صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

and elasticity of constitution; and as, in the case of individuals, provision has been made for the repair of any injuries arising from wounds or diseases, by the operation of what is called the vis medicatrix naturæ, so in the case of a species degenerating from its pristine state, there is still a tendency in the race, when placed again in more favourable circumstances, to recover in some degree the ground it has lost: and, taking advantage of this, man is sometimes able, in the case of those animals whom he has subjected to his sway, by supplying them with improved 'food, by judicious crossing, by selecting the best individuals to be employed in propagation, and other methods, to raise the breed again in many respects nearly up to the original type. This is the true principle in what is called the improvement of breeds; not that man can, by any means whatever, mend the works of the Creator, or improve or complete what He has left imperfect, for

God never made his work for man to mend ;*

but, in races which have degenerated, man is able, by his intellect, to assist Nature in recovering the ground she has lost. In some cases, what is called an improvement is merely such in reference to the uses of the animal to man, and one set of qualities is encouraged at the expense of others. Thus, in the race-horse, the only quality looked to is swiftness, and the breed is propagated with a view to this alone. In cattle which are reared for food, the quality of fattening, or of speedily acquiring the greatest weight of flesh, is that to which the breeder directs his particular attention, disregarding in comparison the qualities of strength and activity, on which depends much of the perfection of the animal. But in all cases whatever, we may hold it as a rule, that, taking * Dryden.

[ocr errors]

22 ANALOgies opposeD TO A PROGRESSIVE SYSTEM.

any species as a whole, no means exist of improving it above a certain point. The original type remains, forming a boundary, beyond which it cannot pass. It may occasionally fall below it, and by proper means be raised up to it again, but it never can be raised higher; as water conducted in pipes may rise up to, but never above, the level of the original fountain.

Applying these facts to the subject in hand, I ask, Is it at all conformable to the analogy of nature, or to what reason would suggest or anticipate a priori, to suppose that man, the greatest, the noblest, the most important work of the Creator's power, should form the only exception to the above rule, and that he should at his first creation have been sent from the hands of his Maker in a rude and imperfect state, when all other productions of the same Almighty power were perfect from the first? Can it be supposed that less care would be bestowed upon the highest, than we see has been exercised upon the lowest of his creatures? Is it at all probable that man, the undoubted monarch of the terrestrial creation, has been sent into his own dominions naked, weak, and miserable, unfurnished with the proper marks and credentials of his authority, and left to struggle through all sorts of difficulties up to the proper sphere of his glory and his power?

If we are to argue from analogy, we are compelled to conclude, that man, like all the animals, was created with all his powers and faculties complete, and that, like them, he received at once a definite constitution, possessing all the perfection of which his nature is capable. This is the general law of creation, and no philosophical reason indeed, no reason at all-can be assigned why there should be an exception to the rule in this solitary instance.

1

III.-Evidence derived from history, and from ancient monuments, respecting the condition of the human race in the earliest ages.

In looking into history, and comparing the condition of man in past ages with what we find it at present, it is by no means my object to maintain that there has been no improvement in any part of the race. That such improvement has taken place in some nations, and is now proceeding, in regard to our moral and intellectual condition, are points which need not be disputed; but the true questions to be considered are, what is the nature and amount of the improvement observed, and to what causes is this improvement to be ascribed?

In regard to the first of these points, I may observe,

that Mr Combe has no historical authority for saying

that man, when first placed in the world, was in his 2827

general nature and faculties less perfect than at present. The traditions and the poetry of all antiquity are against this supposition, and give intimations neither few nor obscure of what has been called a golden age,—a period when the race was better and happier than in the ages which succeeded, and when the earth was without violence and without crime. I refer to these traditions not as proofs of the fact, but as proofs, at all events, that a very general belief of the fact prevailed at a very early period.

The histories of the most ancient empires in the world are decidedly against the hypothesis. The facts narrated by authentic historians respecting the Assyrian, the Median, and the Babylonian empires, completely negative the supposition that the races which composed them were inferior in powers either of body or mind, to the greatest nations which have since existed. Were there no other facts to evince this, the descriptions of their

works, the immense and splendid cities which they erected, their buildings, which for greatness and magnificence `have never since been equalled, far less surpassed,—the fame of which, in distant regions, was such as to procure for them the name of wonders of the world, prove incontestably that the people which produced them stood high in the scale of physical and intellectual endowment.

Not to mention Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian kings, the size and wealth of which are stated to have been prodigious, it may be sufficient merely to allude to the more celebrated city of Babylon, which is equally famous in sacred and profane history, and which, whether it be considered in its extent, its magnificence, its wealth, the greatness and power of its kings, its extraordinary revolutions, its final downfall, and its present state of utter desolation, is equally without a parallel.*

[ocr errors]

* Any detailed description of Babylon would be quite superfluous. Every one has heard of its prodigious extent, comprehending a regular square forty-eight miles in circuit; its walls said to have been two or three hundred feet high, and so broad that several chariots could drive along the top of them, abreast; its hundred gates of solid brass, and the towers surmounting the walls by which these were defended; its massive bridge of huge stones, fastened together by bolts of iron; its palaces adorned with the most splendid sculptures and paintings; its hanging gardens; its tunnel under the Euphrates,* connecting the palaces on opposite sides of the river; its famous tower, supposed to have been the ancient tower of Babel, begun about a century after the Deluge, but afterwards enlarged, strengthened, and adorned, so as to be the most remarkable building in ancient times, and perhaps the highest in the world; the golden image of Belus, or Baal, by which it was surmounted, said to have been forty feet in height, and equal in value to three and a half millions sterling. After every allowance for exaggeration in the description of these particulars, quite enough will remain to satisfy us that the mighty city of Babylon has never been exceeded in greatness and magnificence by any that has since been reared by the power or industry of man; and the accounts of its wealth and luxury shew, that in these respects also its inhabitants were no way behind the greatest of

*This may strike us as one of the most remarkable circumstances regarding ancient Babylon, knowing, as we do, the difficulties which have attended a similar, but far less arduous undertaking, in our own country and time,-difficulties which we have not yet succeeded in surmounting.

1

Babylon exists no more. Its place is occupied with stagnant marshes, and infested with noisome reptiles. Of its buildings just enough remain to mark where it stood, and to prove the accuracy of ancient historians, by shewing that it was built of bricks fastened with reeds and bitumen. "And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar."

But there are other ancient cities which have been built of more durable materials, the remains of which, still in existence, are sufficient to satisfy the most incredulous of the greatness and power of the people by whom they were reared. I allude to the temples and catacombs

modern nations. Babylon seems to have excelled in rich and ingenious manufactures at a very early period in the history of the world; and its "goodly garments" are mentioned 1450 years before Christ.

The following allusions to the wealth and splendour of Babylon, which are partly literal and partly prophetic, may be taken as filling up the picture of which the above is the outline. The allusions are so circumstantial as to bear the stamp of truth; and if minutely considered, will be found to agree in every particular with what we see realized in the greatest emporium of wealth the modern world can boast :

:

"And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn for her, for their merchandise no man buyeth any more.

Merchandise of gold and silver;

And of precious stones and pearls ;

And of fine linen and purple ;

And of silk and scarlet;

And every odorous wood, and every vessel of ivory;

And every vessel of most precious wood;

And of brass, iron, and marble;

And cinnamon and annomum;

And perfumes, and myrrh, and incense;

And wine and oil;

And fine flour and wheat;

And cattle and sheep;

And horses and chariots;

And slaves,- And the souls of men;

And the autumnal fruits of thy soul's desire are gone away from thee;

[ocr errors]

And all delicacies and splendours have vanished from thee;

And never shalt thou find them any more."-Rev. xviii. 11-13.

See Jebb's Sacred Literature, p. 457.

C

« السابقةمتابعة »