« PreviousContinue »
wealth, pretending only thefe or thefe plaufible reafons? And well he might, all the while that Mofes fhall be alledged to have done as much without showing any reason at all. Yet this could not enter into the heart of David, Pfal. xciv, 20, how any fuch authority, as endeavours to 'fashion wickedness by a law,' fhould derive itself from God. And Ifaiah fays 'wo upon them that decree unrighteous decrees,' chap. x, 1. Now which of these two is the better lawgiver, and which deferves moft a wo, he that gives out an edict fingly unjuft, or he that confirms to generations a fixed and unmolested impunity of that which is not only held to be unjuft, but also unclean, and both in a high degree; not only as they themfelves affirm, an injurious expulfion of one wife, but alfo an unclean freedom by more than a patent to wed another adulterously? How can we therefore with fafety thus dangeroufly confine the free fimplicity of our Saviour's meaning to that which merely amounts from fo 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 fcope of charity, commanding by his exprefs commiffion in a higher ftrain? But all rather of neceffity must be understood as only against the abufe of that wife and ingenuous liberty, which Mofes gave, and to terrify a roving conscience from finning under that pretext.
That to allow fin by law, is against the nature of law, the end of the lawgiver, and the good of the people. Impossible therefore in the law of God. That it makes God the author of fin more than any thing objected by the Jefuits or Arminians against predeftination.
BUT let us yet further examine upon what confideration a law of licence could be thus given to a holy people for the hardness of heart. I fuppofe all will anfwer, that for fome good end or other. But here the contrary thall be proved. Firft, that many ill effects, but no good B 3 end
end of fuch a fufferance can be fhewn; next, that a thing unlawful can for no good end whatever, be either done or allowed by a pofitive law. If there were any good end aimed at, that end was then good either to the law or to the lawgiver licenfing; or as to the perfon licensed. That it could not be the end of the law, whether moral or judicial, to licenfe a fin, I prove eafily out of Rom. v, 20: The law entered, that the offence might abound,' that is, that fin might be made abundantly manifeft to be heinous and difpleafing to God, that fo his offered grace might be the more efteemed. Now if the law, inftead of aggravating and terrifying fin, fhall give out licence, it foils itfelf, and turns recreant from its own end: it foreftalls the pure grace of Chrift, which is through righteousness, with impure indulgences, which are through fin. And instead of difcovering fin, for 'by the law is the knowledge thereof,' faith St. Paul; and that by certain and true light for men to walk in fafety, it holds out falfe and dazzling fires to ftumble men; or, like thofe miferable flies, to run into with delight and be burnt: for how many fouls might eafily think that to be lawful which the law and magiftrate 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 confcience and faith both deceived, or elfe defpifed. The more particular end of the judicial law is fet forth to us clearly Rom. xiii. That God hath given to that lawa fword 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 fhould but forbear to punish wickedness, were it other to be accounted than partial and unjuft? but if it begin to write indulgence to vulgar uncleannefs, can it do more to corrupt and fhame the end of its own. being? Laftly, 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 it felf. The law, to ufe an allegory fomething different from that in Philo-Judæus concerning Amalek, though haply more fignificant, the
law is the Ifraelite, and hath this abfolute charge 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 exprefs repeated command to make no covenant with fin, the Canaanite,' but to expel him left he prove a fnare. And to fay truth, it were too rigid and reafonlefs to proclaim fuch an enmity between man and man, were it not the type of a greater enmity between law and fin. I fpeak 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 hoftility with law paft all atonement: both diagonal contraries, as much allowing one another, as day and night together in one hemifphere. Or if it be poffible, that fin with his darkness may come to compofition, it cannot be without a foul eclipfe and twilight to the law, whofe brightness ought to furpafs the noon. Thus we fee how this unclean permittance defeats the facred and glorious end both of the moral and judicial law.
As little good can the lawgiver propofe to equity by fuch a lavish remiffness as this: if to remedy hardness of heart, Paræus and other divines confefs it more increases by this liberty, than is leffened: and how is it probable, that their hearts were more hard in this, that it should be yielded to, than in any other crime? Their hearts were fet upon ufury, and are to this day, no nation more; yet that which was the endamaging only of their eftates was narrowly forbid, this which is thought the extreme injury and dishonour of their wives and daughters, with the defilement alfo of themfelves, is bounteoufly allowed. Their hearts were as hard under their best kings to offer in high places, though to the true God: yet that, but a fmall thing, it ftrictly forewarned; this, accounted a high offence against one of the greateft moral duties, is calmly permitted and established. How can it be evaded, but that the heavy cenfure of Chrift fhould fall worfe upon this lawgiver of theirs, than upon all the Scribes and Pharifees? For they did but omit judgment and mercy to trifle in mint and cummin, yet all according to B 4
law; but this their lawgiver, altogether as punctual in fuch niceties, goes marching on to adulteries, through the violence of divorce by law against law. If it were such a curfed act of Pilate a fubordinate judge to Cæfar, overfwayed by thofe hard hearts, with much ado to fuffer one tranfgreffion of law but once, what is it then with lefs ado to publish a law of tranfgreffion for many ages? Did God for this come down and cover the mount of Sinai with his glory, uttering in thunder thofe his facred ordidances out of the bottomlefs treasures of his wifdom and infinite purenefs, to patch up an ulcerous and rotten commonwealth with strict and ftern injunctions, to wash the fkin and garments for every unclean touch; and fuch eafy permiffion given to pollute the foul with adulteries by public authority, without difgrace or queftion? No, it had been better that man had never known law or matrimony, than that fuch foul iniquity fhould be fastened upon the holy one of Ifrael, the judge of all the earth; and fuch a piece of folly as Belzebub would not commit, to divide against himself, and prevent his own ends: or if he, to compass more certain mifchief, might yield perhaps to feign fome good deed, yet that God fhould enact a licence of certain evil for uncertain good against his own glory and pureness, is abominable to conceive. And as it is deftructive to the end of law, and blafphemous to the honour of the lawgiver licenfing, fo is it as pernicious to the perfon licenfed. If a private friend admonifh not, the fcripture faith, he hates his brother, and lets him perish;' but if he foothe him and allow him in his faults, the Proverbs teach us he fpreads a net for his neighbour's feet, and worketh ruin.' If the magistrate or prince forget to adminifter due juftice, and restrain not fin; Eli himfelf could fay, it made the Lord's people to tranfgrefs.' 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. gueffed, by the anger it brought upon Hophni and Phineas not to be appeafed with facrifice hor offering for ever.' If the law be filent to declare fin, the people must needs generally go aftray, for the apoftle himself faith, he had not known luft but by the law:' and furely fuch a nation
anation feems not to be under the illuminating guidance of God's law, but under the horrible doom rather of fuch as defpife the Gofpel; he that is filthy, let him be filthy ftill.' But where the law itfelf gives a warrant for fin, I know not what condition of mifery to imagine miferable enough for fuch a people, unless that portion of the wicked, or rather of the damned, on whom God threatens, in Pfal. xi, to rain fnares;' but that queftionlefs cannot be by any law, which the apoftle faith is 'a miniftry ordained of God for our good,' and not fo 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 perfon licenfed in his hardness of heart.
I am next to mention that, which because it is a ground in divinity, Rom. iii, will fave the labour of demonstrat ing, unless her given axioms be more doubted than in other hearts (although it be no lefs firm in the precepts of philofophy) that a thing unlawful can for no good whatfoever be done, much lefs allowed by a pofitive law. And this is the matter why interpreters upon that paffage in Hofea will not confent it to be a true ftory, that the prophet took a harlot to wife: because God, being a pure fpirit, could not command a thing repugnant to his own nature, no not for fo good an end as to exhibit more to the life a wholefome 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 reafon obfcure and in a wrong fenfe, they can very favourably perfuade themfelves; fo tenacious is the leaven of an old conceit. But they fhift it; he permitted only. Yet filence in the law is confent, and confent is acceffory: why then is not the law being filent, or not active against a crime, acceffory to its own conviction, itself judging? For though we fhould grant, that it approves not, yet it wills; and the lawyers maxim is, that the will compelled is yet the will.' And though Ariftotle in his ethics calls this a mixed action,' yet he concludes it to be voluntary and inexcufable, if it be evil. How juftly then might human law and philofophy rife up against the righteousness of Mofes, if this be true which our vulgar divinity fathers upon him, yea upon God himself, not