« PoprzedniaDalej »
which forbids the least addition to the written Institute; yet I shall shew, from a circumstance, the clearest and most incontestable, that the Ifraelites, from the time of Moses to the time of their Captivity, 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 fickness, and in health ; in full security, and amidit impending dangers ; plunged in Civil business, or retired and fequestered in the service of Religion. Together with their Story, we have their Compositions likewise. Here they fing 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 Contemporaries; 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 cafts of composition, do we ever find them acting on the motives, or influenced by the prospect of future rewards and punishments; or indeed expreffing the least hope or fear, or even common curiosity concerning them. But every thing they do of say
} Deut. iy. 2. Chap. xii. ver. 32.
respects respects the present life only; the good and ill of which are the fole objects of all their pursuits and aversions!
Hear then the sum of all
. The facred Writings are extremely various both in their subject, style, and composition. They contain an account of the Creation, and Origine of the human race; the hiftory of a private Family, of a chofen People, and of exemplary men and women. They confift of hymns and petitions to the Deity, precepts of civil life, and religious Prophecies and Predictions. Hence I infer that as, amidst all this variety of writing, the Doctrine of a future state never once appears to have had any share in this People's thoughts; it never did indeed make part of their
1 This is the precise character of the writings of the old Testament.. And this state of them (to observe it only by the way) is more than a thousand answers to the wild fufpicions of those writers, who fancy that the Jews, since Christ, have corrupted their facred Scriptures, to support their superstitions against the Gospel ; and amongst other erasements have struck out the Doctrine of life and immortality; which, say these Visionaries, was, till then, as plainly taught in the Old as in the New Testament: For had these supposed Importers ever ventured on lo bold a fraud as the adulterating their facred Writings, we may be well assured their first attempt would have been to add the doctrine of a future state, had they not found it there, rather than to take it away if they had : fince the omission of the doctrine is the strongest and most glaring evi. dence of the imperfection of the Law; and the insertion of it would have best supported what they now hold to be one of the most fundamental points of their Religion. — But this is not a folly of yesterday. Irenæus tells us that certain ancient Here, tics supported their wild fancies against Scripture, which was againft them, by the fame extravagant fufpicion, that it had been interpolated and corrupted. Norwithstanding, I am far from thinking these Moderns borrowed it from them. They found it in our common Nature, which always goes the nearest way to work, to relieve itself.
Religious Religious opinions. And when, to all this, we find, their occasional reasoning only conclusive on
* We shall now understand the importance of a remark, which the late Translator of Josephus employs to prove the genuineness of a fragment or homily, given by him to that Hiftorian: “ There is one particular observation (says he) belong
ing to the contents of this fragment or homily, that seems
to me to be DECRETOR Y, and to determine the question “ that some of this Jewish church, that used the Hebrew copy « of the Old Testament, nay rather, that Jofephas himself in “ particular was the author of it. The observation is this, “ that in the present address to the Greeks or Gentiles there “ are near forty references or allusions to texts of the New “ Testament; AND NOT ONE, TO ANY OF THE OLD TESTA: “ Ment either in Hebrew or Greek; and this in a discourse « concerning Hades; which yet is almost five times as often « mentioned in the Old Testament as in the New. What can és be the reason of this? But that the Jewish Church at Jerusa“ lem used the Hebrew Bible alone, which those Greeks or “ Gentiles, to whom the addiefs is here made, could not un.. u derstand, and that our Jofephus always and only used the 6 fame Hebrew Bible?" Mr. Whiffon's Difert. prefixed to his Transl. of Josephus, p. 105:- What can be the reason (says he) of this mystery? He unfolds it thus: The Jewish Church of Jeo tufalem used the Hebrew Bible alone, which those Greeks or Gentiles, to whom the address is here made, could not understand. So that because the Audience did not understand Hebrew, the Preacher could not quote the texts, he had occasion for, in Greek. But he supposes the Author could not quote the Greek, because it must needs have been that of the Septuagint; which the Jewish Church at Jerusalem would not use. Now admit there were no other Greek to be had, or allowed of, Can any man believe that if this Jewish Preacher would turn himself to the Gentiles, he could be such a bigot as to be afraid of quoting the Old Testament in a language they understood, because bis Church used only the Original which they understood not? Or if he had been such a bigot, Would he have dared to preach to the Gentiles at all? What then but the fondness for an hypothefis could make men ramble after such reasons, when 'so obvious an one lies just before them? Why did he this, do you älk? For this plain reason : His subject was a future state of reward and punishment, and he had more sense than to seek for it where it was not to be found. Oh but Hades is almost fiue times as often mentioned in the Old Testament as in the New. Indeed! But the fragment is not about the word, but the thing.
the supposition that a future state was not amongst the Religious doctrines of the People, the above considerations, if they needed any, would receive the strongest support and confirmation. To give one' example out of many. The Psalmist says, For the rod of the Wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the Righteous : left the Righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity". That is, “ God will vigorously adminifter that extraordinary Providence which the nature of the Dispensation required to be administered, left the Righteous, not seeing themfelves exempt from the evils due to wickedness, should conclude that there was no moral Governor of the world; and fo, by making their own private interest the rule of their actions, fall into the practice of all kind of iniquity.” But this could never be the consequence where an unequal dispensation of Providence was attended with the knowledge and belief of a future state. And here I will appeal to those who are most prejudiced against this reasoning. Let them speak, and tell me, if they were now first shewn some history of an old Greek Republic, delivered in the form and manner of the Jewish, and no more notice in it of a future state, Whether they could possibly believe that that Doctrine was National, or generally known in it. If they have the least ingenuity, they will answer, They could
In the Old Testament it fignified the receptacle of dead bodies ; in the New, the receptacle of living fouls. But though this learned writer can, without doubt, laugh at those who seek the Trinity in the Old Testament, yet he can in good earnest go thither in search of a Future state. Yet this latter is not in any comparison so clearly hinted at as the other : and no wonder; a Future state is circumscribed to the New Testament, as brought to light by the Gospel; but the doctrine of the Trinity is no where said to be so circumscribed.
* Ps, CXXV. 3,
not. On what then do they support their opinion here, but on religious Prejudices? Prejudices of no higher an original than fome Dutch or German System : for, as to the Bible, one half of it is silent concerning life and immortality; and the other half declares that the doctrine was brought to light through the Gospel
But to set this argument in its fullest light. Let us consider the History of the rest of mankind, whether recorded by Bards, or Statesmen
; by Philofophers, or Priests: in which we shall find the doĉtrine of a future state still bearing, through out all the various circumstances of human life, a constant and principal share in the determinations of the Will. And no wonder. We see how ftrong the Grecian world thought the fanction of it to be, by a passage in Pindar, quoted by Plutarch in his tract of Superstition, where he makes it one circumstance of the superior happiness of the Gods, over men, that they stood not in fear of Acheron.
But not to be distracted by too large a view, let us select from the rest of the Nations, one or two most resembling the Jewish. Those which came nearest to them, (and, if the Jews were only under human guidance, indeed extremely near) were the SUEVI of the north, and the Arabs of the south. Both these people were led out in search of new Poffeffions, which they were to win by the sword. And both, it is confessed, had the doctrine of a Future state inculcated unto them by their leaders, Odin and MAHOMET. Of the Arabs we have a large and circumstantial history : Of the Suevi we have only some few fragments of the songs and ballads of their Bards; yet they