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prejudices soon vanish. We observe a noble simplicity in them, greatly preferable to all refinements: that the Israelites had every thing that was valuable in the customs of their cotemporaries, without many of their defects, and a great advantage over them in understanding (what ought to be our chief aim in this life) the nature of that true religion, which is the foundation of morality.
We must learn then to distinguish what is only offensive to us in their customs, from what is really blame-worthy; what we do not like, upon account of the distance of times and places, though it be in itself indifferent, from that which, being good in itself, displeases us for no other reason, than because we are corrupt in our manners. For, most of the difference betwixt us and them does not proceed from our being more enlightened by Christianity, but from our being less guided by reason. The Christian religion did not introduce this great inequality of conditions, this disdain of labour, this eagerness for diversions, this authority of women and young people, this aversion from a simple and frugal life, which make us differ so much from the antients. It would have been much easier to have made good Christians of those shepherds and ploughmen, which we see in their history, than of our courtiers, lawyers, or farmers of the revenue, and many others that spend their lives in an idle and discontented poverty. '
Let it be observed, that I do not pretend to make a panegyric upon this people; but to give a very plain account, like that of travelB 2
lers, who have seen far distant countries: I shall describe what is good, bad, or indifferent, just as it is, and only desire the reader to divest himself of all prejudice, that he may judge of these customs by good sense and right reason alone; to discard the ideas that are peculiar to his own age and country, and consider the Israelites in the circumstances of time and place wherein they lived; to compare them with their nearest neighbours, and by that means to enter into their spirit and maxims.
For one must be an entire stranger to his tory, not to see the great difference which distance of time and place occasions in people's manners. We inhabit the same country which the antient Britons, and afterwards the Romans, dwelt in: and yet, how much do we vary from both in their way of living; nay, even from that of our own countrymen, who lived seven or eight hundred years ago? And at present, what likeness is there between our customs and those of the Turks, Indians, and Chinese? If then we consider these two sorts of distance together, we shall be so far from being astonished, that they who lived in Palestine three thousand years ago had customs different from ours, that we shall rather wonder if we find any thing in them alike,
We must not imagine, however, that these changes are regular, and always come on in the same space of time, Countries that are very near each other often differ widely in their religion and politics; as, at this day, Spain and Africa, which, under the Roman empire, had the same customs. On the con
trary, trary, there is now a great resenıblance betwixt those of Spain and Germany, though there was then none. · The same holds good in respect to the difference of times. They that are not acquainted with history, having heard it said, that the people of former ages were more simple than we, suppose the world is always growing more polite ; and that the farther any one looks back into antiquity, the more stupid and ignorant he will find mankind
to have been... . . But it is not really so in countries that have been inhabited successively by different people: the revolutions that have happened there have always, from time to time, introduced misery and ignorance, after prosperity and good manners. So, Italy is now in a much better condition than it was eight hundred years ago. But eight hundred years before that, under the first Cæsars, it was happier, and in a more prosperous state than it is at present. It is true, if we go back eight hundred years more, near the time that Rome was founded, the same Italy will appear much poorer and less polished, though at that time very populous; and still the further we ascend, it will seem more wretched and uncultivated. Nations have their periods of duration, like particular men. The most flourishing state of the Greeks was under Alexander; of the Romans, under Augustus ; and of the Israelites, under Solomon.
We ought therefore to distinguish in every people, their beginning, their greatest prosperity, and their declension. In this manner I
shall shall consider the Israelites, during all that space of time that they were a people, from the calling of Abraham, to the last destruction of Jerusalem. It contains more than two thousand years, which I will divide into three periods, according to the three different states of this people. The first of the Patriarchs ; the second of the Israelites, from their going out of Egypt to the Babylonish captivity; and the third, of the Jeros, after they returned from captivity, to the promulgation of the Gospel.
THE Patriarchs lived after a noble manner, in perfect freedom and great plenty, notwithstanding their way of living was plain and laborious. Abraham knew the whole succession of his ancestors, and no way lessened his nobility, since he married into his own family. He took care to provide a wife of the same race for his son, in whom were fulfilled all the promises that God had made to him: and Isaac taught Jacob to observe the same law. . The long lives of the fathers gave them an opportunity of educating their children well, and of making them serious and considerate betimes. Abraham lived more than a hundred
years with Shem, and no doubt learned from I him the state of the world before the deluge.
He never left his father Terah, and was at least seventy years old when he lost him. Isaac
was seventy-five when Abraham died, and, as far as we know, never went from him all that time. It is the same with respect to the other Patriarchs. Living so long with their fathers, they had the benefit of their experience and inventions. · They prosecuted their designs, adhered firmly to their maxims, and became constant and, uniform in their conduct. For it was a difficult matter to change what had been settled by men who were still alive; especially as the old men kept up their authority, not only over the youth, but the elders that were not so old as themselves.
The remembrance of things past might be easily preserved by the bare relation of old men, who naturally love to tell stories of antient times, and had so much leisure for it. By this means they had no great use for writing; and it is certain we find no mention of it before Moses. However difficult it may seem to conceive that so many calculations as he recites should have been preserved in the me. mory of men, as the age of all the Patriarchs *, the exact dates of the beginning and end of the Flood t, the dimensions of the Ark$, &c. yet there is no necessity for recurring to miracle and revelation. For it is probable that writing was found oụt before the deluge; as we are sure musical instruments were, though not so necessary $. But though Moses might have learned, in the common way, most of the facts which he has written, I believe neverthe
* Gen. v.
Gen. vi. 14.
Gen. vii. 11, viii. 13.
Ş Gen. iv, 21.