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the Jews, exhibits the extreme liability to err, which attends the transmission of anything by word of mouth. The unwritten histories of gentile nations stand in precisely the same relation to their written documents, as the Talmuds and the Targums of the Jews do to the law and the prophets of the Old Testament. The simplest facts, in passing from generation to generation by word of mouth, are soon distorted into such monstrous and prodi things, that their original narrators are unable to recognize them; and it is only where the rays of truth, scattered through the narrative, can be collected into one focal point, that we are to attach much importance to such traditions.
In applying this principle to the opinions I have referred to, it is only necessary to select the points in which they all agree, and by looking at these in the light collected from such other sources as may be available, to see how far they are entitled to be received as facts.
In all the foregoing opinions, then (to designate them by no better name), two circumstances are conspicuous—the superlative antiquity of the earth which we inhabit; and the variety of modifications which it has undergone, both as regards the earth itself and its inhabitants ; and these are the only facts of much importance to my argument. In the more enlightened system of the Hindus, indeed, we have something like a reason stated for these ideas, the immeasurable duration of the life-time of their creating power, the Great Brahma.
And I think that a few moments' consideration of the subject will not only tend to shew the reasonableness of the conclusion which they have drawn from it, but cause us to feel humbled at the unworthy views of the Eternal, which we are in the habit of entertaining, when we regard him in connection only with the present constitution of things, and the transactions which are carrying forward in this remote corner of the uni
To suppose that He who is without beginning of days or end of years, should have had nothing to engage his care or love, till a few centuries ago, is so derogatory to the character of the Most Highest, that we cannot be surprised if we see the wiser among the heathen thinking better things.
II. The second part of this mythic period, and that on which I intend chiefly to dilate, furnishes us with a distorted and caricatured picture of the most important facts of sacred history, extending over a period of between three and four thousand years, and reaching from the Mosaic creation, down to the era of Herodotus, who has been called the father of history, and who wrote about four hundred and fifty years B. C. just as the Old Testament Scriptures were closing.
This circumstance ought not to be passed over without a short comment on the absurd phraseology in common use with regard to the heathen
historians generally. We are accustomed to speak of their confirming the sacred narrative; whilst the real fact is, that none of them (not excepting Herodotus, who is about the best as well as the earliest,) will bear the slightest comparison for truth,consistency, grasp of mind, or propriety of diction, with the inspired writers. And even if they could, none of them were coeval with the events of the Old Testament, and could only be acquainted with them by oral tradition, whilst the holy penmen of the Scriptures were either eye-witnesses to the facts they recorded or had them by revelation from Him who is emphatically the faithful and true witness. There is nevertheless an inferior sense in which the profane authors of antiquity may be said to confirm the Bible—they prove that it existed by the fact that they have borrowed from it; and as the reflection of any object, assures us of the presence of that object, so do their phantasmagorical pictures indicate the reality of the great originals from which they have attempted to copy.
“A glory gilds the sacred page
-It gives, but borrows none." Let us now proceed to look at the opinions entertained among the heathens, in the first place on the subject of
1. The Creation. And perhaps it may be well, though it does not strictly belong to the argument, to remark in passing that the very figure of the earth itself is an evidence of the correctness of the statement made by Moses, that it was once in a comparatively soft and plastic condition. It is not, as is well known, a perfect sphere, but an "oblate spheroid," wider at the equator than at the meridian; which is just the figure it would take if made to revolve upon its axis before the parts were firmly compacted. But as there can be no need for such collateral proofs as these, I shall proceed with the immediate subject before us.
It must be allowed that some of the heathen writers attempt to go beyond the first principles of matter ; but though the light which glimmers from their tiny torches over the palpable obscure of chaos occasionally bursts forth with unwonted splendour, it only “glows to bewilder, and dazzles to blind.” We start at the excellent brightness that now and then breaks upon us as we grope for truth, if haply we may feel after it, and find it, till we raise our eyes and discover that it radiates from the sempiternal source, and owes nothing to the hand that holds it out, but an ignorant and misdirected solicitude that blurs its glory.
It is not easy, indeed, to tell with any degree of certainty, how the early fathers of mankind might have felt and reasoned with regard to the origin of the present constitution of things, had there been no fragments of the primitive faith afloat—had they been left entirely destitute of other light than that of nature. But the twilight of tradition has disclosed much, which in the double night of unassisted reason must in. evitably have escaped them; and to this they were indebted for that Fata Morgana-that shadowy outline-of truth upon which they were for ever gazing.
(To be continued.)
THE MAGPIE. I love in my heart to see a magpie, for it always puts me in mind of the tropics. There is such a rich glow of colour, and such a metallic splendour of plumage in this bird, that one would almost be apt to imagine it must have found its way here from the blazing latitudes of the south.
Like all other birds in a wild state, magpies become vociferous at the approach of night; and he who loves to watch the movements of animated nature, may observe them, in small detached companies, proceeding to their wonted roosting-places, in some wood of spruce, pine, or larch, which they seem to prefer to any other. · There they become valuable watchmen for the night. Whoever enters the grove is sure to attract their special notice; and then their chattering is incessant. Whenever I hear it during the night, or even during the day (except towards nightfall), I know that there is mischief on the stir. Three years ago, at eleven o'clock in broad day, I was at the capture of one of the most expert and desperate marauders that ever scourged this part of the country. He had annoyed me for a length of time; and was so exceedingly cunning, that, when we went in pursuit of him, he always contrived to escape, either by squatting down in the thick cover of the woods, or by taking himself off in time, when he saw us approach. At last, he owed his capture to the magpies. We were directed to the place of his depredations by the incessant chattering of these birds in the tops of the trees, just over the spot where he was working in his vocation. He had hanged fourteen hares; and the ground was so covered with brambles and brushwood, that, when we surprised him, he told us that we never should have found him, had it not been for the magpies.—Waterton.
ANECDOTE. MR. JONATHAN Carr, who erected the first Baptist meeting house at Camberwell, in May, 1802, was, in the earlier periods of his life, connected with the Calvinistic Methodists. He was distinguished by great constitutional ardour, and made many zealous efforts to promote the salvation of souls. It happened to him one day, in crossing Holborn, as he was going to his secular employment (for he was not at this time engaged in the ministry) to fall in unexpectedly with a great crowd of persons, slowly moving towards the west. He inquired what it meant, and was told that they were taking Dr. Dodd to be executed at Tyburn, his informant at the same time directing his eye to the cart in which the prisoner was conveyed. “On turning towards it,” he said, “I saw the unhappy man, and five clergymen sitting with him, apparently paying him those kind and spiritual attentions which his circumstances required. But I saw, also, another delinquent going to the same place of execution, carried with him in the same cart, sitting alone, for neither of the clergymen was directing his coversation to him. My heart," he continued, “ melted with pity. That poor
man's soul, I thought, is as precious as Dr. Dodd's, and he is as near to eternity, yet no man cares for him.” His determination was instantly taken. Immediately he pushed his way through the crowd, till he reached the cart; he explained his object, asked and obtained permission to spring up into the vehicle, and seating himself beside the object of his compassion, ceased not till they reached the gallows, to speak to the dying man of that mercy which, even at the last moment, can rescue the penitent from eternal death.—Allport's History of Camberwell.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. Religious education does not consist in committing a few texts to memory, or reading a stated portion of Scripture every day, or even a general acquaintance with the truths and doctrines of the Word of God, or in giving stated lessons. Religion must be a living pervading principle, exhibiting its influence amidst the active duties of life, as well as at the private or family altar, and in the great congregation. In like manner must religious education be a living pervading principle, exerting itself in the play-ground as
Yet, Saviour! not for them
Was paid the price of blood ; 0! wherefore lingers thus behind,
Our falt'ring gratitude ?
Thou knowest, Lord, our feeble frame,
And shall to dust return;
Nor wilt thou spurn
We too shall sing!
And shout for joy of soul !
Not angels there alone
His advent shall proclaim,
A countless, joyful throng,
Ev'n so, Lord Jesus, come!
Expectant, to the skies,
Creation groaneth until now,
Till that bright morn appear,