Billeder på siden

ferred on the son solely for the merit of his father. We know also, that for this, the equity of national communities is never called in question, nor indeed ought to be, since the thing is not unlawful in itself, and may be turned to good account in the society; but more especially since God, in a natural way, does the same. God hath by nature impressed on the heart of a father an ardent love of his son. This puts him on a proportionable endeavour to acquire a fortune for that son; which fortune, so acquired, the son enjoys on a right as indisputable as that of the father who made it, although the son did not labour for it; although perhaps he does not, in any respect, deserve it. What God does thus naturally, he likewise does providentially. The covenant or promise made to David, that his children's children should sit on his throne for evermore,' was only on condition that they should keep this covenant on their part, Psal. cxxxii. 11; yet, wicked as Abijam was, “the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord,' 1 Kings xv. 4,5. How often do we see, both in sacred and profane history, a whole people blessed for the goodness of their ruler! a people who are wicked, and ripe for that punishment which awaits them at the end of his reign! This sort of imputation, however, is easily admitted, because men are seldom ready to dispute their own title to a benefit.

But the imputation of sin, or what, on the present state of the question, is the same thing, the sharing in the miserable effects of other men's sins, is a doctrine more likely to be questioned. Yet that high treason is a sin, or that forfeiture of estates and titles is a punishment, can hardly be doubted. Now we know there are few countries in the world where this transgression of the father is not deemed justly punished by that forfeiture, as to all his posterity. The whoredom of the father is not only punished by certain disorders inflicted on himself, but visited in a sickly habit of body on his children. The equity of nations, and the natural course of things, which is fixed by the hand of their Creator, hath, we see, made one to suffer for the crimes of another. Wicked princes bring innumerable evils, often total destruction or captivity, on their subjects, in which the children are involved with those of riper years, and the innocent with the guilty. How

often does this happen under ambitious kings, who, having unjustly made war with their neighbours, are worsted, and, in their turns, invaded, to the ruin and desolation of their subjects, as well innocent as guilty! “The people,' says Horace, ‘are punished for the madness of their kings.' 'A whole city,' says Hesiod, often suffers on account of one bad man. This now, whenever it happens, is the necessary consequence of living in society. Yet such is the nature God hath given us, that we cannot live out of society. Wherefore to object this as unjust, is Atheism, or blasphemy. “I will visit,' saith God in the second commandment, the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation.' If men may not in any case justly suffer for the sins of others, why did the hardness of Pharaoh's heart bring so many plagues and deaths on his subjects? Why were the wives and children of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, swallowed up in the earth with those contumacious transgressors? Why were the Israelites, by the appointment of God, worsted in their first attempt on Ai, for the sin of Achan, who had secreted a share of the spoil taken at Jericho? And why was this sin of one imputed or charged, as well as punished, on the people in general, as appears by God's own words on this occasion ? Israel have sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded; for they have taken the accursed thing, and have stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.' Why was Saul ordered, by the express commandment of God, to extirpate the Amalekites for that which their ancestors had done four hundred years before ? Why were the seven sons of Saul hanged in Gibeah, after the death of their father, for his having slain the Gibeonites, and that in order to avert a famine wherewith God had afflicted the Israelites for this crime of their first king? Why is untimely death, and total destruction, prophesied to the family of Jeroboam, for the idolatry of this prince, who himself reigned two and twenty years, and died in his bed? Why is the like foretold to Ahab's posterity, on account of his sins ? Why does Zion say, Lam. v. 7, Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.' And, to make an end of instances, why does our Saviour tell the Jews, Matt. xxiii. 35, “That upon them shall come all the blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar ?' It is true, the Jews, who were thus threatened, deserved the predicted judgments of God for their own sins. But did they not suffer for the cruelty of their ancestors to the prophets, as well as for that which they themselves shewed to Christ and his apostles ? Did they not desire, that the blood of Christ should fall on them, and their children? And did it not fall in the horrible destruction of their city and nation, so as that all the world may see, to this day, they bear the iniquity of their fathers,' as well as their own? It had been foretold indeed, that, under the Christian dispensation, no man should suffer for the sins of another, that is, should judiciously suffer; but the Jews, having rejected that dispensation, could not expect the benefit of this prophetic promise ; neither can such pretended Christians, as act against all the laws of Christian charity and equity, and thereby forfeit all the privileges of the covenant they nominally lay claim to.

Thus we see, both in scriptural history, and in the natural course of things, how the entail of guilt and punishment descends on the subjects or posterity of the wicked; to all worldly intents and purposes, just in the same manner as it would do, did the subjects actually sin in their king, and the children in their fathers. These things may seem unaccountable to some; but they cannot appear strange to any who consider, that every age and nation of the world can give instances of the like nature in the ordinary course of things; and therefore we must conclude, that these phenomena of the moral world are as just and fit, though we should be unable to account for them, as those of the physical, whereof human sagacity cannot assign the reasons. Should I trace this matter any farther, it would lead me from my design into a debate with Atheists, whereas my argument is with men who say they are Christians.

The objection being thus answered in general, it is now time to consider it more particularly, as levelled directly against the satisfaction made for sin by the death of Christ. Such is the justice of God, say the objectors, that he could

as in

never have accepted the sufferings of one being as an expiation for the sin of another; and therefore could not have punished his innocent Son for the sins of men.

The antecedent of this argument, when offered by a Deist, must be answered on the footing of natural reason only. But when it is used by such as agree to be concluded by revelation, it ought to be examined by Scripture alone. In the mouths of these men, it manifestly subverts itself; because it strikes directly at the truth of Scripture, which, they say, can neither lie nor err; and flatly contradicts this assertion of the Holy Ghost, 1 Pet. ii. 18, 'Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust (that he might bring us to God), being put to death in the flesh.' It charges all the ancient world, the Hebrews not excepted, with something worse than superstition; nay, and denies that God could have ever instituted the death of a beast, any sense propitiatory for the sins of man. If they insist, that these sacrifices were, in themselves, of no value, we shall readily grant they drew their value from somewhat else than the death of a beast, which, simply considered, hath no relation to sin, or the forgiveness of sin. But then it lies as much on the objectors as on us, either to assign or suppose a sufficient end and reason for the divine appointment of rites so operose and expensive as the sacrificial. It can be no more their business than it is ours, till they are ready to avow a yet greater contempt for revelation, to urge a rule against the institution, which if admitted, would prove it absurd and superstitious. To say, the repentance of the offerer

gave these sacrifices their value, is saying nothing; for, whatsoever the intrinsic value of repentance is supposed to be, it cannot be increased by a mere external rite of no value. What the rite in that case borrows from repentance, it can by no means repay, at least with any interest, or increase of value, unless it is of some worth in itself; and therefore why superadded? Neither is that plea of any weight, which urges, that this species of worship derived its worth simply from the appointment of God. Would God appoint a rite, which, neither before nor after institution, could answer any good end? No; infinite wisdom never institutes any thing purely for the sake of institution. But he instituted this, say our adversaries, to punish the transgressions, and exercise the obedience, of his people; and, at the same time, to remind them of death, the wages of sin. And were God's people to consider their offerings, that is, their devotions, which ought to flow from piety and love, as a punishment? Were they to look on themselves as doing penance in the loss of their cattle? or to give that for lost, which they presented to God? Again ; if these acts of devotion were intended mainly for an exercise of obedience, why was the slaughter of the most harmless animals chosen for this purpose? Why not some other performance, more moral in its tendency, or more demonstrative of submission ? In one sense, indeed, the bloody sacrifices must have reminded the assistants of death, as the wages of sin; but, so far as they were encouraged to believe them piacular, they rather gave hopes of exemption from that punishment, than inculcated it as a terror to sin. But, whether it was at all understood, that God instituted any kind of sacrifices for these or the like ends, about which the Scriptures are silent; it is certain, that some of them were set forth, if the strongest tèrms could do it, as in some sense or measure propitiatory, and that they were so considered by the offerer. But how propitiatory? If one man cannot bear, in any sense, the sins of another, much less surely can a beast. The true end and value of these sacrifices we shall see hereafter. As to that of Christ, let us think what we will of it, we cannot have the confidence to say it was absurd or unjust, till we have first said, and proved, that all sacrifices were such; and, consequently, denied that God ever instituted any. He who makes the Bible his creed, and yet does this, at once owns and denies it to be the word of God.

Nothing can serve so well, as the argument couched in this very objection, either to refute those that bring it, or to establish the doctrine of the satisfaction. The objectors join with us in acknowledging, nay, in strongly asserting, the perfect and sinless innocence of Christ, throughout the whole of his life and conversation. Their very objection is no objection without it. And, that we may see what will be the issue, we join with them in asserting, that the infinitely just God could not have punished his innocent Son for the sins of men. How then are the unexampled sufferings of Christ to be reconciled to this maxim ? Is not death the

« ForrigeFortsæt »