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COINCIDENCES OF NATURAL AND
(Continued from April number.)
Worship, Ritual, and Civilisation.—Who can look at the temples of Elephanta and Salsette, and deny the Hindoos the capability of religious feeling ? Barbarous people do not lavish untold wealth in building temples for worship. No: the universality of the elements or principles of religion are proved by the universality of the provision made for worship. Older than the rock-cut Buddhist temples of India are the huge erections of stone, in the form of circles, tables, &c., which those invaders from the north-west, allied in race, it may be, to the Finns, Lapps, Mongols, &c., built, when they subdued the less civilized people who before them had possession of the rugged hills and thick forests of that land. Superficially, races of men differ ; but in the preservation of a primitive religious instinct they all agree. . Mother of philosophy and art
, arbitress of peace and war, Religion has controlled all nations, guided every form of civilisation, inspired the faith and action which have moved and shaped the world. At her call it was that the works of art arose. She it was that caused the pliant marble to take form, the chiselled stone to receive life. And those ancient temples of the east, like the cathedrals of the west, are indications of her influence, power, and
The sense of public order, says Dr. Birch, in his ancient history of Egypt, appears highly refined at the early period of 2000 and 3000 B.C. I will quote his words : “At the time of the fourth dynasty, Egypt attained to a higher degree of civilisation ; architecture, as represented by the pyramids, had become an advanced science, and reflected the geometric and theoretical knowledge of mathematics, which their form and structure described for all ages. The technical masonry was unrivalled, the finish admirable and unsurpassed by any later efforts of the Egyptian architect.
The seated Scribe in the Louvre, and the heads of some priests of the period, are excellent examples, and rival in their portraiture the busts and statues of Rome itself. In wood even greater excellence was attained, for in that material the sculptor developed all his power.
The graphic system of writing was complete; the language perfectly represented by the hieroglyph, which presented to the eye a lively picture on the painted wall of tomb or sepulchre ; while the inscriptions shew that the religion of the country was already reduced to a system, and the seasons marked by a regular calendar of festivals."*
Here we have ritual, civilisation and refinement. Dr. Birch says the period of grandeur closed with the sixth dynasty.' No temples of the early period remain. The monuments are sepulchral, and the tombs are constructed on the same plan. Massive square chapels, where relatives and priests assembled and performed the liturgies on the appointed festivals are the chief feature in the tombs. Under the new empire Egypt was adorned with magnificent temples and works of art. In their festivals the arks of the Gods were carried in procession, as we read in the Old Testament, sacrificial offerings were placed on the altars, similar to those of the Jews, and prayers and hymns were sung Religion was, as with the Jews, clothed in great pomp. And Egyptian literature, as might be supposed, consisted very mainly of religious works, such as the book of the Dead or Ritual, in which are prayers and hymns, and descriptions of the Elysium, Hades, or Hell, with explanations of the ancient symbolism.
The religion of the ancient Brahmans was likewise full of sacred seasons and rites, as may be seen from the Aitareya-Brahmana of the Rig Veda. The temples of southern India and of the Islands of the Indian Archipelago are said to correspond in their main features with those of central America. This all points to an early and world-wide spread of natural religion. Temples are evidence of worship and ritual, and both again are indications of civilisation. The oldest monuments in India and China are without idolatrous emblems. So are the oldest pyramids. The religion of the Veda knows of no idols. This also accords with what Professor Max Müller has said, namely, that the farther back we trace him, the more pure the image of man appears. Along with a mass of evidence converging to this point are found traces of an earlier and purer theology. Those nations known in later ages to be pantheistic, polytheistic, or dualistic, in their views of Deity, were monotheistic at an earlier period. The Egyptians were later on polytheistic, fetish, or pantheistic; they worshipped various animals, as beetles, crocodiles, &c., things in nature.
* Ancient History from the Monuments, pp. 42—55.
Yet Plutarch in his Isis and Osiris, refers to an earlier belief in one living and true God, “the Lord of all things,” and explains how the idea of one God came to be changed into the idea of many. Canon Cook, in the Speaker's Commentary, says: “The earliest known text of the seventeenth chapter of the Ritual belongs to the eleventh dynasty. Its importance is recognized as the most ancient statement of Egyptian views as to the origin and government of the universe. It undoubtedly indicates the earlier existence of a pure monotheism, of which it retains the great principles, the unity, eternity, and selfexistence of the unknown Deity. Each age witnessed some corruption and amplification of the ancient religion, and corresponding interpolations of the old text. The very earliest has several glosses, and the text taken apart from them, approaches very nearly to the truth as revealed in the Bible” (Note p. 450).
The degeneracy which is observable in the later history of Egypt is true of India also. In the Vedas reference is made to One Supreme God. Modern Brahmanism, as commonly understood, is a great fall from the earlier worship in India, of one God. In China the same remarks would apply. Bellamy in his history of all religions refers to the sacred books in which God is described as independent, omnipotent, and omniscient. So again if we turn to the American continent. In Mexico the Spaniards found evidence of one God having been known and worshipped. In Peru and central America, under various names, one God has been acknowledged. In short, proofs from all quarters may be drawn in favour of the position that the original condition of mankind was one of con
siderable culture and civilisation, accompanied with an elaborate ritualistic worship of the Deity. “We have,” says Professor Max Müller in the Veda, “the invocation Dyaus pitar—the Greek Zeû Ilátep, the Latin Jupiter; and that means in all three languages what it meant before these languages were torn asunder-heaven-Father.
This was the primeval Aryan prayer,
“ Heaven - Father" -_" Our Father.” Unless we had found the same name of the Supreme Deity in the hymns of the Veda and in the prayer of the priestesses of Dodona, we could not have arrived at the conviction that it was originally one and the same conception of Divine personality which had been worshipped long before Hindus had entered India, or the dove had alighted on the head of Dodona.
The same applies to the Chinese Tien, and the Mongolian Tengri.
Of course in all this temple-building, ritual and worship, there is only a general likeness to what we see in revealed religion, but its early development shews that the principles underlying it were in the world before they manifested themselves in the Church. And this fact, along with the traces of an early pure monotheism, and the later fall from it, go to establish the fundamental position maintained in these pages, namely, that revealed religion is essentially a republication of natural religion.
Morality.—Passing from the outward forms of worship to the moral life of man, we may say that the first embodiment of morality was in his own nature. The written promulgation by Moses was again but an external republication of natural truth and justice, rendered necessary by its partial obliteration from the fleshly tables of the human heart. The subjective or internal degeneracy was the occasion of an objective or external promulgation of moral law. Still we must not think that the world at large had, at any time, lost altogether morality, any more than the forms of religion. The possession of the moral and religious books of the east, and their translation into European languages, has done much to dispel this idea. The ten commandments of Buddha were: (1) not to kill; (2) not to steal; (3) not to commit adultery ; (4) not to lie; (5) not to get intoxicated; (6) to abstain from unseasonable and late meals; (7) to abstain from public spectacles; (8) to abstain from expensive dresses; (9) not to have a large bed; (10) and not to receive silver or gold. One half of
* Introduction to Science of Religion, pp. 172, 204.