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of the Jews who existed before it was made known, it appears to me evident that the Lord God had not been pleased to grant them the intelligence of the Old; and from the system that was framed by those who were converted, having retained a part of their previous notions,* I am equally confident that it has not been the will of God to give them a correct understanding of the New. I believe that their religious system, not being founded on the right intelligence of the Bible, was not, and could not, be true. Should you inquire seriously into it, as you cannot depend upon such an opinion as mine ; and should your meditations on the Scripture, bring you to the conclusion that not a word of it, as I do think, ought to be taken in the common literal sense, then I suppose the Jewish and Christian systems, now in vogue, will seem to you, some how or other, mistaken and false.t In
The same as they had given up the practice of eating but unleavened bread, and had ceased to see any harm in eating pork, when they learnt from the Gospel, that hypocrisy is the leaven from which one ought to beware, (Luke, 12. 1,) and that the soul is not defiled by that which goeth into the mouth, (Matt. 15. 17,) so I believe they ought to have parted with all the literal notions of their ancestors, respecting the Old Testament, and to have sought for its hidden and real meaning. Let me add, that I imagine that the mouth in verse 17, and the heart in 19, ought not to be taken in the natural sense.
+ Since I wrote the greatest part of this extract, I have met with the Bible that was published in London, in 1780, by a reverend gentleman and others, with notes and commentaries having for object, as they say in the preface “ to reconcile the Sacred Records with the “ events that took place in the heathen world, and to confute the “ deistical objections (unknown to me), which (according to them), “ lay upon the following points : namely that the Scripture History " did not in the least accord with that of the heathen ; which, as the searching for one that would agree better with the spirit of the Holy Writings, one that by entering into it might
“ deists say, appears plainly from the Scripture accounts disagreeing « with ancient geography and chronology."
From what the editors say in their notes, I am inclined to believe that neither the Egyptian historians, nor any others among their neighbours, have made any mention of Pharaoh, of Moses, of the ten plagues inflicted by him or rather by the power of God acting through him, on Egypt; of the Israelites being led out of it under his command ; of their miraculous passage through the Red Sea ; and of the destruction in it of any of the kings of Egypt with the whole of his army : as it is recorded of Pharaoh and his host in the Sacred History. I suppose that on finding the total silence of the Egyptian writers on so considerable events, most deserving to be transmitted to posterity, far more than many which they have related : for which the editors account no otherwise than in saying that “ in a period of “ such remote antiquity, many events must have happened, even of “ the most extraordinary nature, which have been buried in oblivion “ by the course of time." I suppose, I say, that some persons would have been so astonished at no historian of those times having spoken of those strange occurrences, that they would have considered it as quite impossible to reconcile Sacred with civil history; would have given up such an attempt, which I should deem injurious to the high reverence that men ought to have for the Scripture, as it tends to bring it down, in part, to a tradition or a vulgar history; and would have been led to conclude that, since those marvellous circumstances had not, to all probability, occurred in our Egypt, that which is spoken of in the Holy Writings, and in which they happen most undoubtedly, must be different from the outward Egypt, and must belong to another earth, as yet unknown to us. The editors I am alluding to did not take the silence of ancient writers in so conclusive a manner, as I do, against the literal system of the Jews, which seems to me to be nipped in the bud by it; and as they were absolutely in want of a visible Pharaoh to support it, they have imagined, in full spite of civil history, that Amenophis, the illustrious Sesostris's father, who reigned in Egypt at the time that they supposed that the Scripture Pharaoh must have
easily admit all their contents (which I am persuaded none of the old ones do, neither any of the new ones that are followed by some sectarians, each seeming to me to reject what does not fully accord with its notions), perhaps it will occur to you that it is possible that, instead of being a history of events that have happened on this earth, they are either a relation of what has passed elsewhere, in a previous state or world ; or a prophecy, as I have been told, of things to come, I mean of future
existed, according to the custom of taking the philosophical and mental years in the Bible for vulgar ones ; that Amenophis, I say, was the Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea: which they mention in several places, but without supporting their assertion by any proof. Then, having a Pharaoh of their own contrivance, they have followed up their original plan, the best they could, helping themselves, now and then, with other suppositions, with the fables of Josephus and of mistaken Jewish writers, no more true than him; and also with the opinions of learned moderns, who, having been told in their youth that the Sacred Books spoke of this earth and of the same vulgar things as the profane, did believe it, seemingly without inquiring whether it was true or not: or who, having perceived the imperfection of the existing systems, and not knowing a better one to present their countrymen with, have thought that it would be more advantageous for them to let them continue in their old notions, than to subvert them by shewing their inconsistency and their discordance with the Scripture: the effect of which might have been to put their souls into a kind of waste, howling wilderness, into a dreadful state of emptiness, dissatisfaction, and unbelief. I think the publishers of the Bible which I have quoted would have run no risk of weakening the faith in their own religious system, if, instead of exposing unwillingly the nakedness of the Jewish, by undertaking to reconcile Sacred with civil history, they had confined themselves to giving at the end of every chapter, good moral and practical instructions, as they have endeavoured to do, from a sincere desire, which they profess in their preface, to serve the cause of piety and virtue.
circumstances among us and within us : perhaps both, if what is to come should be, by the Supreme Will, only a representation of the past, testifying the truth that there is no new thing under the sun.
In arranging their new system, the early converts in their simplicity and unenlightened zeal, may bave thought themselves bound to take literally the words of the Gospel, and to consider as past what is written in the past tense. I apprehend it did not strike them that in the two Testaments there are many prophecies* that are written in the past tense, and also in the present, though foretelling things to come; from which, if
Psalm 2. 7. Thou art my son; this day I have begotten thee. The
Acts, 13. 33.—Heb. 1. 5.-5.5. 8. 2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou
ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
Matt. 21. 16. 6. Thou hast put all things under his feet. Acts, 2.
35.-1 Cor. 15. 25.-Heb. 1. 13. 16. 8. I have set the Lord always before me. Acts,
2. 25. 19. 4. Their line is gone throughout all the earth, and their
words to the end of the world. Rom, 10. 18. 22. 1. My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me!
Matt. 27. 46.–Mark, 15. 34. 18. They part my garments among them; and cast lots
upon my vesture. Matt. 27. 35. 25. 19. And they hate me with cruel hatred. John, 15.
25. 31. 5. Into thine hand I commit my spirit. Luke, 23. 46. 40. 6. Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required.
Heb. 10.6. 41. 9. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted,
which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. John, 13. 18.
Psalm 44. 22. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are
counted as sheep for the slaughter. Rom. 8. 36. 68. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity
captive: thou hast received gifts from men. Eph.
4. 8. 69. 9. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, (Jobn,
2. 17.) and the reproaches of them that reproached
thee are fallen upon me. Rom. 15. 3. 21. And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
John, 19. 29. 118. 22. The stone which the builders refused is become the
headstone of the corner. Matt. 21. 42–Mark,
12. 10. Isaiah, 8. 18. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given
me. Heb. 2. 13. 9. 2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great
light. Matt. 4. 16. 21. 9. Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Rev. 14. 8. 28. 16. Bebold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried
stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation,
Rom. 9. 33.-1 Pet. 2, 26. 29. 13. For as much as this people draw near me with their
mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart from me. Matt. 15. 8.–Mark,
7. 6. 42. 1. Behold, my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect in
whom my soul delighteth ; I have put my spirit
upon him. Matt. 12. 18. 49. 8. In an acceptable time have I heard thee; and in the
day of salvation have I helped thee. 2 Cor. 6. 2. 50. 6. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheek to them
that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from
shame and spitting. Matt. 26. 67.
3. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows,