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Page 10. " What answer shall we give to those “ who are inclined to deny, that an all-powerful and just God could make use of the most unjustifiable
means to attain his great purpose of aggrandizing " the posterity of Abraham ?"
The answer, without doubt, must be, either that the means in question (all circumstances duly known and considered) were not unjustifiable; or, that they were used by man, and only permitted by God. For men often make use of means to attain their own purposes, by which they unwittingly becoine the instruments of carrying into execution the counsels of God; yet are they not hereby justified in the use of such means. All the actions of holy men of old, related in Scripture, are not to be deemed blameless, because related in Scripture, or because related of them; though there may often have been circumstances, imperfectly known at this distance of time, which rendered them less blameable than they now appear to be; and therefore they are not to be judged of without great caution and circumspection. These, perhaps, are in no instances inore necessary, for that reason, to be observed, than in reviewing those parts of sacred story, which relate to the birthright and blessing of the ancient patriarchs.
Ibid. “ Could this benevolent and just Being approve
of the ungenerous advantage which Jacob “ took over his faint and hungry brother?”
That the crime of Esau, in being so ready to part with his birthright, was of a more atrocious nature than at first sight it may seem to have been, is evident from the remark subjoined in the narrative; " thus Esau despised his birthright;" as also from his being stigmatized by St. Paul with an epithet denoting profaneness and impiety, qualities which were therefore manifested in the act of lightly and wantonly parting with the birthright; and those high and heavenly privileges annexed to it-I say, lightly and wantonly ; because, though he returned faint and hungry from the field, there could be no danger of his starving in his father's house. He parted with it, as men often do now, for the sake of gratifying a liquorish appetite towards that which was his brother's, " for one morsel of meat,” one particular dish, which he vehemently affected. There was no reason why a privilege thus rejected should be again conferred. Like the Jews, in an instance somewhat similar, he “judged himself unworthy." He cast it froin him, and it became another's. With regard to the part borne by Jacob, in buying what Esau was thus ready to sell, there seems no necessity for pronouncing him faultless. The fact is related, like many others, without approbation or censure; and the designs of God were accomplished by the
free agency of man. To his own master he standeth or falleth, respecting this and every other action of his life.
Ibid. “ Could this omnipotent and upright Spirit " adopt no method of distinguishing his favourite “ Jacob, but that of fraud and lies, by which he de
prived the same unsuspecting brother of his fa“ ther’s blessing?"
The following considerations may assist in directing us to form a right judgement of this matter.
1st. The proposition of deceiving Isaac originated not with Jacob, but with Rebeccah. Jacob remonstrated against it, as likely to bring a curse upon him, rather than a blessing; nor would consent to perform his part, till she engaged to take all the blame on herself" On me be thy curse, my son; only “ obey my voice.”
2dly. From this speech, and from the earnestness and solicitude discovered by Rebeccah, it may not unfairly be presumed, that she had some special reason for what she did ; that Isaac was about to take a wrong step in a concern of great moment, which ought to be prevented, and could be prevented by no other means.
3dly. The rectitude of Rebeccah's judgement seems evidently to have been recognized and allowed by Isaac, at the conclusion of the matter. For though he had blessed Jacob, intending to bless Esau, yet, as if recollecting himself, he confirmed and ratified that blessing in the strongest terms: “ Yea, and he shall be blessed." Still far
ther-at sending him away, he again repeated the benediction, in the most solemn and affecting manner; “God give thee the blessing of Abraham !" It is hard to assign any other reason, why, if so disposed, upon discovering the fraud, he might not have reversed the proceeding. Nay, by the kind meeting of the brothers afterwards, one should be inclined to suppose, that Esau himself acquiesced at length in the propriety of what had been done.
4thly. If such were the case, Isaac was only deceived into what was right, and what himself acknowledged to be so in the conclusion. The deception was like those often practised by physicians for the benefit of their patients; and casuists must decide upon it in the same manner. The offence of Jacob is certainly alleviated, if not entirely taken off, by the circumstance of Rebeccah pledging herself to bear the blame; as the conduct of Rebeccah seems justified by that of Isaac ratifying and confirming to Jacob the blessing originally intended for Esau. Upon the whole, if there were an offence, it was one that might be forgiven ;, and if God, notwithstanding, continued to bless Jacob, he did forgive it, and had reasons for so doing.
Ibid. “In short, how shall we justify God for " the continual distinction he is said to have be" stowed on a people, who from their own annals
appear to have been unparalleled for cruelty, ingratitude, inurbanity, &c.?"
The article of cruelty, for proof of which we are referred, in a note, to the acts of Joshua, may be deferred till we come professedly to consider those acts. Their ingratitude towards God their Saviour was indeed flagrant; but perhaps might be matched elsewhere. As to the charge of inurbanity, it was brought against them by Voltaire, who spake of them as a “wretched nation, ever ignorant, and vul
gar, and strangers to the arts." The following reply was made to him. When the infidels shall have duly considered it, we shall hope to be favoured with their sentiments upon it.
“ Does it become you, a writer of the eighteenth century, to charge the ancient Hebrews with igno
rance ?-a people who, while your barbarous an“ cestors, whilst even the Greks and Latins, wan
dering in the woods, could scarcely procure for " themselves clothing and a settled subsistence, al“ready possessed all arts of necessity, and some of “ mere pleasure; who not only knew how to feed " and rear cattle, till the earth, work up wood,
stone, and metals, weave clothes, dye wool, em“ broider stuffs, polish and engrave on precious “ stones, but who, even then, adding to manual arts " those of taste and refinement, surveyed land, ap
pointed their festivals according to the motions of “ the heavenly bodies, and ennobled their solemni“ ties by the pomp of ceremonies, by the sound of “ instruments, music, and dancing ; who even then “ committed to writing the history of the origin of “ the world, that of their own nation, and their ances