Page images
PDF
EPUB

wealth, pretending only these or these plausible reasons? And well he might, all the while that Moses shall be alledged to have doneas much without showing any reason at all. Yet this could not enter into the heart of David, Pfal. xciv, 20, how any such authority, as endeavours to • fashion wickedness by a law,' should derive itself from God. And Isaiah says 'wo upon them that decree unrighteous decrees,' chap. x, 1. Now which of these two is the better lawgiver, and which deferves molt a wo, he that gives out an edict singly unjust, or he that confirms to generations a fixed and unmolested impunity of that which is not only held to be unjust, but also unclean, and both in a high degree; not only as they themselves affirm, an injurious expulsion of one wife, but also an unclean freedom by more than a patent to wed another adulteroully? How can we therefore with safety thus dangeroully confine the free fimplicity of our Saviour's meaning to that which merely amounts from so many letters, whenas it can confift neither with its former and cautionary words, nor with other more pure and holy principles, nor finally with a scope of charity, commanding by his express commission in a higher strain? But all rather of neceflity must be understood as only against the abuse of that wife and ingenuous liberty, which Mofes gave, and to terrify a roving conscience from finning under that pretext.

CHAP. III.

That to allow fin by law, is against the nature of law, the

end of the lawgiver, and the good of the people. Impoljible therefore in the law of God. That it makes God the author of fin more than any thing objected by the Jesuits or Arminians against predestination.

BUT let us yet further examine upon what consideration a law of licence could be thus given to a holy people for the hardness of heart. I suppose all will answer, that for some good end or other. But here the contrary thall be proved. First, that many ill effects, but no good

end

B 3

end of such a fufferance can be thewn; next, that a thing unlawful can for no good end whatever, be either done or allowed by a positive law. If there were any good end aimed at, that end was then good either to the law or to the lawgiver licensing; or as to the person licensed. That it could not be the end of the law, whether moral or judicial, to license a fin, I prove easily out of Rom. v, 20: · *The law entered, that the offence might abound,' that is, that sin might be made abundantly manifest to be heinous and displeasing to God, that so his offered grace might be the more efieemed. Now if the law, instead of aggravating and terrifying fin, shall give out licence, it foils itself, and turns recreant from its own end : it forestalls the pure grace of Christ, which is through righteousness, with impure indulgences,which are through sin. And instead of discovering fin, for 'by the law is the knowledge thereof,' faith St. Paul; and that by certain and true light for men to walk in safety, it holds out false and dazzling fires to fiumble men; or, like those miserable flies, to run into with delight and be burnt: for how many souls might easily think that to be lawful which the law and magistrate allowed them? Again, we read, 1 Tim. i, 5: · The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good confcience, and of faith unfeigned.' But never could that be charity, to allow a people what they could not use with a pure heart, but with conscience and faith both deceived, or else despised. The more particular end of the judicial law is set forth to us clearly Rom. xiii. That God hath given to that law “a sword not in vain, but to be a terrour to evil works, a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. If this terrible commiflion ihould but forbear to punish wickedness, were it other to be accounted than partial and unjust? but if it begin to write indulgence to vulgar uncleanness, can it do more to corrupt and shame the end of its own being? Lastly, if the law allow fin, it enters into a kind of covenant with fin; and if it do, there is not a greater finner in the world than the law itself. The law, to use an allegory fomething different from that in Philo-Judæus concerning Amalek, though haply more fignificant, the law is the Ifraelite, and hath this absolutecharge given it, Deut. xxv:“ To blot out the memory of fin, the Amalekite, from under heaven, not to forget it.' Again, the law is the Ifraelite, and hath this express repeated command' to make no covenant with fin, the Canaanite,' but to expel him left he prove a fnare. And to say truth, it were too rigid and reasonlefs to proclaim such an enmity between man and man, were it not the type of a greater enmity between law and fin. I speak even now, as if fin were condemned in a perpetual villanage never to be free by law, never to be manumitted: but fure fin can have no tenure by law at all, but is rather an eternal outlaw, and in hostility with law paft all atonement: both diagonal contraries, as much allowing one another, as day and night together in one hemisphere. Or if it be pollible, that fin with his darkness may come to composition, it cannot be without a foul eclipse and twilight to the law, whose brightness ought to furpafs the noon. Thus we fee how this unclean permittance defeats the sacred and glorious end both of the moral and judicial law.

As little good can the lawgiver propose to equity by such a lavish remissness as this: if to remedy hardness of heart, Paræus and other divines confess it more increases by this liberty, than is lefsened: and how is it probable, that their hearts were more hard in this, that it ihould be yielded to, than in any other crime? Their hearts were set upon usury, and are to this day, no nation more; yet that which was the endamaging only of their efiates was narrowly forbid; this which is thought the extreme injury and dishonour of their wives and daughters, with the defilement also of themselves, is bounteously allowed. Their hearts were as hard under their best kings to offer in high places, though to the true God: yet that, but a small thing, it strictly forewarned; this, accounted a high offence against one of the greateft moral duties, is calmly permitted and establithed. How can it be evaded, but that the heavy censure of Christ should fall worse upon this lawgiver of theirs, than upon all the Scribes and Pharisees? For they did but omit judgment and mercy to trifle in mint and cummin, yet all according to

B4

law; law; but this their lawgiver, altogether as punctual in such niceties,goes marching on to adulteries, through the violence of divorce by law against law. If it were such a cursed act of Pilate a subordinate judge to Cæsar, overswayed by those hard hearts, with much ado to suffer one transgression of law but once, what is it then with less ado to publish a law of transgression for many ages? Did God for this come down and cover the mount of Sinai with his glory, uttering in thunder those his facred ordidances out of the bottomless treasures of his wisdom and infinite pureness, to patch up an ulcerous and rotten commonwealth with strict and ftern injunctions, to wash the skin and garments for every unclean touch; and such easy permission given to pollute the soul with adulteries by public authority, without disgrace or question? No, it had been better that man had never known law or matrimony, than that such foul iniquity should be fastened upon the holy one of Israel, the judge of all the earth; and such a piece of folly as Belzebub would not commit, to divide against himself, and prevent his own ends: or it he, to compass more certain mischief, might yield perhaps to feign some good deed, yet that God thould enact a licence of certain evil for uncertain good against his own glory and pureness, is abominable to conceive. And as it is destructive to the end of law, and blafphemous to the honour of the lawgiver licensing, fo is it as pernicious to the person licensed. If a private friend admonith not, the scripture faith, he hates his brother, and lets him perilh ;' but if he soothe him and allow him in his faults, the Proverbs teach us he spreads a net for his neighbour's feet, and worketh ruin.' If the magistrate or prince forget to administer due justice, and restrain not fin; Eli himself could say, it made the Lord's people to transgress.' But if he countenance them against law by his own example, what havoc it makes both in religion and virtue among the people may be guelled, by the anger it brought upon Hophni and Phineas not to be appeased with facrifice nor offering for ever.' If the law be filent to declare fin, the people must needs generally go atiray, for the apostle himself faith, • he had not known luft but by the law:' and surely fuch

a nation

[ocr errors]

a nation seems not to be under the illuminating guidance of God's law, but under the horrible doom rather of such as despise the Gospel;' he that is filthy, let him be filthy ftill.' But where the law itself gives a warrant for fin, I know not what condition of misery to imagine miserable enough for such a people, unless that portion of the wicked, or rather of the damned, on whom God threatens, in Pfal. xi, “to rain snares;' but that questionless cannot be by any law, which the apostle faith is “a ministry ordained of God for our good,' and not so many ways and in fo high a degree to our destruction, as we have now been graduating. And this is all the good can come to the person licenfed in his hardness of heart.

I am next to mention that, which because it is a ground in divinity, Rom. iii, will save the labour of demonftrat. ing, unless her given axioms be more doubted than in other hearts (although it be no less firm in the precepts of philofophy) that a thing unlawful can for no good whatsoever be done, much less allowed by a positive law. And this is the matter why interpreters upon that passage in Hofea will not consent it to be a true story, that the prophet took a harlot to wife: because God, being a pure spirit, could not command a thing repugnant to his own nature, no not for so good an end as to exhibit more to the life a wholesome and perhaps a converting parable to many an Ifraelite. Yet that he commanded the allowance of adulterous and injurious divorces for hardness of heart, a reason obscure and in a wrong sense, they can very favourably persuade themselves; fo tenacious is the leaven of an old conceit. But they thift it; he permitted only. Yet filence in the law is confent, and consentis accessory: why then is not the law being filent, or not active against a crime, accessory to its own conviction, itself judging? For though we should grant, that it approves not, yet it wills; and the lawyers maxim is, that “the will compelled is yet the will.' And though Aristotle in his ethics calls this a mixed action,' yet he concludes it to be voluntary and inexcusable, if it be evil

. How justly then might human law and philosophy rise up against the righteousness of Moses, if this be true which our vulgar divinity fathers upon him, yea upon God himself, not

filently,

« PreviousContinue »