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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 o the continual distinction he is said to have be“ stowed on a people, who from their own apnals
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 vulgar, 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“ tors; who had poets and writers skilled in all the " sciences then known, great and brave commanders, “ a pure worship, just laws, a wise form of govern“ment; in short, the only one of all ancient nations, " that has left us authentic monuments of genius and - of literature. Can this nation be justly charged “ with ignorance and inurbanity ?"
PAGE 11. “ Unbelievers affirm, that a just God “ could not punish Pharaoh for a hardness of “ heart of which he himself (God) was evidently the cause.'
When we meet with an assertion apparently contrary to all the truth and equity in the world, it is but common justice to any writer, human or divine, to suppose, that we mistake his meaning, and that the expression employed to convey it is capable of an interpretation different from that which may at first present itself. We cannot, for a moment, imagine, that God secretly influences a man's will, or suggests any wicked stubborn resolution to his mind, and then punishes him for it. We are therefore to consider, by what other means, not incompatible with his nature and attributes, he may be said, in a certain sense, and without impropriety, to harden a man's heart.
There are many ways by which we may conceive this effect to be wrought, without running into the absurdity and impiety above mentioned. The heart may
be hardened by those very respites, miracles, and mercies, intended to soften it; for if they do not soften it, they will harden it-God is sometimes said to do that which he permits to be done by