Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

rebellion could be any proof of the novelty of precepts and laws, few of those given to the Israelites could be deemed old, at any stage of their national career, however founded, too, they might be, upon principles coeval with the race; and the difficulty of conformity was felt, and manifested, throughout every period of their history. It was the complaint of God in the days of Ezekiel, that the people had despised his holy things, and profaned his Sabbaths (Ezek. 22: 8). So that, to build upon such a foundation as this, is to jeopardize, in no ordinary degree, the soundness and stability of the superstructure; more especially when we recall, what has been already noticed, that the Most High rebuked the daring impiety of these sabbath breakers in the wilderness, by exclaiming: " How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?" On the whole, we are constrained to believe that, had not this celebrated author been under the influence of a foregone conclusion, he would never have regarded the grounds he presents as sufficient to disprove the existence of a primeval Sabbath. Pursuing our inquiries, we must not overlook, here, the efforts which have been made to set aside the authority of the primeval Sabbath, by means of certain hypotheses as to the origin of septenary institutions. We have been accustomed to regard these as supplying at least some collateral evidence on behalf of a weekly rest. And the portions of Scripture to which we have appealed, are held by us to denote the existence of an economy of this order among those whose history is given in the volume of inspiration ; while the records of other nations, and in some instances even their architectural remains, attest the extended empire of the idea. "The period of seven days, by far the most permanent division of time, and the most ancient monument of astronomical knowledge, was used in India by the Brahmins with the same denominations employed by us, and was alike found in the calendars of the Jews, Egyptians, Arabs, and Assyrians; it has survived the fall of empires, and has existed among all successive generations, a proof of their common origin." Such is the testimony of Mrs. Somerville, in the " Connection of the Physical Sciences;" and it is corroborated by various distinguished writers who have explored the antiquities of nations. A recent writer, however, has insisted that, because this septenary division of time has not been universally observed throughout all the nations of the earth, it cannot supply any argument on behalf of the Divine primeval institution of the Sabbath.1 "From a passage in Genesis, in which the first reference to a Sabbath occurs, the inference has been drawn (an inference not warranted by the text), that the first parents of the human race were taught by God himself to divide time into weeks, and to set apart a seventh portion as a day of rest and for religious purposes. If so, it would of course follow that this institution, or some traces of it, would be found among all nations ; and the impression, therefore, on the minds of a large class of persons is a very natural one, that however much a Sabbath may have fallen into disuse or be now disregarded, the week of seven days has been kept by all generations of mankind from the days of the creation, and continues to be observed in every part of the world." But this reasoning is most inconsequential. For, on what principle can it be shown, that the Sabbath tradition and observance must have been universally diffused and universally preserved, in order to the authentication of the divine, primitive origin of the institution. It would appear to us that the fact of its very general extension and perpetuation, even supposing it not to be absolutely universalis a circumstance so remarkable as to warrant the inference drawn from it. That it should have existed and prevailed throughout the Eastern world, and that it should have found its way among Western nations who had no connection with the Jewish people, and most of whom would have scorned to adopt any custom derived from such a quarter; that it should have penetrated, not only the regions of civilization, but into the very centre of Afri1 An Inquiry into the Origin of Septenary Institutions nnd the Authority for a Sabbatical Observance of the Modern Sunday. Republished from the Westminster Review. ca,— as we learn from Oldendorf,—and been at home among the aboriginal Saxons of Europe and Peruvians of America; and, finally, that it should have been preserved and continued for so many ages, and amidst the social changes, the rise and fall of institutions and dynasties, upon so wide a theatre;—this is a fact, or rather congeries of facts, which has to be satisfactorily explained, even if we admit that some tribes and nations of the earth have been found wanting in regard to it. Significant allusions to the week of seven days, and even to the sacredness of the seventh day, are observable both in Grecian and Roman writers; and the symbolic use of the number seven is familiar to every reader of the ancient classics. And yet we are told that "the week was unknown to the Greeks of the classical ages, and also to the Romans, till it was gradually adopted, along with Christianity, under the late emperors."i We place, side by side with this statement, the following testimonies, bearing upon not only the assertion quoted, but upon the broader question at issue. Philo says, speaking of the seventh day: "It is a festival celebrated not only in one city or country, but throughout the whole world." Hesiod, in his "Days," observes, that the "seventh day is holy." Homer and Callimachus speak in the same strain. Lucian observes, in his Paralogist, that "boys were used to play on the seventh day." Eusebius, quoting the quotation of Aristobulus, brings out the statement of an ancient author, to the effect that the " seventh day" was "distinguished by all men." And the same historian writes: "Almost all the philosophers and poets acknowledge the seventh day as holy." Clemens Alexandrinus represents the "Greeks as well as the Hebrews" observing " the seventh day as holy." And Josephus declares: "No city of Greeks or barbarians can be found, which does not acknowledge a seventh-day's rest from labor." These quotations are sufficient to demonstrate the wide diffusion of the Sabbath tradition. Nor is it possible to derive the whole, or even the greater part, of the knowledge implied in 1 Penny Cyclopredia, Article " Week." these testimonies, from a Jewish origin. We must go farther up the stream of time for the rise and spread of this distinction, so extensively known and practised, in relation to the seventh day, among communities so widely separated, both by geographical limits and by the more formidable boundaries of natural customs, laws, civilization, and manners.1 But with all this, we repeat, it is not necessary to establish the universality of the knowledge of either the week or of a sacred day. We can easily understand how the tradition might be lost among some portions of the human family, in the progress and revolutions of ages; but we cannot see how it could be so widely diffused, and thus perpetuated, without looking for its origin in some event beyond and above the era of human dispersion, and an event invested with the highest authority and sanction, such as that to which the advocates of a primeval Sabbatic ordinance are wont to trace it. Attempts have been made to account for this septenary arrangement on other grounds. The lunar month has been referred to as the basis of the whole; and its division into four parts has been regarded as yielding the measure of time required for the verification of this hypothesis. But who can examine the detail and development of this notion, without perceiving its futility?" The recurrence of the lunar period is about twenty-nine and a half days." Is it not wholly unnatural and improbable, that men should fix upon the number seven, which constitutes no aliquot part of this period; and do so, not in one land, but in so many lands, and among tribes and nations in all stages of civilization? And why should such an unsatisfactory approximation to a fourth of this lunar revolution be adopted, instead of any other fractional portion of it? and wherefore any division whatever of the period of a lunation? The ancient Greeks had their decade; and the Romans had their nundina? occurring every 1 Vide Dwight's Theology, Lcct. 107, and Grotins on "The Truth of the Christian Religion." a Vide Article " Sabbath," Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature. Vol. XIIL No. 51. '47

ninth day; and the Mexicans had a period of five days. It may be naturally inquired, Why did not one or more of these chronological systems spread and establish itself among distant nations, instead of being limited within such narrow bounds? The more we reflect upon the subject, the more are we compelled to reject this method of solving the historic problem under consideration. And the scheme patronized by Baron Humboldt and by Acosta, is equally wanting in soundness. They have endeavored to trace the origin of the septenary institution to the number and names of the primary planetary bodies, as arranged under the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. But while this may throw light upon the origin of the names given to the days of the week, in certain parts of the world (a thing of comparatively little importance in this discussion), it utterly fails to solve the enigma of the existence of this method of computing time, in regions where that system of astronomy was unknown, or where the designations of the days were altogether different from those which are supposed to have originated in this manner. Above all, it is utterly at fault, when we come to mark the presence of this method in the astronomy, for example, of the Hindoos; which, however we may reduce its pretensions as to antiquity, can never be brought within the limits of an argument founded upon the system of Ptolemy. This sage flourished about 140 B. C. The Hindoo astronomy was in existence many centuries before. It is probably the most ancient of all such systems. But it presents, everywhere, marks of this septenary division of time, and the number seven is in constant use in the Hindoo legends. The failure, then, of all these attempts throws us back, with stronger confidence, upon the only satisfactory solution of the whole matter. Here is a hebdomadal arrangement of time, observed from the beginning, perpetuated through ages, found in the records of the antediluvian and postdiluvian worlds, and found not only among the peoples whose annals are placed in the inspired volume, but likewise among most if not all the nations of antiquity, wherever we follow their

« AnteriorContinuar »