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No subject is involved in greater obscurity than the origin and progress of ancient nations; and had it not been for the history of the Jews, and the origin of all things so accurately detailed in the sacred writings, we must have remained in complete ignorance, not only of the primary source of this or that people, but of mankind at large; for while dense clouds of impenetrable darkness inveloped the infancy of every other ancient state and kingdom, a clear and steady light shone, without intermission, on the rise and progress of that ancient and peculiarly distinguished people; and fortunately for the student in ancient history, some notice is taken of other countries as they occasionally come in contact with that people, whose history is the professed object of the sacred penman.
Should it be asked, how are the silence and darkness which so long hovered over the other nations, and that clear light which shone on the infancy, and continued to beam on the progress of the Jewish nation, to be accounted for? I would reply, that it is scarcely in the nature of things, that any people should so far anti
cipate the wants and the wishes of posterity, as to think of instituting a regular system of commemoration merely for the benefit of a people yet unborn; or, if such a thought had occurred to them, that, without any other inducement than that of conferring a favour on future generations, they should have even commenced, much less have steadily persevered in such an undertaking; besides, that in the commencement of any people, nothing would occur that could excite their own attention in any great degree, much less seem worthy of transmitting to posterity.
Far differently circumstanced were the ancestors of that people to whom, under Divine Providence, we are indebted for the most ancient-the most importantthe most accurate, and the best authenticated history that ever was written. From the very beginning of human existence, they evidently had posterity constantly in their view, and the active members of each generation was careful to transmit to the next, that light and knowledge which they themselves possessed. To this attention to their offspring thie descendants of Seth, before the flood, and of Shem after that awful event, had a powerful incitement, unfelt by any other people.
Impressed with a firm belief that the promised Saviour was to spring from their family, at some future period, to them unknown, Seth and his sons commenced that system of genealogy and history, which was continued by Shem and his posterity till the days of Moses. And thus is the obscurity in which propbane history is involved, and that lucid explicitness which distinguishes the sacred page, to be accounted for, in, as I conceive, the most satisfactory manner.
The Egyptians, from whom a considerable portion of the early population of Greece derived their origin, frequently engage the attention of the sacred historians, while detailing various important circumstances in the Jives of the venerable patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their immediate descendants. These notices
of Egypt we shall find of much use to us, in pursuing our present subject. I shall not fail therefore to avail myself of them as occasion may require.
Greece is first presented to our view through the medium of fabulous tradition, not only in the infancy, but during the progress of many centuries of this justly celebrated country; being buried in the common obscurity of cotemporary kingdoms; but without the benefit of those incidental gleams of light which the scriptures oecasionally shed on the affairs of Egypt.
• In the absence of authentic memoirs, invention has however not been idle, and fietion has filled up the long period that preceded regular history. One distingaishing feature in the fabulous history of every country is the elaim to very remote antiquity; to this in itself unimportant circumstance, a particular respect seems at all times to have been attached, by the people of every couëtry; and not only individuals, but families, cities, and empires have been esteemed honourable in proportion as they were ancient. Hence the contest for the honour of priority appears to have been one of the earliest; and the reason on which each country founded its respective pretensions were often truly ridiculous. Thus almost every nation, whose origin was not very obvious, pretended to be coeval with the earth itself, others pretended that they were more ancient than the moon, while others asserted that they sprung out of the soil of their country. This last claim seems to have been the result of some remaining impressions of the pa. triachal tradition that the first man was formed out of the dust of the earth. With this vanity the Grecians were not less infected than their neighbours, for the Athenians gave out that they were produced at the same time with the sun: they also assumed to themselves the honourable epithet, as they deemed it, of Autocthones, a name which implies that they were the children of the soil that they inhabited. The Athenians sometimes stiled themselves grasshoppers ; and some of them wore grasshoppers of gold, binding them in their hair, as badges of honour, and marks to distinguish them from other people of a later origin, and less noble descent; and this was because they thought these insects were the produce of the ground. Virgil has mentioned this custom in his poem called Ciris. ''
Wherefore she did, as was her constant care,
But for the true origin of all nations we must refer to the sacred volume; there we learn that the inhabitants of every country descended from one or other of the three sons of Noah, and to the truth of this, there are many circumstances in the customs, traditions, and language of every ancient nation, that bear indubitable evidence. To the dispersion of the offspring of these brothers, other circumstances besides the confusion of tongues at Babel greatly contributed; indeed separation from the parent settlement was the inevitable consequence of the successive increases of population. But those who followed the pastoral employment would be more under the influence of this pecessity, than those who were engaged in agriculture; for 'of these, numerous families might live together, and form villages in the centre of their respective lands, as is the case every where at this day; while the shepherd was under the necessity of removing his numerous flocks and herds from the exhausted pasture lands, to others that were in full verdure. Of this source of migration, we have two beautiful illustrations in the following instances. .
" And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold; and Lot also, who went with him, bąd flocks, and herds, and tents; and the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together, for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together; and there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abraham's cattle, and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle; and Abraham said unto Lot; let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herds
men, for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou will take the left hand, I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right, then will I go to the left.-Gen. xiii.
Again, about two hundred years after this, we find the grandsons of Abraham; Jacob and Esau, circumstanced in a similar manner.
“ And Esau took his wives, and his sons and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he got in the land of Canaan, and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob; for their riches were more than they might dwell together, for the land wherein they were strangers, could not bear them and their cattle." Gen. xxxvi. v. 6 to 8.
In process of time the inhabitants of the sea coasts would become mariners, proceeding gradually from cautious coasting voyages to more adventurous enterprizes; such was the case with the Phænicians, who, at a very early period, became rich by transporting the surplus corn of Egypt, to all the maritime countries, on the shores of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. This intercourse with various people, together with the arts and manufactures, that commerce encouraged them to cultivate, rendered them greatly superior in science to those whom their commercial interests led them to visit. Superior knowledge confers superior power; and the inordinate love of gain is too often found to be the attendant on increasing riches; and the commercial wanderers of different countries, impelled by avarice, exerted their superior power to plunder, subjugate, or expel the primeval inhabitants of the countries they visited. Such was the lot of the early colonists in various parts of Greece, and to this cause is to be ascribed the diversities in the population the manners and the language of different parts of Greece in the earliest ages; and the difficulty of determining the origin of the respective states it was divided