Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

If, from the Scriptures, we turn to general quired independence through the efforts of history, we find nothing that approaches to Arbaces. The new Assyrian kingdom, which n connected, continued, and consistent ac appears in the scattered accounts of the count of the Assyrian empire. It is said to Bible, has a better claim to history. The appear twice in history as the old and as the outline has already been given. new Assyrian kingdom, which had nothing in The internal relations of the kingdom of common, save the name; the former resting Assyria are very imperfectly known. Most on profane, the latter on Hebrew writers. probably were they substantially the same Of the old Assyrian empire, Ctecias, a physi- with other oriental monarchies, as the Chalcian of the Persian king, Artaxerxes Mnemon dæan and the Persian. At the head of the (100, A.C.), speaks in a truly eastern spirit, state was a king (2 Kings xviii, 19. Isa. carrying his statements, that are destitute xxxvi. 4), who ruled despotically, living in of chronological exactitude, back into the a stronghold, inaccessible to his subjects, lezen::ry mists of an heroic age. Ninus, Under him were satraps, denominated the son and successor of the god Belus, was 'princes' in Isa. x. 8, who governed each the founder of the monarchy: he built the his own province. Eunuchs were employed city called after him Ninus or Nineveh; and in high state ofices. The military was often he carried his victorious arms as far to the united with the civil character in those who north as Bactrin. Here he at length gained held them (Isa. xxxvi. 2). The religion of his object, namely, the capture of the city, the Assyrians was, in chief points, the same only by a beautiful woman, Semiramis, whose as that of the Chaldæans. Their gods were history belongs to oriental mythology. symbolical of the heavenly bodies: of these Semiramis (2000, A.C.), daughter of the idols, mention is made of Nisroch (Isa. widely-reverenced goddess Derceto, a per- xxxvii. 38); also Nibliaz, Tartak, Adramsonification of nature, nourished in her youth melech, and Annamelech. Their speech did by doves, was the spouse and follower of not belong to the Shemitic tongues, but Nin413, wbom, according to some statements, probably to the Medo-Persian or Sanscrit she put to death. Naturally endoweil with family ; but as, in a great part of the couna high and heroic spirit, she concealed her try, the Aramaic was employed, the oficers sex beneath male apparel, and reigned under of state could make use of Hebrew (2 Kings the name of her son Ninyas, whom she xviii. 26. Isa. xxxvi. 11). drove from the throne. To her Babylon Immense ruins have lately been disco. owed, if not its foundation, yet its aggran vered in Assyria, on what, in all probability, (lisement. When she had well organised is the site of ancient Ninevel, which already her empire anıl established her power, she appear to be of great interest, and afforii let the people know that they had been promise of still more important results, gormed by a woman; and though such a These discoveries bave been effected by the disclosure to orientals was fitted to jeopar- resident French consul, Botta, in consedise lier power, she was in a condition to quence of suggestions made by Rich; and detect every secret plot, and to put down the antiquities have been copied and drawn every open insurrection. But when she by a French artist, Flandin. Among the attempted to extend her empire from the objects brought to light, are a great number Euphrates to the Indns, she found skill of bricks, with inscriptions in the arrowwhich she could not match, and power in hended character, of larger dimensions than elephants that bore towers on their backs, those that are commonly known, which may which she conld not withstand: and so she afford aid in the yet unaccomplished work perished. Some, doubting her very exis. of decyphering these ancient writingsa tence, have regarded her as the personified image of some planetary influence connected with the astral worship which prevailed from the earliest times in Assyria. Her son and successor is painted as a weak prince, vidio, having been educated in a seraglio, confined himself to his palace. The history, with an interval of a thousand years, mentions the last monarch, Tonoskonkoleros, whose surname was Sardanapalus (worthy of wondler), who, like Ninyos, being given up to effeminacy, was attacked (889, A.C.) by his own general Arbaces, aided by Belesys, governor of Babylon; when, at length, he summoned courage to die the heroic death of casting himself on a funeral pile constructed by his own commands. With him the old Assyrian empire came to an end; and the neighbour. A monument of great magnitude and impor. ing state in the north, namely, Mettia. ac. tance, covered with bas reliefs, has also been

ASSYRIAN LETTERS.

[ocr errors]

disinterred; the mere copying of the figures birth-place in the wie, open plains of Meso. on which took M. Flandin six months. The potamia, where the glowing ether of heaven subjects of these sculptures offer a complete stretches out interininably on all sides. It was picture of the existence of an Assyrian mo- natural that men should worship the heaDarch. The spectator belolds the reception venly bodies, to which they ascribed not only of guests, a banquet; also war and hunting; personal qualities, but a resistless power and the king on a chariot, with a parasol over constant sway over the human condition. And his head; assaulted cities, warlike machines, thus idolatry and astrology aided in producmen with beards, men without beards, ing and supporting each other. eunuchs, priests. Already the Sacred Scrip W e account it no small praise of the tares have received illustration from the Abrahamic race, and, indeed, of the Biblical result of M. Botta's labours, and much more antediluvians, that, at a time when the supermay be expected to ensue. We subjoin one stitions and falsities, of which we have example. In Nahum's burden against Nine- spoken, overspread the East, they should veh, we read, 'I will cut off the graven image have remained uncontaminated, and adand the molten image;' teaching us that hered to the simple creed of a monotheistic bronze as well as marble statues were :- worship. In thus carrying our mind back among the objects of the idolatry of the Nine- to primitive history, we find a belt of pure vites. Now, it appears that the art of casting religious light striking across the otherwise bronze figures was much practised in Assyria: troubled hemisphere of human life. In this a lion, made of bronze, of beautiful work- sense, the earliest historical ages are the manship, has been brought to liglit. To the best. It is not till & very late period tha: destructive influence of the worship of the the idea of astrology is found in the Bible. lion, reference seems to be made by Nahum The word astrologer occurs first in the book in the following very strong terms :- of Daniel, which refers to a period of na* Where is the dwelling-place of the lions, and tional degeneracy. Even then, however, the feeding-place of the young lions, where the corrupt thing which it represents is the lion, the old lion, walked, and the lion's found, not on a Jewish, but a Ileathen scil whelp, and none made them afraid? The — found in those more eastern lands where, lion did tear in pieces enough for his as we have intimated astrology took its rise whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and (Dan. ii. 10, 27; iv. 7 ; v. 7, 11, 15). In filled his holes with prey, and his dens with these passages, astrologer is connected with ravin, (ii. 11, 12. Comp. Ezek. xix). In magician; and we have here,undoubtedly, one the last passage (ver. 9), a young lion is or two classes of that Chaldæan caste or syinbolically said to have been brought in order, who originally were the learned men, ehrins to the king of Babylon ;' and it is and afterwards the quacks and cheats, of the very remarkable that the same emblemchas great empires that flourished on the banks been found among these vast ruins — a lion of the Euphrates and the Tigris, and, we bound by a chain to an august personage, may add, generally of Western Asia. The whose flowing robes show him to be a mo- Hebrew word for astrologer brands the pronareh. Rich also discovered at Babylon fession as # jalsity, if not an imposture. a lion of colossal dimensions, standing on a The word denotes to move the lips; to mutter pedestal of coarse grey granite. A species in subdued tones; and hence, to whisper of lion-worship seems to have been widely forth mysteries, and sal in dark and abstruse spread in and around the countries watered knowledge. These etenders to science are by the Tigris and the Euphrates.

well described by Diodorus Siculus: ASTROLOGERS (G. expounders of the “They assert that the greatest attention is: stars). In those eastern countries where the given to the five stars, called planets, which atmosphere is of a pure and lustrous bril- they name interpreters; so called, because, liancy, and the heavenly bodies shine with while the other stars have a fixed path, they an intensity of splendour, the stars, in their alone, by forming their own course, show ceaseless movements, would, in process of what things will come to pass, thus intertime, so fascinate the heart as to blind and preting the will of the gods; for to those mislead the judgment, and hence be studied who study them carefully they foretell events, rather for some supposed influence of theirs partly by their rising, partly by their setover the destiny of man, than for the dis- ting, and also by their colour. Sometimes covery of the laws which regulated their they show heavy winds, at others rains, at separate and combined operations. And others excess of heat. The appearance of when once the mystical study of the stars comets, eclipses of the sun, earthquakes, had thus gained the upperhand, there were and, in general, any thing extraordinary, has, no bounds to the excesses to which it might in their opinion, an injurious or a beneficial lead in fancies the most grotesque, in super. effect, not only on nations and countries, stitions the most euslaving, and in errors the but on kings, and even common individuals; most prolific. Astrology and star-worship and they consider that those stars contribute were twin sisters. They both had their very much of good or of ill in relation to the

births of men; and in consequence of the to exhibit their worth in a long train of nature of these things, and of the study of moral discipline, and to supply the human the stars, they think they know accurately mind by actual facts with needful stimulus, the events that befall mortals,

impulse, and guidance. It may serve to bring into relief the fact, Among the great truths needfulto be known that the Bible does not pretend to teach the to man, as the sole foundation for religion, was sciences, if we remark that the word astro this, that the world sprang from the will of nomy does not occur in the Bible, while 1 creating Intelligence. Accordingly, the that of astrologers, as we have seen, is found book of Genesis opens with a declaration in some of its pages. In truth, the Hebrew which is the basis at once of all true relirace were not a speculative, still less a scien- gion and all sound philosophy, namely, 'In titic people. They sturlied the heavens for the beginning God created the heaven and the religious lessons which they give, and the the earth.' • The heaven and the earth' devotional emotions that they inspire. When constituted the universe to the writer. Rethey fixed their gaze on the starry host, it serving the latter for a separate treatment, Wslot to read human destiny, nor to fore we shall here brieíly set forih the views ent' cclipses, but to indulge the pious afiec- tertained by the Biblical authorities respect tions of their heart, or to learn lessons of ing the former. The lieavens were held to divine truth regarding God and man (Ps. be everlasting: xix. 1, scq.; lxix. 34; xevi. Il; cxxxvi. 7-9. He hath stablished them for ever and over: Isal. xl. 20, seq.). What ideas respect

Ho hath made a decree which shall not pass.' ing the physical world they did possess,

(Ps. cxlviii. 6.) they seem to have borrowed mostly from It was conceived to be a paved work of other nations; and certainly, in regard to sapphire stone' (Exod. xxiv. 10), as a bright the movements and influences of the hea solid firmament expanding on all sides venly bodies, they had no conceptions of above the carth (Gen. i. 6. Dan. xii. 3), native growth but such as were connected dividing the waters into two portions - one with religion and piety. On the subject of above and one beneath itself; which firastronomy (G. the science which teaches the mament, at least at a liter period, was luus of the stars), therefore, we may expect thought to extend upwarıls into several to find no detailed system, but only such vaulted canopies, so as to forin heaven on scattered notices or undesigned implications heavens even to the number, at least of three 1s inight spontaneously flow from a writer's (Amos ix. 6. 2 Cer. xii. 2). The Hebrew pen under the unrecognised impulse of root, rendered firmament, lias its meaning popular and prevalent impressions.

from the smelting of metals, and gives the Though the observation and some consc idea that the earliest conception of the quent knowledge of the starry heavens cha heaven was that of a species of cthereal brass, racterise the earliest ages and the first states poureil forth so as to form the vaulted sky of civilization, yet a scientific acquaintance (Job xxxvii. 18.) Hence in Prov. iii. 19, Jeho. with astronomy has been attained only vah is said to have established the heavens;' within the last few centuries. The ideas a view which was rendered the more needgenerally which were entertained by the ful and acceptable, because the convex or ancients were scarcely more than ignorance upper part of this firm set' vault was the in the shape, and with the pretence, of knoiv celestial pavement where was the throne of lcuge. Where nearly all was error, dif

God, near and around which dwelt and ferences of degree wer: f small account. worshipped the celestial hierarchy. This Accordingly, the Hebrews, who were a prac firmament, bearing the sun and moon, is tical not a scientific people, were hardly

sustained at its opposite extremities by two more ignorant of the true constitution of brazen mountains which act as pillars (Job the heavens than the most distinguished xxvi. 11. Zech. vi. 1. 2 Sam. xxii. 8). So of ancient philosophers. But the broad con the early Greck poet Hesiod : trast that exists between their conceptions 'Atlas, so hard necessity ordnins, on astronomical subjects, and those views Great the ponderous vault of stars sustains.' which modern science has established, may

The firmament is sometimes representeel be of no small service in showing that the rather as a tabernacle and a tent, in which Biblical writers participated on purely phy dwells the sun, which, coming in the mornsical subjects in the general ideas of their ing out of his bed-chamber, circles round lay, — had no special illumination granted from one end of the heaven to the other, them, and, consequently, have no scientific nothing being hid from the heat theros secrets to disclose. The aim of revelation (Ps. xix. 4, scq:; Hab. iii. 11). A gate and was not to anticipate the results of human doors in the firmament give a passage to the discovery; to have done which would have regions above (Gen. xxviii. 12, seq. Ps. lxxviii, been a disservice to mankind by preventing 2:3). In the heaven was the sound of thunindustry and research ; but to make known der, which was the voice of God, and it recertain great fundamental religious truths, verberated down to earth (Ps. lxxvii. 18.

Job xxxvii.1-5); and the lightning (appro- constellation, and marked its regular revopriately called 'breaker-through'), breaking lations, without feeling that its position through this solid sky, lightened the world and movements were such as the Almighty (Job xxxviii. 25). The clouds covering Creator only could produce? the firmament held the rain as in a reser- Orion was a constellation which was convoir, which was shed down on earth as ifceived of as a mighty and impious giant from large leathern bottles, and by canals bound upon the sky: hence the expression, or water courses (Job xxxviii. 25, 37. Ps. “Canst thou loose the bands of Orion ? Ixxvii. 17); sometimes through windows (Job xxxviii. 31). According to eastern traopened expressly for the purpose (Gen. dition, this giant was Nimrod, the founder vii. ll). That a portion of these represen. of Babylon. By the aid of a telescope, tations must be taken as a poetic clothing about two thousand stars have been seen in of physical truths appears from the fact this constellation; and, in what is termed that the Psalmist gives to the rising sun the sword of Orion,' there is a nebula, wings to denote the fleetness with which its almost visible to the naked eye, which is combeams overspread the earth (Ps. cxxxix 9), puted to exceed the sun in size two triland speaks of the sun's opening his eyelids lions two hundred thousand billion times. in rising from his bed (Job iii. 9).

Surely, if Job found in the starry heavens The stars were distinct solid bodies, called evidence for the power, providence, and forth every night by the Almighty, who, majesty of God, we have incomparably sitting upon the circle of the heavens, and greater reasons for so doing with the substretching them out as a curtain and as a lime views which astronomy has in our time tent to dwell in, brought out the numerous host laid open. of heaven, and called them all by name, innu- The Hebrew word rendered Pleiades, merable though they were (Isa. xl. 22, 26. denotes a cluster. The name is given to the Ps. civ. 2. Gen. xv. 5). Some idea seems cluster of stars in the neck of the constelto have prevailed that the stars were living lation Taurus, of which six or seven may beings, sons of God, which may have been be seen by the naked eye; but as many as the germ of the heavenly host in the sense two hundred bave been counted by the aid of a celestial hierarchy (Job i. 6; xxv. 5; of a telescope. Xxxviii. 7. Isa. xlv. 12). Hence a divine The morning star was known (Isa. xiv. court, Jehovah sitting on his throne, and all 12. Rev. ii. 28). In Job xxvi. 13, is menthe host of heaven standing on his right tioned the crooked serpent;' the Dragon band and on his left (2 Chron. xviii. 18); is still one of the coustellations; it lies beand the Almighty is therefore termed 'Je, tween the Great and the Little Bear, spreadhovah of hosts.

ing itself, as it were, in windings across The Hebrews, even in patriarchal times, the heavens. * The Zodiac is also mentioned were acquainted with certain of the leg. in Job xxxviii, 32, under a name which sig. ser heavenly bodies. Job speaks (ix. 9) nifies dwelling-places or lodgings, because of Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades. The in them the sun appears to dwell one after heavens would naturally attract the attention another. Of the separate signs, only one is of these early tenants of the earth, especially mentioned, namely, the Twins (Acts xxviii. in Arabia and Palestine, the rather because, 11), by the terms · Castor and Pollux.' "The as shepherds, they passed much of their chambers of the south,' in Job ix. 9, may time in the open air, watching their flocks indicate the stars hidden in the southern by night as well as by day. While engaged hemisphere, or rather in a southerly direcin the musings to which such a posi- tion, in the dark recesses of the south. In tion would naturally give rise, they wonld, Job xxxviii. 33, Jehovah asks, ‘Knowest under the influence of a creative imaging thou' the ordinances of heaven?' We are tion, easily be led to form the stars first into apt, in the knowledge of astronomy wbich groups, and then into the shapes of animals. we now possess, to think that Job's knowHence arose the signs of the zodiac. The ledge was most insignificant, even when it word which, in the common version, is ren- was true. And, certainly, our acquaintance dered Arcturus means, probably, the Great with these 'ordinances' is sufficiently great Bear. The sons of Arcturus (Job xxxviii. 32) and accurate to foster within us the most are the stars that accompany it, now called deeply-felt piety; but, after all that Tycho,

the tail of the bear. Herder renders the Brahé, Kepler, Newton, and others have words in the passage last referred to - taught, we have learnt to small purpose, if we • Lead forth the bear with her young. The are not convinced that what we know is, relapassage speaks of the constellation as con- tively to what remains to be learnt, only little ducted round and round the pole as by more than was known to the patriarchs of some unseen hand, like a mother with her old. And those who condemn the Bible, children. God is made to appeal to this because it does not teach as much as the phenomenon as a manifestation of his ma- Mécanique Céleste of La Place, in effect jesty and power, and as far above the skill condemn that work itself, which, there is of man. Who ever looked on that beautiful cvery reason to believe, will, in process of tiine, have to give place to more comprehen- sent day, we can hardly conceive how reg. sive as well as more exact views of the sonable men should have imagined that vast and immeasurable universe of God. A religious reflections on the stability of the work which sets forth the highest truth of earth, and the beauty of the luminaries its age-especially if, like the Bible, it applies which revolve round it, would be interfered that truth to the great purposes of religion, with by its being acknowledged, that this will be regarded by all wisely judging men rest and motion are apparent only.' as ' a pearl of great price,' and 'a possession ATHALIAH (H. time of the Lord), daughfor ever,' notwithstanding any changes which ter of Ahab, king of Israel, and of Jezabel, may be brought by the constant advances of grand-daughter of Omri, king of Israel; wife a ceaselessly progressive civilisation.

of Joram, king of Judah, and mother of About A.D. 1500, Copernicus had satisfied Ahaziah, king of Judah (884, A.C.). She himself that the sun is the centre of the used all her influence in favour of idolatry, solar system. In 1010, Galileo, having in- towards which her Tyrian origin may bave vented a telescope, discovered Jupiter's satel. inclined her; showing herself equally delites, and the woon-like phases of Venus. praved with her mother. She took part in These discoveries supplied additional argu. the iniqnities of her hansband, and she counments for the truth of the Copernican sys. selled her son to do wickedly. On her soo's tein. This system Galileo defended in his death, she destroyed the seed roval of the writings, which were, on that account, con house of Judah, though the children of her demned as heretical by the Inquisition, who, own son, and so usurped the throne. Joash, on the generally received opinion that the however, was saved from her fury, and con. Scripture taught that the earth, a stationary cealed in the temple. The day of her pubody, was the centre of the world, accounted nishment was coming. Jehoiada had not the new opinions to be contradicted by, and forgotten the divine promise in favour of the hostile to, the Bible. There thus appeared posterity of David, and gradually prepared to exist a contrariety between Scripture and an insurrectionary movement against the science. This contrariety has been met hy queen. This at length broke forth: the drawing a distinction between religious and young king was proclaimed; when Athaliah, plıysical tenets. The former it is the object aroused and alarmed by the shouting of the of the Bible to teach. In the case of the people, hurried into the temple for proteclatter, it merely reproduces what in any pe- tion, whence she was dragged and slain, riod it finds prevalent. 'On this point,' after a usurpation of six years. She is the says Professor Whewell, --Indications of a only female that reigned in Jerusalem. Her Creator,' p.5,-'it is reasonably held that the wretched end affords an instance of the fuphrases which are found in Scripture re- tility of crime. She warded through blood specting astronomical facts are not to be to a throne, from which she was precipitated made use of to guide our scientific opinions: by the indignant enthusiasm of a nation in they may be supposed to answer their end if favour of a child. The character of this they fall in with common notions, and are wicked woman' has been well drawn by thus effectually subservient to the moral and one who had a deep insight into the human religious import of revelation.

heart, Racine. Her death was the signal • The meaning which any generation puts for a great religious reformation, the details upon the phrases of Scripture, depends, more of which let us know that Baal had a temple than is at firsi supposed, upon the received even in Jerusalem. This unholy place was philosophy of the time. Hence, while men broken down, and the altars and images imagine that they are contending for revela- were destroyed. Mattan, the priest, was tion, they are in fact contending for their also sluin before the altars (2 Kings viii. 20; own interpretation of revelation, inconsci. xi. 2 Chron. xxi, xxiii. xxiv). ously adapted to what they believe to be ATHEISM (G, being without God) is not rationally probable. And the new interpre. expressly mentioned in the Scriptures; but tation which the new philosophy requires, the idea and the fact are found there in terms and which appears to the older. school to be of condemnation. Thus the Ephesians, bea fatal violence done to the authority of fore their conversion to Christ, 'had no lope, religion, is accepted by their snecessors with and were without God in the world' (Eph. out the dangerous results which were appre- ii. 12); words in which the folly, the evil hended. When the language of Scripture, consequences of atheism, and atheism itself, invested with its new meaning, has become are well described. Accordingly, atheism familiar to men, it is found that the ideas agreeably with the etymological import of which it calls up are quite as reconcileable the word, as given above - is being without as the former ones were with the soundest God, the absurdity of which is manifested religious views. And the world then looks by the addition, in the world, that is, in back with surprise at the error of those who this system of created order and beauty;' thought that the essence of revelation was and the sad consequences are, to rob man of involved in their own arbitrary version of hope both in this state and the next; to take some collateral circumstance. At the pre. from him the idea of perfection; to make

« VorigeDoorgaan »