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oss. : CHAP. XIX.
1 HIS propensity to idolatry appears to us. very strange and absurd in the manners of the Israelites, and hence many have imagined they were a brutish and unpolished people. We see no idolaters now ; we only hear it said that there are some in the Indies, and in other remote countries.
But all people that live about us, Christians, Jews, and Mahomedans, preach one only God almighty. The most ignorant country people know this truth distinctly; we conclude, therefore, that such as believed more gods than one, and adored pieces of wood and stone, ought to be accounted the most ignorant of mankind, and perfect barbarians. However, we cannot call the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, and other people of antiquity, ignorant and barbarians, from whom all arts, human learning, and politeness, have been handed down to us : neither can we deny that idolatry reigned among them in the most absolute manner, at the very time when in every thing else they were perfectly ingenious and polite. Let us stop here then a little, and search into the source of this evil.
The mind of main is so overcast since the fall, that, whilst he continues in the state of corrupted nature, he has no notion of spiritual things; he thinks of nothing but matter and cor
poreal subjects, and makes light of whatsoever does not fall within the compass of his senses : nor does any thing appear even substantial to him, but what strikes the grossest of them, the taste and touch: we see it too plainly in child dren, and men that are guided by their passions; they make no account of any thing but what they can see and feel: every thing else they look upon as castles in the air. Yet these men are brought up in the truc, religion, in the know: ledge of God, in a belief of the immortality of the soul, and a future state. What sentiments had the antient Gentiles, who never heard these things mentioned, and had only objects of sense and matter laid before them by their wisest men We may read Homer, the great divine and prophet of the Greeks, as long as we please; we shall not find there the least hint that can induce. us to imagine he had any notion of things spiritual and incorporeal. .
Thus all their wisdom was employed in what relates to the body and senses. "The design of their bodily exercises, and all that gymnastic regimen which they made so much noise about,
was to preserye and increase their health, : strength, dexterity, and beauty; and they carried
that art to the utmost perfection. Painting, sculpture, and architecture delight the eyes; and they had advanced them to such a pitch, that their villas, cities, and whole country, were full of entertaining objects, as we see by the descriptions of Pausanias. They excelled also in music; and though poetry seems to strike deeper than the senses, it reaches no farther than the imagination, which has the same objects, and
. . : . . produces
produces the like effects. Their laws, and most antient rules of morality, all relate to the senses; providing that their lands should be well cultivated, that each particular person should have enough to live comfortably upon, that men should marry healthy and fruitful wives, that children should be educated so, as to have strong constitụtions, and fit for war; and that every body should be protected from being injured, either by strangers or bad neighbours,... : They studied the good of the soul so little, that they depraved it extremely, by the too great care they took in improving the body. It was of dangerous consequence to expose statues and pictures, even the most obscene, in every part naked and uncovered : and the danger was still greater to painters and sculptors, who copied from the life. No matter, there was a necessity for gratifying the lust of the eyes. It is well known at what a degree of debauchery the Greeks were arrived by these fine customs; they practised the most abominable lewdness, and not only practised, but held it in esteem. Their music and poetry likewise, fomenting the same vices, both excited and kept up jealousies and mortal hatred betwixt the poets, the actors, and spectators; and particular characters were cruelly slandered and pulled in pieces. That never gave them any concern, provided the spectacles were diverting, and the songs such as entertained them....
The same may be said of their religion : instead of improving, it was prejudicial to their morals. Now the rise of all these evils was man's forgetting himself and his spiritual nature.
All All mankind had preserved a constant tradition that there was a nature more excellent than the human, capable of doing them good or harm; and being acquainted with none but corporeal beings, they would persuade themselves, that this nature, that is, the divinity, was so too: and consequently that there were many gods, that every part of the creation might have some, and that each nation, city, and family, had deities peculiar to itself. They fancied they were immortal, and, to make them happy, attributed to them all sorts of pleasures, (without which they thought there could be no true felicity,) and even the most shameful debaucheries: which afterwards again served to countenance their own passions by the example of their gods. They were not content with imagining them either in heaven or upon earth: they must see them and touch them: for which reason, they honoured idols as much as the gods themselves, conceiving that they were 'united and incorporated with them: and they honoured these statues so much the more for their beauty, or antiquity, or any other singularity they had to recommend them. *
Their worship was of a piece with their belief. It was wholly founded upon two passions, the love of pleasure, and the fear of coming to any outward harm. Their sacrifices were always accompanied with feasts, and music, and dancing. Comedy and tragedy had their rise from their merry-makings after vintage in honour of Bacchus. The Olympic games, and
*Wisdom xiii. 10. + Ibid. xiv. 27. + Tertull. de Spect. August. 2. de Civ.
other * Demosth. Philipp. 5. § August. de verâ Relig. in init. + Plato Euthyph. . Apul. I. i.
other trials of skill, so much celebrated in history, were instituted in honour of their gods. In short all the Grecian Shews were acts of religion, and it was a piece of devotion, in their way, to assist at the most scandalous of Aristophanes's comedies. Thus, their chief business in time of peace was taking care of the sacred combats and theatrical Shews; and often, in time of war, they were more attentive to these things, and at greater expence about them, than in the war itself.*
Their religion then was not a doctrine of morality, like the true religion ;$ they reckoned him a saint that was neither murderer, traitor, nor guilty of perjury; who avoided the company of those that had committed such crimes, who kept up the rights of hospitality, and places of refuge, who faithfully performed his vows, and gave liberally towards sacrifices and public Shews. Religion was looked upon as a trade;t they made offerings to the gods, that they might ohtain what they desired in their prayers. As to any thing else, debauchery did not offend it at all. Apuleius, after all the villainous actions with which he fills his metamorphosis, concludes with a description of his devotions, I that is, how officious he was to get himself initiated into all sorts of mysteries, and how exact in observing all the ceremonies of them. Debauchery was so far from being condemned by religion, that it was sometimes enjoined: there was no celebrating the Bacchanal feasts in a proper manner