網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

10

SECTION I.

[ocr errors]

We say of a painter or sculptor, he is an We express an acquired quality by
able artist, because these arts require a saying, he has ability-an action, by say-
long novitiate ; whereas a man becomes ing, he conducts that affuir with ability.
a poet nearly all at once, like Virgil, ABLY has the same acceptations ; ;-he
Ovid, &c. or may even be an orator with works, he plays, he teaches ubly. He has
very little study, as several preachers have šably surmounied that difficulty.
been.
Why do we, nevertheless, say, an able

ABRAHAM.
preacher? It is because more attention
is iben paid to art than to eloquence,
which is no great eulogium. We do not We must say nothing of what is divine
say of the sublime Bossuet, he was an uble in Abraham, since the Scriptures have
maker of funeral orations. A mere player said all. We must not even touch, except
of an instrument is able ; a composer with a respectful hand, that which belongs
must be more than able ; he must have to the profane—that which appertains 10
genius. The workman executes cleverly geography, the order of time, manners,
what the man of taste has designed ably. and customs; for these, being connected

An uble man in public affairs is well- { with sacred history, are so many streams informed, prudent and active; if he which preserve something of the divinity wants either of these three qualifications, of their source. he is not able.

Abraham, though born near the EuThe term an able courtier implies blame plirates, makes a great epoch with the rather than praise, since it too often means

Western nations, yet makes none with the an able flatterer : it may also be used to { Orientals, who, nevertheless, respect him designate simply a clever man, who is as much as we do. The Mahometans neither very good nor very wicked. The have no certain chronology before their fox who, when questioned by the lion Hegira. respecting the odour of his palace, replied, The science of time, totally lost in that he had taken cold, was an able cour

those countries which were the scene of tier; the fox who, to revenge himself on great events, has re-appeared in the the wolf, recommended to the old licn the regions of the West, where those events skin of a wolf newly flayed, to keep His were unknown. We dispute about everyMajesty warm, was something more than thing that was done on the banks of the able.

Euphrates, the Jordan, and the Nile, We shall not here discuss those points while they who are masters of the Nile, of our subject which belong more parti- { the Jordan, and the Euphrates, enjoy cularly to morality, as the danger of without disputing. wishing to be too abie, the risks which an Although our great epoch is that of able woman runs when she wishes to Abraham, we differ sixty years with regovern the affairs of her household without spect to the time of his birth. The advice, &c. We are afraid of swelling account, according to the registers, is as this Dictionary with useless declamations. { follows :They, who preside over this great and

« And Terah lived seventy years, and important work, must treat at length those begat Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. articles relating to the arts and sciences « And the days of Terah were two which interest the public, while those to hundred and five years, and Terah died whom they entrust little articles of litera-in Haran." ture must have the merit of being brief. « Now the Lord had said unto Abra

ABILITY.—This word is to capacity ham, get thee of thy country and from what able is to cupable.— Ability in athy kindred, and from thy father's science, in an art, in conduct.

{ house, unto a land that I will show

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

thee. And I will make of thee a great this town or village of Haran 'was, or nation.”

where it was situated. What thread sball It is sufficiently evident from the text, guide us in this labyrinth of conjectures hat Terah, having had Abraham at the and contradictions from the rery first age of seventy, died at that of two hun-verse to the very last ?—Resignation. dred and five; and Abraham, having The Holy Spirit did not intend to teach quitted Chaldea immediately after the us chronology, metaphysics, or logic; death of his father, was just one hundred but only to inspire us with the fear of and thirty-five years old when he left his God: since we can comprehend nothing, country. This is nearly the opinion of all that we can do is to submit. St. Stephen, in his discourse to the Jews. It is equally difficult to explain satis

But the Book of Genesis also says { factorily how it was that Sarah, the wife And Abraham was seventy and five of Abraham, was also his sister. Abrayears old when he departed out of ham says positively to Abimelech, king Haran."

of Gerar, who had taken Sarah to himself This is the principal cause (for there on account of her great beauty, at the are several others) of the dispute on the age of ninety, when she was pregnant of subject of Abraham's age. How could Isaac—“And yet indeed she is my sister; he be at once a hundred and thirty-five she is the daughter of my father, but not years and only seventy-five? St. Jerome the daughter of my mother; and she and St. Augustine say that this difficulty became my wife.” is inexplicable. Faiher Calmet, who The old Testament does not inform us confesses that these two saints could not how Sarah was her husband's sister. resolve the problem, thinks he does it, { Calmet, whose judgment and sagacity are by saying that Abraham was the youngest known to every one, says that she might of Terah's son's, although the Book of be his niece. Genesis names him the first, and conse- With the Chaldeans it was probably quently as the eldest.

no more an incest than with their neighAccording to Genesis, Abraham was bours the Persians. Manners change born in his father's seventieth year: while, with times and with places; it may he according to Calmet, he was born when supposed that Abraham, the son of Terah his father was a hundred and thirty. an idolater, was still an idolater when he Such a reconciliation has only been a new married Sarah, whether Sarah was his cause of controversy.

sister or his niece. Considering the uncertainty in which There are several Fathers of the Church we are left by both text and commentary, { who do not think Abraham quite so exthe best we can do is to adore without cusable, for having said to Sarah in Egypt. disputing.

“ It shall come to pass, when the EgypThere is no epoch in those ancient tians shall see thee, that they shall say, times which has not produced a multi- This is his wife; and they will kill me, tude of different opinions. According to but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray Moreri, there were in his day seventy { thee, thou art my sister, that it may be systems chronology founded on the well with me for thy sake." She was history dicated by God himself. There then only sixty-five ; since she had twentyhave since appeared five new methods of five years afterwards, the king of Gerar reconciling the various texts of Scripture. { for a lover, it is not surprising that, when Thus there are as many disputes about twenty-five years younger she had kindled Abraham as the number of his years some passion in Pharaoh of Egypt. (according to the text) when he left Haran. s Indeed she was taken away by him in the And of these seventy-five systems, there same mannerasshe was afterwards taken by is not one which tells us precisely what Abimelech, the king of Gerar, in the desert. Abraham received presents at the court { high as the pyramids of Egypt, which are of Pharaoh, of many “ sheep, and oxen, only about five hundred feet. But what and he-asses, and men-servants, and a prodigious quantity of instruments maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels." } must have been requisite to raise such an These presents, which were considerable, { edifice! All the arts must have conprove that the Pharaohs had already be-curred in forwarding the work. Whence come very great kings; the country of commentators conclude, that men of those Egypt must_therefore have been very times were incomparably larger, stronger, populous. But to make the country in- } and more industrious than those of mohabitable, and to build towns, it must } dern nations. have cost immense labour.

It was ne- So much may be remarked with respect cessary to construct canals for the purpose to Abraham, as relating to the arts and of degining the waters of the Nile, which { sciences. overflowed Egypt during four or five With regard to his person, it is most months of each year, and stagnated onlikely that he was a man of considerable the soil. It was also necessary to raise } importance. The Chaldeans and the the town at least twenty feet above these Persians each claim him as their own. canals. Works so considerable seem to The ancient religion of the Magi has, have required thousands of ages.

from time immemorial, been called Kish There were only about four hundred Ibrahim, Milat Ibrahim; and it is agreed years betwixt the Deluge and the period that the word Ibrahim is precisely the at which we fix Abraham's journey into same with Abraham, nothing being more Pgypt. The Egyptians must have been common amongst the Asiatics, who rarely very ingenious and indefatigably laborious. write the vowels, than to change the i into since, in so short a time, they invented a or the a into i in pronunciation. all the arts and sciences, set bounds to It has even been asserted that Abrathe Nile, and changed the whole face of ham was the Brama of the Indians, and the country. Probably they had already } that their notions were adopted by the built some of the great Pyramids; for we people of the countries near the Euphrates, see that the art of embalming the dead who traded with India from time imme was in a short time afterwards brought to } morial. perfection; and the pyramids were only The Arabs regarded him as the founder the tombs in which the bodies of their of Mecca. Mahommet, in his Koran, princes were deposited with the most always viewed in him the most respectaugust ceremonies.

able of his predecessors. In his third This opinion of the great antiquity of sura or chapter, he speaks of him thus :the pyramids receives additional coun- “ Abraham was neither Jew nor Christenance from the fact, that three hundred {tian: he was an orthodox Mussulman ; years earlier, or but one hundred years after he was not of the number of those who the Hebrew epoch of the Deluge of Noah, } imagine that God has colleagues." the Asiatics had built, in the plain of The temerity of the human underSennaar, a tower which was to reach to standing has even gone so far as to ima. heaven. St. Jerome, in his commentary gine that the Jews did not call themselves or Isaiah, says that this tower was already the descendants of Abraham until a very four thousand paces high, when God late period, when they had at last estacame down to stop the progress of the blished themselves in Palestine. They work.

were strangers, hated and despised by Let us suppose each pace to be two their neighbours. They wished, say feet and a half; four thousand paces, some, to relieve themselves by passing then, are ten thousand feet ; consequently for descendants of that Abraham who was the Tower of Babel was twenty times as so much reverenced in a great part of

Asia. The faith which we owe to the said to be inconceivable that a stranger sacred books of the Jews removes all these who drove his flocks to graze in the neighdifficulties.

bourhood of Sodom, should, with three Other critics, no less hardy, start other hundred and eighteen keepers of sheep objections relative to Abraham's imme- and oxen, beat a king of Persia, a king diate communication with the Almighty, of Pontus, the king of Babylon, and the his battles, and his victories.

king of nations, and pursue them to DaThe Lord appeared to him after he { mascus, which is more than a hundred went out of Egypt, and said, “Lift up miles from Sodom. Yet such a victory now thine eyes, and look from the place is not impossible, for we see other similar where thou art, northward and south- { instances in those heroic times, when the ward, and eastward, and westward. For arm of God was not shortened. Think of all the land which thou seest, to thee will } Gideon, who, with three hundred men, I give it, and to thy seed for ever." armed with three hundred pitchers and

The Lord, by a second oath, afterwards three hundred lamps, defeated a whole promised him all “from the river of army! Think of Sampson, who slew a Egypt unto the great river, the river { thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of Euphrates."

an ass! The critics ask, how could God pro- Even profane history furnishes like exmise the Jews this immense country amples. Three hundred Spartans stopped, which they have never possessed ? and for a moment, the whole army of Xerxes, how could God give to them for ever that at the pass of Thermopylæ. It is true small part of Palestine out of which they that, with the exception of one man who have so long been driven ?

fled, they were all slain, together with their Again, the Lord added to these pro- }king Leonidas, whom Xerxes had the mises, that Abraham's posterity should { baseness to gibbet, instead of raising to be as numerous as the dust of the earth— his memory the monument which it de“ so that if a man can number the dust served. It is moreover true, that these of the earth, then shall thy seed also be three hundred Lacedæmonians, who numbered."

guarded a steep passage which woulu Our critics insist that there are not scarcely admit two men abreast, were now on the face of the earth four hun-supported by an army of ten thousand dred thousand Jews, though they have Greeks, distributed in advantageous posts always regarded marriage as a sacred among the rocks of Pelion and Ossa, four duty, and made population their greatest } thousand of whom, be it observed, were object.

stationed behind this very passage of To these difficulties it is replied, that } Thermopylæ. the church, substituted for the synagogue, These four thousand perished after a is the true race of Abraham, who are long combat. Having been placed in a therefore very numerous.

situation more exposed than that of the It must be admitted that they do not { three hundred Spartans, they may be said possess Palestine ; but they may one day to have acquired more glory in defending possess it, as they have already con- } it against the Persian army, which cut quered it once, in the first crusade, in them all in pieces. Indeed, on the monuthe time of Urban II. In a word, when ment afterwards erected on the field of we view the Old Testament with the battle, mention was made of these four eyes of faith, as a type of the New, all { thousand victims; whereas, none either is or will be accomplished, and our spoken of now but the three hundred. weak reason must bow in silence.

A still more memorable though much Fresh difficulties are raised respecting less celebrated action, was that of fifty Abraham's victory near Sodom. It is Swiss, who, in 1315, routed at Morgat

are

the whole army of the archduke lecpold Jacob conquered only a very smal! roun of Austria, consisting of twenty thousand try, which they have lost; whereas the men. They destroyed the cavalry, by i descendants of Ismael conquered part of throwing down stones from a high rock: , Asia, of Europe, and of Africa, establishand gave time to fourteen hundred Hel- ed an empire more extensive than that of vetians to come up and finish the defeat the Romans, and drove the Jews from of the army. This achievement at Mor- their caverns, which they called The Lund gat is more brilliant than that of Thermo- of Promise. pylæ, inasmuch as it is a finer thing to Judging of things only by the examples conquer than to be conquered. The { to be found in our modern histories, it Greeks amounted to ten thousand, well would be difficult to believe that Abraham armed ; and it was impossible that, in a} had been the father of two nations so mountainous country, they could have to { widely different. We are told that he encounter more than a hundred thousand was born in Chaldea, and that he was the Persians at once; it is more than probable son of a poor potter, who earned his bread that there were not thirty thousand Per- { by making little earthen idols. It is sians engaged. But here f urteen hun-} hardly likely that this son of a potter dred Swiss defeat an army of twenty { should have passed through impracticable thousand men. The dimin shed propor- desarts, and founded the city of Mecca, tion of the less to the greater number, at the distance of four hundred leagues, also increases the proportion of glory.—under a tropical sun. If he was a conBut, how far has Abraham led us? queror, he doubtless cast his eyes on the

These digressions amuse him who fine country of Assyria. If he was no makes and sometimes him who reads more than a poor man, he did not found them. Besides, every one is delighted to kingdoms abroad. see a great army beaten by a little one. The Book of Genesis relates that he

was seventy-five years old when he went

out of the land of Haran after the death Abraham is one of those names which of his father Terah the potter ; but the were fan.ous in Asia Manor and Arabia, same book also tells us, that Terah, hayas Thuut was among the Egyptians, the ing begotten Abraham at the age of seventy first Zoroaster in Persia, Hercules in } years, lived to that of two hundred and Greece, Orpheus in Thrace, Odin among five; and afterwards, that Abraham went the northern nations, and so many others, { out of Haran ; which seems to signify, known more by their fame than by any that it was after the death of his father. authentic history. I speak here of pro- Either the author did not know how to fane history only; as for that of the Jews, { dispose his narration, or it is clear from our masters and our enemies, whom we the Book of Genesis itself, that Abraham at once detest and believe, their history was one hundred and thirty-five years old having evidently been written by the Holy { when he quitted Mesopotamia. He went Ghost, we feel towards it as we ought to from a country which is called idolatrous, feel. We have to do here only with the to another idolatrous country named Arabs. They boast of having descended Sichem, in Palestine. Why did he quit from Abraham through Ismaël, believing the fruitful banks of the Euphrates, for a that this patriarch built Mecca and died spot so remote, so barren, and so stony as there. The fact is, that the race of Ismael Sichem? It was not a place of trade, has been infinitely more favoured by God and was distant a hundred leagues from than that of Jacob. Both races, it is true, Chaldea, and deserts lay between. But have produced robbers; but the Arabian God chose that Abraham should go this

obbers have been prodigiously superior journey; he chose to show him the land to the Jewish ones; the descendants cf which his descendants were to occupy

SECTION II.

« 上一頁繼續 »