صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire ; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied ; yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire; and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.”

The Gentiles, according to their own statement, did not consider their statues, whether made of clay, stone, wood, iron, brass, silver, or gold, as really gods, but as emblems of the deities they worshipped, and only intended to revive in their remembrance the object of their ado ration. When pressed on the subject of image-worship, by the arguments of the Christians, they said, “ You err: we do not adore the wood, brass, silver, or gold, as if these metals were of themselves gods; but we worship the gods, who, by virtue of the dedication, inhabit these images.” To which Lactantius replied, “ If the gods are present, by virtue of the consecration, what occasion is there for images ? What need have I for my friend's picture, if my friend be near me in person? God, who is a Spirit every where present, never absent, needs no image to supply his place."

The Egyptians, though reputed the wisest of the Gentiles, carried their system of idolatry so far, as to include the worship of animals. The Jews being tainted with it, the prophet Ezekiel says, “ Behold every form of creeping things and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about.” The apostle Paul adds, that

79 a

97 b

Arnobius, lib. vi. p. 229. b Institut. lib. ii. cap. 2.


the Gentiles“ changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." The animals sacred to religion among them, were sheep, cats, bulls, dogs, cows, storks, apes, birds of prey, wolves, and several sorts of oxen. Lucian, though a heathen, sarcastically rails at this monstrous absurdity, saying, “Go into Egypt, there you will see fine things, worthy of heaven, forsooth, Jupiter with the face of a ram, Mercury as a fine dog, Pan is become a goat, another god is Ibis, another the crocodile, another the ape. There many shaven priests gravely tell us, the gods being afraid of the rebellion of the giants, lurked under these shapes; they mourn over the sacrifices, but if Apis their great god die, there is no body so profane as not to shave his head and mourn, though he had the purple hair of Nisus. This Apis is but a god chosen out of the flock. The things seem to require a Heraclitus or Democritus; the one to laugh at their madness, and the other to weep at their ignorance.” a Thus have we taken a short view of the origin and prevalence of idolatry in general among the nations of the earth, merely as introductory to what may be advanced concerning the religion of the ancient Britons. This measure appeared requisite, as the first colonies that migrated from Asia to Europe, brought with them many of the religious sentiments and usages of that and other countries in the East.

The religious establishment of the ancient Britons, as well as that of Gaul, though it has a strong resemblance, was different in some particulars from the systems prevailing generally in other nations. Its elementary principles were probably somewhat similar to those professed and propagated by Cush, his adherents and descendants. Mr. Maurice, in his Indian Antiquities, intimates, that the order of priests, anciently established in this country, were the immediate descendants of a tribe of Brahmins, situated in the high northern latitudes, bordering on the vast range of Caucasus: that these, during that period of the Indian empire, when its limits were most extended in Asia, mingling with the Celto-Scythian tribes, who tenanted the immense deserts of Grand Tartary, became gradually incorporated, though not confounded, with that ancient nation; introduced among them the rites of the Brahmin religion; and, together with them, finally emigrated to the western regions of Europe.

a De Sacrif. Operiem. tom. i. p. m. 367.

Sir William Jones says, “ The first corruption of the purest and oldest religion, which consisted in the worship of the one God, the maker and governor of all things, was the system of the Indian theology, invented by the Brahmins, and prevailing in those territories where the books of Mahabad, or Menu, are at this hour the standard of all religious and moral duties." a In his Preface to the Institutions of Menu, he states, that the Vedas were composed about 1580 years before Christ, or about one hundred years before the time of Moses; and that the institutions of Menu were written about three hundred years after the Vedas, or about 1280 years before Christ.b

It is the opinion of Sir William Jones, that the origin of the Hindoo nation and government is to be looked for in Iran, or Persia, where a great monarchy was established before the Assyrian, called by the Oriental historians the Pishdadian dynasty. In the reign of

[ocr errors]

a Dissertations relating to Asia, vol. i. p. 199. b Vide Prefacc, 4, 7, 12.

[ocr errors]

Hushang, the third of the Pishdadian race, “ a reformation," he says,

was made in the religious system, when the complex polytheism of the preceding times was rejected, and religion was reduced to what is usually called Sabianism, which consisted chiefly in the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. The laws of Mahabad were, however, retained, and his superstitious veneration for fire. On this, the favourers of the old religion retired to Hindostan, and their old existing laws forbade them ever to return, or to leave the country they now inhabit.” a

Dr. Priestley remarks, that “ all the deviations from the original Hindoo system retained the same general principles. The advocates of them all held the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, their subsisting and acting independently of bodies, and their transmigration into other bodies after death. They had the same low opinion of matter, and the same veneration for the elements of fire and water, as purifiers of the soul. They had similar restrictions with respect to food, the same addictedness to divination, and the same use of corporeal austerities for the expiation of sin.” b

Brucker, in his Historia Critica Philosophiæ, to use the abridgement of this celebrated work by Dr. Enfield, says, that the fables or allegories of the Celtic priests, were similar to those of the Asiatics, and were delivered in verse after their manner;-a circumstance which confirms the conjecture, that these nations arose from colonies which came from the northern regions of Asia ; and which brought with them the tenets which, in the remotest periods, had prevailed among the Persians, Scythians, and other Asiatic nations.

& Dissertations, &c. vol. i. p. 198–200.

b Comparison of the Institutions of Moses with those of the Hindoos and other ancient nations, p. 14.

Southey, in his Book of the Church, with reference to the religious institution of the ancient Britons, says, “ There is reason to believe, that they brought with them some glimmerings of patriarchal faith, and some traditional knowledge of patriarchal history.” To settle this point in a few words, the Rev. Jonathan Williams, in his Arnopædia, is probably, on the whole, correct in the statement he gives of their religion, when they migrated to this country, namely—“ Founded partly on patriarchal tradition, and partly by intermixture of Sabian or Magian philosophy, it consisted in the acknowledgment of one infinite, eternal, omnipotent, and selfexistent Being, whom their priests denominated Duw or Ddrw, that is, existing,—the supreme, self-existing Cause of all things: and from this name of God, the Greeks borrowed their Dios and Theos, and from them the Romans their Deus.

To the above, we shall add the account given by Davies, in his Mythology and Rites of the Druids. After a full investigation of the subject, he says, “ Druidism was a system of superstition, composed of heterogeneous principles; it acknowledges certain divinities, under a great variety of names and attributes ; these divinities were originally nothing more than deified mortals and material objects, mostly connected with the history of the deluge; but, in the progress of error, they were regarded as symbolized by the sun, the moon, and certain stars; which, in consequence of this confusion, were venerated with divine honours. And this superstition apparently arose from the gradual or accidental corruption of the patriarchal religion, by the abuse of certain commemorative honours which were paid to the ancestors of the human race, and by the admixture of

« السابقةمتابعة »