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generation, which acquires strength as time goes on, and finishes sometimes by becoming the sacred record of a nation, the basis of a faith ; in defence of which men will fight, and bleed, and die, with all the devotion of which disinterested human nature is capable. Many of these creeds have lived on down to the present day, and have become embalmed in the sacred books of the most highly civilized nations of the world; others have dropped out of memory, the races who held them have been overwhelmed and dispersed, and the conqueror's creed has ruled with the conqueror's sword. Such barbaric nations have generally acknowledged the power of a world to come, and made the future state dependent upon the present life or mode of death or burial. The standard of goodness has varied through the range of almost every possible idea ;-death in battle, or some special mode of burial; the observance of certain forms, sacrifices, or other modes of propitiation, may have constituted the passport to a happy future, with little or no regard to what we should call the moral aspect of the case, beyond the recognition of such primitive virtues as courage and prudent forethought. Some have approached nearer to a moral code; the mere fierceness of the warlike instinct, and prudential measures of a blind superstition, being supplemented by the recognition of such milder virtues as honesty, chastity and veracity,
and making them a condition for reward. Nations owning such a code have, however, not long remained barbarian, but have rapidly advanced to the stage of civilization in which, as a rule, the moral virtues have been fully recognized, and supported by all the sanctions of religion.
As no theology has ever been quite independent of mythology, so no religion has ever been quite free from superstition : a theology which discards its mythology is on the eve of melting away : a religion which loses its superstition relaxes its hold on the ordinary human mind, its individuality is effaced, and it dies out and is forgotten. If a religion has vitality, it is necessarily intolerant: it must maintain that its gods are the only true ones, or at least that they are stronger than those of any other creed; or, if one god alone be worshipped, then that all other gods are false. This, the highest refinement of the religious idea, produces the greatest amount of antagonism : and, standing on his own high pedestal, its votary regards the whole world as sunk in vice, seething in impurity, steeped in superstition, and that “
every imagination of man's heart is only evil continually."1 Every god but the one true God, every being but his own obedient servants, every man but his own devoted worshippers, is, and must
Gen. vi. 5.
be, a malignant enemy; every idea not sanctioned by the particular code of religion and morality accepted by the particular creed, is evil; and it is the bounden duty of every one to stamp out such evil, at the peril of incurring the same condemnation : “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” 1
Evil is opposition.” The savage seeks his food : Nature, the elements, wild beasts and enemies oppose him : they are his evil. He seeks to preserve his comfort and his life, his family and his possessions; the storm that blasts his home, the pestilence that carries off his children, the wild beast that decimates his flock, the locusts that strip his fields, are all evils. The patriarch ruling over his family or his tribe, makes simple rules for the maintenance of order, and the preservation of the race: some Esau will persist in taking wives of the daughters of Heth, and that perverse opposition to the patriarch's will becomes a social, a domestic evil : the patriarch's successor applies the rule, by compelling 113 men to put away their wives, and discard all their own children, the marriages having been in opposition to the old patriarchal law, and therefore evil. Families grow into tribes, and tribes into nations, which settle down and legislate for mutual
11 Cor. ix. 16.
* Sec ante p. 7.
protection and security: thousands of laws are embodied in hundreds of volumes to regulate the complex compact of the nation : the problem of right and wrong becomes itself so complex, and so beyond the range of the untrained conscience, that a class of men are specially set apart to devote their lives to solving it, and settling and expounding what is right and wrong ; and none but the more intelligent of the community are able even then to follow out the reasoning : yet, any mistake in this is treated as an opposition to the law, it is an offence, a legal or national evil.
But when we come to deal with the religious or theological element in the world : when we find that the Egyptian considered 166 chapters of ritual necessary to protect him from opposing spirits in his
passage from earth to heaven, and that he went to the grave literally papered and painted over with his ritual in order to conquer : when we hear of the Buddhist canon comprising 500 monster volumes of instructions how to live in order at last to shake off the trammels of a weary life, and reach the restful haven of “nothingness :" when the Hindu holds that life after life must be passed through with ever increasing sanctity, each bristling with minute observances, before the soul can shake off its earthly coil, and merge into the Deity, and rest : when the Jewish Rabbi points to 12 densely printed folio volumes of
Talmudic writing as the rule of life,' and makes that rule so difficult to learn aright, that it is heaven's own business to argue over it: and when each Christian sect brands all the other Christian sects as heretics, and the 350 millions of Buddhists, the 150 millions of Brahmanists, and the 180 millions of Mohammedans (to say nothing of his heathen fellowcreatures) as hopeless enemies of truth : when we find that each of these creeds throws back the fatal charge on all the others; the mass of recognized evil in the world becomes overwhelming to the view :but, the whole of this evil can nevertheless be summed up in the one single word “ OPPOSITION.”
Evil then is opposition, and only exists in relation to Good, and the concept of a “Spirit of Evil” partakes of the same relative character.
Hershon's "Pentateuch according to the Talmud” iii.