THE UNIVERSAL BELIEF OF MANKIND.
THERE are some thoughts and opinions which we seem to take by inheritance; we imbibe them with our mothers’ milk; they are in our blood; they are received insensibly in childhood.
We have seen the folk-lore of the nations, passing through the endless and continuous generation of children, unchanged from the remotest ages.
In the same way there is an untaught but universal feeling which makes all mankind regard comets with fear and trembling, and which unites all races of men in a universal belief that some day the world will be destroyed by fire.
There are many things which indicate that a far-distant, prehistoric race existed in the background of Egyptian and Babylonian development, and that from this people, highly civilized and educated, we have derived the arrangement of the heavens into constellations, and our divisions of time into days, weeks, years, and centuries. This people stood much nearer the Drift Age than we do. They understood it better. Their legends and religious beliefs were full of it. The gods carved on Hindoo temples or painted on the walls of Assyrian, Peruvian, or American structures, the flying dragons, the winged gods, the winged animals, Gucumatz, Rama, Siva, Vishnu, Tezcatlipoca, were painted in the very colors of the clays which came from the disintegration of the granite, “red,
white, and blue,” the very colors which distinguished the comet; and they are all reminiscences of that great monster. The idols of the pagan world are, in fact, congealed history, and will some day be intelligently studied as such.
Doubtless this ancient astronomical, zodiac-building, and constellation-constructing race taught the people the true doctrine of comets; taught that the winding serpent, the flying dragon, the destructive winged dog, or wolf, or lion, whose sphinx-like images now frown upon us from ancient walls and door-ways, were really comets; taught how one of them had actually struck the earth; and taught that in the lapse of ages another of these multitudinous wanderers of space would again encounter our globe, and end all things in one universal conflagration.
And down through the race this belief has come, and down through the race it will go, to the consummation of time.
We find this “day of wrath” prefigured in the words of Malachi, (chap. iv, v. 1):
“1. For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
“2. But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.