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“ Deity; which should be prosperous “ while they adhered to him, and unpro
fperous when they declined to idolatry; not only in order to make them persevere in the true faith, but also in order to exemplify to all nations the conduct
of his Providence.” It is certain, however, that the perverse Jews claimed God Almighty as their tutelar deity in the vulgar acceptation of the term. And this error throws light upon an incident related in the Acts of the Apostles. There was a prophecy firmly believed by the Jews, that the Meffiah would come among them in person to restore their kingdom. The different sense to the
prophecy, namely, that the kingdom promised was not of this world. And they said, that Christ was sent to pave the way to their heavenly kingdom, by obtaining forgiveness of their fins. At the same time, as the Jews held all other nations in abhorrence, it was natural for them to conclude, that the Messiah would be sent to them only, God's chosen people : for which reason, even the apostles were at first doubtful about preaching the gospel
Christians gave a
to any but to the Jews (a). But the apostles reflecting, that it was one great purpose of the mislion, to banish from the Jews their grovelling and impure notion of a tutelar deity, and to proclain a state of future happiness to all who believe in Christ, they proceeded to preach the gospel to all men': “ Then Peter opened his “ mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive,
that God is no respecter of persons : but “ in every nation, he that feareth him, " and worketh righteousness, is accepted 's with him (6).” The foregoing reasoning, however, did not satisfy the Jews : they could not digest the opinion, that God sent his Mefliah to save all nations, and that he was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. They stormed against Paul in particular, for inculcating that doctrine (c).
Considering that religion in its purity was established by the gospel, is it not amazing, that even Christians fell back to
(a) See the 10th and 12th chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
(6) Acts of the Apostles, x. 34.
the worship of tutelar deities? They did
when the deification of saints was introduced, similar to the deification of heroes among the ancients. People are fond of friends to be their intercessors; and with regard to the Deity, deified faints were thought the properest intercefsors. Temples were built and dedicated to them; and folemn rites of worship instituted to render them propitious. It was imagined, that the souls 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 fepulchres of the saints a common rendezvous of supplicants. What paved the way to notions fo absurd, was the gross ignorance that clouded the Christian world, after the northern barbarians became ma
sters of Europe. In the seventh century, the bishops were so illiterate, as to be indebted to others for the shallow 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 sense. An opinion prevailed, that such saints as are occupied about the souls 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 saints 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 never had a being. And thus religion among
Christians, sunk 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 alınost 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 Hindoftan, if we credit history or tradition, had advanced to a considerable degree of purity and refinement, at a