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Samuel Drew on Obscenities in the Bible

Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 66-68.

In the same page you say, "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent, that we called it the word of a dæmon, than the word of God: it is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest every thing that is cruel." As you give no example, of the above description, I may justly doubt the truth of your allegation; however, I will venture to assert, that every story of obscenity and wickedness, recorded in the Bible, is exhibited there, not to induce imitation, but abhorrence. ¶ I believe, the maddest enthusiast that ever lived, never thought of calling every word in the Bible, the word of God. Many parts of the sacred writings record the speeches and actions of wicked men and dæmons; and they are handed down to us, to excite our disapprobation, and to instruct us to take warning by the awful examples they present. Acts of debauchery and obscenity are objects of Bible detestation, as well as yours; and what you call "torturous executions" are frequently inflicted, as punishments for those deeds of criminality, with which you most unjustly reproach the Bible.

Whoever is acquainted with the contents of the Bible, must allow, that a prohibition of murder, theft, adultery, idolatry, and every species of wickedness, and an inculcation of benevolence, resignation, and every moral virtue, are enrolled among its permanent principles; and no man can suppose, that these prohibitions and injunctions, are calculated "to corrupt and brutalize mankind." Instances of deviation from them, I readily allow, may be found, in many parts; but you must be well aware, that the causes of these deviations are frequently assigned. In numerous cases, the record of the act is accompanied with a development of character, which the writers introduce to condemn. On some occasions, man appears before us, as a mere instrument in the hand of God, to execute the decisions of his justice upon the guilty; and on others, the simple fact is mentioned, while the reasons for it, together with its causes and consequences, are concealed from human observation. Now if, under any of these, or similar circumstances, an ambiguous expression, or inexplicable fact, should appear before us, is it consonant with reason, or with common justice, to give to either an interpretation, in direct opposition to those fundamental principles which characterize the sacred volume? To this question, I think, there can be but one reply…