Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

How then came his name to be called into question ? This perhaps will be explained in the next edition of the Dissertation.

There is a quaintness in the notion of writing a book against five monosyllables, which no doubt pleased the man's fancy; and there was, I am afraid, some priile in going out of his way (as he has done on other occasions) to show a little impertinence and ill manners to his superiors. He wanted to throw together a few common-place thoughts on the expulsion of the Canaanites, and could not forbear gracing his work with the name of a Christian prelate. He understood the trade of an author, and judged rightly that stamping his performance with some great name would give it a currency and promote its quicker circulation. There is indeed no reason why a great name should exempt a man from public censure ; but it ought to exempt him from wanton trifling and impertinence, where there is no room or pretence for censure. But men will be men, and pride and conceit in little minds will break the bounds of decency and good manners; and the more so, when they are protected by their own obscurity.

The expulsion of the Canaanites (which is the subject of the fourth dissertation) is so stale a topic, and has been so lately canvassed on all sides, that it is somewhat strange Mr. Chubb could find no better entertainment for his readers. If he is content to repeat old objections, I am not fond of repeating old

I shall say but little on the subject, and refer the reader, for his farther satisfaction, to the defences of this part of Scripture, against Tindal, Morgan, &c.

The point seems to lie in a very short compass. Has God authority over his own creation or not? and has he a right to punish daring wickedness in this world? If he has, may there not be reasons of wisdom in some cases to exercise that right? to visit a dissolute, profligate people with the rod of his vengeance; to leave them a monument of his hatred to sin, and an example of terror to the rest of mankind ? If the Canaanites were guilty in the degree they are represented in Scripture,* guilty of dishonouring God by the most abominable idolatries, and of disgracing human nature by the foulest immoralities;

answers.

Levit. ch. xviii. and ch. xx. and elsewhere.

where lies the injustice in calling them to judgment? And if the constitution of the Hebrew government was peculiarly framed against the reigning idolatry and vices of the age, and that people were to be a standing instance of God's favor to true religion ; is there any color of weakness, or is there not rather a great appearance of wisdom in executing the sentence by their hands?

It is to little purpose to talk of “weeping, bleeding, fainting, dying mothers, with infants torn from their breasts and trampled under foot; multitudes weltering in their blood, dying groans," &c. &c. This is the language of craft, speaking to the passions, not to the reason of men.

If the measure of their iniquities was full, if they deserved punishment, and God had a right to punish, there remained yet another tribunal to correct all inequalities. If infants or a few innocent persons suffered, as will always be the case in general calamities, they were still in the hands of a merciful God, who disposed of them no doubt in a manner the most suitable to his wisdom and justice.

What effect the fate of the Canaanites had on the neighbouring nations is impossible to say, as there is little or nothing in the history to inform us. That it made some impressions on their minds is probable ; and that this and other wonders they had seen made a strong impression on the Israelites is more, than probable; for they served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel."* In succeeding generations the impression grew weaker; and what their fathers only told them, was not received with so lively a sense as what was visible to the eye. They were prone to idolatry; that is, they were apt like other men to catch the manners and fall in with the fashions and practices of their neighbors. But the case was then on record, and is so still; and serves as well for our admonition as it did for theirs. An attentive and serious reader will look over the history with a just abhorrence of vice and idolatry, and be more firmly fixed in his attachment to true religion.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

serve

[ocr errors]

6

In commenting on the text just now cited, Mr. Chubb gives it as his opinion that the Israelites, who are said to the Lord all the days of Joshua,' &c. served him only in destroying the Canaanites; for that they were idolaters in their worship, and served other gods. Let us see then how the case stands.

When Joshua was grown old and near his death, he called the tribes of Israel together, and gave them his last advice and instructions ;* he exhorted them to observe the whole law of God, and pressed them with great zeal and force to serve the Lord, and to put away the strange gods that were among them. This same exhortation to put away the strange gods is once or twice repeated in the twenty-fourth chapter. And from hence Mr. Chubb thinks it very plain that they were even at that time guilty of idolatry, and serving strange gods, Suppose then that some few families had their favorite idols, and worshipped them in private, this surely will not amount to a national crime; the tribes in general might still be said to

serve the Lord.' The people of this island are protestants, and serve God after the manner of protestants; and

yet

I afraid we have too many amongst us of another persuasion.

But the truth is, Joshua's exhortation is given by way of caution and instruction, and not reproof. There was great reason to guard them, as Moses frequently did, against a crime to which he was sure they would be so strongly tempted by their neighbors. He knew there was a remnant of Canaanites still among them, and consequently strange gods among them; and to put away these gods, and to expel or destroy the inhabitants, was the tenure by which they were to hold their country. This was the subject of the angel's commission, Judges ii. not to reform any idolatrous practices of which they were then guilty; but to remind them that there was yet a remnant of inhabitants to be removed, and altars to be thrown down.'

Look over their history from their exit out of Egypt to their taking possession of the land of Canaan, and I believe you will find no instance of idolatry, except the case of the golden calf in the wilderness, and Peor the god of Midian; and yet the

an

[ocr errors]

6

* Joshua xxiii. and xxiv,

historian is very careful in recording their transgressions, and more especially those of the grosser kind. When they were settled in the land of Canaan, and the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, returned to their possession on the other side Jordan, they set up an altar as a testimony of their relation to the other tribes. But what was the consequence ? The whole body of Israel was alarmed at the novelty, and prepared to give them a severe chastisement, on suspicion only that it might be intended for idolatrous purposes. The suspected tribes however cleared themselves, and all was easy. But observe in what manner the messengers addressed them on their supposed guilt. “What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel? Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, but that ye must turn away this day from following the Lord ?'*—Is this the language of idolaters, or the spirit of men who had strange gods among them ?

The strange gods therefore which Joshua commanded to be put away were the gods of the Canaanites that still kept possession of their country. Let Joshua be his own interpreter, and the thing will be yet more evident. Keep and do,' says he, (chap. xxiii. verse 6.) “all that is written in the book of the law of Moses.- Come not among these nations, these that remain among you, neither make mention of the name of their gods,' &c., “but cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.' Though he cautions them in this chapter, as he does in the next, not to serve strange gods; yet he clears them expressly from having as yet forsaken the Lord. The historian acquits them, and the reader will in justice acquit them too.

As the Bishop of Salisbury's name stands in the front of the Dissertation; that he might not be intirely forgotten, Mr. Chubb closes the whole with one remark on his ser

The whole passage is extraordinary on several accounts. I shall give the reader a part of it, and in his own words. “ If the Deity so moves and directs the understandings, the appetites, the passions and affections of men, as thereby to bring about those events that are called the works of his providence ; if he raises up a spirit of pride, ambition,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

mon.

*

Joshua xxii. 16. &c.

[ocr errors]

and lust of power in Kouli-Khan, whereby to introduce wasting and desolation in the east; and rouses up the like turbulent passions in the French king, whereby to introduce the like calamities in the west, by way of correction and punishment for sin ; and if (according to the Bishop of Salisbury's sermon lately published) by these secret springs of motion and action, or by this hand of Providence, things are so directed, that prosperity and adversity in this world are made to tally with and bear some proportion to men's virtues and vices, (supposing in such a state virtue and vice do subsist);—I say if this be the case, then, as this world cannot with any propriety be called a state of probation or trial, so a future retribution must of necessity be superseded."

If I understand this passage rightly, God is represented as the author of all events, as giving men new passions and appetites, directing and controlling their wills; and in short, as being the sole agent in the creation; and men as mere machines, the involuntary instruments of producing the effects which he has appointed. Hence it is that he queries, and queries justly, whether in such a state virtue and vice can subsist. And this dark plan of fatalism is imposed on the reader for the Bishop of Salisbury's plan of providence. It is a very weighty charge, and ought not to be admitted rashly. Where then is the line and page in which his lordship, or any other writer of sense has given this as a view of Providence ? The reader will easily believe it is a charge which he is not able to support; but where is his honesty if he does not ?

There are, without question, various methods in which God, may overrule the passions, and defeat the counsels of men, without affecting the morality of human actions. It is not to be imagined that he gives them passions and dispositions which they had not, but directs such as they have to serve the ends of his providence. He may raise the elements to frustrate a wicked design, and quiet them to favor a good one. He may by secret and invisible means give success to an invasion, to chastise a guilty nation ; and by like methods defeat it in the end, without hurting the free will either of the invaders or the invaded. He may present motives (not of compulsion, but persuasion,) to encourage virtuous resolutions, and prevent the

« AnteriorContinua »