Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

It must be allowed, that many think themselves at liberty to choose whom they will adore, and though we must also allow that they liave not " just ideas of the Deity,” yet we dare not accuse them either of polytheism or atheism. We should always remember, that the sacred history does not enter into the minutive of the lives of the patriarchs, nor inform us of the year and day in which Jehovah was pleased first to reveal himself to them ; but he who understands the Scripture, knows that before Jacob, or any man, can savingly know Jehovah, the Deity must reveal HIMSELF. There is no reason to suppose that Jacob was destitute of a speculative knowledge of God; but there are many speculative Theists, who practically are Atheists. I do not pretend to say that Jacob was a person of this description, but from the

passage quoted by Sir W. D. it is not unreasonable to conclude, that his speculative belief had not been operative in days past; and his vow fairly interpreted amounts to this—that on his return to his country (which God had promised should take place) he would more unreservedly devote himself to the service of the Eternal God; and as he considered the place in which God first revealed himself to him as peculiarly holy, he would make it a house of prayer and praise, and erect an altar there to Jehovah, the God of Heaven. Sir William must have considered the subject very slightly, or he never could have imagined that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, like the Athenians, erected altars ΤΩΙ ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩΙ ΘΕΩΙ. It is almost impossible to avoid being surprised at the traces of idolatry, not only in the early history of the house of Israel, but in every age of it, until the Babylonish captivity; but if some of Jacob's household secretly indulged themselves in the superstitions of the people of Haran, it does not therefore follow that Jacob was an idolator. If we consider that Jehovah had appeared unto Jacob; had spoken to him, and revealed himself as his friend and preserver; had commanded ķim to return to Canaan; and had promised to be with him to bless him, would it not be astonishing if the patriarch could still be an idolater, or be ignorant of the import of the name Jehovah, if that particular import was THE BEING by way of eminence? The superstructure Sir W. Drummond would erect, cannot stand unless he fix this stain upon the patriarchs ; I oppose him in the vestibulum of his Dissertation, and challenge him to produce a solitary proof that either Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, was tinctured with polytheism.

God himself bears testimony of Abraham in this remarkable manner: “ I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of JEHOVAH,” &c.-- Nay, so intimate was his acquaintance with God, and so implicit his confidence in the power and faithfulness of Jenovan, that he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but in hope against hope, believed — and when he was tried

up

Isaac ; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be caled ; accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. Could such a man be tinctured with polytheism ? Impossible! But Isaac and Jacob were heirs of the same promise with him ; partakers of the same grace; favored with similar manifestations of the Deity; and in the Scripture Jedovau is more fre

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

offered

fore

quently styled the God of Jacob, than the God of Abraham. The proof then of their Polytheism is totally wanting; and until it can be produced, Sir W. Drummond's Dissertation is a mere fliglit of the imagination.

I have next to inquire of Sir William, whence “ we know that Joseph was a Diviner ?” - He made no such pretension to Pharaoh's butler and baker. Joseph was a man of God-a man of the strictest probity --of unspotted virtue. He pretended to no superior skill, wlien brought before l'haraoh, to interpret his dreams: but when the king complimented him upon the fame of his knowledge, he answered, « It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Was there any thing in this like the grimace of a Diviner? There is, however, no other part of Scripture from which we can gather any knowledge of his being a Diviner, for I can hardly think Sir W. D. would quote Gen. 44. as a proof; yet, for fear a favorite hypothesis should have misled him, I shall say a few words on the two places which seem to allude to divination. Ist. The whole affair was contrived by Joseph to detain his brethren, for a time, and awaken in their minds remorse for their unnatural treatment of him in his youth : he had indeed discovered some sign of compunction in them, and had wept on discovering it-in all probability, he desired to know how far their affection for their father would carry them, when they supposed his favorite son was about to be detained in Egypt; and he might be divinely influenced in his conduct, to lead Judah to that inimitably pathetic intercession for Benjamin, in which he offered himself a substitute for his brother, and whereby he most eminently became a type of that Shiloh, who, according to the flesh, sprang from him. But it is perfectly evident that he could have no occasion to resort to any superstitious methods, to discover a circumstance contrived by himself, and executed by his confidential servant; the consequence is plain, he used no divination in this case, 2. If the superstitious customs in Egypt led the “ Profanum vulgus” to suppose

the
great

and learned men capable of divination by means of a cup, does any but the vulgar think so now? Those who consult diviners are the dupes of their art; I have yet to learn that diviners were ever the dupes of their own pretences. I have heard much of witches, wizards, magicians, necromancers, &c. but I am very sure that none of them ever thought himself possessed of the power attributed to the fraternity, by the credulous multitude. A man practising divination is an IMPOSTOR ; but Joseph was a servant, an highly favored servant of JEHOVAH, and therefore was no diviner. 3. Let us advert to the import of the words in the original, 2013 W), nachoash yenacheesh bo. This is rendered by Seb. Munster, “ pro quo augurando auguratur.” He renders it thus on the authority of the Rabbis, who expound 13 by 9717ya. The Chaldee interpreter reads the words, “ would make diligent search.” Kimhi explains it, " would inquire of the Augurs how the cup had been taken away,” or, “he would think the loss of the cup from which he was accustomed to drink an evil augury or omen to himself.” Aben Ezra expounds it in a quite different manner, paraphrasing the words of the steward thus: “ By this cup

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

hora

[ocr errors]

30. T my lord has tried you, that he might know whether ye were thieves,"

&c. Froin the variety of significations which und bears, it would perhaps betray a want of modesty to pronounce the above inter;retations erroneous; yet I must acknowledge, that I suspect them to be So, for there appears to be a manifest allusion to the superstitious custom of divination, for which the ancient Egyptians were remarkable at the same time it is perfectly clear, from what I have said above, that there could be no divination in this case, and we there. fore ought to understand the words of Joseph, and his steward, as intended to impress the brethren with a notion of the cunning and knowledge of the person, into whose hands they had fallen ; while the various significations of W17) might be considered by Joseph as a salvo, for seeming to pretend to such a vain art.

I may not have read every part of the Bible with that care and poetry attention which the importance of the subjects contained in it merits ;

there can, however, be no impropriety in saying, that I have frequently read it from beginning to end ; yet I must confess, that if " there are many circumstances from which we may conclude that Jacob was an astrologer,” I have never yet observed one of them. The streaked rods may, to the lively imagination of Sir W. Drummond, appear to be formed as an imitation of that held by the man who occupied the sign of the Balances, in the Egyptian, or any other ancient zodiac he pleases ; but while the Scripture is silent on that subject, I have no reason to believe that Jacob was an astrologer ; and if fifty old women, along with Eusebius, should tell me, “ that tradition, at least

, represented Israel as an astrologer, who believed himself under the influence of the planet Saturn,” I would reply, that the most authentic history is abundantly more worthy of credit than tradition; in which history I read a declaration made by Jacob, when he drew near the close of life, which completely overthrows this old wives' fable ; it is as follows, “ God before whom my Fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God who fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads,” &c. Gen. xlviii. 15. 16. Had Sir W. attended, he would have perceived the absolute impossibility of reconciling the character of an astrologer with that of a servant of the living God; since all those who pretended (and they only pretended) to the knowledge of secret things by means of astrology, divination, &c. were declared to

.' , ki toabath Jehovah col oseeh eeleh : For all who do these things are an abomination to JEHOVAH. Deut. xviji. 12. How then, I pray, can there be “many circumstances from which we may conclude that Jacob was an astrologer ?” With the same propriety might we say that light is darkness, or any contraries the same thing. After all the agreement which Sir W. seems to perceive between the figures on the Egyptian and other ancient zodiacs; and the figures used by Jacob in his Benediction pronounced just before his death, the coincidence is, I fear, imaginary. I will not at present take upon me to inquire whether the figures upon the ancient celestial globes were hierogly. phic, or drawn for the same purpose as those on modern globes, for the classification of the stars : I believe it is pretty generally allowed,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

that the uninitiated were taught to believe many absurdities respecting the the intelligences, that resided in, and presided over, certain stars and planets; but the ogywiresand copñrat were perfectly acquainted with the Mythos, under which all the religion of their deluded followers was veiled : they well knew that Osiris and Isis, Typhon and Orus, I and the whole rabblement of gods, goddesses, giants, &c. were mere men and women ; and their Theomachia no more than the petty warfare of a few savage tribes of violent men; historical facts recorded by Thoth and the Cabiri in hieroglyphics, or in a kind of writing, invented for the purpose of confining the knowledge of these things to a few, who thereby gained such an ascendancy over their fellow-men, as enabled them to obtain honors, wealth, and empire, at the expense of the morals and happiness of the multitude. The managers of this politico-religious system went by various names ; all of them pretended to possess powers, more than human ; some were augurs, some soothsayers, some astrologers, some pythons or ventriloquists, and all of them vile impostors. It was therefore impossible to be an astrologer, in those times, without being a vile person, nayun. There were no books of astrology, from which Jacob might learn to dabble in the futile art : if he knew any thing respecting it

, he must have acquired it by being initiated into the mysteries of the Cabirt ; in which case he would have learned that the whole was a deception, practised on the vulgar, for political purposes; and that before any one could become a professed astrologer, he must determine to be a villain. I believe that no person who has considered the history of the most ancient nations, will think I have overcharged the picture of those ancient quack doctors,-If Jacob was an astrologer, and the 4.9th chapter of Genesis a collection of astrological sentences, how can any one be so inconsistent as to suppose, that the patriarch would break out, in the midst of such an unintelligible jargon of impiety, into that apostrophe? -“ For thy salvation have I waited O JEHOVAH." I doubt not that Sir W. has sufficient candor to acknowledge, that “ an astrologer, who considered himself under the influence of the planet Saturn," would make such an exclamation as that above with a very ill grace ; and since all who do any of those superstitious and irreligious things are the detestation of JEHOVAH, it is not possible that Jacob should have at all referred to astrology, in the last benediction pronounced upon his children.

Since Kircher and Dupuis only pretend “ that the emblems which were painted on the standards of the tribes in the camp of the Hebrews, were no other than the zodiacal signs,” No. VI. p. 388. it betrays want of thought in Sir W. D. to suppose his hypothesis can gain any thing by such pretensions ; even by the opinions of Rabbi Kimchi and Aben Ezra : we know the authority of tradition among

the Jews was, in the days of the Messiah, so great that they had, by it, rendered the woRD OF GOD of no effect :- not so,

I hope, with Sir W. Drummond. Both as a scholar and a Christian, he must esteem tradition in a different manner; and it appears to me, that to read what Aben Ezra has said on this subject, and Kimchi after him, is sufficient to convince any one that the whole is an unfounded conjecture, and of no more authority in the present case,

or

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

than the Jewish legends respecting Ogg, king of Bashan. Are 597, vexillum and standard, strictly synonymous terms ? Was the degel an ensign like that carried by the sub-lieutenants in our marching regiments, or a smaller one like that carried by a cornet of dragoons ? Was it like the eagles of the Roman legions, in short, was it a flag or an image! There is every reason to believe that the first standards were images of the gods; and it is pretty clear that the sacramentum, or soldier's oath, was taken in presence of, or with reference to, the military standard among the Romans; and their standards were effigies of the gods, or deified emperors ; whence it is evident, that the standard was used for a religious purpose, as well as for a military one, and indeed the same superstittous usage continued after the Empire became nominally Christian : but it could not be used in this manner by the Jews; for in the very beginning of the decalogue they were forbidden to make any likeness of any thing in the Heavens, the Earth, or the Waters, Exod. xx. 4. I know it may be said, that this prohibition had respect only to images made for purposes of idolatry. Without inquiring whether this be strictly true or not ; I ask, for what other purposes were images made at that early period ? were the ancient people so famous for statuary and painting, as to have images and pictures for adorning their TEXTS ? no — so destitute were they of artists of this kind, that the history informs us the persons who executed the curious work for the Tabernacle, &c. were immediately taught by God, Exod. xxviii. 3. and xxxi. 1-6. Painting was not then so common as it is now; and all statues and paintings exhibited to public view, in those early times, were used for purposes of superstition only: it is therefore more than probable that the 527 had no image whatever upon it, and that Aben Ezra’s account is nothing more than conjecture. The Israelites were not at liberty to make images for standards, or to have even the cherubic figures wrought upon them; because this would have been to make to themselves the likeness of things which were forbidden in the second commandment. Therefore, since the standards of the heathen were undeniably used for superstitious and idolatrous purposes, the Israelites could not make standards in imitation of theirs, without setting at naught the law of God. And whatever the degel was, they could have no image depicted upon it without a positive command from God. But as the Scriptures are totally silent respecting the subject, the conjectures of Sir W. Drummond, Kircher, Dupuis, Kimchi, Aben Ezra, and the ancient doctors, are of little more authority than the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, or any other Romance.

Yet I readily acknowledge that there is something wonderfully striking in the manner in which Sir W. has arranged the subject; and he certainly has learned names on his side : General Vallancy in his Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis, and Dr. Hales in his Analysis of Chronology, have advanced similar opinions; but I maintain that the coincidence of Jacob's figurative language with the figures painted upon the zodiac, is not sufficient for Sir W's purpose-Men

may

be very learned, and yet may not reason correctly upon all subjects. The figures on the zodiac might as easily be copied from Jacob's speech, Vol. VII. No. XIII.

F

« EdellinenJatka »