Imatges de pàgina

destroy not only the crude practices of these heathen. religions, but also the very desire for them; to divert the people from the tendency to nature-worship and fix their hearts on a God, who refused to allow any images, even as symbols of His Presence, who was indeed the Creator. of the world and all that is therein, but was also a God of Holiness, to whom every sin was an abomination, and every alien worship an insult. This permanent moral interest goes to make the uniqueness of Judaism, and has much to do with their inspiration as a people. And it crushed out every form of metaphysical interest. Strictly speaking the Jews had no metaphysic, as has often been pointed out. They cared little for the difficulties which may be raised about the origin of things; the mode of God's action upon matter and similar questions had no power to excite the inquisitiveness of the Jewish mind. When the Hellenic influence began to operate in Judaism a philosophy of nature possessing Jewish characteristics became possible, but not till then.

These two cases-the Greek and the Jew-may fairly be taken as representing the two necessary elements in religion in separation from one another. Each religion followed a one-sided law of development; neither covered all the ground which religion has at times claimed for its own. But it may be asked, If the two elements are thus separable, may it not be true that neither is necessary? May it not be that religion is after all merely a mythological form of the investigation of nature, or a theory of morality with the idea of a moral Governor thrown in? To this question we must now address ourselves. It is an extremely intricate one, but its importance is too great to allow us to pass it by.

If the two factors are the normal constituents of the

religious impulse, we shall expect to find them fused, or nearly so, in the most primitive types of religion of which we have any information. We will investigate this point first. We shall then pass to a further question far more serious and difficult, and ask, What is it which such early attempts at religion imply? What is the expectation which they wish to have satisfied? When this is answered we shall be in a position to decide how far the Incarnation meets and responds to the ultimate religious aspirations of mankind.

A. First, then, how far are the metaphysical and moral elements present in early religions? As to the former there can be no possible question. Any one who has made the most superficial study of Comparative Mythology knows that every known form of undeveloped religion has myths in plenty describing the origin of the world, of the sun, moon, and stars, and all that is on the earth. These myths follow closely similar lines among different peoples. In many cases, it is true, the phenomenon of which the myth is an explanation is not easy to determine ; but there is a large body of them, which must certainly be explained as a crude and savage attempt at science. Were an illustration of this fact needed, that the savage uses mythical beings as means of explaining phenomena which strike him as obscure, one might be found in a circumstance noted by A. Lang (Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i. p. 138): 'A queer bit of savage science is displayed on a black stone tobacco pipe from the Pacific coast. The savage artist has carved the pipe in the likeness of a steamer, as a steamer is conceived by him. Unable to account for the motive power, he imagines the paddle to be linked round the tongue of a coiled serpent, fastened to the tail of the vessel.'

We need not delay further upon this point, for it would probably be disputed by no one.

When we come to investigate the question of the presence of a moral factor in early religions, we come into more controverted ground. The mythical element in such religions is far the most striking at first sight. It is the point of widest difference between undeveloped paganism and our own notions of religion, and is probably most often associated with the idea of savages. We think of them in their religious aspects as human beings who have a false religion consisting chiefly of absurd and revolting myths. But yet it would seem that it has been a mistake to suppose them capable of nothing else and that the mistake has given rise to several false theories of religion. Animism-the theory which deduces religion from the mistaken views of savages about ghosts; and Professor Max Müller's theory-which explains religion out of a sense of the infinite, together with a series of linguistic blundershave both taken myth as their starting-point. For them, myth is the element which goes deepest into the religious heart of pagan man. Yet the results of some other scientific workers in the field of anthropology do not bear them out. Mr. A. Lang (Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i. pp. 328, 329) is convinced that the myth is an external feature in savage religion, that the savage really yearns for communion with his deity, and in the hour of peril cries out, as it were, to a friendly power, and does not think of the animal to which in his cooler moments he makes offerings, and of which he tells tales. So Pfleiderer (Religions-philosophie, vol. ii. chap. i. pp. 28, 29) argues against deriving religion from Animism or from Fetichism, or even from mistakes in language on

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precisely this ground; that no amount of juggling with crude and immoral and revolting myths will derive from them the loftier contents of religion. And lastly, Professor Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, p. 19) points out that 'mythology ought not to take the prominent place which is too often assigned to it in the scientific study of ancient faiths. . . . Belief in a series of myths was neither obligatory as a part of true religion, nor was it supposed that, by believing, a man acquired religious merit and conciliated the favour of the gods. What was obligatory or meritorious was the exact performance of certain sacred acts prescribed by religious tradition.'

These citations of authorities may lead us on to consider in what precise forms the moral element in early religion shows itself. The answer is threefold : in prayer, in ritual, in sacrifice. There are a few specimens of savage prayer preserved by Mr. A. Lang, of which this is one-the product of the Hottentot mind. 'O Cagn,' he says, 'are we not your children? Do you not see our hunger? Give us food' (Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. ii. p. 12). But, though it is not doubtful that prayer is used, it is, of course, difficult to find actual cases which can be cited. The matter of ritual would be easier to illustrate, if it were worth our while. It is found in an elaborate form wherever primitive worship has been observed: it is highly complex in fetish-worship; for the savage holds, as a rule, that the proper way of approaching the deity resident in the fetish lies in the exact performance of certain rites. These, as Professor Robertson Smith pointed out in the passage above quoted, are generally traditional in character, and their origin is often lost in obscurity, myths being invented to account for them.

But the real home of the moral element in savage religion is to be found in sacrifice and to this we must give a somewhat closer attention. There can be no question that men expect to establish some sort of relation between themselves and their god by this means. Whatever the special purpose of particular sacrifices, this desire, at least, must lie at the root of all. And it is important for us to consider in what way the union is supposed to take effect. In order to understand the significance of sacrifice we must call attention to one or two facts, all the evidence for which we have not space to set down, but for which we rely upon the researches of others, notably Mr. A. Lang and Professor Robertson Smith. In the first place, the sacrifice is usually a social act of worship, paid by the tribe to its own god, who is supposed to be connected with the tribe in the way of kinship. Further, sacrifice is usually of the nature of a feast it is a feast in honour of the tribal god, of which the god himself is a partaker; it keeps alive the feeling of family union between the god and his children. Here we come upon the most important features of sacrifice. (1) Sacrifice is an act of communion. God and man meet at the same table and partake of the same food. This view of sacrifice is illustrated by the ritual observed by Odysseus in Homer when he visits the dead in order to confer with Teiresias. He digs a trench and fills it with the blood of slaughtered victims, and stands to watch: the ghosts come and try to drink, but he warns them off with his sword until Teiresias comes; he is allowed to drink, and by this means becomes capable of communicating his knowledge (Hom. Od. XI. 23-30). This case is neither primitive, as it stands, nor does it refer to communion between man and a god, but it shows with

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