Page images

who are generally far inferior to most men in moral worth. Now what faculty but the Imagination has the least share in all this? The very name established by common consent attests the exclusiveness of this source of the main superstition of mankind. It is only the Imagination that can produce cidade—images. But it appears to me, that in your definition of idolatry you imply the common notion that a material image is essential to it.

Ing.-L'nquestionably. I cannot conceive how there can be idolatry without an idol.

Ans. And it seems that you cannot conceive an idol(Lear) except as the work of the sculptor or the painter.

Ing.-Certainly; and there I am supported by the whole of Seripture, both in the Old and the New Testament.

Ars.—The conceptions which the Jews had of idolatry were exceedingly gross. To the ancient Jews the idols were gods indeed,-inferior to Jehovah, who was the God of Gods, but nevertheless national Deities of their own dational Enemies. Hence the horror with which they looked upon the idols. In St. Paul's writings, on the other hand, we find an apparently more refined, but equally absurd notion concerning the idols. St. Paul says expressly that ther were Devils. This dwelling of a Demon (a superior invisible Power) in the dedicated images, was at that time established among the heathen mystics. St. Paul avails himself of it by taking the general word Demon in the particular sense of Deril. Surely such attacks upon idolatry are childish. Idolatry is indeed a most degrading form of Superstition, but such riews as the Bible gives us of it do not explain its nature ; they do not lead us to the true source of the evil, and so it is that Christians are totally in the dark respecting Idolatry. The question whether the great majority of the Christian world are idolaters—whe. ther the Roman Catholics all over the world are guilty of that sin, is as unsettled at this moment as it was in the time of Luther.

Ing.Then you do not think that an external idol is of the essence of Idolatry?

Ans.—I do not see why it should be. If there is no sin in worshipping an image, an idol of the imagination—such as is unquestionably the God who walks in the cool air, who smells the flavour of sacrifices, whose face cannot be seen without danger, but whose hinder parts may be scrutinized under certain material precautions—if such an IMAGE of God may be worshipped with the profoundest reverence, why should it be a moral abomination to fall prostrate before it, when it has been copied by the pencil or the chisel ?

Inq.-I think the reason is clear : it is "worshipping the creature instead of the Creator."

Ans.—May not the same be said of the mental image ? But it is absurd to suppose that any one in his senses, any but the Savage, in that low state which induces him to take the first object at hand as his protecting Power for a day or for a season, can be in danger of worshipping a creature. Even in the case of the lowest Feticism,* the Savage will always be found to believe that a Spirit dwells in the external object of his worship. To the opening mind of man the whole of Nature appears animated. This is the ground of magic, and of that multitude of superstitious practices which, being incautiously adopted in the infancy of society, cling to it more or less through every period of its existence.

* Fetiche is a Portuguese word, meaning a charm. In Spanish it is Hechizo. The ch in the Portuguese word is pronounced like the German scH; but as this is an un-English sound, I have thought it advisable to change it into the simple c in Feticism, though FETICHE may be pronounced as if it were a French word. Both these words are necessary to denote that lowest degree of idolatry which is universal among the least civilized tribes.

Ing.-I fear we are receding from our main point. I wish you to tell me at once your own conception of the nature of Idolatry.

Ans.-I will endeavour to do so. “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," appears to me as one of the sublimest revelations which have enlightened the mind of man at an early period of his moral progress. But it was not in the power of the multitude to understand it: it fell, therefore, into the hands of the Priesthood, who instantly degraded it into a superstition suited to their purposes. Their handy work will for ages be visible in the GROUND on which they placed that noble truth—"For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.” What a degrading change was here worked in an instant! The prohibition of images to represent the Deity implied the sublime truth of his Spirituality; now his jealousy puts an end to every possible operation of that truth.



[Without a date.] Merub, the young priest, had left the temple, at the head of which his friends and admirers had not ungrounded hopes that he would be placed, as soon as full manhood had allowed the first light sprinkling of snow to appear on his head. There had been a splendid festival, and Merub had addressed the people (as it was his office) on the mytholo. gical story which they commemorated that day. The eyes of his friends—nay, of all the company-were beaming congratulations on the young orator; but his heart was sad, and had no relish for the sweetness of praise. Merub had learnt some of the European languages, and had devoured the contents of many of their books. With exquisite pain he had for some time been doubting the truth of the Vedahs. The festivals of his own temple appeared to him mockery. But what roused his indignation to almost an ungovernable pitch was, the discovery that many of the priests laughed at the sacred books in secret, but would have shed Merub's blood if he had expressed a doubt about them. “Alas !” he said to himself, “shall I also support the deception ? I would much rather die. Oh, that I could transfer myself to those fortunate countries where men's understandings are free!” Entirely wrapped up in these thoughts, he instinctively avoided the crowd, and after


a long, but almost unconscious walk, he found himself at the foot of the mountain which rises abruptly in view of the splendid building where he had been officiating. The rock rose nearly perpendicularly to the height of one thousand feet at once. The clouds were seen reposing on the ledge which terminated this immense rock, forming, as it were, the first of several steps, too steep and high even for the giants of fable.

Merub awoke from his reverie to contemplate the stupendous mass before him. “Well could I (he said to him. self) dwell in a cavern at the top of this mountain, if some beneficent being among those who probably surround us, invisible, would take me under his protection. Oh, that the Genius of Truth would listen to my ardent prayers ! But is there such a thing as Truth?”—Hardly had Merub pronounced these words with a deep sigh, when, among the brambles which thickly covered some of the lowest projections of the rock, he thought he discovered the print of a human foot. · He approached the spot with eager curiosity, and could not but start back on perceiving that it was stamped in blood. Though extremely sensitive, Merub was not deficient in intellectual courage. The foot-print was bloody, and he well perceived that the utmost care could not prevent his refreshing the mark in the same way, should he venture to step upon it. He feared, but, in spite of fear, he set his bare fout on the rock. The pain occasioned by the brambles was great. He tried to assist himself with his hands, but they were soon as much torn as his feet. From one projection of the rock to another the unhappy Merub had climbed to a great height, when suddenly he discovered the entrance of a cave. Under the glare of a tropic sun the cave was dark, and looked fearful. Some

« PreviousContinue »