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had so fair an opportunity, he did not also show, that other ceremonies of their religious worship had the same foundation, and bore their testimony to the same authority. I believe it may be said with truth, that there never was a single rite in general use among Heathens which was not founded in Revelation *. Mr. Bryant would then have done what the learned Dr. Spencer ought to have done when he did exactly the contrary. He preposterously deduced the rites of the Hebrews from the rites of the Heathens; and so produced a work of learned appearance, and composed in elegant Latin, but disgraceful to Christian Divinity, dishonourable to the Church of England, and affording a very bad example to vain scholars who should succeed him. The Hebrew rites, he contends, were derived from the Heathen rites. But this position laid him under an obligation which he did not foresee: for the Heathen religion, like that of the Hebrews, abounded also with miracles. Did the Hebrews derive their miracles also from the miracles of the Heathens ? This one question, to my apprehension, makes nonsense of his whole scheme. The true Religion had its miracles. Its miracles were the credentials of its doctrines. Those who professed that religion believed and knew them to be true, because their eyes had seen them. This their Heathen enemies
new; and, resolving not to be behind them, overacted the part, and multiplied miracles to such a degree, that they became fulsome and ridiculous: and here we shall find the true reason why they so universally hated the nation of the Jews. When a man is a plagiary, he either hides the original out of which he borrows, or represents it as worthless and contemptible. When
* And so far as their rites differed, they were corruptions; as when they offered unclean animals in sacrifice.
boys are taught to read Heathen historians, they find so much of this miracle-making, that they wonder not at it. But it is a wonderful thing; and they should stop to think about it: for how came Heathens to dream of such things as miracles ? No man could dream of a thunder-storm, unless he had heard one. The reason of an Infidel, in these days, tells him there can be no such thing as a miracle. But the man who says this, must give us a reason why they were so universally received among the Heathens. Dr. Middleton would reason upwards, from the legendary miracles of the Papists, to the Apostolical miracles of Christianity, and conclude them all legendary: but we will reason down to them, and make the false prove the true; for the false would never have existed, but for the true, which made way for them.
Is any man so weak as to think, that base money came into use before true money? That the shadow was made first, and the substance afterwards? Ridiculous! Heathens knew that there had been true miracles wrought by the true God for his people ; therefore they never questioned the reality of miraclesthey knew too well—and feeling it a defect and disgrace to them, that they had no miracles of their own to support them, they fabricated them in such abundance, that the Heathen Celsus impudently argued, that the miracles of the Scripture were borrowed from the miracles of their mythology. But what can our poor modern Infidel say! The weight of the evidence, profane and sacred, for the existence of miracles, is so great on both sides, that between them he is crushed to death: his scheme cannot last a moment. If the philosopher Hume's arguments against miracles had then been produced, they would have made a wretched figure; though Christians may be so bewitched as to
listen to them, the Heathens themselves would have cast them out. This is a strange case, and it shows us that no man can rightly judge of the enemies of God, till he compares them with one another; and then he will see how senseless they are. Truth being one, the friends of God are alike in all ages: but error being various, and never able to fix its foot any where, produces nothing but inconsistent characters. When all the kings west of Jordan, and all the Canaanites, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, then their heart melted ; neither was there spirit in them any more.
Thus it was then; now, indeed, the time is remote, the thing is pronounced impossible, and the fact itself is denied: but Mr. Leslie's argument sets all that to rights. The Heathens of Canaan knew that there was a power which wrought true miracles for the people of God; and the corresponding society of Heathens would communicate it to one another, and never forget it afterwards : the report went down to their posterities; and nothing remained, but to make as many miracles as they could of their own, in order to maintain the credit of their false deities *; and their universal practice is a demonstration of miracles that were true. Every boy that reads Livy, or Florus, or Homer, or Virgil, will see how universally miracles were admitted among the Heathens. What they were I care not: I am contented with knowing that there never was a shadow without a substance; and that there is not an Infidel upon earth who can speak sense upon this subject. How far Satan might sometimes interfere, to make Heathen
* Cadmus very likely brought a great deal of this knowledge into Greece.
prodigies real, I do not inquire now: because the Infidel will not choose to come off that way. The supposition would be fatal: for then the Devil, who deluded Heathens, may delude him. There was a time when he deceived the world, by showing himself openly: for God then showed himself openly; but the same end is answered now by hiding himself: though his works betray him to Christians, and ever will, as effectually as if they saw him acting in person.
If the Bible describes or predicts the appearance of divine persons upon earth, say not the Heathens the same? We are stunned with the exploits of the sons of their Gods and Goddesses. Achilles, the hero of Homer, is like the Hero first predicted in the book of Genesis, vulnerable only in the heel. If we read that heavenly beings are visible to some and not to others, we find the like in Homer, as when Minerva comes to Achilles from Heaven:
Οίω φαινομένη, τών δ' άλλών ούτις οράτο.
She appears to him alone, while nobody else could see her. See Daniel, x. 7.
If we read of beasts speaking with human voice, we find the same in Virgil * :
In short, there is scarcely a sign or a wonder recorded in the Bible, but we find something of the same sort in the history which the Heathens give of themselves, and their gods; even to the restoring the dead to life; it being told of Jupiter, that he restored
* Some of these things I noted long ago, in Letters from a Tutor to his Pupils.
Pelops, who had been slaughtered by his father. It seems more remarkable that they should borrow the wonders of the sacred History, than that they should use the same ceremonies in their religion : for, when they undertook to set up a religion against God, they found themselves baffled and discomfited in their first attempt; they had nothing to begin with, and so were under the necessity of taking such rites as they found, and changing the application of them to false objects, to make it answer their wicked purpose. Thus it came to pass, that although they abhorred the Jews for denying their gods, they all used the same rites of divine worship: which is a prodigious fact; but we are so early accustomed to it, that it does not strike us.
But I think we may go a step farther : for, though it may seem strange to say it, yet learned men have thought, with good reason, that even the false objects which the Heathens worshipped were taken from Revelation; for God, being an invisible spirit, could never be known to men from the beginning of the world, but through the emblematic visible powers of nature; particularly by the power of fire, which attended his presence in Egypt, at the burning bush, then in the Red Sea, and afterwards at Mount Horeb, when the law was delivered. All this while, the Spirit of God, thus represented, was invisible; consequently an object of faith. This they lost, having their reasons for not retaining it in their minds, and took the visible fire of Nature for the true object, when it was nothing but the figure. Mr. Bryant, in his History of Mythology, shows abundantly, that fire was the first and great object of ancient idolatry all over the world : and the fire of the natural world being the Sun, they made him the standing object of adoration.