« PreviousContinue »
"the god to inhabit his image; and it is the god
only that we worship in that image." This explains the Roman ceremony, of inviting to their side the tutelar deities of towns besieged by them, termed evocatio tutelarium deorum. The Romans, cruel as they were, overflowed with superstition; and as they were averse from combating the tutelar deities even of their enemies, they endeavour ed to gain these deities by large promises, and assurance of honourable treatment. As they could not hope that a statue would change its place, their notion must have been, that by this ceremony, the tutelary deity might be prevailed upon to withdraw its numen, and leave the statue a dead lump of matter. When Stilpo was banished by the Areopagus of Athens, for affirming, that the statue in the temple of Minerva, was not the goddess, but a piece of matter carved by Phidias; he surely was not condemned for saying, that the statue was made by Phidias, a fact universally known: his heresy consisted in denying that the numen of Minerva resided in the statue. Augustus, having twice lost his fleet by storms, forbade Neptune to be carried in procession along with the other gods; imagining he had avenged himself of Neptune, by neglecting the favourite statue in which his numen resided.
When saints in the Christian church were deified, even their images became objects of worship, from a fond imagination, that such worship draws
draws down into the images the souls of the saints" they represent; which is the same belief that Arnobius, in the passage above mentioned, ascribes to the Gentiles; and is not widely different from the belief of the Pagan Tartars and Ostiacs, by and by to be mentioned. In the eleventh century, there was a violent dispute about images in the Greek church; many asserting, that in the images of our Saviour and of the saints, there resides an inherent sanctity which is a proper object of wor ship; and that Christians ought not to confine their worship to the persons represented, but ought also to extend it to their images. 1 B
As ignorant and savage nations can form no cont ception of Deity but of a being like a man, only superior in power and greatness; many images: have been made of the Deity conformable to that? conception. It is easy to make some resemblance of a man; but how is power and greatness to be represented? To perform this with success, would require a Phidias. Savages go more bluntly to work they endeavour to represent a man with many heads, and with a still greater number of hands. The northern Tartars seem to have no deities but certain statues or images coarsely form. ed out of wood, and bearing some distant resemblance to the human figure. To palliate so gross an absurdity as that a god can be fabricated by the hands of man, they imagine this image to be endued with a soul: to say whence that soul came
would puzzle the wisest of them. That soul is conceived to be too elevated for dwelling constantly in a piece of matter they believe that it resides in some more honourable place and that it only visits the image or idol, when it is called down by prayers and supplications. They sacrifice to this idol, by rubbing its mouth with the fat of fish, and by offering it the warm blood of some beast killed in hunting. The last step of the ceremony
is, to honour the soul of the idol with a joyful shout as a sort of convoy to it when it returns. home. The Ostiaes have a wooden idol termed The Old man of Oby, who is guardian of their fishery it hath eyes of glass, and a head with short horns: When the ice dissolves, they crowd to this idol, requesting that he would be propitious to their fishery. If unsuccessful, he is loaded with reproaches: If successful, he is entitled to a share of the capture. They make a feast for him, rubbing his snout with choice fat; and when the entertainment is over, they accompany the soul of the idol a little way, beating the air with their cudgels. The Ostiacs have another idol, that is fed with milk so abundantly, as to come out on both sides of the spoon, and to fall down upon the vesture; which however is never washed, so little is cleanness thought essential to religion by that people. It is indeed strangely absurd, to think, that invisible souls require food like human creaZ
tures; and yet the same absurdity prevailed in Greece.
The ancient Germans, a sober and sensible. people, had no notion of representing their gods by statues, or of building temples to them. They worshipped in consecrated groves*. The Egyptians, from a just conception that an invisible, being can have no resemblance to one that is visible, employed hieroglyphical figures for denoting metaphorically the attributes of their gods; and they employed, not only the figures of birds and beasts, but of vegetables; leeks, for example, and onions. This metaphorical adjunct to religion, innocent in itself, sunk the Egyptians into the most groveling idolatry. As hieroglyphical figures, composed frequently of heterogeneous parts, resemble not any being human or divine; the vulgar losing sight of the emblematic signification understood by poets and philosophers. only, took up with the plain figures as real divinities. How otherwise can it be accounted for, that the ox, the ape, the onion, were in Egypt: worshipped as deities? Plutarch, it is true, in his chapter upon Isis and Osiris, observes, that the Egyptians worshipped the bull, the cat, and other animals, not as divinities, but as representatives of them, like an image seen in a glass; or, as he expresses it in another part of the same chapter, "just as we see the resemblance of the "sun in a drop of water." But that this must be understood
*Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, cap. 9.
understood of Philosopher's only, will be probable from what is reported by Diodorus Siculus, that in a great famine, the Egyptians ventured not to touch the sacred ammals, though they were forced to devour one another. A shake of a particular kind, Į, about a yard long, and about the thickness of a man's arm, is worshipped by the Whidans in Guinea. It has a large round head, piercing To eyes, a short pointed tongue, and a smooth skin, beautifully speckled. It has a strong antipathy to all the venomous kind; in other respects innocent and tame. To kill these snakes being a capital crime, they travel about unmolested even in bedchambers. They occasioned anno 1697, a ridiculous persecution. A hog, teased by one of them, tore it with his tusks till it died. The priests carried their complaint to the king; and no one presuming to appear as counsel for the hogs, orders were issued for slaughtering the whole race. At once were brandished a thousand cutlasses; and the race would have been extirpated, had not the king interposed, representing to the priests, that they ought to rest satisfied with the innocent blood they had spilt. Rancour and cruelty never rage more violently, than under the mask of religion.
It is amazing how prone even the most polished nations were to idolatry. A statue of Hercules was worshipped at Tyre, not as a representative of the deity, but as the deity himself. And accordingly, when Tyre was besieged by Alexander, the