Imatges de pÓgina

use the third person instead of the first. It would be the only proper method for him to adopt, unless it were his intention to deceive mankind by the publication of a spurious history, or his design to construct a romance on the plan of an autobiography.

If the translator, transcriber, or whatever else we may style him, were educated to admire Moses; if all tradition had taught him to revere that distinguished civil and ecclesiastical leader, as the greatest personification of human excellency, he would be inclined to say of him, with the most perfect sincerity, that he "was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." And in writing, for preservation, a history of Moses' career, he would as a matter of course, record all that was known concerning his death. The death of a great man, is an event generally noticed with more or less of pomp and ceremony. It appears that when the last chapter of Deuteronomy was written, but little was known concerning the death of Moses-absolutely nothing concerning the exact locality of his burialplace. The historian's language is "No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." We should not say this of a man who died last week, or last year, or ten, twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years ago,-especially if he had been a great man, a leader of the nation, and the wonder of his age! His grave would be a Meccamarked by some significant designation, and visited, the year round, by adoring pilgrims from every quarter! The very phraseology, "No man knoweth of his sepul

chre unto this day," implies that the burial was an event long past at the time the book of Deuteronomy was written.

I deem it a highly plausible supposition, that the account of Moses' death was written by EZRA,-he having gathered the material statements from tradition and fragmentary records.*

THE Pentateuch is characterized by considerable strength and beauty, as respects the style of its literary composition; and it contains much important truth, expressed through metaphor, and in direct, tangible precept. But many of its teachings, if considered authoritative, as they are generally construed, are stumbling blocks in the way of human improvement-clogs to the advancement of scientific truth-serious obstacles

"In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, Ezra obtained of the king and his seven counsellors, an ample commission, empowering him to return to Jerusalem with all such Jews as would follow him thither, in order to re-establish the Jewish government and religion, and to regulate both agreeably to their own laws. Ezra was descended from Saraia, who was high priest of Jerusalem, at the time when it was destroyed by Nabuchodonosor, and was put to death by his command. Ezra was a very learned and pious man, and was chiefly distinguished from the rest of the Jews, by his great knowledge in the Scriptures; on account of which it is said of him, That he was very ready in the law of Moses that was given by the God af Israel. When Ezra was in power, as his chief view was to restore religion to its ancient purity, he arranged the books of Scripture in their proper order, revised them all very carefully, and collected the ancient documents relating to the people of God, in order to compose out of them the two books of Chronicles, to which he added the history of his own times, which was finished by Nehemiah. With their books ends the long history which Moses had begun, and which the writers who came after him continued in a regular series, till the repairing of Jerusalem. The rest of the sacred history is not written in that uninterrupted order. Whilst Ezra and Nehemiah were compiling the latter part of that great work, Herodotus, whom profane authors call the father of history, began to write."-Rollin's Ancient History, book vii. chap. i, section 6.

in the path which, but for the obstructions they present, would lead to a higher and better social state among mankind. These hindrances to the acceleration of progressive human welfare, should be removed as speedily as possible: Involuntary servitude, the subjection of an intellectual and moral being to the will and caprice of another, who ranks him with goods and chattels; the deliberate violation of human life by process of law, and its direful waste in battle ;-these infernal practices, as well as some degrading superstitions, are sought to be defended by a direct appeal to the books containing a record of the Mosaic code and a history of the customs and social regulations of the patriarchs in olden time. Now perhaps the most summarily effective method we can adopt for disarming the foes of progress of some of their most potent weapons, which they brandish in terrorem over the heads of the many, will be, by employing as skilfully as we may the pencil of impartial investigation, to bring forth in prominent relief from the delusive back-ground of historical vagueness and superstitious sanctity, the true form and features of that imaginary Canonical Despot-that fancied Vicegerent of Godthrough whose lips dimly traced upon the shadowy canvass, came apparently that voice of assumed authority which overawed us in spite of our reason;-which voice was but the utterance of a mortal man, like ourselves, who stood behind the curtain! Then shall we no longer tremble at the commanding word spoken through the fancied oracle: no longer shall the mystic frown upon

the face of the painted image, deter our race from advancing to the enjoyment of freedom and blessedness now hidden by the intercepting screen of mis-named Authority.

A passage in the book of Genesis, forming a part of the covenant said to have been made between the Almighty and Noah, long before the enactment of the civil and religious code taught and enforced by Moses, is pertinaciously adhered to, even now, by clergymen of some literary eminence, as a divinely authoritative sanction of the barbarous custom of inflicting death as a penalty for crime. How absurd is this course made to appear, by the view which we have taken, in this lecture, of the history of the books which are thus appealed to. How unwarrantably assuming appears this attempted argument in behalf of judicial life-taking, when we consider that the origin of the book containing the declaration on which it is based, is a matter altogether uncertain! No mortal can now tell when, by what person, nor in what language, it was first written. And yet there are those, calling themselves ministers of the forgiving Jesus, who dogmatically assume, despite all the contrary sugges tions and arguments of Philanthropy and Reason, that the vindictive sentiment referred to is a positive, divine injunetion, to be continued in force as long as the world stands !

Besides the doubtfulness concerning the primary source whence the passage in question emanated, it

*Gen. ix. 16. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

should be recollected that it has, like many other portions of scripture, been variously rendered by different translators and critical students of the Bible. Some regard it as merely a general prediction of the consequences which naturally follow in the path of hatred, strife, and murder; and they view it as corresponding with the declaration of Jesus, "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."* Among those who have placed this construction upon the verse, may be mentioned the distinguished German, JOHN DAVID MICHAELIS, once a Professor of Philosophy in the University of Gottingen; JOHN LE CLERC, author of a Biblical Translation and Commentary; JOHN CALVIN, the Reformer; and THOMAS C. UPHAM, now Professor of Moral Philosophy, and of the Hebrew Language, in Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine.† Many other significations, neither of them implying a warrant or justification of the death-penalty, have been affixed to the passage by writers of some note, who were of different theological predilections. But even if we consider it (as it is regarded by Rev. Dr. CHEEVER, and others) as originally intended to be an express sanction of the retaliatory law which still lingers to disgrace human governments, how can we rely upon it, satisfactorily, as a statute of divine origin and as perpetually binding,

* Matt. xxvi. 52.

+ See the valuable work of Rev. C. SPEAR, on Capital Punishment. p. 143. Those who desire to know in what estimation the several critics referred to have been held by those who did not adopt all their conclusions, may consult the Appendix to Vol. ii. HORNE's "Introduc tion to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures."

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