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WITH the next number of the QUARTERLY we commence a new volume. We regret the necessity which compels us to urge its patrons not to desert it now. Any falling off among its subscribers, would make its continued publication impossible. Some periodicals may lose a large proportion of their subscribers, and still live through the crisis. Not so with our Quarterly. It has never paid the publisher a farthing for his services-he has deemed himself fortunate if able to publish it without loss. He cannot lose a subscriber without being so much the poorer. Will our ministers and leading lay brethren suffer the "pecuniary pressure of the times" to take away the only periodical in which elaborate articles may find a fit expression? Every Southern subscriber is of course, lost. This we will try to bear, if our patrons North and West will stand by us. Let not the exciting literature of the war make us insensible of the higher and more lasting merit of the literature of our religion. The QUARTERLY has been, and will be, true to its country in the hour of trial; but it will try, as heretofore, to maintain its distinctive and denominational character. We solicit articles of a theological character; and particularly urge its claims, in this respect, upon our older writers. But our special fear is that it may suffer from want of pecuniary support. It had reached a point where, in ordinary times, it could just pay its way, provided all would pay promptly. Let not the contingency of unusual times, be its ruin. Our country demands much; so does our religion. Let us not prove disloyal to
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The Religion of Zoroaster.
IT now remains to consider a few of those things in which the Parsees have imitated the Jews and Christians.
The earlier prophets of Israel put forth their admonitions in a direct and natural form, clothed indeed in a poetic and lofty style, abounding in figures and illustrations, yet so plain as to present few difficulties to an intelligent contemporary. The word of the Lord came to one, saying thus and so. We can never be certain what precise meaning they attached to this formula, yet it is not unreasonable to suppose their meaning to have been that the ideas constituting the burden of their message arose in their minds with a vividness that could only have resulted from the inspiration of the Almighty. But a great change came over the spirit of prophecy. The seer was no longer merely told the lesson he should publish, but was carried in the spirit here and there, shown mysterious pageants and enigmatical visions of horses, birds, beasts and monstrous creatures, with many heads, wings and eyes, which moved and were transformed with the celerity of figures in dreams, but with a purpose that to the uninitiated beholder was perfectly unintelligible. "The word of the Lord" no longer spoke; but an angel explained the mystery. The difference will be seen at once by comparing the prophecy of Zechariah, written after the captivity, with those of Isaiah or Amos. But the visionary style reached its full developement in the book of Daniel, a production which has always exercised a strange fascination over a certain class of minds. Among the ancients it furnished a model for many imitations, and in modern times has given unlimited exercise to credulous commentators. The principal books obviously formed after this model are five in number, the Book of Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Revelation of St. John, the Fourth Book of. Ezra, and the Revelations of Ardai Virâf. The Book of Enoch is quoted in the canonical epistle of Jude and by many of the Fathers. It was well known to the
authors of the Book Sohar, in the tenth century; but then totally disappeared until an Ethiopic version of it was discovered in Abyssinia about the close of the last century. Translations were then published, in France by Sylvestre de Sacy, and in England by Professor, afterwards Bishop, Lawrence. Critics are by no means agreed respecting its date; but the prevailing opinion has been that it was written about thirty-seven years before the birth of Christ. The patriarch Enoch is there shown a series of visions representing the history of the world, or rather of the Jewish race, from the assumed age of the seer to the end of time, all of which are explained by an angel. The later portions, representing the times of the real author, are of course most fully elaborated. The chosen people are represented by sheep, as in Matthew xxv., most cruelly pecked and pillaged by eagles, ravens, vultures and other birds of prey. At length a deliverer is raised up for them. A long and desperate conflict ensues in which the hero is at last completely victorious, by the help of "the Lord of the sheep." All the enemies are gathered together, and the last judg ment ensues. They are condemned and sent down to hell, and the earth closes over them. The angels of old, “who kept not their first estate," are also judged. Then "all the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven come together, are transformed into "white cattle," and adore the great chief of the herd forever. In this manner is foreshadowed the millennial age of universal blessedness.
The book contains a minute account of the fallen angels, and of the origin and fate of the demons. It has a good many incidental points of agreement with the later doctrines of the Parsees; and is valuable for the illustration of the New Testament, particularly of the Apocalypse.
The Ascension of Isaiah was known to Origen, Epiphanius, and others of the Fathers, but disappeared from the fifth to the eleventh century, when it emerged to notice for a short time, and again vanished. It was recovered in the present century in the same manner as the preceding, translated and published in the year 1819, by Professor Lawrence at Oxford from an Amharic version. The book is evidently the production of a Christian Jew, and written as late at least as the reign of Nero. Lawrence placed its date about A. D. 64. It may perhaps be somewhat later.
According to the argument of the book, King Hezekiah summons together all the people and the prophets, and in their presence Isaiah unfolds to the king the great truths of religion. The soul of the prophet is then temporarily separated from his body and conducted away by an angel to see things never beheld by the natural eye. He is first taken up to the firmament where he is shown Samael and his arts, and a parallel of the contentions and wickedness that prevail on earth. The angel informs him,-"This state of things has been from the beginning of the world, and will continue till he shall come whom you shall see; then it shall cease." He is next conducted through the first five heavens, each of which is more splendid than the preceding. In each there is a throne, with angels standing on the right hand and the left. In the sixth heaven there is no throne; the angels are all equal in splendor, and all praise God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the seventh, he sees Christ himself and the Holy Ghost, and reads in a book the wonderful birth and suffering of the Son of God. Above all he is told of the coming of Antichrist, the second advent of the Messiah, and the overthrow and punishment of the devil and his angels. "And after a thousand three hundred and thirty-two days the Lord will come with his angels, and the power of his saints, from the seventh heaven, and in the glory of the seventh heaven, and shall cast down Berial and his powers to Gehenna." On his return to natural consciousness the prophet recounts his vision to the king, and it is published to the people. Now this curious book served the Parsees for the immediate pattern of the Ardai Virâf Nameh, the story of which is thus told by Persian writers. King Ardeshir, about A.D. 230, being zealous to restore the ancient religion, called a great œcumenical council of forty thousand Magi to correct errors and publish the faith anew. This multitude was reduced by repeated elections successively to four hundred, forty, seven, and one, the final choice falling on a young
1 Compare 2 Cor. xii. 4.
2 "Ascensio Isaiae vatis, opusculum pseudepigraphum, multis abhinc saeculis, ut videtur, deperditum, nunc autem apud Æthiopas compertum, et cum versione latina anglicanaque publici juris factum a Ric Lawrence." Gfrörer's Urchristenthum 1-65. Spiegel's Avesta 1, Einleit 21.