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we sat down ; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows, in the midst thereof; for there they that carried us away captive required of us a song, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” As a man would say to an American, or to a Frenchman, or to an Englishman, Sing us one of yons American songs. or your French songs, or your English songs. This remark, with respect to the time this psalm was written, is of no other use than to show (among others already mentioned,) the general imposition the world has been under, with respect to the authors of the Bible. No regard has been paid to time, place, and circumstance; and the names of persons have been affixed to the several books, which it was as impossible they should write, as that a man should walk in procession at his own funeral.
The book of Proverbs. These, like the Psalms, are a collection, and that from authors belonging to other nations than those of the Jewish nation, as I have shown in the observations upon the book of Job; besides which, some of the proverbs ascribed to Solomon, did not appear till two hundred and fifty years after the death of Solomon : for it is said in the 1st verse of the 25th chapter, ". These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiuh, king of Judah, copied out.' It was two hundred and fifty years from the time of Solomon to the time of Hezekiah. When a man is famous and his name is abroad, he is inade the putative father of things he never said or did ; and this, most probably, has been the case with Solomon. It appears to have been the fashion of that day to make proverbs, as it is now to make jest-books, and father them upon those who never saw them.
The book of Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, is also ascribed to Solomon, and that with much reason, if not with truth. It is written as the solitary reflections of a worn-out debauchee, such as Solomon was, who, looking back on scenes he can no longer enjoy, cries out, All is vanity! A great deal of the metaphor and of the sentiment is obscure, most probably by translation ; but enough is left to show they were strongly pointed in the original.* From what is transmitted to us of the character of Solomon, he was witty, ostentatious, dissolute, and at last melancholy. He lived fast, and died, tired of the world, at the age of fifty-eight years.
Seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines are worse than none; and however it may carry with it the appearance of heightened enjoyment, it defeats all the felicity of affection, by leaving it no point to fix upon : divided love is never happy. This was the case with Solomon; and if he could not, with all his pretensions to wisdom, discover it beforehand, he merited, unpitied, the mortification he afterwards endured. In this point of view, his preaching is unnecessary, because, 10 know the consequences,
* Those that look out of the window shall be darkened, is an obscure figure in translation for loss of sight.
it is only necessary to know the cause. Seven hundred wires and three hundred concubines would have stood in place of the whole book. It was needless after this to say, that all was vanity and vexation of spirit; for it is impossible to derive happiness from the company of those whom we deprive of happiness.
To be happy in old age, it is necessary that we accustom our. selves to objects that can accompany the mind all the way through life, and that we take the rest as good in their day. The mere man of pleasure is miserable in old age; and the mere drudge in business is but little better : whereas, natural philosophy, matbematical and mechanical science, are a continual source of tranquil pleasure ; and, in spite of the gloomy dogmas of priests and of superstition, the study of those things is the study of the true theology : it teaches man to know and to admire the Creator, for the principles of science are in the creation, and are uncbangeable, and of divine origin.
Those who knew Benjamin Franklin, will recollect that his mind was ever young, bis temper ever serene; science, that never grows grey, was always his mistress. He was never without an object; for when we cease to bave an object, we become like an invalid in an hospital waiting for death.
Solomon's Songs are amorous and foolish enough, but which wrinkled fanaticism has called divine. The compilers of the Bible have placed these songs after the book of Ecclesiastes; and the chronologists have affixed to them the æra of 1014 years before Christ, at which time Solomon, according to the same chronology, was nineteen years of age, and was then forming his seraglio of wives and concubines. The Bible-makers and the chronologists should have managed this matter a little better, and either have said nothing about the time, or chosen a time less inconsistent with the supposed divinity of those songs; for Solomon was then in the honeymoon of one thousand debaucheries.
It should also bave occurred to them, that as he wrote, if he did write, the book of Ecclesiastes, long after these songs, and in which he exclaims, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit, that he included those songs in that description. This is the more probable, because he says, or somebody for him, Ecclesiastes, chap. ii., ver. 8, "I gat me men singers, and women singers, (most probably to sing those songs,) as musical instruments, and that of all sorts,” and behold, (ver. 11,) “all was vanity and vexation of spirit.” The compilers, however, have done their work but by halves : for as they have given us the songs, they should have given us the tunes, that we might sing them.
The books called the books of the prophets fill up all the remaining part of the Bible; they are sixteen in number, beginuing with Isaiah, and ending with Malachi; of which I have given you a list, in the observations upon Chronicles. Of these sixteen prophets, all whom, except
three last lived within the time
the books of Kings and Chronicles were written ; two only, Isaiah and Jeremiah, are mentioned in the history of those books. I shall begin with those two, reserving what I have to say on the general character of the men called prophets to another part of the work.
Whoever will take the trouble of reading the book ascribed to Isaiah, will find it one of the most wild and disorderly compositions ever put together : it has neither beginning, middle, nor end; and except a short historical part, and a few sketches of history in two or three of the first chapters, is one continued, incoherent, bombastical rant, full of extravagant metaphor, without application, and destitute of meaning; a school-boy would scarcely have been excusable for writing such stuff ; it is (at least in translation) that kind of composition and false taste that is properly called prose run mad.
The historical part begins at the 36th chapter, and is continued to the end of the 39th chapter. It relates some matters that are said to have passed during the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah, at which time Isaiah lived. This fragment of history begins and ends abruptly; it has not the least connection with the chapter that precedes it, nor with that which follows it, nor with any other in the book. It is probable that Isaiah wrote this fragment himself, because he was an actor in the circumstances it treats of; but, except this part, there are scarcely two chapters that have any connection with each other ; one is entitled, at the beginning of the first verse, “ the burden of Babylon;" another, “the burden of Moab;" another, “the burden of Damascus ;” another, “the burden of Egypt;" another, “the burden of the desart of the sea;' another, “ the burden of the valley of vision;" as you would say, the story of the Knight of the Burning Mountain, the story of Cinderella, or the Children in the Wood, &c., &c.
I have already shown, in the instance of the two last verses of Chronicles, and the three first in Ezra, that the compilers of the Bible mixed and confounded the writings of different authors with each other; which alone, were there no other cause, is sufficient to destroy the authenticity of any compilation, because it is more than presumptive evidence that the compilers were ignorant who the authors were. A very glaring instance of this occurs in the book ascribed to Isaiah ; the latter part of the 44th chapter, and the beginning of the 45th, so far from having been written by Isaiah, could only have been written by some person who lived at least an hundred and fifty years after Isaiah was dead.
These chapters are a compliment to Cyrus, who permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, as is stated in Ezra. The last verse of the 44th chapter, and the beginning of the 45th, are in the following words : “ That saith of Cyrus : He is my shepherd, und shall perform all my pleasure ; even saying w Jerusalem, Thou shalt be
built ; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith this Lord to his ancinted, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut; I will go beforo thee," 8c.
What audacity of church and priestly ignorance it is to impose this book upon the world as the writing of Isaiah, when Isaiah, according to their own chronology, died soon after the death of Hezekiah, which was 698 years before Christ; and the decree of Cyrus, in favour of the Jews returning to Jerusalem, was, according to the same chronology,536 years before Christ: which is a distance of time, between the two, of 162 years. I do not suppose that the compilers of the Bible made these books; but rather that they picked up some loose, anonymous essays, and put them together, under the names of such authors as best suited their purpose. They have encouraged the imposition, which is next to inventing it ; for it was impossible but they must have observed it.
When we see the studied craft of the Scripture-makers, in making every part this romantic book of school-boy's eloquence bend to the monstrous idea of a Son of God begotten by a ghost on the body of a virgin, there is no imposition we are not justified in suspecting them of. Every phrase and circumstance is marked with the barbarous hand of superstitious torture, and forced into meanings it was impossible they could have.
The head of every chapter, and the top of every page, are blazoned with the names of Christ and the church, that the unwary reader might suck in the error before he began to real.
“ Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,” Isaiah, chap. vi., ver. 14, has been interpreted to mean the person called Jesus Christ, and his mother Mary, and has been echoed through Christendom for more than a thousand years; and such has been the rage of this opinion, that scarcely a spot in it but has been stained with blood, and marked with desolation, in consequence of it. Though it is not my intention to enter into controversy on subjects of this kind, but to confine myself to show that the Bible is spurious; and thus, by taking away the foundation, to overthrow at once the whole structure of superstition raised thereon ; I will, however, stop a moment to expose the fallacious application of this passage.
Whether Isaiah was playing a trick with Ahaz, king of Judah to whom this passage is spoken, is no business of mine; I mean only to show the misapplication of the passage, and that it has no more reference to Christ and his mother, than it has to me and my mother. The story is simply this :
The king of Syria and the king of Israel (I have already mentioned that the Jews were split into two nations; one of which was called Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem ; and the other Larnel) made war jointly against Ahaz, king of Judah, and marched
their armies towards Jerusalem. Ahaz and bis people became alarmed, and the account says, ver, 2, And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.”
In this situation of things. Isaiah addresses himself to Ahaz, and assures him in the name of the Lord (the cant phrase of all the prophets,) that these two kings should not succeed against him; and to satisfy Ahaz that this should be the case, tells him to ask a sign. This, the account says, Ahaz declined doing ; giving as a reason that he would not tempt the Lord ; upon which Isaiah, who is the speaker, says, ver. 14, “ Therefore th:9 Lord himself shall give you a sign ; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son ;” and the 16th verse says, “ For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest (or treadest, meaning Syria and the kingdom of Israel) shall be for. saken of both her kings.” Here, then, was the sign, and the time limited for the completion of the assurance or promise ; namely, before this child should know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
Isaiah having committed himself thus far, it became necessary to him, in order to avoid the imputation of being a false prophet, and the consequence thereof, to take measures to make this sign appear. It certainly was not a difficult thing, in any time of the world, to find a girl with child, or to make her so; and perhaps Isaiah knew of one before-hand; for I do not suppose that the prophets of that day were any more to be trusted than the priests of this ; be that however as it may, he says, in the next chapter, ver. 2, “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess, and she conceired, and bare a son.”
Here then is the whole story, foolish as it is, of this child and this virgin ; and it is upon the bare-faced perversion of this story that the book of Matthew, and the impudence and sordid interests of priests in latter times, have founded a theory winich they cal the gospel; and have applied this story to signify the person they call Jesus Christ ; begotten, they say, by a ghost, whom they call holy, on the body of a woman, engaged in marriage, and afterwards married, whom they call a virgin, seven hundred years after this foolish story was told : a theory which, speaking for myself, I hesitate not to disbelieve, and to say, is as fabulous and as false as God is true.
But to show the imposition and falsehood of Isaiah, we have only to attend to the sequel of this story; which, though it is passed over in silence in the book of Isaiah, is related in the 28t
• In the 14th verse of the 7th chapter, it is said, that the child should be called Immanuel; but this name was not given to either of the children otherwise than as a character, which the word signifies. That of the prophetess was called Maher-shalal-hash-baz, and that of Mary was called Jesus,