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Nor is it wholly unworthy of notice, that the fulfilling of these last duties is, in private life, the most pleasing resource by which the pangs of separation may be beguiled and alleviated. And whatever contributes to soften the affliction, and lessen the suffering of each individual, cannot justly be considered as unproductive of benefit to the whole community.
Thus are funeral and sepulchral honors, private as well as national, abundantly justified, the one as consistent with the genuine feelings of our nature, 'the other as involving political and moral advantages of the highest order. Those who have been disposed to censure the practice in the former point of view, seem to have been misled by an indistinct notion of the legitimate province of reason: while those that have questioned its pretensions to public encouragement, have been no less deceived by a partial view of the subject; forgetting that its true end and object is, not the gratification of the dead, but the benefit of the living: and that the leaders of society, having observed how firmly it was seated in the heart of man, have wisely availed themselves of the fact, without attempting to alter it, and have directed the stream whose sources they could not dry.
Still it must be owned, that, like every other human usage, this also has its share of error. Having its origin in the feelings of the multitude, it has naturally partaken of the imperfections to which they were liable. For although, by the admirable constitution of our nature, these feelings are often the parents of positive good, yet they are ever prone to deviate into irregularity and excess. In these cases,and in these alone, there lies an appeal from the feelings of the heart, to the decisions of the understanding.
Thus, during the reign of Pagan superstition, when man knew nothing of his own condition beyond the grave, arose a multitude of fictions, the offspring of a wild and untutored fancy, and moulded into various forms, according to the several habits and dispositions of the nations which gave them birth. Hence also the modes of sepulture branched out into endless diversity: and every rite that had been once adopted, however absurd, or however barbarous, became, from the awfulness of the occasion, sacred and inviolable. Whether we turn to the rude Scythian, sacrificing, over the tomb of his king, his faithful ministers and nearest relatives, or to the more polished Roman, whose funeral piles were often stained with the blood of gladiators or of captives-we discern the same unhappy effects of perverted piety; and are impressed at once with pity and abhorrence,
So far, indeed, was the progress of refinement from checking the folly of these rites, that it even lent its aid to increase them. The skill of the most renowned artists was exhausted on the sumptuous monuments, which, though restrained by law to the benefactors of the public, were conferred indiscriminately by private affection or private vanity: while the natural desire to distinguish excellence from mediocrity, swelled the honors allotted to the former to a pitch of boundless excess. If Cicero could deem the merits of his daughter deserving of a temple to her memory, there is surely no reason to wonder at the deification of an Augustus.
But let these extravagancies be ascribed to their real causes: nor
let the institution itself incur the censure which attaches only to its observers. This venerable and ancient custom, however debased by the follies, and polluted by the barbarity, of particular nations, derives from hence no blemish in its own abstracted character. Its lustre is even enhanced by the very circumstances which would seem to obscure it; as it was able, even under these, to enforce that generous discipline of public service, which made each man great in his own country, and raised his country among the nations of the world.
Indeed, the follies involved in the funeral rites of the ancients, like those interwoven with their religion, as they accorded with the general tenor of their belief, and supported their best and worthiest sentiments, could not possibly weaken the salutary influence of the institution. The rewards which it dispensed were not the less coveted by those who saw not their defects: nor could their lavish distribution by the hand of private partiality, impair the value of those conferred by the state. The Lion engraved on the tomb of the Theban patriots who fell at Charonea, or the glowing eloquence of Pericles in praise of his countrymen, as it conferred more real glory, so doubtless excited a stronger emulation, than the empty splendor of the Mausoleum.
But, in whatever light we may view this institution as it appeared among the ancients, in its present form it must undoubtedly challenge our approbation. Clearer views of a future state have corrected its rites, and brought them nearer to a rational solemnity. Its disadvantages for the most part have vanished, but its benefits remain.
To some imperfections, indeed, it must ever continue liable: and in some points will perhaps admit of still further improvement. It has obviously no rewards for the merit which shuns the public eye; for those retired virtues, which, though they adorn and beautify the private state of life, bloom and wither unadmired by the multitude, and unregretted. Even of those that appear in action, the brilliant are usually preferred to the substantial. Hence the military virtues have ever obtained a larger share of encouragement from funeral and monumental distinctions, than those of a civil nature. In an age, however, like the present, in which the science of war no longer demands an exclusive attention, and the triumphs of human genius can no longer be deemed inferior in dignity to the conquests of the sword-whether this unequal distribution of honor can be now fully defended; and whether we should thus contribute to strengthen a prejudice which, in popular language, confounds the conqueror with the benefactor, are questions which naturally present themselves. On the other hand, they are questions which should be doubtfully urged. The stern virtues of the military character, necessary and estimable as they are, might perhaps, amidst in creasing refinement, gentler avocations, and above all, the mild influence of Christianity, fall wholly into disrepute, were they not thus arrayed in adscititious charms, and the terrors of their aspect thus lost in the splendor which is thrown around them. There is something too, in remembrances of this kind, which seems to
mark them out as the appropriate reward for military service; nor can the state justly refuse to those who meet death in protecting it, a liberal share of those honors which death alone can purchase. Still, however, their claims are neither exclusive nor paramount. Those who have either by their firm conduct, or their virtue, their learning, or their cloquence, their science, or their piety, given lustre to the times in which they lived, may surely expect from this institution that just measure of recompense, which the honors of the grave can so well bestow. For be it remembered, that the only just end of war, and its very proudest title, is, to be the guardian of peace-of peace, in its social rites, its ingenious labor, its humane, beneficent, and bloodless enterprise. Arms are no more than the auxiliary of the peaceful state, and encroach upon its due, when they bear off the larger share of the spoils of honor. In a word, then, every excellence, by which society is benefited or adorned, may fairly claim and receive its appropriate encouragement. The engaging eloquence of Isocrates may be expressed by the image of a Siren; and the sphere and the cylinder may decorate the tomb of Archimedes.
Under such regulations, funeral and sepulchral honors will merit not only indulgence, but applause. Possessing in them a spring of honorary incentives, the most pure, the most affecting, and the most inspiring, the state may command the exertions of its choicest and most finely-gifted spirits: and a due homage being thus paid, not only to the virtues which protect, but to those also which adorn society, the dispensing of these last rewards may be made conducive to that true policy, which seeks no less to refine a nation, than to increase its power. Thus will the spontaneous emotions of our nature become the means of exalting and improving it; and thus will the honors of the dead, empty and transitory as we are wont to call them, reflect solid and lasting benefits on the living.
ORIEL COLLEGE, 1811.
On the Hebrew NUMERALS and different Modes of
Extracted from Mr. Hewlett's Bible now publishing in Parts.
"Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty."
THERE is nothing more embarrassing to a commentator on the Holy Scriptures, than the subject of the large numbers, which occasionally occur. As the present chapter contains the enumeration of the different tribes of Israel, it may be proper to make some observations here, which will apply to other texts, and may be referred to in future. The immense total here given of
603550, (see also Exod. xxxviii. 26.) containing only the number of men from twenty years old and upward,' exclusively of the Levites, who amounted to 22000, when added to the women and children, and to the mixed multitude,' which, we read, accompanied them, must have produced such an immense population, it has been said, as could scarcely have existed in that confined part of Egypt, called the land of Goshen, much less in the deserts for forty years, without the intervention of a continued miracle, which is not pretended; or in the country of Canaan, a great part of which was at that time uncultivated, (Jos. xvii. 18. 1 Sam. xxiii.) and from which the Gibeonites, the Jebusites, the Canaanites of Gezer, Bethshan, Sidon, and other natives, we know, were not expelled.
It is more difficult to conceive how Pharaoh could think of vanquishing snch an host with six hundred chosen chariots,' and such others as could be provided, in the calamitous state of Egypt; how the Israelites should be sore afraid, and flee before him,' or dread to encounter a single tribe of barbarians, called the Philistines. The whole number of people, that departed from Egypt, including every description of persons, has been calculated, in a rough way, to amount to some millions. The author of The Companion to the Holy Bible' says six millions. This has furnished not only ground of cavil to unbelievers, but matter of extreme difficulty to the friends of revealed religion, who have, for the most part, implicitly acquiesced in the account given in the Holy Scriptures, without considering whether the various translators of the Hebrew Bible carefully examined and understood the notation in the original, or more particularly, whether that had not been altered, mistaken, and unavoidably corrupted, by the Jewish Rabbis, and other copyists, through a long series of years, after the Hebrew had ceased to be a living language.
Let us endeavour to trace some of the principal facts relating to this interesting, but very complex, subject. It is extremely probable, that the numbers in the Bible were originally written in words at length; and that, in the formation of the largest sums, the simple operation of addition was used, as in the mode of computation by the ancient Abacus: but it should be remembered that all our Bibles were translated, and are corrected, from copies made between the year of our Lord 1000 and 1457. "About this latter date, the Hebrew MSS." says Dr. Kennicott," were reduced by Masoretic regimen to an almost "absolute uniformity in their various depravations." In the first simple notation, the words expressing different numbers were connected by the particle 1, (vau, or and,) which, in all languages, means addition. Thus, in giving an account of the ages of the antediluvians, Moses says, taking Methuselah for
an instance, that all his days were " nine and sixty years and nine hundred years." There is the same notation observed in recording the ages of all the persons mentioned in the fifth chapter of Genesis, and in other parts of that book. Hence, we may observe, that the small numbers are mentioned first, contrary to what Buxtorf says, " majore semper præcedente," (Thesaur. Gram. ad init. p. 7.) "the larger number always' preceding," which relates to later times; and that the vau is equivalent to the plus sign in algebra: but where this important copulative is omitted, it should seem that the numbers are factors to each other, like the Greek numerals H, H, &c. on the Parian Chronicle; and that multiplication is intended. Thus, because there is no vau between the nine and the hundred, in the age of Methuselah, it is read 900 years; and not 109 years, which it would be if the vau were inserted. So, also (1 Kings iv. 32) it is said of Solomon's songs, that they were a thousand and five;' but the Septuagint, translating from a copy where the vau was omitted, reads five thousand.' Unfortunately, this was anciently a very small character, not unlike some forms of the manuscript gimel, zain, yod, and nun, and in copying a manuscript, it might be easily dropt, or supplied, without the least intention to alter, or deprave the text.
It should be remembered, that the Hebrews had no compound numerals from 100 to 1000, resembling the Greek Tρiaxórios, Teσσapanóσ101. &c. or the Latin trecenti, quadringenti, &c. but, in Hebrew, every multiple of a hundred is expressed by two separate words, as in English, thus; three hundred, four hundred &c. and the insertion, or omission, of the vau, determines whether 103 and 104 be meant, or 300 and 400. This consideration alone will show how very much the numbers in the Bible might have been affected by the use of a single letter. The Reader will certainly ask if this function of the vau, as a numeral, is always attended to in our translation? if numbers between which it stands are always added, and if others, where it is omitted, are always multiplied? It must be answered, No. Two instances, out of many that may be produced, will be sufficient. It is said, 2 Kings xix. 35. that the angel of the Lord smote in the camp of the Assyrians 185000 men.' The Hebrew notation here is, an hundred, eighty and five thousand;' without any vau between the hundred and eighty; but in the parallel text, Isaiah xxxvii. 36. the notation is an hundred and eighty and five thousand; where the vau indicates addition, and makes the sum 100+80+5000, or 5180, a much more probable number than the former. In Daniel, (ch. xii. 12.)we read, " blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand, three hundred and five and thirty