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XXII. Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scrip. the whole of its contents; or that of tures, corresponding with a New Translation reducing the general argument to the of the Bible.
By ALEXANDER GEDDES, principle or principles on which it is LL D. volume i containing remarks o! the Pentateuch, 4to. pp. viii. and 475. 1800. founded, and making these the subject
of examination. The nature of the The attempt to poison the very foun- work must determine which of these tains of religious truth, by a continued two methods is the most eligible ; and commentary upon the Holy Scriptures, the nature of that which is now to be written upon the evident and unequi- examined plainly decides for the latter. vocal principles of infidelity, is an in. If the performance of Dr. Geddes can stance of profane audacity, which has be reduced to one principle, or to a not been exhibited in this country until few principles, it is evident that the the Translation of the Bible, and Criti. labour of confutation will be much cal Remarks, of Dr. Geddes appeared. abridged and facilitated; the result of The Translation has proceeded as far the argument will be more simple and as the Book of Ruth; to which the intelligible, and the whole superstrucPrayer of Manasseh is subjoined. The ture of learned and elaborate criticism, Remarks comprehend the Pentateuch which is built upon those principles, alone. It may betray us into a dan- will share the fate of its foundation. gerous security to imagine that works, It requires no uncommon sagacity to confessedly beyond the capacity of the discover, that Dr. Geddes has, through. common class of readers, are, by that out the whole of his work, uniformly circumstance, prevented from produc. proceeded upon the supposition, that ing any extensive mischief. There ne- the writings of Moses are entitled to ver have been wanting men, who were no higher authority than any human ready, with an officious impiety, to composition; and that, in claiming a bring forward to the attention, and re- divine commission, the Hebrew legis. duce to the level of the generality of lator acted the part of an impostor. readers, such sentiments in works of That no injustice is done to the Authis description as might promote the thor by this representation, we will wretched cause in which their abilities prove by an appeal to his work. The and exertions were engaged. Such account of the Creation is represented was the undeserved fate of the valua- as a fiction of Moses; some parts of ble labours of Mill in the hands of a it as an admirable device." Collins. The rash and unwarranted ther end,” he says,
16 which the cosassertion of Dodwell, respecting the mologist had in view, when he distriCanon of the New Testament, which buted the work of creation into six had as fair a prospect as can well be days, &c.” (p. 28.) After observing imagined of remaining in obscurity, that it was the general conduct of anfrom the nature of the work in which cient legislators to feign an intercourse it is found, was discovered by a Toland, with some divinity, he proposes the and, in his zeal for the degradation of question of an objector :-“But was Scripture, introduced to the public at- this, it will be said, the case with Motention. These instances, to which ses? Why not? And where is the others might be added, may lead us to proof that Moses did not, in this, act expect that the work before us will not like other legislators, &c.” (p. 41.) escape a similar treatment; and that Again, “ We have now got to the end the Translation and Remarks of Dr. of the mythos of Moses"-" a most Geddes will in future be resorted to, as charming political fiction, dressed up the most complete, and, for reference, for excellent purposes in the garb of the most commodious repository of history, and adapted to the gross coninfidelity which the English language ceptions and limited capacity of a rude, affords.
sensual, and unlearned credulous peoIn the examination of any work, two ple.” (p. 49, 50.) Passages of this methods may be adopted, the more description are plentifully interspersed laborious one of discussing in order throughout the work: we shall, there
fore, content ourselves with the addi. leaves his reader in doubt, whether the tion of the following alone. “ The whole be not a fiction of the historian. God of Moses, JEHOVAH, if he really These are his words : “Indeed the inbe such as he is described in the Pen- tention of the Hebrew historian seems tateuch, is not the God whom I adore; to have been, to assemble every sort of nor the God whom I could love.” (p. calamity by which a nation, situated
like Egypt, could possibly be afflicted; But before such an opinion of the and in this he has been wonderfully character of Moses, and of the history sagacious and successful.” (p. 195.) written by bim, could be established, The passage of the Israelites through it was necessary, in some manner, to the Red Sea affords as little embardispose of those miraculous events, by l'assment to our adventurous Comwhich ihe integrity of the one and the mentacor. It is nothing more than truth of the ollier were attested. If the what is persormed at the present clay. miracles are once admitted, the whole Suez, or near Suez, is the place fixed hypothesis must be abandoned. Of upon for the passage.
Modern comthis the Doctor was sufficiently sensi- mentators suppose it to be Kolsum, ble; and, in order to relieve himself whose ancient name is Clysma. Upo from the difficulty, has adopted a me on the position of this place two emithod, the most simple and expedi. nent geographers are at variance. tious imaginable. Relying upon the D'Anville places it below, Niebuhr stability of his assumed principle, that above Suez. But Dr. Geddes is pethe whole history of Moses is an im- culiarly unhappy in his attempt to posture, he has proceeded, without fur- overturn this miracle, by supposing ther ceremony, to resolve all the ini. that the shallows near Suez 6 might, racles, as he met with them, into such in former times, have been frequently natural occurrences as most nearly re. dry.” (p. 225.). It is a well establishsembled them. So, the burning yet ed fact, admitted by Niebuhr, and conunconsumed bush, out of which Moses firmed by one of the first geographical was addressed by God, was only “an writers of the present age, Major Renuncommon luminous appearance in a nell, that the Red Sea has, from the bush of briar's.” (p. 164.) The various earliest times, been gradually retiring; plagues inflicted upon Egypt are ex- particularly that there is a valley, to plained in the same manner. It will the extent of four or five miles to the be sushcient to refer to the observa- northward of Suez, (Volney says two tion of Dr. Geddes in the close. “Such leagues) which appears, from all acwere the famous plagues of Egypt, as counts, to be the deserted bed of the they are related by the Hebrew histo
sea. (See Geography of Herodoius, rian, &c.” '~" Is the story then entire. p. 474, 475.) The first note on Exoly without foundation ? Perhaps not. dus xx. affords a perfect specimen, in While Moses and Aaron were solicit- addision 10 those already produced, of ing the Egyptian King for leave to go the process by which Dr. Geddes conwith the Israeliies into the wilderness, verts miracles into natural events; 10 &c. it might very well happen that an which the reader may refer, if his reaextraordinary exundation of the Nile son and piety be not already sufficienishould take place, and be followed by ly insulted. an uncommon brood of frogs, &c. &c." If it be asked, as it reasonably may, (p. 212.) The Doctor, however, does what authority Dr. Geddes had for this not appear to have been perfectly sa- licentious treatment of the sacred vo. tisfied with this solution; for, by his lume, almost the only reply that can own acknowledgment, the events, al. be given is, that from some unspecifithough natural, were uncommon; and ed cause, he had, in common with that they should happen successively other infidels, acquired the habit of reat the command of Moses, in attesta- garding the Old Testament as a collection of a peculiar claim, must be little tion of human compositions, and an less than miraculous. He, therefore, imposture. His interpretations have, Christ. Obsery. No. 6.
generally, some such preface as—"I tide, which, Burnet says, was considered am clearly of opinion ;” (p. 182.) or, as a miracle. (p. 226.) And such is the “ for my part, who believe nothing assertion of Bruce respecting Egypt, miraculous in the event." (p. 225.) If that “it is a perfect prodigy to see rain he had any other reason for his con- here.” (p. 186.) duct, it might possibly be founded upon It is acknowledged that, in all cases, the oriental imagery ascribed to Scrip- we must be governed by the preponture, which, as a kind of magic wand, derating evidence; and that a slender will transform it into any meaning. presumption may often be sufficient to The indiscriminate manner in which oblige us to a certain belief and a certhis style is imputed to the writers of tain course of conduct. But to satisfy the Old Testament might almost lead ourselves with the evidence resulting us to expect it in their genealogical from faint and partial analogies, in preregisters. But if the advocates for so ference to opposing evidence of far suconvenient an instrument of perver. perior force, is an argument of that sion would attend to the necessary dis- intellectual weakness or perversity, tinction to be made upon the subject, which only belongs to those, who are they would avoid some errors; parti- inflexibly bent on the pursuit or estacularly, if Dr. Geddes had noticed the blishment of error; and that the conmanner in which the passage through curring evidence, derived from many the Red Sea is recorded historically, independent sources, upon which the Exodus xiv. and described poetically, divine authority of the sacred writings chap. xv. he might, possibly, have been of the Old Testament is founded, is of induced to be less liberal in the appli- force far superior to any argument cation of this method of solving every which can be opposed to it, will be dedifficulty that presented itself. There nied by none who consider the subject is another argument, however, occur. without an undue bias. In the history ring at different intervals in the work of the Old Testament, particularly the before us, upon which the Commenta- former part, the miraculous events are tor appears to place much reliance. It so inseparably interwoven with the oris the argument of analogy, founded dinary transactions, (as even the inveupon parallel incidents recorded by terate Bollingbroke acknowledged,) profane writers. The general pre- that they must stand and fall together. tence to inspiration in the ancient le- The attestations, therefore, to the truth gislators is adduced to invalidate the of the one class, which have been supclaim of Moses. Josephus compares plied by all parts of the world; by the passage of the Israelites through Phænicia, by Egypt, by Greece, by the Red Sea to that of Alexander's ar. India, are equally effectual to the estamy through the Pamphylian Sea. But blishment of the other. * Let it be likeDr. Geddes should have been better wise considered, that the facts recordacquainted with the object of the Jew- ed by the Hebrew historian were, maish historian in composing his history; ny of them, such as did not admit of an object to which he made greater deception ; and that the witnesses of sacrifices than could have been wish- them were, not a select body, but a ed; than to press into his service an whole and a numerous nation, whose authority which might so justly be attention was frequently and statedly disputed. The instance of Scipio's called to the supernatural interposisoldiers, who surprised New Carthage, tion, by which they were delivered by taking advantage of an ebb, is more from Egypt, and whose civil as well as to the purpose ; and the affair
* Many other nations might be added ; anci, converted into a prodigy by the artsul concerning the Deluge, Sir William Jones general. The Doctor bas adduced affirms, that it is “an historical fact, admitted some modern testimonies to the same
as truie by every nation to whose literature effect. Such is the account of the pre- cient Hindus.".~ Asiatic Researches, Ninth
we have access, and particularly by the anservation of Holland by means of the Anniversary Discourse.
religious institutions were entirely powerful tendency to destroy the influfounded upon that law, which they be ence of religion in the minds of men, lieved was delivered to them, in a so- and to plunge them into a state of unrelemn manner, by God himself, in the claimable impiety. wilderness in which they sojourned. Upon this subject may be consulted the former part of Leslie's Short Method XXIII. The Excellence of Christian Mowith the Deists, and Stilling fleet's Orig.
rality. A Sermon, preached before the Sac. book ii. particularly chap. i. War
Society in Scotland for propagating burton, likewise, has undertaken to de
Christian Knowledge, at their Annivermonstrate, “that the universal pretence sary Meeting, Thursday, 6th June, to revelation proves the truth of some,
1799. By the Rev. WM. BENNET, and particularly the Jewish.” Div. Leg.
Minister of Duddingston. 8vo. p. 75 book iv. $1.
Edinburgh, Creech; and But were there no other exceptions
London, Ogle, 1800. to be made to the character of Dr. This discourse is certainly not a model Geddes as an interpreter of the Scrip- of parochial instruction; for to say noture, the profane levity, which he con- thing of its length, it is too elaborate a stantly discovers, would, in the minds composition for common occasions.of all serious persons, utterly disqualify Considering how incapable the generahim for the office. Take only a few in- lity of hearers are of attending to any stances. Of the Egyptian magicians, close contexture of argument, to any he says-"
-“ The rogues had got by them refinements of discussion, or any very a little red earth, &c.” (p. 186.) In his lengthened enumeration of particulars, account of the Plague of Frogs: those Sermons seem best adapted for 6 Poor Chanticleer! to have thy privi- edification in which the preacher, selege usurped by a nasty frog ! &c.* The lecting a few important and interesting ridiculous and ill-judged substitution of truths, presents them in the most skipover for passover, affords the Divine obvious light to the understanding, and the opportunity of a pun-" But to skip without distracting or fatiguing the atfrom the subject all at once, &c.” (p. tention, labours to affect the heart. 210.) The parallel, however, which he Extraordinary occasions, however, has drawn between an incident which will sometimes arise, which afford a happened to 'himself, and that which greater latitude to the Christian Dihappened to Balaam, exceeds every vine ; and these our author has shewn other instance, and for irreligious buf. himself well qualified to improve. foonery would not disgrace a Paine. (p. The subject of this Sermon, “ Chris393, 394.)
tian Morality," is of universal concern, Christian charity would willingly, in and by our regard to it, that most imsome sense, believe the solemn profes- portant of all questions, Am I a real sion made by this author-"Christian is Christian? is to be determined. For my name, and Catholic is my surname. what is Christianity but a divine instituRather than renounce these glorious tion for the restoration of fallen man to titles, I would shed my blood.” (p. vi.) his primeval purity? Its intention is to But in what sense can it be believed ? recover him through the mediation of The unhappy man, it is true, has now Jesus Christ, and by the influence of the nothing to fear from the judgment of Holy Spirit on his heart, not only to a his fellow creatures. But the most in- state of hope, but to a state of allegiance dulgent principles of our religion hard to his supreme Lord. ly permit us to think that he is removed After apprizing the reader that the to a more favourable tribunal. Nor can term morality is used in this discourse, we contemplate, without the most seri- not as descriptive merely of the “conous apprehensions, the condition of one, duct of men to each other," but as incalled to appear before his Maker, and cluding likewise what is due to God; to give an account of a life, the principal and making some just observations on exertions of which had a direct and the uncertainty and insufficiency of hu
inan laws, the principle of honour, the cept our righteousness not only shall “ exceed influence of sentimeni, a moral sense, and the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharithe dictates of unassisted reason ; he sees,” but except we aspire “ to be perfect,
as our Father in heaven is perfect !" What proceeds to shew the superior energy awful ideas are these of the extent and spiriof those principles, from which the true tuality of the divine laws! Is it conceivable, Christian acts; viz. a regard to the au that human infatuation can be so great, as to thority of God, faiih in his word, love to pervert these declarations, to nourish security, his name, and a zeal for his glory.
and to palliate grovelling systems of morals ? He then takes a view of the “ extent how great is that darkness!" If at the last
If the light that is in such men be darkness, of christian morality." We recommend they are to be "judged out of their own the perusal of this part of Mr. Ben- mouths,” how awful must be that judgment! net's Sermon to some modern writers, 66 To sober and serious minds two conclu. who, while they preiend to be strenuous
sions will appear to arise from the review of
this wonderful and appalling sermon. One, asserters of practical Christianity, seem
that it was designed to be a perpetual standard, not to have consider what it is they con- by which the "spirit was to convince the tend for, nor to have learned the num. world of sin, of righteousness, and judgment ; ber, variety, and qualities of those du- and thus to be at the same time an incentive, ties which the Scriptures comprehend guide, or schoolmaster, to bring men to Christ, under that tcrm.
and to convince them of the indispensable im. It is on social duties that those wri. portance of his atonement, of the necessity of
repentance, abasement, and regeneration.ters generally dwell, who attempt to se Another object seems to have been, that it parate the principles and the practice might stand as a model of the extent and puof Christianity, yet few of them seem rity of Christian morality to every age; and at fully aware of the extent of the divine the same time convince men of ihe necessity
of divine power to enable them to rise to the law, even with respect to such duties.
standard, or to realise the character which it Among the illusions by which mien prescribes.” (p. 38.) deceive themselves in this important
Mr. Bennet next considers the effiinatter, our author mentions that com
cacy of Christian principles; and after mon but melancholy instance of an un- observing that it is undeniably of great discerning mind, the appealing with no importance to possess a pure standard small degree of self.complacency to our of morals,” inasmuch as 66 the more Saviour's Sermon on the Mount, as sublime and extensive it is, the more their acknowledged standard.
eminent and admirable will those cha“But is it possible,” continues Vr. Bennet, racters appear which are formed even "to read that awful sermon of Jesus, with any by the attempt to reach it," the author degree of attention, to believe that the speak. allows, “that it is discouraging and me. er's authority was divine, to know that his lancholy to aspire to objects which we words were immutable, and not to tremble suspect to be unattainable.” This conly to be poor in spirit, but to be mourners for cession is made for the sake of introsin? not only to be merciful, but pure in heart; ducing that interesting doctrine of not only to be meek, but to rejoice in enduring Christianiiy, the influence of the Holy persecution ; not only to hunger and thirst af stirit. This sovereign remedy for our ter riglucousness, but to press on to perfect distempered nature, through which Lion ? What! shall we be in danger of liell alone we have any hope of being able fire, not merely for open acts of revenge, but for being angry without a cause ; not merely to approach that sublime standard of for committing adultery, but for looking upon duty, which the Gospel sets before us, a woman with inpure desire ; not merely for is here asserted, and the christian docswearing falsely, but for swearing at all; not trine of regeneration supported by an merely for revenging ourselves upon but for not loving them ! not merely for unjust appeal to the holy Scriptures, and to deeds, but even for covetous thoughts ; not experience. inerely for doing the will of Satan, but for not Mr. Bennet allows, indeed, that the doing the will of our heavenly Father! Must instances of this great moral transforwe never hope to be admitted to heaven, ex- mation are comparatively few, but obcept we not only do not walk in the broad way serves, that the paucity may be accountof the world, but eagerly strive to enter into ed for, by the small extent to which the the straightgate that leadeth untolife;" except we not only do not break the commandments, reception of the genuine doctrines of but except we do "all the will of God;" ex- Christianity has obtained among mana