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very early period. The Hindostan Bible, termed Chatahbhade or Shaftah, 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 favages. 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
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
Hitherto of the gradual openings of the human mind with respect to Deity. I close this section with an account of some unfound notions concerning the conduct of Providence, and concerning some fpeculative matters. I begin with the former.
In days of ignorance, the conduct of Providence is very little understood. Far from having any notion, that the govern
ment of this world is carried on by general laws, which are inflexible because they are the best poflible, every important event is attributed to an immediate interposition of the Deity. As the Grecian gods were thought to have bodies like men, and like men to require nourishment; they were imagined to act like men, forming short-fighted plans of operation, and varying them from time to time, according to exigencies. Even the wife Athenians had an utter aversion at philosophers who attempted to account for effects by general laws : such doctrine they thought tended to fetter the gods, and to prevent them from governing events at their pleasure. An eclipse being held a prognostic given by the gods of some grievous calamity, Anaxagoras was accused of Atheism for attempting to explain the eclipse of the moon by natural causes : he was thrown into prison, and with difficulty was relieved by the influence of Pericles. Protagoras was banished Athens for maintaining the same doctrine. Procopius overflows with signal interpositions of Providence; and Agathias, beginning at the battle of Marathon, sagely main
tains, that from that time downward, there was not a battle lost but by an immediate judgement of God, for the fins of the commander, or of his army, or of one person or other. Our Saviour's doctrine with respect to those who suffered by the fall of the tower of Siloam, ought to have opened their eyes; but superstitious eyes are never opened by instruction. At the same time, it is deplorable that such belief has no good influence on manners: on the contrary, never doth wickedness so much abound as in dark times. A curious fact is related by Procopius (a) with respect to that sort of superstition.
When Rome was besieged by the Goths and in danger of destruction, a part of the town-wall was in a tottering condition. Belisarius, proposing to fortify it, was opposed by the citizens, affirming, that it was guarded by St Peter. Procopius observes, that the event answered expectation ; for that the Goths, during a tedious fiege, never once attempted that weak part. He adds, that the wall remained in the same ruinous state at the time of his writing. Here is a curious conceit- Peter created a tutelar
(a) Historia Gothica, lib. 1.
deity, able and willing to counteract the laws by which God governs the material world. And for what mighty benefit to his votaries ? Only to save them five or fifty pounds in rebuilding the crazy part of the wall.
It is no less inconsistent with the regular course of Providence, to believe, as many formerly did, that in all doubtful cases the Almighty, when appealed to, never fails to interpose in favour of the right side. The inhabitants of Constantinople, ann. 1284, being split into parties about two contending patriarchs, the Emperor ordered a fire to be made in the church of St Sophia, and a paper for each party to be thrown into it; never doubting, but that God would fave from the flames the paper given in for the party whose cause he espoused. But, to the utter astonishment of all beholders, the flames paid not the least regard to either. The same absurd opinion gave birth to the trial by fire, by water, and by fingle combat. And it is not a little remarkable, that such trials were common 2mong many nations that had no intercourse one with another : even the VOL, IV.