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and seven years, and he died in the presence of all his brethren. Gen. xxv. 17, 18. As for his posterity, they dwelt likewise in the presence of all their brethren, and they still subsist a distinct people, and inhabit the comtry of their progenitors, notwithstanding the perpetual enmity between them and the rest of mankind.
It may be supposed by some that the reason why these people were never subdued by any other nation is, that" the country was never worth conquering, and that its barrenness has ever been its preservation; but this is a mistake, for, by all the accounts we have, though the greater part of it be sandy and barren deserts, yet here and there are interspersed beautiful spots and fruitful vallies. One part of the country was anciently known and distinguished by the name of Arabia the Happy, which appellation it received on account of the natural fertility of the soil, in contrast to the barrenness of the other parts. The whole country of Arabia is, by the oriental writers, generally divided into five provinces, the chief of which is called Yaman, and is thus described by the learned Mr Sale in his preface to the Alcoran. 6 The 66 province of Yaman (says he) has been famous from all 66 antiquity for the wholesomeness of its climate, its fer66 tility and riches. The delightfulness and plenty of it “ are owing to its mountains;* for all that part which “ lies along the Red Sea is a dry barren desert, in some
* The learned and celebrated Charles Theodore Middleton, esq. (in his New System of Geography lately published) describing the mountains in Arabia, says, “ The chief mountains are those of “ Sinai, Gabel el Ared, and St. Catharine, the former of which de66 serves a particular description. It hath two suminits, and is called 6 by the Arabs, the mountain of Moses, because many remarkable 66 things happened here to that prophet. It was here, they say, that “ the Almighty appeared to him in the burning bush; and the fathers " show a bramble, which they affirm is of the same kind. Here «6 Moses likewise fed the flock of his father-in-law Jethro; and not “ far off he struck the rock, out of which instantly gushed water: “ the stone is of a red granite, about fifteen feet long, ien broad, and 6 twelve high; the opening does not resemble any thing done by a 6 tool, and is somewhat like the mouth of a carved lion: into this si aperture the Arabs put certain medicinal lierbs, which they af" terwards give to their camels, in case they are disordered, think“ ing them very salutary for any disease."
6 places ten or twelve leagues over, but in return bound“ed by those mountains, which being well watered, 66 enjoy an almost continual spring, and yield great 66 plenty and variety of fruits, and in particular excellent “ corn, grapes and spices. The soil of the other provinces 6 is much more barren than that of Yaman, the greater 66 part being covered with dry sands, or rising into rocks, “interspersed here and there with some fruitful spots, 6 which receive their greatest advantages from their 6 water and palm-trees.”
But, however fertile, or bowever barren and desolate this country might be, yet it was certainly the interest of the neighboring princes and states, at all hazards, to endeavor to root out such a pestilent race of robbers. This, indeed, (as we have already particularly observed in the note page 55) has several times been attempted, but never accomplished. They have, from first to last, maintained their independency, and, notwithstanding the most powerful efforts have been made to destroy them, they still dwell in the presence of all their brethren, and in the presence of all their enemies.
If we reflect on the respective particulars contained in this amazing prophecy, and the astonishing manner in which each article has been fulfilled, we must easily perceive that the whole, from beginning to end, was guided by the direction of Providence. The sacred historian tells us, that these prophecies concerning Ishmael were delivered partly by the angel of the Lord, and partly by God himself: and indeed who but God, or one raised and commissioned by liim, could describe so particularly the genius and manners, not only of a single person before he was born, but of a whole people from the first founder of the race to the present time? It was certainly very wonderful, and not to be foreseen by human sagacity or prudence, that a man's whole posterity should so nearly resemble him, and retain the same inclinations, the same habits, and the same customs throughout all ages. The waters of the purest spring or fountain are soon changed and polluted in their course; and the farther still they flow, the more they are incorporated and lost in other waters. How have the modern Italians degenerated from
the courage and virtues of the old Romans? How are the French and English polished and refined from the barbarism of the ancient Gauls and Britons? In general men and manners change with the times; but in all changes and revolutions the Arabs have continued the same from the beginning. They still remain the same fierce, savage, untractable, unsocial people they were at first, following in every thing their great ancestor, and being entirely different from all other inhabitants on the earth.
The great affinity that still subsists between the present Arabs, and their progenitor Ishmael, from whom they descended, will appear evident from the following circumstances. Ishmael was circumcised, and so are his posterity to this day; and as Ishmael was circumcised when he was thirteen years of age, so (according to Jo. sephus) were the Arabs at the same time. Ishmael was born of Hagar, who was a concubine; and the Arabs still indulge themselves in the use of mercenary wives and concubines. He lived in tents in the wilderness, shifting from place to place; and so do his descendants, particularly those heretofore called Scenites, and those now called Bedoweens.* He was an archer in the wilderness; and so are they. He was to be the father of twelve princes, or heads of tribes; and they live in clans or tribes
* “ The Bedoweens (says Mr Middleton) have no settled place of abode, but fix at such places as will supply them with water, pasture and fruits, subsisting chiefly upon the flesh or milk of their herds and cattle. In this roving life centers all their happiness, and they look upon their more settled countrymen as abject slaves. They sleep in tents or huts, which they pitch in the evening in any spot prescribed either by fancy or convenience. These movable habitations, which are called illymas, from the shade they afford, are of an oblong form, and differ in size according to the number of the people who occupy them; they are covered with the skin of beasts, and supported, some by one pillar, some by two, and others by three, whilst a sort of curtain or carpet, made of skins, divides the tent into separate apart. ments. The pillars are straight poles eight or ten feet high, and four or five inches thick, serving not only to support the tent, but being full of hooks, they hang upon them iheir clothes, baskets, saddles, &c. When the people retire to sleep, they lay themselves down upon a mat or carpet placed either in the centre or a corner of the tent; and such as are married have a corner of the tent divided off by a curtain."
to this day. He was a wild man, his hand against every man, and every man's hand against him; and they still live in the same state of war, their hand against every man, and every man's hand against them.
When we reflect on these strange circumstances, how wonderful does it appear to us that the same people should retain the same disposition for so many ages; but still how much more wonderful is it that, with this disposition, and this enmity against the whole world, they should still subsist an independent and free people. It cannot be pretended that no attempts were ever made to subdue them, for the greatest conquerors in the world have almost all, in their turns, attempted it, and some have been very near eflecting it. Neither can it be pretended that the dryness or inaccessibleness of their country hath been their preservation; for their country hath been often penetrated, but could never be entirely subdued. Large armies have found the means of subsistence in their country: none of their powerful invaders ever desisted on this account; and therefore, the reason of their having withstood every effort to conquer them must be imputed to some other cause. This was certainly no less than the divine interposition, and which will evidently appear if we attend to the following very singular circumstances.
Alexander was preparing an expedition against them, when an inflammatory fever cut him off in the flower of his age. Pompey was in the career of his conquest, when urgent affairs called him elsewhere. lius Gallus had penetrated far into the country, when a fatal disease destroyed great numbers of his men, and obliged him to return. Trajan besieged their capital city, but was defeated by thunder and lightning, whirlwinds and other prodigies, and that as often as he renewed his assaults. Severus besieged the same city twice, and was twice repulsed from before it; and the historian Dion (a man of rank and character, though an heathen) plainly ascribes the defeat of these two emperors to the interposition of a divine power.
Indeed, if we consider the whole matter in its proper light, we cavnot fail being of the same opinion with
this beathen historian; for, without a divine interposition, how could a single nation stand out against the enmity of the whole world for any length of time, and much more for near four thousand years together? The great empires round them have all in their turns, fallen to ruin, while they have continued the same from the beginning, and are likely to continue the same to the end.
The Arabs are the only people, except the Jews, who have subsisted as a distinct people from the beginning; and in some respects they very much resemble each other, as will appear by the following comparisons:
1. The Arabs, as well as Jews, are descended from Abraham, and both boast of their descent from that father of the faithful.
2. The Arabs, as well as the Jews, are circumcised, and both profess to have derived that ceremony from Abraham.
3. The Arabs, as well as the Jews, had originally twelve heads of tribes, who were their princes or got ernors.
1. The Arabs, as well as the Jews, marry among themselves and in their own tribes. And
5. The Arabs, as well as the Jews, are singular in several of their customs, and are standing monuments, to all ages, of the exactness of the divine predictions, and of the veracity of Scripture History.
We have only one observation more to make on the fulfilment of the very singular particulars contained in the prophecy relative to Abraham and Ishmael; and that is, that they are so incontrovertible as to defeat every attempt that can be made to place them in a fallacious light. We know the predictions delivered to Ishmael to be daily verified in his descendants, and therefore have, as it were, occular demonstration for our faith; which is proving, by plain matter of fact, that the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and that his truth, as well as his mer. cy, endureth for erer,