Page images
PDF
EPUB

one thousand dollars a year without doing both himself and his fellows a great injury. If the function of wealth under the divine order is the development of manhood, then it is plain that an equal distribution of it would be altogether inadmissible; for under such a distribution some would obtain far less than they could use with benefit, and others far more.

The other socialistic maxims, “To each according to his needs," and "To each according to his work,” are evidently ambiguous. What needs? The needs of the body or of the spirit? And how can we assure ourselves that by any distribution which we could effect, real needs would be supplied ? Every day we meet in the street men who are undoubtedly in want of food, and who ask us for food; but we know that if we put into their hands the means of purchasing food, they will use it to purchase poison. Any distribution according to supposed needs would thus be constantly perverted. It is impossible for us to ascertain and measure the real needs of men.

"To each according to his works" is equally uncertain. What works? Works of greed or works of love? Works whose aim is sordid or works whose aim is social? According to the divine plan the function of wealth, as we have seen, is the perfection of character and the promotion of social welfare. Wealth is the material for character-building; it is the foundation of the kingdom of heaven. The divine plan must, therefore, be, that wealth shall be so distributed as to secure these great results. And religion which seeks to discern and follow the divine plan, must teach that the wealth of the world will be rightly distributed, only when every man shall have as much as he can wisely use to make himself a better man, and the community in which he lives a better community--so much and no more.

It is obvious that the divine plan is yet far from realization. Other and far less ideal methods of distribution are recognized by our laws, and it would be folly greatly to

change the laws, until radical changes shall have taken place in human nature. But the inquiry of this paper is not what politics or economics have to say about the production and distribution of wealth, but what religion has to say about it. And the councils of religion will furnish to us, as individuals, far higher and safer principles for the guidance of our conduct than those which are current in the political or the industrial world.

To many a man whose portion of this world's goods is very small, religion must say: "You have but little and you ask for more. But it cannot be the will of God that you should have any more. You are using what you have in a way to disfigure and degrade yourself, and to do no good to any one. Until you have learned to make better use of what you have, you mock God by asking for more."

To many a man whose portion is large, religion must say: “You glory in your possessions, and your legal title is probably secure; but you have really no divine right to them. Your wealth is making you hard, cynical, unjust, untruthful, uncharitable; you have built with it a pedestal on which you have lifted yourself above your fellows; you are using it in such a way as to embitter them and alienate them from you and from one another; or, perhaps, you are using it in such a way as to corrupt their minds and debauch their characters; this wealth is not intended for any such uses; you are defeating the purpose of him who has entrusted it to you; it cannot always remain in the power of those who thus misuse it; as God's great designs slowly but surely ripen, the wealth of this world will pass into the hands of men who know his will and do it."

ARTICLE X.

SEMITIC AND ORIENTAL NOTES.

EARLY ISRAELITISH MONOTHEISM.

The discussion as to when the Israelites became, in any proper sense, monotheists, is not yet ended, if indeed, from the nature of the subject and the character of the proofs adducible, it will ever be finally settied for all alike. There is cumulative evidence of various kinds for the prevalence of early monotheism among the Hebrews, but there are also many evidences to the contrary. In the May issue of the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, Rev. Charles James Ball presents some very interesting facts against the monotheistic view.

Among other cases, he cites the fact that in at least two cases Jacob's sons were named after deities quite distinct from the God of Israel, though, as he alleges, often associated with Him in worship. The passage is in Gen. xxx. 9-13 as follows: “When Leah became aware that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob to wife; and Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. With Gad's help' (pointing 779), cried Leah, and named him Gad. After that Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. With Asherah's help,' cried Leah, 'for maidens must needs call me happy'; so she named him Asher."

Gad, Mr. Ball points out, is rightly translated Texn in the Septuagint, and is the Latin Fors Fortuna. In the Babylonian Exile, the Jews are reproached for worshipping this god of good luck. In Isa. Ixv. II we read: “But ye that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for Gad (Fortune), and fill up mingled wine to Meni (Destiny).” These images were probably worshipped in much the same way as the teraphim of David, alluded to in i Sam. xix. 13. He also thinks that perhaps Gad here is a Semitic adaptation of the Accadian Gud, as a title of Merodach (Marduk), who assigns and determines the fate of men and nations.

Asherah is, he continues, known to have represented the female principle of Nature, according to the conceptions of Canaanitish religion. She is always associated with Baal, and her image was even set up in the temple of Jerusalem (2 Kings xxiii. 6). Among the planets she was Venus, just as Gad is associated with Jupiter in the Arabic astrology. Another

[ocr errors]

instance which he cites, is that of the burial by Jacob of all the foreign gods in his family under the terebinth by Shechem (Gen. xxxv. 1-4).

These are not the only instances of this kind in the earlier literature of the Old Testament, and seem to offer pretty clear evidence against anything like a pure monotheistic conception, at least, in either the Jahvist or the Elohist narratives. But there is one thing to be said, in connection with all these cases, and that is, their isolated and comparatively rare character, as connected with the general trend of the worship, which uniformly has Jehovah for its centre and object. These instances look more like survivals, than as indicating a fixed type of worship, though there can be no doubt that Abraham's ancestry and the worship of Sin, the Babylonian Moon-god at Ur, might easily have brought a polytheistic bent into successive generations, both reasonably and naturally. The belief in early monotheism, however, rests not, as Mr. Ball seems to think, upon “special objective revelations" so much as upon the method of explaining with least violence, to the data at our disposal, the phenomena before us. But it is vastly easier to accept a polytheistic touch, in the period from which these examples are chosen, than to suppose, as we are so frequently asked to suppose, that a real monotheism was not attained until after the Captivity. Lapse into the polytheism of Babylonia, during the latter, was natural enough, inasmuch as this usually happens to captive races, that they fall into the religious life and ideas of their conquerors, but hardly is it likely, that, during the prophetic period at its height, the Israelites were anything other than simple monotheists.

Speaking of the little detached passage (Gen. iv. 19-24) about Lamech and his children, Mr. Ball has a much more interesting discovery to relate. Zillah, it appears, was the mother of Tubal-cain, the worker in copper and iron, and his sister's name was Naamah. Mr. Ball points out, the most interesting fact, that, though the Bible has little to say about Tubal-cain, and nothing about Naamah, in both the Babylonian and the Chinese mythology, the inventor of metallurgy shares the honors of his art with his sister, who appears as a co-equal benefactor of mankind. The table as follows shows the connection between the three in a most interesting manner:

FOUNDERS OF METALLURGY.

Old Babylonian.
Bal-gin Bilgi.
Nin ka-(si) or
Nin-gu-(si).

Chinese.
Bak-ki Fuhhi.
Nü kwa-(shi) or
Nü-hi-(shi).

Hebrew, (Tu)bal-cain. Nogma, “Naamah."

As the affinities of the Chinese with the Accadian become more perfectly known, we shall expect a host more of just such connecting links as this. A large number has already been established, and if a sufficient number more develop, the material for a wider induction as to the sources

of the early Hebrew belief in connection with those of the Chinese, will be of first importance for the more accurate study of early religious ideas.

A not uninteresting passage in Mr. Ball's paper is the following, which, though purely personal, is not less striking as showing a type of scholar not so frequently met with as might be desirable:

"Speaking as a sincere Catholic, but also as one whose conviction is that the highest interest of Religion is truth, I do not hesitate to say that the Old Testament itself is in manifold contradiction with that uncritical exegesis which arbitrarily ignores too many of the most original facts and features of its unique records to be worthy even of the serious consideration of earnest seekers after truth. . . . Believing therefore in truth, and in the God of truth, I am not alarmed by the results of recent inquiry nor by the hypotheses which those results seem to warrant in the field of Old Testament studies. ... We can all do something to further or retard progress; and if we are animated by a worthy desire to advance the most sacred of all causes, the cause of that Truth, which is indeed Divine, we shall be content to work our way onward in patience, faith, and humility."

THE THREE RELIGIONS OF CHINA. The already growing interest in the religions of China has received a decided stimulus, from the increasing evidence of the similarity of the primitive religious ideas of China and the earlier inhabitants of the Tigris. Euphrates Valley, and makes a right understanding of the former of very great importance to the students of the latter. In fact, the comparative study of religions has opened here a wide field for investigation, and we may expect that within a few years there will be a much larger study of Chinese in this country than is at present the case.

At the Oriental Congress held in London, in 1892, Professor Legge, of Oxford, presented a most absorbing paper on the theme “ A Fair and Dispassionate Discussion of the Three Doctrines Accepted in China," being a translation, with comments, of a paper or treatise of that title by Lill Mí, a Buddhist writer of the thirteenth century of our era. Liû Mi's book is said to be one of the most widely read and well-known books in Japan. He is an earnest advocate of Buddhism, for which he pleads much more earnestly than for Confucianism or Tâoism, though he gives a very fair account of both these forms of Chinese religion.

The account which he offers of the first appearance of the three religions in China is very interesting. The “Doctrine of the Literati," which is his name for what we know generally as Confucianism, began, according to Liû Mî, with Fû-hsi’s making of the Right Trigrams. These are trilineal symbols from which are developed the sixty-four Hexagrams which compose the Yi-Ching. The date of Fü-hsî is not given, but Professor Legge thinks that at least a thousand years elapsed between him

« PreviousContinue »