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PART I.

ners were savage and barbarous, were civilized by CENT. I. the laws and commerce of the Romans. And by this, in short, the benign influence of letters and philosophy was spread abroad in countries which had lain before under the darkest ignorance. All this contributed, no doubt, in a singular manner, to facilitate the progress of the gospel, and to crown the labours of its first ministers and heralds with success.d

empire enjoys

IV. The Roman empire, at the birth of Christ, The Roman was less agitated by wars and tumults, than it had peace. been for many years before. For, though I cannot assent to the opinion of those who, following the account of Orosius, maintain, that the temple of Janus was then shut, and that wars and discords absolutely ceased throughout the world; yet it is certain, that the period, in which our Saviour descended upon earth, may be justly styled the pacific age, if we compare it with the preceding times. And indeed, the tranquillity, that then reigned, was necessary to enable the ministers of Christ to execute, with success, their sublime commission to the human race.

the other na

v. The want of ancient records renders it im- The state of possible to say any thing satisfactory or certain tions. concerning the state of those nations, who did not receive the Roman yoke; nor indeed is their his tory essential to our present purpose. It is sufficient to observe, with respect to them, that those who inhabited the eastern regions were strangers to the sweets of liberty, and groaned under the

1728. See also the very learned Everard Otto, De tutela viarum publicarum, part ii. p. 314.

d Origen, among others, makes particular mention of this, in the second book of his answer to Celsus, p. 79, of the Cambridge edition.

* See Jo. Massoni Templum Jani, Christo nascente, referatum. Roterodami, 1706.

I.

CENT. 1. burden of an oppressive yoke. This, their softPARTE ness and effeminacy, both in point of manners and bodily constitution, contributed to make them support with an unmanly patience; and even the religion they professed rivetted their chains. On the contrary, the northern nations enjoyed, in their frozen dwellings, the blessings of sacred freedom, which their government, their religion, a robust and vigorous frame of body and spirit, derived from the inclemency and severity of their climate, all united to preserve and maintain.'

All sunk in

VI. All these nations lived in the practice of the superstition; most abominable superstitions. For though the notion of one Supreme Being was not entirely effaced in the human mind, but showed itself frequently, even through the darkness of the grossest idolatry; yet all nations, except that of the Jews, acknowledged a number of governing powers, whom they called gods, and one or more of which they supposed to preside over each particular province or people. They worshipped these fictitious deities with various rites; they considered them as widely different from each other in sex, and power, in their nature, and also in their respective offices, and they appeased them by a multiplicity of ceremonies and offerings, in order to obtain their protection and favour. So that, however different the degrees of enormity might be, with which this absurd and impious theology appeared in different countries; yet there was no nation, whose sacred rites and whose religious worship did not discover a manifest abuse of reason, and very striking marks of extravagance and folly.

↑ Fere itaque imperia, says Seneca, penes eos fuere populos, qui mitiore cælo utuntur; in frigora, septentrionemque vergentibus immansueta ingenia sunt, ut ait poeta, suoque simillima cœlo. Seneca De ira, lib. ii. cap. xvi. tom. i. Opp. Edit. Gronovii.

VII. Every nation then had its respective gods, over which presided one more excellent than the rest; yet in such a manner, that this supreme deity was himself controlled by the rigid empire of the fates, or what the philosophers called eternal necessity. The gods of the east were different from those of the Gauls, the Germans, and the other northern nations. The Grecian divinities differed widely from those of the Egyptians, who deified plants, animals, and a great variety of the productions both of nature and art. Each people also had their own particular manner of worshipping and appeasing their respective deities, entirely different from the sacred rites of other countries. In process of time, however, the Greeks and Romans grew as ambitious in their religious pretensions, as in their political claims. They maintained that their gods, though under different names, were the objects of religious worship in all nations, and therefore they gave the names of their deities to those of other countries. This pretension, whether supported by ignorance or other means, introduced inex

* See the discourse of Athanasius, entitled, Oratio contra Gentes, in the first volume of his works.

This fact renders a satisfactory account of the vast number of gods who bore the name of Jupiter, and the multitudes that passed under those of Mercury, Venus, Hercules, Juno, &c. The Greeks, when they found, in other countries, deities that resembled their own, persuaded the worshippers of these foreign gods, that their deities were the same that were honoured in Greece, and were, indeed, convinced themselves that this was the case. In consequence of this, the Greeks gave the names of their gods to those of other nations, and the Romans in this followed their example. Hence we find the names of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus, &c. frequently mentioned in the more recent monuments and inscriptions which have been found among the Gauls and Germans, though the ancient inhabitants of those countries worshipped no gods under such denominations. I cannot think that this method of the Greeks and Romans has introduced so much confusion into my thology as Dr. Mosheim here imagines. If indeed there was no resem

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CENT. I. PART I but not of the

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CENT. I.

PART I.

No wars nor dissensions oc

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pressible darkness and perplexity into the history of the ancient superstitions, and has been also the occasion of innumerable errors in the writings of the learned.

VIII. One thing, indeed, which at first sight apensioned by pears very remarkable, is, that this variety of religthis variety of ions and of gods neither produced wars nor dissensions among the different nations, the Egyptians excepted. Nor is it, perhaps, necessary to except even them, since their wars undertaken for their gods cannot be looked upon with propriety as wholly of a religious nature. Each nation suffered its neighbours to follow their own method of worship, to adore their own gods, to enjoy their own rites and ceremonies, and discovered no sort of displeasure at their diversity of sentiments in religious matters. There is, however, little wonderful in this spirit of mutual toleration, when we consider that they all looked upon the world as one great empire, divided into various provinces, over every one of which a certain order of diviniblance between the Greek and Roman deities, and those of other nations, and if the names of the deities of the former had been given to those of the latter in an arbitrary and undistinguishable manner, the reflection of our historian would be undeniably true. But it has been alleged by many learned men, and that with a high degree of probability, that the principal deities of all nations resembled each other extremely in their essential characters; and, if so, their receiving the same names could not introduce much confusion into mythology, since they were probably derived from one common source. If the Thor of the ancient Celts was the same in dignity, character, and attributes, with the Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans, where was the impropriety of giving the same name?

There are ingenious things to be found upon this head in the Expositio Mensa Isiace of Pignorius, p. 41.

k The religious wars of the Egyptians were not undertaken to compel others to adopt their worship, but to avenge the slaughter that was made of their gods, viz. crocodiles, &c. by the neighbouring nations. They were not offended at their neighbours for serving other divinities, but could not bear that they should put theirs to death.

ties presided; and that, therefore, none could behold with contempt the gods of other nations, or force strangers to pay homage to theirs. The Romans exercised this toleration in the amplest manner. For though they would not allow any changes to be made in the religions that were pub. licly professed in the empire, nor any new form of worship to be openly introduced; yet they granted to their citizens a full liberty of observing, in private, the sacred rites of other nations, and of honouring foreign deities, whose worship contained nothing inconsistent with the interests and laws of the republic, with feasts, temples, consecrated groves, and such like testimonies of homage and respect.'

CENT. I

PART I.

IX. The deities of almost all nations were either Most of their ancient heroes, renowned for noble exploits and parted heroes. worthy deeds, or kings and generals who had founded empires, or women become illustrious by remarkable actions or useful inventions. The merit of these distinguished and eminent persons, contemplated by their posterity with an enthusiastic gratitude, was the reason of their being exalted to celestial honours. The natural world furnished another kind of deities, that were added to these by some nations. And as the sun, moon, and stars shine forth with a lustre superior to that of all other material beings; so it is certain that they particularly attracted the attention of mankind, and received religious homage from almost all the nations of the world. From these beings of a

1 See concerning this interesting subject, a very curious and learned treatise of the famous Bynckershoeck, entitled, Dissertatio de cultu peregrine religionis apud Romanos. This dissertation is to be found in the Opuscula of that excellent author, which were published at Leyden in 4to. in the year 1719.

The ingenious editor of the Ruins of Balbec has given us, in the preface to that noble work, a very curious account of the origin of the religious worship that was offered to the heavenly bodies by the

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