Page images

his eyes.

[ocr errors]

and disposition of mind, since he takes care to let us know that he looks upon miracles to be no proofs at all, and therefore would not have been moved by them, though he had seen them done before

This writer is pleased positively to insist upon it, That there can be no such thing as divine faith upon human testimony; and that this absurd supposition has been the ground of all the superstition and false religion in the world. And that the knowledge of any truth can go no farther upon divine authority, or as a matter of divine faith, than to the person or persons immediately inspired, or to whom the original revelation was made. pp. 82, 84.

But if, by divine faith upon human testimony,' be only meant, that an original divine revelation may be transmitted or conveyed to us by human testimony, together with the extraordinary miraculous facts whereby it was attested and confirmed, and that in such a manner as to make it reasonable for us to believe that it is indeed a divine revelation, this hath been already shown. And if I have sufficient grounds of reasonable assurance concerning any doctrines and laws, that they came originally by divine revelation, I am as truly obliged to regard them as coming from God, and to believe and obey them on that account, as if I had them myself, by immediate inspiration. For the obligation to believe and obey them doth not depend upon the particular way of my receiving them, but upon my having sufficient to convince me that they came from God. This writer indeed seems resolved that whatever arguments can be brought to prove that any thing is a divine revelation, the receiving it as such shall not be called divine faith,' except thé person that believeth it hath received it immediately from God himself. But whether he will allow it to be called ' divine faith,' or not, the calling it by another name doth not at all alter the nature of the thing, or dissolve the obligation. If I have sufficient reason to be convinced that miracles of such a nature, and so circumstanced, supposing them to have been really done, are strong attestations to the truth, and divine original of the doctrines and laws which they are wrought to confirm; and if I have sufficient assurance that these facts were really done, then I am obliged to believe and receive those doctrines, and obey those laws, as of divine authority. To do otherwise would be to refuse to believe doctrines which I have just ground to conclude were revealed from God himself, and to refuse to obey laws which I have just ground to believe God himself hath enjoined; which would be a very criminal conduct, highly displeasing to God, and contrary to the duty that reasonable creatures owe to the Supreme Being;

Thus I have considered what this author offers with regard to the proofs or evidences of divine revelation in general, in which his design is plainly to show that there can be no proper proofs or evidences of divine revelation to any but the persons immediately receiving it, and yet at the same time he affects to own the great usefulness of revelation in the present corrupt and degenerate state of mankind.


An Entrance on the Author's Objections against the Old Testament. The strange Re

presentation he makes of the law of Moses. Some general Considerations concerning the Nature and Design of that Law. Its moral Precepts pure and excelleot. Its ritual Injunctions appointed for wise Reasons. The Nature of its Sanctions considered. Reasons of God's erecting the People of Israel into a peculiar Polity. Nothing absurd in this Constitution. It was designed in a Subserviency to the general Good. The miraculous Facts whereby that Law was confirmed not poetical Embellishments, but real Facts. The Author's Reasons to prove that those Facts could not be understood in a literal Historical Sense shown to be vain and insufficient.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

HAVING considered what this author hath advanced concerning divine revelation in general, and the proofs whereby it is established, I now proceed to the particular attempts he makes to destroy the authority of the revelation contained in the sacred writings of the Old and New Testament. He seems willing indeed to observe some measures with regard to Christianity, but as to the Old Testament he throws off all disguise; he everywhere openly rejects, and makes the most disadvantageous representation possible both of the law of Moses and the prophetical writings, and expressly declares he will ' have nothing to do with them in religion,' p. 394. If his representation be true, they are not only no true divine revelation, but a grand imposture, contrary to reason and common sense, and to the liberties of mankind.

To begin with the account he gives of the law of Moses he expressly declares that in its original proper and literal sense, which he says was the only sense intended by the lawgiver,It had neither anything of truth or goodness in it, but was a blinding enslaving constitution, and an intolerable yoke of darkness and bondage, tyranny and vassalage, wrath and misery,' p. 29. That it was a law

that introduced and confirmed a state of civil and religious blindness and bigotry,' &c. p. 32. That it was a national slavery, which the Jews had been unjustly subjected to, and which they had a right to throw off whenever they had a proper opportunity, and to assert and reassume their natural and religious rights and liberties,' p. 51. He calls it a' wretched scheme of superstition, blindness, and slavery, contrary to all reason and common sense, set up under the specious popular pretence of a divine institution and revelation from God,' p. 71. These and others of the like nature are the handsome epithets he everywhere bestows upon the law of Moses. He is not content with declaring it to be a mere piece of human policy, but makes it the worst constitution in the world. Nor did any of the heathens, the greatest enemies of the Jews, ever speak in such opprobrious terms of Moses and his constitutions as this pretended Christian writer has done. If the law of Moses merits these epithets, it certainly deserves the abhorrence of all mankind, and Moses, instead of being extraordinarily sent and inspired by God, was the most pernicious impostor that ever was, and the greatest enemy to his nation, who, instead of regarding him as they always did with the utmost veneration, should rather have execrated his memory.

Before I enter on a particular discussion of the objection he advances against the law of Moses, I shall offer some general considerations concerning the nature and design of that law, whereby the true original intent, and the excellency and property of that law may more evidently appear.

At the time when the law was given, idolatry had made a very great progress, the primitive religion which was both derived by tradition from the early patriarchs, the progenitors of the human race, and was also very agreeable to right reason, was very much corrupted, especially in the main principle of it, the worship and acknowledgment of one only the living and true God: and though there were considerable remains of the ancient true religion still preserved in some particular families, yet things were growing worse and worse; and it is highly probable that, if God had not extraordinarily interposed, true religion and the just knowledge and worship of the deity would have been lost among men. It pleased him therefore, in this state of things, to select a nation to himself, among whom the knowledge and worship of the true God should be preserved in a world overrun with idolatry. And to that end he first exerted his own almighty power and goodness in delivering that nation from a state of extreme distress, slavery, and oppression, and that in so extraordinary a manner as exhibited a marvellous display of his own majesty and glory, and an entire triumph over idols in the very seat of idolatry, for so Egypt then was; and then caused the most pure and excellent laws to be given them, which were promulgated with the greatest solemnity, and attested by the most amazing and unparalleled miracles. And, in order the more effectually to answer the main design he had in view, it pleased him to enter into a peculiar relation to that people, and to take them for his own by a solemn public act or covenant, whereby the people on the one hand brought themselves under the most express and solemn engagements, to obey the laws he gave them, and to be absolutely devoted to his service; and he, on his part, engaged to be their God and King in a special relation, to give them the land of Canaan for their inheritance, and to pour forth many signal benefits upon them, and make them a happy people. I see nothing in this unworthy of God, or that can be shown to be inconsistent with his divine perfection. Nor can this writer himself consistently find fault with it, since speaking of the covenant God made with Abraham, in which he promised to be a God to him, and to his seed, and to settle them in the possession of the land of Canaan, and make them happy upon the condition of their continuing in the religion and worship of the one true God,' &c., he saith this was

a wise and reasonable transaction between God and Abraham; and, had the conditions been performed by Abraham's family and posterity, no doubt but the grant on God's part had been made good.' pp. 258, 259.

[ocr errors]

If we inquire into the nature of the laws that were given them, the main design of them seems evidently to be this; to preserve them from idolatry, and vice, and wickedness, and to engage them to the worship of the only true God, and to the practice of righteousness. The great fundamental principle that lies at the foundation of the whole body of laws delivered by Moses, and to which there is a constant reference in that whole constitution, and whereby it is eminently distinguished from all other the most celebrated ancient laws and constitutions is this, that there is but one only the living and true God, who is alone to be worshipped and adored, loved and obeyed. He is there represented as the eternal and selfexistent Jehovah, Almighty and Allsufficient, to whom there is none like, or that can be compared, and who is not to be represented by any corporeal form; that he is the great Creator of the universe, who made heaven and earth and all things that are therein, by the word of his power, and who preserveth and governeth all things by his Providence, directing and ordering all events; that he is most just and holy, most faithful and true, a hater of iniquity, who will severely punish obstinate presumptuous transgressors, and yet is . full of compassion and gracious longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,' and ready to forgive penitent returning sinners. In that law they are everywhere most strictly commanded to worship and serve the Lord God, and him only, to love him with all their hearts and souls, to fear him, and dread his displeasure above all things, to put their whole trust and confidence in him, to submit themselves cheerfully to his rightful authority, and to obey all his commands.

And as the law of Moses directs and instructs men in the duties they more immediately owe to God, so also in those they owe to one another. It forbids in the strongest manner all malice, and wrath, and bitterness; all injustice and fraud, violence and oppression; all fornication, and adultery, and uncleanness; all falsehood, and guile, and deceit; and even all covetous and inordinate affections and desires : it not only requires exact truth and fidelity, a strict inviolable honesty in our dealings towards all men, but it expressly requires us to love our neighbours as ourselves, to be ready to assist and do good to one another upon all occasions, yea, even to our enemies themselves, to show mercy to the poor, the indigent, and destitute strangers and servants.* Upon the whole,

. the moral precepts of the law of Moses are pure and excellent; they are such as, if duly practised and obeyed, could not fail to make that nation happy, if the pure worship of God, and the practice of righteousness, justice, fidelity, temperance, and of mutual charity and benevolence could make them so. Moses therefore might justly represent these laws and statutes as sufficient, if carefully obeyed and attended to, to make them a wise and understanding people, above other nations, Deut. iv. 5, 6; and again,

See Exod. xx. 12–18; xxii. 21, 2+; xxiii: 1–8. Lev. vi. 2, 5; xix. 18,36; xxv. 14–17; xiv, 29; xxii, 1–4, 22-29; xxiii. 17; xxiv. 20-22; xxv. 13---16.

ver. 8: "What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law which I set before you this day?'

As to the ritual precepts there enjoined, which are many and various; though it cannot be expected that we should be able to assign the particular reasons of them at this distance, yet we have just reason to conclude that they were all given for wise and good purposes, which rendered them very fit and proper for that time, and for that people. * Many of them were designed for the more effectual obtaining that which was the proper and principal end of that law, which was to preserve the Jews from idolatry. For this end, many of the rites prescribed them were in direct opposition to those of the neighbouring idolatrous nations; and great care was taken by many peculiar usages to keep them a distinct and separate people. There were many rites also that added a great outward pomp and solemnity to their worship, that they might be the less in danger of being drawn aside by the splendour and decorations of the heathenish idolatry. Other rites were instituted in commemoration of great and signal events, extraordinary acts of Providence towards their nation, the keeping up of a constant remembrance of which could not but be of great use for preserving the love and worship of God amongst them, awakening their gratitude, and engaging their dutiful obedience. And lastly, many of the rites then prescribed had a farther view to the Messiah, his offices,


* I doubt not but if we had distinct views of the reasons of the several ritual injunctions prescribed in the law of Moses, the wisdom and goodness of God in appointing them would eminently appear. Many happy attempts have been made this way by learned persons, both Jews and Christians, that have given great light to many of the Mosaic rites and constitutions. It is evident there is nothing in any of them that intrencheth on the sacred rules of virtue, purity, and decency, as did many of the rites in use among the heathen nations : e.g., the cruel rites of Moloch, and the impure ones of Baal-Peor. And it may not be improper to observe, that some of the Mosaic constitutions, which seem at first view most strange and extraordinary, if closely considered, do furnish a proof of the divine original of that constitution and polity. Of this kind Í take the law relating to the Sabbatical year to be. Every seventh year was to be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord, in which they were neither to sow their fields nor prune their vineyards. And it is expressly promised that God would command his blessing upon them in the sixth year, and it should bring forth fruit for three years, that is, for the sixth and the two succeeding years, the seventh and eighth, Lev. xxv. 2, 4, 20, 22. No constitution like this can be found in the laws of any other nation. And it may be strongly argued, that Moses would not have proposed such a law, if he had been left merely to himself in his legislation, and had not received it from God, who was alone able to make good that promise upon which the observation of it depended ; and by so doing, gave a standing remarkable evidence of his constant special presence and Providence amongst them, and both confirmed the authority of that law, and answered the main design of it, which was to keep them close to the acknowledgment, obedience, and adoration of him the only true God, in preference to all idols, since nothing of this kind could be produced in favour of any of the idol deities. And accordingly, in the Sabbatical year, the whole nation, not the men only, but the women and children, were obliged to appear at the place wbich the Lord should choose, and were to hear the whole law read to them, Deut. xxxi. 10--13, which was then most likely to be attended to, and to make an impression, as they had then in the abundant plenty of that year, and the extraordinary provision made for them; a sensible proof of God's sovereign dominion and providence, and of the divine original and authority of that law before their eyes. Other reflections of this kind might be made on several of the Mosaic constitutions. But the particular consideration of them would take up more time than is consistent with my present design.

« PreviousContinue »