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their Creator and Ruler, that for the most part it carried them into impiety, and the extravagancies of judicial astrology. So we term that deceitful and presumptuous science, which teaches to judge of things to come by the knowledge of the stars, and to fortel events by the situation of the planets, and by their different aspects; a science justly looked upon as madness and folly by all the most sensible writers among the pagans themselves. a O delirationem incredibilem! cries Cicero, in refuting the extravagant opininions of those astrologers, frequently called Chaldeans, from the country that first gave rise to this science; who, in consequence of the observations made, as they affrmed, by their predecessors upon all past events, for the space only of 470,000 years, pretended to know assuredly, by the aspect and combination of the stars and planets at the instant of a child's birth, what would be his genius, temper, manners, the constitution of his body, his actions, and, in a word, all the events, and the duration of his life. He repeats a thousand absurdities of this opinion, the very ridiculousness of which sufficiently exposes it to contempt; and asks, why of all that vast number of children that are born in the same moment, and without doubt exactly under the aspect of the same stars, there are not two of them, whose lives and fortunes resemble each other? He puts this further question, whether that great number of men that perished at the battle of Cannæ, and died of one and the same death, were all born under the same constellations?
It is hardly credible, that so absurd an art, founded entirely upon fraud and imposture, fraudulentissima artium, as Pliny calls it, should ever acquire so much credit as this has done, throughout the whole world, and in all ages. What has supported and brought it into so great vogue, continues that author, is the natural curiosity men have to penetrate into futurity, and to know before hand the things that are to befal them: Nullo non avido futura de se sciendi ; attended with a superstitious credulity, which finds itself agreeably flattered by the large and grateful promises of which those fortunetellers are never sparing. Îta blandissimis desideratissimisque promissis addidit vires religionis, ad quas maxime etiamnum caligat humanum genus.
c Modern writers, and among others two of our greatest philosophers, Gassendi and Rohault, have inveighed against the folly of that pretended science with the same energy, and have demonstrated it to be equally void of principles and ex perience.
a Lib. li. de Div. n. 87, 99.
b Plin. Procem, 1. xxx. Gassendi Phys sect. 1. 6. Rohault's Phys. p. i. c. 2.
As for its principles: the heaven, according to the system of the astrologers, is divided into 12 equal parts; which parts are taken, not according to the poles of the world, but according to those of the zodaic: these 12 parts, or proportions of heaven, have each of them its attribute, as riches, knowledge, parentage, &c.: the most important and decisive portion is that which is next under the horizon, and which is called the ascendant, because it is ready to ascend and appear above the horizon, when a man comes into the world. The planets are divided into the propitious, the malignant, and the mixed: the aspects of these planets, which are only certain distances from one another, are likewise either happy or unhappy. I say nothing of several other hypotheses, which are all equally fanciful; and I ask, whether any man of common sense can give into them upon the bare word of these impostors, without any proofs, or even without the least shadow of probability? The critical moment, and that on which all their predictions depend, is that of the birth. And why not as well the moment of conception? Why have the stars no influence during the nine months of child-bearing? Or, is it possible, considering the incredible rapidity of the heavenly bodies, always to be sure of hitting the precise, determinate moment, without the least variation of more or less, which is sufficient to overthrow all? A thousand other objections of the same kind might be made, which are altogether unanswerable.
As for experience, they have still less reason to flatter themselves with having that on their side. This can only consist in observations founded upon events, that have always come to pass in the same manner, whenever the planets were found in the same situation. Now, it is unanimously agreed by all astronomers, that several thousands of years must pass, before any such situation of the stars, as they would imagine, can twice happen; and it is very certain, that the state in which the heavens will be to-morrow has never yet been since the creation of the world. The reader may consult the two philosophers above mentioned, particularly Gassendi, who has more copiously treated this subject. But such, and no better, are the foundations upon which the whole structure of judicial astrology is built.
But what is astonishing, and argues an absolute subversion of all reason, is, that certain freethinkers, who obstinately harden themselves against the most convincing proofs of religion, and who refuse to believe even the clearest and most certain prophecies upon the word of God, do sometimes give entire credit to the vain predictions of these astrologers and impostors.
St. Austin, in several passages of his writings, informs us
that this stupid and sacrilegious credulity is a " just chastisement from God, who frequently punisheth the voluntary blindness of men, by inflicting a still greater blindness; and who suffers evil spirits, that they may keep their servants still faster in their nets, sometimes to foretel things which do really come to pass, but of which the expectation very often serves only to torment them.
God, who alone foresees future contingencies and events, because he alone is the sovereign disposer and director of them, does often in Scripture laugh to scorn the ignorance of the so much boasted Babylonian astrologers, calling them forgers of lies and falsehoods: he moreover desires all their false gods to foretel any thing whatsoever, and consents, if they do, that they should be worshipped as gods. Then addressing himself to the city of Babylon, he particularly declares all the circumstances of the miseries with which she shall be overwhelmed above 200 years after that prediction; and that none of her prognosticators, who had flattered her with the assurances of a perpetual grandeur which they pretended to have read in the stars, should be able to avert the judgment, or even to foresee the time of its accomplishment. Indeed, how should they? since at the very time of its execution, when Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, saw a hand come out of the wall, and write unknown characters thereon, the Magi, Chaldeans, the soothsayers, and in a word, all the pretended sages of the country were not able so much as to read the writing. Here then we see astrology and magic convicted of ignorance and impotence, in the very place where they were most in vogue, and on an occasion when it was certainly their interest to display their science and whole power.
The most ancient and general idolatry in the world, was that wherein the sun and moon were the objects of divine
a His omuibus consideratis, non immerito creditur, cum astrologi mirabiliter multa vera respondent, occulto instinctu fieri spirituum non bonorum, quorum cura est has falsas et noxias opiniones de astralibus fatis inserere humanis mentibus atque firmare, non horoscopi notati et inspecti aliqua arte, quæ nulla est. De Civ. Dei, l. v. c. 7.
b Therefore shall evil come upon thee, thou shalt not know from whence it riseth and mischief shall fall upon thee, thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels: let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the prognosticators stand up. and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee Behold, they shall he as stubble: the fire shall burn them: they shall not deliver themselves from power of the flame.-Isa. xlvii. 11-14.
c Dan. Y.
worship. This idolatry was founded upon a mistaken gratitude which, instead of ascending up to the Deity, stopped short at the veil, which both covered and disclosed him. With the least reflection or penetration they might have discerned the Sovereign who commanded, from the a minister who did but obey.
In all ages mankind have been sensibly convinced of the necessity of an intercourse between God and man: and adoration supposes God to be both attentive to man's desires, and capable of fulfilling them. But the distance of the sun and of the moon is an obstacle to this intercourse. Therefore foolish men endeavoured to remedy this inconvenience, by laying their hands upon their mouths, and then lifting them up to those false gods, in order to testify that' they would be glad to unite themselves to them, but that they could not. This was that impious custom so prevalent throughout all the east, from which Job esteemed himself happy to have been preserved: "When I beheld the * sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; my heart hath not been secretly enticed, nor my mouth "kissed my hand."
d The Persians adored the sun, and particularly the rising sun, with the profoundest veneration. To him they dedicated a magnificent chariot, with horses of the greatest beauty and value, as we have seen in Cyrus's stately cavalcade. (This same ceremony was practised by the Babylonians of whom some impious kings of Judah borrowed it, and brought it into Palestine). Sometimes they likewise sacrificed oxen to this god, who was very much known amongst them by the name of Mithra.
By a natural consequence of the worship they paid to the sun, they likewise paid a particular veneration to fire; always invoked it first in their sacrifices &; carried it with great respect before the king in all his marches; entrusted the keeping of their sacred fire, which came down from heaven, as they pretended, to none but the Magi; and would have looked upon it as the greatest of misfortunes, if it had been suffered to go out. History informs us, that the emperor Heraclius, when he was at war with the Persians, demolished several of their temples, and particularly, the chapel in which the sacred fire had been preserved till that
4 Among the Hebrews, the ordinary name for the sun signfies Minister. 6 Superstitiosus vulgus manum ori admovens, osculum labiis pressit. Mins p. 2. From thence is come the word adorare; that is to say, ad os manum admovere.
c The text is in the form of an oath. If I beheld, &c. Job. xxxi. 26, 27. d Herod. l. i. c. 131.
h Zonar. Anual. vol. ii.
e 2 Kings xxiii. 11. Strab 1 xv. p. 732.
g Xenoph. Cyrop. 1. vif. p. 215. Am. Mär. I. xxfii›
time, which occasioned great mourning and lamentation throughout the whole country. The Persians likewise honoured the water, the earth, and the winds, as so many deities.
The cruel ceremony of making children pass through the fire was undoubtedly a consequence of the worship paid to that element; for this fire-worship was common to the Babylonians and Persians. The scripture positively says of the people of Mesopotamia, who were sent as a colony into the country of the Samaritans, that "they caused their children "to pass through the fire." It is well known how common this barbarous custom became in many provinces of Asia.
Besides these, the Persians had two gods of a very different nature, namely, Oromasdes and Arimanius. The former they looked upon as the author of all the blessings and good things that happened to them; and the latter as the author of all the evils wherewith they were afflicted. I shall give a large account of these deities hereafter.
The Persians erected neither statues, nor temples, nor altars to their gods; but offered their sacrifices in the open air, and generally on the tops of hills, or on high places. It was in the open fields that Cyrus acquitted himself of that religious duty, when he made the pompous and solemn procession already spoken of. e It is supposed to have been through the advice and instigation of the Magi, that Xerxes, the Persian king, burnt all the Grecian temples, esteeming it injurious to the majesty of the Deity to shut him up within walls, to whom all things are open, and to whom the whole world should be reckoned as an house or a temple.
Cicero thinks, that in this the Greeks and Romans acted more wisely than the Persians, in that they erected temples within their cities, and thereby supposed their gods to reside among them, which was a proper way to inspire the people with sentiments of religion and piety. Varro was not of the same opinion. ( St. Austin has preserved that passage of his works.) After having observed, that the Romans had worshipped their gods without statues or images for above 170 years, he adds, that if they had still preserved that ancient custom, their religion would have been the purer and freer from corruption: Quod si adhuc mansisset, castius dii observarentur; and to confirm his sentiment, he cites the example of the Jewish nation.
a Herod. I. i. c 131. c Herod. I. i. c. 131.
6 Plut in lib. de Isid. et Osirid. p. 369.
e Auctoribus Magis Xerxes inflammasse templa Græciæ dicitur, quod parietibus includerunt deos, quibus omnia deberent esse patentia ac libera, quorumque hic mundus oranis templum esset et domus. Cic. ii. de Legib.
Melius Græci atque nostri. qui, ut augerentetatem neos easdem illos urbes, quas nos, incolere voluerunt. Adfert enim nec opinio religionen utilem civitatibus. Ibid. g Lib. iv. de Civ. Dei. n. 31.