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history and laws of Moses, the Supreme Being is represented as more gentle and kind in character than He is in the Mosaic writings themselves? Had these prefixed records been a mere work of the imagination, a pure fiction of the days when the Mosaic religion was in operation, the theology ascribed to the patriarchs would naturally have been of the same cast as that which prevailed at the time when these pictures of earlier scenes were imagined or invented. That it is different from the Mosaic theology, and that it is truer in spirit while more childlike in form, is, I submit, a strong internal mark of the long antiquity of the book of Genesis and the general credibility of its leading traditions; especially is it a reliable intimation that some such divine communications as are described in those early records (though we may not be certain as to their exact mode of announcement) were really vouchsafed by the kind Father of the human race to the early inhabitants of the earth. Amid all the critical difficulties which forbid us to receive these narratives as literally and exactly true, there is essential truth in the leading facts related respecting the Divine intercourse with the early race of
The Almighty Father did doubtless, at various times and in various ways, manifest His existence and character and presiding providence to His human offspring, probably from their first existence in this world. Admitting this, we can understand, what would else be inexplicable, how it came to pass that they worshiped Him as One and believed Him truly kind and paternal, and entertained more just and more affectionate thoughts as regards His character than prevailed in times long succeeding, however childlike were their notions of His being or nature, through which the revealed idea of His character in fact found access to their simple hearts.
This kind of belief these earliest scriptural records
fairly claim ;-a reasoning, discriminating assent, together with the freest acknowledgment of difficulties wherever they exist, and the expression of opinion doubtfully where greater certainty is unattainable. Dogmatizing will make nothing certain that is in itself doubtful. But we may find, by legitimate reasoning and research, a richer vein of truth and devotion than those do who forbid us to stir the surface. “The letter killeth; the spirit maketh alive.” And the spirit of these venerable pages presents them still fresh and lively to our view, while the reasonable belief suggested by them, -that, from the first days of human existence on this earth, the Almighty visited His creatures with intimations, more or less distinct, of His being, character and will,-is in harmony with our Christian conception of His Paternal Goodness.
CAIN AND ABEL; OR EARLY HUMAN SOCIETY, DIVISION OF OCCU
PATIONS, AND RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
Though we cannot, of course, claim for the history of Cain and Abel the authentication of contemporary written documents, nor vouch for the literal truth of every part of it, nor derive from it a full and finished picture of the state of human society represented in this chapter; still, he who looks intelligently and at the same time religiously into this brief record, will learn from it the truest idea that he can any where gain of many important characteristics of the early state and progress of human society, as this is unquestionably one of the most ancient documents that the world contains, and transmits to us the oral records of ages still more ancient than itself.
All these venerable documents, forming the book of Genesis, which are prefixed to the Laws of Moses and combined with them into one literary work,—the Pentateuch,--are far more ancient, we believe, as already observed, than the time of the Hebrew Lawgiver. They seem to have been already written long before he collected them together; and probably were recited, perhaps in part at least sung, ages before they were written down. Those who ascribe them to Moses as the original writer, are far from giving them the weight of antiquity really due to them. And though it is customary with such persons to suppose him to have been guided by inspiration in writing them, this supposition is so plainly inconsistent with the appearances which they present at every step, that it invalidates their authority still more at every point of difficulty or doubt, where the simple consideration of their real antiquity would account for the existence of such difficulties, without weakening their value as an ancient testimony in regard to their main contents.
We must not expect, then, to find a complete history of the progress of the human race, in the rapid traditionary sketches which follow one another in the early chapters of Genesis. Nor must we attempt to supply, by the dogmas of modern theology, what may seem defective in these brief memoirs of the antediluvian race
This history of Cain and Abel exhibits the first step towards the great improvements of civilized life, in the different employments of the two brothers. The division of labour has, according to this record, already begun in the young world; for “ Abel is a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.” The employments of both of them are rural still. There is no mechanical art as yet, except as each practises it for himself. There is as yet no separate artizan class; this is named some generations further on, towards the close of this chapter. Human life is thus far rural; but it has assumed its two great divisions of pastoral and agricultural.
This representation is pretty nearly accordant (though it may not be exactly) with what the world has presented again and again in its different parts, where the progress of civilization is matter of history. Agriculture claims the attention of the shepherd tribes when they become more numerous. In Genesis, the cultivation of the ground is indeed the earlier occupation of Adam and of his elder son, while it is the younger who adopts the business of shepherd. The hunter's life is afterwards described, quite accordantly with fact, as special to certain families and places.
It has been justly observed, that even this degree of division of occupations would seem to imply the existence of a greater number of people in the earth than the family of Adam as enumerated up to this time. We only read thus far of Adam and Eve and their two sons Cain and Abel; yet these two sons adopt this division of occupations. Shall we then suppose the writer to have designed, by a kind of allegory, to exhibit the principle of the division of human employments, of which these two brothers are the representatives or symbols ? Shall we take Cain to stand for the agricultural class, and Abel for the pastoral, typifying, as it were, the progress of social wants and improvements, but without meaning to assert that such progress had actually taken place at that very early period? Or shall we understand him as meaning literally and precisely that which he describes ? And, if the latter (which is the most obvious interpretation), must we not necessarily imagine the existence of many other inhabitants of the world than are actually named at this period of the history, and even than can be conceived to have belonged to the family of Adam and Eve?
The history itself seems indeed to imply this, not only in the recorded division of occupations, but in more express words in several places; as when Cain says (on being condemned to be a fugitive from the land), “Every one that findeth me will slay me" (whom should he fear, if he did not know or believe that the earth had other inhabitants besides his own family?)—and Jehovah gives a token to him, " that no man finding him should kill him;" as also in the mention of Cain's wife, in the 17th verse, and the wives of some of his descendants towards the end of the chapter, without any hint of their being of the family of Adam (Cain's wife, on that supposition, must have been his own sister); but suggesting the natural inference that they were of another stock or family indigenous to the land of Cain's exile.
Hence the Pre-Adamite heresy, as it is called (all opinions different from the prevailing ones at any given time being called heresies), is a very plausible conjecture, which found advocates as long ago as the 16th century. The Pre-Adamite theory maintains that the family of Adam was not the only, and perhaps not the first, root of the human race; but that other families were created in other parts of the earth, contemporaneously with it or even prior to it; and that the sacred historian, in tracing the lineage of Adam downwards, designs to trace the origin of the Abrahamic family and then of the Jewish nation, but without precluding the separate origin of other parts of the world's population.*
* Niebuhr held the same opinion, apart from scriptural arguments. “I believe that the origin of the human race is not connected with any given place, but is to be sought every where over the face of the earth; and that it is an idea more worthy of the power and wisdom