תמונות בעמוד

Old Testament, that some learned men have supposed the author was a Jew. He gave almost the same account of the creation of the world as we find written in the book of Genesis ; and of the ancient patriarchs as recorded in Scripture. He enjoins, relating to clean and unclean beasts, the same as was done by Moses; and in the same manner orders the people to pay tithes to the priests, The rest of the book contains the life of the author ; his pretended visions ; the methods he uses in order to establish his religion; and concludes with exhortations to obedience. But, notwithstanding such striking similarities between the Zend and the law of Moses, yet it will not follow from lience that he was a Jew. The Jews had been seventy years in captivity, and many of them being men of learning, no doubt but such a great man as Daniel, or such an illustrious queen as Esther, would get them placed at the head of their seminaries of learning. Josephus tells us that the great fame of Daniel in revealing and interpreting the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar diffused itself throughout the whole empire. The Chaldeans and Persians were an inquisitive people, they even sent students to India and Egypt; and finding the Jews in a state of captivity among them, they would naturally inquire into the mysteries of their religion.

In considering every system of ancient idolatry, new reflections present themselves to our minds. Thus, in Persia, two ancient systems of idolatry took place, and at last, an artful impostor established another on its ruins. But although it might not be so gross as some of those that went before, yet still it was idolatry, which may serve to show that without Divine revelation no man can come to the knowledge of the truth. Abraham would have been an idolater, had not God called him from Ur of the Chaldeans; and when Christ came in the flesh, he found the whole world lying in wickedness. How wretched then must the condition of those persons be who reject the gospel of our Saviour! Well might it be said of such persons, that they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.


SCANDINAVIANS, AND CELTS, OR DRUIDS. The Scythians inhabited a large tract of country to the north of Europe and Asia. In early times their religion was very simple: it taught the belief of a Supreme God, to whom were attributed infinite power, knowledge, and wisdom; it forbade any representation of this being under a corporeal form, and enjoined the celebration of his worship in consecrated woods. Under him, a number of inferior divinities were supposed to govern the world, and preside over the celestial bodies. The doctrine of a future state formed an important part of the mythology of these people, and their fundamental maxims were, to serve the Deity with sacrifice and prayer, to do no wrong to others, and to be brave and intrepid. But in the course of time the religion of the Scythians degenerated, a multitude of other divinities were introduced amongst them, and as they were a warlike people, they made the god of battles their favourite deity ; to him they consecrated groves of oak, which were held so sacred, that whoever injured them was punished with death. A scimitar raised upon the



summit of an immense wooden altar, was the emblem of this God, to whom they sacrificed horses, and every hundredth man taken in battle ; the first fruits of the earth, and a portion of the spoils gained in war, were the offerings made to the other divinities. The principal Scythian deities were,

Tabite, the Vesta of later times.
Papius, the Jupiter.
Apia, or the Earth, the consort of Papius.
Stripassa, the Venus.
Oestasynes, the Apollo.

Thamimasides, the Neptune. The Scythians venerated fire, as the principle of all things; and the wind and the sword, as the cause of life and death ; a being called Zamolxis, was supposed to have the charge of conducting departed spirits to their respective abodes, and sacrifices were made to him by the friends of deceased persons, on their behalf.

The Scandinavians sacrificed human victims, and sometimes offered up even their kings, to appease the gods in times of public calamity.

Their chief divinities were Odin or Wodin, Frea or Friga, and Thor. Odin or Wodin is generally supposed to have been a deified warlike prince ; he was the god and father of war, and was thought to adopt as his children all who died in battle; he was also worshipped as the god of arts and sciences, from his having in some degree civilised the countries which he subdued. The fourth day of the week was consecrated to him, and was called Wodin's day, which is now corrupted into our Wednesday.

Frea or Friga, the consort of Odin, was the most amiable of all the Scandinavian goddesses. She was also called Vanadis, or the goddess of Hope ; and under the name of Hertha she was considered as a personification of earth. Virgins of high birth devoted themselves to her service, and Friday, the sixth day of the week, was named after her.

Thor, the eldest and bravest of the sons of Odin and Frea, was the god of the aerial regions ; prayers were addressed to him for favourable winds and refreshing showers, and Thursday, the fifth day of the week, was dedicated to him,

In the earliest times the Scandinavians performed their rites in groves ; but they afterwards raised temples to their gods, the most magnificent of which were at Upsal and Drontheim. The inferior deities of the Scandinavians were,

Niorder, who presided over the seas, navigation, hunting, and fishing,
Isminsul, or the column of the universe.
Surtar, prince of the genii of fire.
Balder, a son of Odin.
Tur, the dispenser of victory.
Heimdal, the guardian of the heavens.
Hoder, the blind, a son of Odin.
Vidar, the god of silence, a son of Odin,
Braga, the god of poetry.
Vati, the formidable archer.
Uller, presiding over trials by duel,

Hela, the dreadful goddess of death.
Torseti, decided the differences of gods and men.
The Valkyries were goddesses of slaughter.
Iduna, the queen of youth.
Saga, the goddess of waterfalls.
Vara, the witness of oaths.
Lofen, the guardian of friendship.

Synia, the avenger of broken faith. The notions the Scandinavians entertained of hell were very remarkable ; it was called Niffhien, and consisted of nine vast regions of ice, situated under the North Pole, the entrance to which was guarded by the dog of darkness, similar to the Grecian Cerberus. Loke, the evil genius, who was the cruel enemy of gods and men, with his daughter Hela, the goddess of death ; the giantess Angherbode, the messenger of evil; the wolf Femis, a monster, dreaded by the gods, as destined to be their destruction, and the equally formidable serpent, resided in this gloomy abode, which has been described by Gray, in his “ Descent of Odin.”.

The Scandinavians believed that what formed their highest enjoyments in this world, would likewise constitute their happiness in the next. They imagined that the souls of heroes who had fallen in battle, would pass their days in hunting shadowy forms of wild beasts, or in combats with warriors, and at night would assemble in the hall of Odin, to feast and drink mead or ale out of the skulls of their enemies whom they had slain in their mortal life. This view of happiness in a future state of existence, has prevailed amongst almost all nations.

We now coine to the religion of our forefathers, the Celts, which was also that of the ancient Germans and Gauls. The Celtic priests were called Druids. All the Celtic nations, like the early Scythians, performed their religious ceremonies in sacred groves, and they regarded the oak and the mistletoe growing upon it with peculiar reverence : their principal

dcities were,

Teulates, the god of war.
Dis, the god of the infernal regions, and the Pluto of after times.

Andate, the goddess of victory. The god of war was the divinity of the greatest importance ; upon his altars human victims were sacrificed ; and though criminals were deemed the most acceptable offerings, innocent persons were frequently immolated.

Druid is derived from the word deru, which in the Celtic language signifies an oak ; because their usual abode was in woods. These priests were most highly revered; they were referred to in all civil as well as religious matters ; and so great was their influence in the state, that even kings could not ascend the throne without their approbation. They were divided into four classes,--druids, bards, sarronides, and vates or eubages; the first were the supreme chiefs, and so highly reverenced, that the inferior orders could not remain in their presence without permission to

The bards, whose Celtic name signifies a singer, celebrated the actions of heroes in verse, which they sang, and accompanied upon the harp.

The sarronides had the charge of instructing youth, whom they were

do so.

enjoined to inspire with virtuous sentiments ; and the vates or eubages had the care of the sacrifices, and applied themselves particularly to the study of nature.

The Druids enjoyed great privileges ; they were exempted from serving in war and paying taxes.

Numbers aspired to gain admission into this order of society, for it was open to all ranks; but this was rather difficult, as the candidates were obliged to learn the verses which contained the maxims of their religion and political government.

It was unlawful to commit the druidical doctrines to writing, and therefore they were taught, and transmitted from generation to generation, entirely by the poems recited by the Druids, who required a period of fifteen or even twenty years to acquire an adequate knowledge on that subject.

The Druids considered the mistletoe as a special gift from the divinity to the oak, and the gathering of this plant was the most sacred of their ceremonies.


ANCIENT GREEKS AND ROMANS. The Greeks are supposed to have derived many of their deities from the Egyptians, as well as no small number of their religious ceremonies. The Egyptians, no doubt, at an earlier period, believed in one Deity as supreme, the Maker and Ruler of all things; but after that they worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, under various forms, as well as living creatures and lifeless things.

In the first ages of the world, men had neither temples nor statues for their gods, but worshipped in the open air, in the shady grove, or on the summit of the lofty mountains, whose apparent proximity to the heavens seemed to render them peculiarly appropriate for religious purposes. Ignorantly transferring to the works of the Supreme Being that homage which is only due to their Author, they adored the sun as a god, who, riding on his chariot of fire, diffused light and heat through the world ; the moon, as a mild and beneficent divinity, who presided over night and silence, consoling her worshippers for the departure of the more brilliant light of day.

It is thought that the Greeks received from the Egyptians the custom of building temples, which were erected, some in valleys, some in woods, and others by the brink of a river, or fountain, according to the deity who was destined to inhabit them; for the ancients ascribed .the management of every particular affair to some particular god, and appropriated to each a peculiar form of building, according to his or her peculiar character and attributes.

But when temples were first erected, the ancients still continued to worship their gods, without any statue or visible representation of the divinity.

It is supposed that the worship of idols was introduced among the Greeks in the time of Cecrops, the founder of Athens, in the year 1556

B. C.

At first these idols were formed of rude blocks of wood or stone, until, when the art of graving, or carving, was invented, these rough masses were changed into figures resembling living creatures. Afterwards, marble, and ivory, or precious stones, were used in their formation, and lastly, gold, silver, brass, and other metals. At length, in the refined ages of Greece, all the genius of the sculptor was employed in the creation of these exquisite statues, which no modern workmanship has yet surpassed.

Temples, statues, and altars, were considered sacred, and to many of them was granted the privilege of protecting offenders.

Chaos was considered the most ancient of all the gods, and that Colus, or heaven, followed him. Vesta Prisca, or Terra, the earth, was the wife of Cælus, and ranked as the first goddess.

The Greeks divided their deities into three classes, celestial, marine, and infernal, though there are many others not embraced in this classification:


Jupiter, the father of gods and men, is said to have been born in Crete, or to have been sent there in infancy for concealment. He was the son of Saturn, the god of Time, and of Cybele, otherwise called Rhea. He was the most powerful of all the gods, and everything was subservient to his will. His father, Saturn, had received the kingdom of the world from his brother Titan, on condition of destroying all the sons who should be born to him. Saturn, therefore, devoured his children immediately after birth. This may be considered as having an allegorical meaning; namely, that time destroys all things.

As soon as he was a year old, Jupiter made war against the Titans, a race of giants, who had imprisoned his father, Saturn, and having conquered them, set his father at liberty. But Saturn having soon after conspired against him, was deposed by Jupiter, and sent into banishment. Being thus left sole master of the world, Jupiter divided his empire with his two brothers, Neptune and Pluto.

For himself he reserved the kingdom of heaven; to Neptune he gave dominion over the sea, and to Pluto the infernal regions.

His first name was Jovis, from which, by the addition of Pater, father, was formed Jupiter. But the appellations given to him were numerous, and were derived either from the actions which he performed, or from the places where he was worshipped.

As the ancients, inconsistently, attribute to their gods all the passions and vices which disgrace human nature, so they frequently represent Jupiter as having recourse to the most unworthy artifices, in order to accomplish the basest designs.

Their poets describe him as a majestic personage, sitting upon a throne of gold or ivory, under a rich canopy, holding a thunderbolt in one hand, and in the other a sceptre of cypress. At his feet, or on his sceptre, sits an eagle with expanded wings. He has a flowing beard, and is generally represented with golden shoes, and an embroidered cloak. The Cretans depicted him without ears, to signify impartiality.

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