Imágenes de páginas

All men of science are embraced in the former of these, all men of religion in the latter. The former regard the Universe as a huge machine, and theii object is to study the laws which regulate its working ; the latter again speculate about the object of the machine, and what sort of work it is intended to produce. The disciples of How are accused by their adversaries of being willing to sacrifice the individual to the system ; while the disciples of Why are accused by their adversaries of being willing to sacrifice the system to the individual.

We may compare the Universe to a great steamer plying between two well-known ports, and carrying two sets of passengers. The one set remain on deck and try to make out, as well as they can, the mind of the Captain regarding the future of their voyage after they have reached the port to which they know they are all fast hastening, while the other set remain below and examine the engines. Occasionally there is much wrangling at the top of the ladder where the iwa sets meet, some of those who have exal

Kined the engines and the ship asserting that the passengers will all be inevitably wrecked at the next port, it being physically impossible that the good ship can carry them further. To whom those on deck reply, that they have perfect confidence in the Captain, who has informed some of those nearest him that the passengers will not be wrecked, but will be carried in safety past the port to an unknown land of felicity. And so the altercation goes on ; some who have been on deck being unwilling or unable to examine the engines, and some who have examined the engines preferring to remain below.

3. Our readers will perceive from what we have said, that difficulties regarding the possibility of a future state of existence are most likely to arise amidst the disciples of How or those who study the machinery of the Universe, and inasmuch as this class has greatly increased of late, it follows that the disbelievers in or doubters of the future state have increased likewise. The disciples of Why have, on the other hand, existed from time immemorial, and have, in the plenitude of their power, frequently carried themselves with much violence towards the disciples of How, who are of comparatively modern origin. It must not, however, be inferred that this old and venerable family have always been at peace amongst themselves, for there have been numerous contentions among their various sections, not the less acrimonious because the contending members have been to some extent supporters of a common cause, believing in some fashion in the reality of a world to coinc We shall therefore begin by giving our readers a sketch, necessarily and purposely a very meagre one of the various beliefs on these subjects held by the different branches of this great family.

4. Let us begin with the Egyptians, who are perhaps the most antient people of whom we have historical records. The manners and customs of this nation have been very minutely described by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, to whose work we are chiefly indebted for the following account. In the first place it appears that we must separate between what the priests believed and what was held by the great body of the people. The bulk of the nation were left by the priests to believe in a multiplicity of deities, and even to reverence animals as divine, while on the other hand the higher orders of the priesthood, who were initiated into the greater mysteries of their religion, appear to have acknowledged the unity of God. These believed in one Eternal God, from whom all other deities were produced, and whom they did not permit themselves even to name, far less to represent under any visible form. The Egyptians likewise believed in the existence of Dæmons or Genii, who were present unseen amongst mankind.

5. The earliest Egyptian records attest the belief of this nation in the immortality of the soul :- Disso. lution, according to them, is only the cause of reproduction-nothing perishes which has once existed, and things which appear to be destroyed only change their natures and pass into another form.'1

Anubis held in Egypt an office similar to that of Mercury among the Greeks, being the usher of souls in their passage to the future state. Amenti was the region to which the souls of men were supposed to go after death, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson notices the resemblance between this name and that of Ement 'the West'—the west, where the sun was seen to sink, being looked upon as the end of the world. The guardian of the lower regions was called Quom-nAmenti, or the Devourer of Amenti. It had frequently the appearance of a hippopotamus, but was drawn sometimes with the head of a fanciful re. ture something between the hippopotamiyand the crocodile.

*The judgment of the soul was conducted by Osiris, aided by forty-two assessors, supposed to represent the forty-two crimes from which a virtuous man was expected to be free when judged in a future state, or rather the accusing spirits, each of whom examined if the deceased was guilty of the peculiar crime which it was his province to avenge.'1

i Wilkinson.

6. As regards the fate of the soul when once the judgment had been passed upon it,—the Egyptians considered the souls of men to be emanations of the Divine soul, and each was supposed to return to its Divine origin when sufficiently pure to unite with the Deity. On the other hand, those who had been guilty of sin were doomed to pass through a series of torments ending in the second death.

7. It is considered probable by some that the Egyptian custom of embalming the body had relation to this religious doctrine, and before the mummy was allowed burial it had to be judged and acquitted by terrestrial authorities. Diodorus gives a detailed account of the ceremonies which then took place, in which forty-two judges were summoned to act as assessors and determine the fate of the body. If it could be proved that the deceased had led an evil life, his body was deprived of the accustomed burial, and on such occasions the grief and shame felt by the family were excessive. Diodorus considers that this was in itself a strong inducement to every one to abstain from crime, and praises very strongly the authors of so wise an institution.

8. La us next consider the antient belief of the Hebrew nation.

Referring to the records of this nation, we find at an early period they had been slaves or serfs to the Egyptians, from whom they were delivered by Moses, who became afterwards their lawgiver. Moses had by a species of adoption obtained a very prominent position among the Egyptians, and had probably been initiated into their sacred mysteries, for we read that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.' Without discussing the question of inspiration, we may readily imagine that, himself a believer in the unity of God, this sagacious leader must have perceived the deficiency of a religious system in which the truth was confined to a few, while the many were allowed to remain in the most degrading idolatry.

1 Wilkinson.

He was thus in a fit state to recognise the parainount importance of the whole mind and mass of the nation being pervaded with a belief in one invisible, ever-present, ever-living God. We do not, however, mean to assert that Moses got his religious notions from Egypt, but we think it possible that his mind may have been prepared by the failure of the Egyptian system to receive a better one.

9. In the Egyptian system there were two peculiarities which were probably connected together. We have seen (Art. 4) that amongst the higher orders of the priesthood there was a profound, but at the same time a superstitious, reverence for the name of God, who was unnamed and unapproachable, unless under some deified attribute. At the same time there was, and probably in consequence of the former, an ignorance of the unity of God amongst the great mass of the people, and a worship of the various deified attributes of one supreme being as so many separate divinities.

10. Now the task which Moses believed himseif

« AnteriorContinuar »