—Many instances might be adduced of conduct directly subversive of the very design, to promote which, he said that he was sent into the world. For example, he said that he came to preach glad tidings to the poor, and uninformed; and yet he declares to his disciples, that ho spake to this very multitude of poor and ignorant people in parables, lest they might understand him, and be converted from their sins, and God should heal, or pardon them. In the 26th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says to his disciples, in the garden at Gethsemane, these strange words, " Sleep on now, and take your rest—Arise! let us be going," The commentators endeavour to get rid of the strange contradictoriness of these words, by turning the command into the future; and rendering the Greek word translated "now" thus—"for the rest of your time," or "for the future." And that he asked them "whether they slept for the future"? which appears to be just as rational as to have asked, "how they do to-morrow"?!!
Jo. viii. 51, "Verily, verily.(said Jesus) I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death "Reader, what dost thou think of this saying? Has believing in the Christian religion, at all prevented men from dying as in afore time? And should we be at all astonished at what the Jews said to him, when they heard this assertion—"Then said the Jews unto him. Now we know that thou hast a demon [i. e. art mad.] Abraham is dead, and the Prophets, and thou sayest if a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death?" So said the Jews, and if in our times, a man was to make a similar assertion, should we not say the same?
Many instances might also be given of strange and inconsequent reasoning; but I shall only adduce the following. He reproaches the Pharisees, Luke xi. 47, 48, for building and adorning the sepulchres of the Prophets, whom their wicked fathers slew; and says to them, "Your fathers slew them, and ye build their sepulchres," and he adds, "that thus they showed that they approved the deeds of their fathers!" Surely this is absurd! Did the Athenians by setting up a statue to Socrates after his unjust death, show to the world that they "approved" the deed of them who slew him? did it not show the direct contrary? and was it not intended as a testimony of their regret, and repentance?
Again, "Upon you (says Jesus to the Jews) shall come all the righteous blood that has been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous, to the blood of Zechariah," &c. Now, herein is a marvellous thing! how could a man really sent from God, assert to the Jews, that of them should be required the blood of Abel, and of all the righteous slain upon the earth? Did the Jews kill Abel? or did their fathers kill him? No! he was slain by Cain, whose posterity all perished in the deluge; how then could God require of the Jews who lived four thousand years after the murder, the guilt of it; nay more, "of all the righteous blood that had been shed upon the earth," were they guilty of all that too? If such assertions, and such reasonings do not prove what I asserted, what can?
It is said, that Jesus, by giving himself up to suffer death, proved the truth of his mission and doctrines, by his readiness to die for them. But this is an argument which will recoil upon those who advance it. Are there no instances upon record of mild, zealous, and amiable men who preached to the savages of America that they ought to worship the Virgin Mary? and did they not cheerfully die by the most excruciating torments to prove it? Yes certainly! and let any Protestant Christian read the accounts of the preaching, sufferings, deaths, aye! and miracles too, of the Roman Catholic missionaries in Asia, and America; and then let him candidly answer whether he is willing to rest the issue of his controversy with the Papists upon the argument of martyrdom? We all know the power of enthusiasm upon a susceptible mind; and we have read of, and perhaps sees, its effects in producing martyrdoms among people of all religions, in all parts of the world. Nay, more, such is the power of this principle, that even now, women in India burn themselves alive on the funeral piles of their husbands, to prove, as they say, their love for them, and their determination to accompany them to the other world; when it is well known, that they burn themselves from the impulse of vanity, and the fear of disgrace, if they should not do so. Nay, more still, so little support does martyrdom yield to truth, that there are more martyrdoms in honour of the false, ridiculous, and abominable idols of Hindostan, than any where else. You may see men hooked through the ribs, and supported, and whirled round in the air in honour of their gods, clapping their hands, and testifying pleasure, instead of crying out with pain. You may see in that country, the misguided enthusiastic worshippers of misshapen idols prostrate their bodied before the enormous wheels of the car of Seeva, and piously suffering themselves to be crushed in pieces by the rolling mass. And any man who has been upon the banks of the Ganges, can tell you of the Yoguis, and of their self-inflicted torments, compared to which, even the cross is almost a bed of roses. Indeed the argument of martyrdom will support any religion; and it has, in fact, been cheerfully undergone by enthusiasts and zealots of all religions, in testimony of the firm belief of the sufferers not only in the absurdities of Popery, and Brachinanism, but of every, even the most monstrous system that ever disgraced the human understanding. There have been martyrs for Atheism itself.
This argument of martyrdom has been more particularly applied to the Apostles and first Christians. "How can it be imagined, (say Christian Divines,) that simple men like the Apostles could be induced to leave their employment, and wander up and down, to teach the doctrines, and testify to the facts of the New Testament, and expose themselves to persecution, imprisonment, scourging, and untimely and violent death: unless they certainly knew, that both the doctrines, and the facts were true? Besides, what honours, what riches, could they expect to get by supporting false doctrine, and false testimony?"
To this argument 1 might reply as in the preceding pages, for I would ask, have we not seen simple and honest men quit their employments, and wander up and down to preach doctrines which they not only had no means of certainly knowing to be true, but which they did not even understand? Have we not seen such men submit to deprivations of every kind, and exposed to imprisonment, and the whipping post? And do we not certainly know that some such have cheerfully suffered a most cruel death?
Is it possible that any sensible man, after reading the History of the Roman Catholic Missionaries, the Baptists, the Quakers, and the Methodists, can be convinced of the certain truth of the Christian religion, or seriously endeavour to convince another of it, by such an argument as the above?
But, much more than this can be said upon this topic; for it can be shown, that the Apostles in preaching Christianity, did not suffer near so much as some well meaning enthusiasts in modern times have suffered, to propagate religious tenets, notoriously false and absurd. And that the Apostles could expect to get neither fame, nor honour, nor riches by their preaching is doubtful. This is certain that they could not lose much. For they were confessedly men of the lowest rank in society, and of great poverty—poor fishermen, who could not feel a very great regard for their own dignity, or respectability. And it was by no means a small thing for such men to be considered as divine Apostles, and "in exchange for heavenly things," to have the earthly possessions of their converts laid at their feet. Peter left his nets, his boat, and boorish companions, and after persuading his disciples to receive his words for oracles, go where he would, he found ample hospitality from them. This, at least, was an advantageous change, and though they did not acquire fame, or respect from the higher ranks of society, they were at least had in great respect by their followers. Neither George Fox, nor Whitfield, nor Westley were honoured by the nobility, or gentry, or scholars of England; nor Ann Lee, by the most respectable citizens of the United States. Yet among their disciples, the Quakers, the Methodists, and the Shakers they were held by the most implicit veneration and can any man believe that they did not think themselves thus well payed for the trouble of making converts?
It is true that the Apostles did not acquire riches, for they were conversant only with the poor. But neither had they any to lose, by taking up the profession of Apostles, and Preachers. At least by preaching the gospel, they obtained food, and clothing, and contributions; as is evident from many places in the Epistles, where they write to their converts, "It is written, 'thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn;'" and Paul tells them, that they must not think from this place, that God takes care for oxen, "for, (says he,) it was undoubtedly written for our sakes." Thus we see that the gospel was by no means altogether unprofitable, and many men daily risk their lives for less gain than the Apostles did.
As to the dangers to which it is said they exposed themselves, they had none to fear, except in Judea, which they quickly quitted, finding the Jews too stubborn, and went to the Greeks. From the Greeks, and likewise from the Romans, they had not much to fear, who were not very difficult or scrupulous in admitting new gods, and new modes of worship. Besides this, the Romans for a great while seem to have considered the Christians merely as a Jewish sect who differed from the rest of the Jews in matters not worth notice; as is to be gathered from Tacitus and Suetonius. And if the Apostles did speak against the Pagan gods, it was no more than what the Roman poets and philosophers did; and the magistrates were not then very severe about it. And it is evident from the Acts of the Apostles, that the Roman praetors considered the accusations against Paul and his companions, as mere trifles. But in Judea, where the danger was evident, it was otherwise. When Paul was in peril there, on account of his transgressions against the law, after being delivered from the Jews by the Roman garrison at Jerusalem, he pleaded before Festus and Agrippa, that he was falsely accused by the Jews; and he asserted that he had taught nothing against the Law of Moses, and his country, but that he only preached about the resurrection of the dead; and that it was for this that the Jews persecuted him; and ended by appealing to Caesar. When yet he knew that this was not the reason of the hatred of the Jew against him; but that it was because he taught that circumcision, and the Law of Moses were abolished, and no longer binding: which is evident to any one who will read the Acts, and the Epistle to the Galatians. So you see by what manoeuvre he got out of the difficulty: first, by at least equivocating, and then by refusing to be tried by his own countrymen, and appealing to Caesar; thus securing himself a safe conduct out of Judea, which was too dangerous for him. Among the Gentiles, their doctrine had a better chance of success, for they taught them marvellous doctrines, such as they had been accustomed to listen to, viz. how the Son of God was born of a virgin, and was cruelly put to death; and that his Divine Father raised him from the dead. The idea of God's having a son of a woman did not shock them, for all their demigods they believed had been so begotten; and a great part of their poems are filled with the exploits and the sufferings of these heroes, who are at length rewarded by being raised from earth to heaven, as Jesus is said to have been. These doctrines were not disrelished by the common people, but were rejected by the wise and learned. Accordingly we see that Paul could make nothing of the philosophers of Athens, who derided him, and considered him as telling them a story similar to those of their own mythology, when he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And in revenge, we see Paul railing against both the stubborn Jews, and the incorrigible philosophers, as being unworthy of knowing "the hidden wisdom," which was to the one "a stumbling block," and to the other, "foolishness," and which he thought fit only for "the babes," and "the devout women," with whom he principally dealt.
That the New Testament inculcates an excellent morality, cannot be denied; for its best moral precepts were taken from the Old Testament. And if the Apostles had not preached good morals, how could they have expected to be considered by the Gentiles as messengers from God? For if they had inculcated any immoralities, such as rebellion, murder, adultery, robbery, revenge, their mission would not only have been disbelieved, but they would have undergone capital punishment by the sentence of the judge, which it was their business to avoid. Mahomet, throughout the Koran, inculcates all the virtues, and pointedly reprobates vice of all kinds. His morality is merely the precepts of the Old and New Testaments, modified a little, and expressed in Arabic. They are good precepts, and always to be listened to with respect, wherever, and by whomsoever, inculcated. But surely that will not prove Islamism to be from God, nor that Mahomet was his prophet!
That the Apostles suffered death on account of their preaching the gospel, if allowed to be fact, as said before, proves nothing. Many have suffered death for false and absurd doctrines. "But whether any of the Apostles, (besides James who was slain by Herod,) died a natural, or a violent death, the learned Christians do not certainly know. For there is extant no authentic history of the Apostles, besides the Acts. There are indeed many fabulous narrations published by the Papists, called Martyrologies, stuffed with the most extravagant lies, which no learned man now regards; and who therefore will credit what such books say of the Apostles? Peter is said in them to have been put to death at Rome by Nero, nevertheless most of the learned men of the Protestants assert, that Peter never was in Rome, and as for Paul, no one certainly knows where, when, or how ho finished his days. So that if we were even to allow the feeble argument of Martyrdom, all the influence and weight given to it, it would not apply to the Apostles, who, we are sure, derived some benefit, by preaching the gospel, and are not sure that they came to any harm by it.
I will conclude this long chapter, by laying before my reader some extracts from the book written by Celsus, a heathen philosopher, against Christianity, preserved by Origen in his work against Celsus. That the entire work of Celsus is lost, is to be regretted; as he appears to have been a man of observation, though too sarcastic to please a fair inquirer; and from the picture given by him of the first Christians, their maxims, and their modes of teaching, and the subjects they chose for converts, it appears, that they were the exact prototypes of the Methodists and Shakers of the present day, both sects which contain excellent people, with hardly any fault but credulity.
"If they (i. e. the teachers of Christianity,) say 'do not examine,' and the like: it is however incumbent on them to teach what those things are which they assert, and whence they are derived."
"Wisdom in life is a bad thing, but folly is good."
"Why should Jesus, when an infant, be carried into Egypt, lest he should be murdered? God should not fear being put to death."
"You say that God was sent to sinners: but why not to those who are free from sin? What harm is it not to have sinned?
"You encourage sinners, because you are not able to persuade any really good men: therefore you open the doors to the most wicked and abandoned."
"Some of them say 'do not examine, but believe, and thy faith shall gave thee.'"
"These are our institutions, say they, let not any man of learning come here, nor any wise man, nor any man of prudence: for these things are reckoned evil by us. But whoever is unlearned, ignorant, and silly, let him come without fear! Thus they own that they can gain only the foolish, the vulgar, the stupid slaves, women, and children."
"At first, when they were but few, they agreed. But when they became a multitude, they were rent, again and again, and each will have their own factions: for factious spirits they had from the beginning."
"All wise men are excluded from the doctrine of their faith; they call to it only fools, and men of a servile spirit."
"The preachers of their divine word only attempt to persuade silly, mean, senseless persons, slaves, women, and children. What harm is there in being well-informed; and both in being, and appearing a man of knowledge? What obstacle can this be to the knowledge of God? Must it not be an advantage?"
"We see these Itinerants shewing readily their tricks to the vulgar, but not approaching the assemblies of wise men, nor daring there to show themselves. But wherever they see boys, a crowd of slaves, and ignorant men, there they thrust in themselves, and show off their doctrine."
"You may see weavers, tailors, and fullers, illiterate and rustic men, not daring to utter a word before persons of age, experience, and respectability; but when they get hold of boys privately, and silly women, they recount wonderful things; that they must not mind their fathers, or their tutors, but obey them; as their fathers, or guardians are quite ignorant, and in the dark; but themselves alone have the true wisdom. And if the children obey them, they pronounce them happy, and direct them to leave their fathers, and tutors, and go with the women, and their play-fellows, into the chambers of the females, or into a tailor's, or fuller's shop, that they may learn perfection."
Celsus compares a Christian teacher to a quack—"who promises to heal the sick, on condition that they keep from intelligent practitioners, lest his ignorance be detected."
"If one sort of them introduces one doctrine, another another, and all join in saying, 'Believe if you would be saved, or depart:' what are they to do, who desire really to be saved? Are they to determine by the throw of a die, where they are to turn themselves, or which of these demanders of implicit faith they are to believe."
Omitting what Celsus says reproachfully of the moral characters of the Apostles, and the first teachers of Christianity, for which we certainly shall not take his word; it is easy to perceive from the above quotations, that they had more success among simple, and credulous people, than among the intelligent, and well-informed. Their introductory lesson to their pupils, was, "Believe, but do not examine;" and their succeeding instructions seem to have been a continued repetition, and practice of the dogma of implicit faith*.
In Matthew, ch. v. Jesus says, "ye have heard that it was said, that shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.'" But this is no where said in the Law, or the Prophets; but, on the contrary, we read directly the reverse. For it is written, Ex. xxiii. "If thou find the ox of thine enemy or his ass going astray, thou shalt certainly bring him back to him." "If thou meet the ass of him that hateth thee, lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help him." Again, Levit. xix. "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; rebuke thy neighbour, nor suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not revenge, nor keep anger, (or bear any grudge,) against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord." So also in Prov. xxxiv. " When thine enemy falleth, do not triumph, and when he stumbleth, let not thine heart exult." So also in ch. xxv. "If thy enemy hunger, give him food; if he thirst, give him to drink." These precepts are to the purpose, and are practicable; but this command of Jesus, " Love your enemies," if by loving he means, "do them good," it is commanded in the above passages in the Hebrew Law. But if by " love," he means to look upon them with the same affection that we feel for those who love us, and with whom we are connected by the tenderest ties of mature, and friendship, the command is impracticable; and the fulfillment of it contrary to nature, and those very instincts given us by our Creator. And therefore, whoever thinks he fulfills, really fulfills this command, does in fact play the hypocrite unknown to himself; for though we can, and ought to do good to our enemy, yet to love him is as unnatural as to hate our friends.
In Mark ch. ii. 25, Jesus says to the Pharisees, "Have ye not read what David did when he hungered, and those that were with him. How that he entered into the house of the Lord, in the time of Abiathar the High Priest, and did eat of the shew-bread, &c." See the same also in Matthew, ch. xii. 3. Luke vi. 3. Now here is a great blunder; for this thing happened in the time of Achimelech, not in the time of Abiathar; for so it is written, 1 Sam. xxi. "And David came to Nob, to Achimelech the Priest, &c." And in the 22d chapter it is said that Abiathar was his son.
In Luke ch. i. 26, The angel Gabriel is said to have come from God to Mary, when she was yet a virgin, espoused to Joseph, who was of the house of David, and announced to her that she should conceive, and bear a son, and should call his name Jesus; that her holy offspring should be called the Son of God, and that God should give unto him "the throne of David his father, and that he should rule the house of Jacob for ever, and that to his kingdom there should be no end." Now this story is encumbered with many difficulties, which I shall not consider; but confine myself to asking wherefore, if these things were true, did not the Mother of Jesus? and his brethren, knowing these extraordinary things, obey his teachings. For it is certain, that they did not at first believe him, but, as appears from the 7th chap. of John, derided him. Besides, neither did his mother nor his brethren, when they came to the house where he was preaching to simple and credulous men, come for the purpose of being edified, but "to lay hold of him," to carry him home, for said they he is mad, or "beside himself [Mark iii. 24] which certainly they would not have dared to do, if this story of Luke's were true. For their mother would have taught them of his miraculous conception, and extraordinary character. Moreover, how was it that God did not give him the throne of David, as was promised by the Angel to his Mother? For he did not sit upon the throne of David, nor exercise any authority in Israel. Moreover, how comes it that David is called the Father of Jesus, since Jesus was not the son of Joseph, who, according to the Evangelists drew his origin from that king. Finally, the saying "that to his kingdom there should be no end," is directly contradicted by Paul in the 1st Epis. to the Cor. ch. xv: for he says therein, that "Jesus shall render up his kingdom unto the Father, and be himself subject unto him." Here you see, that the kingdom of Jesus is to have an end; for when he renders up his kingdom to the Father, he certainly must divest himself of his authority. How then can it be said, that " to his kingdom there shall be no end?
Jesus says, John v. 39, "And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me; ye have neither heard his voice at any time," &c. But how does this agree with Moses, who says, Deut. iv. 33, "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire, as thou hast heard?"—"And we heard his voice out of the midst of the fire; we have seen this day, that God doth talk with man, and he liveth." Deut. v. 24.
Luke, ch. 4, 17, "And they gave to Jesus the Book of Isaiah the Prophet, and he opened the Book, and found this place, where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, therefore hath he anointed me to preach the Gospel; to the poor hath he sent me, that I should bind up the broken in heart, proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind; that I should preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' And shutting the Book, he gave it to the minister, and afterwards addressed them, saying 'This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." Here you see the words which gave offence; and by turning to Is. in loco. ch. lxi. you may see the reason why the inhabitants of Nazareth arose up in wrath against him. For these words alledged in Luke, are somewhat perverted from the original in Isaiah; for these words, "and sight to the blind," are not in Isaiah, but are inserted in Luke for purposes very obvious. And 2. he neglects the words following, "and the day of vengeance of our God, and of consolation to all who mourn. To give consolation to the mourners of Zion; to give them beauty instead of ashes, and the oil of joy instead of grief; a garment of praise instead of a broken heart," &c. to the end of the chapter. From this it is very clear, that this prophecy has no reference to Jesus: but Isaiah speaks these things of himself; and the words " the Lord hath anointed me," signify, "God hath chosen, established me to declare"—what follows. This exposition of anointing is confirmed from these passages;—1 Kings, xix ch.
"Anoint a prophet in thy stead," where the sense is, "constitute a prophet in thy place." Again, "touch not mine anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm," i. e. "Touch not my chosen servants"; and so in several other places. The meaning, therefore, of Isaiah is, that God had appointed, and constituted him a prophet to announce these consolations to the Israelites, who were to be in captivity, in order that they should not dispair of liberation; and that they should have hope, when they read those comfortable words spoken by the mouth of Isaiah, at the command of God. For he calls the subjects of his message "the broken in heart," "the captives," " the mourners of Zion," &c. all which terms are applicable only to the Israelites. That this is the true interpretation, will be made further evident to any impartial person, by reading the context preceding, and following.
Jo. ch. ii. v. 18. "The Jews said to Jesus, what sign showest thou to us, that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews answered, saying, forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou build it in three days?" The Jews could never have spoken these words, here related; for the temple then standing was built by Herod, who reigned but thirty-seven years, and built it in eight years. This, therefore, must be a blunder of the Evangelist's.
Jo. xiii. v. 21. Jesus says to his Disciples, "a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." This is not true, for the love of man towards his neighbour, was not a new precept, but at least as ancient as Moses, who gives it, Levit. xix. as the command of God, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Acts vii. v. 4. "When he (Abraham) went out of the land of the Chaldees, he dwelt in Charran; from thence after his father was dead, he led him into this land in which ye dwell." This directly contradicts the chapter in Genesis where the story of Abraham's leaving Haran is related; for it is certain from thence, that Abraham left his father Terah in Haran alive, when he departed thence. And he did not die till many years afterwards. This chronological contradiction has given much trouble to Christian Commentators, as may be seen in Whitby, Hammond, &c. &c.
V. 14, Stephen says, "Jacob therefore descended into Egypt, and our Fathers, and there died. And they were carried to Sichem, and buried in the sepulchre which Abraham bought from the Sons of Hemor the Father of Sichem." Here is another blunder; for this piece of land was not purchased by Abraham, but by Jacob. Gen. xlix. 29; so also see the end of Joshua. But it is evident, that Stephen has confounded the story of the purchase of the field of Machpelah, recorded in Gen. xxiii. with the circumstances related concerning the purchase by Jacob.
In v. 43 of the same chapter, there is another disagreement between Stephen's quotation from Amos, and the original. [In the Acts the quotation is,—"Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the Star of your God. Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them, and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." In Amos, ch. v. 26—"But ye have borne the tabernacle of Moloch and Chinn your images, the Star of your God which ye made," &c.]
So also there is in the speech of James, Acts xv. a quotation from Amos, in which to make it fit the subject, (which after all it does not fit,) is the substitution of the words, "the remnant of men," for the words, "remnant of Edom," as it is in the original.
All these mistakes, besides others to be met with in almost—I was going to say in every page, of these Histories of Jesus and his Apostles, sufficiently show how superficial was the acquaintance of these men with the Old Testament, and how grossly, either through design or ignorance, they have perverted it. Indeed from these mistakes alone, I should be led strongly to suspect, that the Books of the New Testament were written by Gentiles, as I can hardly conceive that any Jew could have quoted his Bible in such a blundering manner.
WHETHER THE MOSAIC LAW BE REPRESENTED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT AS A TEMPORARY, OR A PERPETUAL INSTITUTION.
A very great part of Dogmatic Theology among Christians is founded upon the notion that the Jewish Law was a temporary dispensation, only to exist till the coming of Jesus, when it was to be superseded by a more perfect dispensation.
On the contrary, the Jews are persuaded that their Law is of perpetual obligation, and the Doctrine of the Trinity itself is hardly more offensive to them, and, as they think, more contradictory to the Scriptures, than the notion of the abrogation of it. Now, that the Jews are on the right side of this question, i. e., arguing from the Old Testament, I shall endeavour to prove by several arguments. They are all comprised in these positions, 1. That the Mosaic Institutions are most solemnly, and repeatedly declared to be perpetual; and we have no account of their being abrogated, or to be abrogated in the Old Testament. 2. They are declared to be perpetual by Jesus himself, and were adhered to by the twelve apostles.
1. Nothing can be more expressly asserted in the Old Testament than the perpetual obligation of those rites which were to distinguish the Jews from other nations. It appears, for instance, (from the 17th ch. of Genesis,) in the tenor of the covenant made with Abraham, that circumcision was to distinguish his posterity, to the end of time. It is called "an everlasting covenant" to be kept by his posterity through all their generations. See the ch. where the condition of the covenant is, that God would give to Abraham and his posterity, the perpetual inheritance of the promised land with whatever privileges were implied in his being their God, on condition that their male children were circumcised in testimony of putting themselves under that covenant. There is no limitation with respect to time; nay it is expressly said that the covenant should be perpetual.
The ordinance of the Passover is also said to be perpetual, Ex. xii. 14, &c. "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." This is repeated afterwards, and the observance of this rite is confined to Israelites, Proselytes, and slaves who should be circumcised, v. 48.
The observance of the Sabbath was never to be discontinued, Ex. xxxi. 16. "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever."
The appointment of the Family of Aaron to be Priests, was to continue as long as the Israelites should be a nation. See Lev. vii. 35.
The Feast of Tabernacles was to be forever. Lev. xxiii. 41. "It shall be a statute for ever, in your generations." The observance of this Festival is particularly mentioned in the prophecies, which foretell a future settlement of the Jews in their own land, as obligatory on all the world; as if an union of worship at Jerusalem was to be, according to them, effected among all nations by the united observance of this Festival there, see Zech. 14; what he there says is confirmed by what Isaiah prophecied concerning the same period. Is. 2. "It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation. shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
With respect to all the Laws of Moses, it is evident from the manner in which they were promulgated, that they were intended to be of perpetual obligation upon the Hebrew nation, and that by the observance of them they were to be distinguished from the other nations, see Deut. xxvi. 16.
The observance of their peculiar Laws was the express condition on which the Israelites were to continue in possession of the promised land; and though on account of their disobedience they were to be driven out of it, they had the strongest assurances given them that they should never be utterly destroyed, like many other nations who should oppress them; but that on their repentance God would gather them from the remote parts of the world, and bring them to their own country again. And both Moses, and the later Prophets assure them, that in consequence of their becoming obedient to God in all things, which it is asserted they will, (and which may be the natural consequence of the discipline they will have gone through,) they shall be continued in the peaceable enjoyment of the land of promise, in its greatest extent to the end of time. See to this purpose Deut. iv. 25, &c.; also. Deut. 30, where it is thus written.
"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee; and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; that, then, the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return, and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee. And the Lord thy God will bring thee unto the Land which thy Fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it, and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy Fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live; and the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return, and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day." &c.
"What an extent of prophecy, and how firm a faith in the whole of it do we see here! (says Dr. Priestly.) The Israelites were not then in the land of Canaan. It was occupied by nations far more numerous, and powerful than they; and yet it is distinctly foretold in the 4th ch. that they would soon take possession of it, and multiply in it: and that afterwards they would offend God by their idolatry, and wickedness, and would in con-sequence of it be driven out of their country; and without being exterminated or lost, be scattered among the nations of the world; that by this dispersion, and their calamities, they would at length be reformed, and restored to the divine favour, and that then (as in the quotation) in the latter days they would be gathered from all nations, and restored to their own country, when they would observe all the laws which were then prescribed to them. Past history, and present appearances, correspond with such wonderful exactness to what has been fulfilled of this prophecy, that we can have no doubt with respect to the complete accomplishment of what remains to be fulfilled of it."
What was first announced by Moses, is repeated by Isaiah and other prophets, assuring them of their certain return wherever dispersed, to their own land in the latter days; and that they should have the undisturbed possession of it to the end of time.
It has been objected, that the term "for ever" is not always to be understood in its greatest extant, but is to be interpreted according to circumstances. This for the sake of saving time I will acknowledge. But the circumstances in which this phrase is used in the passages already adduced, and in a number of others of similar import which might be adduced, clearly indicate, that it is to be understood in those passages to mean a period as long as the duration of the Israelitish nation, which elsewhere is said to continue to the end of the world.
For this reason, among others, this final return of the Jews from their present dispersed state, cannot at any rate be said to have been accomplished at their return from the Babylonish captivity.
For that captivity was not by any means such a total dispersion of the people among all nations, as Moses, and the later prophets have foretold. Nor does their possession of the country subsequent to it, at all correspond to that state of peace, and prosperity, which was promised to succeed this final return.
Figures of speech must, no doubt, be allowed for. But if the whole of the Jewish polity was to terminate at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, (as is maintained by Christians,) while the world is still to continue, the magnificent promises made to Abraham, and his posterity, and to the nation, in general, afterwards, have never had any proper accomplishment of all. Because with respect to external prosperity, which is contained in the promises, many nations have hitherto been more distinguished by God, than the Jews. Hitherto the posterity of Ishmael has had a much happier lot than that of Isaac. To say, as Christians do, that these prophecies have had a spiritual accomplishment in the spread of the Gospel, when there is nothing in the phraseology in which the promises are expressed, that could possibly suggest any such ideas, nay, when the promise itself in the most definite language expresses the contrary, is so arbitrary a construction as nothing can warrant. By this mode of interpretation, any event may be said to be the fulfillment of any prophecy whatever.
Besides, it is perfectly evident, that these prophecies, whether they will be fulfilled, or not, cannot yet have been fulfilled. For all the calamity that was ever to befall the Jewish nation is expressly said to bear no sensible proportion to their subsequent prosperity: whereas, their prosperity has hitherto borne a small proportion to their calamity; so that had Abraham really foreseen the fate of his posterity, he would on this idea, have had little reason to rejoice in the prospect.
It may be said, that the prosperity of the descendants of Abraham, was to depend on a condition, viz., their obedience, and that this condition was not fulfilled. But, besides that the Divine Being must have foreseen this circumstance, and therefore must have known that he was only tantalizing Abraham with a promise which would never be accomplished; this disobedience, and the consequences of it are expressly mentioned by Moses, and the other Prophets, only as a temporary thing, and what was to be succeeded by an effectual repentance, and perpetual obedience, and prosperity.
Among others, let the following prophecy of Isaiah (in which the future security of Israel is compared to the security of the world from a second deluge) be considered, and let any impartial person say, whether the language does not necessarily lead those who believe the Old Testament, to the expectation of a much more durable state of Glory, and Happiness, than has, as yet, fallen to the lot of the posterity of Abraham.
Is. 54, 7. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me. For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, go have I sworn, that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall [or "may"] depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.—All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established. Thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come nigh thee. No weapon formed against thee, shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord."
Here, as also in Moses, and other Prophets, an establishment in righteousness is promised to the Israelites, such as shall secure their future prosperity; and this promise has not yet been fulfilled. The promise of future virtue as connected with their future happiness, is also clearly expressed in Jer. ch. iii. 18.
Had the Jewish nation become extinct, or likely to become so, it might, with some plausibility, have been said by Christians, that the purposes of God concerning them were actually fulfilled, and, therefore, that the words of the promise must have had some other signification than that which was most obvious. But the Jews are as much a distinct people as they ever were, and therefore seem reserved for some future strange destination.
On the whole, it must be allowed, that the settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan, foretold with such emphasis by the Prophets, is a settlement which has not yet taken place, but may take place in that period so frequently, and so emphatically, distinguished by the title of "the latter days;" and therefore that whatever is said of Jewish customs, or modes of worship in "the latter days?" is a proof of the meant restoration of their ancient religious rites.
That the institutions of the Mosaic Law are to be continued on the restoration of the Jews to their own land after their utter dispersion, is asserted by Moses himself in one of the passages already quoted; but is more clearly expressed by the subsequent Prophets. In some of their prophecies, particular mention is made of the observance of Jewish festivals, and of sacrifices; and in Ezechiel we find a description of a magnificent Temple, which being closely connected with his prophecy of the future happy state of the Israelites in their own land, cannot be understood of any other than a Temple which is then, according to the Hebrew Prophets, to be reared with greater magnificence than ever. Mention is also made of "the Glory of the Lord," or that effulgent Shechinah which was the symbol of the divine presence, filling this Temple, as it did that of Solomon.
Ezech. xliii. 1, &c. "Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the East; and behold the glory of the Lord came from the way of the East, and his voice was like the noise of many waters, and the Earth shined with his Glory.—And the Glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate, whose prospect is toward the East. So the Spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court, and behold the Glory of the Lord filled the house.—And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my Throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name shall the house of Israel no more defile," &c.
Towards the end of the same chapter we read an account of the dedication of this new Temple by sacrifices; and particular directions are given in the succeeding chapters for the Priests, and for the Prince. If, therefore, there be any truth in these prophecies, the Jews are not only to return to their own country, and to be distinguished among the nations, but are to rebuild the Temple, and to restore the ancient worship.
Having proved that the Old Testament declares the perpetuity of the Mosaic Law, I proceed, 2dly, to prove that it is declared to be perpetual by Jesus himself.
But before I adduce my proofs, I beg leave to premise, that when any Law is solemnly enacted, we expect that the abrogation of it should be equally solemn, and express, in order that no room for dispute may remain upon the subject. Accordingly, it is the custom, I believe, in all countries, not to make any new Law, contradictory to another before subsisting, without a previous express abrogation of the old one. And certainly it appears to me a strange notion to suppose, that the elaborate and noble Law given from mount Sinai amidst circumstances unexampled, awful, and tremendously magnificent, and believed to have been declared by the voice of God to be a perpetual and everlasting Code, should vanish, perish, and be annihilated by the mere dictum of twelve fishermen!!
But the fact is otherwise, for Jesus was so far from teaching the abrogation of that law, that he expressly says—" Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." This is a most explicit declaration that not the smallest punctilio in the law of Moses was intended to be set aside by the Gospel. Nay more, he expressly commanded his disciples to the same purpose—"The Scribes and Pharisees (says he,) sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they command you, that observe, and do."
It is said in answer to this by Christian Divines, that his discourse relates to things of a moral nature, and that he only meant, that no part of the Moral Law was to be abolished. But besides that the expression is general, there could be no occasion to make so solemn a declaration against what he could not have been suspected of intending, viz. of abolishing the moral law. He seems in his discourse to have had in view the additions that had been made to the law. These he sets aside, but no part of the original law itself.
It has also been urged that by fulfilling, may be meant such an accomplishment of it as would imply the superseding of it when the purposes for which it was instituted should be answered. To silence this explication it will be sufficient to produce a few out of many passages of the New Testament where the term fulfil occurs in connexion with the term law. Thus Paul says, Gal. v. 14, "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," and again. Rom. xiii. 8, "He that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law." But certainly, notwithstanding this fulfilment of the moral law, it remains in as full force as ever.
The Apostles understood Jesus to mean as we have asserted. For it is evident from the Acts, that the Christians at Jerusalem were zealous in attachment to the law of Moses; this is evident from their surprise at Peter's conduct with regard to Cornelius; and in the dispute about imposing circumcision upon the Gentiles; observe there was no dispute about its being obligatory upon Jews.
Paul was indeed vehemently accused of teaching a contrary doctrine, as we find in the history of the transactions respecting him in his last journey to Jerusalem. Acts xxi. 21," They (i. e. the Christians) are informed of thee (says James to Paul) that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumscise their children, neither to walk after the custom." Here James gives Paul to understand that he considered the report as a calumny, and accordingly, to convince the Jewish Christians that it was a false report, he advises Paul to be at charges with some Jewish Christians, who were under a vow of Nazaritism, (which is an instance in point to prove that the first Christians kept the law,) and thus publicly manifest that he himself "walked orderly, and kept the law." Paul complies with this advice, and purified himself in the temple, and did what was done in like cases by the strictest Jews. He also circumcised Timothy, who was a convert to Christianity, because he was the son of a Jewish Mother. And he solemnly declared in open court. Acts xxv. 8, "Against the law of the Jews, neither against the Temple, have I offended any thing at all," and again, to the Jews at Rome, Acts xxviii., 7, he assures them that "he had done nothing against the people, or the customs of the fathers."
But some men will say," did not Paul expressly teach the abrogation of the law, in his Epistles, especially in that to the Galatians?" I answer, he undoubtedly did; and in so doing he contradicted the Old Testament, his master Jesus, the twelve Apostles, and himself too. But how can this be? I answer, it is none of my concern to reconcile the conduct of Paul; or to defend his equivocations. It is pretty clear, that he did not dare to preach this doctrine at Jerusalem. He confined this "hidden wisdom," to the Gentiles. To the Jews he became as a Jew; and to the uncircumcised as one uncircumcised, he was "all things to all men!" and for this conduct he gives you his reason, viz. "that he was determined at any rate to gain some." If this be double dealing, dissimulation, and equivocation, I cannot help it; it is none of my concern, I leave it to the Commentators, and the reconciliators, the disciples of Surenhusius; let them look to it; perhaps they can hunt up some "traditionary rules of interpretation among the Jews," that will help them to explain the matter.
Lastly, it has been said that there was no occasion for Jesus, or his Apostles to be very explicit with respect to the abolition of the laws of Moses, since the Temple was to be soon destroyed, when the Jewish worship would cease of course.
This argument, flimsy as it is, is nevertheless the instar omnium of the Christian Divines to prove the abolishment of this Law: (for the other arguments adduced by them as prophecies of it from the 1 ch. of Isaiah, and some of the Psalms, are nothing, to the purpose; they being merely declarations of God, that he preferred obedience in the weightier matters of the Law; Justice, Mercy, and Holiness, to ceremonial observances; and that repentance was of more avail with him than offering thousands of rams, and fed beasts,) and this argument like so many others, when weighed in the balance, will be "found wanting."
For, as the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar certainly did not abolish the Law, so neither did the destruction by Titus, do it. And as it would be notoriously absurd to maintain the first, so it is equally so to maintain the last, position. Besides, a very considerable part of that Law can be, and for these seventeen hundred years, has been kept without the Temple. As for example, circumcision, distinction of meats, and many others. And when, if ever, they shall return to their own land, and rebuild the Temple, they will then, according to the Old Testament, observe the whole, and with greater splendour than ever.
ON THE CHARACTER OF PAUL AND HIS MANNER OF REASONING.
As Christians lay great stress upon their argument for the truth of their Religion, derived from the supposed miraculous conversion of Paul; and since almost the whole of Systematic Christianity is built upon the foundation of the Epistles ascribed to him, we shall pay a little more attention to his character and writings.
Paul was evidently a man of no small capacity, a fiery temper, great subtilty, and considerably well versed in Jewish Traditionary, and Cabbalistic Learning, and not unacquainted with the principles of the Philosophy called the "Oriental." He is said by Luke to have been converted to Christianity by a splendid apparition of Jesus, who struck him to the ground by the glory of his appearance. But by the Jews and the Nazarene Christians, he is represented as having been converted to Christianity from a different cause. They say that being a man of tried abilities and of some note, he demanded the High Priest's daughter in marriage, and being refused, his rash and rageful temper, and a desire of revenge, drove him to join the "sect of the Nazarenes," at that time beginning to become troublesome to the Sanhedrim. However this may be, whether he became a Christian from conviction, or from ambition; it is certain from the Acts that he always was considered by the Jewish Christians, as a suspected character; and it is evident that he taught a different doctrine from that promulgated by the twelve apostles. And this was the true cause of the great difficulty he was evidently under of keeping steady to him, his Gentile converts. For it is evident from the Epistles to the Galatians, and the Corinthians, that the Jewish Christians represented Paul to them as not "sound in the Faith," but as teaching a different doctrine from that of the Twelve, and so influential were these representations, that Paul had the greatest difficulty in keeping them to his System.
That there were two Parties, or Schools in the first Christian church, viz. the adherents of the Apostles, and the Disciples of Paul, is evident from the New Testament, and has been fully, and unanswerably proved by the learned Semler, the greatest scholar certainly in Christian Antiquities, that ever lived. The knowledge of this secret, accounts for the different conduct of Paul when among his Gentile converts, from that which he pursued when with the apostles at Jerusalem. He had a difficult part to act, and he managed admirably. He was indeed, as he says, himself, "all things to all men," a Jew with the Jews, and as one uncircumcised among the uncircumcised. To the Jews, he asserted, that he " taught nothing contrary to the Law, and the Prophets," and when brought before the Sanhedrim for teaching otherwise than he said, he dexterously got himself out of tribulation, by throwing a bone of contention among the Council, and setting his Judges together by the ears. "And when Paul perceived that the one part (of the Council) were Sadducees, and the other, Pharisees, he cried out in the Council: Brethren, I am a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead, I am now judged. And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. And there was a great cry, and the Scribes that were on the part of the Pharisees, arose and strove, saying, "We find no evil in this man" &c. This, indeed, was a masterly manoeuvre, and produced the desired effect; and Paul by this shows his knowledge of the human heart, in trusting to make his Judges forget what he was accused of, by making an appeal to their sectarian passions. For, in truth, he was not accused concerning his opinion about "the hope, and the resurrection of the dead," but for the following cause, as his accusers vociferated (in the xxi. ch.) when they seized him in the Temple, "Men of Israel, Help! This is the man, who teacheth all men every where against, the people, and the Law, and this place."
These strokes of character enable us to understand the man; and I shall now go into the consideration of some of the arguments he has deduced from passages in the Old Testament in support of his opinions; after premising, that the truth of the story of the manner of his conversion depends entirely upon his own assertion; and whether his credibility be absolutely unimpeachable, can be easily determined by an impartial consideration of the history of his conduct already mentioned. I will only add upon this subject, that in telling the story of his conversion, he ought to have had a better memory; for in telling it once in xxvi. ch. of Acts, he says, in describing his miraculous vision, that "those that were with me, saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but heard not the words of him that spake to me;" and thus he directly contradicts the story of it recorded in Acts ix., where it is said, "that the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one."
In the 9th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, v. 24, he thus proves; that the Old Testament prophecied of the conversion of the Gentiles, to the Gospel—"Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, as he saith also in Hosea "I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, you are not my people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God."—Is not this to the purpose? yet, in applying this passage to the Gentiles, Paul has wilfully, (yes wilfully, for Paul was a learned man, and knew better) perverted the original from its proper reference, and has passed upon his simple converts., who did not know so much of the Jewish Scriptures, as he did, a prophecy relating entirely to the Jews, as referring to the Gentiles!! By turning to Hosea, Reader, you will find this to be verily the case; here is the passage, "Then said God, call his name (Hosea's son) Loammi, for ye (the Israelites) are not my people, and I will not be your God, yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured, nor numbered. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, there shall it be said unto them, ye are the sons of the living God." Hosea chapter i
"Again v. 33. "As it is written, Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, and every one who believeth in him shall not be ashamed." Here Paul has pieced two passages together, which in the originals are disconnected. For in the 8th chapter of Isaiah it is written, "Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel; for a gin, and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." And in the 28th chapter it is written, "therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation, he that believeth shall not be ashamed," (or disappointed) Here "you see, reader, that he jams two distant passages together no ways related; and alters some words, and applies them to Jesus, with whom, it appears from the context of Isaiah, they have no concern.
Ch. x. v. 6. "The scripture saith, 'say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is, that he may bring down Jesus from above.) Again, 'who shall descend into the abyss?' (that is, that he may bring up Jesus from the dead.) But what saith it? ' The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart.' (that is the word of Faith which we speak.) For if thou confess Jesus with thy mouth, and believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Here you will see another instance of misapplication of Scripture by Paul, in order to dazzle the eyes of his simple and credulous converts, for let any one took at the place in the Scripture whence the quotation is taken, arid he will immediately see the inapplicability of the words, and the adulteration of those of the original, in order to make them apply. For the Scripture quoted speaks of, and refers to penitence, and. not at all about believing on, or bringing down Jesus from Heaven, or up from the dead; for here are the words, Deut. 30.—"If thou be converted to the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind."—Immediately is subjoined—"For this Law which I command you this day is not far from thee; neither is it afar off. It is not in Heaven, that thou shouldst say, who shall ascend for us into Heaven, that he may bring it unto us, and declare it to us that we might do it," &c. The sense of the whole is, that God wills us to repent of sin; and that you may know when you have sinned, you have only to look at his Law, which is not in Heaven, nor afar off, but is put in your own hands, and is perfectly familiar with your heart, and lips.
1 Cor, ch. v. 1. Paul accuses one of the Christians of the church of Corinth of the crime of incest, because he had married his step-mother, and orders them to excommunicate him. But Paul, in all his Epistles and teachings to the Gentiles, pronounced them free from the Law of Moses. Wherefore then for the violation of one of those Laws interdicting such a marriage, does he so vehemently, blame them? Such a marriage is not forbidden in the Gospel: it was forbidden to them no where in the Scriptures but in the Mosaic Code. Therefore, Paul must have founded his judgment against the criminal upon the dictum of that law in such cases. Paul puts the man under a curse; and it is the Mosaic Law which says, Deut. 27, "Cursed is he who lieth with his father's wife." It seems, therefore, that Jesus did not deliver his followers from "the curse of the law," as Paul taught them it did in Gal. iii. 13.
1 Cor. ch. x.:—"And let us not pollute ourselves with fornication, as some of them were polluted, and fell in one day to the number of twenty-three thousand." Here is a blunder, for it is written " twenty-four thousand."—Num. 25.
Gal. iii., 13, Paul says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." What he says of the Christ, or the Messiah redeeming from the curses written in the law, that by no means agrees with truth; for no Jew can be freed from the curses of the law, but by repenting of his sins, and becoming obedient to it. And in alledging the words "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree," from Deut. xxi., he, as usual, applies them irrelevantly.
Paul says, Gal. iii, 10:—"For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Deut. xxvii. 26, ' Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.'" And he interprets this to mean that all mankind, Jews and Gentile, are liable to damnation, (except those who are saved by faith) because no man ever did continue in all things written in the law. Now, in the first place I would observe, that Paul has inserted the word "all" in the passage he quotes from Deuteronomy, (in the original of which it is not) in order to make it support his system; for the whole of his argument is built upon this one surreptitiously inserted word. 2. The words according to the original are simply these:—"Cursed is he that continueth not the words of this law to do them;" i. e.,—He who disobeys, or neglects to fulfil the commands of the law, shall be under the curse denounced upon the disobedient. But who would conclude from this that repentance would not remove the curse? Does not God expressly declare in the xxx. ch. of Deut., that if they repent, the curses written shall be removed from them? And have we not innumerable instances recorded in the Old Testament, of sinners, and transgressors of this very law, received to pardon and favour, upon repentance and amendment? So that this argument founded upon an unwarrantable undeniable interpolation, and supported by bad logic, is every way bad, and insulting to God and his (by Paul acknowledged) word.
Gal ch. iii. 16:—"To Abraham, and his seed were the promises made, He saith not ' and to seeds,' (as of roomy) but as of one, ' and to thy seed,' which is Christ." Here is an argument which one would think too far-fetched, even for Paul; and it is built on a perversion of a passage from Genesis, which Paul, bold as he was in these matters, certainly would not have ventured, if he had not the most assured confidence in the blinking credulity of his Galatian converts. His argument in this place is drawn from the use of the word "seed" in the singular number, in the passage of Genesis, from whence he quotes. And because the word seed is in the singular number, fag tells the "foolish Galatians," as he justly calls them, that this "seed" must mean one individual (and not many,) "which," says he, "is Christ." Now, let us look at the xv. ch. of Gen., from whence he quotes, and we shall see the force of this singular argument, derived from the use of the singular number. "And He (God) brought him (Abraham) forth abroad, and said. Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able to number them, and He said unto him, so shall thy seed be.—And He said, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and they shall afflict them, &c., afterwards they shall come out with great substance.—In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land," &c. Again, ch. xxii., God said to Abraham by his Angel, "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his (or its) enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice! Reader, what do you think now of Paul's argument from the use of the singular number? Which is most to be admired? His offering such an argument to the Galatians; (for being a learned man, he certainly knew that the argument was nought,) or their credulity in receiving such reasoning as Divine? Really, I fear there is some reason for admitting as true what Celsus maliciously says of the simplicity of the Primitive Christians, if Paul could with impunity feed his "spiritual babes" with such pap as this!
I intended to have concluded this subject, by bringing under examination some of the arguments and quotations in the Epistle to the Hebrews; but upon looking over that Epistle, and contemplating my task, I confess I shrink from it. That Epistle is so replete with daring, ridiculous, and impious applications of the words of the Old Testament, that I am glad to omit it; and I think after the specimens which have been already brought forward, that my reader is quite as much satiated as myself. I will, therefore, bring forward only one quotation, which is alledged in that Epistle to prove the abolition of the law of Moses; and as for the rest, I content myself with referring those who want to know more of it, to the pieces written by the celebrated Dr. Priestley upon Paul's arguments in general, and those in that Epistle in particular, preserved in his Theological Repository, where he will see absurdity in reasoning, and, something worse, in quotation, exposed in a masterly manner. Indeed, some learned Christians are so sensible of the insuperable difficulties attending every attempt to reconcile that Epistle to the Doctrine of inspiration, or even to common sense, that they avoid the trouble, by denying that Paul could have been the author of such a work, and attribute it to the same, or a similar, hand, with that which forged the marvellous Epistle ascribed to Barnabas.
The quotation brought forward in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to prove the abrogation of the Mosaic Law, and the substitution of a new one, is taken from Jer. xxxi. 31, &c.—"Behold the days come saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant which I made with they fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, saying know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sins no more." Upon this passage the author of the Epistle observes "in that he saith 'a new covenant,' he hath made the first old;" and he sagely concludes " now that which decayeth, and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away!!" and takes the quotation to be a prophecy of the abolition of the old law, and the introduction of the Gospel Dispensation.
Now, I would observe on his reasoning, in the first place, that, allowing for a moment his interpretation of the prophecy to be correct, (i. e., that it signifies the abolishment of the old, and an introduction of a new law) the prophecy, at any rate, cannot refer to Jesus, or the Gospel; for so far from having been fulfilled in the time of Jesus, or his Apostles, it has not been fulfilled to this day; for certainly God has not yet made a new covenant with the Jews, to whom the prophecy refers, nor has he yet "put his law in their hearts;" nor "caused them to walk in it;" neither has he yet " forgiven their sins, or forgotten their iniquities," since they are even now suffering, the consequences of them.
I will now retract what I granted, and assert that the prophet did not mean an abolition of the Mosaic, and the introduction of a new, law; for though the prophet speaks of a new covenant, he says nothing of a new law; but on the contrary, asserts that this new covenant would be effectual to make them obey the law. God promised to put his law within their hearts (not out of remembrance, as the catechisms say;) and in this alone this covenant differs from the one entered into at Mount Sinai. For, then, though the law was given them, it was not "put within their hearts," but they were apt, to their own controul, to obey it, or not, being assured, however, that happiness should be the reward of obedience, and death and excision the punishment for revolt and disobedience. And you will moreover observe, that, notwithstanding what is here called a new covenant, nothing is here said of the abrogation of any former covenant, or constitution, or of any new terms, that would be required by God on the part of the Israelites. The prophet, by expanding his idea, sufficiently explains his whole meaning, which is evidently this, viz.: That God would make a new, and solemn promise to the Israelites, that they should be no more out of favor with him; that their hearts would be hereafter so right with God, that in consequence of it, they would continue in the quiet possession of their country to the end of time; and all this is intimated by Moses, in the quotation from Deuteronomy, quoted in the last chapter.
Thus is the passage perfectly consistent with those in the Old Testament, which affirm, (whether right or wrong is not my concern) the perfection and perpetuity of the Mosaic Law. " Remember," are the last words of the last of the prophets, Malachi,—"Remember the Law of Moses, my servant which I commanded unto him in Horeb, with the Statutes, and Judgments." Also in the Psalms:—"The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The Testimony of the Lord is faithful, bringing wisdom to the simple. The Precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, and enlightening the eyes." "The works of his hands are Truth, and Judgment. All his Precepts are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever: being done in Truth and Uprightness."
EXAMINATION OF SOME DOCTRINES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT DERIVED FBOM THE CABALLA, THE ORIENTAL PHILOSOPHY, AND THE TENETS OF ZOROASTER.
I have said in the preceding chapter, that Paul was well versed in Cabbalistic Learning, and not unacquainted with the principles of the Philosophy styled "the Oriental;" and to prove and exemplify this assertion, is the subject and intention of this chapter. None but the learned know, how much of Systematic Christianity is derived from the Cabbalism of the Jews; the Religion of the Magi of Persia; and the Philosophy of the Bramins of Indostan. I shall attempt to lay open these Theological Arcana, and make them known to those who ought to know what they have been kept in ignorance of.
Many of my readers have, no doubt, frequently puzzled themselves over these words of Paul's, Eph. v. 30:—"For we are members of his (Christ's) body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Because of this, a man shall leave his father, and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." This passage exemplifies the connexion between Christ and the Church, by that which subsists between a man and his wife; and this Paul calls "a great mystery;" and it no doubt must be a very mysterious passage to all those who are unacquainted with the cabbalistic notion to which it alludes, and refers. To illustrate the passage, and to prove that Paul raised his Cabbalism with his religion, I shall set down here the note of Dr. Whitby, the Christian Commentator, upon the text of Paul.
"The learned Dr. Allix saith, The first match between Adam and Eve, was a type of that between Christ and his Church; and in this, saith he, the Apostle follows the Jewish notions. The Jews say, the mystery of Adam, is the mystery of the Messiah, who is the Bridegroom of the Church. These two persons, therefore, confirm the observation of Munster, that the creation of the woman from the rib of the man, was made by the Jews to signify the marriage of the celestial man who is blessed, or of the Messiah, with the Church; whence the Apostle applies the very words which Adam said concerning Eve his spouse, to the Church, who is the spouse of Christ; saying, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." For the explanation of these words, take what follows:—"The profoundest of the Jewish Divines, whom they now call Cabbalists, having such a notion as this among them, that sensible things are but an imitation of things above, conceived from thence, that there was an original pattern of love and union, which is between a man and his wife in this world. This being expressed by the kindness of Tipheret and Malchut, which are the names they give to the invisible Bridegroom and Bride in the upper world. And this Tiphiret, or the celestial Adam, is so called in opposition to the terrestrial Adam; as Malchut also (i. e., the kingdom) they call by the name of Chinnereth Israel the Congregation of Israel, who is, they say, united to the celestial Adam as Eve was to the terrestrial." So that in sum, they seem to say the same that Paul doth, when he tells us, that "marriage is a great mystery, but he speaks concerning Christ and his Church." For the marriage of Tipheret and Malchuth, is the marriage of Christ, "the Lord from Heaven," ("the first man was of the Earth earthly, the second man is the Lord from Heaven," says Paul I Cor. xv.,) with his spouse the Church, which is the conjunction of Adam and Eve, and of all other men and women descended from them. Origen also seems to have had some notion of the relation of this passage to Adam and Eve, when he speaks thus:—"If any man deride us for using the example of Adam and Eve in these words, 'and Adam knew his wife,' when we treat of the knowledge of God, let him consider these words—'This is a great mystery.'" Tertullian frequently alludes to the same thing, saying—"This is a great sacrament, carnally in Adam, spiritually in Christ, because of the spiritual marriage between Christ and the Church."
Thus far Dr. Whitby, and the intelligent reader, who is acquainted with the dogmas and philosophy of Indostan, will not fail to see through this cloud, of words the origin of this analogy of Paul. The fact is, that in India and in Egypt, the Divine creative power which produced all things and energizes in everything, was symbolized by the Phallus; and to this day, in Hindostan, the operation of Diety upon matter is symbolized by images of the same; and in the darkest recesses of their Temples, which none but the initiated were permitted to enter: the Phallus of stone is the solitary idol, before which the illuminated bowed. This symbol, though shameful and abominable, is yet looked upon in India with the profoundest veneration, and is not with them the occasion of shame or reproach. It is, however, a blasphemous abomination; and the marriage between Christ and the Church ought not to have been thus illustrated by Paul, who reproached the heathen mysteries as "works of darkness," which mysteries, in fact, consisted principally in exhibiting these symbols, and similar abominations.
But, it may be asked, what is the meaning of the other clause of the verse—what could Paul mean by the strong language, "We are members of his body? of his flesh, and of his bones?" Why, my reader, he meant, that Christians were really part of the body of Christ and if you desire to know How he imagined this union to be effected, I request you to see the 10th ch. of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, where at the 16th verse he thus writes to them:—"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation of the blood of Christ? The loaf (according to the Greek original) which we break, is it not a participation of the body of Christ? for, Because the loaf is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of that one loaf." Again, ch. xi. 19, "For he that eateth, and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not distinguishing (or discovering) the Lord's body;" and in ch. xii. 27, he says to them, "Ye are the body of Christ, and his members severally." (See the original of these passages in Griesbach's Greek Testament.) Thus you see, reader, that Paul considered Christians "as members of his (Christ's) body, of his flesh, and of his bones," because they partook of one loaf, which was the body of Christ. The Papists are in the right, and have been much slandered by the Protestants, for the doctrine of Transubstantiation, or at least the Real Presence, is as plainly taught in the New Testament, as the doctrine of the Atonement. You have seen what Paul believed upon this subject, and I shall corroborate the sense I put upon his words, by the words of Jesus, his master, and by quotations from the earliest Fathers.
Jesus says, John vi.—"I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The Jews, therefore, contended among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus, therefore, said unto them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have not life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is verily food, and my blood is verily drink. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, (here is an oath) so he likewise that eateth me shall live by me."
This strange doctrine was the faith of the Primitive Christians, as is well known to the learned Protestants, though they do not like to say so to their "weaker brethren."
Ignatius says, "There is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the unity of his blood;" and of certain heretics he says, "they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ."
Justin Martyr, in his Apology, asserts that the consecrated bread "is, some how or other, the flesh of Christ."
In the dispute with Latimer about Transubstantiation, it is acknowledged by the most candid writers, that the Roman Catholics had much the advantage. It must have been so, where quotations from the Fathers were allowed as arguments. For what answer can be made to the following extracts?—" What a miracle is this! He who sits above with the Father, at the same instant, is handled by the hands of men." [Chrysostom.] Again, from the same, "That which is in the cup, is the same which flowed from the side of Christ." Again, "Because we abhor the eating of raw flesh; therefore, it appeareth bread, though it be flesh." [Theophylact.] Or to this?—"Christ was carried in his own hands, when he said 'this is my body.'" [Austin,] Or to this?—"We are taught, that when this nourishing food is consecrated, it becomes the body and blood of our Saviour." [Justin Martyr.] Or, lastly, to this? [from Ambrose]—" It is bread before consecration, but after that ceremony, it becomes the flesh of Christ."
Another doctrine which Paul derived from the Oriental Philosophy, and Which makes a great figure in his writings, is the notion, that moral corruption originates in the influxes of the body upon the mind.
"It was one of the principal tenets of the Oriental Philosophy, that all evil resulted from matter, and its first founder appears to have argued in the following manner:—"There are many evils in the world, and men seem impelled of a natural instinct to the practice of those things which reason condemns. But that eternal mind, from which all spirits derive their existence, must be inaccessible to all kinds of evil, and also of a most perfect and beneficent nature; therefore, the origin of these evils with which the world abounds, must be sought somewhere else, than in the Deity. It cannot abide in him who is all perfection, and, therefore, it must be without him. Now, there is nothing without or beyond the Deity but matter; therefore, matter is the centre and source of all evil, of all vice."
One of the consequences they drew from this hypothesis was, that since All evil resulted from matter, the depravity of mankind arose from the pollution derived to the human soul, from its connexion with the material body which it inhabits; and, therefore, the only means by which the mind could purify itself from the defilement, and liberate itself from the bondage imposed upon it by the body, was to emaciate and humble the body by frequent fasting, and to invigorate the mind to overcome and subdue it by retirement and contemplation.
The New Testament, though it does not recognise this principle of the Oriental Philosophy, "that evil originates from matter," yet coincides with it in strenuously asserting that the corruption of the human mind is derived from its connexion with the human body.
To prove this proposition, I shall show that Paul calls all crimes the works of the flesh." "Now, the works of the flesh are manifest, (says he, Gal. v. 19,) which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, rivalries, wrath, disputes, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." He also describes the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, or mind, in these terms:— "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good, for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good, I find not, but the evil which I would not, that I do. For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of my sin in my members. O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of this death?" (or this body of death.) And he goes on to observe, "That I, the same man, with my mind serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin."—Rom. vii. "For the flesh desireth against (or in opposition to) the spirit, and the spirit against "the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
"Those that are Christ's (says Paul, Gal. v. 24) have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires." And they are commanded (Rom. vi. 12 and viii. 13) "to mortify," or, according to the original, "put to death or "kill their members;" and Paul himself uses language upon this subject exceeding strong. He represents (1 Cor. ix. 27) his mind and body as engaged in combat, and says, "I buffet my body, and subject it." The word here translated " subject," in the original, means "to carry into servitude," and is a term taken from the language of the olympic games where the boxers dragged off the arena, their conquered, disabled, and helpless antagonists like slaves, in which humbled condition the Apostle represents his body to be with respect to his mind.
From this notion of the sinfulness of "the flesh," we are enabled to apprehend Paul's reasonings about the sufferings of Jesus "in the flesh." "Since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Christ himself also in like manner partook of them"—Heb. ii. 14. "For (says Paul) what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God hath done, who by having sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and on account of sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh."—Rom. viii. 3. "But now, through Christ Jesus, ye who formerly were far off, are brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our Peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished by his flesh the cause of enmity."—Ephes. ii. 16. "You that were formerly aliens, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet he hath now reconciled by his fleshly body, through his death."—Col. i. 20.
Though these notions are sufficiently strange, yet they are not so very remarkable as the one I am about to consider. It is a singular, and a demonstrable fact, that the fundamental scheme of Christianity was derived from the religion of the ancient Persians, The whole of the New Testament scheme is built upon the hypothesis, that there is a powerful and malignant being, called the Devil and Satan, the chief of unknown myriads of other evil spirits; that he is, by the sufferance of God, the Prince of this world, and is the Author of sin, woe and death; the Tempter, the Tormentor of men, and the Tyrant of the Earth; that the Son of God, to deliver mankind from the vassalage of this monster, descended from heaven, and purchased their ransom of the Tyrant, at the price of his blood; for observe, my reader, that the idea of the death of Jesus being an atonement to God for the sins of men, is a modern notion; for the Primitive Christians, all of them, considered the death of Jesus as a ransom paid to the Devil, as may be proved from Origen and other Fathers. That the New Testament represents this character as the sovereign of this world, may be proved by the following passages:—"All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them, (said the Tempter to Jesus, when he showed him all the kingdoms of the earth,) for it is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it." Luke iv., Jesus calls him "the Prince of this world;" John xii., and elsewhere. In his commission to Paul, he calls embracing his religion, "turning from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan to God."—. Acts xxvi. 18. Accordingly we find, that to become a Christian was considered as being freed from the tyranny of Satan. "God hath given life to you, (says Paul) who were dead in offences, and sins; in which ye formerly walked, according to the course (or constitution) of this world, according to the Prince of the Power of the air."— Ephesians ii., 1. And again:—"If our gospel be covered, (or hid) it is covered among those that are lost, among those unbelievers, whose minds the God of this world hath blinded, to the end that the glorious gospel of Christ should not enlighten them."—2 Cor. iv. 4. John says in his Epistle, that "the whole world lieth in the power of the wicked one;" and Jesus in the gospels compares him to "a strong man armed, keeping his goods;" and himself to one stronger than he, who strippeth him of the arms in which he trusted, and spoileth his goods. "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil."—1 John iii. 8. And it is said, "that he came to send forth the captive into liberty, and to heal those who were oppressed of the Devil." Men are also said to have been "taken captive of the Devil, to fulfil his will."—2 Timothy ii. 26. And we find that the Christians attributed all their sufferings to the opposition of this Being. "Put on (says Paul) the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we struggle not against flesh and blood only; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places."—Ephesians vi. 12. Christians are also said to be delivered by God from the power of darkness, and to be translated into the kingdom of his dear son. That is, as Christians were considered as being the subjects of Jesus, and the rest of the world as being of the kingdom of Satan, when a man became a Christian he was translated from the kingdom of one, to the kingdom of the other. Jesus accused the Devil as being the author of all evil, as a liar, and the father of lies, and a murderer of men, and of women, too, as appears in the Gospel, from the account of that one, whose back the Devil had bowed down for eighteen years—Luke xiii. 10—(on what account it does not appear.) In short, the New Testament represents to him as being the source of all evil and mischief, and the promoter of it; and the whole world as being his subjects, and combined with him against all good.
But how does all this prove that these notions were derived from the religion of the ancient Persians? I answer by requesting you, my reader, to peruse, attentively, the following account of the fundamental principles of the religion of Zoroaster, the prophet of the Persians.
The doctrine of Zoroaster was, that there was one Supreme Being, independent, and self-existing from all eternity; that inferior to him, there were two Angels, one the Angel of Light, who is the Author and Director of all Good; and the other, the Angel of Darkness, who is the Author and Director of all Evil; that these two are in a perpetual struggle with each other; and that where the Angel of Light prevails, there the most is good; awl where the Angel of Darkness prevails, there the most is evil. That this struggle shall continue to the end of the world; that then there shall be a general resurrection, and a day of judgment, wherein just retribution shall be rendered to all according to their works; after which, the Angel of Darkness, and his followers, shall go into a world of their own, where they shall suffer in darkness, the punishment of their evil deeds. And the Angel of Light, and his followers, shall also go into a world of their own, where they shall receive, in everlasting light, the reward due to their good deeds.
It is impossible but that the reader must see the agreement of the doctrines of the New Testament with all this; and since it is undoubted, that these tenets of Zoroaster are far more ancient than the New Testament, and since, as we have seen, that that book is much indebted to oriental notions for many of its dogmas, there is no way of accounting for this coincidence (that I know of), besides supposing the Devil of the New Testament to be of Persian origin. It is, however, in my power to make this coincidence still more striking from the words of Jesus himself, who says, (Matthew xiii. 24), "The kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy (mark the expression) his enemy came, and sowed tares among the wheat; but when the blade sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came near, and said unto him, ' Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence, then, hath it tares?' And he saith unto them, an enemy hath done this." You know the rest of the parable. The explanation of it is as follows:—"He who soweth the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and the good seed are the sons of the kingdom, and the tares are the sons of the Evil One, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil." Here you see, as far as it goes, a precise agreement with the doctrine of Zoroaster; and to complete the resemblance, you need but to recollect, that at the day of Judgment, according to the words of Jesus, the wicked go into the fire prepared for the Devil and his angels; and the righteous go into life eternal with the Son of God.
But is there not a Satan mentioned in the Old Testament, and is he not there represented as an evil and malevolent angel? I think not. This notion probably arises from the habit of interpreting the Old Testament by the New. The Satan mentioned in the Old Testament, is represented as God's minister of punishment, and as much his faithful servant as any of his angels. The prologue to the book of Job certainly supposes that this angel of punishment, by office, appeared in the court of Heaven, nay, he is ranked among "the Sons of God." This Satan is merely the supposed chief of those ministers of God's will, whose office is to execute his ordered commands upon the guilty, and who may be sometimes, as in the case of Job, the minister of probation only, rather than of punishment; and there is no reason why he should be ashamed of his office more than the General of an army, or the Judges of the criminal courts, who, though they are not unfrequently ministers of punishment are not, therefore, excluded the royal presence; but on the contrary, their office is considered as honourable;—i. e., punishment without malevolence, does not pollute the inflictor. Consider the story of the destruction of Sodom, Genesis xix.; of Egypt; Exodus xxii.; of Sennacherib, 1 Kings xxix. 35; also Joshua v. 13. The term Satan signifies an adversary, and is applied to any angel sent upon an errand of punishment For example, Numbers xxii. 23, "The Angel of the Lord stood in the way, for an adversary (literally, for a Satan) against Balaam, with his sword drawn in his hand." "Curse ye Meroz, saith the Angel of the Lord," whose office is to punish. So also Psalms xxxv. 5, "Let the Angel (of punishment) of the Lord chase them, (i. e., drive them before him in a military manner; pursue them:) let their way be dark and slippery, and the Angel of the Lord following them."
2 Samuel xxiv. 16:—"The Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel—the angel (of punishment) stretched forth his hand and smote the people."—1 Chronicles xxi. 16:—"David saw the angel (of punishment) having a drawn sword in his hand."
This notion is referred to, in the Apocryphal History of Susannah, verse 69. "The Angel of the Lord waiteth with his sword that he may cut thee in two."
Thus we see, that the term Satan is in the Old Testament applied to any Angel of the Lord sent upon an errand of punishment. And the term itself is so far from being reproachful (for David is said, 1 Samuel xxix. 4, to have been "a Satan to the Philistines,") that I am not sure, that if I had by me a Hebrew concordance, but I could point out places, where God himself is represented as saying, that he would be an adversary or a Satan to bad men and wicked nations. And though there is in the Old Testament a particular angel styled, by way of eminence, "The Satan," it is so far from being evident that he is an evil being, that I would undertake to give good reasons to prove that this distinguished angel is the real prototype, from whence the impostor Mahomet took the idea of his "Azrael," the "Angel of Death;" who, in the Koran, is certainly represented as being as much the faithful servant of God, as any of the Angelic Hosts.