« הקודםהמשך »
imagined in the heavens, stamped upon the earth, and ruled in the regions of everlasting sorrow.”
As early as the days of Balaam, we find distinct traces of the worship of the serpent. That creature having been chosen as the medium of communication with our progenitors in paradise, when sin was first infused into the human mind, it was only natural that it should be propitiated to reverse the awful consequences it had too well succeeded in entailing on the human race. Accordingly we find the false prophet going, if we follow our translation of the Bible, " to seek enchantments ;'' but more literally to "the meeting of nachushim” or serpents; just as the priests, and deities of Egypt, are represented as doing in numberless instances, in their paintings and sculptures. Even among the pictures of the ancient Mexicans, we find the serpent conspicuously delineated, sometimes in the act of escaping from a broken vase, analagous to the far-famed box of Pandora ; in other instances erected, as in an atlitude of conference, in full-front of their Eve, “serpent-woman,” or “mother of our flesh;” and, again, bruised or severed into many parts, as if allusive to the glorious promise of the Saviour's triumph over the great tempter.
These religious rites, although disfigured and refracted in their passage through the natural mind, had still such vestiges of truth about them, as leads us to infer that there must have been some disclosures made upon the subject, which I shall discuss in considering,
III. The Institution of Religious Worship. We have ample data for this opinion in the gorgeous emblazonry, still fresh and glowing, upon the walls of Egypt's temples—" the chambers of imagery, with every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts pourtrayed upon the walls round about ;" the “men pourtrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeuns pourtrayed with vermillion;" in the cave-temples of Hindoslan; in the grotesque paintings of central America ; and the stereotyped rites and ceremonies of the Chinese empire.
The rudiments of a revealed system of religion, are evident in many of the rites and tenets thus embodied.
1. The belief in a Trinity of persons combined in the Godhead, obtained in China, India, Chaldea, Persia. Japan, Siberia, Egypt, and South America. “ The san-shing, or three precious ones in heaven," of the Chinese, says Gutzlaff, “ has evidently reterence to the mystery of the Trinity.” Even the Utaheitans, severed as they are from all the world, retained when first visited by our missionaries, some knowledge of te Medooa, the father-e Myde, the Soumund te Hooa, the Spirit. But the doctrine is most conspicuous in the triads of the Greeks, who made, not only all their gods, but the inferior powers, three-fold, inheriting the learning of the east, and borrowing possibly from Zoroaster, who made the Eternal mind to consist of virtue, wisdom, and much-knowing truth.
2. The Sabbath appears to have been observed very generally. « The heathens," says Purchas, “ had their weekes, as appeareth by naming the days after the seven planets; and Saturday, or Saturnes day, was by the gentiles, sequestered from all civil affairs, being esteemed most fit for contemplation and devotion, as saith Aretius.” This fact would lose much of its remarkable character, were not such a division entirely arbitrary, constituting as it does no aliquot part either of a solar or lunar revolution. And this is why Voltaire, after mentioning the astronomical periods of the Chinese, says, “ But, perhaps, the most remarkable fact, is that they have, from time immemorial, divided their time into weeks of seven days."
3. We have only to make ourselves acquainted with the temples of antiquity, whether reared by the wild and warlike barbarians, or the more civilized nations of the east, to be satisfied that the rite of bloody sacrifice was very generally practised. It happens, too, fortunately for my argument, that this very custom is the great stum ng-block of Deism. The sceptic who has gone only to the dame-school of nature, decries and deprecates so strongly this “shedding of blood,” that I should waste words in attempting to prove that nature never taught it. And, yet it appears to have laid hold on the human mind, in all ages and countries, so firmly, that the fruit of the body was often given for the sin of the soul, as is abundantly evident from many of the Mexican paintings before referred to. Others, still extant in Egypt, pourtray sacrifices so strikingly similar to those of the Jews, as to lead to the inevitable conclusion that they were once identical.
4. The notion of a judgment to come, was conspicuous in nearly all the creeds of antiquity; and the ideas entertained upon this subject in Egypt, are intelligibly and powerfully expressed on hundreds of papyrusrolls, found in the mummy cases or tombs of that people.
These four points, to name no others, appear so far beyond the reach of human reason, that I think we are warranted from their existence merely, in contending that in the past ages of the world, there unquestionably had been a Divine institution of religious worship.
IV. Traditions of the deluge of Noah, abound in India and the east, and traces of a violent convulsion, separating islands from continents, and opening straits and passages for the tumultuous waters, may be discovered in all quarters of the globe. Even the remote islanders of the South Sea believe that, once in their anger, the great gods broke the whole world to pieces, and that all the islands round them are but little parts of what was once the great land.
The fish, the boar, and the tortoise avatars of the Hindoos, appear to refer to this event. The avatars are manifestations or incarnations of Deity for special purposes. The Chinese records open with an account of the loosing of the waters by Yao, their first emperor, who, being raised to heaven, bathed the feet of the highest mountains, covered the less elevated hills, and rendered the plains impassable. The Greek writers no less abound with notices of the catastrophe. But perhaps the most striking tradition is that of the Indians of Mexico, who speak of a great inundation 4008 years after the creation, before which time they suppose the earth was inhabited by giants. All those who did not perish in the deluge were transformed into fishes, except seven of them, who fled to caverns. As soon as the waters had abated, one of these set about building a vast pyramid, whose top would reach to heaven ; but the Gods in their anger destroyed it, and many of the workmen, by fire.
V. If we require arguments to prove a general dispersion of the human family, and the origin of the various languages now in use, we may find them in the beautiful discourses of Sir W. Jones, whose only difficulty appears to lie in separating the three earlier dialects, to which he has succeeded in tracing all the others, from their primitive original. The actual state of mankind, indeed, is sufficient for my purpose-the world is not only peopled in the length and breadth of it, but its nations speak each a different language, though it is hard to say why they should, if the general consent of mankind refer them to one common parentage, whether it be the Adim and Iva of the Hindus, the Panson and Pansona of China, or the Ish and Isha of the Jews. An interesting illustration of this part of the subject is to be found in the traditions of the western, no less than of the eastern hemisphere, particularly in that embodied in the painting engraved by Humboldt, which represents a dove perched upon a tree distributing tongues to the fathers of the post-diluvian world.
VI. In the temples, the paintings and the sculptures of the ancient world, we find abundant traces of a general lapse into idolatry.
A new volume of crime, and folly, and sensuality, is here unfolded to us in the silent characters of the nightly heavens. On the ample and recording tablet of the skies, we shall find Adam and the serpenttempter, Noah, Jupiter, Hercules, Typhon, and “the lords many, and gods many," of the old mythology. The “ eloquent air” of the times of this ignorance, burns with the poison of dæmonolatry. Man shudders when he sees his fellows so sunk in degradation; the very heavens reveal his iniquity, and the earth rises up against him.
But amidst the wide and lurid desert, there wells forth a crystal rillet in the history of one chosen race, the unwilling, but unquestioned evidences to the fact, that, in some distant period, a protest had been raised to this general defection from a purer faith. In the Jewish race we have millions of living witnesses to this fact. “Here they are, living, breathing, walking, speaking, meeting your eye at the corner of every street, dodging you every where,” and wresting from you a concession to the fact I speak of. The circumstance of the Jews, who were alone the conservators of true religion, having preserved a written law, is a strong presumptive proof that such a law was necessary. The practices of the heathen world bore precisely the same relation to those of the Jews, as the oral, to the written law. The rites of the latter people were hideously caricatured, misunderstood, and mingled with absurdities; the spontaneous growth of the depraved and erring heart, by which all traces of their original beauty were lost, and the pure gold of truth became amalgamated with the wood, hay, stubble, of human policy, stupidity, or priestcraft.
(To be concluded next month.)
THE TITLES OF THE PSALMS. Various opinions are entertained by the learned, in reference to those titles which stand prefixed to the majority of the Psalms, The safest conclusion is, that where they do not explain themselves, we must regard every other explanation as entirely conjectural. Such titles as those of Psalms iii. lvii. Ix. xcii. must be kept in view by every reader who would understand them fully. The circumstances in which they were written, and the object they were intended to serve, are thus communicated at a glance. But there are many titles, to which, at this distant day, it is impossible to attach a definite and indisputable signification, as for instance Psalm xxii. “ To the chief musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, a Psalm of David."
This title may be understood, in reference to an instrument called “ Aijeleth Shahar," upon which the psalm was to be played by the chief musician. Others give an English translation of their Hebrew terms, as in the margin, and conclude that David gave this psalm to the chief musician, as one which he had written,
concerning the hind of the morning,” in allusion to the Messiah, who was cruelly hunted to death, but who escaped from the hands of the wicked, in the morning of the resurrection. In harmony with the Chaldee paraphrast, and following Aquilla and Jerome,
they understand the term, “Lemanetrach," to the chief Musician in the general sense of excelling, and not necessarily limited to excellency in one department only—that of music. They therefore interpret it, “To the Triumpher. To the Victor, or Giver of Victory and, To the Conqueror.” In this latter sense, Parkhurst and Bishop Horsley receive it, and the terms “ Aijeleth Shahar,” they render, “concerning the interposition of the dusk,” or such darkness as prevails at dawn of day. The scene of this Psalm is,“ the Crucifixion of Christ,” says Parkhurst,“ when the Divine Light appeared almost overwhelmed by the interposing powers of darkness, and when the sun, sympathising with his great antitype, was darkened for three hours, and afforded to all believers, a sensible and affecting 'image of what the Sun of Righteousness then endured.” (Rev. J. Stevenson's Exposition of Psalm xx. 112.)
WORK ON. ZEUXis being demanded a reason of his exact curiosity in his work, answered, “I work for eternity.” So I am doing a work for eternity, I am pleading the cause on which depends life or death; so that I cannot hearken to thee. “Why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?” Alas this business will go no farther than it is lifted at; I am rowing up a river, if I trifle or nod a little, I go down again. I have a business on the wheel that cannot be left a minute. If I look away, my iron burns and I suffer loss.-Steele.
FRIENDS. “It requires sunshine to see our friends; for they become invisible in the cloudy and dark day. Guard, if it be possible, your friends from injuring you, lest they, by so doing, become your bitterest enemies, never forgiving the wrongs they have themselves inflicted."
RULES FOR YOUTH. “The best rules to form a young man,” says, Sir William Temple, " are to talk little, to hear much, to reflect alone upon what has passed in company, to distrust one's own opinions, and value others that deserve it."