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the worship of tutelar deities? They did not indeed adopt the absurd opinion, that the supreme Being was their tutelar deity: but they held, that there are divine persons subordinate to the Almighty, who take under their care nations, families, and even individuals; an opinion that differs not essentially from that of tutelar deities among the Heathens. That opinion, which flatters self-love, took root in the fifth century, when the deification of saints was introduced, similar to the deification of heroes among the ancients. People arc fond of friends to be their intercessors; and with regard to the Deity, deified saints were thought the properest intercessors. Temples were built and dedicated to them; and solemn rites of worship instituted to render them propitious. It was imagined, that the fouls of deified saints are at liberty to roam where they list, and that they love the places where their bodies are interred; which accordingly made the sepulchres of the saints a common rendezvous of supplicants. What paved the way to notions so absurd, was the gross ignorance that clouded the Christian world, after the northern barbarians became masters
sters of Europe. In the seventh century, the bishops were so illiterate, as to be indebted to others for the sliallow sermons they preached; and the very few of that order who had any learning, satisfied themselves with composing insipid homilies, collected from the writings of Augustin and Gregory. In the ninth century, matters grew worse and worse; for these saints, held at first to be mediators for Christians in general, were now converted into tutelar deities in the strictest fense. An opinion prevailed, that such saints as are occupied about the fouls of Christians in general, have little time for individuals; which led every church* and every private Christian, to elect for themselves a particular faint, to be their patron or tutelar deity. That practice made it necessary to deify faints without end, in order to furnish a tutelar deity to every individual. The dubbing of saints, became a new source of abuses and frauds in the Christian world: lying wonders were invented, and fabulous histories composed, to celebrate exploits that never were performed, and to glorify persons who neves had a being. And thus religion among; H h 2 Christians, Christians, funk down to as low a state as it had been among Pagans.
There still remains upon hand, a capital branch of our history; and that is idolatry, which properly signifies the worshipping visible objects as deities. But as idolatry evidently sprung from religious worship, corrupted by the ignorant and brutish; it will make its appearance with more advantage in the next chapter, of which religious worship is the subject.
We have thus traced with wary steps, the gradual progress of theology through many stages, corresponding to the gradual openings and improvements of the human mind. But tho' that progress, in almost all countries, appears uniform with respect to the order of succession, it is far otherwise with respect to the quickness of succession: nations, like individuals, make a progress from infancy to maturity; but they advance not with an equal pace, some making a rapid progress toward perfection in knowledge and in religion, while others remain ignorant barbarians. The religion of Hindostan, if we credit history or tradition, had advanced to a considerable degree of purity and refinement, at 3
very early period. The Hindostan Bible, termed .Chatahbhade or Shastah, gives an account of the creation, lapse of the angels, and creation of man; instructs us in the unity of the Deity, but denies his prescience, as being inconsistent with freewill in man; all of them profound doctrines of an illuminated people, to establish which a long course of time must have been requisite, after wandering through errors without number. Compared with the Hindows in theology, even the Greeks were mere savages. The Grecian gods were held to be little better than men, and their history, as above mentioned, corresponds to the notion entertain'd of them.
In explaining the opinions of men with respect to Deity, I have confined my view to such opinions as are suggested by principles or biasses that make a part of common nature; omitting many whimsical notions, no better than dreams of a roving imagination. The plan delineated, shows wonderful uniformity in the progress of religion through all nations. That irregular and whimsical notions are far otherwise, is not wonderful. Take the fol
lowing specimen. The Kamfkatkans are not so stupidly ignorant, as to be altogether void of curiosity. They sometimes think of natural appearances. — Rain, fay they, is some deity pissing upon them; and they imagine the rainbow to be a party-coloured garment, put on by him in preparing for that operation. They believe wind to be produced by a god shaking with violence his long hair about his head. Such tales will scarce amuse children in the nursery. The inhabitants of the island Celebes formerly acknowledged no gods but the fun and the moon, which were held to be eternal. Ambition for superiority made them fall out. The moon being wounded in flying from the sun, was delivered of the earth.
Hitherto of the gradual openings of the human mind with respect to Deity. I close this section with an account of some unsound notions concerning the conduct of Providence, and concerning some speculative matters. I begin with the for
In days of ignorance, the conduct of Providence is very little understood. Far from having any notion, that the government