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cating the justice and equity of the Law of punishing Children for the sins of their Parents; and of proving the perfect agreement between Moses and the Prophets EZEKIEL and JEREMIAH, concerning it; which hath been, in all ages, the stumbling-block of Infidelity.
But we now advance a step further, and shew, that as Moses did not teach, yea forbore to teach the doctrine of a future state of Rewards and Punishments, so neither had the ancient Jews, that is to say, the Body of the People, any knowledge of it. The proof is striking, and scarce to be resisted by any Party or Profession but that of the SYSTEM-MAKER. The Bible contains a very circumstantial account of this People, from the time of Moses to the great Captivity; 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, parents, merchants, husbandmen. They are given too in every circumstance of life; captive, victorious, in sickness and in health; in full security, and amidst impending dangers, plunged in civil business, or retired and sequestered in the service of Religion. Together with their story we have their compositions likewise: in one place we hear their triumphal; in another, their penitential strains. Here we have their exultations for blessings received; there, their deprecations of evil apprehended: Here they urge their moral precepts to their contemporaries; and there again, they treasure up their Prophecies and Predictions for the use of Posterity; and on each, denounce the threatenings and promises of Heaven. Yet in none of these different circumstances of life, in none of these various casts of composition, do we ever find them acting on the motives, or influenced by the prospect, of a FUTURE STATE: or indeed, expressing the least hopes or fears, or even common curiosity, concerning it: But every thing they do or say respects the present life only; the good
and ill of which are the sole objects of their pursuits and aversions.
The strength of this argument is still further supported by a view of the general history of Mankind; and particularly of those nations most resembling the Jewish in their genius and circumstances: in which we find the Doctrine of a future state of Rewards and Punishments, was always pushing on its influence. It was their constant viaticum through life; it stimulated them to war, and spirited their songs of triumph; it made them insensible of pain, immovable in danger, and superior to the approach of death.
This is not all: We observe, that even in the Jewish Annals, when this Doctrine was become national, it made as considerable a figure in their History, as in that of any other nation.
It is still further urged, that this conclusion does not rest merely on the negative silence of the Bible-history; it is supported on the positive declarations contained in it; by which the sacred Writers plainly discover that there was no popular expectation of a future state or
From the Old Testament we come to the New. By the Writers of which it appears, that the Doctrine of a future state of Rewards and Punishments DID NOT MAKE PART of the Mosaic Dispensation.
Their evidence is divided into two parts; the first, proving that TEMPORAL rewards and punishments were the sanction of the Jewish Dispensation; The second that it had no other. And thus, with the most direct and unexceptionable proof of the two MINOR propositions, the fifth Book concludes,
VI. But to remove, as far as possible, all the supports of prejudice against this important Truth, the sixth and last Book, of this Volume is employed in examining all those texts of the Old and New Testament, which
had been commonly urged to prove, that the Doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments DID MAKE PART of the Mosaic Dispensation.
And amongst those of the Old Testament, the famous passage of the xixth chapter of Job, concerning a Resurrection (as it has been commonly understood) holding a principal place, it was judged expedient, for the reasons there given, to examine that matter to the bottom. This necessarily brought on an enquiry into the NATURE and GENIUS of that Book; WHEN WRITTEN, and to WHAT PURPOSE. By the aid of which enquiry, a fair account is given of the sense of that famous Text, consistent with our general Proposition.
But the whole Discourse on the Book of Job hath this further use: It provides a strong support and illustration of what will be hereafter delivered concerning the GRADUAL DECAY of the extraordinary Providence from the time of Saul, to the return from the great Captivity.
Yet this is not all. The Discourse hath yet a further use, with regard to Revelation in general. For the explaining, How the principles of the Gospel-Doctrine were opened by degrees, fully obviates the calumnies of. those two leaders in Infidelity, TINDAL and COLLINS; who pretend, that the Heads and Governors of the Jews refined their old Doctrines concerning the Deity, and invented new ones: just as the Priests improved in knowledge, or the People advanced in curiosity; or as Both were better taught by the instructions they received from their Masters in the country whither they were led away captive.
The discourse of Job being of this importance, we were led to support all the parts of it, from tlie attacks of various Writers, who had attempted to confute it.
The rest of the Old Testament-texts are gone through with greater dispatch, being divided into two parts. 1. Such as are supposed to teach the separate existence, or, as it is called, the immortality of the Soul. And, 2. Such
2. Such as are supposed to teach a future state of Rewards and Punishments, together with a Resurrection of the body. In the course of which examination, much light, it is hoped, has been thrown both on the particular texts and on the general question.
From the texts of the Old Testament, the Argument proceeds to examine those of the New: Amongst which, the famous eleventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not forgotten; the sense of which is cleared up, to oppose to the inveterate mistakes of Systematical Divines: And here, occasion is taken to explain the nature of St. Paul's reasoning against the errors of the Jewish converts; a matter of highest moment for a right understanding of this Apostle's Letters to the several Churches; and for the further illustration of the general Argument.
As in all this, nothing is taught or insinuated which opposes the doctrine of our excellent Church, common decency required that this conformity should be fully shewn and largely insisted on.
Having therefore, all along, gone upon this Principle, "That though a future State of rewards and punish"ments made no part of the MOSAIC Dispensation, yet "that the LAW had a SPIRITUAL meaning; though not
seen or understood till the fulness of time was come. "Hence the Ritual Law received the nature, and afforded "the efficacy of PROPHECY: In the interim (as is shewn) "the mystery of the Gospel was occasionally revealed,
by God, to his chosen servants, the Fathers and "Leaders of the Jewish Nation; and the dawnings of it gradually opened by the Prophets, to the People." Having, I say, gone, all the way, upon this principle, I shew, from the SEVENTH ARTICLE of Religion, that it is the very Doctrine of our excellent Church.
And in explaining that part of the ARTICLE which says, That they are not to be heard which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory Promises, I sup
port this doctrine by the case of ABRAHAM, who, our blessed Master tells us, rejoiced to see his day, and saw it and was glad.
Here, I attempt to prove, in illustration of this text, that the Command to Abraham to offer Isaac was merely an information given, at Abraham's earnest request, in a representative action, instead of words, of the REDEMPTION OF MANKIND by the great Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Which interpretation, if it be the true one, is, I think, the noblest proof that ever was given of the HARMONY between the Old and New Testament.
From this long Dissertation, besides the immediate purpose of vindicating the Doctrine of our national Church, in its seventh Article, we gain these two advantages; 1. The first of which is, supporting a real and essential connexion between the Mosaic and the Christian Religions. 2. The other is, disposing the Deists to think more favourably of Revelation, when they see, in this interpretation of the COMMAND, all their objections to this part of Abraham's story overthrown.
The matter being of this high importance, it was proper to fix my interpretation on such principles as would leave no room for reasonable doubt or objection: And this was to be done by explaining the nature of those various modes of information in use amongst the Ancients; for which explanation, a proper ground had been laid in the discourse on the Hieroglyphics in the fourth Book. To all this (for the reason here given) is subjoined a continued refutation of all that Dr. Stebbing has been able to urge against this idea of the Command.
Nor is this all. This Dissertation, which affords so many new openings into the truths of Revelation in general, and so many additional supports to the argument of the Divine Legation in particular, hath another very important use. It is a necessary introduction to the long Discourse which follows, concerning PROPHECY.