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There is no making either head or tail of this incoherent gibberish. His two staves, one called Beauty and the other Bands, is so much like a fairy tale, that I doubt if it had any other origin. There is, however, no part that has the least relation to the case stated in Matthew; on the contrary, it is the reverse of it. Here the thirty pieces of silver, whatever it was for, is called a goodly price, it was as much as the thing was worth, and according to the language of the day, was approved of by the Lord, and the money given to the potter in the house of the Lord. In the case of Jesus and Judas, as stated in Matthew, the thirty pieces af silver were the price of blood; the transaction was condemned by the Lord, and the money, when refunded, was refused admittance into the treasury. Every thing in the two cases is the reverse of each other.
Besides this, a very different and direct contrary account to that of Matthew, is given of the affair of Judas, in the book called the Acts of the Apostles: according to that book the case is, that so far from Judas repenting and returning the money, and the high priest buying a field with it to bury strangers in, Judas kept the money and bought. a field with it for himself; and instead of hanging himself as Matthew says, that he fell headlong and burst asunder.
Some commentators endeavour to get over one part of the contradiction by ridiculously supposing that Judas hanged himself first and the rope broke.
Acts, chap. i. ver. 16. "Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was a guide to them that took Jesus. (David says
time of Isaiah, that detects the interpolation and the blunder with it.
Whiston was a man of great literary learning, and, what is of much higher degree, of deep scientific learning. He was one of the best and most celebrated mathematicians of his time, for which he was made professor of mathematics of the university of Cambridge. He wrote so much in defence of the Old Testament, and of what he calls prophecies of Jesus Christ, that at last he began to suspect the truth of the Scriptures, and wrote against them; for it is only those who examine them, that see the imposition. Those who believe them most are those who know least about them.
Whiston, after writing so much in defence of the Scriptures, was at last prosecuted for writing against them. It was this that gave occasion to Swift, in his ludicrous epigram on Dit ton and Whiston, each of which set up to find out the longitude, to call the one good master Ditton, and the other wicked Will Whiston. But as Swift was a great associate with the Freethinkers of those days, such as Bolingbroke, Pope, and others, who did not believe the books called the Scriptures, there is no certainty whether he wittily called him wicked for defending the Scriptures, or for writing against them. The known character of Swift decides for the former.
not a word about Judas) ver. 17, for he (Judas) was numbered among us and obtained part of our ministry."
Ver. 18. "Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and his bowels gushed out." Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities. I pass on to the twelfth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, chap. xxvii. ver. 35. "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." This expression is in the 22d Psalm, ver. 18. The writer of that Psalm, (whoever he was, for the Psalms are a collection and not the work of one man) is speaking of himself and of his own case, and not of that of another. He begins this Psalm with the words which the New Testament writers ascribed to Jesus Christ. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me"-words which might be uttered by a complaining man without any great impropriety, but very improperly from the mouth of a reputed God.
The picture which the writer draws of his own situation in this Psalm, is gloomy enough. He is not prophecying, but complaining of his own hard case. He represents himself as surrounded by enemies and beset by persecutions of every kind; and by way of shewing the inveteracy of his persecutors, he says at the 18th verse, "They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."
The expression is in the present tense; and is the same as to say, they pursue me even to the clothes upon my back, and dispute how they shall divide them; besides, the word vesture does not always mean clothing of any kind, but property, or rather the admitting a man to, or investing him with property; and as it is used in this Psalm distinct from the word garment, it appears to be used in this sense. But Jesus had no property; for they make him to say of himself, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
But be this as it may, if we permit ourselves to suppose the Almighty would condescend to tell, by what is called the spirit of prophecy, what could come to pass in some future age of the world, it is an injury to our own faculties and to our ideas of his greatness, to imagine it would be about an old coat, or an old pair of breeches, or about any thing which the common accidents of life, or the quarrels that attend it, exhibit every day.
That which is within the power of man to do, or in his
will not to do, is not a subject for prophecy, even if there were such a thing, because it cannot carry with it any evidence of divine power, or divine interposition. The ways of God are not the ways of men. That which an almighty power performs, or wills, is not within the circle of human power to do, or to controul. But any executioner and his assistants might quarrel about dividing the garments of a sufferer, or divide them without quarrelling, and by that means fulfil the thing called a prophecy, or set it aside.
In the passages before examined. I have exposed the falsehood of them. In this I exhibit its degrading meanness, as an insult to the Creator and an injury to human
Here end the passages called prophecies by Matthew. Matthew concludes his book by saying, that when Christ expired on the cross, the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the bodies of many of the saints arose; and Mark says, there was darkness over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth. They produce no prophecy for this; but had these things been facts, they would have been a proper subject for prophecy, because none but an almighty power could have inspired a fore-knowledge of them, and afterwards fulfilled them. Since then, there is no such prophecy, but a pretended prophecy of an old coat, the proper deduction is, there were no such things, and that the book of Matthew is fable and falsehood.
I pass on to the book called the Gospel according to St. Mark.
THE BOOK OF MARK.
THERE are but few passages in Mark called prophecies; and but few in Luke and John. Such as there are I shall examine, and also such other passages as interfere with those cited by Matthew.
Mark begins his book by a passage which he puts in the shape of a prophecy. Mark, chap. i. ver. 1. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. As it is written in the prophets, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee. Malachi, chap. iii. ver. 1. The passage in the original is in the first person. Mark makes this passage to be a prophecy of John the Baptist, said by the Church to be a forerunner of Jesus Christ. But if we attend to the verses that follow this expression, as it stands in Malachi, and to the first and fifth verses of the next chapter, we shall see that this application of it is erroneous and false.
Malachi having said at the first verse, "Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me," says at the second verse, "But who may abide the
day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap."
This description can have no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ, and consequently none to John the Baptist. It is a scene of fear and terror that is here described, and the birth of Christ is always spoken of as a time of joy and glad tidings.
Malachi, continuing to speak on the same subject, explains in the next chapter what the scene is of which he speaks in the verses above quoted, and who the person is whom he calls the messenger.
"Behold," says he, chap. iv. ver. 1, "the day cometh that shall burn like an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day cometh that shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
Ver. 5. "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."
By what right, or by what imposition or ignorance Mark has made Elijah into John the Baptist, and Malachi's description of the day of judgment into the birth-day of Christ, I leave to the Bishop to settle.
Mark, in the second and third verses of his first chapter, confounds two passages together, taken from different books of the Old Testament. The second verse, "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before me," is taken, as I have said before, from Malachi. The third verse, which says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his path straight." is not in Malachi, but in Isaiah, chap. xl. ver. 3. Whiston says, that both these verses were originally in Isaiah. If so, it is another instance of the disordered state of the Bible, and corroborates what I have said with respect to the name and description of Cyrus being in the book of Isaiah, to which it cannot chronologically belong.
The words in Isaiah, chap. xl. ver. 3. "The voice of hin that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his path straight," are in the present tense, and consequently not predictive. It is one of those rhetorical figures which the Old Testament authors frequently used. That it is merely rhetorical and metaphorical, may be seen at the 6th verse. "And the voice said, cry; and he said, what shall I cry? All flesh is grass." This is evidently nothing but a figure; for flesh is not grass, otherwise than as a figure or metaphor, where one thing is put for another. Besides which, the whole passage is too general and declamatory to be applied exclusively to any particular person or purpose.
I pass on to the eleventh chapter.
In this chapter Mark speaks of Christ riding into Jeru salem upon a colt, but he does not make it the accomplishment of a prophecy, as Matthew has done; for he says nothing about a prophecy. Instead of which, he goes on the other tack, and in order to add new honours to the ass, he makes it to be a miracle; for he says, ver. 2, it was "a colt whereon never man sat;" signifying thereby, that as the ass had not been broken, he consequently was inspired into good manners, for we do not hear that he kicked Jesus Christ off. There is not a word about his kicking in all the four Evangelists.
I pass on from these feats of horsemanship, performed upon a jack-ass, to the 15th chapter.
At the 24th verse of this chapter, Mark speaks of parting Christ's garments and casting lots upon them, but he ap plies no prophecy to it as Matthew does. He rather speaks of it as a thing then in practice with executioners, as it is at this day.
At the 28th verse of the same chapter, Mark speaks of Christ being crucified between two thieves; that, says he, "the Scriptures might be fulfilled which saith, and he was numbered with the transgressors." The same thing might be said of the thieves.
This expression is in Isaiah, chap. liii. ver. 12-Grotius applies it to Jeremiah. But the case has happened so often in the world, where innocent men have been numbered with transgressors, and is still continually happening, that it is absurdity to call it a prophecy of any particular person. All those whom the church calls martyrs were numbered with transgressors. All the honest patriots who fell upon the scaffold in France, in the time of Robespierre, were numbered with transgressors; and if himself had not fallen, the same case, according to a note in his own handwriting, had befallen me; yet I suppose the Bishop will not allow that Isaiah was prophecying of Thomas Paine.
These are all the passages in Mark which have any reference to prophecies.
Mark concludes his book by making Jesus to say to his disciples, chap. xvi. ver. 15, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned (fine Popish stuff this), and these signs shall follow them that believe; in ny name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."
Now, the Bishop, in order to know if he has all this sav. ing and wonder-working faith, should try those things upon