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the Christian world, that they had, during this period, observed the first day of the week in memory of Appollonius, Barcosbas or Mahomet; that they had been all baptized in his name, sworn by his name, and upon a book which the said person had forged, and which to them was before unknown, in their public courts of judicature; that this book had been their gospel and their law, which they had for a thousand years past, universally received and owned, and no other; I would ask a deist, whether he thinks it possible that such a deception could be imposed on the Christian world? But as impossible would it have been to have caused the books of Moses to have been imposed on the Jewish nation, had they been forged!
As the union of these four marks affords a certainty of a matter of fact, it prevents also, the imposition of any fabulous book upon men, at what period soever invented; whether at the time in which the matters of fact it relates were said to have happened, or in any succeeding age.
It is well known, for example, there is a stonhenge in Salisbury-plain; but no man knows the reason why those great stones were placed there; by whom, or in memory of what event. Should, however, a book be written, and it be asserted therein, that these stones were set up by Hercules or Polyphemus, in memory of some of their actions. And, to confirm this assertion, should it be mentioned in this book, that it was written when such actions were performed, and by the very actors themselves, or those who were eye-witnesses of the facts; and that this book had been received as true and quoted by authors, of the first reputation, in all ages since it was wrote; that this book was also well known in England, and enjoined, by act of parliament, to be taught to our children; that we did teach it to our children, and had been taught it ourselves, when in a state of childhood. Suffer it to be asked, whether a book so devoid of truth, could be imposed on the people of England? And, should the author of it, insist upon its being genuine, whether, instead of believing it to be so, they would not have reason to believe it was expedient he should be sent to bedlam ?
Let us now compare this ideal transaction, with the stonhenge, if I may be allowed so to call it, or twelve great stones set up at Gilgal. It is mentioned, that one reason why these stones were set up was, that “they might be a sign among the people of Israel, that when their children should ask their fathers, in time to come, saying, what mean ye by these stones? That then they should answer them; that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over Jordan, and that these stones should be a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.” The thing, in memory of which these stones were erected, was such as could not possibly have been imposed on the Jewish nation, at the time when it was said to have been done; it was, indeed, as wonderful and miraculous, as their passage through the Red Sea. This event took place at noon-day, in the presence of the whole nation; and when the waters of Jordan were divided, it was not at any low ebb, but at a time when the river overflowed all its banks. As soon as the “ feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the water, the waters which came down from above, stood and rose up upon an heap, very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan; and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt-sea, failed and were cut off; and the people passed over against Jericho: the priests stood in the inidst of Jordan, till all the armies of Israel had passed over. And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up upon the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all its banks as they did before. And the people came up out of Jordan, on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east side of Jericho; and these twelve stones which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch
in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying; when your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying; what mean these stones? Then' shall ye let your children know, saying; 'Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye passed over; as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over; that all the people of
the earth might know the hand of the Lord that - it is mighty; that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.”
But let it be supposed, that the passage over Jordan, as here related, was fictitious; that these stones, at Gilgal, were erected upon some other occasion, in some subsequent age; that then some person invented the book of Joshua, and said it was written by Joshua himself, when this event happened, and that the author of this book offered this stonhenge, at Gilgal, as a testimony of its truth; would not the Jews have said to him, “we know the stonhenge at Gilgal, but we were, until now, wholly unacquainted with the reason of it; nor have we had any previous knowledge of this book of Joshua! Where hath it been deposited for so many ages and how came you in possession of it after so long a period? But this book of Joshua informs us, that it was commanded, that this passage over
Jordan should be taught to our children, from age to age; and, therefore, that they were always to be instructed in the meaning of the stonhenge at Gilgal, as a memorial of this miraculous passage over Jordan ! It is, however, manifest, that we were never instructed in this fact when we were children; nor did we ever teach it to our children! It is not probable that so remarkable an event could have been forgotten, while so uncommon a stonhenge continued, which was erected for that end only, and, therefore, it is evident that this book cannot be genuine, but must have been written by some person, in some age after the death of Joshua!"
If no such imposition, as that above mentioned, respecting the stonhenge at Salisbury Plain, could be palmed upon the people of England, how much less could the Jews have been imposed on with regard to the stonhenge at Gilgal ? If where we know not the reason of a bare monument, such a false reason cannot be imposed on men, how much more impossible would it be to impose upon us, in actions and observances, which we celebrate in memory of particular events? How impossible to cause us to forget those events which we daily commemorate, and to persuade us that we had always kept such institutions in memory of things we never had any knowledge of?
If we perceive it thus impossible for us to be. come dupes to an imposition, even in things