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conducted with a candour and a perseverance not unworthy of the high and important subject on which he meditates.
But I am more proud to acknowledge myself a debtor, in one branch of my work, to Professor White. He brought, to his Bampton Lectures, very eminent powers
of genius and erudition. His inquiry may be limited and his topic confined *. But his eloquence, rapid yet prudent, and figurative and magnificent, yet luminous and clear, admirably adapts itself to his subject, and brightens and vivifies his whole discussion. If he examine, scrutinize, and resolve the questions which present themselves to his consideration, it is with the precision of Aristotle and the fervor of Plato. The dignity of truth is vindicated in his page, with the spirit and energy of ardent but temperate zeal. As far as his plan might permit, he expatiates, in a manner which at once penetrates the heart, and satisfies the understanding, on the pre-eminent excellence of the Christian dispensation; and he fearlessly exposes the recesses of Islamism and the heart of Mahomet, and drags to light, and exhibits in all their native deformity, the monstrous progeny engendered by the disgusting union of unprincipled ambition and religious fraud.
By such writers as these I have been, sometimes,
His sole or principal object is to detail the causes which accelerated the establishment and diffusion of the religion of Ma. homet, and obstructed and retarded the progress of the dispensation of Christ. I am sorry to say I did not see the work of Doctor Ireland on the Paganism of Greece, nor the lectures of Doctor W.B. Collyer, till it was too late to avail myself of the light and learning which distinguish both. It may be permitted me, perhaps, to add, that the plan adopted by those writers, interferes, in no degree, with the design of the present work.
assisted in my inquiries. If I have entered into the field, a portion of which bears the traces of their toils, I have done so but as a fellow labourer, anxious to forward the great work which they have so sedulously prosecuted and advanced. If I have succeeded in uniting the lights which they have separately kindled, or been able to extend their views to a more ample or more useful comprehension of the subject, I shall, at best, but have merited the name of a disciple, instructed in their school, and aided by their diligence, and zealous to erect, on the foundation laid by their hands, an humble monument to the truth, the excellence, and the inspiration of the religion of the Gospel
I now dismiss my work with the mingled consciousness of good motive, and great deficiency. To the subject which I have discussed, I brought, at least, diligence, humility, and zeal; and the sentiment which animated the labours of the learned and excellent Potter, has accompanied me through my inquiry, and abides with me at its close.—Per me licet, alii laureas captent ex criticâ, ex historiâ, ex philosophiâ, cæterisque artibus. Mihi sane videbor summum attigisse culmen, si quid ad ecclesiæ Christianæ decus, tenue hoc ingenium conferre unquam poterit*.
* Potter. Lycophron. Ed. Secund. Pref.
THE BEING AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.
The being and attributes of the gods of Greece and Italy, Prevail
ing ignorance of all the Nations of antiquity, except the Jews, on the subject of the Divine Nature—The zeal of faith proportioned to the absurdity of the crced—The mythology of the Greeks and Romans not inore perfect, in a religious view, than that of the most barbarous people Occasionally elegant and poetical in its classifications - Instances-Unbounded, whimsical, and corrupt in its polytheism-The vilest qualities and rices deified-Celestial discords and crimes - The Deities even of the highest class vitious and contemptible-Pernicious erample-The mingled levity and reverence of popular belief-Ludicrous impiety of the stage-The doctrine of the schools-Zeno, Epicurus, Plato-Learned extravagance and contention—The people despised by the philosophers, the philosophers by the people -Both equally ignorant—The ignorance of the
people preferable to that of the philosophers. THE history of man, however calculated, in its
general details, to familiarize the reader with calamity and crime, and, therefore, to diminish the influence of humanity and virtue, has exhibited nothing, perhaps, more humiliating or more afflicting, than those institutions of religion, by which the greater portion of the antient.world was degraded and enslaved. The diversified chart of the faith of nations seems to have been framed only to demonstrate the unskilfulness and incompetency of its authors, and to misguide credulity in the voyage of life. It is not among the barbarous and ignorant alone, that we trace the most perverse and irrational ideas of Divivity. On this subject, as on most other topics of ieligion, the darkness is almost as universal as profound ; and is mitigated but by a casual or solitary beam from the rare wisdom of a Socrates or a Confucius. The worship and worshipper appear to be worthy of each other; and the continued and stupid superstition of ages and of realms, affords an instructive lesson to the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the wisdom of this world *.
We see, indeed, that there has been no religion too gross for the credulity and reverence of man. They who composed and asserted the creed, seem to have proceeded on the persuasion, that the greater the absurdity, the greater would be the influence of the popular religions. It is not merely the sublime and beautiful forms of nature, the sun pouring its vivifying beams over the earth, the moon cheering with its radiance the darkness of night, or the mighty ocean spreading abroad its restless and interminable waters, that have been deified by the adoration of individuals, or of nations. The most ludicrous and most disgusting objects, which the weakness of ignorance, or the wildness of fancy or of fear, could metamorphose into gods, have enjoyed
* “ De qua” (nempe de naturâ Deorum) “tam variæ sunt doctissimorum hominum, tamque discrepantes sententiæ." Cicero de Nat. Deor. lib. i. $ 1.
+ “ The baser the materials are of which the Divinity is composed, the greater devotion is be likely to excite in the breast of his deluded votaries. They exult in their shame, and make a merit with their deity in braving, for his sake, all the ridicule and contumely of his enemies.” Hume, Nat. Hist. of Religion. The opinion of the philosopher, perhaps, might be verified by the experience even of modern times.
their altars, their worship, and their oblations. Scarcely was a single people preserved from this degrading superstition; the torrent of idolatry rolled widely and irresistibly along; and, if one scanty race was saved in the general inundation, and conducted amid the waters to an Ararat of
repose, tion was not due to the piety and virtue of the race itself, but to the directing wisdom of a beneficent Providence.
Were Greece and Italy more refined in their faith ; and was their worship addressed to higher and nobler objects?—We hasten to inquire.
In the happier ages of those illustrious nations, freedom, science, and the arts, united to illuminate the minds of men ; and the Athenian and the Roman exhibited to the rest of the world, a proud example of all that was sublime in genius, and accomplished in taste. It was not the individual only that was refined. A fruit woman at Athens could correct the accent of the learned and polished Therpompus; and the tuneful modulation of an oratorical sentence could be appreciated and applauded by the judgment of the Roman populace
The mythology of such a people, we should expect, would not be unworthy of such attainments; and, certainly, it is, in many respects, as "elegant” as it is fanciful. Within its mighty Pantheon we discover the most graceful and interesting divinities. It has abundantly enriched the pages of the poet, and placed over almost every department of nature, some god beautiful in form, and benevolent and amiable in at
• When Carbo, in haranguing the people, pronounced the following sentence,-“ patris dictum sapiens, temeritas filii comprobavit,” - the applause, says Cicero, which followed a close so harmonious, was loud and general.