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HAM, that Sarah was at this time ninety years of age, that she had been already carried away by a king of Egypt, and that a king of this same horrid wilderness of Gerar likewise, many years afterwards, carried away the wife of Isaac, Abraham's son. We have also spoken of his servant Hagar, who bore him a son, and of the manner in which the patriarch sent her and her son away. It is well known how infidels triumph on the subject of all these histories, with what a disdainful smile they speak of them, and that they place the story of one Abimelech falling in love with Sarah whom Abraham had passed as his sister, and of another Abimelech falling in love with Rebecca, whom Isaac also passes as his sister, even beneath the thousand and one nights of the Arabian fables. We cannot too often remark, that the great error of all these learned critics is. their wishing to try everything by the test of our feeble reason, and to judge of the ancient Arabs as they judge of the courts of France or of England.
“ And the soul of Sichem, king Hamor's son, was bound
with the soul of Dinah, and he soothed her grief by his tender caresses, and he went to Hamor his father, and said to him, give me that woman to be
Here our critics 'exclaim in terms of stronger disgust than ever. What! say they; the son of a king is desirous to marry a vagabond girl; the marriage is celebrated; Jacob the father, and Dinah the daughter, are loaded with presents; the king of Sichem deigns to receive those wandering robbers called patriarchs within his city; he has the incredible politeness or kindness to undergo, with his son, his court, and his people, the rite of circumcision, thus condescending to the superstition of a petty horde that could not call half a league of territory their own! And in return for this astonishing hospitality and goodness, how do our holy patriarchs act? They wait for the day when the process of circumcision generally induces fever, when Simeon and Levi run through the whole city with poignards in their hands, and massacre the king, the prince his son, and all the inhabitants. We are precluded from the
horror appropriate to this infernal counterpart of the tragedy of St. Bartholomew, only by a sense of its absolute impossibility. It is an abominable romance; but it is evidently a ridiculous romance. It is impossible that two men could have slaughtered in quiet the whole population of a city. The people might suffer in a slight degree from the operation which had preceded; but notwithstanding this, they would have risen in defence against two diabolical miscreants; they would have instantly assembled, would have surrounded them, and destroyed them with the summary and complete vengeance merited by their atrocity.
But there is a still more palpable impossibility. It is, that according to the accurate computation of time, Dinah, this daughter of Jacob, could be only three years old; and that, even by forcing up chronology as far as possible in favour of the narrative, she could at the
very most be only five. It is here, then, that we are assailed with bursts of indignant exclamation! What! it is said, what! is it this book, the book of a rejected and reprobate people; a book so long unknown to all the world; a book in which sound reason and decent manners are outraged in every page,—that is held up to us as irrefragable, holy, and dictated by God himself? Is it not even impious to believe it? or could anything less than the fury of cannibals urge to the persecution of sensible and modest men for not believing it?
To this we reply,—The church declares its belief in it. The copyists may have mixed up some revolting absurdities with respectable and genuine histories. It belongs to the holy church only to decide. The profane ought to be guided by her. Those absurdities, those alleged horrors, do not affect the substance of our faith. How lamentable would be the fate of mankind, if religion and virtue depended upon what formerly happened to Sichem and to little Dinah!
“ These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before the children of Israel had a king.”
This is the celebrated passage which has proved one of the great stumbling stones. This it was which decided the great Newton, the pious and acute Samuel Clarke, the profound and philosophic Bolingbroke, the learned Le Clerc, the ingenious Freret, and a host of other enlightened men, to maintain that it was impossible Moses could have been the author of Genesis.
We admit, that in fact these words could not have been written until after the time that the Jews had kings.
It is principally this verse that determined Astruc to give up the inspired authority of the whole book of Genesis, and suppose the author had derived his materials from existing memoirs and records. His work is ingenious and accurate, but it is rash, not to say audacious. Even a council would scarcely have ventured on such an enterprise. And to what purpose has it served Astruc's thankless and dangerous labour to double the darkness he wished to enlighten? Here is the fruit of the tree of knowledge, of which we are all so desirous of eating. Why must it be, that the fruit of the tree of ignorance should be more nourishing and more digestible ?
But of what consequence can it be to us, after all, whether any particular verse or chapter was written by Moses, or Samuel, or the priest (sacrificateur) who came to Samaria, or Esdras, or any other person? In what respect can our government, our laws, our fortunes, our morals, our well-being, be bound up with the unknown chiefs of a wretched and barbarous country called Edom or Idumea, always inhabited by robbers. Alas! those poor Arabs, who have not shirts to their backs, neither know nor care whether or not we are in existence! They go on steadily plundering caravans and eating barley bread, while we are perplexing and tormenting ourselves to know whether any petty kings flourished in a particular canton of Arabia Petrea, before they existed in a particular canton adjoining the west of the lake of Sodom! O miseras hominum curas! O pectora cæca !
LUCRETIUS, book ii. v. 14.
The doctrines of judicial astrology and magic have spread all over the world. Look back to the ancient Zoroaster, and you will find that of the genii long established. All antiquity abounds in astrologers and magicians; such ideas were therefore very natural. At present we smile at the number who entertained them: if we were in their situation,-if like them we were only beginning to cultivate the sciences, we should perhaps believe just the same. Let us suppose ourselves intelligent people, beginning to reason on our own existence, and to observe the stars. The earth, we might say, is no doubt immoveable in the midst of the world; the sun and planets only revolve in her service, and the stars are only made for us; man therefore is the great object of all nature. What is the intention of all these globes, and of the immensity of heaven thus destined for our use? It is very likely that all space and these globes are peopled with substances, and since we are the favourites of nature, placed in the centre of the universe, and all is made for man, these substances are evidently destined to watch over man.
The first man who believed the thing at all possible, would soon find disciples persuaded that it existed. We might then commence by saying, genii perhaps exist, and nobody could affirm the contrary; for where is the impossibility of the air and planets being peopled? We might afterwards say, there are genii, and certainly no one could prove that there are not. Soon after, some sages might see these genii; and we should have no right to say to them, You have not seen them; as these persons might be honourable, and altogether worthy of credit. One might see the genius of the empire or of his own city; another that of Mars or Şaturn; the genii of the four elements might be manifested to several philosophers į more than one sage might see his own genius; all at first might be little more than dreaming, but dreams are the symbols of truth.
It was soon known exactly how these genii were formed. To visit our globe, they must necessarily have wings; they therefore had wings. We only know of bodies; they therefore had bodies, but bodies much finer than ours, since they were genii, and much lighter, because they came from so great a distance. The sages who had the privilege of conversing with the genii inspired others with the hope of enjoying the same happiness. A sceptic would have been ill received, if he had said to them, I have seen no genius, therefore there are none. They would have replied, You reason ill; it does not follow that a thing exists not, which is unknown to you. There is no contradiction in the doctrine which inculcates these ethereal powers; no impossibility that they may visit us; they shuw themselves to our sages, they manifest themselves to ús; you are not worthy of seeing genji.
Everything on earth is composed of good and evil; there are therefore incontestibly good and bad genii. The Persians had their peris and dives; the Greeks, their demons and cacodemons; the Latins, bonos et malos genios. The good genii are white, and the bad black, except among the negroes, where it is necessarily the reverse. Plato without difficulty admits of a good and an evil genius for every individual. The evil genius of Brutus appeared to him, and announced to him his death before the battle of Philippi. Have not grave historians said so? And would not Plutarch have been very injudicious to have assured us of this fact, if it were not true?
Further, consider what a source of feasts, amuse. ments, good tales, and bon mots, originated in the belief of genii.
There were male and female genii. The genii of the ladies were called by the Romans little Junos. They also had the pleasure of seeing their genii grow up. In infancy, they were a kind of Cupid with wings, and when they protected old age, they wore long beards, and even sometimes the form of serpents. At Rome, there is preserved a marble, on which is represented a serpent under a palm tree, to which are attached two