Page images
PDF
EPUB

was there any thing in any nation before it comparable thereto; for which reason all the other authors thereof were disregarded and lost, and among tliem Hipparchus himself. Nor did posterity dare to alter the theories delivered by Ptolomy, though successively Albategnius and the Arabs, and after them the Spanish astronoa mers under Alphonsus endeavoured to mend the errors which they observed in their computations. But their labours were fruitless, whilst from the defects of their principles it was impossible to reconcile the moon's motion within a degree, nor the planets Mars and Mercury, to a much greater space.”

Thus we see the opinion of this learned and judicious astronomer. He very justly says, that Thales could give but a rude account of the motions, and that before Hipparchus, there could be scarce such a science as astronomy; most certainly therefore no such nice argumentation as our great author offers,' can be well grounded, upon (as he himself calls them) the coarse, I might say, the conjectural and unaccountable astronomy of the ancients,

II. Another argument which Sir Isaac Newton offers, in order to shew, that the ancient profane history is carried up higher than it ought to be; is taken from the lengths of the reigns of the ancient kings. He remarks, that' “ the Egyptians, Greeks, and Latins, reckoned the reigns of kings equipollent to generations of men, and three generations to a hundred years; and accordingly they made their kings reign one with another thirty and three years apiece and above.” He would have these reckonings reduced to the course of nature, and the reigns of the ancient kings put one with another at about eighteen or twenty years apiece. This he represents would correct the error of carrying the profane his. tory too far backward, and would fix tho several epochs of it more agreeable to true chronology.

In answer to this, I would observe, 1. The word gevea generation may either signify a descent; thus Jacob was two generations after Abraham, i.e. he was his grandson: or

· Newton's Chronology, p. 55.

P. 55.

e lengte

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Sir Land it may signify, an age, i.e. the space of time that the in which all those who are of the same des p hizke cent, may be supposed to finish their lives.

Thus we read that Joseph died and all his Her brethren, and all that generation. In this

sense the generation did not end at Joseph's death, nor at the death of the youngest of his brethren; nor until all the persons who were in the same line of descent with them were gone off the stage. A generation in this latter sense, must be a much longer space of time, than a generation in the former sense. Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, were two generations or descents after Jacob, for they were his grandchildren, yet they were born in the same age or generation in which Jacob was børn; for they were born before he died. But I confess the word yaved, or generation, is more frequently used to signify a descent; in which sense it is commonly found in Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Pausanias, in the profane as well as in the sacred writers.

[ocr errors]

Exodus i, 6.

But I must remark, 2. That reigns and these generations are equipollent, when the son succeeds to the kingdom at his father's death. Thus, if a crown descends from father to son, for seven, or more, or not so many successions, it is evident' that as many successions as there are, we may count so many either reigns, or descents, or generations; a reign and a descent here are manifestly equivalent, for they are one and the same thing. But, 3. when it has happened in a catalogue of kings, that sometimes sons succeeded their fathers, at other times brothers their brothers, and sometimes persons of different families obtained the crown ; then the reigns will not be found to be equivalent to the generations; for in such a catalogue several of the kings will have been of the same descent with others, and so there will not be so many descents as reigns, and consequently the reigns are not one with another equivalent to generations. Now, this being the case in almost all, if not in every series of any number of kings that can be produced; it ought not to be said that reigns and generations are in general equivaus lent; for a number of reigns will be, generally speaking, for the reasons abovementioned, much shorter than a like number of generations or descents. 4. When des scents or generations proceed only by the eldest sons, then each generation ought to be computed, one with another, about as many years, as are at a medium the years of the ages of the fathers of such generations at the birth of their eldest sons. Thus we find from the birth of Arphaxad to the birth of Terah the father of Abraham' are seven generations, or two hundred and nineteen years, which are thirty-one years and above one-fourth to a generation. Now, the seven fathers in these generations had their respective sons; one of them at about thirty-five years of age : one at thirty-four,' one at thirty-two, three

* Gen, xi, 11. . Gen. xi. 26. .

Salah was born when Arphaxad was thirty-five;
Ter. 12.
• Peleg was born when Eber was thirty-four, ver. 16.
Serug was born when Reu was thirty-two,

« PreviousContinue »