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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. (8) 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 further illustrations in the covenants made with Abraham, to his descendants. Job and his friends, who probably lived between Abraham and Moses, were professors of the patriarchal religion; and their discourses shew, 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. (4) 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 Horseley 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 partriarchal religion was not forgotten nor its language become obsolete.

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 thefame of the wisdom of that Monarch, produced not only a wide

(3) See Bishop HORSELEY'S Dissertations before referred to; and LELAND'S View of the Necessity of Revelation. Part 1, Chap. 2.

(4) Jenkin's Reasonableness of Christianity, Vol. 1, c. 2.

spread rumour, but moral effects upon the people of a distant nation, as indeed both were evidently intended by Divine Wisdom; 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. (5) The intercourse between the Jews and 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 stedfastness 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 conquered 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.

(5) 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 liou 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 Solomou, and we find Hiram the king blessing the Lord God of Israel as the Maker of heaven and earth.

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 shews, 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 his 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 his 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. (6) 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 a 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 afterwards 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 Roman 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, 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

(6) See Note B, at the end of this Chapter.

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, either by war or from choice, and their residence in or

near the seats of ancient learning with their sacred books, and in the habit of observing their public worship, as in Chaldea, Egypt, Persia, and other parts of the ancient world, and the signal notice into which they and their opinions were occasionally brought, could not but make their cosmogony, theology, laws, and history very extensively known.

7. That the spirit of enquiry in many of the ancient philosophers of different countries led them to travel for information on these very subjects, and often into those countries where the patriarchal religion had formerly existed in great purity, and where the tenets of the Jews which tended to revive or restore it, were well known.

8. That there is sufficient evidence that these tenets were in fact known to many of the sages of the greatest name, and to schools of the greatest influence, who, however, regarding them only as traditions or philosophical opinions, interwove such of them as best agreed with their views into their own systems, and rejected or refined upon others, so that no permanent and convincing system of morals and religion, was, after all, wrought out among themselves, whilst they left the populace generally to the gross ignorance and idolatry in which they were involved. (7)

(7) The readiness of the philosophers of antiquity to seize upon every notion which could aid them in their speculations, is manifest by the use which those of them who lived when Christianity began to be known, and to acquire credit, made of its discoveries to give greater splendour to their own systems. The thirst of knowledge carried the ancient sages to the most distant persons and places in search of wisdom, nor did the later philosophers any more than modern infidels neglect the superior light of Christianity, when brought to their own doors, but they were equally backward to acknowledge the obligation. "As the ancients," says Justin Martyr, "had borrowed from the prophets, so did the moderns from the Gospel. Tertullian observes in his Apology, "Which of your poets, which of your sophists, have not drunk from the fountains of the prophets? It is from these sacred sources likewise that your philosophers have refreshed their thirsty spirits; and if they found any thing in the Holy Scriptures to please their fancy or to serve their hypotheses, they turned it to their own purpose and made it serve their curiosity : not considering these writing's to be sacred and unalterable, nor understanding their sense; every one taking or leaving, adopting or remodelling, as his imagination led him. Nor do I wonder that the philosophers played such foul tricks with the Old Testament, when I find some of the same generation among ourselves, who have made as bold with the New, and composed a deadly mixture of gospel and opinion, led by a philosophizing vanity."

It was from conversing with a Christian that Epictetus learned to reform the doctrine, and abase the pride of the Stoics; nor is it to be imagined that Marcus Antoninus, Maximus Tyrius, and others, were ignorant of the Christian doctrine, Rousseau admits, that the modern philosopher derives his better notions on many subjects from those very scriptures, which he reviles; from the early impressions of education; from living and conversing in a Christian country, where those doctrines are publicly taught, and where, in spite of himself, he imbibes some portion of that religious knowledge which the sacred writings have every where diffused.-Works, Vol. 9, p. 71; 1764.

VOL. I.

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