Oriental Religions and Christianity Part 12

[Footnote 115: _Leaves from an Egyptian Note-book._]

[Footnote 116: _Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race_, p. 241.]

[Footnote 117: For the full text of the letter to the _Standard_, see _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, December, 1888.]

[Footnote 118: _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, 1887, p. 653.]

[Footnote 119: See _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, April, 1888.]

[Footnote 120: Over against Canon Taylor's glowing accounts of this broad and gentle charity we may place the testimony of Palgrave in regard to the remorseless rapacity practised by the Wahabees upon the Shiyaees of Persia while passing through their territory in their pilgrimages to a common shrine. He tells us that "forty gold tomans were fixed as the claim of the Wahabee treasury on every Persian pilgrim for his passage through R'ad, and forty more for a safe conduct through the rest of the empire--eighty in all....

"Every local governor on the way would naturally enough take the hint, and strive not to let the 'enemies of God' (for this is the sole title given by Wahabees to all except themselves) go by without spoiling them more or less....

"So that, all counted up, the legal and necessary dues levied on every Persian Shiyaee while traversing Central Arabia, and under Wahabee guidance and protection, amounted, I found, to about one hundred and fifty gold tomans, equalling nearly sixty pounds sterling, English, no light expenditure for a Persian, and no despicable gain to an Arab."--Palgrave's _Central and Eastern Africa_, p. 161.]

[Footnote 121: Dodds: _Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ_, p. 118.]

[Footnote 122: _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, November, 1887.]

[Footnote 123: _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, February, 1888, p.


[Footnote 124: _Church Missionary Intelligencer_, April, 1888.]



There are two conflicting theories now in vogue in regard to the origin of religion. The first is that of Christian theists as taught in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, viz., that the human race in its first ancestry, and again in the few survivors of the Deluge, possessed the knowledge of the true God. It is not necessary to suppose that they had a full and mature conception of Him, or that that conception excluded the idea of other gods. No one would maintain that Adam or Noah comprehended the nature of the Infinite as it has been revealed in the history of God's dealings with men in later times. But from their simple worship of one God their descendants came gradually to worship various visible objects with which they associated their blessings--the sun as the source of warmth and vitality, the rain as imparting a quickening power to the earth, the spirits of ancestors to whom they looked with a special awe, and finally a great variety of created things instead of the invisible Creator. The other theory is that man, as we now behold him, has been developed from lower forms of animal life, rising first to the state of a mere human animal, but gradually acquiring intellect, conscience, and finally a soul;--that ethics and religion have been developed from instinct by social contact, especially by ties of family and the tribal relation; that altruism which began with the instinctive care of parents for their offspring, rose to the higher domain of religion and began to recognize the claims of deity; that God, if there be a God, never revealed himself to man by any preternatural means, but that great souls, like Moses, Isaiah, and Plato, by their higher and clearer insight, have gained loftier views of deity than others, and as prophets and teachers have made known their inspirations to their fellow-men. Gradually they have formed rituals and elaborated philosophies, adding such supernatural elements as the ignorant fancy of the masses was supposed to demand.

According to this theory, religions, like everything else, have grown up from simple germs: and it is only in the later stages of his development that man can be said to be a religious being. While an animal merely, and for a time even after he had attained to a rude and savage manhood, a life of selfish passion and marauding was justifiable, since only thus could the survival of the fittest be secured and the advancement of the race attained.[125] It is fair to say that there are various shades of the theory here presented--some materialistic, some theistic, others having a qualified theism, and still others practically agnostic. Some even who claim to be Christians regard the various religions of men as so many stages in the divine education of the race--all being under the direct guidance of God, and all designed to lead ultimately to Christianity which is the goal.

That God has overruled all things, even the errors and wickedness of men, for some wise object will not be denied; that He has implanted in the human understanding many correct conceptions of ethical truth, so that noble principles are found in the teachings of all religious systems; that God is the author of all truth and all right impulses, even in heathen minds, is readily admitted. But that He has directly planned and chosen the non-Christian religions on the principle that half-truths and perverted truths and the direct opposites of the truth, were best adapted to certain stages of development--in other words, that He has causatively led any nation into error and consequent destruction as a means of preparing for subsequent generations something higher and better, we cannot admit. The logic of such a conclusion would lead to a remorseless fatalism. Everything would depend on the age and the environment in which one's lot were cast. We cannot believe that fetishism and idolatry have been God's kindergarten method of training the human race for the higher and more spiritual service of His kingdom.

Turning from the testimony of the Scriptures on the one hand and the _a priori_ assumptions of evolution on the other, what is the witness of the actual history of religions? Have they shown an upward or a downward development? Do they appear to have risen from polytheism toward simpler and more spiritual forms, or have simple forms been ramified into polytheism?[126] If we shall be able to establish clear evidence that monotheistic or even henotheistic types of faith existed among all, or nearly all, the races at the dawn of history, a very important point will have been gained. The late Dr. Henry B. Smith, after a careful perusal of Ebrard's elaborate presentation of the religions of the ancient and the modern world, and his clear proofs that they had at first been invariably monotheistic and had gradually lapsed into ramified forms of polytheism, says in his review of Ebrard's work: "We do not know where to find a more weighty reply to the assumptions and theories of those writers who persist in claiming, according to the approved hypothesis of a merely naturalistic evolution, that the primitive state of mankind was the lowest and most debased form of polytheistic idolatry, and that the higher religions have been developed out of these base rudiments. Dr. Ebrard shows conclusively that the facts all lead to another conclusion, that gross idolatry is a degeneration of mankind from antecedent and purer forms of religious worship.... He first treats of the civilized nations of antiquity, the Aryan and Indian religions, the Vedas, the Indra period of Brahmanism and Buddhism; then of the religion of the Iranians, the Avesta of the Parsees; next of the Greeks and Romans, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, and the heathen Semitic forms of worship, including the Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. His second division is devoted to the half-civilized and savage races in the North and West of Europe, in Asia and Polynesia (Tartars, Mongols, Malays, and Cushites); then the races of America, including a minute examination of the relations of the different races here to the Mongols, Japanese, and old Chinese immigrations."[127]

Ebrard himself, in summing up the results of these prolonged investigations, says: "We have nowhere been able to discover the least trace of any forward and upward movement from fetichism to polytheism, and from that again to a gradually advancing knowledge of the one God; but, on the contrary, we have found among all the peoples of the heathen world a most decided tendency to sink from an earlier and relatively purer knowledge of God toward something lower."[128]

If these conclusions, reached by Ebrard and endorsed by the scholarly Dr. Henry B. Smith, are correct, they are of great importance; they bring to the stand the witness of the false religions themselves upon an issue in which historic testimony as distinguished from mere theories is in special demand in our time. Of similar import are the well-considered words of Professor Naville, in the first of his lectures on modern atheism.[129] He says: "Almost all pagans seem to have had a glimpse of the divine unity over the multiplicity of their idols, and of the rays of the divine holiness across the saturnalia of their Olympi. It was a Greek (Cleanthus) who wrote these words: 'Nothing is accomplished on the earth without Thee, O God, save the deeds which the wicked perpetrate in their folly.' It was in a theatre at Athens, that the chorus of a tragedy sang, more than two thousand years ago: 'May destiny aid me to preserve, unsullied, the purity of my words, and of all my actions, according to those sublime laws which, brought forth in the celestial heights, have the raven alone for their father, to which the race of mortals did not give birth and which oblivion shall never entomb. In them is a supreme God, and one who waxes not old.' It would be easy to multiply quotations of this order and to show, in the documents of Grecian and Roman civilization, numerous traces of the knowledge of the only and holy God."

With much careful discrimination, Dr. William A.P. Martin, of the Peking University, has said: "It is customary with a certain school to represent religion as altogether the fruit of an intellectual process.

It had its birth, say they, in ignorance, is modified by every stage in the progress of knowledge, and expires when the light of philosophy reaches its noon-day. The fetish gives place to a personification of the powers of nature, and this poetic pantheon is, in time, superseded by the high idea of unity in nature expressed by monotheism. This theory has the merit of verisimilitude. It indicates what might be the process if man were left to make his own religion; but it has the misfortune to be at variance with facts. A wide survey of the history of civilized nations (and the history of others is beyond reach) shows that the actual process undergone by the human mind in its religious development is precisely opposite to that which this theory supposes; in a word, that man was not left to construct his own creed, but that his blundering logic has always been active in its attempts to corrupt and obscure a divine original. The connection subsisting between the religious systems of ancient and distant countries presents many a problem difficult of solution. Indeed, their mythologies and religious rites are generally so distinct as to admit the hypothesis of an independent origin; but the simplicity of their earliest beliefs exhibits an unmistakable resemblance, suggestive of a common source.

"China, India, Egypt, and Greece all agree in the monotheistic type of their early religion. The Orphic hymns, long before the advent of the popular divinities, celebrated the Pantheos, the Universal God. The odes compiled by Confucius testify to the early worship of Shangte, the Supreme Euler. The Vedas speak of 'one unknown true Being, all-present, all-powerful; the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe.'

And in Egypt, as late as the time of Plutarch, there were still vestiges of a monotheistic worship. 'The other Egyptians,' he says, 'all made offerings at the tombs of the sacred beasts; but the inhabitants of the Thebad stood alone in making no such offerings, not regarding as a god anything that can die, and acknowledging no god but one, whom they call Kneph, who had no birth, and can have no death. Abraham, in his wanderings, found the God of his fathers known and honored in Salem, in Gerar, and in Memphis; while at a later day Jethro, in Midian, and Balaam, in Mesopotamia, were witnesses that the knowledge of Jehovah was not yet extinct in those countries.'"[130]

Professor Max Muller speaks in a similar strain of the lapse of mankind from earlier and simpler types of faith to low and manifold superstitions: "Whenever we can trace back a religion to its first beginning," says the distinguished Oxford professor, "we find it free from many of the blemishes that offend us in its later phases. The founders of the ancient religions of the world, as far as we can judge, were minds of a high stamp, full of noble aspirations, yearning for truth, devoted to the welfare of their neighbors, examples of purity and unselfishness. What they desired to found upon earth was but seldom realized, and their sayings, if preserved in their original form, offered often a strange contrast to the practice of those who profess to be their disciples. As soon as a religion is established, and more particularly when it has become the religion of a powerful state, the foreign and worldly elements encroach more and more on the original foundation, and human interests mar the simplicity and purity of the plan which the founder had conceived in his own heart and matured in his communings with his God."[131]

But in pursuing our subject we should clearly determine the real question before us. How much may we expect to prove from the early history of the non-Christian systems? Not certainly that all nations once received a knowledge of the Old Testament revelation, as some have claimed, nor that all races possessed at the beginning of their several historic periods one and the same monotheistic faith. We cannot prove from non-scriptural sources that their varying monotheistic conceptions sprang from a common belief. We cannot prove either the supernatural revelation which Professor Max Muller emphatically rejects, nor the identity of the well-nigh universal henotheisms which he professes to believe. We cannot prove that the worship of one God as supreme did not coexist with a sort of worship of inferior deities or ministering spirits. Almost as a rule, the worship of ancestors, or spirits, or rulers, or the powers of nature, or even totems and fetishes has been rendered as subordinate to the worship of the one supreme deity who created and upholds all things. Even the monotheism of Judaism and of Christianity has been attended with the belief in angels and the worship of intercessory saints, to say nothing of the many superstitions which prevail among the more ignorant classes. We shall only attempt to show that monotheism, in the sense of worshipping _one God as supreme_, is found in nearly all the early teachings of the world. That these crude faiths are one in the origin is only presumable, if we leave the testimony of the Bible out of the account.

When on a summer afternoon we see great shafts of light arising and spreading fan-shaped from behind a cloud which lies along the western horizon, we have a strong presumption that they all spring from one great luminary toward which they converge, although that luminary is hidden from our view. So tracing the convergence of heathen faiths with respect to one original monotheism, back to the point where the prehistoric obscurity begins, we may on the same principle say that all the evidence in the case, and it is not small, points toward a common origin for the early religious conceptions of mankind.

Professor Robert Flint, in his scholarly article on theism in "The Britannica," seems to discard the idea that the first religion of mankind was monotheism; but a careful study of his position will show that he has in view those conceptions of monotheism which are common to us, or, as he expresses it, "monotheism in the ordinary or proper sense of the term," "monotheism properly so called," "monotheism which excludes polytheism," etc. Moreover, he maintains that we cannot, from historical sources, learn what conceptions men first had of God. Even when speaking of the Old Testament record, he says: "These chapters (of Genesis), although they plainly teach monotheism and represent the God whose words and acts are recorded in the Bible as no mere national God, but the only true God, they do not teach what is alone in the question--that there was a primitive monotheism, a monotheism revealed and known from the beginning. They give no warrant to the common assumption that God revealed monotheism to Adam, Noah, and others before the Flood, and that the traces of monotheistic beliefs and tendencies in heathendom are derivable from the tradition of this primitive and antediluvian monotheism. The one true God is represented as making himself known by particular words and in particular ways to Adam, but is nowhere said to have taught him that He only was God." It is plain that Professor Flint is here dealing with a conception of monotheism which is exclusive of all other gods. And his view is undoubtedly correct, so far as Adam was concerned. There was no more need of teaching him that his God was the only God, than that Eve was the only woman. With Noah the case is not so plain. He doubtless worshipped God amid the surroundings of polytheistic heathenism. Enoch probably had a similar environment, and there is no good reason for supposing that their monotheism may not have been as exclusive as that of Abraham. But with respect to the Gentile nations, the dim traces of this monism or henotheism which Professor Flint seems to accord to Adam and to Noah, is all that we are contending for, and all that is necessary to the argument of this lecture. We may even admit that heathen deities may sometimes have been called by different names while the one source of power was intended. Different names seem to have been employed to represent different manifestations of the one God of the Old Testament according to His varied relations toward His people.

There are those who deny this polyonomy, as Max Muller has called it, and who maintain that the names in the earliest Veda represented distinct deities; but, by similar reasoning, Professor Tiele and others insist that three different Hebrew Gods, according to their respective names, were worshipped in successive periods of the Jewish history. It seems quite possible, therefore, that a too restrictive definition of monotheism may prove too much, by opening the way for a claim that even the Jewish and Christian faith, with its old Testament names of God, its angels, its theophanies, and its fully developed trinity, is not strictly monotheistic. For our present purpose, traces of the worship of one supreme God--call it monotheism or henotheism--is all that is required.

With these limitations and qualifications in view, let us turn to the history of some of the leading non-Christian faiths. Looking first to India, we find in the 129th hymn of the Rig Veda, a passage which not only presents the conception of one only supreme and self-existing Being, but at the same time bears significant resemblance to our own account of the creation from chaos. It reads thus:

"In the beginning there was neither naught nor aught, Then there was neither atmosphere nor sky above, There was neither death nor immortality, There was neither day nor night, nor light, nor darkness, Only the EXISTENT ONE breathed calmly self-contained.

Naught else but He was there, naught else above, beyond.

Then first came darkness hid in darkness, gloom in gloom; Next all was water, chaos indiscrete, In which ONE lay void, shrouded in nothingness."[132]

In the 121st hymn of the same Veda occurs a passage which seems to resemble the opening of the Gospel of St. John. It reads thus, as translated by Sir Monier Williams:

"Him let us praise, the golden child that was In the beginning, who was born the Lord, Who made the earth and formed the sky."

"The one born Lord" reminds us of the New Testament expression, "the only begotten Son." Both were "in the beginning;" both were the creators of the world. While there is much that is mysterious in these references, the idea of oneness and supremacy is too plain to be mistaken. Professor Max Muller has well expressed this fact when he said: "There is a monotheism which precedes polytheism in the Veda; and even in the invocation of their (inferior) gods, the remembrance of _a_ God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of an idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds."[133]

These monotheistic conceptions appear to have been common to the Aryans before their removal from their early home near the sources of the Oxus, and we shall see further on that in one form or another they survived among all branches of the migrating race. The same distinguished scholar traces the early existence of monotheism in a series of brief and rapid references to nearly all the scattered Aryans not only, but also to the Turanians on the North and East, to the Tungusic, Mongolic, Tartaric, and Finnic tribes. "Everywhere," he says, "we find a worship of nature, and the spirits of the departed, but behind it all there rises a belief in some higher power called by different names, who is Maker and Protector of the world, and who always resides in heaven."[134] He also speaks of an ancient African faith which, together with its worship of reptiles and of ancestors, showed a vague hope of a future life, "and a not altogether faded reminiscence of a supreme God," which certainly implies a previous knowledge.[135]

The same prevalence of one supreme worship rising above all idolatry he traces among the various tribes of the Pacific Islands. His generalizations are only second to those of Ebrard. Although he rejects the theory of a supernatural revelation, yet stronger language could hardly be used than that which he employs in proof of a universal monotheistic faith.[136] "Nowhere," he says, "do we find stronger arguments against idolatry, nowhere has the unity of God been upheld more strenuously against the errors of polytheism, than by some of the ancient sages of India. Even in the oldest of the sacred books, the Rig Veda, composed three or four thousand years ago, where we find hymns addressed to the different deities of the sky, the air, the earth, the rivers, the protest of the human heart against many gods breaks forth from time to time with no uncertain sound." Professor Muller's whole position is pretty clearly stated in his first lecture on "The Science of Religion," in which he protests against the idea that God once gave to man "a _preternatural_ revelation" concerning Himself; and yet he gives in this same lecture this striking testimony to the doctrine of an early and prevailing monotheistic faith:

"Is it not something worth knowing," he says, "worth knowing even to us after the lapse of four or five thousand years, that before the separation of the Aryan race, before the existence of Sanskrit, Greek, or Latin, before the gods of the Veda had been worshipped, and before there was a sanctuary of Zeus among the sacred oaks of Dodona, one Supreme deity had been found, had been named, had been invoked by the ancestors of our race, and had been invoked by a name which has never been excelled by any other name?" And again, on the same subject, he says: "If a critical examination of the ancient language of the Jews leads to no worse results than those which have followed from a careful interpretation of the petrified language of ancient India and Greece, we need not fear; we shall be gainers, not losers. Like an old precious medal, the ancient religion, after the rust of ages has been removed, will come out in all its purity and brightness; and the image which it discloses will be the image of the Father, the Father of all the nations upon earth; and the superscription, when we can read it again, will be, not only in Judea, but in the languages of all the races of the world, the Word of God, revealed where alone it can be revealed--revealed in the heart of man."[137]

The late Professor Banergea, of Calcutta, in a publication entitled "The Aryan Witness," not only maintained the existence of monotheism in the early Vedas, but with his rare knowledge of Sanskrit and kindred tongues, he gathered from Iranian as well as Hindu sources many evidences of a monotheism common to all Aryans. His conclusions derive special value from the fact that he was a high caste Hindu, and was not only well versed in the sacred language, but was perfectly familiar with Hindu traditions and modes of thought. He was as well qualified to judge of early Hinduism as Paul was of Judaism, and for the same reason. And from his Hindu standpoint, as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, though afterward a Christian convert, he did not hesitate to declare his belief, not only that the early Vedic faith was monotheistic, but that it contained traces of that true revelation, once made to men.[138]

In the same line we find the testimony of the various types of revived Aryanism of our own times. The Brahmo Somaj, the Arya Somaj, and other similar organizations, are not only all monotheistic, but they declare that monotheism was the religion of the early Vedas. And many other Hindu reforms, some of them going as far back as the twelfth century, have been so many returns to monotheism. A recent Arya catechism published by Ganeshi, asserts in its first article that there is one only God, omnipotent, infinite, and eternal. It proceeds to show that the Vedas present but one, and that when hymns were addressed to Agni, Vayu, Indra, etc., it was only a use of different names for one and the same Being.[139]

It represents God as having all the attributes of supreme Deity. He created the world by His direct power and for the revelation of His glory to His creatures. Man, according to the Aryas, came not by evolution nor by any of the processes known to Hindu philosophy, but by direct creation from existing atoms.

In all this it is easy to see that much has been borrowed from the Christian conception of God's character and attributes, but the value of this Aryan testimony lies in the fact that it claims for the ancient Vedas a clear and positive monotheism.

If we consult the sacred books of China, we shall find there also many traces of an ancient faith which antedates both Confucianism and Taouism. The golden age of the past to which all Chinese sages look with reverence, was the dynasty of Yao and Shun, which was eighteen centuries earlier than the period of Confucius and Laotze. The records of the Shu-king which Confucius compiled, and from which unfortunately his agnosticism excluded nearly all its original references to religion, nevertheless retain a full account of certain sacred rites performed by Shun on his accession to the full imperial power. In those rites the worship of One God as supreme is distinctly set forth as a "customary service," thereby implying that it was already long established.

Separate mention is also made of offerings to inferior deities, as if these were honored at his own special instance. It is unquestionably true that in China, and indeed in all lands, there sprang up almost from the first a tendency to worship, or at least to fear, unseen spirits.

This tendency has coexisted with all religions of the world--even with the Old Testament cult--even with Christianity. To the excited imaginations of men, especially the ignorant classes, the world has always been a haunted world, and just in proportion as the light of true religion has become dim, countless hordes of ghosts and demons have appeared. When Confucius arose this gross animism had almost monopolized the worship of his countrymen, and universal corruption bore sway. He was not an original thinker, but only a compiler of the ancient wisdom, and in his selections from the traditions of the ancients, he compiled those things only which served his great purpose of building up, from the relations of family and kindred, the complete pyramid of a well-ordered state in which the Emperor should hold to his subjects the place of deity. If such honor to a mortal seemed extravagant, yet in his view a wise emperor was far worthier of reverence than the imaginary ghosts of the popular superstitions. Yet, even Confucius could not quite succeed in banishing the idea of divine help, nor could he destroy that higher and most venerable worship which has ever survived amid all the corruptions of polytheism. Professor Legge, of Oxford, has claimed, from what he regards as valid linguistic proofs, that at a still earlier period than the dynasty of Yao and Shun there existed in China the worship of one God. He says: "Five thousand years ago the Chinese were monotheists--not henotheists, but monotheists"--though he adds that even then there was a constant struggle with nature-worship and divination.[140]

The same high authority cites a remarkable prayer of an Emperor of the Ming dynasty (1538 A.D.) to show that in spite of the agnosticism and reticence of Confucius, Shangte has been worshipped in the centuries which have followed his time. The prayer is very significant as showing how the One Supreme God stands related to the subordinate gods which polytheism has introduced. The Emperor was about to decree a slight change in the name of Shangte to be used in the imperial worship. He first addressed the spirits of the hills, the rivers, and the seas, asking them to intercede for him with Shangte. "We will trouble you,"

said he, "on our behalf to exert your spiritual power and to display your vigorous efficacy, communicating our poor desires to Shangte, and praying him graciously to grant us his acceptance and regard, and to be pleased with the title which we shall reverently present." But very different was the language used when he came to address Shangte himself.

"Of old, in the beginning," he began,--"Of old in the beginning, there was the great chaos without form, and dark. The five elements had not begun to revolve nor the sun and moon to shine. In the midst thereof there presented itself neither form nor sound. Thou, O spiritual Sovereign! earnest forth in thy presidency, and first didst divide the grosser parts from the purer. Thou madest heaven: Thou madest earth: Thou madest man. All things got their being with their producing power.

O Te! when Thou hadst opened the course for the inactive and active forces of matter to operate, thy making work went on. Thou didst produce, O Spirit! the sun and moon and five planets, and pure and beautiful was their light. The vault of heaven was spread out like a curtain, and the square earth supported all on it, and all creatures were happy. I, thy servant, presume reverently to thank Thee." Farther on he says: "All the numerous tribes of animated beings are indebted to Thy favor for their being. Men and creatures are emparadised in Thy love. All living things are indebted to Thy goodness. But who knows whence his blessings come to him? It is Thou, O Lord! who art the parent of all things."[141]

Surely this prayer humbly offered by a monarch would not be greatly out of place among the Psalms of David. Its description of the primeval chaos strikingly resembles that which I have quoted from the Rig Veda, and both resemble that of the Mosaic record. If the language used does not present the clear conception of one God, the Creator and the Upholder of all things, and a supreme and personal Sovereign over kings and even "gods," then language has no meaning. The monotheistic conception of the second petition is as distinct from the polytheism of the first, as any prayer to Jehovah is from a Roman Catholic's prayer for the intercession of the saints; and there is no stronger argument in the one case against monotheism than in the other. Dr. Legge asserts that both in the Shu-king and in the Shiking, "Te," or "Shangte,"

appears as a personal being ruling in heaven and in earth, the author of man's moral nature, the governor among the nations, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the evil.[142] There are proofs that Confucius, though in his position with respect to God he fell short of the doctrine of the ancient sages, yet believed in the existence of Shangte as a personal being. When in old age he had finished his writings, he laid them on an altar upon a certain hill-top, and kneeling before the altar he returned thanks that he had been spared to complete his work.[143]

Max Muller says of him: "It is clear from many passages that with Confucius, Tien, or the Spirit of Heaven, was the supreme deity, and that he looked upon the other gods of the people--the spirits of the air, the mountains, and the rivers,[144] and the spirits of the departed, very much with the same feeling with which Socrates regarded the mythological deities of Greece."[145]

But there remains to this day a remarkable evidence of the worship of the supreme God, Shangte, as he was worshipped in the days of the Emperor Shun, 2356 B.C. It is found in the great Temple of Heaven at Peking. Dr. Martin and Professors Legge and Douglas all insist that the sacrifices there celebrated are relics of the ancient worship of a supreme God. China is full of the traces of polytheism; the land swarms with Taouist deities of all names and functions, with Confucian and ancestral tablets, and with Buddhist temples and dagobas; but within the sacred enclosure of this temple no symbol of heathenism appears. Of the August Imperial service Dr. Martin thus eloquently speaks:[146] "Within the gates of the southern division of the capital, and surrounded by a sacred grove so extensive that the silence of its deep shades is never broken by the noise of the busy world around it, stands the Temple of Heaven. It consists of a single tower, whose tiling of resplendent azure is intended to represent the form and color of the aerial vault. It contains no image; but on a marble altar a bullock is offered once a year as a burnt sacrifice, while the monarch of the empire prostrates himself in adoration of the Spirit of the Universe. This is the high place of Chinese devotion, and the thoughtful visitor feels that he ought to tread its courts with unsandalled feet, for no vulgar idolatry has entered here. This mountain-top still stands above the waves of corruption, and on this solitary altar there still rests a faint ray of its primeval faith. The tablet which represents the invisible deity is inscribed with the name Shangte, the Supreme Ruler, and as we contemplate the Majesty of the Empire before it, while the smoke ascends from his burning sacrifice, our thoughts are irresistably carried back to the time when the King of Salem officiated as priest of the Most High God. There is," he adds, "no need of extended argument to establish the fact that the early Chinese were by no means destitute of the knowledge of the true God." Dr. Legge, the learned translator of the Chinese classics, shares so fully the views here expressed, that he actually put his shoes from off his feet before ascending the great altar, feeling that amidst all the mists and darkness of the national superstition, a trace of the glory of the Infinite Jehovah still lingered there. And in many a discussion since he has firmly maintained that that is in a dim way an altar of the true and living God.

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