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This theory of many gods proceeding from one Supreme Divinity, is, perhaps, the main key to the whole system of pagan theology,

, as exhibited in the subtleties of the philosophic schools, and coincides with the general persuasion of an unknown God; a God, of whom they seem almost ready to have said, with the Psalmist, “ The Lord is great, “ and greatly to be praised. He is to be “ feared above all gods ;”—“worship Him, all ye godsd.

Nothing, perhaps, is more remarkable than the coincidence on this subject between the refined opinions of the learned and the ruder sentiments of the common people. With all the subtlety and affected superiority of the former, there were intermixed, not merely popular professions of adherence to the established modes of religion, (which it would have been perilous openly to disavow,) but an evidently earnest desire to reconcile the public creed with their own purer views of theological truth. Socrates himself did not disclaim the inferior divinities; but died, directing an act of worship to be paid to one of them ;—and the character of Socrates is above all suspicion of insincerity. Doubtless, he believed in the existence of such gods; deeming that belief to be not irreconcilable with an acknowledgment of the One Supreme. Plato exercised his powerful mind in endeavouring to amalgamate these discordant principles, and to establish his favourite theory that the Divine Essence consists of one selfexistent Intelligence, with many of a subordinate description emanating from it. The speculations of Aristotle, Cicero, and most other philosophers of eminence, will be found, more or less, to embrace a similar hypothesis. On the other hand, the illiterate and uninstructed multitude, while they appear to have been sunk in the lowest depths of ignorance, and addicted to the most gross superstitions, were yet not altogether destitute of these same impressions. Indications, at least, of this have been noticed by diligent inquirers, from the writings of some popular heathen poets, and from dramatic writers in particular, whose sentiments and expressions may be supposed most in unison with the prevalent notions of their times. This concurring testimony tends to shew, that among persons of every class, learned or unlearned, weak or wise, there prevailed something like an instinctive or hereditary apprehension of a Being, higher than the highest, and “ above “ all gods;" of whom they stood in awe, and whose favour they were desirous to propitiate, though they knew Him not, nor “by

d Psalm xcvi. 4. and xcvii. 7.

searching" could“ find Him out unto per“ fection

But now comes the question, How were these notions of the true God first imparted, either to the one or the other of these different classes of men ? Whence arose these conceptions of him, however imperfect ; and how shall we account for such an universality of opinion, under circumstances so apparently hopeless and discouraging ?- The question is not without its difficulties, and affords a copious and interesting subject of inquiry.

If we suppose these impressions of a Supreme Being to have been innate in the human mind, it seems wonderful that they should not have more effectually secured mankind in general against such gross and unworthy conceptions of him, as almost universally prevailed where the light of revelation was wanting. If we ascribe them to the gradual discovery of reason in some few well-cultivated minds, better able to deduce effects from causes, and more fitted for abstract contemplation than those of an ordinary stamp; then it is scarcely less astonishing, that such vast intellectual powers as, in many instances,

¢ Job xi. 7.

were exercised in these speculations, should still have laboured under so much doubt and perplexity, and have fallen so far short of that knowledge which, by the light of revelation, is now imparted to persons even of the most slender attainments. To some other source, therefore, it seems necessary to trace these generally prevailing sentiments. And where shall we find this, but in that primitive intercourse which, as the Scriptures testify, man was permitted to hold with his Creator ; deriving immediately from the fountain of knowledge and perfection, notions, which otherwise the labour of a whole life might have been insufficient to enable him to acquire ?

There is, indeed, abundant evidence to corroborate this supposition ; and to show that whatever aid the light of nature may afford to such researches, mankind were not originally left to reason out these truths for themselves ; nor perhaps were ever placed under such circumstances as to be entirely dependent upon their natural powers for the knowledge of them. That man was from the beginning instructed by Divine revelation, seems to be every where supposed in Holy Writ; false religions being uniformly represented as the corrupt inventions of men perversely “ forsaking God,” and following their own imaginations. With this representation profane history well accords ; since it enables us to trace the earliest departures from sacred truth to those countries where it was first made known by means of revelation, and where, even after the lapse of ages, it has never been totally effaced. With this also corresponds the history of philosophy itself; which is well known to have made its progress

from the east to Greece and Rome, carrying with it, amidst all its impurities and imperfections, so much of primitive truth and of first principles of theology, as to form a solid and substantial groundwork, on which the discernment and the perseverance of Gentile sages were enabled to raise many a goodly fabric of moral and religious wisdom, worthy of the veneration of their contemporaries, and not undeserving of the admiration of their more enlightened, though not more sagacious posterity.

It is unnecessary to enter further into a field of investigation so extensive, and which has so often been traversed by the ablest inquirers.

The result of such inquiries appears to be briefly this ;—that as, on the one hand, it is hardly possible to account for that general indistinct perception of the true God

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