« הקודםהמשך »
I AM now about to consider a subject, to which, notwithstanding the harshness of my language in some of the preceding chapters, I approach with feelings of
great a latitude for fanciful interpretations, and introducing darkness and confusion, and contradiction inexplicable.
4. Because, adinitting, (as indeed it never was, or can be denied,) that many passages of Scripture, and of prophetical Seripture uspe. cially, must be figuratively taken ; yet we must always put a wide dif. ference between a sense not just as the words in their first signification import, and a sense directly the contrary of what they import. And yet we complain that this latter is the sense which Christians labour to 0. trude upon the gainsayers. We say, that a kingilom of this world, and 110€ of this world; contempt and adoration ; poverty and muynisi. cence ; persecution and peace; sufferings and triumph; a cross and a throne; the scandalous death of a private man upon u gibbet, and the everlasting dominion of a universal monarch, must be reconciled, and mean the self same thing, before the Prophecies appealed to can do their carise any service. Granting then, that the goodness of God, (nc. cording to them,) to have been better than his word, by giving apiril. ual blessings, instead of temporul, yet what will become of the truth of God, if he act contrary to his word? even when it would be for our ad. vantage; it he misleads people by expressions, which, if they lucan any thing at all, must mean what the Jews understand by them?
In short, it seems to me, that if Providence has in truth any concern with the predictions of the Old Testament, it could not have taken more effectual care to justify the unbelief, and obstimacy of the Jews, than by ordering matters so, that the life and death of Jesus Christ should be so exactly, and so entirely, the very reverse of all those ideas under which their Prophets had constantly described, and the Hebrew nation as constantly expected their Messiah, and his coming : and to suppose that the Supreme Being meant to describe, and point out such a person as Jesus Christ by such descriptions of the Messiah as are contained in the Old Testament, is certainly substantially to accuse him of the most unjustifiable prevarication, and mockery of his creatures.
In order that the subject we are examining, and the arguments we make use of, may be clearly understood by the reader, he is requested to bear in mind, that the author reasons all along upon the supposed Divine authority of the Old Testament, which is admitted by both Jews and Christians. Whether the supernatural claims of the Old Testament te just, or not, is of no consequence in the world to the controversy we are considering. For the dispute of the Jew with the Christian is one thing, and his dispute with the sceptic is another to. tally different. For whether such a personage as the Messiah is described to be, has appeared eighteen hundred years ago, is quite a different thing from the question, whether such a personage will appear at all. The Christian says, that he has appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This the Jew denies, but looks forward to the future fulfillment of the promises in his Bible. While the Sceptic denies that the Messiali has come, or ever will.
great respect. Far be it from me to reproach the meek, the compassionate, the amiable Jesus ; or to attribute to him, the mischiefs occasioned by his followers. No, I look upon his character with the respect which every man should pay to purity of morals: though mingled with something like the sentiments which we naturally feel for the mistaken enthusiast.t Jesus of Nazareth
But the subject at present under consideration is the dispute of the Jew with the Christian, who ackuowledges the Old Testament to be a Revelation, upon which a new Revelation, that of the New Testament is founded, and erected. To lim the Jew argues, that if the Old Testament be a Divine Revelation, then the New Testament cannot be a Revelation, because it contradicts, and is repugnant to the Old Tes ment, the more ancient, and acknowledged Revelation. Now God cannot be the author of two Revelations, one of which is repugnant to the other. One of them is certainly false. And if the Christian, conseious of the difficulty of reconciling the New with the Old Testament, attempts to support the New, at the expense of the Old Testament, upon which the former is, and was built by the founders of Christianjy; then the Jew would tell him, that he acts as absurdly as wonld the man who should expect to make his house the firmer, by undermining, and weakening its foundation.
So that whether the Christian affirms, or clenies, he is ruined either. way. For he is reduced to this fatal dilemma. If the Old Testament contains a Revelation froru God, then the New Testament is not from God, for God cannot contradict himself: and it can be proved abunsantly, that the New Testament is contradictory, and repugnant to the Old, and to itself' too. If, on the other hand, the Old Testament contains no Revelation from God, then the New Testament must go down at any rate; because it asserts that the Old Testament does con... tain a Revelation from God, and builds upon it as a foundation.
+ There was nothing which gave the author in writing this Book, so , much uneasiness, as the apprehension of being supposed to entertain disrespectful sentiments of the Founder of the Christian Religion. I would most earnestly entreat the reader to believe my solemn assúr. ances, that by nothing that I have said, or shall be under the necessity of saying, do I think, or mean to intimate the slightest disparagement to tlie moral character of one, whose purity of morals, and good intentions, deserve any thing else but reproach. That he was an enthusiast, I do lot doubt, that he was a wilful impostor I never will believe. And I protest before God, that from the apprehension above-mentioned alone, I would have confined the contents of this.volume to myself, did. I not feel compelled to justify myself for having quitted a profession; and did I not, above all, think it my duty, to make a well meant at. tempt, which I hope will be seconded, to vindicate the unbelief of an un. fortunate nation, who, on that account, have for almost eighteen hune dred years, been made the victims of rancorous prejudice, the most infernal cruelties, and the most atrocious wickedness. If the Christian religion be, in truth, not well founded, surely it is the duty of every. honest, and every humane man, to endeavour to dispel an illusion, which certainly has been, notwithstanding any thing that can be said to the contrary, the bona fide, and real cause of unspeakable misery, and
appears to have been a man of irreproachable purity, of great piety, and of great mildness of disposition. Though the world has never beheld a character exactly parallel with his, yet it has seen many greatly similar. Contemplative, and melancholy, it is said of him by his followers, “ he was often seen to weep, but never to laugh.” He retired to solitary places, and there prayed: he went into the wilderness to sustain, and to van. quish the assaults of the devil : In a word, he appears by such means to have persuaded himself, as hundreds have done since, that he was the chosen servant of God, raised up to preach righteousness to the hypocrites, and sinners of his day. It is remarkable, that he never claimed to be the Messiah, till encouraged to assume that charaeter by Peter's declaration. And it is obseryable, that in assuming that name, he could not assume the chara oteristicks of the august personage to whom it belongs; but infused into the character all that softness, meekness, humility, and passive fortitude, which were so eininently his own. The natural disposition, and character of Jesus could not permit him to attempt the character of a princely Messiah, a mighty monarch, the Saviour of an oppressed people, and the benefactor of the human race. He could not do this, but he could act as much of the character as was consistent with his own. He could not indeed bring himself to attempt to be the Saviour of his countrymen from the Romans, their fleshly foes; but he undertook to save them from the tyranny of their spiritual enemies. He could not undertake to set up his kingdom upon earth ; but he told them that he had a kingdom in another world. He could not pretend to give unto his followers the splendid rewards of an earthly monarch : but he promised them instead thereof, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual remu-. neration.
In a word, he was not a king fit for the 6 carnal; Jews,' but he was, from his mildness, and compassion- . ate tempér, worthy of their esteem, at least of their :
of repeated, and remorseless plunderings, and massacres, to an unhappy people; the journal of whose sufferings, on account of it, forms the : blackest page in the history of the human race, and the most detests. ble one in the history of human superstition.
forbearance. The only actions of his life which betray any marks of character deserving of serious reprehension, are his treatment of the woman taken in adultery; and his application of the prophecy of Malachi concerning. Elias, to John the Baptist.
As to his conduct to the woman, it was the conduct of a mild, and merciful man, but not that of one who declared, “ that he came to fulfil the law.” For God commanded concerning such, 6 that they should surely be put to death.” Now though Jesus was not her judge, and had no right to pronounce her sentence ; yet the contrivance by which he deterred the witnesses from testifying against her, was a contrivance directly calculated totally to frustrate the ends of justice; and which, if acted upon at this day, in Christian countries, would infallibly prevent the execution of the criminal law : For what testimony would be sufficient to prove a faet, if the witnesses were required to be 66 without sin ?" Instead therefore of saying unto them, “ whosoever of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at hêr;" he should have said, Men! who made me a judge, or a divider over you? carry the accused to the proper tribunal,"
As to his conduct about the matter of Elias, it was as follows. It is said in the 17th chapter of Matthew, that at his transfiguration, as it is called, Moses, and Elias appeared to his disciples on the mount, talking with Jesus. Upon coming down from the mount, the disciples asked Jesus,“ how say the scribes that Elias must come first, (that is, before the Messiah.) Jesus answered, Elias truly cometh first, and restoreth all things; but I say unto you, that Elias has come already, and they have done unto him what they would :" meaning John the Baptist, who was beheaded by Herod. (See the parallel plaee in Mark.) And he says concerning John, (Mat. xi. 14,) “ And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come,
Now certainly no one will pretend that John was the Elias prophecied of by Malachi, as to come before the great, and terrible day of the Lord," which has not yet taken place. And besides, that he was not Elias is testified of, and confirmed by John himself, who in the gospel of John, chapter 1, to the question of the Scribes asking him, “ if he was Elias 2” answers “ I am not." It is pretty clear that Jesus was embarrassed by the qustion of the Apostles, “ how say the Scribes, that Elias must come first ?" for his answer is confused; for he allows the truth of the observation of the Seribes, and then refers-them to John, and insinuates that he was 66 the Elias to come." However it must be acknowledge ed, that he does it with an air. of hesitation, 5 if ye will receive it." &c.
But are these all the accusations you have to bring against him ? may be said by some of my readers. Do you account as nothing, his claiming to forgive sins? his speeches wherein he claims to be considered as an object of religious homage? if not to be God himself? Do you consider these impieties as nothing ? I answer by asking the following questions : What would you think of a man who, in our times, should set up those extraordinary claims ? and who should assert, that 66 eating his flesh, and drinking his blood” were necessary to secure eternal life? Who should say, that “ he and God were one ?" and should affirm (as Jesus does in the last chapters of John) that “ God was inside of him, and dwelt in him ;” and that “ he who had seen him, had seen God?” What should we think of this ? Should we consider such a man an object of wrath, or of pity ? Should we not directly, and without hesitation, attribute such extravagancies to hallucination of mind ? Yes, cer-tainly! and therefore the Jews were to blame for crucifying Jesus. If Christians had put to death every unfortunate, who after being frenzied by religious fasting, and contemplation, became wild enough to assert, that he was Christ, or God the Father, or the Virgin Mary, or even the Holy Trinity, they would have been guilty of more than fifty murders; for I have read of at least as many instances of this nature ; and believe that more than two hundred such might be reckoned up from the hospital records of Europe alone. And that the founder of the Christian religion was not always in his right mind I think will appear plain to every intelligent physician who reads his discourses ; especially those in the gospel of John. They are a mixture of something