Page images
PDF
EPUB

name "Eve” was always in two syllables, we shall see how exactly these heathen orgies had some reference to the circumstances of Paradise, and particularly to the great mother, who, " being deceived, was in the transgression.” i Tim. ii, 14. It is a remarkable and important consideration, that Epiphanius, Clemens of Alexandria, and others, who had manifold opportunities of witnessing these ceremonies, were of decided opinion that this reference was designed.*

We now select a few of the many traditions handed down from remote antiquity, which tend to illustrate and confirm the Scripture account.

Plato informs us, that the first arrangement of things which was ordained of God contained neither human politics, nor the appropriation of wives and children ; but that all lived in common upon the exuberant productions of the earth. They had abundance of fruits and trees; and they were blessed with a soil so rich, that it brought forth those fruits spontaneously, and without the labor of cultivation. They spent their time in the open air, and associated together without shame in a state of nakedness. They conversed not only with each other, but likewise with the beasts: yet God was their special guardian ; and by a peculiar interposition provided them with food, as men are now wont to provide for the inferior domestic animals. He mentions that he had learned these particulars from an ancient fable: and concludes with saying, that “such matters must be laid aside until some meet interpreter of them should be revealed."

Plato, Polit., pp. 271, 272, quoted in Faber's Origin of Pagan Idolatry, vol. ii,

p. 12.

Dicæarchus, as quoted by Porphyry, gives a similar account. The first men, according to this writer, “were born near to the gods, were of a most excellent nature, and lived most holy lives: so that, when compared with the degenerate modern race of mortals, they might well be esteemed a golden generation. At that time, nothing which had life was slaughtered; and from the universal felicity which then prevailed, the poets borrowed their pictures of the golden age.”Faber's Origin of Pagan Idolatry, vol. ii, p. 13.

* We are indebted for several of the preceding illustrations to a very able little work entitled, “ The Testimony of Profane History. By Matthew Bridges."

The following lines of Hesiod appear to refer to the temptation of the woman, and its fatal consequences :

« Whilom on earth the sons of men abode,

From ills apart and labor's irksomo load,
And sore diseases, bringing age to man,
Now the sad life of mortals is a span.
The woman's hands a mighty casket bear;
She lifts the lid, and scatters griefs in air :
Alone, beneath the vessel's rims detain'd,
Hope still within th’ unbroken cell remain'd,
Nor fled abroad; so will’d cloud-gatherer Jove :
The woman's hand had dropp'd the lid above :
Issued the rest, in quick succession hurld,
And woes innumerous roam'd the breathing world :
With ills the land is rife, with ills the sea,
Diseases haunt our frail humanity.”

Hesiod's Works and Days, p. 125. Elton's trans. The mythology of India affords a similar illustration. There can arise little doubt,” says a late eminent author, “but that by the Satya age, or age of perfection, the Bramins obscurely allude to the state of perfection and happiness enjoyed by man in Paradise. It is impossible to explain what the Indian writers assert concerning the universal purity of manners, and the luxurious and unbounded plenty prevailing in that primitive era, without this supposition. Justice, truth, philanthropy, were then practiced among all orders and classes of mankind : there was then no extortion, no circumvention, nor fraud, used in their dealings one with another. Perpetual oblations smoked on the altars of the Deity; every tongue uttered praises, and every heart glowed with gratitude to the supreme Creator. The gods, in token of their approbation of the conduct of mortals, condescended frequently to become incarnate, and to hold personal converse with the yet undepraved race of mortals; to instruct them in arts and sciences, to unveil their own sublime functions and pure nature, and make them acquainted with the economy of those celestial regions into which they were to be immediately translated when the period of their terrestrial probation expired.”—Maurice's Anc. Hist. of Hindostan, vol. ii, p. 346.

The reference to the fall is equally distinct, and in agreement with the Mosaic account: “ The facts narrated uniformly correspond, and the consequences are equally tremendous. Hence, possibly, it has arisen, that in their mythology the king of the evil

assoors or demons is called the king of serpents, of which poisonous reptiles, folded together in horrible contortions, their hell, or narraka, is formed. What is very remarkable, is, that the name of this serpent monarch is Naga, and he is the prince of the Nagis, or Nacigs, in which Sanscrit appellation we plainly trace the Hebrew Nacash, which is the very word for the particular serpentine tempter, and in general for all serpents throughout the Old Testament.”-Maurice's Anc. Hist. of Hindostan, vol. ii, p. 343.

The testimony of the Vishnu Purana is more direct and striking :-“Formerly, when the truth-meditating Bramá was desirous of creating the world, there sprang from his mouth beings especially endowed with the quality of goodness; others from his breast, pervaded with the quality of foulness; others from his thighs, in whom foulness and darkness prevailed; and others from his feet, in which the quality of darkness predominated.” Here, although the moral impurity of man appears to be attributed to his creation, we find almost immediately afterward a ray of purer traditional light correcting the error, and containing a distinct allusion to the fall. We are told, “The beings who were created by Bramá of these four castes, were at first endowed with righteousness and perfect faith; they abode wherever they pleased, unchecked by any impediment; their hearts were free from guile ; they were pure, made free from soil by the observance of sacred institutes. In their sanctified minds Hari dwelt, and they were filled with perfect wisdom, by which they contemplated the glory of Vishnu. After awhile, that portion of Hari, which has been described as one with Kála, (* time,') infused into created beings sin, as yet feeble, though formidable, or passion, or the like: the impediment of the soul's liberation, the seed of iniquity, sprung from darkness and desire. The innate perfectness of human nature was then no more evolved: the eight kinds of perfections, Rasolásá and the rest, were impaired; and these being enfeebled, and sin gaining strength, mortals were afflicted with pain.”Vishnu Purana, translated by Professor Wilson, pp. 44, 45.

The following is from the Zendavesta of the ancient Persians :

After the world had been created in five successive periods, man himself is said to have been formed during a sixth. The first of the human species was compounded of a man and a bull; and this mixed being was the commencement of all generations. For some time after his production, there was a season of great innocence and happiness; and the man-bull resided in an elevated

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

region, which the Deity had assigned to him. At last, an evil one, denominated Ahriman, corrupted the world. After having dared to visit heaven, he descended to earth, and assumed the form of a serpent. The man-bull was poisoned by his venom, and died in consequence of it. Meanwhile, Ahriman threw the whole universe into confusion; for that enemy of good mingled himself with everything, appeared everywhere, and sought to do mischief both above and below. (See Faber's Hore Mosaicæ, vol. i, p. 72.

There was a remarkable tradition of the sabbath at Delphi ; for we are told, that in the temple of Apollo every seventh day was a solemn festival, on which the priestesses chanted pæans in honor of the serpent. (See Asiatic Researches, vol. ix, p. 275.)

These quotations, which might be greatly multiplied, are in our estimation of vast moment. We dismiss this part of the subject, by calling special attention to one peculiar and distinguish. ing feature of it--the worship of the serpent. Several of the preceding quotations have referred to this ; but its singular character and prevalency merit more particular notice. It is one of the most remarkable among Satanic triumphs, that our " adversary the devil" should have succeeded not only in destroy. ing the primitive purity of man, but also in inducing fallen and degenerate man to worship, actually to offer divine adoration to, that reptile form under which he had seduced and destroyed the first of our race, and periled the immortal interests of themselves and all their posterity.

We are afraid that our readers will at first sight be disposed to regard this as an idle conceit, rather than as a grave and important characteristic in the religion of the world. That this superstition is most irrational, that there is nothing in common between Deity and a reptile, we freely admit; yet, when we recollect that Satan dared to say to the Son of God himself, “ All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” (Matt. iii, 8,) we cannot doubt that his heart is set on elevating himself into an object of adoration; and that what he had failed to obtain from the Messiah, he would use his utmost influence to elicit from mankind. And if this could be realized, it must be evident that no form could be selected as the object of this worship which would stamp the victory with so much significance as that under which the successful temptation was carried on and consummated.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

We do not, however, indulge in speculation, but narrate facts. The serpent, then, is clearly exhibited as the cause of the deluge in the early mythology both of Hindostan and of Egypt. If the earliest form of idolatry was the worship of the sun, it is certain that serpent worship, if not coincident, immediately followed. The Egyptian legends inform us, that Helius (the sun) was the first of the gods; but we are at the same time informed, that Helius married Ops, (the serpent deity.) The worship of the serpent prevailed in Chaldea. In the temple of Bel or Belus, at Babylon, “was an image of the goddess Rhea, sitting on a golden throne; at her knees stood two golden lions, and near her very large serpents of silver, thirty talents each in weight." There was also “ an image of Juno, holding in her right hand the head of a serpent.”Diod. Sic., lib. ii, sec. 70. This superstition prevailed in Persia to such an extent, that we are told, “ They all worshiped the first principles under the form of serpents, having dedicated to them temples in which they performed sacrifices, and held festivals and orgies, esteeming them the greatest of gods, and governors of the universe.Eusebius, Præp. Evang., lib. i, cap. 42. As an emblem of divinity, the serpent enters deeply into the religion of the Bramins. “The malignant serpent Caliya, who was slain by Vishnu, (in his incarnation of Chrishna) because he poisoned the air and destroyed the herds on the banks of the Yamuna, was deified and worshiped by the Hindoos, in the same manner as Python was adored at Delphis."— Asiatic Researches, vol. viii, p. 65.

“ The great Chinese dragon, so conspicuous in every public and private edifice, was the symbolical serpent of ancient mythology, under a more fanciful and poetic form. It was the genial banner of the empire, and indicated everything that was sacred in it. It was not only the stamp and symbol of royalty, but is sculptured in all the temples, blazoned on the furniture of the houses, and interwoven with the vestments of the chief nobility. The emperor bears a dragon as his armorial device, and the same figure is engraved on his sceptre and diadem, as well as on all the vases in the imperial palace. The superstition of Japan was in every respect similar to that of China. The dragon was held in equal veneration in both countries." - Deane's Worship of the Serpent, pp. 69, 73.

The serpent worship of Syria has left stronger records of its original prevalence than verbal coincidences. The coins of the

« PreviousContinue »