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done no better on so good a ground; may enable me to shew how well a scheme of this nature might be executed by another: As the many unhappy examples we have amongst us, of real attempts against Religion, will enable the reader to judge how near I keep to probability. And thus qualified, I take the liberty to set our Underminer to work.
In the first place, I will suppose it not unlikely, that, in order to conceal his purpose, as well as to carry on his attacks more regularly, he should begin with an outwork of Religion, on pretence of some defect in its construction, that might prejudice the defence of the fort itself. For instance, let us suppose it to be that illustrious testimony of Paganism, recorded by Phlegon, for the unnatural darkness at the Crucifixion* Where some mathematical unbeliever might very fitly serve him in the post of engineer. When he had tried what could be made of this, he might then come closer to his work.
And, as MIRACLES and PROPHECIES are the two great credentials of the Divine Legation of Jesus, he might now proceed directly to the sap.
And first, of the Miracles. "The distempers cured by Jesus were of two sorts; natural, and supernatural. When the latter are removed, the other (as the Freethinkers tell us) are easily dealt with. The force of imagination, in the patient, might be supposed to go a great way; and natural virtue, in the agent, a great way farther. Thus, long since (say they) distempers fled at Vespasian's touch; and very lately at Abbé Paris's tomb : but, in the still more famous case of Greatrakes the Irish Stroker, both causes seemed to concur to produce the most extraordinary effects. But neither natural virtue, I wist, nor force of imagination, could fright the Devil. Here now is a difficulty worthy of hiin,
“ Nunc animis opus, Ænea! nunc pectore firmo. What has he then to do, but, under pretence of freeing the Gospel-history from superstition, to write the Scripture Doctrine of Demoniacst; that is, to persuade us
• See a Dissertation on the Eclipse mentioned by Phlegon-By A. A. Sykes, D.D. 1732.
+ See An Enquiry into the Meaning of the Demoniacs in the New Testament, 1737. B 3
that there never was any? For you must know, the Scripture Doctrine of a thing, is the phrase in fashion, to prove-nothing And in this service he would have the hardy and valiant Hobbes for his precursor in the Kingdom of Darkness * ; or his captain of light-horse à butre l'estrade.
We have now only one stroke more to perfect our mine; and that stroke is at Prophecies. Now Theology has divided the prophecies, that relate to Jesus, into two sorts; such as foretel his mission in a primary and literal sense, and such as foretel it only in a secondary and figurative: but the Freethinkers assure us there was no need of this division; for that all the prophecies, which relate to Jesus, relate to him only in a secondary and figurative sense. At this open, then, comes in our Underminer; and shewst, that all pretence of prophecies to a double meaning is senseless and fanatical. And here he approaches under the cover of the great Collins; who had so deeply intrenched himself before the place, that he could not of a long time be forced; and our Underminer may be excused if he too hastily concluded, that therefore he never would.
I might now turn to the learned Doctor, as little concerned as he is in all this; and ask him whether this would not be doing like a workman. I own him indeed a very incompetent judge in such matters.
His singleness of heart, his simplicity of manners, his zeal for religion, his total estrangement from Freethinkers and their arts, make him very unfit to be appealed to on this occasion. Yet methinks there is something so striking in the sketch here chalked out, that the most unexperienced man must feel both its natural and moral fitness for its end. Here we sce a cautious, indeed, but a regular, a steady, and determined purpose. The approaches are made in form; the trenches opened; the battery played ; the breach stormed; and at last the old hollow fortress
* The title given by Hobbes to the Fourth Part of his Leviathan.
+ See the Principles and Connection of Natural and Revealed Religion distinctly considered. By A. A. Sykes, D.D. 1740. p. 221, See Divine Legation, Book VI. 96.
of Religion blown up into air. If ever this should happen, my main concern would be for old Mr. P. For what must be that good man's sorrows to see the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place; while he could start thus at his own shadow ? For it must be his own and not mine if he saw infidelity so near a book, whose purpose was to shew the use of ReJigion in general, to human Society; and the superior fitness of Revealed Religion in particular: the truth of the Jewish, from the administration of an equal providence; and the truth of the Christian, from the completion of Jewish prophecies concerning it.
But now I talk of prophecies, let me ask the learned Doctor; but, gently in his ear, how it comes to pass, that when it was the subject of prophecies only which occasioned all this hostility, he should leave my confutation of his Discourse on Double Senses unanswered ; and turn his pen to the four subjects above-mentioned ? Did this forbearance suit a hand so accustomed to slaughter? or did this reserve indicate a mind so open to conviction ? But perhaps in this he would emulate the great Scipio,; who, when he had lost his own, had the courage to carry the war into his enemy's country. I must pursue him therefore with the same disadvantage that the Cárthaginian left the rich Campania of Italy, to follow his adversary through the barren sands of Afric. For the true explanation of the nature of the double sense of prophecies (of which I had shewn he had given a notion destructive of the connexion between the Old and New Testament, through his ignorance of the very terms of the question) is of the highest importance to religion : whereas the subjects, for the sake of which he hath forsaken this, are of infinitely less importance. And these too he has handled in so unusual a manner, that all we can collect from the first of them, on the conduct of the ancient legislators, is, that, in his opinion, Moses was but of the same species with the Pagan lawgivers* :
as * That I do Dr. Sykes no wrong, when I say he regards Moses as of the same species, and puts him upon the very same footing with the Heathen legislators, appears from his own words: “ This " doctrine (of a future state] was universally believed. Now ^ Moses, as a legislator, was to lay down laws to the Jews, and he
as to the double doctrine of the old philosophers, he has fairly shewn that he knew no more of it than of the double sense of prophecies : and with regard to Sir I. Newton's Chronology, he mistakes the very question ; imagining that I disputed the truth of his Greek, instead of his Egyptian Chronology. So that indeed there was nothing left that I could, in conscience, seize upon,
but his Discourse of the THEOCRACY of the Jews. And this, I suppose, was the thing, which, in his answer to my message, he alluded to, when he said, “ that he " thought one or two of the parts were more immediately to the purpose to clear up.
" I have another reason, too, to believe that he may esteem this the forte of his new excursions. An extras ordinary providence to particulars, though expressly promised by, and, as I have shewn, a necessary consequence of, the Law of Moses; yet, partly from the nature of the thing, and partly from nistaken passages of misunderstood books of Scripture, is not entirely free from objections. Here then he thought he could do something; though it were but retailing the objections of others. And truly, as ill as he has managed these advantages, he was not mistaken in his choice. For the rest—it is all over such argument! and such criticism ! as one might well conceive should be reserved to close the scene of letters in an age like this ; when every science
was to incorporate their national religion into their civil law. " This was done, not by inculcating what was universally received and “ believed by them; but by inculcating such points as were to make the “ national religion of the Jews. And in this he did EXACTLY what ► other legislators did: what was USEFUL TO THE STATE, he ad“ mitted into the body of his laws; and so far as it was useful “ to the state, BUT FURTHER THAN THAT NEITHER HE NOR " ZALEUCUS CONCERNED THEMSELVES," p. 59, 60. Jn which sbort period are contained these four propositions
-Thut it is not the practice of legislators to inculcate what is universally believed-That a future state docs not make one point of national religion[And for a good reason, Because] –That a future state is not usefui tu society-That, further than the good of the state, Moses con. cerned himself no more than Zaleucus, or any other Heathen legislator, How much now has this author to thank me for; when, instead of exposing the other three parts of his book, which abound with these beauties in every page, I confined myself to this, where the natural obscurity of the subject hides both his blunders and his blushes ?
was retiring from its professors, to DICTIONARYMAKERS and BOOKSELLERS,
REMARK I.—He begins his examination of the nature of the Jewish theocracy in this manner : “ This form of government of the Jews, being properly “ called a theocracy, there are two points which Mr. so Warburton has largely considered. The first is, in " relation to the origin, continuation, and duration of this " theocracy. The other is in relation to the exercise of
an extraordinary Providence over particular persons,
as well as over the state in general. In relation to " the former of these points he tells us, That most “ Writers suppose it to have ended with the " Judges, but scarce any bring it lower than the " Captivity: on the contrary, I hold that in strict “ truth and propriety it ended not till the coming of " Christ* Here it is that he attacks Dr. Spencer's “ Dissertation on the Jewish theocracy, a treatise by fr no means in the number of those on which Spencer “ raised his reputation : he goes on a wrong “ hypothesis ; he uses weak arguments; and he " is confused and inconsistent in his assertionst. “ Are we not now, from henče, to imagine, that Dr. “ Spencer was one of those writers that supposed the
theocracy to have ended with the Judges, or, at “ furthest, with the Captivity? And yet Mr. Warburton "" is forced to own that Spencer “ supposes” [I say he positively asserts] " that some 'obscure footsteps of w it remained to the time of Christ. Yes, and longer
too, for his words are, ad extrema usque politiæ suæ tempora, i.e. quite to the latter times of their policy; even to the last times of expiring Judaismi. I had observed, that most Writers suppose the theocracy to have ended with the Judges; scarce any bring it lower than the Captivity; I myself suppose et continued to the time of Christ: that Dr. Spencer wrote a weak and inconsistent treatise on this subject. Well, and what says our answerer to this ?
6 Are we
* Div. Leg. Book V. § 3. init.
+ Ibid. An Examination of Mr. Warburton's Account, &c. 168-170.