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time, when the text was written, it may tend to impress these truths on our minds, should we contemplate some of those facts, on which the assertion is founded. That ancient nations worshipped a multitude of gods, is a proposition, which requires no proof to any one, in the slightest degree acquainted with the Greek and Roman historians and poets. So early as the time of Hesiod, there were reckoned thirty thousand gods, inhabiting the earth, who were subjects of Jupiter, and guardians of men. These deities were considered, as in a sense domesticated in Greece. In addition to them Archbishop PotTER* informs us, that there was a custom, which obliged them to entertain a great number of strange deities. The religion of the Greeks was probably derived from Phoenicia, Egypt, and Thrace, and was transmitted to the Romans. To ascertain what was the popular creed among the ancient heathen, I know not, that any method can be more effectual, than to consult the writings of their historians and poets. The testimony of the former can be liable to no exception. On that of the poets it may be thought, that less reliance can be placed. It is not, indeed, necessary to conclude, that the poets themselves always believed what they wrote concerning the gods. But, that they both designed and expected, that others should believe it, there can bé little doubt.” of it to o zoo." “The accounts, given of the heathen gods by the poets,” says the learned Mr. FARMER,” “did, in fact, constitute both the popular and civil theology: or the religion; received by the people, and established by the laws. The people were more disposed to adopt the doctriñe of the poèts, thah any physical interpretation; and regarded their write ings, as the rule both of their faith and their worship.” Even the most absurd fables were understood literally; and received by the people withimplicit faith, in Greece;as well as in other countries.” Agreeable to this are the words of the profound Dr. CUDworth.ft owe cannot,” says he, “make a better judgment concerning the generality and bulk of ancient pagans, than from the poets and mythologists, who were the chief instructers of them.” “The poets cannot sing,” says PLATO, as quoted by Dr. LELAND, “except they be full of GoD, and carried out-of-themselves. They do not say, these things by art, but, by divine power.” Gonduses them, as his ministers, as divine prophets; that we, hearing them, mighty know, that it is GoD, who speaks by them.”. SocRATES is represented by PLATO, as conversing to the same effect. 5 or " - 'so his ** *** of it. sią' o: #;" ‘. . ; ; ; ; ; , ; ; ... . . . . . . . o.o. . . .
* See his Greek Antiquities. Vol. 1, 202.
What higher authority could language attribute to these writings? If the assertions, here made, had been true, the assent, given by the ancient heathen to poetical representations, ought not to have been less than that, which Christians yield to the sacred Scriptures. And it must be considered, that this is the language, not of the illiterate vulgar, but of two among the wisest and best men in the pagan world. If men of such character, whether sincerely or not, attributed to the ancient bards a real inspiration, it can hardly be doubted, that the credulous multitude would receive poetical rhapsodies, as the standard of theological truth. It is, therefore, just to form our opinion of the religious sentiments, which prevailed among the heathen, by the works of their most admired poets. * That the worship of celestial luminaries was very ancient is apparent not only from pagan, but likewise from Scripture evidence. Worshipping the hosts of heaven is often mentioned in the Old Testament. It seems, indeed, to have been in the countries and periods, to which that history relates, the most general kind of idolatry.
The worship of human spirits was probably subsequent to that of the heavenly bodies. Mortals, who had acquired a powerful influence over the affections or fears of their contemporaries, were supposed not only to retain their existence after death, but to occupy a kind of middle state between man and superiour intelligences. . . . . . . . . . . . . to Not only the souls of the dead, but the persons of the living were treated as divine. This was so common among them, that to swear by the genius of Caesar,” and to worship him, by burning incense on his altar, were used as criteria, by which to try those, who were accused of defection from therestablished belief. ... " - ions, o is go of .hrw.o *Besides-worshipping the larger bodies in the Universe, and human beings both living and dead, divine honors were paid to whatever was found to be of great utility. Tothèse we may add particular qualities and conditions of human beings, such as Mind, Fidelity, Safety, Liberty, Concord, Victory &c.f. To these temples were erected, and sacrifices were offered: Nay, even bad qualities; such as passions and vices, became objects of heathen worship; injustification of which this reason is assigned, that these bad qualities have frequently great influence on human actions. at:That quadrupeds, reptiles, and even vegetables, received, among the Egyptians, religious worship, is a fact universally known. It is, indeed, difficult to contemplate any object, either in the heavens or on the earth, which has not, in some age or country, been treated as divine. Accordingly an eminent author, whose object was to praise the religion of the heathen at the expense of revelation, is constrained to acknowledge, that “the Gentiles did not only worship the whole world taken together, but its parts, yea, even its particles or small parts; thinking it unbecoming, that some of the most minute parts of him, whom they regarded as God, should be worshipped, and other parts neglected.” So true is the remark, that ancient pagans worshipped every thing as GoD, but GoD himself. But though there was great variety in the objects, to which the ancient heathen paid religious adoration, there was one species of worship, peculiarly important, both as to its extent, and the effects resulting from it. With very few exceptions it appears, that human spirits were worshipped by all heathen nations, whether barbarous or polished. It is obvious, that this would be a very interesting part of religious worship. Men would be pleased with the thought of having a deity, who had been in their situation, had possessed their passions, and had experienced their wants. But the moral effects of this worship would depend on the character, ascribed to the being, to whom it was addressed. The fact is, that the more common objects of pagan adoration had not only been mortals, but had been