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Now Ezekiel has declared (and I have reconciled that declaration to the Law and the Prophets) that this mode of punishment hath been long abolished.
P. 174. [LL] Having thus reconciled the two Prophets, Moses and Ezekiel, on this point, one may be allowed to wonder a little at the want of good faith even in M. Voltaire, when it comes to a certain extreme.
This celebrated Poet has, like an honest man, written in defence of RELIGIOUS TOLERATION: and to inforce his argument, has endeavoured (not indeed like a wise one, who should weigh his subject before he undertakes it) to prove, that all Religions in the world, but the Christian, have tolerated diversities of opinion. This common weakness of rounding one's System, for the support of a plain Right which requires no such finishing, hath led him into two of the strangest paradoxes that ever disgraced common sense.
The one, that the Pagan Emperors did not persecute the Christian Faith: The other, that the Jewish Magistrate did not punish for Idolatry.
In support of the first, his bad faith is most conspicuous; in support of the latter, his bad logic.
If there be one truth in Antiquity better established than another, it is this, That the Pagan Emperors did persecute the Christians, for their faith only; establish ed, I say, both by the complaints of the Persecuted, and the acknowledgement of their Persecutors. But this being proved at large in the preface to this very Volume *, it is enough to refer the Reader thither.
The other Paradox is much more pleasantly supported. He proves that the Mosaic Law did not denounce punishment on religious errors (though in direct words, it does so), nor did the Jewish Magistrate execute it (though we have several instances of the infliction recorded in their history). And what is the convincing argument he employs? It is this, The
*See Preface to Books IV. V. VI. edit. 1758. Vol. IV. p. 35. of this Edition.-Ed.
frequent defections of the Jewish People into Idolatry, in the early times of their apostasies. An argument hardly so good as this, -The Church of Rome did not persecute, as appears from that general defection from it, in the sixteenth Century. I say, M. Voltaire's argument is hardly so good as my illustration of it, since the defection from the Church of Rome still continues, and the Jewish defections into Idolatries. were soon at an end.
But we are not to think, this Paradox was advanced for nothing, that is, for the sake of its own singular boldness (a motive generally sufficient to set reason at defiance), nor even for the support of his general question. It was apparently advanced to get the easier at his darling subject, THE ABUSE OF THE MOSAIC RELIGION, that Marotte of our partycoloured Philosopher.--Take this instance, which is all that a cursory note will be able to afford.
M. Voltaire, speaking of the rewards and punishments of the Jewish Dispensation, expresses himself in this manner: "Tout etait temporel; et c'est la preuve que le savant Evêque Warburton apporte pour démontrer que la Loi des Juifs, était divine; parce que Dieu même étant leur Roi, rendant justice immédiatement aupres la transgression ou l'obéissance, n'avoit pas besoin de leur révéler une Doctrine qu'il réservait au tems, ou'il ne governerait plus son peuple. Ceux qui par ignorance prétendent que Moyse enseig nait l'immortalité de l'ame, ôtent au Nouveau Testament un de ses plus grands avantages sur l'ancien." p. 132. -Would not any one now believe (who did not know M. Voltaire) that he quoted this argument as what he thought a good one, for the divinity of the Mosaic Religion? Nothing like it. It was only to find occasion to accuse the Old Testament of contradiction. For thus he goes on,-" Cependant malgré l'énoncé précis de cette Loi, malgré cette declaration expresse de Dieu, qu'il punirait jusqu'à la quatriéme génération;
génération; Ezechiel annonce TOUT LE CONTRAIRE aux Juifs, et leur dit, que le Fils ne portera point l'iniquité de son pere: il va même jusqu'à faire dire a Dieu, qu'il leur avait donné des preceptes qui n'etaient pas bons." p. 133.
As for the precepts which were not good, the Reader will see that matter explained at large, as we go along. What I have to do with M. Voltaire at present, is to expostulate with him for his ill faith; that when he had borrowed my argument for the divinity of the Mosaic Mission from that mode of punishment, he would venture to invalidate it from an apparent contradiction between MOSES and EZEKIEL; when, in that very place of the Divine Legation which he refers to, he saw the two Prophets reconciled by an argument drawn from the true natures of two approximating Dispensations; an argument which not only removes the pretended contradiction (first insisted on by Spinosa, and, through many a dirty channel, derived, at length, to M. Voltaire), but likewise supports that supports that very mark of divinity which I contend for.
But it is too late in the day to call in question thẹ Religion or the good faith of this truly ingenious man. What I want, in this Discourse sur la Tolérance, is his CIVIL PRUDENCE. As an ANNALIST, he might, in his General History, calumniate the Jewish People just as his passions or his caprice inclined him: But when he had assumed the character of a DIVINE, to recommend Toleration to a Christian State, could he think to succeed by abusing Revelation? He seems indeed, to have set out under a sense of the necessity of a different conduct: But coming to his darling subject an abuse of the Jews, he could not, for his life, sustain the personage he had assumed, but breaks out again into all the virulence and injustice with which he persecuted this unhappy People in his General History; and of which the Reader will see a fair account, in this volume, p. 6, et. seq.
P. 175. [MM] This is the precise character of the writings of the Old Testament. And this state of them (to observe it only by the way) is more than a thousand answers to the wild suspicions of those writers, who fancy that the Jews, since Christ, have corrupted their sacred Scriptures, to support their superstitions against the Gospel; and amongst other erasements have struck out the Doctrine of life and immortality; which, say these Visionaries, was, till then, as plaiuly taught in the Old as in the New Testament: For had these supposed Impostors ever ventured on so bold a fraud as the adulterating their sacred Writings, we may be well assured their first attempt would have been to add the doctrine of a future state, had they not found it there, rather than to take it away if they had: since the omission of the doctrine is the strongest and most glaring evidence of the imperfection of the Law; and the insertion of it would have best supported what they now hold to be one of the most fundamental points of their Religion. -But this is not a folly of yesterday. Irenæus tells us that certain ancient Heretics supported their wild fancies against Scripture, which was against them, by the same extravagant suspicion, that it had been interpolated and corrupted. Notwithstanding, I am far from thinking these Moderns borrowed it from them. They found it in our common Nature, which always goes the nearest way to work, to relieve itself.
P. 176. [NN] We shall now understand the importance of a remark, which the late Translator of Josephus employs to prove the genuineness of a fragment or homily, given by him to that Historian: "There is one particular observation (says he)
belonging to the contents of this fragment or homily, "that seems to me to be DECRETORY, and to deter"mine the question that some of this Jewish church, "that used the Hebrew copy of the Old Testament, nay rather, that Josephus himself in particular was
"the author of it. The observation is this, that in "the present address to the Greeks or Gentiles there "are near forty references or allusions to texts of the "New Testament; AND NOT ONE, TO ANY OF THE "OLD TESTAMENT either in Hebrew or Greek;
and this in a discourse concerning HADES; which "vet is almost five times as often mentioned in the "Old Testament as in the New. What can be the "reason of this? But that the Jewish Church at "Jerusalem used the Hebrew Bible alone, which those "Greeks or Gentiles, to whom the address is here "made, could not understand; and that our Josephus "always and only used the same Hebrew Bible?" Mr. Whiston's Dissert. prefixed to his Transl. of Josephus, p. 105.--What can be the reason (says he) of this mystery? He unfolds it thus: The Jewish Church of Jerusalem used the Hebrew Bible alone, which those Greeks or Gentiles, to whom the address is here made, could not understand. So that because the Audience did not understand Hebrew, the Preacher could not quote the texts, he had occasion for, in Greek. But he supposes the Author could not quote the Greek, because it must needs have been that of the Septuagint; which the Jewish Church at Jerusalem would not use. Now admit there were no other Greek to be had, or allowed of, Can any man believe that if this Jewish Preacher 'would turn himself to the Gentiles, he could be such a bigot as to be afraid of quoting the Old Testament in a language they understood, because his Church used only the Original, which they understood not? Or if he had been such a bigot, Would he have dared to preach to the Gentiles at all? What then but the 'fondness for an hypothesis could make men ramble after such reasons, when so obvious an one lies just before them? Why did he this, do you ask? For this plain reason: His subject was a future state of reward and punishment, and he had more sense than to seek for it where it was not to be found. O, but HADES is almost five