JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Pre-Christian Revelations.

17. We learn from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis that a Divine revelation was granted to our first parents. They were instructed by God Himself about the creation, their destiny to immortality, their dominion over all the earth with its plants and animals, the indissolubility of matrimony, their dependence on Almighty God, the prohibition to eat of the forbidden fruit, the consequences of their disohedience, the promise of a Redeemer, who was to spring from their race, the acceptability to God of the sacrifice of material objects, etc. All this is called the Primitive revelation. The knowledge of it was transmitted through subsequent generations and it was easy to preserve the traditions in their integrity, owing to the long lives of men in those early ages, when Adam lived for over sixty years with Lamech, the father of Noe.

18. Noe was a new messenger from God to men, sent to warn sinners of impending punishment and to restore the observance of the moral law. After the Deluge, he predicted the future lot of his sons and of their descendants, and declared in particular that the Messias should he born of the race of Sem. He transmitted the Primitive Revelation in its purity to his descendants; and, although idolatry seems to have begun with some of these during his lifetime, still many of the great truths regarding God and morality were remembered through many generations. Students of antiquity have discovered in the earliest writings and traditions of various peoples a much purer religion than that which was prevalent in time classic ages of Greece and Rome. They have thus strikingly refuted the theory of evolutionists which pretends that religion was evolved from the grossest fetichism, by constant improvements, to the gradual recognition of one only God. The opposite is known to be time truth. "It cannot be denied, writes Frederick von Schlegel, "that the early Indians possessed a knowledge of the true God; all their writings are replete with sentiments and expressions noble, clear, and serenely grand, as deeply conceived and reverentially expressed as in any human language in which men have spoken of their God (Aest. and Misc. Works, Let. VIII. See also Thebaud's Gentilism, pp. 30 etc., where the same is shown to be true of other ancient races). Prophets were also sent from time to time as special messengers of God to keep the Primitive revelation from corruption, and to prepare mankind for the coming of the Saviour.

19. When the nations generally were falling into idolatry, God selected Abraham to be the father of a Chosen People, from which the Messias was to be born, and in which the Primitive revelation was to be preserved in all its purity "The Lord said to Abraham: Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father's house, and come into the land which I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee -- and in thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed" (Gen. XII, 1-3). The Old Testament portion of the Holy Scriptures is almost entirely taken up with the history of that Chosen People, whose one great expectation was the coming of the Messias. Successive prophecies limited the ancestors of the Messias to the descendants of Isaac, Jacob, Juda, and later on, of David and Solomon, and determined the time of His appearance on earth. There were also meanwlmile other revelations of God to other nations; at least to individuals who, like Job, lived among the Gentiles. We are expressly told in the New Testament that at no tinme God left Himself without testimony in the world; and that in every nation He accepts those who fear and obey Him (Acts XIV, 16. -- See, for an apt explanation of this matter, Cardinal Newman's "Arians of the IV. Century," p. 81).

20. Moses was the great Prophet sent by the Almighty to lead His Chosen People forth from Egypt, the land of bondage, to the promised land; and thus he was the most conspicuous type, or figure of the Saviour, who was to free all men from the bondage of Satan and open to them the Kingdom of Heaven. After Moses, by numerous miracles and prophecies, which are circumstantially narrated in the Book of Exodus, had proved his mission to be Divine, he communicated to the Israelites the law of God, and regulated their government, their dealings with one another and with the nations around them; also their religious observances, and most especially their public worship. This was to be a type of the perfect worship that would be instituted by Christ; for, as St. Paul writes: "All these things happened to them in figure" (in. Cor. X, 11). Moses foretold the coming of Christ in God's own words: "I will raise them up a Prophet out of the midst of their brethren like unto thee -- and he that will not hear His word. which He will speak in My name, I will be the avenger" (Deut. XVIII, 18, 19).

21. The Book of Psalms is full of prophecies in regard to Christ, giving details concerning His birth, His life, His doctrines, His sufferings, His death,. His resurrection and His everlasting Kingdom. After Moses, Prophets were sent from time to time, to keep constantly before the minds of the Chosen People the worship of the one God, the observance of the Mosaic Law, the expectation of the Messias, the time, place, and manner of His coming, etc.

It will be noticed that the words "Messias" and "Christ" are used promiscuously for each other; both mean the "Anointed"; of this term "Messias" is the Hebrew, "Christ" the Greek equivalent. Thus, during the Passion of Christ, when the High-Priest adjured Jesus to tell if He were "the Christ the Son of God," he evidently asked whether he were the expected "Messias" (Matt. XXVI, 63); and St. John writes: "The Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (I, 41).

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