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the want of a future state under the ordinary and common providence of mankind. For I am there applying, to these mistaken people, a view of Moses's religion as it appears under their present condition, in order to convince them of the necessity of having its imperfection supplied by the religion of Jesus; in which, I suppose, all Christians are agreed. At least, as many as are out of the thick darkness of controversy will see these to be very different and distinct positions. The one saying, that their virtue might be pure and perfect, during the times of an extraordinary providence, for any thing that the ignorance of a future state could affect to the contrary. The other, that a religion without a future state, on the supposition of its being to serve for all times, must be very imperfect.
I might now expect, after so full a confutation of this erroneous opinion, concerning the foundation of a reasonable worship, that our Examiner should blush for his rashness in asserting, that the ignorance of the Jews concerning a future state is a DISGRACE to Revelation. An expression, which, were there but a chance of his being wrong, a sober divine would carefully have avoided; as altogether unsuitable to that reverence we owe to God, while measuring his tremendous providence by our scanty and uncertain ideas of fit and right. I might say, indeed, that the Jews' ignorance of a future state was a truth of so high importance, that, from thence, could be demonstrated the divinity of their dispensation; and, I presume, without offence to any sober man; because, if I were mistaken, no injury was done to Revelation; I left it whole and entire, just as I took it up. But should the Examiner be mistaken, his calling this ignorance a DISGRACE TO REVELATION would be affording such an handle to the enemies of religion to blaspheme, as he should tremble to think of.
But, if I know him well, he is not a writer of retractations. He has another reason for calling it a disgrace to Revelation. For, It shuts up (he says) God's own chosen people from a future state, while by the directions of his providence all the world besides were permitted to have the benefit of it. And now, good people, you have
it all and if this will not move you, why-The Author of The Divine Legation, for any thing I see, may go on.
This second proposition we see is, that (in the case given) "all the Pagan world were by the divine Provi"dence permitted to enjoy a benefit which was denied to the Jews." Examining the predicate of this proposition, we shall first consider the PERMISSION, and then the BENEFIT.
All the world besides, says he, were permitted.-By what instrument? By the use of their reason.-And had not the Jews the use of theirs? Not the free use: for their prophet delivering to them, from God, a new law and religion, in which the doctrine of a future state was not found, this would naturally lead them to conclude against it. What, in defiance of all the deductions of reason, which, from God's demonstrable attributes of goodness and justice, made the Pagan world conclude, that, as moral good and evil had not their retribution here, they would have it hereafter? Yes indeed, so we find it was. Strange! that this Moses should have such an influence over a people's understanding! Why, if you will have it, he promised that good and evil should have their retribution here.-Aye, now the secret is out. Well, indeed, might this shut them up from looking further; especially if (as you pretend to believe) he not only promised, but performed, likewise. See then to what this PERMISSION amounts, so invidiously urged, not against me, for that is nothing, but against the Scriptures of God. Just to thus much, "That all the world besides "were permitted to find out, by reason, what his own "chosen people were taught, by the practical demon"stration of an extraordinary providence; namely, that "God would act with justice and goodness towards "man."
Come we now to the benefit. The benefit of the doctrine of a future state is twofold. To society as such, as it is a curb to vice by supporting the belief of a Providence, under the unequal distribution of things: and to religion as such, as it is an incentive to virtue, by shewing the rate set upon it. The doctrine of a future, state, in the Pagan world, afforded indeed that benefit to
society: but then, that benefit the Jewish state did not want, as being under an equal distribution of things. Benefit to religion, their doctrine of a future state afforded none. It was overrun with superstitions; and generally gave the rewards of another life, not to moral but to ritual observances. And when not so, as in the open teaching of the mysteries, yet even there the severest punishinents in the Pagan hell were allotted to the Atheists, or the rejectors of the vulgar Polytheism; which, not only utterly depraved religion, but riveted men in its depravity. So that, in the sense of our Examiner (who is here speaking of the benefit of a future state to religion, as such), this future state of all the world besides was indeed no benefit at all. But he will say, I have shewn, that the dópinla of the mysteries removed these errors. It is true, I have. But, at the same time, likewise, that these were revealed to very few. And, to set matters even, has not he shewn from Bishop Bull, (p. 123) that the hidden mysteries of the Law were opened to fit hearers, wherever they were found? though, from the total silence of a future state, in the old Jewish history, I suspect, these were still fewer. Which opinion I will be ready to retract, when he shall shew me, in the Jewish antiquities, as plain intimations of a future state, amongst the hidden mysteries of the Law, as I have shewn him in the Grecian, of the doctrine of the Unity, and the detection of vulgar Polytheism amongst the mysteries of Paganism. But had a future state afforded the Pagans never so much benefit to religion as such: yet neither this did the Jewish people want, and for the same reason as above, because they were under an extraordinary providence. And now let us see to what the BENEFIT amounts.
The Pagans had a future state to support their society and religion.
But then, so circumstanced, that it was of service to society only, although both wanted it.
The Jews had no future state to support their society and religion.
But then, neither wanted it.
And now, I pray you, on which side lies the balance of the benefit? We commonly hear it said, that seeing is believing: but I suspect our Examiner has been imposed on by a very different aphorism, as absurd in the thought as the other is in the expression, that believing is having, a principle not unworthy of his school. Else how comes he to place so great a benefit in the point in question, if he did not suppose that the Jews' want of the doctrine deprived them of the thing?
But have I not been reckoning all this time without my host, while I argued against these silly prejudices, upon the confession of an extraordinary providence? For, disputing here with Christian men, I have supposed that they believed such a dispensation. And prudent was it in me so to do. For had I been called upon to prove my supposition, I do not know whether what I could say would have satisfied the judicious reader, who had observed that all the arguments they use against me receive the little force they have on a contrary supposition. And even this private Letter-writer, one of the most candid of his kind, had still a reason in reserve, to prove why the promise of life, in his favourite text of Leviticus, must needs mean eternal life, and not temporal only, which looks very much that way; it is, because the best men (he says) were often cut off in the midst of their days, and frequently suffered greater adversities than the most profligate sinners. Who now that had even a mind to let us see he believed nothing of the matter, could have expressed his meaning in stronger or more significant terms? I am not ashamed to confess I read my Bible; and believed what it told me of this extraordinary providence; and, in the simplicity of my heart, would needs try if I could make the Deist believe too. I found it was this that most revolted him: and therefore undertook to prove, from the very constitution of their economy, that the representation must needs be true, and so, while I was removing his objections to Revelation, give him a demonstration of its truth. In the mean time, I little suspected that a set of men, who call themselves Believers, would, for the sake only of combating the medium of my demonstration, ever venture to
call in question that very fact for which I was contending with their adversaries; and in a way their adversaries (except it were perhaps Spinosa and his man Toland) had never attempted, namely, by a virtual denial of the representation. If this was to be contested me, I could have wished, for the honour of Revelation, it had been done by the professed enemies of it: and then I could have exposed their prevarication without much regret. As it is, I rather chuse to draw a veil over this infirmity of the flesh; AND WAIT FOR the renewal of a right spirit within them.
END OF THE FIRST PART.