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.“ The characters and manners of the ancient Prophets were uncouth, and unworthy of the God who is said to have sent them?”
In general, they were moral and religious men; and their manners were in perfect conformity to the times in which they lived, and the people among whom they conversed. Besides, it is not essential to the character of a prophet of the true God, that he should be a good man. BALAAM is an instance to the contrary. God, indeed, in the course of his providence, frequently uses bad men as instruments to accomplish his own purposes.
“ But there are many actions ascribed to the servants of God in the Old Testament, which very much wound the feelings of every good man. Noah was guilty of intoxication; ABRAHAM of dissimulation; JACOB of lying ; AARON of idolatry; Jael of treachery and murder ; David of adultery and murder ; SOLOMON of idolatry and lewdness; and many others of crimes of several kinds ?”
The relation of all these instances of wickedness in the servants of God, is a proof of the disinterestedness and impartiality of the sacred historians; and these crimes are recorded, not for our imitation, but for our admonition, If we attend to the consequences of these several transgressions, we shall see no good reason to imitate them. It is not any where recorded, that these faulty parts of their conduct met with the approbation of HEAVEN.
“ How may the horrible destruction of the nations of Canaan be reconciled with the principles of mercy and goodness?"
Just as pestilence, famine, storms, tempests, and earthquakes may be reconciled with those 'lovely perfections. The MORAL GOVERNOR of the world is at liberty to destroy offending nations and individuals, in any manner he judges meet*. We see this to be the constant course of DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
assemblage of shining qualities, as perhaps were never united in any other werely human character."
* See this vindicated in BRYANT's Treatise on the Scriptures; in the first Letter of WATSON's Apology; and iv almost every other author who has treated upon subjects of this nature.
« But, you should like to have been eye-witnesses of the mighty works wrought by Moses and Jesus Christ?” So should we.
Hlas not every man, in every age, and in every country under heaven, the same right to expect this indulgence? Miracles must, therefore, be wrought at all times, in all places, and before every individual of mankind. And what would be the consequence? Miracles would cease to be niiracles, and the whole course of nature would be thrown into confusion and disorder. So unreasonable are the demands of wayward men!
“ Many parts of the Old Testament are extremely dull, uninteresting, and even unintelligible?”
* The writings of Moses have received much confirmation and elucidation from the learned labours of the late Sir WILLIAM JONES, and the present Mr. MAURICE. All the leading circumstances of the Mosaic history are found detailed, with various degrees of corruption and perversion among the writings of the East Indies. The following account of Noah and his three sons, from Mr MAURICE's Sanscreet Fragments, is very remarkable, and strongly corroborative of the Mosaic history.
1. " To SATYAVARMAN that sovoreign of the whole earth, were born three sons, the eldest SHERMA; then CHARMA; and, thirdly, JY APETI, by name.
2. They were all men of good morals, excellent in virtue and virtuous deeds, skilled in the use of weapons to strike with or to be throwu; brave nien, eager for victory in battle.
3. But SATYAVARMAN, being continually delighted with devout meditation, and seeing his sons fii for dominion, laid upon them the burden of government.
4. Whilst he remained honouring and satisfying the gods, and priests, and kine, one day, by the act of destiny, the king, having drunk mead,
5. Became senseless, and lay asleep naked. Then was he seen by CHARMA, and by him were his two brothers called:
6. To whom he said, What has now befallen? In what state is this our sire ? By those two was he hidden with clothes, and called to his seuses again and again.
7. Having recovered his intellect, aud perfectly knowing what had passed, he cursed CHARMA; saying, Thou shalt be servant of servants;
8. And, since thou wast a laughter in their presence, from laughter shalt thou acquire a name. Then he gave to SHERMA the wide domain on the south of the
snowy mountains, 9. And to JYAPETI he gave all on the north of the
snowy mountains; but he, by the power of religious contemplation, attained supremne bliss.”
Asiatic Researches, vol. iii. p. 467, and Mr. Maurice's Sanscreet Fragments, p. 44.
Considering the ages in which it was written ; the different manners which prevailed; the frequency of allusions to ancient customs and circumstances no longer known; considering too that we generally read it in one of the most literal of all translations; and that many bundreds of places are really inaccurately translated; it is truly wonderful that it should be so intelligible as it is, and appear to so much advantage. Most of our objections to those admirable writings are founded in our own ignorance *. Before we set up to be critics upon the Bible, let us make ourselves thorough masters of the three languages in which it is written, and of the customs which prevailed in those countries, and in those ages when it was written. An avowed Infidel, with these qualifications, I believe, is not this day to be found in England. No person of a serious cast of mind, of pure morals, and a competent share of learning, can be an Infidel. Shew us the man of this description, who professedly rejects the divine mission of Jesus Christ, and we shall think the cause of Infidelity less desperate.
“ But are there not many contradictions, absurdities, ard falsehoods in the books of the New Testament, such as no man can reconcile?”
We deny that there is either contradiction, absurdity, or falsehood, in this inestimable Folumet. There are, we grant,
* It is no inconsiderable proof of the truth of some of the historical books of the Old Testament, that the ten tribes of Israel, which were carried captive by SHALMANESER, king of Assyria, upwards of 2500 years ago, and which had been supposed to be lost and swallowed up aniong the nations through which they were scattered, are now found to exist as a distinct people, in the eastern parts of the world, under the name of Afghans. Their traditions are little more than a mutilated apd perverted history of the ancient Jews. See the second volume of the Asiatic Reseurches for a fuller account of these people.
“ Holy Scriptures are an adorable mixture of clearness and obscurity, which enlighten and humble the children of God, and blind and harden those of this world. The light proceeds from God and blindness from the creature."
This is an observation of that admirable Divine, Dr. Wilson, late Bishop of Sodor and MAN, whose works contain a rich magazine of pious and useful observations. If all our Bishops and Clergy had lived, and preached, and wrote in the spirit of this good man, there would have been few Infidels this day in England.-Bishop WILSON, though entitled to the honour, always declined sitting in the House of Lords, saying, “That the Church should have nothing
certain apparent blemishes of these kinds, but not even one that is real. Learned men have vindicated it from these charges with all reasonable evidence. Can we suppose that such a man as LOCKE would have said, that “it is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much, nothing wanting," if such charges could be made good against it? But supposing the New Testament did abound with both contradictions, absurdities, and falsehoods, this circumstance, though less honourable in itself, would by no means render 'null the divine mission of Jesus Christ. He might be the true MESSIAH notwithstanding. Impartial men should weigh this well, before they make the real or supposed blemishes of Scripture a ground of their rejecting the Saviour of the world.
“ Why was so severe a penalty as everlasting * punishment denounced against sin in the Gospel? This seems hard, and, indeed, inconsistent with the goodness and mercy of the DIVINE BEING?"
Guilty man is an improper judge in this matter. Infinite wisdom hath been good to denounce such punishment against incorrigible transgressors, and, therefore, we may be well assured, it is consistent with infinite goodness and mercy. If the denunciation of eternal torments will not restrain men from sin, much less would a shorter duration have done it. to do with the State. CHRIST's kingdom is not of this world.” See his Works, vol. 1. p. 36, quarto edit.
T'he public is greatly indebted to the late Archbishop NEWCOME, an Irish Prelate, for his learned labours on biblical subjects. This sound scholar declares his opinion to be, that “every genuine proposition in Scripture, whether doctrival or historical, contains a truth when it is rightly understood; and that all real difficulties in the Gospels will at length yield to the efforts of rational criticism.”
See bis Harmony Though Dr. Mill has enumerated more than 30,000 variations in the manuscripts and versions of the New Testament, it is very remarkable, and highly satisfactory, that they do not when all put together affect any thing essential, either in the doctrines or precepts of the Gospel.
* In the 35th of Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons every thing is said upon the ejernity of the torments of hell that can be known with any certainty. It is a discourse weil worth the serious attention of the reader, especially in the present time of relaxed divinity, and more relaxed morality.
Some very considerable men, among whom may be reckoned the late Bishop NEWTON and Dr. David HARTLEY, have been of “ The Gospel of Christ bears too hard upon the pleasures of mankind, and Jays us under too severe re- . straints?"
Does it then rob us of any pleasures worthy the rational nature? It restrains us, indeed, but it only restrains us from things that would do us barın, and make us and our fellow creatures miserable. It admits of every rational, manly, benevolent, and humane pleasure. ' Nay, it allows every sensual enjoyment that is consistent with the real good, and true happiness, of the whole compound nature of man. It enjoins every thing that can do us good, and it prohibits every thing that will do us harm, under penalties of the most alarming kind. Could a Being of infinite benevolence and perfection do better, or act otherwise, consistently with those perfections ?
How can we at this distance of time know, that the writings contained in the Bible are genuine ? May they not have been corrupted, and many additions made to them by de signing men in after-ages *?" opinion, that eternal punishment, properly so called, is no where denounced in Scripture. If so, the objection is of no force in any point of view. Consult SCARLETT's New Testament on Universal Restitution. We may be assured, however, in every event of things, the Judge of all the earth will do right.
* There are several circumstauces, as we have already in part observed, still in existence strongly corroborative of the truth of the Bible. The Mosaic history of the creation is confirmed by the present appearance of things; Noah's flood by a variety of natural phænomena, and the general history of the world: The destruction of Sodom, by the face of the country around, and the ruins which have been discovered: the passage of the Israelites through the wilderness, by the rock that supplied them with water, which is still in existence, and visible to the curious enquirer, besides the names of places, and the traditions of the present inhabitants: the Dristory and prophecies concerning Ninevrh, Babylon, Tyle, Egypt, Jerusalem, and other cities and countries are all confirmed by the present state of those places and countries: the birth and resursection of Christ are established by the existing circumstances of the Christian church: and it is remarkable, that the cleft in the rock, which is said to have been made by the earthquake at the crucifixion of CHRIST, is still visible, and bears witness to the preternatural concussion. Let the curious reader consult SHAW and MAUNDRELL's Travels, together with BRYANT's Dissertation on The Divine Mission of Moses, and his Observations on the Place of Residence given to the children of Israel in Egypt, and their Departure from it, for several of the above particulars.