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We may in this place take notice of an astonishing fact, concerning the arts, which we extract from the Abbé Millot's Elements: "Iron, of all the metals, was the last discovered, and last employed in mechanics. The want of it was supplied by tempered copper. Arms were made of brass, and even of silver; while iron, provided by nature for many more valuable purposes, lay buried and unknown. The glittering ores of gold and silver would attract attention, while those of iron, from their darkness, remained in obscurity. But this metal being more difficult of fusion, and requiring other processes to make it malleable, was left far behind by the precious metals. Iron abounds in Peru and Mexico, yet it was entirely unknown in those countries when gold was employed to display the magnificence of their princes."
But if we go so far back in the Egyptian history as to the times of the Patriarchs, we find them acquainted with some of the arts, and refinements of luxury. Fine stuffs, embroidery, and rich vases, proclaimed the genius of the Egyptians. But in a more particular manner they were famous for their architecture, though it was in a bad taste. What the ancients have told us of their works would seem excessively
exaggerated, if some monuments did not remain of them to this day.
The famous Pyramids, some leagues from Cairo, have resisted the ravages of time, which have destroyed empires. The largest of them makes a square of 2560 feet; each side being 640 feet; and the perpendicular height 500 feet; terminated by a platform of about 16 feet. Many stones of this enormous edifice are thirty feet long, four feet high, and three feet broad.
The Pyramids were certainly tombs, by means of which, it is conjectured, the kings, who were tainted with the prejudices of the country, wished to make their bodies immortal. The Egyptian mummies were intended to last for ever: There are grottos cut in rocks which are filled with them.
But the most magnificent remains of ancient splendour are those of Thebes, built by Cadmus, four hundred and ninety-three years before Christ. This city, in upper Egypt, is now called Luxor.
It is to be regretted that we have but little information which can be depended upon, respecting the customs and manners, the institutions, civil or religious, of a people so much advanced in literature and science, as the Egyptians. This
may be attributed to the vast ascendancy their priests had obtained over the minds of that superstitious people, and to their artifices to maintain that influence. For which purpose, they wrapped up their legends in a veil too dark and mystical to be intelligible, without an explication from themselves. This was calculated to overawe the minds of the vulgar, and to keep them in a state of dependance on their teachers.
But as a masterpiece of priesteraft, we need only mention their institution of an inquest upon the conduct of all deceased persons, even of kings, for the purpose of determining whether, at the interment, funeral rites should be allowed; without which, the priests had previously taught, no person would be admitted to Elysium, the abodes of the blessed.
The Greeks, to whom we are principally indebted for historical sketches of the nations of antiquity, instead of drawing aside the veil thrown over the writings of the Egyptians, imbibed a similar fondness of fable and allegory; insomuch that the accounts they have transmitted to us of the Babylonians and Egyptians, until near the time of the first Persian war, can be esteemed little else than a fabrication of false stories, and monstrous romance.
It is remarkable that the celebrated kingdoms of Egypt, Tyre, and Jerusalem, all fell under the power of Nebuchadnezzar, within three years. Babylon then became the emporium of commerce and of wealth; but in the short space of fifty years, all these dominions were swallowed up in the Persian empire.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM OF THE GREAT
'WE have seen that Almighty God revealed to the prophets, the future condition of several of the neighbouring countries; but there are other prophecies which extend to more remote nations; those nations, especially, and their transactions, wherein the church of God was particularly interested and concerned. It pleased Divine Goodness to make these revelations at a time when his people seemed, in other respects, abandoned and forsaken, and did not so much deserve, or stand in need of, light and comfort. Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied in the declension of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied during the time of the Babylonian captivity.
We might have collected many more of prophetic declarations than those introdu