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PRIESTLY CURSES AND BLESSINGS.
In this they are not exactly singular, as the Parsees and Armenians in Asia, the Gypsies in Europe, and other tribes in various parts of the world, may be found living dispersed in small parties and even in single families, without either forming friendships or marrying with other races, and without any fixed home for themselves. It is not known when and from what causes the dispersion of the Jews commenced. That remarkable people have been the vanquished and persecuted, but still haughty, slaves of various conquerors in turn; and, before the Christian era, great numbers of the Jews were living in Rome, Egypt, and other foreign countries. The defenders of Christianity attempt to prove that the dispersion and distinct existence of the Jews among other nations were foretold some hundreds or thousands of years before the event.
These prophecies are to be found principally in the twentyeighth chapter of Deuteronomy, but similar threats, in endless repetition, are contained in several other parts of this and other books of th Old Testament. These curses were most probably made known to the Jews by the priests, under the pretence of their being old propbecies, during the Babylonish captivitywhen the pride of every Jew was interested in believing that their discomfiture and exile were to be attributed, not to the superior arts and arms of their foes, but to the anger of heaven; and after their partial restoration, the prophets may, with great effect, have threatened them with a recurrence of similar misfortunes and a second captivity.
Immediately after the Deuteronomical recapitulation of the Mosaic law, there follows, in the twenty-eighth chapter, the alternative of a long list of every imaginable blessing in case of obedience, and of every horror and misery in case of their rebel. lion against the laws :-" If thou wilt not observe all the words of the law which are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and wonderful name, the Lord thy God ” Deut. chap. xxviii., verse 58. And in what is cited as a parallel passage, from Jeremiah, chap. xxxi., verse 36, "If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease to be a nation from before me for ever."
A FEW CONTRADICTIONS.
Now the Christians say that the Jews have been punished by their dispersion for their rejection of Christ, and yet the Christian religion boasts of having entirely superseded the Mosaical law, and relieved mankind from the intolerable burden of its ceremonial, and severity of its penal, commands ; so that, according to the Christian interpretation, the Deuteronomical curse has fallen upon the Jews because they would not abandon the observance of that Mosaical law which the terrors of this curse were intended to deter them from abandoning! It must be clearly understood that not one of the pretended prophecies of Jesus Christ, that not the remotest allusion to the coming of a Messiah, can be discovered in connection with these denunciations by the most ingenious interpreters; all the blessings and curses are directed solely to the observance or disobedience of the law.
The curses with which the Israelites are threatened are of every description that the mind of man can perhaps conceive-pestilence, famine, madness, blindness, destruction of their crops, their cattle and other property, the defilement of their wives and daughters by enemies, and slavery in foreign lands, with many more; and all these many times repeated, and most of them utterly inapplicable to the Jews.
We meet with two very remarkable passages in this twentyeighth chapter of Deuteronomy, the twelfth and the forty-fourth verses; the first promising the Jewish people that in case of obedience, “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, and shalt not borrow;" and the other threatening in case of disobedience that the stranger “ shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him.” This denunciation must, I think, be placed among the unfulfilled prophecies, and I really wonder that the Jews do not adduce the first passage, and boast that in consequence of their faithful adherence to the old faith this usurious blessing has been always fulfilled in them.
As the writer evidently set to work to threaten the Jews with every possible misfortune, it would be rather surprising if the invasion of their land by foreigners and the well-known horrors of an ancient siege of long duration, had not been included among
curses, and after the lapse of many hundred years (the
THE CONTEXT SPOILS THE PROPHECIES.
prophecy specifying no time) it is no wonder that a tolerably plausible fulfilment of the most likely among a hundred misfor. tunes should happen to the Jewish nation. * The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from afar, from the end of the earth as the eagleflieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand, a nation of fierce countenance Deut. chap. xxviii., verse 49. The Romans cannot be said to have come “ from the end of the earth,” the distance from Italy to Judæa does not warrant such an expression; at the time of the siege of Jerusalem the two nations had long been well acquainted, the Romans had for many years peaceably governed their Syrian provinces, and admitted numbers of Jews to the privileges of Roman citizens, when the Jewish revolt, and not the arrival of an invading nation“ from afar," brought on the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem.
The threats proceed thus :—" And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people from one end of the earth even unto the other, and there thou shalt serve other gods, gods of wood and stone," verse 64. And do the Jews, or have they during their dispersion, served other gods ? or is there any other sect or nation, except perhaps the Mahomedans, who have such a horror and hatred of graven images? or have any people endured such a severe or snch a long persecution, from both Pagans and Christians, on account of their obstinate attachment to their old law, and their old faith?
The simple fact that this vaunted prediction contains the alternative of a blessing or a curse, by which, with a little skilful employment of figure and metaphor, it could always be said to be fulfilling one way or the other, destroys its claim to be considered as a prophecy at all.
Jesus Christ is said to have foretold the destruction of Jerusalem-see Matthew, chap. xxiv. Without attempting to show, which would be easy, that this gospel was most probably written after the siege, we can destroy this prediction by the simple method of taking the context into consideration. We find it stated in verses 29-34, “ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken.... Verily I say unto you, this generation shall
MANY PROPHECIES QUITE INTANGIBLE.
not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” History does not inform us of any extraordinary mishap having occurred to the sun, moon, or stars, immediately after the destruction of the temple ; that generation did pass away, and all these things were not fulfilled.
We need not pursue these prophetical evidences any further, they are all of them equally futile, and we have explained the mode in which they are patched up and interpreted by the defenders of Christianity. Many of the prophecies are too obscene and disgusting for either their notice or ours.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
HAVING examined the Christian evidences of prophecy, perhaps it may not be uninteresting—and it may serve to place this sort of evidence in a still more ridiculous light-if we pay a little attention to some arguments of a similar nature,which Mabomedan Joctors have made use of to prove the truth of their religion.
The Mahomedans maintain, that since the creation of the world there has been but one true religion, which they call Islam; Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Christ being the most illustrious in their list of true prophets, of which Mahomed is the last and greatest. They accuse both Jews and Christians of having corrupted and altered the Bible, and they believe the Koran to have superseded it, but they acknowledge the inspiration of a great part of both the Old and New Testaments, and point to those passages which they consider prophetic of the coming and ministry of Mahomed with as much confidence as Christians do to those which they call predictions of the advent of Christ.
They say that Jesus himself prophesied the coming of his great successor under the name of Paraclete or Comforter, the Spirit of
ARAB CONQUESTS FORETOLD.
Truth; and Mahomed has been entitled “Faracleet” by his disciples up to the present time.* Christian writers assert that an Almighty Spirit, or divine influence, is intended by this expression; but, if that be the case, how inapplicable is the following passage-"When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall bear that shall he speak,” John, chap. xvi., verse 13. This is quite absurd if intended to describe the operations of a God, but it most carefully and exactly prophesies what should be the ministry of Mahomed, who always declared that he did not speak of himself,” that the Koran did not proceed from his personal inspiration, that he merely spoke “ what he heard,” that each separate chapter was dictated to him by the angel Gabriel.
It is clearly prophesied in various parts of the Bible (I speak on behalf of the Mussulmen) that the children of Ishmael are dese tined to attain eventually to a more exalted station in the history of the world than the descendants of Isaac. In Isaiah, chap: liv., verse 1, we read," More are the children of the desolate” (i.e., Hagar) " than the children of the married woman (i.e., Sarah), "saith the Lord.” This is plain enough. And then, in verse 2, the glorious series of Mahomedan conquests is foretold—“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitation." All the world knows that the Arabs live in tents. In verse 3, " Thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the deso. late cities to be inhabited."
It is prophesied in Psalm cxviii., verse 22, that “the stone which the builders refused” (the despised and outcast Ishmael)“ is become the head-stone of the corner.” Christ quotes this prediçtion in Matthew, chap. xxi., verse 42, and immediately after threatens the Jews that “the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” The figurative
* In all Oriental languages, the letters F and P are used almost indiscriminately,