Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

incorporated fiction with any degree of certainty. Thus, according to the classic writers, Zoroaster flourished 5000 years before the Trojan war; but when that war began or ended, or whether it was ever carried on, we cannot say. Thus great is the light derivable from the said Classics on this important point. Modern criticism and research, however, is kinder, for by means of its results we are enabled to state, that the Zoroaster of our religious conceptions lived somewhere about 600 B.C.; and that the men alluded to by Pliny, Justin, Plutarch, and other Greek and Roman writers, though in some way connected with the religion of Persia, Media, and Bactria, were of a different stamp, and altogether much inferior in wisdom and power to that one who lived in the age we have just named-600 B.C.

But we must not pass thus rudely from the Classic to modern authors; between the two there lies much which it is important to know, of which, if left unnoticed, these articles would furnish only an unfair exposition. The question has been vigorously discussed as to who Zoroaster was. For instance, it has been seriously asked, When we say Zoroaster, do we not mean Moses? It has been contended by Huet, that Moses and Zoroaster are the same persons, and, in order to establish this, he cites many passages from their writings, all of which he believes to prove that they are the same in thought and forms of expression. He entertained the notion that the Persians were enriched by the Jews, who gave them their Pentateuch, when the povertystricken Persians immediately set forth to the world, that the man who had thus taught was a Persian, and named Zoroaster. This belongs to what may be called liberal criticism, because it arrives at large conclusions without requiring the aid of a single foundation fact, and, “ consequently, should be “ widely accepted.” Unfortunately, however, the name Zor-Aster means “ star worshipped," and thus could not have been given to Moses. The absurdity of this Mosaic explanation was too palpable for general use; and hence, without ever troubling themselves about the facts, without ever reading the Zendavesta, other gentlemen have put forth the equally false though less astounding opinions, that he was Abraham, though called by another naine by the Magi, in order to hide the theft. But looking at what is reported of the two lives, we do not find a single mark of connection. The events wholly differ, and hence that idea must equally be scouted. Others inform us that “ he was a clever man, who, hired as the servant of Elisha, “ discovered his master's wisdom, and, like all the Pagans,' was base “ enough to declare to the Persians that it was his own.” A pretty theory, but, as in all the other cases, lacking everything in the shape of fact, which alone would justify us in accepting it. And when the critics declare he must have mingled with the Jews, else he would never have known what he knew, they evidently beg the whole question at issue; for may it not have been far more likely that the Hebrews borrowed from the Persians, than that the Persians followed fondly the tales of their Hebrew slaves. Indeed, we undertake to demonstrate, when the proper time arrives, that it was from the Persians the Jews obtained their ideas of early history, with their later conceptions of God,—that from the Persians they obtained the majority of their Rabbinical Fables, and that many of the ideas now forming the main staple of modern theology have no other origin or authority than that they derive from the ancient Persian teachers.

Possibly, however, this strange way of jumping over, instead of fairly meeting, and conquering, the difficulty, was suggested by the fact that the old historians speak of so many persons as Zoroaster, or of so many Zoroasters. Sir Walter Raleigh, a man of considerable research, and unquestioned liberality, says, in his history of the world : “Of Zoroaster, there is much dispute ; and “ no less jangling about the word and art of magic. Arnubius remembereth “ four to whom the name of Zoroaster or Zoroastres was given ; which by " Hermoduras and Dinun seemeth but a cognomen, or name of art, and was “ as much as to say, Astronum cultor. The first, Arnubius, calleth the Bac“ trian, which may be the same that Ninus overthrew; the second, a Chaldean, “ and the astronomer of Ninus; the third was Zoroaster Pamphylius, who " lived in the time of Cyrus and his familiar; the fourth, Zoroaster Armenius, “ the nephew of Hostianes, which followed Xerxes into Greece. Suidas “ remembereth of a fifth, called Persomedus Sapiens, and Plato speaks of « Zoroaster the son of Oromasdes.” Thus a brave, inquisitive Raleigh, writing his history of the world while lying in prison, pondering on ihe mysteries of the past while actually under sentence of death, knows not what to make of all these Zoroasters, and though never doubting the fact of such a man having lived, he evidently hesitated about naming his age and country. So also Stanley, in his ponderous volumes on “ The History of Philosophy," published in 1662, some forty years after the death of Raleigh. That writer enters fully into the matter, and fishes up, out of the ancient books, all that has been said and thought of this Persian teacher, so that for the luxurious student in search of a mud-bath, nothing can be finer than Stanley's “ Zoroaster and the Chaldaic Philosophy." True, indeed, that he furnishes all the Arnubian, and other suppositions, and stories and etymologies of the name, but unhappy must be the man who reads his book with the vain hope of discovering either who Zoroaster was, or what were his teachings. Bryant, too, in his “ Analysis of Ancient Mythology,” treats us to similar collections, which force the reader to inquire if the pea and the thimble have not been introduced into literature, with the wager that you shall not discover the man you seek. But the richest of all, either culled from the past, or conceived by any of the moderns, is the idea of the learned Dean of Norwich, Dr. Prideaux, who had the modesty to suggest that Zoroaster had been employed as a servant by Ezekiel, and hence his knowledge. It would be about as wise and as probable to suppose that Shakspere had been employed as the servant of the immortal Nahum Tate!

P. W. P.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.-XXVII.

JOHN HUSS. Ar the time of Wycliffe's death, John Huss was about fifteen years old, having been born in the year 1369. The place of his birth was Hussinecz in Bohemia. The son of poor parents, he was early inured to labour. Nature, however, had fitted him for higher things. Early in his youth he started from his village home, to study at the University of Prague, with the view of becoming a priest. In 1396 he obtained his degree of Master of Arts, and two years after we find him lecturing to the students on theological subjects. It was probably the popularity he soon gained, and the capacity he showed in this, that led to the offer, made to him in the year 1401, to become the preacher in a chapel called Bethlehem, which had been erected by some of the wealthy citizens of Prague, with a view to supply what in the ordinary services of the Church was not frequently found, viz., practical advice and instruction in the shape of sermons in the Bohemian tongue. Here Huss,

gifted with more than ordinary eloquence, and sincerely desirous of reforming the vice and immorality of his time, soon gathered round him a little community of warm and devoted friends, who, like himself, were earnest Reformers. His sermons made a powerful impression upon all who went to hear him, as the sermons of all who, as he did, preach, not doctrinal theology, but practical Christianity, ever have done. He denounced, in terms of unmeasured severity, the vices of the people--did not, however, content himself with that, but also showed them, as far as he himself saw it, the true path of morality and happiness.

The distinguishing characteristic of Huss, as a Reformer, was the thoroughly practical bent of his teachings; he attacked vice only that he might paint virtue in her true colours; he troubled himself very little about doctrine; and became a Heresiarch, not so much because he disputed the teachings of the Church, as because he hated and exposed the vice and immorality fostered by it. In him, in fact, we see another Peter Waldus ; the Church repudiated him, rather than he the Church; his great sin, in her eyes, really being that, by his life and by his words, he condemned the manners of the hierarchy, and the evils which were sown and cultivated by their teaching and example amongst the laity. His popularity as preacher at Bethlebem Chapel soon attracted hundreds to hear him, and ultimately led to his being appointed Confessor to the Queen of Bohemia. Indeed, so great was his influence, that while he restricted his eloquent denunciations to the laity, the clergy themselves looked with favour upon him, and Monks, Priests, and Friars were frequently among his hearers; but when, ere long, he commenced the same course with the clergy, and denounced the abuses within the Church, these became his bitterest enemies.

In the year 1403 Sbinko was appointed Archbishop of Prague. He was one of those men (to whom in our paper of last week we alluded) who saw danger in allowing the corruptions in the priesthood to continue unreformed. He therefore looked upon the work which Huss was doing with favour, and gave him his countenance and support, in spite of the animosity of the monks and friars, and many of the clergy. As one who dared thus openly to attack the hierarchy, Huss found a friend, too, in the King of Bohemia, who bore an ancient grudge against the Church, for the part it had taken in preventing his election as Emperor. Thus countenanced by the authorities both of the Church and of the State in Bohemia, Huss continued to attack, with unsparing zeal, the corruptions of his time, as exemplified in the lives of the priests and of the people. His attacks on the hierarchy rendered his teaching acceptable to large numbers, who had become indoctrinated with the views of Wycliffe, whose writings had been introduced into Bohemia many years before, as also to those who may be looked upon as secret followers of Peter Waldus, of whom there were many in this country.

Bohemia was, of old, a land of heresy. We saw in a former article how Peter Waldus found his last refuge there, and all the efforts of the Church had been insufficient to root out the effects of his teaching. There had always been Waldenses in the land where lay the bones of Waldus. The fact of Richard II. of England having married a Bohemian Princess had drawn the two countries into intimate relations at the time when Wycliffe's popularity was at its height, and while yet he was patronised by the Court. Many of the Bohemian nobility visited England, and became acquainted with the writings and teachings of Wycliffe, and some studied at Oxford under: him. This led to a close connection between the Universities of Oxford and Prague, and there is but little doubt that Wycliffe's writings became well known in the latter University while yet John Huss was a student there. There is no doubt that many of the students at Prague were the children of those who professed in secret the faith of Peter Waldus, and who would therefore be, by early teaching and association, prepared to gladly receive the doctrines of Wycliffe. That these, too, should rapidly spread among the Bohemian people, is a thing not wonderful, considering the wide-spread influence which the teachings and memory of Waldus had continued to exert amongst them. They were, therefore, the breath which fanned into quicker life a spark already existent there.

In loyalty to truth, and in justice to Huss—in order also that we may comprehend what distinguished his Reform from that of Wycliffeit is necessary to mention, that the writings of the great Englishman do not appear to have been the cause of the course taken by Huss at Bethlehem Chapel, inasmuch as he had been repelled from any careful study of them by the brand of heresy which had been affixed to them; and it remained for him, in his riper years, to feel the full force of Wycliffe's teaching. At the same time it is very probable that, though the course he took was determined by the natural bent of his own mind, the influence of Wycliffe was not lost upon him, even in this earlier time. To the careful study of Wycliffe's works he was at last led by his friend, Jerome of Prague. "Jerome," says Neander, “was one of the few knights in Bohemia distinguished by their zeal for “science and literary culture.” And with a more vigorous hand than usnal the Church historian thus draws the portraits of these two men, friends in life, co-workers in the same great cause, and fellow-sufferers for it: “Huss, " a man of more calmness and discretion, of a character at once firm and “ gentle, more inclined to moderation, possessed of less numerous and diver“ sified gifts, of a less excitable spirit, fonder of retirement within himself " and of silent self-seclusion than of mingling in the busy turmoils of life“ Jerome, full of life and ardour, of an enterprising spirit, not disposed to “ remain still and quiet a long time in one place, whom we find now at “ Oxford, next in Paris, then at Jerusalem, in Hungary, at Vienna, and in “Russia, everywhere attracting observation, and everywhere provoking oppo“sition, a man possessed of a gift of discourse that bore everything before “ it, but who, in the excitement of the moment, was easily led to pass beyond sc proper bounds, one who needed the cool considerations of a Huss to act as “a check upon his activity.”*

Between Huss and Jerome, men as opposed in temperament as Luther and Melancthon, a similar friendship arose, and through life they worked together. Jerome had been a scholar of Huss' at Prague, and afterwards visited Oxford, returning in the year 1398 to Prague, bringing with him many of Wycliffe's writings; Huss, with the natural authority of the teacher, had declined to accept Jerome's estimate of their value then. Five years after, the heads of the University of Prague undertook to examine the works of Wycliffe, which had, by Jerome's means, been extensively circulated among the students. Now it was that Huss seems to have made a study of them, and although never accepting some of the doctrinal views of Wycliffe, had his mind powerfully impressed by his. anti-sacerdotal teachings. Jerome now shook hands with his master and friend, and Huss acknowledged that he was right when he said : “ Until now we have had nothing but the shell of science; “Wycliffe first laid open the kernel.” This marks a new era in the life of

* Neander. Church Hist. ix. 354-5. Bohn's Edit.

Huss, who henceforward wavers not in the course he has already begun, his own views having been deepened and considerably widened by the influence of Wycliffe's works.

All honour to Huss for what he did ! for that he dared to preach truth, justice, and goodness, to an impure and unjust generation; but let us not laud him for things he did not, or attribute to him wider or wiser views than those he held. He never became so thorough a Reformer as Wycliffe, although the debt of the Reformation to him was perhaps even greater, for that he sealed his testimony with his blood. John Huss, in his greatest advance, retained much of the priest, and never rose to the grand conception that every man is his own best priest. Priestcraft would never have been supported, but it would never have been destroyed by Huss. Let us not blame him, however, for that, when a greater than he failed in destroying it. Luther himself, after all the mighty work he did, still left Priestcraft amongst us. The Reform of to-day must be to destroy it.

When will the time come for men to recognise the character of the true Priesthood, which knows nought of priestcraft? For there is a true Priesthood; and the idea which it would embody is one upon which Priestcraft has traded. Even as Priests have abused the sacred name of Religion-have turned aside the religious soul of man from the good and true-so have they abused and traded on the necessity which mankind feels for human guidance and sympathy. The heart of man yearns for communion with his brother man; the ignorant and the weak have a natural desire-and a right toomto ask guidance and instruction from their wiser and stronger fellows, the sad and sorrowing have need of the consoling voice of sympathy and love, aye, and the sinful and the fallen may be raised again by the outstretched hand of that charity which covereth a multitude of sins. This, then, is the mark and behest of the true Priesthood—that guidance and sympathy which man, stronger, and wiser, better instructed, more largely gifted, may give to man, weaker or more unfortunate. In this sense all the best amongst us may become priests; the capacity confers the right. Man speaking to man, aiding and assisting man, in whatever way, whether by word or action, is the true Priest. Such a man is God's consecrated servant doing His will ; he needs no sanction of Churches, no imposition of bishop's hands, no ordination of man, his sanction is from heaven, his ordination from on high. Such must be the Priests of the creedless Church of the Future; and to the goodly company, the best and bravest, the wisest and the greatest, will of right belong. With the exception, perhaps, of Wycliffe, the Reformers of the past-Huss no more than the rest-never reached to the height of this conception, and so Priestcraft is with us still. Let us not blame them for this; men do not jump to the possession of all truth at once.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Sbinko finds that Huss is travelling beyond him, and teaches not only the necessity of reforming, but in case reform is found impossible or useless, of destroying the existing hierarchy, and of establishing a priesthood in their place, who shall not foster superstition and set an example of vice and immorality. Huss had, in fact, travelled beyond the Archbishop by reason of his partial adoption of the views of Wycliffe. It was not long before an occasion arose for a rupture between them; when, by an attempt made by Sbinko to purge Hungary of the Wycliffite “heresy," he called forth the energies of Huss in defence of what he held to be the truth. To this, and the results arising thereout, we turn next week,

JAS, L. GOODING,

VO

« AnteriorContinuar »