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to all history; and that this system was actually transmitted, is clear from this, that the wisdom of very early ages consisted not so much in natural and speculative science, as in moral notions, rules of conduct, and an acquaintance with the opinions of the wise of still earlier periods. The few persons through whom this system was transmitted to Noah, for in fact Methuselah was contemporary both with Adam and Noah, rendered any great corruption impossible; and therefore the crimes charged upon the antediluvians are violence and other immoralities, rather than the corruption of truth; and Noah was "a preacher of righteousness," rather than a restorer of doctrine.

The flood, (8) being so awful and marked a declaration of God's anger against the violation of the laws of this primitive religion, would give great force and sanction to it, as a religious system, in the minds of Noah's immediate descendants. The existence of God; his providence; his favour to the good; his anger against evil doers; the great rules of justice and mercy; the practice of a sacrificial worship; the observance of the Sabbath; the promise of a Deliverer, and other similar tenets, were among the articles and religious rites of this primitive system: nor can any satisfactory account be given, why they were transmitted to so many people, in different parts of the world; why they have continued to glimmer through the darkness of paganism to this day; why we find them more or less recognized in the mythology, traditions, and customs of almost all ages ancient and modern, except that they received some original sanction of great efficacy, deeply fixing them in the hearts of the patriarchs of all the families of men. Those who deny the revelations contained in the Scriptures, have no means of accounting for these facts, which in themselves are indisputable. They have no theory respecting them which is not too childish to deserve serious refutation, and they usually prefer to pass them over in silence. But the believer in the Bible can account for them, and he alone. The destruction of wicked men by the flood put the seal of Heaven upon the religious system transmitted from Adam; and under the force of this Divine and unequivocal attestation of its truth, the sons and descendants of Noah went forth into their different settlements, bearing for ages the deep impression of its sanctity and authority. The impression, it is

(8) Whatever may be thought respecting the circumstances of the flood as mentioned by Moses, there is nothing in that event, considered as the punishment of a guilty race, and as giving an attestation of God's approbation of right principles and a right conduct, to which a consistent Theist can object. For if the will of God is to be collected from observing the course of nature and providence, such signal and remarkable events in his government as the deluge, whether universal or only co-extensive with the existing race of men, may be expected to occur; and especially when an almost universal punishment, as connected with an almost universal wickedness, so strikingly indicated an observant and a righteous government.

true, at length gave way to vice, superstition, and false philosophy; but superstition perverted truth rather than displaced it; and the doctrines, the history, and even the hopes of the first ages, were never entirely. banished even from those fables which became baleful substitutes for their simplicity..

In the family of Abraham the true God was acknowledged. Melchizedec was the sovereign of one of the nations of Canaan, and priest of the most high God, and his subjects must therefore have been worshippers of the true. Divinity. Abimelech the Philistine and his people, both in Abraham's days and in Isaac's, were also worshippers of Jehovah, and acknowledged the same moral principles which were held sacred in the elect family. The revelations and promises made to Abraham would enlarge the boundaries of religious knowledge, both among the descendants of Ishmael, and those of his sons by Keturah; as those made to Shem would, with the patriarchal theology, be transmitted to his posterity-the Persians, Assyrians, and Mesopotamians. (9) In Egypt, even in the days of Joseph, he and the king of Egypt speak of the true God, as of a being mutually known and acknowledged. Upon the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan, they found a few persons in that perhaps primitive seat of idolatry, who acknowledged "Jehovah to be God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath." Through the branch of Esau the knowledge of the true religion would pass from the family of Isaac, with its farther illustrations in the covenants made with Abraham, to his descendants. Job and his friends, who probably lived be. tween Abraham and Moses, were professors of the patriarchal religion; and their discourses show, that it was both a sublime and a comprehensive system. The plagues of Egypt and the miraculous escape of the Israelites, and the destruction of the Canaanitish nations, were all parts of an awful controversy between the true God and the idolatry spreading in the world; and could not fail of being largely noised abroad among the neighbouring nations, and of making the religion of the Israelites known. (JENKIN'S Reasonableness of Christianity, vol. i, chap. 2.) Balaam, a Gentile prophet, intermixes with his predictions many brief but eloquent assertions of the first principles of religion; the omnipotence of Deity, his universal providence, and the immutability of his counsels; and the names and epithets which he applies to the Supreme Being, are, as Bishop Horsley observes, the very same which are used by Moses, Job, and the inspired writers of the Jews, namely, God, the Almighty, the Most High, and Jehovah; which is a proof, that gross as the corruptions of idolatry were now become, the patriarchal religion was not forgotten nor its language become obsolete.

(9) See Bishop HORSLEY'S Dissertations before referred to; and LELAND'S View of the Necessity of Revelation, part i, chap. 2.

The frequent and public restorations of the Israelites to the principles of the patriarchal religion, after they had lapsed into idolatry, and fallen under the power of other nations, could not fail to make their peculiar opinions known among those with whom they were so often in relations of amity or war, of slavery or dominion. We have evidence collateral to that of the Scriptures, that the building of the celebrated temple of Solomon, and the fame of the wisdom of that monarch, produced not only a wide spread rumour, but, as it was intended by Divine wisdom and goodness, moral effects upon the people of distant nations, and that the Abyssinians received the Jewish religion after the visit of the queen of Sheba, the principles of that religion being probably found to accord with those ancient traditions of the patriarchs, which remained among them. (1) The intercourse between the Jows and the states of Syria and Babylon on the one hand, and Egypt on the other, powers which rose to great eminence and influence in the ancient world, was maintained for many ages. Their frequent captivities and dispersions would tend to preserve in part, and in part to revive, the knowledge of the once common and universal faith; for we have instances, that in the worst periods of their history there were among the captive Israelites those who adhered with heroic steadfastness to their own religion. We have the instance of the female captive in the house of Naaman the Syrian, and, at a later period, the sublime example of the three Hebrew youths, and of Daniel in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The decree of this prince, after the deliverance of Shadrach and his companions, ought not to be slightly passed over. It contained a public proclamation of the supremacy of Jehovah, in opposition to the gods of his country; and that monarch, after his recovery from a singular disease, became himself a worshipper of the true God; both of which are circumstances which could not but excite attention, among a learned and curious people, to the religious tenets of the Jews. We may add to this also, that great numbers of the Jews preserving their Scriptures, and publicly worshipping the true God, never returned from the Babylonish captivity; but remained in various parts of that extensive empire after it was con

(1) The princes of Abyssinia claim descent from Menilek, the son of Solomon by the queen of Sheba. The Abyssinians say she was converted to the Jewish religion. The succession is hereditary in the line of Solomon, and the device of their kings is a lion passant, proper upon a field gules, and their motto, "The lion of the race of Solomon and tribe of Judah hath overcome." The Abyssinian eunuch who was met by Philip was not properly a Jewish proselyte, but an Abyssinian believer in Moses and the prophets. Christianity spread in this country at an early period; but many of the inhabitants to this day are of the Jewish religion. Tyre, also must have derived an accession of religious information from its intercourse with the Israelites in the time of Solomon, and we find Hiram the king blessing the Lord God of Israel "as the Maker of heaven and earth."

quered by the Persians. The Chaldean philosophic schools, to which many of the Greek sages resorted for instruction, were therefore never without the means of acquaintance with the theological system of the Jews, however degenerate in process of time their wise men became, by addicting themselves to judicial astrology; and to the same sacred source the conquest of Babylon conducted the Persians.

Cyrus, the celebrated subverter of the Babylonian monarchy, was of the Magian religion, whose votaries worshipped God under the emblem of fire, but held an independent and eternal principle of darkness and evil. He was, however, somewhat prepared by his hostility to idols, to listen to the tenets of the Jews; and his favour to them sufficiently shows, that the influence which Daniel's character, the remarkable facts which had occurred respecting him at the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, and the predictions of his own success by Isaiah, had exerted on his mind, was very great. In his decree for the rebuilding of the temple, recorded in Ezra, chap. i, and 2 Chron. xxxvi, 23, he acknowledges "Jehovah to be the God of heaven," who had given him nis kingdom, and had charged him to rebuild the temple. Nor could this testimony in favour of the God of the Jews be without effect upon nis subjects; one proof of which, and of the influence of Judaism upon the Persians, is, that in a short time after his reign, a considerable improvement in some particulars, and alteration in others, took place in the Magian religion by an evident admixture with it of the tenets and ceremonies of the Jews. (2) And whatever improvements the theology of the Persians thus received, and they were not few nor unimportant; whatever information they acquired as to the origin of the world, the events of the first ages, and questions of morals and religion, subjects after which the ancient philosophers made keen and eager inquiries; they could not but be known to the learned Greeks, whose intercourse with the Persians was continued for so long à period, and be transmitted also into that part of India into which the Persian monarchs pushed their conquests.

It is indeed unquestionable, that the credit in which the Jews stood, in the Persian empire; the singular events which brought them into notice with the Persian monarchs; the favour they afterward experienced from Alexander the Great and his successors, who reigned in Egypt, where they became so numerous, and so generally spoke the Greek, that a translation of the Scriptures into that language was rendered necessary; and their having in most of the principal cities of the Ro man empire, even when most extended, indeed in all the cities which were celebrated for refinement and philosophy, their synagogues and public worship, in Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, at Athens, Corinth,

(2) See note B at the end of this chapter.

Ephesus, &c, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, and that for a long time before the Christian era,-rendered their tenets very widely known: and as these events took place after their final reformation from idolatry, the opinions by which they were distinguished were those substantially which are taught in the Scriptures. The above statements, to say nothing of the fact, that the character, office, opinions, and writings of Moses were known to many of the ancient philosophers and historians, who mention him by name, and describe the religion of the Jews, are sufficient to account for those opinions and traditions we occasionally meet with in the writings of the Greek and Roman sages which have the greatest correspondence with truth, and agree best with the Holy Scriptures. They flowed in upon them from many channels, branching out at different times from the fountain of truth; but they were received by them generally as mere traditions or philosophic notions, which they thought themselves at liberty to adopt, reject, modify, or pervert, as the principles of their schools or their own fancy led them.

Let then every question which respects inspiration, miracles, prophecies, be for the present omitted: the following conclusions may properly close these observations :

1. That as a history of early opinions and events, the Scriptures have at least as much authority as any history of ancient times whatever; nay, the very idea of their sacredness, whether well founded or not, renders their historical details more worthy of credit, because that idea led to their more careful preservation..

2. That their history is often confirmed by ancient pagan traditions and histories; and in no material point, or on any good evidence, contradicted.

3. That those fundamental principles of what is called natural religion, which are held by sober Theists, and by them denominated rational, the discovery of which they attribute to the unassisted understanding of man, are to be found in the earliest of these sacred writings, and are there supposed to have existed in the world previous to the date of those writings themselves.

4. That a religion founded on common notions and common traditions, comprehensive both in doctrines and morals, existed in very early periods of the world; and that from the agreement of almost all mythological systems, in certain doctrines, rites, and traditions, it is reasonable to believe, that this primitive theology passed in some degree into all nations.

5. That it was retained most perfectly among those of the descendants of Abraham who formed the Israelitish state, and subsisted as a nation collaterally with the successive great empires of antiquity for many ages.

6. That the frequent dispersions of great numbers of that people, VOL. I. 3

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