תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

of knowledge. I mean not to say, that various impediments may not, from time to time, obstruct the progress of civilization, or that once civilized nations may not occasionally retrograde to at least comparative barbarism : but this I will venture to say, that, in the natural course of things, civilization on the whole must ever be in a state of increase, and barbarism on the whole must ever be in a state of decrease.

(2.) With this view of the matter, all history, down to the present time, perfectly agrees.

Many tribes and nations now exist in the variously graduated state of barbarism, from defective civilization down to absolute brutal savageness. Not more than some fifteen or sixteen centuries ago, the ancestors of the highly polished and civilized Europeans were still in the barbarous state, though they had emerged from the condition of complete savages. At a still more distant period, even after every allowance has been made for Grecian vanity, many of the nations, which touched upon the various Hellenic republics and colonies, were, in the strictly proper sense of the word, barbarians. If we carry our researches yet farther back, we find the forefathers of the Greeks themselves in the very same barbaric condition as that, with which they afterwards indiscriminately reproached all their neighbours. In short, whenever the character of a very ancient lawgiver is delineated, the reclamation of his people either from savage

or from barbarous life never fails to be insisted upon as a leading feature of his character. Yet, while such is the unvaried tenor of history and tradition, it is always acknowledged, that civilization has, from the very earliest times, prevailed in the East: nor is it less acknowledged, that the East was the aboriginal cradle of the human race immediately after that terrible revolution which stands more or less distinctly recorded in the annals of almost every nation upon the face of the globe. Barbarism then is not a state of nature, but a state of degeneracy. The East preserved, what the primeval emigrants from the East lost by the labours and difficulties attendant upon their locomotion : and the East gradually communicated the sacred deposit to those, who had forfeited it. Egypt and Phenicia borrowed from Chaldea and Assyria : Greece derived her civilization from Egypt and Phenicia : Rome and Italy were largely indebted to Greece: the Gothic conquerors of the West received the torch of knowledge from the vanquished Empire of Rome: and now, by navigation and colonization and an almost perpetual intercourse with the most widely separated nations, their descendants are rapidly carrying it in every possible direction.

(3.) What then is the plain inference from these well known and familiar facts ?

Doubtless it is this : that the population of the world is comparatively recent.

For, had the world begun to be peopled at. some immensely distant period, or had the human race existed from all eternity though the individual man be liable to death, civilization and good polity, with the arts and sciences in their train, must many ages ago have diffused themselves over the whole habitable globe ; the savage and barbaric states must long since have become extinct; and, even on what is called the doctrine of chances, every modern invention must already have been ancient in the days of our remote ancestors. Not more sure is the physical progress of alluvial depositions and encroaching sands, than the moral progress of knowledge and of civilization. Each alike proclaims the recent population of the earth. But what shall we place before the commencement of this recent population? The voice of all nations, and the indelible marks imprinted upon the globe itself, concur in declaring, that the recent population of the present world was immediately preceded by an awful diluvian revolution, from which a few individuals only of men and animals were suffered to escape.

II. Such are the proofs, upon which the fact of the universal deluge is firmly established : nor do I see, how any man can resist such evidence, unless he will throw aside all history, resolutely shut his eyes against the researches of physiology, and boldly controvert the necessity of moral testimony. The fact therefore of the universal deluge I consider as demonstrated : whence we may fairly claim to argue from it, as we would do from any other established fact. On these reasonable principles, I may be allowed to employ it as a medium of proving the additional fact, of a direct intercourse between man and his Creator, or, in other words, of a revelation of God's purposes to his creature man.

The established fact is, that an universal deluge took place not more than five or six millenaries ago ; from which a few individuals only of men and animals, the progenitors of the present race of men and animals, effected their escape. .

If then these few individuals only, human and bestial, effected their escape; the question is, how they happened to effect it, while the great mass of their respective fellows perished ?

To such a question it is unanimously replied by the voice of all nations, that the pious head of a single pious family constructed an immense ship, and that in this vessel were preserved those individuals of men and animals by whose descendants the present world has been replenished.

Now here another question arises. If a ship were constructed and used for this special purpose, the person, who so constructed and used it, must have foreseen the approaching deluge. But man, naturally, possesses not foreknowledge. Whence then did the builder of the ship derive

that prescience, by which he foresaw and provided against the approaching deluge ?

It is not easy to conceive, what reply can be given to this question, save what is doubtless the true one. The builder of the ship must have derived his prescience from an immediate intercourse with God. But, if this be admitted (and surely we have here a knot, which nothing, save the intervention of a Deity, can untie); the fact of a direct intercourse between man and his Creator, or, in other words, the fact of a revelation of God's purposes to his creature man, is fully and incontrovertibly established.

Against such a conclusion I see not what can be urged, save either the one or the other of the two following solutions of the difficulty.

It may be said, that the deluge, though universal in one sense of the word, yet did not cover the tops of all the highest hills ; and that, upon their summits, certain individuals, human and bestial, preserved themselves from destruction.

Or it may be admitted, that the deluge was strictly universal ; while it may be contended, that the individuals in question fortunately saved themselves on board of a ship, which, without any necessary revelation from heaven, had been previously built just as many other ships might have been previously built.

Neither of these solutions, I fear, will untie the knot : they shall, however, be considered in their order,

« הקודםהמשך »