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is so just, that no real Christian can read the doctrinal part of the epistle to the Ephesians, without being impressed and roused by it, as by the sound of a trumpet.
Of the Eleusinian and other Heathen Mysteries, alluded to in this Epistle.
I. The apostle Paul, in this and in his other epistles, having often alluded to the heathen mysteries; and having condemned them all, on account of the shameful things practised in them, Ephes. v. 11, 12. it is proper, both for understanding his allusions, and for shewing the propriety of his censure, to give, in this section, some account of these famed institutions.
Bishop Warburton, from whom I have taken the greatest part of this account, in his Divine Legation, b. 2. sect. 4. informs us, That each of the heathen gods, besides the worship paid to him in public, had a secret worship, to which none were admitted, but those who were prepared by previous ceremonies. This secret worship was termed the mysteries of the god; which, however, were not performed in all places where he was publicly worshipped, but only where his chief residence was supposed to be. According to Herodotus, Diodorus, and Plutarch, who, in support of their opinion, appeal to the most ancient testimonies, these mysteries were first invented in Egypt; whence they spread themselves into most countries of Europe and Asia. In Egypt, they were celebrated to the honour of Isis and Osiris ; in Asia, to Mythras; in Samothrace, to the mother of the gods; in Boeotia, to Bacchus; in Cyprus, to Venus; in Crete, to Jupiter; in Athens, to Ceres and Proserpine, thought to be the same with Isis and Osiris ; and in other places to other gods, to an incredible number. The most noted of these mysteries, however, were the Orphic, the Bacchic, the Eleusinian, the Samothracian, the Cabiric, and the Mythraic. But the Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated by the Athenians at Eleusis, a town of Attica, in honour of Ceres, and her daughter Proserpine, in process of time swallowed up all the rest. For as Zosimus tells us, lib. iv. These most holy rites were then so extensive, as to take in the whole race of mankind. Accordingly, ancient authors have spoken most of the Eleusinean mysterics. However, as they all proceeded from one fountain, and consisted of similar rites, and had the same end in view, at least till they were corrupted, what
we are told of any of them, Warburton thinks may be understood of them all.
The general object of the mysteries, was, by means of certain shews and representations accompanied with hymns, to impress the senses and imaginations of the initiated, with the belief of the doctrines of religion, according to the views of them which the contrivers of the mysteries, or those who introduced them into any country, entertained. And, that the mystic shews might make the deeper impression on the initiated, they were always exhibited in the darkness of night.
The mysteries were divided into two classes, the lesser, and the greater. The lesser mysteries were intended for the common people. The greater for those in higher stations, and of more improved understandings. Plutarch seems to speak of a third class, called the intuitive. See 2 Pet. i. 16. note 2. Though others give that name to the second class. In both the mysteries, the doctrines of providence, and future retributions, were inculcated; but in the greater, there were, besides, revealed to the initiated, certain doctrines called aоppara, because they were never to be mentioned, except to such of the initiated as were capable of understanding them, and that under the most religious seal of secrecy.
In the celebration of the lesser mysteries, matters were so contrived, that the person to be initiated, at his entrance, was filled with an inexpressible horror. So Proclus, In the most holy mysteries, before the scene of the mystic visions, there is a terror dif. fused into the minds of the initiated. So likewise Dion Chrysost. in his account of the initiation into the lesser mysteries: Just so it is, as when one leads a Greek or a Barbarian to be initiated, in a certain mystic dome, excelling in beauty and magnificence, where he sees many mystic sights, and hears in the same manner a multitude of voices; where darkness and light alternately affect his senses, and a thousand other uncommon things present themselves before him. It seems the darkness was dispelled by the sudden flashing of light, immediately succeeded by a dismal darkness.-Warburton, who thinks Virgil's description of Eneas's descent into hell, an allegorical relation of his initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, supposes that. the mystic vision, which occasioned the horror in the mind of the initiated of which Proclus speaks, is described, Eneid lib. vi. 273. where in the very entrance of hell, all the real and imaginary evils of life, together with many frightful forms, are said to be stationed.
Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus Orci,
Corripit hic subitâ trepidus formidine ferrum
-Farther, because Virgil represents Eneas, after passing the river Styx, and entering the Lugentes campi or purgatory, as distressed with the cries of the shades of infants, cut off in early life, Warburton supposes that they were introduced into the mystic shew, that by an exhibition of their miserable state, parents might be deterred from the barbarous practice of exposing their children, which prevailed anciently among the Greeks. -Among the uncommon things represented in the lesser mysteries, Warburton saith there were men and women properly habited, who personating the gods both supernal and infernal, passed in review before the initiated. And to each of them an hymn was sung, explaining their character, attributes, and actions. These hymns, Clemens Alexandrinus has termed the theology of images, or idols. Proclus likewise tells us: In the celebration of the mysteries, it is said that the initiated meet many things of multiform shapes and species, which represent the first generation of the gods.
In the lesser mysteries, there were representations of purgatory, and Tartarus; and shews exhibited to the initiated, of persons suffering punishments in Tartarus, suitable to the nature of their crimes. And to represent the miserable state of the greatest criminals, men were introduced who personated Theseus, and Ixion, and Sisyphus, and Phlegyas, suffering eternal punishments, and who, as they passed in review, gave each an admonition to the initiated, to beware of the crime for which he in particular was suffering: And for this, Warburton appeals to that passage of the Eneid; where, as Eneas was passing by the gate of Tartarus (for he was not permitted to enter) the Sibyl gave him an account of the punishments of the wicked imprisoned in that place of torment for ever, by the sentence of Rhadamanthus. Eneid lib. vi. lin. 557.
Hinc exaudiri gemitus, et sæva sonare
Saxum ingens volvunt alii: radiisque rotarum
But whatever impression these representations might make on the minds of the initiated, Warburton saith it was rendered in a great measure ineffectual, by the shews of the gods and goddesses, who passed in review before them; and by the hymns which were sung to each, descriptive of his origin, his character, and his actions. For the vicious actions of the gods celebrated in these hymns, must have led such of the initiated as were capable of reasoning on the subject, to consider the punishments inflicted on men for the very same crimes of which the gods themselves were guilty, as utterly unjust; consequently, to think the whole a fiction. So that the motives to virtue, arising from the representations of the punishment of the damned, were destroyed by the confirmation which the popular theology derived, from the other parts of the shews in the lesser mysteries. The truth is, if a person was disposed to gratify any irregular passion, it was easy for him to excuse himself by the example of the gods, as we find one actually doing in Terence: Ego homuncio hoc non facerem?
To remedy this inconvenience, Warburton saith the greater mysteries were contrived, in which such of the initiated, as were judged capable of the discovery, were made acquainted with the whole delusion of the commonly received theology. The mystagogue, Hierophant, or priest, who might be of either sex indifferently, and whose office it was to conduct the initiated, through the preparatory ceremonies, and to explain to him the mystic shews, taught him, that Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Mars,
and the rest, were only dead men, who while in life, were subject to the same passions with themselves. But having been benefactors to mankind, grateful posterity had deified them; and with their virtues had canonized their vices also.-The fabulous divinities being thus discarded, the mystagogue discovered to the initiated, the Supreme Creator of the universe, who pervades all things by his virtue, and governs all things by his providence, and who is one, having neither equal, nor second to himself. From this time the initiated was called Exowrns, a beholder, to intimate that he saw things as they are, without disguise. Whereas before, he was only Musns, from μvely to croμa, one who was to keep his mouth shut, because he did not understand the true nature of things. This doctrine of the unity of God, taught in the greater mysteries, Warburton affirms, was the grand secret, anоpov, of which there is so much said in ancient authors.
The discovery of the supreme being was made in the greater mysteries, first of all by a mystic shew or representation, which Psellus thus describes, The avrofía is, when he who is initiated beholds the divine lights. To the same purpose, Themestias: "It being thoroughly purified, he now displays to the initiated, "a region all over illuminated, and shining with a divine splen"dour. The clouds and thick darkness are dispersed, and the "mind emerges into day, full of light and cheerfulness, as be"fore of disconsolate obscurity." That which the priest thoroughly purified, was ayahua, an image, which represented the Divine being. When this was exhibited, the hierophant habited like the Creator, sung a hymn in honour of the one only God; of which, according to Warburton, there is a fragment preserved by Clem. Alexand. and Eusebius, which begins thus: "I "will declare a secret to the initiated. But let the doors be "shut against the profane. But thou Musæus, the offspring of "fair Selene, attend carefully to my song; for I shall speak of "important truths. Suffer not, therefore, the former prepos"sessions of your mind, to deprive you of that happy life, which "the knowledge of these mysterious truths will procure you. "But look on the divine nature; incessantly contemplate it, "and govern well the mind and heart: Go on in the right way, "and see the sole Governour of the world. He is one, and of "himself alone; and to that one, all things owe their being. "He operates through all, was never seen by mortal eyes, but "does himself see every thing."