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is obviously established on falsehood and knavery, which pervade every page of the discordant relations of those who have pretended to vouch it.
After having made their hero revive and shew himself, we know not how often, to his trusty disciples, it was necessary in the end to make him disappear altogether to send him back to heaven, in order to conclude the romance. But our story-tellers are not more in union on this disappearance than on other things. They agree neither as to the time nor the place of Jesus ascension. St. Mark and St. Luke inform us, that Christ, after having shewn bimself to the eleven apostles, while they were at table, and spoken to them, ascended into heaven. St. Luke however adds, that he conducted them out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany; and there he lifted up his hands and blessed them, and was afterwards carried up into hea
St. Mark contradicts St. Luke, and makes Jesus ascend to heaven from Galilee : and as if he had seen what passed on high, places him on the right hand of God, who on this occasion yielded to him the place of honour. St. Matthew and St. John do not speak of this ascension. If we referred it to them, we must presume, that Jesus is still on earth, for, according to the first of these evangelists, his last words to his disciples gave them to understand, that “ he would remain with them until the end of the world." To fix our ideas on this subject, St. Luke tells us, as we have seen, that Jesus ascended into heaven the very evening of the day of the resurrection. But the same St. Luke, who is supposed to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles, informs us, that Jesus tarried forty days after his resurrection with his dear disciples. Faith only can extricate us from this embarrassment. St. John advances nothing on the matter, but leaves us in uncertainty as to the time which Jesus passed on earth after his resurrection. Some unbelierers, on obserying the romantic style reigning in the gospel of this apostle, have concluded from the manner in which he finishes his bistory, that he meant to give free course to the fables which might afterwards be published about Christ. He terminates his narrative with these words ; “Jesus did also many other things, and if they should be written every one, I suppose, that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written :" and with this hyperbole, the well-beloved apostle finishes the Platonic romance which he made on his master*.
* The fable of the ascension of Christ is visibly borrowed from that of the ascension of Romulus and Julius Cæsar, which Lactantius however finds very ridiculous, Lactant. Igstitut. b. 1. 15.
* We have alreally given examples of the fables contained in the different gospels, published and adopted by the dif. ferent sects of Christianity. These fables demonstrate both the impudent juggling of the forgers who composed such romances, and the astonishing stupidity of the different sectaries who believed them. It is also proper to observe, that the Acts of the Apostles, composed by St. Luke, relate only with minuteness the transactions of St. Paul, bis master, and give us scarcely any information of the success or fate of his brethren. Yet other romance writers have worthily supplied this defect. One Abdias, among others, has transmitted us in nine books the Apostolic History, but fraught with so many fables, prodigies, and absurdities, that the church thought itself obliged to reject them, at a time when its children had no longer the simplicity of the first ages. Ignorance however has at times yielded to this ancient
GENERAL REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE OF CHRIST.
ING OF THE APOSTLES.-CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL
ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRISTIANITY-PER
SECUTIONS IT SUFFERS--CAUSES
OF ITS PROGRESS.
THE mere reading of the life of Jesus, such as we have presented it, according to the monuments which Christians respect as inspired, must be sufficient to undeceive every thinking being. But it is the property of superstition to prevent thinking: it benumbs the -soul, confounds the reason, perverts the judgment, ren, ders doubtful the most obvious truths, and makes a merit with its slaves of despising enquiry, and of relying blindly on the word of those who govern them. It is not unseasonable, therefore, to bring again under review, some reflections which may be useful to those readers who have not courage to draw out of the en. quiry we have made, the consequences which naturally result from it; and thus aid them in forming rational ideas of the Christ they adore, of his disciples whom
credulity; and weak people and knaves have existed, who piously revived the fables and traditions of the ancient romantic writers. These are the only memoirs. we possess concerning the apostles ; specimens of them will be found at the end of tome 1. of the Codex Apocryph. N., T.
they revere, and of books which they are accustomed to regard as sacred.
Our examination of the birth of Christ ought to render it very suspicious. We have found the Holy Ghost mistaken on that important article of Jesus' life; for he inspired two evangelists with two very
different genealogies. Notwithstanding so striking a blunder, and the consanguinity of the Virgin Mary, and Elizabeth, wife of the priest Zacharias, we shall not cavil on these points : -- we shall grant, that Mary might really be of the race of David: - many examples demonstrate, that the branches of races more illustrious have fallen into misery. Departing also from the supposition, that Mary, the immaculate wife of Joseph, may have willingly yielded to the angel ; or, simple and devout, may have been deceived by the angel, there is every reason to believe, that she afterwards taught her son his descent from David, and perhaps some marvellous circumstances which, by justifying the mother, might kindle the enthusiasm of the child. Thus at a very early age, Jesus might be really persuaded both of his royal extraction, and of the wonders which had accompanied his birth. These ideas might afterwards inflame bis ambition, and by degrees make him believe that he was destined to play a grand part in his native country. Prepossessed with these sublime notions, he concluded with being convinced of their authenticity, and intoxicating himself more and more by the perusal of obscure prophecies, and the study of traditions spread abroad in his own country. It is then very possible, that our adventurer might have come to believe himself actually called by the Divinity, and pointed out by the prophets to be the reformer, the chief, and the Messiah of Israel. He was indeed a visionary, and found people silly enough to be caught by his reveries*.
Another cause might likewise contribute to heat the brain of our missionary. Some learned men have conjectured with much appearance of truth, that Jesus framed his morality, and acquired his knowledge in the house of a kind of monks or Jewish Cænobites (friars) called Theraputes or Essenians.
We certainly find a striking conformity between what Philo tells us of these pious enthusiasts, and the sublime precepts of Christ. The Therapeutes quitted father and mother, wife, children, and property, in order to apply themselves to contemplation. They explained the scripture in a manner purely allegorical ; they abstained from all oaths; they lived in common; they suffered with resolution the misfortunes of life, and died with joy t. From all which it may be concluded,
* It is an ardent and tender temperament that produces mystic devotion. Hysterical women are those who come monly love God with most vivacity ; they love him to distraction as they would love a man. In monasteries, most of the devotees are of this description. Their imaginations grow wild, and they give to their God, whom they paint in the most captivating colours, that tenderness which they are not permitted to bestow on beings of their own species. Christianity Unveiled.
+ See Philo on Contemplative Life. The first fathers of the church, struck with the conformity between the manners which Philo attributes to the Theraputes, and those of the first Christians, do not entertain a doubt that they were the persons this learned Jew meant to point out under the name of Theraputes, or contemplative Essenians. It is certain, that, in the time of the historian Josephus, three sects were reckoned in Judea, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the