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We farther learn, that soon after this catastrophe, when men began again to multiply on the earth, they were induced, by causes which we need not here investigate, but some of which will be sufficiently obvious, to diperse themselves into different countries, to the east and to the west, and several great kingdoms soon arose, as we have seen, to the utmost height of prosperity and splendour. From this period the stream of sacred history begins to be mingled with that of the profane, and some account, more or less distinct, has been preserved of almost all the most remarkable tribes who have since inhabited the different regions of the globe.
We may here remark, that although we nowhere find among
other nations the same full and distinct narrative of these events as is contained in the writings of the great lawgiver of the Jews, yet the scanty traditions, and meagre fragments of history preserved by other nations, are, as far as they go, quite in accordance with that narrative. We have found traces of the tradition of a deluge in Assyria, in Greece, in India, in China, and even, it is said, in America. The most ancient nations, and those who have preserved any thing like authentic records of their origin, universally concur in attributing that origin to a period within that which Moses has assigned to the great catastrophe, in no case much exceeding four thousand years before the present day. This coincidence, as observed by Baron Cuvier, is far too remarkable to have occurred by chance, between nations so far separated by distance, and so dissimilar in laws, religion, manners, and language ; and there is no rational way of accounting for it, except that it is founded in truth.
We may also take the opportunity of remarking, that on this point of the recent introduction of man into the world, at least as an inhabitant of the countries which
he now occupies, history is entirely in harmony with the evidence arising from geological research. On whatever other points geologists may differ, in this they are agreed, that no human remains have been found in even the most recent stratified depositions.*
All those nations which we find established soon after the period of the Flood, (with the exception of one which, for our present purpose, may be left out of view,) had not merely, like our first parents after the Fall, lost communion with God, but soon even lost all knowledge of his name, his person, and character. Although they had before them the attributes of that character visibly manifested to them in the works which he had made, so that, as St Paul says, they “ were without excuse,” such was the perverseness and depravity of the human heart, that they wilfully shut their eyes to the light which was
Lyell, the latest authority on this subject, concurs" in this respect with Cuvier, and all former geologists. He says, “ I need not dwell on the proofs of the low antiquity of our species, for it is not controverted by any experienced geologist : indeed, the real difficulty consists in tracing back the signs of man's existence on the earth, to that comparatively modern period, when species, now his contemporaries, began to predominate. If there be a difference of opinion respecting the occurrence in certain deposits of the remains of man and his works, it is always in reference to strata confessedly of the most modern order ; and it is never pretended that our race co-existed with assemblages of animals and plants, of which all, or even a great part of the species are extinct. From the concurrent testimony of history and tradition, we learn that parts of Europe, now the most fertile and most completely subjected to the dominion of man, were, less than three thousand years ago, covered with forests, and the abode of wild beasts. The archives of nature are in perfect accordance with historical records; and when we lay open the most superficial covering of peat, we sometimes find therein the canoes of the savage, together with huge antlers of the wild stag, or horns of the wild bull. In caves now open to the day in various parts of Europe, the bones of large beasts of prey occur in abundance ; and they indicate, that at periods comparatively modern in the history of the globe, the ascendency of man, if he existed at all, had scarcely been felt by the brutes."
thus vouchsafed to them. As, however, the instinctive principles of the nature within them imperatively demanded an object of worship, in place of continuing to adore one God, the creator of heaven and earth, they transferred the worship properly due to him to the persons of kings and conquerors—to inanimate objects, such as the sun and moon to animals, and even to stocks and stones, the workmanship of their own hands. They personified and deified the passions, and even the lowest vices of human nature. War, drunkenness, and debauchery, and even theft,* had each its tutelary god, and the mode of worship was made to correspond to the supposed attributes of the deity. In such circumstances, the morality of these ancient nations soon became equally depraved as their faith ; and we may conceive what was the ordinary standard of conduct among the laity, when we find crimes of every shade and die perpetrated under the name of religion, and under the sanction of their priests. It is remarkable, too, that all this took place, not merely among the ignorant and barbarous tribes, many of whom remained comparatively free from such enormities, but that the abominations I speak of were carried to the greatest height by those nations which attained to the highest point of intelligence and refinement. It was not among the barbarous hordes of Scythia and Bactria, that the wickedness of a demoralizing idolatry was carried to its greatest excess, but among the comparatively civilized and cultivated nations of Babylonia and Egypt, of Greece and Rome.
To this cause, undoubtedly, it is to be attributed that all these nations, after a short-lived period of prosperity, began to decline, and continued to sink, from one
Mars, Bacchus, Venus, and Mercury.
degree of degeneracy to another, till they fell into utter ruin. Thus, from the first rise of the earliest of these great monarchies, down to the period of the Christian era, so far from mankind shewing any symptoms of progressive improvement, the symptoms, it is melancholy to observe, were almost entirely the other way. The seasons of virtue and prosperity were as transitory and fleeting as they were brilliant; while the decline, in every case, was lingering, gradual, and hopeless, but constantly progressive, like the slow working of a fever after a period of unnatural excitement. No doubt, at the period when Christ appeared, the last of these empires, the Roman, had attained apparently to its utmost extent and splendour, but it was internally rotten to the core; the spirit which had reared it was dead; the elements of its destruction were actively at work, and it already tottered to its fall; and though that fall was protracted, and its ultimate and final extinction delayed for the marvellous period of fourteen hundred years, its doom was not the less certain, and so far as the destinies of mankind were concerned, may even be said to have actually taken place.
Thus all the information derived from human testimony, and from the history of past ages, seems to coincide with the intimations of Scripture, that, during this long period, the human race was gradually deteriorating. It may be objected, that this is inconsistent with what we have observed as to the greatness and civilization of those ancient monarchies whose monuments we have particularized. It may be said, that before these great monarchies could fall into decay, they must first have risen to greatness; and that this implies in each a period, longer or shorter, of some kind of progressive improvement. To this, I answer, first, that there is no proof that the original founders and fathers
of these great states ever were sunk in barbarism. The greatest of them, and those who seem to have possessed the arts and sciences in the highest perfection, are those which appear to have separated the earliest from the original stock, — the immediate descendants of the primeval race, from whom, of course, they must have derived a great part of their knowledge. But, secondly, although the natural stimulus given to the faculties, by the excitement of colonization and conquest, and the acquisition and cultivation of new and fertile territories, must have, for a time, operated powerfully in calling forth the energies of a people, sharpening and improving their intellects, and bringing all their powers into the most favourable modes of action; and though it be true, that in this way improvement did take place, to a certain extent, and during a limited period, yet the fact undoubtedly is--and the history of these nations proves it to have been so—that this course of improvement was never permanent, but that, as soon as they had attained to their greatest elevation, and when the stimuli of conquest and acquisition was withdrawn, they all of them, without exception, began to decline, and continued to do so down to the period of their final ruin. That this is a true statement of the progress of the four great monarchies, the most refined and civilized part of mankind, is, I think, sufficiently obvious; but with regard to the rest of the human race, the case is so plain as to be beyond the possibility of contradiction. The nations who immediately touched upon the primeval seat of population, carried with them at their first removal, or acquired at intervals, some portion of the arts and knowledge belonging to the original stock; but those who pushed their adventurous excursions farther into the wildernesses around them, the outposts and videttes of society, the squatters and backwoodsmen of the ancient world, from