« FöregåendeFortsätt »
"tions taken? Why was a solemn Covenant made with God, as with a temporal Prince? Why were
so many promises and threatenings of rewards and punishments, temporal indeed, but future and contingent, as we find in the book of Deuteronomy, most pathetically held out by MOSES? Would "there have been any more impropriety in holding out those of one kind than those of another, because the Supreme Being, who disposed and ordered both, was in a particular manner present amongst "them? Would an addition to the catalogue of re"wards and punishments more remote, but eternal, "and in all respects far greater, have had no effect? "I think neither of these things can be said. "What shall we say then? "this addition was not made?
How came it to pass,
occurs to me, and shall not be over solicitous about the weight that my reflections may deserve. If the "doctrines of the immortality of the soul and of a "future state had been revealed to MOSES, that he
might teach them to the Israelites, he would have
But this, I may
taught them most certainly. But he did not teach "them. They were therefore not revealed to him. "Why they were not so revealed some PERT DIVINE 66 OR OTHER WILL BE READY TO TELL YOU. For me, I dare not presume to guess. presume to advance, that since these Doctrines were not revealed by God to his servant Moses, it is highly probable that this Legislator made a scruple "of teaching them to the Israelites, how well soever "instructed he might be in them himself, and howso
ever useful to Government he might think them. "The superstitious and idolatrous rites of the Egyp"tians, like those of other nations, were founded on "the Polytheism, and the Mythology, that prevailed,
"and were suffered to prevail, amongst the Vulgar, "and that made the sum of their Religion. It "seemed to be a point of policy to direct all these "absurd opinions and practices to the service of "Government, instead of attempting to root them 66 out. But then the great difference between rude " and ignorant nations and such as were civilized and "learned, like the Egyptians, seems to have been this, "that the former had no other system of Religion "than these absurd opinions and practices, whereas "the latter had an inward as well as an outward "Doctrine. There is reason to believe that natural Theology and natural Religion had been taught and practised in the ancient Theban Dynasty; and it is probable that they continued to be an inward doc"trine in the rest of Egypt; while Polytheism, Idolatry, and all the MYSTERIES, all the impieties, and all the follies of Magic, were the outward "doctrine. MOSES might be let into a knowledge "of both; and under the patronage of the Princess, "whose Foundling he was, he might be initiated into "those Mysteries, where the secret doctrine alone was taught, and the outward exploded. But we
cannot imagine that the Children of Israel, in general, enjoyed the same privilege, nor that the Mas"ters were so lavish, to their Slaves, of a favour so distinguished, and often so hard to obtain. No. "The Children of Israel knew nothing more than the "outside of the Religion of Egypt; and if the doc"trine, we speak of, was known to them, it was "known only in the superstitious rites, and with all "the fabulous circumstances in which it was dressed
up and presented to vulgar belief. It would have "been hard therefore to teach, or to renew this Doc"trine in the minds of the Israelites, without giving
"them an occasion the more, to recal the polytheis"tical fables, and practise the idolatrous Rites they "had learnt during their Captivity. Rites and Ce"remonies are often so equivocal, that they may be applied to very different doctrines. But when they
are so closely connected with one Doctrine that "they are not applicable to another, to teach the "Doctrine is, in some sort, to teach the Rites and "Ceremonies, and to authorize the fables on which "they are founded, MOSES therefore being at liberty
to teach this doctrine of rewards and punishments "in a future state, or not to teach it, might very well "choose the latter; though he indulged the Israelites, "on account of the hardness of their hearts, and by "the divine permission, as it is presumed, in several "observances and customs which did not lead directly, though even they did so perhaps in consequence, to "the Polytheism and Idolatry of Egypt *."
What a Babel of bad reasoning has his Lordship here accumulated out of the rubbish of false and inconsistent Principles! And all, to insult the Temple of God and the Fortress of Mount Sion. Sometimes, he represents MOSES as a divine Messenger, and distinguishes between what was revealed, and what was not revealed, unto him; and then, a future state not being revealed to MOSES was the reason he did not teach it. Sometimes again, he considers him as a mere human Lawgiyer, acquiring all his knowledge of Religion and Politics from the Egyptians, in whose secret Learning he had been intimately instructed; and then, the reason of the omission is, lest the Doctrine of a future state should have drawn the Israelites into those Egyptian superstitions, from which, it was
Vol. V. pp. 238, 9, 40, 41.
MOSES's purpose to estrange them. All these inconsistencies in Fact and Reasoning, his Lordship delivers in the same breath, and without the least intimation of any change in his Principles or Opinions.
But let us follow him step by step, without troubling our heads about his real sentiments. It is enough, that we confute all he says, whether under his own, or any assumed Character.
He begins with confessing, that ONE CANNOT SEE WITHOUT SURPRIZE a doctrine so useful to ALL Religions, and therefore incorporated into ALL the Systems of Paganism, left wholly out of that of the Jews.
At length then it appears, that this OMISSION is no light or trivial matter, which may be accounted for, as he before supposed, by Moses's disbelief of the doctrine; his ignorance of it; or the imaginary mischiefs it might possibly produce. We may be allowed then to think it deserved all the pains, the Author of the Divine Legation of Moses has bestowed upon it: whose WHIMSICAL REASONING, if it ended in a demonstration of the truth of Revealed Religion, is sufficiently atoned for, though it were a little out of the common road: for in this case the old proverb would hold true, that the furthest way about is the nearest way home.
His Lordship proceeds to shew, in direct opposition to what he said before, that MOSES could not be ignorant of the doctrine of a future state, because the Egyptians taught it: His knowledge of it (my Lord tells us) further appears from an internal circumstance, some of his rites seeming to allude, or to have a remote relation to, this very doctrine. This I observe, to his Lordship's credit. The remark is just and accurate. But we are in no want of his remote relation: I have shewn just above, that the Jewish Laws against Necromancy
Necromancy necessarily imply Moses's knowledge of the Doctrine.
He then goes on to explain the advantages which, humanly speaking, the Israelites must have received from this Doctrine, in the temper and circumstances with which they left Egypt. MOSES, says he, had to do with a rebellious and superstitious People. This likewise I observe to his credit: It has the same marks of sagacity and truth; and brings us to the very verge of the Solution, proposed by the Author of the Divine Legation; which is, that the Israelites were indeed under an EXTRAORDINARY PROVIDENCE, which supplied all the disadvantages of the OMISSION. Under a common and unequal Providence, RELIGION cannot subsist without the doctrine of a future state: for Religion implying a just retribution of reward and punishment, which under such a Providence is not dispensed, a future state must needs subvene, to prevent the whole Edifice from falling into ruiu. And thus we account for the fact, which his Lordship so amply acknowledges, viz. that the doctrine of a future state was most useful to ALL Religions, and therefore incorporated into ALL the Religions of Paganism. But where an EXTRAORDINARY Providence is administered, good and evil are exactly distributed; and therefore, in this circumstance, a FUTURE STATE is not necessary for the support of Religion. It is not to be found in the Mosaic Economy; yet this Economy subsisted for many ages; Religion therefore did not need it; or in other words, it was supported by an EXTRAORDINARY PROVIDENCE.
This is the argument of the Divine Legation. And now, let us consider his Lordship's present attempt to evade it.
Shall we say, that an Hypothesis of future rewards and punishments was useless amongst a people who lived under