Imagini ale paginilor

their purification. As the result of this purification, all would ultimately be converted to goodness, receive pardon for past offences and restoration to happiness. Such was the belief of the ancient Persians and Chaldees.

The Greeks and Romans had no one evil deity so prominent above the rest as to merit the appellation of “the god of evil,” but there were many inferior deities and demi-gods considered hostile to men. Of the superior gods, Saturn, in later times, was supposed to exert a baleful influence; and Pluto and the Furies, with their attendant monsters, were stern executors of the inexorable decrees of fate. A powerful and malignant spirit of evil, however, — a spirit devoted to destruction for destruction's sake,—the Greeks and Romans, as nations, seem not to have had. Occasionally an individual philosopher, like Plato, accepted the doctrines of the Persian Zoroaster, believing in a powerful spirit of evil, whose disturbing force, to say the least, was permitted for a time by the supreme ruler of the universe, to whom he would ultimately become subject.

Some persons discover an apparent connection between the Scandinavian and Persian theologies; but too little is known of the origin and early history of the former to enable any one to speak with confidence on this point. But whether of a common origin or not, Ahriman and his devs have their counterparts in the Scandinavian Loki and his progeny, namely, the wolf Fenrir, the Midgard serpent, and Hela (“Death”) Loki, says the “Prose Edda," is called “ the calumniator of the gods, the contriver of all fraud and mischief, and the disgrace of the gods and men." “ Loki is handsome and well-made, but of a very fickle mood and most evil disposition. He surpasses all beings in those arts called cunning and perfidy. Many a time has he exposed the gods to very great perils, and often extricated them again by his artifices.” His progeny are especially hostile to the other gods, and have been temporarily subdued by them. Such were the supernatural beings whom the early inhabitants of northern Europe supposed to be the representatives of evil and destruction in the world, and the cause of many contests in heaven.

In the systems of which we have already spoken, the evil spirit or principle held a prominent place, yet was not a preeminent object of worship. We come now to a modern

It is very

sect, some of whose doctrines and practices are apparently allied to those of the Persians and Chaldees, but whose chief deity, so far at least as worship is concerned, is the Spirit of Evil. Mr. Layard, the explorer of the ruins of Nineveh, has given us the only extended account which we have of this singular people; although another traveller mentions what appears to be the same people under a different and local name. They inhabit that part of Mesopotamia which lies north of Mosul, and are called Yezidis, or devilworshippers. Notwithstanding their almost exclusive worship of the devil, they yet believe in a higher and supreme god, from even the mention of whom they refrain with superstitious awe. The name of the evil spirit also is never mentioned ; and when they have occasion to refer to him or address him, they make use of some honorable epithet, such as “ King Peacock,” or “ The Mighty Angel.” displeasing to them to hear any word which resembles in sound Shaitan, or Satan, and any intentional or repeated offence in this direction excites the anger of this ordinarily peaceful people to such a degree that in some cases offenders are said to have been visited with personal violence even to death. They believe Satan to be a fallen angel,

and the chief and leader of evil spirits, but, holding to the Persian doctrine of his final restoration and power for good, they think it wise to worship him now, that he may be favorable to them in the

ages to come.

Of their other rites and doctrines, some are Christian, some Mahometan, and some point to an ancient Sabæan origin.

There are also in the East Indies, at the present day, worshippers of the devil, of whom we know little except that they “fill their temples, or pagodas, with his statues designed in all the horrid extravagance of the Indian taste. The king of Calcutta in particular,” it is said, “has a pagoda wholly filled with the most frightful figures of the devil, which receives no other light than what proceeds from the gleam of a multitude of lamps. In the midst of this kind of cavern is a copper throne, whereon a devil, formed of the same metal, is seated.” The minute descriptions of this image by those who have seen it, are too loathsome to be repeated here.

Most of the Indian tribes of our own continent believe in the existence of a powerful evil spirit, and many of them worship him chiefly, some exclusively. It is said that they give as a reason for this, that the good spirit does not trouble himself about them, and therefore does not need their attention, while the evil spirit is constantly endeavoring to injure them, and therefore needs to be appeased by festivals and sacrifices.

The Hebrew, Christian and Mahometan conceptions of Satan are all closely allied to each other, and probably in a great measure originally derived from the Persians and Chaldees. The history and character of Eblis, (the usual name of Satan among the Mahometans,) was doubtless chiefly borrowed immediately from the traditions and scriptures of the Jews. The Koran tells us that when God had created man, in a paradise or garden, not on earth, as is the Jewish account, but in one of the heavens, he “said unto the angels, • Worship Adam,' and they all worshipped him, except Eblis who was not one of those who worshipped. God said unto him, . What hindered thee from worshipping Adam, since I had commanded thee?' He answered, I am more excellent than he: thou hast created me of fire and hast created him of clay.' God said, Get thee down therefore from Paradise, for it is not fit that thou behave thyself proudly therein : get the hence; thou shalt be one of the contemptible !" He answered, "Give me respite until the day of resurrection? God said, · Verily thou shalt be one of those who are respited.' The devil said, “Because thou hast depraved me, I will lay wait for men in thy strait way; then will I come upon them from before, and from behind, and from their right hands, and from their left, and thou shalt not find the greater part of them thankful!' God said unto him, “Get thee hence, despised and driven far away; verily whoever of them shall follow thee, I will surely fill hell with


all : but, as for thee, O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in Paradise, and eat of the fruit thereof wherever ye will ; but approach not this tree, lest ye become of the number of the unjust." Then follows an account of the temptation and fall, differing little from the scripture record, except that the latter does not introduce Satan as the tempter, but only " the serpent.” On their expulsion from Paradise, according to the Koran, Adam and Eve were sent down to earth, and there Satan is supposed still to tempt their posterity,

In coming, finally, to a consideration of the Jewish and Christian ideas of Satan, we turn naturally to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authoritative source of information. But perhaps our best order of inquiry will be to first ascertain what the receivers of Judaism and Christianity profess to believe on this subject, and then to compare this with the Scripture record, from which they claim to have derived their notions.

The coming of Christ found among the Jews a belief on the subject of our discussion very similar to that which we have already given from the Koran, and which, as we have before suggested, the author of that book doubtless derived in a great measure from the Jewish rabbins. Such also is and ever has been the belief of the majority of professed Christians. Especially those sects which style themselves evangelical have considered that the existence of a kingdom of evil spirits with Satan for their leader is clearly taught in the Bible. Strange enough, however, although one of their leading theologians declares that this is “ certainly not neutral doctrine” that if it is not true, no doctrine ought to be more decidedly rejected,”—but that “ if it is true, none ought to be more earnestly defended,"—and that if “ it is true, this world can never be understood till its truth is admitted,"'--yet very few creeds embrace this doctrine in words. In a ** History of the Religious Denominations at present existing in the United States,” published a few years since, there are embraced the creeds, or statements of belief, of forty-three different sects. Two of these explicitly reject the doctrine under consideration. A third sect, which makes no mention of this doctrine in its statement of faith, is known to the world to reject it. Of the remaining forty denominations, three make such incidental reference to the subject as to indicate a belief in the doctrine, while in the case of a fourth, a single phrase possibly points in the same direction. These four denominations are among the smallest. The remaining thirty-six neither mention nor allude to Satan and his hosts ; yet it is not to be doubted that a great majority of them believe in his existence and in the truthfulness of the common accounts of his history,

In all this we have a significant fact, and one from which we might reasonably infer that the doctrine is so shadowy and unsubstantial, and has so little clear scripture evidence in its favor, that those who accept it, scarcely knowing just what they accept, are unable to express it in words. It certainly cannot be that it finds no place in the creeds from a lack of importance; for what doctrine could be more important than one which bears so directly upon the eternal destiny of every member of the human family? Just how many and what of our wicked actions are to be attributed to the influence of Satan, theologians have never been able to decide ; but if he has the power and evil inclinations attributed to him, (assuming him to be a real entity,) he is too important an actor in the affairs of the universe to be kept out of sight in our theologies and creeds. True our religious books are full of the words “Devil" and “Satan” but from them no one ignorant of our religion cou

ever guess with how much infernal spiritual machinery the Christian world has surrounded this shadowy prince of darkness. In an occasional work on systematic theology, intended usually for scholars and not for the masses, we shall find Satan briefly introduced ; and the catechism sometimes contains a short statement with regard to the connection of Satan with the fall of man, sufficient to indoctrinate the child with a belief in the existence of a personal devil, but leaving him to go to Milton's “ Paradise Lost” for the rest.

To “ Paradise Lost” then let us go, and see what a wondrous story the genius of Milton has constructed out of the various Jewish and Christian legends with which his extensive learning made him familiar. Satan he introduces as originally one of the highest, if not the very highest, of the arch-angels, who was then called by another name now never heard in heaven. The occasion of his revolt was the announcement of the Father to all the assembled hosts of heaven of every degree, that he had begotton an only Son and appointed him their head; that to him, as to the Father, their obedience was thenceforth due, and that disobedience would be punished with the severest tortures, unremitting and endless. Satan considering himself thereby lowered in dignity and rank, was filled with envy against the Son of God, and began to plot rebellion. A third part of the host of heaven joined his standard, to battle with whom the Almighty sent forth the angels Michael and Gabriel with forces equal in number to those of the rebel army. The contest continues for two days without any decisive result;

« ÎnapoiContinuați »