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that (excepting some general scattered notions deduced from ancient tradition) it did wholly proceed from human device, or from a worse cause, the suggestion of evil spirits, abusing the fondness and pravity of men. Survey it, and what shall you find therein but a bundle of idle, ill-contrived, incredible, and inconsistent stories, (arguing nothing of truth or sincerity, little of wit or discretion in those who invented them ;) those attended by practices foolish, lewd, and cruel ; unworthy of human nature, contrary to common sense and honesty ? Their worship (that of the supreme Lord being neglected, &c.) you will see directed towards objects most improper and unbecoming : to the ghosts of dead men ; men in their lives (if we may trust the reports of their devoutest adorers) famous for nothing so much as for vicious enormities, for thefts and rapines, for murders and parricides, for horrid lusts, adulteries, rapes, and incests; and such persons, alive or dead, what good or wise man would not rather loathe and despise than worship or respect ? to somewhat, though not otherwise, yet in degree of nature, worse than those, even to brute beasts; to the most vile, the most mischievous of them, (dogs, serpents, crocodiles ;) to pay veneration unto which, how unspeakably abject a mind doth it argue ! Yea they stooped lower, even to creatures inanimate, to the stars and elements, to rivers and trees, and other such things, which we see acting by natural necessity, not yielding any signification of understanding, of sense, of life, in them; which therefore, so far inferior to us in nature, how sottish a baseness was it to adore ! nay, they descended to a lower degree, if it may be, of folly, dedicating temples and offering sacrifices to things even void of subsistence, to mere qualities and accidents of things, to the passions of our minds, to the diseases of our bodies, to the accidents of our lives. Who would think any man could be so mad as to reckon impudence, that odious vice; a fever, that troublesome disease; or fortune, (that unaccountable name of nothing, which wise men so little trust, and fools so much complain of,) among things divine and venerable ? Can I mention any thing worse than all these, which the degenerate ignorance and naughtiness of man hath crouched to ? Yes, (with a folly of all most wretched and deplorable,) they fawned on, they obeyed, they offered their dearest pledges of life and fortune to the sworn enemies, as of God and goodness, so of their own good and welfare, to the very cursed fiends of hell; whom, if they had not been extremely blind and senseless, by the quality of those rites and mysteries they suggested, (so bloody and cruel, so lewd and foul,) they might easily have detected to be so. Such objects as these was their devotion spent on, to these they paid their respect, in these they reposed their confidence. And was such a religion likely to proceed from God? was it like to produce any glory to him, or any benefit to man? From such thorns, what fruits can we hope should sprout of good life, of sound morality ? what piety toward God, what justice, truth, or goodness toward man; what sobriety or purity in themselves, can we expect should arise from such conceits and such practices ? Surely no other than those which St. Paul describes in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, and in the second of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and St. Peter 1 Ep. iv. 3. which history plainly shows to have been no slanderous imputations on Gentilism. If any good did appear in the conversation of some men who followed that religion, it is not to be imputed to the influence of that, but to some better cause ; to the relics of good nature ; to the glimmerings of natural light breaking forth in some, and by their precept or example conveyed to others; to the necessary experience concerning the mischiefs of vice and advantages of virtue ; or perhaps also to secret whispers and impressions of divine grace on some men's minds, vouchsafed in pity to them, and others whom they might teach or lead into ways somewhat better than those common ones of extreme wickedness and folly: to these, I say, or such causes, all instances of practice in any measure innocent or commendable may rather be ascribed, than to that religion, which was much apter to corrupt and debauch, than to better or civilise men; for with what intention soever they were spoken, there was not much of real calumny in those words of Lucretius,
sæpius olim Religio peperit scelerata, atque impiroba facta. But it is needless to discourse much against that which hath
no reasonable patron, and which scarce any wise man, when it was in fashion, did seriously think to have had any truth or reality in it. Plato, you know, often inveighs against the inventers of those beastly fables in heathen theology, (on which yet all the economy of their religious practice did depend ;) Aristotle* attributes the constitution of those religions to the subtilty of statesmen : there is none of the Fathers, I think, or any other disputer against heathenism, who hath more directly or earnestly oppugned it than Pliny hath. There was few, or none, of the philosophers, who did not signify his dislike or contempt of the vulgar opinions and practices concerning religion : what Cicero saith of one part, the wiser sort did judge of all: Tota res est inventa fallaciis aut ad quæstum, aut ad superstitionem, aut ad errorem, (The whole business was deceitfully forged either for gain, or out of superstition, or from mistake). I They did indeed, most or all of them, in their external behavior, comply with common practice, out of a politic discretion, for their safety and quiet sake; but in their inward thoughts and judgments they (as by many passages in their writings doth appear) believed nothing, nor liked any thing in it: they observed those things, as Seneca said, tanquam legibus jussa, non tanquam diis grata, (not as acceptable to the gods themselves, but as commanded by the laws of their country.) And indeed this dissimulation was so notorious, that even the vulgar discerned it; and therefore seldom the wiser men were reputed among them the most religious, but liable to accusation for impiety; and some of them, ye know, suffered extremities on that score, who could not altogether conceal that contempt, which the vanity of popular superstitions had begotten toward them in their hearts.
I might add, that all those Pagan religions did vanish together with the countenance of secular authority and power sustaining them; which shows plainly enough that they had
* Metaph. xii. 8. + Lib. ii. cap. 7.
Vid. Plut. de superst. p. 291. De Leg. X. &c. De Div. ii. p. 240. Tusc. ix. I. Ep. 301.
Balbus in Cic. de N. D. 2. Vid. August. de Civit. D. lib. iv. 33. vi. 10.
little or no root in the hearty belief or approbation of those who professed them.
And thus much may suffice, I suppose, to declare that Paganisın did not proceed from divine revelation, but from human invention or suggestion diabolical.
I shall only adjoin that the considering this case of heathens may be of good use (and to that use indeed St. Paul hath largely applied it) in confirming what we before urged, the great need of some full and plain revelation to the world of God's mind, in order to God's glory and man's good; as also it is of singular use, (which also the same Apostle frequently did put it to,) by the contemplation thereof, to discover our great obligations to bless and thank God for his great mercy in revealing his heavenly truth to us, from whence we are freed from errors and mischiefs so deplorable; which otherwise, from human infirmity and the Devil's malice, we should easily (and in a manner necessarily) have incurred.
That pretence was ancienter in standing ; but there bath, even since Christianity, started up another, (Mahometanism,) which, if not on other accounts, yet in respect to its age, and to the port it bears in the world, demands some consideration ; for it hath continued a long time, and hath vastly overspread the earth : neither is it more formidable in its looks than peremptory in its words ; vaunting itself to be no less than a complete, a general, an ultimate declaration of God's pleasure, cancelling and voiding all others that have gone before. But examining both the substance and circumstances thereof, considering the quality of the instruments by whom, of the times when, it was introduced ; of the places where, of the people who first or afterward did receive it; the manner of its rise, progress, and continuance; as also the matter it teaches or enjoins ; we shall not find stamped on it the genuine characters of a divine original and authority, but have great reason to deem it a brood of most lewd and impudent cozenage.
In times of great disturbance and confusion, when barbarous nations, like torrents, did overflow the world, and turned all things upside down; in times of general corruption and disorder in men's minds and manners, when, even among Christians, ignorance and superstition, dissension and uncharitableness, impiety and iniquity did greatly prevail ; in a very blind and obscure corner of the earth, among a crew of wild thieves and runagates, (such have those Arabians been always famed and known to be,) this sect had its birth and fosterage; among those fierce and savage overrunners of the world it got its growth and stature; into this sort of people, (being indeed in its constitution well accommodated to their humor and genius,) it was partly insinuated by juggling tricks, partly driven by seditious violence; the first author hereof being a person, according to the description given of him in their own legends, of no honest or honorable qualities, but having all the marks of an impostor; rebellious and perfidious, inhuman and cruel, lewd and lascivious, of a base education, of a fraudulent and turbulent disposition, of a vicious life, pretending to enthusiasms, and working of wonders; but these such as were both in their nature absurd and incredible, and for their use vain and unprofitable : at such a season and in such a soil, by such means and by such a person, (abetted by associates like himself, whom his arts or their interests had inveigled to join with him,) was this religion first planted; and for its propagation it had that great advantage of falling in the way of barbarous people, void of learning and civility, and not prepossessed with other notions or any sense of religion; who thence (as mankind is naturally susceptive of religious impressions) were capable and apt to admit any religion first offering itself, especially one so gross as this was, so agreeable to their furious humors and lusts. Afterward being furnished with such champions, it diffused itself by rage and terror of arms, convincing men's minds only by the sword, and using no other arguments but blows. On the same grounds of ignorance and force it still subsists, neither offering for, nor taking against itself any reason ; refusing all examination, and, on extreme penalties, forbidding any dispute about its truth; being indeed so far (whether out of judgment or fatal instinct) wise, as conscious to itself, or foreboding, that the letting in of a little light, and a moderate liberty of discussing its pretences, would easily overthrow it. Now that divine wisdom should choose those black and boisterous times to publish his will, is as if the king should purposely order his proclamation to be made in a tempestuous night, when no man scarce dared to stir out, nor