Page images

seem destined to speak of the primeval ages and of the Pharaohs to the latest posterity. But into this tempting and opulent field, we must not venture. The pen and the pencil, however, have nobly accomplished their proper task; and volumes, full of instruction and of the most intensely exciting interest, are now within the reach of every man, who has the curiosity to read one of the most astonishing, as well as edifying passages in the history of our race. Not only do these recent researches fully confirm all the statements of the Hebrew and classical authors; but they add immensely to the previously conceded number and variety of arts and sciences, useful and liberal, which must have been cultivated and practised by the older Egyptians. It is difficult, indeed, to discover wherein they were deficient, or inferior to the modern European, while, in some respects, it is manifest they remain still unrivalled and peerless.

We are now able to comprehend and to appreciate the meaning of the significant scriptural phrase—“the wisdom of the Egyptians;" and the reason why Moses and the Grecian sages frequented their schools; and why, moreover, the latter spent so many years, not merely at one college, but oftentimes at different colleges, according to the objects which they had in view or the sciences to be acquired, before they deemed their education finished, or aspired to the honors of graduation. Thus, Lycurgus and Solon, the most eminent lawgivers among the Greeks, appear to have visited Egypt, chiefly to enlarge their acquaintance with the great principles of civil government and jurisprudence. The latter, as Plutarch informs us, received much useful instruction, on various important doctrines of philosophy and politics, from the priests at Sais. Thales and Eudoxus studied mathematics at Memphis. Pythagoras learned astronomy at Heliopolis. Thence he passed successively to the other most renowned seminaries; in which, for twenty-two years, he prosecuted his inquiries, at the feet and under the guidance of the learned Gamaliels of the day, with the most untiring petience, docility, perseverance and enthusiasm. After this pretty thorough novitiate in Egypt, and after travelling into Chaldæa, Persia and Phænicia in quest of knowledge, he returned to his own native Samosthere to be persecuted by the same fell spirit of ignorance, envy, prejudice and bigotry, which, in a later and Christian age, haunted and embittered the existence of Roger Bacon and Galileo. Finally, he established a school of SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. I.


his own at Crotona in Italy. And Plato too, the devoted disciple of Socrates during eight happy years, then a student of the Pythagorean philosophy in Magna Græcia, and of various sciences at other distinguished foreign schools, thought it necessary to attend the lectures of the Egyptian professors also, before he opened his own famous Academy at Athens. Verily, the Grecian scholars must have been sorry lads, or they could hardly have contrived to lounge away their entire youth and some ten or twenty years of mature manhood, among a set of dreamy pedagogues, who, agreeably to the vulgar faith, would have disgraced the old field schools of our own unparalleled Virginia! We, however, with these and many similar facts on record, should, in our extreme simplicity, be disposed to think it impossible for the most intrepid skepticism to deny to ancient Egypt the palm of pre-eminent wisdom and learning. Of such pupils as Moses and Plato, her universities may have well been proud. And from the works and reputation of the pupil we may still judge of the master.

And if we bear in mind, that even Plato and most of the other Greeks did not visit Egypt until after the Babylonian and Persian invasions, when only the wreck of her former science remained, we shall be able to make some equitable allowance for the fragmentary character of their reports, and for the seeming contradictions and even absurdities which we occasionally find in their writings.

0, quam te dicam bonam Antehac fuisse, tales cum sint reliquiæ ? But this paper must have an end. In preparing it, I have felt the difficulty of selection from the great mass of materials at hand, and especially of compressing within the limits of a readable article a small portion of the most prominent and pertinent facts which abound in ancient authors. These, if judiciously arranged and fairly interpreted, could scarcely fail to dissipate much of the prejudice, error and skepticism which prevail on this subject. I had designed to bring under review the arts and sciences actually known among the earliest postdiluvian nations; and to offer a few brief comments upon their literature, manners, customs, laws, religion and peculiar institutions. I had also marked a number of passages in sundry modern writers, with a view to point out the inconclusiveness of their reasoning, and its inconsistency oftentimes with the very premises which they themselves admit. How much learned ingenuity, for example, has not been expended in attempts to depreciate or to get rid of the Egyptian claims to any respectable degree of proficiency in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, metallurgy, physics, anatomy, navigation, geography, architecture, engraving, sculpture, painting, etc., merely because an arbitrary and inexorable theory seemed to demand a vastly longer time for such high attainments than any authentic history could furnish ?

I conclude then with the remark, that if the Egyptians, Assyrians and Phænicians never existed in a savage state; if their immediate progenitors, up to the age of Noah, were, like himself, civilized (and we proved, as we think, on a previous occasion, that man was created a civilized being, and thus continued down to the miraculous dispersion from Babel)—then it follows, that history cannot conduct us back to a period when the whole human race was savage; and consequently, that the philosophic and popular doctrine, that the savage was the original or primeval condition of mankind is indefensible ;--that it is a mere gratuitous and baseless assumption ;--and that the entire fabric, constructed by system-builders upon this foundation, is but a castle in the air, and can never withstand the artillery of reason, Scripture, and history.

As before we traced the stream of civilization, as it issued pure and bright from the primitive fountain in Eden, throughout the antediluvian world, to the fertile plains of Shinar; so now we can retrace it upwards till we arrive at the same point. The course is obvious, simple and direct. The civilization of modern Europe-of the Gauls, Germans, Britons, Goths, Vandals, Huns, Scandinavians, and the rest of the northern barbarians--was derived from the Romans; as theirs had been from the Greeks; and theirs again from the Egyptians and other Orientals. Prior to these latter nations, savage life is unknown to either sacred or profane history.



By Rev. Edward Beecher, President of Illinois College, Jacksonville, Hlinois.

[Continued from Vol. V., page 48.] § 29. Importance of a correct Interpretation of Rom. 6:3,4, and Col. 2: 12.

The conclusion to which we have arrived by our previous inquiries is this : Purification is enjoined by a specific command, but no particular mode of purification is enjoined. Of course, any individual may be lawfully purified in the way that he prefers. No result can be more desirable than this, for none tends more directly to harmonize the church. It combines the two fundamental requisites for union, which are, 1, to take from no church any thing which it desires as to its own mode of purification; and 2, to authorize each church to regard the purification of others, though differing from its own, as valid. Who, that loves the harmony of the church, who, that regards the feelings and wishes of Christ, would not rejoice at an issue so auspicious ? What can be more desirable than a union without sacrifice of principle, or loss of any valued practice? But this result secures all this; nay, more, it would give to our Baptist brethren, not only the full enjoyment of all they desire without diminution or loss, but add to it the sweet persuasion, that, on this point, all their Christian brethren are also right, and can, in like manner, enjoy the mode which they prefer. Thus all painful barriers to communion will at once be taken away, the middle wall of partition will fall, and all, in Christian love, will be united as one new man.

In proportion then to the desirableness of this event, is the importance of a radical investigation and correct interpretation of Rom. 6:3, 4, and Col. 2: 12; for, next to the word Bantito, these have been, and still are the most serious obstacles to such a result. As I have before stated, our Baptist brethren regard these passages as an inspired exposition of the mode of baptism-as proving, irresistibly, that the rite is designed, not merely to represent purification from sin, but purification in a way significant of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and of the death, burial and resurrection of the believer with him; and although this signification of the rite was not seen by men when it was first established, yet it was fully before the mind of God, and was finally and fully disclosed by the Apostle Paul. In this they are no doubt perfectly sincere, as they are also in the conviction that no mode of purification, devoid of this striking significance, is in accordance with the revealed will of God. Nor are they without authority for interpreting these texts as referring to the mode of the external rite. Indeed, the opinions of the Fathers, whatever they may be worth, so far as I have examined, are entirely with them. This explanation seems to have been adopted at a very early period. But it was most fully developed by Chrysostom; and undoubtedly his authority and eloquence, more than those of any other man, tended to give it currency in the East, whilst the influence of Augustine was equally decisive in the West. Besides, it is strongly sustained by the opinions of many modern critics. Of these, it is enough to mention Luther, Jaspis, Knapp, Rosenmüller, Doddridge and Barnes-none of them Baptists by profession.

Of course we need not wonder that our Baptist brethren feel strong, and express themselves with confidence, and even exultation, in speaking of these passages. Says Mr. Carson (Cox and Carson, p. 234), “ I value the evidence of these passages so highly, that I look on them as perfectly decisive. They contain God's own explanation of his own ordinance. And in this, I call upon my unlearned brethren to admire the divine wisdom. They do not understand the original, and the adoption of the words baptize and baptism can teach them nothing. Translators, by adopting the Greek word, have contrived to hide the meaning from the unlearned. But the evidence of the passages in question cannot be hid, and it is obvious to the most unlearned. The Spirit of God has enabled them to judge for themselves in this matter. Whilst the learned are fighting about Baarito and certain Greek prepositions, let the unlearned turn to Rom. 6 : 4, and Col. 2: 12, etc.” This may be taken as a fair specimen of the strength of feeling that pervades the whole body; and if so, it is plain that all hopes of union are fallacious, until the true interpretation of these passages is ascertained. Most cordially, therefore, do I

« PreviousContinue »