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and those who would know history must know Christ.*
But we must go back to primeval fountains, and trace the central element or principle referred to, namely, God as a personality, more especially “ God in Christ,” either as a hope or a possession, in the great powers which ruled over ancient society, in religion, philosophy, and what men call the common, but in reality divine, succession of events.
“By him," says St. Paul, “ all things consist, ”(OUVEOTNKEV,) literally, stand together.
THE CENTRAL PRINCIPLE, OR CHRIST IN ANCIENT
We cannot here trace, with any detail, the history of religion from the earliest times; but a brief and comprehensive sketch, indicating its general character, and especially its relations to Christ, will be in place.
Leaving out of the account, for the present, the teachings of the Scriptures as to the primitive form of belief in the early ages of the world, we begin with religion as it existed in the form of nature-worship, symbol-worship, and idolatry. The most eminent archæologists and historians give it as their opinion that these, in the elder and more civilized nations, were the corruptions of a purer faith; or at least that the traditional influence of a purer faith mingled with these in all their successive transformations. 6. The more I investigate the ancient history of the world,” says A. W. Schlegel, “ the more I am convinced that
66 the civilized nations set out from a purer worship of the Supreme Being; that the magic power of nature over the imagination of the successive human races, first at a later period, produced polytheism, and finally altogether obscured the more spiritual religious notions, while the wise alone preserved within the sanctuary the primeval secret.*
Among all these nations, especially in the writings of the poets, and in the primitive religious or mythological traditions, scattered memorials are found of a belief in the existence and moral government of God and the immortality of the soul. Plutarch, in his treatise on the Isis and Osiris of Egyptian worship, informs us, that "it was a most ancient opinion handed down from
* Those who wish to investigate this subject are referred to Cudworth’s Intellectual System, civ., passim; the first part of Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses, compared with Mosheim, De Rebus ante Const. p. 17, et seq., (in Dr. Murdock's edition of Vidal's Translation, pp. 20–48;) Neander's Church Hist. vol. i. pp. 5–34; F. W. Schlegel's Language and Wisdom of the Indians; and Mueller's Intro. to a Complete System of Mythology. With reference to the Mysteries, see Creuzer's Symbolik und Mythologie, iv.
seq. ; Limburg Brouwer's Histoire de la Civilisation des Grecs, tom. 2, cxiv. ; Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology, vol. iii. p. 400, et seq. Lobeck, in his celebrated Aglaophemus has ingeniously defended a different view ; but the verdict of recent mythologists is against him. The arguments upon this subject are summed up in an ingenious and eloquent article in Blackwood's Mag. for February, 1853. On the opinions of the Ancient Egyptians, see Prichard's Analysis of Egyptian Mythology; as, also, Kenrick's Ancient Egypt, particularly vol. i. pp. 302, 306. Meiners, in his too highly-estimated work entitled Hist. Doctrinæ de Deo Vero, has maintained that the heathen received their first idea of the true God from Athanagoras; but his reasoning is one-sided and unsatisfactory. The views of Neander, Schleiermacher and the later German theologians are much nearer the truth.
legislators and divines to poets and philosophers, the author of it entirely unknown, but the belief of it indelibly established not only in tradition and the talk of the common people, but in the mysteries and sacred offices of religion, both amongst Greeks and barbarians spread all over the face of the earth, that the universe was not upheld fortuitously, without mind, reason, or a governor to preside over its affairs."
This is especially true of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, and probably the Hindoos, as also, to some extent, of the elder Greeks and Romans. Zeus himself, (from the verb signifying to live, *) the head of the Olympian conclave, is but a corruption, as the name imports, of Jehovah, the one eternal Life-giver, the basis of which undoubtedly is, the “I am that I am," or The Existing One of Moses, “ King of kings and Lord of lords.” Occasionally, in the Greek dramatists and elsewhere, he is described as the One Source of life, “the Father of gods and men.”
* This derivation is given by Plato in the Cratylus, (28.) “For in reality,” he says, “ the name of Zeus is, so to speak, a sentence, and persons dividing it into two parts, some of us make use of one part, and some another; for some call him Zov, and some ais; but these parts, combined in one, exhibit the nature of the God, which, as we have said, a name ought to do. For there is no one who, in a higher sense, is the cause of life, both to us and every thing else, than he who is the Ruler and King of all. It follows, therefore, that this God is rightly named, through whom life is imparted to all living beings.”
Thus, in the Troades of Euripides, we have the following:
“O thou who guid'st the rolling of the earth,
And o'er it hast thy throne, whoe'er thou art,
In the Edipus Coloneus we read,
“ Thou power supreme, all power above,
All-seeing, all-performing Jove."
But in the Philoctetes of the same poet, the earth is apostrophized as the mother of all things:
“O Earth, thou mother of great Jove,
In the Prometheus of Æschylus, the most original and powerful of the Greek tragedies, Jove is described as a usurper. Prometheus, the half-divine, half-human Sufferer and Savior, as it were a dumb prophecy of Christ,) is the true friend of
It is only by glimpses and flashes that the Greek poets give any just conceptions of a supreme, all-righteous Deity. Eusebius, for example, in his Preparatio Evangelica, quotes from a lost tragedy of Euripides these striking words:
“ Thou self-sprung being, that doth all infold,
And in thine arms heaven's whirling fabric hold,”
reminding us of Bryant's beautiful lines,