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ON THE CREATION *. [Preached at the beginning of a New Year: appropriate
also to Septuagesima Sunday.]
Gen. i. 1.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The words which have been just read are in the original the most ancient remaining in existence upon the face of the earth : all that was ever written before them has perished; and the event which they record is likewise the earliest, being no other than the creation of the world itself by God: so that we have in my text, and the narrative which follows, the most ancient record of the most ancient facts.
* Some of the observations on the creation have been borrowed from the Discours sur L'Histoire Universelle, par Bossuet.
Having first adduced some short proof, among many others, of the authenticity of the books ascribed to Moses, with which the sacred volume
I shall proceed to an explanation of the first chapter of the whole, a chapter of which the subject is so marvellous, and against which there have been so many cavils and objections.
I. The supremacy and administration of Moses was immediately succeeded by that of Joshua, a person of another family: and during his government we find the five books of Moses appealed to, and cited on all public occasions, as records well known, not by individuals, or the priesthood only, but by the whole of the Jewish race, the descendants in the first generation of those whom Moses had led out of Egypt. The following passage may be adduced as a proof of this : “ And afterward he,” that is, Joshua,“ read all the words of the Law, “ the blessings and cursings, according to “ all that is written in the book of the Law:
there was not a word of all that Moses
commanded which Joshua read not be“ fore all the congregation of Israel, with
“ the women, and the little ones, and the
strangers that were conversant among 66 them a
Indeed it is obvious that the Jews must always have been in full possession and perfect knowledge of the writings of Moses, from the death of Moses; for, on the contrary supposition, and without these writings, how could the Jewish race have explained the great diversity of their institutions from those of the nations with whom they were in contact, and by whom they were immediately surrounded? What account, for example, could they give to themselves or others of the religious observance of one day in seven, a practice always in existence among them? What sense or meaning could they ascribe to the constantly recurring expressions in all their religious ceremonies—“ The God “ of Abraham, the God of Isaac and of Ja
cob,” words only to be first learned from the five books of Moses, their great legislator, and but for his books, words totally inexplicable to those who used them?
It is clear that there was not any period subsequent to the death of Moses in which these books could be palmed upon a whole race, as having long been in their hands, without instant detection : it is no less obvious, as they for the most part speak of transactions that had but recently occurred when they were first published, that the relation was substantially true. What, for example, would be said by the whole French nation at this time, if a history containing the principal events of their revolution were now first presented to them, no such revolution having taken place ? Yet this would not be more absurd than the supposition that Moses, having written the account of the flight from Egypt, and the recent journeyings of the Jews in the wilderness, should have presented them to that people for their approval and belief, if the events themselves had not taken place.
These writings, then, being thus authenticated, what an internal evidence is further rendered to their truth, by observing that, whereas all profane histories crowd the early time with absurd or insipid fables, with dis
figured or half-forgotten facts, Scripture, that is, without doubt, the most ancient of all books, carries us back by an unbroken chain to the true principle and cause of all things, that is, to God, who has made them all; marks out to us the formation of the world, that of man in particular, the happiness of his first estate, the causes of his weakness and misery; the corruption of the world and the deluge, the origin of the arts, and that of nations, the distribution of the earth, and lastly, the propagation and dispersion of the human race ! of which facts other histories are either silent, or worse than silent, and oblige us to seek elsewhere for information. If we further also consider what idea the religion, of which we thus revere the antiquity, gives us of its author, that is, of the first Being, we may avow that it infinitely surpasses human conception, and may on every account be considered as having come from God himself. The God whom the Jews and Christians have always served has nothing in common with the Divinities (Divinities full of imperfections, and even