Изображения страниц

their ancient and public records were destroyed ; and their very learning and genius changed to a conformity with their Grecian masters, who would needs, at this time of day, seek wisdom from Egypt, which could but furnish them with their own; though, because they would have it so, disguised under the stately obscurity of an Eastern cover.*

Nor were their prejudices less notorious. They thought themselves Autocthones, the original inhabitants of the earth, and indebted to none for their advantages. But when knowledge and acquaintance with foreign nations had convinced them of their mistake ; and that, so far from owing nothing to others, they owed almost every thing to Egypt; their writers, still true to their natural vanity, now gave the post of honour to these, which they could no longer keep to themselves; and complimented their new instructors with the most extravagant antiquity. What the Greeks conceived out of vain-glory, the Egyptians cherished to promote a trade. This country was long the mart of knowledge for the Eastern and Western world : and as nothing so much recommends this kind of commodity as its age, they set it off by forged records, which extended their history to a most unreasonable length of time : accounts of these have been conveyed to us by ancient authors, and fully confuted by the modern. Thus stands the objection to the Grecian evidence. And, though I have no business to determine in this question, as the use I make of the Greek authority is not at all affected by it ; yet I must needs confess that, were there no writings of higher antiquity to confirm the Grecian, their testimony would be very doubtful : but, could writings of much higher antiquity be found to contradict it, they would deserve to have no credit at all.

Whatever therefore they say of the high antiquity of Egypt, unsupported by the reason of the thing, or the testimony of holy Scripture, shall never be employed in this enquiry; but whatever Reason and Scripture seem to contradict, whether it serve the one or other purpose, I shall always totally reject.

The unanimous agreement of the Greek writers in representing Egypt as the most ancient and best policied empire in the world, is, as we say, generally known and acknowledged.

I. Let us see then, in the first place, what REASON says concerning this matter.

There is, if I be not much mistaken, one circumstance in the situation of Egypt, which seems to assert its claim to a priority amongst the civilized Nations ; and consequently to its eldership in Arts and Arms. There is no soil on the face of the globe so fertile but what, in a

• See “ Divine Legation,” book iüi, sect. 4.

little time, becomes naturally effete by pasturage and tillage. This, in the early ages of the world, forced the unsettled tribes of men to be perpetually shifting their abode. For the world lying all before them, they saw a speedier and easier relief in removing to fresh ground, than in turning their thoughts to the recoyery * of the fertility of that already spent by occupation : for it is necessity alone, to which we are indebted for all the artificial methods of supplying our wants.

Now the plain of Egypt having its fertility annually restored by the periodic overflowings of the Nile, they, whom chance or choice had once directed to sit down upon it's banks, had never after an occasion to remove their tents. And when men have been so long settled in a place, that the majority of the inhabitants are become natives of the soil, the inborn love of a Country has, by that time, struck such deep roots into it, that nothing but extreme violence can draw them out. Hence, civil policy arises ; which, while the unsettled tribes of mankind keep shifting from place to place, remains stifled in its seeds.

This, I apprehend, if rightly considered, will induce us to conclude, that Egypt was very likely to have been one of the first civilized countries on the globe.

II. Let us see next what SCRIPTURE has recorded in support of the same truth.

1. So early as the time of Abraham we find a king in Egypt of the common name of Pharaoh :t which would induce one to believe, that the civil policy was much the same as in the times of Joseph and Moses : and how perfect it then was, will be seen presently. This kingdom is represented as abounding in corn, and capable of relieving others in a time of famine :I which no kingdom can do, where agriculture has not been improved by art, and regulated by a civil policy. We see the splendor of a luxurious court, in the princes who resided in the monarch's houshold : amongst whom, we find some (as the most thriving trade for royal favour) to have been prccurers to his pleasures : $ nor were the presents made by Pharaoh to Abraham, at all unworthy of a great king. || An adventure of the same sort as this of Abraham's with Pharaoh, happened to his son Isaac with Abimelech ; which will instruct us in the difference between an Egyptian monarch, and a petty roitelet of the Philistines. Abimelech is described as little different from a simple particular, I without his guards, or great princes : so jealous and afraid of Isaac's growing power, that he obliged him to depart out of his dominions ;**

• See note E, at the end of this book. + Genesis xii. 15. I Verse 10. Ś The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and COMMENDED HER BEFORE PHARAOH : and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. (Gen. xii. 15.) U Gen. xii. 16. 1 Chap. xxvi. 7, 8. * Verse 16.

[ocr errors]

and, not satisfied with that, went afterwards to beg a peace of him, and would swear him to the observance of it.*

2. The caravan of Ishmaelite merchants, going from Gilead to Egypt,t brings us to the second scripture period of this ancient monarchy. And here their camel-loads of spicery, balm, and myrrh, and their traffic in young slaves, I commodities only for a rich and luxurious people, sufficiently declare the established power and wealth of Egypt. We find a captain of Pharaoh's guard; a chief butler, and a baker.§ We see in the vestures of fine linen, in the gold chains, and state-chariots given to Joseph,|| all the marks of luxury and politeness : and in the cities for laying up of stores and provisions, the effects of wise government and opulence. Nor is the policy of a distinct PRIESTHOOD, which is so circumstantially described in the history of this period, one of the least marks of the high antiquity of this flourishing kingdom. It is agreed, on all hands, that there was such an Institution in Egypt, long before it was known in any other parts of the East. And if what Diodorus Siculus intimates to be the original of a distinct priesthood, be true, namely the growing multitude of religious rites, we see the whole force of this observation. For multiplicity of religious rites is generally in proportion to the advances in civil life.

3. The redemption of the Hebrews from their slavery is the third period of the Egyptian monarchy, recorded in Scripture. Here, the building of treasure cities, ** and the continual employment of so vast a multitude, in only preparing materials tt for public edifices, shew the vast power and luxury of the State. Here too, we find a fixed and standing militia 11 of chariots ; and, what is more extraordinary, of cavalry :$$ in which kind of military address the Greeks were unskilled till long after the times of the Trojan war. And indeed, if we may believe St. Paul, this kingdom was chosen by God to be the scene of all his wonders, in support of his elect people, for this very reason, that through the celebrity of so famed an empire, the power of the true God might be spread abroad, and strike the observation of the whole habitable world. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee ; and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.|||

To this let me add, that Scripture every where, throughout these three periods, represents Egypt as an entire kingdom under one monarch ; [ which is a certain mark of great advances in civil policy and power : all countries, on their first egression out of barbarity,

• Gen. xxvi. 26, et seq. Chap. xxxvii. 25. Verse 28. 8 Chapxxxix. xl. Chap. xli, 42, 43. Chap. xli. " Exod. i. 11. tt Chap. v. 14. 11 Chap. xiv, 7. $$ Verse 9. ! Rom. ix. 17. IT See Gen. xli. 41, 43, 45, 46, 55; xlvii. 20; and Exod. passim.

imony, in the cons, they bestowcing God’s june coun

being divided into many little States and principalities ; which, as those arts improved, were naturally brought, either by power or policy, to unite and coalesce.

But here let me observe, such is the ceaseless revolution of human affairs, that that power which reduced Egypt into a monarchy, was the very thing which, when it came to its height, occasioned it's falling back again under it's Reguli. Sesostris, as Diodorus Siculus informs us, divided the lower Egypt to his soldiery, by a kind of feudal Law, into large patrimonial tenures. The successors of this militia, as Marsham reasonably conjectures,* growing powerful and factious, set up, each leader for himself, in his own patrimonial Nome. The powerful empire of the Franks, here in the West, from the same causes, underwent the same fate, from the debility of which it did not recover till these latter ages.

Thus invincibly do the Hebrew records † support the Grecian evidence for the high antiquity of Egypt. And it is further remarkable, that the later inspired writers of the sacred canon confirm this concurrent testimony, in the constant attributes of antiquity and wisdom, which, upon all occasions, they bestow upon the Egyptian nation. Thus the prophet Isaiah, in denouncing God's judgments against this people :-"Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the WISE counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish : How say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the WISE, the son of ANCIENT KINGS? Where are they? where are thy WISE MEN ? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the Lord of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt." I

But the Greek writers do not content themselves to tell us, in a vague and general manner, of the high antiquity and power of Egypt, which in that case was little to be regarded; but they support the fact, of which their books are so full, by a minute and circumstantial account of INSTITUTIONS, civil and religious, said to be observed by that people from the most early times, which, in their very nature, speak a great and powerful people; and belong only to such as are so. Now this account sacred Scripture remarkably confirms and verifies.

1. The PRIESTHOOD being the primum mobile of the Egyptian policy, we shall begin with that. Diodorus Siculus thus describes its state and establishment :—"The whole country being divided into three parts ; the first belongs to the body of Priests; an order in the highest reverence amongst their countrymen, for their piety to the Gods, and their consummate wisdom, acquired by the best education, and the closest application to the improvement of the mind. With their revenues they supply all Egypt with public sacrifices ; they sup

Can. Chron. p. 446. † See note F, at the end of this book. 1 Isaiah xix. 11, 12. See note G, at the end of this book.

port a number of inferior officers, and maintain their own families : for the Egyptians think it utterly unlawful to make any change in their public worship; but hold that every thing should be administered by their priests, in the same constant invariable manner. Nor do they deem it at all fitting that those, to whose care the public is so much indebted, should want the common necessaries of life: for the priests are constantly attached to the person of the King, as his coadjutors, counsellors, and instructors, in the most weighty matters.

-For it is not amongst them as with the Greeks, where one single man or woman exercises the office of the priesthood. Here a Body or Society is employed, in sacrificing and other rites of public worship; who transmit their profession to their children. This Order, likewise, is exempt from all charges and imposts, and holds the second honours, under the King, in the public administration.” *

Of all the colleges of the priesthood, Herodotus tells us, that of HELIOPOLIS was most famed for wisdom and learning : † and Strabo says that, in his time, very spacious buildings yet remained in that place; where, as the report ran, was formerly the chief residence of the Priests, who cultivated the studies of philosophy and astronomy. I

Thus these three celebrated historians; whose account, in every particular, is fully confirmed by Moses ; who tells us, that the Egyptian Priests were a distinct order in the state, and had an established landed revenue ; that when the famine raged so severely that the people were compelled to sell their lands to the crown for bread, the Priests still kept theirs, unalienated, and were supplied gratis. Diodorus's account, which gives us the reason of this indulgence, confirms the scripture-history, and is fully supported by it : for there we see, not only the reverence in which the Order was held, but the public uses of religion, to which two thirds of their revenues were applied, kept Pharaoh from attempting on their property. Again, Moses supports what Diodorus says of the public and high employ

• Της δε χώρας απάσης εις τρία μέρη διηρημένης, την μεν πρώτην έχει μερίδα το σύστημα των ιερέων, μεγίστης εντροπής τυγχάνον σαρά τοις εγχωρίοις, διά τε την εις τους θεούς ευσέβειαν, και διά το πλείστην σύνεσιν τους άνδρας τούτους εκ παιδείας εισφέρεσθαι. εκ δε τούτων των προσόδων τάς τε θυσίας απάσας τας κατ' Αίγυπτον συντελούσι, και τους υπηρέτας τρέφουσι, και ταϊς ιδίαις χρείαις χορηγούσιν. ούτε γάρ τας των θεών τιμάς ώοντο δείν αλλάττειν, αλλ' υπό των αυτών αεί και παραπλησίως συντελείσθαι· ούτε τους πάντων πρoβoυλευομένους, ενδεείς είναι των αναγκαίων. Καθόλου γάρ σερί των μεγίστων ουτοι προβουλευόμενοι συνδιατρίβουσι τη βασιλεί, των μεν συνεργοί, των δε εισηγηται και διδάσκαλοι γινόμενοι·- ου γαρ ώσπερ παρά τους Έλλησιν, είς ανήρ ή μία γυνή την ιερωσύνην παρείληφεν, αλλά πολλοί σερί τας των θεών θυσίας και τιμάς διατρίβουσι, και τοις εγγόνοις την ομοίαν του βίου προαίρεσιν σαραδιδόασιν. Είσι δε ουτοι πάντων τε ατελείς, και δευτερεύοντες μετά τον βασιλέα ταις τε δόξαις, και ταις εξουσίαις.-Biblioth. Hist. p. 46, Steph. ed. Οι γάρ Ηλιουπολίται λέγονται Αιγυπτίων είναι λογιώτατοι.-Lib. ii. cap. 3. t Εν δε τη Ηλιουπόλει και οίκους είδομεν μεγάλους, εν οίς διέτριβον οι ιερείς· μάλιστα γαρ δή ταύτην κατοικίαν ιερέων γεγονέναι φασί το παλαιόν, φιλοσόφων ανδρών και αστρονομικών.-Geogr. lib. xvii. Ś Only the land of the priests bought he not : for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them ; wherefore they sold not their lands. (Gen. xlvii. 22.)

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »