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arbitrarily in this instance, as well as in any other case, for any thing we know, or can jhew to the contrary. That is, notwithstanding those supernatural operations were wrought to prove what Moses declared to be true yet, Moses might be but an impostor; because God might, in this case, as an instance of his arbitrary pleasure, either use his own power, or permit some other invisible agent to exert such power, for the confirmation of this imposition. I fay, this may be the case, for any thing we know. For, as God is here, supposed Jometimes to act arbitrarily; 16 this may be such an instance of his arbitrary pleasure, seeing we have no rule by which we can judge when he a£ls thus, and when he atfs otherwise.
If it should be urged, that such a conduct, viz. the using of his power, or the suffering other in* visible agents to use theirs, for the confirmation of a lie, in a matter of such importance, is inconsistent with Gad's moral persections, I answer, fb is every other instance of arbitrary pleasure. And therefore, if an argument drawn from God's moral persections is conclusive in one case, it must be so in every case; and, if such an argument is inconclusive in one instance, it will be so in every instance. And from hence I think it plainly appears, what a precarious foot the divinity of every religion stands upon, which is built upon revela*, tion, supposing God acts arbitrarily, as aforefaid; because trom hence it evidently appears impossible, in the nature of things, to prove any revelation to be divine, upon this principle. Besides, supposing we could be able to prove a revelation to be divine, upon the present supposition, yet still we should be in a very evil case because God might, as an instance of his arbitrary pleasure, actually deceive us himself, as well as leave us in the hands of other deceivers. And this leads me
10 to afl< of those men (who maintain that God sometimes acts arbitrarily) how they can certainly know, what will please God, and what are the sure grounds upon which they build their trust and confidence in him? If they fay, that divine revelation is the rule of their actions, and the ground of their confidence, alas! this, in consequence of their own principles, is like that broken reed Egypt (if I may be allow'd to use the Prophet's expression) upon which, if a man lean, it may difappoint his trust. For, if God sometimes acts arbitrarily, as in this case he is under no restraint; ib he must be persectly at liberty to deceive his creatures, whensoever he pleases; and consequently, the foundation of certainty, with regard to revelation-evidence^ is taken away upon this principle. And this leads me to put to those men their own question, which I will leave them to answer: What, has not God a right to do what he will with his own? which is the fame as to fay, may he not deceive his own creatures, if he pleases i But I persuade myself, that the greatest advocates for arbitrariness in God will not allow that he is equally disposed to reveal the truth or a He i and that he does either of these at pleasure; but, on the contrary, they will be ready to affirm, that the supreme Being is a Cod of truth, wba camiot lie; and therefore is the proper object of their trust. Which, if there be any meaning or consistency in their words, is the fame as to fay, that truth, in the present case, is so preferable to deceit and selfhood, that God cannot but be disposed, from the reason of the thing, to preser the former before the latter, and to govern his actions accordingly. But then, I must take the freedom to turn their argument upon them; by observing, that, if God is always disposed to reveal the truth from the moral fitness of such a conduel, and therefore is the proper object of our confidence; then, I fay* with equal reason, that he act agreeably to the moral fitness of things in every other case; because the reason holds as firong, and therefore will have as great an influence upon him to direct his practice in one case as in another. And consequently, he will be as much disposed, from the reason of the thing, to do what is right and fit in every case as he is to reveal the truth in any declaration or -promise he makes to his creatures.
If it mould be urged, allowing that God does make the moral fitness of things the measure of of his actions in ail those cases in which that fitness can be a rule to him yet seeing men are liable to make a wrong judgment, therefore it must be right to, submit to every divine command, because the command would not be given, if there were^ not an antecedent fitness in the thing commanded and that this was the case of Abraham when he was required to offer his son in facrifice, in which cafe Abraham could not see the fitness of such an action, because it had the appearance of the contrary. I answer, as God sees thro' and to the end of things, and thereby has a persect view of all the circumstances and consequences which attend our actions; so he must see wherein the fitness or unfitness of every action lies and consequently must be a much better judge, in many cases, than man can possibly be whole views are vastly contracted. And, therefore, I- fay, that in all those cases in which there is no apparent unfitness, and where we are fatisfied of the divinity of the command, there this will be a reason for our compliance; and if we should be under a delusion in judging the command to be divine, when in reality it is not, yet the delusion would not be hurtful. But, if the thing commanded
eppears appears to us morally unfit, then there is not any thing which can give us a reasonable fatisfaction that the commandment is divine, because here is the highest presumption to the contrary. It is not enough to fay, in this case, that our judgment ought to submit to the infallible judgment of God, with regard to the fitness of the thing commanded, because that would be tq take the thing for granted which is in dispute the present question not being, whether our judgment ought to come in competition with the judgment ot our Maker, but only, whether the command in question is of a divine original, or not. Besides, if our judgment, of the fitness of things, is to be left out of the case, then we are laid open to the most hurtful and ridiculous impositions. For it we should urge the cruelty, and barbarity, and the like, of any institution, as an argument against its divinity* the fame answer may be as justly returned in every case, namely, that tho' these may appear morally unfit to us, yet it may be otherwise with regard to God, and that therefore we ought to submit our judgment to the judgment of our Maker, To this 1 may add, that if such a cafe should happen, as that the thing commanded has the appearance of unfitnefs, when in reality it is other* wise, every wife and good governour will do alj that is necessary to secure obedience, and conser quently will give the reason of the command as well as the command itself, and thereby cut off" that exception against obedience, which otherwise the command would be liable to. And, as God can have no end to answer in giving such com-, mands, but purely the good and benefit' of his creatures; so he will, most certainly, not only give the command, byt also reveal the reason* and (hew the fitness of it; seeing this is absolutely necessary to cut off all disputes;, which other
divine, or not.
As to the case of Abraham, I think, with submission, that the thing commanded was in itself morally unfit, and that God gave the command, not with an intent that it should be obeyed, but that he might take an occasion from it, to shew to Abraham, and to all his posterity, the unfitness of all human sacrifices. And that this was the case is, I think, evident from the event. For as the command was given to Abraham to be a tryal of his integrity, ib when that end was answer'd, and Abraham had shewn a steady resolution that he would deny himself in so signal an instance, rather than neglect to do what he judged to be his duty, then God recalled the command, and thereby testified his dislike, and shewed the unfitness of all smh practices.
But that I may go to the bottom os all, and thereby remove what may be a foundation for objection in the present case, I beg leave to observe, that government, properly so called, or government, whose fitness is founded in the nature of things, i? no other than the exercise of power, for the benefit of those that are governed; and governors are no other than guardians of the happiness of those whose governours they are. So that if those, who have the reins of government in their hands, imploy their power otherwise than for the good of those they have under their care, this is the abuse of power; this is tyranny, and not go? vernment, strictly speaking; and all instances of mere sovereignty, that is, of power shewn for the fake of shewing it, and not for the good of those who are subjected to it; I fay, all such instances are manisestations not, of the wisdom and goodness, but of the weakness and vanity of the legislator. The case is the fame, whether we consider go-' C c vernment