Christianity As Old
As the Creation: Or the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of
'The Deist's Bible'
PUBLISHED IN 1730
English Deist Matthew
(1657 – 16 August 1733)
"If most of the Apostles, upon what
Motives soever, were mistaken in a Matter of this Consequence, how can we be
certain, that any One of them may not be mistaken in any other Matter ? If
they were not inspir'd in what they faid in their Writings concerning the
then Coming of Christ; how cou'd they be inspir'd in those Arguments they
build on a Foundation far from being so ?" (p. 262)
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I have hitherto faid nothing in relation to Prophecies,
designing to speak of them at another Season; but since You mention them, I
must, as to the Prophecies in the Old Testament, confess my Ignorance, that
I do not understand them; and Divines themselves, as far as I can find, are
infinitely divided about; interpreting them: And as to those Prophecies, if
they may be so call'd, in the New Testament, relating to the Second
Coming of Christ, and the End of the World, the best Interpreters
and Commentators own, the Apostles themselves were grofly mistaken; there
scarce being an Epistle, but where they foretell that those Times they wrote
in, were Tempora novijfirma ; and the then Age the last Age, and
those Days the last Days; and that the End of the World was nigh, and
the Coming of Christ at band; as is plain, among other Texts, from 1
Cor. 10. 11. Rom. 13. 11, 12. Heb. 9. 26. Jam.
5. 7, 8. 1 John 2. 18. 2 Pet. 3. 12, 13. And they do not
assert this as a meer Matter of Speculation, but build Motives and Arguments
upon it, to excite People to the Practice of Piety, and all good Works ; as
Phil. 4. 5. Let your Moderation be known to all Men, the Lord is
at Hand. And to the fame Purpose are Heb. 10. 24, 25. 1 Pet.
4.7, 8. 1 Cor. 7. 29. 2 Pet. 3. 11, 12. And tho' they do
not pretend to tell the very Day and •Hour, when these Things must happen;
yet they thought it-wou'd be during their Time, and continually expected it.
charged to keep this Commandment till the Appearing of the Lord.
So Paul fays to the Corinthians, Asoft [cor. n.
25. as ye eat this Bread, and drink this Cup, ye do shew the
Lord's Death till he comes. And I think, 'tis plain, Paul
himself expected to be alive at the Coming of the Lord,
L and that he had the Word of God for
is. For this we fay unto you ÆyiThes*. if, the Word of the
Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the Coming of the
Lord, Jhall not prevent them which areloc'
asleep. ——- The dead in Christ shall rife first. Then we
•which are alive, and remain, stall be caught up together with them
in the Clouds, to meet the Lord in the Air; and so Jhall we ever be
with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these Words.
And there are other Texts to the fame Purpose, as 1 Cor. 15.
51, 52. 2 Cor. 5.4.
2Thcs. 2.3. B.
Does not St. Paul
suppose, that before the Coming of Christ, Antichrist must
A. That does not
in the least hinder, but he might believe both wou'd happen in his
Time ; For, fays he, the — Ver. 7. Mystery of
Iniquity does already work. And St. John puts 1 John
2. 18. this Matter out of Dispute, in faying, Little
Children, it is the last 'Time ; and as ye have heard that
Antichrist stall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby
we know that it is the last 'time. a pet. 3. 3.4. B.
Does not St. Peter
fay, There stall come in the last Days, Scoffers ——
faying where is the Promise of his Coming ?
A. Saint Peter
owns those to be the last Days, and the ib. ver. 9, — Promise of
his then Coming he confirms, by faying, God is
J3. not stack concerning his
Promise, the Day of the Lord will come as a Thief in the Night:
What Manner of Persons ought ye to be in all holy Conversation
and Godliness, Looking for, and hasting unto the Coming of the Day
of God wherein the Heavens being on Fire stall be dissolved, and the
Elements stall melt with fervent Heat: Nevertheless we according to
his Promise, look for new Heavens, and a new Earth. B,
Does not St.
Peter fay, Beloved be not ignorant of this one Thing, that
one Day is with the Lord as a thousand Tears, and a thousand Tears
as one Day ?
A. This, as in
the Margin, seems to be quoted from Psalm 90. 4. where 'tis
faid, A thousand Tears in thy Sight, are but as Testerday when it
is past. And surely St. Peter cou'd not imagine, that God
affected to speak unintelligibly ; and by one Day meant a thoufand
Years j and by a thoufand Years one Day ; and refer to this Place as
B. Divines are at
a Loss how to account for the Apostles so frequently declaring, the
End of all Things to be at Hand, and Christ to be then a coming;
when our Saviour fays, Of that Day and Hour knoweth no Man ;
no, not the Angels of Heaven, but my Father only.
Divines wou'd not make these Reflections, did they but consider what
our Saviour declares to his Disciples, when they came to him
privately, faying, Tell us when these Things Jhall be; and what
Jhall be the Sign of thy Coming, and of the End of the World.
Does he not in Answer to their Question, tell them what those Signs
wou'd be ? withal adding, So likewise ye, when ye Jhall see all
these Things, know _ ver. 3j, that it is near, even at the
Doors. Verily, I fay unto You,
This Generation Jhall not pass, till all these Things be
fulfill'd. And to assure them of the Truth of what he declares,
Heaven — ver. 35. and Earth, fays he, Jhall pass
away ; but my Words fta11 not pass away. And his adding, But
of that Day and Hour knoweth no Man; no, not the Angels of Heaven,
but my Father only ; was not meant to contradict what he just
before declar'd, that this Generation Jhall not pass till these
Things be fulfill'd; but to warn his Disciples not to be
surpris'd as the old World was, when the Flood came, and Jhvept
them all away ; Watch therefore, jor ye know not what Hour your Lord
will come: But know this, that if the good Man of the House
had known in what Watch the Thief wou'd have come, he
wou'd have watclfd. And the Apostles agreeable to this
Admonition of the Lord, fay, yourselves know perfectly, 2.
that the Day of the Lord cometh as a Thief in the Night. And
after the Resurrection our Saviour fays to Peter, who asks
him concerning the beloved Disciple; If I will, that he John
tarry 'till I come, what is that to thee ? And the last Thing
his Disciples afk'd him on his Ascention, is, Wilt thou at this
Time, restore again the Kingdom to Israel? And the Answer he
gave them is very consistent with the Kingdom, even the temporal
Kingdom of Israel's being restor'd again during their Lives.
And by our Saviour's faying, when the last Supper Avas ended, I
will not drink henceforth of the Fruit of the Vine, until that Day I
drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom. They no doubt,
believ'd this happy Time was not far off. But,
If most of the
Apostles, upon what Motives soever, were mistaken in a Matter of
this Consequence, how can we be certain, that any One of them may
not be mistaken in any other Matter ? If they were not inspir'd in
what they faid in their Writings concerning the then Coming of
Christ; how cou'd they be inspir'd in those Arguments they build on
a Foundation far from being so ? And if they thought their Times
were the last, no Direction they gave, cou'd be intended to reach
further than their own Times. And if John the Evangelist, and
John the Divine are the fame Person, he must believe what is
mention'd in the Revelation, wou'd have happen'd within the
Compass of that Age in which he writ. But leaving these Matters to
another Time, let us return to the Consideration of those Duties,
which Reason shews us from the Nature of God and Man, and the
Relation Men stand in to him, and one another.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
FUTURISTIC AND REALIZED
ESCHATOLOGY IN THE EARLIEST STAGES OF CHRISTIANITY
Werner Georg Kummel
"One of the most important results,
full of consequences for the historical investigation of the New Testament,
was the recognition, established toward the end of the nineteenth century,
that the imminent coming of the rule of God and of the end of the world had
been of fundamental importance for the thinking of primitive Christianity.
Naturally this is not to assert that
up to that point no one had been aware of the presence in the New Testament
of an expectation of the imminent end of things. Numerous New
Testament texts speak too clearly of this fact for it to have gone
unnoticed. Hugo Grotius had already called attention to Paul's
conviction that he would experience the final judgment even in his lifetime.
Granted, Grotius drew only
chronological conclusions from this exegetical observation. A century
later, however, the English deist Matthew Tindal, in his Christianity As
Old As the Creation: Or the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature
(1730), made the more inclusive observation that in almost all the
writings of the New Testament the conviction existed that the end of the
world was near, and that the early Christians had based their ethical
admonitions on this conviction.
"But, if most of the Apostles .. were
mistaken in a matter of this consequence, how can we be certain that any one
of them may not be mistaken in any other matter?"
Tindal therefore identified the
expectation of an early end of things as the fundamental view of almost the
whole of early Christianity and concluded that because this expectation was
not fulfilled, the apostles could have been mistaken also in other points.
When G.E. Lessing published Von Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger (1778)
by the Hamburg gymnasium professor H.S. Reimarus (taken from the unpublished
Apologie oder Schutzschrift fur die vernunitigen Verehrer Gottes), these
deistic observations became known in German-speaking lands.
Reimarus' point of view was that Jesus
had proclaimed the nearness of the messianic kingdom of the Jews.
However, both because Reimarus presented this point of view in the context
of a historical construction that was fantastic and because it was so
different from the traditional conception of the preaching of Jesus, that
is, a teaching laid down for all time, Reimarus' contemporaries were not
convinced that Jesus expected an early end of things. D.F. Strauss,
too, considered it only probable that Jesus expected his own return.
Christianity as Old as the Creation
Christianity as Old as the Creation; or, the Gospel a Republication of
the Religion of Nature (London, 1730, 2nd ed., 1731; 3rd, 1732; 4th,
1733), came to be regarded as the "Bible" of deism. It was really only the
first part of the whole work, and the second, though written and entrusted
in manuscript to a friend, never saw the light. The work evoked many
replies, of which the ablest were by James Foster (1730), John Conybeare
(1732), John Leland (1733) and Bishop Butler (1736).
Christianity as Old as the Creation was translated into German by
J Lorenz Schmidt (1741), and from it dates the influence of English deism on
German theology. Tindal had probably adopted the principles it expounds
before he wrote his essay of 1697. He claimed the name of "Christian deist,"
holding that true Christianity is identical with the eternal religion of
Waring states that Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation
(1730) "became, very soon after its publication, the focal center of the
deist controversy. Because almost every argument, quotation, and issue
raised for decades can be found here, the work is often termed 'the deist's
Unlike the earlier system of Lord Herbert of Cherbury which relied on the
notion of innate ideas, Tindal's system was based on the empirical
principles of Locke. It assumed the traditional deistic antitheses of
external and internal, positive and natural, revelations and religions. It
starts from the assumptions that true religion must, from the nature of God
and things, be eternal, universal, simple and perfect; that this religion
can consist of nothing but the simple and universal duties towards God and
man, the first consisting in the fulfilment of the second -- in other words,
the practice of morality.
The author's moral system, is essentially utilitarian. True revealed
religion is simply a republication of the religion of nature or reason, and
Christianity, if it is the perfect religion, can only be that republication,
and must be as old as creation. The special mission of Christianity,
therefore, is simply to deliver men from the superstition which had
perverted the religion of nature. True Christianity must be a perfectly
"reasonable service," reason must be supreme, and the Scriptures as well as
all religious doctrines must submit; only those writings can be regarded as
divine Scripture which tend to the honour of God and the good of man.
Tindal's 'deist Bible' redefined the foundation of deist epistemology as
knowledge based on experience or human reason. This effectively widened the
gap between traditional Christians and what he called "Christian deists"
since this new foundation required that revealed truth be validated through
human reason. In Christianity as Old as the Creation, Tindal
articulates many prominent facets of deism that held true through the
subsequent centuries and still hold true among many deists today:
- He argues against special revelation: "God designed all Mankind
should at all times know, what he wills them to know, believe, profess,
and practice; and has given them no other Means for this, but the Use of