Page images
PDF
EPUB

But, to the PHYSICAL CREATOR of the Universe, who will venture to say, what doest thou? *-Illustrious Philosopher! permit us therefore to answer for ourselves. We say, that the moral Governor of the World can never be debarred from carrying on his Administration in such a way as may best suit the ends of divine Wisdom, because human folly may encourage itself to raise, on that ground, an impious and abusive imitation. And, neither under natural, nor under revealed Religion, hath God thought fit to exempt or secure his Laws from such abuses.

God, under natural Religion, in the ordinary course of his Providence, hath, by annexing evil to Vice, made that Constitution of things the Instrument of punishment; but how hath this Dispensation been dishonoured, and even to the disturbance of Society itself, when these punishments, interpreted by ignorant or uncharitable men, have been turned into EXTRAORDINARY JUDGMENTS ?—Again, Peter and John said, what every honest Deist is ready to say,- We must obey God rather than Man. Yet how perpetually has this truth been abused by Rebels and Fanatics.

Under Revealed Religion, MIRACLES (the necessary Credential of those intrusted with its promulgation) by which Power, both the physical and intellectual Systems were controlled, have yet occasioned innumerable abuses, defiling every age of the Church with fantastic Prodigies, and lying Wonders.

But why do I speak of these sanctions of Revelation, (the Credentials of God's Messengers) when the very Communication of his Will to Man, REVELATION itself, hath filled all ages and nations with Impostors, pretending to a divine Commission?

But our Philosophers go on; and say, "That this office of destruction, imposed upon the Israelites, must have produced an ill effect on their Moral Character, by giving them wrong notions of the divine Nature; and by vitiating their own; as it had a tendency to destroy or to weaken the Social passions and affections."

Nay, further, they pretend to see the marks of these evils in the Character of the chosen People: whom, therefore, instead of pitying, (and if the evils arose from the cause they assign, were most deserving of pity) they have most mercilessly abused and misrepresented. But to answer to the FIRST PART of this infidel objection, which pretends that the Jews were brought, by this employment, to entertain wrong ideas of the Divine Nature, I reply,-The most adorable attribute of God, the moral Governor of the world, is his LONG-SUFFERING, by which he bears with the crimes and follies of men, in order to bring them to repentance: Now this attribute he hath made manifest to all but more fully to his chosen People; even in the very case of these devoted Canaanites. For when their crimes were arrived at the height of human depravity, He still withheld his hand, and, by divers awakening judgments, gave them time and invitation for repentance. But on their neglect and contempt of his repeated warnings, He, at length, was forced, as it were, to pour out his full vengeance upon them.

The Author of the Apocryphal Book, of the Wisdom of Solomon, thus graphically paints their case, in an Address to the Almighty.-"Thou hast mercy upon all-thou winkest at the Sins of Men, because they should amend-Thou sparest all; for they are thine, thou Lover of Souls!Therefore thou chastenest them, by little and little, that offend: and warnest them by putting them in remembrance wherein they have offended; that leaving their wickedness, they may believe in thee, O Lord! FOR IT † Acts v. 29.

• Job ix. 12.

[blocks in formation]

WAS THY WILL TO DESTROY BY THE HANDS OF OUR FATHERS, THOSE OLD INHABITANTS OF THY HOLY LAND; whom thou hatest for doing most odious works of Sorceries, and WICKED SACRIFICES-merciless murderers of children, and devourers of man's flesh, and the feasts of blood-Nevertheless even those thou sparedst as Men,* and didst send Wasps, forerunners of thine host, to destroy them by little and little-executing thy judgments upon them by little and little, THOU GAVEST THEM PLACE OF REPENTANCE; not being ignorant that they were a naughty Generation-and their cogitations would never be changed."+

The Canonical Books of Scripture authenticate what this Sage Writer of after-times here delivers, concerning God's dealing with these devoted Nations.

Moses, on the egression of the Israelites from Egypt, speaks thus to them, in the Person of the Almighty-"I will send Hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year, lest the land become desolate; but by little and little will I drive them out from before thee."‡ And again in his last exhortation to his People,-" Behold the Lord, thy God, will send the Hornet amongst them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed."§ And Joshua, on the like occasion, tells the People that what Moses had promised, in the name of the God of Israel, God had fulfilled-" I sent the HORNET before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two Kings of the Amorites." ||

Here, the Reader may observe, that the Apocryphal Writer gives one reason for the temporary plagues, which forerun the total destruction of the Canaanites; and the Authentic Text gives another; nor will the learned Reader be at a loss to account for this difference.

The Israelites, under their Leader, Moses, did not want to be told, that those temporary Plagues were sent in mercy. They had, on the first opening of his Commission, been instructed by him, in the attributes of the true God, his long suffering and bearing with the contradiction of Sinners; and his merciful acceptance even of a late-delayed Repentance. They had experienced the unwearied exertion of this attribute, even in their own case, when their repeated perversities, which would have tired out every thing, but infinite Goodness, were as often pardoned as they were committed. So that they were not ignorant, though their degenerate Posterity, in the time of this Apocryptical Writer, might want to be informed of the gracious purpose, in those warnings to a devoted People.

And as there was another use in these probationary plagues, viz. the wasting the Inhabitants of Canaan, this was the design which Moses and Joshua principally insist on, as it was the greatest encouragement to a dastardly People. Moses, in the name of his Master, promised to send HORNETS before them, which SHOULD DRIVE OUT the Hivite, &c. And Joshua reminds his People how the promise had been performed-God sent the HORNET before you, which drove them out from before you, &c.

This assurance was no more than needed. The cowardice contracted in a long state of Slavery; (a State fairly recorded, and deeply lamented by their Leader) required the assistance of all NATURE in their support.

"O nimium dilecte Deo-cui militat Æther,
Et conjurati veniunt ad Classica venti.”

• That is, for the sake of their rational nature, though by their unnatural vices they had forfeited all the prerogatives of humanity. † Wisdom of Solomon xi. 23, et Exod. xxiii. 28-30. Deut. vii. 20. Joshua

seq.; xii. 2, et seq. xxiv. 12.

*

But though these warning Judgments, these chastisements of mercy, were lost on those to whom they were sent, yet they were not cast away; for, in aggravating the Crimes of the Canaanites, they served, at the same time, to promote their speedier extermination. So admirably is the moral government of God administered, that it's acts, directed to various purposes, are never issued in vain.-But what is said in holy Writ, of the previous punishments on the Canaanites, in mercy, is given only as a specimen of them, and not for a complete list, as in the record of the trying plagues of Egypt. So that we are not to conclude, that the destructive Animals, sent amongst these miscreants, were only wasps and hornets; or that, amongst the awakening punishments, DISEASE was not one. When God was pleased, in after-times, to punish their Descendants, the Philistines, for their prophanation of the ARK; (which, for the sins of his people, he suffered to fall into their hands) the sacred writers tell us, that they, who so prophaned it, were smitten with emerods in their secret parts. This is the only punishment there mentioned. Yet, by the account of the atonement, or trespassoffering, it appears that there was another.-The Philistines sent back with the Ark, which they restored, the images of five emerods, and FIVE MICE IN GOLD. Who can doubt, but that, in this addition to the atonement, another punishment was intimated, viz. the devastation of their Lands by mice? But the sacred Writer does not leave us to mere conjecture. In speaking of these mice, he thus qualifies them,-Mice that MARR the Land. But this is not all. The text here acquaints us, though occasionally, with two punishments, inflicted on the Canaanites; which the history of their expulsion does not particularly mention.-We understand how fit Instruments of general devastation MICE must needs be: and we may guess how well suited the other punishment was for their unnatural Crimes; nor would either one, or the other, cease to remind them of the vices or punishments of their Ancestors, the Canaanites, so that, avoiding the manners of their ancestors, they might (if possible) escape their total destruction.

I shall conclude this point with an observation which naturally leads to the next, that is to say, to the SECOND PART of this infidel objection, viz. "the EFFECT which the destruction of the Canaanites must be supposed to have on the minds of the MORAL INSTRUMENTS of their punishment." A matter most deserving our attention.

It cannot be doubted but that the Almighty displayed his mercy and long suffering on Sodom and Gomorrah, in some way analogous to what he practised in the Land of Canaan, (and how gracious he was in the extent of that mercy, we learn from Abraham's intercession for those Cities ‡) though the particulars of it be not recorded by the sacred historian: Whose silence in the one case, and not in the other, may be clearly understood. Those execrable Cities were destroyed immediately by God's own hand, in letting loose the Elements (the treasurers of his wrath) upon them.-In the deletion of the Canaanites, he was pleased to employ HUMAN INSTRUMENTS. These were to be used according to their nature; not as Entities merely Physical, but as moral agents likewise: Beings not only endowed with Sense, but Sentiment. Now it seemed but fit that such agents should be instructed in the reason and occasion of their Commission; especially as it was a matter of high importance; no less than to preserve them from judging perversely of the divine attributes. Accordingly Moses obviated this mischief by a detail of the abominable manners of this devoted People: together with a memorial of the ineffectual issue of their many chastisements in mercy to bring them to repentance, and to save them from utter deletion.

⚫ 1 Sam. v. 6.

Gen. xviii.

† 1 Sam. vi. 4, 5.

As the mischief was thus effectually obviated, the Israelites were, at the same time, secured from that other, (which is the second point objected to their Commission) it's tendency to vitiate the most amiable passion of our nature, by destroying or weakening the benign and social feelings for the miseries of our fellow creatures. For what could God's gracious dealing with these incorrigible Miscreants teach all, who (like the Israelites) were intimately informed of their crimes, and long delayed punishment, but, in `imitation of God's long forbearance, to shew mercy and compassion to their offending Brethren in distress. Nor, in fact, do we find that the Jews were more steeled to, or insensible of, the calamities of humanity (bating those of this devoted People) than other men, in the early Ages of society, were wont to be. And if they were not much more humanized, by being better taught, as well as fed, than the rest of mankind, it must be ascribed, not to this Commission, but to a certain native perversity, which (as strange as it may at first sight appear) might be one, amongst the very many reasons of God's choice of them, for his PECULIAR, as it made them the properest subjects to work upon, for a fuller manifestation of his infinite mercy towards the Sons of Men. Where it might be seen, in the deviations from right of two People thus connected and related, that the one was destroyed, after all means had been employed, without effect, to bring them to REPENTANCE; and the other pardoned and highly favoured, when the same merciful forbearance had produced its fruit of a timely REPENTANCE, and return to GOD, after every transgression; and, at length, a determined perseverance in this their capital duty (adherence to the true God) for many ages, even to the present time.

But it may still be asked, though no mischief was derived towards the Instruments of this extraordinary Commission, yet what good could such a commission produce? I answer, much, and constant; for besides a political benefit to an abject unwarlike people, in teaching them the use of arms; who were to make their destined way to Empire, as well by their own power, as by the extraordinary aid of the Almighty; in order to avoid a lavish waste of miracles: besides this, (I say) there were moral advantages, great and lasting, derived to this Instrumentality. Horror and aversion in the Israelites to those unnatural Crimes which had occasioned the deletion of the Canaanites; whose punishment must be intimately impressed on the minds of the chosen People, by their being appointed the executioners of God's vengeance. To confirm this, we may observe, that both Moses and Joshua, by incessantly reminding them of the horrid depravity of that devoted People, had their eyes always intent upon this good effect.

P. 386. H. The eloquent Bossuet saith rightly, that Protestants have but lamely supported the FIGURE, of THIS IS MY BODY, &c. by those-I am the vine-I am the door. And the reason he gives has its weight. Jesus (says he) in the institution of the Lord's Supper, was neither propounding a parable, nor explaining an Allegory*—But when the learned Writer would have us infer from this, that there could be no other occasion for the use of a FIGURE, he imposes his usual artifice upon us; which was always to keep out of sight what would have detected his slight of hand. He knew there were other occasions, of employing figurative expressions, such as fixing and declaring the NATURE OF A RITE.-And this was the occasion here. But then, says he, the words are detached and separated from all

"Quand les uns opposoient, Ceci est mon corps, les autres repondoient, Je suis le vigne-Je suis la porte-le pierre etoit Christ-11 est vrai que ces examples n'etoient pas semblables. Ce n'etoit ni en proposant une parabole, ni en expliquant une allegorie."

other discourse there is no leading preparation.*-So say the Socinians likewise; in order to infer a contrary conclusion. But we have already shewn, that they are both mistaken.

There was a leading preparation; and that, a plain one, namely, the celebration of the paschal Supper. And we have shewn, it was the custom of our Lord to be led by what passed before him, to regulate his language on ideas thus prepared.-Nor was the consecration of the Elements in the SUPPER OF OUR LORD SEPARATE from all other discourse. It was preceded by, and connected with, a most affecting discourse on the death and sufferings of our Redeemer. Therefore the words of the Consecration do not, as M. Bossuet pretends, carry their whole meaning within themselves; but refer to things preceding and exterior. So that the Bishop's triumphant conclusion loses much of its lustre, when he says, what I pretend to evince is, the embarras into which these words—THIS IS MY BODY, throws all the Protestant party-there was no reason for using these STRONG TERMS for the Institution of the Eucharist rather than for Baptism. This place I foretell shall be the eternal and inevitable confusion of the defenders of the FIGURATIVE SENSE.† There was no more reason, on the Protestant principles, (says he) for chusing these STRONG TERMS here, than in the rite of Baptism. Surely, there was a very good one. For if it was the purpose of divine Wisdom to explain the nature of the Rite, only by the words of the Consecration, which it is agreed it was, as well by him who holds it to be a real Sacrifice, as by us who hold it is only a feast upon Sacrifice, there was a necessity for the use of these terms. This was not the case in instituting the Rite of Baptism, whose nature is expressly defined. Besides, here the matter, administered, was WATER, an element always at hand, and therefore fitly called by its proper name. But the FLESH and BLOOD of the Sacrifice, of which the Lord's supper was a festive commemoration, not being then at hand, as Christ was not yet offered on the Cross, the Elements of Bread and Wine, substituted in their place, were, by an elegant and necessary conversion, called the body and blood, as these elements only were declarative of the nature of the Rite, viz. a feast upon Sacrifice. To support this reasoning still further. Another sacred Rite, that of the imposition of hands, in procuring the descent of the HOLY SPIRIT, is called the BAPTISM BY FIRE; in which, both the terms are figurative, as, in the Baptism by Water, both are literal. And why this difference? Because the Agent or Instrument of this Baptism by Fire being spiritual, there was need of figurative terms, taken from material things, to aid the grossness of our conceptions, concerning the manner of the operation. So that all the mystery in this affair, (I mean, so far forth as concerns the terms of the institution) is no more than this; when the things communicated are of a spiritual nature, as the gifts of the holy Spirit; or of a material nature not yet in esse, as the flesh of a Sacrifice, not yet offered up, and therefore needing another body to be substituted in its place, there, the employing figurative terms becomes necessary. But when the thing communicated is a material Substance, at hand, and actually capable of being employed, as Water in Baptism, it would rather confound, than aid our conceptions, to use improper, that is, figurative terms.

P. 389. I. They had one common nature so far as they really conveyed, or were foolishly imagined to convey, benefits to the participants. But St. Paul joining to the Christian and the Jewish, the Gentile sacrificial Feasts,

"Ces paroles [ceci est mon Corps, &c.] detachées de tout autre discours, portent tout leur sens en elles-mêmes." "Cet endroit sera l'eternelle et inevitable confusion des Defenseurs du SENS FIGURE."-Hist. des Var. tom. i. p. 477, 8vo.

« PreviousContinue »