Though the brightness of the old religion of Zoroaster ceased to shine after the Persian conquests, and religious rites fell into the hands of the Magi, yet it is the only Oriental religion which entered into Christianity after its magnificent triumph, unless we trace early monasticism to the priests of India. Christianity had a hard battle with Gnosticism and Manichaeism,—both of Persian origin,—and did not come out unscathed. No Grecian system of philosophy, except Platonism, entered into the Christian system so influentially as the disastrous Manichaean heresy, which Augustine combated. The splendid mythology of the Greeks, as well as the degrading polytheism of Egypt, Assyria, and Phoenicia, passed away before the power of the cross; but Persian speculations remained. Even Origen, the greatest scholar of Christian antiquity, was tainted with them. And the mighty myths of the origin of evil, which perplexed Zoroaster, still remain unsolved; but the belief of the final triumph of good over evil is common to both Christians and the disciples of the Bactrian sage.
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Rawlinson’s Egypt and Babylon; History of Babylonia,
by A.H. Sayce;
Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; Rawlinson’s Herodotus; George Smith’s
History of Babylonia; Lenormant’s Manuel d’Histoire Ancienne; Layard’s
Nineveh and Babylon; Journal of Royal Asiatic Society; Heeren’s Asiatic
Nations; Dr. Pusey’s Lectures on Daniel; Birch’s Egypt from the Earliest
Times; Brugsch’s History of Egypt; Records of the Past; Rawlinson’s
History of Ancient Egypt; Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians; Sayce’s Ancient
Empires of the East; Rawlinson’s Religions of the Ancient World; James
Freeman Clarke’s Ten Great Religions; Religion of Ancient Egypt, by P.
Le Page Renouf; Moffat’s Comparative History of Religions; Bunsen’s
Egypt’s Place in History; Persia, from the Earliest Period, by W. S. W.
Vaux; Johnson’s Oriental Religions; Haug’s Essays; Spiegel’s Avesta.
The above are the more prominent authorities; but the number of books on ancient religions is very large.
BRAHMANISM AND BUDDHISM.
That form of ancient religion which has of late excited the most interest is Buddhism. An inquiry into its characteristics is especially interesting, since so large a part of the human race—nearly five hundred millions out of the thirteen hundred millions—still profess to embrace the doctrines which were taught by Buddha, although his religion has become so corrupted that his original teachings are nearly lost sight of. The same may be said of the doctrines of Confucius. The religions of ancient Egypt, Assyria, and Greece have utterly passed away, and what we have had to say of these is chiefly a matter of historic interest, as revealing the forms assumed by the human search for a supernatural Ruler when moulded by human ambitions, powers, and indulgence in the “lust of the eye and the pride of life,” rather than by aspirations toward the pure and the spiritual.