« PreviousContinue »
bound to guard against this dangerous and agreeable poison, than the author of the Thoughts on Nature and Reli• gion.
To range those singularities under their proper heads, is almost impossible: and modesty does not permit to transcribe from your book several passages of your allegorical commentary, on the second chapter of Genesis. The coat of skins,' then, with which God covered the man and woman after their fall,' as well as the fruit so pleasing to the eye, which the woman tasted,' I leave the doctor in full possession of. He is a married man, and skilled in the anatomy of all parts of the body.
After giving his readers the important information, that Adam was displeased with his wife, for inducing him to a faux pas, which I believe no married man, except Adam, (if We believe the doctor,) ever scrupled; he allegorizes some of the rest of the chapter, in the following manner: • God
writer, and there he put the man whom he had formed.? • What is called a garden,' says the doctor, I take to be • the human mind. By the river which watered the garden,
and afterwards divided into four branches, is meant inno6 cence, divided into the four cardinal virtues.' Here he loses breath: for to allegorize all would be too tedious; and doubtless the public have room to regret the doctor's omission in not continuing the allegory to the end of the chapter.
He professes his belief in the Scriptures; but has the good luck to elude every difficulty that falls in his way, by the assistance of metaphors; and thinks himself the more authorized to take this freedom with Moses, as he discovers a mistake in the Bible. “I will strike Egypt, saith • the Lord, from the tower of Syene to the borders of • Ethiopia.** • Instead of Ethiopia,' says the doctor, .it i should be Arabia : for Syene was situated on the borders 6 of Ethiopia. ?
Pray, doctor, does a mistake in geography, on the part of, the translators of the Bible, invalidate the Mosaical account of man's innocence, together with his felicity in Paradise ;
the malice of the tempting spirit, and his appearance under the form of a serpent; the fall of Adam and Eve, fatal to all their posterity; the first man justly punished in his children, and mankind cursed by God; the first promise of redemption, and the future victory of man over the Devil, who had undone then ? Has not the memory of those great events, and the fatal transition from original justice to the corruption of sin, been preserved in the golden and iron ages of the poets, their Hesperian gardens watched by dragons, and in the enchantments and worship of idolatrous nations, in whose incantations and superstitions, the serpent always bore, as it bears still, a principal part ? Allegorize Moses as much as you please; he relates that God promised, that the woman's
offspring would crush the serpent's head.' This very promise of a Redeemer, and man's victory through his grace, are foretold in the oracles of the Gentiles. Even Tacitus, though a mortal enemy to the Jews and Christians, acknowledges that it was a constant tradition among the Oriental nations, that from the Jews would spring a conqueror, who would subdue the world. A translator's mistake, as to the name of a town or tower, is no plea for scepticism; especially as there are and have been, several towns of the same name, in different places; which might have been the case with Syene ; and cities which, in a long succession of time, have changed their names, or borne different names at the same time: as is the case with Constantinople, which the Turks call Stamboul, and others Byzantium.
But let us suppose that the tower of Syene was situated on the same line, in an opposite direction, with the frontiers of Ethiopia: is there any impropriety in saying, “I will strike Egypt from the tower of Syene to the borders of Ethiopia?' Solinus relates, that there was a tower, called Syene, in lower Egypt. Ethiopia borders Egypt on the south. In striking Egypt, then from the tower of Syene to the borders of Ethiopia, it is struck from north to south: that is, from one extremity to the other. The doctor, then, has lost his time in correcting the prophet Ezechiel's map, and substituting Arabia for Ethiopia. Yet this passage of Ezechiel is his chief plea for allegorizing Genesis: with what success let the reader judge.
A warm fancy, in a paroxysm of zeal, may indulge its
to build a synagogue on that day seven Word Provinces tha
boundless excursions in the path of allegory, when obscure passages and mystical expressions open a field for interpretations and allusions. Mead, Whiston, Wesley, and the doctor himself, may discover the Pope in the beast with ten horns ; and Rome in the great city built on seven hills. The Jewish rabbins, after obtaining permission from the prince of Orange to build a synagogue, applied to their benefactor this famous passage of Isaiah: • On that day seven women will take hold
of one man,' alluding to the Seven United Provinces that had elected him stadtholder: and I myself, if I were in humour, could, in a long-winded discourse, enlarge upon the seven sacraments, or the three theological and four cardinal virtues; and compare them to the seven golden candlesticks mentioned in the revelations of St. John. But in an historical narration, giving an account of the origin of the world : of a garden planted with trees, watered with four rivers; with their names; the countries through which they flow; the precious stones, mines, and minerals, to be found in those countries, &c. : the introduction of an allegory is the subversion of reason.
Even where allegories can be used with any propriety, our masters in rhetoric lay down as a rule, that, in the chain of
metaphors continued through the discourse, aptness, resem•blance, and justness of allusion, must be strictly observed.' What justness of allusion is there between the human mind, and a garden planted eastward in Eden, where God put the man he had created? As much as there is in saying, God made man, and placed him eastward in his mind. What analogy is there between the four rivers and the four cardinal virtues ? Between fortitude and Pison, or the Ganges, with the effiminate natives that inhabit its banks? Between prudence and the Euphrates ? Justice and Gihon or the Nile, with its crocodiles ? T'emperance and Hiddekel or the Tygris, which, as Moses relates, and as geography informs us, goeth towards the east of Assyria, a country famous in former days for the intemperance of its inhabitants ? The four cardinal virtues being set afloat on the four rivers, and the doctor's imagination having spent the fire of his allegory, we are at a loss what virtue to describe by the onyx-stone mentioned by Moses in the following words: The name of the first river is Pison; that is • it which compasseth the land of Havilah, where there is
is gold: and the gold of that land is good: and there is • bdellium and the onyx-stone.' By gold, doubtless, he must mean charity or patience. But of the onyx-stone there are four kinds; and we would be obliged to our dogmatizing philosophers for describing their four correspondent virtues.
Let them inform us, in like manner, whether the bdellium mentioned by Moses, be one of the theological or a branch of the cardinal virtues. For though in dispensatories, the bdellium be allowed to be a good nostrum, of an emollient and discutient quality; yet the learned, whether commentators of Scripture, or natural philosophers, are no more agreed about the true nature of bdellium, than they are about the manner how it is produced: and it is much doubted whether the bdellium of the ancients be the same with the modern kind.
Thus, in the disputes about a drop of gum resin, the nature and production whereof perplex the most learned, we discover the weakness of human reason. We cannot dissect a fly; and we would fain comprehend the ways of Providence. We would fain sound the unfathomable ocean of the Christian religion, and arraign its mysteries at the tribunal of a glimmering reason; when the small atom that swims on the surface, baffles our severest scrutiny.
I have the honour to be, &c.
TO our modern philosophers, who set up the proud idols of their own fancies in opposition to the oracles of the divinity, and, endeavouring to discover absurdities in the Christian religion, fall into greater, we can, without disclaiming our title to good manners, apply what St. Paul applied to the philosophers of his time : 'they became vain in
their imaginations : professing themselves to be wise, they "became fools.' In order to sap the foundations of revealed religion, and to make man the sport of chance, who neither lost any privilege by Adam's fall, nor gained any thing by Christ's redemption, they endeavour to obtrude Muses on the public as an allegorical writer. Examine his character, and acknowledge their folly.
Besides his divine mission, in what historian, does truth shine more conspicuous ? He relates his personal defects, as well as the extraordinary powers with which the Lord in-, vested him ; deduces a long chain of patriarchs from the first man down to his days; traces a genealogy, in which every chief is distinguished by his peculiar character. In quitting Egypt, the nursery of fiction, did it comport with the dig. nity of the legislator and commander of a chosen people, to write romances? In the space of five hundred years, from Noah's death to Moses' time, could the fall of inan and his expulsion from Paradise be forgotten? And, as he had enemies, would not they have charged him with imposture ? Or was he the only person amongst the Jews, who was in. structed by his fathr? In a word, it was out of his power to deceive the Jews; much less was it his inclination or interest. All, then, is coherent in Moses : and to his genuine narra. tive we are indebted for the knowledge of ourselves; for, without the aid of revelation, man would ever be an inexplicable mystery.
In believing my descent from a father created in a state of perfection, from whence he fell; a father on whose obedi. ence or disobedience my happiness or misery depended; I
isted him ; deducernary powers wills his personal dels truth