« PrécédentContinuer »
of which we have any record; but its universality, which is essential to the argument, has been too hastily assumed." In a note, however, to this statement, he adds, “ The erroneous views which are still entertained on this subject, extend to our best works of reference. The Encyclopedia Britannica, which ought to have been better informed, observes in the article .Sabbath,' that “The septenary division of time has, from the earliest ages, been uniformly observed all over the Eastern world. The Israelites, the Assyrians, Egyptians, Indians, Arabians, and Persians, have always made use of a week consisting of seven days. Many attempts have been made to account for this uniformity, but a practice so general and prevalent could never have taken place, had not the septenary division of time been instituted from the beginning, and handed down by tradition. This is the only authority cited in proof of the assertion, that the advocates of a Sabbath observance base their argument for its divine origin upon the universality of the custom; yet this quotation asserts no such proposition. It is true, that it speaks of the very general prevalence of this custom in the ancient Eastern world, as the ground of an inference as to its divine origin, but, at the same time, it is particular to mention the nations among whom it prevailed: “the Israelites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Indians, Arabians, and Persians." That it did prevail among these nations, the author does not deny. He says, “The people of India, Syria, Arabia, and probably Egypt, observed weeks of seven days;” and thus, with the exception of the Israelites, whose custom, in this particular, is of course admitted, he concedes the point, that the custom was as general as the Encyclopedia Britannica affirms it to have been, save that he does not mention Persia, concerning whose custom, in this respect, there is but little historically certain.
Not only has the author assigned this false position to the Encyclopedia Britannica, but he says that “the erroneous views still entertained on this subject extend to our best works of reference." But is this correct? Has it not, on the contrary, been generally conceded, that some ancient nations did not observe weeks of seven days, as a national custom, at least, that we have no positive evidence of the fact? We know that some very ancient writers went to extremes on this subject, but their errors have been as freely and fully admitted and exposed by “theological writers” as by sceptics. Aristobulus, an Alexandrian Jew, who lived about 145 years before Christ, and Clemens Alexandrinus, who lived and wrote about the beginning of the third century, have both contributed to corrupt the Bible doctrine on several points; and in their zeal to harmonize
SERIES IV.-VOL. I.
Grecian philosophy, the one with the principles of the Jewish reli. gion, and the other with the doctrines of Christianity, they took, unquestionably, very unwarrantable liberties with the facts, both of history and philosophy, and their authority has, in some instances, been unguardedly, and, perhaps, ignorantly, relied upon, in cases where it was deserving of no credit; but “theological writers” hare done as much to detect these errors, and to expose them, as have the captious objectors to the truth of revelation. This it would be easy to show, from “our best works of reference.” Playfair, in his great work on Chronology, published in Edinburgh, 1784, says, “Gouget observes, that the ancient Greeks were almost the only people who were unacquainted with it, (the week.) They divided the month of thirty days into three times ten, and reckoned the days according to this division; so that the 15th day of the month was called the second fifth, i. e. the fifth day of the second tenth; the 24th day was called the third fourth, i. e. the fourth day of the third tenth, &c. This method was practised in the days of Hesiod.
Several ages elapsed before the Greeks received the week from the Egyptians, (Herod. 1. ii. c. 82, Dio Cassius, l. xxxvii.) A few more nations were ignorant of this division of time. The Khataians, or inhabi. tants of Northern China, divided the year into six parts, or months, every one of which consisted of sixty days. They had also a cycle of fifteen days, which they used as their week, (Herbelot Bibl. Orient. V. Giou & Hastak.) The ancient Persians had no week, but had a particular name for every day of the month, (Epochæ Celeb. Ulugh Beigi, p. 102.) When the religion of Mohamed was established among them, they reckoned the days of the week after the manner of the Arabs, which corresponds to that of the Hebrews. The Mexicans computed time by a cycle of thirteen days, and knew no other week.
These, and a few more exceptions notwithstanding, the week of seven days was generally adopted. The Chaldeans, Assyrians, and almost all the oriental nations, were acquainted with it.” I might quote similar concessions from other standard works of reference, but it is unnecessary. Suffice it to say, that the posi. tion which the Westminster Review opposes, is not that upon which the advocates of a Sabbath observance base the argument, that it is a divine and primeval institution.
Still, although it is not asserted by them that this custom was unis versal among the ancients, it is claimed by the author that it is essential to the argument, that its universality be established. The truth of this general declaration we cannot well see. It is equivalent to saying, that no institution, of divine appointment, ever ex
isted among a people that has not been, and must not of necessity be, perpetuated forever, and universally among their descendants. This is surely claiming for man a degree of reverence for the ordinances of the Lord, which it would be hard to show has ever charac. terized his rebellious and backsliding spirit. It were easy to adduce examples to the contrary, from the history of the Jews even, notwithstanding they were the subjects of the direct government of God, and, therefore, under the most favorable circumstances for a steadfast adherence to every divine law. They were not, as other nations, left to the feeble, and far off, and very uncertain voice of tradition, but were favored with frequent and most impressive admo. nitions against any departure from, or corruption of, the laws and institutions of the Lord. So that it was only from the most rebellious wilfulness that they could have lurned away, yet we find them often forgetful and disobedient, neglecting the things which were commanded, and indulging in habits and observances which were not only forbidden, but with which were associated denunciations and threatnings the most awful and dire, which human language could depict. With respect to this very institution of the Sabbath, it appears they were frequently forgetful, and it is evident they would have abandoned it altogether, on several occasions, had it not been for the most frequent and explicit, as well as authoritative, re. iteration of the command to keep it holy, by God himself.
Is it to be marveled at, then, that among all the nomad and idolatrous tribes into which the human family were divided after the confusion of tongues, we should, after the lapse of many centuries, find all traces of this institution lost among a few nations, whose early history is involved in inextricable mystery, and of whose primitive customs we have no record, not even a tradition, that is not incredibly fabulous or grossly false. Would it not rather be the most natural conclusion to which a candid reasoner could come, that the same spirit of wickedness which projected and undertook the building of the Tower of Babel, would lead to a total disregard, on the part of some, at least, of every divine institution; and that when the isles of the sea (Greece) were inhabited by the wandering and scattered descendants of the sons of Javan, they should, in the idolatrous worship which they there established, neglect and despise an institution which rested simply on the command of Him whose authority they refused, and under whose severe displeasure they were scattered from their kindred races. So far from it being necessary to the argument, that the custom should have been universal, does it not rather appear that its absolute universality would be an argu.
ment against it, since it is more reasonable to suppose, that amidst the prevalent spirit of rebellion and disobedience which led to the confusion of tongues, some among the scattered rebels would totally disregard this institution, which, while it commemorated a great fact, yet rested for its authority upon the simple command of Jehovah, than that all, without a single exception, should have continued to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”? That the Greeks, then, and the Romans, and a few other nations, who forgot the only true God, should also have abandoned this institution, is to me, in. deed, no matter of wonder, much less of serious objection, against a practice which, while it claims to be sanctioned as divine, by the general custom of ancient eastern nations, rests immovably upon other, and totally distinct foundations, for its claims ‘upon our observance. We conclude, therefore, that it is not only untrue to say that the advocates of a Sabbath observance base their argument upon the assertion of its universality among the ancients, but that it is also a logical error to affirm, that the universality of the custom is essential to the argument; and this we think our author himself felt, for after showing exceptions to the universality of the rule, he has still found it necessary to expend much scientific learning in attempting to account for the origin of the custom and its general prevalence.*
There is, unquestionably, an argument in the general prevalence of a custom among the ancient nations of the earth, inclining us to believe that it had a common origin; and when that custom comes to us across the lapse of many centuries, observed in all time, and
* Whilst we are free to admit that the universality of this custom cannot be proved, we are not satisfied that the author has proved that it did not exist, even in Greece and Rome. That it did not form a part of their national civil calender, we will concede; yet the learned Grotius has shown it to be more than probable that traces of it remained among almost all the nations of antiquity. Hesiod says, Essopeoniegov npereg—"The seventh day is holy." Homer says, Εβδοματα δ' έπειτα καταλυθον ιερον ημαρ-" Then came the seventh day, which is sacred or holy.” Callimachus gives it the same title. Theophilus, of Antioch, speaking of it, says, “ The day which all mankind celebrate." Porphory says, "The Phænicians consecrate one day in seven as holy.' Linus says, “The seventh day is given to schoolboys, as a holyday
“ Almost all philosophers and poets acknowledge the seventh day as holy.” Clemens Alexandrinus says, “ The Greeks, as well as the Hebrews, observe the seventh day as holy.” Josephus says, “No city of Greeks or Barbarians can be found, which does not acknow, ledge a seventh-day's rest from labor.” Philo says, “ 'The seventh day is a festival to every nation.” Tibullus says, “The seventh day, which is kept holy by the Jews, is also a festival of the Roman women," &c., &c. With such records as these before us, we think it modest to pause a little before we assert, with absolute confidence, that these people did not observe this custom!
by almost all nations, and declared, in the oldest records in the world, to have been of divine origin, we may well demand of him who would strive to overthrow our faith in this ancient belief, some satisfactory solution of its rise and general introduction and sanctity among the nations of the earth. Our author, we repeat, has felt the force of this argument, and, like a valiant and zealous enemy of all superstition, he hath set himself for its overthrow.
Let us consider his explanation. It is borrowed from the moon ; not primarily, however, for, as the moon herself gives but a borrowed light, so this explanation is but a reflexion of suggestions to be found in the works of sceptics long since dead. But though we have frequently met with it, we do not remember ever to have seen it analyzed and tested upon scientific principles. It may be that our scientific writers have not thought it worthy of an exposure. That this is the author's explanation of this origin of this division of time, is most distinctly stated. Speaking of the Chinese, he says, “ Chinese days are considered fortunate or unfortunate, &c.; but the constellation falling 'upon our Sundays (of which there were four in a year] marks no religious or other Sabbath usages, that are not common to every other four of the series.* The divisibility, however, of the sidereal path of the moon into four equal periods of seven days, shows the origin of septenary observances among other nations." And again, " That the hebdomadal week originated in the lunar festivals, there can be no doubt.” It is here affirmed most distinctly, 1st. That the sidereal month, divided by four, gave rise to the division of weeks; 2d. That weeks "originated in the lunar festivals." It is further stated, with the air of historical authority, too, though there is not a word of history on record for it, that “new moon days, and full moon days, were days on which the Sabæ presided, and were, therefore, Saba, or Sabbath days; and when the Sabæ began to assemble at the intermediate periods marked by the horned moon, those periods became Sabbath periods, or weeks.”
To show the confusion and recklessness of this explanation, the astronomical reader need only be reminded of the difference between the sidereal (lunar) month, (the interval between two successive con. junctions of the moon with the same star,) which is twenty-seven days, seven hours, forty-three minutes, and the synodic (lunar) month, (the interval between successive conjunctions or oppositions of the moon with the sun,) which is twenty-nine days, twelve hours,
* There were but twenty-eight of these lunar constellations in a year, according to the Chinese astronomy, and, of course, only four of them could fall ou Sundays.txt