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him: thefe are particularly related in the chapter, and one of them was very expreffive of his punishment for unwillingness to continue the fucceffion of his family, according to the pofitive law of his nation, for by loofing his fhoe from his foot, was reprefented his unworthinefs of any found establishment of his name among his people; and it remained a mark of difgrace to him, and his name for ever. By this ceremony, the woman was cleared from the fault, and the whole guilt of breaking God's law was defervedly thrown upon the man that refufed compliance with it.
Further: Various are the filly exceptions of thofe vain triflers, who are offended at words, without giving themfelves time to confider their meaning; and that nothing is more ufual, in the communicating of all knowledge, than to convey the fpirit of an expreffion under a very common figure of speech. Then, in the lxxvth Pfalm, 10th verfe, David faith, he will cut off the horns of the wicked, but the borns of the righteous fhall be exalted. Here the figure, or fign of a born, is ufed to fignify, as it generally doth in fcripture, power, or firength,, rule, and government. By breaking the horn of the ungodly therefore, the prophet fhews, that he will not only weaken, but at length entirely deftroy the prefent might of God's enemies; though, for the trial of his people, the Lord may fuffer them to have the upper hand for a feafon. And as every good governor fhould do, he therefore determines to break the power of triumphal wickednefs, and to encourage that righteoufnefs which exalteth a nation. Again; in the cxxxiid Pfalm, the born of David is ufed as a figure to denote his kingdom, which God declared fhould flourish, or branch forth in Jerufalem, of whom there fhould be a conftant fucceffion, like the budding of borns. And when the fcepter had departed from Judah, then fhould the Meffiah himfelf appear, that born of falD 4
vation to be raised up in the house of David! that branch of Jehovah, which fhould BUD into beauty and glory upon earth. All then that this figure plainly conveys is, that God hereby expreffeth, by a common fign, his purpose of giving David the victory over all his enemies; and thus, according to the received manner of speaking and writing at different times, and in different countries, it is ufual to convey public inftruction under the figures of common and expreffive forms of fpeech, which when duly weighed, and interpreted, exhibit beauty and force, inftead of any juft ground for ridicule, or cenfure. And it is for want of difcrete confideration, that ignorant difputers have fometimes taken offence alfo at these plain expreffions in the lxth Pfalm, 8th verse. Moab is my wash-pot, over Edom will I caft out my fhoe; which are mere metaphors, or figures of fpeech, to defcribe how gracioufly God has dealt with his own people, in making these nations fo very fubject to their power; for by thefe words of humiliation, he intends to fhew, that proud and powerful as the Moabites and Edomites had been, they fhould be reduced to the lowest degree of servitude; nay, fo much degraded, that they should ftoop down to pull off the faces of their conquerors, and wash their feet, as was the cuftom of flaves; and the ufual manner of fpeaking among the Hebrews, to denote a state of the greatest humiliation. It little becometh Chriftians, therefore, to except against fuch phrafes as the thoughts of their own evil hearts alone can render faulty. It is enough, that they are employed in holy writ; the
Plainnefs of fpeech is the general character of all primitive times. It is a mark of fimplicity, and innocence of manners; and daily experience fhews us, that under an hypocritical refinement, and by those who feem fhocked at particular words, the filthieft fecret imaginations are too often indulged, and the foulest practices foftened, and rendered more familiar.
57 purity of the design is abundantly warranted, by the perfection of the Divine Author.
Great exceptions are also frequently advanced, by the profane, against the conduct of the primitive fathers, refpecting their having more wives than one, and the keeping of concubines. In order, then, to rescue them from any vicious conduct in this refpect, two things are proper to be confidered: First, that in the early ages of the world, the patriarchs, or firft fathers of the covenant, might be allowed this liberty for the purpose of increafing and fpreading the generations of the earth, and not as any indulgence of an unlawful paffion. Secondly, the word concubine, in fcripture, does not convey the finful fenfe in which it is used at prefent; for these concubines were lawful 'wives, only with this diftinction, that the first wife, or mistress of the house, was a free woman, and had an interest in her husband's property; the others were bond women, or fervants. They had no power over the family, but were in fubjection to the mother of the household. They were in general (though not always), given to them on the day of marriage: thus Laban gave Zilpah to his daughter Leah, and Bilha to his daughter Rachel: Thus also did Pharaoh give the Egyptian Agar to Sarah, Abraham's wife; and thefe were all occafionally given in marriage to their different hufbands. What, therefore, might be permitted at a particular period, in the fecondary order of things, and for extraordinary purpofes, and which could not be otherwife effected without miraculous power; but also in due time was difcontinued, and by the cafting off the whole people, was neceffarily abolished, (God's prophechies and promifes having been all fulfilled in Abraham's feed, and David's family.) Such a cuftom, I fay, can hold no warrantable precedent for the licentious liberties of vicious men, fince the gofpel of Chrift has wholly fuperceded the laws and customs
cuftoms of the Jews, even fuppofing fuch a practice had been continued to the very coming of Christ. Nor can the ufage of fome of the firft patriarchs be a proper object of future example in this refpect, fince the fame caufes cannot poffibly hold good in our day; and much lefs does a partial permiffion of divine wifdom afford fufficient ground for cenfure, by weak and vicious mortals, who only reafon upon principles of finful indulgence.
But there are other inftances of occafional failings and grievous immoralities in the conduct of fome of the most celebrated characters of the Old Teftament, even of men eminent for a confiderable degree of righteousness and faith. These are often brought forward by our objectors. Noah and Lot are mentioned as being guily of actions which difgrace human nature, Abraham likewife, who was even ftyled the father of the faithful, by God himfelf; Jacob, fo peculiarly favored by the Almighty; David, the man after God's own heart, (as to his general conduct of bumility, obedience, and confidence towards the Moft High) and Solomon his fon, whom the Lord fo highly diftinguished by the gift of wifdom; all thefe offended in fome of the articles alluded to, which are plainly forbidden in the revealed law of God by Christ, and which are doubtlefs inconfiftent with all fenfe of decency.
These, and fuch like faults in otherwife holy men, fupply matter of difficulty and offence to the vain difputers of this world, who pretend they cannot reconcile these things with reafon and propriety; and as St. Peter obferves in the text, wrefting the fcriptures to their own deftruction, they profanely take occafion from fuch like paffages, to raise a plea for wilful error and tranfgreffion. The ftate of fuch men being moft deplorable, let us now fee what profitable leffons may be drawn from confidering even the Ipecks of infirmity and negligence in thefe otherwife
holy characters, and through which they fell into fuch fcandalous trefpaffes.
I need hardly mention, how loft they must be to any true refpect for God's moft holy word, who can for one moment fuppofe, that these things are recorded there to countenance any finful act or courfe of vice, much lefs to encourage us to think that God will overlook the wilful fins of men. We may be well affured, the different tranfgreffions of his fervants were truly offenfive in his fight; and by a diligent study of their respective hiftories, we fhall find their fins moft feverely punished, either in their own perfons, or in thofe of their unrepenting pofterity, during some time or other of their earthly fojourning. But their example (grievous as it is in fome refpects) may yet produce much valuable improvement to the humble chriftian; for we are hereby taught a thorough fenfe of our frail ftate by nature; herein we see the neceffity of humility and precaution. By thefe foul fteps in men, who at other times evinced fuch fingular marks of the power of God upon their hearts, who truly lived in the love and fear of the Moft High, let us take warning; Let him who thinketh he ftandeth, take beed left he fall. We hence learn, what the best of men may do, if they depend too much on their own Strength; if they do not look up conftantly to that hand which alone is mighty to fave them from the affaults of the enemy. If they who were fo highly favored by God's preference, did yet occafionally
They who read the fcriptures with an humble defire to profit, inftead of a difpofition to object, will difcover that even from these grofs delinquencies many excellent admonitions may be collected; for example, in the cafes of Noah and Lot, we fee that even an accidental intemperance reduces the very best of men to a level with beafts, as it deprives them of the guards of reafon and grace, and expofes them to the dominion of lawless brutal appetites. In the conduct of two of Noah's fons, we fee the great value of modefty, and God's regard for it; as alfo his abhorrence of the contrary, by the future punishment of the offending party.