« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
on another footing. After their perfect settlement, on their return from Captivity (when we know, from the ~ course and progress of God's Economy, that the extraordinary Providence was to cease), we hear no more of their pretences to it, though they now adHered more strictly than ever to the Religion of their forefathers. They made no claim, as we see by the excellent Writer of the first Book of Maccabees, either to Prophets, Oracles, or extraordinary Dispensations. When they write unto the Lacedemonians, ~for the renewal of their Alliance, they tell them, at Tthe same time, that they need it not, FOR THAT THEY HAVE THE HOLY BOOKS OF SCRIPTURE IN THEIR HANDS TO COMFORT THEM*. Language very different from their forefathers', when God was wont to send immediate help from the Sanctuary. How ingenuously does the same Historian relate the misfortune of Bethsura, caused by the observance of the Sabbatic Year†?A misfortune of which we have no instance before the Captivity; and therefore a plain evidence that the extraordinary Providence was indeed withdrawn. Besides, if we consider the nature of the *Religion, the genius of the People, and the circumnstances of the Time, we shall find, they all concurred to favour the continuance of a pretension to an extraordinary Providence, had it been only a pretension.
1. The Mosaic Religion, like the Pagan, had a public part, and therefore the Jews might, with the greatest ease, have still carried on the Superstition of Oracles, had their Oracles been indeed a superstition; especially as they were now become so closely attached to their Religion. For when did ever Greece or Italy confess that their Oracles were become dumb, till the Consulters had generally forsaken them, and the +1 Macc. vi. 49.
* Chap. xii. ver. 9.
whole frame of their Religion was falling to pieces? Besides, the practice of this superstition had been as easy as it was commodious; for the Oracular Voice was wont to come from the Mercy-Seat behind the Veil.
2. The genius of the People too would have contributed to the continuance of this claim. For, some how or other, it was become their character to require a Sign*; and though, now, really superstitious, yet the humour spent itself rather in telling lies of former times t, than in inventing any of their own. This, on a supposition of the human invention of their Law, is altogether unaccountable. But take the matter as we find it in their sacred Books, and nothing is more easy. For if they had indeed been long accustomed to a miraculous Dispensation, they would, ever after be strongly disposed to require a Sign; but it would be only such a Sign as bore the evident marks of a Divinity; which not being to be had in huiñan inventions, they would be kept safe from delusions, and made sensible of the difference of times: And such was, in fact, their case.
3. Add to all this, that the time of the Maccabees was the season of Enthusiasin, when that airy Spirit is at its height; after the national Genius, long sunk by oppression, begins to rise and recover itself to a vindication of public Liberty. And of this we have a signal instance in the person of Judas Maccabæus himself; who, in imitation of Gideon, would set upon an army of twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse, with only eight hundred straggling desperadoes; which rash and fanatic attempt was followed with the ́fortune that might, at this time, have been expected. ↑ See note [T] at the end of this Book.
1 Cor. i. 22.
-In such a season too, artful Leaders are most disposed to support themselves by inspirations; have most need of them; and are thought, by the People, most worthy to receive them.
There is the same difference between the Writers of the New Testament and of the Old, as between the Writers of the several ages of the Old. The Apostles (who worked Miracles as well as Moses and the Prophets) represent the followers of CHRIST as under the same common Providence with the rest of mankind : Unlike in this, to the first propagators of the LAW, who always declared the Israelites to be under an extraordinary Providence.
From all this I conclude, that as amidst the concurrence of so many favourable circumstances, no such claim was made; but that, contrary to the universal practice of all false Religions, the Jews saw and owned a great change in the Divine Economy, that therefore their former pretensions to the peculiar protection of Heaven were TRUE.
But it hath been objected, that the early sacred Writers themselves frequently speak of the inequality of Providence to Particulars*: and in such a manner as Men living under a common Providence are accustomed to speak. It is very true that these Writers do now and then give intimations of this inequality. And therefore, though we shall hereafter prove an extraordinary Providence to have been actually administered, in which, not only this objection
Asaph de Dei providentia dubitavit, & fere a vera via deflexisset-Salomon etiam, cujus tempore res Judæorum in summo vigore erant, suspicatur omnia casu contingere-Denique omnibus fere prophetis hoc ipsum valde obscurum fuit, nempe quomodo ordo naturæ & hominum eventus cum conceptu quem de providentia Dei formaverant, possent convenire.-Spinoza Theologico-Pol. pp. 73, 74.
will be seen to drop of itself, but the particular pas→ sages, on which it is founded, will be distinctly considered; yet, for the Reader's satisfaction, it may not be amiss to shew here, that these representations of inequality are very consistent with that before given of the extraordinary Providence. We say, therefore, I. That when the Sacred Writers speak of the inequalities of Providence, and the unfit distribution of things, they often mean that state of it amongst their Pagan neighbours, and not in Judea: As partieularly in the Book of Psalms and Ecclesiastes*.
II. We sometimes find men complaining of inequa lities in events, which were indeed the effects of a most equal Providence. Such as the punishment of Posterity for the crimes of their Forefathers; and of Subjects for their Kings. Of the first, the Prophet Ezekiel gives us an instance in the People's case: What mean ye, that you use this Proverb concerning the Land of Israel, saying, The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the Childrens teeth are set on edge†?
Of the second, David gives it in his own; not duly attending to the justice of this proceeding, where he says, But these Sheep, what have they done? And that he was sometimes too hasty in judging of these matters appears from his own confession: Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world, they increase in riches. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me: until I went into the Sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.So foolish was I, and ignorant : I was as a beast before thee That is, L understood not the course of thy justice, till I had + Chap. xviii. ver. 2. § Psalm lxxiii, 12–39.
* See Appendix. ↑ 2 Sam, xxiv. 17. VOL. V.
considered the way in which an equal Providence must necessarily be administered under a Theocracy, and the consequences of such an Administration. For,
III. Even admitting the reality of an equal Providence to Particulars in the Hebrew State, the administration of it must needs be attended with such circumstances as sometimes to occasion those observations of inequality. For 1. it appears from the reason of the thing, that this administration did not begin to be exerted in particular cases till the civil Laws of the Republic had failed of their efficacy. Thus where any crime, as for instance disobedience to Parents, was public, it became the object of the civil Tribunal, and is accordingly ordered to be punished by the Judge *. But when private and secret, then it became the object of Divine vengeance †. Now the consequence of this was, that when the Laws were remissly or corruptly administered, good and ill would sometimes happen unequally to men. For we are not to suppose that Providence, in this case, generally, interfered till the corrupt administration itself, when ripe for vengeance, had been first punished. 2. In this extraordinary administration, one part of the wicked was sometimes suffered as a scourge to the other. 3. The extraordinary Providence to the State might sometimes clash with that to Particulars, as in the plague for numbering the people. 4. Sometimes the extraordinary Providence was suspended for a season, to bring on a national repentance: But at the same time this suspension was publicly denounced ‡, And a very severe punishment it was, as leaving a State which had not the sanction of a future state of rewards and punishments in a very disconsolate condi* Exod. xxi. 15, & 17; + Deut. xxvii. 16. & Prov. xxx. 17. Isaiah iii. 5. Chap. lix. ver. 2. Chap. Ixiv. ver. 7.