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THERE are no data on which an argument can be justly founded against the supposition, that the conceptions of our Aborigines strongly resembled those of other barbarous nations on this most important subject. The people least indebted to nature for capacity of intellect have a confused idea of a Supreme Being or Spirit, capable of injuring or of granting them benefits : this Spirit is worshiped by some descriptions of savages, and others endeavour to deprecate his malice.
A tribe of North American Indians was at one period generally said to be utterly incapable of comprehending the existence of a superior invisible
power, from the fact of their never having been known to address themselves to a Divinity. The matter was accurately examined into by a zealous member of the English church; and the consequence was, they declared they fully believed the existence of a great and good Spirit, but that they conceived themselves so insignificant and unworthy, they dared not appear before him even
as petitioners. It would be unjust and cruel to imagine, after an examination of this and similar efforts of modern research, that our worthy but unenlightened predecessors were less capable of judging on their innate conceptions than the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Indians of North and South America, and the islands of the South Seas, hlind and imperfect as these conceptions were.
If we are to credit Dion Cassius, who asserts that the Britons worshiped a goddess of Victory, Apollo, and Diana, we must also believe they had a commercial or incidental intercourse with different parts of the neighbouring continent where those imaginary deities were adored. Gildas, however, seems to come nearer to the truth in saying, their idols, or representations of spirits of light and darkness, were monsters more rude than any nature ever formed in her most capricious moods. Here we have probability to support us, and many idols of barbarians to illustrate those of the Britons ; let us examine the ridiculous fancies of the Chinese, the more polished but equally absurd images
of the Egyptians, and the fiend-like forms of the Otaheitans; and amongst them we shall not fail to find correct likenesses of the idols of England, which it seems impossible to suppose were constructed, as Julius Cæsar represents, for the purpose of receiving victims, or offerings, to be burnt with them. This horrid idea of consuming human beings within osiers, the victim
and the image, is contrary to savage customs on every side, and can only be equalled by the folly of that sect of Christians who beat and drag the statues of their saints through kennels when their petitions to them fail of success.
The Druids were first mentioned by Caius Julius Cæsar with respect to their religious rites and laws: “ Their name,” says Selden, " is of a doubtful origination: by no means were they so called from that Druis or Druides we meet with in Berosus; but whether they were so termed from a Greek word Agūs, that signifies an oak, in that they performed none of their devotions without oaken leaves, as Pliny and those that follow him are of opinion; or from the Dutch True-wise, as Goropius Becanus will have it; or from Trutin, a word which with the antient Germans signified God, as Paulus Merula quotes it out of the Gospel of Othfred (though in the Angels Salutation, in the Magnificat, in Zachariah's Song, and elsewhere, Trutin rather denotes Lord than God; and see whether there does not lie somewhat of the Druid in the name of St. Truien, among the people of Liege, some having exploded St. Drudo) ;---whencesoever they had their names, these gownmen amongst the Gauls, aye and the Britons too, were the interpreters and guardians of the laws.”
Their temples and their altars are still extant, which do them honour as rude architects; the
former are vast assemblages of rough stone, forming imperfect geometrical figures, which certainly required no art to arrange them. But when we observe the enormous masses elevated and placed horizontally on the ends of others standing erect, we are at a loss to conceive how those weights were raised, and why the means used to accomplish it should be the only ray of matured reason discoverable in their conduct. Their altars, sometimes formed on the summits of rugged' mountains, are merely marked by small excavations in the unwrought stone; but it is extremely probable that both were originally inclosed' by groves of trees, that afforded a deep shade, congenial to all 'religious rites, however mistaken in other particulars. In those places the Druids' conducted their private and public sacrifices, and interpreted omens; but, for the sake of insulted humanity, let us not believe they sacrificed their fellow creatures, and prognosticated future events from inspecting their entrails : this last charge against them exceeds their offerings of thieves and murderers, and sacrificing of their prisoners.
Collier supposes that the Gospel was not preached in England during the reign of Tiberius, and gives very convincing reasons for his opinion; but the research on this head is very unsatisfactory. Gildas, in proposing to give an account of the antient British church, lamented