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CUSTOMS AND MANNERS OF THE EASTERN NATIONS,
THE JEWS, THEREIN ALLUDED TO.
COLLECTED FROM THE MOST
CELEBRATED TRAVELLERS, AND THE MOST EMINENT CRITICS.
VOLUME I. .
An obsolete custom, or some forgotten circumstance, opportunely adverted to, will i
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OUR estimation of the holy scriptures should be proportionable to their importance and excellence. That ignorance of spiritual things, which is so natural to all men, demonstrates their necessity; and the happy influence which they have upon the mind in seasons of adversity and distress, proves their value and utility. They are admirably adapted to our circumstances, as they present us with a complete system of truth and a perfect rule of conduct, and thus make those who properly understand them wise unto salvation.
But whatever relates either to faith of to practice, was delivered in ages very distant from the present, in places very remote from the spot which we inhabit, and by persons of habits and manners materially different from those with which we are familiar. General and permanently established usages, to which persons conformed themselves from early infancy, must have had a strong hold of the mind, and would greatly influence the turn of thought and the mode of expression. By these circumstances we must suppose the penmen of the scriptures to have been affected; nor can we expect that a revelation coming from God, through the medium of men of like passions with ourselves, should be divested of such peculiarities. This consideration, so far from disparaging divine revelation, on the principle that it is more local than universal, in some measure serves to authenticate it; for though upon a superficial view of the subject, this circumstance may appear to give it such an aspect, yet upon mature examination it will be found that if it contain those branches and articles of truth, which are of general application, and which are productive of similar effects in distant ages and places, whatever local peculiarities it may possess, remain convincing and perpetual evidences of its credibility, while those circumstances are known to have existed, or are in any measure retained by the eastern nations.
If the credibility of the Bible be in any degree connected with the customs which are therein recorded or alluded to, it is certainly very material to observe, that in the East the usages and habits of the people are invariable; many of those which are particularly observable in the scriptures continue to this day unaltered; and doubtless, many things which are noticed as singularities of more recent establishment, may be traced back into ages now almost forgotten, the distance of time and the remoteness of situation, being the only circumstances which obscure the connection between the past and the present state of things. Malta renascentur qiue jam cecidere. Horace. That the eastern customs remain unchanged is a fact so incontestible, that the Baron de Montesquieu, in his Spirit of Laws, (b. xiv. c. 4.) has endeavoured to assign a natural cause for it. Sir J. Chardin, from whose travels and MS. papers many articles have been selected for the following work, adverting to his collections for the illustration of the Bible, says, " the language of that divine book (especially of the Old Testament) being oriental, and very often figurative and hyperbolical, those parts of scripture which are written in verse, and in the prophecies, are full of figures and hyperboles, which, as it is manifest, cannot be well understood without a knowledge of the things from whence such figures are taken, which are natural properties and particular manners of the countries to which they refer: I discerned this in my first voyage to the Indies; for I gradually found a greater sense and beauty in divers passages of scripture than I had before, by having in my view the things,