« PreviousContinue »
through their unacquaintedness with the Hebrew language, excepting Jerom and Origen, hardly used any but this translation *.
But this we shall pass over, and proceed to consider the account that some give of the autiquity of the world, which is a great deal remote, from what we have in scripture, though this is principally to be found in the writings of those who were altogether unacquainted with it. Thus the Egyptians, according to the report of some ancient historians, pretended, that they had chronicles of the reigns of their kings for many thousand years longer than we have ground to conclude the world has stood t. And the Chaldeans exceed them in the accounts they give of some things contained in their history; and the Chinese pretend to exceed them by many thousand years, but these accounts are fabulous and ungrounded ‡ (a). And inasmuch as they are confuted, and exposed by many of the heathen themselves, as ridicuJous and absurd boasts, rather than authentic accounts, no one
Every one, that observes the lxx. translation in their chronological account of the lives of the patriarchs, from Adam to Abraham, in Gen. chap. v. compared with chap. xi. will find, that there are so many years added therein to the account of the lives of several there mentioned, as will make the sum total, from the creation of the world to the call of Abraham, to be between fourteen and fifteen hundred years more than the account which we have thereof in the Hebrew text; which I rather choose to call a mistake, in that translation, than to attempt to defend it; though some, who have paid too great a deference to it, have thought that the Hebrew text was corrupted, after our Saviour's time, by the Jews by leaving out those years which the lxx. have added, designing hereby to make the world believe that the Messiah was not to come so soon as he did, by fourteen or fifteen hundred years; and that therefore the Hebrew text, in those places, is to be corrected by that version; which I cannot but conclude to be a very injurious insinuation, as well as not supported by any argument that has the least probability in it.
† Vid. Pomp. Mel. Lib. I. Cap. 9. who speaks of the annals of the kings of Egypt, as containing above thirteen thousand years; and others extend the antiquity of that nation many thousand years more. Vid. Diod. Sicul. Biblioth. Lib. I.
Vid. Cicero de Divinat. Lib. I. who condemns the Egyptians and Babylonians, as foolish, vain, yea impudent, in their accounts relating to this matter, when they speak, as some of them do, of things done four hundred and seventy thousand years before; upon which occasion, Lactantius, in Lib. 7. § 14. de Vita beata, passes this just censure upon them, Quia se posse argui non putabant, liberum sibi crediderunt esse mentiri; and Macrob. in somn. Scip. cap. 11. supposes that they did not measure their years as we do, by the annual revolution of the sun, but by the moon; and so a year, according to them, was no more than a month, which he supposes Virgil was apprised of, when he calls the common solar year, Annus Magnus, as compared with those short ones that were measured by the monthly revolution of the moon : but this will not bring the Egyptians and Chaldean accounts to a just number of years, but some of them would, notwithstanding, exceed the time that the world has stood. As for the Chinese, they have no authentic histories that give any account of this matter; but all depends upon uncertain tradition, transmitted to them by those who are their leaders in religious matters, and reported by travellers who have received these accounts from them, which, therefore, are far from deserving any credit in the
(a) The reader will be highly gratified by a treatise of Dr. Hugh Williamson on climate, wherein he examines this subject.
who has the least degree of modesty, can oppose them to the account we have, in scripture, of the time that the world has continued, which is no more than between five or six thousand years.
And that the world cannot be of greater antiquity than this may be proved, from the account which we have of the first original of nations, and the inventors of things in scripture, and other writings. It is not reasonable to suppose, that men lived in the world many thousand years, without the knowledge of those things, that were necessary for the improvement of their minds, and others that were conducive to the good of human society, as well as subservient to the conveniencies of life; but this they must have done, who are supposed to have lived before these things were known in the world.
As to what concerns the original of nations, which spread themselves over the earth after the universal deluge, we have an account of it in Gen. x. and, in particular, of the first rise of the Assyrian monarchy, which was erected by Nimrod, who is supposed to be the same that other writers call Belus. This monarchy was continued, either under the name of the Assyrian, or Babylonian, till Cyrus's time, and no writers pretend that there was any before it: and, according to the scripture account hereof, it was erected above seventeen hundred years after the creation of the world; whereas, if the world had been so old, as some pretend it is, or had exceeded the scripture account of the age and duration thereof, we should certainly have had some relation of the civil affairs of kingdoms and nations, in those foregoing ages, to be depended on, but of this, history is altogether silent; for we suppose the account that the Egyptians give of their Dynasties, and the reigns of their gods and kings, in those foregoing ages, are, as was before observed, ungrounded and fabulous.
As to what respects the inventors of things, which are necessary in human life, we have some hints of this in scripture. As we have an account in scripture, Gen. iv. 20-22. of the first that made any considerable improvement in the art of husbandry, and in the management of cattle, and of the first instructor of every artificer in brass and iron, by which means those tools were framed, which are necessary for the making those things that are useful in life; and also of the first inventor of music, who is called, The father of all such as handle the harp and organ, which was in that space of time, which intervened between the creation and the deluge; and, after this we read of the first plantation of vineyards, and the farther improvement thereof by making wine, by Noah, Gen. ix. 20, 21. which the world seems to have known nothing of before. And it is more than probable, that the art of navigation was not known, till Noah, by divine direction, framed the ark, which gave the
first hint to this useful invention; and this art was not, for many ages, so much improved, as it is in our day. The mariner's needle, and the variation of the compass, or the method of sailing by observation of the heavenly bodies, seem to have been altogether unknown by those mariners, in whose ship the apostle Paul sailed, Acts xxvii. for want of which, they exposed themselves to suffer shipwreck, hoping, thereby, to save their
And. as to what concerns those inventions, that are necessary for the improvement of knowledge; it does not appear that writing was known till Moses' time; and, after this, the use of letters was brought into Greece by Cadmus. And therefore it is no wonder, when historians give some dark hints of things done before this, being unacquainted with scripture-history, that they are at a loss, and pretend not to give an account of things done before the deluge *. Shall we suppose, that there were so many ages, as some pretend in which men lived, and yet no account given of things done therein, transmitted to posterity, by those who assert it? Therefore there can be no ground to conclude, that the world has stood longer than the scripture account thereof t. We pass by the invention of the art of printing, which has not been known in the world above three hundred years; and the many improvements that have been made in philosophy, mathematicks, medicine, anatomy, chymistry, and mechanicks, in the last age; and can we suppose that there are so many thousand ages passed without any of these improvements? And to this we may add the origin
* The common distribution of time, into that which is afnor, before the flood, and pevsmov, after it, till they computed by the Olympiads; and afterwards that which they call isopion the only account to be depended upon, makes this matter farther evi
See this argument farther improved, by those who have insisted on the first inventors of things; as Polydor. Virgil. de Rerum inventoribus; and Plin. Secund. Hist. Mundi. Lib. VII. cap. 56–60. and Clem. Alex. Strom. Lib. I. Lucretius, though an assertor of the eternity of matter and motion, from his master Epicurus, yet proves, that the world, as to its present form, had a beginning; and what he says is so much to our present argument, that I cannot but mention it. Vid. Lucret, de Rer. Nat. Lib. V.
Prætera si nulla fuit genitalis origo
Terrarum & Cali, semperq; æterna fuere;
Verum, ut opinor, habet novitatem Summa, recensq;
Nunc etiam augescunt; nunc addita navigiis sunt.
of idolatry, in them who worshipped men, whom they called gods, namely, such as had been useful while they lived among those that worshipped them, or had been of great note, or power, in the world, or who were the first inventors of things: this being known, and the time in which they lived, mentioned, by some writers among the heathen, which is much later than the first age of the world, is a farther evidence of this truth, that it has not stood so many years as some pretend.
If it be objected, that there has been a kind of circulation, or revolution of things with respect to men's knowing, and afterwards losing and then regaining the knowledge of some of those arts, which we suppose to have been first discovered in in later ages, so that they might have been known in the world many ages before:
This is to assert, without pretending to give any proof thereof; and nothing can be inferred from a mere possibility of things, which no one, who has the least degree of judgment, will ever acquiesce in; especially the memory of some things could never have been universally erased out of the minds of men, by any devastations that might be supposed to have been made in the world. Therefore, to conclude this argument, nothing can be reasonably objected against the account we have in scripture, of the creation of the world at first, and of its having continued that number of years, and no longer, which we believe it to have done, from those sacred writings, which contain the only authentic records thereof, and have sufficient authority to put to silence all those fabulous conjectures, or vain and groundless boasts, that pretend to contradict it.
III. God is said to have created all things by the word of his power; thus the Psalmist says, By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth, Psal. xxxiii. 6. Some, indeed, understand this, and several other scriptures, in which God is said to create all things by his word, as implying, that God the Father made all things by the Son, his personal Word: but, though this be a great truth, and it be expressly said, All things were made by him, John i. 3. as has been considered under a foregoing answer*, whereby the divinity of Christ was proved; yet here we speak of creation, as an effect of that power, which is a perfection of the divine nature. And whereas it is called the word of his power, it signifies, that God produced all things by an act of his power and sovereign will; so that how difficult soever the work was in itself, as infinitely superior to finite power, yet it argues, that it was performed by God without any manner of difficulty, and therefore it was as easy to him as a thought, or an act of willing is to any creature; accordingly it is said, See Vol. L. Pages 220, 221.
He spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast, Psal. xxxiii. 9. As nothing could resist his will, or hinder his purpose from taking effect, so all things were equally possible to him. In this respect, creation differs from the natural production of things, which, though they be the effects of power, yet nothing is produced by a powerful word, or, as it were, commanded into being, but that which is the effect of almighty power, as the creation of all things is said to be.
IV. The end for which God made all things, was his own glory; or, as it is said, He made all things for himself, Prov. xvi. 4. that is, that he might demonstrate his eternal power and Godhead, and all those divine perfections, which shine forth in this illustrious work, and so might receive a revenue of glory, as the result thereof, Not that he was under any natural necessity to do this, or would have been less happy and glorious in himself, than he was from all eternity, if he had not given being to any thing. We are far from supposing, that there is any addition made hereby to his essential glory; this appears from the independence of his divine perfections: As they are not derived from the creature, so they cannot receive any additional improvement from him, no more than the lustre of the sun is increased by its being beheld by our eyes; nor does it sustain any real diminution thereof, when its brightness is obscured by the interposure of any thing that hides it from us. God did not make the world that his power or wisdom might be improved hereby; but that he might be admired and adored, or that his relative glory might be advanced by us, which would be the highest advantage to us. This was the great end for which he made all things; and it is very agreeable to the scope and design of scripture in general, which puts us upon giving him the glory due to his name, as being induced hereunto by all the displays thereof in his works.
Therefore it is a very unbecoming way of speaking, and tends very much to detract from the divine perfections, to say as a judicious writer represents some objecting, "As though "God were not so selfish, and desirous of glory, as to make "the world, and all creatures therein, only for his own honour, "and to be praised by men." And another writer speaks his own sense of this matter, in words no less shocking. He says, indeed, "That God cannot really suffer any diminution of his "own by our dislike, or is advanced in honour by our appro"bation of his dispensations;" which, as it respects his essential glory, is an undoubted truth; but yet he speaks, in other respects, of the glory of God, by which, it is plain, he means that which is generally called his relative, or manifestative glo • See Ray's Wisdom of God in the Creation, page 182.
Whitby on Election, page 92, 93.