« ПредишнаНапред »
Province, I am inclined to think that there is more truth in those two books, than in all the other parts of the Jewish history in the Old Testament put together, although they are not free from gross exaggerations.
I have passcd over the books of Tobit and Judith in the Apocrypha, as they are but Jewish romances, and not received as genuine tales by any persons. If the tale of Judith going to the tent of Holofernes and taking off his head, had been known to the compilers of the books of Kings and Chronicles, they would not have failed to have blazoned such a circumstance. The angel which is introduced on the journey with Tobit's son—Tobit being made blind by sparrow's dung falling on his eyes whilst asleep, and his blindness being cured by a fish's gall, and the devil being driven out of a house by the liver of the same fish being burnt in it, are incidents that, in me, excite both risibility and disgust, therefore, I shall place those among the other lies of the Bible, and take no further notice of them.
In going through the books of the Old Testament, I have studied to avoid prolixity, or I might have made an endless job of it, such as Dr. Adam Clarke has undertaken. His commentary, I believe, has already been going on in publication upwards of ten years, and it is likely to occupy as much more time before it be finished! I found the Doctor's Commentary very useful as an illustration of obscurities as far as it went, and I could have wished to have possessed the whole of it. I do not imagine that I have exposed all the contradictions of the Bible, I have touched only the most glaring, and have left the minor ones alone. However, I trust I have done enough to falsify the assertions of Mr. Horne, that the Bible is genuine and contains nothing incredible. I shall not here make any general observations on it, as I intend to go through the New Testament in the same manner; as I flatter myself that the close attention with which I have read the Old Testament, will enable me to trace the true origin of the New. I have imbibed altogether new ideas of it.
In entering upon the book called the New Testament (it would have been fortunate for mankind if the testator had died intestate:) I shall necessarily and inevitably be brief. Whenever, or wherever, I find a story filled with accounts of angels, devils, prophecies, and miracles, I cannot hesitate for a moment to sit it down as fiction and falsehood. It can have no relation, no pretensions to truth : and no human being can be held justifiable in believing it to be truth, unless he had witnessed
similar angels, similar devils, similar miracles, and similar prophecies. Each of those four words indicates something supernatural, neither of them have been visible to any human being of the present generation, and from what we observe in the unerring laws of nature, we may safely affirm that neither of them was ever visible to the ocular demonstration of any human being of any former generation. Philosophy, in all its bearings, teaches us that such creatures as angels and devils are depicted to be, or to have been, never had existence; and the only just inference that can be drawn from the fabulous accounts concerning them is, that they were the inventions of ignorance, fanaticism, frenzy, and imposture. Miracle and prophecy are from the same source, if we substitute impudence for ignorance. It is derogatory to that great power which sways the universe to connect it in any shape with any portion of the race of animals. It is monstrous to assert that it either has the assistance of angels or messengers, or the opposition of devils. It is ridiculous to imagine that it should have worked miracles in the presence of some few individuals or some few thousands of those individuals for the purpose of displaying its power and making itself known by such means to the successive generations of human beings. If the Great Cause of our existence, which we term the God of Nature, had the desire of making a further impression on our minds of the event of that existence than what now reaches us by viewing the works and ways of nature, and if there was any consequence beyond that which is visible to our natural senses, it is natural that we should expect that intimation or information stould have been universal and continual like every other work of nature which our senses can embrace. To say that such an intimation or information to one or one thousand individuals was sufficient, is contrary to our daily experience, for it is a melancholy fact, that in the general aggregate of human beings the love of falsehood greatly exceeds the love of truth, and this assertion we find supported both by history and tradition, and the present state of the human mind as visible in all societies. Acting under this impression I am compelled to take but a brief notice of the book called the New Testament, as it abounds in all those objections which I have advanced, but though my observations will be brief, I fatter myself they will be sufficient for the exposure of fraud.
The book called the New Testament is a collection of books which are said or supposed to relate to one common object, namely the rise and progress of Christianity, or the existing
system of idolatry. The first book in this collection is called the gospel according to St. Matthew, and purports to give an account of the Life and Death of Jesus Christ who is the idol of the sect called Christians. As this book is admitted on all hands to be the first that was written on the subject, I shall be more minute with it than the subsequent ones, which I consider to be but emanations. The first chapter in the English version has a genealogy which traces Jesus, as the lineal descendant from Abraham, through Joseph the husband of his mother. This is ridiculous enough, for in the latter part of the chapter we are told that Joseph finding Mary with child before he had espoused her, resolves to put her away, which implies that he was not the father of the child: then what avails the genealogy back to Abraham through David ? On those grounds it could no more apply to Jesus than to me, since Joseph felt and knew that he was not the father. This is the first blunder, and I am bold to say that the New is as much a book of lies and blunders as the Old Testament. That nonentity called the Holy Ghost is brought in to excuse Mary and to pacify Joseph, I could mention some curious tales that were current among the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church of the manner in which the Holy Ghost caused Mary to conceive this child without losing her virginity; but those Fathers overlooked the main point, and that is, how she brought forth the child without losing the tokens of her virginity. So much did the discussion of, and conversation upon, this subject amuse these Holy Fathers, that it was not deemed criminal to paint the embrace of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin, and this they did in the natural mode of sexual intercourse, but threw a cloud over a great portion of the body, which signified overshadowing. I will not disgust the reader with any thing further here upon this subject, but I pledge my word that I have both read and seen much more than I have stated, and such trash as I should blush to state, although I am not over-scrupulous when I know that such observations are essential to the cause of truth. But it is now generally admitted that this account of the miraculous conception is a forgery and an interpolation on the book of Matthew's Gospel; and the sect called Unitarians have printed a New Testament for themselves, wherein all this nonsense about a child being born from a virgin is omitted as spurious. Thus reason triumphs over folly and falsehood.
I have noticed the supposed prophecy in this chapter, in passing through the book of Isaiah, to which I would refer the reader, or to Paine's examination of the prophecies, which is
complete, and relates to all the supposed prophecies of the New Testament. I should notice that the whole of the first chapter is an interpolation on the original book of Matthew. It is past doubt, and is a specimen of what the first Christians consisted of. As to the person of Jesus, I do not mean to say whether he did or did not exist, whether such a person was or was not crucified as is written of him. It is uncertain, and the time for proof and enquiry is past. Josephus has no account of him, but in a convicted interpolation, and in fact such has been the extension of the Christian Religion and its power, that it has rooted out and destroyed every book that was written in opposition to it, and has left us nothing but its own fabricated accounts. I shall not therefore travel into the labyrinth of assertion and dispute among the different sects of this religion, but confine myself to the root, and make a few observations on its origin, and the cause of that origin. It is vain to travel beyond this, as after the imposture had once gained a hold on the minds of a number of men, and after it had assumed a shape and fashion, it must be admitted that thousands adhered to it from a conviction of its truth, and wrote, spoke, and acted, under that conviction. It certainly has had more worshippers than any other species of idolatry that has infested mankind, and if there ever was any thing miraculous connected with it, I would say with Rousseau, that it was in its power and extension. But all this affords not a single argument for the truth of its original. Paganism has had its martyrs and its millions of sincere and pious votaries : the same might be said for Mahometanism, and for various other kinds of idolatry, which should incline us at least to be sceptical. For my own part I am not even sceptical on the subject, I am thankful that I have passed that state of mind, and have come to the conclusion that every thing that has borne the name of religion, has been founded in fraud and delusion, and I will do my best endeavour to explain the grounds of my conviction to my fellow man.
The second chapter of this book begins with the account of the wise men of the East coming into Judea to see Jesus, under the pretence that they had been admonished of his birth by a star in the East, and that this star travelled before them and rested over the place where Jesus and his mother resided. This is a gross fable, but such an one as might have been believed when the stars were thought to be mere spangles and ornaments to amuse the people dwelling on this globe, now that we know the earth on which we dwell is smaller than
many of those which are visible to us, and which we call stars, how ridiculous is the notion of one of them travelling before the Babylonian Magi and resting direct over the house in which Jesus lay. It is a gross fable, and scandalous to be printed as truth in the present day: the distance of a hundred miles makes no apparent difference in the position of a star, yet this book pretends to say, that one moved about and took up its station over a certain house. The early Christians were aware that these Magi, or Wise Men of the East, were men of note in their day, and they wished to paint their God as something superior and of more attraction than other Gods. He must have been, to have attracted a star!—The story of Herod putting the children to death from the fear of a king rising up against him, is another fabrication: Josephus has given a full history of this Herod; his own children and wives were continually conspiring against him, and he is depicted as a cruel and jealous despot, but there is not a shadow of proof for his having killed the children of a particular village as stated in the ciiapter of this book. It is a tale that carries refutation with it, although we are told that some prophecies in the Old Testament related to the circumstance. Let the reader refer to my notice of this passage in the Old Testament, or rather to Paine's examination, and he will soon dispel all doubt on the subject. It is astonishing what can be the texture of that mind, that can believe any thing of the kind, when it is all so open to detection. As to the dreams of Joseph they are tales that might have made an impression when dreams were believed to portend future events, but at present they can excite nothing but ridicule, or, at least, a smile, in reflecting minds. A tale less entitled to belief never was penned or invented, than this tale of the life and death of Jesus in the book of Matthew.
The third chapter introduces John the Baptist into the story, crying out “ Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This text has been the favourite for Christianity down to the present day, I have before noticed the manner in which this kingdom of heaven has been from time to time expected, but now it stands prorogued to the year 2000! John the Baptist was a long way off it, and Jesus is made to preach a similar doctrine, but it has not been at hand yet, nor does it appear likely to approach at present. The Jews, I have said were the first to look for it, but now they have grown tired of looking, the Christians have taken up the watch and resolve not to miss it when it comes! Wretched fanaticism!-I can believe