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find, that the bishop attempts to give any answer save the following. i He first claims to have proved, that Moses did not propagate the doctrine of a future state in WRITING: and next he asserts, that the Israelites therefore, if they had the doctrine at all, could only have had it through the medium of ORAL TRADITION. But, if once we acknowledge the sufficiency of ORAL TRADITION; we open a wide door to the Romanists; who, accordingly, fail not to triumph over the Protestants on this very account. For they urge, that, while in their case we depreciate the honour of TRADITION; we leave ourselves, by rejecting from the canon the two books of Maccabees, no solid method of proving that the Israelites had the doctrine of a future state, save that they received it from Moses through the channel of ORAL TRADITION. His lordship then goes on to assert, in reference to what he likewise claims to have proved, that the more ancient Israelites at least, whatever dawning of knowledge might have gradually broken in upon their later posterity through the ministration of the prophets, did not in fact possess the doctrine of a future state. But, if they did not possess it, nothing is clearer than that they could not have received it through the medium of ORAL TRADITION:
(1.) As for his lordship’s apprehensions from
"Div. Leg. book v, sect. 5. p. 183--186.
the potent logic of the Romish Church, I consider them in this very able writer as a mere flourish of his controversial weapons. The bishop no doubt was perfectly aware, that there is so marked and essential a difference, between ORAL TRADITION as employed in handing down a doctrine at once incapable of ever being forgotten and alike according both with reason and with subsequent revelation, and ORAL TRADITION as employed in handing down figments equally absurd in themselves and contradictory to the written word of God: his lordship no doubt, I say, was perfectly aware, that there is so marked a difference between these two several employments of ORAL TRADITION, that we. have little need to fear much danger from the retort courteous of the Romish Church on this subject."'. '. . . . .
. Dismissing then our panic dread of ORAL TRADITION, we still, if we adopt Bishop Warburton's theory, shall find ourselves called upon to answer the obvious question; If the old fathers were divinely instructed in the doctrine of a future state, how came they not to make it known? · Had it ever been made known by them, I will be bold to say, that it could never afterward have been forgotten. Corrupted indeed and obscured by superstition it might have been, blotted out too it might have been from the creed of daring and wicked and speculative men : but never could it have been universally forgotten, either within or without; the sincere Church of God, if
it had once been authoritatively promulgated, as a divine revelation, by those holy patriarchs to whom (the bishop allows) it was communicated. Hence it will follow, that, if the ancient Israelites and their predecessors before the Law were really ignorant of it; the patriarchs must have designedly concealed it from them, much in the same manner as the hierophants of the pagan world studiously concealed their Aporrheta from the unhallowed gaze of the profane vulgar.
How far such management were creditable to the honesty and piety of those good men, I stop not to inquire : for, in fact, it is plainly useless to inquire into the grounds and reasons of what never occurred.
If Abel were acquainted with the doctrine of a future state, which the inspired writer to the Hebrews positively declares to have been the case'; it is utterly incredible, that he should never have communicated his knowledge to his father Adam and to his brother Cain, even supposing the doctrine not to have been previously revealed to Adam. But, if Adam were acquainted with it, he would surely not conceal it from Seth and his younger children: and these, in like manner, would carefully hand down to their posterity a doctrine of such vital importance. Let us however conjecture, that, in some unaccountable manner, this revealed tenet, so peculiarly
calculated to interest the anxious hopes and fears of mankind, was totally lost in the course of the seven generations from Adam to Enoch; notwithstanding, through the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs, Enoch lived contemporaneously with Adam 308 years out of his whole allotted term of 365 years, and notwithstanding he likewise flourished synchronically with all the patriarchs between Adam and himself: yet let us grant for a moment this evident impossibility; and we shall soon find, that the system of Bishop Warburton is little benefited by the concession. Enoch, according to St. Paul, was no less acquainted with the doctrine than Abel': and, according to St. Jude, he was very far indeed from treasuring it up as a hidden cabbala either in his own bosom or in the bosoms of the direct male descendants from Seth; for he rather employed it as an awful medium of reproof and exhortation to the untoward race of his contemporaries, predicting the certainty with which God would execute judgment upon the world of the ungodly'. But let us admit, what I am free to do, that the doctrine was at length universally exploded by the wicked antediluvians, not indeed through any ignorance that it was a tenet of the Patriarchal Church, but through rank materializing infidelity; we are soon presented with a new scene at the opening of a new world. Noah is the third
'Heb. xi. 5, 13-16..
Jude 14, 15.
THREE DISPENSATIONS. 35 person, who is specially enumerated by St. Paul, as desiring a better country, that is, an heavenly': and his house alone was found faithful, at the period of the deluge. If then Noah was thus confessedly acquainted with the doctrine of a future state ; can we believe, that his sons would be profoundly ignorant of it: and, if his sons were not ignorant of it, can we believe that they would fail to communicate so important a doctrine to their posterity? In fact, there can be no reasonable doubt that they did communicate it; for, however debased and corrupted by the inventions of Paganism, we find most distinct and evident vestiges of it in every quarter of the globe. Bishop Warburton, I know, supposes it to have been diligently inculcated by each gentile legislator, as a powerful engine of state reaching where mere human laws could not reach; and very possibly he may be right to a certain extent: but, if he mean to say that the doctrine itself anterior to Christianity was a contrivance of the legislator, and that he did not find it with the people but brought it to them; we must have some better proof of the truth of such an opinion, than its necessity to a most ingenious theological system.
(2.) This argument will hold perfectly good, whether Bishop Warburton be right or wrong in his opinion respecting the faith ascribed by the