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The Misissippi people offer to the sun the first of what they take in hunting; which their com mander artfully converts to his own use. The Apalachites, bordering on Florida, worship the sun; but sacrifice nothing to him that has life; they hold him to be the parent of life, and think that he can take no pleasure in the destruction of any living creature: the devotion is exerted in perfumes and songs. The Mexicans, while a free people, presented to the sun a share of their meat and drink. The inhabitants of Darien believe in the sun as their god, and in the moon as his wife, paying them equal adoration. The people of Borneo worship the sun and moon as real divinities. The Samoides worship both, bowing to them morning and evening in the Persian manner.
But if the sun and moon were the first ob. jects of idolatry, knowledge and reflection reformed many from the error of holding these luminaries to be deities. That original Intelligence," say the Magians, "who is the first principle of "all things, discovers himself to the mind and "understanding only: but he hath placed the sun as his image in the visible universe; and "the beams of that bright luminary, are but a faint copy of the glory that shines in the higher "heavens." The Persians, as Herodotus reports, had neither temples, nor altars, nor images: for, says that author, they do not think, like the Greeks, that there is any resemblance between gods and
men. The Gaures, who to this day profess the ancient religion of Persia, celebrate divine worship before the sacred fire, and turn with peculiar veneration toward the rising sun, as the representative of God; but they adore neither the sun, nor the sacred fire. They are professed enemies to every image of the Deity cut with hands: and hence the havock made by the ancient Persians, upon the statues and temples of the Grecian gods. Such sublimity of thought was above the reach of other uninspired nations, excepting only the Hindoos and Chinese:
I close the history of idolatry with a brief recapitulation of the outlines. Admitting the sun and moon to have been the first objects of idolatry, yet as Polytheism was once universal, they make only two of the many gods that were every where worshipped. We have seen, that the sacred fire was employed in the worship of the sun, and that images were employed in the worship of other deities. Images were originally used for the sole purpose of animating devotion: such was their use in Persia and Hindostan; and such was their use in every country among philosophers. The Emperor Julian, in an epistle to Theodore concerning the images of the gods, says, «We
believe not that these images are gods: we "only use them in worshipping the gods." In the progress toward idolatry, the next step is, to imagine, that a deity loves his image, that he
makes it his residence, or at least communicates some virtue to it. The last step is, to fancy the image itself to be a deity; which gained ground imperceptibly as statuary advanced toward perfection. It would be incredible that men of sense should ever suffer themselves to be impressed with so wild a delusion, were it not the overbearing influence of religious superstition. Credo quia impossibile est, is applicable to idolatry as well as to transubstantiation. The worshipping of the sun and moon as deities, is idolatry in the strictest sense. With respect to images, the first step of the progress is not idolatry: the next is mixed idolatry and the last is rank idolatry.
So much upon idolatry. I proceed to what ap→ proaches the nearest to it, which is worship addressed to deified mortals. The ancient gods were exalted so little above men, that it was no hard task for the imagination to place in heaven, men who had made a figure on earth. The Grecian heaven was entirely peopled with such men, as well as that of many other nations. Men are deified every day by the Romish church, under the denomination of saints; persons are frequently selected for that honour who scarce deserved a place on earth, and some who never had a place there. The Roman Catholics copy the pagans, in worshipping these saints in quality of tutelar deities. One branch of the office bestowed on them, is to explain the wants of their votaries to the King of heaven,
heaven, and to supplicate for them. The mediatorial office prevails with respect to earthly potentates, as well as heavenly being struck with awe and timidity in approaching those exalted above us, we naturally take hold of some intermediate person to solicit with us. In approaching the Almighty, the mind sinking down into humility and profound veneration, stops short, relying upon some friend in heaven to intercede in its behalf. Temples among the Cochin-Chinese are constructed with a deep and dark niche which is their sanctum sanetorum. They hold that no representation, whether by painting or sculpture, can be made of God, who is invisible. The niche denotes his incomprehensibility; and the good men placed by them in heaven, are believed to be their intercessors at the
throne of grace. The prayers of the Chingulese are seldom directed to the Supreme Being, but to his vicegerents. Intercessors, at the same time, contribute to the ease of their votaries: A Roman Catholic need not assume a very high adtone, l dressing a tutelar saint chosen by himself.
False notions of Providence have prompted gro veling mortals to put confidence in mediators and intercessors of a still lower class, namely living mortals who by idle austerities have acquired a reputation for holiness. Take the following instance, the strongest of the kind that can be figured. Louis XI. of France, sensible of the approach of death, sent
for a hermit of Calabria, named Francisco Martarillo; and throwing himself at the hermit's feet in a flood of tears, entreated him to intercede with God, that his life might be prolonged; as if the voice of a Calabrian friar, says Voltaire, could alter the course of Providence, by preserving a weak and perverse soul in a worn-out body.
Having discussed the persons that are the objects of worship, the next step in order is, to take under view the forms and ceremonies employed in religious worship. Forms and ceremonies illustrate a prince in his own court: they are necessary in a court of law for expediting business; and they promote seriousness and solemnity in religious worship. At the same time, in every one of these a just medium ought to be preserved between too many and too few. With respect to religious worship in particular, superfluity of ceremonies quenches devotion, by occupying the mind too much upon externals. The Roman Catholic worship is crowded with ceremonies: it resembles the Italian opera, which is all sound and no sentiment. The presbyterian form of worship is too naked: it is proper for philosophers more than for the populace. This is fundamentally the cause of the numerous secessions from the church of Scotland that have made a figure of late: people dislike the established forms, when they find less animation in public worship than is desired; and without being sensible