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sirds peus de TO TOU 29SSİANETISH 1. THE command of God, and the assent of Abras ham, with respect to the offering up of Isaac, are things not very easy to be reconciled with our notions of wisdom and rectitude, if the differences and mistakes of learned men concerning any particular question are proofs of its obscurity. The whole affair, considered in itself, is indeed not very easy to be understood, and hath but an unpromising aspect. Yet it happens sometimes, that where the earth has a barren appearance at the surface, and is deformed with naked rocks, and frightful precipices, it is rich underneath with veins of precious ore. The traveller, who passes carelessly over the face of such a country, will perhaps see nothing but what is ungrateful to the sight: but the more patient miner, whose profession it is to search for hidden treasure, becomes acquainted with its value. However, as no person engaged in such a difficult employment can prosecute his work in subterraneous darkness, he takes a light dow
in his hand to direct him. And if we
any good effect upon the
examine every subject by the principles and data of that science to which it properly belongs. No reasonable man finds himself lessening in his own opinion, because he views natural objects by the
of the sun, which God hath appointed for that purpose. By parity of reason, he that would rightly distinguish superior things, must be content to examine them by a superior light. And the judgment he forms under such circumstances will be the judgment of reason. For what is reason, but that faculty in the mind, which determines the fitness or unfitness of any thing, by considering it in a rational manner, with its own peculiar dependences and relations?
II. Yet some have supposed (as we may infer from their proceedings) that the thing they call Reason requires just the contrary: that the subjects of the Bible ought to be severed from the Bible in which they are found, and held up to be examined by a light foreign to themselves in the human understanding. But this method must be very fallacious. For if the light of the mind leads to contrary determinations in different persons, as it is found to do on very many occasions, its existence as a natural light will at least become doubtful. When different persons view the same object by day-light, they all agree as to its figure, magnitude, distance, colour, and other external properties. And it would be wonderful if they were to disagree, when they all view it through the same common medium, and with a like organ of vision. But if we try the same persons at intellectual or spiritual objects, they will differ so widely as to demonstrate that the two cases are not parallel; that they do not view these objects by the same light, nor with the sante instrument. Some receive what others reject; some admire what others abhor; and some
believe what others deny. But this diversity could never happen, amongst people as yet in their senses, if the colours of good and evil were self-evident, as the colours of material objects: that is, if the optics of the mind were as naturally prepared to judge, as the eye is to see; and there were any light naturally present, and common to all understandings.
III. There will be great convenience in condescending to take this matter as it really is. We shall then be no longer distressed with endeavouring to support an imaginary dignity; which if we are not qualified to support, we shall only sink the lower into intellectual poverty by attempting it.
The human mind is a mirror, which, like other mirrors, has no light inherent in itself, but reflects images as they are illuminated by an exterior medium. It doth not make the images it reflects, but returns such as are already made, and is rather receptive than productive. Nature will undoubtedly occasion some diversity in the qualities of the metal; yet it borrows its figure and its polish from education. If its figure is false, or its polish imperfect, it will represent that as obscure, distorted, and monstrous, which in itself is bright, regular, and beautiful. And, on the other hand, it will give beauty and regularity to a disorderly confused object, whose lineaments are accommodated to the extravagances of its own surface. Hence it hath come to pass, that different minds have made so many contradictory reflections about the same thing. What the Christian understood as a grand example of the wisdom and
power of God, was to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. The Christian examined it by the principles of Revelation, and therefore he was persuaded of it, and embraced it. But the Jew was
taught by the traditions of his Church, to trust in the outward ceremonies of the Law for justification, and to expect temporal honours as the best gifts of God to his chosen people. The Greek was full of rhetoric, stoical pride, and philosophic novelty; ready to reject every thing as mean and trifling, if unattended with the ornaments of speech, and the pomp of science. How was it possible for minds, so differently prepared, to agree in their opinion about any matter of importance, wherein the various principles - of each were nearly interested? The Jew was earthly
and stupid, and looked into nothing; the Greek was proud and affected, and looked above every thing: and so neither of them had any relish for the revealed wisdom of God. Foolishness in the form of
superstition possessed the one; and as great foolishness in the form of pedantry blinded the other.
No discoveries can be made in the Scripture, till we have put away the prejudices both of the Jew and the Greek; that so we may be at liberty to examine a subject of the Scripture, with the help of such information as the Scripture itself will afford us. And I hope what I have said, though seemingly foreign to my subject, will be accepted as a sufficient apology for what some may account a low and vulgar method of investigation: such a method, however, as I wish to follow on every occasion that requires it, as I am persuaded the present doth in a particular
IV. The command of God to Abraham, in relation to the offering of his son Isaac, occurs in the twentysecond chapter of Genesis, and is thus worded: Țake now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the Land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains which I
will tell thee of. Every circumstance is here comprehended, which can heighten the severity of this command on the part of God, together with the hardship and sorrow that must attend a compliance with it on the part of Abraham : and the more attentively we consider this trial, the harder it will appear.
The case was this: God had appeared to Abraham under the Oaks of Mamre, and, with all the solemnity of a divine exhibition, had assured him that Sarah, who till that time had been barren, and was now very far advanced in years, should bring forth a
In this son, all the nations of the Earth were to be blessed: his posterity was to be as innumerable as the stars of Heaven, and as the sand upon the seashore: which promise, according to St. Paul's application of it, was originally so expressed, as to include the person of the expected Messiah, that promised seed, who in the latter days was actually born of the family of Abraham.
The circumstance on which all these great things depended, did accordingly come to pass. Sarah brought forth her son Isaac, who grew up towards manhood, while his parents were happy under a persuasion, that in him all the promises of God would in due time be accomplished.
Things being thus disposed, the Angel of the Lord appears to Abraham, and commands him to offer his son for a burnt offering : an action shocking in itself, and apparently much worse in its consequences. For the promise of a blessing, as wide as the whole world, depended on the life of Isaac; and if we suppose him changed into a burnt-offering, how is the truth' of God to be justified? How is the Messiah to be born? How is the world to be redeemed? These are queries