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religion approached nearer to a pure monotheism; but angels abound everywhere in their history, and the seven "great princes,” with Michael at their head, of whom Daniel writes, seem very like the seven Amshaspands of Persia. It was the universal idea that the other nations were gov. erned by Spirits, subordinate to Jehovah. In the Psalms he is called “God of gods;" "Lord of lords;" "exalted above all gods;" " no other god can be compared with him.”
It has been customary to speak of the Hebrew commonwealth as the only theocracy, or god-government; but the Ethiopian and Egyptian states were quite as decidedly theocracies. None of them ever undertook any important transaction without directions from the High Priest, which he gained by consulting the Deity in the temple, and receiving an oracular response. The name of Amun does not excite reverence in us, as does the name of Jehovah; but we must remember that it was otherwise with the Egyptians.
We have perpetually done injustice, by forgetting that the religions of other nations did not appear to them in the same light that they do to us, who see only the dried skeletons of what were once living forms. We constantly commit the error of judging past things by the light of our own times, and our own opinions. We do not consider how their whole aspect would have been changed, had we lived in a remoter age, and been educated by a totally different sort of culture. Hence, we approach our own sacred ideas and those of other nations from opposite points of view. What would otherwise be regarded as the puerile superstition of rude nomadic tribes, is magnified into allegory of high spiritual import when connected with our own religion. The ashes of the heifer burnt by Hindoos, how differently is it regarded from a similar custom among Hebrews! If the Song of Solomon were in the Pouranas, how different would be our commentaries upon it! Even human sacrifice, the most painful and revolting feature in the ancient religions, was softened and hallowed to their
minds by the light in which tiey viewed it. They supposed the victim expiated all his sins by being thus sacrificed, and that he went at once to Paradise; thus they persuaded themselves that they were in reality doing him good, though by a painful process.
Thomas Carlyle thus forcibly sums up all I would say on this subject: "We shall begin to have a chance of understanding Paganism, when we first admit that to its followers it was, at one time, earnestly true.
Let us consider it very certain that men did believe in Paganism; men with open eyes, sound senses, men made altogether like ourselves; that we, had we been there, should have believed in it also."
The willingness, and even eagerness, to endure martyrdom, which is so conspicuous in the history of most religions, is of itself sufficient proof that men were in earnest. In all ages, and in all parts of the world, how many have fought, and suffered, and died all manner of dreadful deaths, rather than deny, or desecrate, what to them seemed holy! When the noble old Hebrew Eleazer was advised to save his life by appearing to eat pork, he replied: “It does not become the honour of my gray head to dissemble;" and he stedfastly declared himself “ready to die, rather than mislead others by such hypocrisy.” Viewing the subject as we do, it seems a waste of life to die rather than taste of pork; but in his eyes, it was necessary, in order to preserve undegenerate a religion received from heaven, requiring obedience to every item, for the safety and prosperity of his nation. And ought we not to respect equally those devout Hindoos, who have suffered the lingering torture of martyrdom by hunger, rather than taste of beef?
All fragments of truth which we discover out of our own religion, we are prone to call the results of unassisted hu
But reason, guided by humility and reverence, is never unassisted. "Every good gift cometh from above." All the religions of the world flowed from the faith and aspirat in inherent in man's nature, and which God assuredly ha not implanted in mockery of our weak
ness. They have all emitted gleams of light, reflected from
. a heavenly source, and adapted to the powers of reception. God is not the Father of one nation only, or the author of one religion only. He has been gradually educating the whole world from the beginning, as a wise earthly father educates his son. That which can be imparted at five years old prepares the way for a greater degree of knowledge at ten. When he is twenty, ideas that helped his culture at ten are far removed from him; yet their effects remain, and form the basis of his manly mind. Truth does not change; but its manifestation to mortals is limited by their capacity of receiving. Dr. Johnson said: “Milton himself cannot teach a boy more than he can learn;" and the same is true of the Infinite Teacher of finite beings. But "the child is father of the man;" and we should not be what we are in the nineteenth century, had not Hindoos, Egyptians, Persians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, preceded us in the school of divine ideas. Let us then love and reverence them all, as elder brothers, who had fewer advantages than we have, and who all helped to procure us those advantages.
It will be perceived by these remarks that I differ from those who think God has imparted of his truth only to Jews and Christians. I differ also from those who consider all systems of religion as impostures. On the contrary, I regard the religious sentiment as always and everywhere sacred. In all its forms, I find much that is beautiful and true; in all, I find more or less of the alloy necessarily resulting from our imperfect nature and uncompleted growth.
"I can scorn nothing which a nation's heart
"Genuine Christianity, founded on the immoveable foundations of eternal truth, far from having anything to fear from comparison with other systems of religion, or philosophy, can only gain in the esteem of enlightened men by the progress of the philosophic and religious history of the human race," J.J. BOCHINGER,
DAYS OF THE APOSTLES.
At the outset, Christianity was merely a sect of Jewish reformers; Protestants against the corruptions of the priesthood of their day. The only doctrine to which assent was required was a belief that Jesus was the Messiah long promised by their prophets. This belief they sustained by his miracles, and by circumstances connected with his personal history. The prevailing Jewish doctrine concerning the resurrection of the body, they regarded as satisfactorily proved by his appearance among his disciples after his crucifixion; and they had undoubting faith that he would soon appear again on earth, to establish a holy kingdom, the centre of which would be the earthly Jerusalem.
Jesus had explicitly declared that he came not to do away the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them. He assigned the lowest place in the Messiah's kingdom to him who should violate even the least of the precepts of Moses. Accordingly, after his death, we find his disciples remaining strict adherents of the Mosaic Law. They went up to the Temple and prayed three times a day, at the customary hours; they observed the Passover, and other festivals; they ate the flesh of no animal which the Law pronounced unclean; and they considered the rite of circumcision essentially binding upon all worshippers of the true God.
At that period, Jews of all sects believed that the prophecies concerning their Messiah were soon to be fulfilled. When Jesus described the coming of "the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory," he said: “Verily I say unto you this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be done." The question: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?" shows how near at hand his disciples deemed the fulfilment of the prophecy. At his last Passover supper with them, he declared that he should not taste wine again, until he drank it "new in the kingdom of God.” After his death, the vacancy occasioned by the treachery of Judas was supplied by the election of a new disciple; it being necessary that there should be twelve, to "sit on thrones, and govern the twelve tribes of Israel,” when their kingdom should be restored. There are many plain indications that they were constantly expecting Jesus to appear visibly in the clouds. They taught their proselytes that the destruction of the world was nigh, when the Messiah would come to judge the dead, and begin on earth a glorious reign with his saints. Thus Peter wrote to the converts in Asia: “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up. Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless."
The term apostles is derived from a Greek word, signifying to send. Those whom Jesus sent abroad to teach were simple, illiterate men, of humble origin, who gained their livelihood by fishing, and other laborious occupations. Among men of that class, a knowledge of writing was very rare at that period of the world, and those who resided in Judea would almost unavoidably be generally ignorant of