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It is curious, in looking back through the annals of superstition, so degrading to the pride of man, to trace the progress of the human mind in different ages, climates, and circumstances, uniformly acting upon the same principles, and to the same ends. The sketch here given of the corruptions of the religion of Greece, is an exact counterpart of the history of the corruptions of Christianity, which began in the pure

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theism of the eclectic Jews, 1 and by the help of inspirations, emanations, and canonizations, expanded itself, by degrees, to the vast and unwieldly system which now fills the creed of what is commonly called the Catholic Church. In the ancient religion, however, the emanations assumed the appearance of moral virtues and physical attributes, instead of ministering spirits and guardian angels; and the canonizations or deifications were bestowed upon heroes, legislators, and monarchs, instead of priests, monks, and martyrs. There is also this further difference, that among the moderns philosophy has improved, as religion has been corrupted; whereas, among the ancients, religion and philosophy declined together. The true solar system was taught in the Orphic school, and adopted by the Pythagoreans, the next regularly-established sect. The Stoics corrupted it a little, by placing the earth in the centre of the universe, though they still allowed the sun its superior magnitude. 2 At length arose the Epicureans, who confounded it entirely, maintaining that the sun was only a small globe of fire, a few inches in diameter,

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and the stars little transitory lights, whirled about in the atmosphere of the earth. 1

How ill soever adapted the ancient system of emanations was to procure eternal happiness, it was certainly extremely well calculated to produce temporal good; for, by the endless multiplication of subordinate deities, it effectually excluded two of the greatest curses that ever afflicted the human race, dogmatical theology, and its consequent religious persecution. Far from supposing that the gods known in their own country were the only ones existing, the Greeks thought that innumerable emanations of the divine mind were diffused through every part of the universe; so that new objects of devotion presented themselves wherever they went. Every mountain, spring, and river, had its tutelary deity, besides the numbers of immortal spirits that were supposed to wander in the air, scattering dreams and visions, and superintending the affairs of men.

Τρις γαζ μυριοι εισιν επι χθονι πουλϋ Βοτειρη
Αθανατοι Ζηνος, φυλαχες θνητων ανθρωπων. 2

An adequate knowledge of these they never presumed to think attainable, but modestly contented

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themselves with revering and invoking them whenever they felt or wanted their assistance. When a shipwrecked mariner was cast upon an unknown coast, he immediately offered up his prayers to the gods of the country, whoever they were; and joined the inhabitants in whatever rites they thought proper to propitiate them with. 1 Impious or prophane rites he never imagined could exist, concluding that all expressions of gratitude and submission must be pleasing to the gods. Atheism was, indeed, punished at Athens, as the obscene ceremonies of the Bacchanalians were at Rome; but both as civil crimes against the state; the one tending to weaken the bands of society by destroying the sanctity of oaths, and the other to subvert that decency and gravity of manners, upon which the Romans so much prided themselves. The introduction of strange gods, without permission from the magistrate, was also prohibited in both cities; but the restriction extended no farther than the walls, there being no other parts of the Roman empire, except Judea, in which any kind of impiety or extravagance might not have been maintained with impunity, provided it was maintained merely as a speculative opinion, and not employed as

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an engine of faction, ambition, or oppression. The Romans even carried their condescension so far as to enforce the observance of a dogmatical religion, where they found it before established; as appears from the conduct of their magistrates in Judea, relative to Christ and his apostles; and from what Josephus has related, of a Roman soldier's being punished with death by his commander for insulting the Books of Moses. Upon what principle then did they act, when they afterwards persecuted the Christians with so much rancour and cruelty? Perhaps it may surprise persons not used to the study of ecclesiastical antiquities, to be told (what is nevertheless indisputably true) that the Christians were never persecuted on account of the speculative opinions of individuals, but either for civil crimes laid to their charge, or for withdrawing their allegiance from the state, and joining in a federative union dangerous by its constitution, and rendered still more dangerous by the intolerant principles of its members, who often tumultuously interrupted the public worship, and continually railed against the national religion (with which both the civil government and military discipline of the Romans were inseparably connected), as the certain means of eternal damnation. To break this union, was the great object of Roman policy during a long course of years; but the

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violent means employed only tended to cement it closer. Some of the Christians themselves indeed, who were addicted to Platonism, took a safer method to dissolve it; but they were too few in number to succeed. This was by trying to moderate the furious zeal which gave life and vigour to the confederacy, and to blend and soften the unyielding temper of religion with the mild spirit of philosophy. "We all," said they, "agree in worshipping one supreme God, the Father and Preserver of all. While we approach him with purity of mind, sincerity of heart, and innocence of manners, forms and ceremonies of worship are indifferent; and not less worthy of his greatness, for being varied and diversified according to the various customs and opinions of men. Had it been his will that all should have worshipped him in the same mode, he would have given to all the same inclinations and conceptions: but he has wisely ordered it otherwise, that piety and virtue might increase by an honest emulation of religions, as industry in trade, or activity in a race, from the mutual emulation of the candidates for wealth and honour." 1 This was too liberal and extensive a plan, to meet the approbation of a greedy and ambitious clergy, whose object was to establish a hierarchy for themselves,

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rather than to procure happiness for others. It was accordingly condemned with vehemence and success by Ambrosius, Prudentius, and other orthodox leaders of the age.

It was from the ancient system of emanations, that the general hospitality which characterised the manners of the heroic ages, and which is so beautifully represented in the Odyssey of Homer, in a great measure arose. The poor, and the stranger who wandered in the street and begged at the door, were supposed to be animated by a portion of the same divine spirit which sustained the great and powerful. They are all from Jupiter, says Homer, and a small gift is acceptable1 This benevolent sentiment has been compared by the English commentators to that of the Jewish moralist, who says, that he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, who will repay him tenfold2 But it is scarcely possible for anything to be more different: Homer promises no other reward for charity than the benevolence of the action itself; but the Israelite holds out that which has always been the great motive for charity among his countrymen--the prospect of being repaid ten-fold. They are always ready to show their bounty upon such incentives,

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if they can be persuaded that they are founded upon good security. It was the opinion, however, of many of the most learned among the ancients, that the principles of the Jewish religion were originally the same as those of the Greek, and that their God was no other than the creator and generator Bacchus, 1 who, being viewed through the gloomy medium of the hierarchy, appeared to them a jealous and irascible God; and so gave a more austere and unsociable form to their devotion. The golden vine preserved in the temple at Jerusalem, 2 and the taurine forms of the cherubs, between which the Deity was supposed to reside, were symbols so exactly similar to their own, that they naturally concluded them meant to express the same ideas; especially as there was nothing in the avowed principles of the Jewish worship to which they could be applied. The ineffable name also, which, according to the Massorethic punctuation, is pronounced Jehovah, was anciently pronounced Jaho, Ιαω, or Ιευω, 3 which was a title of Bacchus, the nocturnal sun; 4 as was

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also Sabazius, or Sabadius1 which is the same word as Sabbaoth, one of the scriptural titles of the true God, only adapted to the pronunciation of a more polished language. The Latin name for the Supreme God belongs also to the same root; Ιυ-πατηρ, Jupiter, signifying Father Ιευ, though written after the ancient manner, without the dipthong, which was not in use for many ages after the Greek colonies settled in Latium, and introduced the Arcadian alphabet. We find St. Paul likewise acknowledging, that the Jupiter of the poet Aratus was the God whom he adored; 2 and Clemens of Alexandria explains St. Peter's prohibition of worshipping after the manner of the Greeks, not to mean a prohibition of worshipping the same God, but merely of the corrupt mode in which he was then worshipped. 3


208:1 Compare the doctrines of Philo with those taught in the Gospel of St. John, and Epistles of St. Paul.

208:2 Brucker, Hist. Crit. Philos. p. ii. lib. ii. c. 9. s. i.

210:1 Lucret. lib. v. 565, & seq.

210:2 Hesiod. . ver. 252, μυριοι, &c., are always used as the ancient Greek poets.

212:1 See Homer. Odyss. ε, ver. 445, & seq. The Greeks seem to have adopted by degrees into their own ritual all the rites practised in the neighbouring countries.

214:1 Symmach. Ep. 10 & 61. Themist. Orat ad Imperat.

215:1 Odyss. ζ, ver. 207.

215:2 See Pope's Odyssey.

216:1 Tacit. Histor. lib. v.

216:2 The vine and goblet of Bacchus are also the usual devices upon the Jewish and Samaritan coins, which were struck under the Asmonean kings.

216:3 Hieron. Comm. in Psalm. viii. Dioidor. Sic. lib. i. Philo-Bybl. ap. Euseb. Prep. Evang. lib. I. c. ix.

216:4 Macrob. Sat. lib. I. c. xviii.

217:1 Macrob. Sat. lib. I. c. xviii.

217:2 Act. Apost. c. xvii. ver. 28.

217:3 Stramat. lib. v.