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course of years, every bright and vast thought and scheme which he has entertained, is all this to perish with him in this waste? Shall it be for nought that he has thought and schemed ?–His fiery spirit cannot endure the idea. He rises above his lot: this desert shall not be the limit of his history; for something great is he destined by that high Being whom he learned to know in the mysteries. His imagination, kindled by solitude and silence, espouses the cause of the oppressed. Like joins with like, and the unhappy will gladly side with the unhappy. In Egypt he had been an Egyptian, a Hierophant, a military commander ;-in Arabia he becomes a Hebrew. Greatly and gloriously the idea rises before his soul,—“I WILL FREE THIS PEOPLE.”
But what possibility is there of accomplishing this project? Numberless are the obstacles that crowd upon his mind; and those which he has to overcome in the hearts of his own countrymen themselves, are by far the most formidable. There he can anticipate neither union nor boldness, neither self-reliance nor energy, neither public spirit nor a bold action-prompting inspiration :-a long servitude, a debasement of four hundred years standing, has extinguished all these sentiments. The people at whose head he is to put himself, are both incapable and unworthy of the enterprise. From them he can expect nothing, and yet without them he can do nothing. What course then remains open to him? Before he undertakes their emancipation, he must make them fit to be emancipated. He must reinstate them in those human rights of which they have been robbed. He must revive in their breasts those sentiments which a long-continued barbarism has extinguished; he must kindle within them, hope, confidence, heroism, enthusiasm.
But these sentiments can only spring from a feeling (genuine or illusory) of power; and whence are the slaves of the Egyptians to derive such a feeling? Supposing even that he does succeed in carrying them away for the moment by his eloquence, will not this artificial inspiration forsake them in the first danger? Will they not relapse into their slave-feeling, more disheartened than ever ?
Here the Egyptian Priest and Statesman comes to the help of the Hebrew. From his mysteries, from his priest-school at Heliopolis, memory recalls that powerful instrumentality by which a few priests ruled at their pleasure millions of rude men. This instrumentality is no other than reliance upon superearthly protection; faith in supernatural powers. Since, therefore, he discovers nothing in the visible world, in the natural course of things, whereby he may give energy to his oppressed countrymen; since he can attach their faith to nothing that is of the earth,—he attaches it to heaven. Since he must relinquish all hope of inspiring them with confidence in their own powers, he has no course left, but to give them a Deity who does possess the power requisite for success. If he can but succeed in giving them confidence in this Deity, then he has made them strong and bold. This confidence, therefore, is the flame at which he must kindle all other virtues and energies. Can he but authenticate himself to his brethren, as the organ and ambassador of this Deity,—then they are as a ball in his hands; he can drive them at his pleasure. But now the question arises, What deity must he announce to them; and how is he to authenticate the announcement?
Shall he announce to them the true God—the Demiurgosthe Jao—in whom he believes himself; whom he has learned to know in the mysteries ?
How could he for one moment expect, from an ignorant slave-rabble, the recognition of a truth which was the peculiar heritage of a few Egyptian sages; and the recognition of which presupposes and requires a high degree of enlightenment? How could he flatter himself with the hope that the scum of Egypt would understand that, which was comprehended by a very few only of the best men of that country?
But, supposing even that he should succeed in giving the Hebrews the knowledge of the true God,—they could not, in their then condition, derive any benefit from this knowledge. On the contrary, it would frustrate, rather than forward, his great object. The true God concerned himself not more for the Hebrews than for any other people. The true God could not be expected to fight for them, or disturb the course of nature to please them. He would leave them to fight their own battle with the Egyptians, and would take no part in their struggle, in the way of miracle. How then could the knowledge of him avail them ?
Shall he announce to them a false and fabulous god, against whom his own reason revolts; whom the mysteries have rendered offensive to him? For this his mind is too enlightened; his heart too upright and noble. He will not build his beneficent scheme upon a falsehood. The inspiration that now animates him, refuses to aid him in deception; and, in a course so despicable, so repugnant to his own inmost convictions, his energy, zeal, and constancy, would soon fail him. He will complete and perfect the benefit which he designs to bestow upon his people. He will not merely make them free and indepen
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dent; he will enlighten, and make them happy. He will build for eternity.
His work, then, must be based upon truth—not upon falsehood. But how to reconcile these contradictions? He cannot give the true God to the Hebrews, since they are incapable of receiving him. A fabulous god he will not give them; for he scorns the odious task. It only remains, then, to give them his true God under a fabulous character.
Now, therefore, he examines the religion of his reason, and considers what he must add to it, and what he must take away, in order to ensure its favourable reception with his people. He places himself in their situation; comes down to their level, and discovers in their minds the secret threads to which he must attach his truth.
He ascribes, therefore, to his God those attributes which their capacities and condition demand. He adapts his Jao to the people to whom he designs to announce him; he adapts him to the circumstances under which he makes the announcement; and thus arises Jehovah.
He finds, indeed, a faith in divine things already existing in his countrymen's minds; but a faith which has degenerated into the grossest superstition. This superstition he must root out, but the faith he must preserve. He must dissociate it from its present unworthy object, and lead it to his new Deity. Superstition itself places in his hands the means of doing so. According to the universal notion of those times, every people enjoyed the guardianship of its own national-God; and it flattered the national pride to exalt this God above the Gods of all other nations. Not that the divinity of the latter was in any way denied—it was fully recognized : only they must not presume to an equality with the national-God. It was to this error that Moses attached his truth. He made the Demiurgos of the mysteries the national-God of the Hebrews. But he went a step further.
He was not satisfied with merely making this national-God the most powerful of all Gods,-he made him the only God, and drove all other deities into their essential nothingness. He gave him to the Hebrews, indeed, as a peculiar national-God, in order to accommodate himself to their ideas; but, at the same time, he subjected to him all other gods, and all the powers of nature. Thus, in the form under which he exhibited his Deity to the Hebrews, he preserved those two most important attributes—Unity and Omnipotence; and rendered them all the more effective by veiling them in this human garb.
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The Mission of Moses. The childish vanity of desiring to monopolize the Deity must now be pressed into the service of truth, and facilitate the admission of his doctrine of the One God. No doubt, it is only by a new error that he overthrows the old; but this new error is much nearer to the truth than that for which it is substituted. And, after all, it is only by this little appendage of error that his truth gains acceptance; and the whole of his success is owing to this foreseen misconception of his doctrine. What could his Hebrews have done with a philosophical God? But, with this national-God he can do wonders with them. Let the reader only place himself in the situation of the Hebrews. Ignorant as they are, they measure the power of deities by the prosperity of the nations under their guardianship. Neglected and oppressed by men, they believe themselves forgotten by all the gods likewise. The relation in which they stand towards the Egyptians, they regard as indicating the relation in which their god stands towards the god of the Egyptians : he is but a dimlyshining light compared with them; or they doubt, perhaps, whether they have a god at all. For the first time it is proclaimed to them that they too have a Protector in the starry sphere; that this Protector is awakened from his slumber; that he rises and girds himself to do great things for them against their enemies.
This proclamation of their God is like the summons of a general to his soldiers, to assemble under his conquering banner. And if, at the same time, this general gives specimens of his prowess, or if they know him of old, then the most timid are carried along by the giddy inspiration : and this; likewise, Moses calculated upon.
The conference which he holds with the apparition in the burning bush, exhibits to us the doubts that had suggested themselves to his mind, and the manner in which he had solved them. “Will my unhappy countrymen have confidence in a God who has so long neglected them; who now, all at once, falls as it were from the clouds; whose very name they have never heard; who has been for centuries a passive spectator of their wrongs? Will they not rather conceive the God of their prosperous foes to be the more powerful ?" This was the first thought that would naturally arise in the mind of the new prophet. Now, how does he get over this difficulty ? He makes his Jao the God of their fathers; he connects him, consequently, with their old national traditions, and so changes him into a household and familiar deity. But, to show that he means the true and only God; to prevent his Deity from being confounded with all creatures of superstition; to allow no room for miscon
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ception;-he gives him that sacred name which he actually bears in the mysteries,—“I will be what I will be.” “Say to the people of Israel," he represents him as declaring, “I WILL BE hath sent me to you."
In the mysteries, the Deity actually bore this name. But this name would be perfectly unintelligible to the Hebrews. They could not possibly attach any meaning to it; and Moses might, therefore, with another name, have succeeded better; but he was willing to expose himself to this difficulty, rather than renounce an idea which was all in all with him,-namely, to make the Hebrews acquainted with the God who was revealed in the mysteries of Isis. Since it is pretty well established, that the Egyptian mysteries had flourished for a considerable period before Jehovah appeared to Moses in the bush, it is a remarkable circumstance that he assumes the very name which he already bore in these mysteries.
But it was not enough that Jehovah proclaimed himself to the Hebrews as a God already known to them, as the God of their fathers,—he must authenticate himself as a powerful God ere they could place any reliance upon him, and this was the more necessary, since their condition in Egypt hitherto, could not have given them any great opinion of their tutelar deity. Moreover, since he announced himself to them through the medium of a third party, he must entrust his power to this third party, and qualify him to verify by wonderful works, both his own mission and the power and greatness of him who sent him.
If, therefore, Moses wished to authenticate his mission, he must do so by signs and wonders. That he actually performed deeds of this sort there can be no doubt; how he performed them, and what we are to think respecting them, must be left to the reader's own reflections.
The narrative in which Moses clothes his mission, possesses all the features requisite to inspire the Hebrews with faith therein, and this was all that was necessary. With us, this is no longer necessary. We know, for example, that it must have been indifferent to the Creator of the world, supposing that he had determined to appear to a human being in fire or wind, whether the latter appeared before him barefoot or shod; Moses, however, puts into the mouth of his Jehovah, the command that he should draw off his shoes from his feet, for he well knew that he must strengthen, with the Hebrews, the idea of the divine sanctity, by means of a sensible image, and such an image memory furnished him with from the ceremonies of initiation.
Thus he would likewise consider that his difficulty of speech might prove an obstacle-hé provides for this obstacle; he em