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The same idea may be formed of the worship which all Egypt rendered to the cow, and that several towns paid to a dog, an ape, a cat, and to onions. It appears that these were first emblems. Afterwards a certain ox Apis, and a certain dog Anubis, were adored: they always ate beef and onions; but it is difficult to know what the old women of Egypt thought of the holy cows and onions.
Idols also often spoke. On the day of the feast of Cybele at Rome, those fine words were commemorated which the statue pronounced when it was translated from the palace of king Attilus: "I wish to depart; take me away quickly; Rome is worthy of the residence of every god.'
Ipsa peti volui; ne sit mora, mitte volentum:
The statue of Fortune spoke; the Scipios, the Ciceros, and the Cæsars, indeed, believed nothing of it; but the old woman, to whom Encolpus gave a crown to buy geese and gods, might very well credit it.
Idols also gave oracles, and priests hidden in the hollow of the statues spoke in the name of the divinity.
How happens it, in the midst of so many gods and different theogonies and particular worships, that there was never any religious war among the people called idolaters? This peace was a good produced from an evil-even from error; for each nation, acknowledging several inferior gods, found it good for his neighbours also to have theirs. If you except Cambyses, who is reproached with having killed the ox Apis, you will not see any conqueror in profane history who ill-treated the gods of a vanquished people. The heathens had no exclusive religion, and the priests thought only of multiplying the offerings and sacrifices.
The first offerings were fruits. Soon after, animals were required for the table of the priests; they killed them themselves, and became cruel butchers; finally, they introduced the horrible custom of sacrificing human victims, and above all children and young girls. The
Chinese, Persees, and Indians, were never guilty of these abominations; but at Hieropolis, in Egypt, ac- / cording to Porphyrius, they immolatde men.
Strangers were sacrificed in Taurida: happily the priests of Taurida had not much practice. The firstGreeks, the Cypriots, Phenicians, Tyrians, and Carthagenians, possessed this abominable superstition. The Romans themselves fell into this religious crime; and Plutarch relates, that they immolated two Greeks and two Gauls to expatiate the gallantries of three vestals. Procopius, contemporary with the king of the Franks, Theodobert, says, that the Franks sacrificed men when they entered Italy with that prince. The Gauls and Germans commonly made these frightful sacrifices. We can scarcely read history without conceiving horror at mankind.
It is true that among the Jews, Jeptha sacrificed his daughter, and Saul was ready to immolate his son; it is also true that those who were devoted to the Lord by anathema could not be redeemed, as other beasts were, but were doomed to perish.
We will now speak of the human victims sacrificed in all religions.
To console mankind for the horrible picture of these pious sacrifices, it is important to know, that amongst almost all nations called idolatrous, there have been holy theologies and popular error, secret worship and public ceremonies; the religion of sages, and that of the vulgar. To know that one God alone was taught to those initiated into the mysteries, it is only necessary to look at the hymn attributed to the ancient Orpheus, which was sung in the mysteries of the Eleusinian Ceres, so celebrated in Europe and Asia: "Contemplate divine nature; illuminate thy mind; govern thy heart; walk in the path of justice, that the God of heaven and earth may be always present to thy eyes: he only selfexists, all beings derive their existence from him; he sustains them all; he has never been seen by mortals, and he sees all things."
We may also read the passage of the philosopher Maximus, whom we have already quoted:-" What man is so gross and stupid as to doubt that there is a
supreme, eternal, and infinite God, who has engendered nothing like himself, and who is the common father of all things?"
There are a thousand proofs that the ancient sages not only abhorred idolatry but polytheism.
Epictetus, that model of resignation and patience, that man so great in a humble condition, never speaks but of one God. Read over these maxims:"God has created me, God is within me; I carry him everywhere. Can I defile him by obscene thoughts, unjust actions, or infamous desires? My duty is to thank God for all, to praise him for all; and only to cease blessing him in ceasing to live." All the ideas of Epictetus turn on this principle. Is this an idolater?
Marcus Aurelius, perhaps as great on the throne of the Roman empire as Epictetus was in slavery, often speaks, indeed, of the gods, either to conform himself to the received language, or to express intermediate beings between the Supreme Being and men; but in how many places does he show that he recognises one eternal, infinite God alone? "Our soul," says he, "is an emanation from the divinity. My children, my body, my mind, are derived from God."
The stoics and platonics admitted a divine and universal nature; the epicureans denied it. The pontiffs spoke only of a single God in their mysteries. Where then were the idolaters? All our declamers exclaim against idolatry like little dogs, who yelp when they hear a great one bark.
As to the rest, it is one of the greatest errors of the Dictionary of Moreri to say, that in the time of Theodosius the younger there remained no idolaters except in the retired countries of Asia and Africa. Even in the seventh century there were many people still heathen in Italy. The north of Germany, from the Weser, was not christian in the time of Charlemagne. Poland and all the south remained a long time after him in what was called idolatry; the half of Africa, all the kingdoms beyond the Ganges, Japan, the populace of China, and a hundred hordes of Tartars, have preserved their ancient religion. In Europe there are only a few
Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Tartars, who have persevered in the religion of their ancestors.
Let us conclude with remarking, that in the time which we call the middle ages, we denominated the country of the Mahometans Pagan; we treated as idolaters and adorers of images, a people who hold all images in abhorrence. Let us once more avow, that the Turks are more excusable in believing us idolaters, when they see our altars loaded with images and
A gentleman belonging to prince Ragotski assured me upon his honour, that being in a coffee-house at Constantinople, the mistress ordered that he should not be served because he was an idolater. He was a protestant, and he swore to her that he adored neither host nor images. "Ah! if that is the case," said the woman, come to me every day, and you shall be served for nothing."
If you are desirous of obtaining a great name, of becoming the founder of a sect or establishment, be completely mad; but, be sure that your madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age. Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagancies; and, forget not to be excessively opinionated and obstinate. It is certainly possible that you may get hanged; but if you escape hanging, you will have altars erected to you.
In real truth, was there ever a fitter subject for the Petites-Maisons, or Bedlam, than Ignatius, or St. Inigo the Biscayan, for that was his true name? His head became deranged in consequence of his reading the "Golden Legend;" as Don Quixote's was, afterwards, by reading the romances of chivalry. Our Biscayan hero, in the first place, dubs himself a knight of the Holy Virgin, and performs the Watch of Arms in honour of his lady. The virgin appears to him and accepts his services; she often repeats her visit, and
- introduces to him her son. The devil, who watches his opportunity, and clearly foresees the injury he must in the course of time suffer from the jesuits, comes and makes a tremendous noise in the house, and breaks all the windows; the Biscayan drives him away with the sign of the cross; and the devil flies through the wall, leaving in it a large opening, which was shown to the curious fifty years after the happy event.
His family, seing the very disordered state of his mind, is desirous of his being confined and put under a course of regimen and medicine. He extricates himself from his family as easily as he did from the devil, and escapes without knowing where to go. He meets with a Moor, and disputes with him about the immaculate conception. The Moor, who takes him exactly for what he is, quits him as speedily as possible. The Biscayan hesitates whether he shall kill the Moor or pray to God for his conversion; he leaves the decision to his horse, and the animal, rather wiser than its master, took the road leading to the stable.
Our hero, after this adventure, undertakes a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, begging his bread on the way: his madness increases as he proceeds; the dominicans take pity on him at Manrosa, and keep him in their establishment for some days, and then dismiss him uncured.
He embarks at Barcelona, and goes to Venice; he returns to Barcelona, still travelling as a mendicant, always experiencing trances and extacies, and frequently visited by the Holy Virgin and Jesus Christ.
At length, he was given to understand that, in order to go to the holy land with any fair view of converting the Turks, the Christians of the Greek church, the Armenians, and the Jews, it was necessary to begin with a little study of theology. Our hero desires nothing better; but, to become a theologian, it was requisite to know something of grammar and a little Latin; this gives him no embarrassment whatever: he goes to college at the age of thirty-three; he is there laughed at, and learns nothing.