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thus to represent it, but without sufficient cause. There is nothing in the text to indicate that the number of wives and concubines have anything to do with the being imperfect before God. The idea in the mind of the Hebrew was that he had sinned in taking unto himself the daughters of the wicked Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and others belonging to the heathen tribes, and had sacrificed to their gods. Had he slain them all, in their youth and beauty, the author would have been proud to tell of the deed as one of the most glorious. The intolerant are never capable of perceiving truth or brotherhood; and the Hebrew would not have cared if Solomon had prostituted one half the daughters of his tribe. Men of one idea are always thus unjust. They argue a virtue into such prominence as to make it a vice to give it any support; they contend for the right until, by their undue dwelling upon it, they impair the force of other rights; and if they cannot procure that at which they are aiming without some great sacrifices, they will immolate a nation rather than abandon the object of their idolatry. It was so with the French Revolution of the last century; a body of men gained power who were Republicans, and so much were they resolved upon succeeding that they were ready to hew off the heads of all who opposed them-they would have a Republic even if all the citizens had to be slain in order to secure its establishment So with the Hebrew author of this narrative; unto him there was nothing more important than the hatred and the slaughter of all the heathen. Not that he loved Jehovah, but because he loved himself, and was ag proud of being an Hebrew as the red man was of being a Delaware, authorised to use the paint of his tribe, and with no better reason. He thus condemned Solomon not for his lust and sensual life, but because he ventured to bring into his harem so many foreign women.
But although the writer of this book, composing his narrative centuries after the death of Solomon, believed in the story of all these wives and concubines, we are not to believe it. He “had seven hundred wives, princesses,”—where did be get them ? Not around the Mediterranean, for evidently, had he exhausted the stock, he could not have collected so many. Moreover, although it may
pos. sible that some of the neighbouring monarchs may have given Solomon a sister to wife, it is quite certain that lie was not in a position to gain so many princesses. The nation had but too recently emerged from barbarism to have gained any renown in the East, and hence the utter absurdity of supposing that foreign kings wished to ally themselves with it. A later writer would very naturally wish this, the same as many Saxon writers have spoken of the great desire foreign monarchs had to be allied with our Mighty Ancestors. It is, however, only a dream, for which no single fact can be cited. My own convictions are that the harem itself is quite imaginary ; that Solomon, with all his folly, was never so utterly foolish as to take so many into his house. He may have had several, but certainly, as we are sure, he had not seven hundred princesses, because there was no such number for him to have, so also am I certain that he possessed not the three hundred concubines generally spoken of as his.
According to the narrative, which, as we have seen, must be taken with many important deductions, the immense expenditure connected with such splendour involved him in very serious difficulties, which even the profits of his mercantile transactions did not cover. For, although we abandon the fables about his "two " targets of gold,” his “three hundred shields of pure gold,” his "drinking vessels “of gold,” his throne of ivory overlaid with gold,” and his “cedar palaces;" although, as guided by common sense, we abandon these fables as being nothing more than the creation of a later age, still the fact will stand that, from the form of the fables, we are justified in concluding that Solomon was a spendthrift, and that he unduly exhausted upon objects of mere pleasure and splendour, the means a nation so small and unproductive could place at his disposal. There were no means of raising a Customs or Excise income, as there is in modern times. Hence the need for direct taxation, which rankled deeply in the Hebrew heart. Taxes are not pleasant to any, but they seem to have been particularly hateful to the subjects of Solomon. Even then the believers in Jehovah believed also in a good margin for profit, and when they were to be taxed they complained bitterly. This taxing
was partly in actual property and partly in their personal service, but in other forms it was felt to be greivous. When Solomon was dead, and when his son went to Shechem to be received as king by the ten tribes, they came and said, by their deputies : “Thy father made our yoke grievous ; now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and the yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and
we will serve thee."* Thus of their discontent we are certain, but cannot say if it were made manifest during the reign of Solomon.
The luxuriousness and taxation of the people were not, however, looked upon by the chronicler of his reign as constituting Solomon's sins. These sins were in going after other Gods. “And it came to pass when Solomon was old, that his "wives tumed away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect with " the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father.”+ The falling below the piety of David must have been a fearful fall
, seeing that David himself in every practical sense was far below the ordinary level of piety. But the peculiarity observable in this account lies in the fact, that the foolish and despotic reign of Solomon was not accounted a sin; had he not gone after Ashtaroth or Milcom, then all had been well, for, as it was conceived by the author, sin wore only an ecclesiastical appearance.
Cruel wrong done to the people—despotising over them—was nothing; for, as the case is here represented, Heaven only punished the wrong done to itself
. And of a piece with this is the after statement that, through this sin, God resolved to divide Israel. The words are attributed to God, but, as we feel, very falsely. The account is : “And the Lord was angry with
Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel who had
appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he “should not go after other Gods, but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. “Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and “thou hast not kept my covenant nor my statutes, which I have commanded thee, "I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it unto thy servant.
Nevertheless in thy days I will not do it for David, thy father's, sake, but I “will it read it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the “kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son for David, my servant's sake, and for " Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.”I How all this was said we, as usual, are not informed, Was it in a dream? Was it in the open day, and the voice heard in the air? Orthodox criticism does not trouble itself to ask in what way it was said, believing indeed that it is very wicked for any to venture upon such questions. But, curiously enough, when the same men come upon passages in the Koran where it is set forth that the Lord said, they immediately inquire, How did 'he say it pand the Mussulman who declines to furnish an explanation, is accounted as a rogue who makes pretences to believing that which he does not believe, or as a fool who 'is blinded and deceived by the wicked one.'
But it matters little to ask how God said all this; we know He never said it. The entire passage contains a foul calumny against the moral government of God. He is literally represented as saying to Solomon, 'You have done wrong and deserve punishment, but I will punish your son instead; you should lose the kingdom, but for my servant David's sake you shall not lose it, but I will rend it out of the ‘hand of thy son, at least, part of it, for thy son shall be allowed to retain part of 'it.' But how was this punishing Solomon for his sins ? Was not this decreeing punishment unto the guiltless people, and letting the guilty king escape? Is God a respecter os persons ? And, moreover, why divide and thus weaken the kingdom, why ruin the nation—the chosen nation-because of the sin of the king ? Was Israel to be ruined because of the bad conduct of a king whom God had given them, and that, too, without allowing them to exercise any choice in the matter? If they had chosen him they would have been responsible, but, according to the story, God set him up. Shall we punish and ruin the Canadians, because of the errors or sins of a Governor whom we have given them by the ex
cise of our absolute authority ? Surely not punish the people, but the sinner who had made them suffer, as much as he had insulted the Divinity, Obviously if there were any * 1 Kivgs xii. 4.
# Ibid. xi, 9-13.
* Ibid. xi. 4.
sin in this case it must be imputed to Jehovah, and consequently the people must rather be pitied than condemned as deserving punishment.
Our commentators are wholly silent upon these important matters, which are, in truth, the very points upon which a measure of light should be cast. For is it not utterly impossible, consistent with the theory of a moral government, to be. lieve that God would deliberately plan the division, and hence the destruction of this people, for any such sin on the part of a king Himself had given ? Are nations to Him of less value than individuals ? But in good sooth it is useless to argue a point when every right-thinking man will at once perceive, that to provide the division of Israel, because of the sin of idolatry on the part of Solomon, was to inflict a death-punishment upon Israel for the misfortune of having been governed by a bad king; and that to put off the punishment until after the death of Solomon, was absolutely to provide a punishment which could not take effect until the guilty one was far beyond its reach. Old writers, men trained into obedience to the Church and king, were likely enough—because they dared not to reason out these points to be deceived by such statements; but we do not believe that God respects kings a whit above subjects. We, who believe that He never specially interferes
, much less to punish the guilt!css, cannot lend our. selves to the propagation of a statement so slanderous to the justice of the Eternal, and dare not bow our souls in submissive credulity for thč benefit
Churches who live by enforcing faith in such falschoods. Neither arc we to be turned from our criticism by the pious sneerers who ask if we know all the secrets of God, and are authorised by Him to say how He would act in every case brought before Him! We pretend to no such private knowledge, and we equally deny the pretensions of all others. But although we cannot say how God would act in all cases, we can say, as even the orthodox critics do, bow He would not act. Wlien we read of what God did, as his actions are recorded in the Vedas, the Koran, or in the Old Chronicles, we reject the statements, and say, God could not act thus. Our moral nature rises into rebellion against the assumptions, and hence our denial of the stories. And precisely so with the story here related. If asked how God should have dealt with Solomon, we should decline to answer, as beyond our province. All the facts are not before us, and therefore our judgment would be fallacious. We know not, neither do we care to enquire. But when we are told that God being angry with Solomon, resolved to wait until after he was dead, and then punish the nation by rending it in twain; we answer at once that the story is false. Our moral nature revolts against its injustice, our sense of eternal right is insulted, and we say God would not depart so far from the path of eternal justice as to do this evil thing; therefore we give it up as a libel, although admitting that, written as it was in the days of gloom and darkness, it is very probable the writers believed it to be true, in common with much else which the better knowledge and riper wisdom of a more enlightened time compel all thoughtful men to reject. The sooner all men learn that these Biblical stories belong to the superstitions of the Past, and allow them to pass to their proper place among such, the better will it be for humanity.
(To be continuerl.)
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WITCHCRAFT AND THE CHURCH. It is customary in modern times to treat contemptuously the stories told by superstitious persons relating to how they have been bewitched, and how, in various forms, “ a devil has possessed oue of our neighbours.' The majority of educated persons feel considerable difficulty in understanding how such absurdities can be credited by any buman being; still it is an undeniable fact that they are believed by thousands, and equally true that the various Churches of Christendom, in the persons of their ministers, laboured their hardest to maintain the theory of demoniacal possession as one among " the
many verities nece sary to be admitted in order to secure Christian salva“tion.". If we no longer hang and burn ugly old men and women for the crime of being witches, the fact is to be attributed, not to the influence of the Churches, but to the spread of clearer and more scientific ideas relating to the actual phenomena of the universe-ideas which were originally promulgated by men who were accursed by the Churches, and which have triumphed despite the severest censures of ecclesiastical authority.
It is only through being totally ignorant of the facts, that any man can speak of the Church as having assisted to prevent the continuance of witch prosecutions. As well might it be said that Sir Robert Peel and the Protectionists were the authors or willing abettors of the repeal of the odious Corn Laws. That, as Prime Minister, Sir Robert did this is well known; but it is equally certain that he did so only after it had been demonstrated to be impossible with safety to pursue any other course. It was unwillingly done, and never would have been accomplished but for the resolution of a party acting entirely independent of the Government. And it is precisely the same with the Church and these prosecutions. It abandoned them, but not until the common sense of the most influential and best men in the country had protested against them, and had refused to be any longer outraged by such proceedings. While it was possible, consistent with safety, they were continued; still we do not say that they who persisted in urging them on were consciously wrong, for the opposite is our conviction. But if they were criminal they were incompetent, and evidently they had not sought very earnestly after the truth. When by others the truth was discovered, then, instead of examining it, they denounced without inquiring, and anathematised
VOL. V. NEW SERIES, VOL. I.
without being able to assign a single reliable reason. So that, although we admit they believed themselves to be right, we still maintain that they were morally guilty, because they did not take such steps as would have led them to perceive the error of their ways.
Had it not been for the clergy the fearful sacrifice of life caused throughout Europe during this terrible mania would never have occurred. It was the leading clerics who impressed the belief upon the common mind. Tatian says that "Demons are the founders of idolatry, and to satisfy their pride they " allow themselves to be worshipped by their heathen followers as if they were “ Gods;" * and according to him they worked all manner of evil through taking possession of their unhappy victims. Clement declared them to be the supporters of all magical arts; and according to Tertullian “through their “ fine organisation they were enabled to act equally upon the body and the • soul.” The latter author maintained the doctrine of exorcism, and taught how, by means of the cross, the demon could be expelled. Theodoret relates that the Bishop of Syria, Marcellus, with the help of the Mayor, endeavoured to destroy with fire a temple of Jupiter, but " was prevented by a great black “ devil,” which put out the flame. Eventually the bishop put a cask of water upon the high altar, and when he had offered up prayers, and made the sign of the cross, the water burnt like oil, and the idol temple was utterly destroyed.Gregory of Tours relates that during some of the festivals “ de“moniacs appeared in the churches raving, so that they terrified the congrega“tions, and broke the lamps, but as soon as the consecrated oil fell upon them " the demons departed out of them and they became themselves again.” I
The theory they acted upon was this, that there were thousauds, or even millions, of evil spirits, demons, who acted under the direction of wizards and witches in taking possession of innocent persons, thereby causing them to suffer variously, as fearfully diseased, or to commit the most heinous crimes, and do such things as wrung tears from the eyes of all good spirits. These demons were held to be impalpable to the sight of all save those who had entered into the unholy league, and to be the absolute slaves of those who had done so. In the celebrated Warbois case this fact was clearly brought
In that case Joan Throgmorton harpened to pass the cottage of "old “ mother Samuel,” who was sitting at her door knitting. She was old and ugly, and when Joan, a nervous imaginative girl, looked at her, she felt, or fancied “ she felt, sudden pains in her limbs,” and conchided that she had been bewitched. Her brothers and sisters, parents, and a few neighbours, entered into the case, and believed that they also were sufferers. Upon one occasion they attacked the old woman, and having pricked her most brutally,
Lady Cromwell tore a handful of hair from her head” which she gave to
poor old woman bitterly cursed her tormentors, and it happened that on several occasions after this attack “ Lady Cromwell dreamt of the witch " and an old black cat," and died “exactly” fifteen months after the day of torment and cursing. This was looked upon as furnishing proof positive of Mother Samuel's guilt. She was apprehended and tortured, and naturally enough induced to say anything in order to escape torment. It was demanded that she should exorcise the demon she had caused to take possession of Joan, and she complied, saying: “As I am a witch and the causer of Lady Cromwell's death, I charge thee, fiend, to come out of her!" This done, the poor old
* Orat. ad Grao.
+ Ecoles. Hist, lib. V. c. 21. Ennemoser's History of Magio, vol. ii. p. 142.