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but for objects of external fenfe: is it furprising, that such people are incapable to exprefs their religious perceptions, or any perception of internal fenfe? and from their filence can it be fairly prefumed, that they have no fuch perception *? The belief of fuperior powers, in every country where there are words to exprefs it, is fo well vouched, that in fair reasoning it ought to be taken for granted among the few tribes where language is deficient. Even the groffeft idolatry affords to me evidence of that belief. No nation can be fo brutish as to worship a stock or a stone, merely as fuch. The visible object is always imagined to be connected with fome invisible power; and the worship paid to the former, is as reprefenting the latter, or as in fome manner connected with it. Every family among the ancient Lithuanians, entertained a real serpent as a household god; and the fame practice is at prefent univerfal, among the negroes in the kingdom of Whidah: it is not the ferpent that is worshipped, but fome deity imagined to refide in it. The ancient Egyptians were not idiots, to pay divine honours to a bull or a cat, as fuch: the divine honours were paid to a deity, as refiding in these animals. The fun is to man a familiar object: as it is frequently obfcured by clouds, and totally eclipsed during night, a favage readily conceives it to be a great fire, fometimes flaming bright, fometimes obfcured, and fometimes extinguished. Whence then fun-worfhip, once univerfal among favages? Plainly from the fame cause it is not properly the fun that is worshipped, but a deity who is fuppofed to dwell in that luminary.
* In the language even of Peru, there is not a word for expreffing an abftract idea, fuch as time, endurance, Space, existence, fubftance, matter, body. It is no lefs defective in exprefling moral ideas, fuch as virtue, justice, grațitude, liberty. The Yameos, a tribe on the river Oroonoko, defcribed by Condamine, use the word poettarraroincoursac to exprefs the number three, and have no word for a greater number. The Brafilian language is nearly as barren.
Taking it then for granted, that our belief of fuperior powers has been long univerfal, the important queftion is, From what cause it proceeds. A belief fo univerfal, and fo A belief so univerfal, and fo permanent, cannot proceed from chance, but must have a caufe operating conftantly and invariably upon all men in all ages. Philofophers, who believe the world to be eternal and felf-exiftent, and imagine it to be the only deity, tho' without intelligence, endeavour to account for our belief of fuperior powers, from the terror that thunder and other elementary convulfions raise in favages; and thence conclude that such belief is no evidence of a deity. Thus Lucretius,
Præterea, cui non animus formidine divum
Contrahitur? cui non conripunt membra pavore,
Fulminis horribili cum plaga torrida tellus
Contremit, et magnum percurrunt murmura cœlum * (a) ?
And Petronius Arbiter,
Primus in orbe deos fecit timor: ardua cœlo
Fulmina quum caderent difcuffaque mœnia flammis,
Man, during infancy a defencelefs animal, is endued on that ac
* What man can boaft, that firm undaunted foul,
That hears, unmov'd, when thunder fhakes the pole;
When lightnings flash, and ftorms and tempefts roar?
When dread convulfions rock'd the lab'ring earth,
(a) Lib. 5.
count with a large portion of fear. Savages, grofsly ignorant of causes and effects, take fright at every unusual appearance, and recur to fome malignant power as the cause. Now, if the authors quoted mean only, that the first perception of deity among savages is occafioned by fear, I heartily fubfcribe to their opinion. But if it was their meaning, that fuch perceptions proceed from fear folely, without having any other cause, I wish to be informed, from what fource is derived the belief we have of fuperior benevolent beings. Fear cannot be the fource: and it will be seen anon, that tho' malevolent deities were first recognised among favages; yet that in the progress of fociety, the existence of benevolent deities was univerfally believed. The fact is certain; and therefore fear is not the fole cause of our believing the existence of fuperior beings.
It is befide to me evident, that the belief even of malevolent deities, once univerfal among all the tribes of men, cannot be accounted for from fear folely. I obferve, firft, That there are many men, to whom an eclipfe, an earthquake,, and even thunder, are unknown: Egypt in particular, tho' the country of fuperftition, is little or not at all acquainted with the two latter. Nor do fuch appearances strike terror into every one who is acquainted with them. The univerfality of the belief, muft then have fome cause more univerfal than fear. I obferve next, That if the belief were founded folely on fear, it would die away gradually as men improve in the knowledge of caufes and effects. Inftruct a favage, that thunder, an eclipfe, an earthquake, proceed from natural caufes, and are not threatenings of an incenfed deity; his fear of malevolent beings will vanifh; and with it his belief in them, if founded folely on fear. Yet the direct contrary is true: in proportion as the human understanding ripens, our belief of fuperior powers, or of a Deity, turns more and more firm and authorita
tive; which will be made evident in the chapter immediately following.
Philofophers of more enlarged views, and of deeper penetration, may poffibly think, that the operations of nature, and the government of this world, which loudly proclaim a Deity, may be fufficient to open the eyes of the groffeft favages, and to convince them that there is a Deity. And to give due weight to the argument, I fhall relate a converfation between a Greenlander and a Danish missionary, mentioned by Crantz in his history of Greenland. "It is true," fays the Greenlander, we were ignorant "Heathens, and knew little of a God, till you came. But you "must not imagine, that no Greenlander thinks about these things. A kajak (a), with all its tackle and implements, can<i not exist but by the labour of man; and one who does not un
derstand it, would fpoil it. But the meanest bird requires "more skill than the best kajak; and no man can make a bird. << There is ftill more fkill required to make a man: by whom "then was he made? He proceeded from his parents, and they "from their parents. But some must have been the first pa"rents: whence did they proceed? Common report says, that they grew out of the earth: if so, why do not men ftill grow And from whence came the earth itself, the fun, the moon, the ftars? Certainly there must be fome being who made all these things, a being more wife than the "wifeft man." The reafoning here from effects to their causes, is stated with great precision; and were all' men equally penetrating with the Greenlander, fuch reafoning might perhaps be fufficient to account for the belief of Deity, univerfally fpred among all favages. But fuch penetration is a rare quality among fava
out of the earth?
ges; and yet
to question them about their worship before they embraced "Christianity. They faid, that they had an idol hung upon a "tree, before which they proftrated themselves, raising their eyes to heaven, and howling with a loud voice. They could not explain what they meant by howling; but only, that every man "howled in his own fashion, Being interrogated, Whether, in si raifing their eyes to heaven, they knew that a god is there, "who fees all the actions, and even the thoughts of men; they "anfwered fimply, That heaven is too far above them to know "whether a god be there or not; and that they had no care but
to provide meat and drink. Another question was put, Whe❝ther they had not more fatisfaction in worshipping the living "God, than they formerly had in the darkness of idolatry; they
anfwered, We fee no great difference; and we do not break our heads about fuch matters." Judge how little capable such ignorant favages are, to reafon from effects to their caufes, and to trace a Deity from the operations of nature. And it may be added with great certainty, that could they be made in any degree