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general view which we have now given of the astronomy of the ancients, the mind is necessarily led to the conclusion which Bailly has drawn, that the rules and facts of the Egyptian, Chaldean, Indian, and Chinese astronomy, are but the wrecks of a great system of astronomical science, which has been carried to a high degree of perfection in the early ages of the world. After those mighty revolutions in human affairs, amid which the principles of the science had been lost, the study of astronomy seems to have revived about the year 3102, when the loose materials which time had spared were carefully collected, and diffused through the different kingdoms of Asia. Hence the striking connection that subsists between the various systems which prevailed among the eastern nations, and hence the numerous fragments of the science which have been transmitted to the present day. In examining these wrecks of the human mind, we everywhere find methods of calculation without the principles on which they are founded; rules blindly followed without being understood; phenomena without their explanation ; and elements carefully determined; while others, more important and equally obvious, are altogether unknown. We cannot, therefore, regard these unconnected facts as the highest efforts of the ancients in the science of astronomy, or as results which they have reached without the light of theory, or without the aid of long-continued observation. When the traveler contemplates the remains of ancient cities, and examines the broken statues, the shafts, and capitals, and pediments, which are dug from their ruins, does he consider these fragments as the highest efforts of the sculptor and the architect in the arts which they cultivated ? Does he not, rather, turn in imagination to the columns and statues which they composed, to the temple which they supported or adorned, and to the living beings who worshiped within its walls ?"
What language can more forcibly advocate the view we have taken than this? We believe that the antediluvians enjoyed alphabetical characters, literature, and science; that their minds were cultivated and adorned to a very great extent. Admitting, for a moment, that this was the case,
“what mighty revolutions in human affairs” were so likely to break up this glorious, fabric of knowledge, and to bury in ruins the great principles of science, as the universal food? What can be more probable than that, a century after this dreadful event, those who then lived should gather up and preserve those “fragments of science" to which reference has been made ? We need not proceed with these interrogatories: it will be seen that, while the entire conclusions of Bailly and Brewster, supported, as they are, by the authority of a man so learned, and possessing such reverence for Scripture truth, as Sir William Jones, appear incapable of explanation on any other principle, on that just given all appears natural, consistent, and true.
We may here further observe, that some of the authors we have quoted had no intention, in their investigation of the subject, to establish the views which we entertain. Bailly, the friend and correspondent of Voltaire, was not likely to labor to illustrate the history, chronology, and intellectual character of the earliest races of mankind, as recorded in Holy Scripture. And Sir David Brewster, to whose able remarks we have referred so often, makes a labored apology for the apparent discrepancy between his argument and the Scripture account; as if unaware that his scheme perfectly harmonizes with the history, and also with the chronology, of Scripture, as given in the Septuagint.
In addition, Bailly maintains that he had found other important evidence confirmatory of the arguments already advanced. These we can only mention as summed up by himself. He observes, that he had found everywhere in the ancient world, not only astronomical improvements, which imply a corresponding progress in science, but also "civil institutions for chronology and the regulation of time, derived from one source, and identically the same; an entire and consistent system of music, whose two halves, separated by revolutions incident to human affairs, had been transported to the two extremities of the globe; a primitive measure which exists still everywhere in Asia, by itself, or in its component parts, and which was connected with a very ancient and accurate determination of the magnitude of the globe; one and the same legislator for the sciences, arts, and religion; the same system of physics and theology; in fine, everywhere remaining traces of ignorance succeeding to light and science.”
Admitting the importance and difficulty of the inquiry, we have endeavored to trace up alphabetical characters, literature, and science, to their origin.
In this effort we have found that, with respect to letters, the histories of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Phenicians, and Hebrews, carry up use of alphabetical characters to the earliest possible period of their respective nations; that there is no solid reason for believing that hieroglyphics preceded the use of letters, but, on the contrary, grounds for concluding that an alphabet was in use before hieroglyphic characters; that the supposed barbarous condition of the first families of mankind is completely disproved both by sacred and profane history, and also by tradition; and that the most powerful arguments, and the authority of men eminent alike for literary attainments and a thorough knowledge of this particular question, unite in ascribing the existence of letters to the earliest
of the world. We have referred to literature, and taken the Bible, the oldest literary composition extant. We find that it contains fragments composed in the earliest times; that the writings of Moses bear internal
evidence of having such remains of an ancient literature, wrought up in bis history; that Jewish tradition, in all ages, supports this notion that the traditions of every ancient people include references to ancient or sacred books preserved by the great father during the deluge; and we see that these traditions must have had their origin prior to the dispersion. Thus we have the whole ancient world, sacred and profane, bearing concurrent testimony to the existence of literature in the first ages.
We have admitted the natural connection between science and literature, and have directed our attention to the question of its existence in the earliest period of the world. The result has been, that the sacred history of the first generations of mankind, especially that of the deluge and of the building of the ark, warrants the conclusion that science must have been cultivated even at this early age; that this opinion has been abundantly confirmed by the careful and profound researches of Bailly and others into the history of oriental astronomy; that this sublime science was cultivated, and carried to a pitch of great refinement and perfection, even before the flood; and that, about a century after that event, the remains of this science were collected and arranged, fragments of which have been preserved to modern times.
It has been said, that "absolute certainty in matters of antiquity may result, either from an accumulation of various evidence, to such an amount that numerous deductions may be made from it without affecting the conclusion; or from some particular coincidence of proof, of that kind which admits of no opposite supposition.”- Taylor's Historical Proof, p. 8. On these principles the preceding facts and arguments are submitted to the judgment of the reader; , with some confidence, that both the accumulation of evidence, and the particular coincidences of proof which they furnish, will be considered sufficient to evince the existence of letters, iterature, and science, in the earliest age of the world.
If any now inquire how it is that the contrary opinion has so long and 80 popularly prevailed; how it is that these views, if well-founded, have not been generally shown and admitted; we answer :
I. Infidel and skeptical writers, bent on disparaging the Scripture history, as well as its doctrines, have labored to show that man began his career of existence in barbarism, and gradually progressed until he reached his present elevated position.
II. Many of the most popular writers on Holy Scripture have, by adopting the Hebrew chronology, so abbreviated the age of the world, that some of the most striking points of evidence which have been cited in our favor stand in direct opposition to the Scripture account, on their system; they therefore not only lose this amount of evidence, but actually have it arrayed against them.
III. Most of the writers who have examined this subject in a satisfactory manner have done so incidentally, while discussing other important subjects; and, therefore, by the voluminous extent, and conscquent high price, of their works, have sealed up their researches from all but a few persons of property and leisure.
We have brought these investigations to a close. They have occupied more time than we had anticipated; but their importance demanded that, if possible, we should place before the reader evidence sufficiently conclusive to enable him to decide with satisfactory and well-grounded confidence on the chronology and learning of the ancient world. Although we are aware that the subject is not exhausted, that it might with greater ease have been expanded into a volume than condensed into a Preliminary Dissertation, we hope the result will be satisfactory. A few general observations on each section of our inquiry will be necessary; and with these our introduction will conclude.
1. We shall not be surprised if the freedom with which we have referred to errors in the sacred text should, hy some individuals, be thought deserving of grave reprehension. We assure all such persons, that we write under the influence of the most reverential credence of the revealed truth of God. But we do not think that the concealment of error is calculated to promote truth. And, as we have previously observed, we think it impossible to over-estimate the combined wisdom and mercy which united to place, in the hands of three independent religious communities, as many separate copies of the word of truth before the excision of Israel took place, and the desperate energy of that people was exerted against the gracious purposes of God and his Anointed.
2. We are also apprehensive, lest the stigma affixed to such tamperng with Scripture, as in honesty of purpose we have been compelled to call " a fraudulent corruption of the sacred text,” should be ascribed to & spirit of bigotry. Perfectly unconscious of the existence of such an uncharitable feeling, we are confident that it cannot have exercised any influence on the judgment which we have formed. The Jews of that day were placed in circumstances which their descendants can scarcely estimate; and the efforts employed to mystify and adulterate certain dates which we have been compelled to detail, and which we sineerely believe actually took place, are no more to be regarded as a reflection on the principles or religion of the Jews generally, than is the excision of the second commandment by the early Saxon church (effected, as it was, with the concurrence of the great Alfred) to be regarded as a reflection on the Christianity of England in the present day.
3. No one, who will be at the trouble of perusing the entire work, will charge us with any disposition to shrink from upholding the authority of Holy Scripture, however it may be impugned by the professed wisdom of this world. There is no part of our duty to which we shall address ourselves with greater diligence and devotedness than to the resistance of the pretensions of “science falsely so called,” in its proud and insidious aggression on the truth of revelation. But this determination imposes on us the necessity of the utmost vigilance fully to ascertain what is actually revealed truth, lest, by vindicating error on the hallowed plea of inspiration, we injure the cause we are so anxious to uphold, and truth be impaired in the hands of its friends. We believe this has been done ; and the practice has had a most pernicious influence. Revelation and sound knowledge have been placed in opposition. Let a man carefully study the history of Egypt, Assyria, or China, or even of astronomy, and he is instantly confronted with facts bearing the impress of sterling historic truth, which directly contradict the abbreviated Hebrew chronology. Does not his mind naturally deduce the conclusion, that revelation can be sustained only by the abandonment of legitimate research ? that revealed truth can only stand by the renunciation of historic truth?
The chronology which, by the force of evidence, we have been compelled to adopt, frees us from all difficulty. We are aware of, and we can explain, the myriads of years which are presented to us in the fictions of Indian and Egyptian fabulous history; but of this we are certain, that no fact, sustained by ordinary evidence, is presented to us
nation in the ancient world, which extends beyond the chronology of the Septuagint. This in itself is an important consideration; and,