« PreviousContinue »
Jewish people worship the only God, before whom men may bow without a blush. The Jewish people, of all people the dullest and most ignorant; who learned from the nations which surrounded them only lessons of idolatry; who spent two centuries of slavery in Egypt,—that Egypt, whose gods, to use the language of the poet, dwelt in stables and grew in gardens,—were the only people acquainted with the most sublime, important, and abstract of all truths! Did they discover it by chance ? Were they indebted for it to their own sagacity? Absurd suppositions ! which the slightest examination overthrows. Rather hear them when they tell you - God spake to our fathers, God made himself known to Israel.'
pp. 23–26. This is the problem which invites and demands the consideration of unbelievers, who, since they reject the fact which alone explains this peculiarity, are bound to tax their knowledge or their invention, for reasons which might account for the origination of principles of a pure and exalted Theism among a people who never possessed advantages for the discovery of truth, that were unattainable by their contemporaries in other countries. Without the light of Revelation, the human understanding is left blindly to work its way, to collect the elements of its belief, and to construct its theories of religion, which time and circumstances are found modifying, or superseding by the introduction of other systems. Superstitions may indeed become inveterate, and may remain for ages the same; but the intellectual character of the Mosaic Theism shews very distinctly, that it was not by gross representations of the Deity, that its influence was established over the nation. And it never was changed : it was never modified. The unity, the supremacy, the spirituality of the Divine Being, are the same in the later books of the Old Testament, as we find them in the early portions of it. Moses speaks in precisely the same manner of the Supreme Being, as David, and Solomon, and the succeeding prophets. In Greece, on the contrary, the philosophers were ever varying the doc
trines of their predecessors, and novel speculations were con: stantly arising in their schools, to manifest the activity of their
minds, and the fertility of their genius. A very extensive range of systems was thus provided ; but to which of them can we be referred, as containing the sublime notions of God, expressed in the same simple and majestic language, which we find in the Jewish Scriptures? In which of them shall we find even an approach to the grandeur and simplicity of the terms in which the Hebrew Legislator ascribed greatness to God? How unlike are their subtile disquisitions to the clear, unencumbered declarations which he employs in speaking of the Creator of the world! How marked is the difference, as we compare the dogmas of the Grecian schools, with the annunciations of the Prophet and Lawgiver of Israel, between the suggestions of imagination and
the conjectures of reason, from which they formed their tenets, and the Divine principles which he inculcates! To account for this difference, is the business of those who deny the inspiration of the Mosaic records. Here are the books; their antiquity is indisputable; they are not the fabrication of Christians; they existed long before the name of Christians was known; they are supported by independent evidence, as the production of very remote times; and they stand apart from all other ancient writings, as the depository of essential truths, and are not less remarkable for the manner in which they exhibit them. A comparison of the Pentateuch with the works which have transmitted to us the learning of ancient times, and the religious notions imbodied in the systems of the philosophers, or to be discovered in other connections, would be a process requiring great labour and patient perseverance; but it would furnish results of a very decisive character in favour of the views taken by such writers as Professor Cellérier, in illustrating the genuineness of the Mosaic books. He has briefly treated this subject in his Seventh Chapter, on the knowledge of the true God among the Jewish people, compared with the notions of Pagan philosophers.'
In his fourth Chapter, the Author notices the Testimonies rendered by modern discoveries to the Mosaic Chronology.' After mentioning the preliminary discourse prefixed by Cuvier to his “ Recherches,” he proceeds to remark on an attempt made by some half-learned infidels, to impugn the authority of the Mosaic records, which many of our readers will remember, and which every one ought to be acquainted with. We must transcribe the Author's account of its signal exposure.
Among the attacks which science has attempted to make upon the authority of the Pentateuch, few are more recent or notorious than those of which Egyptian antiquities have been the occasion. Some distinguished men who were associated in a celebrated expedition, all the perils of which they fearlessly shared ; who studied, both with courage and perseverance, the hitherto superficially noticed wonders of ancient Egypt, and naturally enthusiastic on the subject of those monuments which were the objects of their labours and the pledges of their fame, fell into some errors as to their importance and antiquity. The famous zodiacs, among others those of Esné and Denderah, appeared to them to be of incalculable antiquity. This pretended discovery was immediately published, as having decided the question, and carrying back Egyptian civilization beyond the time of Moses, and even of the Deluge. But after the lapse of some years, and particularly since one of these zodiacs has been brought to Europe and exposed to view; since the accumulated researches of travellers have given other learned men an opportunity of examining an abundance of Egyptian monuments, papyri, mummies, temples and tombs, together with their hieroglyphics and inscriptions, circumstances have changed, and it is in favour of the book of Genesis that the question is decided. In the first place, the
examination of these different monuments, carried on with more coolness, has considerably lessened the idea which was entertained of their grandeur and their importance, as well as of the sciences and the state of civilization, of which they were the pledge. The delusion once exposed, and the first exaggerations set aside, the question was discussed with more impartial criticism. Particular attention was paid to the zodiacs. They were compared with the descriptions of their learned admirers ; and doubts very soon arose and gathered strength. The calculations were again made, and found inaccurate ; the hypotheses were brought to the test, and found untenable. Many other new hypotheses, all different from each other, and from the first, were tried, but with little success. One thing only was ascertained by this discussion --that it was no longer possible to believe in the extreme antiquity of these zodiacs. All the new systems agreed upon this point. It was not long, however, before fresh resources presented themselves; and we can now speak with more certainty upon the subject.
• Two learned men, both of deserved celebrity, though on different accounts, powerfully aided by the vast treasures with which the museums of Europe have been gradually enriched, have at last raised the veil which concealed from us the history of these wonders of the ancient world. Certainly, no one expected, that, on the front of these ruined temples, erected, as it had been asserted, three thousand years before Jesus Christ,--that under those mysterious paintings, which were supposed to be the depositories of the knowledge of the infant world, would be discovered the names of Ptolemy, of Cleopatra, or of Trajan. This, however, has been done. M. Letronne, by examining at once the construction of these monuments, and the Greek inscriptions which are found on some of them ; M. Champollion, the younger, by at length making himself acquainted with the import of the three classes of hieroglyphics with which they are covered; have arrived at the same conclusion. It is remarkable, too, that at the same time artists have arrived at this conclusion, by studying the sculpture and the architecture of the monuments in question. At the same time, also, travellers undesignedly confirmed these discoveries, by the manuscripts and mummies which they brought to Europe. And it was proved indisputably, in three or four different ways, that these too famous zodiacs, unworthy of the celebrity they have acquired, as well as the edifices upon the ceilings of which they were painted, were of later date than the time of Jesus Christ. The labours of M. Champollion have also proved, that those monuments of Egypt, which were of real antiquity, did not exist prior to the Pharaohs of Exodus or of Genesis; and that the profane documents which their hieroglyphics discover, in no respect contradict, but rather confirm the sacred records.
· The question is now decided. The adversaries of Moses have made no reply to the positive assertions of his advocates, nor to the wellestablished facts upon which those assertions rest: by their silence they have confessed the precipitancy of their judgements, and the incorrectness of their calculations. A victory such as this, should teach men who believe in the word of God, how little they have to fear from any similar attacks.'-pp. 104-110.
In Chapter VIII. of his Illustrations,' the Author notices
• Circumstances worthy of attention in the character and con• duct of Moses, which support the proof of his Divine mission.' From this section, we shall make room for a concluding extract.
If we examine the institutions of Moses, with reference to himself, and to the advantages which he might have derived from his pretended imposture, they will surprise us no less.
• Every imposture has an object in view, and an aim more or less selfish. Men practise deceit for money, for pleasure, or for glory. If, by a strange combination, the love of mankind ever entered into the mind of an impostor, doubtless, even then, he has contrived to reconcile, at least, bis own selfish interests with those of the human race. If men deceive others, for the sake of causing their own opinions or their own party to triumph, they may sometimes, perhaps, forget their own interests, during the struggle, but they again remember them when the victory is achieved. It is a general rule, that no impostor forgets himself long. But Moses forgot himself, and forgot himself to the last. Yet there is no middle supposition. If Moses was not a divinely inspired messenger, he was an impostor in the strongest sense of the term. It is not, as in the case of Numa, a slight and single fraad, designed to secure some good end, that we have to charge him with ; but a series of deceits, many of which were gross; a profound, dishonest, perfidious, sanguinary dissimulation, continued for the space of forty years. If Moses was not a divinely commissioned prophet, he was not the saviour of the people, but their tyrant and their murderer. Still, I repeat, this barbarous impostor always forgot himself; and his disinterestedness, as regarded himself personally, his family, and his tribe, is one of the most extraordinary features in his administration.
As to himself personally. He is destined to die in the wilderness: he is never to taste the tranquillity, the plenty, and the delight, the possession of which he promises to his countrymen: he shares with them only their fatigues and privations: he has more anxieties than they, on their account, in their acts of disobedience, and in their perpetual murmurings.
• As to his family. He does not nominate his sons as his successors: he places them without any privileges or distinctions, among the obscure sons of Levi ; they are not even admitted into the sacerdotal authority. Unlike all other fathers, Moses withdraws them from public view, and deprives them of the means of obtaining glory and favour. Samuel and Eli assign a part of their paternal authority to their sons, and permit them even to abuse it ; but the sons of Moses, in the wilderness, are only the simple carriers of the tabernacle: like all the other sons of Kohath, if they even dare to raise the veil which covers the sacred furniture, the burden of which they carry, death is denounced against them.
Where can we find more complete disinterestedness than in Moses? Is not his the character of an upright man, who has the ge neral good, not his own interests, at heart; of a man who submissively acquiesces in the commands of God, without resistance and without demur?
• When I consider these several things; when I reflect on all the
ministry of Moses,-on his life, on his death, on his character, on his
pp. 211-214; 225, 226.
Art. III. 1. Ornithological Dictionary of British Birds. By Colonel
G. Montagu, F.L.S. Second Edition. With a Plan of Study, and many new Articles and original Observations. By James
Rennie, A.M. 8vo. pp. lx. 592. Price 21s. London1831. 2. Insect Miscellanies. 12mo. pp. 426. Price 4s. 6d. London. 1831. HAD we intended anything further than a brief description
of the general character and qualities of these works, we should not, of course, have placed together a dictionary of birds, and a common-place book of observations on the natural history of insects. As, however, the two publications are compiled or edited by the same individual, and as we have no purpose beyond that of general criticism, we may venture to consult our own convenience by placing them under one head.
The first of these volumes contains the whole of Colonel Montagu's Dictionary, with large and valuable additions, both from the papers of that active and accurate observer himself, and from the still more accurate and extensive researches of the Editor. If it were practicable, it could hardly be expedient to give an abstract of the contents of a dictionary; and details are the less necessary in this case, since the first edition has been long before the public, and since Mr. Rennie has made himself honourably known as a patient and skilful investigator of nature. We must, indeed, express our regret, that he should have disfigured the new edition, by an ill-natured and, as it appears to us, exceedingly absurd attack on the systems and phraseology of certain eminent modern naturalists. The 'Quinary System and the doctrine of Types, may be, for aught we know, altogether visionary; but we are quite sure that they are exceedingly ingenious, and that, if they should ultimately fail to command general assent, they will, in the mean time, have stimulated inquiry, and opened up new and striking views of the economy of creation. The typical or normal distinction supplies a most