« ElőzőTovább »
profound reverence and solicitous attention of the bondman in the presence of his owner, the Psalmist alludes, when he describes his feelings and conduct in the presence of his God: “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, 0 thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the
of maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
. The slaves of the Greeks and Romans were treated with great severity, and very often with the most revolting injustice and cruelty. One of the most common punishments which that wretched class of mankind had to endure from the hands of their merciless lords, was to be whipped through the circus, bearing a gallows or cross ; which strongly reminds us of the sufferings to which our blessed Lord was subjected on our account. Despised by the Gentiles, and abhorred by the Jews, as the vilest of malefactors, he
like one of the meanest slaves, compelled to bear his cross, till he sunk under its weight. His disciples are required to submit to similar treatment for his sake: “ He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." . But, though the slaves in the oriental regions were -treated with more severity than hired servants, their condition was by no means reckoned so degrading as in mo dern times, among the civilized nations of the west. The slave-master in the east, when he has no son to inherit his wealth, and even when the fortune he has to bequeath is very considerable, frequently gives his daughter to one of his slaves. The wealthy people of Barbary, when they have no children, purchase young slaves, educate them in their own faith, and sometimes adopt them for their own children. This custom, so strange and unnatural, according to our modes of thinking, may be traced to a very remote antiquity; it seems to have prevailed so early as the days of Abraham, who says of one of his slaves, “ One born in mine house is mine heir :" although Lot, his bro.ther's son, resided in his neighbourhood, and he had besides many relations in Mesopotamia. In the courts of 'eastern monarchs, it is well known, that slaves frequently rise to the highest honours of the state. The greatest men in the Turkish empire are originally slaves, reared and educated in the seraglio. When Maillet was in Egypt, there was an eunuch who had raised three of his slaves to the rank of princes; and he mentions a Bey who exalted five or six of his slaves to the same office with himself. With these facts before us, we have no reason to question the veracity of the inspired writers, who record the extraordinary advancement of Joseph in the house of Pharaoh, and of Daniel, under the monarch of Babylon. These sudden elevations from the lowest stations in society, from the abject condition of a slave, or the horrors of a dungeon, to the highest and most honourable offices of state, are quite consistent with the established manners and customs of those countries.
i Psa. cxxiii, 1, 2. · In Hindostan « slaves, who conduct themselves well find their chains light, are treated like near relations, and are admitted to great confidence ; and obtain their freedom, and marry their masters' daughters.” Forbes's Orient. Mem. vol. iii, p. 167.-House-born slaves are considered in a light hardly less respectable than the relations of the family. Malcom's Hist. of Persia, vol. i, p. 456, note; and vol. ii, p. 286.
Forbes's Orient. Mem. vol. iv, p. 201. Harmer's Obs. vol. iv, p. 298. · Lett. xi, p. 118; and Lett. xii, p. 175.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE CONTRACTS
AND COVENANTS OF THE EASTERN NATIONS.
Contracts at first proposed merely in words.-A written instrument, the inven
tion of a later age.-Concluded in the gate of the city.--Reckoned sufficient at first, if the covenant was made in the presence of all the people... Ceremony of striking hands introduced.-Covenants ratified by a presentBy oath-Touching the altar-Standing before it, the general practice Swearing by putting the hand under the thigh--By joining hands, utter. ing at the same time a curse upon the false swearer. -Swearing by the life or head of the king. To swear by Jerusalem, a form in uae among the Jews.-Ratification by blood-By eating of the same bread. By salt By presenting the party with some article of their own dress. Written obligations cancelled in different ways.
The earliest contracts of which we read in the sacred volume, seem to have been proposed merely in words. Of this kind, for any thing we can discover, was the agreement between Isaac and Abimelech the king of Gerar. A written instrument was the invention of an age long posterior; for the first contract of this kind, of which we read in the Scriptures, is in the book of Jeremiah, and relates to a purchase of land. The law of Moses prescribes no writing, except in cases of divorce. But though it is presumeable, that written contracts were not introduced till an advanced period of the Jewish history, we are not to suppose that such transactions were nugatory or insecure. The public manner in which they were com
. Gen. xxvi, 29.
monly managed and concluded, and perhaps the general prevalence of simplicity and integrity in the intercourse of life, rendered them in most cases, perfectly safe. In the patriarchal age, and for a long time afterwards, the gate of the city was the place where business was transacted. Abraham purchased his burying-place in the presence of all those that entered in at the gate of Hebron. Hamor and his son Shechem, went to the gate of their city, when they endeavoured to persuade their people to make an alliance with Jacob and his family. The way in which such transactions were managed in those primitive times, is beautifully described in the history of Ruth. Boaz, wishing to prevail with his kinsman, who had the right of redemption, either to perform the part of a kinsman to the wife of his deceased relative, or cede his right to himself, went up to the gate, and sat down there; he then called his relation to sit down, and took some of the elders of the place as witnesses ; after they were all seated, he explained the matter, and obtained the acknowledgement he wanted, with all the formality prescribed by the law, which was to pull off his shoe; and concluded the business by taking the elders and all the people, who from curiosity or interest had gathered about them, as witnesses of the transaction. We read of no writing on the occasion, yet was the transfer made, and complete security given, by the acknowledged testimony of the elders and people that were present. It was at first reckoned sufficient, if the covenant was made in the présence of all the people; but in process of time, the ceremony of striking hands was introduced at the conclusion of a bargain, which has maintained its ground among
the b Harmer's Observ. vol. iv, p. 456.
customs of civilized nations down to the present time. To strike hands with another, was the emblem of agreement among the Greeks under the walls of Troy; for Nestor complains in a public assembly of the chiefs, that the Trojans had violated the engagements which they had sanctioned by libations of wine, and giving their right hands:
Σπονδαι τ' ακρητοι, και δεξιαι ης επιτιθμεν. Il. lib. ii, 1. 341. And in another passage, Agamemnon protests that the agreement which the Trojans had ratified by the blood of lambs, libations of wine, and their right hands, could not in any way be set aside. The Roman faith was plighted in the same way; for in Virgil, when Dido marked from her watch-towers the Trojan fleet setting forward with balanced sails, she exclaimed, is this the honour, the faith, “ En dextra fidesque."d The wise man alludes often to this mode of ratifying a bargain, which shews, it was in general practice among the people: “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, thou art snared with the words of thy mouth."e Traces of this custom may be discovered in ages long anterior to that in which Solomon flourished; for Job, in his solemn appeal to God from the tribunal of men, thus expresses himself : “ Lay down now, put me in surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?" The covenant which Abraham made with the king of Gerar, was ratified by a present of SEVEN EWE LAMBS. The interesting ceremony is thus described : “ Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves, and Abimelech said to Abraham, what mean these seven ewe lambs, which thou hast set by themselves ? And he said,
« Il lib. iv, 1. 159. e Prov. vi, 1 ; see also ch. xvii, 18, and xxii, 26. d Æn. iv, 1. 597.
f Job xvii, 3.