« ElőzőTovább »
the Prophets who immediately fucceeded hiin, flourished nearly a thousand years before any of the Greek philofophers.
· The Books, which compofe the Canon of the Jewish Scriptures, have the concurrence of all antiquity in favour of their originality. They were delivered to the Hebrews in their own language, with every mark of genuineness, by the perfons, whose names they bear; and these perfons, by recording contemporary events, conftantly appealed to well-known proofs of their regard to truth. The prophetical Books in particular contain the evidences of their inspiration, as well as of the integrity and piety of their authors. The external proofs are clear and strong, as well as the internal ; in consequence of which all these Books have always been preserved with the greatest care, and have been held in the highest veneration.
It is no less curious than important to remark the traditions preserved in the Pagan world, which confirm the truth of the Pentateuch, or the five books written' by Moses. The tenet of Thales, the great philofopher of Miletus, that water was the first element; the doctrine of Pythagoras, that the universe was created from a fhapeless mass of matter; the opinions, that the world was formed by an almighty Power, who gave to man the dominion over the inferior animals; and that man in his primeval state was innocent and happy, may be traced back to the earliest times. Many other
parts of Grecian mythology, as well as the traditions prevalent among the various nations of the earth, and particularly among the inhabitants of the vast continent of Afia, agree with the Mofaical account of the creation. Noah, the ark, and the dove, are circumstances of tradition in almost all parts of the world, and the Flood is the epoch from which is dated the origin of all records ', .
The beginning of Ovid's. Metamorphoses reads very much like a free poetical version of the first chapters of the Book of Generis, adapted to the tafte of the Romans. Ovid describes the creation of the world by an almighty power out of a rude and unorganised mass, called chaos, that is, the earth without form and void of Mofes. Ovid defcribes the superiority given to man over all other animals, and his innocent and happy ftate in the golden age, when the earth brought forth fpontaneously the most delicious fruits for his fubfiftence; what is this but Adam in the garden of Eden ? When the race of men became depraved and sinful, the Supreme Being destroyed them by a deluge with the exception only of one guiltless pair, Deucalion and Pyrrha. They are preserved upon a mountain; allufive to that where the ark of Noah refted after the flood. The effort of the
" Cicero thus represents the opinion of Thales. “ Aquam effe initiuin rerum, Deum autein eam mentem quæ ex aqua cuncta fingeret.” Cicero de Nat. Deorum, 1. i. c. XXV. This comes very clofe to the Mofaic account: The Spirit of God motel upon the face of the waters. Gen. i. vi
giants to scale the heavens, is evidently a ftorg founded upon the attempt to build the tower of Babel. Many other resemblances might be pointed out, but these may be sufficient to prove the fource from which the descriptions of the Poet must have been originally derived.
The Chaldeans preserved the history of their Xisurus, who was the Noah of Moses. The Egyptians afferted, that Mercury had engraved his doctrine upon columns, which had resisted the violence of a deluge. The Chinese historians record, that Peyrun, a mortal beloved and protected by the Gods, faved himself in a vessel from the general inundation. The Hindoos say that the waters of the ocean spread over the surface of the whole earth, except one mountain to the north-that one woinan with, feven men saved themselves on this mountain with certain plants and animals. They add, in speaking of their God Vishnou, that at the deluge he transformed himself into a fith, and conducted the vessel which preserved the relics of the human race. This vefsel is likewise a subject of tradition in the northern parts of the world.
That the facrifice of animals was necessary to appease the offended gods, was a religious tenet very general and very antient. The account of the long lives of the Patriarchs is confirmed by writers of various countries. Their primitive manners, and their mode of performing facrifices, and offering prayers to the great Author of nature on
the summits of mountains, and in the retirements of groves, agree with the descriptions of Homer, and many other early writers. Zoroafter, the great teacher of the ancient Persians, derived from the Books of Moses the first principles of his religion, his ceremonial laws, his account of the creation, of the firft parents of mankind, of the Patriarchs, and particularly of Abraham, whose pure religion he professed to restore.
In the attributes and characters of the Heathen gods may be found allusions to the ancient exprelsions of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the customs, laws, and ceremonies of many other nations may be traced a resemblance to the Mofaical institutions. In the accounts of the deities of the Pagans, and the early heroes and benefactors of mankind, particularly in those which adorn the pages of Grecian history, are represented many of the Patriarchs and illustrious persons of Scripture. Many principles of the most eminent philosophers, many fictions of the most celebrated poets, both of Greece and Rome, and inany institutions of the moft renowned Heathen lawgivers, cannot fail, by their circumstances of resemblance, to direct our attention to the great Legislator of the Jews. The motè venerable and ancient traditions of the world seem to contain the parts of one original and uniform system, which was broken by the dispersion of the primeval families after the deluge, and corrupted by the revolutions of ages. They were the streams, which flowed
through the various countries of the eart the great fource of Mofaical history. ,
Jofephus, the Jewish historian, flourished in the reign of the emperor Vespasian. He was a perfon of great learning and eminence, and conducted his inquiries with fingular diligence, industry, and care. He corroborates the testimony of the facred writers, and illustrates their truth; as he not only gives a regular detail of the most remarkable trantactions of the Jews, but introduces considerable notices of all those people, with whom they formed alliances, or carried on wars. In his treatise against Apion, he expofesthe contradictions, which occurred in the Egyptian, Chaldean, and Phenician records ; vindicates the authority of the Jewish Scriptures ; describes the care, which was taken in their pre- :: fervation; and states their fuperior pretenfions, ... more particularly in point of antiquity, to the res fpect and reverence of inankind.
II. The Proofs of their authenticity.
The support given by the earliest Heathen writers to the records of Scripture is very strong. The fragments of Şanchoniathon, the moft ancient hif .. torian of Phenicia, who is supposed to have flourished not long after the death of Moses, confirm : the Scriptural account of the origin of the world, and of many persons and places mentioned in the
. . Pentateuch