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moreover, were esteemed superior to men in power CENT. 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 and the punishment of vice after this present life, 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.

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XIV. The consequences of this wretched theo- On the conlogy were an universal corruption of manners, moted cortrary it prowhich discovered itself in the impunity of the ruption of most flagitious crimes [a]. Juvenal and Per manners. sius 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

"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, sect. vi. 21. of the last edition.


[x] 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 Evangelii moribus. This is the fifth discourse of a collection published by that learned writer at Groningen, 1712, in quarto.


CENT. of divorce, the custom of exposing infants, and of procuring abortions, nor the frontless atrocity of consecrating publicly stews and brothels to certain divinities [y].


The arguments of

the priests


XV. Such as were not sunk in an unaccountable and brutish stupidity perceived the deformity in defence of these religious systems. To these the crafty of pagan 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 heroes that were placed there; and the second 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 even 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 reli

Greeks and

XVI. At the time of Christ's appearance upon gion of the earth, the religion of the Romans, as well as their Romans. 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 [z]. In some things, indeed, it differs from them; for the Romans, besides the institutions which Numa and others had invented with poli

[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.

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

tical views, added several Italic and Hetrurian CENT. fictions to the Grecian fables, and gave also to the Egyptian deities a place among their own [a].


The Ro

mans intro

own rites a

mong those

XVII. In the provinces subjected to the Roman government there arose a new kind of religion, formed by a mixture of the ancient rites of the duced their conquered nations with those of the Romans. These nations, who, before their subjection, had of the contheir own gods, and their own particular religious quered nainstitutions, 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 were performed by many of the barbarous nations who had received their yoke; and this change was effected partly by the prudence of the victors, partly by the levity of the vanquished, and by their ambition to please their new masters.

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XVIII. When, from the sacred rites of the an- Systems of cient Romans, we pass to a review of the other religions religions that prevailed in the world, we shall find, from that that the most remarkable may be properly divided of the Rointo two classes, of which the one will compre hend the religious systems which owe their exist ence to political views; and the other, those which seem to have been formed for military purposes. In the former class may be ranked the religions of most of the eastern nations, especially of the Persians, Egyptians, and Indians, which appear to have been solely calculated for the preservation of the state, the supporting of the royal authority and grandeur, the maintenance of public peace, and the advancement of civil virtues. Under the military class may be comprehended the religious system of the northern nations; since all the tra

[a] See Pétit ad Leges Atticas, lib. i. tit. 1. p. 71.

CENT. ditions that we find among the Germans, the Bre I. tons, the Celts, and the Goths, concerning their


The wiser



divinities, have a manifest tendency to excite and nourish fortitude and ferocity, an insensibility of danger, and a contempt of life. An attentive in'quiry into the religions of these respective nations will abundantly verify what is here asserted.

XIX. None of these nations, indeed, ever ar among the rived at such an excess of universal barbarity and could not ignorance, as not to have some discerning men these evils, among them, who were sensible of the extrava gance of all these religions. But of these sagacious observers, some were destitute of the weight and authority that were necessary to remedy these over-grown evils; and others wanted the will to exert themselves in such a glorious cause. And the truth is, none of them had wisdom equal to such a solemn and arduous enterprize. This appears manifestly from the laborious, but useless efforts of some of the Greek and Roman philosophers against the vulgar superstitions. These venerable sages delivered, in their writings, many sublime things concerning the nature of God, and the duties incumbent upon men; they disputed with sagacity against the popular religion: but to all this they added such chimerical notions, and such absurd subtilties of their own, as may serve to convince us that it belongs to God alone, and not to man, to reveal the truth without any mixture of impurity or error.

Two kinds of philosophy prevailed at

the time of Christ's birth.

XX. About the time of Christ's appearance upon earth there were two kinds of philosophy which prevailed among the civilized nations. One was the philosophy of the Greeks, adopted also by the Romans; and the other, that of the Orien tals, which had a great number of votaries in Persia, Syria, Chaldea, Egypt, and even among the Jews. The former was distinguished by the simple title of philosophy. The latter was ho



noured with the more pompous appellation of CENT. science, or knowledge [b], since those who embraced this latter sect pretended to be the restorers of the knowledge of God, which was lost in the world [c]. The followers of both these systems, in consequence of vehement disputes and dissensions about several points, subdivided themselves into a variety of sects. It is, however, to be observed, that all the sects of the oriental philosophy deduced their various tenets from one fundamental principle, which they held in common; whereas the Greeks were much divided even about the first principles of science.

As we shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the oriental philosophy, we shall confine ourselves here to the doctrines taught by the Grecian sages, and shall give some account of the various sects into which they were divided.


XXI. Among the Grecian sects, there were Some of the some which declared openly against all religion; Grecian and others, who, though they acknowledged a subversive deity, and admitted a religion, yet cast a cloud of all piety. over the truth, instead of exhibiting it in its genuine beauty and lustre.

Of the former kind were the Epicureans and Academics. The Epicureans maintained, "That the world arose from chance; that the gods (whose existence they did not dare to deny) neither did, nor could extend their providential care to human affairs; that the soul was mortal; that pleasure [d] was to be regarded as the

[b] Ivoors (gnosis) in the Greek signifies science, or knowledge, and from hence came the title of Gnostics, which this presumptuous sect claimed as due to their superior light and penetration in divine things.

[c] St. Paul mentions and condemns both these kinds of philosophy; the Greek, in the Epistle to the Colossians, xi. 8. and the Oriental, or Gnosis, in the First Epistle to Timothy, vi. 20. [d] The ambiguity of the word pleasure has produced



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