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Veda, which appears to stand next in antiquity to the five books of Moses.
The sketch of antediluvian history, in which we find many dark passages, is followed by a narrative of a deluge, which destroyed the whole race of man except four pairs; an historical fact admitted as true by every nation to whose literature we have access, and particularly by the ancient Hindus, who have allotted an entire Purana to the detail of that event, which they relate, as usual, in symbols or allegories. I concur most heartily with those who insist, that, in proportion as any fact mentioned in history seems repugnant to the course of nature, or, in one word, miraculous, the stronger evidence is required to induce à rational belief of it; but we hear, without credulity, that cities have been overwhelmed by eruptions from burning mountains, and whole islands depopulated by earthquakes: if then we look at the firmament, sprinkled with innumerable stars; if we conclude by a fair analogy, that every star is a sun, attracting, like ours, a system of inhabited planets; and if our ardent fancy, soaring hand in hand with sound reason, waft us beyond the visible sphere into other regions of immensity, disclosing other celestial expanses, and other systems of suns and worlds, on all sides without number or end, we cannot but consider the submersion of our little spheroid, as an infinitely less event in respect of the immeasurable universe, than the destruction of a city or an isle in respect of this habitable globe.
Thus, on the preceding supposition, that the first eleven chapters of the book, which it is
thought proper to call Genesis, are merely a preface to the oldest civil history now extant, we see the truth of them confirmed by antecedent reasoning, and by evidence, in part highly probable, and in part certain but the connexion of the Mosaic history with that of the gospel, by a chain of sublime predictions, unquestionably ancient, and apparently fulfilled, must induce us to think the Hebrew narrative more than human in its origin, and consequently true in every substantial part of it, though possibly expressed in figurative language; as many learned and pious men have believed, and as the most pious may believe without injury, and perhaps with advantage, to the cause of revealed religion.
Sir William Jones.
DIFFICULTIES IN THE HISTORY OF THE OLD TES
TAMENT, NO ARGUMENT AGAINST ITS AUTHEN-
THE history of the Old Testament has, without
standing the scoffs and cavils of unbelievers, appears to me to have such internal evidences of its truth, to be so corroborated by the most ancient profane histories, so confirmed by the present circumstances of the world, that if I were not a Christian, I would become a Jew. I look upon it to be the oldest, the truest, the most comprehensive, and the most important history in the world. I consider it as giving more satisfactory proofs of the being and attributes of God, of the origin and end of human kind, than ever were attained by the deepest researches of the most enlightened philosophers. The exercise of our reason, in the investigation of truths respecting the nature of God, and the future expectations of human kind, is highly useful; but I hope I shall be pardoned by the metaphysicians in saying, that the chief utility of such disquisitions consists in this: that they bring us acquainted with the weakness of our intellectual faculties. I do not presume to measure other men by my standard you may have clearer notions than I am able to form of the infinity of space; of the eternity of duration; of necessary existence; of the connexion between necessary existence and intelligence; between intelligence and benevolence; you may see nothing in the universe but organized matter; or, rejecting a material, you may see nothing but an ideal world. With a mind weary of conjecture, fatigued by doubt, sick of disputation, eager for knowledge, anxious for certainty, and unable to attain it by the best use of my reason in matters of the utmost importance, I have long ago turned my thoughts to an impartial examination of the proofs on which revealed religion is
grounded, and I am convinced of its truth. This examination is a subject within the reach of human capacity: you* have come to one conclusion respecting it, I have come to another; both of us cannot be right: may God forgive him that is in an errour! Bp. Watson.
CONNEXION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WITH THE NEW, IN THE PROPHECY OF THE MESSIAH. THE books of the Old Testament open with the earliest accounts of time, earlier than any human records reach; and yet, in many instances, they are strengthened by human records. The heathen mythology is often grounded upon remnants of the sacred story, and many of the Bible events are recorded, however imperfectly, in profane history. The very face of nature bears witness to the deluge.
In the history of the patriarchs is exhibited a most beautiful picture of the simplicity of ancient manners, and of genuine nature, unadorned indeed by science, but impressed strongly with a sense of religion. This gives an air of greatness and dignity to all the sentiments and actions of these exalted characters.
The patriarchal history is followed by the Jewish. Here we have the principal events of that peculiar nation, which lived under a theocracy, and was set apart to preserve and propagate the
*The person addressed here is the celebrated Thomas Paine. Editor.
knowledge of the true God through those ages of ignorance antecedent to Christ. Here too we find those types, and representations, which the apostle to the Hebrews calls the shadows of good things
To those books, which contain the legislation and history of the Jews, succeed the prophetic writings. As the time of the promise drew still nearer, the notices of its approach became stronger. The kingdom of the Messiah, which was but obscurely shadowed by the ceremonies of the Jewish law, was marked in stronger lines by the prophets, and proclaimed in a more intelligible language. The office of the Messiah, his ministry, his life, his actions, his death, and his resurrection, are all very distinctly held out. The marks are peculiar, and can neither be mistaken nor misapplied: He was to be born of a virgin-he was to turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just-though dignified with the characters of a prince, he was to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief-though described to be without sin, he was to be numbered with transgressors—his hands and his feet were to be pierced
he was to be made an offering for sin-and was never to see corruption.' These prophecies were published many hundred years before the birth of Christ; and had been all along in the hands, not only of the Jews, but of all men of letters. The Old Testament had been early translated into the Greek language; and received into the politest libraries of those times.
With these ideas, let us open the New Testament, and it is obvious that no picture can be