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of Heaven to reveal to him the Mystery of Man's Redemption, and he received the information, in a Coma mand to offer Isaac; a Revelation, that had the closest connexion with, and was the fullest completion of, the whole series of the preceding Revelations.
2. For, (as we shall now shew, in answer to the second part of the objection) the Command could occasion no mistakes concerning the divine Attributes; it being, as was said, only the conveyance of an information by action instead of words, in conformity to tlie common mode of converse in the more early times. This action therefore being mere scenery, had no MORAL IMPORT; that is, it conveyed or implied none of those intentions in him who commanded it, and in him who obeyed the Command, which go along with actions that have a moral import*. Consequently the injunction and obedience, in an action which hath no such import, can no way affect the inoral character of the persons concerned : and consequently, this Command could occasion no mistakes concerning the divine Attributes, with regard to God's delighting in human sacrifices. On the contrary, the very information conveyed by it, was the highest assurance to the person informed, of God's goodwill towards man. Hence we see there was not the least occasion, when God remitted the offering of Isaac, that he should formally condemn human sacrifices, to prevent Abraham or luis family's falling into an opinion, that such Sacrifices were not displeasing to himt, any niore than for the Prophet Ahijah I, when he had rent
* See note (Q) at the end of this Book. + See note [R] at the end of this Book.
“ And it came to pass at that time, when Jeroboam went out of " Jerusalem, that the Prophet Ahij th the Shilonite found him in the
way: and he had clad bimself with a new garment: and they two were alone in the field. And Ahjah caught the new garment that
was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces. And he said to Jero" boam, Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the Lord the God of
Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, &
and will give ten tribes to thee." 1 Kinys xi. 29–31. The circumstance of the new garment was not insignificant: It was to denote the Power of the kingdom at that time in its full strength and lustre. VOL. VI.
Jeroboam's garment into twelve pieces to denote the ensuing division in the tribes of Israel, to deliver a moral precept against the sin of despoiling, and insulting our neighbour : For the command having no moral import, as being only an information by action, where one thing stood for the representative of another, all the consequence that could be deduced from it was only this, that the Son of God should be offered up for the sins of mankind: therefore the conceptions they had of HUMAN SACRIFICES, after the command, must needs be just the same with those they had before; and therefore, instruction, concerning the execrable nature of this Rite, was not only needless, but altogether beside the question.
But this assertion that A SCENICAL REPRESENTATION HAS NO MORAL IMPORT, having been misunderstood by many, and misrepresented by more (though nothing, as I then thought, could be clearer to men versed in moral matters). I shall beg leave to explain myself. He who affirms that a scenical representation has no moral import, cannot possibly be understood to mean (if interpreted on the ordinary rules of Logic and Common sense) any thing else than that the representation or the feigned action has none of that specific morality which is in the real action. He can never be supposed to mean that such a representation could never, even by accident, give birth to a moral entity, of a different species; though it kept within, much less if it transgressed the bounds, of its scenical nature. Give me leave to explain this by an instance or two. The Tragic scene we will suppose to exhibit a Pagan story, in which a lewd Sacrifice to Venus is represented. Now I say this scenical representation has no moral import. But do I mean by this, that there was no immorality of any kind in the scene? Far from it. I only mean that that specific immorality was absent, which would have existed there, had the action been real and not feigned; I mean idolatry. Again, another set of Tragedians represent the
Conspiracy Conspiracy against Julius Cæsar in the Senate-house. This, I say, has no moral import: for neither could the followers of Cæsar's Cause call these fictitious Conspirators, enemies to their country; nor could the warmest lovers of liberty call them patriots. But if in this representation, the Actors, instead of exhibiting an imaginary assassination, should commit a real one, on the body of the personated Cæsar, Who ever supposed that such a dramatic representation continued still to have no moral import? The men who committed the action dropt their personated, and assumed their real character, being in, stigated by interest, malice, or revenge; and only waited a fit opportunity to perpetrate their designs under the cover of a drama. Here indeed, the parallel ceases. The feigned Conspirators transgressed the bounds of a representation : while the real death of Isaac must be supposed to make part of the scenical representation, in the Command to Abraham. But it should have been considered, and was not, that I employed the principle of a feigned representation's having no moral import, to free the Command from the infidel objection that it was an enjoined sacrifice; not from the objection of its being an enjoined death, simply: For a human Sacrifice commanded was supposed to discredit Revelation, as giving too much countenance and encouragement to that horrid superstition; whereas, with regard to a simple death com, manded, to justify this, I was ready to confide in the common argument of Divines, taken from God's sovereign right over his creatures: Whose power could instantaneously repair the loss, or whose goodness would abundantly reward the act of obedience. Yet the fair and candid Dr. Rutherforth represents my position of a scenical representation's having no' moral import, to be the same with saying, that though'an action be ever so vile in itself, yet, if it be done to represent somewhat else, it loses its nature and becomes an indifferent one.--Had I the presumption to believe, that any thing I could say would
better his heart or mend his head, I should recommend what hath been here said to his serious consideration.
3. And now we see the weakness of the third and last part of the Objectiun, which supposes this Command capable of affording a temptation to transgress the fundamental principles of the Law of Nature: one of which obliges us to cherish and protect our Offspring; and another, not to injure our Neighbour. For as, by the Command, Abraham understood the nature of man's Redemption; so, by the nature of that Redemption, he must know how the scenical representation was to end. Isaac, he saw, was made the person or representative of Christ dying for us: The Son of God, he knew, could not possibly lie under the dominion of the gruve. Hence he must needs conclude one of these two things, either that God would stop his hand when he came to give the sacrificing stroke: or that, if the Revelation of this mystery was to be represented throughout in action, that then his Son, sacrificed under the person of Christ, was, under the same person, soon to be restored to life: accounting (as he well might) that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, as the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews*, who seems to have been full of the idea here explained, assures us he did believe.
Now where was the temptation to violate any Prin ciple of Norality in all this? The Law of Nature commands us to cherish and protect our offspring: Was that transgressed in giving a stroke whose hurt was presently to be repaired? Surely no niore than if the stroke had been in vision. The Law of Nature forbids all injury to our Fellow-creature: And was he injured, who, by being thus highly honoured, in becoming the representative of the Son of God, was to share with his Father Abrahan in the rewards of his obedience? But though, as we see, Abraham could have no struggles with himself, from any doubts that he might violate Morality in paying Chap. xi. ver. 19.
obedience obedience to the Command ; yet did the merit of that obedience, where the natural feelings were so alarmed, deserve all the encomiums bestowed upon it in Holy Writ. For, in expressing his extreme readiness to obey, he declared a full confidence in the promises of God.
From hence we may deduce these two corollaries.
1. That the noble Author of the Characteristics hath shewn as much ignorance as malevolence, when he supposed that Abraham's shewing no extreme surprise on this trying Revelation was from the favourable notion he had of Human Sacrifices, so common amongst the inhabitants of Palestine and other neighbouring Nations* For we see the reason, why Abrahain, instead of being under any extreme surprise, was (as Jesus assures us) under an extreme joy, was because he understood the Command to be a communication of that Mystery in which he had so earnestly requested to participate; and, consequently, that Isaac must needs, at length, come safe and unhurt from that scenical representation, in which he bore the principal part.
2. That Sir John Marsham's suspicion of Abraham's being struck by a superstitious imagination t is as groundless, as it is injurious to the holy Patriarch. Nay, the very examples he gives might have shewn him the folly of such insinuations: For, according to his inferences, Human Sacrifices were never offered but in cases of great distress : Now Abraham was at this time in a full state of peace, security, and afluence.
Thus, we presume, it appears that this Command was a mere information by action: and that, when regarded
* See note [S] at the end of this Book.
t-Er istis satius est colligere hunc Abrahami tentationem non fuisse nevaivogimpérnu açášiv, activnem innovatam; non recens excogitatam, sed ad pristinos Cananæorum mores designatam. Horrendi sacrificii usum apud Phænices frequentem indicat Porphyrius: “ Phænices, " inquit, in magnis periculis ex bello, fame, pestilentia, clarissimorum “ aliquem ad id suffragiis publicis delectum, sacrificabant Saturno. * Et victimarum talium plena est Sanchoniathonis historia Phæni“ cice scripta, quam Philo Biblius Græce interpretatus est libris # octo," Canon. Chron. p. 79.