Page images

years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage."*— From this speech it is concluded, that Moses taught a future state : and, especially since the Author of the epistle to the Hebrews hath brought t it as a proof that Jacob and the Patriarchs looked for a better country. That Jacob did so, is unquestionable : but it can never be allowed that the words, in their literal and obvious meaning, express any such thing. Pharaoh is here questioning the Patriarch, not of human life in general, but of his own. Therefore, to make the reply pertinent, Jacob must be understood to mean by his pilgrimage, the unsettled way of life, living in tents, and removing from place to place, as the convenience of pasturage gave him invitation : and, by the evil of his days, the straits he suffered from the fraud of Laban, and the hatred of his brother Esau. As for the complaint of the fevness of his days, he himself explains it to be, not on account of the shortness of human life in general, but, because he had not attained unto the days of the years of the life of his fathers. The sense therefore, which the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews puts upon these words, must needs be the spiritual sense.

3. The same Patriarch, in his last benediction of his sons, breaks in upon the prophetic blessings with this pious ejaculation, I hare waited for thy salration, O Lord : I which is supposed to respect the salvation of mankind by Jesus Christ. I grant it doth so in a spiritual sense; nay, for aught I know, it may in a literal. But how should an early Jewish Reader understand it in this sense, when the same terms of the salvation of God, or of the Lord, are perpetually employed, throughout the whole Bible, to signify God's temporal mercies to the Patriarchs and their Posterity: and when now, that the Mystery of the Gospel hath been so long revealed, Christian Commentators understand it in an hundred different senses ?

4. BALAAM, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, says : Let me die the death of the Righteous, and let my last end be like his : $ Which is understood as a wish that he might be partaker with the Righteous in another life. Had the apostate Prophet said, Let me live the life of the Righteous, it would have had a much fairer claim for such a meaning. As it is, Both the force of the words, and their relation to the context, restrain us to this literal meaning,—“Let me die in a mature old age, after a life of health and peace, with all my posterity flourishing about me: as was the lot of the righteous observers of the Law.” This vain wish, Moses, I suppose, recorded, that the subsequent account of his immature death in battle || might make the stronger impression on the serious Reader, to warn him against the impiety and folly of expecting the last reward of virtue for a life spent in the gratification of every corrupt appetite. But if any one will say, the words have, besides, a sublimer meaning, I have no reason to contend with him.

1 Gen. xlix. 18.

Ś Nuin.

Gen. xlvii. 9.

Heb. xi. 13, 14. xxiii. 10.

|| Num, xxxi. 8,

5. The next is a stricture of the Law in Leviticus, urged by Dr. Stebbing in this manner, “ Moses inforces the obedience of the Israelites upon this consideration, Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and judgments, which if a man do he shall live in them.*

Here is a promise of life made to those who should observe the statutes and judgments which God gave them by his servant Moses ; which cannot be understood of this temporal life only, because the best men were often cut off in the midst of their days, and frequently suffered greater adversities than the most profligate sinners. The Jews therefore have constantly believed that it had a respect to the life to come. When the lawyer in the Gospel had made that most important demand, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life,t our blessed Lord refers him to what was written in the Law; and, upon his making a sound and judicious answer, approves of it ; and for satisfaction to his question, tells him, This do, and thou shalt live.

The Objector would have the promise of life in Leviticus to signify eternal life. But St. Paul himself had long ago decided this question, and declared for the negative. A dispute arose between him, and the judaizing Christians, concerning what it was which justified before God, or intitled to that eternal life brought to light by the Gospel. They held it to be the works of the Law (believing, perhaps, as the Objector assures us they did, that this text, in Leviticus, had a respect to the life to come :) St. Paul, on the contrary, affirms that it was faith in Jesus the Messiah. And thus he argues—" But no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God it is evident : for the just shall live by faith.

And the law is not of faith, but the man that doth them shall live in them.”I As much as to say,

“ That no man can obtain eternal life by virtue of the Law is evident from one of your own Prophets [Hab.] who expressly holds, that the just shall Live by Faith. Now, by the Law, no rewards are promised to faith, but to works only. The man that both them (says the Law in Levit.) l shall live in them.Here then we see that this very text, which the Objector brings to prove that eternal life was by the Law, St. Paul urges, to prove that it was not by the Law. Let us attend to the Apostle's argument. He is to shew that justification, or eternal life, is by faith.

This he does even on the concession of a Jew, the Prophet Habbakkuk ; who expressly owns it to be by faith. But the Law, says the Apostle, attributes nothing to faith ; but, to DEEDS only, which if a man do he shall live in them. Now, if, by life, be here

• Lev. xviii. 5. Lev. xviii, 5.

† Luke x. 25.

1 Gal. iii. 11, 12.

$ Hab. i. 4.

meant, as the objector supposes, eternal life, then St. Paul's argument does not come out as he intended it; namely that faith, and not the works of the Law, justifies ; but thus, that both faith and the works of the Law justify, which would have satisfied these Judaizers, as reconciling on their own prejudices Moses and Habbakkuk; but would, by no means, have satisfied our Apostle ; whose conclusion on this question, where discussed at large, in his Epistle to the Romans, is, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.* The very drift of his argument therefore shews us, that he must necessarily understand the life, promised in this text of Leviticus, to be TEMPORAL life only. But charitably studious, as it were, to prevent all possible chance of our mistaking him on so important a point, He immediately subjoins, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law.t Now we know that our redemption by Christ was from that death which the first man brought into the world ; the curse which he entailed upon his posterity. Therefore the transferring this term from Adam to the Law, shews plainly that in the Apostle's sentiments, the Law had no more a share in the redemption of fallen man than Adam himself had. Yet it is certain, that if the Law, when it said, He who keeps these statutes and judgments shall live in them, meant, for ever, it proposed the Redemption of mankind as compleatly as the blessed Jesus himself did, when he said, he that believeth in me shall have everlasting life. This becomes demonstrable, if St. Paul's reasoning will hold, who surely had heard nothing of this prerogative of the Law, when he said, If there had been a Law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law. Where observe, I pray you, the force of the word 'wonoiñoal, which signifies to quicken, or to make alive ; plainly intimating the same he had said in the place quoted before, that those in subjection to the Law were under a curse, or in the state of death.Let me add only this further observation, that if (as this Objector pretends) by life in the text of Levit. be meant eternal life ; and if (as the Apostle pretends) by life, in the text of Habbakkuk, he meant eternal life; then will Moses and Habbakkuk be made directly to contradict one another ; the first giving that eternal life to works, which the latter gives to faith. But Dr. Stebbing would insinuate, that Jesus himself seems to have affixed this sense to the text in Leviticus ; however, that the plain inference is that eternal life was taught at least, if not obtained by the Law. “ When the lawyer in the Gospel” (says he) “ had made that most important demand, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? I our blessed Lord refers him to what was written in the Law, and upon his making a sound and judicious answer, approves of it;

† Gal. iii. 13. 1 Luke x. 25.

• Rom. jü, 28.

and for satisfaction to his question, tells him, This do and thou shalt live.”—Would not any one now conclude, from the sense here put upon the words of Jesus, that the sound and judicious answer of the Lawyer must have been a quotation of the text in Leviticus,Ve shall keep my statutes, which if a man do he shall live in them ;or at least some general promise made to the observers of the whole Law of Moses? No such matter. On the contrary, the Lawyer's answer was a quotation of only one precept of the Law, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. and thy neighbour as thy self. Now how much soever we may differ about a future state's being held out by the Law, through a Messiah to come, I suppose we are both agreed that faith in the Messiah, either actual or imputed, is necessary to obtain this future state. There are but two ways then of understanding this text of St. Luke, neither of which is to his purpose.

The first is the supposing that Jesus included faith in himself in this precept of loving God with all the heart, &c. which will appear no forced interpretation to him who holds Jesus to be really and truly God; as, I imagine, the Doctor does; and may be supported by a circumstance in the story as told by St. Matthew,* though omitted by St. Luke, which is, Jesus's saying, that on these two commandments hang all the Law and the PROPHETS. The second and exacter interpretation is, that Jesus spoke to a professing follower, who pretended to acknowledge his Mission, and wanted only a RULE OF LIFE.

For Jesus was here preaching the Gospel to his disciples, And a Lawyer stood up and TEMPTED him, that is, on the false footing of a disciple, required a rule of life. Now in either case, this reference of Jesus to the Law must imply this, and this only, that without righteousness and holiness no man shall see the Lord. A point in which, I suppose, we are agreed.—But still the Doctor will say that these words of Jesus allude to the words of Moses. Admit they do. It will not follow, as he seems to think, that they were given to explain them. How many allusions are there in the New Testament to passages in the Old, accommodated to a spiritual sense, where the texts alluded to are seen, by all but Fanatics, to have only a carnal ? And even in this very allusion, if it be one, we find that the promise made to the observers of the whole Law is transferred to the observance of one single precept, in the moral part of it. But let us grant him all he would have; and admit that these words of Jesus were given to explain the words of Moses. What would follow from thence, but that the promise in Leviticus had a secondary sense of a spiritual and sublimer import? Will this give any advantage to the Doctor and his Party ? Surely none at all. And yet the abuse

• Matt. xxii. 40.


of this concession is all they have to support themselves in their determined opposition to Common sense.

6. A Law in Leviticus is delivered in these terms, “ Whoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech, he shall surely be put to death.”*

Let me first explain the text before I shew how it is perverted. There were two cases in which the offender here described might escape punishment : Either the crime could not be legally proved, Or the Magistrate might be remiss in punishing. The divine Lawgiver obviates both : and declares that the Infanticide, in such case, shall suffer death by God's own hand in an extraordinary

The supplial of the first defect, is in these words,—"And I will set my face against the man, and will cut HIM OFF FROM AMONGST HIS PEOPLE.”+ The supplial of the second is in these :

“And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not, then I will set my face against that man and against his family, and will cut HIM OFF.” I So much for the sense of the text. And now for the nonsense of our Interpreter, a Professor of Law and Divinity, the egregious Doctor RUTHERFORTH. This sage provision for the execution of the Law our Professor being totally unconscious of, he insists “that cutting off from amongst his People can only mean eternal damnation, the being consigned to a state of punishment in another life.”'s He is, as I say, a dealer both in Law and Divinity ; but not having yet learnt the use of his tools, he confounds Law by Theology, and depraves Theology by Law : And of this, the reader has already seen some delectable instances.

But at present, to regulate a little his Law-ideas, let him turn to Exod. xii. 15. and Levit. vii. 25. and he will find that the cutting off from Israel, and the cutting off from the People, are phrases which signify only capital punishment of a civil kind. Unless he will suppose that what is there threatened for eating leavened bread and prohibited fat, is ETERNAL LIFE IN TORMENTS.

7. The PsALMIST, in a holy confidence of God's mercies, says, Thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. 1—The scope of the whole Psalm is to implore the protection of God, from this consideration, that the Psalmist himself not only stedfastly adheres to the Law of God, but is ready to give his aid and support to all those who do.—That the vengeance of God pursues idolatry, which he carefully avoids—That the God of Israel

† Verse 3.

Lev. xx, 2. xvi. 10, 11.

1 Verses 4, 5.

§ Page 33.

|| Psalm

« PreviousContinue »