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promise : For when that was no longer felt (the extraordinary providence being withdrawn in punishment for their crimes) the Jews, like all other people, had their doctrine of a future state, which, by its complexion, is seen to be of foreign, and very spurious birth.
See then, to what this PERMISSION amounts; so invidiously urged, not against me, for that is nothing, but against the Scriptures of God! Just to thus much—“That all the world besides were permitted to find out, by REASON as they could, what his chosen people were taught, by the practical demonstration of an EXTRAORDINARY PROVIDENCE ; namely, that God would act with justice and goodness towards man.”
Come we next to the BENEFIT. The benefit of the doctrine of a future state is twofold ; to Society as such, by encouraging Virtue and suppressing Vice, under an unequal distribution of things; to Religion as such, by affording a solid foundation to it, under the same distribution. But both these aids from the doctrine of a future state were more effectually afforded by an extraordinary Providence. We find then, the learned Doctor to be miserably mistaken, in supposing the Gentiles enjoyed any spiritual benefit which the Jews were deprived of. The former indeed had a future state to support Society and Religion ; the latter had an extraordinary Providence. Which of them was, in its nature, the most efficacious support, common sense will not suffer us to remain in doubt. But the benefit of believing is one thing ; the benefit of having is another. I have only yet spoken to the first. Now, the Doctor seems to think the latter affected by the OmisSION. We commonly hear it said, that seeing is believing ; but I suspect our learned Doctor has been imposed on by another Aphorism (as absurd in the thought as that is in the expression) that believing is having ; else how came he to place so great a benefit in the point in question, if he did not suppose that the Jews want of the DOCTRINE would deprive them of the THING.
And now, in taking my final leave of this Champion in Ordinary to the Party Orthodoxal, let me not be here again misunderstood as I have so often been by them. I deny, indeed, that the want of a future State, in the Mosaic Religion, at all affected the true foundation of a reasonable Worship. Yet I am very far from denying, that the frame and constitution of this Religion rendered it, on many accounts, partial and incomplete. In my address to the Jews, prefixed to the second part of the Divine Legation, I have shown in what particulars it was so. As first, in the whole turn of the Ritual Law : and secondly, in that Omission, at what time the Jews came under the ordinary and common Providence of Mankind. For I am there placing before these mistaken People a view of the Mosaic Religion as it appears and operates at present, in order to convince them of the necessity of its receiving its completion from the Religion of Jesus. In which conclusion, I suppose, all Christians are agreed. At least, they who have escaped the thick darkness of controversy will see that these two assertions are very distinct and different, and at the same time consistent. 1. That a Religion without a future state, wanted not, during the existence of an extraordinary providence, a solid foundation of a reasonable worship. And, 2dly, that such a Religion, if supposed to serve for all times and places, must needs be deemed incomplete.
This Omission of a future state in the Mosaic Religion is now generally acknowledged by all who read the Bible with the same impartiality that they read other Histories. Should not our Doctor therefore, who pretends to believe the divinity of the Mosaic Religion, blush at his rashness in calling it, a DISGRACE to RevelatiON? He does it, indeed, in confidence that the early Jews were not ignorant of this matter. But will his confidence persuade impartial men against their senses? Were there but a chance of being mistaken in this supposed knowledge of the early Jews, a sober Minister of God's word would have avoided the scandal of so irreverend an assertion ; so unsuitable to the veneration he owes to his Maker, when speaking of a dispensation which he professes to believe did indeed come from him ; and not have dared to measure this Dispensation of Providence by his scanty and obscure ideas of fit and right. The Author of The Divine Legation demonstrated might, indeed, say, and I hope without offence, that the ignorance of the early Jews concerning a future state was a truth of so high IMPORTANCE, that from thence might be demonstrated the divinity of their Religion ; because, though he should be mistaken, no injury was done to Revelation ; He left it whole and entire, just as he took it up. But should our Doctor be mistaken, his calling this ignorance (now found to be real) A DISGRACE TO REVELATION, would be supplying the Enemies of Religion with arms to insult it. The only excuse he can make for himself (an excuse full as bad as the offence) is, that he had now gone back to the common principle of his Party, which before he seemed to have rejected, That if God did not teach his chosen People a future state, he ought to have taught it. A species of folly, which the sage HOOKER, to whom their Orthodoxy may haply be disposed to pay attention, has admirably reproved in another set of men, possessed with the same impious and presumptuous spirit-—“ As for those marvellous discourses” (says this great man)“ whereby they (the Puritans] adventure to argue, that God must needs have done the thing which they imagined was to be done, I must confess, I have often wondered at their exceeding boldness herein. When the question is, Whether God have delivered in Scripture (as they affirm he hath) a complete particular immutable Form of Church-politie, Why take they that other, both presumptuous and superfluous, labour to prove ; that he shouLD HAVE DONE IT, there being no way, in this case, to prove the deed of God, saving only by producing that evidence wherein he hath done it ; for if there be no such thing apparent upon Record, they do as if one should demand a Legacie by force and virtue of some written Testament, wherein there being no such thing specified, he pleadeth, that THERE IT MUST BE ; and bringeth arguments from the love or good-will which always the testatour bore him ; imagining that these or the like proofs will convict a testament to have that in it, which other men can no where, by reading, find. In matters which concern the actions of God, the most dutiful way, on our part, is to search what God hath done ; and with meekness to ADMIRE that, rather than to disPUTE what he, in congruity of reason, ought to do. The waies which he hath, whereby to do all things for the greatest good of his Church, are more in number than we can search, other in nature than we should presume to determine, which, of many, should be the fittest for him to choose, till such time as we see he hath chosen, of many, some one ; which one we then may boldly conclude to be the fittest, because he hath taken it before the rest. When we do otherwise, surely we exceed our bounds : who, and where we are, we forget ; and therefore needful it is that our PRIDE, in such cases, be controled, and our disputes beaten back with those demands of the blessed Apostle, How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his Counsellor ?” *
We have now done with the Orthodox Divine; and come, in good time, to the Freethinking PHILOSOPHER.
Dr. STEBBING, who sees a future state in the Mosaic Religion by a kind of SECOND SENSE, just as northern Highlanders see things to come by a SECOND SIGHT, affirms, only hypothetically, that this Religion was a DISGRACE TO RELIGION : Our Philosopher, who can see in it nothing of futurity, affirms positively, that it was such a DISGRACE.
The Philosopher's Principles incur no discredit, though he should fail in his conclusion, since he had discarded Revelation before-hand : But should the Divine be mistaken, he exposes his Principles to the scorn and contempt of Freethinkers, since he professes to believe Revelation.
For the rest, the Philosopher stands charged with the same Sophistry, of which the Divine hath been found guilty ; the taking for granted the thing in dispute, viz. that the Jews were under an unequal Providence. Yet here again both his sense and his modesty triumph over the Divine's. The Philosopher, in the Opinion that the Jews were under an unequal Providence, betrays no Principles of Natural Religion, which he pretends to follow : The Divine, in avowing the same Opinion, betrays all the Principles of Recealed Religion, which he pretends to believe.
Indeed, the Sophistry in both, is equally contemptible. For no principles, whether of belief or unbelief, can authorize a Disputant to take for granted the thing in question. The Author of The Divine Legation under: took to prove, that the early Jews were under an equal Providence, by this Medium, the Omission of a Future State in their Law; and from thence concluded, that the Religion revealed by the ministry of Moses was true ; which, reduced to a syllogism, runs thus :
Whatever Religion and Society have no future state for their support must be supported by an extraordinary Providence :
The Jewish Religion and Society had no future state for their support :
Therefore the Jewish Religion and Society were supported by an extraordinary Providence.
To deny the major, as our Philosopher should have done ; to deny the minor, as our Divine did ; was fair argument. But to leave both, as the First hath done, without an answer, and deny only the conclusion, is, amongst all nations and languages, a BEGGING OF TAE QUESTION. If our
• Book iii. sub fin.
Philosopher would argue to the purpose, he should either shew that the premisses are false, and then he attacks the minor; or that they do not infer the conclusion, and then he attacks the major. He does neither ; but, instead of this, having begged the question, he falls to syllogizing, in his turn-Every Religion (says he) which is not founded in the Doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and eternal rewards and punishments, is necessarily false. But Judaism was ignorant of these doctrines. Therefore Judaism, so far from being upheld by a providence, was even, on the Principles of the Author of the Divine Legation, a Religion false and barbarous, which attacked Providence itself. The Argument we see is in form : And, if you will believe the Philosopher, inforced upon my Principles. But, to bring his syllogism to bear against me, he must go upon this Postulatum, that the Law was not administered by an extraordinary Providence : And then, I dare appeal to his own venerable Bench of PhilosoPHERS (if Logic hold any place in their school) whether the upshot of all his syllogizing be not taking for granted the thing in dispute. And if this were all, As these men have accustomed us to this beggarly way of reasoning, we might pass it over in silence and contempt : But there is something more than ordinary perverse in the conduct of this syllogism. For, not content to beg the question, our Philosopher falsifies my Principles.-On the PRINCIPLES (says he) of the Author of the Divine Legation, Judaism was a false Religion.
Now the Principles which, as a Christian, I believe, are these, “ That Moses promised an extraordinary providence, and that he omitted a future state.”
The Principles, which, as a Logician, I have proved, are these, “ That the promise was fulfilled, and therefore that the Omission was attended with no hurtful consequences either to Religion or Society.”
The Principles believed, I had collected from my Bible : the Principles proved, I had deduced from what I understood to be the conclusions of right reason.
How then (I would fain learn) can it fairly be inferred, from these Principles, that the Religion of Moses is FALSE ?
In the mean time, let me acquaint the Philosophers, in what manner I infer from these Principles, that the Religion of Moses is TRUE. That Moses promised an extraordinary Providence, is held by all Belier
and that he omitted a future state, is seen by all Unbelievers. Neither of them are mistaken. These are my Principles of belief.--My purpose was to convince Unbelievers, on their own grounds, that the promise was PERFORMED, and this I do by the MEDIUM of the Omission. How strongly let the Book itself declare. These are my Principles of proof.
It was amongst my more general Principles, That whatever Religion, under a common Providence, omits to teach a future state, is certainly false. And it seems to be amongst our Philosopher's logical conclusions, that, therefore, on this Principle of mine, whatever Religion under an extraordinary Providence omits to teach a future state is false likewise.
But the Philosopher's syllogism seems to have been made up out of an Objection ill understood, which certain Divines brought against my argu
ment; (for, of objections, against an offensive truth, there is neither end nor measure.) These Doctors of the Church objected, “That I should first of all have proved from Scripture that the promised Providence was actually bestowed, before I used the service of my MEDIUM.” Let me ask them for what end? Should it be to convince Unbelievers? But that it could not do; for they reject the extraordinary or supernatural part of Scripture-History. Did they mean, that it should have been done for their own satisfaction? But what need of that? Believers profess to hold that all which Moses promised was performed. What was it then that brought forth this Objection? A mere blunder in their reasoning ; in the course of which, they had confounded two very different things, with one another- The promise of an extraordinary providence, with the actual administration of it. They saw, that it was necessary previously to prove that Scripture speaks of the Administration of an extraordinary Providence, otherwise the medium, which I employ, would be vague in its aim, and uncertain in its direction. But they did not see, that this was done by simply producing the promises of Moses on this point : And that as Unbelievers professed to allow thus much (and with Unbelievers only, I had to do) my point was to prove to them, on their own principles, the actual performance of those promises, by the medium of the Omission. It is true, indeed, had no extraordinary providence been promised, it had then been incumbent on me previously to have shewn, that Scripture represented the Israelites as living under such a providence, in order to give my medium that certain direction, which leads to my Conclusion. But as it was promised, the Unbeliever's confession of that promise was all I wanted.
Yet both Believers and Unbelievers have thought it of such consequence that the Argument of The Divine Legation should be discredited, that they have not scrupled to reverse all the Laws of Logic in this important service. Hence the Conclusion is turned into the premisses for the use of our Doctors ; and the premisses, into the Conclusion for the use of our Philosophers.
The ingenious Frenchman's second Argument against The Divine Legation is in these words—“Either Moses was acquainted with this doctrine [a future state), and, in this case, he deceived the Jews in not communicating it to them ; Or he was ignorant of it, and, in this case, he did not know enough for the Founder of a Good Religion.”
As to the first charge of his deceiving the Jews, I have answered it long ago, in my animadversions on Lord BOLINGBROKE, from whom the argument is taken.
As to the second, that Moses's ignorance made him incapable of founding a good Religion,-it receives all its strength from an equivocation in the term, good ; and a misrepresentation of the nature of the Mosaic History.
Good may signify either relative or absolute; good for some, or good for all. Our Philosopher confounds these two meanings. A good Religion designed for all men cannot be without a future state : But a Religion given to a single Tribe, singularly circumstanced, may be good, without a future state.