Page images
PDF
EPUB

volupluousness, and has no taste or appetite for aught besides ; when he makes it a continual subject of conversation and of practice, it becomes evidently a species of insanity, and the actions of such a man are decidedly unnatural and vicious. The most delicious draughts when taken to excess are sure to nauseate, as nature requires a medium in all things.

The foregoing chapters as types of the conduct of the Jews are far-fetched, and in my opinion false both in their premises and conclusion. I am firmly of opinion, that if the writer had never seen the splendid and voluptuous manners of the Chaldeans or Persians, he never would have formed such ideas in Judea before the Babylonishi captivity. The Jews were too contemptible to display such refinements in luxury as are there exhibited. A nation that is repeatedly exposed to the invasion of its more powerful neighbours never reaches a state of prosperity and wealth. The accumulation of prosperity attracts the royal as well as the highway robber, and poverty is the only safeguard against powerful thieves. We have no authentic history that ever Judea was an independent state, it has always been open to the ravages of the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Grecians, the Romans, or the Turks, who have now possession of it, not to mention the Philistines whom the Bible represents as almost continually the masters of the Israelites or Jews. It has ever been a peity province, in which the inhabitants have been linked together by a peculiar species of idolatry, and a powerful and binding

fanaticism. Their very form of worship was calculated to impoverish them as a nation, and all the wealth of the state was sure to flow. into the hands of the priests. The double tribute which tyranny and priestcraft must have drawn from them could leave but a bare subsistence in which the necessaries of life and not luxuries became the desideratum. We might as well believe that this luxurious and voluptuous mode of living existed at this moment among the spinners and weavers of Lancashire and Scotland, as to believe that it ever existed among the Jews. The Jews never thrived better than when under a state of captivity abroad, or under Roman garrisons at home. The Roman provinces it is well known reaped a benefit from conquest generally speaking.

I find nothing further worth notice in the book of Ezekiel, it forms a succession of types, and closes with a plan of the new city of Jerusalem, and the extent of territory to be possessed by the tweive tribes, whereas, we have lost sight of ten of those tribes, who have never been heard of to this day.

[ocr errors]

There is one thing evident, Ezekiel prophecied the restoration of the Jews after that restoration had taken place, and he promised himself a splendid and powerful nation which has turned out to be a delusive dream. Subsequent and successive Jews have been working upon the same fallacious base, and still buoy themselves with the hope that in some thousand or two of years, their descendant's will be restored to the country of their ancestors. Futile and ridiculous hope !

The book of Daniel, which stands next in rotation, assumes a new aspect, and stands as a parrative of what happened to him, Daniel, and his fellows at Babylon. I should observe that, as a narrative, the romance is distinct and regular, which is not usual in most of the romances of the Bible. It sets forth, that Daniel and three others of his fellow captives were selected for their comeliness and wisdom to wait upon the King, and that they were excused from eating the King's allowance of animal food, &c. and lived entirely upon pulse, which I can only define to be a vegetable diet, and they were fairer and fatter than those who consumed animal food and drank wine. So far I can believe, but no farther; for in the second chapter weare told, that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream, and the next day forgot it So he called all his magicians, and astrologers, and sorcerers, and chaldeans, to tell him the dream that he had forgot, and the interpretation of it; all those wise and wonderful men insisted that it was impossible for any man to tell what the King had forgotten, but if he would recollect the dream, they would interpret it. The despot grows furious and threatens to destroy them all as impostors, when Daniel steps forward and tells the King the dream he had forgotten, and the interpretation of it; and thus saves all his fellow magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, &c.: for Daniel we are told was made master of them. I need not repeat the particulars of the dream, or the interpretation, to shew that it is all a forgery: suffice it to say, that Daniel, in his interpretation, threatens Nebuchadnezzar with a deposition from his throne.. Such an interpretation would have been resented by a less powerful, and less despotic, prince than Nebuchadnezzar, and such an interpreter would have lost his head as a traitor: but lo! we are told that the King fell down on his face and worshipped Daniel, and made him a ruler in Babylon! This is so contrary to the common character and disposition of a despot, that it cannot be tolerated for a moment. Nebuchadnezzar is farther made to say, that Daniel's God is a God of Gods, and a Lord of Kings;

but in the very next chapter, we are told that he set up a golden image, and enjoined every one in his kingdom to fall down and worship it under the pain of death. Here we have three of Daniel's fellows introduced as refusing to worship this image, and Daniel not being mentioned, we of course must suppose that he fell down and worshipped this golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. However, the point of this part of the romance is, that these three companions of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were cast into a red hot furnace, without receiving any hurt from the fire, whilst those who threw them in bound, were destroyed by the flame and exceeding heat. They were taken out again alive, and without the smell of fire having passed on them, says the story; and the King passes a decree, that no other God but that of these Jews shall be worshipped. I shall not make any comment upon this story. 1 reject all supernatural stories--I feel a conviction that they are fabricated.

The next tale comes in the shape of a decree, published by Nebuchadnezzar, and issued in the first person singular; as it appears, that King's in those days had not assumed the folly of speaking of themselves in the plural number. It is I, Nebuchadnezzar, and not we Nebuchadnezzar. The decree goes on to relate the dream, and Daniel's interpretation of it, which was, that he should be driven from men and should graze in the field with beasts. This we are told came to pass, and that his hairs grew like eagles's feathers, and his nails like birds' claws; and afterwards his reason returnad and he again assumed the empire! This tale is told in such a bungling manner, that whatever were its contents, it would excite suspicion of its falsehood. It begins in the form of a decree, but breaks into a regular narrative by a third person, which is sufficient to stamp the whole as a falsehood, if its contents were not utterly improbable:-impossible would not be saying too much. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar was in the fields grazing with the oxen for seven times, which is generally interpreted for seven years. Is it likely that there would be a vacancy on the throne all this time, whilst the monarch was gone to grass? If a successor had been appointed, would he not have raised some objections to a mere beast returning again to the throne ? And lastly, amongst what cattle could Nebuchadnezzar graze without universally attracting the surrounding inhabitants as spectators? The whole thing is so preposterous, that silence may be said to be the most forcible

objection to it. As to dreams, and the interpretation of them, they are both beneath my notice: I can laugh at them, but í cannot offer argument against them. Dreams may fairly be considered to be a species of insanity: they resemble the cogitations of a lunatic, and are worthy of no further notice, than to prevent their becoming mischievous. Paine's Essay on Dreams is a master-piece: he has said all that can be said on the subject, by human research and ingenuity; and to that I would refer the reader for a further exposition of dream.

The next tale in the book of Daniel is called Belshaszar's impious feast ; but why or wherefore it was impious, I cannot discover. However, the chief object seems to be to introduce Daniel, and to give some importance to the vessels which were brought from the Jewish Temple, and which Belshazar is said to drink out of, but which in the book of Kings, we were told were cut to pieces and used as old metal. Wbilst Belshazzar was in the heighth of his glee, we are told that a hand came and wrote on the wall, which writing, when interpreted by Daniel, intímated also the deposition of Belshazzar and the division of his kingdom. Belshazzar, instead of treating Daniel as a traitor, is said to put a chain of gold round bis neck, and to make him third ruler of the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar made him second in command, so now we find him gone down a degree.

Next comes Darius the.conqueror of Belshazzar, and he, for reasons not assigned, makes Daniel (a double captive) his prime minister! Daniel in his exalted situation becomes an object of jealousy, and other princes and rulers form a conspiracy to destroy him. They propose to the king that no one shall ask any favour or petition from God or mán for thirty days, save of him the king. The King assents to this proposition, and Daniel is detected on his knees praying to his God. Darius reluctantly orders him to be thrown into the den of lions, expressing a hope that his God will save him. The next morning the king comes to the den and calling Daniel finds him alive and orders him to be taken up and his accusers thrown in, who as a matter of course, are torn to pieces immediately. Darius then issues a decree, saying, that there is no God like the God of the Jews, and thus the story ends here. But in the book of Apocrypha, this story of Daniel's being thrown into the lion's den is very differently told, there it is said to be in the reign of Cyrus, and the cause of it, that Daniel had occasioned an insurrection against Cyrus, by destroying the priests of Bel and a great serpent that was

2

worshipped by them. They therefore threatened to destroy Cyrus if he did not deliver up Daniel. It is said that Daniel was in the den six days, and that nothing was given to the lions during that time to eat, and it is further said that the prophet Habbakuk, who lived in Judea and had made some broth for his reapers, was going into the field with it, and an angel met him and told him that he must carry it to Babylon to Daniel; not above 1 or 200 miles! Habbakuk murmurs, and says, he does not know any thing about Babylon or the lion's den, and the angel takes him

by the hair of the head and swings him there in an instant. Habbakuk cries out here Daniel, here's your dinner, and is immediately swung back again to Judea. Habbakuk is the swiftest traveller on record, he must have travelled 3 or 400 miles before a bowl of broth grew cold. We are not told what excuse he made to his reapers for not bringing them any broth, but we are told that Daniel was very thankful for it.

There is also the story of Susanna in the book of Apocrypha, which is said properly to belong to the book of Daniel, as Daniel detected the two wicked judges and false witnesses, which procured him great praise. This is an affecting tale and has nothing improbable in it.

We are now come to Daniel's dreams or visions, as I am not sufficiently learned to comprehend the difference. It will not be expected from me that I should attempt to meddle with those dreams by way of trying to unriddle them. I hold all kinds of dreams to be the effusions of an insane mind. The rectitude of thought which exists in the human body whilst awake, does not exist whilst asleep, although, dreams at times appear to have a regularity. Although, sleep may be considered as essential to the preservation and continual regrneration of animal life, still it must be viewed as a species of disease, and the more diseased the body the more liable it is to dreams. I believe it is agreed that all animals have their dreams more or less. What we know of ourselves by experience, it may be safely said, that dreaming proceeds from an insane or deceased mind, although that insanity or disease might not exist in the same body when awake. However, I take all these dreams of Daniel, so called, to be the forgeries of some later Jew who lived in the time of Alexander the Great or immediately after him. In the first place I would observe, that the last verse of the sixth chapter says “ So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." I think this verse affords a suficient

« PreviousContinue »