Imatges de pàgina
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to be accountable for all he did, then indeed they had been justly chargeable with his fault; but when he is made their head by another, with their consent, and acts without their appointment, his fault cannot with any colour of justice and equity be charged upon them. How unequal must it be for us to be chargeable with that guilt which was contracted five thousand years before we were born ?

If it should be farther replied, upon this supposition, that it is unjust in God to impute the sin of one person to another, which is no way accessory to it, then God stands convicted of injustice in his own word, inasmuch as he is there represented as punishing with death all mankind for Adam's transgression, and that he destroyed the innocent babes of the old world by the flood, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven, not only with, but for the fin of their wicked

parents ; and his dealing thus hardly with the children in the Babylonish captivity gave occasion for the use of that proverb in Israel, viz. the fathers have eaten rower grapes, and the children's teeth are set an edge ; as in Ezek. xviii. 2. Moreover, this was what God threatened he would do in the fecond commandment, viz. visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,

Anfwer, As God is the original fupreme cause of all things, and so is the original fountain of life, and of all other blessings and comforts which every creature enjoys; fo the giving and continuing of life and of every other blessing is wholly of his free grace, and not what he is in justice obliged to, except he has any ways obliged himself by promise to thein, which promise is also wholly of his free grace; so likewise he may give M

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and take away life, and every other bleffing, when, and in what way, and by what inftrument, and upon what motive he pleases, without the least injustice to those that he gives them to, and takes them from ; because he gives and takes but his own, and invades no one's right and property in so doing. This being so, I say, that tho' all mankind do die; becaufe Adam transgressed God's command, and tho': many thousand infants, which could not discern between their right hand and their left, were drowned by the food, and destroyed by fire from heaven, and carried captive into Babylon, not only with, but because their wicked parents transgressed God's laws; yet in this God did not act unjustly, by imputing the guilt of the parents to the children, and punishing the innocent for the guilty's fake ; no, he only exercised his pleasure in taking away those blessings, which according to the principles of justice and equity, he might give and take, how, and whenfoever he pleafed. And tho' the sin of the parents was the occasion of God's withdrawing those blessings from the children, yet this, with respect to those children, was not a punishmnent for, but only a consequence of their parents folly. And tho Adam's sin introduced death, and death passed upon all men, as a consequence of his folly, yet it is so far from being to man. kind a punishment for his sin, that on the contrary sometimes God haftens it in tender mercy to the persons on whom he inflicts it. Thus when he intended to visit Jeroboan, and his house, for their wickedness, he first removed by death good Abijab, because in him there was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam; as in i Kings xiv. 12, 13: Ifaiah lvii. 1. The righteous perisheth (dieth) and no man layeth it to beart, and merciful men are taken

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away, none considering that the righteous is taken from the evil to come. Nay, even those babes which were drowned by the flood, consumed by fire, and carried captive into Babylon, tho' this was to them a consequence of their parents, and others folly, yet even death and captivity were a mercy to them ; because as they were innocent, so they were belpless; and for them to have been left, when their parents were destroyed, or carried captive; would have put them into a state, that as it would have been worse, so it would, according to the natural course of things, have ended in deaths and therefore the removing them, with their parents, was an act of mercy to them.

As to the second commandment, I answer; if this was given as a law to individuals, considered as such, and not considered as a peopleor nation, then the threatning to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, refers only to fuch children as follow their parents example in fin, and so justify their practice, and consequently become accessory to their crimes, and fill up the measure of their iniquity; but as for those children that consider and turn from their fathers folly, and cleave stedfastly unto God, they are not at all concerned in this threat ; and therefore It is expressed in the command, that God will visit upon those that hate him, and few mercy unto tboufonds of them that love him, and keep bis commandments : and thus it was made good in the idolatrous house of Jeroboamn, those of his children, which followed his example in sin, came under the divine threat, and God executed his displeasure upon them ; but good Abijah was singled out from the rest (tho' he was Jeroboam's son) to be the object of God's love, because in him there was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in the boufe of Jeroboam ; as in 1 Kings xiv. 10---13. And thus this case is fairly stated in the afore

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said 18th chapter of Ezekiel. But farther, I say, if the ten commandments were given the children of Ifrael, considered as a people or nation whom God had delivered out of the house of bondage, and had given them the land of Canaan, for an

inheritance, then tho' every individual was obliged to keep those laws, and was interested in the promises and threatenings which God had given, as the arguments and motives to their obedience, yet these promises and threats were intended and made good to them, considered as a people. Thus, the fifth commandment faith, Honour iby father and mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. These words St. Paul interprets to be a promise, and calls it the first commandment with promise ; as in Eph. vi. 2. Now this promise was made good to them, not in every particular instance of obedience, but when they, as a people, were obedient, that is, when the generality of youth did honour or were obedient to their parents, then they came under this gracious promise of living long in the land of Canaan, which the Lord their God had given them for a poffeffion; but as to every par, ticular instance of such obedience, the truth and justice of God was not engaged to make good this promise thereon, because it was given to them as a people ; and therefore those good youths, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, tho' we have reason to hope that they made conscience of this, as well as of the rest of God's laws, yet they were not kept to live long in Canaan, but were carried captive into Babylon. So in like manner the threatening in the second commandment was given to them, considered as a people, that when they, as a people, or nation, did revolt from God, and set up another god to serve in his stead, then God would so manifest his displeasure against

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them, that the effects of that displeasure should descend down to the third and fourtb generation. This was made good in the Babylonish captivity. So then, upon the whole, I say, that tho God oftentimes so punished the fins of the parents, as that the effects of that punishment descended down upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation; and tho' the sin of the parents may be an occasion of God's withdrawing his blessing from their children ; yet he never imputes the fin of the parents to the children, nor punishes the children for their parents faults; and consequently God hath not convicted himself of injustice in his holy word, as the objection represents him to have done.

If it should be farther objected, supposing it contrary to the principles of justice and equity, to impute the guilt of one person's actions to another, who was no way accessory thereto, then God is chargeable with iniquity, or else St. Paul is chargeable with preaching falfe doctrine to the world; because in his epistle to the Romans, he hath declared that fin, and death, and condemnation have passed from Adam to all his posterity, and consequently to all those who did never perfonally tranfgress. Thus in cbap. v. 12. one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have finned ; and so on to the end of that chapter.

Before I return an answer to this objection, I observe, that as reason assures us that God is a righteous Being, and that he deals in all cases with his creatures, upon the principles of justice and equity; so he hath likewise declared this of himself, and that his delight is to da fo, and that this is a proper ground of glorying to his creatures ; as in Jeremiah ix. 23, 24. Thus faith the Lord, let net ihe wife man glory in his wisdoin, neithez.

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