Page images

fore, illustrated the indispensable necessity of some fuller instruction, of some more perfect and efficacious principles to influence and direct mankind.

Corruption of manners among the Jews appears to have reached its highest pitch when the birth of Christ was announced.

The strictures of our Lord emphatically expose the pharasaic pride which prevailed among those, who, like whited sepulchres, were full of impurity.

The courts of Herod, and of his successors, were the scenes of every pollution, and the people seemed abandoned and lost in wickedness. The condemnation of Christ, his crucifixion, and the rejection of his kingdom, were alone wanting to complete the consummation of their guilt.

Josephus, speaking of the sacrilegious conduct of some wretches during the siege of Jerusalem, declares, that if the Romans had delayed to come against these wicked men, the city must have been swallowed up by an earthquake, overwhelmed by a deluge, or consumed by fire from heaven like Sodom; for that the generation was much more impious than those which had suffered such

judgments; and that for their madness the whole people was destroyed.

Among heathen nations most advanced in civilization and refinement, "all iniquity was committed with greediness," and the confessions of those who suffered from the effects of depravity, attest the fidelity and the beneficial views of the disciples of Christ, who laboured to introduce principles which might counteract it.

It has been observed, that it was probably one object of Providence, in the preservation of sufficient documents, to illustrate the universal failure in the human character, under all the circumstances of public and domestic life—of national and private manners; to draw even from the mouths of the Heathens a testimony to the sad effects of the Fall, and a confession of the necessity of a divine interference to renovate a decayed nature. It was an object also, which had been fully attained, to certify by actual experiment, the incompetency of reason, to recover by its own powers its original rectitude and strength, the vanity of the systems which had been

* De Bello Jud. lib. v. c. 13. § 6. p. 1256. Edit. Hud.

successively framed, and the utter inability of man to judge or to act rightly by his own. unassisted intellect. The corruption of Pagan manners continued long after the promulgation of Christianity, to exhibit a striking contrast to the purity of those who were converted to that religion, and to draw out by the persecution which it inflicted, impressive proofs of the virtues of those who professed it. The influence of the Gospel gradually dispersed the shades, and produced a beneficial effect, a general diffusion of light over the earth,



Of the Knowledge, which prevailed among Heathen Nations, of the general Deluge.

THE destruction of mankind, which was effected by the deluge, was so signal and so extensive a judgment, that the remembrance of it was every where retained, and traditions of it every where preserved. Express mention of this memorable infliction of divine wrath, is to be found in the earliest writings, and the accounts of its general or partial operation appear in various relations.

Berosus and Abydenus we have seen, speaking of it in histories of the Assyrians and Medes*, and records of the event extended through the East, and thence were

* Euseb. Præp. Evan. 1. ix. c. 12. lib. i. c. 3.

Joseph. Antiq.

circulated through every country, exciting a peculiar interest in those lands, in which some memorials and vestiges of it were to be found.

Travellers in Armenia were shewn on the summit of Mount Ararat, near the source of the Euphrates, the spot where the ark of Noah was supposed to have rested after the subsiding waters of the deluge ceased to buoy it up; and even the remnant of the structure was said to be extant in the time of Theophylact, of Antioch*, and Chrysostom. The Egyptians had a sacred ship, called Baris, which represented the ark; and the story of the Argos is supposed, somewhat fancifully, by Bryant, to have been derived from Egypt, and to have relation to the ark, represented by the An allusion to the

sacred ship of Osiris.

ark is to be found also in many sacred rites of antiquity.

Theoph. lib. xxxiii. Jud. lib. xiv. c. 8.

+ Vol. vi. c. 74. Edit. Savil. Sir W. Raleigh, after Ben Gorion, supposes Ararat to be Mount Caucasus. Wells determines, that the ark rested on the Gordyan mounfains. See Geograph. of the Old Test. vol. i. p. 65. UniHist. and Parsons' Remains of Japhet, p. 16.

« PreviousContinue »