« FöregåendeFortsätt »
I am aware, indeed, that the extirpation of the Canaanites was enjoined by the
troduced this unfortunate people, for the purpose of loading them with reproach or ridicule. But his zeal sometimes outruns his prudence and his regard to truth, and instead of exciting the indignation of mankind against them, turns it upon himself. Among numberless instances of this sort, I shall only single out one. In his Dictionnaire Philosophique, Art. Anthropophages, he informs us, that from the time of Ezekiel the Jews must have been in the habit of eating human flesh ; because that prophet assures them, that if they will defend themselves courageously against the King of Persia, they shall not only eat the horses of their enemies, but the horsemen and the warriors themselves. How will the reader be astonished, (if he is not a little acquainted with the character and manner of M. Voltaire) when, on looking into Ezekiel, he finds, that the whole of this is a complete fabrication: and that it is not the Jews, but the ravenous birds and the beasts of the field, who, in the bold and figurative language of Prophecy, are called upon “ to eat the flesh of o the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth.” Ezek. xxxix. 4. 17, 18, &c.
It is a great pity that this lively writer did not, for his own credit, pay a little more regard to the sage advice of a friend, who knew him and his practices well, the late King of Prussia. That prince, in one of his letters to him, alluding to a certain well-known transaction of Voltaire's with a Jewish merchant, which his majesty calls a vile business, (and which, perhaps, might be one reason of this author's implacable enmity to the whole nation,) says to him, “ I hope “ you will have no more quarrels either with the Old Testa"ment or the New. Such contests are dishonourable: and “ though possessed of more genius than any man in France, “ you cannot avoid finally injuring your reputation by the “ disgrace of such conduct.” Posthumous Works of Fred. II. vol. vii. lett. 345. p. 402.
Mosaical laws, and that the Jews were forbid by no less than Divine authority to show them any mercy or compassion. This is true; and at the same time very consistent with a dispensation in the main benevolent. For when we consider God in the light he should always, with respect to those times, be considered in, not only as the common Governor of all mankind, but as the more immediate Ruler and Legislator of the Jewish nation ; and as enforcing obedience to his authority, amongst the Jews in particular, amongst all nations in some measure, by temporal punishments and rewards ; it was no more a violation of mercy in him to enact, or in them to execute, such a penal law against the Canaanites, than it would be in a prince to punish his rebellious subjects by the hands of his faithful ones, or in them to inflict that punishment. Such examples of severity are necessary to the very being of a state, and serve at once to repress the
- To one wood The Jews, however, have met with a very able and eloquent defender in the author of Lettres de quelques Juifs, Portugais, & Allemands, à M. de Voltaire. Paris, 1769.See also Div. Leg. vol. iv. b. 5. s. 1. p. 139.
insolence of the wicked, and to secure the obedience of the good. *
If this exception be, as it certainly ought to be, admitted, and if we make such other equitable allowances, as the state of Religion and the State of Society, at that time, do necessarily require; the Mosaical law will, I am persuaded, appear infinitely superior, in point of humanity, to all the institutions of the most celebrated lawgivers of antiquity. It abounds with injunctions of mercy and pity, not only to Jews, but to strangers, to enemies, and even to those who had most cruelly and injuriously oppressed them. “ If thy brother be waxen poor and “ fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt “ relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger 66 or a sojourner, that he may live with thee. “ Take thou no usury of him or increase ; 6 but fear thy God, that thy brother may “ live with thee. Thou shalt not oppress a “ stranger. Thou shalt love him as thyself. “ Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite: thou “ shalt not abhor an Ægyptian. If thou “ meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going “ astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to “ him.” The dispositions in favour of the poor are truly singular and amiable. “ Thou “ shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy 6 hand from thy poor brother ; but thou 6 shalt open thy hand wide unto him; and 66 shalt surely lend him sufficient for his “ need. When ye reap the harvest of your “ land, thou shalt not wholly reap the cor“ ners of thy field; neither shalt thou “ gather the gleanings of thy harvest; and “ if thou have forgot a sheaf in the field, “ thou shalt not go again to fetch it; and 5 when thou beatest thine olive-tree, thou “ shalt not go over the boughs again ; when " thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, “ tl.. shalt not glean it afterwards ; it shall “ be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the “ widow.” * The provisions made for the security and comfort of that most useful, though too often most wretched, part of the species, slaves and servants, are entirely worthy of a law that came down from heaven. That absolute and unlimited power over the lives of slaves indulged to their tyrannical masters by almost all Heathen lawgivers, a power most scandalously abused to the disgrace of all humanity, was effectually restrained by the Jewish law, which punished the murder of a slave with the utmost rigour. † The kindness enjoined towards hired servants is most remarkable. “ Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant " that is poor and needy; whether he be “ of thy brethren or of thy strangers that « are in the land within thy gates. At his “ day thou shalt give him bis hire ; neither « shall the sun go down upon it; for he is “ poor, and setteth his heart upon it. $ Thou “ shalt not rule over thy brother with ri
* The absolute necessity of extirpating the Canaanites, or at least destroying their national polity; the peculiar propriety of doing this by the sword of the Jews; the great and benevolent purposes that were answered by their separation from the world ; the advantages that all other nations derived inom in and many other particulars of the divine economy with regard to this extraordinary pene; see clearly and ably explained in Bishop Law's Considerations on the Theory of Religion, from p. 82. to p.98. 3d. edit. Vide Butler's Analogy, part ii. ch. 3. p. 267. 4th. edit. 1750.