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nation of the Power, in Christ it is the Goodness of the Deity, which, associating itself with a human form, assumes the character of a representative of the human race; in whose person is exhibited a pure model of moral perfection, and whose triumph over evil is by the slow and gradual progress of enlightening the mind, and softening and purifying the heart. The moral purpose of the descent of the Deity is by no means excluded in the religions in which a similar notion has prevailed, as neither is that of divine power, though confining itself to acts of pure beneficence, from the Christian scheme. This seems more particularly the case, if we may state any thing with certainty concerning those half-mythological, half-real personages, the Buddh, Gautama, or Somana Codom of the remoter East. In these systems likewise the overbearing excess of human wickedness demands the interference, and the restoration of a better order of things is the object, which vindicates the presence of the embodied Deity; yet there is invariably a greater or less connexion with the Oriental cosmogonical systems; it is the triumph of mind over matter, the termination of the long strife between the two adverse principles. The Christian scheme, however it may occasionally admit the current language of the

* The characteristic of the Buddhist stitious regard for life in the Buddhist religion, which in one respect may be from the enlightened humanity of considered (I deprecate misconstruc- Christianity! See Mahony, in Asiat. tion) the Christianity of the remoter Research. vii. p. 40. East, seems an union of political with religious reformation; its end to substitute purer morality for the wild and multifarious idolatry into which Brahminism had degenerated, and to break down the distinction of castes. judicious observations of Wm. HumBut Buddhism appears to be essentially boldt, über die Kawi Sprache, p. 95. monastic; and how different the super

M. Klaproth has somewhere said, that, "next to the Christian, no religion has contributed more to ennoble the human race than the Buddha religion." Compare likewise the very




time, as where Christ is called the "Light of the World," yet in its scope and purport stands clear and independent of all these physical notions: it is original, inasmuch as it is purely, essentially, and exclusively a moral revelation; its sole design to work a moral change; to establish a new relation between man and the Almighty Creator, and to bring to light the great secret of the immortality of man.

Birth from a

Hence the only deviation from the course of nature was the birth of this Being from a pure virgin. virgin. Much has been written on this subject; but it is more consistent with our object to

y According to a tradition known in the West at an early period, and quoted by Jerome (Adv. Jovin. c. 26), Buddh was born of a virgin. So were the Fohi of China and the Shaka of Thibet, no doubt the same, whether a mythic or a real personage. The Jesuits in China were appalled at finding in the mythology of that country, the counterpart of the "Virgo Deipara." (Barrow's Travels in China, i.) There is something extremely curious in the appearance of the same religious notions in remote, and apparently quite disconnected countries, where it is impossible to trace the secret manner of their transmission. Certain incidents, for example, in the history of the Indian Crishna, are so similar to those of the life of Christ, that De Guigniaut almost inclined to believe that they are derived from some very early Christian tradition. In the present instance, however, the peculiar sanctity attributed to virginity in all countries, where the ascetic principle is held in high honour

as approximating the pure and passionless human being to the Divinity, might suggest such an origin for a Deity in human form. But the birth of Buddh seems purely mythic: he was born from Maia, the virgin goddess of the imaginative world-as it were the Phantasia of the Greeks, who was said by some to have given birth to Homer. The Shaka of Thibet was born from the nymph Lhamoghinpral. Georgi. Alph. Tibet. Compare Rosenmüller, das Alte und Neue Morgenland, v. iv.; on Buddh and his birth, Bohlen, i. 312:

I am inclined to think that the Jews, though partially orientalised in their opinions, were the people among whom such a notion was least likely to originate of itself. Marriage by the mass of the people was considered in a holy light; and there are traces that the hopes of becoming the mother of the Messiah, was one of the blessings which, in their opinion, belonged to marriage; and after all, before we admit the originality of these notions in some of the systems to which they




point out the influence of this doctrine upon the human mind, as hence its harmony with the general design of Christianity becomes more manifest.

We estimate very inadequately the influence or the value of any religion, if we merely consider its dogmas, its precepts, or its opinions. The impression it makes, the emotions it awakens, the sentiments which it inspires, are perhaps its most vital and effective energies. From these, men continually act; and the character of a particular age is more distinctly marked by the predominance of these silent but universal motives, than by the professed creed, or prevalent philosophy, or, in general, by the opinions of the times. Thus, none of the primary facts in the history of a widely-extended religion can be without effect on the character of its believers. The images perpetually presented to the mind, work, as it were, into its most intimate being, become incorporated with the feelings, and thus powerfully contribute to form the moral nature of the whole race. Nothing could be more appropriate than that the martial Romans should derive their origin from the nursling of the wolf, or from the god of war; and whether those fables sprung from the national temperament, or contributed to form it, however these fierce images were enshrined in the national traditions, they were at once the emblem and example of that bold and relentless spirit which gradually developed itself, until it had made the Romans the masters of the world. The circumstances of the birth of Christ were as strictly

belong, we must ascertain (the most intricate problem in the history of Eastern religious opinions) their relative antiquity, as compared with the Nestorian Christianity, so widely pre

valent in the East, and the effects of this form of Christianity on the more remote Oriental creeds. Jerome's testimony is the most remarkable.




in unison with the design of the religion. This incident seemed to incorporate with the general feeling the deep sense of holiness and gentleness, which was to characterise the followers of Jesus Christ. It was the consecration of sexual purity and maternal tenderness. No doubt by falling in, to a certain degree, with the ascetic spirit of Oriental enthusiasm, the former incidentally tended to confirm the sanctity of celibacy, which for so many ages reigned paramount in the Church; and in the days in which the Virgin Mother was associated with her divine Son in the general adoration, the propensity to this worship was strengthened by its coincidence with the better feelings of our nature, especially among the female sex. Still the substitution of these images for such as formed the symbols of the older religions, was a great advance towards that holier and more humane tone of thought and feeling, with which it was the professed design of the new religion to imbue the mind of man."

In the marvellous incidents which follow, the visit of the Virgin Mother to her cousina Elizabeth,b when the joy occasioned by the miraculous conception seemed to communicate itself to the child of

Visit to

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which the latter was pregnant, and called forth her ardent expressions of homage: and in the Magnificat, or song of thanksgiving, into which, like Hannah in the older Scriptures, the Virgin broke forth, it is curious to observe how completely and exclusively consistent every expression appears with the state of belief at that period; all is purely Jewish, and accordant with the prevalent expectation of the national Messiah: there is no word. which seems to imply any acquaintance with the unworldly and purely moral nature of the redemption, which was subsequently developed. It may perhaps appear too closely to press the terms of that which was the common, almost the proverbial, language of the devotional feelings: yet the expressions which intimate the degradation of the mighty from their seat, the disregard of the wealthy, the elevation of the lowly and the meek, and respect to the low estate of the poor, sound not unlike an allusion to the rejection of the proud and splendid royal race, which had so long ruled the nation, and the assumption of the throne of David by one born in a more humble state.d

After the return of Mary to Nazareth, the birth of John the Baptist excited the attention of the Birth of John whole of Southern Judæa to the fulfilment of the Baptist. the rest of the prediction. When the child is about to be named, the dumb father interferes; he writes on a tablet the name by which he desires him to be called,

e Agreeing so far, as the fact, with Strauss, I should draw a directly opposite inference, the high improbability that this remarkable keeping, this pure Judaism, without the intervention of Christian notions, should have been maintained, if this passage had been invented or composed after


the complete formation of the Christian scheme.

d Neander in his recently published work has made similar observations on the Jewish notions in the Song of Simeon. Leben Jesu, p. 26. e Luke i. 57, 80.


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