« AnteriorContinua »
10-18-45 The PREFACE. 53389
HE Chriftian Religion may seem fo little concerned, as to any Article of Faith or Practice, in the Determination of the enfuing Question, that it may be thought fcarce to deferve fo particular a Difcuffion as is bere offered. And I am fo far fenfible of the Weight of this Objection, that I judged it more proper for the Subject of a Differtation than of a Difcourfe from the Pulpit. However I hope it will not be efteemed a Mifapplication of One's Time, to clear up any Pallage in the Sacred Writings; and the great Names which I have had Occafion herein to cite, will fhew that Men of the best Judgments have thought it a Point worthy of their Attention. That it might not be confidered merely as an ufeless Speculation, I have likewife vindicated the plain Interpretation which I have maintained, from the Objections of Unbelievers, and have pointed out the Ufes, which it affords for the practical Improvement of Christians.
Ufe is indeed the great Point to be confidered, and every real Truth has a more immediate or remote Connection with it. A Love of Truth is itself of general Ufe, and when an Interpretation of any Part of Sacred Hiftory is pofitively advanced as proved, which appears to me contrary to Reafon, to Scripture, and the Notions of all primitive Writers, it will be allowed as excufeable at least to produce the Evidence on the other Side, and if the Controverfy be thought not material, I am not the Author of the Revival of it. Mr. Romaine's Difcourfe on the Subject, as I have fignified, gave Occafion to this Review of the Argument, for when that proved altogether unfatisfactory for obvious Reafons, which the firft Reading of that Paffage fuggefted, I had recourfe to all the Authors that I knew of, who bad confidered this Matter. By the References which I have made to thefe it will appear, that every
real Difficulty which he has propofed in the ufual Interpretation had long ago been confidered and answered, and that it must be an Error of great Inattention to pronounce fo peremptorily that his own Construction" is free from all the Objections to which the common "Opinion is expofed." On the Contrary, I should need no other Conviction of the Reality of the Sacrifice than the complicated Abfurdities of this new evafive Refuge.
Some Parts of the Argument might have received fome Reinforcement from Mr. Hallet's Supplement to Mr. Pierce's Paraphrafe and Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has fallen into my Hands fince the following Differtation was printed. I have the Pleasure bowever, to find many of the fame Arguments used to confirm the Fact, and fome of the fame Replies given to the ufual Objections, with a particular Vindication of our prefent Tranflation in a very material Point; tho' I cannot agree with him in the Method of accounting for it, nor in the fevere Cenfures which he passes on Jephthah.
Many other Authors may have confidered this Subject, who have not come to my Knowledge, having the Advantage only of a private Collection of Books, but I have fairly reprefented and referred to each Writer that I have feen, whether favouring or opposing my own Opinion. The latter, particularly, I have confider'd at large, and have neither weakened their strongest, nor amitted their most inconfiderable Arguments. This indeed has occafioned a greater Length than was at firft intended; but if it may have contributed to make the whole Point more clear at once, and prevent the Neceffity of any Review, as I am not without Hopes it may, it will the better anfwer the Purpose, and I shall gladly apply my Thoughts to more ufeful Subjects.
HE Subject of Jephthah's Vow has been a Point of great Controverfy in these latter Ages of the Church. In former Times both Jews and Chriftians feem fully agreed upon the Question, which one should imagine fhould be a strong Prefumption in favour of their Interpretation. The Difficulties and Objections ftarted against it are of a late Date, begun by the fingular Conceit of fome Rabbies, carried on through the Intereft and Partiality of the Romish Divines, and finally embraced by fome great and good Men of our own Communion, who were fhocked with the Difficulties reprefented to them in this Account, and either attended not to the proper Solutions of them, or to the greater Abfurdities of the new Conftruction of this Vow. I fhall not despair either of adding fome new Light to this
Subject, or of reviewing and reprefenting what has been offered by others, in fuch a manner as may prove as fatisfactory to the Reader, as it has ever appeared to me.
There are only two Opinions in this Point, and therefore every Argument, which tends to difprove the one, is of fo much Weight in Confirmation and Support of the other. If neither of them can be entirely freed from Exception, we must rest the Point on this Iffue, which is established by the strongest Evidence, and liable to the leaft Objection, and I fhall not fear to trust the Event with every impartial Perfon. Indeed the one Opinion fcarce pretends to Evidence, but was devised only as a Refuge from the formidable Difficulties, which were fuppofed to attend the other; whereas I fhall retort the Charge, fhew the Inconfiftency of this new Interpretation, and demonstrate that this cannot be the Sense of it, whether the other can be justified or not.
To proceed to the Hiftory. Jephthah the Gileadite having been expelled by his Brethren from any Part in his Father's Inheritance, as being the Son of an Harlot, fled into the Land of Tob, where vain Men, fays the Text, were gathered to him, and went out with him. Becoming thus confiderable by their Affiftance, and being a mighty Man of Valour, he was recalled by the Ifraelites to be their Captain on Occasion of a War with the Children of Ammon. After fome Expoftulations he accepts of their Commiffion, on Condition of being continued their Head and Governour. In this Capacity he treats with the Am monites, and all Treaty proving ineffectual, prepares to fight against them. And Jephthah vowed a Vow unto the Lord, and faid, If thou shalt without fail deliver the Children of Ammon into mine Hands, then it fball be, that whatfoever cometh forth of the Doors of my Houfe to meet me, when I return in Peace from