« ForrigeFortsett »
nations, modern I mean in the persons of their present representatives, who plainly received their knowledge of the fact from remote primeval independent tradition. All mankind unite in attesting the same circumstance: and they all agree, with surprising uniformity, in their details. From north to south, and from east to west; in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in America: the story of a general deluge never fails to
present itself. A former world had attained to a high pitch of daring wickedness. The gods were resolved to destroy it. A single pious family, with a sufficient number of birds and beasts and reptiles, were preserved in a large ship, while every thing else perished beneath the waters of an universal inundation. The family consisted of eight persons : an old man and his wife, his three sons and their wives. When the waters began to abate, they sent out a raven and a dove: and, when the deluge had sufficiently subsided, their ship came to land upon the summit of a lofty mountain. By their descendants the present world was gradually filled with inhabitants *.
This, in substance, is the general tradition of all nations in every quarter of the globe. The story máy be told more fully or less fully, more intermingled with fable or more free from fable:
* See Bryant's Anal. vol. ii. p. 195--251. Faber's Orig. of Pagan Idol. book iii. chap. 4. and Horæ Mosaic.- book i. sect. 1. chap. 4. 2d edit.
but still, under every modification, such is its universal drift and purport.
(2.) Nor does the tradition merely float down the stream of time in a state of vague subsistence: the facts, which it embraces, are embodied in the national mythology and religion of every people.
We are expressly assured, that the gods, whom the Gentiles worshipped, were illustrious men, who had flourished during the golden age or in the infancy of the world * : and, agreeably to this assurance, we invariably find a notion prevalent, that their principal divinity, the common father both of gods and of men, was the parent of three sons among whom the whole earth was divided; that one of the forms of his consort was a ship; that, during a time when the waters overspread the face of all lands, he was inclosed within the womb of this mysterious vessel; that, thus confined, he floated upon the surface of a shoreless ocean; and that, at length, when the flood retired, he disembarked, planted the first vine, and transmitted every useful art and science to his posterity t.
Such facts constituted the basis of the ancient
* Hesiod. Oper. et dier. lib. i. ver. 120–125. August. de Civ. Dei. lib. iv. cap. 27. lib. viii. cap. 5. Cicer. Tusc. Disp. lib. i. cap. 12, 13. De nat. deor. lib. i. cap. 42. Jul. Firm. de error. prof. rel. сар. .
vi. + See Bryant's Anal. and Faber's Orig. of Pagan Idol. passim
Mysteries * : and, though they are sometimes told in a wild strain of fabulizing, they are always abundantly intelligible. For the sake of brevity, let a single instance only be produced from the mythology of Hindostan. Satyavrata having built the ark, and the flood increasing, it was made fast to the peak of Nau-bandha with a cable of prodigious length. During the flood, Brahma or the creative power was asleep at the bottom of the abyss : while the generative powers of nature, or the great god Siva and the great goddess Isi, were reduced to their simplest elements; the latter assuming the shape of a ship’s hull since typified by the Argha, and the former becoming the mast of the vessel. In this manner they were wafted over the deep, under the care and protection of Vishnou. When the waters had retired, the female power of nature appeared immediately, in the character of Capoteswari or the dove : and she was soon joined by her consort, in the shape of Capoteswara or the male dove f. On this legend it is quite superfluous to offer any explanatory observations : suffice it to say, that strong indeed must have been the recollections of the deluge, when its leading facts are thus systematically embodied in the popular mythology of every pagan nation.
Now whence could such an universal belief in a general deluge have arisen, if no such catas
* Orig. of Pagan Idol. book v. chap. 6. + Asiat. Research, vol. vi. p. 523,
trophè had ever really happened? It is utterly incredible, that all mankind should have agreed in attesting the circumstance, if the circumstance itself had never occurred. This universal attestation then, on every principle of historical evidence, I shall venture once more to denominate a proof of the alleged fact : for it is a proof, which can never be invalidated by any rational process of discussion.
2. The only plausible objection or rather difficulty, which could be fairly started, would be this. If an event of such terrific magnitude as the general deluge ever really took place, it must have left indelible marks of its ravages upon the coats of the earth. Hence, if no such marks can be traced, the language of nature contradicts the language of historical tradition : and the former, involving as it does naked tangible facts, must certainly be deemed more cogent than the latter.
(1.) Of this objection, did truth allow it to be started, I would readily acknowledge the force but, in reality, the language of nature, as decyphered by our best physiologists, instead of contradicting, perfectly agrees with the language of universal historical tradition.
I am of opinion, says Mr. Cuvier, with Mr. de Luc and Mr. Dolomieu, that, if there is any
circumstance thoroughly established in geology, it is, that the crust of our globe has been subjected to a great and sudden revolution, the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years; that this revolution had buried all the countries, which were before inhabited by men and by the other animals that are now best known; that the small number of individuals of men and other animals, that escaped from the effects of that great revolution, have since propagated and spread over the lands then newly laid dry; and, consequently, that the human race has only resumed a progressive state of improvement since that epoch, by forming established societies, raising monuments, collecting natural facts, and constructing systems of science and learning *.
The surface of the earth, which is inhabited by man, says Mr. Parkinson, displays, even at the present day, manifest and decided marks of the mechanical agency of violent currents of water. Nor is there a single stratum, that does not exhibit undeniable proofs of its having been broken, and even dislocated, by some tremendous power, which has acted with considerable violence on this planet, since the deposition of the strata of even the latest formation t.
(2.) Thus strongly does the very texture of the globe proclaim the occurrence of a great diluvian revolution, which overwhelmed a former race of men and animals, and from the effects of which only a small number of each escaped : nor does it less distinctly proclaim, that the
Essay on the theory of the earth. $ 34. p. 173, 174. 4th edit.
+ Organic Remains of a former world, vol. iii. p. 454.