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herself had not even been warned of the time of her in lying. The proof of this we find in St. Luke, chap. ii.-" In those days (says he) there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And as all went to be taxed, every one out of his own city, Joseph also went out of Nazareth and came to Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary, who was great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her first boru son, and wrapt bim in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
This narrative proves that Mary was taken unprovided, and that the Holy Ghost, who had done so ma. ny things for her, had neglected to warn her of an event so likely to interest him, and so important to all mankind. The humanity of Jesus being subject to every casualty in our nature, might have perished in this journey, undertaken at a time very critical to his mother. In fine, we do not understand how the mo. ther could remain in complete ignorance of the proximity of her time, and how the Eternal could so abandon the precious child he had deposited in her womb,
Some other circumstances of the relation of St. Luke present new difficulties. He speaks of a taxing (enumeration) by order of Cæsar Augustus :-a fact of which no mention is made by any historian, Jew= ish or profane. * We are also astonished to find
. We may also add, that St. Luke asserts, this pretended laxing was made under Quirinus or Cyreneus; but it has been dewonstrated, that Quintilias Varus was at the time governor of
the son of God born in poverty, having no other asylum than a stable, and no other cradle then a manger; and at the tenderest age, in a rigorous season, exposed to miseries without number.
It is true, our theologists have found a way to answer all these difficulties. They maintain, that a just God, wishing to appease himself, destined, from the beginning, his innocent son to afflictions, in order to have a motive for pardoning the guilty human race, which had become hateful to him through Adam's transgression, in which, however, his descendants had no share.* By an act of justice, whereof the mind of man can form no idea, a God, whose essence rendere him incapable of commiting sin, is loaded with the iniquities of man, and must expiate them in order to disarm the indignation of a father he has not offended. Such are the inconceivable principles which serve for the basis of the Christian theology.*
the province. Christian preachers and scribes remark with delight, that the temple of Janus was shut, and that a profound peace reigned throughout the whole world at the time of Christ's birth; but the falsehood of this fact has been proved in a book published in 1700. See Bernard, Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, tome 15.
* After all, it appears, from the account of the creation ascribed to Moses, that the human race are not all the descendants of Adam ; consequently they cannot be held partakers of his guilt. In the first chapter of Genesis, God is said to have created man out of nothing. In the second chapter, Adam is represented as having been formed of the clay of the earth. No restrictions whatever as to what they should eat, were imposed on the men who were created of nothing. “ Behold (said God to thein) I have given you every herb bearing seed upon earth, and all trees which have in them seed according to their kind, that it may be to you for meat.” To Adam, however, he said : « Thou mayest eat of every tree in the garden ; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat, for in the day thou eatest of it thou shalt die the death.” In the first creation, man and woman were formed at the same moment, and the sexes distinguished by the terms male and female. But it was not till after a proper helper could not be found for Adam among the first creation, that God said,
“ Let us make a helper н
Our doctors add-It was the will of God that the birth of his Son should be accompanied with the same accidents as that of other men, to console the latter for the misfortunes attendant on their existence. Man, say they, is guilty before he is born, because all children are bound to pay the debts of their fathers :thus man suffers justly as a sinner himself, and as charged with the sin of his first father. Granting this, what more consolatory to us than seeing a God, innocence and holiness itself, suffering in a stable all the evil, attached to indigence! That consolation would have been wanting to men, if God had ordained that his
like unto himself--and God sent a deep sleep upon Adam, and when he had slept, God took one of his ribs, and filled up the flesh for it.” Of this rib a companion was made for Adam, which, of himself, he called a woman. These two distinct crea. tions prove fatal to the dogma, that Christ died for all men. His death cannot be beneficial to those who are not the descendants of Adam, because, unless he is acknowledged the father of all mankind, his transgression cannot be imputed to the whole hu.
It must therefore be confined to the Jews only, which clears the Gentiles of the sin of Adam, and also of the necessity of an atonement for guilt, in which they could not possibly participate. We are at a loss to know, by what ingenuity our Christian doctors will attempt to get rid of this difficulty. Son should be born in splendour, and an abundance of the comforts of life. If the innocent Jesus had not suf. féred, mankind, incapable of extinguishing a debt contracted by Adain, would have been for ever excluded from Paradise. As to the painful journey Mary was obliged to undertake in such critical circunstances, this occurrence had been foreseen by eternal wisdom, which had resolved, that Christ should be born at Bethlehem, and not at Nazareth. It was necessary having been foretold, it behoved to be accomplished.
* The sacrifice of the Son of God is mentioned as a proof of his benevolence. Is it not rather a proof of his ferocity, cruelty, and implacable vengeance? A good Christian on his death bed said, “ he had never been able to conceive how a good God could put an innocent God to death to appease a just God.”
However solid these answers may appear to the faithful, they are not capable of convincing the incredulous. Unbelievers exclaim against the injustice of making a most innocent God suffer, and loading him with the inis quities of the earth; neither can they conceivé, by what principle of equity the Supreme Being could make the human race responsible for a fault committed by their first parents, without their knowledge and participation? They maintain, that, in fair justice, children have a right to renounce the succession of their parents, when they have to pay out of the estate debts which the latter have contracted. The incredulous remark, that the conduct attributed to God by the Christian mythology, is injurious to him, in so far as it represents him as the most implacable, the most cruel, and the most unjust of tyrants.* Finally, they contend that it would have been wiser to have hindered man from commit. ting sin than to permit him to sin, and make his own Son die to expiate man's iniquity.
With respect to the journey to Bethlehem, we can. not discover the necessity of it. The place where the Saviour of the world was to be born, seems a circum, stance perfectly indifferent to the salvation of man.
• See Appendix, No. I.
kind. As for the prophecy announcing the glory of Bethlehem, in having given existence to the “ Leader of Israel”-it does not appear to agree with Jesus, who was born there in a stable, and who was rejected by the people whose leader he was to be. It is only a pious straining that can make this prediction apply to Christ. We are indeed assured, that it had : been foretold Jesus was to be born in poverty ; while, on the other hand, the Messiah of the Jews is gene-. rally announced by the prophets as a prince, a hero, and a conqueror. It is necessary then to know which of these prophecies we ought to adopt. Our doctors, will not fail to tell us, “ the predictions announcing that Jesus would be born and live in indi. gence and meanness, ought to be taken literally, and those which announce his power and glory ought to be taken allegorically.” But this solution will not satisfy the incredulous; they will affirm, that employing this manner of explanation, they will always find in the sacred writings whatever they may think they stand in need of. They will conclude, that the scrip-, ture is to Christians what the clouds are to the man, wło imagines he perceives in them whatever figures he pleases. *
The proto-gospel, ascribed to St. James, relates some curious and ridiculous circumstances, on which none of our four canonical evangelists have wished to rely ; yet they have nothing revolting to persons who possess faith enough. This proto-gospel informs us, for example, of the ill humour of Joseph on seeing his wife pregnant, and the reproaches he loaded her with on account of her lewdness, unworthy, according to it, of a virgin reared under the eyes of priests. Mary excuses herself with tears; she protests her innocence,
swears in the name of the living God, that she is ignorant