« הקודםהמשך »
And in this most important subject that can employ the human understanding, he has been particularly desirous to become acquainted with the Grounds, and Doctrines of the Christian Religion ; and nothing but the difficulties, which he in this volume lays before the publick, staggers his faith in it.
It may perhaps add to the interest the Reader may take in this work to inform him, that the Author 1008 a believer in the Religion of the New Testament, after what he conceived to be a sufficient examination of it's evidence for a divine origin. He had terminated an examination of the controversy with the Deists to his own satisfaction, i. e. he felt convinced thit their objertions were not insurmountable, when he turned his attention to the consideration of the ancient, and obscure controversy between the Christians are the Jews. His curiosity was deeply interested to examine a subject in truth so little known, and to ascertain the causes, and the reasons, which had prevented a people more interested in the truth of Christianity than any other irom believing it: and he sat down to the subject with ut any suspicion, that the examination would pot termimate in convincing him still more in favour of what . were then his opinions. After a long, thorough, and startling examination of their Books, together with all the answers to them he could oltain from a Library aniply furnished in this respect, he was finally very reluctantly compelled to feel persuaded, by proofs he could neither rofute, nor evalle, that how easily soever Christians might answer the Deists, so called, the Jews were clearly too hard for them. Because they set the Old and New Testaments in opposition, and reduce Christians to this fatal dilemma.-Either the Old Testament contains a Revelation from God : or it does not. If it does, then the New Testament cannot be from God, because it is palpably, and importantly repugnant to the Old Testament in doctrine, and some other things. Now Jews, and Christians, each of them, admit the Old Testament as containing a divine Revelation ; consequently the Jews cannot, and Christians ought not to receive and allow any thing as a Revelation from God which flatly contradicts a former by them acknowledged
Revelation : because it cannot be supposed that God will contradict himself. On the other hand-if the Old Testament be not from God, still the New Testament must go down, because it asserts that the Old Testament is a revelation from God, and builds upon it as a foundation. And if the foundation fails, how can the house stand ? The Author pledges himself to the Reader, to prove, that they establish this dilemma completely. And he cannot-help thinking, that there is reason to believe, that if both sides of this strangely neglected controversy had been made publick in times past, and become known, that the consequences would have been long ago fatal at least to the New Testament.
But though he believes that the New Testament cannot stand a close examination, when its pretensions are tested by the Old Testament, yet he is not prepared to affirm, that the Old Testament itself is invulnerable. In fact, so much ean be said, and such a strong case can be made out of both sides of the question relating to its supernatural claims, that though he shall always respect the Old Testament as the venerable mother of the doctrine of the Unity of God, and the source from whence arose Christianity, and Mahometanism, and as undoubtedly the most ancient, and curious monument of antiquity we possess in the shape of a Book ; yet with regard to its supernatural claims, he has not as yet been able to come to a decision satisfactory to himself. Whether however the Old Testament be of divine authority, or not, the argument he carries on is just as strong in one case as the other ; since it is believed to be of divine authority by both Jews and Christians; and the reasoning in the volume sets out with taking for granted this, which is acknowledged on both sides of the contreversy that is the subject of the Book.*
* There is nothing which can more readily induve a man of feeling, and benevolene to hope that the supernatural claims of the Old Testament may be true, than the promises contained in its Prophecies. The splendid deseriptions contained in the Old Testament of the renovation of the earth, and its restoration to a pardisiacal state ; and the promises it holds out of the happiness of the human race upon it, "when the earth is to be all Paradise, far more bless'd than that of Eden, and far happier days,” are prospects, however remote, or problematical, so delightful to the mind grieved with the misery and sufferings of the present state
The Author has been earnestly dissuaded from making publick the contents of this volume on account of apprehended mischievous consequences. He thought, however, that the age of pious frauds ought to be past, and their principle discarded, at least in Protestant countries. Deception and error are always, sooner or
of things, that the good man will certainly wish that it might be so. The Philosopher, while he asserts, that such things may happen, (because an eternity is to come; because that there is no repugnance, nor impossibil. ity in the nature of things to prevent; and because the attributes of God seem to require that something like them should take place some time or other,) yet must feel sorry, that the ancient Book which holds out such splendid prospects should not be attended with demonstrative evi. dence of its divine authority. • It is certainly a great pity, that the Old Testament is a subject that admits of such a strong case being made out of either side of the questian with regard to its supernatural claims. A very great deal indeed (besides what is about to be mentioned) can be alledged in favour of its claims to a Divine Origin. The vast antiquity of the book itself,--the correct state in which it has been preserved, and handed down, through a series of so many ages--the interesting nature of its contents,-the venerable simplicity of its style,-the solemn sublimity of its poetry, the manifest and unrivalled excellence of its moral precepts, (from whence was derived all that is practicable in the morality of the New Testament, and the Koran,)--the foresight and sagacity displayed in its political, and ceremonial arrangements, in order to kee
rrangements, in order to keep the Hebrews distinct from other nations, that they might for ages continue to answer the avowed and grand purpose of giving them their law, viz. “ that they might be to all nations ihe witnesses of the unity of God,--that sublime and peculiar distinction of their religious creed,--the fact that the only nations on the globe which profess to believe in the Unity of God de. rived that belief from the posterity of ABRAHAM, viz. from Moses, Jesus Christ, and Mahomet; and the equally certain fact, that Christian. ity and Mahometanism, the only established Religions, besides the Mosaic, that have the least claims to rationality, were derived from the Old Testament, and were founded by descendants from that Patriarch, the singular, and perfectly unique character, and history of the Hebrew nation,--that it has subsisted from times of such immense antiqui. ty, and has survived so many horrible catastrophes ; and that it still subsists one and the same, wherever scattered, or however oppressed. Add to this the numerous prophecies of their sacred books, with regard to some of which it certainly looks as if they had been fulfilled.--All these things are so singular, unparalleled, and astonishing, that I should not think much of that man's understanding, nor of his knowla edge of the subject, who could dogmatically decide, that all these cir. cumstances can be entirely and easily accounted for, by referring them to the sagacity of their Lawgiver.
On the other hand however,--when we are almost disposed to credit the supernatural claims of the Old Testament; when we read of the speaking of Balaam's ass ; Joshua's stopping the sun ; Jonah's living in the belly of a great fish, &c.; the man of sound judgment would, I should chink, be apt to hesitate, and then perhaps settle into persevering doubt.
later, discovered ; and truth in the long run, both in politicks, and religion, will never be ultimately harmful. If what the Book states is true, it ought to be known, if it is erroneous, it can, and will be refuted.
The Author therefore makes it publick, for these reasons,-because he thinks, that the matter contained in the Book, is true, and important, because he wished, and found it necessary to justify himself from contemptible misrepresentations uttered behind his back; and to give to those who know hiin, good and sufficient reasons for past conduct, of which those to whom he is known cannot be ignorant; and finally, he thought it right, and proper, and humane, to give to the world a work which contained the reasons for the unbelief of the countrymen of Jesus Christ; who for almost eighteen hundred years have been made the unresisting victims of, as the reader will find, groundless misrepresentation, and the most amazing cruelty ; because they refused to believe what it was impossible that they should believe, on account of reasons their persecutors did not know, and refused to be informed of.
If the arguments, and statements, contained in this volume should be found to be correct, he believes, that every honest and candid man, after his first surprise that they should not have been made known before, will feel for the victims of a mistake so singular, and so ancient as the one which is the subject of the following pages ; and will think with the author, that it is time, high time, that the truth should be known, and justice be done to them.*
Since however, neither reason, nor, to do it justice, the Old Testament itself, intimates such scepticism to be criminal in a Gentile, we may without uneasiness, to use the words of Josephus," of these things let every one think as he pleases.”
*"Do you know (says Rousseau) of many Christians who have taken the pains to examine with care what the Jews have to say against them. If some persons have seen any thing of the kind, it is in the books of Christians. A fine way truly to get instructed in the arguments of their adversaries ! But what can they do? If any one should dare to publish among us Books in which he openly favours their opinions, we punish the Author, the Editor, the Bookseller. This police is convenient, and sure always to be in the right. There is a pleasure in refuiing people who dare not open their lips.” Emilius,
There is not in existenee a more singular instance of the mischievous mistakes arising from taking things for granted which require proof, than the case before the reader. The world has all along been in total error with regard to the reasons and the motives which have prevented the Hebrew nation from receiving the System of the New Testament. They have been successfully accused of incorrigible blindness, and obstinacy; and while volumes upon volumes have been writ. ten against them, and the arguments therein contained supported, and enforced by the power of the Inquisition, and the oppressions of all Christendom, these unfortunate people have not been willingly suffered to offer to the world one word in their own defence. They have not been allowed, after hearing with patience, both arguments, and railing accusations' in abundance to answer in their turn ; but have been compelled, through the fear of confiscation, persecution, and death, to leave misapprehensions unexplained, and misrepresentations unrefuted.
Is it then to be wondered at, that mankind have considered their adversaries as in the right, and that deserted by reason, and even their own Scriptures, they were supported in their opinion only by a blind and pertinacious obstinacy, more worthy of wonder, than of curiosity ? Alas! the world did not consider, that nothing was more easy than to confute people whose tongues were frozen by the terror of the Inquisition !! But, thanks to the good sense of this enlightened age, those times are past and gone. There is now one happy country where freedom of speech is allowed, where ey. ery harmless religious opinion is protected by law, and where every opinion is listened to that is support. ed by reason. The time I trust is now come when the substantial arguments of this oppressed, and, in this respect, certainly calumniated people may be produced, and their reasons set forth, without the fear of harm,
In the same work he says that “he will never be convinced that the Jews have not something strong to say, till they shall be permitted to speak for themselves without fear, and without restraint." It was this hint of Rousseau's which first excited the Author's curiosity with regard to the subject of this Book.