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events. We cannot suppose this defection general, that all the sons of men were concerned in it.
The dispersion at Babel, and the confusion was partial, and related only to the house of Chus and their adherents. For they had many associates, probably out of every family; apostates from the truth, who had left the stock of their fathers, and the religion of the true God, that they might enlist under the rule of the Cuthites, and follow their rites and worship. For when Babel was deserted, we find among the Cuthites of Chaldea, some of the line of Shem, whom we could scarcely have expected to have met in such society.
Here were Terah, and Nahor, and even Abraham, all upon forbidden ground, and separated from the family to which they belonged. The great fear of the sons of Chus was, that they might be divided and scattered abroad; they therefore built. the tower of Babel as a landmark to repair to, as a token to direct them; and it was most probably an idolatrous or high altar, dedicated to the host of heaven, from which they were never to be long absent.a
Of Abraham, the father of the faithful, who was called by Divine Providence from Ur in Chaldea, God himself says, “ I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.” The correctness of the faith of Isaac, is also given by divine testimony. Concerning Ishmael, and the other children of Keturah, it is said, that Abraham “gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, (while he yet lived,) eastward, unto the east country," that is, Arabia Deserta ; and where, there is every reason to believe, they adored the God of
· Bryant's Ancient Mythology, vol. iv. p. 43.
their renowned father, and established a pure worship. In Phænicia, Abimelech, the king of the Philistines believed in God, was favoured with a heavenly vision, and pleaded religiously the righteousness of his nation. Sir Isaac Newton imagines, that the Philistines continued in the true religion till the death of Melchisedec; but that afterwards they began to embrace idolatry, which spread thitherward from Chaldea, and probably increased apace after the departure of Joseph's brethren with their families into Egypt. The king of Salem, a Canaanite, was the priest of the most High God in the country where he lived: and we have no intimation that the religion of the inhabitants was different from that of Abraham. When Abraham went to Egypt, God sent judgments on the family of Pharoah, because of Sarah his wife; and the king of Egypt appears to have been in nowise a stranger to the true God, but to have had the fear of him before his eyes, and to have been influenced by it in all his actions. If we search the antiquities of Egypt, we shall find in their remains as correct notions of God, as are to be met with in the antiquities of any other people. Heathen writers inform us, that the Egyptians were at first worshippers of the true God.a certainly their first principles, and as long as they adhered to these, so long they preserved the knowledge of the true religion. Had not this been really the case, the patriarch Joseph, long after this time, when he flourished at the head of the Egyptian ministry, would certainly not have married into the family he did. With justice, therefore, has the celebrated Grotius remarked, " That in the age of Joseph no certain traces of idolatry are to be
" De Iside et Os. p. 359. Eus. Præp. Ev. lib. i. c. 10.
discerned in Egypt." * It is thought that idolatry was not established by law in any part of that country, till Moses fell into disgrace at the court, when he first retired to his brethren in Goshen : about fifty years before the Israelites left Egypt.",
One of the first deviations from revealed truth, was the worship of the heavenly bodies. Babylon, as has been observed, is considered to be the mother of this kind of idolatry; for Egypt was not a nation when the sun began to be worshipped in Chaldea. Babylon infected Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia, and they spread the moral contagion throughout the world. Then followed the worship of renowned ancestors, whose spirits they imagined had taken up their residence in the heavenly bodies. Into these two parts idolatrous worship may justly be divided.
Concerning the former of these, Job, who lived about A. M. 2600, says, “ If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness ; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed
hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge ; for I should have denied the God that is above." As to the latter, Euhemerus, in the account he wrote on the gods, shows that they were only men. There is also, to the same purpose, ample information in the Theogony of Hesiod, the works of Homer, and generally in the classic poets, which contain a narration of their birth, genealogies, and lives. Manilius affirms, that the poets, by their verses, have turned the whole heavens into fable. c Cicero, in his Tusculan Disputations, intimates, that the
a Vide Poli Synopsin in Gen. xlvi. 34.
• Cooke's Inquiry into the Patriarchal and Druidical Religion, Temples, &c.
· Astronomicon, lib. ii. v. 37.
whole heavens are filled with mankind; that if we search into ancient things, especially into what the Grecian authors have recorded, we may find that the very chief deities, the majorum gentium Dii, have gone from this earth to heaven; and that their sepulchres are shown in Greece, which they who are initiated into these mysteries ought to remember. St. Augustin and St. Cyprian mention, that Alexander the Great, when in Egypt, having been told by Leo, the distinguished priest of the sacred things in that country, that even the gods of the highest rank, Jupiter, Juno, Saturn, and the rest, were men, wrote to his mother, Olympias, acquainting her with the important secret, but at the same time requested her, after reading the contents, to burn the letter. a
Idolatry, for some time, was pure Sabianism, the worship of the heavenly bodies, free from the use of images. Eusebius, in his Evangelical Preparation, on the authority of undeniable testimonies, states, that “ for a long time neither the ancient Egyptians, nor Phænicians, nay, nor even the Greeks, had any images. He says, the first and most ancient men did not trouble themselves to build any temples, or make any images, because the art of painting and carving, and even building, was not then invented, neither was there any mention of those who were afterwards called gods, or heroes. They had then neither Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Apollo, Juno, Bacchus, nor any other male or female deity ; a
a Apud Augustin, de Civ. Dei, lib. viii. cap. 5.
b “ Pure Sabianism,” says Faber, appears to have been the most ancient idolatry; but in process of time deified mortals were supposed to be regents of the heavenly bodies, and were worshipped conjunctly with them. Ham, from his Egyptian name, 7'*-ON, Ham-On, seems to have been adored in union with the sun, as Nimrod was elevated to the constellation of Orion.”-Hore Mosaicæ, vol. i. p. 195. Cedreni Hist. comp. fol. 14.
great number of which were afterwards owned both by Greeks and barbarians; yea, there was no good or evil demon then worshipped, but only the stars which appear in the heavens."
Herodotus, speaking of the Persians, says, 66 The Persians had neither altars, nor temples, nor statues ; they laughed at those who worshipped the gods in such a manner; they sacrificed on the tops of mountains to the King of Heaven, whom they called Jupiter ; for they did not take their gods from among men, as the Greeks. They sacrificed to the sun, the moon, fire, water, and winds; to these only they sacrificed from the beginning.”
Plutarch affirms, that King Numa forbade the Romans to represent God in the form of man or beast; nor was there any painted or graven image of a deity admitted among them for the space of the first hundred and sixty years, all which time their temples were free and pure from idols and images, which seemed too mean representations of God, to whom no access was allowed, but by a mind raised and elated by divine contemplation. b
Varro, cited by Augustine, assures us, that the ancient Romans, for more than one hundred and seventy years, worshipped their gods without images : if they had done so still, the gods might have been served with great purity; and he concludes, that those who first brought images into worship, took away the fear due to the deities, and led people into error.
Athenagorus says, that even among the Greeks, till the art of painting and statuary was found out, there was no mention of the images of the gods. Soon after
a Herodot. lib. i. cap. 131.
Life of Numa, Engl. Edit. vol. 1. p. 24, 25. • De Civitate Dei, lib. iv. cap. 31.