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a generation believe so many miracles uselessly wrought for it, and all of which, it is said, were performed in the desert? What being, enjoying divine power, would employ it in preserving the clothes and shoes of these people, after having armed all nature in their favour?
It is therefore very natural to think, that all this prodigious history was written a long time after Moses, as the romances of Charlemagne were forged three centuries after him; and as the origins of all nations have not been written until they were out of sight, the imagination has been left at liberty to invent. The more coarse and unfortunate a people are, the more they seek to exalt their ancient history; and what people have been longer miserable, or more barbarous than the Jews?
It is not to be believed, that when they had not wherewithal to make shoes in their deserts, under the government of Moses, that there were any curious enough to write. We should presume, that the poor creatures born in these deserts did not receive a very brilliant education; and that the nation only began to read and write when it had some commerce with Phenicia. It was probably in the commencement of monarchy that the Jews, feeling they had some genius, wrote the Pentateuch, and adjusted their traditions. Would they have made Moses recommend kings to read and write even his law in a time in which there were none? Is it not probable, that the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy was composed to moderate the power of royalty; and that it was written by priests in the time of Saul?
It is most likely at this epoch, that we must place the digest of the Pentateuch. The frequent slaveries this people were subject to, seem badly calculated to establish literature in a nation, and to render books very common; and the more rare these books were in the commencement, the more the authors ventured to fill them with miracles.
The Pentateuch, attributed to Moses, is no doubt, very ancient; if it was put in order in the time of Saul and Solomon, it was about the time of the Trojan. war, and is one of the most curious monuments of the manner of thinking of that time. . We see that all known nations, in proportion to their ignorance, were fond of prodigies. All was then performed by celestial ministry in Egypt, Phrygia, Greece, and Asia.
The authors of the Pentateuch give us to understand, that
every nation has its gods, and that these gods have all nearly an equal power.
If Moses, in the name of God, changed his rod into a serpent, the priests of Pharaoh did as much; if he changed all the waters of Egypt into blood, even to that which was in the vases, the priests immediately performed the same prodigy, without our being able to conceive on what waters they performed this metamorphosis; at least, unless they expressly created new waters for the purpose.
The Jewish writers prefer being reduced to this absurdity, rather than allow us to suspect that the gods of Egypt had not the power of changing water into blood, as well as the God of Jacob.
But when the latter fills the land of Egypt with lice, changing all the dust into them, his entire superiority appears; the magi cannot imitate it, and they make the God of the Jews speak thus, “ Pharaoh shall know that nothing is equal to me."
These words put into his mouth, merely mark a being who believes himself more powerful than his rivals; he was equalled in the metamorphosis of a rod into a serpent, and in that of the waters into blood; but he gains the victory in the article of the lice and the following miracles.
This idea of the supernatural power of priests of all countries, is displayed in several places of scripture. When Balaam, the priest of the little state of a petty: king, : named Balak, in the midst of deserts, is near cursing the Jews, their God appears to him to prevent him. It seems that the malediction of Balaam was much to be feared. To restrain this priest, it is not enough that God speaks to him, he sends before him an angel with a sword, and speaks himself again by the mouth of his ass. All these precautions certainly prove the opinion which then prevailed, that the malediction of a priest, whatever it was, drew fatal consequences after it.
This idea of a God superior to other gods, though he made heaven and earth, was so rooted in all minds; that Solomon in his last prayer cries, “ Oh! my God, there is no other god like thee in earth or heaven.” It is this opinion which rendered the Jews so credulous respecting the sorceries and enchantments of other nations.
It is this which gave rise to the story of the Witch of Endor, who had the power of invoking the shade of Saul. Every people had their prodigies and oracles, and it never even came into the minds of any nations to doubt the miracles and prophecies of others. They were contented with opposing similar arms; it seems as if the priests, in denying the prodigies of other nations, feared to discredit their own. This kind of theology prevailed a long time over all the earth.
It is not for us to enter here on the detail of all that is written on Moses. We speak of his laws in more than one place in this work. * We will here confine ourselves to remarking, how much we are astonished to see a legislator inspired by God; a prophet through whom God himself speaks, proposing to us no future life. There is not a single word in Leviticus, which can lead us to suspect the immortality of the soul. The reply to this overwhelming difficulty is, that God proportioned himself to the ignorance of the Jews. What a miserable answer! it was for God to elevate the Jews to necessary knowledge; not to lower himself to them. If the soul is immortal, if there are rewards and punishments in another life, it is necessary for men to be informed of it. If God spoke, he must have informed them of this fundamental dogma. What legislator, what god but this, proposes to his people wine, oil, and milk alone! What god but this always encourages his believers, as a chief of robbers encourages his troops, with the hope of pluhder only! Once more, it is very pardonable for mere human reason simply to see in such a history, the barbarous stupidity of the first ages of a savage people. Man, whatever he does, cannot reason otherwise; but if God
really is the author of the Pentateuch, we must submit without reasoning.
A PHILOSOPHER in the neighbourhood of mount Krapak argued with me that motion is essential to matter.
"Everything moves," says he; "the sun continually revolves on his own axis ; the planets do the same, and every planet has many different motions; everything is a sieve;—everything passes through a sieve; the hardest metal is pierced with an infinity of pores, by which escapes a constant torrent of vapours that circulate in space. The universe is nothing but motion; motion therefore is essential to matter.".
“ But sir,” said I to him; “ might not any one say, in answer to what you have advanced—This block of marble, this cannon, this house, this motiun, are not in motion; therefore motion is not essential.”
“ They do move,” he replied; they move in space together with the earth by the common motion, and they move so incontestably (although insensibly) by their own peculiar motion; that, at the expiration of an indefinite number of centuries, there will remain not a single atom of the masses which now constitute them, from which particles are detaching themselves every passing moment.”
“ But, my good sir, I can conceive matter to be in a state of rest; motion, therefore, cannot be considered essential to it.”
“ Why, certainly, it must be of vast consequence whether you .conceive it to be, or conceive it not to be, in a state of rest. I still repeat, that it is impossible for it to be so."
“ That is a bold assertion; but what, let me ask you, will you say to chaos ?”
" Oh, chaos! If we were inclined to talk about chaos, I should tell you that all was necessarily in motion, and that the breath of God moved upon the waters;' that the element of water was recognized in existence, and that the other elements existed also; that, consequently, fire existed; that there cannot be fire without motion, that motion is essential to fire. You will not succeed much with chaos."
“ Alas! who can succeed with all these subjects of dispute ? But, as you are so very fully acquainted with these things, I must request you to inform me why one body impels another: whether it is because matter is impenetrable, or because two bodies cannot be together in one place; or because, in every case of every description, the weak is driven before the strong?"
“ Your last reason is rather more facetious than philosophical. No person has hitherto been able to discover the cause of the communication of motion."
“That however does not prevent its being essential to matter. . No one has ever been able to discover the cause of sensation in animals, yet this sensation is so essential to them, that, if you exclude the idea of it, you no longer have the idea of an animal.
“ Well, I will concede to you, for a moment, that motion is essential to matter (just for a moment let it be remembered, for I am not much inclined to embroil myself with the theologians); and now, after this admission, tell me how one ball produces motion in another?"
“ You are very curious and inquisitive; you wish me to inform you of what no philosopher ever knew.”
“ It appears rather curious, and even ludicrous, that we should know the laws of motion, and yet be profoundly ignorant of the principle of the communication of motion !”
“ It is the same with everything else; we know the laws of reasoning, but we know not what it is in us that reasons. The ducts through which our blood, and other animal fluids pass, are very well known to us, but we know not what forms that blood and those fluids. We are in life, but we know not in what the vital principle consists.
“ Inform me however at least, whether, if motion be essential to matter, there has not always existed the same quantity of motion in the world ?"