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Wise Man, The eye that mocketh at his father Prov. xxx.
the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it? And then, for a double purpose, let us direct our thoughts to the patriarch’s consequent prophecy; pondering, first, whether experience cannot find an echo to the curse of Canaan in the general fortune of undutiful children; and, secondly, whether the wonderful accomplishments of the prophecy itself may not, at once, discover its true Author, and the special providence of the whole transaction b.
Now if there be absurdity in any of these views, or violence offered though but to language, or possibility of misleading either a soul to evil, or even a critical judgment into weakness, let them be rejected. But if not, there is at least an advantage on the sịde of faith and piety, in the contemplation of such a passage : and this advantage the Satirist shall, unintentionally, express for us : "e cælo descendit Ivão De O EQUTÒV,
xi. 27, 28, “ Figendum et memori tractandum pectore.” 1. 2. To take another instance it is scarcely
b It may be noted, further, (with regard to our explanatory observation,) that here is, in this very first and most distressing) example, an instance of not unmixed depravity. And what abundant reason have we ourselves, as the descendants of Japheth, to adore the mercy of an all-wise Lord, who hath surely annexed exceeding great reward, either present or to come, to the right performance of every duty.
possible to read, without distress and shame, the much more painful relations of the nineteenth chapter of the same book. Yet at this day, when the holier influence of Christianity has been working its way in the affections and hearts of men for eighteen hundred years, can we repel even these revolting records, as a libel on our nature ? as an exposure which we can pronounce unnecessary, from its incongruity with experience ? and therefore reject, as an imagination of evil, on the score of gratuitous impurity?
I. 3. But let us refer both these and the preceding examples to such a chapter as the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus ; and by that comparison, learn to see how each conspires to explain the other, and how all speak for themselves (as specimens of human nature) in vindication, at once, and in proof of their original recording. It will be perceived how the facts of history bear out the law of Moses, in its most offensive prohibitions; and, by consequence, how imperfect in its knowledge of man's nature a law, designed for the extinction of abominations and for the promotion of purity, must have appeared now, had the legislator forborne (from deference to human prepossessions, whether past, present, or to come) to proclaim penalties and judgments for crimes avowedly existing. It is most true, that very many of the prohibitions of the Levitical law tell us of things, such as we do not
Lect. iv. pp. 108, 109.
II. g. l.
like to hear ; of things, which it is most perplexing, at first sight, to meet with in the pure word of God. But when we consider, for what thousands of reasonable creatures, for what varieties of condition and of knowledge, the Bible is the sole independent mental and moral provision; do they tell us any thing which it is not Cf. Lect. vi. expedient for man to know, in order that he may abhor?
There is, moreoyer, a circumstance connected with all these more afflictive narrations, of the very greatest importance; and which in its full compass, at any rate) I conceive to be altogether peculiar to the records and the prohibitions of Scripture.
I mean, that whether it be the express edict of a law that is before us, to bring it to our observation, or only the chronicle of a too real history; “ gross offence is never represented to us “ but in connection with the divine displeasure." The sin of Scripture uniformly finds its per- See Numb. petrator out. If there be not a penalty by law directly denounced, there is divine justice visibly executed; or if not this immediately, and on the instant, yet indirectly it is sure to appear in the sequel of the offender's history; either simply in the shape of suffering, or more pointedly, in some congenerous retaliation. With the Psal. xviii. froward, we shall discover the Almighty always **. froward; we shall always meet the curse of the Prov. iii.
Lord in the house of the wicked, Witness only, Gen. xlii. as a familiar instance, the remorse of Joseph's 21, 22.
brethren, as expressed by themselves. And let it be remarked, that it may probably be by help of this consideration, that we shall best understand, to spiritual and moral benefit, some of the particulars of the perplexing history of the patriarch Jacob. I do not speak of the unsearchable counsel of the Most High in respect of Jacob's “ election,” in preference to Esau: there is a day, when that will be fully explained.; and till then we may be well satisfied to leave it. But if it be questioned, whether all the moral transactions of that patriarch's life were either approva
ble, or approved by Him who chose him, there Gen. xlvii. is an answer out of Jacob's own mouth; Few and
evil have the days of the years of my life been: and there is a melancholy tale of intermediate wretchedness among his family, to prove this the patriarch's assertion true.
Now in this naked exposure of the most hateful criminality, and in this uniform and unreserved reprobation of it, coupled together, there 'is, I think, the very strongest testimony to the authority of Scripture, on both grounds. · I. 4. But to take a somewhat different exemplification of that which is our immediate subject. The “ hardening of Pharaoh's heart" seems to have supplied, always, a favourite topic of reproach against the divine perfections. But let us
§. 4. pp.
contemplate it under that view of the apparent Lect. iii. dealing of the Almighty with his creatures, 66, 67." which has been already suggested; as a voluntary delinquency on the offender's part, of which the manner only of its being permitted to take effect is laid open for our sakes: how will it appear then? It is, doubtless, a picture of extreme depravity in its peculiar point of obstinacy: yet (making only the natural allowances for difference in the form of present dispensation) surely the picture itself is justified as real, by abundant experience. It is a picture which only takes the aspect of a most sound and provident admonition. Compare it with the effect of our Saviour's saying to the Jews, Ye will not come unto me, that John v. 40, ye might have life. Compare it with the pains Cf. with
this again continually wasted, with the motives ineffectually Matt. Ixiii.
33, urged, with the terrors unprofitably revealed, to persuade Christians to obedience at this day. If any quarrel any longer with such merciful warning, so as to make it a stumbling-block, for which to gainsay the Bible; what is to be said, but that, by such very offence taken, they prove its truth; proving, themselves, that such calamitous hardness of heart does exist in human nature ? Else, why do they cling to any vain pretence, rather than accept the medicine meant to heal them, because they do not choose to take it as it is prescribed, of bitter ingredients, by the