Imagens das páginas

the formation out of previous confusion of a world peopled with organized life in its existing forms, at a period corresponding to the origin of the human race according to the received chronology.

The contradiction is scarcely less palpable in these more refined and far-fetched versions than in the vulgar sense.

Surely then, instead of attempting to tamper with all rules of common sense in the interpretation, it would be far better at once honestly to allow that we cannot reconcile the description to the facts, nor find the original of the picture in nature. Surely, looking as well at the plain and obvious sense in which any unprejudiced reader would of necessity view the Scriptural representations, as at the forced and unsatisfactory nature of the interpretations, as also at the manifest unreasonableness of the very principle on which any such interpretation can be rendered desirable,-on every consideration, we shall see the better and wiser course of openly acknowledging the contradiction, and allowing the impossibility of making out an accordance between the literal six days' work of creation, and the visible evidences and existing monuments of it,-between the letter of the representation (either as given in the delivery of the Decalogue to the Israelites, or as subsequently expounded by Moses in the book of Genesis,) and the perceptible and observable order of the works of the same Divine Being from whom the Judaical dispensation emanated.

[ocr errors]

I have been particular in stating plainly and unreservedly the exact nature and extent of the contradiction between the language of the Word or God delivered to the Hebrews and that of the monuments which we now extract from his works. It seems to me peculiarly needful so to set it forth, and not to shrink from the open and honest avowal of it ;-especially while we recollect that the physical evidence which thus palpably contradicts the letter of the Scriptural representation, is the very same which establishes the truth of the Divine perfections, and proves the fact of creation, however different in its mode of accomplishment from what our preconceived opinions would suggest, and however little we may be able to trace the precise means employed in carrying it on.

Adaptations to the Ideas of the Jews.

Now, so far as regards the first chapter of Genesis, we may remark, that even those divines who adopt the most approved views of the nature of inspiration may and do allow, that an inspired teacher might, in irrelevant points, be left to his own unassisted convictions, and on such matters would be no more enlightened than his contemporaries. Many eminent divines have even admitted that current opinions and prejudices, though erroneous, might yet be adopted and turned into a vehicle of moral and religious instruction to those to whom they were

habitual, without derogation to the inspired authority of the teacher.

On such a ground we might certainly be permitted to regard the first chapter of Genesis as embodying what were the commonly received ideas among the Jews, borrowed perhaps from some poetical cosmogony, and which Moses was inspired to adapt and apply to the ends of religious instruction;-to the assertion of the majesty, power, and unity of the Creator, and the prohibition of the worship of false gods; especially of those animals and other material objects which were peculiarly pointed out as being merely the creatures of the true God; and this doubtless in a more particular enumeration, because they were especially the objects of that idolatrous worship into which the Israelites were so prone to relapse. The entire description being thus divested of the attributes of a real history, the concluding portion of it, the account of the solemnization of the seventh day as the Sabbath is of course equally divested of an historical character, and thus cannot be understood as referring to any primæval institution, and can therefore only be regarded as having been designed for the more powerful enforcement of that institution on the Jews. And this indeed would be no more than accords with the opinion of many of the most approved commentators, who on quite independent critical and theological grounds, have regarded the passage (Genesis ii. 3,) conveying that


institution as correctly to be understood in a proleptical or anticipatory sense.

Perhaps such an accommodation might be made to the ignorance of the Jews in the introduction of the law, in order to avoid the unnecessary difficulty of a collision with invincible prepossessions on subjects irrelevant to the purpose of the law, and which in fact would but have tended to make them reject it. It may also be contended that in general any notion of a Divine communication implies adaptation to the ideas, language, habits, dispositions, and opinions of the parties addressed; since words, and existing notions, and prevalent modes of belief, of necessity form the only means and channels of communicating the religious truths intended to be conveyed. Thus, in such a case the introduction of views in themselves at variance with truths since elicited, is compatible with the veracity of the inspired teacher, and the absence of such a knowledge as has since been obtained of facts which did not concern the tenour of his particular commission, is without difficulty reconcileable with his inspired and infallible knowledge of the truths which it was his province to communicate.

Some writers, indeed, have felt no repugnance even to the idea of an adaptation, on the part of an inspired teacher, to the prejudices and errors (known by him to be such,) of his hearers; though others, on the contrary, cannot conceive or allow such an

accomodation; regarding it as a compromise of integrity incompatible even with moral honesty, and much more with the indwelling of the spirit of truth. Perhaps, however, some distinction may be allowed between the actual and formal inculcation of such views, and their incidental adoption as a vehicle for other instructions.

Representation of the Creation in the Decalogue.

BUT the great difficulty in the present case arises from the circumstance of the same main statement occurring in a more brief and pointed form in the delivery of the Decalogue. Here it is manifest the same considerations will no longer avail. For admissions which might be allowed with respect to a human teacher divinely inspired, would not apply in the instance of a direct declaration by the Divine voice and actual inscription by the Divine act.

It is needless to enlarge on the difficulties with which the subject is surrounded. It involves a question of the most serious moment from its extensive application in theology, which is forced upon us by the consideration of the present subject, and has also claimed much attention as bearing widely upon the character of other Divine communications recorded in the Bible. It amounts to this,-whether, and to what extent, we can consistently believe the Deity to have adopted the course of accommodating the representations in which he thought fit to clothe

« AnteriorContinuar »