« הקודםהמשך »
SER M. tabernacled; the Temple, in which the
Fulness of the Godhead dwelt substantially.
If we will not be at the Pains to consider the Nature and End of the Mofaic Dispenfation, several Laws must appear unworthy of God, which are yet really suitable to his unerring Wisdom, as being necessary Prefervatives against Idolatry (the Parent of Immorality) by the Prohibition of idolatrous Rites, which might millead them into it. Thus, however trifling this Law might seem, viz. The Woman Mall not wear that which appertaineth to the Man, neither shall a Man put on a Woman's Garment: for all that do so are an Abomination unto the Lord thy God; it appears, in this Light, perfectly reasonable; it being a Custom among the Heathen, as we learn from Macrobius for the Men to worship Venus in Women's Habits, and Women in those of Men. Besides those Ceremonies which are Emblematical, and have an inward and spiritual Meaning, according to the early Method of conveying Instruction under the Veil of Types and Symbols; other Laws might be highly requisite, at that Juncture, to make it impracticable for the Jews even to eat with the Gentiles,
* Philocorus quoque in Atthide eandem (Venerem) affirmat efle Lunam, & ei Sacrificium facere Viros cum vefte Muliebri, Mulieres cum virili; quod eadem & Mas æftimatur & Foemina Macrab. Saturn. L, III, Ç. VIII,
whose idolatrous Ways they were too apt to learn: Laws forbidding them several Kinds of Food, which were allowed to the rest of the World, that so any Intercourse, which might expose them to Contagion, should be cut off. Folly, ductile as Water, flows in no unalterable Channel; but changes it's Course, and runs in new Maanders, as the Humour and Fancy of Leading Men, in several Ages, turn and direct it. Hence several Prohibitions, intended to guard against fome Absurdity, then predominant in the neighbouring Nations, seem not a little ridiculous now, when the Memorial of those Follies is perished with them. Some of the Jewish Laws are, in some Measure, unaccountable to us, for the same Reason that Satire is more hard to be understood. by After-ages, than any other kind of Writing: Because other kinds of Writing are upon Subjects of a more fixed and unchanging Nature. But Satire dwells upon the Modes, Humours, vicious and ridiculous Customs, which prevailed when the Author wrote; Things very variable and changeable; in which Folly is ever shifting the Scene, and taking new Determinations. Unless the Follies of the present Age should be, some way or ofl. r, conveyed to future Times, some oise most admired Writers at present, ilpear to Posterity in a very odd lighting is to
SER M. those Passages in which they expose the
Fashions of Dress and Diversions. Nor can any Thing screen them from Censure, but what ought, for the same Reason, to exempt the sacred Writers, that a Vein of good Sense runs through every other Part; and the same Hands, which composed fome Parts, being equally concerned in all, it ought to be presumed, that it extends likewise to those Passages, which lye under the Disadvantage of referring to Things now no longer known. We are thoroughly reconciled to Folly, as at present modified, which we see and hear of every Day ; but can have no Notion of it, as it subsists under quite different Modifications, unless the Memory of it be preserved. And when we can have no Notion of the Folly, we can have none of those Laws which fenced against it; but are apt to censure them as arbitrary, capricious, and whimsical. Let a Man consider what exalted Ideas Mofes every where inculcates of the Deity, and of the Worship due to Him: Let him read Joseph's Interview with his Brethren; and the Book of Deuteronomy, where the Spirit of the Law-giver, and the Father of his People, breathes in every Page; and then let him consider, whether it be not very possible, that Mofes may have said many Things, which, through Length of Time, may be unintelligible ; but utterly impos
sible, that so great a Writer could say any Thing grossly and palpably abfurd.
The Misfortune is, People sit down to read such ancient Books as the Scriptures, with Heads full of modern Customs and Ideas : And whatever they cannot adjust to them, they, through a Narrowness of Soul, reject with Scorn, as highly improper. And thus it comes to pass, (agreeable to an Observation that has been made) that often, when the Objectors to Revelation think that the sacred Writers nod, it is only they themselves that dream. Difficulties, like Shadows, lengthen in Proportion as we are farther removed from the Light of Antiquity; which, if it shone directly and immediately upon us, would vanish. Supposing a Revelation originally given to Perfons of a different Age, Genius, and Language, it must be expected of Course, that there should be in it several Idioms and Peculiarities of Style, as remote, as the Time and Country, from ours; several Allusions to Usages, then well known, but now forgotten. And what must be, upon the Supposal of a Revelation then given, can certainly be no Objection, or Proof, that it was not then given. It would have been as much Enthusiasm for the Prophets, to have declined the usual Methods of conveying their Meaning, whether by fignificant Actions, Parables, or any other Way suited
SER M. to the Genius of those early Ages; as it
would be now to revive them, when they are quite out of Date. Custom is always the Standard of Language: And that alone is proper, which is authorised by it, and the general Consent ; that alone improper, which deviates from it. No Doubt, several Forms of Expression may seem uncouth and absurd, merely because they are not familiarized to us ; as, on the other Hand, scarce any Thing seems so, which has been made familiar to us from our Infancy. No Doubt, there
may be in the Scriptures fome Images, in Appearance to us, too bold and daring ; they are Plants of a hotter Soil, which will not bear to be transplanted into a Climate so unkindly as ours. But such was the Habit of Writing, which then prevailed. Our Manner of Compofition, however correct and accurate, would have seemed to them flat and unanimated; like Marble, very smooth and polished, but very cold ; and which, instead of begetting a kindly Warmth in the Breast, would strike a chilly Damp into it. It is the Illbreeding of the Vulgar among Criticks, to laugh at any Thing Out-landish in the Dress of foreign, but facred Writers: Especially when there are plain Proofs, that the Body of Revelation, whatever the Cloathing of it may be, is fearfully and wonderfully inade by the wife Author of