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of Horace is universally true, that the best things abused always become the worst. Liable to error and passion, our religion, perverted, sometimes proves the direst curse. Hence, in the matter of piety and morals, we find, among men, strange action and reaction. For now, by the force of what may be called their better nature, they are attracted to God, and anon, by the force of their evil nature, repelled from him. They vibrate, like a pendulum, between holiness and sin, vice and virtue. After all, God is their portion, perfection their true and eternal destiny.
Hence superstition is the symptom of a deeper want. It is the hunger of the soul feeding upon husks, the thirst of the spirit drinking poison. In its wildest vagaries, even idolatry is the shadow of diviner worship. That young Hindoo mother, who has thrown her first born into the Ganges, has all the affection of a mother, and her heart, torn with anguish, goes after her little one sinking in the waves; but she has made the sacrifice (in her view, sublime) of that dearest treasure, for the salvation of her soul. Nations set up a Moloch or a Juggernaut, not because they love cruelty for its own sake, but because a blind, but irresistible instinct impels them to seek some relief to the terrible famine of the spirit.
The fact is obvious, that in all ages religion, in some form, has been the central force of society, the keystone of states and empires; and for this simple reason, that, being divine, it is the only thing which controls the inner life. It is the law which a community carries, not in its government archives, but in its heart. It requires no magistrate to pronounce sentence, no police to seize, no executioner to punish. Its domain is invisible and all comprehending, like the magnetic forces which pervade universal nature.
A true history of the world, then, especially of its civilization, its progress or decay, would be history of religion in its relations to society. This every where is the pervading and abiding power. This marks the degree of elevation or depression in all. As this rises so rises society in prosperity and strength. As this falls, so falls society into barbarism and decay. Corrupted, abused, debased, like government, law, organization, freedom, every thing, in a word, which has power, it is a reality the most sublime, a good the highest and deepest of all.
It is on this ground we maintain that God, in some manifested form, or an organized belief, and especially in Jesus Christ and Christianity, to which Judaism is an introduction, is the centre of all history, past, present, and to come. So that those who would know Christ must know history, 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; that is, in him, and around him, all facts converge.
We cannot here trace, with any detail, the history of religion from the earliest times, but a brief
a 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 the civilized nations set out from a purer worship of the Supreme Being; that the magic power nature over the imagination of the successive hu
man 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. 3, et 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 Mets 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, 3116. Meiners, in his too highly-estimated work entitled Hist. Doctrina 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.