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served in that place. Whole armies have been known to perish, for want of water, in those very deserts; and it is indeed self-evident, that this army was preserved, and rendered victorious, either by the sagacity of the prophet, or by the word which the Lord spake by him: yet he must be branded as venomous and virulent, for protesting against Joram's crimes, in far milder language, than Mr. P. or his friends have used against the kings of France or England!
The conduct of Elisha, in cursing the children in the name of the Lord, has been objected to by more candid and serious men than Mr. P. and uherefbre requires some consideration. These children, or young persons, immediately after Elijah's translation, reproached Elisha with his baldness, and bade him go up, or ascend; as if they had said, 'a good riddance 4 of all prophets.'* They had been evidently taught by their idolatrous parents to revile the prophets of Jehovah; their enmity was become desperate: and if true religion be important, it was proper to apply some effectual remedy to the inveterate evil. If the prophet had cursed them in his own spirit, would Jehovah have concurred in his malignity? Were the she-bears at his command? Would any consequences have followed? Had the prophet slain the children himself, or employed any of his party in putting them to death, there would have been some pretence for these bitter accusations: but as the case stands, the justice of God is directly arraigned; for he was the only agent in the
business.—If the children had died of a fever, the affair would not have been noticed: yet the solemnity of the sentence and execution, while it was no severer punishment to them, was far more calculated to make an useful impression on their survivors.
EZEKIB1 AND DANIEL.*
Mr. P. is of opinion that the books of Ezekiel and Daniel are genuine. This- concession, may perhaps surprise such persons, as are not aware of the fecundity of his genius; especially as Daniel's prophecies have received so circumstantial an accomplishment,, that an ancient opposer of Christianity had no way of escaping conviction, but by asserting, contrary to alt proof, that they were written after the events predicted in them! But Mr. P. perhaps afraid lest his reader's attention should flag, has prepared a new fund of amusement, by imagining these books to contain a political ci/p/wr or secret alphabet, under the pretence of dreams and visions, and that they relate toplans about recovering Jerusalem. Hence he infers, that wc *have nothing to do with them:' and provided that be the inference, numbers will excuse the want of proof and probability.
It is, however, very wonderful, that these political devices should contain such animated exhortations and fervent prayers; and above all so many prophecies,, that have been ever since fulfilling! Egypt is become
• P. ii. p. 57—60.
a base kingdom, and has been subject to a foreign yoke almost from the time when the prophet wrote.* Tyre, that prosperous commercial city, is now a place for fishermen to dry their nets.f And the four great monarchies, Alexander's conquests, and the affairs of his successors; the cutting off of the Messiah, and the desolation of Jerusalem after seventy weeks, have exactly accomplished Daniel's predictions. Surely then Mr. P. had a mind to make trial of the credulity- of mankind, in this whimsical absurdity!.
Ezekiel is supposed to have been carried captive eleven years before the desolations of Jerusalem, and Daniel about eighteen; J and not ' both together, nine 'years before,' as Mr. P. erroneously states it. Daniel was employed at court, and Ezekiel lived at a dis.stance, and we do not read of any intercourse between them. The first six chapters of Daniel are historical, and relate to miraculous interpositions of God in belialf of his people; and not the most remote intimation of a project for recovering Jerusalem is found in the whole book. Many of Ezekiel's visions, and all Daniel's, are dated after the desolation of Jerusalem; when the poor dispersed captives could have no hope of recovering or rebuilding that city by any stratagem: nay, some of Daniel's visions are dated after the return of the Jews from Babylon, by the decree of Cyrus.
Mr. P. has no right to find fault with romantick interpretations of Scripture; after having given the most
ridiculous exposition of Ezekiel's vision, that the world has yet seen! His own words may justly be retorted on him. 'Such applications of Scripture shew the 'fraud or extreme folly, to which the credulity of mo'dcrn infidelity can go!'
Mr. P. asserts that Ezekiel's prediction concerning the forty years desolation of Egypt never came to pass: but it requires a complete knowledge of all that happened in those ages to prove this.—It is certain that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt, and carried multitudes of its inhabitants captives: forty years from that time brings us to the reign of Cyrus; when it is probable that the Egyptians, as well as the Jews, were allowed to return home, and inhabit their wasted country.* And is it not more rational to elucidate the obscurity of history by this prophecy; than to make the obscurity of history an argument against a prophecy, of which every other part, as contained in four chapters, has most certainly been accomplished? Especially ivhen the next verse is fulfilling at this present day: "Egypt sna^ be the basest of the kingdoms, neither "shall it exalt itself any more among the nations."
J ON All. f
Mr. P. having gready diverted himself and his readers, with the story of Jonah and his whale; seriously undertakes to prove, that the whole lxiok was a gentile fable, intended to ridicule and satirize the Jews and their prophets! %
• Ezck. xxix. 11—14. f P- >• P- 29. i P. ii- p- 60—63.
Jonah's conduct, in various particulars, admits of no excuse: yet it is much easier to condemn him, than it would have been to have acted properly in his circumstances. The mariners deserve commendation for their desire to preserve his life: but his narrative, and his manner of speaking concerning the Lord, must have impressed them with awe, lest tiiey should provoke die God of Israel, by putting his servant to death.
The mariners at first "called every man upon his '* gvtf;" but .ifter they had heard the words of Jonah, thcr " feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sa"crifice to Jehovah, and made vows." They had been idolaters; but probably were converted to the true religion by what they saw and heard on this occasion.
The Almighty God was certainly able to prepare a great fish to swallow Jonah, and could preserve him alive to the third day in its belly; however profene sco&ers may ridicule the narrative. The fables of Hercules swallowed by a sea-monster, and ship-wrecked Antphion carried to shore by a dolphin, seem to have been derived from the vague report of this transaction.
Jonah's conduct and disposition at Nineveh too «&uch ' resembled that malevolent spirit, that black* sess of character, which men ascribe—to the devil;' t&ut is, depraved nature too much shewed itself. Yet W should not be blamed for delivering his message fc^Nhillv. His conduct is unparalleled in Scripture; «*> one there mentioned with approbation, shewed so jcvod, angry, impatient, self-seeking, and presurapTiots a disposition, as he did.—Jeremiah appealed to tSc Lord, " that he had not desired the woeful day,"'