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than that of the New Testament, though Homer is a thousand years the most ancient. It was only an exceeding good poet that could have written the book of Homer, and therefore few men only could have attempted it; and a man capable of doing it would not have thrown away his own fame by giving it to another. In like manner, there were but few that could have composed Euclid's Elements, because none but an exceeding good geometri cian could have been the author of that work.
But with respect to the books of the New Testament, particularly such parts as tell us of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, any person who could tell a story of an apparition, or of a man's walking, could have made such books; for the story is most wretchedly told. The chance, therefore, of forgery in the Testament, is millions to one greater than in the case of Homer or Euclid. Of the numerous priests or parsons of the present day, bishops and all, every one of them can make a sermon, or translate a scrap of Latin, especially if it has been translated a thousand times before; but is there any amongst them that can write poetry like Homer, or science like Euclid? The sum total of a parson's learning, with very few excep tions, is a bab, and hic, hac, hoe; and their knowledge of science is three times one is three; and this is more than sufficient to have enabled them, had they lived at the time, to have written all the books of the New Testament.
As the opportunities of forgery were greater, so also was the inducement. A man could gain no advantage by writ ing under the name of Homer or Euclid; if he could write equal to them, it would be better that he wrote under his own name; if inferior, he could not succeed. Pride would prevent the former, and impossibility the latter. But with respect to such books as compose the New Testament, all the inducements were on the side of forgery. The best imagined history that could have been made, at the distance of two or three hundred years after the time, could not have passed for an original under the name of the real writer; the only chance of success lay in forgery, for the church wanted pretence for its new doctrine, and truth and talents were out of the question.
But as it is not uncominon (as before observed) to relate stories of persons walking after they are dead, and of ghosts and apparitions of such as have fallen by some violent or extraordinary means; and as the people of that day were in the habit of believing such things, and of the appearance of angels, and also of devils, and of their getting into people's insides, and shaking them like a fit of an ague, and of their being cast out again as if by an emetic(Mary Magdalene, the book of Mark tells us, had brought up, or been brought to bed of seven devils); it was nothing
extraordinary that some story of this kind should get abroad of the person called Jesus Christ, and become afterwards the foundation of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer told the tale as he heard it, or thereabouts, and gave to his book the name of the saint or the apostle whom tradition had given as the eye-witness. It is only upon this ground that the contradictions in those books can be accounted for; and if this be not the case, they are downright-impositions, lies, and forgeries, without even the apology of credulity.
That they have been written by a sort of half Jews, as the foregoing quotations mention, is discernable enough. The frequent references made to that chief assassin and impostor Moses, and to the men called prophets, establishes this point; and, on the other hand, the church has complimented the fraud, by admitting the Bible and the Testament to reply to each other. Between the Christian Jew and the Christian Gentile, the thing called a prophecy, and the thing prophesied; the type, and the thing typified; the sign and the thing signified, have been industriously rummaged up, and fitted together like old locks and picklock keys. The story foolishly enough told of Eve and the serpent, and naturally enough as to the enmity between men and serpents (for the serpent always bites about the heel, because it cannot reach higher; and the man always knocks the serpent about the head, as the most effectual way to prevent its biting (16); this foolish story, I say, has been made into a prophecy, a type, and a promise to begin with; and the lying imposition of Isaiah to Ahaz, That a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, as a sign that Ahaz should conquer, when the event was that he was 'defeated (as already noticed in the observations on the book of Isaiah), has been perverted, and made to serve as a winder-up.
Jonah and the whale are also made into a sign or type. Jonah is Jesus, and the whale is the grave; for it is said, (and they have made Christ to say it of himself) Matt. chap. xvii. ver. 40, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." But it happens aukwardly enough that Christ, according to their own account, was but one day and two nights in the grave; about thirty-six hours, instead of seventy-two; that is, Friday night, the Saturday, and the Saturday night; for they say he was up on the Sunday morning by sun-rise, or before. But as this fits quite as well as the bite and the kick in Genesis, or the virgin and her son in Isaiah, it will pass in the lump of orthodox things.
(16) "It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis, chap. iii. ver. 15.
immortal, it is more than a token that the power that produced it, which is the self-same thing as consciousness of existence, can be immortal also; and that as independently of the matter it was first connected with, as the thought is of the printing or writing it first appeared in. The one idea is not more difficult to believe than the other, and we can see that one is true.
That the consciousness of existence is not dependent on the same form or the same matter, is demonstrated to our senses in the works of the creation, as far as our senses are capable of receiving that demonstration. A very numerous part of the animal creation preaches to us, far better than Paul, the belief of a life hereafter. Their little life resembles an earth and a heaven-a present and a future state and comprises, if it may be so expressed, immortality in miniature.
The most beautiful parts of the creation to our eye are the winged insects, and they are not so originally. They acquire that form and that inimitable brilliancy by progressive changes. The slow and creeping caterpillar-worn of to-day, passes in a few days to a torpid figure, and a state resembling death; and in the next change comes forth, in all the miniature magnificence of life, a splendid butterfly. No resemblance of the former creature remains; every thing is changed; all his powers are new, and life is to him another thing. We cannot conceive that the consciousness of existence is not the same in this state of the animal as before: why then must I believe that the resurrec tion of the same body is necessary to continue to me the consciousness of existence hereafter.
In the former part of the Age of Reason, I have called the creation the true and only real word of God; and this instance, or this text, in the book of creation, not only shews to us that this thing may be so, but that it is so; and that the belief of a future state is a rational belief, founded upon facts visible in the creation: for it is not more difficult to believe that we shall exist hereafter in a better state and form than at present, than that a worm should become a butterfly, and quit the dunghill for the atmosphere, if we did not know it as a fact.
As to the doubtful jargon ascribed to Paul in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, which makes part of the burial service of some Christian sectarians, it is as destitute of meaning as the tolling of the bell at the funeral; it explains nothing to the understanding-it illustrates nothing to the imagination, but leaves the reader to find any meaning if he can. "All flesh (says he) is not the same flesh. There is one flesh of men; another of beasts; another of fishes; another of birds." And what then?-nothing. A cook could have said as much. "There are also (says he)
bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial; the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." And what then?-nothing. And what is the difference? nothing that he has told. "There is (says he) one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars." And what then?-nothing; except that he says that one star differeth from another star in glory, instead of distance; and he might as well have told us, that the moon did not shine so bright as the sun. All this is nothing better than the jargon of a conjuror, who picks up phrases he does not understand, to confound the credulous people who come to have their fortunes told. Priests and conjurors are of the same trade.
Sometimes Paul affects to be a naturalist, and to prove his system of resurrection from the principles of vegetation. "Thou fool, (says he) that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." To which one might reply in his own language, and say, Thou fool, Paul, that which thou sow. est is not quickened except it die not; for the grain that dies in the ground never does, nor can vegetate. It is only the living grains that produce the next crop. But the metaphor, in point of view, is no simile. It is succession, and not resurrection.
The progress of an animal from one state of being to another, as from a worm to a butterfly, applies to the case; but this of a grain does not, and shews Paul to have been. what he says of others, a fool.
Whether the fourteen epistles ascribed to Paul were written by him or not, is a matter of indifference; they are either argumentative or doginatical; and as the argument is defective, and the dogmatical part is merely presumptive, it signifies not who wrote them. And the same may be said for the remaining parts of the Testament. is not upon the epistles, but upon what is called the gospel, contained in the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and upon the pretended prophecies, that the theory of the church, calling itself the Christian church, is founded. The epistles are dependent upon those, and must follow their fate; for if the story of Jesus Christ be fabulous, all reasoning founded upon it as a supposed truth, must fall with it.
We know from history, that one of the principal leaders of this church, Athanasius, lived at the time the New Testament was formed (17); and we know also, froin the absurd jargon he has left us under the name of a creed, the character of the men who formed the New Testament; and we know also from the same history, that the authenticity of the books of which it is composed was denied at the
(17) Athanasius died, according to the church chronology, in the year 371.
11. P. II.
time. It was upon the vote of such as Athanasius, that the Testament was decreed to be the word of God; and nothing can present to us a more strange idea than that of decreeing the word of God by vote. Those who rest their faith upon such authority, put man in the place of God, and have no true foundation for future happiness; credulity, however, is not a crime; but it becomes crimi nal by resisting conviction. It is strangling in the womb of the conscience the efforts it makes to ascertain truth. We should never force belief upon ourselves in any
I here close the subject on the Old Testament and the New. The evidence i have produced to prove them forgeries, is extracted from the books themselves, and acts, like a two-edged sword, either way. If the evidence be denied, the authenticity of the scriptures is denied with it; for it is scripture evidence: and if the evidence be admitted, the authenticity of the books is disproved. The contradictory impossibilities contained in the Old Testament and the New, put them in the case of a man who swears for and against. Either evidence convicts him of perjury, and equally destroys reputation.
Should the Bible and Testament hereafter fall, it is not I that have been the occasion. I have done no more than extracted the evidence from the confused mass of matter with which it is mixed, and arranged that evidence in a point of light to be clearly seen and easily comprehended; and having done this, I leave the reader to judge for himself, as I judged for myself.