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506 § 400, or idol. Deities.
notion of Him, as the ruler and judge of men, and were the victims of such a mental blindness, as not to see the vanity and nothingness of all other deities. But if these gifted and scrutinizing men, who so well understood so many things, pertaining to the natural sciences, did not acknowledge God, as the creator and governour of the universe, and the judge of the human race, who is represented as such in the most ancient parts of the Bible, who then will say, that Abraham, Noah, Enoch, and Adam, or if it please, Samuel, David, Asaph, and Nathan, so much inferiour to these philosophers, in point of scientifick knowledge, could, without the intervention of Revelation, have possessed that full and pure idea of a God, which we know they did possess? If the knowledge of God had been a matter so very obvious and easy, certainly the Hebrews, at least after the time of David, would not have failed to show themselves his constant worshippers; at least, the most literary of the Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, would not have laid a plan to introduce idolatry again among their countrymen. Compare Meiner's Historia DocTRINAE DE vero Deo, 1780. Those persons, who maintain, that the primitive worship was that of animals and idols, reason A PRIoRI on the subject, and take it for granted, that men always as-cend, and never de-scend in knowledge. But this position is refuted by all history, especially that of religion, which has experienced very many reverses, and often seen its Hebrew votaries relapsing back to idolatry. A relapse or descent of this kind happened previously to the deluge, when multitudes rejected the revealed knowledge of God, and the divine admonitions, and gave themselves up to every sort of wickedness. Such a relapse took place in the time of Abraham, when men, becoming the dupes of superstition, transformed into deities, and worshipped, animals, the earth, the sea, winds, rivers, fire, stones, plants, the sun, moon, and stars; in the progress of time also, they deified and worshipped abstract qualities, as fame, concord, piety, faith, to which they erected altars. See Cicero DE NAT. DEoR. L. III. 16–23. 24. DE LEG. II. 8. They also worshipped physical evils, as fevers, evil fortune, and moral ones, as impudence, defamation, &c. Pliny, NAT. Hist. II, 5. In very ancient times those men, who excelled others in strength, in power, and in prudence, and who, in consequence, be
§ 400, or 1Dol, Deities. 507
came the instruments of great good or of great evil, were reckoned among the gods, when they were dead; so that the majority, if not the whole, of the Greek and Latin deities migrated to heaven from among the children of men, Herod. I. 131, 144. Cicero Tuscul. QUAEST. I. 12, 13. DE NAT, DEoR. I. 42. III. 15–23. Diod. Sic. V. 74–80. Josephus, Antiq. IX. 4,5. Hence the gods are said in Scripture to be dead, an expression, which is also applied to vain idols, that were destitute of life. God, on the contrary, is called the living God. In a more recent age, although the study of philosophy flourished, the most wicked of heathen kings and generals while yet living, not waiting till after death to be canonized, obtained Temples, and procured priests to adore them with the offering up of sacrifices. Many nations believed, there were cruel and malignant deities. The Egyptians had their Typho, and the Mehestani their Ahrimanius and innumerable other demons of a like character, that were subject to him, which, however, being taught by Zoroaster, they did not worship, but resisted. The good deities also were frequently enraged, not so much indeed on account of the sins and the corruption of men, as through a failure in the worship they expected, and through mere petulance, and accordingly persecuted some men without any cause, as may be seen in Homer. (Consult Valerius Max. Lib. I. I. p. 38–42.) Hence the justice of Jehovah is often celebrated in the Bible. Every nation and city had its own gods, (Pliny II. 5. comp. 2. Kgs. 17:24–34. Jer. 2: 28,) which at first had acquired some celebrity by the worship of some particular family merely, but were at length worshipped by the other families of that town or nation, yet each family had its separate household or tutelary gods. No one felt himself bound to worship every God, but paid his honours, as he chose, to those he deemed most propitious or most powerful. But still he did not think it advisable wholly to neglect other gods, lest, perchance, thinking themselves contemned by such neglect, they should revenge themselves by sending some evil retribution. The gods of those states and cities, which had become illustrious by wealth at home, and successful war abroad, were accounted great and powerful, but those, on the other hand, of weak and conquered nations, were considered weak and impo
508 § 401. ALTARS, STATUEs, TEMPLES, GRoves.
tent, not being able to defend their own votaries. Hence their idols were carried away by the victors, as marks of the triumph, Hosea 10: 5. Isa. 46: 1. Jer. 48: 7. 1 Kgs. 20:23, 28.
In conformity with these sentiments, Cicero, in his oration for Flaccus 28, exclaims, in respect to the conquest of the Jewish nation, “Quam cara diis immortalibus esset, docuit, quod est victa, quod elocata, quod servata.” And hence in the Bible Jehovah is so osten represented, as all-powerful. Their deities, in the estimation of the heathen, could be compelled to regard the prayers of their supplicants by certain incantations; they were thought, moreover, to sleep, to rest, and to approach to the sacrifices offered to them, as to a banquet, Iliad l, 423, 424,609–61 1, Lucian DE SACRIFICiis, 1 Kgs. 18: 27, 28. These deities were of both sexes, lived in matrimony, committed adultery, and even polluted themselves by intercourse with mortals.
* § 401. ALTARs, STATUEs, TEMPLES, GRoves.
To the false deities, of which we have spoken in the preceding section, were erected, I. Altars, Deut. 7: 5. 12; 2. The Mehestani alone had nothing but fire-hearths, since they offered to the superiour powers, which they worshipped, only the life or spirit of the animal, and consumed the body themselves. The Greeks erected to their celestial gods altars (Bouot, n\nz.) of twenty two cubits in height. To the Earth, the Sea, and to Vesta, they erected altars of less altitude; and to the heroes, whom they had canonized, those, which were still lower. They sacrificed to the infernal deities, and to Nymphs, in caves and various subterranean recesses. (See Potter's Greek Antiquities, Part I. p. 467—472.) As an accompaniment to the altars, there were added; II. The images of the gods. These images were at first misshapen blocks of wood or stone, the remains of which were denominated in later periods Bethels, flattvkva, flowrvivot. The stones were mostly small, of a black colour, sometimes conical, sometimes cylindrical, and sometimes round. The largest of them were either square or conical, and all of them were supposed to possess an inherent efficacy of more than an earthly nature. The name flowrview, as every one will see, originated in a mis-ap§ 401. Altars, statues, temples, groves. 509
plication of the Hebrew is no. See Genesis 28: 17, 22, and Rambach on Potter's Antiquities, Part I. p. 463. In the progress of time, it became the practice to expend much labour and art upon images, some of which were made of colossal stature. At first, they were made of wood, but afterwards of stone and ivory, and finally of metal. But those made of wood and stone were either covered with laminae of silver and gold, or were clothed in precious vests, Num. 33: 52, Deut. 4:28. 5: 8. 7: 5. 12. 3. 29: 17. Jud. 17:4. Jer. 10; 9. These images were seen, in the time of Moses, in the form of men, women, quadrupeds, birds, insects, fishes, the sun, moon, and stars, Exod. 20: 4, 5. Deut. 4: 16–18, 5: 8, 9. Some were compound forms, partly human, partly animal; for instance, the Egyptian Anubis, which had the head of a dog, the Osiris, which, had the head of a bird, and the Dagon of the Philistines, which, with a human form above, terminated below, in the shape of a fish. The images or statues, of which we have now spoken, were believed to be, if not the gods themselves, at least the abodes, into which they could be forced by certain religious ceremonies and incantations; and hence it came to be believed, that they were subject to the ordinary passions of men, Curtius IV. 11. Diodor. Siculus XVII. 46. Plin. Natural History, XXXVIII. III. Idol images were originally protected against the injuries of the weather by a roof, supported on columns. Afterwards walls were erected, and in this way arose a small Temple. In progress of time, the small Temple became a large and magnificent one, for the most part square, sometimes oblong. It had no windows, and the columns, on which the roof formerly rested, being retained as an ornament, were so arranged, and increased in number, as to form a cloister or covered walk round the main building. The Temples were divided into two apartments, the Sanctuary and the shrine, and were surrounded with a large open count, in which was the altar, and in which the people assembled, Stieglitz, Archaeol. der Baukunst II. 1–14. tab. Temples were made the repositories of treasures, and some of them in oriental countries were protected in ancient times by a tower, Jud. 9:4, 46. Altars were sometimes erected without reference to any Temple, and the names of the deities, to which they were dedicated, were inscribed upon them. There were 510 § 402. SACRifices, prayers, Festivals, Etc.
certain altars at Athens, which bore the inscription, wyvoorots 6song, to the unknown gods, Pausanias in Atticis, I. 1. IN ELIAcis W. 14. Diogenes Laertius I. 10, 3.
Paul (Acts 17:23) has given this inscription in the singular number, viz. ayvoorg 080; as Jerome, (Epist. Ad Magn. Episc. ET comMENT. Ad Tit. III.) has remarked. As God was originally worshipped by his creatures under the open sky, it afterwards came to be the case, as was very natural, to select shady groves for the purposes of devotion. Hence it eventually happened, that,
IV. Groves were planted around the heathen Temples, especially if the deities were believed to patronize immodesty and prostitution, Horace Lib. I. Ode 12. Hence it is forbidden, (Deut. 12. 2. 16:21.) to plant trees near the Sanctuary, and the Hebrews are commanded, (Deut. 7: 5. 12. 3.) to cut down and burn the groves of the Canaanites.
V. Priests and priestesses performed the duties of these Temples. Their heads were bound with fillets. The victims and the altars were adorned in the same manner. The priests made known to the people what services were to be performed on their part, and gave responses, Potter's Antiquities, Part I. p. 503. Acts 14:13.
§ 402. SACRIFICEs, PRAYERS, FESTIVALs, PURIFICATIONs, MystERIEs.
It was by no means the tendency of the worship of these deities to produce in their votaries moral integrity and innocence of life. They were resorted to, and supplications were offered, for the purpose of obtaining some external good or eliciting some response, and it was for these, that thanks were returned to them.
The MEHESTANs alone, whose idolatry was of a more refined kind, prayed with many supplications for purity of thought, word and deed, but what this purity was, we are not told. Like other Gentiles, they mingled with their worship many absurd ceremonies, and attributed a superstitious efficacy to certain forms of prayer. They believed, that the guilt of the most atrocious crimes might be done away by expiatory sacrifices, though the moral character, at the same time, remained the same. They even made the commission of crimes a part of the divine wor