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CENT. I.

PART I.

The worship paid to these deities.

EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE CHURCH,

nobler kind, idolatry descended into an enormous multiplication of inferior powers; so that in many countries, mountains, trees, and rivers, the earth, the sea, and the winds, nay, even virtues, vices, and diseases had their shrines attended by devout and zealous worshippers."

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x. These deities were honoured with rites and sacrifices of various kinds, according to their respective nature and offices. The rites used in their worship were absurd and ridiculous, and frequently cruel and obscene. Most nations offered animals, and some proceeded to the enormity of human sacrifices. As to their prayers, they were void of piety and sense, both with respect to their matter and their form. Pontiffs, priests, and ministers, distributed into several classes, presided in this strange worship, and were appointed to prevent disorder in the performance of the sacred rites. This order which was supposed to be distinguished by an immediate intercourse and friend

Syrians and Arabians. In those uncomfortable deserts, where the day presents nothing to the view, but the uniform, tedious, and melancholy prospect of barren sands, the night discloses a most delightful and magnificent spectacle, and appears arrayed with charms of the most attractive kind; for the most part unclouded and serene, it exhibits to the wondering eye the host of heaven, in all their amazing variety and glory. In the view of this stupendous scene, the transition from admiration to idolatry was too easy to uninstructed minds; and a people, whose climate offered no beauties to contemplate but those of the firmament, would naturally look thither for the objects of their worship. The form of idolatry, in Greece, was different from that of the Syrians; and Mr. Wood ingeniously attributes this to that smiling and variegated scene of mountains, vallies, rivers, groves, woods, and fountains, which the transported imagination, in the midst of its pleasing astonishment, supposed to be the seats of invisible deities. See a further account of this matter in the elegant work above mentioned.

n See the learned work of J. G. Vossius, De Idololatria.

• See J. Saubertus, De sacrificiis veterum. Lug. Bat. 1699.

> See M. Brouerius a Niedeck, De adorationibus veterum populorum, printed at Utrecht, in 8vo. in the year 1711.

ship with the gods, abused their authority in the basest manner, to deceive an ignorant and wretched people.

CENT. I. PART I

stated times

XI. The religious worship we have now been confined to considering, was confined to stated times and places, and places. The statues and other representations of the gods were placed in the temples," and supposed to be animated in an incomprehensible manner. For the votaries of these fictitious deities, however destitute they might be of reason in other respects, avoided carefully the imputation of worshipping inanimate beings, such as brass, wood, and stone, and therefore pretended that the divinity, represented by the statue, was really present in it, if the dedication was duly and properly made."

XII. But, beside the public worship of the gods, Mysteries, to which all without exception were admitted, there were certain religious institutions and rites celebrated in secret by the Greeks and several eastern nations, to which a very small number were allowed access. These were commonly called mysteries; and the persons who desired to be initiated therein, were obliged previously to exhibit satisfactory proofs of their fidelity and patience, by passing through various trials and ceremonies of the most disagreeable kind. The secret of these institutions was kept in the strictest manner, as the initiated could not reveal any thing that passed in them without exposing their lives to the most imminent danger; and that is the reason

Some nations were without temples, such as the Persians, Gauls, Germans, and Bretons, who performed their religious worship in the open air, or in the shady retreats of consecrated groves.

See Arnobius adv. Gentes, lib. vi. p. 254, according to the edition of Heraldus. See also Augustin De civitate Dei, lib. vii. cap. xxxiii. and the Misopogon of the emperor Julian, p. 361, according to the edition of Spanheim.

• See Clarkson on the Liturgies, $ iv. p. 36, as also Meursius, De mysteriis Eleusiniis.

I.

CENT. I. PART I.

No tendeney

in paganism to promote virtue.

why, at this time, we are so little acquainted with the true nature and the real design of these hidden rites. It is however well known, that, in some of those mysteries, many things were transacted that were contrary both to real modesty and outward decency. And indeed, from the whole of the pagan rites, the intelligent few might easily learn, that the divinities generally worshipped, were rather men famous for their vices, than distinguished by virtuous and worthy deeds.'

XIII. It is at least certain, that this religion had not the least influence toward the exciting or nourishing solid and true virtue in the minds of men. For the gods and goddesses, to whom public homage was paid, exhibited to their worshippers rather examples of egregious crimes, than of useful and illustrious virtues." The gods, moreover, were esteemed superior to men in power and immortality; but in every thing else, they were considered as their equals. The priests were little solicitous to animate the people to a virtuous conduct, either by their precepts or their example; nay, they plainly enough declared, that all that was essential to the true worship of the gods, was contained only in the rites and institutions which the people had received by tradition from their ancestors.w And as to what regarded the rewards of virtue,

See Cicero Disput. Tusculan. lib. ii. cap. xiii.

There is a very remarkable passage to this purpose in the Tristia of Ovid, book the second, beginning at line 287.

"Quis locus est templis augustior? hæc quoque vitet,

In culpam si quæ est ingeniosa suam.

Cum steterit Jovis æde; Jovis succurret in æde,

Quam multas matres fecerit ille Deus.
Proxima adoranti Junonia templa subibit,

Pellicibus multis hanc doluisse Deam.

Pallade conspecta, natum de crimine virgo

Sustulerit quare, quæret Ericthonium."

w See Barbeyrac's preface to his French translation of Puffendorf's System of the Law of Nature and Nations, § vi. p. 21, of the last edition.

PART 1.

and the punishment of vice after this present life, CENT. I. the general notions were partly uncertain, partly licentious, and often more proper to administer indulgence to vice, than encouragement to virtue. Hence the wiser part of mankind, about the time of Christ's birth, looked upon this whole system of religion as a just object of ridicule and contempt.

ry, it promot

of manners.

XIV. The consequences of this wretched theolo- On the contregy were a universal corruption of manners, which ed corruption discovered itself in the impunity of the most flagitious crimes. Juvenal and Persius among the Latins, and Lucian among the Greeks, bear testimony to the justice of this heavy accusation. It is also well known, that no public law prohibited the sports of the gladiators, the exercise of unnatural lusts, the licentiousness of divorce, the custom of exposing infants, and of procuring abortions, nor the frontless atrocity of consecrating publicly stews and brothels to certain divinities.

ments of the fence of pa

xv. Such as were not sunk in an unaccountable The argu and brutish stupidity, perceived the deformity of priests in de these religious systems. To these the crafty ganism. priests addressed two considerations, to prevent their incredulity, and to dispel their doubts. The first was drawn from the miracles and prodigies which they pretended were daily wrought in the temples, before the statues of the gods and the heroes that were placed there; and the second

The corrupt manners of those who lay in the darkness of idolatry are described, in an ample and affecting manner, in the first of Cyprian's epistles. See also on this subject Cornel. Adami Exercitatio de malis Romanorum ante prædicationem Evangeli moribus. This is the fifth discourse of a collection published by that learned writer at Groningen, 1712, in 4to.

y See Dr. John Leland's excellent account of the religious sentiments, moral conduct, and future prospects of the pagans, in his large work entitled, The Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelation.

PART I.

CENT. I. was deduced from oracles and divination, by which they maintained that the secrets of futurity were unfolded through the interposition of the gods. In both these points the cunning of the priests imposed miserably upon the ignorance of the people; and if the discerning few saw the cheat, they were obliged, from a regard to their own safety, to laugh with caution, since the priests were ever ready to accuse, before a raging and superstitious multitude, those who discovered their religious frauds, as rebels against the majesty of the immortal gods.

The religion of the Greeks

XVI. At the time of Christ's appearance upon and Romans, earth, the religion of the Romans, as well as their arms, had extended itself through a great part of the world. This religion must be known to those who are acquainted with the Grecian superstitions." In some things, indeed, it differs from them; for the Romans, beside the institutions which Numa and others had invented with political views, added several Italic and Hetrurian fictions to the Grecian fables, and gave also to the Egyptian deities a place among their own."

The Romans introduced

among those of the conquered nations.

XVII. In the provinces subjected to the Roman their own rites government, there arose a new kind of religion, formed by a mixture of the ancient rites of the conquered nations with those of the Romans. These nations who, before their subjection, had their own gods, and their own particular religious institutions, were persuaded by degrees, to admit into their worship a great number of the sacred rites and customs of their conquerors. The view of the Romans in this change, was not only to confirm their authority by the powerful aid of religion, but also to abolish the inhuman rites which

z See Dionysius Halicarn. Antiq. Rom. lib. vii. cap. lxxii. p. 460, tom. i. Edit. Hudson.

• See Petit ad leges Atticas, lib. i. tit. i. p. 71.

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