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WHAT THE CHINESE REQUIRE.
allow himself to use mere figures of rhetoric upon this subject, for such in his lips they would have been. If having spoken of one holding an actual relation under the name of Father, he had afterwards used that word as a synonym for a Creator or for an unknown Being, the pleasure which such expressions might have caused us would have been dearly purchased by the loss of reality in the mind of him who resorted to them. If you can tell the Chinese that this is an actual relation, that it has been proved to be so, that our human relation is the image of it, that the reality of one gives reality to the other, that the honour paid to relationships is not incompatible with that seemingly abstract, unsocial, unreal view of the Reason of which the Taou sect has been the champion; and that the Buddhist spiritualism is not an element of new confusion, but of reconciliation-you will indeed discover to him that deepest foundation of order which he is looking for-you will shew him that way from the visible to the Invisible which he has never yet discovered. But any teaching short of this, that hard and formal and yet withal practical and serious, mind of his, will repel. You will find that you have not learnt the spell which can break the heavy yoke of custom from off his neck, and change him from the most perfect of living machines into a living MAN.
PART I.-LECTURE IV.
The Old Persian Faith and its destruction. The Egyptian. The Greek. The Roman. The Gothic. General Conclusion.
HE Mahometan, the Hindoo, and the Buddhist, are the great prevailing faiths of the world. A person indeed who should insist upon reducing all the religious thoughts and convictions he met with in different places under one of these three heads, would exhibit great practical ignorance; for the feelings and apprehensions which belong to actual human beings will not bear to be so treated. A man will not really be intelligible to you, if, instead of listening to him and sympathising with him, you determine to classify him. But it is true, that one who has patiently studied and livingly realized the characteristics of these wide-spread beliefs, will not be hopelessly puzzled by the notions of men in any part of the globe, civilized or savage. There are no other existing forms of religious thought sufficiently distinct from these to deserve a separate examination in such a course of Lectures as this; none which have not grown out of them, or have not been rapidly absorbed into them. And it is of existing systems that I wished first and chiefly to speak, because for the practical object I proposed to myself, and which Boyle desired we should keep in sight, these must be the most important. I could not, however, do proper
justice to the subject if, before I enter upon the second division of it-the consideration of the way in which Christianity is related to different religions—I did not touch upon what may be called the defunct systems, those which belong to history, and which have yielded to the might either of the Crescent or the Cross. The word 'defunct,' we shall soon find, is only in one sense applicable to them; they had that in them which is not dead, and cannot die; that which is exerting an influence upon the mind and education of Christendom at the present day. Still, as systems, they belong to the past; they will therefore supply a new kind of test for trying the maxims respecting the worthlessness and transitoriness of what is merely theological, which I have been examining in former Lectures. For the reason I have given they ought not to be treated in the same detail as those which have occupied us hitherto : indeed, I do not think we should gain so much by considering them in detail, as by glancing at them side by side; so that the principles which distinguish them, and those wherein they are alike, may be more readily discerned. I shall therefore endeavour to compress what I have to say of them into a single Lecture. I. The old Persian religion is the first which offers itself to our notice, as standing in a close relation, both outwardly and inwardly, to the Hindoo. The Zendavesta, the religious book in which this faith is professedly set forth, cannot be appealed to as a very certain authority respecting G
it; what we possess is confessedly a compilation from earlier sources; and though critics think that they can detect older fragments in the midst of it, there is great difficulty in separating them from the mass, or in determining the time when it was put together. The age and history of the man who is spoken of as the great prophet of this faith, Zerdusht or Zoroaster, are equally obscure. It has even been questioned whether such a man ever existed-whether he does not merely represent a divine principle, or a stage in a nation's history. It might seem, then, as if this doctrine, of which we have such vague records, must have exercised but a slight influence; at all events, that its essential character cannot be ascertained. Both conclusions would be erroneous. Whatever authority the Zendavesta may have, whatever kind of person Zoroaster may have been, the Persian faith has been bound up with the life of a great portion of Asia, and has left as strong evidences as any both of its nature and of its power over the minds of men, even in generations far removed from each other.
The readers of Gibbon will remember a splendid passage of his history describing a great Asiatic revolution which took place in the third century after Christ. The old Persian empire was then ruled by the Parthians. Their dynasty had lasted for several centuries: it had been set up after the Greek armies had conquered Asia; after they had established their own habits and civilization in the midst of it. Their worship the Par
CHARACTER OF THE PERSIAN FAITH.
thians to a considerable extent adopted; the old faith of the Persians they crushed. At the period I speak of it was found that this faith had lain hidden under the soil, but had never been destroyed. The Magi came forth and proclaimed that which they affirmed to be the original teaching of Zoroaster. The innovations of five centuries were swept away; a dynasty which the Persians recognized as the continuation of the old kingdom of Cyrus was established, and the nation's old belief was the foundation upon which it rested. This power became the great Eastern antagonist of Rome: at a later period, it had nearly wrested the empire of Asia from Constantinople: it sunk at last under the irresistible strength of the Mahometan armies. For a time, those whom the Mahometans called fire-worshippers struggled hard: at length they vanished into an insignificant sect; Persia acknowledged the Prophet of Arabia as its one divine teacher.
But what was the faith which governed the old. Persian while he ruled the world-which dwelt so deeply in the heart of a people that it could revive after a lapse of centuries-which perished all but utterly at last? We have seen that the Brahm of the Hindoo, the Buddha of that mighty sect which arose out of Hindooism, is especially the Intelligent Being, He in whom light dwells, and by communication with whom men become enlightened. Observe how naturally, how inevitably, one uses this word Light for Intelligence. We feel instinctively that it is much the better word of the two; that one is