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CHAP. 5. (7.)—OF GOD1.

I consider it, therefore, an indication of human weakness to inquire into the figure and form of God. For whatever God be, if there be any other God2, and wherever he exists, he is all sense, all sight, all hearing, all life, all mind3, and all within himself. To believe that there are a number of Gods, derived from the virtues and vices of man4, as Chastity, Concord, Understanding, Hope, Honour, Clemency, and Fidelity; or, according to the opinion of Democritus, that there are only two, Punishment and Reward5, indicates still greater folly. Human nature, weak and frail as it is, mindful of its own infirmity, has made these divisions, so that every one might have recourse to that which he supposed himself to stand more particularly in need of6. Hence we find different names employed by different nations; the inferior deities are arranged in classes, and diseases and plagues are deified, in consequence of our anxious wish to propitiate them. It was from this cause that a temple was dedicated to Fever, at the public expense, on the Palatine Hill7, and to Orbona8, near the Temple of the Lares, and that an altar was elected to Good Fortune on the Esquiline. Hence we may understand how it comes to pass that there is a greater population of the Celestials than of human beings, since each individual makes a separate God for himself, adopting his own Juno and his own Genius9. And there are nations who make Gods of certain animals, and even certain obscene things10, which are not to be spoken of, swearing by stinking meats and such like. To suppose that marriages are contracted between the Gods, and that, during so long a period, there should have been no issue from them, that some of them should be old and always grey- headed and others young and like children, some of a dark complexion, winged, lame, produced from eggs, living and dying on alternate days, is sufficiently puerile and foolish. But it is the height of impudence to imagine, that adultery takes place between them, that they have contests and quarrels, and that there are Gods of theft and of various crimes11. To assist man is to be a God; this is the path to eternal glory. This is the path which the Roman nobles formerly pursued, and this is the path which is now pursued by the greatest ruler of our age, Vespasian Augustus, he who has come to the relief of an exhausted empire, as well as by his sons. This was the ancient mode of remunerating those who deserved it, to regard them as Gods12. For the names of all the Gods, as well as of the stars that I have mentioned above13, have been derived from their services to mankind. And with respect to Jupiter and Mercury, and the rest of the celestial nomenclature, who does not admit that they have reference to certain natural phænomena14? But it is ridiculous to suppose, that the great head of all things, whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs15. Can we believe, or rather can there be any doubt, that it is not polluted by such a disagreeable and complicated office? It is not easy to determine which opinion would be most for the advantage of mankind, since we observe some who have no respect for the Gods, and others who carry it to a scandalous excess. They are slaves to foreign ceremonies; they carry on their fingers the Gods and the monsters whom they worship16; they condemn and they lay great stress on certain kinds of food; they impose on themselves dreadful ordinances, not even sleeping quietly. They do not marry or adopt children, or indeed do anything else, without the sanction of their sacred rites. There are others, on the contrary, who will cheat in the very Capitol, and will forswear themselves even by Jupiter Tonans17, and while these thrive in their crimes, the others torment themselves with their superstitions to no purpose.

Among these discordant opinions mankind have discovered for themselves a kind of intermediate deity, by which our scepticism concerning God is still increased. For all over the world, in all places, and at all times, Fortune is the only god whom every one invokes; she alone is spoken of, she alone is accused and is supposed to be guilty; she alone is in our thoughts, is praised and blamed, and is loaded with reproaches; wavering as she is, conceived by the generality of mankind to be blind, wandering, inconstant, uncertain, variable, and often favouring the unworthy. To her are referred all our losses and all our gains, and in casting up the accounts of mortals she alone balances the two pages of our sheet18. We are so much in the power of chance, that change itself is considered as a God, and the existence of God becomes doubtful.

But there are others who reject this principle and assign events to the influence of the stars19, and to the laws of our nativity; they suppose that God, once for all, issues his decrees and never afterwards interferes. This opinion begins to gain ground, and both the learned and the unlearned vulgar are falling into it. Hence we have the admonitions of thunder, the warnings of oracles, the predictions of soothsayers, and things too trifling to be mentioned, as sneezing and stumbling with the feet reckoned among omens20. The late Emperor Augustus21 relates, that he put the left shoe on the wrong foot, the day when he was near being assaulted by his soldiers22. And such things as these so embarrass improvident mortals, that among all of them this alone is certain, that there is nothing certain, and that there is nothing more proud or more wretched than man. For other animals have no care but to provide for their subsistence, for which the spontaneous kindness of nature is all-sufficient; and this one circumstance renders their lot more especially preferable, that they never think about glory, or money, or ambition, and, above all, that they never reflect on death.

The belief, however, that on these points the Gods superintend human affairs is useful to us, as well as that the punishment of crimes, although sometimes tardy, from the Deity being occupied with such a mass of business, is never entirely remitted, and that the human race was not made the next in rank to himself, in order that they might be degraded like brutes. And indeed this constitutes the great comfort in this imperfect state of man, that even the Deity cannot do everything. For he cannot procure death for himself, even if he wished it, which, so numerous are the evils of life, has been granted to man as our chief good. Nor can he make mortals immortal, or recall to life those who are dead; nor can he effect, that he who has once lived shall not have lived, or that he who has enjoyed honours shall not have enjoyed them; nor has he any influence over past events but to cause them to be forgotten. And, if we illustrate the nature of our connexion with God by a less serious argument, he cannot make twice ten not to be twenty, and many other things of this kind. By these considerations the power of Nature is clearly proved, and is shown to be what we call God. It is not foreign to the subject to have digressed into these matters, familiar as they are to every one, from the continual discussions that take place respecting God23.

1 It is remarked by Enfield, Hist. of Phil. ii. 131, that "with respect to philosophical opinions, Pliny did not rigidly adhere to any sect.... He reprobates the Epicurean tenet of an infinity of worlds; favours the Pythagorean notion of the harmony of the spheres; speaks of the universe as God, after the manner of the Stoics, and sometimes seems to pass over into the field of the Sceptics. For the most part, however, he leans to the doctrine of Epicurus."

2 "Si alius est Deus quam sol," Alexandre in Lem. i. 230. Or rather, if there be any God distinct from the world; for the latter part of the sentence can scarcely apply to the sun. Poinsinet and Ajasson, however, adopt the same opinion with M. Alexandre; they translate the passage, "s'il en est autre que le soleil," i. 17 and ii. 11.

3 "totus animæ, totus animi;" "Anima est qua vivinus, animus quo sapimus." Hard. in Lem. i. 230, 231. The distinction between these two words is accurately pointed out by Lucretius, iii. 137 et seq.

4 "fecerunt (Athenienses) Contumeliæ fanum et Impudentiæ." Cicero, De Leg. ii. 28. See also Bossuet, Discours sur l'Histoire univ. i. 250.

5 The account which Cicero gives us of the opinions of Democritus scarcely agrees with the statement in the text; see De Nat. Deor. i. 120.

6 "In varios divisit Deos numen unicum, quod Plinio cœlum est aut mundus; ejusque singulas partes, aut, ut philosophi aiunt, attributa, separatim coluit; "Alexandre in Lemaire, i. 231.

7 "Febrem autem ad minus nocendum, templis celebrant, quorum adhue unum in Palafio...." Val. Max. ii. 6; see also Ælian, Var. Hist. xii. 11. It is not easy to ascertain the precise meaning of the terms Fanum, Ædes, and Templum, which are employed in this place by Pliny and Val. Maximus. Gesner defines Fanum "area templi et solium, templum vero ædificium;" but this distinction, as he informs us, is not always accurately observed; there appears to be still less distinction between Ædes and Templum; see his Thesaurus in loco, also Bailey's Facciolati in loco.

8 "Orbona est Orbitalis dea." Hardouin in Lemaire, i. 231.

9 "Appositos sibi statim ab ortu custodes credebant, quos viri Genios, Junones fœminæ vocabant." Hardouin in Lemaire, i. 232. See Tibullus, 4. 6. 1, and Seneca, Epist. 110, sub init.

10 We may suppose that our author here refers to the popular mythology of the Egyptians; the "fœtidi cibi" are mentioned by Juvenal; "Porrum et cæpe nefas violare et frangere morsu," xv. 9; and Pliny, in a subsequent part of his work, xix. 32, remarks, "Allium ceepeque inter Deos in jurejurando habet Ægyptus."

11 See Cicero, De Nat. Deor. i. 42 et alibi, for an illustration of these remarks of Pliny.

12 This sentiment is elegantly expressed by Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 62, and by Horace, Od. iii. 3. 9 et seq. It does not appear, however, that any of the Romans, except Romulus, were deified, previous to the adulatory period of the Empire.

13 "Planetarum nempe, qui omnes nomina mutuantur a diis." Alexandre in Lemaire, i. 234.

14 This remark may be illustrated by the following passage from Cicero, in the first book of his treatise De Nat. Deor. Speaking of the doctrine of Zeno, he says, "neque enim Jovem, neque Junonem, neque Vestam, neque quemquam, qui ita appelletur, in deorum habet numero: sed rebus manimis, atque mutis, per quandam significationem, hæc docet tributa nomina." "Idemque (Chrysippus) disputat, æthera esse eum, quem homines Jovem appellant: quique aër per maria manaret, eum esse Nep- tunum: terramque eam esse, quæ Ceres diceretur: similique ratione persequitur vocabula reliquorum deorum."

15 The following remarks of Lucretius and of Cicero may serve to illustrate the opinion here expressed by our author:—
"Omnis enim per se Divum natura necesse est
Immortal ævo summa cum pace fruatur,
Semota ab nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe; "Lucretius, i. 57–69.
"Quod æternum beatumque sit, id nec habere ipsum negotii quidquam, nec exhibere alteri; itaque neque ira neque gratia teneri, quod, quæ talia essent, imbecilla essent omnia." Cicero, De Nat. Deor. i. 45.

16 The author here alludes to the figures of the Egyptian deities that were engraven on rings.

17 His specific office was to execute vengeance on the impious.

18 "sola utramque paginam facit." The words utraque pagina generally refer to the two sides of the same sheet, but, in this passage, they probably mean the contiguous portions of the same surface.

19 "astroque suo eventu assignat;" the word astrum appears to be synonymous with sidus, generally signifying a single star, and, occasionally, a constellation; as in Manilius, i. 541, 2.
"....quantis bis sena ferantur
Finibus astra...."
It is also used by synecdoche for the heavens, as is the case with the English word stars. See Gesner's Thesaurus.

20 "Quæ si suscipiamus, pedis offensio sternutamenta erunt observanda." Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 84.

21 "Divus Augustus." The epithet divus may be regarded as merely a term of court etiquette, because all the Emperors after death were deified ex officio.

22 We learn the exact nature of this ominous accident from Suetonius; " mane sibi calceus perperam, et sinister pro dextro induceretur;" Augustus, Cap. 92. From this passage it would appear, that the Roman sandals were made, as we term it, right and left.

23 It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the opinions here stated respecting the Deity are taken partly from the tenets of the Epicureans, combined with the Stoical doctrine of Fate. The examples which are adduced to prove the power of fate over the Deity are, for the most part, rather verbal than essential.

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