Imatges de pÓgina

tempers were hardly brought to think it had ceased. This filled them with spiritual pritle, as the elect of Cod; a disposition which, it is contessed, tends readily to destroy or to relar general benevolence. But what now are the natural consequences, which the actual adıninistration of an equal Providence would have on the human mind? In tbis case, as in the other, a warm temper, whose object was Religion, would be obnoxious to the common weakness of our nature, and too apt to disgrace itself by spiritual pride: but as this is one of the vices which an equal Providence is always at hand to punish, the cure would be direct and speedy. The recovered Votary, we will now suppose to be received again into the number of the Good; and to find hiinselt in the little flock and chosen sheep, as they are nick-named by this noble Writer. Well, but his danger is not yet over; the sense of this high prerogative of humanity might revive, in a warın temper, the still unmortified seeds of spiritual prịde. Admit this to be the case; what follows ? His pride revives indeed, but it is only to be again humbled : for punishment is still closely attendant on vice and folly. At length, this holy discipline, the necessary consequence of an equal Providence, effectually does its work; it purifies the inind from low and selfish partialities, and adorns the Will with general benevolence, public spirit, and love of all its fellow-creatures.

What then could support his Lordship in so perverse a judgment concerning the state and condition of good men under an equal Providence? That wlich supports all his other insults on Religion; his sophistical change of the question. He objects to an equal Providence (which, Religionists pretend, hath been administered during one period of the Dispensation of Grace) where good men are constantly rewarded, and wicked men as Vol. V.


constantly constantly pụnished; and he takes the matter of his objection from the fanatical idea of a favoured elect (which never existed but in over-heated brains), where reward and punishment are distributed, not on the proportions of merit and demerit, but on the diabolic dreams of certain eternal decrees of election and reprobațion, unrelated to any human principle of justice.

But now, Reader, keep the question steadily in your eye, and his Lordship's reasoning in this paragraph discloses such a complication of absurdities as will astonish you. You see

You see an equal Providence, which, in and through the very act of rewarding benevolence, public spirit, and humility, becomes instrumental in producing, in those so rewarded, selfishness, neglect of the public, and spiritual pride.

His Lordship's last objection to an extraordinary Providence is, that it would NOT ANSWER ITS END.

“ I will conclude this head (says he) by observing, " that we have example as well as reason for us, when

we reject the hypothesis of particular Providences. God was the king of the Jewish People. His pre

sence resided amongst them, and his justice was

manifested daily in rewarding and punishing by “ unequivocal, signal, and miraculous interpositions " of his power.

The effect of all was this, the People rebelled at one time and repented at another. " Particular Providences, directed by God himself

immediately, upon the spot, if I may say so, had “ particular temporal effects only, none general

nor lasting: and the People were so little satisfied .“ with this system of Government that they deposed " the supreme Being, and insisted to have another “ King, and to be governed like their neighbours * * Vol. y. p. 430.


In support of this last objection, the Reader sees, his Lordship was forced to throw off the mask, and fairly to tell us what he aimed at; that is to say, to discredit the extraordinary Providence mentioned by Moses. An equal Providence, says he, will not answer its end. What is its end ? Here, his prevarications bring us, as usual, to our distinctions.—When this Providence is adıninistered for the sake of Particulars, its first end is to discipline us in virtue, and keep us in our duty: When administered for the sake of a Community, its first end is to support the Institution it had erected. Now his Lordship, proceeding from reason to example, gives us this of the Jewish Republic, to prove that an equal or extraordinary Providence does not answer one or other or both these ends.

But it is unlucky for him, that here, where he employs the example, he cannot forbear, any more than in nuinberless other places of his writings, to tell us that he believes nothing of the matter.How long this Theocracy may be said to have continued (says he) I am quite unconcerned to know, and should be sorry to mispend my time in inquiring. The example then is unreal, and only brought as an argument ad homi

But, the misfortune is, that no laws of good reasoning will admit such an argument ad hominem on this question, Of the EFFECTS of a REAL extraordinary Providence; because the nature of the effects of a REAL Providence can never be discovered by the effects of a PRETENDED one. To say the truth, his Lordship is at present out of luck. For had he indeed believed the extraordinary Providence of the Jews to be real, his own representation of the case would, on his own principles, have proved it but pretended. For 'tis a-principle with him, that where the




means do not produce the end, such means (all pretences notwithstanding) are but human inventions. It is thus he argues against the Divinity of the Christian Religion ; which he concludes to be an imposture from its not having effected that lasting reformation of manners, which he supposes was its privcipal design to accomplish.

So far as to the choice of his example. He ma. nages no better in the APPLICATION of it.

We have distinguished, concerning the ends of an extraordinary Providence. Let us suppose now, that his Lordship takes the principal end of the Jewish Theocracy to be the reformation of Particulars. He refers to their history, and pretends to shew they were not reformed. Now, whatever other consequences may attend this supposed Fact, the most obvious and glaring is this, That his Lordship, in proceeding from reason to crample, has given us such an example as overturns or supersedes all his reasoning. According to his reasoning, an extraordinary Providence would tie virtue and good manners so fast down upon every Individual, that bis very Will would be forced, and the merit of doing what he had not in bis power to forbear, absolutely destroyed. The Reader would now perhaps expect his example should confirm this pretended Fact? Just otherwise. Ilis example shews his fact to be a fiction, and that men remained as bad as ever.

But I have no need of taking any artificial advantage of his Lordship's bad reasoning. For, when we see it so constantly opposed to truth, it is far froin being an additional discredit to it, that it is as constantly opposed to itself.

The truth indeed is, that the great and principal end of the JEWISH THEOCRACY, was to keep that People a separate nation, under their own Law and Religion, till the coming of the MESSIAH; and to prepare things for his reception by preserving amongst them the doctrine of the Unity. Now, to judge whether the Theocracy or extraordinary Providence effected its end, we have only to consider, Whether this people, to the coming of Christ, did continue a distinct Na- . tion separated from all the other tribes of Mankind, and distinguished from them, by the worship of the one true God. And on enquiry, we shall find, they not only did continue thus distinct and distinguished, but have so continued ever since. A Circumstance which, having no example amongst any other People, is sufficient to convince us, that there must have been some amazing power in that Theocracy, which could go on operating for so many ages after the extraordinary administration of it had ceased. Let us conclude therefore, that his Lordship having nothing to urge against the due efficacy of this extraordinary Providence, but that, the people rebelled at one time and repented at another, and that this Providence had only temporary effects, is the most ample confession of his defeat.

a separate

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinua »