Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

of punishing in two so distant periods, are the MOST DIVINE INSTANCE of constancy and uniformity in the manifestations of eternal Justice: So far are they from any indication of a milder or severer Spirit, as Tindal with equal insolence and folly hath objected to Revelation. For while a future state was kept hid from the Jews, there was absolute need of such a Law to restrain the more daring Spirits, by working on their instincts; or, as Cicero expresses it-ut caritas liberorum amiciores Parentes Reipublicæ redderet. But when a doctrine was brought to light which held them up, and continued them after death, the objects of divine justice, it had then no farther use; and was therefore reasonably to be abolished with the rest of the judicial Laws, peculiar to the Mosaic Dispensation. But these men have taken it into their heads (and what comes slowly in, will go slowly out) that it was repealed for its injustice; though another reason be as plainly intimated by the Prophets, as the circumstances of those times would permit; and so plainly by JEREMIAH, that none but such heads could either not see or not acknowledge it. In his thirty-first chapter, foretelling the advent of the NEW Dispensation, he expressly says, this Law shall be revoked: IN THOSE DAYS they shall say no more, The Fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the Children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity t. Yet, in the very next chapter, speaking of the OLD Dispensation, under which they then lived, he as expressly declares the Law to be still in force. When I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch, I prayed unto the Lord, saying,-Thou shewest loving-kindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their ↑ Ver. 29, 30. children

See note [II] at the end of this Book..

children after them*. Is this like a man who had forgot himself, or who suspected the Law of cruelty or injustice?

But the ignorance of Free-thinking was here unaffected; and indeed the more excusable, as the matter had of old perplexed both Jews and Christians. The Synagogue was so scandalized at EZEKIEL's Declarations against this mode of punishment, that they deliberated a long time whether he should not be thrown out of the Canon, for contradicting MOSES in so open a manner †. And Sentence had at last past upon him, but that one Chananias promised to reconcile the two Prophets. How he kept his word, is not known, for there is nothing of his extant upon the subject; only we are told that he approved himself a man of honour, and, with great labour and study, at length did the business +

ORIGEN was so perplexed with the different assertions of these two Prophets, that he could find no better way of reconciling them than by having recourse to his allegorical fanaticism, and supposing the words of the first to be a Parable or Mystic speech; which, however, he would not pretend to decipher. The learned Father, having quoted some pagan Oracles intimating that Children were punished for the

* Ver. 16 & 18.

Les Juifs disent qu' Ezechiel etoit serviteur de Jérémie, & que le Sanhedrin delibera long-tems, si l'on rejetteroit son Livre du Canon des Ecritures. Le sujet de leur chagrin contre ce Prophete vient de son extreme obscurité, & de ce qu'il enseigne diverses choses contraires à Moise-Ezechiel, disent-ils, a declarê, Que le fils ne porteroit plus l'iniquité de son pere, contre ce que Moise dit expressenient, Que le Seigneur venge l'iniquité des Peres sur les Enfans, jusqu'à la troisieme & quatrieme generation. Çalınet, Dissert. vol. ii. p. 361.

* See note [KK] at the end of this Book. § Exod. xx. Ezek. xviii.

crimes of their Forefathers, goes on in this manner: "How much more equitable is what our Scriptures

say on this point: The Fathers shall not be put to "death for the Children, neither shall the Children "be put to death for the Fathers: every man shall "be put to death for his own sin, DEUT. xxiv. 16, &c.-But if any one should object that this verse of the oracle,

CC

[ocr errors]

66

"On the Children's Children and their Posterity; 66 is very like what Scripture says, that GOD visits "the iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children unto "the third and fourth Generation of them that hate

him, EXOD. xx. 5. he may learn from Ezekiel that "those words are a PARABLE; for the Prophets reprove such as say, The Fathers have eaten sour Grapes, and the Children's teeth are set on edge; "and then it follows: As I live, saith the Lord,

every one shall die for his own sins only. But this "is not the place to explain what is meant by the "PARABLE of visiting iniquity unto the third and fourth generation*. There could hardly be more mistakes in so few words. The two texts in Deuteronomy and Exodus, which Origen represents as treating of the same subject, treat of subjects very different: the first, as we have shewn above, concerns the Magistrate's execution of the Law; the other,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Ὥρα δὲ ὅσῳ τότε βέλτιον τὸ, Οὐκ ἀποθανῦναι, §c. ἐὰν δέ τις ὅμοιον εἶναι λέγῃ τῷ

Ες παίδων παῖδας οἳ καὶ ὄπισθεν γένωνται,

τὸ, ̓Αποδιδὲς ἁμαρτίας. παλέζων ἐπὶ τέκνα, ἐπὶ τρίτην καὶ τετάρτην γενεὰν τοῖς μισῦσί [μεν] μαθέτω, ὅτι ἐν τῷ Ἰεζεκιὴλ παραβολὴ τὸ τοῦτον εἶναι λέλεκται, αἰτιωμένω τύς λέγοντας, Οἱ πατέρες ἔφαγον όμφακα, καὶ οἱ ὁδότες τῶν τέκνων ἡμωδίασαν· ᾧ ἐπιφέρεται, Ζῶ ἐγὼ, λέγει Κύριθ-, ἀλλ'

ἢ ἕνας Θ· τῇ ἑαυτῷ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀποθανεῖται. Οὐ καλὰ τὸν παρόια δὲ καιρόν ἐτι, διηγήσασθαι τί σημαίνει ἡ περὶ τῷ τρίτην καὶ τελάρτην γενεὰν ἀποδιδίασθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας παραβολή. Cont. Cels. p. 403.

that

that which God reserves to himself. Again, because the text of Exodus apparently occasioned the Proverb mentioned by Ezekiel and Jeremiah, therefore by a strange blunder or prevarication, the Father brings the Proverb in proof that the Law which to it, was but a Proverb or parable itself *.

gave birth

II.

We have now shewn that MOSES did not teach a future state of reward and punishment; and that he omitted it with design; that he understood its great importance to society; and that he provided for the want of it. And if we may believe a great Statesinan and Philosopher, "Moses had need of every SANCTION that his knowledge or his imagination could suggest to govern the unruly people, to whom he gave a Law, in the name of God f."

66

But as the proof of this point is only for the sake of its consequence, that therefore the people had not the knowledge of that doctrine, our next step will be to establish this consequence: Which (if we take in those circumstances attending the Omission, just explained above) will, at the same time, shew my argument in support of this Omission to be more than negative.

Now though one might fairly conclude, that the People's not having this Doctrine, was a necessary consequence of Moses's not teaching it, in a Law which forbids the least addition to the written Institute; yet I shall show, from a circumstance, the clearest and most incontestable, that the Israelites, from the time of Moses to the time of their Captivity,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*See note [LL] at the end of this Book.

+ Bolingbroke's Works, vol.v. p. 513.

Deut. iv. 2. Chap. xii. ver. 32.

had

had not the doctrine of a future state of reward and punishment.

The BIBLE contains a very circumstantial History of this People throughout the aforesaid period. It contains not only the history of public occurrences, but the lives of private persons of both sexes, and of all ages, conditions, characters and complexions; in the adventures of Virgins, Matrons, Kings, Soldiers, Scholars, Merchants, and Husbandmen. All these, in their turns, make their appearance before us. They are given too in every circumstance of life; captive, victorious; in sickness, and in health; in full security, and amidst impending dangers; plunged in Civil business, or retired and sequestered in the service of Religion. Together with their Story, we have their Compositions likewise. Here they sing their triumphs; there, their palinodia. Here, they offer up to the Deity their hymns of praise; and there, petitions for their wants: here, they urge their moral precepts to their contemporarics; and there, they treasure up their Prophecies and Predictions for posterity; and to both denounce the promises and threatenings of Heaven. Yet in none of these different circumstances of life, in none of these various casts of composition, do we ever find them acting on the motives, or influenced by the prospect of future rewards and punishments; or indeed expressing the least hope or fear, or even common curiosity concerning them. But every thing they do or say respects the present life only; the good and ill of which are the sole objects of all their pursuits and aversions *.

Hear then the sum of all. The sacred Writings are extremely various both in their subject, style, and composition. They contain an They contain an account of the

See note [MM] at the end of this Book.

Creation,

« AnteriorContinua »