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led by such writers as Voltaire and others, (who have smoothed over the enormities of the heathen worship) I recite as many particulars as may be necessary to give you an idea of the general character of the system, which they represent as perfectly innocent, and not at all unfavourable to purity of morals, their festivals, as Voltaire says, being only seasons of rejoicing, which could not be prejudicial to mankind. This would be true if their festivals had been nothing more than seasons of rejoicing. But judge for yourselves, whether they were not something more.
That lewdness was a part of the ancient. heathen worship, is evident from the account that Moses gives of that of Baal-Peor, to which the Israelites were inticed by the Moabites and Midianites. For during that festival, Phinehas asserted the honour of his religion by killing a man and a woman in the very act of fornication; which, from the narrative, appears to have been committed without any concealment. For we read, Numb, xxv. 6, And bebold one of the children of Israel came, and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman, in the fight of Mofes, and in the fight of all the congregation of the children of Israel,
who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation ; and when Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest faw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through her belly. Now the name of the Israelite who was sain was Zimri the son of Salu, a prince of the chief house among the Simeonites, and the name of the Midianitish woman that was sain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
This worship of Baal-Peor, if we may credit several ancient writers, consisted in such obscene practices, or postures at least, as are not fit to be mentioned ; so that it is not easy to say whether they were more ridiculous, or impure. Hosea says of this worship, ch. xi. 10, They went unto Baal-Peor, and separated themselves unto their shame; and their abomina. tions were according as they loved, or as the Bishop of Waterford renders it, and becamo abominable as the obječts of their love, or worfhip. The farther we go back into antiquity, or so F4
much nearer to the time of Moses, the more undisguised were these shameful practices. It appears from Herodotus, the oldest Greek historian, that the temples of the heathen gods had been universally places of prostitution. For he says the Egyptians were the first who forbad it in their temples. He says that all other nations, except the Greeks (who borrowed much of their religion from the Egyptians), scrupled not to perform those actions in the temples. Nor did the Greeks wholly abstain from them. For when Antiochus Epi. phanes converted the temple at Jerusalem, into a temple of Jupiter Olympius, we read, 2 Mac. vi. 4, The temple was filled with riot and revelling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women, within the circuit of the holy places.
Julius Firmicus says that, after the season of mourning, with which the principal festival of the oriental nations commenced, the rest of the time was spent with every expression of mirth and jollity, to which they added the most abominable debauchery, adultery, and incest. These were constantly practised in their groves and temples *. * “In what temple,” fays Juvenal, a Roman heathen
Surely, then, we may fay, with the apostle in my text, that, as a punishment for men's apostacy from his worship, God gave up the heathen world to vile affections; and that there was infinite wisdom and goodness in the Jewish and Christian dispensations, in which we are taught a mode of worship worthy of a pure and holy God, a religion the great object of which is the purest morality, and in which all the abomination of the heathen worship are treated with just abhorrence. For our unspeakable happiness in being' favoured with these revelations, we cannot be too thankful. But I must defer the farther consideration of these, and other enormities of the heathen worship, with which the generality of Chriftians are little acquainted, but which you must be sensible it is highly useful for them to know, though disgusting to contemplate, to another discourse, with which I shall conclude this part of my subject.
Quo non proftat fe
poet, “ are not women debauched?” mina templeo.
Sat. ix. 24.
A View of Heathen Worship.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath dhewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made, · even bis eternal power and godhead, so that
they are without excuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Profesing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore also God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lufts of their own hearts, to dishonour their