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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 Ibrahim. 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 Phoenicia, 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 most likely that it was performed in order to prevent the abuses of puberty. But why should a 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, thè 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.
The 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 Isaac was circumcised; nor is circumcision again spoken of, until the time of Moses.
We shall conclude this article with one more obser vation, which is, that Abraham, after having by Sarah and 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.
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 precise ideas nothing is so common as to read and converse 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 understands one thing, and his adversary another. A third comes in who understands neither the one nor
the other, nor is himself understood. In these disputes, one has in his head the power of acting; a second, the power of willing; a third, the desire of executing: each revolves in his own circle, and they never meet.
It is the same with quarrels about grace. Who can understand its nature, its operations, the sufficiency which is not sufficient, and the efficacy which is ineffectual?*
The words substantial form were pronounced for two thousand years without suggesting the least notion. For these, plastic natures have been substituted, but still without any thing being gained.
A traveller, stopped in his way by a torrent, asks a villager on the opposite bank to show him the ford:
"Go to the right," shouts the countryman:—He takes the right and is drowned. The other runs up erying-"Oh! how unfortunate! I did not tell him to go to his right, but to mine!”
The world is full of these misunderstandings. How will a Norwegian, when reading this formula, Servant of the Servants of God, discover that it is the Bishop of Bishops, and King of Kings, who speaks?
At the time when the Fragments of Petronius made a great noise in the literary world, Meibomius, a noted learned man of Lubeck, read in the printed letter of another learned man of Bologna-“ We have here an entire Petronius, which I have seen with my own eyes and admired;"-Habemus hic Petronium integrum, quem vidi meis oculis non sine admiratione. He immediately set out for Italy, hastened to Bologna, went to the librarian Capponi, and asked him if it were true that they had the entire Petronius at Bologna. Capponi answered that it was a fact which had long been public. “Can I see this Petronius?-Be so good as to show him to me. "6 'Nothing is more easy," said Capponi. He then took him to the church in which the body of St. Petronius was laid. Meibomius ordered horses and fled.
In the same way, man is powerless as to good, and (of himself) adequate only to evil, and yet an accountable creature.-T.
If the Jesuit Daniel took a warlike abbot, abbatem martialem, for the abbot Martial, a hundred historians have fallen into still greater mistakes. The Jesuit d'Orleans, in his Revolutions of England, wrote indifferently Northampton or Southampton, only mistaking the north for the south, or vice versa.
Metaphysical terms, taken in their proper sense, have sometimes determined the opinion of twenty na→ tions. Every one knows the metaphor of Isaiah, How hast thou fallen from heaven, thou star which rose in the morning? This discourse was imagined to have been addressed to the Devil; and as the Hebrew word answering to the planet Venus was rendered in Latin by the word Lucifer, the Devil has ever since been called Lucifer.*
Much ridicule has been bestowed on the Chart of the Tender Passion by Madlle. Seuderi. The lovers embark on the river Tendre; they dine at Tendre sur Estime, sup at Tendre sur Inclination, sleep at Tendre sur Désir, find themselves the next morning at Tendre sur Passion, and lastly at Tendre sur Tendre. These ideas may be ridiculous, especially when Clelia, Horatius Cocles, and other rude and austere Romans, set out on the voyage: but this geographical chart at least shows us that Love has various lodgings; and that the same word does not always signify the same thing. There is a prodigious difference between the love of Tarquin and that of Celadon-between David's love for Jonathan, which was stronger than that of women, and the abbe Desfontaines' love for little chimney-sweepers.†
The most singular instance of this abuse of wordsthese voluntary equivoques--these misunderstandings which have caused so many quarrels, is the Chinesè King-tien. The missionaries having violent disputes about the meaning of this word, the Court of Rome sent a Frenchman, named Maigrot, whom they made the imaginary bishop of a province in China, to adjust
See BEKER and DEVIL
+ Materials for anglicising a note upon this allusion have abounded of late, and that without departing from the sacred profession of which the Rev. Abbé was so worthy a member.-T.