Page images

infomuch, that it may be laid down as a certain maxim,' where religion ends, superstition begins: Add to this, reverence for departed princes ; affection for dead

parents ; gratitude for discovered arts; the vifible advantages of the more glorious parts of nature, the sun, the moon, and the stars, especially in the cloudless skies, and burnilhed hemisphere of the east.

Some or all of these particulars may easily account for those corruptions in worship that we read have formerly been, and still prevail in the world. But that the jews, descendants of faithful Abraham, and “ inheritors of the promises,” who were brought up out of Egypt by a mighty hand," and with the most ftriking and successive miracles; whose state, for some time, was a perfect theocracy, and at all times prospered or decayed, according to their allegiance; whose law was delivered with peculiar folemnity, and bound

upon them with ceremonial strictness; and, above all, who were made acquainted with the.perfections of God, and the true essence of religion: that these, his peculiar people, should forsake him for a dumb idol, seems to us almost unaccountable.


You will be glad then if I make some obServations upon this point before I proceed

any further.

And, first, I think it will not be denied, that the jews were a gross and very

carnal people. This is clear from various scriptures, not to mention other authorities. Now the law of Moses, though full of ceremonies, and greatly misunderstood in our saviour's time, yet taught, in the main, a pure and spiritual worship, the government of the passions, humility of mind, and just dealing with their neighbour. These, the fordid and the sensual jew could not relish.

He wanted to indulge his own passions, and to encroach upon the liberties of others : Jehovah, therefore, was no pattern for him: he must turn to the Baalim and Ashtaroth of his neighbours. These; being deified men and women, had their several vices and frailties recorded and interwoven with their rites, which were fo many comfortable encouragements to their willing votaries to cherish and retain their

Nay, many of these deities were only vices in the abstract; as Chemoth, and C 2



Baal-peor of the Moabites, and the Venus, Priapus, Bacchus and Bellona of the greeks; which amounted to an absolute consecration of vice; and, confequently, most acceptable to every sensual mind, to the lustful, the drunken, or the violent Ahab, and his court.

I observed before, where religion ends, fuperftition begins.' I would apply this observation to the history of false religion, and, believe, it will be found invariably juft. Vice naturally embodies the mind; shrinks back from spirit; and lys hold on sense. A religious trust in something is necessary to keep us from despair : when vice, therefore, hath alienated us from the God of purity, we must turn to a less perfect model ; to any thing rather than nothing; and say, “ thou shalt be

God.' Thus the vicious heathen and corrupted jew, who could hold no communion with the eternal fpirit, fell down before the more useful parts of nature, or deified the passions they would indulge: they made them images which turned to their own decay; yea, they offered their fons and their daughters unto devils.* In the same fpirit, the mapit hath followed close at

the * i.e. Denons, or dead men deified.


[ocr errors]

the heels of the pagan mythologist, and invented or adopted the doctrine of representing images, and inediatorial faints, rather, than apply, as directed by the scriptures, with humbled hearts and corrected paffions, through Jesus Christ, to God. A fenfuel mind would rather offer an heccatomb than reftrain one vice; would submit to any uncommanded duty of fuperilition; would

give the fruit of his body for the fin of his foul ;” would go twenty pilgrimnages to Mecca, or Jerusalem, rather than be s holy, just, and good.” Add to this, which is an undoubted historical fact, that the corruptions of popery and inahemetaniím made their progress and appearance when corruption of manners was in the extreme among the eastern and weitern christians; and I believe it will be found a certain truth, that no nation in the world ever did or will receive either of those fytiems, or any other fyßern of corrupt religion, unless in the lowest state of grossness and immorality,

This sketch of idolatry may account for the propriety of God's puniihing it as the greatest of crimes, because it is not a defect of the understanding only, but of the C3


will : the heart and affections are firft corrupted, and, then, the understanding contributes its affistance to support the false system which they have introduced. When the heart of Solomon had drawn him to idolatry, his wisdom was employed in adjusting their ritual, and building their shrines. Now all true religion is given for the purpose of regulating our affections : all false religion tends to misplace and disorder them.

A bad man, whose pride makes him think nothing superior to himself, must naturally chufe a deity like himself; partial, capricious, sensual, and unjust. A good man, the good treasure of his heart,” will form his idea of the divine being, patient, pure, benevolent and just; with all those properties, in the highest perfection, which he languishes and aspires after himself; in short, like something which he feels he is not, but deeply wishes that he was. And this is the test of christianity which our faviour held out to the jews, when they affected to be doubtful of its authority : “ if any man will do his (God's) will, he shall know of


out of

« PreviousContinue »