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bility of the account, which has here been given concerning this subject.
The proofs, that the authors of Gentilism had a primary reference to Noah, his family, and their history, appear to me to be complete in the different symbols, ceremonies, objects of commemoration, and names of persons and things, together with the whole mythological history of this subject. Multitudes of allusions are found in all these things to Noah himself; his three sons; the number of his family ; their singular history; the deluge; the ark; the dove; the olive-branch; and various other particulars. Many of these are too explicit to be mistaken; and many others, less explicit, yet taken together, and in connexion with these, corroborate, with no small force, the account which has here been given.
When this scheme was once begun ; it was a thing of course, that it should be rapidly progressive. When mankind had departed from the true God; it was natural for a restless imagination to multiply the objects of its dependence, and worship. Among the objects, which would easily engross the religious attention of these people, and of all who were inclined to their system, the sun, moon, and stars, would undoubtedly be some of the first. The exaltation, splendour, immutability, and beneficial influence, of these glorious luminaries, are so affecting to the human mind, as to hold, aways, a distinguished place in its contemplations. Nothing visible is more fitted to excite sublime emotions, or to awaken curiosity and astonishment; nor, when God was once forgotten, to inspire religious reverence. Accordingly we find, that before the days of Job the worship of the heavenly bodies had become extensive. This divine Writer* says, chap. xxxi. 26—28, If I beheld the sun, when it shined, or the moon, walking in brightness ; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity, to be punished by the judge : for I should have denied the God that is above. Job probably lived between 1600 and 1700 years before Christ; or about three hundred and fifty years after the birth of Abraham ; according to the common chronology. With this account of the early worship of these celestial objects, profane history entirely accords.
But the mind was unsatisfied even with these deities. The business of multiplying them was carried on with astonishing rapidity: The worship of deceased men had already been rendered to Noah and his family. This was soon extended to others ; and then to others still; in such a manner, that the number soon became enor
Hesiod informs us, that the danuoves, or demons, who appear to have been no other than departed men, and who were supposed to inhabit the middle regions between earth and heaven, amounted to more than thirty thousand. In opposition to these
deceased beings, God is especially called in the Sacred Volume the living God.*
From deceased men the transition was easy to animals; to vegetables ; to inanimate objects; and to the visionary beings of imagination. Gods were soon found every where ; in mountains, rivers, springs, the ocean, the earth, the winds, light, darkness, groves; and generally in every thing, which was particularly interesting to the fancy:
Among the reasons, which influenced the mind to this restless and endless creation of deities, the first place is due, perhaps, to the apprehension, that this conduct was an evidence of peculiar piety; and therefore a direct mode of obtaining blessings from some, or other, of the objects worshipped. Another reason was, the complaisance of one nation to another, which led them to adopt their respective deities. The objects of worship were, to a great extent, the same, in different nations : yet, being called by different names, and worshipped with ceremonies, differing, in some degree at least, according to the diversity of manners in different, nations, they came, at length, to be considered as different Gods. The Athenians, under the influence of both these causes, appear to have adopted most of the deities, of whom they had any knowledge.
Another reason for this conduct judiciously assigned by Dr. Blair, is, the tendency of the human imagination to lend animation, thought, and agency, to the several inanimate objects, with which it is conversant, and by which it is strongly affected; particularly to those which are solemn, awful, and sublime. The transition from the
personification of these objects to the belief, that they are really animated by an indwelling, conscious principle, and to a consequent religious reverence for them, is neither unnatural, nor difficult, after the mind has once become devoted to Idolatry. In the early stages of society, the Imagination is eminently strong, active, and susceptible. Always ready to admire, to be astonished, to be transported, it easily acquires an ascendency over the Reason, then always weak; and, together with the passions, directs almost the whole conduct of man.
It is scarcely credible, that the human mind originally worshipped inanimate objects directly. The absurdity of believing, that that, which had no life in itself, and therefore no agency, nor consciousness, could hear prayers, or answer them; could be gratified with praises, or sacrifices; could inflict judgments, or confer benefits ; is so palpable, that even a savage can hardly be supposed to have admitted it. Much less can those people have admitted it, who appear to have been the originators of idolatry. So far were the Cushites from being savages, that they appear to have been the most enlightened, and enterprising, of the human race, at the time when Gentilism commenced. It is highly probable, that all these objects were at first regarded as peculiar manifestations of
* Farmar on Miracles.
the real Deity ; fitted especially to display his attributes to man, and to make the most forcible impressions of his agency. In process of time, however, they began to be considered, especially, by the ignorant multitude, as being really Gods : and the worship, originally addressed to a being, supposed to be manifested by the symbol, seems ultimately to have been rendered to the symbol itself. The stock and the stone, intended, at first, to bring the real Deity before the senses, took, at length, the place of that Deity; and became, in the end, the real objects of worship:
It is evident from several ancient writers, quoted by Shuckford, particularly Clemens Alexandrinus, Herodian, and Pausanius, that pillars of stone, and after them rude blocks of wood, were the first symbols, made by mankind of their several deities. Such, it is supposed, were the teraphim of Laban, stolen from him by his daughier: and such, plainly, were the religious symbols, formed, at early periods, by the Greeks, and some other nations. Stones, in their native, rude state, such, for example, as that erected by Jacob at Bethel, seem extensively to have been set up, at early periods, with various religious views, and designs, by the worshippers of the true God. The pillars, devoted to idolatrous purposes, seem to have been derived from these. They were not, however, long satisfied with these unsightly objects. The Egyptians appear to have had carved images, devoted to the purposes of religion, and, without any doubt, molten ones also, before the time of Moses ; for we find the children of Israel forming a molten calf, at the foot of Mount Sinai. The practice of forming Idols in this manner, being once begun, seems to have spread with great rapidity, among the nations, who maintained a mutual correspondence. In the more distant and insulated colonies of
men, their existence began at much later periods. In Italy, all visible symbols of the Deity were prohibited by Numa Pompilius; and were not introduced into Rome, according to the testimony of Plutarch, so late as one hundred and seventy years after the building of that city : that is, A. M. 3426 : in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Among the savages of this country, images seem to have been little used.
II. I shall now make a few observations concerning the Extent of Idol worship.
The system of Gentilism commenced, as has been already remarked, in the plain of Shinar. The Cushites, who were the authors of it, ruled, for a short period, most of their brethren in the neighbouring countries. Soon after the confusion of languages, an event, which seems to have been chiefly confined to them and their associates, and which entirely disqualified them for all the efforts depending on union and concert, they began to disperse into different parts of the earth. Speedily after this, they appear to have been attacked by their brethren of the family of Shem, settled at Nineveh and its neighbourhood, and heretofore reduced
under their dominion. On this occasion, the Cushites were completely routed, and forced to fly with great expedition into different parts of the earth. One body of them fled into Hindostan ; in the records of which country various events of their history are still found. Another made their way into Canaan ; where they were again attacked by the same people, under the command of Chedorlaomer, and again overthrown. Hence they fled into Egypt; the western parts of Arabia ; and the northern and eastern parts of Abyssinia. From Egypt they were again driven ; and went into Phænicia; the Lesser Asia; Greece; Thrace ; Italy; and other countries, bordering on the Mediterranean and Euxine seas. Whithersoever they went, they carried with them their enterprize, arts, learning, and religion. Most of the countries in which they settled, embraced their idolatry at early periods. At a very early period, we find it the religion of the ancestors of Abraham in Chaldea. These were descendants of Shem; who outlived Abraham himself; and who, with all his piety and authority, was still unable to prevent this senseless desertion of the true religion. In Hindostan also, it spread, at a very early date; as it did also in the western countries of Asia, in Egypt, and most, or all, of the eastern parts of Europe. The worship of the true God was, however, not universally renounced, until many ages after the commencement of Gentilism. Melchisedec, Job, his friends, and undoubtedly many of his countrymen; the people of the Thebais, or Upper Egypt, and probably many others in different parts of the world; still retained the true religion, long after idolatry had been embraced by a great portion of the human race. After the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan, we find few traces of the true religion. We are not, however, to suppose it to have been wholly banished from all other countries, till some time afterward. The precise period, when the whole world, beside the Jews, became idolatrous, I am unable to determine.
In the fourth century after the birth of Christ, a new kind of idolatry, or rather idolatry in a new form, began to exist in the Christian Church. This was the worship of Saints and Angels; and, afterwards, of images, pictures, relics, and other fantastical objects of devotion. This Idolatry, though at first vigorously opposed by the body of the Church, and afterwards by individuals and small collections of men, spread speedily over the whole of Christendom; and was adopted both by the learned, and unlearned, of every country. Thus in one form, and another, the worship of false Gods has prevailed throughout most of the inhabited world, and the greatest part of the reign of time. I shall now,
III. Make a few observations on the Manner, in which this worship has been performed.
Í have already mentioned Idols as being intended originally to be means of worshipping God; symbols of the Divine Character and Attributes, designed to impress them powerfully on the senses,
and thus to excite in the mind animated sentiments of awe and devotion. Beside the use of these images, Gentilism copied closely, in its worship, the ritual, originally enjoined by God, and adopted in the pure worship. Prayers, Praises, Sacrifices, and Oblations, were all offered up to its various deities. Fastings, Ablutions, and Penance of many kinds, were enjoined on their infatuated votaries. Temples were erected to them ; Altars built ; Shrines formed ; and regular Orders of Priests established, and consecrated to an exclusive performance of their Religious Services. Oracles also, which were sometimes pretended expressions of the will of these Gods concerning the immediate duties of men, and sometimes professed predictions of future events, were delivered in most or all of the countries, where idolatry prevailed. The Victims offered, were to a great extent the same, which were prescribed in the law of Moses : probably the same, which had been offered from the beginning : for we find Noah, immediately after the deluge, offering, of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, burnt-offerings on the altar, which he had made. It well deserves to be remarked, that in all the records of heathen worship, which have come down to us, the votaries appear neither to have asked, nor given thanks, for moral good. Secular enjoyments, of every kiad, they universally solicited ; but goodness of heart seems never to have been thought of as a gift coming from the Gods. Accordingly, Cicero, who must have been well acquainted with this subject, says, Who ever thanked the Gods for his Virtue ?
Processions seem also to have been extensively used as a part of the religious ceremonial of Gentilism. These, together with the magnificence of its temples, the costliness of its images, and the pomp of its services, were all intended to affect the senses in the deepest manner. Indeed, nothing else could be done to keep this system alive. Argument was only hostile to it. The light of sound Reason would have dispelled its darkness in a moment. But the Senses, and through them the Imagination, could be strongly addressed ; and these could entirely govern the man.
To add to the splendour of all the other objects, connected with this service, and to render the oblation more affecting to the suppliant, as well as more acceptable to the Deity, offerings of every kind were made more and more expensive. Gold, silver, gems, the choicest aromatics, and unguents and essences made of them, still more precious than gold itself, were frequent presents to the Gods of Idolatry. Hecatombs were early substituted for single victims : and, to render the worship still more propitiatory, these were soon exchanged for human sacrifices. To complete the efficacy of the oblation, these sacrifices were selected from the brightest and most promising youths of the nation ; the sons of the noble and princely, and infants in the most lovely and endearing period of life. Victims of this kind, also, were multiplied to a wonderful degree. Twenty thousand human beings are supposed