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THE ARGUMENT FROM TRADITION.
Traditions of Primitive Ages to be expected. — Such Traditions
found to exist. — Statement of Dr. Smyth. — Those only of Value in the Argument which are not derived from the Bible. - 1. Traditions of one God. — 2. Of the Creation. – 3. Of the Garden of Eden. – 4. Of the Temptation and Fall. — 5. Of the Weekly Division of Time. — 6. Of the Deluge of Noah.
If all men have descended from a single origin, and that so late as the flood of Noah, it might be expected that they would preserve some traditions of that fact, and of the chief events occurring in the infancy of the race. We should anticipate, indeed, that these would vary according to the genius and the outer history of the different nations, some retaining more vivid reminiscences than others, and all of them, perhaps, holding them in forms more or less disguised, with such additions or other modifications as might naturally arise in the lapse of centuries. And wherever such traditions are found, clearly defined and of unmistakable import, they afford strong collateral evidence as to the origin of the people who entertain them.
Such traditions, in fact, exist. " The primitive condition of mankind,” says Dr. Smyth ; " the purity and happiness of the golden age; the location of man in a garden ; the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the influence of a serpent in the seduction and ruin of man; the consequent curse inflicted on map, on woman, and upon the earth; the promise of an incarnate Redeemer; traditions respecting Cain and Abel, Enoch and Noah; the longevity of the ancient patriarchs, and the existence of ten generations from Adam to Noah; the growing deteriorations of human nature; the reduction of man's age and power; the deluge and destruction of all mankind except a single family; the building of an ark, and its resting on a mountain, and the flying of the dove; the building of the Tower of Babel, and the miraculous confusion of languages; the institution of sacrifices; the rainbow, as the sign and symbol of destruction and of hope; the fable of the man in the moon - which is equaliy known in opposite quarters of the globe; the great mother, who is a mythus of the ark; the hermaphrodite unity of all the gods and goddesses, from a mistaken notion of the creation of Adam and Eve; the nature and purport of the mysteries in the Old and New World;
groves, and mountains, and caves, as places of worship; traditions also of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the Red Sea ; the division of time by weeks; and the expla- . nation of the future conflagration of the earth ; these, and many other facts which lie at the foundation of sacred history, and the earliest events of humanity, are all found imbedded, like the fossils of the earth, in the traditionary legends, both written and oral, of every tribe and people under the whole heavens.” *
I am inclined to think that this language is too. strong, certainly as affirming the existence of these traditions among every tribe and people. There may be casual resemblances in some single particulars which have no proper historical character, just as there are striking coincidences in many facts of the natural world, which have no vital connection with each other. It must be borne in mind, also, that only those traditions which have not been derived from the Bible itself, have any value in this argument. The influence of the Jewish and Christian religions has been very great and very wide in the world, and many things contained in them may have made their way thence within the knowledge of surrounding nations. Such, for instance, was probably the gen
* T. Smyth, On the Unity of the Human Races, pp. 237, 238.
eral expectation of the advent of some illustrious personage, about the time of Christ, who was to be a new Benefactor to the world. It is only independent traditions, which have come down from remote antiquity within the bosom of the nations themselves, that can avail anything for proving their common origin. And of these, without going to the extent of the writer just quoted, there are not a few of great interest and importance, which I will mention.
1. The existence of one supreme and eternal God, the First Cause of all things. — "Those men,” says Jablonski, " who were most distinguished for wisdom among the Egyptians, acknowledged God to be a certain unbegotten Eternal Spirit, prior to all things which exist; who created, preserves, contains, pervades, and vivifies everything; who is the spirit of the universe, but the guardian and protector of men.” Many of the Greek poets and philosophers held the same truth. In one of the Orphic Fragments preserved by Proclus, we find it expressly declared that "there is one Power, one Deity, the great Governor of all things.” The verses which were sung in the Eleusinian mysteries contained
orks and Days, 109; Ovid, Met. i. 89; Virgil,
Ecl. iv., etc.
s Encyclopædia, art. Monotheism.
the following passage: "Pursue thy path rightly, and contemplate the King of the world. He is one and of himself alone, and to that One all things have owed their being. He encompasses them. No mortal hath beheld him; but he sees everything." * Says Professor Wilson, "The Vedas are authority for the existence of one Divine Being, supreme over the universe, and existing before all worlds. In the beginning this all [the universe] was in darkness. He, the Supreme, was alone, without a second. He reflected, I am one; I will become many. Will was .conceived in the divine mind, and creation ensued.” In the Vishnu Purana it is said, "That which is imperceptible, undecaying, inconceivable, unborn, inexhaustible, indescribable; which has neither form, nor hands, nor feet; which is almighty, omnipresent, eternal; the cause of all things, and without cause; permeating all, itself unpenetrated, and from which all things proceed; — that is Brahma.” - 2. The Creation of the World and of Man. " The Greeks, in their legends, represented Prometheus as playing the part of a demiurgus, or secondary creator, who molded from clay the first individuals of our species, and gave them life by means of the fire which he stole from heaven. In the cosmogony of
* Brande's Encyclopædia, art. Monotheism.