With exulting hearts
They spread their spurious treasures to the sun,
In number boundless as the blooms of spring,
Behold their glaring idols, empty shades,
By fancy gilded o'er, and then set up
For adoracion.


THE philosophists of the present age having transferred the law of liberty of choice from things in which opinion may innocently decide, to what is in its own nature fixed and definite, some well-disposed persons


[ocr errors]

have apprehended, not only that christianity would be superseded by some new and happier discovery, but, that the exploded superstition of heathenism would be revived. Though no one can be more sensible of the danger which is to be apprehended from the universal adoption of the maxim, that every human being is free to select his religion without hazard of present inconvenience or future responsibility, I confess I have too much dependence on the inventive talents of my cotemporaries to fear a reinauguration of the deities of the Old Pantheon. Even if force or flattery should renew the Olympic games, and era in Ionia, I am persuaded that the imita. tive arts would never do more than support the fascinating personages of mythology as gods of the imagination, and symbolical representatives of their peculiar attributes, where I conceive

tliey may lawfully remain without any hazard of corrupting our morals or bewildering our faith, at least so long as we retain sufficient judgment to distinguish acknowledged fiction from confirmed facts, and amusements from commands.

But I am not going to surrender the old woman's privilege of foreseeing evils. I also predict the introduction of an idolatry more universal than that of the court of Jove or the brutish gods of the Nile, in their best days of popularity. While self-love and vanity have such numerous votaries, we need not fear worshipping lizards and serpents, unless we consider them as emblems of deceit, nor of bowing down to any calf except a golden one. . My fear is, that in a few years, the world will have as many gods and goddesses as it has inhabitants; and that we shall discover our

« VorigeDoorgaan »