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Besides, it being absolutely necessary to the great purposes of the Jewish dispensations, that a special and extraordinary providence should conftantly attend that people, making them prosperous and Aourishing so long as they preserved the purity of their religion, and involving them in national calamity and distress whenever they departed from it, the Israelites themselves would not have been fairly dealt with, if every possible avenue had not been guarded against the introduction of so destructive an evil. And, after all, we see that, even these seemingly rigorous methods, were not quite fufficient for the purpose; and that the divine being was obliged, as we may fay, to teach his use. ful lessons to the world by the punishment, as well as prosperity of his favourite people; but in either of these cases, their example was of the same benefit to the world at large.
It should also be considered, that the idolatry of the antient Gentile world, and especially that of the inhabitants of Canaan, was by, no means a system of merely speculative opinions; but a course of the most atrocious and abominable practices, enjoining the cruel murder of numberless innocent children, as well as other human victims, and the most shocking lewdness, together with other vices of the most unnatural and detestable nature. And surely it becomes a wise legislator, to restrain the commiflion of such destructive vices as these.
As to the case of Abraham, with respect to the command he received to offer his son Isaac, it can. not, I think, be denied, that he who gave life had a right to take it away, and in whatever manner
his infinite wisdom should see fit; and if, for the · trial of his obedience in so tender a point, he chose
to make Abraham himself the instrument of it, instead of a disease, or what we usually call an accident, I do not know that it is inconsistent with any thing that we already know of the divine conduct. Abraham, who had had frequent communications with God, could have no doubt concerning the authority froin which the order came; and knowing the divine power and justice, he might be satisfied that, notwithstanding all appearances, neither himself nor his son would be losers by their obedience.
Paul says, that Abraham knew that God was even able to raise Isaac from the dead, and indeed it is probable that this was the very thing that Abraham expected; for the promise that was made to him, of being the father of many nations, chiefly respected Isaac, In Ifaac fall thy feed be called. If, therefore, Abraham believed this promise, he must have fully expected, either that God would not permit him to put his son to death, or that he would raise him from the dead; and if he had not firmly believed the former promise, much less would he have regarded this harsh command.
It may also be observed, in order to lessen the difficulty which arises from this part of the scripture history, that the Gentile world was, probably, about this time, falling into the horrid curtom of human facrifices; and that the divine being might chuse to shew, in this instance, that though he had a right to demand such offerings, they were not pleasing to him, and he would not accept of them. Upon all other occasions he is represented as expressing the greatest abhorrence of such cruel rights, and his highest displeasure against all those nations who practised them. See Lev. xviii. 21. Deut. xviii. 10. Jer, vii. 31. Ez. xvi. 21. XX. 26. 31.
I would observe farther, that, with respect to ideas of right and equity, the sentiments of those people who observed any particular fact, and who were to be instructed by it, should be chiefly con- . sidered. Now it cannot be pretended that any objection was ever made to God's requiring the facrifice of Isaac, for the trial of Abraham's faith and obedience, till the present age, which is above four thousand years since the event; nor can it be made to appear that any bad consequence ever flowed from it.
Though the Israelites left Egypt loaded with the treasures of the country, the ungrateful usage they had met with, and the cruel and unjust fervitude to which they had been reduced, and the VOL. II.
recompense they were fairly intitled to should be considered, in order to lessen the difficulty which might arise from the account of the method which they took to recover their right. But the word which we render borrow, also signifies to. require, or demand; and in the fituation in which the Egyptians are represented to have been, willing to get rid of the Israelites at any rate, left they mould all be dead men, it may easily be imagined, that they would have been as ready to give, as to lend them, whatever they should have asked...
It is also said, that when they left the country, it was on a promise to return; but certainly that promise must have been cancelled by the hostile manner in which they were pursued by the Egyptians. Besides the use of stratagems, in order to free men from unjust fervitude, is not considered as liable to much objection in the history of human affairs.
It is also objected to this part of the history, that God is said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, in order that he might do the very things for which he is expressly said to have been punished. But in the language of scripture, God is often said to do, whatever comes to pass according to the ora dinary course of nature and providence; and therefore God's not interposing, to foften the heart of Pharaoh, may be all that is meant when he is said to harden it.
Besides, it is sufficiently intimated, in the course of the narration, that the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, not by any proper act of God, but in consequence of its own depravity, and the circumstances he was in. For when the frogs were removed, we read, Exod. viii. 15, that when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh does not seem to have been more infatuated than the rulers of the Jews were, with respect to the murder of Christ; and yet nobody fupposes that they did not, in that case act, naturally, or as their own evil dispositions prompted them.
It is said that, by the account of Moses himself, miracles were wrought by the Egyptian magicians, as well as by himself and Aaron; and therefore that his miracles were no proof of a divine mira fion. But all that Moses really says, is that the Egyptians did (by which he could not possibly mean more than that they seemed, or pretended to do) by their arts and tricks, what he performed by the finger and power of God. The word which we render fo, only means a general fimilitude, and by no means, necessarily, a perfect sameness, respecting both the effect and the cause. Nay, this very word is applied when the magicians failed of success. Exod. viii. 18. They did so, to bring forth lice, but they could not, that is, they practised the C 2