Page images
PDF
EPUB

Arabian Story of Kais.

told her son, that the one was the grave of his father and the other of his grandfather: for the Arabs in general make use of no other monument than a heap of stones over a grave. Kais of course, had no other idea than that his progenitors had died natural deaths, and were there buried. We cannot but infer from this device, how apprehensive mothers must then have been, lest their sons should, in the pursuit of the imaginary honour of blood-avengement, lose their lives ; just as matters with us still are in regard to duelling. But in the present case, the benevolent artifice of maternal love came at last to be frustrated. Kais had a quarrel with another young Arab, and received from him this bitter taunt, “ you would do better to show your courage on the murderer of your father and grandfather." These words spoke much and deeply to his heart; he became melancholy, and threatened his mother with either killing her or himself, if she did not tell him the whole truth relative to the deaths of his father and grandfather. He thus extorted the secret from her; and immediately set out on a peregrination, to which I cannot apply a more proper phrase than our common one, of going in quest of adventures.

He went to a distant part of the country in quest of a man named Chidasch, a friend of his father's, and whom he knew to have been indebted to his father on the score of gratitude for that too enters into an Arab's idea of honour, barbarous as it otherwise is. When he found him out, he at first entered his house merely as a stranger, according to the Arabian laws of hospitality. The wife of Chidasch immediately observed something in his face which led her to ask whether he was not going to avenge blood. Chidasch himself recognised in him a likeness to his friend, and after a short conversation, Kais told him wherefore he was come. Chidaseh was somewhat perplexed ; for one of the murderers was his own uncle: but he told Kais that although he would fain put the murderer into his hands, he could not do it openly, but that he had only to mark his procedure next night, when he would set himself down by the murderer, and give him a blow familiarly and in jest, upon which he might kilt him himself, and trust to him for protection against all retaliation from the family. This was agreed upon; Chidasch betrayed his uncle by the preconcerted signal ; and when the family threatened vengeance Chidasch apologized for him and said he had done nothing more than put his father's murderer to death.

X 2

On Supernatural Powers,

They then set off both together for the province of Heger, or Baharein, on the Persian Gulf, where the murderer of his grandfather dwelt. Chidasch hid himself behind a sand hill, and Kais went up to the murderer, and after complaining to him that a robber had attacked him among the sand hills, and taken his

property from him, requested that he would help him to recover it. According to the prevailing maxims of honour and valour

among the Arabs, he could not refuse the stranger's request, and immediately commanded some of his people to attend him. This, however, did not suit Kais's view, whose countenance instantly betrayed the appearance of a smile; and on the other asking him, why he laughed, replied,

*** With us no brave man would take so many people to his aid, but would rather come alone."

The man was ashamed, and ordered his people back, which was what Kais wanted. And when they got a sight of the pretended robber among the sand hills, and the man was about to attack him, Kais stabbed him through the body from behind, And this base and treacheroụs oonduct is immortalized by a poem, which exactly suits the national taste of the Arabs. So completely did the avengement of blood justify and extol as borave and honourable every thing which we would account iga famous, and characteristic of a ruffian.'

ON SUPERNATURAL POWERS.

“ Also he, (Manasseh) observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards : he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger."> Chron. xxxiii. 6.

“ Nec me solum ratio ac disputatio impulit, ut ita crederem; sed nobilitas etiam spm. morum philosophorum et auctoritas."-Cic. de Soneetute, cap. xxi.

No reflecting person can read either sacred or profane history, without being struck with the following undeniable facts:— that Oracles, in some form or other, have been consulted with the most unsuspecting confidence, in every age--that dreams were in former times regarded with so much attention, that interpreters of them were a distinguished and separate order of men in

On Supernatural Powers.

all the ancient governments that presentiments*, signs, and prodigies were esteemed so worthy of serious consideration by the wisest legislators, that the offices of augur and soothsayer were in most countries established by law, and filled by the most learnel and most noble of the citizens--that (in the words of Dr. Barrow) “ there has indeed scarce happened any considerable revolution in state, or action in war, whereof we do not find mentioned in history some presignification or prediction; whereof though many were indeed dark and ambiguous, or captious and fallacious, yet some were very

clear and express, (according as God was in his wisdom pleased to use the ministry of those spirits which immediately conveyed them, in directing them for their good, or misguiding them for their deserved punishment).” (Works, vol. v. 208.)—that the famous Sybilline predictions were so unanswerably and indisputably true, that modern divinest account for them on the strange supposition, that they were either borrowed from the Jewish Scriptures, or compiled by designing Jews, forgetting that in only one or two, out of many predictions therein contained, (such for instance, as that which refers to the advent of the Messiah) any trace, however slight, can be found in the Old Testament that laws were enacted by the Divine Command, against wizards, witches, sorcerers, and dealers with fa-, miliar spirits; and that similar laws still stand unrepealed in the criminal code of the most enlightened nations.

This is not the place for religious controversy, and therefore I shall not expose the fallacious, and, as every person of pious. sentiment must feel, the dangerous sophistry of those men who have discarded the testimony of Scripture on these points, and, instigated by their prejudices, have endeavoured to reason away altogether both the meaning and the language of the Word of God.

Neither will I, at present, defend the testiinony of profane history, or say if any or all the recitals it contains, ought to be regarded as instances of weakness and credulity, or the relation of well authenticated facts. But this much has never been called in question, that direct testimonies in proof of these and

* Gentem quidem nullam video, neque tam humanam atque doctam, neque tam immanem tanique barbaram, quæ non significari futura, et a quibusdam intelligi præ. dicique posse, censeat. Cic. de Divinitate. #Bishop of Coventry and Litchield's Defence of Christianity, pp. 10, Ha

On Supernatural Powers.

other facts, bearing equally on this subject, are to be found in the writings of men whose candour and judgment have never been suspected; and that in these accounts there can be discov-. ered no marks of fraud or hesitation, and no want of what the historians who record them, esteemed valid and unexceptionable evidence.

From these observations then I think it clearly follows, that we have another very strong presumptive argumentin support ofthe doctrine respecting the existence and interpositions of Supernatural Powers. To say that what is so perspicuously emblazoned on every page of authentic history, is all a delusion, is forming the strangest, perhaps, and most unphilosophical conclusion that our research es into the human mind can furnish us with :-that the learned and unlearned in all ages, in every country, under every constitution of government, and every form of religion, have been deluded into the most unhesitating belief of a number of events. and occurrences, all of which were daily passing before their eyes, and the evidences of which are of the easiest and most perspicuous kind, of which, however, no one was either foundeď in reality or consistent with reason.

But to come to particulars: Herodotus relates the accomplishment of many circumstances respecting the conquest of Lydia by Cyrus,* and concerning the battle of Salamis, t which were long beg fore predicted; Pausanias is equally minute in detailing the prophecies accomplished in the celebrated battle of Leuctres:f the warings repeatedly given to Alexander the Great, previous to his sudden and unexpected death at Babylon, are related by all his biographers: Plato and Xenophon, the wisest men of antiquity, relate many particulars of the Genius that attended Socrates: the spectre that appeared to Brutus on the eve of the battle of Philippi was believed and recorded by all historians, till Hobbes, 1700 years discovered it was a dream : an apparition appeared by day also, according to Plutarch, to Dion, before his assassination: in Clarendon's history, the well known apparition of Sir George Villiers, repeatedly foretelling the death of his son the Duke of Buckingham, has never been doubted, except on very hypothetical principles: the apparition declaring the time of Lord Lyttleton's sudden death, has defied the ingenuity of all sceptics:

after,

* Herodot, I

+ Ibid. VII.

* Pausanias, IX. p. 56%

On Supernatural Powers.

away

the dream of Calphurnia, wife of Julius Cæsar, on the moming of his murder, is one of the best authenticated facts in history: &c.

History, in short, is full of similar relations, and it is there fore unnecessary to enumerate more of them. The accounts all of us have heard; the opportunities we meet with every day of conversing with those who can solemnly declare their own experience of extraordinary and supernatural presentiments: the testimony which

every
one's

past life gives, if not reasoned by the suggestions of incredulity and scepticism; all concur with the evidence of grave, and on other subjects, confessedly venerable historians, to support this argument.

Those who are desirous of seeing other arguments, or the recital of other facts illustrative of them, may consult Cicero, de Divinitate, p. 206; De Natura Deorum, ii. p. 54. and de Divinitate, 172. where he alludes to the compilations of Chrysippus, now. lost, who, he says, “ collected innumerable oracular responses, no one without stating respectable authority and undeniable evidence:" and the other authors formerly quoted, pp. 93, 96, 97.

The opinions and arguments of one individual can add nothing to the testimony of all historians, and the voice of history itself. I therefore leave this part of the subject, confident that as far as history can ascertain any fact, this for which I argue is ascertained, and conclude with quoting the writings of some eminent men who strenuously argued for the same inference.

“I am ready to defend this assertion," said Cicero, writing of the Oracle at Delphi, (and the reasoning may be extended to every other branch of the subject) “ that never would that Oracle have been so renowned, nor so enriched with the gifts of all nations and kings, unless every age had experienced the truth of its responses."

“I know there are some, (in the words of Bishop Leng) who now make it a great controversy, whether there ever was any

real true prediction delivered by these, or any other Oracles among the Heathen, and some go so far as to assert, that they were all en

*

* Defendo unum hoc, nunquam illud oraculum (Delphis) tam celebre et tam çlarum fuisset neque tantis donis refertum, omnium populorum atque regum, qisi, omnis ætas oraculoruin illorum veritatem esset experta.De Divin. 172,

« PreviousContinue »