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“the seed of the woman” that “should bruise 'the serpent's head.” (Gen. iii. 17-19.) This promise was, at the same time, illustrated by the institution of animal sacrifices, the design of which was to teach mankind their liability to suffer the divine wrath, because of sin,—that the penalty must be inflicted if not on themselves, yet on a substitute; and that God had graciously provided such a surety in the person of the Messiah,—“the seed of the woman," who should in due time appear among men, to make reconciliation for iniquity by the sacrifice of himself,—thus destroying the tempter,—the devil. This merciful revelation, explained by the appointment of sacrifices, was the foundation of hope in God to sinners in the early ages of the world. The promise was repeated, and still further illustrated by successive revelations from heaven, and became the means of salvation to all who believed it as the precious word of God. Thus, as it is recorded in the Scripture, “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” when “the LORD had respect unto Abel, and to his offering." (Heb. xi. 4; Gen. iv. 4.)
Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job and others of the pious patriarchs, believed the promises of God, evincing their faith in the expected Redeemer, by their various sacrifices, and proving, by their holy lives, that they had been favoured with a divine revelation. “These primitive Christians” handed down the doctrines which they had received, delivering them from age to age, in tradition, which formed the subject of the faith of all the pious servants of God, for a period of about two thousand five hundred years, until the deliverance of Israel from Egypt by Moses, who committed to writing the laws of God!
Every nation that has admitted the existence of God, has believed that he really did afford special revelations of his will to certain distinguished persons. Hence, the Pagan priests in all ages have pretended that they had received divine instruction, when they imposed their various rites upon the people; and hence, also, most the celebrated legislators of antiquity, besides Moses—who was in an extraordinary manner inspired of God,-have professed to hold intercourse with their gods, in establishing their laws and institutions. Such was the claim of Minos, of Lycurgus, of Solon, of Pythagoras, of Zoroaster and of others. Several of the wisest of the Pagan philosophers, also, expressed their hope that the Deity would grant such a favour, as a divine revelation, to direct them in the ways of truth and religion.
Moses, the deliverer of Israel from Egypt, was constituted the founder of a new dispensation of the Divine mercy to man. That deliverance was made its commencement; and to preserve the memory of that miraculous interposition, God gave a wonderful proof of his merciful kindness to man, in an extended revelation of his holy will, not depending on oral tradition for its preservation, but made permanent by being committed to writing. This revelation comprehended a system of moral, political and ceremonial laws,- for the observance of Israel as a nation,
-written by Moses, under the divine inspiration. But to all these was prefixed, in the book of Genesis, a history of the original creation of all things, and of the providential government of the world by the adorable Creator.
Moses was the first writer of the Holy Scriptures. But many have asked, “How did he acquire the art of writing ?” This we may now answer. Being brought up in Egypt, as “the son of Pharaoh's daughter,” Moses was educated at court, by the best instructors, and he became “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts vii. 22.) But he was not able to gain from that accomplished people the art of alphabetical writing ; neither was that admirable contrivance the invention of his own ingenuity. While various suppositions have been offered as to the origin of that most useful art, the Scriptures alone solve the difficulty, which some learned men have found in it. Many have supposed that letters were altogether a human contrivance, employed to facilitate the useful purposes of commerce. Generally, the heathen considered letters to have been one of the precious gifts of their fabulous divinities ; but Christian and Jewish authors of the greatest fame for learning and judgment, believe that letters were given first to Moses, for the divine laws, by the immediate inspiration of Jehovah.
Analogy seems to favour this opinion. For speech, the power of communicating our ideas to each other by distinct vocal sounds, was, beyond all question, God's original favour bestowed on man,-a faculty which distinguishes him from all other animals. Lord Monboddo, Voltaire, Dr. Adam Smith and some others of the infidel school, regard speech as a human invention; but Drs. Delany, Warburton, Johnson, Beattie, Blair and most of those of the highest name, acknowledge speech to have been the gracious gift of God. They hold that there was one original language. And Mr. Halked, in his learned Preface to his “ Code of Gentoo Laws,” says, “ If our judgment leans to the side of revelation, let it not be hastily condemned by those whose knowledge of language extends no further than to Greece and Rome, France and England ; for if they will carry their philological inquiries to the East, they may, perhaps, be able to trace the remains of one original language through a great part of the globe at this day.”
Alphabetical writing, in a great degree, resembles that wonderful gift of speech ; it is only the power of communicating our thoughts by acknowledged signs, at all times, to those absent as well as those present, and after their decease as well as while living! The great and extensive advantages, also, which are derived to mankind by written documents,-as fixing the principles of law,-recording the momentous events of natural history, and of political and social transactions,—may reasonably vindicate the claim for it as a divine gift. Matters of such high importance to the welfare of mankind, afford solid ground for our belief that the art of alphabetical writing was a special favour of heaven, as it seems in every way worthy of the beneficence of Almighty God.
“ Picture writing,” by symbolical representations, was common, at a very remote period, both in Canaan and in Egypt, and probably among the Chaldeans. The Egyptians became famous for their hieroglyphic engravings; but no evidence is believed to exist of alphabetic writing, so early as the time of Moses. Letters may be traced up to that great man, but no higher. The learned Mr. Wise insists, “ that Moses and Cadmus could not learn the alphabet in Egypt; and that the Egyptians had no alphabet till they received what is called the Coptic, which was introduced either in the time of the Ptolomies, or earlier, under Psammeticus or Amasis; and these letters, which are the oldest alphabetical characters of the Egyptians that can now be produced, are plainly derived from the Greek.”
Pliny declares his opinion that letters were of Assyrian origin; at the same time mentioning the Egyptians and Phænicians as being competitors for the honour of their invention. However, the majority of the ancient Pagan authors are unanimous in ascribing their origin not only to one nation, but to one man,-attributing them to the Egyptian Thoth, or Mercury.
Sanchoniathon, the most ancient Pagan historian, a native of Phænicia, declares that Thoth was the first that wrote records. Plato affirms that the first invention of letters was in Egypt, by this Thoth; but “it is doubtful,” he says, “whether he were a god or man.” Diodorus Siculus mentions the Egyptian Mercury as the inventor of letters and of most other useful arts. In another place he asserts, that “the