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Bishop's argument;-it is, that they will first always look at his references, to see if the passages really mean what the Bishop makes them say; and, secondly, not to be carried away by his startling inferences, until the premises have been logically sifted. M. H.
NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-I. CHILLINGWORTH's famous dictum-“The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants"—is the cherished conviction of Christian England. The Bible is the source whence the inquirer derives information relative to his salvation; it furnishes all needful direction to guide the believer through life; and, at the hour of death, gives him a joyous anticipation of that heavenly country which is out of sight, but which he realizes by an act of faith. The Bible has twined around it the remembrances of our earliest associations ; its parables and miracles became and remain for us as “ household words." We remember it as the morning companion of a beloved mother; as the nightly solacement of an aged father; and if Heaven so will it, it shall be the book in which our son shall become “ deeply read," — whence our daughter shall obtain solid counsel and wise instruction. And yet, thus venerating the Bible, it was with no enviable feelings that we once heard that valiant defender of the Church of England, the Rev. Hugh Stowell, assert that “the Bible contains no one word that it ought not to contain ; nor is there one word that it does not contain which it ought to contain"-a statement which we venture to say would have become an enemy of the truth, but which was a cruel and an unkind stroke from a friend. Prove that the book is literally the immediate result of inspiration,—that it comes in all its literality from Him who cannot err,-and you prove too much. Prove, on the contrary, that the spirit of its teaching cometh from Him, and that its conveyance has been entrusted to fallible men, and you then present a solution, reasonable and rational, for its many literal errors and difficulties. We cannot away with the thought that many of its statements, said to be commands of the great and holy God, are so extraordinary, that the wonder is how any man can read them to a mixed congregation. Take, as an illustration, the story related in Numbers xxxi., “where,” says Bishop Colenso, in his recent work on the Pentateuch,
“We are told that a force of 12,000 Israelites slew all the males of the Midianites, took captive all the females and children, seized all their cattle and flocks (72,000 oxen, 61,000 asses, 675,000 sheep), and all their goods, and burnt all their cities, and all their goodly castles, without the loss of a single man,-and then, by command of Moses, butchered in cold blood all the women and children,
except all the women-children, who have not known a man by lying with him.' These last the Israelites were to keep for theinselves.' They amounted, we are told, to 32,000, ver. 35, mostly, we must suppose, under the age of sixteen or eighteen. We may fairly reckon that there were as many more under the age of forty, and half as many more above forty, making altogether 80,000 females, of whom, according to the story, Moses ordered 48,000 to be killed, besides (say) 20,000 young boys. The tragedy of Cawnpore, where 300 were butchered, would sink iato nothing compared with such a massacre, if, indeed, we were required to believe it. And these 48,000 females must have represented 48,000 men, all of whom, in that case, we must also believe to have been killed, their property pillaged, their casties demolished, and towns destroyed, by 12,000 Israelites, who, in addition, must have carried off 100,000 captives (more than eight persons to each man), and driven before them 808,000 head of cattle (more than sixty-seven for each man), and all without the loss of a single man! How is it possible to quote the Bible as in any way condemping slavery, when we read here, ver. 40, of Jehovah's tribute' of slaves, thirty-two persons?" The man who affirms that that statement is a true statement, and that Moses, in so commanding, was commanded by God, violates every innate perception of justice, outrages every conviction of conscience, and sets reason afloat upon the dark world of doubt and scepticism. It is upon this ground mainly that Bishop Colenso, with singular fearlessness and honesty, has presented his reasons for the nonreception of the Pentateuch as inspired, proving it unreliable, and, therefore, unhistorical.
The question which forms the groundwork of this debate is, “Was the Pentateuch written by Moses ? and is it historically true?" The answer to the first question is simple :-Moses could not be the author of every portion of the Pentateuch, because, in Numbers xii. 3, we find these words :-"Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Moses surely could not thus write of himself; had be done so, bis words would have proved him, not the meekest, but the vainest man“ on the face of the earth." That Moses was not the writer of all the books of the Pentateuch is further proved from Deut. XIXIV. 5, 6:4"So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor : but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." Of course, Moses could not have been the writer of these words ; neither can We understand how any writer could say that Moses was buried in any given place, and yet the place not be known at the time, or afterwards, to any man. That Moses was not the writer of all the books of the Pentateuch is further evident from Deut. xxxi. 9, where we find it recorded of Moses, “ And Moses wrote this law,” -which could not have been written by Moses, but by some other person writing of Moses. Also in Genesis xii. 6, we read, “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” The writer of these words must have lived at a time when the Canaanites no longer dwelt in the land, which was only in the days of David. Moses could not, therefore, have been the writer. These, and other similar passages, clearly prove that Moses was not, and could not be, the writer of all the books of the Pentateuch. If he was not the writer of all, of what portion was be the writer?
The second question is,"Is the Pentateuch historically true ?" That is, can the statements of the Pentateuch be relied upon did the events happen as they are related ? No man influenced by reason and common sense, after reading Bishop Colenso's book, can or ought to apswer in the affirmative. No man ought to believe, or is required to believe, contradictions or impossibilities, unless they are presented as miracles, or divine interpositions. We are not so required to believe, in relation to the ordinance, that the whole assembly of the congregation should be gathered before the door of the tabernacle. The size of the tabernacle was only eighteen feet by fifty-four. The congregation included 603,550 warriors; and if we consider these only, without regard to the infirm, the women, and the children,-though they had stood side by side, as closely as possible, in front, not merely of the door, but of the whole end of the tabernacle in which the door was, they would have reached, allowing eighteen inches between each rank of nine men, for a distance of more than 100,000 feet; in fact, as Dr. Colenso states, for nearly twenty miles. That, then, cannot be historically true.
Neither surely is it historically true-supposing the camp to be a mile and a half square, and it would be so large if, as Dr, Colenso computes, each man were allowed three times as much space as he would require in his coffin-that the priests carried out from the tabernacle, which was in the midst of the camp, the skin of the bullock of sacrifice and all bis flesh. The Bishop says:
“The refuse of these sacrifices would have had to be carried by the priest himself (Aaron, Eleazar, or Ithamar-there were no others) a distance of threequarters of a mile. From the outside of this great camp, wood and water would have bad to be fetched for all purposes, if, indeed, such supplies of wood or water, for the wants of such a multitude as this, could have been found at all in the wilderness-under Sinai, for instance, where they are said to hare encamped for nearly twelve months together. How much wood would remain in such a neighbourhood, after a month's consumption of the city of London, even at midsummer? And the 'as?:es' of the old camp, with the rubbish and filth of every kind, for a population like that of London, would have had to be carried out in like manner, through the midst of the crowded mass of the people. They could not surely all have gone outside the camp for the necessities of nature, as commanded in Deut. xxiii. 12–14. There were the aged and the infirm, women in childbirth, sick persons, and young children, who could not have done this. And, indeed, the command itself supposes the person to have a 'paddle' upon his weapon,' and, therefore, must be understood to apply only to the males, or, rather, only to the 600,000 warriors. But the very fact that this direction for insuring cleanliness-for Jehovah thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp ; therefore shall thy camp be holy : that He see no unclean thing in tbee, and turn away from thee'-would have been so limited in its application, is itself a very convincing proof of the unhistorical character of the whole narrative.
“But how huge does this difficulty become, if, instead of taking the excessively cramped area of 1,652 acres, less than three square miles, for such a camp as this, we take the more reasonable allowance of Scott, who says, This encampment is computed to have forined a moveable city of twelve square miles,' That is, about the size of London itseli-as it might well be, considering that the population was as large as that of London, and that in the Hebrew tents there were no first, second, third, and fourth stories, no crowded garrets and underground cellars. In that case the offal of these sacrifices would have had to be carried by Aaron himself, or one of his sons, a distance of six miles; and the same difficulty would have attended each of the other transactions above mentioned. In fact, we have to imagine the priest having himself to carry, on his back on foot, from St. Paul's to the outskirts of the metropolis, the 'skin, and flesh, and head, and legs, and inwards, and dung, even the whole bullock, and the people having to carry out their rubbish in like manner, and bring in their daily supplies of water and fuel, after first cutting down the latter where they could find it! Further, we have to imagine half a million of men going out dailythe 22,000 Levites for a distance of six miles-to the suburbs, for the common necessities of nature ! The supposition involves, of course, an absurdity. But it is our duty to look plain facts in the face."
We are not surely to believe the statement as historically true, that the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, besides children; and a mixed multitude that went up also with them, and flocks and herds, even very much cattle; the human beings com. puted in the total at two millions? It is, as Dr. Colenso says, "utterly incredible and impossible" that this vast body of people of all ages, summoned to start at a moment's notice, actually did start at a moment's notice, not one being left behind, with all the flocks and herds, which must have been spread over a large space of country.
We are not further required to believe the statement relative to the duties of the priests at the exodus to be historically true. There were but three priests-Aaron and his two sons. They were to bare for their own use, and the use of their families, the skins of the burnt offerings, and the shoulder and breast of the peace offerings of a congregation of two millions of people! They were also to have the whole of the sin offering and trespass offerings, except the suet, which was to be burnt upon the altar, and the whole of the meat offerings, except a handfal to be burnt as a memorial, and also this was to be eaten only by the three males, in the most holy place! We are not further surely to believe the statement to be historically true, that during the Passover lambs were to be killed, during the space of two hours, by the priests, within a court capable of holding only 5,000 people, at the rate of 1,250 lambs a minute ?
There is no claim set up that these things were done by any Divine aid. They were not the subject of miracle at all. They are clearly errors of statement, to say the least, which necessarily involve the consideration of the Pentateuch as unhistorical. How is it possible, indeed, that the statements in detail of the Pentateuch can have for us any historical importance, proved, as they have been proved, to be absolutely impossible? It is not a question of policy, or discretion. We don't believe, whoever else may believe, that if “ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." Even if ignorance were bliss, we should consider it wisdom to be wise. Let the fullest and clearest light be tbrown upon all subjects, however sacred. “Let there be light,” should be the motto attached to every subject. Shirk no difficulty ; hide from no obstacle. If the Pentateuch be historically true, let it be demonstrated; if it be not true-and in its details it cannot be true—then let us know how much is true, and how much untrue. If any portion of the Pentateuch, through imperfect translation, is capable of amend. ment, let it be amended, and so get quit of much of the objection of the intelligent sceptic, who withholds his faith because his reason is not convinced. Christianity is a reasonable and a rational service; and so is the demand made upon us in our belief of historical incidents. If they are contrary to reason, it is not reasonable that we should believe them. You may affirm that black is white, but your affirmation does not make it so.
One class of writers and speakers affirm that the Pentateuch is historically true, because of the frequent reference made to it by Christ, by Stephen, and by Paul. But do they, by their reference, prove that things which were impossible were possible ? Do they not prove, by their reference to the writings of Moses, that, as Jews, they took advantage of any portion of the Pentateuch which would aid them in their object, and which had for the Jews the higbest authority P Not that they, by their reference, proved the truth of the Pentateuch any more than Paul, when he referred to the games of the athletes, expressed his approval of the games. This evidence is, therefore, quite outside of the subject. It should not have been dragged into the controversy. It is simply asking Christ, and Paul, and Stephen to acknowledge errors in numbers, and difficulties and obstacles which are physically impossible. We content ourselves with believing that the reference Christ and Stephen and Paul made to the Pentateuch was to illustrate and enforce some doctrine, which reference would have for the Jews a special charm and interest. But it is the height of absurdity to maintain that, because Christ and the apostles referred to the Pentateuch, the books of Moses must therefore be historically true. This is logic run mad. It will, however, be the method of proof adopted by the declaimers in this controversy, but it will by no means be the stronghold of reasoners.
However, be the Pentateuch proved historically true or his. torically false, the Bible will still have for us, as it ever has had, the charm of being the divinest book in the world. We shall still look to its promises, and reverence its commands; and if we cannot implicitly believe its every word,-its words of detail in its historical portions, we know we can and do believe its great fundamental doctrines that have reference to the life here and the life hereafter, and which are quite unaffected by the verity or otherwise of the books of Moses. And we further believe that the spirit of inquiry, which has been generated by this book of the Bishop of Natal, will resound to the praises of Him who is all truth. We have no fears. The truth will not suffer. If, in the process of inquiry, it should be found that the record is clogged with some of the dust of the ages