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assume, of one natural species, they must all have proceeded from one pair; and if perfect justice be, as it is most indubitably, an essential attribute of God, that pair must have been gifted with sufficient wisdom and strength to be virtuous, and, as far as their nature admitted, happy, but entrusted with freedom of will to be vicious, and consequently degraded. Whatever might be their option, they must people in time the region where they first were established, and their numerous descendants must necessarily seek new countries, as inclination might prompt, or accident lead them. They would of course migrate in separate families and clans, which, forgetting by degrees the language of their common progenitor, would form new dialects to convey new ideas, both simple and complex. Natural affection would unite them at first, and a sense of reciprocal utility, the great and only cement of social union in the absence of public honour and justice, for which, in evil times, it is a general substitute, would combine them at length in communities more or less regular; laws would be proposed by a part of each community, but enacted by the whole; and government would be variously arranged for the happiness or misery of the governed, according to their own virtue and wisdom, or depravity and folly: so that, in less than three thousand years, the world would exhibit the same appearances which we may actually observe on it in the age of the great Arabian impostor.
The most ancient history of the human race, and the oldest composition perhaps in the world, is a work in Hebrew, which we may suppose at
first, for the sake of our argument, to have no higher authority than any other work of equal antiquity that the researches of the curious had accidentally brought to light. It is ascribed to Musah; for so he writes his own name, which, after the Greeks and Romans, we have changed into Moses; and though it was manifestly his object to give an historical account of a single family, he has introduced it with a short view of the primitive world, and his introduction has been divided, perhaps improperly, into eleven chapters. After describing with awful sublimity the creation of this universe, he asserts, that one pair of every animal species was called from nothing into existence; that the human pair were strong enough to be happy, but free to be miserable ; that, from delusion and temerity, they disobeyed their supreme benefactor, whose goodness could not pardon them consistently with his justice; and that they received a punishment adequate to their disobedience, but softened by a mysterious promise to be accomplished in their descendants. We cannot but believe, on the supposition just made of a history, uninspired, that these facts were delivered by tradition from the first pair, and related by Moses in a figurative style : not in that sort of allegory which rhetoricians describe as a mere assemblage of metaphors, but in the symbolical mode of writing adopted by eastern sages, to embellish and dignify historical truth; and, if this were a time for such illustrations, we might produce the same account of the creation and the fall, expressed by symbols very nearly similar from the Puranas themselves, and even from the Veda, which appears to stand next in antiquity to the five books of Moses.
The sketch of antediluvian history, in which we find many dark passages, is followed by a narrative of a deluge, which destroyed the whole race of man except four pairs ; an historical fact admitted as true by every nation to whose literature we have access, and particularly by the ancient Hindus, who have allotted an entire Purana to the detail of that event, which they relate, as usual, in symbols or allegories. I concur most heartily with those who insist, that, in proportion as any fact mentioned in history seems repugnant to the course of nature, or, in one word, miraculous, the stronger evidence is required to induce à rational belief of it; but we hear, without credulity, that cities have been overwhelmed by eruptions from burning mountains, and whole islands depopulated by earthquakes : if then we look at the firmament, sprinkled with innumerable stars ; if we conclude by a fair analogy, that every star is a sun, attracting, like ours, a system of inhabited planets; and if our ardent fancy, soaring band in hand with sound reason, waft us beyond the visible sphere into other regions of immensity, disclosing other celestial expanses, and other systems of suns and worlds, on all sides without number or end, we cannot but consider the submersion of our little spheroid, as an infinitely less event in respect of the immeasurable universe; than the destruction of a city or an isle in respect of this habitable globe.
Thus, on the preceding supposition, that the first eleven chapters of the book, which it is thought proper to call Genesis, are merely a preface to the oldest civil history now extant, we see the truth of them confirmed by antecedent reasoning, and by evidence, in part highly probable, and in part certain : but the connexion of the Mosaic history with that of the gospel, by a chain of sublime predictions, unquestionably ancient, and apparently fulfilled, must induce us to think the Hebrew narrative more than human in its origin, and consequently true in every substantial part of it, though possibly expressed in figurative language; as many learned and pious men have believed, and as the most pious may believe without injury, and perhaps with advantage, to the cause of revealed religion.
Sir William Jones.
1199 DIFFICULTIES IN THE HISTORY OF THE OLD TES.
TAMENT, NO ARGUMENT AGAINST ITS AUTHEN
TICITY The history of the Old Testament has, without doubt, some difficulties in it; but a minute philosopher, who busies himself in searching them out, whilst he neglects to contemplate the harmony of all its parts, the wisdom and goodness of God displayed throughout the whole, appears to me like a purblind man, who, in surveying a picture, objects to the simplicity of the design, and the beauty of the execution, from the asperities he has discovered in the canvass and the colouring. The history of the Old Testament, notwithstanding the real difficulties which occur in it, notwith: standing the scoffs and cavils of unbelievers, appears to me to have such internal evidences of its truth, to be so corroborated by the most ancient profane histories, so confirmed by the present circumstances of the world, that if I were not a Christian, I would become a Jew. I look upon it to be the oldest, the truest, the most comprehensive, and the most important history in the world. I consider it as giving more satisfactory proofs of the being and attributes of God, of the origin and end of human kind, than ever were attained by the deepest researches of the most enlightened philosophers. The exercise of our reason, in the investigation of truths respecting the nature of God, and the future expectations of human kind, is highly useful; but I hope I shall be pardoned by the metaphysicians in say. ing, that the chief utility of such disquisitions consists in this : that they bring us acquainted with the weakness of our intellectual faculties. I do not presume to measure other men by my standard: you may have clearer notions than I am able to form of the infinity of space; of the eternity of duration; of necessary existence; of the connexion between necessary existence and intelligence; between intelligence and benevolence; you may see nothing in the universe but organized matter; or, rejecting a material, you may see nothing but an ideal world. With a mind weary of conjecture, fatigued by doubt, sick of disputation, eager for knowledge, anxious for certainty, and unable to attain it by the best use of my reason in matters of the utmost importance, I have long ago turned my thoughts to an impartial examination of the proofs on which revealed religion is