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Intelligences, but was spiritually present with its earthly copy, knew all his thoughts and actions, attended him when the soul parted from the body, and gave in a record of his deeds to the Judges of the Dead. In allusion to this, philosophers were accustomed to exhort a man not to offend his Genius. The emperor Marcus Aurelius says: "Those who live in harmony with Divine Natures, are ready on all occasions to obey the commands of that Genius, which the Gods have given to every one, for his guide and governor.” This celestial companion was doubtless the "demon," to whom Socrates so often and so reverently alluded; and the same idea gave rise to the custom of swearing by the Genius of the Emperor.
The Infinite and Eternal God was so far removed from finite comprehension, and so incapable of contact with evil, that a Second God was supposed to be his agent. But still this Creator was too high above human sympathies; and the soul sought to connect itself with him by intermediate agents. Reverence for his high rank combined with the crayings of the heart to produce this result. Asiatics, accustomed to think it beneath the dignity of a king to transact the affairs of the empire in his own person, naturally attached the same idea to the Universal Ruler, and represented his government as administered by an infinite number of subordinate agents, of various gradations, endowed with intelligence in proportion to the importance of the functions they fulfilled. Hindoos, Persians, Hebrews, Greeks, all believed in a great company of Spirits, who mediated between man and the higher deities. They carried up the prayers of mortals, and brought down blessings in return. They taught men what religious ceremonies to use, and what atoning sacrifices to offer, in order to obtain remission of sins; and they interceded with the offended Powers to obtain propitiation. Generally, there was some one Spirit supposed to be pre-eminent in these kindly offices. Persians named Mithras "The Mediator." Cabalists called the angel Metraton “The Mediator between God and man.” They said he led the children of Israel
through the wilderness, and gave the Law to Moses. Platonized Jews, in Alexandria, described the Logos, or Word
“The Mediator and Intercessor between God and man.” They supposed he appeared, under various angelic forms, to the patriarchs, that he dictated to Moses, and inspired the prophets; for it had then become a universal idea that no man had seen God himself at any time.
The same tendencies which made men try to bring The Creator nearer to them, by the intervention of intermediate agents, naturally led them to worship the mediums in preference to the higher Deity, whom they represented and served. Thus Brahma gave place to Vishnu, in various
. forms; Osiris eclipsed Amun; Mithras superseded Ormuzd; and Apollo received much more worship than Jupiter.
Mortals, wandering in the dark, forever needing help, and craving sympathy from superior beings, took yet another step to link themselves with Divinity. They supposed that intermediate Spirits kept the higher Deities constantly informed concerning human affairs, and that those deities, except the Creator himself, occasionally assumed a mortal form, to assist mankind in great emergencies; either impelled by their own compassion, or acting in obedience to benevolent injunctions of the Creator. It was also believed that pious human souls changed to Spirits of a higher and higher degree, until some of the most perfect became one with God; in other words, became God. While thus transmigrating through higher spheres of existence, their uncompleted degree of goodness sometimes compelled them, by eternal laws of cause and effect, to return and serve a new probation on earth. In that case, their previous experiences in more exalted worlds made them men of larger intellect, quicker sympathies, and finer intuitions, than others. As repeated sojourners on earth, in various capacities, they became practically acquainted with all the sorrows and temptations of humanity, and could justly judge its sins, while they sympathized with its weakness and its sufferings. When they again became Spirits in higher regions, they remembered the lower forms they had inhabited, and felt a lively interest in worlds where they had previously dwelt. They could penetrate even the secret thoughts of mortals, though men could not so much as perceive the outward forms of those heavenly guardians; according to the proverb: "The butterfly remembers the grub, but the grub knows nought of the butterfly." Having strong faith in all this, a belief naturally followed that Gods, and benevolent Spirits, with their all-embracing knowledge, and their tender interest in forms and places they had once inhabited, would sometimes vol. untarily leave Paradise and descend to earth, on purpose to work, to suffer, and to die for mankind. Such was Crishna, an incarnation of the second person of the Hindoo Trinity. If a sinner, even at the hour of death, thought of him, and sincerely believed that he was Vishnu in a human form, it was deemed sufficient to insure salvation. The same mission of sacrifice for others was performed by a great and glorious Spirit, descended in the form of Bouddha. Having performed his labour of love on this earth, and descended to the lower regions, to instruct and encourage souls in prison there, he became one with God, by exceeding holiness, and ascended to the heavenly Paradise, without dying. Thenceforth, he was regarded as God himself, and prayers were deemed peculiarly availing if offered in his name. In Egypt, Osiris was a God, a human benefactor, and the judge of all who died. There is no parallel instance among the Greeks or Romans; but there also the idea of incarnation appeared under various forms. Gods descended visibly to the earth, and great men ascended to the stars, where they were supposed to exist as demi-gods, or Spirits half way between human beings and the higher deities.
As man the individual looks back lovingly to his childhood, and remembers only its pleasures, so mankind have ever reverted to the infancy of the world, as a period of innocence and freedom. All the ancient nations had traditions of a Paradise on earth, before evil came into the world. In that happy time, men were spontaneously good,
knew truth by intuition, lived in perfect equality, and had no need of laws, or labour. As the individual man is forever aspiring after happiness and perfection in some bright sphere beyond this existence, so mankind have always been uttering prophecies of a golden future for the world, when men would again live together as free, happy, and affectionate children of the same beneficent Father. Undefined longings to realize this glorious idea of human equality and brotherhood were expressed in numerous prophecies, and in various religious customs; such as the mingling of kings and peasants in Persia, and the exchange of places between masters and servants on the festival of Saturn in Rome. There is something touching in this proof that even in the youth of the world, the weight of humanity pressed so heavily on sympathising hearts, and its discords jarred so harshly on organizations delicately attuned. In most nations, a belief prevailed that the return of the Golden Age would be brought about by the advent of a just and holy man, through whose agency all discords, moral and physical, would be harmonized, and the world restored to order. Hindoos believed such a personage would appear among them, and bring all nations under guidance of the Bramins. Chinese expected a "holy one” would appear on their sacred mountain and bring all the world into subjection to the Chinese empire. Persians believed that such a deliverer was waiting to be summoned to their “land of light," and that when he appeared, he would convert the whole world to the religion of Zoroaster. But this expectation is peculiarly conspicuous in the history of Hebrews. They had the strongest . assurance that a prince and deliverer would come in the royal line of King David, who would exterminate all nations and individuals, except those who adopted the Jewish religion, and gave themselves up willing subjects to his government. This belief was so deeply impressed on the popular mind that it affected the whole character and destiny of the people. It made them blindly rash in their defiance of Roman power, led to perpetual insurrec
tions, and finally caused the utter destruction of their Holy City. Tacitus, Josephus, and Suetonius, have all recorded that about the time of the commencement of our era an expectation prevailed generally throughout the East that an extraordinary deliverer would soon appear.
From the remotest antiquity astronomical calculations were afloat in various nations concerning successive destructions of the world by water and fire, and its subsequent renovation. All people had traditions concerning a great Deluge. Hindoos, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Chinese, Persians, Hebrews, Druids, and Scandinavians, all had prophecies, apparently derived from a common source, concerning the destruction of the world by fire, and its restoration to primeval beauty. In connection with this, was a belief that the great deliverer of humanity would establish his kingdom of heavenly order on the earth thus purified and renovated for his reception.
All ancient nations believed in the immortality of the soul, always coupled with the idea of previous existence. Since all emanated from God, and was a portion of him, no soul could possibly die, not even the soul of animal or vegetable; because it participated in the eternal nature of the Being whence it proceeded. Men saw that bodies died continually, and from that they conceived an idea that the soul, for temporary purposes, passed from form to form, each more glorious than another, until it arrived at the radiant and ethereal beauty of Spirits of the Sun, endowed with intelligence so vast, that the universe was more completely open to their inspection, than the world was to mor. tals. As Spirits, by successive careers of virtue, ascended to higher and higher series of existence, they were sup. posed to pass from region to region of Paradise, each exceeding the other in marvellous beauty, adapted to the enlarged powers of its inhabitants. Royal residences being the most magnificent mortal eyes had seen, celestial abodes were naturally imagined to be of similar, though transcending splendour. Hence they were described full of palaces with golden columns and gates of pearl, surrounded by bloom.