페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

lished by his conquests. At the famous battle of Thymbra, he defeated the Babylonians, and overtbrew his enemies; and after a long siege he took the city of Babylon, as we have before ob. served, by changing the course of the river Eu. phrates, through whose channel he made his way into the heart of the city, whilst the inhabitants were immersed in the drunkenness of a festival. Asia, but more particularly Media and Persia, gave birth to that odious despotism in government, which subjects the lives and proper. ties of multitudes to the absolute disposal of an individual.

'If we may judge from the peaceable state of the people, the best as well as the most ancient form of government is monarchy, moderated by prudent laws; and the execution supported by a prince who makes those laws the rule of his own conduct. The disciples of Plato, of Aristotle, and of Plutarch, are obliged to acknowledge this, notwithstanding their republican prejudices.

That education, however, which Plato says was given to the Persians who were intended to succeed to the crown, was well calculated to make them great men, and excellent kings. At seven years of age, they were taught the bodily exercises ; after which the chief eupuchs or officers of the palace, instructed hem in the first lessons of morality. At fourteen, they were put under the care of four men eminently distinguished by their prudence and abilities. One of these preceptors, taught them the doctrines of the Magi, or the science of religion and government; a second, accustomed them to speak the truth, and to do justice; a third, to subdue their passions by temperance ; and the fourth, to acquire courage superior to every sense of fear and danger. Plat. in Alcib. I.

Agriculture, that purse of the human race, that source of plenty, health, and innocent pleasure, was in an eminent degree known and encouraged in i'ersia.

Justice likewise seems to have had a proper influence, at least for a time, on the Persian empire. The accused was confronted with the accuser, who in case of having charged bim wrongfully, suffered the punishment due to the erime alleged. An ancient law forbade the prince to punish the first offence with death; the whole tenour of a guilty person's life was examined ; and if the good was found to outweigh the bad, the rigour of the law was mitigated. Herod. l. It seems that, except a few attrocious crimes which must have proceeded from hardened hearts, and required dreadful examples, no faults, which were merely the effect of human frailty, could efface the merits of a virtuous life. How many ways are there of punishing, without taking the lives of persons whose services might make reparation for their offences,

Of all the religions which have been of human invention, there is not one that approaches nearer the truth, or is less contaminated with superstition than that of the Persians, which still subsists among their descendants, the Persi, or the Guebres. The Abbé Millot further says, that Herodotus, and some other writers, were but ill informed on this subject, as well as on divers others, of which they have spoken from bad authority. They have represented the Persians as idolaters, who worshipped the sun, fire, and deities formed by their own hands; but inquiry has dispelled such mistakes, and there are incontestable evidences to prove, that they acknowledged the unity of God, and to Him their worship was immediately directed.

Their Mithras or the Sun, and the sacred fire, which they carefully preserved, were only emblems of the Divine power. They had no temples, declaring that it was an insult to Deity, to inclose him within walls. They rejected images as unworthy of the Invisible Being, and they de

tested the Sabian superstition, that is to say, Chaldean idolatry'. Their famous legislator Zoroaster, inculcated the doctrine, that the good principle is a supreme, eternal, and independent Being, who created light and darkness, and is called Oromazes. The bad principle, Arimanus, derives his origin from darkness; and though opposed in every thing to the purposes of Oromazes, yet in spite of himself, ministers continu. ally to his glory; and from thence the mixture of good and evil is derived.

The prevalent opinion is, that Zoroaster lived in the time of Darius, son of Hystaspes. From this sketch of the religion of the Persians, we shall see they were a people prepared to contemn and despise the abominable superstitions of the Egyptians and Babylonians, to confound their idols, and to break all their images to pieces.

It was 536 years before Christ, that Cyrus published the famous decree, which permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and directed them to rebuild the House of the Lord ; and all the vessels of the House of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had put in the house of his gods, Cyrus numbered unto Sheshbazzar, prince of Judah, to bring up to Jerusalem.

It has been stated in the 34th chapter of this work, that Jeremiah was carried captive into Egypt, along with those who fled from Jerusalem, through fear of being carried captives to Babylon.

In Egypt he delivered many prophecies concerning the conquest of the country. From which some knowledge of God, and of the fulfilment of the prophecies, would be derived to the Egyptians. And we have seen, that when the Persians prevailed and subdued Egypt, Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, treated the gods of the Egyptians with marvellous contempt ; laughed at the people and chastised the priests, for worshipping such deities. He slew with his own hand Apis, or the sacred Ox, which the Egyptians worshipped ; and burnt and demolished their other idols and temples.

Alexander the great, subverted the Persian empire, both in Egypt and other parts. About that time it was largely foretold, that true religion and the worship of the God of Israel, should begin to spread and prevail in the land of Egypt. And what was ever more unlikely to happen, than the conversion of a people so sunk and lost in idolatry of the worst kind? The Egyptians were the great corrupters of the world, the source of polytheism to many nations, and lad degenerated to the most monstrous and beastly worship that we find in history.

.

« 이전계속 »