Page images

Providence to a renewal of some of the obliterated characters of the patriarchal faith, and permitted to receive and impart to the Hea

thens, a restoration of some of those great · doctrines which were first revealed by God

as the fundamental principles of all true religion, and from which there could be no departure, without a proportionate deviation from the standard of immutable truth *. Such a supposition does not imply that any countenance was given to the personal views or erroneous tenets of the Persian prophet. It présumes only that a testimony was drawn from time to time, even from the mouth of those whose ways were perverse before God, to the excellency of the doctrines which formed the basis of all natural and revealed religion, and upon which whatever is esteemed good among the superstitions of antiquity must ultimately rest. These doctrines renewed in divers manners were confirmed by divine authority, and with encreasing clearness, to the Jews, and were displayed with full manifestation at the coming of Christ. Previously to that time, the Gentile nations, however left to walk in their own ways, obtained occasional notices of God. The exertions of Zoroastres certainly meliorated the character of a religion, which for ages, was to maintain its influence in the Eastern world. There is even some reason to believe, that he was enabled, by the convictions which he derived from authentic information, to carry on the views of his followers to the expectation of that future Prophet and So. vereign, who was to enlighten and govern the world with righteousness and peace, and whose star the wise men among the descendants of his countrymen were at length enabled to behold.

* Shalıristani de Religion Oriental Diogen, Laert. in Proæm. Plutarch de Isid. et Osirid.

The early heretics of the Christian Church professed to be in possession of some revelations concerning Christ, imparted, as they alleged, to Zoroastres : Porphyry exposed these as forgeries.

Abul-Pharagius however tells us, that Zoroastres foretold to his Magians, the coming of the Messiali, and the appearance of the Star at his Nativity, which he instructed them to follow when it should be seen, and to offer their gifts and adoration to the


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

person to whom it should conduct them. It is added, that in conformity to this direction, the wise men repaireil to Bethlehem *. Others attribute these prophetic intimations to Balaam.

These accounts, it must be acknowledged, are of a legendary nature, built possibly upon oral communications of what the Scriptures revealed.' There is sufficient reason however to believe, that both Balaam and Zoroastres contributed to excite and keep alive the expectation of the Messiah; and that God so far constrained these aliens to act in his service, with design, possibly, to draw truth from the mouth of deception and error, and to render even false witnesses subservient to its establishment.

Zoroastres, and Mahomet who propagated bis imposture over the same countries, bore testimony to the authority of the Jewish prophets, and if the former foretoid, the latter admitted the claims of Christ, as a prophet.

Suidas attributes to Zoroastres four books on Nature, and other works, which have perished, excepting some fragments preserved by Eusebius.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

* Hyde de Relig. vet. Persar. c. xxxi. p. 382.


Some pretended oracles of Zoroastres have been collected from Proclus, Simplicius, Damascius, and others, which were, probably, fabricated by the Platonic writers subsequent to the time of Christ *.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


On the Phænicians and Sanchoniatho.

The Phænicians lived in a country so immediately contiguous to Judæa, that they had the most direct means of knowing the events which concerned the Jews, and of becoming acquainted with the books which they respected.

Sanchoniatho, a native of Tyre, or of Berytus, is the author of greatest antiquity among the Phænicians, of whose writings we have any remains. He has transmitted accounts which go back to very early times, and which retain some memorials of truth. His name, indeed, in the Phænician language, signifies the friend of truth. The original work is now lost, and what we possess is a Greek translation of it made by Philo. Byblius, in the time of Adrian.

Porphyry, as we learn from Eusebius, supposed Sanchoniatho to have lived in the reign of Semiramis, who preceded the Tro


« PreviousContinue »