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vention, that advocated what they called "the worship of reason.' No such absurd decrees as those to which you refer, regarding the non-existence of God, and death being an eternal sleep, originated with the French legislature, or were for a moment sanctioned by the French nation. On the contrary, the National Convention decreed, at the request of Robespierre (5th December, 1793) "that all outrages against, and measures contrary to, the freedom of worship were prohibited." Robespierre's words on that occasion were: "I ask you to prohibit particular authorities (the Commune) from assisting our enemies by undigested measures, and that no armed force may interfere with that which relates to religious opinions." And this very master-spirit in that fearful tempest of opinion-this reckless man of blood it was, who instituted (9th June, 1794), a "festival in honour of the supreme being," at which he officiated as chief priest, superintending the burning of a hideous effigy under which was personified atheism. It was but two days after this religious fete, that the sanguinary Couthon, under Robespierre's express direction and support, brought forward the famous (or rather infamous) law of Prairial, which denied to the accused even counsel to assist them, increased the number of public prosecutors from one to four, emptied the prisons and supplied the guillotines by hundreds at a time; thus capping the climax of mad cruelty and indiscriminate slaughter. But in all this there was not the shadow of anti-religious persecution. If the ecclesiastics suffered, they suffered as monopolists, not as priests; it was a question of oppressive imposts, not of contested creeds; of benefices, not of doctrines. The bloody controversy was political, not theological. When religion mingled with it, it was only as it mingles in all struggles for liberty and improvement; as at this moment, for instance, it mingles with the question of parliamentary reform in England; where the great body of the clergy, fearing for their tithes, oppose a zeal the most obstinately persevering to the efforts of the reforming ministry.
As to the real character of Bishop Horne's opposition to revolutionary principles, his coupling together democracy and atheism, clearly reveals it; not the less clearly, for your explanatory note. The English bishop conceives his argument to be equally cogent against republicanism and scepticism: and so it is. It proves a little too much for Americans.
Far am I from "denouncing" either you or the New England puritans for your beliefs; or from imagining that you could cast your creed aside at pleasure. I simply regret that you hold it; and I seek to place before you and our readers arguments that may convince you and them of its error; thus inducing-nay, mildly and unconsciously compelling you, to relinquish it.
ROBERT DALE OWEN.
Mignet, p. 276.
TO ROBERT DALE OWEN
New-York, August 20, 1831.
The apparent contradictions, misstatements, absurdities, &c., of the Bible, which sceptics urge as objections against it, are so many evidences of its original authenticity, and uncorrupted preservation. Nothing but regard to fact, could have induced the writers of Scripture to record many things contained therein, or those through whose hands it has descended to us, to retain the same, in case there had been a possibility of expunging them. This then is demonstration, that the Scriptures have come down to us as they were originally written, and that they were written with an eye to the truth. These two positions will, during the course of this discussion, be seen to have a most important bearing on the question.
It is incumbent on the advocates of the Bible, so far as relates to its general authenticity, merely to show, that none of the objections of their opponents are insuperable; that they are objections that do not invalidate other history; and that they are not of such a nature as to show the writers to have intended to deceive. But it should be kept in view, that sceptics have difficulties to obviate as well as we; that they have proofs positive to invalidate, and not merely objections to urge. And suppose we are unable to make every thing perfectly satisfactory on our part, the question would then arise, whether every thing is rendered so on theirs, in their rejection of the Bible; and if not, then it is manifest that they have not succeeded in their object, inasmuch as if unobviated objections were an insuperable barrier to one side of a question, their own is involved in the difficulty. I will now proceed to notice the objections contained in my opponent's last letter.
That God commanded the destruction of idolaters, I consider no objection at all. They deserved death, the more especially as they sacrificed human victims to their idols, and thus added murder to their idolatry. And were he in this day to command the extermination of the murderous idolaters of the East, the whole world would feel the justice of the command, as much as they do that of the execution of a common murderer or pirate. Why he does not adopt this course now, he, being omniscient, best knows. The same remark will hold, in relation to the assassination of their idolatrous, murderous monarchs, who could be approached in no other than a secret manner. There is no moral difference between taking life openly and secretly. As to the Israelites borrowing gold, and silver, and raiment of the Egyptians, it was but getting of them a small portion of their
due for their long and hard servitude, and not "swindling" them. In regard to the lying spirit which God employed to deceive Ahab, there was no compulsion in the case. God asked who would go and deceive him. The lying spirit answered that he would go; whereupon God said, Go. He had his own choice, the same as wicked men have. And although God, as the ruler of the universe, may be able to turn it all to some good account, yet they mean evil, and are therefore guilty. In this sense, the Lord may be said to do the moral evil existing in a city; to create such evil-to move men to sin-to harden their hearts, &c., just as he is said to have put this lying spirit into the mouth of the prophets of Ahab. I deny that it is shown by the Bible, that he rewards" lying, and punishes integrity. The passages to which I am referred show no such thing. I deny that it shows that he required children to be "punished" for the sins of their parents. As the arbiter of life and death, he can order life to be taken for other reasons besides punishment. Even in nature, we see the children of wicked parents (say of drunkards) suffering by reason of the wickedness of those parents, but not as a punishment for it. And let it be remembered, that nothing short of an absolute denial of the God of nature, will enable my opponent to escape this dilemma, and wield the cases related in the Bible against that. Nor would even this denial enable him to meddle with the case of Solomon, for he was not the first child of David and Bathsheba. Read the account, friend Owen, and don't quote so from recollection, like Thomas Paine. And be a little more diffident, too, touching thy omniscience. How knowest thou that 'twould be " childishly useless" for a being who knows infinitely more than we do, to prohibit the wearing of "linsey-wolsey," and to condemn the sewing of pillows to arm-holes? Such a being does of course see more reasons for things than we do. Strange how friend Owen, who is so excessively "modest" at one time, as to say he knows nothing, should at another forget himself, and pretend to be superomniscient. As to the census which David directed to be taken, it appears to have been done through vain-glory, and in an unauthorized manner. And the punishment inflicted therefore was very appropriate; his great number of subjects in which he gloried was reduced; but their being slain by an angel of the Lord, was no more a punishment to them, than to die a common death. The law amongst the Jews respecting chastity, was well calculated to promote it; and, considering the primitive simplicity of the age in which it was instituted, it was neither brutal nor indecent; neither does it display an ignorance or physiological facts, as Aristotle himself will bear me witness. And as to their test of jealousy, inasmuch as a miracle was involved in that, it devolves on the individual who denounces it, to disprove the miracle.
The discrepancies in the accounts of the census of David, as given in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, relative to the number of
fighting men, and the number of years of famine, can be very easily accounted for, when we consider the liability of transcribers to make such little mistakes. This does not show that those mistakes were in the original copy. Suppose, for instance, one of us were to copy the Bible, (for anciently there was no printing,) and were to make a blunder, by inserting a word or a number different from the copy before us; how puerile would it be, for any one to seize on the blunder which he might find in our manuscript, and endeavour by that to show, that the original copy was erroneous, or even that our transcription was not substantially to be depended on, because of a blunder or so. Yea, suppose there were some absolute mistakes of the kind under consideration in the original copy itself, what then? A narrative is not to be rejected on account of mere mistakes occurring in it, or on account of its not perfectly agreeing with some other narrative of the same thing. Nay, the probability is even greater that the Bible is true, from the very circumstance of its containing some discrepancies, than if it had contained none; for, a very near resemblance between two accounts excites suspicions of collusion between the writers. Thanks to God, then, for the discrepancies of the Bible: they assist in proving it. Bring on some more, friend Owen. Verily, thou art rendering essential service to the cause of religion, though with the same intention as did Joseph's brethren when they sold him to the Midianites, or Judas when he sold his Lord But how trivial, after all, are such objections! Who ever thought of discrediting the narratives of Livy or Polybius, because of the discrepancies which occur between them? Who ever doubted the embassy of the Jews to the Emperor Claudian, because Philo says it occurred in harvest, and Josephus in seed-time? Who then ought to doubt, that David had a prodigious force at his disposal, and a famine threatened to him for numbering them, just because the number of that force and the length of that famine are differently stated in Samuel and Chronicles? It is a very general fault of sceptics, that they do not thoroughly examine the cases to which they object; on which account, they sometimes make most frivolous objections. Now they ought to know, that the Jews made use of the letters of their alphabet to denote numbers, which letters were analagous to our figures. How easily, then, can the numerical errors of the Bible be explained, by referring them to the careless omission, addition, or alteration of a solitary numerical letter, in any given case, on the part of a transcriber. For example: in 1 Kings, chap. iv., ver. 26, it is said that Solomon had forty thousand stalls for horses; whereas, in 2 Chronicles, chap. ix., ver 25, the number is stated at only four thousand. My opponent is entirely welcome to this additional objection furnished by myself, and to as many more of the kind as he can find. Hd I room, I would furnish him with more. They are pretty small concerns to offset against the mass of evidence in favore of the Bible, which
has commanded the assent of such men as Bacon, Locke, Milton, Newton, and a host of other intellectual prodigies, after the deepest examination.
I have said repeatedly, that even the Jews would have had no right to slaughter the Canaanites without the divine command, and that their slaughter would have been murder under such circumstances. I have likewise said the same respecting the slaughter of modern heathen. This is not making a thing immoral now which was moral then. Let God command a thing in any age, and it would be proper to obey. But because, under the different circumstances of different ages, he adopts different methods relative to some things, it does not follow that he is changeable, but rather, that he is unchangeable; for, were he to act under one set of circumstances at one time in a certain manner, and act in the same manner at another time under different circumstances, this would indeed be, to be changeable. Nor does it follow, that general commands are not binding on us, because local ones are not. For instance, we consider ourselves bound to obey the moral law of God, as given in the ten commandments, although we do by no means feel bound to observe the Jewish ceremonial law, notwithstanding it is "recorded," as well as their extermination of the Canaanites. As well might it be asked, For what purpose is any thing in history recorded, unless it be to be imitated? as to ask such a question in relation to that extermination. As to the fallibility of the channel through which the Bible has descended to us, it is no more so than that of other history, That too is thousands of years old; has passed through the hands of many generations; has been translated by fallible men, &c. Thus we see, that, in invalidating the Bible, sceptics overthrow all history. Their rule therefore proves too much. Here I would just remark, that the Bible has not been "lost and found."-With regard to witchcraft, it would seem that my opponent has given up his idea, that modern knowledge proves that to be impossible. And if I were to assert, that it proves that Saturn's inhabitants can't "walk on their heads," I suppose I should have to retract too, as well as he, unless indeed it does prove this. But one would suppose, that, after this retraction, and his acknowledgment of his inability to disprove witchcraft, he would not denounce an indictment for it. It is worthy of remark, however, that, notwithstanding he asserts the idea of witchcraft to be so glaringly absurd, he does not give a single reason to show it to be so. Will he, in his next, favour us with some of his convincing arguments on the subject, instead of mere assertions?
The articles on placement and marriage, are noticed in their appropriate places. I will just remark at this time, that the President of Hayti can live in fornication, as well as any other man; and that he does live so, if he lives with a woman to whom he is not married.-In answer to the question, whether I would read Ezekiel, &c., aloud to a sister or a daughter, 1