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°rthodox interpretations of them. It is, of course, impossible that we should, in compliment to this new assailant, fight all the battles in which the advocates of religion have fought and triumphed a thousand times. Replies to this author may be found in almost every reply to Tom Paine. We shall content ourselves with merely stating the nature of his attacks, and giving our readers a few pages of the sensible observations of Mr. D'Oyly in reply to his adversary. There are then, we think, three points on which the author is chiefly culpable:—First, he imputes to the orthodox interpretations of Scripture which they never employ. Secondly, he himself discovers in the Jewish Scriptures certain defects, not recognized by any of the best critics of any age or country. Thirdly, he states his objections to the Scriptures, or the accredited interpretation of them, in a style of the grossest indecorum and levity. As to these charges, let our readers take some examples.—Christians, then, are represented as believing that the God of the Hebrews was a mere “ local and material god, who dwelt in a box made of shittim wood, in the temple of Jerusalem” (Pref. p. 7); as “having human passions, and those none of the best; as a quarrelsome, jealous, vindictive God; as continually changing his plans for the government of the world.” Again, “ they’’ (the Christian readers of the Old Testament), “find it quite simple that the Triune Jehovah should dine on veal cutlets at Abraham's table; ” and “are not at all surprised, that the God of the universe should pay a visit to Ezekiel, in order to settle with the prophet, whether he should bake his bread with human dung or cow dung.” But we really cannot consent to soil our paper with any more such ribaldry as this. In these several instances, it will at once be perceived, that this universal sceptist attributes to Christian interpreters expositions which
they do not avow ; that he clothes all accredited opinions in the most absurd dress; that, on the whole, the Jewish Scriptures enjoy no sort of homage from him, but rather provoke his ridicule and indignation. Now, we will say nothing of the dishonesty of charging men with opinions they do not hold, nor of the indecorum of grossly insulting the religion of fifteen millions of his fellow-subjects; but we cannot help calling his attention, as the means most likely to impress him, to the estimation in which these Scriptures have been held by men of undisputed liberality and genius. Longinus represents the lawgiver of the Jews “as no ordinary man.” Tacitus, speaking of the faith of the Jews, as derived from the Scriptures, says; “The Egyptians venerate various animals, as well as likenesses of monsters. The Jews acknowledge, and that with the mind only, a single Deity. They account those to be profane who form images of God, of perishable materials, in the likeness of man. Theirs is the one supreme eternal God, unchangeable, immortal. They therefore suffer no statues in their cities*.” Locke, whose bigotry in church or state will not be supposed to have fettered his judgment upon this or any other topic, has pronounced the Scriptures to have God for their author; eternity (not the calendar) for their object; and truth, without any mixture of error, for their subject matter. The testimonies of Boyle, Bacon, and Pascal, to the Jewish Scriptures, are in every one's hand. That of Sir William Jones is equally motorious, where he declares that “ the Scriptures + contain, independently of their divine original, more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass from all other books that were ever
* Tacit. Hist, lib. v. 5. t Anniversary Discourse.
composed in any age, or in any idiom.” Milton also has a right to be heard, in opposition to the critic who condemns the Scriptures as too mean a vehicle for religious truth, and consigns them to the same function with Moore's Almanack. “If occasion *,” says he, “ shall lead to imitate those magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy, some others, in their frame judicious, in their matter most, and end faulty; but those frequent songs throughout the law and the prophets beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear, over all the kinds of lyric poetry, to be incomparable.” Rollin, speaking of one of those portraits of the Deity at which the sneers of Sir William Drummond are pointed, says, it “ surpasses the most beautiful descriptions which the heathens have transmitted to us in this wayf.” It would be easy to multiply quotations—to call up the mighty dead of almost every age and clime, to bear witness to the majesty and splendour of these writings. But Sir William is as much more familiar with testimonies of this kind, as his reading is greater than our own. He could stretch out his wand, and instead of the cloud with which he has been here endeavouring to quench the splendour of these compositions, could summon authorities from every point of the compass to “ rise up and call them glorious.” Under such circumstances, is he never induced to pause, and ask himself, why he holds them in such inferior regard? That eye must be diseased which sees every object in a distorted shape; and what must be the state of the mind which reverses all the decrees of the good and great, and calls that bad which God and the noblest of his creatures pronounce to be “very good?” There are several distinct replies * Reason of Church Government. † Belles Lettres, lib. iii. 3.
made by Mr. D'Oyly to specific charges of Sir William, which we think highly creditable to him. To give our readers a specimen of his manner, as well as to shew them the pleasant picture of a discomfited philosopher, we shall subjoin a few extracts from this little work. The objections have been so often advanced, that Mr. Drummond could not but find some of the answers also ready made to his hand: but, whether original or not, they are used sensibly and unambitiously, and shew the man, we think, anxious rather to defend his cause than to display himself. He is content to fight the battle, without announcing that he forged the weapon. Some of the matter, however, We really think original. In the ancient tournaments, the combatants never, we believe, proclaimed their own titles;
‘and we are not sorry to be the he
ralds of Mr. D'Oyly on this occasion.
“To come,” says Mr. D'Oyly, “to your particular examples. You tell us that the Supreme Being is depicted as a material and local god, who dwelt in a box made of shittim wood in the temple of Jerusalem:" in regard to which, you add, “ Christian readers abide by the literal interpretation.” In justice to you, Sir, I am willing to hope that you never read a syllable of what Christians do think on the subject. If you are acquainted with their opinions, and still assert that they believe the Deity to have been a local and material god, I see not how you can escape from the charge of wilful misrepresentation. lf, as perhaps is the case you merely make a random conjecture at their opinions, I put it to your candour to say, whether you do them not great injustice, in pretending to state their opinions without first inquiring what they really are.
“Know then, Sir, that Christians do not believe what you impute to them. What they do believe is this; that the Supreme Being was pleased to visit a particular spot in the Jewish temple, with a visible symbol of his presence; not, as you insinuate, that he resided locally in it, as a material being would do, and that his presence was there confined. They apprehend there is nothing inconsistent with the most exalted notions of the Deity in the belief, that he, whose immaterial assence fills universal
$pace, and swells through all immensity, did, in the times of which the Hebrew Scriptures bear record, for the purpose of carrying on important dispensations of his providence, occasionally hold sensible communication with human beings, and signalize his immediate presence by perceptible manifestations.
“Christians, Sir, derive this belief from what appears to them the literal and obvious interpretation of their Scriptures. If any among them think differently, I am sure they must have imbibed their notions of scriptural truth from some such persons as yourself, and they can never have searched their Bible for themselves. If they were to take the trouble of so doing, they would fiud, that at the very time of the dedication of that temple in which, according to you, the Deity was thought to reside as a local and material god, at that very time king Soloman used expressions in his public prayer which nobly bespeak his juster apprehension, and even show him to have been anxious to preclude all possibility of error in the minds of the people. Standing before the altar, he spread forth his hands ‘towards heaven, and began, ' Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or in earth beneath.’ He frequently, in the course of the prayer, repeats the words, • Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place;’ and in one part of it, addresses the Deity in these sublime terms; ' Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded.’” p. 28.
“They,” the Christian readers of the Old Testament, “find it quite simple that the Triune Jehovah should dine on veal cutlets at Abraham's table.” I turn to my Bible, and find you refering to the passage (Gen. xviii. 1, &c.) in which Abraham receives a preternatural intimation that a son should be born to him. The relation begins by saying, that ‘ the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre.' . It proceeds : “he sate in the tent door, and lo! three men stood by him; and he ran to meet them from the tent door; and he ran into the herd and setched a calf, and hasted to dress it; and he stood by them, and they did eat.” Since it is expressed at the beginning of the account, that the Lord appeared unto Abraham; and in the subsequent parts, the Lord said unto Abraham; you insinuate that Christians believe the Supreme Jehovah to have actually come to Abraham in a human form, to have sate at table familiarly with him, and to have partaken of the calf which he dressed.
“Really, Sir, it is astonishing you should have hazarded such an assertion, when, at the head of the chapter, in our authorised English translation, you might have read “Abraham entertaineth three angels: a complete proof that, by the English readers at least, the passage is understood to speak, not of Jehovah himself appearing, but of angels or messengers commissioned by him: and almost every commentator, whom you could have consulted, would have taught you to understand it precisely in the same manner. I admit, the expression runs in some parts of the narrative, as if the Lord were present in person, and spoke with Abraham. But you cannot be ignorant, how common a form of language it is, to say, that a person does himself what he commissions another to do. Such a form is extremely common in Scripture: I will call your attention to one instance, which is precisely in point. If you turn to Ex. iii. 2. you will find it expressed, the “angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a bush: but the account goes on (ver. 4.) “The Lord saw that he turned aside,’ ‘the Lord said, I am the God of thy fathers,’ &c. Here most clearly, the Lord is said to have spokeu himself, when an angel appeared and spoke in his name. The case is completely similar. in the passage which we have been considering. This passage has been always held, with very few exceptions, to treat of three angels: it is decidedly understood so to speak in our English translation: and it must indeed be matter of regret that you should have made, in such terms, a very unwarrantable assertion of what Christians do believe respecting it.” p. 40, &c.
“I find you frequently objecting in tone of ridicule, to the colloquial style which the Supreme Being is sometimes described as assuming in the Scriptures, and to the minuteness of detail into which he occasionally enters. You bring forward several passages which are likely to present your objection in its fullest force to your reader's mind. Without discussing these particularly, I most readily allow, that the Deity is described in the Old Testauent, to have instituted among his peculiar people a ceremonial law, the details of which are prescribed with great minuteness and precision. The question is, whether it is necessarily irreconcileable with our notions of the great Lord of the universe, that he should enter into these minute details. In opposition to what you insinuate, I maintain that it is not; and I maintain it on the ground, that he does enter into details similarly minute, both in framing the works of his hand, and in conducting the plans of his providence. The great Lord of the universe, as religion both natural and revealed teaches us, formed at the first, and preserves continually, every the most insignificant and ignoble part of every animal and vegetable: he turns also to the purposes of his providence many of the most trivial accidents and events of human life. Thus, to interfere minutely, in apparently trivial concerns, is not inconfistent with the dignity of so great a Being. But you are prepared to say, there is an essential difference: in the one case he interferes silently and insensibly; in the other case, he is described to have interfered sensibly and openly. An essential difference there is, I admit, as to the method of the interference: but a complete resemblance, as far as regards the question of such minute interference being compatible or not, with the Divine dignity. Once allow, that his dignity does admit of attention to minute details in the exercise of his ordinary providence, and you need not hesitate to allow, that, when he exercised an extraordinary providence, his dignity may equally have admitted of condescension to details similarly minute and seemingly trivial. You merely trifle with the understandings of your readers, when you tell them the Deity is introduced conversing about pans and shovels, the fat of a ram, &c. As well might you burlesque the doctrine of his being the universal Creator, by saying he is introduced as busying himself about the foot of a flea ; and that of his providence, by sneering at the undignified notion of his observing the position of a pin or a hair. To prescribe particular com
- mands on matters of minute detail, was a
necessary part of a ceremonial law. If then it was consistent with the high dignity of Jehovah to insinuate a ceremonial law at all, it was also consistent with it to descend into that minuteness of detail on which you exercise your ridicule, and in which you find a foundation for your cavils." p. 46, &c.
Such are some of the satisfactory replies of the Christian Advocate to Sir W. Drummond; and we unfeignedly hope, that the latter gentleman will weigh them as he ought. His assertion that the Jewish Scriptures present a degraded portrait of the Deity, is striking only from its novelty and its hardihood. Does he remember that the Jewish Scriptures alone taught the great truth of the unity of the Godhead; that if this sublime doctrine flashed occasionally in the writings of the philoso
phers, it never really dawned, and rose to set no more, but upon the horizon of Judea o Does he remember also, that the doctrine of a future state is the exclusive property of the Old Testament; that if philosophy sometimes dreamt of another state of being, the Scriptures alone embodied the idea, and alone erected the hopes and fears of suturity into a principle of action * Does he remember, moreover, that the Jewish Scriptures alone revealed the qualities of grace or mercy in the character of God; alone, therefore, presented the Divine Being as an object of love;—that whilst heathenism displayed merely the dark side of the pillar, Moses displayed that brighter face, the sun of the desert, the guide and comforter of the people of God? Does Sir William finally remember, that the Jewish Scriptures alone revealed that summum bonum, that chief good, about which philosophers disputed, and on which they had almost as many systems as men ;—that whilst conflicting sages placed it, some in a brutal indulgence of passion, and the rest in an impossible extinction of it; some in unattainable knowledge, and some in universal doubt; the Bible alone proclaimed God to be the supreme good of his people; dethroned the creature, to enthrone the Creator; taught the world that virtue was likeness to God, duty obedience to God, and happiness union to God, now and for ever ? Was this any small deserving? Will the man who celebrates, with strains of self-gratulation, in huge quartos of hot-pressed paper, the resurrection of a pipkin from a subterranean city, or the fancied developement of the Phoenician radicals of some word which nobody knows, contemplate this discovery without admiration or gratitude As dogs which hunt for truffles, whether so employed or not, generally keep their noses to the ground, so is it with these minute, under-ground philosophers: they hunt and scratch for words, till they despise things; and prate about heathen gods, till they forget there is a real God in the universe. But we come now to notice, though very briefly, the main body of Sir William’s work ; that romantic disquisition, in which a grown man gravely contends that what has been called a history of the Jews is, in fact, a history of the reform of the calendar ! We think it right to inform our unlearned readers, if such there be, that the calendar, or distribution of time into years, months, days, &c. was not the work of a day, or of an individual; that Romulus, imagining the sun to perform his journey in 304 days, appointed the year to be of the same length; that Numa extended it to 355 days; that Julius Caesar, by the assistance of the astronomer Sosigenes, stretched it to the dimensions of 365 days, adding such intercalary days as appeared to him necessary to fill up the few additional hours which the sun spends upon his annual journey; that in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII. finding either the sun a little out of his place, or the astronomers out in their calculations, proceeded to such rectification of the calendar as satisfies the merchants upon 'change, over the whole of Europe. Now it is the adjustment of the calendar which Sir William determines to be typified by the Jewish Scriptures. Joshua is “the type of the sun in the sign of the Ram ;” the “Passover was instituted in memorial of the transit of the equinoctial sun, from the sign of the Bull to that of the Ram or Lamb,” &c. &c. &c. To dispute such an hypothesis would really be an insult to our readers. It is enough to say, that where a writer proposes to divest words of their natural and give them an allegorical meaning, the onus probandi lies upon him. We have a right to interpret them literally, till an insuperable objection to such interpretation be advanced, and a rational scheme of allegorical interpretation produced. Now we have already given enough of Sir William's reasoning upon this point, to determine its value; but lest our
readers should mistake the process, we will state it in a few words. He takes, for example, the name of a city; breaks it into morsels; changes letters, and places of letters, to suit his purpose; traces them up, directly or indirectly, to radicals which have some relation to astronomy; and then jumps at once to the inference, that this supposed name of a city is, in fact, the name of a star. Let us suppose a case. We find the name of Pallas in the ancient writers, and, because they universally say so, rashly believe her to be a goddess worshipped by the heathens. But how false is the conclusion | Is there. not a planet called Pallas This supposed name of a goddess, therefore, is the name of a star, and Pallas had no existence but in the eye of an astronomer. Such, we assure our readers, is the real character of Sir William Drummond’s reasoning; though we state it with delicacy, fearing the steps which the next of kin may think proper to take with him. There is, however, something to be added upon this subject. Mr. D'Oyly has very truly informed us, that this scheme of interpretation, so slily slipped by Sir William into the hands of his friends, as a snug discovery of his own, as some rare fruit gathered from the orchards of Herculaneum, or relic from the mausoleums of Pompeii, is by no means original. Let us go into a brief history of this, which is just hinted by Mr. D'Oyly. The scheme of allegorical interpretation revived, after its first birth and death with Origen, we believe with our countryman Collins, who, however, confined it mainly to the prohecies. For a time it took, like ow carriages or square-toed shoes, among the wits and belles of the day; and a man could scarcely blow his nose without typifying the rise or ruin of the commonwealth. Every thing was transformed into the bistory of every thing but what it really was ; as if we were to suppose the Newgate Calendar a history of