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RISE OF POLYTHEISM AND PANTHEISM.
I. Fragments of the true Religion among the Heathen.
II. Worship of the Visible Heavens and of the Ele
III. Worship of Deceased Ancestors.
IV. Complex and Mythological Worship.
V. External Polytheism and Internal Mysteries.
VII. Emanation and Pantheism.
VIII. The World by Wisdom knew not God.
ERRORS REGARDING RELIGION.
I. TRACES of primeval revelation, and of the wor ship of the true God, are found dispersed in scattered fragments over the habitable earth. Even tribes so rude as to be enumerated among the instances of men who had no religion, are yet discovered, from subsequent information, to retain vestiges, however faint, of the primitive condition of man. These fragments of ancient knowledge are striking in themselves, but would appear much more wonderful if they were carefully collected and reunited by some skilful hand.
Works upon this subject are sufficiently numerous, but in general they receive every thing without discrimination, and the gross credulity with which they are written, has thrown considerable discredit upon the whole subject.
Recollections of the principal events of antediluvian history may be clearly and easily traced, and the deluge itself, as might be expected, holds a very prominent place in universal tradition. The creation of the world; paradise, or the golden age; the fall of man, or the loss of his first happy state; the
wickedness of the antediluvians, and their almost universal destruction by a deluge, are rumours of past events which have reached the new as well as the old world; and which, in the language of the old poet, are ever sounding over earth and sea. These traditions gradually assume a greater consistency, and more nearly resemble the truth in proportion as we approach the ancient abodes of mankind in the east. The Syrians, as we see by Lucian, preserved a very accurate account of the deluge, and commemorated the escape of the remnant of the race who were preserved by him whom the Greeks call Deucalion, in his ark, along with the inferior animals who entered by pairs. Nor less accurate is the account which Ovid gives of the creation of the world in wonderful accordance with the Scriptures; an account which appears to be derived from the early tribes which peopled Greece and Italy, united to notices received from the Phenicians. Each quarter of the world had its mythological gardens, and the golden age appears partly as the state from which man had fallen, at other times, as the happy condition to which he was to be restored. There are also many traditions current respecting the Deity, and the divine government of the world, of which Plato has preserved several samples, that may be traced to early revelation, though they are more disfigured, as may be supposed, than recollections that relate to the events of history. Even in positive rites, as in the respect attached to the seventh
day, and most of all, in the observance and manner of sacrifice, there are marked and striking connexions between the various tribes of mankind. It is observable, that after the deluge, when the human race were separated and dispersed, their traditions also separate, and each nation commences a series of fables of its own.
II. But though mankind separated, they all carried along with them the same evil heart of unbelief, an equal proneness to sense, and tendency to forget the true and living God. They had within them the same faculties, and same nature.
without them the
The course of error had thus a wonderful similarity in its rise and progress, as much so as if the first nations had proceeded with common consent, and a premeditated design, to the adoption of those superstitions which spread one universal cloud over the Gentile world.
In worshipping God, men, from a variety of reasons, naturally turn to the heavens, and, under the name of heavens, they as naturally blend together three distinct abodes,-the expanse of the air,-the space in which the stars revolve, and the residence of the blessed spirits and holy intelligences, where God peculiarly manifests his presence. From this last import of the term, God and the heavens are united in speech, and, in some degree, in imagination. Even the Scriptures make use of the word heavens in this point of view, where it is said to Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom should be re
stored unto him "after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule." Thus the blending of the visible heavens with obscure notions of the Deity, gave rise to the first corruption of religion. Such is the worship, still prevalent in China, of Tien, or the heavens, where there is no clear distinction between the visible object and the divine principle which is supposed to dwell in it, and to animate it. Such is the Jupiter of the ancient Etrus"Aspice hoc sublime candens quem invocant omnes Jovem," and such the Deity of the still earlier Pelasgians, whom they invoked as the dweller in Ether, and the driver of the clouds.
The transition was very ancient from worshipping the heavens in general to the worship of the sun as the eye of nature, the source of light and heat, the moon, the softened image of hls brightness, and his kindred lights the stars. As the Pelasgians, the most ancient tribe of the Greeks, worshipped the Æther, or the shining firmament above them, so the Dorians, perhaps the next in antiquity, were peculiarly devoted to the religious service of Apollo and Diana, the sun and moon, and as the one is communicant, and the other recipient of brightness and power, the distinction of the active and passive nature was introduced, and they became male and female deities.
The sun, or universal fire, like the Egyptian Osiris, became the representative of active power;
* Behold this lofty and bright expanse, invoked by all as Jupi