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1. Let us first suppose, that the deluge did not cover the tops of the highest mountains, and that certain individuals of each genus preserved themselves upon their summits. What will be the result of this supposition? It will, I presume, be the following.
Though many men and many animals would perish, many men and many animals in every quarter of the globe would escape : for, as the summits of the mountains would be open to all, we may be quite sure, that great numbers would eagerly seize such an opportunity of self-preservation. Had this then been the mode of escape afforded to men and animals, it is perfectly clear, that no tradition of any escape effected through the medium of a ship could have been in exist
The accounts of the several nations of the earth would indeed have so far agreed, that their respective ancestors had saved themselves upon the tops of their own territorial mountains : but their accounts could never have agreed in the single striking circumstance, that the preservation both of men and animals was effected by the in. strumentality of a large ship built for that special purpose, if all the while no such circumstance had ever occurred.
Upon the supposition before us, it is abundantly manifest, that traditions of the deluge must have exhibited a totally different aspect from what they do at present. In some chance country, we might possibly have heard of an in
dividual who escaped in a ship : but the generally prevailing account would certainly have been, that men and animals took refuge on the tops of the mountains, which remained dry while the plains were inundated.
2. Let us next suppose, that, although the deluge was strictly universal, yet the mode, in which individual men and animals escaped, was not in a ship specially built for the purpose by reason of a divine revelation, but in a ship which (like many other ships) had been accidentally built in the ordinary course of war or traffic. Now what will be the result of this supposition? It will, I apprehend, be the following.
If one family thus escaped, there is no assignable reason why many other families might not equally have escaped. Hence, under such circumstances, though tradition would have made a ship the medium of preservation, it would have told the thousand escapes in a thousand different manners.
But this is not the fact. In every quarter of the globe, the matter is related with surprizing uniformity. We are invariably told, not that many families, but that a single family alone, escaped; that this family consisted of eight persons; that the head of it was the father of three sons; and that from these three sons descended all the nations of the present world. It is true indeed, that, with a not unnatural vanity, every people has delighted to claim the father of the
preserved family as their own peculiar country. man and to place the appulse of the ship upon some lofty mountain in their own peculiar territory: but still, in the fact that only a single family was saved, all nations agree; and the palpable circumstance, that the East was the cradle of mankind and the centre whence every postdiluvian emigration took place, clearly demonstrates that the ship can only have come to land in the continent of Asia.
I may add, that the supposition before us does not at all account for a matter, which involves no slight degree of difficulty.
The progenitors of the present existing birds and beasts must have been preserved from the general deluge, as well as the ancestors of the present existing race of mankind. Now the testimony of history and the researches of geology agree in declaring, that the deluge was not more a great than a SUDDEN revolution *. If then man received no warning from heaven of its approach, and if he merely fled to such ships as had previously and accidentally been constructed ; how happened it, that the various genera of birds and beasts and reptiles, which are now in actual existence, were preserved no less than man? Is it likely; that there would be a curious research after land-animals and a painful endeavour to take alive the several tribes of birds which wing their airy way through the midst of heaven, while the waters were rapidly rising and threatening immediate destruction ? Or, if any such extraordinary efforts should have been made, is it possible that they could have been crowned with success? Nay, even granting the rise of the waters to have been gradual, even granting it to have afforded sufficient time to catch every variety of animals ; would man, if left to himself, have been anxious to preserve noxious creatures ? Would he have painfully saved the lion, the tiger, the bear, the serpent? Would he have been careful to preserve those many smaller animals; which, though not formidable to him as combatants, are troublesome or destructive to his property, and which therefore he now incessantly labours to exterminate ? The present supposition is clearly quite insufficient to account for the fact of the existence of animals as they now exist, notwithstanding the certain occurrence of the deluge at a comparatively recent period. Their progenitors could not have been collected together in order to embarkation, without a previous knowledge of the approaching flood on the part of their collector. But this previous knowledge he could not have had, save by a divine communication. Therefore a divine communication must have taken place : otherwise, the progenitors of our present birds and beasts and reptiles could not have been preserved.
* Cuvier's Essay on the theory of the earth. $ 34. p. 174.
3. Thus we are finally brought to the very same conclusion as before.
Admit the fact of that great and sudden revolution, which, according to Mr. Cuvier, is a circumstance in geology most thoroughly established, and the epoch of which cannot be dated much farther back than five or six thousand years: admit, I say,
this fact; and you must inevitably admit the additional fact also, that a revelation of God's purposes to his creature man has assuredly taken place as we find it recorded in Holy Scripture.
On the other hand, deny the fact of the deluge ; and you must then run counter to the testimony both of universal history and of strictly corresponding geology, thus shaking all moral evidence to its very basis, and thus introducing a complete uncertainty as to every past event both ancient and modern.
Which of these two involves a greater difficulty, an admission of the historical fact of the deluge or a denial of it in the face of the strongest and most varied evidence, does not, I think, require any prolonged discussion.