« ForrigeFortsæt »
time the opinions of the biographer and of his hero accorded pretty nearly on most points; although but a few years passed away before Dr. Good found himself conscientiously impelled to abandon, as dangerous, many notions which he had before thought, if not perfectly true, at least altogether harmless.
Among the singular and dangerous opinions held by Dr. Geddes, one of the most revolting was that which related to the character of Moses. He believed that the great Jewish legislator was not inspired, but assumed a pretended inspiration. “Indeed, (says he,) I cannot conceive how Moses could have governed so rude, so stubborn, so turbulent a nation--and made them submit to such a code of laws as he devised for them—without feigning an immediate intercourse with the Deity, and ascribing to him every injunction laid upon them. But although his communications with God were frequent, and almost on every emergency, he was particularly careful to keep the people at a distance from the intercourse; no one must approach the mount while he is receiving the Decalogue, under pain of death: no one must hear the responses given from the oracle, but through him; no one but he sees God “face to face:" no one must reason against any of his ordinances; no one object to any of his decisions: because his ordinations and decisions are all from the mouth of God.”
Now, in opposition to these preposterous sentiments, Dr. Good remarks-
“ It is an insuperable objection to this part of our author's creed, that it is contradictory to itself. Dr. Geddes admits his most ample belief in the divine authority of Jesus Christ, “whose gospel is his religious
code, whose doctrines are his dearest delight:" but Jesus Christ uniformly avowed the inspiration of Moses, by expressly adverting to such inspiration in the delivery of one prediction fulfilled in his own person. It is in every respect inconsistent and illogical, therefore, to accredit the divine mission of the author of the Christian faith, and yet to deny the same authority to the Hebrew legislator. One principal reason that operated upon our author in support of this denial was, the many acts of cruelty which were perpetrated at the instigation of Moses, and from which he was anxious to exculpate the Deity; and particularly the total destruction and extermination of the seven Canaanite nations, and the transfer of their land and possessions to the Israelites. 'I cannot possibly believe, (says he,) that ever a just, benevolent being, such as I conceive my God to be, gave such a sanguinary order to Moses and the Israelites as in the book of Deuteronomy is said to have been given.' The explanation of this transaction, advanced by the very liberal and learned Bishop of Llandaff, in his Apology for the Bible, is known to every one, and is satisfactory to most. But our author, not only acknowledges himself not satisfied with it, but labours, in a long and argumentative note, to prove its impotence and irrelevancy. He will not allow any simile drawn from the phenomena of nature; such as the ravages of earthquakes, pestilences, or inundations, to be coincident with this event, as recorded in the Bible. When the earthquake (says he,) swallows up, the sea overwhelms, the fire consumes, the famine starves, or the plague destroys; we are totally ignorant by what laws of nature, or concatenation of causes, the
desolating events happen; we see only the dismal effects: and no consequence can rationally be deduced from them, against the principle of moral equity. From such events no one would derive an argument for the lawfulness of dispossessing his neighbour, either in his property or person; no argument for the lawfulness of burying alive idolaters, drowning heretics, starving atheists, &c.'
“I freely confess (proceeds Dr. Good,) I cannot see the difference here contended for: and even Dr. Geddes himself must have admitted the possibility of God's predetermining and prognosticating, as well as immediately operating the total extermination of a whole people, or must have disbelieved the tremendous history of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the propagation of his predicted curse upon the Hebrew race to the present moment. Here I think the simile is at least admissible; and I am surprised that our modern polemics have not occasionally adverted to it. If it be consistent with the justice and benevolence of the Supreme Being, that the Jewish nation, his own peculiar people, should, on account of the enormity of their sins, be in their turn attacked in their inheritance; be subjugated to a foreign power; become the prey and plunder of a long succession of capricious, cruel, and avaricious tyrants ; have their city and temple at length assaulted ; be loaded with every possible calamity which pestilence, famine, and torture, their own mutual treacheries and animosities, and the implacable enmity and ingenuity of their adversaries, could invent, during the continuance of this tremendous siege-if it be consistent with the same adorable attributes, that upwards of a million of them should
fall victims to so complicated a scourge, and that the wretched remnant who escaped should be suffered to wander about as outcasts and vagabonds over the face of the whole earth, equally despised and derided by every nation among whom they might acquire a temporary abode-if it be consistent with these attributes that this terrible visitation should be persevered in for a period of at least eighteen centuries, thus punishing, from age to age, the children for the sins of their fathers--if the case before us, which we cannot but believe, be consistent with the justice and benevolence of the Deity-surely the case recorded (a case of far inferior vengeance) demands no great credulity to obtain our assent, nor strength of reasoning to reconcile it with the moral perfections of the Supreme Being."
TRANSLATION OF LUCRETIUS.
Of the preceding works of our author I have, designedly, said but little, that I might speak more fully of the great work, which, as my readers will already have seen, (pp. 84–87.) occupied so large a share of several of the most active years of his life; the “ Translation of Lucretius," which, having long devoted to it his head, his hand, and his heart, he published in 1805, in two volumes quarto.
It is still a question with many, whether or not this philosophical poet is worthy of all the pains which have been bestowed upon him; and, probably, like Epicurus, the great master of his system, he has received a larger share of both praise and blame than are fairly his due. It has been said, for example, that as a philosophical poet, Lucretius is inferior to Homer.
That he is decidedly inferior as a poet, no one will question; but they must view the character of Homer through a very extraordinary medium, who regard him as the poet of philosophy. There would be no difficulty in shewing, from many of his beautiful similes, that he was an accurate observer of natural phenomena; and it might be shewn, in like manner, from his exquisite delineation of characters, that he was most intimately acquainted with human nature: yet, as he is not, on the latter account, classed with moralists, so neither can he, on the former, be ranked with philosophers.
The Roman poets, indeed, tinctured their sentiments and language very deeply with the philosophy of the Greeks. Thus Virgil adopts sometimes the notions of the Stoics, sometimes those of the Platonists, at others those of the Pythagorean and the Epicurean systems. Horace breathes the Epicurean spirit. Ovid evinces his acquaintance with the Greek theogonies : and Persius warmly advocates the morals of the Stoics. Yet, by these and others, the doctrines they adopted were introduced occasionally, and not made the basis of their structure. Not so Lucretius. In his poem, De Rerum Natura, he has with accuracy of method, and clearness of conception, and usually with great elegance of diction, entirely unfolded the system of Epicurus : and the remarkable fact ought not to be suppressed, that the inductive method of Bacon, portions of the physics of the Newtonian school, and of the chemical discoveries of the last forty years, have been anticipated, both as to their principles and results, in this elaborate production. Although I am by no means inclined to admit so much in reference to these