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nisterial usefulness, is an undue familiarity with those whom they consider pious in the lower walks of life. That every kind and Christian feeling should be exercised by a minister towards the very poorest of his people there can be no doubt, and the hour is fast approaching when all distinctions except that between the righteous and the wicked will be done away with: but in the mean time it is necessary for the well-being of society in such a world as this, that there should be grades and distinctions; and any thing tending to subvert them, so far as it goes, is subversive of the ordinance of God. It will not be necessary to particularize the acts of condescension thus glanced at; they will readily suggest themselves: suffice it to say, do they not minister to the natural pride of the human heart in those who are the objects of them, and thus prove detrimental to their Christian character? Do they not excite the jealousy and ill-will of those who are not the objects of them, and thus foster the natural enmity of their hearts towards their minister and their pious neighbours? and, lastly, do they not cast a stumbling-block in the way of worldly persons, especially the young?
A CONSTANT READER.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE WORSHIP OF THE SERPENT.
For the Christian Observer.
We promised, in our review of Mr. Deane's work on the Worship of the Serpent, to add a few more illustrations of that remarkable superstition, so widely diffused, and bearing so striking an attestation to the records of Holy Writ. The following are instances.
EGYPT.-Serpent worship had taken such deep root in Egypt that the serpent was not merely regarded as an emblem of divinity, but even held in estimation as the instrument of an oracle. The priests of the temple of Isis had a silver image of a serpent so constructed as to enable a person in attendance to move its head without being observed by the supplicating votary. Juvenal refers to it, in his sixth satire, v. 537
"Et movisse caput visa est argentea serpens,"
Perhaps this was the same as the hawk-headed basilisk, whose eyes were mechanically contrived to open or shut, according as the offering presented by the suppliant was received or rejected.
Besides the great temple of the serpent-god Cneph, at Elephantina, there was a celebrated one of Jupiter at Thebes, where the practice of Ophiolatreia was carried to a great length. We are informed by Herodotus, that "At Thebes there are two serpents, by no means injurious to men; small in size, having two horns springing up from the top of the head. They bury these when dead in the temple of Jupiter: for they say that they are sacred to that god." Ælian also tells us, that in the time of Ptolemy Euergetes, a very large serpent was kept in the temple of Æsculapius, at Alexandria. He also mentions another place in which a live serpent of great magnitude was kept and adored with divine honours.
WHIDAH AND CONGO.-The worship of the serpent was not confined to the Egyptian portion of Africa. Later discoveries have detected in parts of the African peninsula unknown to the ancients, not merely vestiges, but the actual existence and practice, of Ophiolatreia, in its worst and most degraded forms.
The kingdoms of Whidah and Congo, and the adjacent regions, must have derived their adoration of the serpent from the original settlers. For the Negro character of the people is so totally distinct from the features of the Egyptians, or any other known race, that they could have had none, or very little, subsequent intercourse with foreign nations. The serpent
worship of the Gold Coast was, therefore, most probably aboriginal; that is, propagated at the same period with that of Egypt and Phoenicia, by the early descendants of Ham.
The gods of Whidah may be divided into three classes, the serpent, tall trees, and the sea: of these the serpent is the most celebrated and honoured, the other two being subordinate to this deity. The snake which the Whidanese thus honour and worship is perfectly harmless, and to be seen in all the houses of the natives, leaving its young in their very beds, from which it is the height of impiety to dislodge them.
This serpent they invoke under all the difficulties and emergencies of life. For this purpose they make rich offerings to it of money, silks, live cattle, and, indeed, all kinds of European or African commodities. The king, especially, at the instigation of the priests, under every national visitation, makes great offerings and entertainments at the serpent's shrine. The most celebrated temple in the kingdom they call "the serpent's house;" to which processions and pilgrimages are often made, and victims daily brought, and at which oracles are inquired. Here there is a vast establishment of priests and priestesses, with a pontiff at their head. The priestesses call themselves "the children of God," and have their bodies marked with the figure of the serpent. The kings of Whidah used formerly to make annual processions to this temple; but the expense was so great that the sovereign who governed the country when Bosman visited it, discontinued the practice, and gave great offence thereby to the priests, who revenged themselves by procuring his daughter to be possessed by the serpent, which is a part of their superstition no less lucrative than atrocious.
The traditions of the natives respecting the origin and antiquity of this serpent-worship are curious. They assert that the worship is of very ancient date, and that the first serpent of this sacred species came to them from a foreign and remote country, where the people pretended to worship him, but were unworthy of his sacred protection on account of their vices and crimes. Their ancestors, delighted with the preference thus shewn to them, received the sacred serpent with every mark of veneration. They carried him in a silken carpet to a temple, and offered him a worship due to his divinity. This venerable snake, the ancestor of those now worshipped in Whidah, they believed was still alive somewhere, and grown to an enormous bulk. The temple which had been prepared for him not being sufficiently splendid, another was built; the same in which he was worshipped when Bosman visited Whidah, anno 1697. So sacred were the descendants of this venerated serpent, that no native, on pain of death, dared injure or molest them, however troublesome or mischievous. Even Europeans were in great danger of massacre, who maltreated any of these holy and domestic gods.
A similar superstition prevailed in the kingdom of Congo, when first visited by the Portuguese. It was reprobated by the Roman-Catholic priests, and, at their request, forbidden by an edict of Alphonso, king of Portugal, on pain of death. The following we read in Purchas's Pilgrims: "The Negroes of Congo worshipped serpents, which they fed with their daintiest provisions..... Snakes and adders envenomed their souls with a more deadly poison than they did their bodies."
GREECE. Of all the places in Greece, Boeotia seems to have been the favourite residence of the Ophites. The Thebans boasted themselves to be the descendants of the warriors who sprung from the dragon's teeth sown by Cadmus. "The history of this country," says Bryant, "had continual reference to serpents and dragons; they seem to have been the national insigne at least of Thebes. Hence we find upon the tomb of Epaminondas the figure of a serpent, to signify that he was an Ophite or Theban." In
like manner the Theban Hercules bore upon his shield the sacred hierogram by which the warriors of the Cadmian family were distinguished : "As he went, his adamantine shield sounded.....in a circle two dragons were suspended, lifting up their heads."
At Thespiæ, in Boeotia, they worshipped Jupiter Saotas; the origin of whose worship is thus related :-" When a dragon had once laid waste the town, Jupiter directed that every year a young man, chosen by lot, should be offered to the serpent. The lot fell at length on Cleostros, when his friend Menestratus, having made a brazen breastplate and studded it with hooks, put it on, and presented himself to the dragon. Thus they both perished together. From that time the Thespians erected an altar to Jupiter Saotas." But the most celebrated seat of Ophiolatreia in Greece was at Delphi. The original name of this place, according to Strabo, was Pytho; supposed to be so called from the serpent Python, slain there by Apollo.
Of all the islands in the neighbourhood of the Peloponnesus, Crete was most celebrated for its primitive Ophiolatreia. Here the Egyptians first established those religious rites which were called by the Greeks the mysteries of Dyonusus or Bacchus. The Cretan medals were usually impressed with the Bacchic basket, and the sacred serpent creeping in and out. We see, then, that serpent-worship very generally prevailed through Greece and its dependencies. Memorials of it have been preserved in many coins and medals, and pieces of ancient sculpture; and the only reason why we have not more records of this superstition is, that it was superseded by the fascination of the Polytheistic idolatry, which overwhelmed with a multitude of sculptured gods and goddesses the traditionary remains of the original religion.
IRELAND.-At New Grange, in the county of Meath, has been discovered a grand cruciform cavern. Here were dug up three remarkable stones, on which mystical figures, like spiral lines, or coiled serpents, rudely carved, have been observed. "These lines," says Mr. Beauford, who describes the cavern, "appear to be the representation of serpents coiled up, and were probably symbols of the divine being." Mr. Deane adds: "For the paucity of the remains of the ancient Ophiolatreia in Ireland, we are perhaps indebted to the renowned St. Patrick, whose popular legend may not, after all, be so ridiculous or so groundless as Englishmen and Protestants are accustomed to imagine. It is said, and believed by the lower order of Irish to this day, that St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland by his prayers. May not this imply, that St. Patrick, in evangelizing that country, overthrew the superstition of the serpent-worshippers? Such an inference is drawn by Bryant, from similar stories of the destruction of serpents in the Grecian Archipelago and Peloponnesus.
MEXICO. Every feature in the religion of the New World indicates an origin common to the superstitions of Egypt and Asia. The same solar worship, the same pyramidal monuments, and the same concomitant Ophiolatreia distinguish them all.
From Acosta we learn, that "the temple of Vitziliputzli was built of great stones in fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the circuit was called the circuit of snakes.'" This god Vitziliputzli, “held in his right hand a staff cut in the form of a serpent; and the four corners of the ark, in which he was seated, terminated each with a carved representation of the head of a serpent." Vitziliputzli was an azure figure, from whose sides projected the heads of two serpents: his right hand leaned upon a staff shaped like a serpent. The Mexican century was represented by a circle, having the sun in the centre, surrounded by the symbols of the years. The circumference was a serpent twisted into four knots at the cardinal points.
The Mexican month was divided into twenty days; the serpent and dragon symbolized two of them. In Mexico there was also a temple dedicated "to the god of the air;" and the door of it was formed so as to resemble a serpent's mouth.
The Mexicans, however, were not contented with the symbolical worship of the sacred serpent. Like many other nations of the Ophite family, they kept live serpents as household gods in their private dwellings. Mr. Bullock, to whom the literary republic is much indebted for his observations on the Mexican idolatry, informs us, that "the rattle-snake was an object of veneration and worship among them: and that " representations of this reptile, and others of its species, are very commonly met with among the remains of their ancient idolatry." "The finest that is known to exist
is to be seen in a deserted part of the cloister of the Dominican convent, opposite to the palace of the Inquisition. It is coiled up in an irritated, erect position, with the jaws extended, and in the act of gorging an elegantly dressed female, who appears in the mouth of this enormous reptile, crushed and lacerated." A cast of this terrific idol was brought over to England by Mr. Bullock, and fully corroborates the reiterated assertions of the Spaniards who first invaded Mexico, that the people of that country worshipped an idol in the form of a serpent.
These are but a few among innumerable illustrative facts, respecting the worship of the serpent; the universality of which it seems impossible to account for without supposing a reference to primeval tradition; and on what can this have been grounded, except upon the authentic record of the temptation and fall of our first parents, and the promise of a Redeemer, the Seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head? All history, all traditionary vestiges, prove that man is not what he once was; and the Scriptures of revealed truth symbolize at once with the innate feelings of the souls and the pages of recorded fact. God made man upright; he sought out many inventions; he became corrupt; a Divine Restorer was promised: that Restorer has appeared; by him life and immortality are brought to light; the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. What volumes are included in these few brief propositions! How has every false system of religion, every effort of heathen superstition, every provision, we may add, of the Christian dispensation itself, illustrated, were it only by contrast, the excellency of these divinely-revealed truths. The worship of reptiles may seem, and is, a degrading idolatry; but it is only one proof among many of that universal corruption of our nature, which the wisest philosopher inherits in common with the darkest savage; and which, in every case, proves the necessity of the atoning blood of the Redeemer, and the sanctifying influences of his Holy Spirit.
MEMORIALS OF RELIGIOUS NEGROES.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
I HAVE often thought that the cause of the poor oppressed slave has greatly suffered from his being represented chiefly in reference to his stripes, his toils, and his degradation; while little is related to awaken towards him the elevated emotions of moral esteem and Christian affection. I shall feel much pleasure in sending occasionally to the pages of the Christian Observer, a few brief memorials of Negroes and Coloured persons, with a view to this particular object. I would hope that it will soon be un
necessary as regards the great question of their emancipation from the brutal system of slavery; but it will then be more than ever necessary as respects the Christian and benevolent efforts which must be made to rescue them from the degraded condition in which slavery has involved them. It will be a delightful consummation to a Christian and benevolent mind, to see them enjoying equal temporal privileges with their fellow-men; but infinitely more blessed will it be to see them then "Christ's freedmen," and enjoying "the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
The following statement is given upon the authority of the writer, an American gentleman, of piety and intelligence :
'It was on a fine morning in the month of May, that, to recruit my exhausted strength with a ride, I left the dwelling of a friend residing near the foot of the North Mountain, in the Great Valley of Virginia. Leaving the more thickly settled parts of the country, I followed the meanderings of a small rivulet, for some miles, without seeing the habitation of man, when I espied near the end of the valley and the foot of the mountain, an aged Negro, silently pursuing the toils of the day on a small farm. I immediately alighted from my horse, glad to see and converse with a human being, after my solitary ramble. His head was whitened with age; and the deep wrinkles in his face, and a stoop in his shoulders, indicated that he had seen hardships. I approached him, and he gave me one of those looks of mingled dignity and benignity, so peculiar to some of the sons of Africa.
"Old man," said I, emboldened by his kind look, "you seem to be fulfilling the curse pronounced on fallen man-getting your bread by the 'sweat of your brow.'" "Ah massa, (said he, wiping the falling drops from his face,) me have no reason to complain-me have great many blessings left yet-me have Jesus Christ and his Gospel, and that is enough for poor old Moses." "You seem to be quite shut out from the world (said I); I suppose you have but few temptations in this lonely place."
“Oh, Massa! (said he,) wherever me go, me carry this bad heart, putting his hand to his breast, and it is that that lets in the world. Me have to pray against the world, at night, and in the morning, and then me have to fight against it all day. The devil can get up in these mountains, sir, as well as any where else, for he tempted our Saviour on a mountain." "But, uncle Moses, you seem to have been long a pilgrim to the heavenly country." For forty years I have found (said he) that the Lord has been good to old Moses; and that he that trusts in the Saviour, shall never be moved." "But, are you never tempted to forsake the Saviour." heart mighty deceitful, and Satan keep trying to get old Moses, but my Master in heaven says, ' By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.' This is my hope, that he that has begun a good work will finish it. When you plant corn, massa, you don't go off and leave it, and let the birds pull it up, or the grass kill it; so when God plant seed in sinner's heart, he don't go away and leave it to die."
"You say you are tempted sometimes?" "Yes, massa, sometimes devil come and whisper in Moses' ear, Moses, you serve hard master-he send sickness-he send poverty-he send trouble-he send fly kill all Moses' wheat: but I say devil liar-he is no hard master, for he knocked at the door of my heart, and I would not let him in, and then he knock and knock, until Moses obliged to open the door, and ever since me found him to be good. He has bound up his heart when it was broken-he has come to Moses' bed when he was sick-he has borne with his sins-he has not cast him off because he was poor, and old, and did not love him as much as he ought; and then, he died for poor Moses' soul. Oh, no! he is not hard master. He may take away my wife, and my children; and he may burn CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 375.