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The Worship of the Serpent


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Author Topic: The Worship of the Serpent  (Read 464 times)
Corissa
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« Reply #45 on: November 25, 2009, 01:21:21 pm »

obedient to the laws, and well-affected to the gods, to whom they were kindred . . . . . . . . . . but when the divine nature, which was in them, became frequently mingled with the mortal, and the human. inclination prevailed, being unable to bear present calamities, they disgraced themselves: and, to those who could see them, appeared base, having lost the most beautiful of their precious possessions . . . . . . . . . . The Jupiter, the god of gods, . . . . . . . . . . perceiving this honourable race lying in a state of depravity, and being desirous of punishing them . . . . . . . . . . called together all the gods," &c.

In the Atlantis of Plato, we may, I think, discover the EDEN of Scripture; and in the lapse of the Atlantians from virtue and THE DIVINE NATURE, the fall of Adam from purity and THE IMAGE OF GOD. The state of mankind, at the time of the deluge, is, doubtless, blended with the tradition; for we find that the island Atlantis was submerged in the ocean. But the want of authentic records of the period intermediate between the fall and the deluge, left the heathen, in a great measure, ignorant of antediluvian history. Hence their frequent confusion of the characters of Adam and Noah, and

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Corissa
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« Reply #46 on: November 25, 2009, 01:21:32 pm »

the identification of their histories in mythology. Of these we have constant proofs in the fables which have been transmitted to us, as we shall observe in the progress of this volume. In the council of Jupiter, to consider the depravity of the Atlantians, we may recognize a similarity to the council of the Holy Trinity: "Behold the man is become as ONE OF US, to know good and evil."

The corruption thus acknowledged by Plato to exist in mankind, is elsewhere represented by him as "a general depravation of the understanding, the will, and the affections." The corruption of the understanding he describes under the allegory of a person who, from his infancy, lay, neck and heels together, in a dark dungeon, where he could only see some imperfect shadows, by means of a fire kindled at the top." Whence he concludes that "the eye of the soul is immersed in the barbaric gulf of ignorance 1."

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Corissa
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« Reply #47 on: November 25, 2009, 01:21:47 pm »

2. To the testimony of Plato may be added that of Hierocles, a disciple of the Platonic school, whose Commentary on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras very closely approaches Scripture truth.--"Most men are bad, and under


p. 28

the influence of their passions; and, from their propensity to earth, are grown impotent of mind. But this evil they have brought upon themselves by their wilful apostasy from God, and by withdrawing themselves from that communion with him, which they once enjoyed in pure light 1."

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Corissa
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« Reply #48 on: November 25, 2009, 01:31:31 pm »

3. If we ascend to authority of more remote date, we shall find in "the Golden Verses" themselves this remarkable sentiment: "Men are grown miserable through their own fault." An expression which argues in Pythagoras, as well as Plato, "more acquaintance with the truth than he is inclined to discover."

4. If, from the meditations of philosophers, we pass to the imaginations of poets, we shall find that neither Homer nor Hesiod were ignorant of the degeneracy of mankind. In the poetic fiction of "the Golden Age" we shall recognize a clear trace of the original purity of man, whose fall and corruption may be as clearly traced in the subsequent ages of deterioration. The opinion of Homer, that "few children are like their fathers, the majority worse 2," illustrates the poetical conceit so beautifully imagined by



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Corissa
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« Reply #49 on: November 25, 2009, 01:31:39 pm »

Hesiod:--"Dreadfully did the second race degenerate from the virtues of the first. They were men of violence; they had no pleasure in worshipping the immortal gods; they experienced no delight in offering up to them those sacrifices which duty required 1."

So clearly did the mind of Hesiod apprehend the real state of mankind, that, in his fable of Pandora, he seems but to paraphrase the story of Adam and Eve. Pandora was a female to whom every god and goddess imparted a virtue or an accomplishment: she was made from clay, to be the wife of the man Prometheus, whose nature and origin were of a more elevated caste. He was the son of Japetus, a demigod, who was the son of Cœlus--i.e. heaven defied. Prometheus is represented as irreverent towards the gods. Among other things, Pandora was presented with a beautiful casket by Jupiter, which she was to offer as a nuptial dowry to her husband; but ordered, at the same time, on no account to open it. Prometheus did not marry her, being suspicious of the design of Jupiter; but sent her to his brother, whose wife she became. Through inordinate curiosity, he opened the casket, and


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Corissa
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« Reply #50 on: November 25, 2009, 01:31:49 pm »

from it issued all the evils which have ever since afflicted mankind. HOPE alone remained at the bottom, to assuage the sorrows which EVIL had introduced.

In this fable we perceive, with a little variation, a beautifully wrought description of the fall of Adam, with a delicately poetical allusion to the REDEMPTION.

5. The Latin writers are as explicit in their opinion of the corruption of man as the Greek. Among the philosophers, Cicero and Seneca; among the poets, Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Juvenal, Lucretius, Catullus,--agree in representing the present state of man as degenerate. It would be tedious to transcribe, or even enumerate, their testimonies, since many of the passages are familiar to the classical reader. We may, however, remark, that no Christian scholar should fail to impress upon his memory the splendid description of "The Four Ages," which is presented in the first book of "THE METAMORPHOSES," by OVID. If anything can add to its beauty and elegance, it is the close relation which it bears to Scriptural truth.

That man had fallen from a condition of greater purity, was, therefore, the belief of the mythologist,

p. 31

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« Reply #51 on: November 25, 2009, 01:31:58 pm »

poet, and philosopher, of Greece and Rome. It was, moreover, the belief of every nation whose religion was moulded into system, or the system of whose religion is not altogether unintelligible. It was the belief of the Celts and Druids; and "the Brahmins of Hindostan have an entire Purana on the subject: the story is there told as related by Moses; the facts uniformly correspond, and the consequences are equally tremendous 1." It was the belief of all the nations surrounding Syria; it penetrated into the remote regions of the Persian monarchy; and it may be recognized in the mythology of Egypt. Of these I shall adduce proofs in the sequel. But if there were no other indication of this Scriptural doctrine, the universal prevalence of EXPIATORY SACRIFICES would declare it. "For unless an idea of lost integrity had pervaded the whole world, and unless the doctrine of such an aberration had been handed down from the most remote antiquity, it is impossible to account for the universal establishment of so very peculiar an ordinance 2."

It is not only to the existence of a natural



p. 32

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« Reply #52 on: November 25, 2009, 01:32:08 pm »

corruption in man, that the philosophy of heathenism so strongly alludes; but minuter traces of THE FALL are to be recognized in the traditionary legends of heathen mythology. The most remarkable corroboration, however, of the Mosaic history, is to be found in those fables which involve THE MYTHOLOGICAL SERPENT, and in THE WORSHIP which was so generally offered to him throughout the world.

THE WORSHIP OF THE SERPENT may be traced in almost every religion through ancient Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. The progress of the sacred serpent from Paradise to Peru is one of the most remarkable phenomena in mythological history; and to be accounted for only upon the supposition that a corrupted tradition of the serpent in Paradise had been handed down from generation to generation. But how an object of abhorrence could have been exalted into an object of veneration, must be referred to the subtilty of the arch enemy himself, whose constant endeavour has been rather to corrupt than obliterate the true faith, that, in the perpetual conflict between truth and error, the mind of man might be more surely confounded and debased. Among other

p. 33

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« Reply #53 on: November 25, 2009, 01:32:17 pm »

devices, that of elevating himself into an object of adoration, has ever been the most cherished. It was this which he proposed to OUR LORD: "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me 1." We cannot therefore wonder that the same being who had the presumption to make such a proposal to the Son of Gov, should have had the address to insinuate himself into the worship of the children of men. In this he was, unhappily, but too well seconded by the natural tendency of human corruption. The unenlightened heathen, in obedience to the voice of nature, acknowledged his dependence upon a superior being. His reason assured him that there must be a God; his conscience assured him that God was good; but he felt and acknowledged the prevalence of evil, and attributed it, naturally, to. an evil agent. But as the evil agent to his unillumined mind seemed as omnipotent as the good agent, he worshipped both; the one, that he might propitiate his kindness; the other, that he might avert his displeasure. The great point of devil-worship being gained--naively, the acknowledgment of the evil spirit as GOD--the transition to


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« Reply #54 on: November 25, 2009, 01:32:27 pm »

idolatry became easy. The mind once darkened by the admission of an allegiance divided between GOD and Satan, became gradually more feeble and superstitious, until at length sensible objects were called in to aid the weakness of degraded intellect; and from their first form as symbols, passed rapidly through the successive stages of apotheosis, until they were elevated into GODS. Of these the most remarkable was THE SERPENT; upon the basis of tradition, regarded, first, as the symbol of the malignant being; subsequently, considered talismanic and oracular; and, lastly, venerated and worshipped as DIVINE,

As a symbol, the serpent was by some nations attributed to the GOOD, and by others to the EVIL DEITY. Among the Egyptians it was an emblem of the good dæmon; while the mythology of Hindûstan, Scandinavia, and Mexico, considered it as characteristic of the evil spirit.

That in the warmer regions of the globe, where this creature is the most formidable enemy which man can encounter, the serpent should be considered the mythological attendant of the evil being, is not surprising: but that in the frozen or temperate regions of the earth,

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« Reply #55 on: November 25, 2009, 01:32:36 pm »

where he dwindles into the insignificance of a reptile without power to create alarm, he should be regarded in the same appalling character, is a fact which cannot be accounted for by natural causes. Uniformity of tradition can alone satisfactorily explain uniformity of superstition, where local circumstances are so discordant.

The serpent is the symbol which most generally enters into the mythology of the world. It may in different countries admit among its fellow-satellites of Satan, the most venomous or the most terrible of the animals in each country; but it preserves its own constancy, as the only invariable object of superstitious terror throughout the habitable world. "Wherever the Devil reigned," remarks Stillingfleet, "the serpent was held in some peculiar veneration." THE UNIVERSALITY of this worship, I propose to show in the subsequent pages: and having shown it, shall feel justified in drawing the conclusion, that the narrative of Moses is most powerfully corroborated by the prevalence of this singular and irrational, yet natural superstition. Irrational--for there is nothing in common between deity and a reptile, to suggest the notion of SERPENT-WORSHIP; and natural, because allowing the

p. 36

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« Reply #56 on: November 25, 2009, 01:32:46 pm »

truth of the events in Paradise, every probability is in favour of such a superstition springing up. For it is more than probable that Satan should erect as the standard of idolatry the stumbling-block ascertained to be fatal to man. By so doing, he would not only receive the homage which he so ardently desired from the beginning, but also be perpetually reminded of his victory over Adam, than which no gratification can be imagined more fascinating to his malignant mind. It was his device, therefore, that since by the temptation of the serpent man fell, by the adoration of the serpent he should continue to fall.


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« Reply #57 on: November 25, 2009, 01:33:07 pm »

Footnotes
2:1 Eccl. vii. 20.

2:2 Rom. v. 12.

2:3 Rom. v. 18.

2:4 Rom. v. 19.

4:1 Rev. xii. 9.

4:2 Wisd. ii. 23-24.

4:3 2 Cor. xi. 3.

5:1 Isaiah xiv. 29.

5:2 Isaiah xxvii. 1.

5:3 Isaiah xxvii. 1.

6:1 Gen. 13.

6:2 Gen. ii. 17.

7:1 Gen. iii. 8.

11:1 Num. xxiii. 19.

13:1 Kennicot., Dissert. on the Tree of Life, 33.

15:1 Dissert. on the Tree of Life, p. 36.

16:1 Gen. iii. 6, 7.

17:1 Delany, "Revel. Examined."

18:1 Numb. xxi. 6-8.

18:2 Isaiah vi. 2-6.

18:3 Bishop Patrick.

20:1 Bishop Patrick in loc.

23:1 Orig. Sacr. l. 3. c. 3.

24:1 Timæus, 103.

25:1 Rom. vii. 23.

25:2 Cyrop. lib. 8.

25:3 Georgias, 493.

25:4 Critias.

27:1 Gale. Court of the Gentiles, l. 3. 63.

28:1 Cited by Stillingfleet. Orig. Sac. book iii. c. 3. s. 15.

28:2 Odyss. ii. 276.

29:1 Oper. et Dier. i. 126.

31:1 Faber. Hor. Mos. i. 66, citing Maurice Ind. Antiq.

31:2 Faber. Hor. Mos. i. 59.

33:1 Matt. iv. 9.



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