« ForrigeFortsæt »
thither as a stranger, with an army, from a country above Babylon, called the Land of the Chaldæans ; that after a short time, going thence with his multitude, he fixed his habitation in a country which was then called Canaan, and now Judæa, where his numerous descendants dwelt, whose history he writes in another book (e). To this enumeration of authorities from the remains of early writers, in which the facts, as related by Moses, may be evidently discerned, although in general they are mixed with fable, many others might be added. And whether we consider the information to be found in the later works of learned men, as derived from the Jewish Scriptures, or from other sources, the credit of the Mosaic history will perhaps be equally established, since they quoted from earlier authors. For let it be remembered, that Josephus appeals to the public records of different nations, and to a great number of books extant in his time, but now lost, as indisputable evidence, in the opinion of the heathen world, for the truth of the most remarkable events related in his history, the earlier periods of which he professes to have taken principally from the Pentateuch.
Of the many traditions according with the Mosaic history, which prevailed among the antient nations, and which still exist in several parts of the world, the following must be considered as singularly striking (f): That the world was formed from rude and shapeless matter by the spirit of God; that the seventh day was a holy day (9); that man was created perfect, and had the dominion given him over all the inferior animals;
Jos. Ant. lib. 1. cap. 7.
Many antient testimonies concerning the observance of the seventh day will be found in Whiston's Josephus, vol. 4. Index lst, and in Archbishop Usher's Letters.
that there had been a golden age, whon man, in a state
original founders, are for the most part the very names by which they were antiently known over all the East; many of them were afterwards translated, with little variation, by the Greeks in their systems of geography. Moses has traced, in one short chapter (h), all the inhabitants of the earth, from the Caspian and Persian seas to the extreme Gades, to their original, and recorded at once the period and occasion of their dispersion (i).” This fact, and the conclusions from it, which are thus incontrovertibly established by the newly acquired knowledge of the Sanscreet language, were contended for and strongly enforced by Bochart and Stillingfleet, who could only refer to oriental opinions and traditions, as they came to them through the medium of Grecian interpretation. To the late excellent and learned President of the Asiatic Society, we are chiefly indebted for the light recently thrown from the East upon this important subject. Avowing himself to be attached to no system, and as much disposed to reject the Mosaic history, if it were proved to be erroneous, as to believe it, if he found it confirmed by sound reasoning and satisfactory evidence, he engaged in those researches to which his talents and situation were equally adapted; and the result of his laborious inquiries into the chronology, history, mythology, and languages of the nations, whence infidels have long derived their most formidable objections, was a full conviction that neither accident nor ingenuity could account for the very numerous instances of similar traditions, and of near coincidence in the names of persons and places, which are to be found in the Bible, and in antient monuments of eastern literature (k). Whoever, indeed, is acquainted with the writings of Mr. Bryant and
(h) Gen. ch. 10.
Mr. Maurice, and with the Asiatic Researches published at Calcutta, cannot but have observed, that the accounts of the Creation, the Fall, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind, recorded by the nations upon the vast continent of Asia, bear a strong resemblance to each other, and to the narrative in the sacred history, and evidently contain the fragments of one original truth, which was broken by the dispersion of the patriarchal families, and corrupted by length of time, allegory, and idolatry. From this universal concurrence on this head, one of these things is necessarily true; either that all these traditions must have been taken from the author of the book of Genesis, or, that the author of the book of Genesis made up his history from some or all such traditions as were already extant; or lastly, that he received his knowledge of past events by revelation. Were, then, all these traditions taken from the Mosaic history? It has been shown by Sir William Jones and Mr. Maurice, that they were received too generally and too early to make this supposition even possible ; for they existed in different parts of the world in the very age when Moses lived. Was the Mosaic history composed from the traditions then existing ? It is certain that the Chaldæans, the Persians, the most antient inhabitants of India, and the Egyptians, all possessed the same story; but they had, by the time of Moses, wrapped it up in their own mysteries, and disguised it by their own fanciful conceits; and surely no rational mind can believe, that if Moses had been acquainted with all the mystic fables of the East, as well as of Egypt, he could, out of such an endless variety of obscure allegory, by the power of human sagacity alone, have discovered their real origin ; much less, that, from a partial knowledge of some of them, he could have been able to discover
the facts which suit and explain them all. His plain recital, however, of the Creation, the Fall, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind, does unquestionably develope that origin, and bring to light those facts; and it therefore follows, not only that the account is the true one, but, there being no human means of his acquiring the knowledge of it, that it was, as he asserts it to have been, revealed to him by God himself (1).
We have now seen, from undoubted testimony, that the Pentateuch has been uniformly ascribed to Moses as its author; that the most antient traditions remarkably agree with his account of the Creation of the World, the Fall of Man, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind; that about the time mentioned in the Pentateuch, a part of the inhabitants of Egypt, who came originally from the East, did migrate under a person of the name of Moyses or Moses; that a people, with such laws and institutions as he professes to have given them, have existed from remote antiquity; and we ourselves are eye-witnesses that such a people, so circumstanced, exist at this hour, and in a state exactly conformable to his predictions concerning them But it may be observed, that the civil history of the Jews is seldom contested, even by those who imagine the Pentateuch to have been written in some
(1) We are to observe that the Mosaic history of the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind, not only relates these events as facts which might have been handed down by tradition, but it describes in what manner these events happened, for what purposes they were designed, and what consequences, natural and moral, they were to produce; and that these very circumstances, purposes, and consequences, simply related, materially contribute to the explanation of all those mystic fables of the East, agree with the present state of the natural and moral world, and accord with the doctrines of Christianity. We may indeed retort the charge of credulity upon those, who can believe that any man could write such a history without direct Inspiration from Him "who knoweth all things.