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marked the distinct periods into which the year was divided, was thought worthy to share in the divine honors which were almost universally paid to the ruler of day.
It is sufficiently apparent from history, that the sun and moon were worshipped by the Phoenicians, Canaanites, Chaldeans, Moabites, and in fact by all the eastern nations, from the earliest periods to which their history can be traced. Baal (the sun) and Astaroth (the moon) called in scripture the Queen of Heaven, were objects of universal adoration throughout the heathen world. The idol Moloch, so often mentioned in scripture, signi fies the same as Baal, a king, or ruler, and is therefore supposed to be the sun. Diana (or the moon) the goddess of hunting and the goddess of months, was called in scripture, as we have before remarked, "the queen of heaven.' After the sun and moon, the smaller luminaries, which bestud the boundless concave, were considered of the same nature with the sun and moon, and therefore entitled to share with them the honors of worship, though not to the same extent, on account of the inferiority of their apparent glory.
During the Chaldean, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman monarchies, the sun, the moon, the planets and the fixed stars were all adored as Gods: And while the adoring Persian reared his altar to the Sun, and the Greek bowed with reverence at the shrine of Saturn, the deluded worshipper of the Queen of Heaven, rent the air with the acclamation, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians !" Nature was also worshipped under the name of this goddess, as the mother of all things, which will account for the peculiar appearance of her statues, covered from the shoulders to the lower extremities of the waist, with the emblems of nutriment, for the support of her children, which were represented upon all the body and limbs below, by the heads of various animals.
The objects which were worshipped by the ancient heathen, are too numerous for a minute detail :-In Egypt, besides the most grotesque figures of animals; or symbolical figures, compounded of man, and some animal; as the head of a dog on the body of a man; the head of a cat on the body of a woman; they worshipped oxen,
crocodiles, serpents, sparrow-hawks, ravens, insects, and even the herbs of their gardens Strange objects, indeed, to receive divine honors !
The heathen had idols of all sorts to worship; idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, wood, potters' earth, stars, spirits, men, animals, rivers, plants, trees, fountains, and even rough stones! The Arabians, before the days of Mahomet, paid divine honors to a certain black stone, which at this day is fastened in the wall at the temple of Mecca, and is devoutly kissed by Mahometans. They adored, in addition to this stone, spears, lances, great beams of timber, fire, animals, the sun, moon, stars, earth, flowers, plants, trees and fountains!-And we may add; the ancient Gauls and Germans, had scarce any other gods.
These idolators attributed to many of their gods and goddesses, the most ungovernable passions, and in their devotions they practised the most abominable obscenity and lewdness. This fact can easily be accounted for, if we reflect for a moment upon the probable causes which gave birth to their idolatry. This undoubtedly originated in the darkness of their minds, ignorance, vanity, pride, love of pleasure, fondness for sensible objects, libertinism, and in strong animal passions; the excessive affection of lovers; the mistaken tenderness of a father for his child; the husband for the wife, and the wife for the husband; great respect of subjects for their Prince, and of children for their parents; gratitude to the memory of benefactors; the splendid qualities of statesmen, and that admiration which the exploits of heroes and conquerors has almost universally excited; together with the indelible impression which has through all ages been fixed upon the human mind, of the existence of a Divine and Superior Cause: These have induced man to pay superstitious respect, worship and adoration, to what he loved, admired, esteemed, feared or honored to great excess.
The thought suggested itself to the minds of the ancients, that a resemblance of the gods which they worshipped, was desirable, to heighten the fervor of their devotions; hence im were raised and multiplied to an astonishing extent. But the infatuation of man at length became so great, that every object around him was dei
fied. A conqueror, who had desolated kingdoms, deluged nations in blood, caused rivers of tears to flow, and rent the hearts of widows and orphans with anguish which defies the power of language to describe, received divine honors from those who were deluded by his exploits, and dazzled with the splendor of his military achievements. A successful agriculturalist was adored, as presiding over the productions of the earth-A successful astronomer at Babylon was worshipped as the king of heaven :-A man who announced the return of periodical winds, was supposed to have charge of the storms, and therefore worshipped under the name of Æolus: Another, who braved the fury of the winds and waves, and conducted his frail bark across the ocean in safety, was supposed to be a god, and a constellation in the heavens still bears the name of the hero and his ship: While another, by discovering the medicinal virtues of plants, was deified as the god of medicine, and worshipped under the name of Esculapius. We may add to all these, that tyrants after tyrants were deified by their successors, till the supposed infernal regions were crowded with cruel, merciless and revengeful gods!
Those gods which were worshipped in some countries as supreme, held only a subordinate place in others; so that their deluded worshippers were continually disagreeing, as to which of them the honor of supreme worship belonged. They were more generally agreed, however, as to the character and attributes of their gods, and that, what they termed divine honors, belonged to each and every one and this fact will account for the astonishing number of about thirty thousand, which were enrolled in the catalogue at Rome, and to whom divine honors were authorised to be paid by the Roman laws.
Of all the gods which were worshipped by the heathen, Jupiter, who is called the son of Saturn, and was said to have stripped his father of the kingdom of Crete, and who is supposed to have lived within three hundred years of the time of Moses, was almost universally adored as the supreme god and as having the government of heaven and earth. He is represented by the heathen mythology as giving to his brother Neptune the government of the sea,
and to Pluto, the government of hell. The character which history ascribes to him is that of one of the most adulterous, and otherwise unclean wretches that ever breathed. From the time of Alexander the Great, he was held in the highest veneration, both by the Greeks and Latins. His, with the character of many other of the heathen gods, will account for the obscene and lascivious rites of heathen worship, which have branded with the deepest, but merited infamy, the idolatry of the ancients.
I have now given you a brief summary of the objects which were worshipped by those nations who were left to the sole direction of nature, reason and philosophy: And I ask you to compare them with the glorious object of adoration which revelation unfolds to the mental view of man. Compare them with that God who has revealed himself as the infinite fountain of power and intelligence; the Creator and governor of all worlds, unchangeable in all the designs of his infinite wisdom and goodness; and then decide for yourselves, which is the most rational and ennobling, the service of those detestable characters, or the service and worship of this only living and true God.
The worship which the ancients paid to Jupiter, Venus and Bachus, was too obscene and abominable to be described. Lasciviousness, debauchery and drunkenness were sanctioned, encouraged, applauded and practised, under the venerable name of religion. The more infamous and beastly these rites were, the more acceptable they were supposed to be to the gods they worshipped. But modesty compels us to draw a veil over the scenes of such depravity and wickedness. Yet, whoever has read the satires of Juvenal, or perused the history of those times, will instantly acknowledge the faithfulness of the picture of their enormities, as delineated by St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, chap. i. ver. 21-32. In a word, their deeds were so shocking and detestable, that the early christians were forbidden to have them even named in their assemblies.
Besides the disgusting and licentious rites to which we have alluded, the most shocking inhumanity and barbarity was practised in their worship. It was a common custom among the Carthagenians to sacrifice children to Saturn, and thus to outrage every feeling of humanity.
At one time, when Agathocles was about to besiege Carthage, two hundred children of the first families were offered in sacrifice and on each returning period for the annual sacrifice, it was customary for those who had no children to purchase them of the poor, for this horrid rite! Innocent children were devoted to the most awful death by their parents, that of being burnt alive in sacrifice, to appease the wrath, or secure the favour of their abominable gods!
In the life of Themistocles, as related by Plutarch, we have a striking exemplification of their horrid barbarity, When Themistocles was about to sacrifice upon the Admiral galley, at Athens, three beautiful captives were brought to him, richly attired with gold vests, and were said to be the children of the sister of Xerxes. As soon as Euphrantides, who was supposed to be a prophet, and who presided at the ceremony, saw them, he demanded them as an additional sacrifice. The Athenian Admiral, though shocked with the inhumanity of the thought, and extremely reluctant to comply with this demand, was, however, forced to submit, by the urgent clamors of the populace; and these unfortunate youths were accordingly immolated.
These few examples are only mentioned as a specimen of the horrid barbarity and cruelty, which almost every where prevailed in heathen countries, and which formed one of the most prominent features in the character of their worship I have forborne to mention the thousands that have been sacrificed by the Druids, or the millions that have perished in every heathen country by the same superstitions, and only selected a few of the most polished and enlightened of the heathen countries where these hor rid atrocities have been performed. These appalling scenes continued to be acted, over and over, until the light of revelation dispelled the gloom of their ignorance. But we must pursue their history.
In the character of their civil institutions, there was little more to admire than in their religious. Vice was almost universally tolerated, and the principles of humanity outraged, in every variety of form.-Implacable hatred was cherished as a virtue, and an unforgiving spirit held