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to be only in general favourable to virtuè, without making exceptions on account of individuals.
If the vices and follies of a nation, or of its governors, bring war, famine, or pestilence into it, the righteous are not spared; ftorms, tempefts, and earthquakes make no distinction of virtuous or vicious, and innocent children fuffer every day in confequence of the profligacy and debauchery of their parents. If, therefore, it be confiftent with the divine attributes to permit war, peftilence, famine, or earthquakes, by which numbers of our race, of all charac→ ters, are promifcuoufly fwept away, why might not the fame being commiffion the Ifraelites utterly to extirpate a nation abandoned, without hope of recovery, to the moft abominable idolatries and wickednefs. With respect to the divine being, there can be no material difference; and indeed there is very little, in any cafe, between appointment and permiffion, where there is a fufficient power of prevention. Alfo, as it is alledged, that the inequalities of common providence
providence may be rectified in a future ftate, be faid with respect to
very fame may thefe fpecial providences.
The great object of divine government is the production of happiness; and as we fee, in the ordinary difpenfations of his providence, that temporal evils are, in many cafes, infeparably connected with, and ultimately productive of good, we may prefume that every thing to which fimilar objections may be raised in the courfe of his extraordinary difpenfations, will, in the end, be feen to have the fame advantages; and then they will stand perfectly clear of all objections. In the mean time, it becomes us (as we are obliged to do with respect to every thing that we have to complain of in the conftitution and government of the natural world) to wait with patience, till we can fee farther into the nature and ufes of things than we can do at prefent. The reason why the rules of ftrict justice and veracity are binding upon us, is because it is the only way in which our mutual hapC3
pinefs, as focial beings, can be promoted by ourselves. We have seen already, that the most indifpenfible moral duties are, in fact, means to a certain end; and it is poffible that, in fome cafes, a being of infinite wisdom may gain the fame great end by what appears to us to be a deviation from any rules.
However, with refpect to the cafe of the Canaanites, we may, I think, fee great wifdom and propriety in their utter extermination, in the manner in which it was accomplished by the Ifraelites. It might be highly expedient, and even neceffary, for the inftruction of that age of mankind, that the divine being fhould make a fignal and ftriking example of a nation so far sunk into idolatry, and corruptions of all kinds, as all the inhabitants of Canaan are faid to have been; and the hand of God would not have been fo vifible in their deftruction, and confequently the moral leffon would not have been fo ftriking, and ufeful, if it had been accomplished by a flood, an earthquake,
or any other natural means, as had been already tried in the cafe of the old world, and of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; whereas the hand of God could not but appear when the punishment was executed by a people who received an express and manifeft commiffion from him for that purpofe; and this could not but be evident, when all the paffage of the children of Ifrael from Egypt to the land of Canaan was conducted by a feries of miracles, and when they were affifted by fupernatural power in making their conquefts. It was like the regular execution of a commiffion, by perfons who carried their credentials or warrant along with them,
The particular reafons for the extirpation. of the Canaanites are clearly and repeatedly expreffed in the books of Mofes. Thus, in one place, the fettlement of the Ifraelites in the promised land is faid to have been deferred, because the iniquity of the inhabitants was not full; and the Ifraelites are frequently reminded that the extermination of the Canaanites, and their own fettlement
in the country, were appointed by God, not on account of their goodness, but for the wickedness of thofe people who were driven out before them. It is remarkable that, in all the other wars in which the Ifraclites might happen to be engaged with their neighbouring nations, they were exprefsly enjoined to purfue very different and more humane maximns, fparing all except fuch as were found bearing arms. particular cafe, only, they were expressly commanded to exterminate utterly.
That the Ifraelites were not influenced by the ufual paffions of conquerors, but acted under an authority which controuled their natural defires, is manifeft from their not fparing even the cattle, and even refraining to appropriate to themselves the treasure which they found in Jericho, which was the first fruits of their conquefts, and to be devoted to God. The Ifraelites have often been compared to barbarous conquerors and cruel murderers; but let other conquerors and affaffins be produced, who refrained from plunder as these did. That they