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also attributed to Solomon, but the author of the book of Proverbs was never the author of Ecclesiastes, nor is the tone of this latter book at all consonant with the character given to Solomon. We were told that even in his old
he doted on the multiplicity of his wives and his gods, and there is no change or repentance whatever mentioned; but we are told that his posterity were punished for his conducl in the true Jewish fashion. The first chapter of this book says: “I the preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem." Now, if we admit Solomon to be the author, we might wonder when or where he wrote it, as it says, he was King over Israel. We are not told that Solomon ceased to be a king, and the only way to account for this mode of expression is, to assume that Solomon wrote this book after he had reached the infernal regions. Ile might have transmitted it to his countrymen by the witch of Endor. Otherwise he would have wrilien lans king over Israel.
The book throughout displays the language of discontent and vexation, and whilst it professes to convey moral instruction, it does it in that sort of negative style as to defeat its own purpose. Whilst it seems to recommend virtue and morality, it distinctly lays down, that the end both of the virtuous and the vicious is alike, and death the common vortex which ends all being. The author was not a sufficient moral philosopher to shew that virtue and vice carry their own reward with them; but he says that our virtues even are vain, and thus discourages the practice. This book might be called a Bible authority against the immortality of man or a future state. In the first chapter, after saying that there is nothing new under the sun, the author observes, “There is no remem
brance of former things; neither shall there be any remem'brance of things that are to come with those that shall come
after'. Again, in the third chapter, he says: “ For tiat which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasls; even one ? thing befalleth them: as the one dieth so dieth the other;
yea, they have all one breath : so that a man bath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. This is a truth althongh it be in the bible. Following the above quotation the author asks: “Who knowelh the spirit of man that gocth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceived that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion; for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?" Again, in the nintha chapter,
I find the following words: 'All things come alike to all: . there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.' These are all so many moral truths, and I am convinced that mankind would cultivate peace and happiness in this life to a much greater extent, were they once relieved from the idle notion of a future life. For instance, within these few days, we have heard, that the respectable mother. of a respectable family in the north of England, had been a long time impressed with the horrid idea that nothing could save her from eternal misery and hell flames; and this notion growing upon her, reduced the sanity of her mind, and she cut her throat, and extinguished prematurely her own life, to the great misery of her respected husband and family. Young as I am, I think that I shall not stretch if I say that an hundred such instances have happened in this country since my recollection. I have personally known many of the individuals who have brought premature death on themselves by fanatical phrenzy. There is nothing incident to man that is so revolting to his mind as this. That, not content with boasting of a merciful God or Gods, and that one of them is solely employed as a mediator for the offences of the human race, yet such a fanatic must lay violent hands on him or herself. Such persons are much to be pitied: they anticipate their hell, and suffer it on earth. There is an assertion in a book of the Apocrypha, called also, The Wisdom of Soloron, which is strictly applicable to the foregoing observations: it is thus; ' For the worshipping of idols, not to be
named, is the beginộing, the cause, and the end, of all evil.' I give my assent to this sentence, and conclude my ideas of idolatry, as applying as much to the Jew or the Christian, as to the Mahometan or Pagan,
Our celebrated preacher on vanity has not forgotten to mention the vanity and vexation of authorship, and he writes just in that temper and tone as if he had been all his life-time a garretteer: 'And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a
weariness of the flesh. I shall conclude with my opinion, that this preacher was a disappointed und unsuccessful ! author.
Theabove-mentioned book of Wisdom in the Apocrypha, isalso called a book of Solomon's; he is welcome to this, or any other Jew. It is altogether a striog of balderdash, and the above quo
tation is all that I discovered worthy of notice in it. There is also another book of the same kind in the Apocrypha, called Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach ; this is a much better collection or compilation than the last and has the appearance of not being falsely imposed, as the abovenamed Jesus is made to represent it as a collection, and chiedy borrowed from his grandfather of the same name. But it is not to be compared with that beautiful epitome of morality and virtue to be found in the book of Proverbs. Let us hold fast this and all other will be superfluous.
I now come to the book called the Song of Solomon. The Jew must smile within himself when he sees how the Christian has attempted to deform tủis little piece by making it allude to Christ and his church. I would now, once for all, state, that I do not believe that there is a single sentence in this Song that was written with an intention of being understood allegorically, neither do I think that any other part of the Bible was written under that idea, the few parables which it contains excepted. This Song appears to be the effusion of a wanton, voluptuous, female, who was up to her head and ears in love, at least, such is the character represented, whoever might have been the author of it.
It appears to have been much admired in its literal character by the Jews, for they have called it the Song of Songs. There is a strange incoherence throughout the piece, and it carries all the appearance of having been written by some one distracted in love. I think it no great compliment to the fair sex, that one of them should be made to expose herself in such a manner, even in song. It is striking at the root of delicacy, and pot paying that deference which is due to the sex, whatever may be its foibles, or weaknesses in love affairs. I doubt whether the picture of the translation is so strong and highly coloured as the original Hebrew, I bave been informed that there is a great deficiency in many parts of the Bible in this respect, one of which I shall have to take particular notice of. But this passage which is repeated in the Song cannot be mistaken. “ His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” There are many others equally pointed, buť have a veil thrown over them. Iam of opinion that the Christians would evince their chastity much further, by omitting this song in their sacred writings, than by foolishly attempting to shield it by allegory, when its literal meaning is so striking, and its contents such as no allegorical writer would ever think of assuming, for the description of any thing, but what it literally conveys. Admitting its allegory; it forms no
excuse, and evinces a want of chastity and decency. I insert the seventh chapter to try whether the Vice Society will indict it or not: The vuluptuarian writings of England are modest when compared with it: it is thus
“How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of ihy thighs are like jewels, the work of ihe hands of a cunning workman. Thy narel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins. Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim: tliy nose is as the tower of Lebanon whicha Jooketh toward Damascus. Thine head upon thee is like Carniel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries. How fair and liow pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also tly breasts skall be as clusters of the vine, and ihe smell of thy nose like apples; and the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. I am my beloved's and his desire is toward me.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if ihe vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves. The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, () my beloved.”
If such be your church, o Christians, I don't know what man would hesitate to embrace it, and be received as a member: speaking for myself; I can say, that I should not, had I not a pre-engagement. I fear that ye have drawn too fascinating a picture of your church, and that Venus is not so openly worshipped as ye here represent, whatever may be the nature of your private worship. Strange stories are afloat about your early love feasts, and I think it must have been in that age that you allegorized this Song of Songs. I believe that the chief love that is felt for the Christian church, now a day, is for the sinecures that it affords: those ample means of idleness and debauchery: and that all the warm love for this cara sposa is converted into a cold calculation of the profits to be made out of her. But I drop this subject, and beg pardon of the reader for what I have said. Such subjects cannot fairly be met in any other manner.
I come now to the Books of the Prophets, as they are called ; and as both Christians and Jews lay much stress on those writings, I shall be particular with them, as far as their incongruity
will permit me. The first is the Book of Isaiah. J have seen it asserted somewhere, that the Prophets in Judea
were just what the Freethinkers or Dissenters generally have been to the established church in this country. That they had seminaries, and existed by hundreds, we have been told, in the Jewish Fables, and their business seems to have been an opposition to the established priesthood, and a sort of itinerant preaching; whilst they derived their support from the generosity of the public. We read of none of these men having any ihing to do with the temple, excepting Samuel,-bythe-by, I overlooked the circumsiance of a temple being mentioned in the time of Samuel, which was the case, and Samuel is represented as dwelling in it, although, we were subsequently told that Jehovah had no house to dwell in. Eli appeared to be considered nothing more than the High Priest, but Samuel is called a prophet, and we read of Saul's joining a multitude of prophets and receiving the gift of prophecy also. I am inclined to think that the first race of Jewish prophets might be compared to the modern gipsies of this country, they were a species of strolling players, musicians, and fortunetellers or seers. Hence the surprise which is expressed, " Is Saul also among the prophets?” Where priestcraft abounded so much as it must have done in Judea, it is likely, that as these prophets grew into more importance, they opposed themselves to the priests, and like our modern Dissenters, insisted, that they alone were the true servants of God, and received visions and spiritual instruction from him. Thus Isaiah is made to say in the first chapter of his bookTo what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto '
me ? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts: and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goals. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts ? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto ne; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed seasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary:o bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from
many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
This is evidently an attack on the priesthood and the eslablished custom of sacrifices. Nothing can be more clear and distinct in the literal meaning of the words, and I have nothing to do with any other meaning. The second chapter has also another complaint against the priesthood for worshipping the idols, and following the customs of the Philistines, it is thus:
“ Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob,
you: yea, when