« PreviousContinue »
any party or profession but that of a system-maker. The Bible contains a very circumstantial account of this people, from the time of Moses to the great captivity: not only the history of public occurrences ; but the lives of private persons of both sexes, and of all ages, conditions, characters, and complexions, in the adventures of virgins, matrons, kings, soldiers, scholars, parents, merchants, husbandmen. They are given too in every circumstance of life: captive, victorious, in sickness, and in health; in full security, and amidst impending dangers ; plunged in civil business, or retired and sequestered in the service of religion. Together with their story, we have their compositions likewise. In one place, we hear their triumphal; in another, their penitential strains. Here, we have their exultations for blessings received; there, their deprecations of evil apprehended. Here, they urge their moral precepts to their contemporaries : there again, they treasure up their prophecies and predictions for the use of posterity ; and on each denounce the threatenings and promises of Heaven. Yet, in none of these different circumstances of life, in none of these various casts of composition, do we ever find them acting on the motives, or influenced by the prospect, of A FUTURE STATE; or indeed expressing the least hopes or fears, or even common curiosity, concerning it : but every thing, they say or do, respects the present life only; the good and ill of which are the sole objects of their pursuits and aversions.
The strength of this argument is still further sup. ported by a view of the general history of mankind, and particularly of those nations most resembling the Jewish in their genius and circumstances: in which we find the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments was always pushing on its influence. It was their constant viaticum through life: it stimulated them to war, and spirited their songs of triumph: it made them insensible of pain, immoveable in danger, and superior to the approach of death.
It is still further urged, that this conclusion does not rest merely on THE NEGATIVE SILENCE of the Bible-history: it is supported on THE POSITIVE DECLARATIONS contained in it; by which the sacred writers plainly discover, that there was no popular expectation of a future state or resurrection.
From the Old Testament we come to the New: by the writers of which it appears, that the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments DID NOT MAKE PART of the Mosaic Dispensation. Their evidence is divided into two parts: the first proving, that TEMPORAL rewards and punishments were the sanction of the Jewish Dispensation ; the second, that it had no other'.
The arguments of Bishop Warburton, as he properly arranges them in the preceding summary, are partly NEGATIVE and partly PÓSITIVE. Let us proceed to consider them, according to the order chosen by himself.
Div. Leg. book vi. sect. 6. p. 133, 134. See also book v. sect. 6. p. 174–176, 182.
1. The NEGATIVE argument is built on the alleged TOTAL SILENCE of the ancient Israelites, under whatever circumstances, respecting a future state of rewards and punishments.
1. In discussing the cogency of this argument, let us begin with inquiring, whether, even if we concede the necessary fact of that TOTAL SILENCE for which the bishop so strenuously contends, the argument in question will satisfactorily prove the matter which it is adduced to prove.
(1.) We are told, that the ancient Israelites, on all occasions, are totally silent respecting a future state, THEREFORE (argues the bishop) it follows, as a necessary consequence, that they must have been ignorant of it.
If then this total silence be sufficient to demonstrate the ignorance of the ancient Israelites; it must likewise be sufficient to demonstrate the ignorance of all other persons recorded in the Old Testament, who are similarly silent: for it cannot demonstrate the one, without also demonstrating the other.
Now the bishop assures us, that the doctrine of a future retributory state is no where to be found in the Pentateuch, Moses having purposely foreborn to teach it. Hence, on his own statement of the matter, to omit Abel and Enoch and Noah respecting the minute occurrences of whose lives the sacred historian says very little, even Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, whose adventures are detailed with the most studied
particularity, are just as silent on the doctrine of a future state as the ancient Israelites themselves can be. These venerable patriarchs (to adopt the appropriate language of Bishop Warburton) are exhibited in every circumstance of life: captive or at least in servitude, victorious, in sickness, and in health ; in full security, and amidst impending dangers; plunged in civil business, or retired and sequestered in the service of religion. Together with their story, we have their compositions likewise. Here, we have their exultations for blessings received; there, their deprecations of evil apprehended. Here, they urge their moral precepts to their contemporaries: there again, they treasure up their prophecies and predictions for the use of posterity; and on each denounce the threatenings and promises of Heaven. Yet, in none of these different circumstances of life, in none of these various casts of composition, do we ever find them acting on the motives, or influenced by the prospect, of A FUTURE STATE; or indeed expressing the least hopes or fears, or even common curiosity, concerning it. THEREFORE (if there be any cogency in his lordship’s mode of reasoning), like their posterity the Israelites whose conduct in this respect perfectly resembled their own, they must have been wholly ignorant of such doctrine: for, so far as a negative argument can have any weight, their TOTAL IGNORANCE is irresistibly demonstrated by their TOTAL SILENCE. The proof (once more to take up the bishop's own words) is striking, and scarce to be resisted by any party or profession but that of the system-maker. What then are we to think of this invincible conclusion; which, if drawn from the recorded conduct of the ancient Israelites, must also be drawn from the no less minutely recorded conduct of the still more ancient patriarchs ? Were Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, indeed ignorant of a future state of rewards and punishments; a position, which the bishop's negative argument must inevitably prove, if it be allowed to prove the ignorance of the ancient Israelites? Truly the inspired apostle declares, that all these, dying in faith, having seen the promises afar off, and being fully persuaded of their certain though remote accomplishment, alike desired a better country, that is, AN HEAVENLY. Nor is the matter only declared by the apostle : the accuracy of his declaration is allowed by Bishop Warburton himself; and, notwithstanding the TOTAL SILENCE of the old patriarchs on the subject so far as their history is recorded by Moses, our learned prelate confesses, that the doctrine of a future state was occasionally revealed by God to his chosen servants the fathers and leaders of the Jewish nation'.