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Produced by David Widger





THE DOUBTS OF INFIDELS, OR, QUERIES RELATIVE TO SCRIPTURAL
INCONSISTENCIES & CONTRADICTIONS.

SUBMITTED FOR ELUCIDATION TO THE BENCH OF BISHOPS BY A WEAK BUT SINCERE
CHRISTIAN.

By Anonymous


.......Metus omnes et inexoraibile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari!
Illum non populi fasces, non purpura regum
Flexit et infidos agitans discordia fratres. Virg.

Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! ye blind
guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Matt,
xxiii. 23, 24.

The world is divided into two classes of men...the one have
understanding but no religion; the other have religion but
no understanding.

LONDON:

PRINTED & PUBLISHED BY R. CARLILE, 55, FLEET STREET.

1819.

THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.

TO THE RIGHT REVEREND AND REVEREND THE BISHOPS, CLERGY, AND ALL OTHER
SUPPORTERS OF THE CHURCH MILITANT HERE ON EARTH.

REVEREND SIRS,

Your late zealous exertion against the infidels, in procuring the Sunday
Bill to be passed, and prosecutions and pillory against infidel writers
and publishers, must have convinced them that you are in earnest in your
attempts to propagate and establish our holy faith. An act of parliament
is an excellent engine for producing that kind of uniformity of
opinions, which consists in holding the tongue; and, however unfair it
may be in common transactions to suppress the arguments on one side
of any question, yet, in religious matters, even the most cool and
charitable must allow, that it is otherwise. When the salvation of
men is concerned, every means is justifiable. What right has a man
to complain, though by virtue of an act of parliament, by pains and
penalties, fines, imprisonment, and the pillory, he may be sent to
heaven whether he will or no? It is carrying the notion of liberty too
far, to suppose, because we are free-born Englishmen, that we may choose
our own faith and go to heaven _our own way!_ What would become of the
right reverend and reverend guides and turnpike-men, if people were
permitted to avoid the strait gate and go to their journey's end without
paying?

Foreigners are so sensible of this, and the priests of other countries
are so tenacious of their rights of directing the intellects of the
people, that they have invented and deposited in the inner chambers of
the holy inquisition, a number of most ingenious machines, which, by
means of whips, cords, pullies, screws, wheels, iron crows, red hot
pincers, and the like, are found to be extremely serviceable in twisting
and warping opinions to any settled models government may require.

Notwithstanding your Lordships' readiness* "to oppose error of every
kind by argument and persuasion," it happens unfortunately for us, that
these mechanical and persuasive arguments are unknown in _Britain_.
Instead of that most strong and logical argument, called the torture, we
are obliged to adopt plain reason, or, at most, when that fails us, the
_prison, fine, and pillory_. But, it is to be hoped, that the happy time
is not far off, when the priests of _Britain_ may be able to argue with
as much force as the spiritual directors of other countries; when the
Clergy may approach the throne, and avow their readiness to stop
the mouths of men, without being under the shameful necessity of
contradicting themselves, by "disavowing all violence in the cause of
religion.*"

* Vide Address of the Convocation presented to his Majesty
the 17th of November, 1780.

In those better days, the Lord Bishop of Chester may overthrow the
arguments of an infidel peer, by declaring them "unworthy of a Reply;"
and the Bishop of St. David may confirm the defeat, by affirming, that
the arguments of unbelievers "deserve no answer;" for every one will
then say, they "would not" answer them, not that they "could not," as
they impiously affirm at present. But as those glorious times are not
yet arrived, we must be contented, in the mean while, to proceed in the
old method of reasoning upon even ground with our adversaries. The
weak, though _zealous Christian_, who has the honour, to address your
Lordships on the present occasion, has presumed to lay before you a few
of the Doubts of the Infidels, and he hopes you will answer them to his
entire satisfaction.* He is happy in reflecting that the late act of
parliament forbids them to speak; but his satisfaction is infinitely
greater when he assures himself, that your Lordships' answer will
convince them and make them ashamed even to _write, speak, or think_.

* Vide the same address.

Thus fervently prays your Lordships' unworthy co-operator,

The Author.


* The following are the chapters, with many others, which
contain the most objectionable parts: -

Genesis, chap. 16, 18, 19, 30, 34, 35, 38, 30.
Numbers, 25.
Judges, 10, 19.
1 Samuel, 25.
2 Samuel, 11, 13, 16.
Ezekiel, 4, 10, 22, 23.
Hosea, 1, 2, 3.

The following are those chapters which contain instances of
cruel and torturous executions, and unrelenting
vindictiveness.

Genesis, chap. 34.
Numbers, 31.
Joshua, 8,10.
Judges, 4, 5, 21.
1 Samuel, 15.
2 Samuel, 12, 21.
1 Kings, 2.
2 Kings, 10.




DOUBTS OF INFIDELS,

1. How can _the attributes_ of God be vindicated, in having performed so
great a number of miracles, for a long succession of very distant ages,
and so few in _latter times?_ If they were performed for the instruction
of those times only, are they not equally necessary at present for
us? or, if those ancient miracles were intended likewise for our
instruction, are they adequate to the purpose? Can God, who gave us
reason, act inconsistently with its dictates; and is it rational or
fair to demand our belief of things, which are in their own nature far
removed from common belief, or common sense, and require something
more than the usual testimony of history for their support? When Livy
affirms,* that the Gauls conspired against Hannibal, we admit and
believe the fact; but when in the same chapter he speaks of shields
sweating blood, of its raining hot stones at Arpi, and the like, we
justly reject and disbelieve these improbable assertions; neither is any
credit given to the account of the wonderful method of curing diseases
by the touch, said to be possessed by Mr. Greatrix,* though we find it
in the Philosophical Transactions. The miracles of the Old Testament
were all performed in those ages of which we have no credible history;
what reply then can be made to those who affirm, that miracles have
always been confined to the early and fabulous times; that all nations
have had them, but that they disappeared in proportion as men became
enlightened, and capable of discovering _imposture_ and _priestcraft_.

* T. Livii, lib. xxii, cap. 1.


2. Suppose a book to be published, containing assertions of historical
facts long past, which had no collateral testimony of other authors;
suppose those facts in general to be improbable and incredible; suppose
the book to be anonymous, or, which is worse, ushered into the world
under the name of a person who, from the internal evidence of the thing,
could not have written it; can it be imagined, that such a book would
find credit among people, who have the least pretensions to reason or
common sense? Which, then, is the readiest way of confuting the enemies
of our holy and only true religion, who do not scruple to affirm, that
many books of canonical Scripture are in this predicament? They observe
that the books of the Pentateuch bear many strong marks of an author
long posterior to Moses; that the book of Numbers** quotes the book of
the Wars of the Lord, which, as first written, was most probably the
book which Moses wrote; that Moses could not possibly have written
the account of his own _death and burial_ in Deuteronomy,**** which
nevertheless has no mark to distinguish it from the rest of the book.

* Lowther's Abridgement, Vol. III. p. II. Greatrix published
a pamphlet, to which the attestations of Boyle, Wilkins,
Cud-worth, and many other great men were affixed. Vide Life
of St. Evremont, printed with his works in English, 3 vols.
8vo.

** Numb. xxi. 14.

*** Deut. xxxiv.

And supposing these and other objections of the like nature to be
removed, what must we say in reply to their remark, that the Scripture,
which we believe to be dictated by the inspiration of the unerring
God, is frequently** contradictory with regard to facts, and very
often represents the all-wise Creator*** as angry, repenting, unjust,
arbitrary, &c. and that consequently we must either give up that
dependence, which we naturally place on his goodness and rectitude,
or reject those writings which represent him as a demon. Do not your
Lordships apprehend, that, for want of better arguments, we shall be
under the necessity of recurring to the _argumentum pillorii_, or of
adopting some of those _gentle methods_ which were lawfully used for
the conversion of heretics in the mild and pious reign of Mary, Queen of
England?

** Vide infra.

*** Genesis vi. 6,7. also Exod. vii. 3. xi. 9,10. and 1 Sam.
xv. 35.


3. Is the account of the creation and fall of man, in the book of
Genesis, physical or allegorical? Did God create light before the sun?
How could he divide the light from darkness, since darkness is nothing
but the mere privation of light? How could time be divided into days,
before the creation of the sun, since a day is the time between sun-rise
and sun-rise? How could the firmament be created, since there is no
_firmament_, and the false notion of its existence is no more than an
imagination of the ancient Grecians?


4. The Scriptures were certainly written for the purpose of being
understood, or for no purpose at all. A mystery, that is to say, an
assertion or theorem, which the human understanding is incapable of
comprehending, must likewise be inexpressible in human speech; we
cannot, therefore, avail ourselves of the short and elegant method of
clearing and elucidating difficult parts of Scripture, by the use of the
word mystery, but how shall we, without this _happy resource_, explain
the business of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of a speaking
serpent, and of a tree of life, which God was obliged to guard by
cherubim and a flaming sword, lest man should eat of the fruit and
become immortal?


5. The serpent was afflicted with the curse of going upon his belly.
The scoffers seem to think it no curse at all; for as they take it for
granted that he went upon his back before this unfortunate transaction,
they apprehended it was doing him a singular piece of service to reverse
him, the latter position being evidently the most convenient. They also
take notice, that no animal can subsist upon dust, and that whatever the
individual serpent in question might have done, the serpents of modern
times are so profane, that they universally reject so dry a food, and,
by a second act of impiety, emancipate themselves from the consequences
of the first.

* Gen. vi. - 78.

6. The account of the flood is very embarrassing. It is described as the
effects of natural agents in the hands of God. It rained; no mention is
made of waters created for the purpose. The deluge was universal; all
the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered; and it
ceased, not by the annihilation of the waters, but they were evaporated
by a wind. Now from whence came the water? The weight of the whole
atmosphere, with all its vapours, is equal to no more than a hollow
sphere of three or four and thirty feet thickness, environing the whole
globe, and consequently the whole of its contents, if condensed into
water, could not deluge the earth to the height of an ordinary house.
It is to no purpose to break open the fountains of the abyss, or great
deep, if any such fountains there are; for gravity would prevent the
waters from issuing out; neither can we easily persuade infidels, that
the windows of Heaven were opened, while they know it has no windows;
so that we have but three or four and thirty feet of water to deluge
the highest mountains, some of which are more than fifteen thousand feet
high.*

* The Indian Alps are 20,862 feet above the level of the
ocean. Editor. See Col. Kirkpatrick's History of Nepaul,
and Asiatic Researches, Vol. VIII.


7. The weak in faith find themselves equally at a loss respecting the
ark. It seems strange to them, that so vast an assemblage of animals
could be inclosed in an ark or chest, which had but one window, (which
window was kept shut for more than five months,) without being stifled
for want of air: it appears equally remarkable that Noah and his three
sons could unstow and serve out the daily allowance of provisions and
water to the passengers; and if their wives were supposed to help them,
the work to be done is still prodigious. The lions and other carnivorous
animals must have lived on salt provisions; which, no doubt, they were
glad of, as seafaring people are not very nice, especially in long
voyages.

8. If God set his bow in the clouds, as a token of his covenant with
mankind after the flood, ought we not to conclude, that he, at
that time, established the law of the various refrangibility and
reflexibility of the rays of light, and consequently, that before the
flood many optical experiments, which are common with us, would not
then have succeeded? For example, a man could not have made a rainbow
by spouting water out of his mouth; Mr. Dollond's achromatic telescopes
would have then been no better than common ones; natural bodies must
have appeared all of one colour, &c. &c.

9. What answer must we give to those who are inclined to deny, that an
all-powerful and just God could make use of the most unjustifiable means
to attain his great purpose of aggrandizing the posterity of Abraham?
Could this benevolent and just Being approve of the ungenerous
advantage which Jacob took over his faint and hungry brother? Could
this omnipotent and upright Spirit adopt no method of distinguishing his
favourite Jacob, but that of fraud and lies, by which he deprived the
same unsuspecting brother of his father's blessing? Or, in short, how
shall we justify God for the continual distinction and favour he is said
to have bestowed on a people, who from their own annals appear to have
been unparalleled for cruelty,* ingratitude, inurbanity, &c.?

* See the acts of Joshua; also 1 Sam. xv. &c.


10. When the unbelievers affirm that a just God could not punish Pharaoh
for an hardness of heart of which he himself (God) was evidently the
cause, we usually answer, that the potter has power over the day to
fashion it as he lists; but when in reply, they take notice, that if
the clay in the hands of the potter were capable of happiness or misery,
according to the fashion impressed on it, the potter must be malevolent
and cruel who can give the preference to inflicting pain instead
of happiness, then we are obliged to be silent, in hopes that your
Lordships will condescend to supply us with better arguments than any we
are acquainted with at present.


11. Miracles must have been very common in Egypt, since there was a body
of people whose trade it was to work them. When Aaron's rod was turned
into a serpent,* Pharaoh, instead of being surprised at it, as an
unusual phænomenon, sends for his magicians, who immediately perform
the like with their rods. Your Lordships owe us some little explanation
concerning this business: we know it is our duty to believe, that
Aaron's miracle was performed by the power of God, but are at a loss to
discover by what power the magicians performed theirs.


19. When** Aaron turned the waters of Egypt into blood, their streams,
their rivers, their ponds, and all their pools, together with all the
water throughout the land of Egypt, whether in Vessels of wood, or
vessels of stone, the magicians of Egypt did so likewise with their
enchantments. Here again our adversaries, who unfortunately have more
curiosity than faith, take the liberty to enquire, whether the magicians
formed water to practise their art upon, since Aaron had already turned
it into blood?

* Exod vii. 3, 4. and ix. 9, 10.

** Exod. vii. 10.

*** Exod. vii. 10, &c.


13. Pharaoh still continuing inflexible, though successively exposed to
the plagues of frogs, lice, and flies;* his cattle, namely, the horses,
the asses, the camels, the oxen, and the sheep, were afflicted with a
very grievous murrain, and all the cattle of Egypt died, except those
of the children of Israel.** This producing no good effect with Pharaoh,
the whole nation of Egyptians were plagued with boils and blains;***
notwithstanding which Pharaoh's heart continued as hard as ever.****
Moses was therefore sent early in the morning, to advise Pharaoh to
send for his cattle, and all that he had in the field, and shelter them
against a terrible hail storm, the approach of which he predicted. They
among Pharaoh's servants who feared the word of the Lord, saved their
cattle and servants, by removing them into houses; for the next day
came on a storm of thunder, lightning, and hail, which broke the trees,
destroyed the herbage, and killed every living creature that was in the
field, excepting only that in the land of Goshen, where the children of
Israel were, there was no hail. _Divine truths_ are so different from
those which carnal minds are used to contemplate, that it must be very
difficult by the force of mere human reason to persuade mankind in
general, that Pharaoh's cattle were in any great danger from the hail
storm, since they were all previously dead by the murrain; and some
people are so stupid, that they think killing them a second time was
no punishment at all. There are not wonting some amongst the present
perverse generation; who are at a loss to conceive how those of
Pharaoh's servants, who feared the word of the Lord, could make their
Cattle flee into houses, since they pretend to maintain, that cattle
already dead, whether by the murrain or otherwise, are incapable of
fleeing. Notwithstanding those people are so obviously in the wrong, yet
we depend upon your Lordships, that you will expose their errors in more
glaring colours than any in which they have yet appeared.

* Exod. viii.

** Exod. ix. 3, 6.

*** Exod. ix.

**** Exod. ix. 13, &c.


14. Some weak believers are in doubts whether so mean, so ungenerous,
and so dishonest an act, as borrowing the jewels of the Egyptians*
without any intention of returning them, did not rather originate in
that disposition which characterizes the Jews to this day, than in the
command of the just God, who certainly could need no such tricks to
accomplish his intentions.


15. The plague of hail being succeeded by locusts, thick darkness, and
the death of all the first-born of Egypt, cattle included, Pharaoh at
length permitted the Israelites to depart; but afterwards repenting, he
went in pursuit of them** with six hundred chariots and all the horses
and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and his army, and overtook
them by the sea, near Baal Zephon. The Red Sea was parted in two to
afford a passage for the Israelites, the Egyptians followed them, and
were punished for their rashness by the return of the waters, which
swallowed them up. Here again our petulant and unsatisfied opposers
demand how Pharaoh could pursue with chariots and horsemen, since his
horses were all slain twice over, once by the murrain and once by the
hail; not to mention that the first born of cattle were slain even a
third time. They likewise add, that Egypt, which, to facilitate the
dispersion of the waters of the overflowing Nile, is intersected by
numberless canals, must have always been a very improper country either
for cavalry or chariots.

* Exod. xi.

** Exod. xiv.


16. God came to Balaam at night and said unto him, "If the men come
to call thee, rise up and go with them."* Balaam accordingly rose up,
saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. "But God's anger was
kindled because he went," insomuch that he sent an angel to oppose
him, who would certainly have slain him, if the ass he rode on had not
exhibited a specimen of penetration and prudence, of which the asses of
modern times seem to be divested. The infidels here insist, that it is
better to reject the whole story, than to believe that the Supreme Being
could be angry with Balaam, merely because he obeyed his command; but
the true believers, the sons of the church, who think there would be no
exercise for our faith, if we were required to admit nothing but
what can be supported by argument, are not at all concerned in this
difficulty; the more improbable the doctrine, the greater must be the
merit in believing.

* Numb. xxii. 20, &c.


17. "The Lord was with Judah,** and he drove out the inhabitants of
the mountains, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley,
because they had chariots of iron." It is difficult to conceive, how
the Lord of heaven and earth, who had so often changed the order, and
suspended the established laws of nature in favour of his people the
Jews, could not succeed against the inhabitants of a valley, because
they had chariots of iron! Or ought we not rather to infer that the book
in which this passage is found, has nothing of divine inspiration in
it, but was written by one of the Jews who considered the God of Israel
their protector as a local divinity; who was in some instances more, and
in others less powerful, than the gods of their enemies. Thus David in
many places compares the Lord with other gods "The Lord is a great God,
and a great king above all gods," &c. and Jephtha says to the king of
the children of Ammon, "Wilt thou not possess that which Chemosh thy God
giveth thee, to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out
from before us, them will we possess."

** Judges i. 19.


18. How unjustly are the Spaniards stigmatised for the zeal they
exhibited in converting the natives of Peru and Mexico to the Christian
religion!*** It is true, they ripped up women with child, dashed infants
to pieces against the rocks, and broiled men to death with slow fires;
but as their pious intention was purely that of delivering these
uninstructed and ignorant people from the more horrible pains of
futurity, the truly compassionate can not but approve their conduct.
How can we enough admire the mild and humane transaction of hanging up
thirteen Indians in honour of Christ and the twelve apostles!

*** See Marmoutel's Preface to the Incas, and the authors
there cited.


While the rest of the world admired the Greeks and Romans, they wisely
assumed the heroes of sacred story as models for their imitation! Poor
Las Casas! His weak and effeminate heart bled at the scene of misery!
He wanted zeal to join in the pious work, and even wished to leave the
Indians in possession of certain imaginary blessings which he pretended
to call "the rights of humanity!" But the holy ardour of his associates
frustrated his impious attempts; he could do no more than write, yet his
writings, so far from producing the effect he intended, only served
to increase our admiration of those great characters he meant to
stigmatize. If the comparison might be allowed, we may affirm that the
Spaniards were inferior to the Jews in this only circumstance, that
they had a Las Casas among them. The Jews were obdurate to a man, and
hardened with holy cruelty. We hear of no tergiversation when Jericho
was to be destroyed; "Man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep, and ass,
were put to the edge of the sword."* What a philosophical command over
the tender passions must Joshua have acquired, to have enabled him
to smite with the sword,** and utterly destroy the inhabitants of
Ai, Libnah, Lachish, Hebron, Debir, &c. &c. &c. especially*** as the
hardness of their heart was no fault of theirs, but proceeded from the
Lord! How truly great, how far above the common weakness of humanity,
appears the man after God's own heart, at the taking of the city of
Rabbah!**** "He brought forth the people that were therein, and put them
under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made
them pass through the brick-kiln!" O ye greatly inexorable heroes! ye
Jews! ye Spaniards! ye firm and zealous of antient and modern times, if


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