Imágenes de páginas

oracles and promises of their prophets rendered always rebellious, and ungovernable. The Jews, in fine, became the prey of the Romans, whose yoke they bore with fear, against whom impostors often incited them to revolt, and who at last, tired of their frequent rebellions, entirely destroyed them as a nation.

Such, in a few words, is the history of the Jewish people. It presents the most memorable examples of the evils which fanaticism and superstition produce; for it is evident that the continual revolutions, bloody wars, and total destruction of that'' nation, had no other cause than its unwearied credulity; its submission to priests; its enthusiasm ; and its furious zeal, excited by the inspired. On reading the Old Testament, we are indeed forced to confess, that the people of God (thanks to the roguery of their spiritual guides) were, beyond contradiction, the most unfortunate people that ever existed. Yet the most solemn promises of Jehovah seemed to assure to that people a flourishing and puissant empire. God had made an eternal alliance with Abraham and his posterity ; but the Jews, far from reaping the fruits of this alliance, and far from enjoying the prosperity they had been led to expect, lived continually in the midst of calamities, and were, more than all other nations, the sport of frightful revolutions. So many disasters, however, were incapable of rendering them more considerate ; the experience of so many ages did not hinder them from relying on oracles so often contradicted ; and the more unfortunate they found themselves, the more rooted were they in their credulity. The destruction of their nation could not bring them to doubt either of the excellence of their law, the wisdom of their institutions, or the veracity of their prophets, who succes, sively relieved each other, either in menacing them in the name of the Lord, or in re-animating their frivolous hopes.

Strongly convinced that they were the sacred and chosen people of the Most High, alone worthy of his favours, the Jews, in spite of all their miseries, were continually persuaded that their God could not have abandoned them. They therefore constantly looked for an end to their afflictions, and promised themselves a deliverance, which obscure oracles had led them to expect. Building on these fanatical notions, they were at all times disposed to listen with avidity to every man who announced himself as inspired by Heaven; they eagerly ran after every singular personage who could feed their expectations; they followed whoever had the secret of astonishing them by impostures, which their stupidity made them take for miracles, supernatural works, and unquestionable signs of divine power. Disposed to see the marvellous in the most trifling events, every adroit impostor was on the watch to deceive them, and was certain of making more or less adherents, especially among the populace, who every where are destitute of experience and knowledge.

It was in the midst of a people of this disposition, that the personage appeared whose history we write. He very soon found followers among the most despicable of the rabble. Seconded by these, he preached, as usual, reforination to his fellow citizens; he wrought wonders; he styled himself the envoy of the Divinity; he particularly founded his mission on vague, obscure, and ambiguous predictions, contained in the sacred books of the Jews ; he applied them to himself; he announced himself as the Messiah or messenger, the deliverer of Israel, who for so many ages was the object of the nation's hope. His disciples, his adherents, and afterwards their successors, have found means to apply to their master the ancient prophecies, wherein he seemed the least perceptibly designed. The Christians, docile and full of faith, have had the good for. tune to see the founder of their religion predicted in the clearest manner throughout the whole Old Testament. By dint of allegories, figures, interpretations, and commentaries, their doctors have brought them to see in this shapeless compilation all that they had an interest in pointing out to them. When passages taken literally did not countenance deceit agreeable to their views, they contrived for them a twofold sense ; they pretended, that it was not necessary to understand them literally, but to give them a mystical, allegorical, and spiritual meaning. To explain, therefore, these pretended predictions, they continually substituted one name for another; they rejected the literal meaning, in order to adopt a figurative one; they changed the most natural signification of words; they applied the same passages to events quite opposite; they retrenched the names of some personages plainly designed, in order to put in their place that of Jesus; and in all this, they did not blush to make the most crying abuse of the principles of language.*

* Any thing may be found in the Bible, if it be read with the imagination of St. Augustine, who prelended to see all the New Testament in the Old. According to him, the death of Abel is a type of that of Christ; the two wives of Abraham are the synagogue and the church : a piece of red cloth, held up by an harlot, who betrayed Jericho, signifies the blood of Christ ; the lamb, goat, and lion, are figures of Jesus Christ ; the brazen serpent represents the sacrifice on the cross. Even the myssteries of the Christian religion are announced in the Old Tes

The third chapter of Genesis furnishes us with a strik. ing example of the manner in which the doctors of the Christian religion have allegorised passages of scrip ture, in order to apply them to Jesus. In this chapter God says to the serpent, convicted of having seduced the woman, the seed of the woman shall bruise thy head. This prophecy appears with so much the more difficulty to apply to Christ, that these words follow the preceding--and thou shalt brưise his heel, We are much embarrassed to comprehend, why that seed of the woman must be understood of Jesus. , If he was the Son of God, or God himself, he could not be proç duced from the seed of the woman ; if he was man, le is not pointed out in a particular, manner by these words ; for all men, without exception, are produced from the seed of women. According to our interpreters, the serpent is sin; the seed of the woman that bruises it, is Jesus incarnate in the womb of Mary. Since the coming of Christ, however, sin, typified by the ser

tament: Manna represents the Eucharist, &c.--V'ide St. Aug. Serm. 78, & Ep. 156.

How can a man, in his senses, see in the Immanuel announced by Isaiah, the Messiah, whose name is Jesús ? How discover in an obscure and crucified Jew, a leader who'shall govern Israel ? How see a royal deliverer and restorer of the Jews in one, who, far from delivering his nation, came only to destroy their laws ? and, after whose coming, their land was desolated by the Romans ! A man must be sharp-sighted indeed to find the Messiah in their predictions. Jesus himself does not seem to have been more clear or happy in his. In St. Luke (c. 21), he speaks of the last judgment; he mentions angels, who'at the sound of the trum. pet, assemble mankind before him he adds, verily I you, this generation shall not pass away until these things are accomplished.” The world, however, still stands, and Christians have been expecting the last judgment for years !

say unto

pent, has at all times subsisted ; from which we are warranted to conclude, that Jesus Christ has not destroyed it, and that therefore the prediction is neither literally nor allegorically accomplished.

In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, God promises to Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. What we stile prosperity, the Hebrews termed blessings. If Abraham and his race enjoyed a continued prosperity, it was only for a very short period ; the Hebrews became afterwards the slaves of the Egyptians, and were, as has been seen, the most unfortunate people on earth. Christians have also given a mystic sense to this prophecy :-they substitute the name of Jesus in place of that of Abraham, and it is in him that all the nations shall be blessed; the advantages they shall enjoy will be persecutions, calamities, and misfortunes of every kind; and his disciples, like himself, shall undergo the most painful punishments. Hence we see, that, following our interpreters, the word blessing has changed its mean. ing; it no longer implies prosperity; it signifies what in ordinary language, is termed curses, disasters, afflictions, troubles, divisions, and religious wars-calamities with which the Christian nations have been continually blessed since the establishment of the church.*

Christians believe that they see Jesus expressly announced in the 49th chapter of Genesis. The patriarch Jacob there promises sovereign power to Judah. “ The sceptre (says he) shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” It is thus that several interpreters translate the

* See chapter XVIII. of this work.

« AnteriorContinuar »