« הקודםהמשך »
other holding out, that it was at Bethany, a place many miles distant. Even with these contradictions, it is a secondhànd story, and no credit can be given to it. Indeed, iudependent of such inconsistencies in a work said to be inspired, it devolves upon you to explain in what manner Jesus lost the gravity of his body so as to escape from the earth. With regard to the narrative of bis resurrection, the evangelists have detailed likewise many absurd and extravagant stories; but they do not venture to assert, that any individual saw Jesus rising from the tomb. We have not the testimony of a single individual upon this singular event, and why a matter of such importance was accomplished in so obscure a manner and not before as many witnesses as were present at his death, is sufficient to prove that these strange things are related by men, who, in place of being inspired with wisdom, seem to be remarkable only for ignorance and superstition. It is said that Jesus was in the grave three days and tbree nights, but this is not the case. He was, according to his disciples, taken from the cross upon a Friday afternoon, and his resurrection took place on Sunday morning, one asserting that it was dark, another that it was sunrise, evidently shewing that these inspired writings are full of contradiction, and that the whole is an imposition.
If you can reconcile these things that are so incongruous, even from the very womb of inspiration, you will do more than all the theologians that have gone before youl. The resurrection and ascension are the two principle props of the Christian religion; and, if they cannot be proved, the systeni must fall to the ground. It is quite inconsistent with the character of a God to do any thing that is connected with contradiction, at least, to allow events to be detailed of so much cousequence to the benefit of mankind, pregnant with such gross absurdies. You allow that you may have been mistaken with regard to tbe miracles of Mahomet, but you are not willing to allow them upon the same ground as those of Jesus; are they not recorded in the Alcoran as having been performed at certain times and places? The Alcoran of the Christians gives no better proof; and, to see that they stand upon equal foundation, I recommend for your perusal, the inspired productions of Mahomet.
You seem to misunderstand me in your allusion regarding my remarks upon the state of angels. The word “ is,” wbich you seize hold of, implies no more than that neither you nor I have any knowledge about such beings. If you, however, possess, upon this point, any superior knowledge, I should be pleased were you to give me proof of their existence. In the view of christianity, which you entertain, you say you see nothing but what is rational, but I contend, while you
ngs arounimagini pace, exe, of course thing
believe in dogmas which are not in unison with the general laws of the universe, that you abandon, at once, all that is connected with reason, and enter upon a field of error and confusion.
In the works of nature, we find every thing that is wonderful:- to behold the radiance of countless worlds rolling in the immensity of space, excites ideas that are almost too great for our imagination. Your wonder, therefore, in manythings around us, may be daily excited ; but, wben we find people wondering at the relation of events which are beyond the boundaries of possibility to happen, I have no besitation in saying, that their imaginations delight to dwell in the marvellous regions of fiction. If you prefer faith, in matters of this kind, I must inform you, that faith begins where knowledge ends; indeed, it is an article of so much convenience, that, were I to indulge in it, I should feel afraid it would make me believe that two and two did not make four, or what is, perhaps, as wonderful, that the glorious luminary, the sun, underwent a revolution, and that all nature stood still to please the fancy and gratify the pride of a few marauding barbarians.
Your remarks, about the merit of believing, I do not well comprehend-demonstration needs no belief-when a thing is demonstrated it is made known to our senses, and, therefore, we know it to be true-belief, in this case, is out of the question. You affect surprise upon this subject, but every one knows, that, since the days of Bacon, in pbilosophy, every thing is admitted, for which there is sufficient evidence, and every thing rejected, for which there is not, a principle which has been the great means of advancing science to its present enlightened state. In general history, every thing is admitted which is natural.
Plutarcb tells us that Brutus was defeated at Phillipi, but no one believes the historian when he relates the circumstance of the gigantic spectre, that appeared on the eve of battle to this renowned Roman. The solution of the story by Cassius was rational, who ascribed it to the effects of a diseased imagination. In the history of our own country, we know that Duncan was murdered by the ambitious Macbeth ; but we smile at the tale so grarely related about the witches. To seperate from history all that is connected with the marrellous, requires, now a-days, little discrimination; and I really feel surprised when I see men, otherwise distinguished for their learning, embracing tales the most delusive, and which, lam convinced, have no more to recommend them, in point of true natural fact, than the fanciful and flowery fiction of the Arabian Nights' entertainments.
I remain, Sir, Yours truly, &c.
PRIEST TO THE DOCTOR. So Doctor,
March 2, 1824. You are beginning to cry « To triumphe.” Do not be in such a burry, Doctor. Take a little time, there is time enough for that yet.
You complain first of my inattention to those principles to which you say that you in a particular manner directed me. Now I shall look over our first letter and see what principles I have neglected. You there object to Christianity, that it is not universal. This objection I bave answered. You secondly object that Christianity produced no revolution that tended to improve the condition of mankind. To this also I have replied. You next refer to certain events recorded in scripture which you think unworthy of credit; such as the miracle of the sun standing still, &c. These, indeed, I have not scrutinized- not however, because I thought that they affected the truth of the Christian religion-it was my opinion, formed from the little experience which I have had. in controversy, that a discussion cannot be limited to too narrow a compass. At the close of my last letter, therefore, I set before you for this purpose, what I considered it necessary for you to do before you could overthrow Christianity. To do you justice, you bave in your last letter attempted to do sometbing to the point, by endeavouring to invalidate the testimony of the Apostles concerning the ascension and the resurrection of Jesus. Now, I say, that this is attempting at least to do something to the point. What has the miracle of the sun standing still, or that of the downfall of the walls of Jericho, or even the history of the expulsion of the Canaanites; what have these to do with the grand question, whether Jesus and his apostles were imposters. Suppose now, that you could prove, that the sun never stood still-that the walls of Jericho never fell down that the Canaanites were never expelled by divine command, you would no doubt prove, that the historian who narrates these events was misinformed with respect to these particular events; but you would not prove, that the doctrines of Jesus formed no revelation from heaven. I do not however deny the events referred to. I must have something more than mere assertion, Doctor, to convince me of their fabulousness. With respect to the first-pamely, the miracle of the sun standing still, there might, for any thing we can tell, have been other purposes to serve by the miracle in the economy of nature, besides that of assisting Joshua. Though the event took place ou the
And, I presume, the Doctor wants something more than mere assertion to prove their truth. .
exclamation of Joshua, still it might have been designed for important purposes, in conjunction with the one mentioned. Surely you will not laugh at me for pleading our ignorance of the mighty mechanism of nature: did you know all that is necessary for the regulation of the vast macbine, you might; but 'I bope that it is saying nothing derogatory to say, that you do not.
With respect to the second, damely, the downfall of the walls of Jericho, I presume, that it is the sound of the rams' borns ringing in your ears, that sets you a laugbing. But in the original, there is no word corresponding to the expression “rams' borns.” It should have been translated trumpets of the Jubilee. I am willing to prove this to your satisfaction at any time.
With respect to the expulsion of the Canaanites, I would observe, Ist. that it cannot be denied that God has a right to punish. If he has not the right of punishing, his law is without authority, his moral government is without stability; and if it be allowed that God has the rigbt of punishing uations and individuals, who can presume to dictate to him the quantity of it? If his providence* commis. sion the earthquake to swallow, the volcano to bury, the pestilence to ravage, the inundation to overwhelm men, women, and children, who can impeach his wisdom. But it may be the kind of calamity inflicted on a people, that is the ground of objection. Had God involved the Canaanites in earthquake, or overwhelmed them in an inundation, it may be said there would be no complaint; but it is the circumstance of his employing their fellow creatures, for their destruction, to which objection is principally made; to which it may be replied, that there are cases in whicb killing is considered no murder. Nobody thinks of calling the executioner a murderer, who hangs a murderer. A law may be suspended by the divine law-giver, in extreme cases, in which the suspension of it is necessary. Though God gave the law, “ Thou sbalt not kill,” yet this law was to be suspended in the case of the execuiion of a murderer. The executioner who put the murderer to death was not considered a transgressor of the law, “thou shalt not kill.” Now, the same authority which could suspend this law in the execution of a murderer might suspend it in the case of the execution of the wicked Canaanites 5. If the Jews in destroying the Canaanites were the divine execu
? Better had he set things agoing so far right, as to need no punishment.
R. C. 3 This is speaking of a mere human being. The foundation of all Theism.
R. C. • Admirable providence again!
R. C. * In what were they wicked?
tioners, inflicting, by his authority, his judgments on them for their tremenduous iniquities and abominations, and thus exhibiting to themselves, to all nations and to all generations, an example of God's abhorrence of these iniquities and abominations; if they were his commissioned executioners in this respect, then were they just as innocent of murder as the executioner of the state in inflicting death on the criminal.
After giving your thrust at the Old Testament, you proceed to pass one at the New, and the subject of Demoniacs does not escape your notice. Now, you ought to know, that many believers in Christianity consider the Demoniacs of the New Testameut as nothing more than madmen, or epileptics, and think that as it was the custom of the age, to ascribe the diseases of the lunatics, or the epileptics, to demoniacal possession. Jesus, in speaking of these unfortunate beings, uses the popular language concerning them. Farmer who writes so ably on miracles, also writes very learnedly in defence of this bypothesis. Priestly defends another hypothesis, if I mistake not, namely, that the causes of the diseases of those persons did not form a part of the revelation of Jesus, any more than the Newtonian system of astronomy. Now, surely, it will be too much to expect of me the investigation of this subject. Yet, I may remark, that though you should prove the bypothesis of the two tbeologians, whom I have mentioned, both wrong, yet you would find it a hard matter, I think, to prove the impossibility of the existence of the imaginary beings of which you speak. Impossibility is a big word, and I would find it too big for my utterance on such a question.
You uext ridicule Christ's temptation on the mountain. Here again, I wouid bid you be cautious, lest you “do err not knowing the scriptures.” Mary Theologians do not understand this transaction in its literal sense; but consider it merely as a scenical representation, exhibited to the wind of Jesus, for the purpose of preparing him for those temptations to abuse his ministry, to the purposes of ambition which he was to encounter in the course of his ministry,
On the subject of the miraculous conception, you write with a warmth bordering on the enthusiastic temperature. This is another question on which even Christians are divided-many Christians deny it. For my part, I see nothing irrational in the doctrine of the miraculous conception. Is the creation 'of a body in a different manner from the ordinary course of generation incredible? This is all that is implied in the doctrine of the miraculous conception, and surely there is nothing absurd in that.
You next bring, as an objection against the account we have of the darkuess which took place at the crucifixion,