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It now therefore became necessary that God should interpose, partly to preserve from utter extinction the knowledge of his absolute unity, and partly to rescue from complete depravation the ancient patriarchal doctrines of redemption from the penalty due to sin and of a future state of rewards and punishments.
For this purpose he called Abraham from among the idolaters of Chaldèa.
Now it is obvious, that, by the very act of calling him away from the worship of other gods, he practically taught him, that the one Jehovah was a jealous God, who would by no means share the incommunicable honours of divinity with the superstitiously worshipped heroes and deästri of the erring Gentiles'. But the Lord did much more than merely inculcate the doctrine of the divine unity: he further instructed him, after a more full and precise manner than he had ever before instructed any one of his predecessors, in the great mystery of man's redemption through the death and revival of the only begotten Son of the Father: and, with this instruction, he again declared to him, as he had already declared to his ancestors, both before and after the deluge, the vital and inseparably connected doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments.
My present object is to shew, that the knowledge of a future retributory state, possessed by
'Josh, xxiv. 2, 3.
Abraham and his family, involves, by a moral necessity, the same knowledge on the part of the Israelites at the time of their departure from Egypt.
I. That God strongly inculcated upon Abraham the doctrine of the divine unity and the mingled unlawfulness and folly of idolatrous polytheism, requires no formal proof: we have only therefore, in order that we may firmly establish the basis of our argument, to demonstrate the two remaining particulars.
1. Of these, the doctrine of redemption was fully revealed to the devout patriarch, through the medium of that extraordinary drama, the interrupted sacrifice of Isaac.
Then it was, as our Lord speaks, that Abraham saw the day of Christ. But he certainly saw it, not mechanically and unintelligibly alone: on the contrary, he saw it, so as clearly to understand the nature of that awful transaction by which it should be characterised. For, had he not understood the nature of what he saw, he must have been ignorant of the benefits about to be procured by the reality of that which he beheld only in shadowy representation: and, if he were ignorant of those benefits, he could not possibly or rationally have been agitated by that intense joy and vehement exultation, which however we are assured that he did actually experience.
Accordingly we are taught, that, having received the promises (namely those identical pro
mises of a future Redeemer, which, in common with the other ancient patriarchs, he had seen afar off and was persuaded of them and embraced them), he offered up his only-begotten son; accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a parable; that is to say, in a dramatic hieroglyphical representation'.
This subject however has been so admirably treated by Bishop Warburton himself, that it were superfluous to say any thing more respecting it': I need therefore only to remark, that not merely Abraham alone, through the medium of a sacred drama, was made fully acquainted with every leading particular in the doctrine of redemption; but likewise (as the bishop himself explicitly allows) that the several members of his family were, by his instruction, equally made acquainted with the true import of the command, and thence at the same time (as his lordship also allows) by a necessary consequence were not ignorant of a future state'.
2. Their knowledge of a future state, as Bishop Warburton truly remarks, would follow of course from their knowledge of the doctrine of redemption, even if nothing more had been said on the subject.
But St. Paul does not leave this important
1 Heb. xi, 17, 19.
2 See Div. Leg. book vi. sect. 5.
Div. Leg. book vi. sect. 5. note R. p. 196.
matter to be gathered only in the way of inference and deduction; on the contrary, he explicitly declares, that Abraham was among the number of those who died in faith, who beheld afar off the promises of a future Deliverer, and who thus testified that they desired a better country that is an heavenly'.
The connected doctrines then of redemption and of a future state flourished with full vigour among the several members of the numerous family of Abraham.
II. Let us now observe, what must be the inevitable consequence of this train of reasoning, conducted step by step over the sure ground of express revelation.
Bishop Warburton, as we have just seen, fally concedes, that the inseparably connected doetrines of redemption and a future state were known both to Abraham and to the whole family of Abraham. But, while his lordship makes such a concession, and, in making it, while he elucidates with admirable sagacity the narrative of Isaac's interrupted sacrifice; he wishes to draw a marked distinction, in point of sacred knowledge, between the contemporaneous family of Abraham himself, and the Israelitish posterity of Abraham in the time of Moses. The former, he acknowledges, were well acquainted with the doctrines in question: the latter, he con
Heb. xi. 8-19.
tends, were wholly ignorant of them. In order to make out this point, he once more ridicules Tradition as a mere Popish expedient, which can lead us into nothing but absurdity: for what can be more palpably and manifestly absurd than the conclusion, that, what Abraham's HOUSEHOLD once knew, the POSTERITY of Abraham could never forget1?
Such is the summary mode, in which the learned prelate disposes of a difficulty that many would perhaps deem no trifling impediment to the reception of his system: but let us not condemn the proposed solution as unsatisfactory, without first giving it a fair examination.
From the family of Abraham, the two doctrines, on the express authority of St. Paul, may be traced down to the family of Jacob 2: whence it will follow, that, if they were completely lost among the Israelites in the time of Moses, they must have been lost during the period which intervened between the death of Jacob and the exodus of the Israelites; for, when Jacob died, all the members of his family were alive, and all those members were themselves well acquainted with the doctrines in question. But Jacob died 198 years before the exodus. Therefore the doctrines, if lost at all, must have been lost during the course of these 198 years.
'Div. Leg. book vi. sect. 5. note R. p. 197.