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CHAPTER V.

HEBREW MORALITY—continued.

If it were possible for Christians of all denominations to consider, in absolute freedom from religious prepossession, the foregoing proofs of debasement in Hebrew morality and theology, a unanimous voice, giving expression to a candid and impartial judgment, would inevitably affirm that the ignorance, cruelty, and barbarism disclosed in the pages of the Pentateuch, finally destroy Mosaic pretensions to a supernatural revelation of the will and purpose of the Deity worshipped by modern Christians.

But Orthodoxy withstands this reasonable conclusion with a vast literature of apologetic accommodation, filled with ingenious suggestions subversive of reason and common sense, when found irreconcilable with the dogma of an infallible Bible. What theory constitutes the very essence of this fanciful reconciliation between the barbarism of the Hebrew Jehovah and the beneficence of the Christian's God? That the policy of the Deity in revelation has been a policy of expediency and compromise, fashioning truth, justice, and mercy in harmony with the debased morality of a barbarous age!

We are assured by pious men, honestly believing

in their own personal knowledge of the unrecorded thoughts entertained by the Deity some thousands of years ago, that when He made polygamy and slavery the objects of divine legislation, He did not approve, but diplomatically modified institutions radically immoral, but entering so deeply into existing habits and customs as to render it expedient to postpone their final suppression to a future age. .

Orthodoxy, therefore, depicts the Almighty conducting the personal government of the Israelites on a system of political trimming, destructive of definite principles in morality; for if institutions condemned by the moral consciousness of our generation were divinely legalised in past centuries, the virtues of the present may become the crimes of futurity; and thus moral oscillation confounds good and evil in disastrous chaos.

But are not these the deceptive theories of mistaken piety, sustaining the infallibility of Scripture through the mutability of God? If Paganism had survived the fall of the Roman Empire, and carried Olympian theosophy into the nineteenth century, might not its priesthood, trained in modern ethics, borrow the same line of argument by depicting the formerly corrupt cultus of Jove as simply divine adaptation to the habits and customs of a licentious age, and claim our adoration for the gods and goddesses of Hellas, now posing in the garb of modern respectability ?

And may not Roman Pontiffs, adorned by modern virtues, claim infallibility, notwithstanding the apparent errors, and even crimes, of some of their predecessors, by sustaining the theory of transitional revelation ? For if we accept the divine inspiration of Hebrew

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priests and prophets, who consecrated treachery, cruelty, and murder in the name of Jehovah, may not mediæval Popes, who burnt heretics for the honour and glory of God, have been the automatic mediums of the divine policy of their age?

But if we are not dealing with some theological nightmare—and it is indeed true that the Deity once modified truth and justice in harmony with human barbarism and superstition—why do not modern missionaries follow the divine example of ethical compromise by approaching the heathen with composite systems of morality, combining the virtues of Christianity with the vices of barbarism, and thus diplomatically coquetting with the polygamy of Turkey, the infanticide of China, and the sacrificial massacres of Dahomey, in harmony with the principle of progressive revelation ? Or why should we not, in trying to reclaim our criminal classes, adapt a sliding scale of graduated ethics to varying shades of moral delinquency, so as not to deter rogues and ruffians from partial reformation by unconditional condemnation of fraud and violence? Why? because the moral consciousness of our age forbids our tampering with truth and righteousness; and thus we claim a higher wisdom in the present than we assign to the Deity in the past by sustaining alleged revelation through the degradation of Divinity.

But have the apologists of a debased revelation reviewed their theories in the light of mental science, and considered that existence under conditions which foster sensuality and cruelty, produce a cerebral inferiority which perpetuates, through hereditary develop

ment, the intellectual and moral degradation of the race? And thus, if the great First Cause of Nature's laws sanctioned, as the temporal ruler of the Hebrews, a legislative compromise with evil, He condemned the Chosen Race, through the universal laws controlling all mankind, to cumulative abasement.

Say that we accept the theory of divinely debased legislation in Judaism, when and how were objectionable statutes repealed ? Jesus left slavery where He found it; Paul recommended men to rest content as bondservants or freemen; and Anglican Protestantism obviously accepted slavery as a divine institution when instructing infant slaves, through the Church Catechism, to be content with that station of life to which it had pleased God to call them. Has theocratic legislation been therefore repealed by the voice of Humanity, and has modern civilisation pronounced a tardy vote of censure on Divinity by restoring freedom to races condemned to slavery by the divinely ratified curse of Noah ?

In sustaining Scripture through the theory of temporising legislation, apologetic theologians obviously assume that this form of divine policy was beneficial to the Chosen Race. But, as debased revelation involves debased Divinity, we still await their version of the advantages conferred on mankind in any stage of human progress, though an inspired ideal of the Deity, false to the infinite attributes assigned to Him in modern theosophy.

Thus far, we have shown that the pretensions of Hebrew morality to a divine origin are unattested by any superiority to merely human systems. This adverse

criticism is, however, conceived in no unfriendly spirit towards Judaism. Its manifest imperfections are irreconcilable with revelation ; but we do not, therefore, deny the presence of human wisdom in some of its ordinances. Thus we read, “Thou shalt take no gift, for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.'' How admirable a precept for this age of fraudulent commissions, and universal backsheesh! Again, if the Mosaic law, which commands the seducer to marry or provide for his victim, were present in the statute books of Christendom, how much more effectual would it prove in social reformation than the sermons of bishops or the prayers of saints!

1 Exod. xxiü. 8.

2 Exod. xxii. 16, 17.

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