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THE HISTORY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, SUPPORTED BY NUMEROUS ANCIENT
TRADITIONS OF ALMOST ALL NATIONS, BUT GREATLY SUPERIOR IN EVERY RESPECT TO ALL OTHER ANCIENT HISTORIES. ITS GENUINENESS.
We have seen, in the preceding chapter, that Moses wrote at a time when all the facts he records regarding the ancient world might have been still preserved, and transmitted uncorrupted, through the long-lived generations that existed from the creation of the world till his age. The subject of this chapter brings us a step on in our argument. We are to examine whether there be any evidence over the world, and throughout the whole remains of ancient history and tradition, in support of his authenticity as a historian of the first events of the world's existence. These evidences of his veracity we find indeed so numerous and direct, that our duty must be one of selection, and arrangement, and condensation. They are transmitted to us, also, not from suspicious sources, or collusive co-operation with the people who were the depositaries of the sacred history of Moses. In all periods of the world's history—in all nations, however remote or barbarous, whose opinions or traditions we have any means of reaching, we will find a unanimous voice bearing witness to the truth and faithfulness of the historian of God and of man. The farther back, also, we can trace these widely or universally scattered traditions, we will find that this voice is clearer and stronger, and its resemblance closer to that of the oracle of the Jewish temple of truth.
We designedly pass over the arguments that have of late years been drawn from geological facts, by some men, to invalidate the veracity of Moses; not indeed because we are afraid to join issue with them upon the authenticity of the Mosaic account, when brought to that test—for men of the most extensive knowledge in geology have proved that these facts are easily reconcileable with the sacred history ;—but we pass over this topic, because our knowledge of the exterior
crust of the earth, over its whole surface, is so partial, and the known facts themselves so detached and isolated, that we are fully entitled to say, that, as a science, geology is yet in its infancy, and too unsettled in all its principles, to authorize such far-reaching and sweeping conclusions. And, besides, even were the science perfect in its principles, and complete in the induction of undoubted facts, though we might not be able to reconcile some of the phenomena disclosed from the bosom of the earth with the sacred narrative, still we are all unacquainted with the early energies and primeval operations of nature, when she was gradually preparing the world, as the account of Moses bears that she did prepare it, as a fit habitation for
We may dismiss the subject by the single remark, that though, in all probability, he knew nothing, by actual inspection, of the order of petrified organized remains in the different strata of secondary and transition rocks, the fact is worthy of being observed, that the gradation in which he records the different orders of animated beings as having been created, is in direct correspondence with that in which their petrified remains are now found imbedded in the everlasting rocks. This is an important and decided point of agreement; and if the science shall ever be completed by a suiticient process of induction, impartial reasoners have now good reason to presume that its perfected conclusions, when the time shall have come to enable it to form such conclusions, will be found in harmonious accordance with the history. In the meantime, I would rather go sublimely wrong, with those who, expatiating over the illimitable range of science revealed in the grander works of creation, are induced to think the earth too insignificant to have formed the object of such long-continued interest to the Creator of all, as revealed religion teaches, than go astray with those who, in grovelling attitude, grub and scratch the surface of the earth, with the purpose of detecting some imaginary flaw in the accuracy of the Mosaic geology, and thence subvert Christianity.
But if the record of its birth, written on the surface of the earth, be so ambiguous, or so obliterated, or difficult to decipher, that the interrogator can yet draw thence no certain information, it is far from being so with the traditions of ancient times Moses commences his volume as if he had copied his information from the records of heaven; and assuredly none could tell man how the universe arose into existence but he who called it out of nothing. Are there, then, traditions widely spread over the earth, which would lead us to suppose that the account of creation is an important portion of knowledge communicated by the Creator to his intelligent creatures, and not a mere invention and theory of the Jewish lawgiver? What is his account?—“ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Grotius, in his treatise on “ The Truth of the Christian Religion,” has collected into one view a series of quotations in regard to the Indian, the Chaldean, the Egyptian and Phoenician, the Grecian and Roman opinions, relating to the cosmogony or first formation of the world. These we find in wonderful accordance with the Mosaic account. At the same time, when we compare the heathen traditions with the simple narrative of Moses, we cannot help contrasting its clearness and divine sublimity with the turgid pomposity and vague obscurity, the mixture of baseless theory, and fable, and inconsistency, that human folly has thrown round the traditions. Still no one who reads them can doubt that they are all derived from the same original; and though all differing from each other in some particulars, they all agree in their general features with that of Moses, and confirm it.
Every one knows the glowing and beautiful description of Ovid, the best, perhaps, of all the Latin poets. In the commencement of his great work he has given the mythological account of the creation of the world, and of its first this is in such close agreement with the Scripture account, that some have supposed, with great reason, that he has filled up his poetic picture by having recourse to the sublime original. The Romans borrowed the elements of all their knowledge from the Greeks; and when we go back to their philosophers. and mythological poets, we find the same traditions pervading them. We there find the primitive Chaos, the offspring of night, or Erebus, the 27 of Moses; then we have the abyss, a fathomless mixture of all the elements in confusion; then the subsidence of the mud, the emerging of the land from the waters; then the primeval love which brooded over, and fertilized all things; and “the arranging intellect, which separated and put them into order.” It would be unnecessary and tedious to collect all the evidence that has been adduced, from Plato and Zeno, and Anaxagoras, from Hesiod and Orpheus, and Linus, in their preserved fragments. It is the voice of the most ancient records of Greece—it is the national and mythological tradition of the country; it all speaks one language,
and all is a fainter or louder echo of the Mosaic history. It is probable that they had the traditionary knowledge among themselves, but they have evidently borrowed the details of description from the Phoenician historian and philosopher Sanchoniathon, an interesting fragment of whose works has been preserved by Eusebius, previously translated into Greek by Philo of Byblos. This is the only one we shall quote, as it is one of the very oldest of written heathen records, the origin of many of the rest, and a specimen of the whole. “ The theology of the Phoenicians,” says he, “ represents the original of the universe as a dark and moving atmosphere, or the breathing of a dark atmosphere, and a turbid chaos involved in gloom. This was boundless, and for many an age had no limitation; but when this breathing spirit, or moving principle felt a love to its own elements, a union took place, and to this connexion was given the name of love. Such was the original cause of the creation of all things. This spirit itself was uncreated; but from the union of matter with this spirit was produced mot, which some suppose to mean mud, others the putrescence of the aqueous mixture. Hence proceeded the elements of every thing created, and the generation of all things." Such is the Phoenician theory of the cosmogony, considerably obscure and unintelligible no doubt, whether arising from the darkness of the lost original, or more probably from the awkward attempt of the provincial Greek to translate a passage, which he is evidently labouring to explain, by words which only increase the chaotic obscurity. When, however, we compare it with the account of Moses, we cannot but see that it is nothing but a distorted account of the same creation. In both we have the darkness and the abyss, and the shapeless and unarranged mass—the spirit brooding over the surface of the lifeless deep, and generating life, and bringing forth order from the previously insentient elements. Now Sanchoniathon lived before the Trojan war, as is supposed in the time of the Judges of Israel, probably two or three hundred years after Moses, and twelve or thirteen hundred before Christ. He represents it as the national belief, and there can be no solid reason to question the truth of his representation. But if the opponents of Scripture will not allow it to be an original and independent tradition, in evidence of the veracity of Moses, as a historian of the first traditionary belief of the world, but will have it to be a mere copy of the Mosaic account, we will not argue the point, which there can be no separate evidence to settle either way. We only say that their supposition takes it for granted that such a book as that of Moses had existed long before, and been known to philosophical inquirers of neighbouring nations.
Again, man was created in a state of ignorance, in the image of God, and placed in Paradise. We find this truth also in the traditionary belief of all nations; the heathen poetry and mythology are full of it. The first, or golden age
of the world, is dwelt upon with rapture, as a period in which all crime and misery were unknown, when all were equally free and equally happy, when there was no tyranny and no oppression, no laws and no need of magistrates, no wars and no implements of destruction—when all spontaneously followed the law of rectitude and affection, without instruction and without compulsion. In the fable of the garden of the Hesperides and its golden fruit, guarded by a dragon, we can trace the original Paradise, and the trees of knowledge and of life; and in the slaying of that dragon by the great demigod Hercules, we find something like the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. These traditions, and such as these—tinged, of course, by the varying opinions and descriptions of different climes—prevail among all nations of mankind, and through all ages, and in places where the name of Moses and of the Jews could never be known. We find them as well known and as firmly believed in farthest India, as around the classic shores of the Mediterranean-in the burning clime of Peru, as in the coldest region of our Scythian ancestors.
The question of the origin of evil, is one that has exercised the mind of man ever since he began to investigate into the nature and causes of the moral phenomena around him, The fact itself of the existence of moral evil, however it may have been attempted to palliate or explain it away, never has been and never can be denied. The history of all nations, ever since history began to be recorded, is almost nothing else than a record of their follies and crimes, and consequent miseries. All moral and philosophical writers bear testimony to the corruption and depravity of mankind, his proneness to evil and averseness to good. To quote proofs of this from the literature of any nation or age, would be as superfluous as to attempt to prove to a man his own existence, or the existence of any thing around him, to which his senses bear witness. Its existence is felt within him, seen around him, and meets him at every step. His own passions working within, and called into operation by the insentient earthliness of things around, and by his daily converse with his brother of the dust, make