Chap. III.

Of Methuselah.

WHAT hath been every where opinioned by all men, and in all times, is more then paradoxical to dispute; and so that Methuselah was the longest liver of all the posterity of Adam, we quietly believe: but that he must needs be so, is perhaps below paralogy to deny.[1] For hereof there is no determination from the Text; wherein it is only particulared he was the longest Liver of all the Patriarchs whose age is there expressed; but that he outlived all others, we cannot well conclude.[2] For of those nine whose death is mentioned before the flood, the Text expresseth that Enoch was the shortest Liver; who saw but three hundred sixty five years. But to affirm from hence, none of the rest, whose age is not expressed, did die before that time, is surely an illation whereto we cannot assent.

Again, Many persons there were in those days of longevity, of whose age notwithstanding there is no account in Scripture; as of the race of Cain, the wives of the nine Patriarchs, with all the sons and daughters that every one begat: whereof perhaps some persons might out-live Methuselah; the Text intending only the masculine line of Seth, conduceable unto the Genealogy of our Saviour, and the antediluvian Chronology. And therefore we must not contract the lives of those which are left in silence by Moses; for neither is the age of Abel expressed in the Scripture, yet is he conceived far elder then commonly opinioned; and if we allow the conclusion of his Epitaph as made by Adam, and so set down by Salian, Posuit mærens pater, cui à filio justius positum foret, Anno ab ortu rerum 130. Ab Abele nato 129. we shall not need to doubt. Which notwithstanding Cajetan and others confirm, nor is it improbable, if we conceive that Abel was born in the second year of Adam, and Seth a year after the death of Abel: for so it being said, that Adam was an hundred and thirty years old when he begat Seth, Abel must perish the year before, which was one hundred twenty nine.

And if the account of Cain extend unto the Deluge, it may not be improbable that some thereof exceeded any of Seth. Nor is it unlikely in life, riches, power and temporal blessings, they might surpass them in this world, whose lives related unto the next. For so when the seed of Jacob was under affliction and captivity, that of Ismael and Esau flourished and grew mighty, there proceeding from the one twelve Princes, from the other no less then foureteen Dukes and eight Kings. And whereas the age of Cain and his posterity is not delivered in the Text, some do salve it from the secret method of Scripture, which sometimes wholly omits, but seldom or never delivers the entire duration of wicked and faithless persons, as is observable in the history of Esau, and the Kings of Israel and Judah. And therefore when mention is made that Ismael lived 137 years, some conceive he adhered unto the faith of Abraham; for so did others who were not descended from Jacob; for Job is thought to be an Idumean, and of the seed of Esau.

Lastly (although we rely not thereon) we will not omit that conceit urged by learned men, that Adam was elder then Methuselah; inasmuch as he was created in the perfect age of man, which was in those days 50 or 60 years, for about that time we read that they begat children; so that if unto 930 we add 60 years, he will exceed Methuselah. And therefore if not in length of days, at least in old age he surpassed others; he was older then all, who was never so young as any. For though he knew old age, he was never acquainted with puberty, youth, or Infancy; and so in a strict account he begat children at one year old. And if the usual compute will hold, that men are of the same age which are born within compass of the same year; Eve was as old as her husband and parent Adam, and Cain their son coetaneous unto both.

Now that conception, that no man did ever attain unto a thousand years, because none should ever be one day old in the sight of the Lord, unto whom according to that of David, A thousand years are but as one day; doth not advantage Methuselah. And being deduced from a popular expression, which will not stand a Metaphysical and strict examination, is not of force to divert a serious enquirer. For unto God a thousand years are no more then one moment, and in his sight Methuselah lived no nearer one day then Abel, for all parts of time are alike unto him, unto whom none are referrible; and all things present, unto whom nothing is past or to come. And therefore, although we be measured by the Zone of time, and the flowing and continued instants thereof, do weave at last a line and circle about the eldest: yet can we not thus commensurate the sphere of Trismegistus,[3] or sum up the unsuccessive and stable duration of God.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [Wren writes that this line has "not much sense"; Browne says that, although we may believe that Methuselah lived longest, it is not illogical to believe that there is room to question the idea.]

2 [Wren, in a note that takes reading between the lines to dizzying heights: "If the learned author had looked into the text, Gen. V, he would have dasht this unnecessary and frivolous discourse, for in that the Holy Ghost does particularly mention all the 9 patriarchs' ages, as of men to whom God gave such long life for the peopling of the world: and tooke away all the rest of the world, not only in Caine's race, but in all the other patriarchal familyes, men, women, and children, that they might not live to propagate that wickednes which had overspread the world by the marriage of Seth's posteritiyes with Caine's female issue. It is fit to believe that God would never grant to any of Caine's posterity longer life then to the longest liver among the patriarchs, when he intended to cut off even that life of theirs which he permitted them to prolong till their sinns were fulfild: and therefore tooke away Mathuselah also the yeare that he sent the flood to take away all (universally) then living, save Noah and his immediate family." Whether it is "fit to believe" or not, Browne's point remains valid: the text does not say that nobody else lived longer.]

3 [Wren: Trismegistus sayd God was a circle, whose center, that is, his presentiall and immutable essence, from whence all things have their beinge, is every where, but his circumference, that is, his incomprehensible infinity, is noe where.]

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