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the seventh day God ended his work which he had inade ;” and shortly after set the Creator to work again, to plant a garden, to make a man and a woman, &c., as is done in the second chapter.
Here are evidently two different stories contradicting each other. -According to the first, the two sexes, the male and the female, were made at the same time. According to the second they were made at different times: the man first, the woman afterwardş. According to the first story, they were to have dominion over all the earth. According to the second, their dominion was limited to a garden. How large a garden it could be, that one man and one woman could dress and
keep in order, I leave to the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and Mr. Erskine, to determine.
The story of the talking serpent, and its tête-a-tête with Eve; the doleful adventure, called the Fall of Man ; and how he was turned out of this fine garden, and how the garden was afterwards locked up and guarded
by a fiaming sword (if any one can tell what a flaming sword is), belong altogether to the second story. They have no connection with the first story. According to the first there was no garden of Eden : no forbidden tree; the scene was the whole earth, and the fruit of all the trees was allowed to be eaten. In giving
this example of the strange state of the Bible, it cannot be said I have gone out of my way to seek it, for I have taken the beginning of the book; nor can it be said I have made more of it, than it makes of itself. That there are two stories is as visible to the eye, when attended to, as that there are two chapters, and that they have been written by different persons, nobody knows by whom. If this, then, is the strange condition the beginning of the Bible is in, it leads to a just suspicion, that the other parts are no better, and consequently it becomes every man's duty to examine the case. I have done it for myself, and am satisfied that the Bible is fabulous.
Perhaps I shall be told in the cant language of the day, as I have often been told by the Bishop of Llandaff and others, of the great and laudable pains that many pious and learned men have taken to explain the obscure, and reconcile the contradictory, or, as they say, the seemingly contradictory passages of the Bible. It is because the Bible needs such an undertaking, that is one of the first causes to suspect it is not the word of God : this single reflection, when carried home to the mind, is in itself a volume.
What! does not the Creator of the Universe, the Fountain of all Wisdom, the Origin of all Science, the Author of all Knowledge, the God of Order and of Harmony, know how to write ? When we contemplate the vast economy of the creation ; when we behold the unerring regularity of the visible solar system, the perfection with which all its several parts revolve, and by corresponding assemblage form a whole ;-when we launch our eye into the boundless ocean of space, and see ourselves surrounded by innu.
merable worlds, not one of which varies from its appointed place when we trace the power of a Creator, from a mite to an elepbant, from an atom to an universe, can we suppose that the mind that could conceive such a design, and the power that executed it with incomparable perfection, cannot write without inconsistency, or that a book so written can be the work of such a power? The writings of Thomas Paine, even of Thomas Paine, need no commentator to explain, expound, arrange, and re-arrange their several parts, to render them intelligible-he can relate a fact, or write an essay, without forgetting in one page what he has written in another ; certainly then, did the God of all perfection condescend to write or dictate a book, that book would be as perfect as himself is perfect : the Bible is not so, and it is confessedly not so, by the attempts to amend it.
Perhaps I shall be told, that though I have produced one instance, I cannot produce another of equal force. One is sufficient to call in question the genuineness or authenticity of any book that pretends to be the word of God; for such a book would, as before said, be as perfect as its author is perfect.
I will, however, advance only four chapters further into the book of Genesis, and produce another example that is sufficient to invalidate the story to which it belongs.
We have all heard of Noah's flood; and it is impossible to think of the whole human race, inen, women, children, and infants, (except one family) deliberately drowning, without feeling a painful sensation ; that heart must be a heart of flint that can contemplate such a scene with tranquillity. There is nothing in the ancient mythology, nor in the religion of any people we know of upon the globe, that records a sentence of their god, or of their gods, so tremendously severe and merciless. If the story be not true, we blasphemously dishonour God by believing it, and still more so, in forcing, by laws and penalties, that belief upon others. I go now to shew from the face of the story, that it carries the evidence of not being true.
I know not if the judge, the jury, and Mr Erskine, who tried and convicted Williams, ever read the Bible, or know any thing of its contents, and therefore I will state the case precisely:
There were no such people as Jews or Israelites, in the time that Noah is said to have lived, and consequently there was no such law as that which is called the Jewish or Mosaic Law. It is, according to the Bible, more than six hundred years from the time the flood is said to have happened, to the time of Moses, and consequently the time the flood is said to have happened was more than six hundred years prior to the law called the law of Moses, even admitting Moses to have been the giver of that law, of which there is great cause to doubt.
We bave here two different epochs, or points of time; that of the flood, and that of the law of Moses; the former more than six
hundred years prior to the latter. But the maker of the story o the flood, whoever he was, has betrayed himself by blundering, for he has reversed the order of the times. He has told the story, as if the law of Moses was prior to the flood; for he has made God to say to Noah, Genesis, chap. vii., ver. 2, “Of every clean beast, thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female, and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." This is the Mosaic law, and could only be said after that law was given, not before. There was no such things as beasts clean and unclean in the time of Noah—it is no where said they were created so. They were only declared to be so as meats, by the Mosaic law, and that to the Jews only, and there was no such people as Jews in the time of Noah. This is the blundering condition in which this strange story stands.
When we reflect on a sentence so tremendously severe, as that of consigning the whole human race, eight persons excepted, to deliberate drowning; a sentence which represents the Creator in a more merciless character than any of those whom we call Pagans ever represented the Creator to be, under the figure of any of their deities, we ought at least to suspend our belief of it, on a comparison of the beneficent character of the Creator, with the tremendous severity of the sentence; but when we see the story told with such an evident contradiction of circumstances, we ought to set it down for nothing better than a Jewish fable, told by nobody knows whom, and nobody knows when.
It is a relief to the genuine and sensible soul of man to find the story unfounded. It frees us from two painful sensations at once ; that of having hard thoughts of the Creator, on account of the severity of the sentence; and that of sympathising in the horrid tragedy of a drowning world. He who cannot feel the force of what Í mean, is not, in my estimation of character, worthy the name of a human being.
I have just said there is great cause to doubt if the law called the law of Moses was given by Moses. The books, called the books of Moses, which contain, among other things, what is called the Mosaic law, are put in front of the Bible, in the manner of a constitution, with a history annexed to it. Had these books been written by Moses, they would undoubtedly have been the oldest books in the Bible, and entitled to be placed first, and the law and the history they contain would be frequently referred to in the books that follow ; but this is not the case. From the time of Othniel, the first of the judges (Judges, chap. iii., ver. 9) to the end of the book of Judges, which contains a period of four hundred and ten years, this law, and those books, were not in practice, nor known among the Jews, nor are they so much as alluded to throughout the whole of that period. And if the reader will examine the 22nd and 23rd chapters of the 2nd book of Kings, and 34th chapter 2nd Chron., be will find, that no such law, nor any such books, were known in the
time of the Jewish monarchy, and that the Jews were Pagans during the whole of that time, and of their judges.
The first time the law, called the law of Moses, made its appearance, was in the time of Josiah, about a thousand years after Moses was dead. It is then said to have been found by accident. The account of this finding or pretended finding is given, 2nd Chron., chap., xxxiv., ver. 14, 15, 16, 18: “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord, given by Moses, and Hilkiah answered and said, to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan, and Shaphan carried the book to the king, and Shaphan told the king (Josiah) saying Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book.”
In consequence of this finding, which much resembles that of poor Chatterton finding manuscript poems of Rowley the Monk in the Cathedral church at Bristol, or the late finding of manuscripts of Shakspeare in an old chest, (two well-known frauds) Josiah abolished the Pagan religion of the Jews, massacred all the Pagan priests, though he himself had been a Pagan, as the reader will see in the 23rd chap. 2nd Kings, and thus established in blood the law that is there called the law of Moses, and instituted a passover in commemoration thereof. The 22nd verse, speaking of this passover, says, “Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judab; and the 25th verse in speaking of this priest-killing Josiah, says, “ Like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses ; neither after him arose there any like him." This verse, like the former one, is a general declaration against all the preceding kings without exception. It is also a declaration against all that reigned after him, of which there were four, the whole time of whose reigning makes but twenty-two years and six months, before the Jews were entirely broken up as a nation and their monarchy destroyed. It is therefore evident that the law, called the law of Moses, of which the Jews talk so much, was promulgated and established only in the latter time of the Jewish monarchy; and it is very remarkable, that no sooner had they established it than they were a destroyed people, as if they were punished for acting an imposition and affixing the name of the Lord to it, and massacreing their former priests under the pretence of religion. The sum of the history of the Jews'is this : they continued to be a nation about a thousand years; they then established a law, which they called the law of the Lord given by Moses, and were destroyed. This is not opinion, but historical evidence.
Levi the Jew, who has written an answer to the Age of Reason, gives a strange account of the law called the law of Moses.
In speaking of the story of the sun and moon standing still, that the Israelites might cut the throats of all their enemies, and hang
all their kings, as told in Joshua. chap. x., be says, “There is also another proof of the reality of this miracle, which is, the appeal that the author of the book of Joshua makes to the book of Jasher, —'Is not this written in the book of Jasher ?' Hence,” continues Levi, “it is manifest that the book commonly called the book of Jasher existed and was well known at the time the book of Joshua was written ; and pray, Sir,” continues Levi, “what book do you think this was? why, no other than the law of Moses !” Levi, like the Bishop of Llandaff, and many other guess-work commentators, either forgets or does not know what there is in one part of the Bible, when he is giving bis opinion upon another part.
I did not, however, expect to find so much ignorance in a Jew with respect to the history of his nation, though I might not be surprised at it in a bishop. If Levi will look into the account given in the first chap., 2nd book of Sam., of the Amalekite slaying Saul, and bringing the crown and bracelets to David, he will find the following recital, ver. 15, 17, 18: “And David called one of the young men, and said, go near and fall upon him (the Amalekite), and he smote him that he died : and David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son ; also be bade them teach the children of Judab the use of the bow ;-behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.” If the book of Jasher were what Levi calls it, the law of Moses, written by Moses, it is not possible that any thing that David said or did could be written in that law, since Moses died more than five hundred years before David was born : and, on the other hand, admitting the book of Jasher to be the law called the law of Moses, that law must have been written more than five hundred years after Moses was dead, or it could not relate any thing said or done by David. Levi may take which of these cases he pleases, for both are against him.
I am not going in the course of this letter to write a commentary on the Bible. The two instances I have produced, and which are taken from the beginning of the Bible, shew the necessity of examining it. It is a book that has been read more, and examined less, than any book that ever existed. Had it come to us an Arabic or Chinese book, and said to have been a sacred book by the people from whom it came, no apology would have been made for the confused and disorderly state it is in. The tales it relates of the Creator would have been censured, and our pity excited for those who believed them. We should have vindicated the goodness of God against such a book, and preached up the disbelief of it out of reverence to him. Why then do we not act as honourably by the Creator in the one case as we would do in the other ? As a Chinese book we would have examined it ;-ought we not then to examine it as a Jewish book? The Chinese are a people who have all the appearance of far greater antiquity than the Jews, and in point of permanency there is no comparison. They are also a people of mild manners and of good morals, except where they