Friday, December 10, 2010

Sir Walter Raleigh on The Original of idolatry

From Raleigh's First Book of the History of the WORLD:


The Original of Idolatry, and Reliques of Antiquity in Fables.

The Greeks and others, corrupting the Story of Creation, and mingling their Fables with them, suppos'd that After-Ages would take those discourses of God and Nature for Inventions of Philosophers and Poets. but as skillful Chymists can extract healthful Medicines out of Poison, and Poison out of wholesome herbs, &c. so may much Truth be found out of those Fables.

S. 2. The Antiquity of Corruption was even from Noah's Family. For the liberal Grace of God being withdrawn after Man's Fall, such a perpetual Eclipse of spiritual things follow'd, and produc'd such effects as the general Deluge could not cleanse them, even in the selected Family of Noah, wherein were found those that renewed the Defection from God, for which they had seen the Worlds destruction. Hence the Caldeans, Egyptians, and Phoenicians soon after became Idolaters, and the Greeks received their 12 Gods from Egypt, and erected to them Altars, Images and Temples saith Herodotus.

S. 3. As Men, departed out of the way of Truth, stray on in unknown Vices to Eternal Perdition; so these blind Idolaters being fallen from the God of Heaven, to seek God's on Earth to Worship, beginning with Men, they proceed to Beasts, Fouls, Fishes, Trees, Herbs, the Four Elements, Winds, Morning, Evening Stars; Yea, Affections, Passions, Sorrow, Sickness, besides Spirits infernal; and among Terrestrials even the basest wanted not divine Honour, as Dogs, Cats, Swine, Leeks, Onions, &c. which barbarous Blasphemy, Juvenal thus derided,

O happy Nations, which of their own sowing,Have store of Gods in every Garden growing.

S. 4. Of Jupiter and other Gods. That Egypt had knowledge of the First Age, by Misraim the Son of Cham, who had lived 100 Years in it, we doubt not. Having therefore learned that Cain did first build Cities, they made him ancient Jupiter, whom the Athenians also called Pollyeus and Herceios, Founder and Fortifier of Cities. This Jupiter married his Sister, as did Cain: His Father Adam they made Saturn, and his Sons Jubal. Tubal, and Tubal-Cain were made Mercury, Vulcan and Apollo, Inventors of Pastorage, Smiths-craft and Musick. Naome, Augustine expounds Venusta, which was Venus Vulcan's Wife, and Eva was Rhea; the Dragon which kept the Golden Apple, was the Serpent that beguiled Eva. Paradise was the Garden of Hesperides: So Saturn's dividing the World between Three Sons, came of Noah and his Sons; and Nimrod's Tower was the attempt of Giants against Heaven. The Egyptians also Worshipped Seth as their most Ancient Parent, from whom they called their chief Province Setheitica; and in Bithinia we find the City Cethia.

S. 5. Of the Three Chief Jupiters; the First was Son of Æther & Dies; the Second of Cælum an Arcadian, and King of Athens; the Third Famous in the Greek Fables, was of Creet or Candia, as some say; but there is not certainty, &c.

S. 6. Jupiter Chammon, more Ancient than all the Grecian Jupiters, was Cham, Father of Misraim in Egypt; and before Jupiter Belus, Son of Saturnus babilonicus or Nimrod: As for the latter Grecian Jupiter, he was a little before the Wars of Troy.

S. 7. The Philosophers opinion of God, Pythagoras, Plato, Orpheus, &c. believed not the Fooleries of their Times, though they mingled their Inventions with Scripture: Pythagoras hung Homer and Hesiod in Hell, forever to be stung with Serpents, for their Fictions; yet Homer had seen Moses, as Justine Martyr sheweth in a Treatise converted by Mirandula. Plato dissembled his Knowledge for fear of the Areopagits Inquisition; yet Augustin excused him. He delighted much in the Doctrine of one God, though he durst not be known of it, or of Moses the the Author of it, as may be gathered out of Justin Martyr, Origen, Eusebius, and Cyril, though he had from Moses what he writ of God, and of Divinity; as Ambrose also judged of Pythagoras. Justine Martyr observed, that Moses described God to be, I am he who is. It is as hard to find out this Creator of the World, as it is impossible, if he were found, to speak of him worthily, said Plato; who also said, God is absolutely good, and so the Cause of all that is Good; but no Cause at all of any thing that is Evil. The Love of God is the cause of the Worlds Creation, and Original of all things. Apuleius saith, The most high God is also Infinite, not only by exclusion of Place, but also by dignity of Nature; neither is any thing more like or more acceptable to God, than a Man of a perfect Heart. Thales said, God comprehended all things, because he never had a Beginning: And he beholdeth all the thoughts of Men, said Zeno; therefore said Athenodorus, All men ought to be careful of their Actions, because God was every where present, and beholding all things.

Orpheus calling Men to behold the King of the World, describes him to be one begotten of himself, from whom all things spring, who is in all, beholds all, but is beheld of none, &c, Who is the First and Last; Head and Middle; from whom all things be: Foundation of Earth and Skye, Male and Female, which never dyeth: He is the Spirit of all, of Sun, Moon, &c. The Original and End of all; in whom all things were hidden 'till he produced them to Light. Cleanthes calls God Good, Just, Holy, possessing himself, always doing good, and Charity it self. Pindarus saith, he is one God and Father, most high Creator and best Artificer, who giveth to all things divers proceedings, &c. Antisthenes saith, God cannot be likened to anything, and therefore not elsewhere to be known, but only in the everlasting Country, of whom thou hast no Image. God, said Xenophon, shaketh and setteth all things at rest: Is great and mighty, as is manifest to all; but of what Form he is, none knoweth but himself, who illuminateth all things with his Light. God, saith Plato, is the Cause, Ground, and Original of the whole nature of things, the most high Father of the Soul, the eternal preserver of living Creatures, and continual framer of the World; a Begetter without propagation, comprehended neither in place nor time; whom few conceive, none can express him. Thus, as Jerome said, We find among the Heathen, part of the Vessels of God: But of them all, none have with more Reverence acknowledged, or more learnedly expressed One True God, and everlasting Being, all ever-causing and sustaining, than Hermes the Egyptian. But of all these, see Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Lactantius, Eusebius, Du Pless. Danæus.

S. 8. Hethanism and Judaism, when confounded. Touching the Religions of the Heathen, they being the Inventions of Mortal Men, they are no less Mortal than themselves. The Caldean Fire is quenched; and as the Bodies of Jupiter and the rest, were by Death devoured, so were their Images and lasting Marble Temples by Time. The Trade of Riddles for Oracles, and Predictions by Apollo's Priests, is now taken up by Counterfeit Egyptians and Cozening Astrologers; yet was it long before the Devil gave way. For after Six several spoilings and sackings of his Temple at Delphos, and as many repairings thereof, at last when Julian sought unto it, God from Heaven, consum'd all with Fire. So when the same Apostate incourag'd the Jews to re-build a Temple, God, by Earth-quake over-threw all, and slew many Thousands.

S. 9. Satan's last Refuge to uphold his Kingdom; who being driven off the open Stage of the World, crept into the Minds of Men, and there set up the high and shining Idol of Glory, and all commanding Image of Gold. He tells men, that Truth is the Goddess of Danger and Oppression: Chastity is an Enemy to Nature, and all Virtue is without Taste; but Pleasure delighteth every Sense, and true Wisdom gets Power and Riches to fulfill all our Desires. And if this Arch-politician find Remorse in any of his People, or any fear of future Judgment, he persuadeth them that God hath such need of Souls to re-plenish heaven, that he will accept them at any time, and upon any Condition: And to interrupt their return to God, he layeth those great Blocks of rugged Poverty and Contempt in the narrow way which leadeth to his Divine Presence: Neither was he ever more industrious and diligent than now, when the long Day of Man-kind draweth fast to the Evening, and the World's Tragedy and Time near to an end.

From Chap. X. Of Nimrod, Belus, and Ninus.

S. 6. Belus, I judge to be a Name, rather given by Ninus, for Honour to his Father, than taken by him. Cyrill calls him Arbelus; and saith he was the first that would be called God. Bel, say the Learned, signifying the Sun in Chalde, and there Worshiped for God: And many words in Scripture grew from it, Bel, Baal, Belzebub, Baalim, which Name was given to God, till upon abuse he forbade it. The first Idolatry grew from hence, &c. The Old, the most Ancient of every Family, and Kings which Founded Cities, were called Saturns, their Sons Jupiters, and Valiant Nephews Hercules.

S. 7. Image-Worship began from Belus in Babel, &c. Schoolmen shift off this fearful Custom strangely. For seeing the very Workman-ship is forbidden, how can the heart of a wise Christian satisfie it self with the distinction of Douleia, and Latrua, and Hyperdouleia, which can imply but a difference of Worship; and it is most strange, that Learned Men do strain their Wits to defend what Scripture oftentimes expressly forbids, and Curses the practicers. And where they say, the Prophets condemn heathen Idols only, it is manifest Moses spake of the Living God, saying, You saw no Image when the Lord spake to you in Horeb. Basil forbids us to imagine any Form of God, lest we limit him in our Minds; what Presumption then is it, to put him under the Greasy Pensil of a Painter, or the rusty Tool of a Carver? Rome for 170 Years by Numa's Law, held it impiety, till Tarquin, Priscus, and Varro, condemned it, as Augustin shews: So Seneca, Sybil, Sophocles. And though Papists say, that Heathen Images are instead of Letters; yet as Heathen Pictures proved notorious Idols, so those Stocks, Stones, &c. called Pictures of Christ, our Lady, &c. were by the Ignorant, not only Worshiped, but thought to live. It is safest then for Christians to believe Gods Commandments directly against Images, and that which the Prophets and St. Paul speak plainly and convincingly.

S. 8. Ninus the first idolater, and Invader of others, and public Adulterer: Of whom nothing is certain which is written; for Berofus who chiefly followed him in the Assyrian Succession from Nimrod to Ascalodius, in the days of Joshua, is disproved by many. Ctesias, who lived with Cyrus the Younger, a gross flatterer of Princes, speaks of incredible numbers in Ninus and Semiramis's Wars. He, with the help of Aricus King of Arabia, subdued Syria, Barzanes of Armenia, and Zoroaster of Baetria, at his second Expedition, by the Valour of Semiramis, whom he took from Menon her Husband, who for Grief drowned himself.