Moses could never have caused his laws and ordinances to be observed, if force and arms had wanted.
The most excellent men mentioned in books who became princes by their own virtue, and not by fortune, were Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and such like; for fortune only gave them the occasion and the matter to execute their virtue. As Moses found the people of Israel in captivity and servitude in Egypt, Cyrus also found the Persians discontent with the proud government of the Medes. Romulus found himself dejected from his birthplace, the town of Alba. Lastly, Theseus found the town of Athens full of troubles and confusions. Without these occasions, coming by fortune, the virtue of their courage would not have appeared; as also without their virtue, such occasions had served them nothing. All those occasions then made these persons fortunate, and their excellent virtue knew well how to make profit of occasions.
This atheist, always willing to show more strongly that he did not believe the holy scriptures, dares vomit out this blasphemy and say that Moses by his own virtue and by arms was made the prince of the Hebrews. We see by the books of Moses that he was constrained by God to take charge and draw the Hebrew people out of Egypt, to bring them into the land of Canaan, a place of the primitive of spring of this people. And after he had accepted that charge, we read that God gave him power to do many miracles before Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt, so that the Hebrew people might return in peace to the country from whence they came. Afterwards, having obtained permission to return, we see how the people were guided in the day by a visible and apparent cloud which went before them, and in the night by a pillar of fire. We read so many miracles done by God in their passage through the Red Sea, and in the deserts, and how Moses did nothing but by the counsel and power of God alone. With what boldness then dares this stinking atheist disgorge this talk, to say that Moses was made the prince of the Hebrew people by his own virtue, and by arms? Could he by any other means than the Bible know how and what way Moses came to be governor of the Hebrew people? For all pagan authors speak little thereof, and what they speak is but what they read in the books of Moses, or by hearsay from those who read them, seeing it is certain that we have no profane author that was not many worlds after Moses. If then Machiavelli can say nothing of Moses’ doings but by his own books, with what impudence dares he deliver the contrary from what is written therein? For to say he was made prince of the Hebrews by his own virtue and by arms, is to deny that God constrained him to accept the charge to conduct the Hebrews, and that they came out of Egypt by the miracles of God, and that they were conducted by the cloud and pillar of fire, and that God nourished them all the way in the desert; which is indeed to deny all that is written in the books of Moses. Assuredly, there is no man of so heavy and dull a judgment but he may well know that this most wicked atheist has taken pleasure to search out the most savage maxims that could be devised, assuring himself that he should ever find monsters of men who would also delight in absurd and bestial opinions, and would give passage and way to his doctrine. And yet the better to show his beastliness, this doctrine may be overthrown even by the writings of the pagans themselves. Trebellius Pollio writes that Moses was alone familiar with God. Tacitus, going about to slander and blame the Jewish religion contained in the books of Moses, confesses that the king of Egypt made the Hebrew people leave his country, for sores, rottenness, and other maladies infecting the Egyptians. The poets and philosophers, when they sometimes speak of Moses’ doctrine, they call it sacred oracles, showing thereby that they confess that the deeds and writings of Moses came from God, and not from his own virtue.
But with what impudence dares Machiavelli compare Moses to these idolaters, Romulus and Theseus? What similitude had they with Moses in their life or in their death? Romulus and Theseus were two bastards, rude and violent men in their youth, whereof the one slew his brother, and the other his son; the one finished his days slain by his citizens, and the other was banished and chased from his own. Can any find the like in Moses? But this maxim of Machiavelli has no need of a more ample refutation; for the truth is so clear and apparent to the contrary, that a man may manifestly see that this Florentine is a most wicked slanderer and impudent liar.
Yet I think it good to mark another beastliness and ignorance, in that he says that Theseus came to the domination of Athens in confusion. For clean contrary, he came to it because he was acknowledged as the son of Egeus, king of Athens; and was exceedingly well liked by the Athenians, because he had acquired the reputation of a magnanimous and valiant man, in that he slew and overcame many thieves who robbed the country of Attica and the adjoining countries. And to say the estate of Athens was confused is a jest of Machiavelli’s invention. And in what he says, that the occasion and means Romulus had to make himself a prince, was because he found himself ejected from his birthplace, the town of Alba; does he not show himself a man of good judgment? For can a man say in good sense and reason, that to be ejected from his country, disavowed by his parents as a bastard, to be put to nourishment among shepherds and beasts, to be impoverished and destitute of all means; that these are means and occasions to be made a prince and to be the founder of a town? If this is true, there will be found men enough who have all those good means to become princes, and so will there be found more princes than other people. But contrary, the means that we read whereby Romulus became a prince and founder of a town, were that he was a strong and violent man, cunning in arms, who gathered together many vagabonds and made them captains; afterwards, he and his brother Remus founded Rome, and to be sole ruler, he slew Remus and made himself king.