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daughters into the Jewish and Gentile Churches. With a little ingenuity we may suit the meaning to our fancy. But the time for “ trifling" is gone by : and were it not, what is the fairy tale without the fairy ?
Of the historic books, Kings, Nehemiah, and Ezra are the most trustworthy. The two books of Chronicles are valueless on account of their gross exaggerations, and manifest perversion of truth to suit the bigotry of the writer's spirit. They are constantly at variance with the books of Kings and of Samuel; and while the failure or death of the wicked is always ascribed to miraculous punishment, whatever turns to their advantage is either misstated or suppressed.
The fantastic visions, dreams, and marvels of the book of Daniel speak for themselves. In no other writing in the Bible is there so lavish an expenditure of magical effect. But the authenticity of the book is disputed; and some eminent commentators condemn it altogether as spurious.
1 " As the result of our inquiry verbally the older histories, he has we find that for some very few no- modified these continually to suit the tices, e.g., i Chron. iv. 39–43, the purpose of his whole work—that writer probably had the support of purpose being mainly to represent older records, while for some of his the relations of the priests and Lelists of names he may have had vites and the institutions of the written authorities before him, but second Temple, such as they were in these composed after the captivity. his own time, as having existed from Very much of the contents of these of old, even from David's time be. books, however, is manifestly ficti- fore the first Temple was built, if tious, the offspring of his own ima- not indeed from the time of Aaron.” gination. And in most of what re. - Bishop Colenso, Pent. mains, though he has copied almost
The next point we have to consider is the MONOTHEISM of the Hebrews. Were they the first and sole worshippers of the one eternal God ? And was this—the only true religion we will call it-revealed through. Abraham ; or (to begin with the first chapter of the Bible) was it revealed to Adam ? This leads us to inquire whether man's original state was one of perfection; or whether we are not in some respects improvements upon the progenitors of our race?
Comparative mythology, universal history, and the theory of evolution, each have a weighty word to say upon these queries. Of the first two sciences, at any rate, none but the learned are competent to speak. Nevertheless, we may attempt to glean some generalities which will prove both intelligible and instructive. Evolution will have its full share of our space hereafter ; but as it forms the basis of our present discussion, we must be mindful of certain facts brought to light by geology and archæology, which, no one worth attending to, now disputes.
It is established that, many thousands of years ago, men lived in caves and used Aint implements; that at first these implements were so rude that, it needs now an expert to be sure about them; that in course of time they became neat and polished; that by degrees—probably after thousands of years, the flint gave place to bronze implements; that later on, bronze was superseded by iron; that men took to dwelling in tents, and finally built themselves houses.
If it be possible to doubt of primary barbarity in the
face of the evidence we possess, it is incontestable that progression, if not a law, is at all events a fact. Whatever may be thought of the dogma of the Fall, it can scarcely be questioned that, mankind have passed successively through the various stages of Hunting, Wandering, Fighting, Herding, Farming, and Trading. Nevertheless, many popular writers, amongst whom may here be named, De Maistre, Goguet, Whately, the Duke of Argyll, and the Archbishop of York, have contended for the orthodox belief in degeneration. Whately's point is that, instance is wanting of emergence from barbarity without“ external help.” We may answer—(1.) the alleged advancement is the result of ages, and is not within the scope of observation: (2.) archæology supplies proof of progress, while it fails to yield any sign whatever of pre-existing culture. The absence of pottery (the most indestructible of relics) amongst pre-historic remains generally, and altogether in Australia, New Zealand, and the Polynesian Islands, is, so far as negative evidence goes, of the weightiest import.
The Duke of Argyll looks upon savages as “mere outcasts of the human race.” He thinks it may be true " that most nations in the progress of the arts have passed through the stages of using stone for implements before they were acquainted with the use of metals.” But he considers the Stone ages and Bronze ages to be fictions of the archæologist, for the actual existence of which “ there is no proof whatever.” We know that high civilisation in one part of the world, inay coexist with the lowest degradation in another. Therefore, “it would be about as safe to argue from these implements as to the condition of man at that time in the country of his Primeval Home, as it would be in our own day, to argue from the habits of the Eskimos as to the state of civilisation in London or in Paris.” 1 Again, the reply is: why should the oldest traces be always the most barbaric? And why should the barbaric alone be preserved ? This reasoning
.. Primeval Man, p. 129.
does not apply to material remains solely. We have historical evidence of survival and of progress, which far outbalances the evidence of degeneration. Every advanced race betrays in its language, in its superstitions, and in its religious rites, unmistakable symptoms of descent from barbaric ancestry. On the other hand, the lowest races retain no remnant of former superiority. Yet we are entitled to assume that the simplest and most useful arts would not be entirely lost. We should not expect to find, for instance, that when the fire-drill had once been invented, men would forget the use of the cord and come to twirl again with their hands, nor is it likely that they would forget the spindle and revert to the fingers for twisting thread. Yet besides these and many similar marks of ignorance, we find modern savages unacquainted with the bow; and even, islanders who never heard of a canoe.
The Duke of Argyll gives up the point of culture as implying knowledge of mechanical arts, nothing indeed being said in the Bible about the scientific attainments of Adam and Eve; what he stands out for is the moral and intellectual superiority of our first parents. To this Sir John Lubbock rejoins, “ Adam is, on the contrary, represented to us in Genesis not only as naked, and subsequently clothed with leaves, but as unable to resist the most trivial temptation, and as entertaining very gross and anthropomorphic conceptions of the Deity. In fact, in all three characteristics—in his mode of life, in his moral condition, and in his intellectual conceptions-Adam was a typical savage.” 1
De Goguet parries the difficulty by taking his departure from the Deluge instead of from Paradise. This accounts for the destruction of antediluvian culture with the wicked, but it has to assume that degradation proceeded from the divinely - favoured Noah. The truth is, no rational argument in support of the degeneration theory has ever yet been advauced: nor would defensive argu
1 On the Origin of Civilisation, p. 409.
ments now be put forth save in the cause of dogmatic theology. “The dogma of the condemnation of mankind through Adam, which is morally more revolting than any other, was also a necessary element of the Catholic philosophy, not only for the theological explanation it supplied of human suffering, but, more specially, because it afforded ground for the scheme of redemption, on the necessity of which the whole economy of the Catholic faith is based.” 1
Setting aside the doctrine of the Fall as untenable, let us follow in imagination the advance of religious belief from what we may inductively argue to have been its commencement.
As Natural Religion is treated of in a separate series of letters, inquiry now into its origin and development may be somewhat premature. Yet the question of Hebrew monotheism cannot be discussed without reference to the ethnography of religion generally; and the fitness of the topic here will compensate the sacrifice of symmetry in another place. It may be said then, that in proportion as the historical evidence, afforded by archæology in favour of the progressive theory, is to be relied upon, savage life as we still find it, may also be relied upon as fairly indicating the condition of man in the earliest stage of which we have any trace of his existence. The state of savages of the lowest grade furnishes the present age with material of study, the immense value of which can only be estimated when we reflect how soon the opportunities for observation must pass away. The rapid growth of civilisation will ere long sweep all the primitive races from the face of the earth; and future generations will look to our ethnologists and to our travellers for knowledge which can never again be obtained by direct experience. Modern savage life is our safest clue to the beginning of all culture. In the matter of religion what lesson does it teach us? Numbers of intelligent travellers and missionaries dei Comte's Positive Philosophy, Martineau's transl., vol. ii. p. 276.