Page images

45. Can any thing be a plainer proof, that he would have his disciples regard the writings of Moses and the prophets as of divine original, and containing a true revelation from God?

Having thus shown that the apostle Paul, in conformity to the example of our blessed Saviour himself, asserted the divine original of the law of Moses, let us now consider the account this writer gives of the opinion of that great apostle in this matter, by whose judgment he pretends he is willing to be determined.

He represents it as the sense of the apostle Paul, that the ritual and ceremonial law of Moses was carnal, worldly, and deadly, and in its original, proper and literal sense had neither any thing of truth or goodness in it, but was a blinding enslaving constitution, and such an intolerable yoke of darkness and bondage, tyranny and vassalage, wrath and misery, that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. And how St. Paul could declare all this, with any notion or belief of the ritual ceremonial law and priesthood, as a divine institution or revelation from God, he would be glad to know, pp. 29, 30, and he asks, p. 32, whether God can establish iniquity by a law,' or whether a law, which in St. Paul's opinion introduced and confirmed a state of civil and religious blindness and bigotry, tyranny and slavery, could in the same judgment have been originally a divine institution and an immediate revelation from God? and he observes that it was not only the abuses of the law that he lays his charge against, but that it was the law itself, in its own intrinsic constitution and natural tendency, that in St. Paul's language and style was "carnal, worldly,' and deadly.' He thinks these to be plain declarations that such a law could never be of divine institution, and consequently there needed no new revelation to set it aside,' pp. 51, 52. And whereas, ‘St, Paul argues for setting aside the obligation of the ceremonial law, because it was fulfilled, abolished, and done away, by the death of Christ; and because the law having been originally intended only as a figure and type of the better things to come, that is, of Christ and the gospel dispensation, it was hereby to cease, and to be abolished for ever:' this writer takes upon him to affirm, that he did not argue thus from the truth of things, and on the foot of any revelation from God in that case made to him, but argued ad hominem only against the Jews, as endeavouring upon prudential and political principles to set aside that_absurd, tyrannical, blinding, and enslaving law of his country. For that the ceremonial law never had any repeal or abrogation by any new revelation he thinks is plain from the practice of St. Paul himself, who when he could not carry this point of setting aside and abrogating the ceremonial law; submitted to it as long as he lived, as did all the Jewish proselytes in the apostolical times: he submitted to it, not as binding the conscience in point of religion and acceptance with God, but in his political capacity, as the law of his country, and as a matter of human liberty. Whereas had he thought it an original, immediate, positive institution from God, and afterwards nulled and abrogated by the same authority, he could not have submitted to it, consist


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

ent with his declared judgment and conscience,' p. 52–54. Finally he declares, that the truth is, 'St. Paul was the great freethinker of his age, the bold and brave defender of reason against authority, in opposition to those who had set up a wretched scheme of superstition, blindness and slavery, contrary to all reason and common sense, and this under the specious pretence of a divine institution and revelation from God,' p. 71.

Before I proceed to a distinct consideration of what this writer here offers, I would first observe what a strange representation he makes of the apostle Paul, at the same time that he affects to commend and to admire him, and pretends to have as good an opinion of that great apostle as any man can have, p. 21. It cannot be denied that in all his epistles he cites the Mosaical and prophetical writings as of divine authority; he delivered those writings to all the churches of the Gentiles among whom he preached. and whom he instructed in the Christian religion, under the notion of Scripture, or divinely inspired writings; and yet at the same time, according to this author, he was persuaded that the law of Moses was no revelation from God at all, but a pernicious imposture put upon the world, in the name of God ; a mere piece of carnal policy, and one of the most absurd and tyrannical and unreasonable constitutions that were ever imposed upon any nation. Again, he declared that many of the rites of the law of Moses, in their original intention, were of a figurative and typical nature, designed to prefigure Christ, and his benefits, and to be the shadow of good things to come;' whereas, according to this writer he himself knew and believed that they had no such original intention and design at all.

He insisted upon it that he had received an immediate revelation from God' concerning the abrogating the ceremonial law, as our author himself acknowledges, p. 79, and yet he represents him as

, having proceeded wholly upon political and prudential principles ; and that he himself well knew he had received no revelation from God at all relating to that matter, but only made the Jews believe so, that he might the better carry his point with them. I cannot see how a man that could prevaricate at so strange a rate, could deserve to be called a bold and brave defender' of religion and liberty; or how this is consistent with the character he elsewhere gives of him, that he was a man of the strictest honesty and integrity,' p. 69. I know not what scheme of morals our moral philosopher hath formed to himself for the regulating of his own conduct; but such a conduct is no way suitable to the character of the apostle Paul, or the principles upon which he acted. He was far from allowing that maxim, that it is lawful' to do evil that good may come of it.' He rejects the imputation of it with the utmost abhorrence, and passes a most severe censure on those that govern themselves by such maxims, for he pronounces that their damnation is just,' 'Rom. iii. 8. Though he always showed the greatest condescension and tenderness for weak consciences, yet he never allowed himself in deliberate fraud and imposture, or to do things contrary to truth and good conscience, under pretence of complying



with their prejudices. He manifested on all occasions an unshaken and unparalleled fortitude and constancy in the cause of God, and truth, and religion, even though he exposed himself by it to the greatest sufferings. In a word, he could say, that his rejoicing was this, the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he had his conversation in the world, 2 Cor. i. 12. It is certain therefore this excellent apostle was incapable of a conduct so little reconcileable to truth or common honesty, as that which this writer ascribes to him. And therefore those expressions in which he seems to speak in disadvantageous terms of the law of Moses, could never be intended by him in that sense which our author thinks fit to put upon them, and which is directly contrary to his declared sentiments.

But let us consider this matter more distinctly. It is plain that the apostle Paul had a great controversy relating to the law of Moses with some Judaizing teachers of that age, to which he refers in almost all his epistles. There were many that had then conceived a very high and extravagant opinion of that law, as so absolutely perfect in itself that it was never to be changed or altered, nor any of its rites abrogated; but was to be of standing perpetual obligation, and was to extend to all nations; that a strict observance of all the commands and ritual disjunctions there prescribed, was the only way of justification and obtaining the favour of God, and that without this the Gentiles themselves could not be saved. This was the doctrine of the persons mentioned, Acts xv. 24, and of those against whom the apostle argues in his epistle to the Galalatians, who constrained the Christian converts to be circumcised, and to observe the Law, that is, obliged them to it as absolutely necessary to salvation, even though they had been Gentiles.

Now in opposition to these persons St. Paul doth not allege, as this author would have it, that the law of Moses was not originally of Divine institution. For this he all along supposes, yea, and directly and strongly asserts it, as hath been shown; but that it was never designed to be of perpetual obligation; that it was an imperfect dispensation, suited to the imperfect state of the Church, and fell greatly short of the clear light, the spiritual glory, and perfect liberty of the Gospel. That in the intention of God, and in its original proper design, the law was a temporary subservient dispensation, designed to make way for a more pure and spiritual and perfect dispensation, of which Christ was the author. That therefore these false teachers greatly mistook and perverted the original design of that law, and the end for which it was given; and that taken in their perverted sense, and as opposed by them to the grace of the Gospel, it would prove of bad consequence to those that put their trust in it, and expected justification from it. But he abhors the charge as if he supposed the law to be sin, or to bring death in its own nature, see Rom. vii. 7–13, which yet is the representation this writer thinks fit to make of the apostle's sense; as if he held the law to be in itself deadly, and that the es

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tablishing the Mosaic constitntion was establishing iniquity by a law.' He expressly denies that in its original constitution and design it was all • against the promises of God,' Gal. iii. 21. And upon the whole shows that it was designed for a time till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made, Gal. iii. 19, and its rites and ordinances were imposed until the time of reformation,' Heb. ix. 10; that is, till the introducing that more perfect dispensation to which the other was intended to be subservient and preparatory. That the Jews were kept under it, shut up, or separated from other nations, under its strict discipline and injunctions, till the faith should be revealed, Gal. iii. 23. And that now Christ was come, he hath abolished the law of commandments,' and hath taken down the partition wall' between Jews and Gentiles, Eph. xi. 15; so that now we are no longer under the law,' but

under grace,' Rom. vi. 14. This is evidently the apostle Paul's scheme, the doctrine which he teacheth with regard to the law of Moses. In which, directly contrary to what the writer alleges, it is plainly supposed that the law of Moses was originally a divine institution or revelation from God, which was afterwards abolished and set aside by another revelation : though it was not so immediately and expressly abolished as to render it absolutely unlawful for any persons at that time to observe those legal rites. The apostle Paul was for showing great condescension to those believing Jews, who though they looked for salvation through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, yet from a conscientious scruple were for observing the Mosaical rites themselves, but did not impose them upon

the Gentiles. And he thought it lawful on some occasions to observe those rites himself in condescension to their infirmities. And his practice and sentiments in this matter were agreeable to those of the other apostles. Whilst in the mean time care was taken by the doctrine they all taught, to remove the prejudices of the Jewish Christians, and to give them a full view of the liberty with which Christ came to make them free. But I shall have occasion to consider this at large, and set the conduct of the apostle Paul and the other apostles in a proper light, and show the harmony there was between them, when I come more particularly to examine the objections the author raises on this head against the New Testament.

Let us consider what he produces to prove, that St. Paul, contrary to his own express declarations, did not look upon the law of Moses to be of divine original. And what he seems chiefly to insist upon is the disadvantageous character the apostle gives of that law, representing it as a 'yoke of bondage,' and its ordinances as 'carnal,' &c. But it is not hard to account for the manner in which he speaks of the law of Moses, if we keep his scheme and design in view.

It is certain that the apostle represents those that are under the law as in a state of bondage,' and a subjection to his rites he calls a 'yoke of bondage.' This our author often repeats, as if it was in St. Paul's opinion, . an enslaving constitution contrary to the


natural rights and liberties of mankind, a state of civil and religious tyranny and slavery, an intolerable yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear.' It is to be observed that these last expressions which the author ascribes to the apostle Paul, p. 29, and which are at least as strong as any that he makes use of, were used not by him but by St. Peter, Acts xv. 10; and yet this writer himself will not pretend that Peter intended by these expressions to signify that the law of Moses was not of divine original; since all along he supposes him to be at the head of the Judaizing Christians, who stood up for the divine authority and obligation of that law in opposition to St. Paul. All that he intends to signify by this manner of expression, is only that the ritual injunctions and ceremonies of the law were difficult and burdensome in the observance; and it is a way of speaking common almost to all languages for persons to be said not to be able to bear a thing which they cannot bear without great labour and difficulty. And yet those numerous rites prescribed in the law, however burdensome they might be in the observance, were instituted for very wise ends and valuable purposes, and were very proper for the state of the Church and people to whom they were given. And this is what the apostle Paul plainly signifies even in that very passage where he represents the being under the law' as a state of bondage,' Gal. iv. 3, 9.

. ' He had observed in the preceding chapter, ver. 24, 25, that 'the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, but after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Where it is evident that he speaks not merely of the morul law as the author would have it, p. 26, but of the ceremonial law. And in pursuance of the same metaphor he saith, ch. iv. 1—3, Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all; but is under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the Father, even so we when we were children were in bondage under the elements of the world. Where it is plain what he means by · bondage,' not that the law is a blinding enslaving constitution, contrary to the natural rights and liberties of mankind,' but is such a bondage as an heir is under whilst he is a child, the bondage of being under tutors and governors, and subject to a discipline, which, though it may seem hard and severe, yet is useful and necessary; so the various injunctions of the law, though they might seem a troublesome yoke, yet were very useful and well suited to the state of the Church, at the time in which it was given. But as it would be wrong to keep the heir in such a subjection, and under the discipline of a child, when he is out of his non-age, and arrived to a state of maturity; and it would argue a very strange and mean temper of mind for him to be willing to put himself under that pædagogy again, or to exercise himself in his childish rudiments, when he had obtained his manly freedom; so it would be a strange conduct when we are freed by the Gospel from the pædagogy of the law, and brought under a more manly and perfect dispensation to be willing to return to it again. On this account he might justly expostulate as he does, ver. 9, . How

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »