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and it may be affirmed, that this perpetual recourse to the Deity, is one of the principal foundations of relig. ion, and the strongest band by which man is united to his Creator.
Those who were so happy as to know the true God, and were chosen to be his peculiar people, never failed to address him in all their wants and doubts, in order to obtain his succour, and the manifestation of his will. He accordingly was so gracious as to reveal himself to them; to conduct them by apparitions, dreams, oracles, and prophecies; and to protect them by miracles of the most astonishing kind.
But those who were so blind as to substitute falsehood in the place of truth, directed themselves, for the like aid, to fictitious and deceitful deities, who were not able to answer their expectations, nor recompense the homage that mortals paid them, any otherwise than by error and illusion, and a fraudulent imitation of the conduct of the true God.
Hence arose the vain observation of dreams, which, from a superstitious credulity, they mistook for salutary warnings from heaven; those obscure and equiv. ocal answers of oracles, beneath whose veil the spirits of darkness concealed their ignorance; and who, by a studied ambiguity, reserved to themselves an evasion or subterfuge, whatever might be the issue of the event. To this are owing the prognostics, with regard to futurity, which men fancied they should find in the entrails of beasts, in the flight and singing of birds, in the aspect of the planets, in fortuitous accidents, and in the caprice of chance; those dreadful prodigies that filled a whole nation with terror, and which, as was
believed, nothing could expiate but mournful ceremonies, and even sometimes the effusion of human blood. In fine, those black inventions of magic, those delusions, enchantments, sorceries, invocations of ghosts, and many other kinds of divination.
All I have here related was a received usage, observed by the heathen nations in general; and this usage was founded on the principles of that religion of which I have given a short account. We have a signal proof of this in the Cyropedia," where Cambyses, the father of Cyrus, gives that young prince such noble instructions; instructions admirably well adapted to form the great captain and great prince. He exhorts him, above all things, to pay the highest reverence to the gods; and not to undertake any enterprise, whether important or inconsiderable, without first calling upon, and consulting them; he enjoins him to honour priests and augurs, as being their ministers, and the interpreters of their will; but yet not to trust or abandon himself implicitly and blindly to them, till he had first learned every thing relating to the science of divination, of auguries, and auspices. The reason he gives for the subordination and dependence in which kings ought to live with regard to the gods, and the necessity they are under of consulting them in all things, is this: how clearsighted soever mankind may be in the ordinary course of affairs, their views are always very narrow and bounded with regard to futurity; whereas the Deity, at a single glance, takes in all
ages and events. “ As the gods,” says Cambyses
w Xenoph. in Cyrop. 1. i. p. 25, 27.
to his son,
are eternal, they know equally all things, past, present, and to come. With regard to the mortals who address them, they give salutary counsels to those whom they are pleased to favour, that they may not be ignorant of what things they ought, or ought not to undertake. If it is observed, that the deities do not give the like counsels to all men, we are not to wonder at it, since no necessity obliges them to attend to the welfare of those persons on whom they do not vouchsafe to confer their favour.”
Such was the doctrine of the most learned and most enlightened nations, with respect to the different kinds of divination; and it is no wonder that the authors, who wrote the history of those nations, thought it incumbent on them to give an exact detail of such particulars as constituted part of their religion and worship, and was frequently in a manner the soul of their deliberations, and the standard of their conduct. I therefore was of opinion, for the same reason, that it would not be proper for me to omit entirely, in the ensuing history, what relates to this subject, though I have, however, retrenched a great part of it.
Archbishop Usher is my usual guide in chronology. In the history of the Carthaginians I commonly set down four eras : the year from the creation of the world, which, for brevity's sake, I mark A. M. those of the foundation of Carthage and Rome; and lastly, the year that precedes the birth of our Saviour, which I suppose to be the 4004th of the world; wherein I follow Usher and others, though they suppose it to be
We shall now proceed to give the reader the proper preliminary information concerning this work, according to the order in which it is executed.
To know in what manner the states and kingdoms were founded that have divided the universe ; the steps whereby they rose to that pitch of grandeur related in history; by what ties families and cities united, in order to constitute one body or society, and to live together under the same laws and a common authority; it will be necessary to trace things back, in a manner, to the infancy of the world, and to those ages in which mankind, being dispersed into different regions (after the confusion of tongues,) began to people the earth.
In these early ages every father was the supreme head of his family; the arbiter and judge of whatever contests and divisions might arise within it; the natural legislator over his little society; the defender and protector of those, who, by their birth, education, and weakness, were under his protection and safeguard.
But although these masters enjoyed an independent authority, they made a mild and paternal use of it. So far from being jealous of their power, they neither governed with haughtiness, nor decided with tyranny. As they were obliged by necessity to associate their family in their domestic labours, they also summoned them together, and asked their opinion in matters of importance. In this manner all affairs were transacted in concert, and for the common good.
The laws which the paternal vigilance established in this little domestic senate, being dictated in no other view but to promote the general welfare; concerted with such children as were come to years of maturity, and accepted by the inferiors with a full and free consent; were religiously kept and preserved in families as an hereditary polity, to which they owed their peace and security.
But different motives gave rise to different laws. One man, overjoyed at the birth of a firstborn son, resolved to distinguish him from his future children, by bestowing on him a more considerable share of his possessions, and giving him a greater authority in his family. Another, more attentive to the interest of a beloved wife, or darling daughter, whom he wanted to settle in the world, thought it incumbent on him to secure their rights, and increase their advantages. The solitary and cheerless state to which a wife would be reduced, in case she should become a widow, affected more intimately another man, and made him provide, beforehand, for the subsistence and comfort of a woman who formed his felicity.
In proportion as every family increased, by the birth of children, and their marrying into other families, they extended their little domain, and formed, by insensible degrees, towns and cities. From these different views, and others of the like nature, arose the different customs of nations, as well as their rights, which are various.
These societies growing, in process of time, very numerous, and the families being divided into various branches, each of which had its head, whose different interests and characters might interrupt the general tranquillity; it was necessary to intrust one person with the government of the whole, in order to unite all