« AnteriorContinuar »
The greater part of the publication before us is little more than a vehement declamation upon the tendency and consequences of denying the agency and influence of superior evil beings in the natural and moral world. To assert, that the world is under the fole government of God, and that no other Being has any power or dominion over the course of nature, is preposterouNy represented as striking at the foundation of both natural and revealed religion. The Reader may judge by the following instance, how well qualified Our Author is, critically to examine, and fairly to state, the opinions of oihers.
Near the beginning of his first chapter, the design of which is to prove, that the greateit part of those Deities to whom the Heathens sacrificed, were by them considered as existing prior to the creation of man,' he has quoted a passage from the beginning of Heliod's Theogony, containing a poetical and allegorical account of the origin of the immortals always exifting,' and of the earth in its present form, &c. In his remarks upon it, he fays, among other things, The ancient Greeks acknowledged one Supreme Deity, the Creator of the universe, whom they considered as incapable of any evil, and to whom they ascribed every perfection, while, at the same time, they worshipped a multitude of other gods as intelligent beings, superior to the nature of human fouls; and thought these deities to have been brought into being by the First Cause, along with the different parts of nature, prior to the existence of man. This is evident from those passages in Hefiod's Theogony, which we have just quoted.'
Without inquiring into the truth of this observation, which may easily be contraverted, we have only to remark, that in the passages quoted from Hefiod, no mention is made of a Supreme Deity, the Creator of the universe, incapable of evil, and possessed of every perfection, or of any · First Cause, by whom other deities were brought into being.' Mr. Féll has several times in this chapter repeated this title, the Creator of the Universe, as given by the Heathen to their chief deity, but has not produced a single passage from any of their writers in support of his assertion. Ovid's Ille Opifex Rerum--Mundi Fabricator, will bear no such interpretation. It is doubtful at leaft, whether even those philosophers, who allowed that the world had a beginning, had any proper idea of a creation. Mr. Fell is confident that they had, and arrogantly declares, that 'to affert that he is called,' in a passage not quoted, the source of nature, who had once been a man, and that,' in another, he is represented as being filled with terror, whom the Heathens considered as the Creator of the Universe, must be evident proof, either of very great inattention to the language and design of ancient writers, or else of that kind of prejudice which admits of no cure.' We believe, that many persons whose attention and judgment are equal to Mr. Fell's, will still be of opinion, that Horace referred to the chief deity of the Heathen. Whether they or Mr. Fell be under the worse kind of prejudice, must be left to others to determiné.
* Hor. lib, iii, Ol. 4. V. 42, &c.
In the sequel of this chapter, he labours to prove, in opposition to Mr. Farmer, that the Pagans never confounded their natural with their hero gods, or even affociated them together. His proofs are vague and inconclufive; but his affertions are as positive as if they had been supported by demonftration.
The chapter closes with the following paragraph, which we give our Readers as a specimen at once of the loose reasoning and of the illiberal sentiments of this writer.
• Idolatry, indeed, is in its very nature the nurse of vice; because it cannot exist without a denial of the strongest moral obligations. Nothing can be more repugnant to reason, and the first principles of natural religion. That which setteth afide our most solemn duties towards God, muft, in its consequences, be pernicious to the interests of mankind; the religious worship therefore of any creature is the height of wickedness. Hence the extensive infuence of this crime, which was a continued opposition to the light and dictates of nature, clearly proves all idolaters to have been void of true morality and religion. For if genuine virtue doth not include a resolute and steady observance of those sacred duties which we owe to our Maker, it is an empty name, and not worth cultivating: if, indeed, we also understand by it, those highest moral obligations which are due to God, then genuine virtue never can be found but in the exercise of pure religion, undefiled with idolatrous practices. To talk therefore of virtuous Heathens, if idolaters be meant, is an absurdity, too great for language to express !!
That idolatry and superstition have a tendency to corrupt the mind and manners, will readily be allowed; but that no virtuous characters are to be found amongst idolaters, is a position inconsistent with the common use of words, with all just notions of human nature, and with the united teftimony of ancient and modern history.
The second chapter is entitled, Tbe Testimony of Scripture concerning Heathen Gods. The design of it is to prove, that the worship of dead men is never mentioned, or even referred to in the Old Testament; that that kind of idolatry was not practised in the neighbourhood of Judea, till after the time in which the books of the Old Testament were written; and consequently, that the only deities to which the Jews and neighboura ing nations facrificed, were the heavenly bodies, or thole which
are called the natural and primary gods of the Heathen. To this end he first quotes a passage from Deuteronomy, chap. iv. ver. 15-19, as describing the state of idolatry in the time of Moses. The generality of readers and commentators, we believe, are of opinion, that by the likeness of male or female, ver. 16. is intended, the likeness of man or woman : but Mr. Fell afferts, without hesitation, that Mofes, in this description of the idolatry of his own times, doth not even intimate that any of their emblematic figures were in the shape of men,' In order to set aside the proofs, which Mr. Farmer has brought from the writings of the Old Testament, that the Pagan deities were considered as dead men, an interpretation different from that of the moft eminent and learned commentators is put upon the passages that he has quoted. In particular, the Hebrew word, Schedim, Deut. xxxii. 17. and Psal. cvi. 37. is afferted to signify not destroyers, as is generally imagined, but distributers, fcil. of good things. It might have been imagined, that the singularity of this interpretation was sufficient to have inspired even Mr. Fell, with some degree of modesty and diffidence. On the contrary, he feems to rise in positiveness and assurance upon the occasion.
the occasion. " But,' are his words,' he, that is, Mr. Farmer,' thus goes on : “ the word schedim, is derived from a verb which signifies to lay waste, to destroy, and ought to have been rendered the destroyers. It expresses the supposed cruel nature and character of these gods, who were thought to delight in, and who were accordingly worshipped by, the destruction of the human species, and who required, as appears from the context, even the blood of their sons and daughters." To this we answer with all brevity, that the word sobedim, is not derived from a verb which fignifies to lay waste, and to destroy; that it ought not to have been rendered the destroyers; that it does not express the supposed cruel nature of those false gods; and that it doch not refer to those mischiefs. which they had formerly occafioned, but to those bounties which they were then thought to give.'
This, however, is but one instance out of many, in which Mr. Fell has replied to Mr. Farmer in the same concise and convincing manner.
Mr. Fell's principal arguments in support of his own opinion are, that whenever the particular objects of idolatrous worship in Judea or the neighbouring countries are specified in the Old Testament, no others are mentioned than the sun, moon, planets, and hosts of heaven ;' and that even the writers of the New Testament are so far from representing all the Pagan deities as nothing but dead men, that they do not take any notice of the worship of deceased persons, even when reasoning with idolaters, where dead men were known to be worshipped. -It might have occurred to him, that as the filenge of the writers of the New Testament is no proof that the worship of dead men had not obtained in their time; fo the silence of the writers of the Old Testament is no proof that that kind of idolatry was not practised in the age in which they lived. He tells us, indeed, that there were no sacrifices offered to dead men in the days of Moses; for the Grecian heroes, the first deified human spirits, were not then even born : nor was that fuperftition ever practised among the nations found Judea, during the time of any of the prophets ; But for these things we have only his word: he has not vouchsafed to offer any proof of his affertions.
In the two next chapters, Mr. Fell proposes to consider the various application of the term, Damons, among the ancient Greeks, and by the sacred penmen.' These chapters are principally employed in combating Mr. Farmer's ideas and reasoning on the subject.
subject. Mr. Fell's inquiry into the meaning of the term, as used by the ancient Greeks, is very short and indecisive: and we have not the shadow of an argument to prove, that poseling demons were not considered by them as human spirits converted into dæmons after death. With respect to the sacred writers, it is Mr. Fell's opinion, that the apostles,' agreeably with the established and common use of the word, as signifying, intelligent natures in general, and more especially, beings fuo perior to men, have applied it to such intelligent natures as are superior to mankind,' and particularly, to thos: malignant spirits, the head of which is “ Satan,” &c.' that is, to the devil and his angels. With these two chapters the Inquiry properly ends.
The rest of the publication, which is by far the greater part of it, comprehending fix chapters, is taken up in answering the objections that have been alleged against the doctrine of possessions, and asserting the common notions of the agency and influence of ' angels both good and evil,' in the natural and moral world. Through the whole, we meet with more railing than reasoning: Mr. Farmer, his opinions and arguments, are treated with much scorn and abuse; and the most unworthy practices and designs are charged upon him, and other opposers of dæmoniacal poffeffions. Mr. Fell (as well as his predecesfor, Dr. Worthington) seems to forget that all Christians are agreed, that the facts contained in the evangelical history are
The matter in debate respecting the present subject is, what the facts were, or what is the sense and meaning of the language in which they are recorded. It is in vain, therefore, to quote text after text, in which dæmons are said to be cast out, &c. Thes fame principles, upon which we reject the literal sense of the phrase, this is my body, will justify us in rejecting the N 3
literal sense of, the devils, or dæmons, went into the herd of swine. Mr. Fell thinks otherwise. He understands the Mosaic account of the fall literally, the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man literally, and possessions by evil spirits, that is fallen angels, literally. And with the same reason, he may believe, that Jacob wrestled with an angel literally, that God held two conversations with the Devil upon the character of Job, that Michael and his angels fought in heaven with the Dragon and his angels, or any other absurdity that is founded upon a lite. sal exposition of figurative expreslions, scenical representations, or popular phraseology.. But his belief is to himself, and he has an equal right with every other man to state and defend it. It is the manner in which he writes to which we object, and which must be condemned by every one who reckons gentleness and meekness among the virtues. Mr. Farmer is injuriously ranked with Bolingbroke, Hume, and Dodwell; if he makes use of conditional expressions, he is charged with drawing inferences from suppositions and conjectures; if he omits them, he is a dogmatist, They who reject Mr. Fell's ideas of angelical and diabolical agency, are positively aflerted to contradict the Scriptures; and, strange as it may appear, are suspected of a design to overthrow men's faith in the wisdom and stability of divine providence,' Mr. Fell, like other writers on the same side of the question, does not perceive, or will not acknowledge, any difference with respect to the wisdom and goodnefs of the Supreme Governor, between admitling the power and influence of visible, and those of invisible beings, over our bodies and minds : he even afferts, that it is more consistent with those perfections to ascribe the entrance and continuance of sin and misery in the world to superior wicked spirits, than to any original imperfection in human nature, or the influence of bad men in corrupt. ing and oppreiling others. We shall give our readers a passage or two upon this head, as a very favourable specimen of the Author's manner of writing and reasoning
• In oppolition,' says he, to that account, which hath neen so often juftly urged from the Holy Scriptures, concerning the entrance of sin into this world, and the rise of human calamities, the following objections may, perhaps, have been alleged, “ That the origin of evil, both natural and moral, is a subject which hath employed, and hitherto perplexed, the greatest philosophers and divines in every age; and that some judicious persons will probably be of opinion, that the Mosaic history of the fall, however explained, is not a complete solution of it, or that, if it hath removed some difficulties, there are others remaining.” To this, or to any thing of the like import, if it fhould be pleaded, the following brief answer may be given, That the Mosaic history of the fall was never intended as a