never ascribed their sufferings to their vices, or dreamed of repentance and amendment. They never thought, that they were the general robbers of the world, whose ambition and avarice made desolate the earth, and reduced opulent nations to want and beggary. They only created a dictator *, in order to drive a nail into a door ; and by that means, they thought that they had sufficiently appeased their incensed deity.
In Ægina, one faction forming & conspiracy, barbarously and treacherously assassinated seven hundred of their fellow-citizens; and carried their fury so far, that, one miserable fugitive having fled to the temple, they cut off his hands by which he clung to the gates; and carrying him out of holy ground, immediately murdered him. By this impiety, says HERODOTUS t, (not by the other many cruel assaffinations), they offended the gods, and contracted an inexpiable guilt.
Nay, if we should suppose, what never happens, that a popular religion were found, in which it was expressly declared, that nothing but morality could gain the divine favour; if an order of priests were
in+ Called Dictator clavis figendæ caufa. T. Livii, 1. vii. c. 3. * Lib. vi.
instituted to inculcate this opinion, in daily sermons, and with all the arts of persuasion; yet so inveterate are the people's prejudices, that, for want of some other superstition, they would make the very attendance on these fermons the essentials of religion, rather than place them in virtue and good morals. The sublime prologue of Zaleucus's * laws inspired not the LOCRIANS, so far as we can learn, with any sounder notions of the measures of acceptance with the deity, than were familiar to the other GREEKS.
This observation, then, holds universally: but still one may be at fome loss to account for it. It is not fufficient to observe, that the people, every where, degrade their deities into a fimilitude with themfelves, and consider them merely as a species of human creatures, somewhat more potent and intelligent. This will not remove the difficulty. For there is no man fo ftupid, as that, judging by his natural reason, he would not esteem virtue and how nesty the most valuable qualities which any person could possess. Why not ascribe the same sentiment to his deity? Why not make all religion, or the chief part of it, to consist in these attainments ?
Nor is it satisfactory to say, that the practice of morality is more difficult than that of superstition; and is therefore rejected. For, not to mention the excessive penances of the Brachmans and Talapoins ; it is certain, that the Rhamadan of the Turks, la ring which the poor wretches, for many days, often in the hottest months of the year, and in some of the hottest climates of the world, remain without eating or drinking from the rising to the setting fun; this Rhamadan, I say, must be more severe than the
practice of any moral duty, even to the most vicious and depraved of mankind. The four lents of the MusCOVITES, and the austerities of fome Roman Catholics, appear more disagreeable than meekness and benevolence. In short, all virtue, when inen are
reconciled to it by ever so little practice, is agreeable: all superstition is for ever odious and burdeniome.
Perhaps the following account may be received as a true solution of the difficulty. The duties which a man performs as a friend or parent, seem merely owing to his benefactor or children; nor can lie be wanting to these duties without breaking through all the ties of nature and morality. A strong inclination may prompt him to the performance : sentiment of order and moral obligation joins its force to thefe natural ties: and the whole man, if truly virtuous, is drawn to his duty, without any effort or endeavour. Even with regard to the virtues which are more auftere, and more founded on reflection, such as public spirit, filial duty, temperance, or integrity; the moral obligation, in our apprehension, removes all pretension to religious merit; and the virtuous conduct is deemed no more than what we owe to society and to ourselves. In all this, a superstitious man finds nothing which he has properly performed for the fake of this deity, or which can peculiarly recommend him to the divine favour and protection. He considers not, that the most genuine method of serving the divinity is by promoting the happiness of his creatures. He still looks out for some more immediate service of the Supreme Being, in order to allay those terrors with which he is haunted. And any practice recommended to him, which either serves to no purpose in life, or offers the strongest violence to his natural inclinations; that practice he will the more readily embrace, on account of those very circumstances which should make him absolutely reject it. It seems the more purely religious, because it proceeds from no mixture of any other motive or confideration. And if, for its fake, he sacrifices much of his ease and quiet, his claim of merit appears still to rise upon him in proportion to the zeal and devotion which
he discovers. In restoring a loan, or paying a debt, his divinity is nowise beholden to him; because these: acts of justice are what he was bound to perform, and what many would have performed, were there.. no God in the universe. But if he fast a day, or give himself a sound whipping, this has a direct reference, in his opinion, to the service of God. No oother motive could engage him to such austerities. By these distinguished marks of devotion, he has now acquired the divine favour; and may expect, in recompence, protection and safety in this world, and eternal happiness in the next.
Hence the greatest crimes have been found, in many instances, compatible with a superstitious piety and devotion : Hence it is justly regarded as unsafe to draw any certain inference in favour of a man's morals, from the fervour or stri, Iness of his religious exercises, even though he himself believe them fin
Nay, it has been observed, that enormities of the blackest dye have been rather apt to produce fuperstitious terrors, and encrease the religious pallion. BOMILCAR, having formed a conspiracy for allallinating at once the whole senate of CARTHAGE, and invading the liberties of his country, lost the opportu-, nity, from a continual regard to omens and prophecies. Those who undertake the most criminal and most dangerous enterprizes, are commonly the most superstitious; as an ancient historian * remarks on this occasion. Their devotion and spiritual faith rite with their fears. CATILINE was not contented with the established deities, and received rites of the national religion: His anxious terrors made him seek new inventions of this kind t; which he never probably had dreamed of, had he remained a good citizen, and obedient to the laws of his country.
To which we may add, that after the commision of crimes, there ariie remorses and secret horrors.
# Diod. Sic. lib. xv.