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CHAP. the Hebrew had been always diametrically at variance1 with the tenets of his Canaanitish neighbours, it will follow that so long as he was true to his own principles, he stood in no more friendly attitude to the theology of Egypt. I shall make this point more clearly manifest by choosing one or two examples, where it might have been presumed that we should trace, if not the positive marks of friendly interchange, at least the general vestiges of common ancestry.
(1) Now both in Egypt and Phoenicia, during and Egyp- the historic period, we shall look almost in vain tian poly for recognitions of the power and presence of one only God, the spiritual Principle of the universe, distinct from all material forms, and guiding by His legislative will the life and final destiny of all creation. Both countries, it is true, had long retained some glimpses of this grand idea in their knowledge, and some echoes of it, broken and confused by human passions, are still audible amid their wild ejaculations to Baal and Osiris, or are lurking here and there in epithets, by which they thought to honour their great female gods, as Neith or Astarte; but practically a belief in the Supreme Intelligence was disappearing from the earth, when Abraham received his summons from 'the God of glory' to set forth upon the wondrous pilgrimage which brought him as a witness for the truth delivered to his fathers from the eastern bank of the Euphrates. There his family were lapsing with
1 Part I. pp. 90 sq.
2 Kenrick, speaking on this point (1. 438) goes further still, and while admitting that the highest order of monotheism was the clear doctrine
of the Hebrew Scriptures,' urges that it cannot be traced in any pagan speculations older than the school of Anaxagoras.
the multitude and 'serving other gods' (Josh. xxiv. CHAP. 2). They also, peradventure, learned to gaze upon the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and their heart was secretly enticed and their mouth kissed their hand (cf. Job xxxi. 26, 27). And when descendants of the patriarch were similarly 'called' out of Egypt, their high mission was connected with the spread and conservation of the same great verity. The challenge which struck terror into their idolatrous enslavers was a proclamation of the sovereignty of God: 'Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord' exactly as in later ages, one of the most haughty of the Pharaohs, glorying in the vast profusion of his foreign conquests and presuming on his godlike1 strength, was doomed by the chastising breath of the Omnipotent, to utter and immediate ruin: 'The land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste, and they shall know that I am the Lord; because he hath said, The river is mine and I have made it' (Ezek. xxix. 9).
No account can here be taken of the esoteric' doctrines, which are said to have been handed down in Egypt by the help of her more sacred 'mysteries.' I speak of the religious creed of the Egyptian, either as inscribed upon his public monuments, or as recorded in funereal papyri of the many, or expounded by the treatise of an honest advocate like Plutarch; not as it was represented to us in the transcendental speculations of the Neo-Platonists, who breathing the fresh atmosphere of Christianity had often borrowed all their choicer and more spiritual ideas from the Gospel they were
C. A. E. IV.
1 Cf. Herod. II. 169.
The popu lar creed of Egypt.
CHAP. striving to uproot. That popular creed of Egypt, II. we have seen already, was in substance nothing
Character of Hebrew
higher than a deification of the various energies of nature; and in form was one of the least spiritual of the old polytheisms. Worship was paid in its turn to almost every object that revolves in the heavens, and to every creature which is possessed of locomotive powers on the earth'.'
What contrast, therefore, could be greater than the pure and absolute monotheism instilled into the mind of all the Hebrews? Far from being a mere sublimation of the pagan system, it was based throughout on the most opposite conceptions; it was penetrated by another spirit. God in it was everywhere revealed and worshipped as the one invisible Creator and Sustainer, as the only supramundane spirituality. I subjoin a single passage from the Pentateuch, in proof of this assertion ; and the passage, beautiful and touching in itself, is worthy of particular notice here, because it furnishes the most explicit condemnation not of stellar worship merely, which was shared by other Gentile nations both of East and West, but also of the vile zoolatry which flourished with portentous rankness on the soil of ancient Egypt:
'Take ye, therefore, good heed unto yourselves (for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and
1 Prichard, as before, p. 407.
when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day' (Deut. iv. 15-20).
But God as represented to us in the Hebrew profoundly Scriptures has not only been invested with an absolute mastery in all the realms of physical creation, which is therefore said to constitute 'His robe of glory' and to be 'expended in His service.' The few verses just recited lead at once to the idea of still more God-like characteristics. The Jehovah of the Hebrews is holiness itself. He is no expression fabricated by philosophy to denote the aggregate of all mechanical forces, active in the different provinces of nature; but the living, personal, holy God: and with a view to the diffusion of His holiness on earth, He chooses a peculiar people, who become the favoured nursery of religious truth, until endued with power from on high, the germs of life and godliness deposited with them, may fructify in every land and issue in the universal 'healing of the nations.' And the soul of the Mosaic system, which was meant to act as one of the more elementary exponents of God's will, is eminently ethical. It ever deals with man as with a free and strictly moral agent. Passing over all the speculative riddles, which perplexed the intellect or charmed the fancy of the Old Egyptian sages, it proclaims that God above us is our very King and Father and as such constrains us to obey Him. Its grand purpose is, in other words, to cultivate the human will, to draw it into harmony
CHAP. with the Divine; and hence the key to all the homeliest of the Hebrew symbols will be found in the magnificent inscription: 'Holiness unto the Lord.' Here also I extract one single passage from the Pentateuch, to shew that all the ethical system of the ancient Hebrews was erected on their firm belief in the immaculate holiness of God, that holiness attracting to itself the homage, love, and adoration of a free and grateful people:
The moral sensibility
'And now, O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul; to keep the commandments of the Lord, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name. He is thy praise, and He is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the Lord thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude' (Deut. x. 12—22).
(2) In such a system of religion, where the of the He spotless character of God Himself and the original goodness of the world which He had called into existence, are beheld in their most perfect contrast to all that which had become evil, sin is in the