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BOOK kind, which, joined with their ignorance and fear, tend
to preserve that seed of religion which is in man, and no other living creature.
III. That the consent of mankind is not so great as is pretended; there being several nations now known, by the late discoveries, which have no sense or notion of God, or a future state.
These are the things which I shall now make it my business to inquire into, and thereby shew the vanity and folly of these general prejudices against religion.
I begin with the first, That religion was first invented and carried on by politicians and priests, who aimed only at keeping the world in better awe, and themselves in a better condition. This hath been suggested by atheistical persons in all ages, where they have dared to appear, and was thought the most plausible artifice to draw in the people to their party; for no men love to be imposed upon, especially in what
Wir ease and interest; but they were not abı
Hire out the persons, times, or places, when the notrvtis of religion were first spread among mankind. For they could never produce any instances of persons, who designed to impose upon mankind in matters of religion, but they found the general principles of religion were entertained among them before; as will appear by the following examples of the Egyptians and Greeks, which are most insisted upon.
The Egyptians are said by Lucian to have been the DedoSyria. first who set up religious worship; and Herodotus
seems to be of the same opinion. Plutarch saith it was done by Osiris; and Diodorus Siculus saith, it was directed by Hermes, who was a great politician, and chief counsellor to Osiris. But all that Diodorus saith is, that he brought the honours and services of the gods into order; which supposes that there was religion
Plutrcah.de Isid. et Osiride. Diod. Sic. 1. i.
them before, but he methodized it. And if we CHAP. believe Sanchoniathon, who makes him first counsellor
Euseb. Pr. to Cronus, father to Misor or Osiris, he began the sym-Ev. 1. i. bolical images of the gods, which caused such confu-C. 10. sion in their worship afterwards. Diodorus saith, that Plutarch.de Osiris built Thebes or Diospolis; where there was a rid. temple to the immortal God that made the world, as appears by the testimonies both of Plutarch and Porphyry. And the former observes, that the most ancient, Euseb. Pr. and universal, and most credible tradition, both of law-c. 11. givers and others, philosophers, as well as poets and b. t. 45. divines, was, that the world was not made by chance, ed. Oxun. without a mind and reason to order and govern it. From whence it follows, that, before such politicians took upon them to order matters of religion, there was a generally received tradition of a Divine Being which made and governed the world, and was the true foundation on which religious worship was built. And the same Plutarch in that discourse affirms it to be un impious and atheistical opinion to attribute the na: of God to insensible matter; and adds, that there tone universal reason which governs the world. Aihmi- Ammian. anus Marcellinus saith, that the first beginnings of reli- 1. xxii. gion were in Egypt, long before they were in other parts. Here therefore we must search out for the first laying this design by politicians; and here we find it fixed upon Hermes Trismegistus, who, by the accounts given of him, was a very great man, and that in the beginning of the Egyptian monarchy. Philo Byblius saith, he was called by the Egyptians Thoth ; by the Phænicians, Taautus; by the Greeks, Hermes. He flourished, he saith, with great reputation for wisdom Euseb. Pr. among the Phænicians; who, it seems, at that time Ev. 1. i. were under the government of Cronus, father to Osiris, ed. Par. (or Misor, as they called him, from Misraim, the son
Ev, l. iii.
c. 1o. p. to.
Ev. 1. i.
BOOK of Ham, who first peopled those countries.) And so I.
far there is nothing improbable in the story; for the same person, being of an extraordinary capacity, might
be in favour both with Cronus in Phoenicia, and with Euseb. Pr. Osiris afterwards in Egypt. But he goeth on, and saith, α. το p. 4ο. Πρώτος τα κατά την Θεοσέβειαν εκ της των χυδαίων απειρίας,
εις επιστημονικής εμπειρίαν διέταξεν: that Taautus was the first who took the matters of religious worship out of the hands of unskilful men, and brought them into due method and order. So that we find plainly there was religion among the people before ; but this wise politician thought he could manage it better, if he appointed the rites of public worship so as to be most serviceable to government. And for that end he set up the worship of princes after their death, (especially of Osiris, after his being cut in pieces by his brother,) and joined their names with those of the stars, as visible deities; and of some animals, as so many living images of their gods. And herein, as far as we can find, lay the poli
vention of Hermes Trismegistus; not in the first planting the principles of religion, but in turning them that way as he thought would serve best to the ends of government, by raising a high veneration for deceased monarchs, and deifying such things as they thought most useful to mankind. This was indeed playing the politician with religion. But that there was a sense of religion before among the people, not only appears by
the former saying of Philo Byblius, but by another in Euseb. Pr. his Proem to Sanchoniathon, where he saith, That the
Phoenicians and Egyptians agreed (from whom other nations took it up) to worship those as their chief gods, which were most useful to mankind; Kai eis tò xpeau καταστάντας ναούς μετασκευασάμενοι : αnd to this purpose they turned the temples already standing, and erected pillars and statues to their memories, and made fes
Ev. l. i. ed. l'ar.
tivals to them. From whence it appears that there CHAP. were rites of public worship among them before, but that Hermes caused them to be employed this way ; joining the worship of the stars and their kings together.
But there are two very different accounts concerning that religion which was first settled by Hermes in Egypt. The one is of those who believe there are some remainders of the old Egyptian doctrine in the Trismegistic books, though with many additions and interpolations: and their opinion is, that, under all the popular disguises and superstitious ceremonies for amusing the common people, he did cover the true principles of natural religion, asserting the being and providence of God, and the immortality of souls. And for this they produce not only divers passages in those books of Hermes, which were known in the Egyptian times, while their priests were yet in being to have contradicted them, if they had published falsehoods under so great a name, but from the testimonies of Plutarch and Iamblichus, which cannot be suspected ; to which the opinions of Pythagoras and Plato, who sojourned so long among the Egyptian priests to learn their doctrine, may be added. But it is not pretended, that in those times this was the common and professed religion among the people; but that it was kept up as a secret, not to be communicated but only to such who were prepared for it. According to this opinion, the design of Hermes was not to establish any true religion among the people, but to entertain them with pomp, and sacrifices, and ceremonies; and (as some in Plu- Plutarch. tarch and Diodorus think) to keep up a difference Osir. c. 72. among them about the sacred animals, to secure them ed. Oxon from an universal conspiracy against the monarchy. I. i. But if the true notions of God and Providence, and an
de Isid, et
. Diod. Sic.
BOOK other world, were preserved among the priests, especially
at Diospolis, or the famous Thebes, where the chief of their residence was, then it appears that these were not scat e red among the common people by priests and politicians, but were kept secret, as not so fit for their capacities; which would go no further than visible deities, and a pompous worship: so that the true principles of religion were not sowed by them to serve their ends, but the corruptions of it, in order to the pleasing and entertainirg the senses and devotions of the common people, who they knew were most affected with what was most agreeable to their superstitious fancies. And there was much more of policy than religion, in keeping the best parts of it from the knowledge of the people; but the politicians knew very well those would not serve their turn so well as the fopperies of their superstition.
But there is another opinion which depends most upon the credit of Philo Byblius, who lived about Hadrian's time. This man, being learned, had a mind to make some noise in the world with the antiquities of his own country (for Byblus was a Phoenician town). He found the Jewish antiquities asserted by Josephus and others, and the Egyptian by Apion; and now he thought was a fit time to vie with them both. To that end he produces nine books of the Phoenician antiquities, written, as he pretended, long since by Sanchoniathon, and translated by him into Greek; which he
pretends to have found after a most diligent search Præp. Ev.
into the Phoenician monuments. And to make it appear how credible this account of Sanchoniathon was, he saith, He took it out of the records of cities, and the monuments of temples, which were kept up in the sacred Ammonian letters. And this man is very much commended by Porphyry writing against the Christians,
1. 1. c. 9.