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ing, that the general state of religion and manners may be judged of by the style and taste adopted in the ornamental arts. There might be a faulty superstition, with a mixture of fimplicity bordering upon ignorance, in the works of former ages; but the style of them shewed that Christianity was the religion of the country, and that the several particulars of the sacred history were then held in honour, as the subjects most worthy to be offered for admiration, and recommended by all the efforts of human ingemuity.
This was certainly the persuasion of those times : but in the present age the public taste can seldom find any thing but Heathen matter to work upon: from which it is natural to infer, that Heathenisın is in better repute than formerly; and thence it will follow, that the public regard to Christianity, and all that relates to it, is proportionably declined.
Polydore Virgil, in his work De rerum inventoribus, tells us how in the middle ages of the church, they christened the ceremonies of the Pagan superstition, and adapted their fables to the mysteries of the Christian worship: which observation will undoubtedly account for much of the pomp that appears in the celebrities of the modern church of Rome. There might posibly be a very good intention in thus attempting to reclaim what had been misapplied, in order to make an impression upon vulgar minds in their own way; but there was often great weakness and want of judgment in the manner, which should never be proposed for imitation. Thus much of their humour ought to be retained, that the true religion should, in all places, and on all occasions, be feen to preserve its fuperiority over the false ; not merely because one is better than the other, but because the one is worthy of God, and will raise honourable sentiments in men, while the other was never intended for any thing but an engine of the devil, to infuse sentiments of impurity, obscenity, pride, and vanity, dilhonourable to God, and destructive to man. Yet the taste for Heathen learning, which began to prevail about the times of the Reformation, hath been productive of an evil, which hath been growing upon us for two hundred years past, and hath at length given to Heathenism the upper hand in alınost every subje&. The fabulous objects of the Grecian mythology have even got possession of our churches; in one of which * I have feen a monument, with elegant figures as large as the life, of the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, spinning and clipping, the thread of a great man's life: by which species of memorial, he is taken as it were out of the hands of the true God, when we Christians worship in our churches, and turned over to the iniserable blinds ness of Heathen destiny: not to mention the insuit and profanation with which Heathen idols are brought into a Christian temple. In the same church, the baptiftery or font is removed almost out of sight; and when found, has a very mean and unworthy appearance, as if it were intended for fome other use: so natural is it for those improvements which exalt Heathenism to debase Chriftianity. How conspicuous are all the temples of the Heathen idols in the famous gardens of Stowe in Buckinghamshire ; while the parish church, which happens to stand within the precincts, is industrioufly shrouded behind ever-greens and other trees, as an object impertinent, or at least of no importance to a spectator of modern taste. In our rural ornaments we have temples to all the Pagan divinities; and in the city a Pantheon, wherein there is a general assembly of the sons and daughters of pleasure, under the auspices of Heathen dæmons *.
* At the village of Wharton, near Kettering, in Northamptonshire
This taste is not only profane and corrupting whenever it takes place, but the productions of it are sometimes monstrously absurd and incongruous : it begets a certain inattention to propriety, which admits of false and shocking associations, consistent neither with goodness of taste, nor correctness of judgment. When I see the figure of a cock upon the top of a steeple, I am reminded of that sacred bird who was a monitor to St. Peter, and through kis example is now giving a daily leffon to all believers. When I see the globe and cross on the top of St. Paul's, I rejoice in the exaltation of him who was humbled for our fakes, but is now the head of all principality and power to the church and to the world'; and I feel a secret satisfaction in reflecting, that a cross fo exalted has no - reproach in it, as if the offence of it were ceased. But when I see the dragon upon Bow-steeple, I can only wonder how an emblem so expressive of the devil, and frequently introduced as such into the temples of idolaters, found its way to the sumınit of a Christian edifice. I am so jealous in these matters, that I must confefs myself to have been much hurt by a like impropriety in a well-known music-room, where there is an organ confecrated, by a superscription to Apollo, although the praises of Jehovah are generally celebrated by it once every month in the choral
* The author of these Reflexions hath lived to see it destroyed by tirę.
performances : and it seems rather hard that Jehovah should condescend to be a borrower, while Apollo is the proprietor.
In all the sciences the tokens of this Pagan infection are very observable. In politics we hear of nothing but Brutus, and are stunned with the heroism of rebels, and the virtue of regicides. In morality, how venerable are the characters of Socrates, and Cato the luicide: while the Spartan virtue is become the grand object of patriotic emulation ; though I am sure it would make a shocking figure if the moral character of that commonwealth were impartially represented on the authority of Plutarch. Botany, which in ancient times was full of the blessed Virgin Mary, and had many religious memorials affixed to it, is now as full of the Heathen Venus, the Mary of our modern virtuosi. Amongst the ancient names of plants, we find the Calceolus Mariæ, Carduus * Mariæ, Carduus benedictus, our Lady's Slipper, our Lady's i Thistle, our Lady's Mantle, the Alchymilla, &c. but modern improvements have introduced the Speculum Veneris, Labrum Veneris, Venus's Looking-glass, Venus's Balin (the Dipsacus), Venus's Navel-wort, Venus's Fly-trap, and fuch-like: and whereas the ancient botahists took a pleasure in honouring the memory of the Christian saints with their St. John's wort, St. Peter's wort, herb Gerard, herb Christopher, and many others; 4 the modern ones, inore affected to their own honour, have dedicated several newly-discovered genera of plants to one another ; of which the Hottonia, the Sibthorpia, are instances, with others so numerous and familiar to men of science, that they need not be specificd.
But in poetry, the servility of Christians is most notorious of all, Here they follow as implicitly as if the Heathen Muses had deprived them of their wits. If any machinery is to be introduced, it must all be according to the Heathen model, by a law as invariable as that of the Medes and Persians. But it should be confidered, that when an Heathen poet (made use of his divine machinery, he only spoke as he believed, introducing such powers into his verse as he professed to worship in prose. After he had been offering facrifices in the temple of Minerva, it was natural for him to bring her in to the aslistance of his hero: but when a Christian moralist does the same, proposing a pattern
of virtue on the Heatlea, plan for the purposes of education, be goes out of his way, to adopt what he knows to be as absurd in itself as it is contrary to his profession. If there is a natural opposition between truth and falfhood, we are now as irrational in betraying a partiality to the profane objects of Heathenism, as the Heathens themselves would have been, had they shewn the like regard to the sacred objects of the Bible ; only with this difference, that they would have taken up what was better than their own, whereas we incline to that which is worse : their choice would have brought them nearer to God; ours brings us nearer to the Devil. How strange would it have been, if while their temples were dedicated to Venus, Mars, and Bacchus, their gardens had been adorned with statutes of Moses and Aaron, the walls of their houses painted with the destruction of Sodom, the overthrow of Pharaoh, the delivery of the two tables on Mount Sinai, and such like subjects of sacred history! Who would not have inferred in such a case, that their temples were frequented out of form, while their inclinations were toward the law of Moses, and the God of the Hebrews ? The Heathen priests would never have been silent on such an oc., casion: they would have exclaimed against this double-faced disaffection, and have given the aların against all that were guilty of it, as persons ready to apostatize from the religion of their ancestors. But alas! no Heathens were ever found to be thus inconsistent : they were faithful to their profession, and with one mind abominated every thing that was Jewish, for the relation it bore to the Jewilh worship; always railing against that nation as low and contemptible, and their religion as foolish and superstitious. We also should be as sincere in our profession as they were in theirs, and should express our aversion againit folly and profaneness wherever they occur, unless our intellects were vitiated with false wisdom from the common forms of education, To take little things for great, and great for little, is the worst misfortune that can befal the human understanding. The machinery of Heathenism appears great to scholars, because it has been described by great wits of antiquity, with great words and musical verses; and being offered very early to the mind at school, there is a natural prepossession in favour of it. But is there really any thing great in the character of Æolus, fhutting up the winds in a den? In Vulcan the blacksmith, hammering thunderbolts with his one-eyed journeymen? In Neptune, a man living under water like a fish, and flourishing a pitch-fork to still the raging
of the sea? If these things are taken literally, according to that poetical character in which the ancient writers used them, and in which only they are adopted by the moderns, they are so mean and ridiculous, that when the Heathens were pressed with them after the commencement of the Gospel, they could find no way of upholding their dignity, but by resolving them into their phyfical character ; that is, by accommodating thein to the powers and operations of nature, to which they alluded with a fort of mystical resemblance *
Notwithstanding all this, such is the attachment to the Heathen models, that Boileau lays it down as a principle in epic poetry, that no grandeur of description can be attained without introducing Jupiter, Juno, Pallas, Neptune, with the whole tribe of Pagan divinities : and if any Christian fhould be deterred by a sense of his profession from making use of these ancient ornaments, as he calls them, his scruples can be ascribed to nothing but a vain and superstitious fear. And indeed our poets have generally affented to this doctrine of Boileau, without finding theinselves much embarrassed by the terrors of Christian superstition ; insomuch that if any stranger were to judge of our religion from the pradlice of our poets and tragedians, he would take Paganism for the established religion of the country. For besides hymns to Venus and Bacchus, and Wood Nymphs, and Water Nymphs †, we see virtues and attributes impersonated and deified as they were of old: we have odes to Liberty, odes to Health, odes to Contentment; in which Health is prayed to for health, and Contentment is intreated to give contentment, that is, to be the cause of itself; with many other absurdities, in which the licence of poetry is not very consistent with common sense, and much less with the sense of religion.
What is more common with poets than to make a compliment of the creation to Jupiter ? and consequently of all those fovereign attributes of power, wisdom, and goodness, which are displayed in the works of nature ; especially in the formation of the human species ? Of this we have a specimen in the following lines by the late celebrated Dean of St. Patrick's.
* This is done at large by Phurnatus, in' his book Tiepe Jean Putim, published in Gale's Opuscula Mythologica.
+ The last thing that occurred to me of this kind, was, a prayer of poor Phyllis Wheatley, the negro poetess, to Neptune, entreating his providence to preserve her
friend in a vo; age.