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The Author's Objections founded on some further mistaken Notions of the Divine DISPENSATions, considered.
10 consider the Author's objections against Tch
the principles advanced in Mr. Lock's Account of the Reasonableness of Christianity, merely as they relate to Mr. Locke himself; or to enquire particularly, how far the Author may have misrepresented the principles of that admirable Writer; would, as was said at first, be foreign to our purpose. But as some things he has advanced, in the course of his observations on Mr. Locke, tend to confuse our notions of the Divine Dispensations themselves; it seems absolutely necessary to take notice of what he has said, so far as this may be the case.
The Author says Mr. Locke's First Principle is this : “ That God required of man a full, perfect, 16 and finless obedience to the Law of Nature;
and that the least omiffion, slip, or failure, was
punishable with eternal death, or annihila“tion.”
And with regard to this Principle the Author himself.alks ;- " Is it reasonable to suppose, that “ a God of infinite mercy would require of his " frail, and imperfect creature, Man, a full, “ complete, perfect, and sinless obedience to his “ Laws; or that he would punish the least breach “ of them with eternal death? — Surely there is
something horrid in the supposition, and which
appears to be inconsistent with all our ideas of “ infinite perfection *." P. 298.
* P. 299
Now were it true, that Mankind had been placed under such a Dispensation as is here supposed, it must be acknowledged, that the only Law which God could give to Man, and which man ought to observe, is That of perfect reason, and the will of God. To a Rational Creature no other Law can be given. And were Man to obferve this Law of Reason exactly, God might nevertheless extinguish his being at any time, without the least injuftice; if he had made no contrary promise, and provided his being had not been worse upon the whole than non-existence. Certainly therefore God might without any injustice do this on the least difobedience.
But, the fact is, That we have no authority, either from Reafon or Scripture, to affert, that any individual of Mankind ever was under such a Difpenfation as that here fuppofed : Nay fuch a suppofition is utterly inconsistent with what the Scripture has clearly revealed.
Reason alone cannot possibly authorise us to believe, that any part of Mankind ever was under the Dispensation here fupposed. For, though reason teaches us, that God might without injustice extinguish our being, even without disobedience on our part, and therefore certainly upon
the least. disobedience ; under the restrictions just mentioned; yet Reason could not posfibly teach any man, That God certainly would do this: That is, in other words, Reason could never shew to man, that he actually was under fuch a Dispensation as is here fupposed. And what Reason alone could never prove to be the case; Scripture will clearly teach us never actually was.
If ever any individual of the human race was under this Dispensation, it must have been Adam himself. Adam was necessarily under the Law of
Reason, as a rational and free creature; and likewise under a Positive Dispensation, delivered to him immediately from God. His reason alone, as far as that was concerned, we have just seen, could never teach him, that God would punish him with eternal death; though it was capable of informing him, that God might without injustice do fo; upon any the least transgression of those duties it pointed out.
If then Adam was really under the Dispensacion in question, it must have been made known to him by a Positive Revelation from God. And certain it is, as the Scripture informs us, that Adam was indeed under a Positive Revelation from God; but what was the condition of it? Was it this:“ If thou actest in any instance whatever, " in the least degree inconsistently with those
duties, which thy own reason is able to point co
out; thou shalt be punished for so doing with “ eternal death, or annihilation ? -- On the contrary, as far as appears in Scripture ; our only possible informer in this point; the extraordinary Dispensation under which he was placed was to widely different from that in question, as to con. tain One single Prohibition only; and That of such a Nature as his own Reason could never have pointed out to him; and denounced the Punishment of death upon him, not for offending against any duty whatever of mere reason; but for the contempt of That single Positive Prohibition only. - And ibe Lord commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou falt surely die y. And certainly, as the Itate in which Adam is represented to have been placed, must have been exceedingly desirable in itself, and
y Gen. ii. 16, 17.
infinitely preferable to non-existence; God might, without any injustice have extinguished his being at any time, even if he had not tranfgressed at all; and much more therefore, when he had presumptuously broke through a positive Prohibition; and That, the only one enjoined him; and to the contempt of which the penalty of Death was even expressly annexed.
But had Adam offended in any particular against the mere law of his own Reason, or Natural Religion only, he was left, as far as Scripture informs us, and in this point we can go no further than the Scripture itself goes; to the honeft dietates of his reason, to judge of the manner in which God would act towards him. And his reason, we have seen already, could never teach him, that God would punish him with eternal death, orannihilation, for any, the least contempt of its commands. Nay surely his Reason, re- . flecting on his own nature, (which his being placed in a state of probation, as well as his actual transgression of the one pofitive precept, proves to have been liable to imperfections ; ) would have encouraged him to hope ; though his hopes must ever have been liable to uncertainty, and bounded by ignorance; that if he did not allow himself in the habitual practice of what he knew to be wrong, but lamented his occasional transgressions, and sincerely endeavoured to act up to what he knew to be right ; God would regard him with favour ; though what particular effects that favour might produce, it must have been utterly imposible for his Reason only, in any degree, to discover.
Thus then stood the case with Adam, as far as Scripture informs us: He was under the Law of his own Reason, and moreover under a Revealed Command froin God; but neither by the One,
nor the Other, was he made subject to Death for every the least transgression of the Law of his own Reafon, or Nature. And as to all his Pofterity, they came into existence, not only naturally mortal, but originally destined actually to die : Dying was to Them the natural consequence of living, or existing at all; not a punishment brought upon them by any transgreffion whatever, either of the Law of Reason alone, or of any positive Revealed Law; nor were They ever placed under That particular Prohibition, which was revealed to Adam; and by transgressing which he had brought Death judicially upon himself, and eventually upon them. Reason, as we have seen before, could not inform any of the Sons of Adam, that they were under fuch a Dispensation as that in queltion; such a Dispensation must therefore have been revealed to them, or they could not really be under any such ; ard Scripture, we know, con- “, tains no such Revelation, either to the Patriarchs, the Israelites, or the Disciples of CHRIST.
If any of the Sons of Adam had been placed under such a Dispensation, it must have been the jews;
the sentence of whose Law was, Cursed is every one, which continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them?: --Bur the meaning of this is nothing more, than that the Jewish Law it self provided no means, by which a transgressor of it could escape the punishment it denounced against his transgression. Whereas there were many transgressions of the Jewish Law against which it did not denounce death. Nay, the truth is, that Death It self; that is, the being actually destined to cease to exist, at some time or other; made no part of the Sanctions of the Jewish Law in any instance whatever ; though the being put
z Sie Deut. xxvii. 26. Gal. iii, 10.