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scent or (in Hindoo phraseology) an Avatar of the promised Seed. Hence he assumed the title of Nin or the Son: which the sacred historian with an indignant paronomasia expresses Nimrod or the rebel against the Son : and hence to this day, in the east, the chief Lama is deemed an incarnation of the expected virgin-born divinity.'
A superstition thus impious it well became the real Angel of Jehovah to check by an open display of himself: and this display I take to be the second recorded manifestation of the anthropomorphic Word. While the pyramid of Babel was rearing its head as the chief high-place of the nascent superstition, Jehovah, we are told, descended from heaven; and, by introducing a sudden confusion of language, scattered the presumptuous builders over the face of the whole earth.”
The phraseology of Moses is very remarkable: and, as I see no reason why we should not understand it according to its plain and natural import, I conclude that a descent of the anthropomorphic Word, to the unspeakable terror of the apostates, is here recorded.
3. Such appearances we find wonderfully multiplied, or at least more distinctly mentioned, when we reach the times of those persons, who, by a special and miraculous call, became the reformers and restorers, though with a peculiar reference to their own family, of Patriarchism when idolatrously corrupted and almost totally extinguished.
Whether in the first instance the Angel of Je* See Orig. of Pagan Idol. book vi, c. 6. Gen, xi, 5.-9.
hovah visibly revealed hiinself to Abraham, or whether he only spoke to him by an audible voice, we are not positively told : but scarcely had he reached the land of Canaan, when we are assured that the Lord appeared unto him; a phrase, which plainly imports that he beheld with his bodily eyes the person so spoken of.' Now, if he beheld Jehovah, we may rest assured, that what he beheld was the Word or the Angel: for by this being only has Jehovah ever manifested himself. But the ordinary form, under which the Angel appeared, was that of a man. The natural presumption therefore is, that Abraham then beheld him under that his wonted figure."
4. In the history of this patriarch, shortly after his separation from Lot, an event occurs, which might not perhaps so forcibly have arrested our attention, had it not received an inspired comment from St. Paul.
When Abraham returned victorious from the pursuit of the confederated kings, Melchizedek king of Salem, the priest of the Most High God, is said to have brought forth bread and wine and to have solemnly blessed him in the name of the Deity whom he served. In return, Abraham
him tithes of all.)
Such is the short narrative, which Moses gives of this transaction : but, short as it is, it stirs up our curiosity to inquire into the character of the man denominated Melchizedek.
(1.) This extraordinary personage is generally supposed to have been a petty prince, who reigned in Jerusalem then called Salem, and who united in himself the two offices of king and of priest.
Gen. xii. 7.
John i. 18.
Such a conjecture is more easily thrown out than established. If we admit the propriety of it, we pledge ourselves to account for two very remarkable circumstances. How happened it, that a priest of the true God was settled, as a sovereign prince, in the midst of the abandoned and idolatrous Canaanites? And how came that priest, as St. Paul argues from the fact of Abraham having given to him the tenth of his spoils, to be so decidedly superior, not only to the father of the faithful, but likewise in point of sacerdotal dignity to the whole body of the Levitical priesthood ?'
At the period, when Abraham thus pointedly acknowledged his vast inferiority to Melchizedek, the land of Palestine was occupied by two distinct races: the children of Canaan, who seem to have been its first planters; and the Phenician or IndoScythic Shepherds, who were a branch of the house of Cush, who had previously emigrated from the shores of the Persian gulf, who conquered Egypt, and who are said by Manetho to have been the original founders of Jerusalem. If then Melchizedek was a petty prince of the country, we seem almost obliged to conclude, that he was either a Canaanite or an Indo-Scythian.
Of these two not very satisfactory conjectures, the latter is certainly the most probable: both be
1 Heb. vii. 4-10.
cause it is incredible, that a royal priest of superior dignity to Abraham and to the Levitical priesthood after him should have sprung from the accursed and idolatrous stock of Canaan ; and because the Indo-Scythians of that period were at once less tainted with gross superstition and were the réputed founders of that very Jerusalem where Melchizedek is supposed to have reigned. But I fear, that, even if we adopt the latter, we shall still find that it will be with no great emolument. Though the Shepherds, when they invaded Egypt, treated the multifarious idolatry of the country with the utmost contempt: they are represented nevertheless as a race addicted to blood and rapine and tyranny; and, if as yet they had not begun to use images in their worship, they were nevertheless mental adorers of their favourite national hero-ged Buddh or Saca or Saman.' Is it likely then, that we should find a solitary priest of the Most High God, reigning as a king in the midst of a family so characterised?
Perhaps it may be said, that the Philistèan Abimelech, who was a member of the same great Pallic house, was yet a devout worshipper of Jehovah; and therefore that there is nothing so very contradictory in the supposition, that the Philistean Melchizedek might have been his priest.
This may be true enough in the abstract; but, if we examine such a conjecture a little more closely, we shall find that it will not relieve us from our difficulties. Since the very ancestors of Abraham
Maneth. apud Joseph. cont. Apion, lib. i. $ 14.
himself in the line of Shem had degenerated into idolatry; it is not probable, that the worship of the true God should have come down without break or interruption to Abimelech.' Hence I conclude, that all his knowledge of Jehovah was derived from his converse with Abraham. On the same principles, whether Melchizedek was a Canaanite or an Indo-Scythic Phenician, when we recollect the religious state of his brethren at this period, we shall find it difficult to account for the soundness of his worship except by deducing it froin a similar origin. If then Melchizedek were the theological pupil of Abraham ; how, according to St. Paul, does he start forth at once his decided superior ?
It may be said, that he acquired this superiority after his conversion from Samanèan Paganism, by his being consecrated the priest of the Most Hig! God.
This, in truth, is all that can be said: and this all is quite insufficient. If Melchizedek were a priest of Jehovah; so likewise, agreeably to the ordinances of Patriarchism, was Abraham himself. for, as yet, he had no son, to whom the sacerdotal functions might appertain ; and, since he had left the house of his father and had been constituted the head of a new house, he must clearly have been the patriarchal priest of his own family. Accordingly we find him, building an altar to the Lord, and solemnly calling upon his name ; acts, which betoken him to have been the sacerdotal prince of
i Josh. xxiv. 2.