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him at his word. And it was well I did; for it was no sooner out of his mouth, than, as if he had repented, not of his candour, but his confidence, he immediately cries, Hold-and tells me, "I might have spared myself in asking another question, Why, if Revelations cannot be clearly recorded, are they recorded at all?" But, great Defender of the Faith!—of the ancient Jewish Church, I mean, I asked that question, because the answer to it shews how much you are mistaken; as the intelligent Reader, by this time, easily perceives. But why does he say I might have spared that question?-Because "if a Revelation is not clearly given, it cannot be clearly recorded." + Did I say it could? Or will he say, that there are no reasons why a Revelation, that is clearly given, should be obscurely recorded? To what purpose then, was the observation made? Made? why to introduce another: for, with our equivocal Examiner, the corruption of argument is the generation of cavil.-" And yet" (says he) "as YOU INTIMATE, there may be reasons why an OBSCURE REVELATION should be recorded, to wit, for the instruction of future ages, when, the obscurity being cleared up by the event, it shall appear, that it was foreseen and fore-ordained in the knowledge and appointment of God." If thou wilt believe me, Reader, I never intimated any thing so absurd.
What I intimated was not concerning an obscure Revelation, but a Revelation obscurely recorded. These are very different things, as appears from hence, that the latter may be a clear Revelation; the word being relative to him to whom the Revelation was made. But this is a peccadillo only. However he approves the reason of recording: for that, thereby, "it shall appear, that IT was foreseen and foreordained by God." IT,-What? The obscure Revelation, according to grammatical construction: but, in his English, I suppose, IT stands for the fact revealed. Well then; from the recording of an obscure revelation, he says it will appear, when the foretold fact happens, that it was foreseen and pre-ordained by God. This too he tells the Reader I intimated; but sure, the Reader can never think me so silly: For every fact, whether prefigured and foretold, or not prefigured and foretold, must needs have been foreseen and pre-ordained by God. Now, whether we are to ascribe this to exactness, or to inaccuracy, of expression, is hard to say. For I find him a great master in that species of composition which a celebrated French Writer, in his encomium on the Revelation, calls, en clarté noire. However, think what we will of his head, his heart lies too open to be misjudged of.
P. 188. AAA. This infidel objection, the Reader sees, consists of two parts: the one, that Abraham must needs doubt of the Author of the Command: the other, that he would be misled, by conceiving amiss of his Attributes, to believe human sacrifices were grateful to him. Dr. Stebbing, who will leave nothing unanswered, will needs answer this, [Consid. pp. 158, 160.] To the first part he replies, partly by the assistance I myself had given him, (where I took notice of what might be urged by Believers, as of great weight and validity) and partly from what he had picked up elsewhere. But here I shall avoid imitating his example, who, in spite to the Author of arguments professedly brought in support of Religion, strives, with all his might, to shew their invalidity; an employment, one would think, little becoming a Christian Divine. If the common arguinents against the objection, here urged by him with great pomp, have any weak parts, I shall leave them to Unbelievers to find out-I have the more reason likewise to trust them to their own weight, both because they are none of his, and because I have acknowledged their validity. For which
"Considerations," p. 156.
acknowledgment, all I get is this-Whether you had owned this or not (says he) I should have taken upon myself the proof. Whereas, all that he has taken is the property of other Writers; made his own, indeed, by a weak and an imperfect representation.-But his answer to the second part of the infidel objection must not be passed over so slightly. "As to the latter part of the objection" (says he) "that from this command, Abraham and his family must needs have thought human sacrifices acceptable to God; the revoking the command at last was a sufficient guard against any such construction. To this you make the Unbeliever answer; No, because the action having been commanded ought to have been condemned; and a simple revocation was no condemnation. But why was not the revocation of the Command, in this case, a condemnation of the action? If I should tempt you to go and kill your next neighbour, and afterwards come and desire you not to do it; would not this after-declaration be as good an evidence of my dislike to the action, as the first was of my approbation of it? Yes, and a much better, as it may be presumed to have been the result of maturer deliberation. Now, though deliberation and after-thought are not incident to God; yet as God in this case condescended (as you say, and very truly) to act after the manner of men; the same construction should be put upon his actions, as are usually put upon the actions of men in like cases." [Consid. p. 160, 161.] Now, though, as was said above, I would pay all decent regard becoming a friend of Revelation, to the common arguments of others in its defence, yet I must not betray my own. I confessed they had great weight and validity; yet, at the same time, I asserted, they were attended with insuperable difficulties. And while I so think, I must beg leave to inforce my reasons for this opinion; and, I hope without offence; as the arguments, I am now about to examine, are purely this Writer's own. And the Reader, by this time, has seen too much of him to be apprehensive, that the lessening his Authority will be attended with any great disservice to Religion.
I had observed, that the reasonings of Unbelievers on this case, as it is commonly explained, were not devoid of all plausibility, when they proceeded thus," That as Abraham lived amongst Heathens, whose highest act of divine worship was human sacrifices; if God had commanded that Act, and, on the point of performance, only remitted it as a favour, (and so it is represented ;) without declaring the iniquity of the practice, when addressed to Idols; or his abhorrence of it, when directed to himself; the Family must have been misled in their ideas concerning the moral rectitude of that species of religious worship: Therefore, God, in these circumstances, had he commanded the action as a trial only, would have explicitly condemned that mode of worship, as immoral. But he is not represented as condemning, but as remitting it for a favour: Consequently, say the Unbelievers, God did not command the action at all."-To this our Examiner replies,-But why? Was not the revocation of the command, a condemnation of the action? If I should tempt you to go and kill your next neighbour, and afterwards come and DESIRE you not to do it, would not this after-declaration be as good an evidence of my dislike to the action, as the first was of my approbation of it? To this I reply; That the cases are by no means parallel, either in themselves, or in their circumstances: Not in themselves; the murder of our next neighbour was, amongst all the Gentiles of that time, esteemed a high immorality; while, on the contrary, human sacrifice was a very holy and acceptable part of divine Worship: Not in their circumstances: the desire to forbear the murder tempted to, is (in the case he puts) represented as repentance; whereas the stop
put to the sacrifice of Isaac (in the case Moses puts) is represented as favour.
But what follows, I could wish (for the honour of modern Theology) that the method I have observed would permit me to pass over in silence.-Now though deliberation and after-thought (says he) are not incident to God, yet, as God, in this case, condescended (as you say, and very truly) to act after the manner of men; the same construction should be put upon his actions, as is usually put upon the actions of men in like cases. [Consid. p. 155, 156.] That is, though deliberation and after-thought are not incident to God; yet you are to understand his actions, as if they were incident. A horrid interpretation! And yet his representation of the Command, and his decent illustration of it, by a murderer in intention, will not suffer us to understand it in any other manner: For God, as if in haste, and before due deliberation, is represented as commanding an immoral action; yet again, as it were by an after-thought, ordering it to be foreborn, by reason of its immorality. And in what is all this impious jargon founded? If you will believe him, in the principle I lay down, That God condescends to act after the manner of men. I have all along had occasion to complain of his misrepresenting my Principles: but then they were Principles he disliked and this, the modern management of controversy has sanctified. But here, though the Principle be approved, yet he cannot for his life forbear to misrepresent it: So bad a thing is an evil habit. Let me tell him then, that by the principle of God's condescending to act after the manner of men, is not meant, that he ever acts in compliance to those vices and superstitions, which arise from the depravity of human Will; but in conformity only to men's indifferent manners and customs; and to those Usages which result only from the finite imperfections of their nature. Thus though, as in the case before us, God was pleased, in conformity to their mode of information, to use their custom of revoking a Command; yet he never condescended to imitate (as our Examiner supposes) the irresolution, the repentance, and horrors of conscience of a murderer in intention. Which (horrible to think!) is the parallel this orthodox Divine brings to illustrate the Command to Abraham. But he had read that God is sometimes said to repent; and he thought, I suppose, it answered to that repentance which the stings of conscience sometimes produce in bad men. Whereas it is said, in conformity to a good magistrate's or parent's correption of vice; first, to threaten punishment; and then, on the offender's amendment, to remit it.
But he goes on without any signs of remorse.-" Nor will the Pagan fable of Diana's substituting a Hind in the place of Iphigenia at all help your Unbeliever. This did not, say they, OR YOU FOR THEM, make idolaters believe that she therefore abhorred human sacrifices. But do not they themselves, or have not you assigned a very proper and sufficient reason why it did not, viz. that they had been before persuaded of the contrary? Where human sacrifices make a part of the settled standing Religion; the refusal to accept a human sacrifice in one instance may, indeed, be rather looked upon as a particular indulgence, than as a declaration against the thing in gross. But where the thing was commanded but in one single instance, and the command revoked in that very instance, (which is our present case) such revocation, in all reasonable construction, is as effectual a condemnation of the thing, as if God had told Abraham, in so many words, that he delighted not in human sacrifices." [Consid. p. 161.] To come to our Examiner's half-buried sense, we are often obliged to remove, or, what is still a more disagreeable labour, to sift well, the rubbish of his words. He says, the revocation was an effectual condemnation. This may either
signify, That men, now free from the prejudices of Pagan superstition, may see that human sacrifices were condemned by the revocation of the Command: or, That Abraham's family could see this. In the first sense, I have nothing to do with his proposition; and in the second, I shall take the liberty to say it is not true. I deny that the revocation was an effectual condemnation. With how good reason let the Reader now judge.
Abraham, for the great ends of God's Providence, was called out of an idolatrous city, infected, as all such cities then were, with this horrid superstition. He was himself an Idolater, as appears from the words of Joshua. -Your Fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and THEY served other Gods. And I took your father Abraham, &c.* God, in the act of calling him, instructed him in the Unity of his Nature, and the error of Polytheism ; as the great principle, for the sake of which (and to preserve it in one Family amidst an universal overflow of idolatry) he was called out.-That he must be prejudiced in favour of his Country superstitions, is not to be doubted; because it is of human nature to be so: and yet we find no particular instruction given him, concerning the superstition in question. The noble Author of the Characteristics observes, that "it appears that he was under no extreme surprise on this trying Revelation; nor did he think of expostulating in the least on this occasion; when at another time he could be so importunate for the pardon of an inhospitable, murderous, impious, and incestuous city:" Insinuating, that this kind of sacrifice was a thing he had been accustomed to. Now the noble Author observes this, upon the Examiner's, that is, the common, interpretation. And I believe, on that footing, he, or a better writer, would find it difficult to take out the malicious sting of the observation. But I have shewn that it falls together with the common Interpretation.
Well; Abraham is now in the land of Canaan; and again surrounded with the same idolatrous and inhuman Sacrificers. Here he receives the Command: And, on the point of execution, has the performance remitted to him as a FAVOUR ; a circumstance, in the revocation of the Command, which I must beg the Examiner's leave to remind him of, especially when I see him, at every turn, much disposed to forget it, that is, to pass it over in silence, without either owning or denying. And, indeed, the little support his reasoning has on any occasion, is only by keeping Truth out of sight. But further, the favour was unaccompanied with any instruction concerning the moral nature of this kind of Sacrifice; a practice never positively forbidden but by the Law of Moses. Now, in this case, I would ask any candid Reader, the least acquainted with human nature, whether Abraham and his Family, prejudiced as they were in favour of Human Sacrifices (the one, by his education in his country-Religion; the other, by their communication with their Pagan-neighbours, and, as appears by Scripture, but too apt of themselves, to fall into idolatry) would not be easily tempted to think as favourably of Human Sacrifices as those Pagans were, who understood that Diana required Iphigenia, though she accepted a Hind in her stead. And with such Readers, I finally leave it.
P. 189. BBB. "Where are your Authorities for all this?" (says Dr. Stebbing.) "You produce none. Wherever you had your Greek, I am very sure you had it not from the New Testament, where these words are used indiscriminately." [Consid. p. 142, 143.] Where are your Authorities? you produce none. This is to insinuate, I had none to produce. He dares not, indeed, say so; and in this I commend his prudence. However,
Joshua xxiv. 2, 3.
thus far he is positive, that wherever I had my Greek, I had it not from the New Testament. The Gentleman is hard to please: Here he is offended that I had it not; and, before, that I had it from the New Testament. Here I impose upon him; there I trifled with him. But, in all this diversity of acceptance, it is still the same spirit: The spirit of Answering.
I had said, the two Greek words, in their exact use, signify so and so. Which surely implied an acknowledgment, that this exactness was not always observed; especially by the Writers of the New Testament; who, whatever some may have dreamed, did not pique themselves upon what we call, classical elegance. Now, this implication, our Examiner fairly confirms, though, by way of confutation. In the New Testament (says he) these words are used indiscriminately. I had plainly insinuated as much; and he had better have let it rest on my acknowledgment; for the instances he brings, to prove the words used indiscriminately in the New Testament, are full enough to persuade the Reader that they are not so used. His first instance is, 1 Pet. iv. 13. "Rejoice [xaípere] inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed [xapîre ȧyaddıwμEVOL] ye may be glad with exceeding joy. See you not here" (says he) "the direct reverse of what you say; that xaipo signifies the joy which arises upon prospect, and dyaλλiáoμai that which arises from possession." [Consid. p. 143.] No indeed; I see nothing like it. The followers of Christ are bid to rejoice, xaipere. For what? For being partakers of Christ's sufferings. And was not this a blessing in possession? But it seems our Doctor has but small conception how suffering for a good conscience can be a blessing. Yet at other times he must have thought highly of it, when, in excess of charity, he bespoke the Magistrate's application of it on his Neighbours, under the name of WHOLESOM SEVERITIES. He is just as wide of truth when he tells us, that ayaλλiáoμau signifies the joy which arises on possession. They are bid to rejoice now in sufferings, that they might be glad with exceeding joy at Christ's second coming. And is this the being glad for a good in possession? Is it not for a good in prospect? The reward they were then going to receive. For I suppose the appearance of Christ's glory will precede the reward of his followers. So that the Reader now sees, he has himself fairly proved for me, the truth of my observation, That in the exact use of the words, ȧyaλλiáoμa signifies that tumultuous pleasure which the certain expectation of an approaching blessing occasions; and xaipw that calm and settled Joy that arises from our knowledge, in the possession of it.
He goes on. "Rev. xix. 7. Let us be glad and rejoice [xaípwμev kai ayaλioμeba-for the marriage of the Lamb is come. Where both words" (says he) "refer to blessings in possession. Again, Matt. v. 12. Rejoice and be exceeding glad [xaipere kaì ảyaddiãode] for great is your reward in Heaven; where both refer to blessings in prospect." [Consid. p. 143, 144.] His old fortune still pursues him. The first text from the Revelations, Be glad and rejoice, FOR the marriage of the Lamb is come; bids the followers of Christ now do that, which they were bid to prepare for, in the words of St. Peter, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy. If, therefore, where they are bid to prepare for their rejoicing, the joy is for a good in prospect (as we have shewn it was) then, certainly, where they are told that this time of rejoicing is come, the joy must still be for a good in prospect. And yet he says, the words refer to blessings in possession. Again, the text from St. Matthew-Rejoice and be exceeding glad, FOR great is your reward in heaven, has the same relation to the former part of St. Peter's words [Rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings] as