« PreviousContinue »
DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES
UT though it appear that a future state of Rewards and Punishments made no part of the Mosaic Dispensation, yet the Law had certainly a SPIRITUAL meaning, to be understood when the fulness of time should come: And hence it received the nature, and afforded the efficacy, of PROPHECY. In the interim, the MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL was occasionally revealed by God to his chosen Servants, the Fathers and Leaders of the Jewish Nation; and the dawning of it was gradually opened by the Prophets, to the People.
And which is exactly agreeable to what our excellent Church in its SEVENTH ARTICLE of Religion teacheth concerning this matter.
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting Life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the Dld Fathers did look only for transitory Promises,
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New, is a proposition directed against the Manichean error, to which the opinions of some Sectaries of these later times seemed to approach. The Manicheans fancied there was a Good and an Evil Principle; that the Old Dispensation was under the Evil, and that the New was the work of the Good. Now it hath been proved, that the Old Testament is so far from being contrary to the New, that it was the Foundation, Rudiments, and Preparation for it.
-For both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by CHRIST, who is the only Mediator between God and Man. That the Church could not mean by these words, that everlasting life was offered to mankind by CHRIST in the Old Testament in the SAME MANNER in which it is offered by the New, is evident from these considerations:
1. The Church, in the preceding words, only says, the Old Testament is NOT CONTRARY to the New; but did she mean that everlasting life was offered by both, in the same manner, she would certainly have said, The Old Testament is THE SAME with the New. This farther appears from the inference drawn from the proposition concerning everlasting life-WHEREFORE they are not to be heard, which feign that the old FATHERS did look only for transitory promises. But was this pretended sense the true, then the inference had been, That ALL THE ISRAELITES were instructed to look for more than transitory promises.
2. The Church could not mean, that everlasting life is offered in the Old and New Testament in the same manner, because we learn from St. Austin, that this was one of the old Pelagian heresies, condemned by the Catholics in the Synod of Dicspolis,-QUOD LEX SIÓ MITTAT AD REGNUM [COELORUM] QUEMADMODUM ET EVANGELIUM*,
* De Gestis Pelagii, c. xi. § 24.
What was meant therefore by the words-both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting Life is offered to Mankind by CHRIST, was plainly this; "That the "offer of everlasting Life to Mankind by CHRIST in "the New Testament was SHADOWED OUT in the Old; "the SPIRITUAL meaning of the Law and the Prophets referring to that life and immortality, which was brought to light by JESUS CHRIST."
3. But lastly, Whatever meaning the Church had in these words, it cannot at all affect our Proposition, that a future state was not taught by the Law of Moses; because by the Old Testamemt is ever meant both the Law and the Prophets. Now I hold that the Prophets gave strong intimations, though in figurative language borrowed from the Jewish Economy, of the everlasting life offered to mankind by JESUS CHRIST.
The concluding words of the Article which relate to this matter say,-Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the OLD FATHERS did look only for transitory promises; and so say I: because JESUS himself is to be heard, before all such; and he affirms the direct contrary of the Father of the faithful in particular. Your father Abraham (says he to the unbelieving Jews) rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad*. A fact not only of the utmost certainty in itself, but of the highest importance to be rightly understood. That I may not therefore be suspected of prevarication, I chuse this instance (the noblest that ever was given of the HARMONY between the Old and New Testament) to illustrate this consistent truth.
And I persuade myself that the learned Reader will be content to go along with me, while I take occasion, from these remarkable words of JESUS, to explain the history of the famous COMMAND TO ABRAHAM TO
OFFER UP HIS SON; for to this History, I shall prove, the words refer; and by their aid I shall be enabled to justify a revolting circumstance in it, which has been long the stumbling-block of Infidelity.
In the sense in which the History of the COMMAND hath been hitherto understood, the best apology for Abraham's behaviour (and it is hard we should be obliged, at this time of day, to make apologies for an action, which, we are told, had the greatest merit in the sight of God) seems to be this, that having had much intercourse with the GoD of Heaven, whose Revelations (not to say, his voice of Nature) spoke him a good and just Being, Abraham concluded that this command to sacrifice his son, conveyed to him like the rest, by the same strong and clear impression on the Sensory, came also from the same GOD. How rational soever this solution be, the Deist, perhaps, would be apt to tell us it was little better than Electra's answer to Orestes, who, staggering in his purpose to kill his Mother by the command of Apollo, says: But if, after all, this should be an evil Demon, who, bent upon mischief, hath assumed the form of a God? She replies, What, an evil Demon possess the sacred Tripod! It is not to be supposed*.
But the idea hitherto conceived of this important History has subjected it even to a worse abuse than that of Infidelity: Fanatics, carnally as well as spiritually licentious, have employed it to countenance and support the most abominable of their Doctrines and Practices. Rimius in his Candid Narrative hath given us a strange passage from the writings of the Moravian Brethren, which the reader, from a note of his, will find transcribed here below †.
* Ος. "Αρ' αὐτ' ἀλάτωρ εἶπ' ἀπεικασθεὶς θεῷς
Ηλ. ‘Ἱερὸν καθίζων τρίποδ'; Ἐγὼ μὲν ὁ δοκώ. Eurip. Electra, ver. 979. "He (the Saviour) can dispose of life and soul; he can make "the economy of salvation, and change it every hour, that the hin"dermost be the foremost: He can make laws, and abrogate them; HE CAN MAKE THAT TO BE MORAL, WHICH IS AGAINST NA66 TURE;