Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



N excellent Writer having freely and candidly examined the late Bishop of London's collection of Sermons, and in page 165 of his Examination, asked this question, Where was Idolatry ever punished by the Magistrate, but under the Jewish Economy? The Oxford Professor, in the second Edition of his Prelections, concerning the sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, thinks fit to give the following answer-" It was punished under "the Economy of the Patriarchs, in the families and "under the DOMINION of Abraham, Melchisedec and "JOB. Idolatry spreading wider and wider, Abraham was called by God from Chaldea, for this end, to be "the father of a People, which, divided from all others, "might continue to worship the true God; to be set up "for an exemplar of true Religion, and to be ready to give testimony against the worship of vain Deities. "Was not Abraham, therefore (exercising the sovEREIGNTY in his own family) to punish Idolatry? "Were not Melchisedec and Job, and all the SovEREIGNS of Tribes of that time, who still retained the knowledge and worship of the true God, amidst a "general defection of all the surrounding People, to take care that their own did not backslide? To curb offend"ers, and to inflict punishment on the obstinate, the "REBELLIOUS, and on all those who spread abroad "the contagion of this vice."-Ad quæstionem responVOL. VI. L



[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

detur Sub œconomia Patriarcharum; in familiis, et sub DOMINATU Abrahami, Melchizedechi, Jobi, cæterorumque. Ingruente Idololatria divinitus evocabatur ex Chaldæa Abrahamus: eum in finem, ut fieret pater Gentis, quæ ab aliis omnibus divisa, verum Deum coleret, publicum proponeret exemplum puræ religionis, contraque cultum vanorum numinum testimonium perhiberet. Nonne erat igitur Abrahami in sua familia PRINCIPATUM exercentis proprium officium et munus in Idololatriam animadvertere? Nonne Melchizedechi, Jobi, omniumque tunc temporis in suis Tribubus PRINCIPUM, qui veri Dei cognitionem et cultum in communi fere gentium circumvicinarum defectione adhuc retinebant, cavere, ne sui deficerent; coercere delinquentes; obstinatos et REBELLES, et sceleris contagionem propagantes, supplicio afficere:-Supplementum ad primam Prælectionum Editionem: Addit. Editionis secundæ, p. 312.

This is so pleasant an answer, and so little needing the masterly hand of the Examiner, to correct, that a few strictures, in a cursory Note, will be more than sufficient to do the business.

1. The Examiner, to prove, I suppose, that the book of Job was a dramatic work, written long after the time of the Patriarch, asks, here was Idolatry ever punished by the MAGISTRATE, but under the Jewish Economy? The Professor answers, It was punished under the JOBEAN ECONOMY. And he advances nothing without proof. Does not Job himself say, that Idolatry was an iniquity to be punished by the Judge? The Examiner replies, that the Job who says this, is an airy Phantom, raised for other purposes than to lay down the Law for the Patriarchal times. The Professor maintains that they are all Asses, with ears as long as Father Harduin's, who cannot see that this is the true and genuine old Job.-In good time. Sub Judice lis est: And while it is so, I am afraid the learned Professor BEGS THE QUESTION; when, to prove that Idolatry was punished by


the Magistrate, out of the land of Judea, he affirms that KING JOB punished it. If he say, he does not rest his assertion on this passage of the Book of Job alone, but on the sacred Records, from whence he concludes that those CIVIL MAGISTRATES, Abraham and Melchisedec, punished Idolatry; I shall own he acts fairly, in putting them all upon the same footing; and on what ground that stands, we shall now see.

2. The Examiner says, Where was Idolatry ever punished by the Magistrate, but under the Jewish Economy? A question equivalent to this,-"Where was Idolatry punished by the civil Magistrate on the established Laws of the State, but in Judea? To which, the Professor replies, "It was punished by all the Patriarchal Monarchs, by king Job, king Abraham, and king Melchisedec."

Of a noble race was Shenkin.

But here, not one, save the last, had so much as a nominal title to civil Magistracy: And this last drops, as it were, from the clouds, without lineage or parentage; so that, though of divine, yet certainly not a Monarch of the true stamp, by hereditary right. The Critic therefore fails in his first point, which is, finding out civil Magistrates to do his hierarchical drudgery.

3. But let us admit our Professor's right of investiture, to confer this high office, and then see how he proves,

[ocr errors]

that these his Lieges punished the crime of Idolatry by civil punishment. ABRAHAM, and the Patriarchs his descendants, come first under consideration. What! (says he) was not Abraham, exercising the SOVEREIGNTY in his own family, to punish Idolatry? Hobbes is, I believe, the only one (save our Professor) who holds that "Abraham had a right to prescribe to his family what

Religion they should be of, to tell them what was the "word of God, and to punish those who countenanced

any Doctrine which he had forbidden." Leviath. chap. 40. But God speaking of Abrahamn, says, I know

L 2


[ocr errors]

[Book VI. that he will command his children and his houshold after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, &c. Gen. xviii. 19. And Hobbes and our Professor, I suppose, regard this declaration as a clear proof of the divine doctrine of RESTRAINT in matters of Religion; especially when interpreted by their darling text of-force them to enter in. On the contrary, those who have been bred up in the Principles of Toleration, hold it to be a mere testimony (a glorious one indeed) of Abraham's pious and parental care to INSTRUCT his family in the Law of God. And it is well it can go for no more, or I should fear the learned Professor would have brought in Isaac as a backslider to Idolatry; and his Father's laying him on the sacrificial Pile, as a kind of Auto de fe. Now, except in these two places of Abraham's History, of such wonderful force to support intolerant principles, the Patriarch appears in all others so averse to this inquisitorial spirit, that where God comes down to destroy Sodom, the Father of the Faithful intercedes, with the utmost importunity, for that idolatrous as well as incestuous City. The truth is this: The usurped right of punishing for. opinions was first assumed and long ingrossed by Idolaters. And, if tradition may be believed, Abraham himself narrowly escaped the Fire for preaching against its Divinity. But this is not all. From his own conduct, and from the conduct of his posterity, he seems to have made one part of that fidelity in keeping the way of the Lord (for which he is so nobly distinguished by God himself) to consist in inculcating the divine doctrine of Toleration. When JACOB and his family, without leave-taking, had departed from Laban, Rachel stole away her father's Gods. The old man followed and overtook them; and complaining of the theft, Jacob frankly answered, With whomsoever thou findest thy Gods, let him not live. Now, I would ask, was this condemnation on the offender denounced for Idolatry, or for the Theft? The words of the Patriarch, which immediately follow, determine this



Before our brethren discern thou what is thine, with me, and take it to thee. Well, Rachel, by a female stratagem, contrived to keep her father's Gods; for no better purpose, we may be sure, than that for which the good man employed so much pains to recover them. The theft, indeed, had it been discovered, would have been punished by the Judge: But as for the Idolatry, which, from its nature, could not be long hid, the silence of Scripture shews it to have been coram non Judice. And so far was Rachel from being doomed to the fire, that we do not find, even her Gods underwent this punishment.

After the affair of the Shechemites, Jacob, by God's command, goes to Bethel: and there, in pious emulation of his grandfather's care to keep the way of the Lord, the text tells us, he commanded his houshold and all that were with him, to put away the strange Gods from amongst them. They obeyed, all was well; and not a word of punishing by the Judge. Indeed, these Patriarchal Judges were much better employed, and more suitably to their office, in punishing civil crimes and immoralities, as appears from the adventure of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar.

[ocr errors]

MELCHISEDEC's story is a short one; he is just brought into the scene to bless Abraham in his return from conquest. This promises but ill. Had this King and Priest of Salem been brought in cursing, it had had a better appearance: for, I think, punishment for opinions, which generally ends in a Fagot, always begins with a curse. But we may be misled perhaps by a wrong translation. The Hebrew word to bless, signifies likewise to curse, and, under the management of an intolerant Priest, good things easily run into their contraries. What follows, is his taking Tythes from Abraham. Nor will this serve our purpose, unless we interpret these Tythes into Fines for nonconformity; and then, by the blessing, we can easily understand absolution. We have seen much stranger things done with the Hebrew Verity. If this be

L 3


« PreviousContinue »