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CENT. by ignorance or other means, introduced inexpressible 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.

No wars nor dissensions

VIII. One thing indeed, which, at first sight, occasioned appears very remarkable, is, that this variety of by this va- religions and of gods neither produced wars nor riety of re- dissensions among the different nations, the Egyp ligions.

tians excepted [i]. Nor is it, perhaps, necessary to except even them, since their wars undertaken for their gods cannot be looked upon, with pro priety, as wholly of a religious nature [k]. Each

shippers 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 mythology as Dr. Mosheim here imagines. If indeed there was no resemblance 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 undistinguishing 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 Isiacæ 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. cro



nation suffered its neighbours to follow their own CENT. 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, howeyer, 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 divinities 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 publicly 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 [7].

were de

IX. The deities of almost all nations were Most of either ancient heroes, renowned for noble exploits their gods and worthy deeds, or kings and generals who had parted he founded empires, or women become illustrious roes, by remarkable actions or useful inventions. The merit of these distinguished and eminent persons, 'contemplated by their posterity with an enthu

codiles, &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.

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


CENT. siastic gratitude, was the reason of their being exalted to celestial honours. The natural world fur, PART I. nished another kind of deities, that were added toTM 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 [m]. From these beings of a 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 [n].

The wor

X. These deities were honoured with rites and ship paid to sacrifices of various kinds, according to their re spective nature and offices [o]. The rites used in

these dei


[m] 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 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 attrac tive 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, valleys, 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 abovementioned.

[n] See the learned work of J. G. Vossius, De Idololatria.
[o] See J. Saubertus, De Sacrificiis Veterum. Lug. Bat. 1699.



their worship were absurd and ridiculous, and fre- CENT. quently 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 [p]. 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 friendship with the gods, abused their authority in the basest manner, to deceive an ignorant and wretched people.

XI. The religious worship we have now been Confined to considering was confined to stated times and stated times and places. places. The statues and other representations of the gods were placed in the temples [9], 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[r].

XII. But, beside the public worship of the Mysteries. gods, to which all without exception were admitted, there were certain religious institutions and

[p] See M. Brouerfus a Niedeck, De Adorationibus veterum Populorum, printed at Utrecht, in 8vo. in the year 1711.

[q] 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 shadowy retreats of consecrated groves.

[r] See Arnobius adv. Gentes, lib. vi. p. 254. according to the edition of Heraldus. See also Augustine De Civitate Dei, lib. vii. cap. xxxiii.; and the Misopogon of the Emperor Julian, p. 361. according to the edition of Spanheim.



CENT. rites celebrated in secret by the Greeks and seve ral 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 [s]; and that is the reason 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 [t].

No tenden

ism to pro

XIII. It is, at least, certain, that this religion cy in pagan had not the least influence towards the exciting mote virtue. 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 [u]. The gods,

[s] See Clarkson on the Liturgies, sect. iv. p. Meursius, De Mysteriis Eleusiniis.

36. as also

[t] See Cicero Disput. Tusculan. lib. ii. cap. xiii.
[u] 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,

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