« AnteriorContinuar »
the tutelar deities of Athens; Bacchus and Hercules of the Bootian Thebes no of Carthage, Samos, Sparta, Argos, and Mycené; Venus of Cyprus; Apollo of Rhodes and of Delphos ; Vulcan of Lemnos; Bacchus of Naxus ; Neptune of Tenedos, &c. The poets testify, that even individuals had tutelar deities :
Mulciber in Trojam, pro Troja stabat Apollo ;
Æqua Venus Teucris, Pallas iniqua fuit.
Ille tamen Veneris numine tutus erat.
Eripuit patruo fæpe Minerva fuo * (a). Though the North-American savages recognise a supreme Being, wise and benevolent, and also subordinate benevolent beings who are intrusted with the government of the world ; yet as the great distance of these subordinate beings and the full occupation they have in general go
* “ The rage of Vulcan, and the martial maid,
Pursu'd old Troy; but Phebus' love repay'd. « Æneas fafe, defy'd great Juino's hate, “ For Venus guards her favour'd'offspring's fate : “ In vain Ulysses Neptune's wrath afsails, O'er winds and waves Minerva's power pre
(a) Ovid. Trit. lib. 1. eleg. 2.
vernment, are supposed to make them overlook individuals, every man has a tutelar deity of his own, termed Manitou, who is constantly invoked during war to give him victory over his enemies. The Natches, bordering on the Mililippi, offer up
the skulls of their enemies to their god, and deposite them in his temple. They consider that being as their tutelar deity who assists them against their enemies, and to whom therefore the skull of an enemy must be an acceptable offering. Tho' they worship the fun, who impartially shines on all mankind; yet such is their partiality, that they consider themselves as his chosen people, and that their enemies are his enemies.
A belief fo abfurd shows woful imbecillity in human nature. Is it not obvious, that the great God of heaven and earth governs the world by inflexible laws, from which he never can swerve in any case, because they are the best possible in every cafe? To suppose any family or nation to be an object of his peculiar love, is no less impious, than to suppose any family or nation to be an object of his peculiar haered: they equally arraign Providence of
partiality, partiality. Even the Goths had more just notions of the Deity. Totila, recommending to his people justice and humanity, says, “ Quare fic habete, ea quæ amari ab " hominibus folent ita vobis falva fore, fi
justiciæ reverentiam fervaveritis. si “ transitis in mores alios, etiam Deum ad “ hoftes transiturum. Neque enim ille,
aut oinnibus omnino hominibus, aut u" ni alicui genti, addicit se focium
That God was once the tutelar deity of the Jews, is true ; but not in the vulgar acceptation of that term, importing a deity chosen by a people to be their patron and protector. The orthodox faith is, “ Thar
. « God chose the Jews as his peculiar peo
ple, not from any partiality to them, “ but that there might be one nation to
keep alive the knowledge of one supreme
** Be affured of this, that while ye preserve “ your reverence for justice, ye will enjoy all the
blessings which are estimable among mankind. If “ ye refuse to obey her dictates, and your morals “ become corrupted, God himself will abandon
you, and take the part of your enemies. For al“ though the benevolence of that power is not pae
tially confined to tribe or people, yet in the eye “ of his justice all men are not equally the objects of his approbation.”
Deity; which should be prosperous “ while they adhered to him, and unpro
sperous when they declined to idolatry; not only in order to make them perse
vere in the true faith, but also in order 4
to exemplify to all nations the conduct
of his Providence.” It is certain, however, that the perverse Jews claimed God Almighty as their tutelar deity in the vulgar acceptation of the term.
And this er ror throws light upon an incident related in the Acts of the Apostles. There was a prophecy firmly believed by the Jews, that the Messiah would come among them in person to restore their kingdom. The Christians gave a different sense to the
prophecy, namely, that the kingdom promised was not of this world. And they said, that Christ was sent to pave the way to their heavenly kingdom, by obtaining forgiveness of their fins. At the same time, as the Jews held all other nations in abhorrence, it was natural for them to conclude, that the Messiah would be sent to them only, God's chosen people : for which reason, even the apostles were at first doubtful about preaching the gospel
to any but to the Jews (a). But the apostles reflecting, that it was one great purpose of the mission, to banish from the Jews their grovelling and impure notion of a tutelar deity, and to proclaiin a state of future happiness to all who believe in Christ, they proceeded to preach the gospel to all men': “ Then Peter opened his
mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive, " that God is no respecter of persons : but “ in every nation, he that feareth him, " and worketh righteousness, is accepted
with him (6).” The foregoing reasoning, however, did not satisfy the Jews : they could not digest the opinion, that God sent his Messiah to save all nations, and that he was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. They stormed against Paul in particular, for inculcating that doctrine (c).
Considering that religion in its purity was established by the gospel, is it not amazing, that even Christians fell back to
(a) See the roth and ixth chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
(6) Acts of the Apostles, X. 34.