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covers them all over with lice! -The Egyptian magicians cannot do the same, and this lousy triumph proclaims the victory!
They make their God to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and belch fire and smoke upon mount Sinai; as if he was the Pluto of the lower regions. They make him salt up Lot's wife like pickled pork; they make him pass like Shakspeare's Queen Mab into the brain of their priests, prophets, and prophetesses, and tickle them into dreams; and after making him play all kind of tricks they confound him with Satan, and leave us at a loss to know what God they meant!
This is the descriptive God of the Old Testament; and as to the New, though the authors of it have varied the scene, they have continued the vulgarity.
Is man ever to be the dupe of priestcraft, the slave of superstition? Is he never to have just ideas of his Creator? It is better not to believe there is a God, than to be. lieve of him falsely. When we behold the mighty uni. verse that surrounds us, and dart our contemplation into the eternity of space, filled with innumerable orbs, revolv. ing in eternal harinony, how paltry must the tales of the Old and New Testaments, prophanely called the word of God, appear to thoughtful man! The stupendous wisdom. and unerring order, that reign and govern throughout this wonderous whole, and call us to reflection, put to shame the Bible!—The God of eternity and of all that is real, is not the God of passing dreams, and shadows of man's imagination! The God of truth is not the God of fable; the belief of a God begotten and a God crucified, is a God blasphemed. It is making a profane use of reason.
I shall conclude this Essay on Dreams with the two first verses of the 34th chapter of Ecclesiasticus, one of the books of the Apocrypha.
Ver. 1,“ The hopes of a man void of understanding are vain and false; and dreams lift up fools Whoso regardeth dreams is like him that catcheth at a shadow, and followeth after the wind."
I now proceed to an examination of the passages in the Bible, called prophecies of the coming of Christ, and to shew there are no prophecies of any such person. That the passages clandestinely styled prophecies are not prophecies, and that they refer to circumstances the Jewish nation was in at the time they were written or spoken, and not to any distance or future time or person,
THE passages called Prophecies of or concerning Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, may be classed under the two following heads :-.
First, those referred to in the four books of the New Testament, called the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Secondly, those which translators and commentators have, of their own imagination, erected into prophecies, and Jubbed with that title at the head of the several chapters of the Old Testament. Of these it is scarcely worth while to waste time, ink, and paper upon; I shall therefore confine myself chiefly to those referred to in the aforesaid four books of the New Testament. If I shew that these are not prophecies of the person called Jesus Christ, nor have reference to any such person, it will be perfectly needless to combat those which translators or the Church have invented, and for which they had no other authority than their own imagination.
I begin with the book called the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
THE BOOK OF MATTHEW.
In the first chap, ver. 18, it is said, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise ; when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together SHE WAS FOUND WITH CHILD BY THE HOLY GHOST."-This is going a little too fast; because to make this verse agree with the next, it should have said no more than that she was found with child: for the next verse says, “ Then Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing to make her a public erample, was minded to put her away privily."-Consequently Joseph had found out no more than
that she was with child, and he knew it was not by him. self.
V. 20. “And while he thought of these things (that is, whether he should put her away privily, or make a public example of her) behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him IN A DREAM (that is, Joseph dreamed that an angel appeared unto him) saying, Joseph thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceired in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son and call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
Now, without entering into any discussion upon the merits or demerits of the account here given, it is proper to observe, that it has no higher authority than that of a dream; for it is impossible for a man to behold any thing in a dream but that which he dreams of. I ask not, therefore, whether Joseph (if there were such a man) had such a dream or not; because, adinitting he had, it proves nothing. So wonderful and irrational is the faculty of the mind in dreams, that it acts the part of all the characters its ima. gination creates, and what it thinks it hears from any of them, is no other than what the roving rapidity of its own imagination invents. It is therefore nothing to me what Joseph dreamed of; whether of the fidelity or infidelity of his wife.-I pay no regard to my own dreams, and I should be weak indeed'to put faith in the dreams of ano. ther.
The verses that follow those I have quoted, are the words of the writer of the book of Matthew. “ Now (says he) all this (that is, all this dreaming and this pregnancy) was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying,
“Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
This passage is in Isaiah, chap. vii. ver. 14, and the writer of the book of Matthew endeavours to make his readers believe that this passage is a prophecy of the person called Jesus Christ. It is no such thing-and I go to shew it is not. But it is first necessary that I explain the occasion of these words being spoken by Isaiah: the reader will then easily perceive, that so far from their being a prophecy of Jesus Christ, they have not the least reference to such a person, nor to any thing that could happen in the time that Christ is said to have lived-which was about seven hundred years after the time of Isaiah. The case is this:
On the death of Solomon the Jewish nation split into two monarchies; one called the kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem; the other the kingdom
of Israel, the capital of which was Samaria. The kingdom of Judah followed the line of David, and the kingdom of Israel that of Saul; and these two rival monarchies frequently carried on fierte wars against each other.
At the time Ahaz was king of Judah, which was in the time of Isaiah, Pekah was king of israel: and Pekah joined himself to Rezin, king of Syria, to make war against Ahaz, king of Judah ; and these two kings marched a confederated and powerful army against Jerusalem. Abaz and his people became alarmed at the danger, and “ their hearts were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Isaiah, chap. vii. ver. 2.
In this perilous situation of things, Isaiah addresses himself to Ahaz, and assures him, in the name of the Lord (the cant pbrase of all the prophets) that these two kings should not succeed against him; and to assure him that this should be the case (the case however was directly contrary (1), tells Ahaz to ask a sign of the Lord. This Ahaz declined doing, giving as a reason that he would not tempt the Lord : upon wbich Isaiah, who pretends to be sent from God, says, ver. 14, “ Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son-Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and chuse the good-For be. fore the child shall know to refuse the evil and chuse the good, the land which thou abhorrest sball be forsaken of both her kings,"-meaning the king of Israel and the king of Syria, who were marching against him.
Here then is the sign, which was to be the birth of a child, and that child a son: and here also is the time limited for the accomplishment of the sign, namely, before the child should know to refuse the evil and chuse the good.
The thing, therefore, to be a sign of success to Ahaz must be something that would take place before the event of the battle then pending between him and the two kings could be known. A thing to be a sign must precede the thing s gnitied. The sign of rain must be before the rain.
It would have been mockery and insulting nonsense for
(1) Chron. chap. xxviii. ver. 1st. “Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, but he did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord." ver, 5.“ Wherefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria, and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captive and brought them to Damascus: and he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter.”
Ver. 6. “And Pekah, king of Israel, slew in Judah an hun. dred and twenty thousand in one day."--V. 8. “And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hun dred thousand women, sons, and daughters,
Isaiah to have assured Ahaz as a sign, that these two kings should not prevail against him; that a child should be born seven hundred years after he was dead; and that before the child so born should know to refuse the evil and chuse the good, he, Ahaz, should be delivered from the danger he was then immediately threatened with.
But the case is, that the child of which Isaiah speaks was his own child, with which his wife or his mistress was then pregnant; for he says in the next chapter, ver.2," And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zachariah the son of Jeberechiah; and I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bear a son;" and he says at ver. 18 of the same chapter, “ Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for sigus and for wonders in Israel."
It may not be improper here to observe, that the word translated a virgin in Isaiah, does not signify a virgin in liebrew, but inerely a young woman. The tense also is fal. sitied in the translation. Levi gives the Hebrew text of the 14th ver. of the 7th chap. of Isaiah, and the transla. tion in English with it-"Behold a young woman is with child and beareth a son." This expression, says he, is in the present tense. The translation agrees with the other circumstances related of the birth of this child, which was to be a sign to Ahaz. But as the true translation could not have been imposed upon the world as a prophecy of a child to be born seven hundred years afterwards, the Christian translators have falsified the original; and instead of making Isaiah to say, behold a young woman is with child and beareth a son they have made him to say, behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. It is however only necessary for a person to read the 7th and 8th chapters of Isaiah, and he will be convinced that the passage in question is no prophecy of the person called Jesus Christ. I pass on to the second passage quoted from the Old Testament by the New, as a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, chap. ii. ver. 1. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Ilerod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalemsaying, where is he that is born king of the Jews for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship himn. When Herod, the king, heard these things he was trou. bled, and all Jerusalem with himn--and when he had gathered all the chiet priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be bornand they said unto him, in Bethlehem, in the land of Ju. dea; for thus it is written by the prophet--and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the Princes of Judea, for out of thee shall come a Governor