Immagini della pagina

have no sort of foundation in their writings, are forced, and such as might never be intended by them. This is indeed a TRUTH, but it is no CONSEQUENCE, and therefore not to the purpose. For, whether the Ancients were, or were not, the best judges ; whether the Moderns have, or have not, fruitful inventions, yet if their interpretations have no sort of foundation in ancient writings, it is a great chance but they are forced ; and as great, that the Ancients never intended what the Moderns ascribe to them. However, he gets nothing by this hypothetical proposition, unless it be the discredit of begging the question.

But the most extraordinary is his making it an additional reason for leaving the Moderns and sticking to the Ancients, that the Ancients seem to have invented and grafted on true history; and, in order (he says) to account for many things, the genealogies and alliances they mention must in several respects be false or erroneous, and seem to have been invented, 8c. Now, if the Ancients were thus mistaken, the Moderns sure may be excused in endeavouring to set them right : To common sense therefore, this would seem to shew the use of their interpretations. But this use is better understood from our Author's own success ; who, in this chapter concerning the Egyptian mythology, has attempted to give us some knowledge of Antiquity, without them. And here we find, the ancient account, to which he so closely adheres, is not only fabulous by his own confession, but contradictory by his own representation ; a confused collection of errors and absurdities : that very condition of Antiquity which forced the Moderns to have recourse to interpretations ; and occasioned that variety whereon our author grounds his charge against them. A charge however, in which his Ancients themselves will be involved ; for they likewise had their interpretations ; and were (if their variety would give it them) as fruitful at least, in their inventions. For instance, How discordant were they in their opinions concerning the origin of ANIMAL WORSHIP? Was our Author ignorant that so odd a superstition wanted explanation ? By no means. Yet for fear of incurring the censure of a fruitful invention, instead of taking the fair solution of a modern Critic, or even any rational interpretation of the ancient Mythologists, whom yet he professes to follow, he contents himself with that wretched fable “of Typhon's dividing the body of Osiris into twenty-six parts, and distributing them to his accomplices ; which being afterwards found by Isis, and delivered by her to distinct bodies of priests to be buried with great secrecy, she enjoined them to pay divine honours to him, and to consecrate some particular animal to his memory.” From this account (says our author very gravely) we may see the reason why 80 many sacred animals were worshipped in Egypt.* Again, the Greek account,

• Page 226.

in Diodorus, of Osiris's expedition, has been shewn to be a heap of impossible absurdities; yet our author believes it all; and would have believed as much more rather than have run the hazard of any modern invention.

And now, we presume, the minor of Sir Isaac Newton's general argument, that Osiris and Sesostris were the same, is intirely overthrown. For, 1. It hath been proved, that the premisses, he employs in its support, do not infer it. 2. That the consequence of his conclusion from it contradicts sacred Scripture ; and 3. That it disagrees with the very nature of things.

So that our first proposition, That the Egyptian learning celebrated in Scripture, and the Egyptian superstition there condemned, were the very Learning and Superstition represented by the Greek writers, as the honour and opprobrium of that people, stands clear of all objection. What that Learning and Superstition were, we have shewn very largely, though occasionally, in the course of this inquiry; whereby it appears, that their Learning in general was consummate skill in civil POLICY AND THE ARTS OF LEGISLATION; and their Superstition, the




COME, at length, to my second proposition : which if, by this time, the Reader should have forgotten, he may be easily excused. It is this, That the Jewish people were extremely fond of Egyptian manners, and did frequently fall into Egyptian superstitions : and that many of the laws given to them by the ministry of Moses, were instituted, partly in compliance to their prejudices, and partly in opposition to those superstitions.

The first part of this propositionthe people's fondness for, and frequent lapse into, Egyptian superstitions,—needs not many words to evince. The thing, as we shall see hereafter, being so natural in itself ; and, as we shall now see, so fully recorded in holy Scripture.

The time was now come for the deliverance of the chosen People from their Egyptian bondage : For now vice and IDOLATRY were arrived at their height; the former (as St. Paul tells us) by means of the latter; for as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient ; being filled with all unrighteousness, &c.* The two most populous regions at that time in the world were CANAAN and EGYPT : The first distinguished from all other by its violence and unnatural crimes ; the latter by its superstitions and idolatries. It concerned God's moral government that a speedy check should be put to both; the inhabitants of these two places being now ripe for divine ven

. Rom. i. 28.

geance. And as the instruments he employed to punish their present enormities were designed for a barrier against future, the Israelites went out of Egypt with a high hand, which desolated their haughty tyrants ; and were led into the possession of the land of Canaan, whose inhabitants they were utterly to exterminate. The dispensation of this Providence appears admirable, both in the time and in the modes of the punishment. Vice and IDOLATRY had now (as I said) filled up their measure. EGYPT, the capital of false Religion, being likewise the nursery of arts and sciences, was preserved from total destruction for the sake of civil life and polished manners, which were to derive their source from thence : But the CANAANITES were to be utterly exterminated, to vindicate the honour of humanity, and to put a stop to a spreading contagion which changed the reasonable Nature into brutal.

Now it was that God, remembering his Covenant with Abraham, was pleased to appoint his People, then groaning under their bondage, a Leader and Deliverer. But so great was their degeneracy, and so sensible was Moses of its effects, in their ignorance of, or alienation from the true God, that he would willingly have declined the office : And when absolutely commanded to undertake it, he desired however that God would let him know by what NAME he would be called, when the people should ask the name of the God of their fathers.—And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, The God of your fathers kath sent me unto you ; and they shall say unto me, whAT IS HIS NAME? what shall I say unto them ? * Here we see a people not only lost to all knowledge of the Unity (for the asking for a name necessarily implied their opinion of a plurality), but likewise possessed with the very spirit of Egyptian idolatry. The religion of NAMES, as we have shewn,t was a matter of great consequence in Egypt. It was one of their essential superstitions : it was one of their native inventions : and the first of them which they communicated to the Greeks. Thus when Hagar, the handmaid of Sarai, who was an Egyptian woman, saw the angel of God in the wilderness, the text tells us, I She called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, ELROI, the God of vision, or the visible God: that is, according to the established custom of Egypt, she gave him a name of honour : not merely a name of distinction ; for such, all nations had (who worshipped local tutelary deities) before their communication with Egypt. But, after that, as appears from the place of Herodotus quoted above, concerning the Pelasgi,) they decorated their Gods with distinguished Titles, indicative of their specific office and attributes. A NAME was so peculiar an adjunct to a local tutelary Deity, that we see by a passage quoted by Lactantius from the spurious books of Trismegist (which however abounded with Egyptian notions and superstitions), that the one supreme God had no name or title of distinction.* Zachariah evidently alluding to these notions, when he prophesies of the worship of the supreme God, unmixed with idolatry, says, In that day shall there be one Lord, and AIS NAME ONE ;† that is, only bearing the simple title of LORD: and, as in the words of Lactantius below, ac ne quis nomen ejus requireret, ANONYMON esse dicit ; eo quod nominis PROPRIETATE non egeat, ob ipsam scilicet UNITATEM. Out of indulgence therefore to this weakness, GOD was pleased to give himself a NAME. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, i am hath sent me unto you. I Where we may observe (according to the constant method of divine Wisdom, when it condescends to the prejudices of men) how, in the very instance of indulgence to their superstition, he gives a corrective of it.—The Religion of names arose from an idolatrous polytheism ; and the name here given, implying eternity and self-existence, directly opposeth that superstition.

1 Gen. xvi, 13.

$ See note

• Exod. iii. 13.

Page 253, et seq. MMMM, at the end of this book.

This compliance with the Religion of names was a new indulgence to the prejudices of this people, as is evident from the following words : And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord : and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the NAME OF God Almighty, but by my NAME JEHOVAH was

I not known to them.Ş That is, as the God of Abraham, I before condescended to have a Name of distinction : but now, in compliance to another prejudice, I condescend to have a Name of honour. This seems to be the true interpretation of this very difficult text, about which the commentators are so much embarrassed. For the word Jehovah, whose name is here said to be unknown to the Patriarchs, frequently occurring in the book of Genesis, had furnished Unbelievers with a pretext that the same person could not be author of the two books of Genesis and Exodus. But Ignorance and Scepticism, which set Infidelity on work, generally bring it to shame. They mistook the true sense of the text. The assertion is not, that the word Jehovah was not used in the patriarchal language ; but that the NAME Jehovah, as a title of honour, (whereby a new idea was affixed to an old word) was unknown to them. Thus,

• “Hic scripsit libros--in quibus majestatem summi ac singularis dei asserit, iisdemque nominibus appellat, quibus nos, Deum et Patrem. Ac ne quis NO

EN ejus requireret ANONYMON esse dixit; eo quod nominis proprietate non egeat, ob ipsam scilicet unitatem, Ipsius haec verba sunt, ο δε Θεός είς· ο δε εις ονόματος ου προσδέETA! čoti yap d av åvárouos. Deo igitur nomen non est, quia solus est : nec opus est proprio vocabulo, nisi cum discrimen exigit multitudo, ut unamquamque personam sua nota et appellatione designes." - Div. Inst. lib. i.

† Zach. xiv. 9. Exod. iii. 14. $ Exod. vi, 3.

cap. 6.

in a parallel instance, we say rightly, that the King's SUPREMACY was unknown to the English Constitution till the time of Henry VIII. though the word was in use, and even applied to the chief Magistrate, (indeed in a different and more simple sense) long before.

The common solution of this difficulty is as ridiculous as it is false. You shall have it in the words of a very ingenious writer.—“The word Jehovah signifies the being unchangeable in his resolutions, and consequently the being infinitely faithful in performing his promises. In this sense the word is employed in the passage of Exodus now under examination. So that when God says, by my name Jehovah was I not known to them, this signifies—as one faithful to fullfil my promise, was I not known to them.” i. e. I had not then fullfilled the promise which I had made to them, of bringing their posterity out of Egypt, and giving them the land of Canaan.”* By which interpretation, the Almighty is made to tell the Israelites that he was not known to their forefathers as the God who had redeemed their posterity from Egypt, before they had any posterity to redeem. A marvellous revelation, and, without doubt, much wanted. To return.

Moses however appears still unwilling to accept this Commission ; and presumes to tell God, plainly, Behold they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice : for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.† But could this be said or thought by a People, who, groaning in the bitterest servitude, had a message from God, of a long promised deliverance, at the very time that, according to the prediction, the promise was to be fulfilled, if they had kept him and his dispensations in memory? When this objection is removed, Moses hath yet another; and that is, his inability for the office of

This too is answered. And when he is now driven from all his subterfuges, he with much passion declines the whole employment, and cries out, O my God, send I pray thee by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. This justly provokes God's displeasure : and thereon, he finally complies. From all this backwardness, (and the cause of it could be no other than what is here assigned ; for Moses, as appears by the former part of his history, 9 was forward and zealous enough to promote the welfare of his brethren) we must needs conclude that he thought the recovery of this People

.“ Il signifie l'etre immuable dans ses resolutions, et par consequent l'etre infiniment fidelle dans ses promesses, et c'est dans cette acception que ce nom est emploié dans le passage de l'Exode, que nous examinons. Qu'ainsi quand Dieu dit, Je ne leur ai point esté connu en mon nom de Jehovah, cela signifie, Je ne me suis point fait connoitre, comme fidelle à remplir mes promesses, c'est à dire, JE N'AI PAS ENCORE REMPLI LA PROMESSE, qui je leur avois faite, de retirer de l'Egypte leur posterité, et de lui donner la terre de Chanaan."--M. Astruc, Conjectures sur le Livre de la Genese, p. 305. He says very truly, that, in this solution, he had no other part to perform, que suivre la foule des Commentateurs tant Chretiens que Juifs, p: 301. † Exod. iv. 1. Verse 13. $ Exod. ii. 12.


« IndietroContinua »