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mythological ritual. Besides this, he shows that when the pagans worshipped their gods through images, they paid divine honour to created beings, and though the adoration should not have been directed to the image itself, yet being directed to a creature, and generally that creature was a devil, or some wicked mortal, the act was highly criminal. There is another class of pagans also exhibited, which paid the divine honours to the image itself, by reason of some divinity which they believed to be residing therein as in a body after its consecration, and this divinity was either an imaginary being, a devil, or a deceased human being, which they believed to be invoked to occupy, or evoked to desert the image. Towards the close of his eighth book, he, in chapter xxvii., finely vindicates the Christian honour of the martyrs and of their remains, contrasting the veneration which is shown to them with the divine honours which pagans paid to their imaginary deities.
In order then to come to distinct and satisfactory notions of the true nature of idolatry, I had better hastily view the origin of this crime. It is clear that in the days of Noe, the family, of which he was the head, and from which the human race is derived, had an accurate knowledge of God, and of the worship which should be paid to him. It is also clear that at the period of the erection of the tower of Babel, about one hundred and twenty years later, men had but one language, but at this period, they became divided in their tongues, and formed separate nations. The most ancient records point out to us Chaldea and Egypt, as subsequently the two principal nursing-places of the human race; and the earliest exhibitions of religion, different from that derived through Noe, are manifested in those two countries. There is a large body of evidence to show that the first error which was generally admitted after the corruption of the original traditions, consisted in a belief that there existed a universal soul which animated the world. It was manifested, they thought, in the activity of fire, the fertilizing or the overwhelming power of water, the productiveness of the earth; the menace of thunder and the fury of the wind. Man forgot the Lord of nature even in the contemplation of his works. Local circumstances gave direction to the mind of the worshipper, and whilst the Chaldean adored the soul of the universe in the stars which he observed, the Egyptian saw its influence in the waters of the Nile, and in their connexions, whilst the Persian viewed the glories of the sun, and paid his homage to the element of fire. The natural alliance between the appearance of the heavenly bodies and those changes of the weather, an acquaintance with which was so necessary to an unsheltered and agricultural people, as well as the regularity of the phases and motions which those stars exhibited, added to the brilliancy of their aspect, made “the army of heaven,'' as they were soon called, an object of the earliest wonder and veneration for a people who found, as they believed, their most important concerns influenced by this heavenly host, of which the sun was king, and the moon was queen. It was but a step, and that easy and natural, to view each prominent light as an individual, guided by its own genius, and that genius the portion of the universal soul which animated and watched over this luminary alone. Thus the Creator was forgotten, and the created objects received the homage which was due only to him. The entire was a gross error, which is finely described in the following passage of the Book of Wisdom, which, you, gentlemen, have thought proper to reject from amongst the inspired writings, but which you still admit to be read for instruction of life and manners, and which you of course believe to be at least the testimony of a respectable and well-informed witness, regarding an important and public fact, the existence of which he was then more competent, than we now can be to ascertain.
“1. But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God; and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him, that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman:
“2. But having imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world:
“3. With whose beauty if they, being delighted, took them to be gods, let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things.
"4. Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them is mightier than they :
"5. For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.
“6. But yet as to these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking God, and desirious to find him.
“7. For being conversant among his works, they search: and they are persuaded that the things are good which are seen.
“8. But then again they are not to be pardoned.
“9. For if they were able to know so much, as to make a judgment of the world : how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof.” (Wisdom, chap. xiii.)
Here now was a crime, 1st, because of not giving adoration to the true God; 2d, because of multiplying gods; and 3d, because of giving to a creature the homage which was due only to the Creator. This crimi
nality existed before an image was made; Job mentions this as criminal conduct, in chapter xxxi., as regarded the sun and moon. In process of time the arts of painting and sculpture arose, and were improved : images were then made; the adorers of the several portions of creation expressed in emblematic devices representations of the object of their worship, Baal, Ashtaroth, Anubis, Isis, and so forth. These representations had no real prototypes, nor were the invented figures similitudes or copies of any of the objects in which the genii were supposed to dwell: but the persons who had the figure made, imagined forth those limbs and features which they thought best fitted to express the qualities of the god whom they adored.
Eldodov or “idolum” is a likeness, and so is cukos "imago;" but there was an obvious distinction between an emblematic statue for which there was no real prototype, or original from which it could be copied, or to whose likeness it was made; and that statue which was the copy of an original in nature. Hence the words soon came in common usage to be differently appropriated, idolum to the representation of a fictitious God, and imago to the representation of that which had a natural prototype. The worshipper of the fictitious deities was criminal in those times before an image was made, and now when he paid divine honour to his imaginary god, through the idol, his crime was not thereby diminished, but if in his folly he imagined the genius of the sun, for instance, after invocation to reside in the statue of Baal, and then paid his homage to that deity as actually residing in the idol, he was at least more besotted, if not more criminal. The worship due to the deity was generally designated latria, and hence the worshipper of idols was called an idolater. In this view then, idolatry deprived the Creator of his homage, and transferred it to an imaginary being or to an idol. The author of the Book of Wisdom continues in the subsequent part of his chap. xiii., and in the commencement of his chap. xiv. down to verse 14, to describe this mode of making and of worshipping of idols.
To this was now added a new species of error, which is described in the subsequent verses. The servants of a great man began to pay divine honours to the image of his son: and the next process was paying divine honours to other statues by the wicked custom of law, and by the order of tyrants. The history of the Egyptian, the Grecian, and the Roman people will exhibit the same series of facts; as well as those described in the 22d and subsequent verses of chapter xiv., regarding the unnatural and other criminal rites which accompanied this idolatry. Thus, to take a sketch of the basis of mythology, we find that the heavens and the earth were the parents of Chronos, or Time, or Saturn the father of Jupiter the king of the gods : and when we follow up the explanations of the philosophers, we are brought back exactly to the point from which I set out. The matter of the heavens and of the earth was eternal. Time produced all other things, even the genii who preside over the various parts of the heavens, of the earth, of the air, of the waters, and of the regions below. The genii of the East became the gods of the Greek and of the Roman; their names were changed according to the variety of language; and the worship due to God alone, was given to creatures through the idols, and frequently to the idols themselves : heroes and demi-gods were next assumed into the rank of the celestial and infernal gods, and the rites of divine worship were paid alike to all. The Creator was overlooked, and idols were adored. Gentlemen, if your curious correspondent should take it into his head, from his knowledge of the Iliad, the Aeneid, and the Pantheon, to call any part of this statement into question, I beg to inform you that it is not thoughtlessly hazarded; there is abundant evidence to sustain its averments, but I do not deem it now necessary to exhibit an array of testimony, which is at his service.
In this view of pagan idolatry are included, first, the ommission of worshipping the true God; secondly, polytheism; thirdly, paying divine honour to created beings, or to imaginary beings; fourthly, the ceremonial of worship was, in its own nature, and in its necessary consequences, generally of the most demoralizing tendency. The created beings were animate, or inanimate; but when this worship was paid to an inanimate idol, it was generally because of a notion that a divinity resided therein: and that this was apparently the case, and not always gratuitously or absurdly imagined by the vulgar, the various oracular answers given from shrines and idols, especially at Delphos, bear ample testimony. I acknowledge they were impositions, whether merely human, or diabolical, this is not the place to discuss; but they were such as to cause kings and senators and nations to apply for information to the shrine or idol, under the most solemn circumstances, and after the most mature deliberation. We can now form a distinct notion of pagan idolatry.
The Theogony of Hesiod, as well as the other ancient pieces of the Greeks, will confirm this view. I will not assert that there might not have existed some exceptions to the general statement; I shall not say that every man in Greece was ignorant of the nature of the Lord of the Universe; but I do state, that no evidence of their knowledge has reached our day. Socrates, if he know the nature of God, certainly was deficient in one great point of duty, for he had sacrifice, which is the greatest act of divine worship, paid to the god Esculapius. His disciple, Plato, not only profited by the knowledge of Socrates, but is supposed to have received some communications of the true and enlightening doctrine of the Jews; and his supposed pure Theism, like the Great Spirit of our aborigines, is the idol of modern infidelity. St. Augustine had no extraordinary respect for this best production of the philosophical research of antiquity. Let us observe a mere outline of Plato's system. In his Timaeus he lays down as a principle, that the soul or spirit should exist before the body which it is to animate or to govern; from this principle, also, in the 10th Book of Laws, he concludes that God must have existed before matter was arranged, for by his intelligence it was made harmonious in its movements. He exhibits to us the whole matter of the universe as animated and moved by a universal soul, without informing us whether this Psyche is God, or a spirit which has been created: we are informed that this universal soul has been distributed amongst the heavenly bodies and the earth; those bodies are then called “divine animals," "celestial gods,” and so forth. Those celestial gods have produced beings who generally invisible, yet have power of manifesting themselves; they are genii, demons, and other spirits, and those lower spirits are the beings commissioned to form man and terrestrial animals, to animate them with portions of soul derived from the stars, and so forth. He states, that we can neither conceive nor explain the origin of the celestial gods, but that we ought to respect the accounts which we have received from our ancestors, of those beings who, they said, were their parents. Plato believed that matter was eternal; God was not its Creator, but its modeller. Yet, according to his own principle, the soul which animated matter must have previously existed, that is, existed before that which was eternal! Were I to enter into any examination, it would occupy space and time which this present object does not require. This eminent philosopher did not exhibit to us, as the object of our adoration, “the Lord of Hosts," "the Creator of the Universe," but the “celestial gods,” or “the genii.” But when Christianity was established, and the early Christian writers assailed this idolatry, then, for the first time, the able and ingenious pagans of the Platonic school endeavoured to take shelter under the shield of Christianity itself, by adopting the doctrine of minor and relative veneration, which was ultimately referable to “God the eternal," "the supreme God," and so forth. Celsus was one of the first who had recourse to this strategem; Origen gives us his statement; Julian the Apostate went farther, and, as St. Cyril informs us, had the hardihood to say that the pagans adored as their “supreme God," "the Jehovah of the Jews:" and Celsus and Julian are not without imitators. But they were the first who made the