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ed by the idolatrous practices of the surrounding nations, their prophets expostulate with them, respecting not only the wickedness but the absurdity of their conduct, and positively assert that the gods of the heathens are a vanity and a lie. “Behold, says the prophet Isaiah, they all are vanity; their works are nothing ; their molten images are wind and confusion.” “The idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams.”f “The prophets prophecy lies in my name; I sent them not; neither have I commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophecy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”f “Behold I am against them that prophecy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and their lightness.”|| “Will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies #"$ Again, “Thus saith the Lord God, woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirits and have seen nothing.”[.
* Isa, ch xli. v. 29. + Zech. ch. x. 2. f Jerem, ch. xiv. v. 19. | Jer. ch. xxiii. v. 32. § Ezek. ch. xiii. 19. T Ezek, ch. xiii. 3.
It has been asserted by some theologians, that these imputations of deceit and imposture, do not primarily respect the priests, prophets, diviners, dreamers of dreams, &c. but those invisible agents or daemons who were worshipped, through the medium of images, incantations, &c. and who inspired the diviners, soothsayers, &c. with a spirit of falsehood and lies; so that being deceived themselves, they might not always be conscious of deceiving others. We shall not in this place oppose the supposition, by deducing arguments from reason, but by the explicit, unequivocal assertions of those whom all Christians acknowledge to have been divinely inspired. The declarations of Moses, and of all the true prophets, against the very existence of these beings, are numerous, pointed, and decisive. Every argument employed to dissuade the Israelites from imitating the idolatry of the Gentiles, is founded upon the NoNENTITY of these supposed agents. It is natural to conclude that when superstitious people formed an idol, they expected some daemon would make it his abode, or at least the seat of his operations; and that he would become their patron on account of the honour conferred upon him; in the same manner as our Christian churches were formerly dedicated to some Saint, in order to procure his peculiar
patronage. But it was the express object of inspiration to guard the people of Israel against so gross a delusion; and to assure them that these images continued merely images; retaining all the imbecility of the materials of which they were made, Priests, magicians, diviners, soothsayers, alone, are accused of the imposition. The passages quoted above are taken from the prophets of the Lord, commissioned to reproach, and severely to censure the numerous Israelites, who had learned all the arts of divination from the Pagans, at the periods when the Jewish religion was exceedingly corrupted ; and who impiously attempted to worship Jehovah, by adopting the rites of the heathens. It was also become a familiar practice among them, to act the part of sorcerers for a maintenance; for handfuls of barley, and pieces of bread, like the wandering fortune-tellers of the present day. These vagabonds were frequently accused of deceiving the people, embarrassing their minds, and destroying their confidence in the true prophets of the Lord. But they alone were accused. Not the most distant reference is made to any daemon, as sharing in the imposture. Hence we may safely conclude, that no daemon existed to become a participant. The inspired prophets of God could not have concealed so important a fact, through ignorance, neglect, or misrepresentation. Again, The destruction of images, altars, and groves, was always considered, by legislator and prophet, as the abolition of the false religion of the pagan nations; which could not have been the case, had invisible agents actually existed, whose supernatural powers would still continue, although the ostensible means should be destroyed ; and who, according to the opinion always entertained of them, must have been strongly disposed to avenge the affront, instead of being thus debilitated in their opera. tions. The whole force of the argument consisted, not in acknowledging them to possess a power inferior to that of Jehovah; not in their being the tutelar deities of other nations, and not of the Israelites, but that they were no gods; they were nonentities ; that idols, so far from being able to protect their votaries, could not protect themselves from the attacks of a destroyer. - The conception entertained of a God, amon the ancient nations, was uniformly that of a superior being, who had a power to influence human affairs, direct the fate of mortals, foresee future events, and communicate their knowledge to others. These are also the characteristics of a God, given in the sacred scriptures themselves. “Ye shall be as Gods knowing good and evil.” “I will make thee a God unto Pharaoh.” The prophet Isaiah maintains this to be the definition of a God, while he demonstrates that it does not belong to the gods of the heathens. “Let them shew the former things what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them, or declare us the things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are Gods.” In the challenge given by Elijah to the numerous priests of Baal, his satire would have been irrelevant, and the irony have lost its point, had he not considered them as serving a Nonentity. These priests were, in the present instance, much in earnest; for their lives depended upon success. “ They called on the name of Baal, from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal hear us; but there was no voice, nor any that answered. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, cry aloud, for he is a god, either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey; peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their