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CIVILIZATION and religion do not necessirily move with equal pace. Whatever is really best in the ethics of civilization is derived from religion. If civilization falls backward, religion probably has already weakened or will also fall. The converse is not necessarily true. Religion may halt or even retrograde, while civilization steps on brilliantly, as it did in Greece with her Parthenon, and in Rome the while that religion added to the number of idols in the pantheon. Egypt, too, had her men learned in astronomy, who built splendid palaces and hundred-pillared Thebes the while they were worshipping Osiris. The dwellers before the Deluge had carried their civilization to a knowledge of arts now lost, while their wickedness and utter wanderings from God's worship caused the earth to cry out for a cleansing Flood.

Whatever therefore may be true in the history of civilization--whether man was gifted, ab initio, with a large measure of useful knowledge which he had simply easily to put into practice; or whether, as a savage, primitive man had slowly and painfully to find out under pressure the use of fire, clothing, weapons of defence and offence, tools, and other necessary articles and arts--is not important here to be discussed. From whatever point of vantage, high or low, Adam's sons started, we know that they bad at least tools for agriculture [1] and for the building of houses; [2] and that a few

[1. Gen iv. 2.

2. Gen iv. 17.]

generations later, their knowledge of arts had grown from those which aided in the acquisition of the bare necessaries of life into the æstheties of music and metallic ornamentation.[1]

But religion did not wait that length of time for its growth. To the original pair in Eden, Jehovah had given a knowledge of Himself. They felt His character, they were told His will; and when they had disobeyed that will, they were given a promise of salvation, and were instructed in certain given rites of worship, e.g., offerings and sacrifice. They knew[2] the significance of atoning blood, and the difference between a simple thank-offering and a sin-offering. All this knowledge of religion was not a possession which man had attained by slow degrees. He started with it in full possession, while yet he was clothed only in the skins of beasts[3] and before he knew how to make musical instruments or to fashion brass and iron. His religion was in advance of his civilization. Subsequently his civilization pushed ahead.

What were the gradual steps before the Deluge, in the divergence of man's worship of God, is not difficult to imagine if we look at the history of the Chaldees, of the Hittites, and of the Jews themselves. Subsequent to the Deluge, from the grateful sacrifice of the seventh animal by Noah, to Abraham's typical offering of Isaac, it is not a very far cry to the butchery of Jephthah's daughter or the immolations to Moloch. A well-intended Ed [4] may readily become a schismatic Mecca. An altar of Dan is soon furnished with its golden calf.

With this as a starting-point, viz., that the knowledge of himself was directly imparted to man by Jehovah, and that certain forms of worship were originally directed and sanctioned by Him, I wish in subsequent pages to follow that line of light through the labyrinths of man's wandering from monotheism into polytheism, idolatry, and even into crass fetichism.

Abstract faith is difficult. It is so much easier to believe what we see, to have faith assisted by sight. Even such faith is not without its blessing, but"blessed are they that have

[1. Gen. iv. 21, 22.

2 Heb. xi. 4.

3 Gen. iii. 21.

4 Joshua xxii. 34.]

not seen, and yet have believed."[1] Memory is assisted by visible signs; whence the art of writing,-in its usefulness so far beyond the Indian's wampum belts. Merely oral law is apt to be forgotten, or its requisitions and prohibitions become hazy.

As the years passed by, and nations, after the dispersion from the tower on the plain of Shinar, diverged more and more, not only in speech and writing but also in customs, their religious thought began to vary from the simple standard of Adam and Noah. Between those small beginnings of variation and the gulf-like depth of the fetich, there are three successive steps.

First, retaining the name of and belief in and worship of Jehovah, mankind added something else. They associated with Jehovah certain natural objects. This, it is readily conceivable, they could do without feeling that they were dishonoring Him. They could not see Him; in their expression of their wants in prayer they were speaking into vague space and heard no audible response. The strain on simple unassisted faith was heavy. The senses asked for something on which they could lean. Very reasonable, therefore, it was for the pious thought, in speaking to the Great Invisible, to associate closely with His name the great natural objects in which His character was revealed or illustrated the,--sun, shining in strength and beneficently giving life to plants and the comfort of its warmth to all creation; the moon, benefiting in a similar though less prominent way; the sky, from which spake the thunder; the mountain, towering in its solemn majesty; the sea, spread out in its inscrutable immensity. All these illustrating some of Jehovah's attributes,--His power, goodness, infinity,--without impropriety associated themselves in man's thought of God, were named along with His name, and were looked upon with same of the sarne reverence which was ac corded to Him. In all this there was no conscious departure from the worship of the one living and true God. The position to which these great natural objects were gradually elevated

[1. John xx. 29.]

relatively to God, in the thought of the worshipper, was not as yet blasphemous, or in any intentional way derogatory to Him. But the evil in this elevation of nature into prominence with God was that there was no limit to the number of objects or the degree of their elevation. From the dignified use of sun, moon, sky, and sea, by unconscious degradations animals became the objects of worship-the bull, the serpent, and the cat (each illustrative of some attribute), and thence finally objects that were frivolous, ridiculous, or disgusting, which nevertheless were each the exponent of some principle. Even the indecencies of Phallic worship had found their dignified beginning in an attempt to honor the great principle of life in nature's procreative processes.

But there came a time, in the multiplying of the objects illustrative of God's attributes, when they, by their very numbers, minimized divine dignity. Their constant, visible, tangible presence to the senses begaii not simply passively to represent God, but actively to personify Him, and Jehovah was subdivided. He was still the great God; but these others were given riot only a naine, but a personality which shadowed Him and dishonored Him, by admitting them to fellowship with Him, and regmaling Him as no longer alone the, great I Am. Though supreme, His supremacy was not exclusive; it was comparative. He was over others, who also were gods, with whom He shared His power, and to whom was to be given somewhat of His worship. He was not indeed denied, but He was dishonored. He became only one of the many gods along with Baal and Ashtaroth. But the worship of Him was not abandoned. He was worshipped along with these others, as One among many. And finally polytheism had become the belief of the world, except of the many scattered small communities which, with their priests of the Most High God, like Melchisedek and Job, held the true light from extinction. "Jehovah" became a name for the Deity of a nation; each nation, while reverencing its own god, not denying power to that of another nation. Man's little thought was trying to localize the Deity in its own small tribal limits.

Philistia worshipped its Dagon, but it feared and made trespass offerings to Jehovah of the Ark of Israel's Covenant.[1]

Nebuchadnezzar, startled by a vision of a Son of God in the flame of his fiery furnace, in an hour of repentance could decree that the God of Shadrach, Meshacb, and Abednego should not be spoken against.[2] This was the second step in religion's retrograde movement. The personified natural objects were actually worshipped. No longer considered simply as representatives of God, they were actually given a part of God's place, and were worshipped as God. The prayer was not, "Jehovah, bear us, for the sake of Baal , through whom we plead!" nor "O Baal, present our petition to Jehovah!" but, flatly and directly,"O Baal, hear us!"

Having reached in their religious thought this position of a belief in many gods, it was a natural and logical result that worship was to be rendered to them all. The sacrifices that had been offered to Jehovah alone were divided for service to other gods. But it was the same religious sentiment, in both monotheist and polytheist, that prompted the rendering of prayer, sacrifice, and other service. The same sense of an "infinite dependence" that had led arms of weak faith to lay hold for help on that which was nearest and most obvious, operated with the heathen who had wandered from God, in his petition to his many gods, just as it had operated originally with the worshipper of the true God. The sentiment was right, the principle was good; only, its application was wrong,--sometimes fearfully wrong. Man's religious nature is a force. There are other forces in nature that belong to other domains than religion. They are good forces if well applied; they become engines of destruction if misapplied or applied in excess.

In all history no misapplied force has wrought more fearful evil than the religious. It made holy even the atrocities of the Inquisition; it ordained a Te Deum for the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day.

Similarly mankind found not only justification but propriety

[1. I Sam. vi. 3.

2 Dan. iii. 29.]

in the human sacrifices to Moloch, and in the holocausts of the Aztec civilization. If in giving a gift of thanks, tribute, admiration, or fear to a human friend, ruler, or employer, we choose that which is good and best in our own eyes, so as to win the favor of the being to whom it is given, much more would we strive to please the god in whose power lies our life, health, and prosperity. It was a logical result, therefore, in choosing for sacrifice on great emergencies, to select the bestbeloved child. Moloch would be pleased and propitiated by such a valuable gift. The more that the human love was renounced in the agony of the parents' view of their child's dying struggle, the more favorable would be the response to the worshipper. Under this misapplied religious force an Iphigenia is logical, and the Hindu infant cast to Gunga's wave a fitting offering in the agonized mother's eyes. But how fearfully mistaken! The religion that recognizes and directs such abuse is a "false religion," as compared with Christianity; not in the sense that it has nothing good in it, but in the falsity of the objects of its worship and--in the cruelty of the rites employed in that worship. In the genera of the sciences there is only one species of religion, but that one species has many varieties. In this sense Calvin is correct if, in speaking of the"immense welter of errors" in which the whole world outside of Christianity is immersed,"he regards his own religion as the true one and all the others were false." The function of a comparative study of religions is to point out the connecting line of truth running through the mass of error. Back of all the cruelty and error and falsity in polytheism lie the proper sense of need, the natural feeling of helplessness in the great emergencies of life, and the commendable desire to honor the Being known under different names as Jehovah, Moloch, Jupiter, Allah, Budh, Brahm, Odin, or Anyambe; to which Being His children all over the world looked up as the All-Father. But the descensus Averni from the One living and true God soon multiplied gods, dividing among many the attributes that had been centred in the One, and finally carried man's religious thoughtso far from God that only His name was retained, while the trust which had belonged to Him alone was scattered over a multitude of objects thatwere not even dignified with the name "gods." Worship of ancestors was established. Great human benefactors, heroic human beings, were deified and canonized. The whole air of the world became peopled with spiritual influences; literally"stocks and stones" became animated with demons of varying power and disposition; and fetichism erected itself as a kind of religion.

I see nothing to justify the theory of Menzies[1] that primitive man or the untutored African of to-day, in worshipping a tree, a snake, or an idol, originally worshipped those very objects themselves, and that the suggestion that they represented, or were even the dwelling-place of, some spiritual Being is an after-thought up to which he has grown in the lapse of the ages. The rather I see every reason to believe that the thought of the Being or Beings as an object of worship has come down by tradition and from direct original revelation of Jehovah Himself. The assumption of a visible, tangible object to represent or personify that Being is the after-thought that human ingenuity has added. The civilized Romanist claims that he does not worship the actual sign of the cross, but the Christ who was crucified on it; similarly, the Dahondan, in his worship of a snake.

Rev. J. L. Wilson, D.D.,[2] says of the condition of Dahomy fifty years ago, that in Africa "there is no place where there is more intense heathenism; and to mention no other feature in their superstitious practices, the worship of snakes at this place [Whydah] fully illustrates this remark. A house in the middle of the town is provided for the exclusive use of these reptiles, and they may be seen here at any time in very great numbers. They are fed, wid more care is taken of them than of the human inhabitants of the place. If they are seen straying away, they must be brought back; and at the sight of them the people prootrate themselves on the

[1 History of Religion, pp. 129 et seq.

2 Western Africa, p. 207.]

ground and do them all possible reverence. To kill or injure one of them is to incur the penalty of death. On certain occasions they are taken out by the priests or doctors, and paraded about the streets, the bearers allowing them to coil themselves around their arms, necks, and bodies. They are also employed to detect persons who have been guilty of witchcraft. If, in the hands of the priest, they bite the suspected person, it is sure evidence of his guilt; and no doubt the serpent is trained to do the will of his keeper in all such cases. Images, usually called 'gregrees,' of the most uncouth shape and form, may be seen in all parts of the town, and are worshipped by all classes of persons. Perhaps there is no place in Africa where idolatry is more openly practised, or where the people have sunk into deeper pagan darkness."

Also, of the people on the southwest coast at Loango:

"The people of Loango are more addicted to idol worship than any other people on the whole coast. They have a great many carved images which they set up in their fetich houses and in their private dwellings, and which they worship; but whether these images represent their forefathers, as is the case among the Mpongwe (at Gabun), is not certainly known." [1]

Having thus followed the religious thought of mankind in its divagation from monotheistic worship of the true God, down through polytheism and idolatrous sacrifices, to the worship of ancestors, we have reached a third stage, where the worship of God is not only divided between Him and other objects, but, a step beyond, God Himself is quietly disregarded, and the worship due Him is transferred to a multitude of spiritual agencies under His power, but uncontrolled by it.

The details of this stage in the religious worship known as fetichism will be considered in the following chapters.

[1. Wilson.]

Next: Chapter IV :Spiritual Beings in African Religion