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TO ORIGEN BACHELER.
August 13, 1831.
I have already selected, at hazard, one or two frightful specimens of the morality inculcated, by precept and example, in the Old Testament. I might have culled, almost from every chapter of the Pentateuch, similar samples.
In support of the principle involved in the particular massacre of the Midianites, we have general commands enough regarding all idolaters; such as Deuteronomy, chap. xx., ver. 16;* chap. vii., ver. 2; chap. vii., ver. 22, 23, 24 ;† with a host of others, including such as declare heresy to merit instant death, in any man, Jew, or stranger; for example, Deuteronomy, chap. xiii., ver. 6 to 10, and 12 to 15; also chap. xvii., ver. 2: commands perfectly in unison with the spirit manifested by God himself, Exodus, chap. xxxii., ver. 10, until pacified by Moses, ver. 11 to 14; as also, according to Joshua, who takes pains to inform the people (Joshua, chap. xxiv., ver. 19, 20,) that the Lord is "a jealous God," who, "if they forsake the Lord and serve strange Gods, will turn and do them hurt, and consume them, after he had done them good."
But Moses' God sanctions not public and general massacres alone; he commands also cowardly, secret assassination; Judges, chap. iii., ver. 15 to 22: and approves it, Judges, chap, v., ver. 24, 25, 26. Furthermore, he enjoins deceit, or what we should call swindling, Exodus, chap. xii., ver. 35, 36; employs a lying spirit, 2 Chronicles, chap. xviii., ver. 20, 21, 22; rewards lying, Genesis, chap. xxvii., ver. 19, and chap. xxviii., ver. 13, 14, 15; also Genesis, chap. xxvi, ver. 7, 12; protects hypocrisy and punishes integrity, Genesis, chap. xx., ver. 1 to 18. He commands that sons be punished, even at times with death, for sins or omissions of their parents:§ Genesis, chap. xvii., ver. 14; and again, Deuteronomy,
"Save nothing alive that breatheth!" Where is the command, in any other religion upon earth, to match this!
+ The only scruple regarding utter and immediate annihilation, is "Lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee!" What unheard-of desolation does the very idea call up!
We are told, doubtless, (Numbers, chap. xxxiii, ver. 19,) that "God is not a man that he should lie;" but this is only adding inconsistency to deceit.
§ We are told again, (Ezekiel, chap. xviii., ver. 20,) that "the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father;" presumptive evidence, perhaps, that there is no sentiment in the Scriptures so unjust, but we may find, in some other text, its very opposite.
chap. xxiii., ver. 2:* and he himself plagues the Israelites with a three years' famine, until they act up to the spirit of such wretched barbarity, by hanging seven innocent men, for their father's misdeeds; (2 Samuel, chap. xxi., ver. 1 to 14.f) He descends to the dictation of the most childishly useless laws, (against wearing linsey-wolsey, &c.,) Deuteronomy, chap. xxii., ver. 5, 9, 10, 11, 12; of the most whimsical rhapsodies, Song of Solomon, chap. viii., ver. 8, 9, 10; or Ezekiel, chap. xiii., ver. 17 to 21; and himself acts a part which is only redeemed from the imputation of childishness by its reckless inhumanity and extravagant injustice; slaying (2 Samuel, chap. xxiv., ver. 1 to 25,) seventy thousand guiltless men, because David (at the moving of the Lord!§) saw fit to order a census of the people! He dictates a law (Deuteronomy, chap. xxii., ver. 13 to 21,) in perusing which one knows not which most to marvel at, the brutal spirit of tyrannical suspicion, the outrageous disregard of the commonest decency, or the utter ignorance of physiological facts, it displays; a law so revolting to any one but a jealous savage, that at this moment it is, I believe, no where to be found, except among a few of the Tartar hordes, or in some of the very rudest provinces in the distant interior of Russia. He ordains a test of jealousy (Numbers, chap. v., ver. 14 to 30,) that overtops all the absurd trials by combat, by fire, or by water, that ever disgraced the dark ages. But why enumerate particulars ? The whole story is of a similar stamp; and
Strange! that Solomon, (the son of Bathsheba,) should have been admitted into his own temple! But then, he was the son of a king; and that circumstance (the text, Acts, chap. x., ver. 34, to the contrary nothwithstanding,) might have made a difference.
They hanged two sons of Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, and five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul; "and after that, God was intreated for the land!" What a Moloch is this Jehovah of the Pentateuch!
An omnipotent creator of the universe promulgating decrees regarding "sewing pillows to arm-holes," and "making 'kerchiefs to hunt souls!" Alas! for common sense!
So we have it, 2 Samuel, chap. xxiv., ver. 1; but at 1 Chronicles, chap. xxi., where the very same transaction is recorded, it is Satan, not God, who is named as the instigator. Are the terms synonymous? Is God, Satan? Is Satan, God? So, from collating both texts, we must needs conclude, unless one or other be false. The former seems to me the more orthodox version, and alone in conformity with the text Isaiah, chap. xlv., ver. 7; and with that, Amos, chap. iii, ver. 6, where the question asked, "Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?" expressly implies that all evil originates, not in the devil, but in the deity.
One night prove, by the way, from a comparison of the two texts, doctrines quite as marvellous as that of the trinity, viz. that three is equal to seven; (compare 2 Samuel, chap. xxiv., ver. 13, with 1 Chronicles, chap, xxi., ver. 12,) as also, that one million, one hundred thousand, is equal to eight hundred thousand; compare 2 Samuel, chap. xxiv, ver. 9, with 1 Chronicles, chap. xxi., ver. 5,) or else, as I said before, that one or other of the texts is positively untrue.
See "Voyage en Sibérie en l'an 1761," by the Abbé Chappe D'Auteroche, vol. i., p. 166; where our readers will find a curious story "d'un marriage interrompu,"
fully to exhibit its character one would be compelled to quote it entire.*
And now, what is the reply to him who adduces these specimens of Scripture morality? How are we met, when we thus quote, from the Bible, examples of the grossest vice, laws of the most odious tendency, precedents of the worst influence, all approved, sanctioned, or commanded by the deity? How are we met ? Why thus: Slaughter for heresy is justifiable, if commanded by God. A command to the Jews is not a command to It was virtuous formerly to slay nations of idolaters, but it would be vicious to slay a single idolater to-day." Was ever evasion so paltry? excuse so lame? Is God changeable? Are we not to approve now what God approved then? And what we approve, are we not to imitate? If conduct dictated by deity himself, be not worthy of all imitation, what conduct is worthy of it? If these deeds are not recorded as an example to us that we may follow the steps of a God-directed nation, to what purpose are they recorded? Either such conduct was, in itself, right, or it was wrong. If wrong, the record is false which represents a God of goodness enjoining, approving, or rewarding it if right, it ought to be universally imitated to-day. Virtue does not change its nature in four thousand, or four million years. If the slaughter of women and children because of unbelief, if secret assassination, if deceit, if lying, if hypocrisy, if punishing sons for the sins of fathers and a whole nation for the sins of a king, if puerile fancies, if savage tests of virginity and of jealousy-in a word, if all, or any of the follies, barbarities, and atrocities for which I have above quoted chapter and verse, be vices, the Bible ENCOURAGES VICE, by precept, by example. Men will be vicious so long as they act in the spirit of the Pentateuch. They can be virtuous, only by refusing to imitate what Moses' God approved.
To deny this, is to deny that any precept given to the Jews is therefore binding on us. It is to deny that there is, for us, any command in the decalogue, to refrain from murder, from stealing, from adultery, from Sabbath-breaking, from bearing false witness, from covetousness. To deny this, is to deny that the ten commandments are, in virtue of the record, of any authority for the present inhabitants of the world. To deny this, is to deny that any precept, any example, any precedent whatever, recorded from the "In the beginning" of Genesis to the "Amen" of Revelations, is, because of its being so recorded, of the slightest obligation on us. It is to constitute man a judge what he will imitate, and what he will not imitate, among divinely approved examples;
I pray our readers to take their Bibles in their hands, and dispassionately, deliberately to peruse the passages here quoted, with the whole context. "It would surely be enough to open men's eyes" (a friend once said to me,) "if the Bible were but printed large enough, and exhibited to public view at every street-corner throughout the land. Truly, I have often thought so.
which he will obey and which he will disobey, of God's express commands. It is setting aside the Bible, to make way for common sense and decent feeling.
No. Do not flatter yourself with any hope of escape here. There is none. Defend your God's commands as virtuous and worthy of imitation, if in common decency you can. If you cannot, then confess, that they are the reverse: confess, that to set them up as examples before us is to seduce us to vice: confess, that the Bible tempts to immorality—that its influence is positively, undoubtedly vicious.
The conqueror, the inquisitor, the slave-holder, the witchhanger* are not excused, not permitted only, to act their respective parts: they are commanded thereto, (if the scripture be inspired) either directly by divine precepts, or tacitly by Godapproved and Bible-recorded examples.
"But," will my opponent urge, "if these really are God's commands, if historical evidence proves them to have been so" -To this if I reply, that the evidence is two thousand, four thousand, six thousand years old. It has descended to us through tens, almost hundreds of generations. The record containing it has been lost and found again; has been preserved and interpreted from time immemorial by those whose interest it glaringly was to keep up the notion of its infallibility; finally, it has been translated by fallible men. No such evidence can prove the infallibility even of the most reasonable, and natural, and easily comprehended thing. Infallible proof must come to us through an infallible channel. Now this channel is not fallible only, it is in the highest degree suspicious. And that which it is adduced to prove is not only not reasonable, not natural, not easily comprehended; it is (to our human reason) inconsistent, contradictory, miraculous, incomprehensible. It is so utterly improbable (not to speak of its impossibility), that a rational being would suspect his very senses of hallucination if they testified to its reality. And such incredible mysteries it is, that we are bid implicitly to believe, on the evidence of obscure Eastern legends, some thousands of years old!
What I have written on the subject of marriage and placement, I have written and our readers can peruse it in the Appendix. They, not you or I, are the judges whether the
*You seem anxious to obtain an answer to the question: "What branch of modern knowledge proves witchcraft to be impossible?" None, with which I am acquainted. Can you tell me in return, what branch of modern knowledge informs us that the inhabitants of Saturn do not walk on their heads?
Had we lived in the days of Cotton Mather, I should have asked you for proof of the existence of witches. But in the nineteenth century, this is unnecessary. We need not fight windmills.
The Bible authorizes indictments for witchcraft. It is, of course, for the judge and jury to decide whether or not the accused be guilty. But the very indictment is the folly of which I complain; a folly now seen to be so glaring, that public opinion utterly scouts, even though the Pentateuch sanctions it.
house of the Haytian President and the houses of the most respectable portion of his fellow-citizens be or be not brothels, and whether Moral Physiology be or be not of beneficial influence. They too must judge for themselves (and this alone appertains to the present discussion) whether such chapters as the 16th and 23rd of Ezekiel and fifty others of a similar stamp are characterized by simplicity or obscenity; and also (this question my opponent forgot to answer) whether they would choose to read such simple passages aloud to their sisters or daughters; ay! or to their sons or brothers; for I never could understand why men should not be as regardful of dignified propriety in the company of their own sex as of the other.
When you adduce some proof in support of your assertion, that there is no such thing as progressive improvement without Bible religion, I will reply to it.
An omnipotent and benevolent Creator of a suffering world, I have already argued, is an impossibility. In such a God of nature I am an atheist. For aught I know, you may succeed in showing the impossibility of Plato's dream. We should then be at a loss to portray a God, unless we can substitute some other conception, or will resort to the original quaker definition, and declare God to be, the spirit of rectitude within us. Among good men there are no unbelievers in such a God, nor any sceptics in his revelation.*
The history of the French Revolution by MIGNET, though less attractively written than the Waverly Novelist's, is now generally admitted to be the most impartial that has appeared. By consulting it, at pages 275, 276, you will discover, (what Horne and his authorities seem to have been ignorant of) that it was a mere petty municipal faction,† not the National Con
* About two years since I heard in the meeting of the Society of Friends, Cherry Street, Philadelphia, a member speak thus: "There is much said about infidelity and atheism; and many are made to fear these words. But I fear them not; there is no infidel in the faith I profess, and no atheist in the God I worship; for my faith and my God are in the human heart."
Sentiments like these were disseminated by the original founders of the society; but it is only lately that some of their followers have thus ventured to return to the primitive heresies, which brought such punishment and reproach on those who first uttered them. My opponent will not contend, I presume, that such a God as this is responsible for volcanoes and earthquakes.
The Commune of Paris; a paltry local club, consisting of some ten or a dozen wild fanatics, who obtained for a few weeks a temporary popularity, and during that time compelled the Convention to order, that the worship of reason might be substituted for the Catholic worship. Chaumette and the licentious Hébert were its political chiefs, Ronsin its general, and a crazy, self-styled atheist, Anacharsis Clootz, its apostle. "It was supported," says Mignet (page 275), "in the sections by the revolutionary committees, which contained many obscure foreigners, who were supposed, and not without some appearance of truth, to be the agents of England, for the purpose of destroying the republic by driving it to excess and anarchy."
The mad follies of this obscure knot of anarchists and hired conspiraters it is, that have been trumpeted throughout Europe as the doings of the French nation-the certain results of democracy and infidelity!