Slike strani
PDF
ePub

were oppressed, and they had no comforter: And on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore, I praised the dead, which were already dead, more than the living, which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been; WHO HATH NOT SEEN THE EVIL WORK THAT IS DONE UNDER THE SUN. Surely it will not be said that Solomon has only respect to his time here too, when he speaks of the oppressions of them that were in power; since he himself, and others appointed by him, and wholly under his controul, were the men that were in power in that land, and in almost all the neighbouring countries.

The same inspired writer says, Eccles. ix. 3. The heart of the sons of men is full of evil; and madness is in their heart while they live; and after that they go to the dead. If these general expressions are to be understood only of some, and those the smaller part, when in general truth, honesty, goodnature, &c. govern the world, why are such general expressions from time to time used? Why does not this wise and noble prince express himself in a more generous and benevolent strain, and say, wisdom is in the hearts of the sons of men while they live, &c.-instead of leaving in his writings so many sly, ill-natured suggestions, which pour such contempt on human nature, and tend so much to excite mutual jealousy and malevolence to taint the minds of mankind through all generations after him?

If we consider the various successive parts and periods of the duration of the world, it will, if possible, be yet more evident, that by far the greater part of mankind have in all ages been of a wicked character. The short accounts we have of Adam and his family are such as lead us to suppose that the greater part of his posterity in his life-time, yea, in the former part of his life, were wicked. It appears, that his eldest son, Cain was a very wicked man who slew his righteous brother Abel. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years before Seth was born: And by that time we may suppose, his posterity began to be considerably numerous: When he was born, his mother called his name Seth; for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel: which naturally suggests this to our thoughts; that of all her seed then existing, none were of any such note for religion or virtue, as that their parents could have any great comfort in them, or expec tation from them on that account. And if by the brief history we have, it looks as if-however there might be some intervals of a revival of religion, yet-in the general, mankind grew more and more corrupt till the flood. It is signified, that when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, wickedness prevailed exceedingly, Gen. vi. 1, &c. And that before God appeared to Noah, to command him to build the ark, one hun

dred and twenty years before the flood, the world had long continued obstinate in great and general wickedness, and the disease was become inveterate. The expressions (ver. 3, 5, 6.) suggest as much:-And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always strive with man.—And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was evil, only evil cONTINUALLY; and it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And by that time,all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. (v. 12.) And as Dr. T. himself observes, (p. 122.) "Mankind were universally debauched into lust, sensuality, rapine, and injustice."

And with respect to the period after the flood, to the calling of Abraham; Dr. T. says, as already observed, that in about four hundred years after the flood, the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry; which was before all they were dead who came out of the ark. And it cannot be thought the world went suddenly into that general and extreme degree of corruption, but that they had been gradually growing more and more corrupt; though it is true, it must be by very swift degrees― however soon we may suppose they began-to get to that pass in one age.

And as to the period from the calling of Abraham to the coming of Christ, Dr. T. justly observes as follows: (Key, p. 133.) "If we reckon from the call of Abraham to the coming of Christ, the Jewish dispensation continued one thousand nine hundred and twenty-one years; during which period, the other families and nations of the earth not only lay out of God's peculiar kingdom, but also lived in idolatry, great ignorance, and wickedness." And with regard to the Israelites, it is evident that wickedness was the generally prevailing character among them, from age to age. If we consider how it was with Jacob's family, the behaviour of Reuben with his father's concubine, the behaviour of Judah with Tamar, the conduct of Jacob's sons towards the Shechemites, and the behaviour of Joseph's ten brethren in their cruel treatment of him; we cannot think that the character of true piety belonged to many of them, according to Dr. T's. own notion of such a character; though it be true, they might afterwards repeat. And with respect to the time the children of Israel were in Egypt; the scripture, speaking of them in general, or as a collective body, often represents them as complying with the abominable idolatries of the country.* And as to that generation which went out of Egypt and wandered in the wilderness, they are abundantly represented as extremely and almost universally wicked, perverse, and children of divine wrath. And after Joshua's death, the scrip

* Levit. xvii. 7. Josh. v. 9. and xxiv. 14. Ezek. xx. 7. 8. and xxiii. 3.

tare is very express, that wickedness was the prevailing character in the nation, from age to age. So it was till Samuel's time. (1 Sam. viii. 7.8.) They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them; according to all their works which they have done, since the day that I brought them out of Egypt, unto this day. Yea, so it was till Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's time. (Jer. xxxii. 30, 31.) For the children of Israel and the children of Judah, have only done evil before me from their youth; for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord: For this city hath been to me a provocation of mine anger, and of my fury, from the day they built it even unto this day. (Compare chap. v. 21, 23. and chap. vii. 25, 26, 27.) So Ezek. ii. 3, 4. I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me, they and their fathers have transgressed against me even unto this very day: For they are impudent children, and stiff-hearted. And it appears by the discourse of Stephen, (Acts vii.) that this was generally the case with that nation, from their first rise, even to the days of the apostles. After this summary rehearsal of the instances of their perverseness from the very time of their selling Joseph into Egypt, he concludes, (ver. 51-53.) Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do ALWAYS resist the Holy Ghost. As your Fathers did, so do ye. Which of the Prophets have not your fathers persecuted! And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of that just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Thus it appears that wickedness was the generally prevailing character in all nations, till Christ came. And so also it appears to have been since his coming to this day. So in the age of apostles. There was a great number of persons of a truly pious character in the latter part of the apostolic age, when multitudes of converts had been made, and christianity was as yet in its primitive purity; but what says the apostle John of the church of God at that time, as compared with the rest of the world? (1 John v. 19.) We know that we are of God, and the WHOLE WORLD lieth in wickedness. And after that Christianity came to prevail to that degree, that christians had the upper hand in nations and civil communities, still the greater part of mankind remained in their old heathen state; which Dr. T. speaks of as a state of great ignorance and wickedness. And besides, this is noted in all ecclesiastical history, that as the christians gained in power and secular advantages, true piety declined, and corruption and wickedness prevailed among them. And as to the state of the christian world since christianity began to be established by human laws, wickedness for the most part has greatly prevailed; as is very notorious, and is implied in

what Dr. T. himself says: In giving an account how the doctrine of original sin came to prevail among christians, he observes, (p. 167. S.) "That the christian religion was very early and grievously corrupted, by dreaming, ignorant, superstitious monks." In p. 259. he says, "The generality of christians have embraced this persuasion concerning original sin; and the consequence has been, that the generality of christians have been the most wicked, lewd, bloody, and treacherous of all mankind."

Thus a view of the several successive periods of the past duration of the world, from the beginning to this day, shews that wickedness has ever been exceeding prevalent, and has had vastly the superiority in the world. And Dr. T. himself in effect owns, that it has been so ever since Adam first turned into the way of transgression. "It is certain (says he, p. 168.) the moral circumstances of mankind, since the time Adam first turned into the way of transgression, have been very different from a state of innocence. So far as we can judge from history, or what we know at present, the greatest part of mankind have been, and still are very corrupt; though not equally so in every age and place." And lower in the same page, he speaks of Adam's posterity, as having sunk themselves into the most lamentable degrees of ignorance, superstition, idolatry, injustice, debauchery, &c.

These things clearly determine the point concerning the tendency of man's nature to wickedness, if we may be allowed to proceed according to such rules and methods of reasoning as are never denied or doubted to be good and sure, in experimental philosophy:* or may reason from experience and facts, in that manner which common sense leads all mankind to infother cases. If experience and trial will evince any thing at all concerning the natural disposition of the human heart, one would think the experience of so many ages as have elapsed since the beginning of the world, and the trial made by hundreds of different nations together for so long a time, should be sufficient to convince all, that wickedness is agreeable to the nature of mankind in its present state.

Here, to strengthen the argument, if there were any need of it, I might observe not only the extent and generality of the prevalence of wickedness in the world, but the height to which it has risen and the degree in which it has reigned. Among in numerable things which confirm this, I shall now only observe, The degree in which mankind have from age to age been hurtful one to another. Many kinds of brute animals are esteemed very noxious and destructive, many of them very fierce, vora.

* Dr. TURNBULL, though so great an enemy to the doctrine of the depravity of nature, yet greatly insists upon it, that the experimental method of reasoning ought to be adopted in moral matters and things pertaining to the human nature; and should chiefly be relied upon in moral as well as natural philosophy. See Introduc. to Mor. Phil.

cious, and many very poisonous, and the destroying of them has always been looked upon as a public benefit: But have not mankind been a thousand times as hurtful and destructive as any one of them, yea, as all the noxious beasts, birds, fishes, and reptiles in the earth, air, and water, put together, at least of all kinds of animals that are visible? And no creature can be found any where so destructive of its own kind as man is. All others, for the most part, are harmless and peaceable with regard to their own species. Where one wolf is destroyed by another wolf, one viper by another, probably a thousand men are destroyed by those of their own species. Well therefore might our blessed Lord say, when sending forth his disciples into the world, (Matth. x. 16, 17.) Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;-BUT, BEWARE OF MEN. Why do I say wolves? I send you forth into the wide world of men, that are far more hurtful and pernicious, and of whom you had much more need to beware, than of wolves.

It would be strange indeed, that this should be the state of mankind, distinguished by reason for that very end that they might be capable of religion, which summarily consists in love, if men, as they come into the world, are in their nature innocent and harmless, undepraved, and perfectly free from all evil propensities.

SECT. VIII.

The native depravity of Mankind appears, in that there has been so little good effect of so manifold and great means, used to promote Virtue in the world.

The evidence of the native corruption of mankind appears much more glaring, when it is considered that the world has been so generally, so constantly, and so exceedingly corrupt, notwithstanding the various, great, and continual means, that have been used to restrain men from sin, and promote virtue and true religion among them.

Dr. T. supposes, that sorrow and death, which came on mankind in consequence of Adam's sin, was brought on them in great favour; as a benevolent father exercising a wholesome discipline towards his children; to restrain them from sin by increasing the vanity of all earthly things to abate their force to tempt and delude; to induce them to be moderate in gratifying the appetites of the body; to mortify pride and ambition; and that men might always have before their eyes a striking demonstration that sin is infinitely hateful to God, by a sight of that than which nothing is more proper to give them the utmost abhorrence of iniquity, and to fix in their minds a sense of the 46

VOL. II.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »