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Providence to a renewal of some of the obliterated characters of the patriarchal faith, and permitted to receive and impart to the Heathens, a restoration of some of those great doctrines which were first revealed by God as the fundamental principles of all true religion, and from which there could be no departure, without a proportionate deviation from the standard of immutable truth *. Such a supposition does not imply that any countenance was given to the personal views or erroneous tenets of the Persian prophet. It presumes only that a testimony was drawn from time to time, even from the mouth of those whose ways were perverse before God, to the excellency of the doctrines which formed the basis of all natural and revealed religion, and upon which whatever is esteemed good among the superstitions of antiquity must ultimately rest. These doctrines renewed in divers manners were confirmed by divine authority, and with encreasing clearness, to the Jews, and were displayed with full manifestation at the coming of Christ.
* Shahristani de Religion Oriental Diogen, Laert. in Procem. Plutarch de Isid. et Osirid.
Previously to that time, the Gentile nations, however left to walk in their own ways, obtained occasional notices of God. The exertions of Zoroastres certainly meliorated the character of a religion, which for ages was to maintain its influence in the Eastern world. There is even some reason to believe, that he was enabled, by the convictions which he derived from authentic information, to carry on the views of his followers to the expectation of that future Prophet and Sovereign, who was to enlighten and govern the world with righteousness and peace, and whose star the wise men among the descendants of his countrymen were at length enabled to behold.
The early heretics of the Christian Church professed to be in possession of some revelations concerning Christ, imparted, as they alleged, to Zoroastres: Porphyry exposed these as forgeries.
Abul-Pharagius however, tells us, that Zoroastres foretold to his Magians, the coming of the Messiah, and the appearance of the Star at his Nativity, which he instructed them to follow when it should be seen, and to offer their gifts and adoration to the
person to whom it should conduct them. It is added, that in conformity to this direction, the wise men repaired to Bethlehem* Others attribute these prophetic intimations to Balaam.
These accounts, it must be acknowledged, are of a legendary nature, built possibly upon oral communications of what the Scriptures revealed. There is sufficient reason however to believe, that both Balaam and Zoroastres contributed to excite and keep alive the expectation of the Messiah; and that God so far constrained these aliens to act in his service, with design, possibly, to draw truth from the mouth of deception and error, and to render even false witnesses subservient to its establishment.
Zoroastres, and Mahomet who propagated his imposture over the same countries, bore testimony to the authority of the Jewish prophets, and if the former foretold, the latter admitted the claims of Christ, as a prophet.
Suidas attributes to Zoroastres four books on Nature, and other works, which have perished, excepting some fragments preserved by Eusebius.
Hyde de Relig. vet. Persar. c. xxxi. p. 382.
Some pretended oracles of Zoroastres have been collected from Proclus, Simplicius, Damascius, and others, which were, probably, fabricated by the Platonic writers subsequent to the time of Christ *.
Chrysostom. Vit. Babyl. Martyr. Stanley's Lives of the Philosophers, Part xxx, c. iii.
On the Phænicians and Sanchoniatho.
THE Phoenicians lived in a country so immediately contiguous to Judæa, that they had the most direct means of knowing the events which concerned the Jews, and of becoming acquainted with the books which they respected.
Sanchoniatho, a native of Tyre, or of Berytus, is the author of greatest antiquity among the Phoenicians, of whose writings we have any remains. remains. He has transmitted accounts which go back to very early times, and which retain some memorials of truth. His name, indeed, in the Phoenician language, signifies the friend of truth. The original work is now lost, and what we possess is a Greek translation of it made by PhiloByblius, in the time of Adrian.
Porphyry, as we learn from Eusebius, supposed Sanchoniatho to have lived in the reign of Semiramis, who preceded the Tro