Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to do it in any term, or at all, required the will of Omnipotence; and, we are not to suppose, even assuming it as certain that the work was accomplished in six days, that that portion of time, small as it might be, was necessary; they then, who argue for the necessity of any specific portion of time, argue wrongly; they set out with a limitation or circumscription of the power of an Omnipotent Creator. Whether the account of Moses be true, or whether it be not true, such a conceit is false in principle: it involves an absurdity. I treat this as at confessed variance with Moses, and in undisguised opposition to the doctrine of God's Omnipotence, 'which is a doctrine whose reality must be conceded as a preliminary step to any discussion on the works of Creation. The attempted enlargement of the word “ day” I reserve to be considered in our inquiry into the other objection; and it is there that the whole question, as a scriptural question, will be more properly entered upon! Why have ancient

1

It is true, indeed, some ancient accounts there are which would persuade us to imagine a strange antiquity of the world, far beyond the annals of Moses, and account of the same Spirit which made it. The Egyptian priests pretended an exact chronology for some myriads of years, and the Chaldæans, or Assyrians, far outreckon them, in which they delivered not only a catalogue of their kings, but also a table of the eclipses of the sun and moon. But for their number of years nothing is more certain than their forgery; for the Egyptians did preserve the antiquities of other nations as well as their own, and by the evident fallacy in others have betrayed their own vanity. When Alexander entered Egypt with his victorious army, the priests

writers formed or entertained fancies of this description? Why, but that tradition had been corrupted ?

could shew him out of their sacred histories an account of the Persian empire, which he gained by conquest, and the Macedonian, which he received by birth, of each for 8000 years : whereas nothing can be more certain, out of the best historical account, than that the Persian empire, whether begun in Cyrus or in Medus was not then 300 years old, and the Macedonian, begun in Caranus, not 500. They then, which made so large additions to advance the antiquity of other nations, and were so bold as to present them to those which so easily might refute them, (had they not delighted to be deceived to their own advantage, and took much pleasure in an honourable cheat) may, without any breach of charity, be suspected to have extended the account much higher for the honour of their own country. Besides, their Catalogues must needs be ridiculously incredible, when the Egyptians make their first kings' reigns above 1200 years a piece, and the Assyrians their's above 40,000: except ye take the Egyptian years for months, the Assyrians for days; and then the account will not seem so formidable. Again, for the calculation of eclipses, as it may be made for many thousand years to come, and be exactly true, and yet the world may end to-morrow; because the calculation must be made with this tacite condition,-If the bodies of the earth, and sun, and moon, do continue in their substance and constant motion so long: so may it also be made for millions of years past, and all be true, if the world have been so old ; which the calculating doth not prove, but suppose. He then which should in the Egyptian temples see the description of so many eclipses of the sun and moon, could not be assured that they were all taken from real observation, when they might be as well described out of proleptical supposition. Beside, the motions of the sun, which they mention together and with authority equal to that of their other observations, are so incredible and palpably fabulous, that they take off all credit and esteem from the rest of their narrations. For with

that men, generally, had sunken into a gross ignorance; that those few of them, who were possessed

if we

this wild account of years, and seemingly accurate observations of the heavens, they left it written to posterity, that the whole course of the celestial motions were four times changed : so that the sun hath twice risen in the east, and set in the west, as now it does; and, on the contrary, twice risen in the west, and set in the east. And thus these prodigious antiquaries refute themselves. What then are these feigned observations and fabulous descriptions for the world's antiquity, in respect not only of the infallible annals of the Spirit of God, but even of the constant testimonies of more sober men, and the real appearances and face of things, which speak them of a far shorter date? If we look into the historians which give account of ancient times, nay, peruse the fictions of the poets, we shall find the first to have no footsteps, the last to feign no actions of so great antiquity. If the race of men had been eternall, or as old as the Egyptians and Chaldees fansie it; how should it come to pass that the poetical inventions should find no actions worthy their heroick verse before the Trojan or the Theban war, or that great adventure of the Argonauts ? For whatsoever all the Muses, the daughters of Memory, could rehearse before those times, is nothing but the creation of the world, and the nativity of their gods. If we consider the necessaries of life, the ways of freedome and commerce, amongst men, and the inventions of all arts and sciences, the letters which we use, and languages which we speak; they have all known originals, and may be traced to their first authors. The first beginnings were then so known and acknowledged by all, that the inventors and authors of them were reckoned amongst their gods, and worshipped by those to whom they had been so highly beneficial : which honour and adoration they could not have obtained, but from such as were really sensible of their former want, and had experience of a present advantage by their

If we search into the nations themselves, we shall see none without some original : and were those authours extant

means.

of a better or more cultivated intellect, and had encouraged in themselves more of a spirit of inves

which have written of the first plantations and migrations of people, the foundations and inhabiting of cities and countreys, their first rudiments would appear as evident as their later growth and present condition. We know what ways within two thousand years people have made through vast and thick woods for their habitations, now as fertile, as populous as any. The Hercynian trees, in the time of the Cæsars, occupying so great a space, as to take up a journey of sixty days, were thought even then coeval with the world. We reade without any shew of contradiction, how this western part of the world hath been peopled from the east; and all the pretence of the Babylonian antiquity is nothing else, but that we all came from thence. Those eight persons saved in the ark, descending from the Gordiæan mountains, and, multiplying to a large collection in the plain of Sinaar, made their first division at that place: and that dispersion, or rather dissemination, hath peopled all other parts of the world, either never before inhabited, or dispeopled by the floud. These arguments have always seemed so clear and undeniable, that they have put not onely those who make the world eternall, but 'them also who confess it made, (but far more ancient than we believe it,) to a strange answer, to themselves uncertain, to us irrational. For to this they replied, That this world hath suffered many alterations, by utter destructions of nations, and depopulations of countreys, by which all monuments of antiquity were defaced, all arts and sciences utterly lost, all fair and stately fabricks ruined, and so mankind reduced to paucity, and the world often again returned into its infancy. This they conceived to have been done oftentimes in several ages, sometimes by a deluge of water, sometimes by a torrent of fire; and lest any of the elements might be thought not to conspire to the destruction of mankind, the air must sweep away whole empires at once, with infections, plagues, and earthquakes swallow up all ancient cities, and bury even the very ruines of them. By which answer of theirs they plainly afford

tigation, were willing enough to discover the truth if they could, and, if they could not, were minded to invent what they hoped might be received for the truth? The truth was undiscoverable without a pure revelation; of that they were speedily convinced; and so we learn that they first encouraged a fancy, heeding not its fallaciousness, and scrupling not at deceit, and then raised a theory upon it; as they proceeded, they appear to have forgotten what it was upon which the theory had been raised, and that it had no foundation of worth or solidity. From a dispute of the space of time in which creation was

two great advantages to the Christian faith. First, because they manifestly shew that they had an universal tradition of Noah's floud, and the overthrow of the old world : secondly, because it was evident to them that there was no way to solve the eternity or antiquity of the world, or to answer this argument drawn from history and the appearances of things themselves, but by supposing innumerable deluges and deflagrations; which being merely feigned in themselves, not proved, and that first by them which say they are not subject themselves unto them, as the Egyptians did, who, by the advantage of their peculiar situation, feared neither perishing by fire nor water) serve only for a confirmation of Noah's floud so many ages past, and the surer expectation of St. Peter's fire, we know not how soon to come. It remaineth then that we stedfastly believe, not only that the heavens and the earth and all the host of them were made, and so acknowledge a creation, or an actual and immediate dependence of all things on God; but also that all things were created by the hand of God, in the same manner, and at the same time, which are delivered unto us in the Books of Moses by the Spirit of God, and so acknowledge a novity, or no long existence of the creature.

Bishop PEARSON.

« ZurückWeiter »