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able woman runs when she wishes to govern the affairs of her household without advice, &c. We are afraid of swelling this Dictionary with useless declamations. They, who preside over this great and important work, must treat at length those articles relating to the arts and sciences which interest the public, while those to whom they entrust little articles of literature must have the merit of being brief.

ABILITY. This word is to capacity what able is to capable.-Ability in a science, in an art, in conduct. We express an acquired quality by saying, he has ability-an action, by saying, he conducts that affair with ability.

ABLY has the same acceptations;-he works, he plays, he teaches ably. He has ably surmounted that difficulty.

ABRAHAM.

SECTION I.

We must say nothing of what is divine in Abraham, since the Scriptures have said all. We must not even touch, except with a respectful hand, that which belongs to the profane-that which appertains to geography, the order of time, manners, and customs; for these, being connected with sacred history, are so many streams which preserve something of the divinity of their source.

Abraham, though born near the Euphrates, makes a great epoch with the Western nations, yet makes none with the Orientals, who, nevertheless, respect him as much as we do. The Mahometans have no certain chronology before their Hegira.

The science of time, totally lost in those countries which were the scene of great events, has re-appeared in the regions of the West, where those events were unknown. We dispute about everything that was. done on the banks of the Euphrates, the Jordan, and the Nile, while they who are masters of the Nile, the Jordan, and the Euphrates, enjoy without disputing.

* The Encyclopedia, for which this article was composed.

Although our great epoch is that of Abraham, we differ sixty years with respect to the time of his birth. The account, according to the registers, is as follows:* "And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abraham, Nahor, and Haran."

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"And the days of Terah were two hundred and years, and Terah died in Haran."

"Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation.-"

It is sufficiently evident from the text, that Terah, having had Abraham at the age of seventy, died at that of two hundred and five; and Abraham, having quitted Chaldea immediately after the death of his father, was just one hundred and thirty-five years old when he left his country. This is nearly the opinion of St. Stephen, in his discourse to the Jews.||

But the Book of Genesis also says, "And Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran."§

This is the principal cause (for there are several others) of the dispute on the subject of Abraham's age. How could it be at once a hundred and thirtyfive years and only seventy-five? St. Jerome and St. Augustine say that this difficulty is inexplicable. Father Calmet, who confesses that these two saints could not resolve the problem, thinks he does it, by saying that Abraham was the youngest of Terah's sons, although the Book of Genesis names him the first, and consequently as the eldest.

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According to Genesis, Abraham was born in his father's seventieth year; while, according to Calmet, he was born when his father was a hundred and thirty. Such a reconciliation has only been a new cause of controversy.

* Genesis, chap. xi, verse 26.

+ Ibid, verse 32.

Ibid, chap. xii, verse 1.
Acts, chap. vii.

S. Genesis, chap. xii, verse 4.

Considering the uncertainty in which we are left by both text and commentary, the best we can do is to adore without disputing.

There is no epoch in those ancient times which has not produced a multitude of different opinions. According to Moreri, there were in his day seventy systems of chronology founded on the history dictated by God himself. There have since appeared five new methods of reconciling the various texts of Scripture. Thus there are as many disputes about Abraham as the number of his years (according to the text) when he left Haran. And of these seventy-five systems there is not one which tells us precisely what this town or village of Haran was, or where it was situated. What thread shall guide us in this labyrinth of conjectures and contradictions from the very first verse to the very last?-Resignation.

The Holy Spirit did not intend to teach us chronology, metaphysics, or logic; but only to inspire us with the fear of God: since we can comprehend nothing, all that we can do is to submit.

It is equally difficult to explain satisfactorily how it was that Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was also his sister. Abraham says positively to Abimelech, king of Gerar, who had taken Sarah to himself on account of her great beauty, at the age of ninety, when she was pregnant of Isaac-" And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife."

The Old Testament does not inform us how Sarah was her husband's sister. Calmet, whose judgment and sagacity are known to every one, says that she might be his niece.

With the Chaldeans it was probably no more an incest than with their neighbours the Persians. Manners change with times and with places; it may be supposed that Abraham, the son of Terah an idolater, was still an idolater when he married Sarah, whether Sarah was his sister or his niece.

There are several Fathers of the Church who do not think Abraham quite so excusable, for having said to

Sarah in Egypt, "It shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake." She was then only sixty-five; since she had, twenty-five years afterwards, the king of Gerar for a lover, it is not surprising that, when twenty-five years younger, she had kindled some passion in Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed she was taken away by him in the same manner as she was afterwards taken by Abimelech, the king of Gerar, in the desert.

Abraham received presents at the court of Pharaoh of many 66 sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels." These presents, which were considerable, prove that the Pharaohs had already become very great kings; the country of Egypt must therefore have been very populous. But to make the country inhabitable and to build towns, it must have cost immense labour. It was necessary to construct canals for the purpose of draining off the waters of the Nile, which overflowed Egypt during four or five months of each year, and stagnated on the soil. It was also necessary to raise the town at least twenty feet above these canals. Works so considerable seem to have required thousands of ages.

There were only about four hundred years betwixt the Deluge and the period at which we fix Abraham's journey into Egypt. The Egyptians must have been very ingenious and indefatigably laborious, since, in so short a time, they invented all the arts and sciences, set bounds to the Nile, and changed the whole face of the country. Probably they had already built some of the great pyramids; for we see that the art of embalming the dead was in a short time afterwards brought to perfection; and the pyramids were only the tombs in which the bodies of their princes were deposited with the most august ceremonies.

This opinion of the great antiquity of the pyramids receives additional countenance from the fact, that three

hundred years earlier, or but one hundred years after the Hebrew epoch of the Deluge of Noah, the Asiatics had built, in the plain of Sennaar, a tower which was to reach to heaven. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Isaiah, says that this tower was already four thousand paces high, when God came down to stop the progress of the work.

Let us suppose each pace to be two feet and a half; four thousand paces, then, are ten thousand feet; consequently the Tower of Babel was twenty times as high as the pyramids of Egypt, which are only about five hundred feet. But what a prodigious quantity of instruments must have been requisite to raise such an edifice! All the arts must have concurred in forwarding the work. Whence commentators conclude, that men of those times were incomparably larger, stronger, and more industrious, than those of modern nations.

So much may be remarked with respect to Abraham, as relating to the arts and sciences.

With regard to his person, it is most likely that he was a man of considerable importance. The Chaldeans and the Persians each claim him as their own. The ancient religion of the Magi has, from time immemorial, been called Kish Ibrahim, Milat Ibrahim; and it is agreed that the word Ibrahim is precisely the same with Abraham, nothing being more common amongst the Asiatics, who rarely write the vowels, than to change the into a or the a into i in pronunciation.

It has even been asserted that Abraham was the Brama of the Indians, and that their notions were adopted by the people of the countries near the Euphrates, who traded with India from time immemorial.

The Arabs regarded him as the founder of Mecca. Mahomet, in his Koran, always viewed in him the most respectable of his predecessors. In his third sura or chapter, he speaks of him thus :-" Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; he was an orthodox Mussulman; he was not of the number of those who imagine that God has colleagues.'

The temerity of the human understanding has even gone so far as to imagine that the Jews did not call

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