Sayfadaki görseller


impeded in their progress, while Greeks and Romans were comparatively free from limitations. The East received upon authority, and expended intellect in explaining and defining that authority. The West investigated the causes, the principles, and the relations of things, and judged them by the light of reason. It became a saying, “Jews require a sign, [that is, a miracle,] but Greeks seek after wisdom," [that is, philosophy.] The large credulity of the Jewish mind was so observable, that when any thing exceedingly incredible was told, it became a Roman proverb to say, Credat Judæus ;" "Let the Jew believe that." Extremely reverential and extremely analytical tendencies of mind both have their dangers, but both are necessary and useful. It is the part of wisdom not to disparage either but to be thankful to God for both.

As the world moved on, East and West, with their opposite tendencies, came into contact by various successive changes of war and commerce. The nations acted and re-acted on each other. Old forms melted, and metals of various value tended to fusion, ready to be re-cast in any new image for which the mould might be providentially prepared. Meanwhile, society, by slow degrees, had been growing wiser and more humane. What degree of moral

. culture had been attained before the birth of Christ, may be seen by reviewing the sayings of Zoroaster among the Persians, of Confucius among the Chinese, of the Prophets and the Essenes among Jews, of Socrates, Plato, and Cicero among Greeks and Romans.

The theological ideas, which had become universal before our era, will be more clearly perceived by a reviewing glance at the most prominent. Every ancient nation, of which any historical records remain, believed in One Invisible Being, the Centre and Source of all things. Orientals conceived of him as inactive, serenely contemplating the glory of his own essence, radiating from himself all the vitality of the universe, by inherent necessity, not by any exercise of his will; having no superintendence over creation, no interest in the affairs of men. These views per

Vol. II.-14

haps originated partly in the prevailing Asiatic notions that anything like activity, or labour, was degrading to the character of a monarch. But a much stronger influence doubtless proceeded from the general idea that Evil was inherent in Matter. The human soul was unwilling to admit that the Supreme Being could be, in any way, connected with evil. Perceiving the material world to be full of apparent evils, men inferred that it could not have been produced by the One Pure Essence. Consequently, they imagined that a Great Spirit, or Power, emanated from the Eternal One, and by the agency of this Second God worlds were created. Hindoos named this first emanation Brahma; Egyptians, Amun; Persians, Ormuzd: all regarded him as the Creator.

The religion of the Hebrews differed from other prior and cotemporary systems in representing the One Source of Being as himself the Creator and Sustainer of all things, by his own direct agency, and the active exertion of his will. But in later times, after their captivity in Babylon, and their settlement in Alexandria, when Oriental, Egyptian, and Grecian theories became mixed with the written doctrines ascribed to Moses, they also taught that God created the world by the agency of a Second Power, whom their writers called “The First Adam," "The Lord of Heaven,” “The Wisdom of God," "The Word of God," "The First Begotten Son of God,” “Esteemed the same as God.”

Hebrews and Persians are the only two ancient nations on record, whose religious laws forbade them to make images of Celestial Beings. Persians were taught to utter invocations to Spirits, as an important part of worship. But though Hebrews believed in a multitude of Spirits, they were required to adore Jehovah alone, and to consider him as the One, Eternal, Invisible, and Incomprehensible God. Whoever compares the two religions, will observe several points of resemblance. There are no means of ascertaining what the Jews borrowed from Zoroaster, or what Zoroaster borrowed from them. The two systems of course came into close contact with each other, during the captivity in Babylon. Even if this were not admitted as the inevitable consequence of mixing two nations together, it would be sufficiently proved by the very Persian character, which pervades Hebrew writings and traditions subsequent to that period.

Some one has observed that "instead of saying God made man after his own image, it might be said man makes God after his own image;" and it is indeed an obvious truth that human beings give a reflection of their own characters in the estimate they form of Deity. Hindoos invested Brahm with their own love of contemplation and repose. The Chinese Chang-ti was exactly according to their pattern of a wise and beneficent emperor, passing humane and salutary laws to promote the virtue and increase the happiness of his subjects. The Jehovah of the Hebrews was jealous of his own pre-eminence, exclusive in his care of one nation, prompt to exterminate those who kept back from him the required offerings, or transferred the glory of his name to another. He was a Leader of Armies, great in the slaughter of Philistines, a stern but placable Father to his chosen people. The Greeka lively and intellectual, conceived of Deity as an active, enterprising, intriguing, and amorous being. Philosophers among them thought of him abstractly, as the Mind of the Universe. Some, . like Socrates and Plato, rose to the idea of a Universal Father.

In nearly all languages the name of the Supreme Being signified Prince, Lord, or Ruler; because in the first stages of human society, Power is naturally regarded as the highest attribute of the Divine Mind. The Chinese called Deity the Supreme Emperor. The word Jehovah is said to sig. nify eternity of being: I am, was, and shall be. But this holy name was uttered only in the temple, by the High Priest. In the synagogues, it was read Adonai, which signifies Lord. Plato conceived of the Highest as The Good; and either from the prevalence of Platonism, or from some more ancient source, whence Platonism itself


came, the word God is probably derived. In the Saxon, Swedish, and Danish languages, good is written god; in Dutch, goed; in German, gut, pronounced goot; in Persian, chod. In Saxon and Dutch, the name for Deity is

in Swedish and Danish, Gud; in German, Gott; in Persian, Choda, or Goda. It seems likely that the title of God and the Devil [D’Evil,] applied to the great contending Powers, supposed to sway the universe, originated in the old Persian ideas concerning Ormuzd, the Prince of the Good, and Arimanes of Evil.

Three was universally a sacred and mystical number, representing Deity in his completeness. One of the most ancient symbols in Hindostan and Egypt was a Triangle, with an Eye in the centre, to represent the All-Seeing. Hindoos represented their three great gods in one image. Egyptian deities were usually in Triads. Plato taught a Trinity of divine attributes; Goodness, Wisdom, and Pervading Life. Cabalists appear to have expressed the same ideas in Hebrew style, when they wrote of Jehovah, the Wisdom of Jehovah, and the Habitation of Jehovah. Hindoos, Egyptians, Platonists, and Cabalists, supposing man to be an image of God, all represented him as a tri-une being, consisting of a rational soul, a sensitive soul, and a material body. In all countries philosophers and mystics expressed more or less vaguely that the Deity was One in Three.

It was a very prevalent theory, conspicuous in various religions, that the ideas pre-existing in Deity took form by the utterance of a Word. In Persian and Hebrew Sacred Books, it is declared that God spoke, and light sprang into existence, followed successively by all the other objects of creation. Persians called this Word Honover, and invoked him as The Great Primal Spirit. Hebrews called the Word Memra, and regarded him as a representative of Jehovah to the mind of man.

With Hindoos, the creative Word was Aum, called Om. They believed it included within itself all the qualities of Brahma, and reverenced it next to him. The general idea evidently was that the Word


existed with God from all eternity, and when spoken, became a glorious Form, the aggregate embodiment of all the Divine Ideas, including them all within itself, and thus by development becoming God's Great Agent in the work of Creation.

The first beings he produced dwelt in upper spheres, where they breathed the pure element of ether, as mortals breathe the air. Being nearest to the Source of Light, they received a larger infusion of his divinity, which was manifested in a greater portion of outward radiance. These qualities, interior and exterior, gradually diminished in degree, as the beings created were farther and farther removed from their Fountain of Life. The seven Spirits of the Planets, the first emanations from the Creator, were ethereal and resplendent, beautiful above all that succeeded them, endowed with a more comprehensive and pervading intellect. Each series of beings included the ideas which formed the next series below it; so that each descending sphere was an attenuated likeness of the one above it. This regular system was carried down even to the earthly Adam, in whom was supposed to pre-exist all the human souls that could forever after take form in human bodies; consequently, when he fell they all became infected with his sin.

It was the superior sphere of ethereal and luminous forms, the manifested Ideas of the Divine Mind, which Plato called the Intelligible World, or the World of Intelligences. Of each and every Idea in that region of light our material world was a grosser embodiment, a degenerate copy. But the Divine Idea, to which every material object owed its life, attended that object through its whole existence. Thus the sun, the moon, the stars, every stream and every tree, had its attendant Spirit, and so had the soul of every man and woman. I suppose this archetype

Ι is what Aristotle referred to, when he said that man, beside his threefold union of a rational soul, a spiritual body, and a material body, was said by some to have “another soul, luminous and star-like." This soul dwelt in the World of

VOL. II.-14*

« ÖncekiDevam »