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Paris. That which Abraham had foreseen came to pass: the Egyptian youth found his wife charming, notwithstanding her sixty-five years; the king himself fell in love with her, and placed her in his seraglio, though, probably, he had younger females there ; but the Lord plagued the king and his seraglio with very great sores. The text does not tell us how the king came to know that this dangerous beauty was Abraham's wife; but it seems that he did come to know it, and restored her.
Sarah's beauty must have been unalterable; for twenty-five years afterwards, when she was ninety years old, pregnant, and travelling with her husband through the dominions of a king of Phænicia named Abimelech, Abraham, who had not yet corrected himself, made her a second time pass for his sister. The Phænician king was as sensible to her attractions as the king of Egypt had been; but God appeared to this Abimelech in a dream, and threatened him with death if he touched his new mistress. It must be confessed that Sarah's conduct was as extraordinary as the lasting nature of her charms.
The singularity of these adventures was probably the reason why the Jews had not the same sort of faith in their histories which they had in their Leviticus. There was not a single iota of their law in which they did not believe ; but the historical part of their Scriptares did not demand the same respect. Their conduct in regard to their ancient books may be compared to that of the English, who received the laws of St. Edward without absolutely believing that St. Edward cured the scrofula; or to that of the Romans, who, while they obeyed their primitive laws, were not obliged to believe in the miracles of the sieve filled with water, the ship drawn to the shore by a vestal's girdle, the stone cut with a razor, and so forth. Therefore the historian Josephus, though strongly attached to his form of worship, leaves his readers at liberty to believe just so much as they choose of the ancient prodigies which he relates. For the same reason the Sadducees were permitted not to believe in the Angels, although the Angels are so often spoken of in the Old Testament; but these same Sadducees were not allowed to neglect the prescribed feasts, fasts, and ceremonies. This part of Abraham's history '(the journies into Egypt and Phænicia) proves that great kingdoms were already established, while the Jewish nation existed in a single family; that there already were laws, since without them a great kingdom cannot exist; and consequently that the law of Moses, which was posterior, was not the first law. It is not necessary for a law to be divine; that it should be the most ancient of all.
God is undoubtedly the master of time. It would, it is true,
; appear more conformable to the faint light of reason, that God, having to give a law, should have given it at the first to all mankind; but if it be proved that he proceeds in a different way, it is not for us to question him.
The remainder of Abraham's history is subject to great difficulties. God, who frequently appeared to and made several treaties with him, one day sent three angels to him in the valley of Mamre. The patriarch gaye them bread, veal, butter, and milk, to eat. The three spirits dined, and after dinner they sent for Sarah, who had baked the bread. One of the angels, whom the text calls the Lord, the Eternal, promised Sarah that, in the course of a year, she should have a son, Sarah, who was then ninety-four, while her husband was nearly a hundred, laughed at the promise, –a proof that Sarah confessed her decrepitude, a proof that, according to the Scripture itself, human nature was not then very different from what it is now. Nevertheless, the following year, as we have already seen, this aged woman, after becoming pregnant, captivated King Abimelech. Certes, to consider these stories as natural, we must either have a species of understanding quite different from that which we have at present, or regard every trait in the life of Abraham as à miracle, or believe that it is only an allegory; but whichever way we turn, we cannot escape embarrassment. For instance, what are we to make of God's promise to Abraham that he would give to him and his posterity all the land of Canaan, which no. Chaldean ever possessed? This is one of the difficulties which it is impossible to solve.
It seems astonishing that God, after causing Isaac to be born of a centenary father and a woman of ninetyfive, should afterwards have ordered that father to murder the son whom he had given him contrary to every expectation. This strange order from God seems to show that, at the time when this history was written, the sacrifice of human victims was customary amongst the Jews, as it afterwards became in other nations, as witness the vow of Jephtha. But it may be said, that the obedience of Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his son to the God who had given him, is an allegory of the resignation which man owes to the orders of the Supreme Being. ; There is one remark which it is particularly important to make on the history of this Patriarch regarded as the father of the Jews and the Arabs. His principal children were Isaac, born of his wife by a miraculous favour of Providence, and Ismael, born of his servant. It was in Isaac that the race of the Patriarch was blessed; yet Isaac was father only of an unfortunate and contemptible nation, who were for a long period slaves, and have for a still longer been dispersed. Ismael, on the contrary, was the father of the Arabs, who, in course of time, established the empire of the Caliphs, one of the most powerful and most extensive in the world.
The Mussulmans have a great reverence for Abraham, whom they call Ibrahiin. Those who believe him to have been buried at Hebron, make a pilgrimage thither, while those who think that his tomb is at Mecca, go and pay their homage to him there.
Some of the ancient Persians believed that Abraham was the same with Zoroaster. It has been with him as with most of the founders of the Eastern nations, to whom various names and various adventures have been attributed; but it appears by the Scripture text, that he was one of those wandering Arabs who had no fixed habitation. We see him born at Ur in Chaldea, going first to Haran, then into Palestine, then into Egypt; then into Phænicia, and lastly forced to buy a grave at Hebron.
One of the most remarkable circumstances of his life was, that at the age of ninety, before he had begotten Isaac, he caused himself, his son Ismael, and all his servants, to be circumcised. It seems that he had adopted this idea amongst the Egyptians. It is difficult to determine the origin of such an operation; but it appears mostlikely that it was performed in order to prevent the abuses of puberty. But why should å man undergo this operation at the age of a hundred ?
On the other hand it is asserted, that only the priests were anciently distinguished in Egppt by this custom. It was an usage of great antiquity in Africa and part of Asia, for the most holy personages to present their virile member to be kissed by the women whom they met. The organs of generation were looked upon as something noble and sacred as a symbol of divine power: it was customary to swear by them; and, when taking an oath to another person, to lay the hand on his testicles. It was perhaps from this ancient custom that they afterwards received their name, which signifies witnesses, because they were thus made a testimony and a pledge. When Abraham sent his servant to ask Rebecca for his son Isaac, the servant placed his hand on Abraham's genitals, which has been translated by the word thigh.
By this we see how much the manners of remote antiquity differed from ours. In the eyes of a philosopher, it is no more astonishing that men should formerly have sworn by that part than by the head; nor is it astonishing that those who wished to distinguish themselves from other men, should have testified by this venerated portion of the human person.
Thé Book of Genesis tells us, that circumcision was a covenant between God and Abraham; and expressly adds, that whosoever shall not be circumcised in his house, shall be put to death. Yet we are not told that Isdae was círcumcised; nor is circumcision again spoken of, until the time of Moses.
We shall conclude this article with one more observation, which is, that Abraham, after having by Sarahand Hagar two sons, who became each the father of a great nation, had six sons by Keturah, who settled in Arabia ; but their posterity were not famous.
ABUSE. A vice attached to all the customs, to all the laws, to all the institutions of man: the detail is too vast to be contained in any library.
States are governed by abuses. Maximus ille est qui minimis urgetur. It might be said to the Chinese, to the Japanese, to the English-Your government swarms with abuses, which you do not correct! The Chinese will reply--We have existed as a people for five thousand years, and at this day are perhaps the most fortunate nation on - earth, because we are the most tranquil. The Japanese will say nearly the same, The English will answer-We are powerful at sea, and prosperous on land; perhaps in ten thousand years we shall bring our usages to perfection. The grand secret is, to be in a better condition than others, even with enormous abuses.
ABUSE OF WORDS. Books, like conversations, rarely give us any pre cise ideas : nothing is so common as to read and con, verse unprofitably.
We must here repeat what Locke has so strongly urged-Define your terms.
A jurisconsult, in his criminal institute, announces that the non-observance of Sundays and holidays is treason against the Divine Majesty. Treason against the Divine Majesty gives an idea of the most enormous of crimes, and the most dreadful of chastisements. But what constitutes the offence? To have missed vespers-a thing which may happen to the best man in the world.
In all disputes on liberty, one reasoner generally un. derstands one thing, and his adversary another. A third comes in who understands neither the one nor