Imatges de pÓgina



From Ferguson's Astronomical Lectures.

From the account given of the nature of eclipses, it plainly appears that the sun can never be eclipsed in a natural way, but at the time of new moon, nor the moon, but when she is full; and that when the sun is totally eclipsed, the darkness can never continue above five minutes at any place of the earth.

But the three Evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, mention a darkness that continued three hours, at the time of our Saviour's crucifixion. If their account of that darkness had been false, it would have been contradicted by many who were then present; especially as they were great enemies both to Christ and his sew disciples, as well as to the doctrine he taught. But as none of the Jews have contradicted the Evangelists' account of this most extraordinary phenomenon, it is plain, that their account of it is true. Besides, the Evangelists must have · known full well, that it could not be their interest to palm such a lie upon mankind; which, when detected, must have gone a great way towards destroying the credibility of all the rest of the account they gave of the Life, Actions, and Doctrine of their Master: And instead of forwarding the belief of Christianity, it would have been a blow at the very root thereof. We do not find that they have bestowed any panegyric on the life and actions of Christ, or thrown out an invective against his cruel persecutors; but, in the most plain, simple, and artless manner, have told us what their senses convinced them were matters of fact: So that we have as good reason to believe that there was such darkness, as we have to believe that Christ was then

upon earth : and that he was, has never been contradicted even by the Jews themselves.

But there are other accounts of Christ, besides those which the Evangelists have left us. It is expressly affirmed by the Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, that there was a general expectation spread all over the Eastern nations, that out of Judea should arise a person who should be governor of the world.

That there lived in Judea, at the time which the gospel relates, such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, is acknowledged by all authors both Jewish and Pagan, who have written since that time. The star that appeared at his birth, and the journey of the Chaldean wise men, is mentioned by Chalcidius the Platonist. Herod's causing the children in Bethlehem to be slain, and a reflexion upon him, on that occasion, by the Emperor Augustus, is related by Macrobius. Many of the miracles that Jesus wrought, particularly his healing the lame, and curing the blind, and casting out devils, are owned by these inveterate and implacable enemies of Christianity, Celsus and Julian, and the authors of the Jewish Talmud. That the power of the heathen gods ceased, after the coming of Christ, is acknowledged by Porphyry, who attributed it to their being angry at the setting up of the Christian Religion, which he calls impious and profane. The crucifixion of Christ under Pontius Pilate, is related by Tacitus, and the earthquake and miraculous darkness attending it, were recorded in the public Roman Registers, commonly appealed to by the first Christian writers, as what could not be denied by the adversaries themselves ; and are in a particular manner attested by Phlegon, the freed man of Adrian.

Some people have said, that the above-mentioned darkness might have been occasioned by a natural eclipse of the sun; and consequently, that there was nothing miraculous in it. If this had been the case, it is plain that our Saviour must have been crucified at the time of new moon.

But then in a natural way, the darkness could not possibly have continued for more than five minutes; whereas, to bave made it continue for three hours, the moon's motion in her orbit must have been stopped for three hours, and the earth's motion on its axis must have been stopped as long too. And then, if the power of gravitation had not been suspended during all that time, the moon would have fallen a great way towards the earth. So that nothing less than a triple miracle must have been wrought to have caused such a long continued darkness by the interposition of the moon between the sun and any part of the earth : which shews that they who make such a supposition, are entirely ignorant of the nature of eclipses. But there could be no natural or regular eclipse of the sun on the day of Christ's crucifixion as the moon was full on that day, and consequently in the side of the heavens oppo


site to the sun. And therefore, the darkness at the time of his crucifixion was quite supernatural.

The Israelites reckoned their months by the course of the moon, and their years, (after they left Egypt,) by the revolution of the sun, computed from the equal day and night in Spring to the like time again. For we find they were told by the Almighty, (Exod. xii. 2,) that the month Abib (or Nisan,) should be to them the first month of the year. This was the month in which they were delivered from their Egyptian bondage, and includes part of March, and part of April in our way of reckoning.

In several places of the Old Testament, we find that the Israelites were strictly commanded to kill the Paschal Lamb in the evening, (or, as it is in the Hebrew, between the evenings) of the fourteenth day of the first month : and Josephus expressly says, “ The passover was kept on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, according to the moon, when the sun was in Aries.” And the sun always enters the sign Aries, when the day and night are equal in the spring season.

They began each month on the first day of the moon's being visible, which could not be in less than twenty-four hours after the time of her change; and the moon is full on the fifteenth day reckoned from the time of change. Hence, the fourteenth day of the month, according to the Israelites' way of reckoning, was the day of full moon, which makes it plain that the passover was always kept on a full moon day; and at the time of the full moon next after the equal day and night in the spring; or when the sun was in Aries.

All the four Evangelists assure us, that our Saviour was crucified at the time of the passover: And hence it is plain, that the crucifixion was at the time of full moon, when it was impossible that the moon could hide the sun from any part of the earth. St. John tells us, that Christ was crucified on the day that the passover was to be eaten ; and we likewise find, that some remonbtrated against his being crucified“ on the feast-day, lest it should cause an uproar among the people."



From a periodical work published in 1783.

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Genesis 1. 1.-5. “In the beginning God created the heaven

and the earth. And the earth was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: And there was light. And God saw the light that it was good: And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night : And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

It is reasonable to suppose, that when God created the heav. ens and the earth he gave existence to all the several elements which now compose this world, and all the other systems that are connected therewith. What is termed chaos or the abyss, seems to have consisted of all the various principles of matter which were at first without order, or particular arrangement. The Hebrew word and, in this part of the writings of Moses, signifies, to give being to what before was non-existent: seems to point out the forming of specifical creatures into their particular classes; and noy to denote the making all things perfect in their kind.

The first distinct creature that Moses takes notice of, is Light; which, he informs us, was created by the commandment of the Almighty. “He spake, and it was done ; He commanded, and it stood fast." We have reason to conclude, from Scripture, that the visible fabric of the heavens and the earth was not the first work of God; for the angels, those sons of the Almighty, those morning stars, sang for joy, when the foundations of this system were laid. It is altogether uncertain how long that spiritual system had stood before this world was created ; but it is highly probable, and almost certain, that there was a spiritual system before this world was formed in the manner it now is. VOL. 1.


It appears very probable that all the moving powers in nature received their existence when the matter, of which the heavens and the earth are made, was first created. This is called by Moses the abyss, or matter without form or order, and void or empty, without utility. When the Almighty said, “Let there be light,' we are not to imagine that this command was the cause of the creation of the principles of light; the materials were already created, but it called them into another form than that in which they were before. The chaotic mass contained the principles and materials of all bodies, but without order. So Moses tells us that all things were tohu ve bohu,-confusion and emptiness, and that darkness was over all the abyss.

The divine commandment which produced light, must be considered as operating upon the properties of matter already created; and as light is found to proceed from the motion of luminous particles, we must conceive some central force, or attracting power to be the instrument of producing this phenomenon of light. There seem to be moving principles in all nature, which, when put in motion by the first cause, produce natural effects according to fixed and established laws; which cannot be altered unless by the First Mover.

The origin of that light which now renders bodies visible to us, seems chiefly to be fire; though light and fire are not inseparably connected; for light may be propagated where there is no fire, as from putrid bodies, and fire may be where there is no light, as in iron, sulphur, &c.

According to Moses, Light was the first specifical creature that was formed in this system, but the materials were already created when the other matter, of which the heavens and the earth were formed, received its existence. Moses seems plainly to hint at the operation of a principle in the universe, which, as a second cause, produced the phenomenon of light. This, most probably, was the motion of the luminous and fiery particles in the chaotic mass, which, at the divine command, separated themselves from the other gross materials of the miscellaneous composition, and by an attractive sympathy associated in one body, and after three natural days, formed that body which we now call the Sun.

Whether there be any subtle body, of a purer nature than fire, in this system, is of little consequence in this enquiry; for, admitting that similar particles have, according to their nature, a

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