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MIAH, &c.*—“ There are several mistakes (says "TINDAL) crept into the Old Testament, where "there's scarce a chapter which gives any historical "account of matters, but there are some things in it "which could not be there originally. It must be owned, that the same spirit (I dare not call it a
spirit of cruelty) does not alike prevail throughout "the Old Testament; the nearer we come to the "times of the Gospel, the milder it appears: for though God declares in the Decalogue, that he is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and fourth Generation, and accordingly Achan, with all his family, was destroyed for his single crime; yet the Lord "afterwards says, The soul that sinneth it shall "die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the “ father †," &c‡.
I. Let us see then what these men have to say on the first point, the injustice of the Law. They set out on a false supposition, that this method of punishment was part of an universal Religion given by God as the Creator and Governor of mankind: whereas it is only part of a civil Institute, given by him to one People, as their tutelary God and civil Governor. Now we know it to be the practice of all States to punish the crime of Lese Majesty in this manner. And to render it just, no more is required than that it was in the compact (as it certainly was here) on men's free entrance into Society.
Sed ad Prophetas revertamur, quorum discrepantes
See note [FF] at the end of this Book.
When a guilty Posterity suffered for the crimes of their Parents, they were deprived of their natural unconditional rights; when an innocent, they only forfeited their conditional and civil: But as this method of punishment was administered with more lenity in the Jewish Republic, so it was with infinitely more rectitude, than in any other. For although God allowed capital punishment to be inflicted for the crime of lese majesty, on the Person of the offender, by the delegated administration of the Law; yet concerning his Family or Posterity he reserved the inquisition of the crime to himself, and expressly forbid the Magistrate to meddle with it, in the common course of justice. The Fathers shall not be put to death for the Children, neither shall the Children be put to death for the Fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin*. And we find the Magistrate careful not to intrench on this part of God's jurisdiction, We are told, that as soon as Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became firmly established in the throne, He slew his servants which had slain the King his Father. But the CHILDREN of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses [Deut. xxiv. 16.] wherein the Lord commanded saying, The Fathers shall not be put to death for the Children†, &c. Yet such hath been the perversity or stupidity of Freethinking, that this very text itself hath been charged with contradicting the xxth chapter of EXODUS, Now God's appropriating to himself the execution of the Law in question would abundantly justify the equity of it, even supposing it had been given by him as part of an universal religion. For why was the Magistrate forbidden to imitate God's method of punishing, but † 2 Kings xiv. 5, 6.
* Deut. xxiv. 16.
because no power less than omniscient could, in all cases, keep clear of injustice in such an inquisition?
But God not only reserved this method of punishment to himself, but has graciously condescended to inform us, by his Prophets, after what manner he was pleased to administer it. YOUR INIQUITIES (says he) AND THE INIQUITIES OF YOUR FATHERS TOGETHER, which have burnt incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom*. And again: "But ye say, Why? doth not the Son "bear the iniquity of the Father? When the Son hath "done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept "all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely "live. But when the Righteous turneth
from away "his righteousness and committeth iniquity-shall he "live †?"
So much for that case in which the Posterity were iniquitous, and suffered punishment, in the strict and proper sense of the word. But doubtless, an innocent Posterity were sometimes punished, according to the denunciation of this Law, for the crimes of their wicked Fathers; as is done by modern States, in attaint of blood and confiscation: and this, with the highest equity in both cases.
In our Gothic Constitutions, the throne being the fountain of honour and source of property, Lands and Titles descend from it, and were held as FIEFS of it, under perpetual obligation of military and civil services. Hence the LAWS OF FORFEITURE for high
* Isaiah lxv. 7:
† Ezek. xviii. 19 & 24. And see note [GG] at the end.
This appears from the rise of that proverb in Israel, The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the Children's teeth are set on
treason, the most violent breach of the condition on which those fiefs were granted. Nor was there any injustice in the forfeiture of what was acquired by no natural right, but by civil compact, how much soever the confiscation might affect an innocent posterity.
The same principles operated under a Theocracy. God supported the Israelites in Judea, by an extraordinary administration of his providence. The consequence of which were great temporal blessings: to which they had no natural claim; given them on condition of obedience. Nothing therefore could be more equitable than, on the violation of that condition, to withdraw those extraordinary blessings from the Children of a Father thus offending. How then can the Deist charge this Law with injustice? since a Posterity when innocent was affected only in their civil conditional rights; and, when deprived of those which were natural and unconditional, were always guilty.
From all this it appears, that the excellent GROTIUS himself had a very crude and imperfect notion of the whole matter, when he resolved the justice of it intirely into God's sovereign right over his creatures. "Deus quidem in lege Hebræis data paternam im
pietatem in posteros se vindicaturum minatur: sed. ipse Jus Dominii plenissimum habet, ut in res nos"tras, ita in vitam nostram, ut munus suum, quod "sine ulla causa & quovis tempore auferre cuivis, quando vult, potest †."
II. As to the second point, the charge of Contradiction in the Dispensation, we now see, that, on the contrary, these different declarations of God's manner
* See note [HH] at the end of this Book.
+ De Jure Bel. & Pac. vol. ii. p. 393. Ed. Barbeyrac, Amst. 1720.
of punishing in two so distant periods, are the MOST DIVINE INSTANCE of constancy and uniformity in the manifestations of eternal Justice: So far are they from any indication of a milder or severer Spirit, as Tindal with equal insolence and folly hath objected to Revelation. For while a future state was kept hid from the Jews, there was absolute need of such a Law to restrain the more daring Spirits, by working on their instincts; or, as Cicero expresses it-ut caritas liberorum amiciores Parentes Reipublicæ redderet. But when a doctrine was brought to light which held them up, and continued them after death, the objects of divine justice, it had then no farther use; and was therefore reasonably to be abolished with the rest of the judicial Laws, peculiar to the Mosaic Dispensation. But these men have taken it into their heads (and what comes slowly in, will go slowly out) that it was repealed for its injustice; though another reason be as plainly intimated by the Prophets, as the circum stances of those times would permit; and so plainly by JEREMIAH, that none but such heads could either not see or not acknowledge it. In his thirty-first chapter, foretelling the advent of the NEW Dispensation, he expressly says, this Law shall be revoked: IN THOSE DAYS they shall say no more, The Fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the Children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity. Yet, in the very next chapter, speaking of the OLD Dispensation, under which they then lived, he as expressly declares the Law to be still in force. When I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch, I prayed unto the Lord, saying,―Thou shewest loving-kindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their * See note [II] at the end of this Book.
+ Ver. 29, 30. children