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notion, corrupted and disfigured under an endless variety of forms, is consecrated in the worship of the Brahmins, and represented in their idols, and appears, it is said, in the sacred writings of the Chinese. · The Indians, in South America also, are said to have worshipped a God, whom they considered to be one in three and three in one, but little importance however can be attached to this account.
On the Notions entertained by the Heathens
concerning the Creation of the World, and the Origin of Man from the same common Parents.
The persuasion that the world was created by the power and intelligence of the Supreme Being, and that this supreme Being formed all things from a rude and undigested chaos, is to be found in various writings of the Heathens, having been preserved amidst the most extravagant fictions of antiquity *. Many of the philosophers, indeed, entertained erroneous notions of the eternity of the world, but a more just persuasion often obtained acceptance, and particularly impressed itself on the intelligent mind of Socrates.
Sophoclest also is represented thus to have
. • Diod. Sicul. lib.i. c. 6. Edit. Wesseling.
expressed his conviction in lines which are no longer to be found in his works, “there is “ in truth one God who made the broad “ earth and the waves of the sea and the “ force of the winds.” Plato speaks of God as the parent of the world, the artificer of the soul, the creator of heavenly and earthly things, whom it was difficult to discover on account of his incredible power, and when discovered, impossible 10 describe to all. On which Minutius Felix is led to observe, either that the Christians were philosophers, or that the philosophers had been Christians *
Zeno remarks, that Hesiod's chaos was water, which subsiding, left a deposit of' mud. From this theory many speculations of a similar nature were framed.
Particulars with respect to the Creation were sometimes blended with accounts relating to the deluge, and a common æra was assigned to both these events. Thales, the Milesian, one of the seven sages, considers water as the principle of all things, conceiving God to be the mind or spirit from which all things proceed, and by which the
* Minut. Telix. Octavius, §. 20.
mighty mass of creation is mored. Pindar, in his first Ode, alludes to this general notion. The origin of man also is attributed to mud or earth, by Hesiod and Homer.
Numenius observes, that the prophet Moses had said, that the spirit of God hovered over the waters; and it appears from a treatise of Tertullian on Baptism, that the resting of the spirit upon the waters at the creation, which is described by a remarkable expression, was regarded as bearing an analogy to a later influence on the consecrated element in baptism *. The Hebrew word used in Genesis t, implies, in one sense, the incubation of a bird upon the egg, and Milton, who delights in allusions to the opinions of antiquity, poetically represents the figure
« On the watery calm
It is not impossible that the image expressed by the word might have suggested the idea
* Dei Spiritum, qui ab initio super vectabatur, super Aquas. Tertul. de Baptism, p. 225. Paris, 1664. t nonno.
B. vii. 1. 234--238.
of the mundane egg *, which occurs so freni quently, particularly in the Eastern Cosmogonies.
Many of the Heathen descriptions of the creation, not only exhibit a general concurrence with the sacred account, but detail the production of the several parts, in the very order in which they were called forth; man being last formed in the image of the Gods, with a countenance raised to contemplate the heavens, and with a capacious mind to rule over other creatures.
Lucretius argues, with great beauty of illustration, that ihe world had an origin, from the paucity and recency of the inemorials of its history, contending that if there were no beginning we should have received accounts of events before the destruction of Troy-f.
Horace also traces the progress of civilization, in consistency with a belief in the crealion of the world at no very distant period 1.
Virgil represents Silenus to have described the world as framed from the elemental seeds carried about the great void, while the soil
* Plutarch Sympos. xi. c. 3. Macrob. lib. vii. c. 16. Euscb. Præp. Evang. lib. iii. c. 11. Grot. lib. I. + Lucretius, lib. v.
Harat. lib. i. sat. 8. Grot. de Veric.