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the god Phtha, of the goddess Saté, and the goddess Smé, of the god Phre, of Osiris, of Isis, and Anubis, were no longer considered as visible signs of the different attributes of Ammon, but as distinct deities, who, with him, had organized the world, and given laws to mankind. The representation itself of the Amenti, and the weighing of the soul of the deceased, which originally had been but a visible mode of imparting the notion of the rewards or punishments attending a future life for the conduct held in this, was, in progress of time, believed to be a real trial, held before the tribunal of Osiris; and the symbolical figures of Hermes, Smé, Anubis, and Osiris himself, which were intended to exhibit the justice and the mercy of the Supreme Being, and the record he kept of all the actions of men, were, in progress of time, erected into so many different deities, who acted by the immutable decree of Ammon, but perfectly distinct from him, both in substance and power.
The main point, however, was never lost sight of; Ammon still continued to be the Demiurgos; the Amenti still was considered as the place where the souls of the dead were ordered to appear to receive judgment for the conduct they had held in this life, to be either condemned to perpetual punishment, or preserved for eternal happiness. And notwithstanding the fatal encroachment of idolatry, and the degrading superstition which corruption had introduced in their creed, the unity of God, the certainty of a life to come, the eternity
of punishment or of reward, continued to constitute, to the very end of the Egyptian empire, the most important tenets inculcated by the religion of the people.
Of the manner in which this tenet was taught to the people in a sensible manner, I exhibited a curious specimen in a former Lecture; (Table 5.] and here, perhaps, I may be permitted to observe, that this weighing of souls, such as it was represented by the Egyptians, has been exhibited nearly in the same manner, by most of the pagans, and generally by the primitive Christians. It is not an uncommon thing, even in this country, to meet in some old churches with paintings of this sort. Among other instances, I am told that on the screen in the church at Preston, a village not far from Brighton, a fresco painting still exists, in which two souls are weighed against one another. Although the painting be much injured, on account of having been white-washed, it is still sufficiently perfect to allow a beholder to comprehend the nature of the subject : and I have seen a print, in which the Archangel Michael is represented weighing the souls of the dead, thrusting those whose good works are found light to his left hand, where they are seized upon by the devils, who are waiting for them, while those whose virtues cause the scale to preponderate in their favour are turned off to the right, and introduced to St. Peter, previously to their being admitted into Paradise,
And here I cannot avoid referring to a pas
sage of one of your celebrated writers, in his elements of the philosophy of the human mind, which must be considered extremely elegant in expression, and profound and just in sentiment. He is speaking of the different opinions of mankind, on the important question of religion and morality. “ The variety of systems,” he says, “ which they have formed to themselves concerning these subjects, has often excited the ridicule of the sceptic and the libertine; but if, on the one hand, this variety shews the folly of bigotry, and the reasonableness of mutual indulgence; the curiosity which has led men, in every situation, to such speculations, and the influence which their conclusions, however absurd, have had on their character and their happiness, prove, no less clearly on the other, that there must be some principles from which they all derive their origin, and invite the philosopher to ascertain what are these original and immutable laws of the human mind.
... In truth, the more striking the contradictions, and the more ludicrous the ceremonies, to which the pride of human reason has thus been reconciled, the stronger is our evidence that religion has a foundation in the nature of man. When the greatest of modern philosophers (Lord Bacon, in his Essays) declares, that he would rather believe all the fables in the legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind;' he has expressed the same feeling,
which, in all ages and nations, has led good men, unaccustomed to reasoning, to an implicit faith in the creed of their infancy; a feeling which affords an evidence of the existence of the Deity, incomparably more striking than if, unmixed with error, and undebased by superstition, this most important of all principles had commanded the universal assent of mankind. Where are the other truths in the whole circle of the sciences, which are so essential to human happiness, as to procure an easy access, not only for themselves, but for whatever opinions may happen to be blended with them 2 Where are the truths so venerable and commanding, as to impart their own sublimity to every trifling memorial which recalls them to remembrance; to bestow solemnity and elevation on every mode of expression by which they are conveyed; and which, in whatever scene they have habitually occupied the thoughts, consecrate every object which it presents to our senses, and the very ground we have been accustomed to tread 2 To attempt to weaken the authority of such impressions, by a detail of the endless variety of forms, which they derive from casual associations, is surely an employment unsuited to the dignity of philosophy. To the vulgar, it may be amusing in this, as in other instances, to indulge their wonder at what is new or uncommon ; but to the philosopher it belongs to perceive, under all these various disguises, the working of the same common nature; and in the superstitions of the
later ages of the Egyptian religion, not less than in the lofty visions of Plato, to recognise the existence of those moral ties, which unite the heart of man to the Author of his being."
The justice of these observations will appear, in a more striking manner, in a future Lecture, on the origin of idolatry.