Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

such an opinion being generally prevalent among the Jews in any early writing. The Rabbis indeed of later times built a heap of absurd doctrines upon this history; but this proves, if it proves any thing, that their ancestors ever understood it as a literal and true account : and in fact, the truth of every part of the narrative contained in the book of Genesis is positively confirmed by the constant testimony of a people who preserved a certain unmixed genealogy from father to son, through a long succession of ages; and by these people we are assured, that their ancestors ever did believe that this account, as far as it fell within human cognizance, had the authority of uninterrupted tradition from their first parent Adam, till it was written by the inspired pen of Moses. The great length to which human life was extended in the patriarchal ages, rendered it very practicable for the Jews, in the time of Moses, to trace their lineal descent as far as the Flood, nay even to Adam ; for Adam conversed 56 years with Lamech, Noah's father, Lamech being born A. M. 874, and Adam having died A. M. 930; and Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, who was born A. M. 687, did not die till A. M. 1656, according to Archbishop Usher, so that he was 243 years contemporary with Adam, and 600

with Noah. Shem, the son of Noah, was probably living in some part of Jacob's time, or Isaac's at least; and Moses was great grandson of Levi, one of the sons of Jacob. How easily then, and uninterruptedly, might the general tradition be continued to the time of Moses ! Could the grandchildren of Jacob be ignorant of their own pedigree, and of the time when they came into Egypt? Can we think that so many remarkable circumstances, as attended the selling and advancement of Joseph, could be forgotten in so short a time? Could Jacob be ignorant whence his grandfather Abraham came, especially as he lived so long in the country himself, and married into that branch of the family which was remaining there ? Could Abraham be ignorant of the Flood, when he was contemporary with, and descended from Shem, one of the eight persons who escaped in the ark? Could Shem be ignorant of what passed before the Flood, when Adam, the first man, lived so near the time of Noah? And could Noah be ignorant of the Creation and Fall of Man(c), when he was contemporary with

those (c) Although general accounts of these great events might be conveyed thus easily by tradition from Adam to Moses, yet, it should be observed, that there are many circumstances relative to them recorded in Genesis, which could be known only by immediate revelation from God. Vol. I.

F

those who conversed with Adam? Can we then, setting aside Inspiration for a moment, believe it possible, that while there must have been so many remaining testimonies of former times, any lawgiver in his senses would have written a false account of those times, in a book which he ordered to be read publicly and frequently, as well as privately, by those very people who had clearly the power of contradicting it, and by convicting him of falsehood, of absolutely destroying his authority ? or, that Moses would adopt the style of allegory in the beginning of a book professedly written for the use of a plain unlettered people (d), and containing a narrative of events which had passed before their eyes, and a code of laws which were to be literally observed; that he would introduce a grave history of real occurrences, a detailed practical system of jurisprudence and of religion, by a fictitious representation of the wonders of Creation and Providence ?

“ The account of the Creation,” says Mr. Gray, “is not to be considered as allegorical, or merely figurative, any more than the history of the Temptation, and of the Fall from Inno

cence, (d) We ought always to remember, that the writings of Moses were addressed to the people in general, and not confined to the priesthood or the learned.

[ocr errors]

cence, since the whole description is unquestionably delivered as real, and is so considered by all the sacred writers (e). In the explanation of Scripture, indeed, no interpretation, which tends to supersede the literal sense, should be admitted; and for this reason also it is, that those speculations, which are spun out with a view to render particular relations in the book of Genesis more consistent with our ideas of probability, should be received at least with great diffidence and caution. To represent the formation of the woman from Adam's rib; as a work performed in an imaginary sense, or as pictured to the mind in vision, seems to be too great a departure from the plain rules which should be observed in the construction of Scripture (f), and inconsistent with the expositions of the sacred writers. So likewise the wrestling of Jacob with an angel (g), though sometimes

consis

I Tim.

(e) John, c. 8. v. 44. 2 Cor. c. 11. v. 3. C. 2. v. 13

Rev. c. 12. v. 9. Allix's Reflections on Genesis. Waterland's General Preface to Scripture vindicated. Witty's Essay towards Vindication of Mosaic History. Nichol's Conference with a Theist. Bochart de Scrip. Tentat.

(f) Gen. c. 1. v. 22 and 23. This is related by Moses as a real operation, though performed while Adam was in a deep sleep, and is so considered by the sacred writers. 1 Cor. c. 11. v. 8 and

go (g) Gen. c. 32. V. 24.

considered as a scenical representation addressed to the fancy of the Patriarch, should rather be contemplated, like the temptation of Abraham, as a literal transaction, though perhaps of a figurative character; and like that, it was designed to convey information, by actions instead of words, of certain particulars, which it imported the Patriarch to know, and which he readily collected from a mode of revelation so customary in the early ages of the world, however it may seem incongruous to those who cannot raise their minds to the contemplation of any æconomy which they have not experienced, and who proudly question every event not consistent with their notions of propriety (h).

To consider the whole of the Mosaic narration as an allegory, is not only to throw over it the veil of inexplicable confusion, and involve the whole Pentateuch in doubt and obscurity, but to shake to its very basis Christianity, which commences in the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.' In reality, if we take the history of the Fall in any other sense than the obvious literal sense, we plunge into greater perplexities than ever. Some well-meaning pious commentators have indeed endeavoured to reconcile all difficulties, by considering some parts of the Mosaic history

(h) Gray's Key, p. 87. edit. 3d.

« ПредишнаНапред »