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DISSERTATIONS.

101
Prolegomena to the Pentateuch 56. Otherwise he
might have justly asserted that the points rendered
doubtful by the obscurity. or the ambiguity of the
text, bear not to those which are evident, the propor-
tion of one to an hundred in number, and not of one
to a thousand in importance. Let it be observed that
I speak only of the doubts arising from the obscurity
of Scripture ; for, as to those which may be started
by curiosity concerning circumstances not mention-
ed, such doubts are, on every subject, sacred and
prophane, innumerable. But in questions of this
sort, it is a maxim with every true and consistent
Protestant, that the faith of a Christian is not con-
cerned.
Simon's reply is affectedly evasive.

At the same time that it, in fact, includes a concession subversive of the principles he had advanced, it is far short of what every person of reflection must see to be the truth. He tells us that " he never doubted, that one

might understand Hebrew well enough to know "in gross and in general, the Biblical histories; but “this general and confused knowledge does not suf“ fice for fixing the mind in what regards the articles “of our belief 57.” Now what this author meant by

56 Dissert. I, chap. vi. 57 « Mr. Simon n'a jamais douté qu'on n'eut assez de con. “ noissance de la langue Hebraique pour savoir en gros et en

general les histoires de la Bible. Mais cette connoissance

generale et confuse ne suffit pas pour arrêter l'esprit dans ce " qui regarde les points de notre creance.” Reponse aux Sentimens de quelq. Theolog. de Moll, ch. xvi. VOL. I.

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knowing in gross and in general, (which is a more vague expression than any I remember in the Pentateuch), I will not attempt to explain ; but it is not in my power to conceive any kind of knowledge, gross or pure, general or special, deducible from a writing wherein “there is always ground to doubt whether " the sense assigned be the true sense, because there " are other meanings which are equally probable.” There is in these positions a manifest contradiction. When the probabilities in the opposite scales balance each other, there can result no knowledge, no nor even a reasonable opinion. The mind is in total suspense between the contrary, but equal, evidences.

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14. But, to be more particular ; what historical point of moment recorded in Genesis, is interpreted differently by Jews of any denomination, Pharisees, Sadducees, Karaites, Rabbinists, or even Samaritans? Let it be observed that I speak only of their literal or grammatical interpretations of the acknowledged text, and neither of their interpolations, nor of their mystical expositions and allegories, which are as various as men's imaginations : for with these it is evident that the perspicuity of the tongue is no way concerned. Or is there one material difference, in what concerns the history, among Christians of adverse sects, Greeks, Romanists, and Protestants; or even betweeen Jews and Christians ? This book has been translated into a great many languages, ancient and modern, into those of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Is not every thing that can be denominated an event

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of consequence similarly exhibited in them all ? In all we find one God, and only one, the maker of heaven and earth, and of every thing that they contain. From all we learn that the world was made in six days, that God rested the seventh.

All agree in the work of each day, in giving man dominion over the brute creation, in the formation of the woman out of the body of the man, in the prohibition of the tree of knowledge, in man's transgression and its consequences, in the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, in the deluge, in the preservation of Noah's family, and of the animal world, by the ark, in the confusion of tongues, in the histories given of the patriarchs.

It were tedious, I had almost said endless, to enumerate every thing. Take the story of Joseph for an example, the only one I shall specify. In what version of that most interesting narrative, oriental or occidental, ancient or modern, Jewish or Christian, Popish or Protestant, is any thing which can be justly called material, represented differently from what it is in the rest ? Do we not clearly perceive in every one of them the partiality of the parent, the innocent simplicity of the child, the malignant envy of the brothers, their barbarous purpose so cruelly executed, their artifice for deceiving their father, the young man's slavery in Egypt, his prudence, fidelity, piety, chastity, the infamous attempt of his mistress, and the terrible revenge she took of his virtuous refusal, his imprisonment, his behaviour in prison, the occasion of his release, Pharaoh's dreams, and Joseph's interpretation, the exaltation of the latter in Egypt,

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the years of plenty and the years of famine, the interviews he had with his brothers, and the affecting manner in which he, at last, discovered himself to them? Is there any one moral lesson that may

be deduced from any part of this history, (and none surely can be more instructive,) which is not sufficiently supported by every translation with which we are acquainted? Or is this coincidence of translations, in every material circumstance, consistent with the representations which have been given of the total obscurity and ambiguity of the original ? The reverse certainly.

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§ 15. Nor is it necessary, in this inquiry, to con. fine one's self to the points merely historical, though, for brevity's sake, I have done it. Permit me only to add in a sentence, that the religious institutions, the laws and the ceremonies of the Jews, as far as they are founded on the express words of Scripture, and neither on tradition, nor on traditionary glosses, are,

in every thing material, understood in the very same way, by both Jews and Christians. The principal points on which the Jewish sects differ so widely from one another, are supported, if not by the oral traditive law, at least by mystical senses, attributed by one party, and not acquiesced in by others, to those passages of Scripture, about the literal meaning whereof all parties are agreed.

§ 16. Yet our critic will have it, that our knowledge of these things is confused and general. He

For my

had granted more, as we have seen, than was com-
patible with his bold assertions above quoted; and
therefore to disguise a little the inconsistency of those
assertions with the concession now made, he encum-
bers it with the epithets confused and general.
But let the fact speak for itself. Had there been
any source of confusion in the original, was it pos-
sible that there should have been such a harmony in
translations made into languages so different, and by
men who, in many things that concern religion, were
of sentiments so contrary ? But if this knowledge be
confused and general, I should like to be informed
what this author, and those who think as he does,
would denominate distinct and particular.
part, I have not a more distinct and particular no-
tion of any history, I ever read, in any language,
than of that written by Moses. And if there has not
been such a profusion of criticism on the obscurities
and ambiguities which occur in other authors, it is
to be ascribed solely to this circumstance, that what
claims to be matter of revelation, awakens a closer
attention, and excites a more scrupulous examina-
tion, than any other performance which, how valua-
able soever, is infinitely less interesting to mankind.
Nor is there a single principle by which our know-
ledge of the import of sacred writ, especially in
what relates to Jewish and Christian antiquities, could
be overturned, that would not equally involve all
ancient literature in universal scepticism.

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