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Divine and Incarnate Saviour
TRACED IN THE
HISTORY AND RITES OF BACCHUS.
BY REV. THOMAS SMYTH, D. D.
PRIMITIVE REVELATION IN PAGAN MYTHOLOGY.
The attention of the learned world is now very extensively directed to the hidden recesses and deeply imbedded contents of our globe, in the hope of discovering mysteries of our world's history which have, until now, been hidden from man. The same insatiable curiosity is found giving energy to the most persevering efforts to recover the knowledge which has been concealed for thousands of years under the veil of hieroglyphical and other ancient forms of writing, painting, and engraving. These monumental witnesses have been reserved by God, that "in these last times" He might make the very stones of the earth and the everlasting hills cry out against the pantheistic atheism and scoffing incredulity of the age. So far they have been made nobly to assert eternal Providence, and vindicate the ways of God to man; and as discoveries advance, such floods of light will, we doubt not, be poured upon the Sacred volume as to make it evident to the most blinded sceptic that it is far easier for Heaven and earth to pass away, than for one jot or tittle of all that God has said to remain unfulfilled.
There is still another storehouse of stratified facts which still remains in chaotic darkness, and from which new and independent evidence will, we believe, be derived to substantiate the claims of the Bible as being "all Scripture"-all "written by holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"-and all therefore given by inspiration. This treasury is the yet hidden and undisclosed mysteries of Pagan mythology, as it has existed in every age and region of the earth. We feel assured that in the deep strata of these mythological fables, and rites, and sacrifices, there are remaining fossil truths which, when dug out from their hard and slimy beds, and cleaned and cleared of all surrounding incrustations, will bring to light the great truths of primitive Revelation,the doctrines, the faith, the hopes, and the consolations which lived in the hearts of the original fathers of mankind, as they received them fresh and pure from the Revelation of Heaven.
A specimen of such fossil remains we will now produce, and the real nature and amount of its evidence we will attempt to unfold. This is none other than the rites and worship of Bacchus, known as the son of Jupiter, and whose festivals, called Orgies, Bacchanalia, or Dionysia, were introduced from Egypt into Greece. These rites, and the whole mythology of
this riotous Diety, involving as they do every species of revelry, indecency and debauchery, might seem to be essentially contradictory to anything pure, sacred, or Divine; and yet our object is nothing less than to trace through them the elements of the early prophecies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many prophetical passages in the Old Testament, which all bear upon one grand point, and that is the appearance of a mighty deliverer who should come to overthrow the kingdom of darkness, recover men from moral and physical evil. and restore the age of primitive peace and holiness. These vaticinations extend chronologically from the garden of Eden. through the patriarchal and levitical dispensations, to the advent of Him of whom they speak, and now extend to the second advent of the same glorious Being, at the final dissolution of all things by a fearful deluge of fire. To reveal and make known this coming Redeemer, as the foundation of human hopes and expectations, was the great end and object of the patriarchal dispensation. The knowledge of the Divine unity, the inculcation of morality, the illustration of the Divine attributes, or any truths of natural theology, which were already known, were wholly insufficient to meet the wants of man's fallen condition. Men must have understood the obvious and no doubt clearly explained meaning of the original promise concerning the seed of the woman. This was made evident to them by the visible manifestation of this voice of Jehovahthe word or name of the Lord in the garden. This character -the man Jehovah who spake with Abraham, wrestled with Jacob, and frequently appeared to the ancient patriarchsalways manifested Himself in the outward fashion as a man, and is ordinarily styled the angel or messenger of Jehovah.* By Him the institution of sacrifices was given to our first parents, and the language of Eve makes it plain that she understood the promised seed to be the Divine word or voice manifested in human form;† and the universal prevalence of sacrifices, as expiatory and vicarious, proves also that the doctrine of atonement, in its grand outlines, must have been made known to our first parents.
The apostacy of Cain consisted in the rejection of this atonement, and soon lead among his descendants to open and absolute infidelity, while the doctrine of the Divine Redeemer was gradually merged into the astronomical hero-worship. Every child would thus become in hope and expectation, the incarnate Deity; and every man who had been remarkable in life, be honoured as Divine in death, and be considered as having been
*See Faber's Horae Mosaicae, B. ii. sec. 1, ch 2, &c. and Treatise on Dispensations, vol. 1, p. 189, &c.
†Faber, do. p. 200.
translated to Heaven. The sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars were thus considered as the abodes of deities of which they were represented as the bodies, and hence the common language in which these heavenly orbs are described as incorruptible and immortal souls instinct with life.-Heroworship and the worship of celestial bodies, which has prevailed in India, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Britain, Scythia, America, every where, must therefore have been blended into one system previous to the dispersion at Babel.
Hero-worship was grafted on the original promise of an incarnate Redeemer, and as every remarkable man-Adam, Noah, and other eminent personages-had been so regarded, the doctrine was established that the Divine Word had repeatedly manifested Himself in a human figure, had been born an infant, and had permamently dwelt among men for purposes of vengeance or reformation. The doctrine of an incarnate anthropomorphic Deity, under the express title of "the Son of God," prevailed in the Babylonish empire down to the time of Nebuchadnezzar, (see Dan. ii. 25;) and to this day the principal God of China, Thibet, Siam, and other large Asiatic districts, is devoutly believed to be born incarnate as an infant in the person of the Dalai Lama. In Egypt the same doctrine prevailed, only that a bull was substituted for an infant. There are, however, recorded instances, even among the Egyptians, of human incarnations. The claim of Alexander, of Antony and Cleopatra, and of the Roman Emperors generally, even before their imagined apotheosis, are illustrations of the same doctrine. Similar also are the Avatars of Hindostan, in which a God-who is sometimes depicted treading on a serpent, while the serpent is in the act of biting his heel,-successively descends to earth in a human or semi-human form. Thus also we find Paul and Barnabas, at Lystra, taken for incarnate manifestations of Mercury and Jupiter.
But still further, this primeval promise is found preserved more wonderfully in the belief that these incarnations of the Deity should be, and had been, Virgin-born. A Virgin-birth is ascribed to the oriental Buddha, to the Chinese Fo-hi, to the Egyptian Phtha, to the Aztack Mextili in Mexico, to the classical Mars and Perseus, and even recently to the Tartar Zenghis. This idea prevails generally throughout the east, where the source of this idea is traced up to a prophecy delivered thousands of years ago.
"The followers of Buddha," says the Asiatic Researches,* "unanimously declared that his incarnation in the womb of a Virgin was foretold several thousand years, though some say one
*Vol. 10, p. 27.