« PreviousContinue »
less fancies and airy imaginations. The only thing to the business in that long discourse is this, that you cannot imagine that God should make a law so much to man's inconvenience, and forbid him so nice and indifferent a thing as moderate increase of profit by letting out of money, when it is allowed upon lands, houses, and trade, &c. To this I answer, That the prohibition of usury to the Jewish nation was upon political grounds peculiar to the constitution of that people; as appears by the words of the law, Deut. xxiii. 19, 20. Thou shalt not lend to usury unto thy brother-unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury. But none of the laws which are founded upon common and moral reasons have such limitations as this; for God would never have said, Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy brother's wife, but with the wife of a stranger thou mayest. But there was this particular reason for the prohibition of usury to the Jewish nation. It pleased God to fix their habitation, not upon the seaside, as Tyre and Sidon stood, but within land, where they had no conveniences of trading; but the riches of the nation lay in agriculture and pasturage; in which the returns of money are neither so quick nor so advantageous to make sufficient compensation for the interest of the money in the time they have it: for the main thing valuable in money is the advantage the borrower makes of it; and where that is great, it seems reasonable that the person whose the money is, should have a proportionable share of the advantage made by it; but where persons borrow only for present occasions to supply their necessities, there it is only an act of kindness to lend, and it would be unreasonable to press upon, or take advantage by, another's necessities. And this seems to have been the case among the Jews: they were only the poor that wanted money for present necessities ; the rich had no way to employ it in trading, unless that they lent to the Tyrian merchants, which it was lawful by their law to do. Now if they took usury of their own people, it must be of those whose urgent necessity, and not hopes of a mighty increase by it, made them borrow, and therefore it was a very just and reasonable law to forbid usury among them ; which I believe he would never have done, if he had placed the Jews upon the coasts of Phænicia, where trading was so much in request.
These are all the laws which you have picked out of the whole body of the Jewish law, to represent it unbecoming the wisdom of God. And now I pray, sir, look back again upon them ; see how few, how small, how weak your objections are, and compare them with the weight, and justice, and prudence, and piety, expressed in all the rest, and I hope you will find cause to be ashamed of speaking so harshly of those laws, so well accommodated to those ages of the world, and the condition of that people for whom they were appointed.
2. I now consider what you object against the story of the Bible.
1. That passage of Moses, Exod. xxxii. 32. Blot me out of thy book which thou hast written : where your design is to shew that Moses prayed to be damned; and that this was a very irrational thing, and savouring more of passion than of the spirit of God. But what if Moses meant no such thing as damnation ? As there is not any word in the context relating that ways; but all the design of that chapter is about a temporal punishment, which was a present destruction of the people for their sins. And the book, out of which he prayed God to blot him, seems to me to be no other than the roll of God's chosen people, who
were to possess the land of Canaan : for so 90 properly signifies a roll or register. Psalm lxix. 28. we meet with 997730 the roll of the living, or the book of the living, we render it, because all ancient books were in the fashion of rolls. In that chapter Moses intercedes with God on behalf of the people, that he would make good his promise to them, of bringing them into the land of Canaan, ver. 13; and ver. 30. he goes up to make an atonement for the people, i. e. as to the cutting them off in the wilderness; and therefore he desires, rather than the people should be destroyed, that God would strike him out of the roll, that he might die in the wilderness rather than the people. And God gives that answer to this purpose, ver. 33. Whoever hath sinned against me, will I blot out of my book: the sense of which is the same with those words of the Psalmist, He sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest, Psalm xcv. 11. And according to this interpretation, which is most natural and all your long discourse, against praying to be damned, comes to just nothing; there being no pretence for it, either in the text or context.
2. The story of Ruth doth not please you, as savouring, in your opinion, of a great deal of immodesty: but you would have a better opinion of it, if you consider that the reason of her carriage towards Boaz, in such a manner, was upon Naomi's telling her, that he was one to whom the right of redemption did belong, and by consequence, by their law, was to marry her. Ruth ii. 20. And this Ruth pleaded to Boaz, Ruth iii. 9. By which it appears that she verily believed that he was legally her husband ; and Boaz, we see, speaks of her as one that was a virtuous woman, and known to be such in the whole city, ver. 11. And he confesses he was her near kinsman ; only, he saith,
there was one nearer, ver. 12. By which it seems, if there had not, Boaz had made no scruple of the matter : and the Jews say, in such marriages very little ceremony was required, if the next of kin did not renounce his right, because the law had determined the marriage beforehand. If you had but considered this one thing, you would have spared the many observations
make on this story.
3. You object against 2 Sam. xii. 8. as too much countenancing either incest or adultery ; because it is said, that God gave to David his master's wives into his bosom. But, 1. It is very strange to bring this place as a countenance to adultery, which was purposely designed to upbraid David with the sin of adultery; and you will find it no easy matter, by the constitution of the Mosaical law, to prove polygamy to be adultery. 2. The Jews give a fair interpretation of this place; for they say, that the wife of a king could never marry after her husband's decease, as the Gemara on the title Sanhedrim expressly saith ; although some among them follow the opinion of R. Jehuda, that she might marry the succeeding king: but that is built chiefly on this place; of which the rest give a better account, viz. that O'03 doth not imply Saul's wives, but the Selden. maids of honour, or attendants on the court of Saul, 1. i. c. 1o. which all fell into David's power, and out of whom he Schick, de might choose wives without danger of incest; and even c. 16. some of those who assert it lawful for one king to marry his predecessor's wife, yet say in this case of David, that the word only implies that they were of Saul's family; as Merab and Michal were, but not Saul's wives. So that all the difficulty here arises only from the interpretation of an unusual word, in which we have much more reason to trust the Jews than other writers. 4. You are much offended at Hosea's marrying an
adulteress. But all the formidable difficulties of that place will presently vanish, if you allow the Prophetical Schemes, wherein those things are said to be done; which are intended only to represent in a more lively manner the things signified by them. And so you may see the Chaldee Paraphrase fully explains this place of
Hosea, and Maimonides purposely discourseth on the voch, 1. ii. Prophetic Parables, and brings this as one of the in
stances of them; and with him the rest of the Jewish interpreters agree. But you object against such a way of teaching, as tending to the encouragement of vice; which it is very far from, being designed to represent the odiousness of it: for the whole scope of the prophet is to let the people understand that their idolatry was as hateful to God as the sin of adultery, and that the consequences of it would be their misery and ruin. And yet that God expressed as much tenderness to them, as a man that was very fond of a woman would do, in being unwilling to put her away, although he knew she were false to his bed : the former is intended in the first chapter, and the latter in the third. And what is there tending to immorality in all this? May not God make use of one vice, whose evil is more notorious, to represent another by, whose evil they are more hardly convinced of? May not he set forth a degenerate people by the sons of an adulteress? and by the names given to them express his detestation of their wickedness? especially when the parabolical terms are so clearly explained, as they are in the second chapter. But
say, these things are related as plain matters of fact; with the several circumstances belonging to them. It is true, they are so; but so parables use to be; so was Nathan's to David; so is that of the
rich man and Lazarus, in the New Testament: so is Jer. xiii. 4, Jeremy's going to Euphrates to hide his girdle, (for it