« PoprzedniaDalej »
were thus consigned to debauchery! *Prove this, exclaims Bishop Watson, with just indignation, ‘or excuse my warmth if I say to you, as Paul said 'to Elymas the sorcerer, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease 'to pervert the right ways of the Lord ?" I did not, when I began these letters, think that I
should have been moved to this severity of re'buke ; but, when so gross a misrepresentation is made of God's proceedings, coldness would be a crime.'-If indeed he could prove it, he would have an argument against the divine authority of the books of Moses, far more cogent than any he has hitherto produced: for a holy God may justly condemn transgressors to death, but he cannot command them to violate his own righteous laws. But where did Mr. P. learn, that the Israelites were even allowed to debauch their female slaves? Certainly not from the books of Moses. For the law of Moses did not permit a man to marry a captive, without many delays and previous formalities : '. and if afterwards he divorced her he was bound to set her at liberty, “because he had humbled her.”l And it is most certain that the passage referred to, compared with other scriptures, implies nothing about debauching the female children, or even taking them as concubines; but merely of retaining them as slaves, educating them in their families, employing them in domestic services, and either incorporating them by marriage, as proselytes
Deut. xxi. 10-14.
with the Israelites, or marrying them to their Servants. It cannot, however, be denied that the male children, as well as the grown women, were consigned to the slaughter: and was not this very dreadful ? Certainly; and wicked too, if Moses did it of his own mind, and to gratify his own passions. But this coincides with another subject, which I shall here, once for all, fully consider: namely, the orders given and executed respecting the extirpation of the Canaanites and Amalekites. Every one acquainted with logic must perceive that all, who make these orders an objection to the divine original of the Old Testament, argue completely in a circle, and beg the question. They assume it, as self-evident, that a just and merciful God could never command Moses or Joshua to destroy these nations: they next execrate them for doing such things without authority: and thence they infer that God would never reveal himself to mankind by such monsters of iniquity' But should they not first of all prove, that the judge of the world could not justly give these orders, and in fact did not give them Till this be done, all their inferences from a false or disputed principle must be false or disputable; and all their declamations mere rhetorical arts of imposing on the understanding by appealing to the passions. A judge may condemn a criminal to die, and an executioner may take away his life, without murder, or even injustice : yet, if an unauthorized person should put him to death, he would be a murderer.-Man is surely accountable to his Maker ; wickedness merits punishment: and the supreme Judge may inflict deserved punishment in what manner he sees good. According to the scriptures, death, in every form, is the execution of a righteous sentence denounced against men, as transgressors of the divine law: and a more rational account of our maladies and miseries, and of the triumph of death over the whole human species, has not yet been given. If then sinners die because God inflicts death as a part of their merited punishment, the justice is precisely the same, whether the sword or disease fulfil the divine mandate. The Canaanites were sinners against the Lord exceedingly, and had filled up the measure of their crimes : who then will say that he might not justly have destroyed them by pestilence, deluges, and earthquakes? Who will contend that it would have been wicked in an angel to have executed the Creator's commission in cutting them off, as the army of Sennacherib was slain? And why might not the Lord select a nation, and, having sealed their commission by public miracles, require them to extirpate an abominable race of men who had filled up the measure of their iniquities ? · The same objection might be made with equal validity, though not so plausibly, against all the ways by which God inflicts death upon mankind. We must, therefore, either deny that God inflicts diseases and death, and by a species of practical atheism resolve every thing into chance or ne
cessity; or blaspheme God as cruel and unjust; or else allow that he may execute criminals in what way he sees good. The divine commission to Moses and Joshua must indeed be proved by other arguments: but these considerations completely invalidate the objection, and demonstrate that God might justly give them such orders. If it be urged that famines, earthquakes, and pestilences, though equally destructive, do not so much contradict men's notions of God, and of his moral goverment ; it may be answered, that “the world by “ wisdom knew not God;" and pagan deities, as characterised by Greek and Roman authors, prove men's notions in this respect too fallible and absurd to be in the least depended on. I trust, however, it will appear that the wisdom of God was illustrated in thus varying from his general conduct.
“But wherein, Mr. P. asks, “could crying or “smiling infants offend ? To read without horror of ‘their slaughter must undo every thing tender,
• ‘sympathizing or benevolentinour nature: and the
“sacrifice I must make to believe the Bible would “be sufficient to determine my choice.’—Unbelief is then the effect of choice, not the result of a deliberate impartial examination of evidence.—But who can read of the ravages made by a conflagration, of the miseries of famine and pestilence, or of the desolations of an earthquake, without horror? Yet who disbelieves a well attested narrative of such events on that account? Or who, but an atheist, denies the justice of God in them : The execution of criminals is calculated to excite horror, and not to gratify the finer feelings of benevolence: yet no sober man will declaim against all capital punishments, or revile all concerned in them as sanguinary monsters.-The aversion which men feel to the scriptural history in this respect, above all other records of misery and bloodshed, arises from its opposition to the self-flattery of the human heart: for these awful executions militate against our palliating notions concerning the evil of sin, and the demerit of despising and rebelling against God. No doubt every humane heart revolts from the idea of slaughtering infants: yet infants die by thousands all over the world, with unspeakably more anguish than a speedy undreaded death by the sword would occasion: and has not God the issues of life and death? Many a man who inherits an impaired estate, or a gouty constitution, sensibly feels that children suffer in consequence of the crimes committed by their parents. Thus parents are punished in their children: and, if the Lord sees good to prepare the souls of dying infants for heaven, and to receive them to himself; though the smiling or crying babes were supposed to have been as spotless as angels, they will not charge God with injustice or cruelty on account of their premature death, let who will on earth presume to arraign his conduct. Set aside the doctrine of original sin, allow pain and death to be the appointment of God, and deny the future happiness of infants dying without actual transgression ; and I could declaim against the ordinary conduct of providence in this respect, with as much vehemence, and at least as much plausibility, as Mr. P. does against the Bible; had I no more