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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.
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.
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
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,
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.
§ 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
had granted more, as we have seen, than was com-