« AnteriorContinuar »
know the distinction between an Israelite and a Jew. He consequently knew nothing of the history of the Israelites, as given in the books of Kings and Chronicles, Had I told him that Rehoboam and Jereboam, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah were prophets, he would have believed me. Common sense teaches us that this gentlemen cannot understand an argument in which these names occur frequently, unless he comply with the above request.
All the apologies I have to offer will be found in the body of the work. Not a single position has been taken, the correctness of which I am not fully convinced of. Any errors whether of fact or argument will be cheerfully acknowledged and rectified, if shown to me, should the work ever reach a second edition.
The important positions—those which are decisive of the main question— I am fully persuaded, will stand the "test of scrutiny of talents and of time."
ITS OWN REFUTATION.
IT is difficult for one who never wrote a book, to begin it. The object of this will be to shew that the facts, on which the Jewish and Christian religions are founded, never transpired-in other words, are false. A greater man than Mr. Jefferson, has spoken of false facts. A fact, I agree, is something done, and an allegation that something has been done which never was done, is a false allegation. Such false allegation, Lord Mansfield, and Mr. Jefferson have called a false fact-an expression sufficiently intelligible, though not strictly logical, and which, when I use it, must be understood as such false allegation.
A distinguished divine has truly said, that the questions between the christians and infidels are purely questions of fact, and are to be tried like all other questions of fact; namely, by human testimony-that mathematical certainty is not to be expected, and ought not to be required of the christians--that probabilities only can be arrived at from the investigations of these questions, and are all that can properly be required of those who hold the affirmative. For example: The writer of the book of Exodus alleges that the angel of God, or God himself, the creator of the universe, appeared to an Israelite by the name of Moses, in the land of. Midian, and talked to him as one man talks to another. Now, here are two allegations; the first, that the angel of God or God himself (it is difficult to determine from the text how this was) shewed himself to Moses, and the other, that he talked to him. The christian says that he cannot prove the truth of these allegations as conclusively as he could that of some mathematical proposition, and that he ought not to be required to do it; but admits that it is incumbent on him to shew that the probability is, that these allegations are true. The christian, admitting this much, must admit that the in5
fidel is bound to shew nothing more than the improbability of these allegations. Therefore, in all issues between them, the inquiry must be; on which side the probability lies, as thus: Is it more probable that the angel of God appeared and talked to Moses, than that the author has written falsely? The christian contends that it is more probable that the angel appeared and talked—the infidel, that the author has recorded a falsehood.
Such questions and such only, I propose to discuss in the following pages. All questions respecting the existence and attributes of God, and his mode of existence, I shall leave for those to discuss, who seemingly take a delight in discussing questions, the terms of which they do not understand.
I am well aware that a great majority of christians are under the impression, that to admit the existence of a God, is to admit the truth of those allegations respecting him, found in the volume called the Bible; and that to prove his existence, is to establish the truth of those allegations. It must be evident to men of well trained minds that the question whether there be a God, is wholly different from the question of fact, whether he told Moses or any other individual to exterminate the Canaanites and leave nothing alive that breathed—wholly distinct from the question of fact, whether God polished two marble slabs and engraved thereon the decalogue, or whether he made clothes of the skins of beasts and put them on the first pair, &c. &c. I wish my readers distinctly to understand what we admit and what we deny, and what we neither admit nor deny. It may or may not be true-it is a matter of perfect indifference with us-we neither admit nor deny, that a man by the name of Moses may have led a people called Israelites out of Egypt; but we deny all personal interference of God in this Exodus. It may or may not be true that the Hebrew women borrowed jewels and fine raiment of the Egyptian ladies with a determination never to return them, but to put them on their own sons and daughters, and thus "to spoil the Egyptians;" but we deny that God ever sanctioned such conduct, or hinted to Moses to suggest to his countrywomen to do the like. It may or may not be true, that Moses sent his army against the Midianites, but we deny, that God ever said to Moses: "avenge the children of the Israelites upon the Midianites," or gave directions respecting the division of the prey. It may or may not be true, that Joshua conquered the cities of Canaan, and put to death all the inhabitants thereof, except a harlot of Jericho and her family: but we do not believe that God ever told him to murder the one or to spare the other. It may or may not be true, that Samuel told Saul it was God's will that he should go against the Amalekites and slay old and young, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass; but we deny that God ever told Samuel any
such thing; we also deny that Samuel was obeying the commands of God when "he hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord, in Gilgal."
It may or may not be true, that David seduced the wife of Uriah, and caused him to be put to death; but we deny that the Lord ever told Nathan, or any one else, that he was displeased with David's conduct; or that he ever told David that he would punish him by causing his wives to commit open adultery with his neighbors, or by causing the death of the innocent child begotten in adulterous sheets; we also deny that God ever sanctioned this marriage, with Bathsheba, and particularly blessed it, as he is said to have done, by making Solomon, its issue, his father's successor. In fine, we admit that Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, and a host of others may have been treacherous villians, cruel and bloody-minded butchers; but we deny that they were saints-a bloody saint being, in our estimation, an absurdity in terms. We deny that God ever enjoined upon any man—any moral agent-the commission of acts positively mala in se, evil in themselves.
Most, if not all of the advocates of christianity, in their attempts to establish its truth, commence by proving there is a God-then they infer his attributes, and then they assert and endeavor to shew, from what they are pleased to call a chain of logical reasoning, founded on these attributes of a God, who, they also tell you, is inscrutable, and whose ways are past finding out, that he ought to have communicated his will to mankind in words. What effrontery! What presumption! To mount the throne of heaven and dictate to its King what he ought, and what he ought not to do. Having thus settled, satisfactorily to themselves, what God ought to do, they conclude he has done it. Is this logic? Can well educated men, who reason in this manner, be honest? They should be very careful how they assert what God ought, or ought not to do; for they admit they cannot prove to a mathematical certainty, that God ever has spoken in words to man. From their own admissions then, it is possible he never has; and if it should turn out that he never has, then, also, from their own shewing, he has not done that which he ought to have done. The only safe, because the only correct, mode of argument is this: after having satisfactorily proved, from human testimony, (supposing it possible,) that God has spoken in words to man, to infer that he ought to have done so, on the principle that he does nothing which he ought not to do; that is, infer the obligation God was under to reveal his will to mankind in words, from the fact-not the fact from the obligation. The christians in this, as in most of their arguments, begin at the wrong end.
Again, it is syllogistically argued that the notion of a God is in the world that such notion would never have entered it but through reve
lation—that the Bible gives an account of such revelation, therefore the Bible is true. All very pretty-give me the pou sto and I can move the world. We are also told, that the moment this idea is suggested to an individual, (and not till then,) all nature is heard crying aloud in proof of its truth. Strange indeed, that man should have remained so deaf to these cries of nature, until the lucky moment of this suggestion. Strange, that the proposition itself, about which, and in proof of which, all nature is so loudly and constantly screaming in our ears, cannot and will not enter the mind of man, until the God of nature shall verbally communicate it to him. Strange, that the proofs of a proposition should at all times, and in all places be staring us in the face, and the proposition itself remain always behind the curtain.
The christian doctors also admit, that when once this notion of a God gets into the world, it cannot get out; and, as it has been in the world as far back as they pretend to trace the history of man, they infer the it must have been communicated by God himself to the first man: And, as the Bible expressly declares that God did reveal himself to the first man, they also infer that the Bible is true. They admit, in truth they contend, (contrary to the truth, as I shall endeavor to show by-and-bye,) that Moses wrote the first five books of the volume called the Bible. They are obliged to admit that we have not a scrip of a pen from any man who lived before Moses, detailing interviews with God. They allege that to Adam, the first man, Seth, Noah, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, Adam's descendants, God made special communications in words; and confess that all they know concerning these progenitors of Moses, and the communications of God to them, they learn from him. If any man of you, my christian readers-I hope some christians will read my book-should be asked the question: "from whom did you learn this history of God's doings in regard to these individuals?" The answer must be "from Moses," for so your book declares; and if asked how Moses knew all this, no answer could be given, for Moses does not tell us. He does not tell us that God ever mentioned to him the name of any one of the antediluvians It follows therefore-for I need not formally re-state the premises-that the idea of a God was in the world, according to the books attributed to Moses, from the creation of the first man down to his own time, and that he as fully believed in the existence of God, before his alleged interview with him, in the land of Midian, as after; and therefore, that it was not necessary for God to appear and talk to Moses in order that the notion of his existence might get into or remain in the world. If the idea of a God had never been in the world before this alleged interview, and Moses had been the first man, who had suggested such an idea, and alleged that it was com