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UNIVERSAL MORTALITY PROVES ORIGINAL SIN; PARTICULARLY THE DEATH OF INFANTS, WITH ITS VARIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES.
Theuniversal reign of death over persons of all ages indiscriminately, with the awful circumstances and attendants of death, prove that men come sinful into the world.—It is needless here particularly to inquire, Whether God has not a sovereign right to set bounds to the lives of his own creatures, be they sinful or not; and as he gives life, so to take it away when he pleases? Or how far God has a right to bring extreme suffering and calamity on an innocent moral agent? For death, with the pains and agonies with which it is usually brought on, is not merely a limiting of existence, but is a most terrible calamity; and to such a creature as man—capable of conceiving of immortality, made with an earnest desire after it, capable of foresight and reflection on approaching death, and having an extreme dread of it—is a calamity above all others terrible. I say, it is needless elaborately to consider, whether God may not, consistent with his perfections by absolute sovereignty, bring so great a calamity on mankind when perfectly innocent. It is sufficient, if we have good evidence from Scripture, that it is not agreeable to God’s manner of dealing with mankind so to do.
It is manifest, that mankind were not originally subjected to this calamity: God brought it on them afterwards, on occasion of man’s sin, when manifesting his great displeasure, and by a sentence pronounced by him as a judge; which Dr. T. often confesses. Sin entered into the world, as the apostle says, and death by sin. Which certainly leads us to suppose, that this affair was ordered, not merely by the sovereignty of a creator, but by the righteousness of a judge. And the Scripture every where speaks of all great afflictions and calamities, which God in his providence brings on mankind, as testimonies of his displeasure for sin, in the subjects of those calamities; excepting those sufferings which are to atone for the sins of others. He ever taught his people to look on such calamities as his rod, the rod of his anger, his frown, the hidings of his face in displeasure. Hence such calamities are in Scripture so often called by the name of judgments, being what God brings on men as a judge, executing a righteous sentence for transgression. Yea, they are often called by the name of wrath, especially calamities consisting or issuing in death. 257257 See Lev. x. 6. Num. i. 53. and Num. xviii. 5. Josh. ix. 20. 2 Chron. xxiv. 18. and 2 Chron. xix. 2, 10. and 2 Chron. xxviii. 13. and 2 Chron. xxxii. 25 Ezra vii. 23. Neh. xiii.18. Zech. vii. 12. and many other places. And hence also is that which Dr. T. would have us take so much notice of, that sometimes, in the Scripture, calamity and suffering is called by such names as sin, iniquity, being guilty, &c. which is evidently by a metonymy of the cause for the effect. It is not likely that, in the language used of old among God’s people, calamity or suffering would have been called by the names of sin and guilt, if it had been so far from having any connexion with sin, that even death itself, which is always spoken of as the most terrible of calamities, is not so much as any sign of the sinfulness of the subject, or any testimony of God’s displeasure for his guilt, as Dr. T. supposes.
Death is spoken of in Scripture as the chief of calamities, the most extreme and terrible of all natural evils in this world. Deadly destruction is spoken of as the most terrible destruction (1 Sam. v. 11.) Deadly sorrow, as the most extreme sorrow (Isa. xvii. 11. Matt.xxvi. 38.) And deadly enemies, as the most bitter and terrible enemies (Psal. xvii. 9.) The extremity of Christ’s sufferings is represented by his suffering unto death (Philip. ii. 8. and other places). Hence the greatest testimonies of God’s anger for the sins of men in this world, have been by inflicting death; as on the sinners of the old world; on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; on Onan, Pharaoh, and the Egyptians; on Nadab and Abihu, Korah and his company, and the rest of the rebels in the wilderness; on the wicked inhabitants of Canaan; on Hophni and Phinehas, Ananias and Sapphira, and the unbelieving Jews, upon whom wrath came to the uttermost, in the time of the last destruction of Jerusalem. This calamity is often spoken of as in a peculiar manner the fruit of guilt. Exod. xxviii. 43.“That they bear not iniquity and die.“ Lev. xxii. 9.“Lest they bear sin for it and die.“ (So Num. xviii. 22. compared with Lev. x. 1, 2.) The very light of nature, or tradition from ancient revelation, led the heathen to conceive of death as in a peculiar manner an evidence of divine vengeance. Thus we have an account, (Acts xxviii. 4.) That “when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on Paul’s hand, they said among themselves, no doubt this man is a murderer, whom though he hath escaped the seas, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.“
Calamities, very small in comparison of the universal temporal destruction of mankind by death, are spoken of as manifest indications of God’s great displeasure for the sinfulness of the subject; such as the destruction of particular cities, countries, or numbers of men, by war or pestilence. Deut. xxix. 24. “All nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (Compare Deut. xxxii. 30. 1 Kings. ix. 8. and Jer. xxii. 8, 9.) These calamities, thus spoken of as plain testimonies of God’s great anger, consisted only in hastening on that death, which otherwise, by God’s disposal, would most certainly have come in a short time. Now to take off thirty or forty years from seventy or eighty, supposing it to be so much, one with another, in the time of these extraordinary judgments, is but a small matter, in comparison of God first making man mortal, cutting off his hope of immortality, subjecting him to inevitable death, which his nature so exceedingly dreads; and afterwards shortening his life further, by cutting off more than eight hundred years of it: so bringing it to be less than a twelfth part of what is was in the first ages of the world. Besides that innumerable multitudes in the common course of things, without any extraordinary judgment, die in youth, in childhood, and infancy. Therefore how inconsiderable a thing is the additional or hastened destruction, that is sometimes brought on a particular city or country by war, compared with that universal havoc which death makes of the whole human race, from generation to generation, without distinction of sex, age, quality, or condition; with all the infinitely various dismal circumstances, torments, and agonies, which attend the death of old and young, adult persons and little infants! If those particular and comparatively trivial calamities, extending perhaps not to more than the thousandth part of one generation, are clear evidences of God’s great anger; certainly this universal destruction—by which the whole world, in all generations, is swallowed up, as by a flood that nothing can resist—must be a most glaring manifestation of God’s anger for the sinfulness of mankind. Yea, the Scripture is express, that it is so: ( Psal. xc. 3. &c.) “Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men.—Thou carriest them away as with a flood: they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass, which groweth up; in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten: and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? According to thy fear, so is they wrath. So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” How plain and full is this testimony, that the general mortality of mankind is an evidence of God’s anger for the sin of those who are the subjects of such a dispensation!
Abimelech speaks of it as what he had reason to conclude from God’s nature and perfection, that he would not slay a righteous nation. Gen. xx. 4. By righteous evidently meaning innocent. And if so, much less will God slay a righteous world—consisting of so many nations, repeating 174 the great slaughter in every generation—or subject the whole world of mankind to death, when they are considered as innocent, as Dr. T. supposes. We have from time to time in Scripture such phrases as—worthy of death, and guilty of death: but certainly the righteous Judge of all the earth will not bring death on thousands of millions, not only that are not worthy of death, but are worthy of no punishment at all.
Dr. T. from time to time speaks of affliction and death as a great benefit, as they increase the vanity of all earthly things, and tend to excite sober reflections, and to induce us to be moderate in gratifying the appetites of the body, and to mortify pride and ambition, &c. 258258 P 21, 67, and other places. To this I would say,
1. It is not denied but God may see it needful for mankind in their present state, that they should be mortal, and subject to outward afflictions, to restrain their lusts, mortify their pride, &c. But then is it not an evidence of man’s depravity, that it is so? Is it not an evidence of distemper of mind, yea, strong disease, when man stands in need of such sharp medicines, such severe and terrible means to restrain his lusts, keep down his pride, and to make him willing, and obedient to God? It must be owing to a corrupt and ungrateful heart, if the riches of divine bounty, in bestowing life and prosperity, things comfortable and pleasant, will not engage the heart to God and virtue, love and obedience. Whereas he must always have the rod held over him, be often chastised, and held under the apprehensions of death, to keep him from running wild in pride, contempt, and rebellion; ungratefully using the blessings dealt forth from God’s hand, in sinning against him, and serving his enemies. If man has no natural disingenuity of heart, it must be a mysterious thing indeed, that the sweet blessings of God’s bounty have not as powerful an influence to restrain him from sinning against God, as terrible afflictions. If any thing can be a proof of a perverse and vile disposition, this must be a proof of it, that men should be most apt to forget and despise God, when his providence is most kind; and that they should need to have God chastising them with great severity, and even killing them, to keep them in order. If we were as much disposed to gratitude to God for his benefits, as we are to anger at our fellow-creatures for injuries, as we must be (so far as I can see) if we are not of a depraved heart; then the sweetness of divine bounty, and the height of every enjoyment pleasing to innocent human nature, would be as powerful incentives to a proper regard for God—tending as much to promote religion and virtue—as to have the world filled with calamities, and to have God (to use the language of Hezekiah, Isaiah xxviii. 13. describing death and its agonies) as a lion, breaking all our bones, and from day even to night, making an end of us.
Dr. T. himself (p. 252.) says, “that our first parents before the fall were placed in a condition proper to engage their gratitude, love, and obedience.” Which is as much as to say, a condition proper to engage them to the exercise and practice of all religion. And if the paradisaical state was proper to engage to all religion and duty, and men still come into the world with hearts as good as the two first of the species, why is it not proper to engage them to it still? What need of so vastly changing man’s state, depriving him of all those blessings, and instead of them allotting to him a world full of briers and thorns, affliction, calamity, and death, to engage him to it? The taking away of life, and all those pleasant enjoyments man had at first, by a permanent constitution, would be no stated benefit to mankind, unless there was in them a stated disposition to abuse such blessings. The taking of them away, is supposed to be a benefit, under the notion of their tending to lead men to sin: but they would have no such tendency, at least in a stated manner, unless there was in men a fixed tendency to make that unreasonable misimprovement of them. Such a temper of mind, as amounts to a disposition to make such a misimprovement of blessings, is often spoken of in Scripture as most astonishingly vile and perverse. So concerning Israel abusing the blessings of Canaan, that land flowing with milk and honey; their ingratitude in it is spoken of by the prophets, as enough to astonish all heaven and earth, and as more than brutish stupidity and vileness.Jer. ii. 7. “I brought them into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof, and the goodness thereof. But when ye entered, ye defiled my land,” &c. See the following verses, especially Jer. ii. 12. “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this.” So Isa. i. 2-4. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but my people doth not know, Israel doth not consider. Ah, sinful nation! a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters.” (Compare Deut. xxxii. 6-19.) If to be disposed thus to abuse the blessings of so fruitful and pleasant a land as Canaan, showed so great depravity, surely it would be an evidence of a corruption no less astonishing, to be inclined to abuse the blessings of Eden, and the garden of God.
2. If death be brought on mankind only as a benefit, and in that manner which Dr. T. mentions,—to mortify or moderate their carnal appetites and affections, wean them from the world, excite them to sober reflections, and lead them to the fear and obedience of God, &c.—is it not strange that it should fall so heavily on infants, who are not capable of making any such improvement of it; so that many more of mankind suffer death in infancy, than in any other equal part of the age of man? Our author sometimes hints, that the death of infants may be for the correction and punishment of parents. But hath God any need of such methods to add to parents’ afflictions? Are there not other ways for increasing their trouble, without destroying the lives of such multitudes of those who are perfectly innocent, and who, on the supposition, have in no respect any sin belonging to them? On whom death comes at an age, when not only the subjects are not capable of reflection, or making any improvement of it, either in suffering, or the expectation of it: but also at an age, when parents and friends—who alone can improve, and whom Dr. T. supposes alone to be punished by it—suffer least by being bereaved of them; though the infants themselves sometimes suffer to great extremity?
3. To suppose, as Dr. T. does, that death is brought on mankind in consequence of Adam’s sin, not at all as a calamity but only as a favour and benefit, is contrary to the gospel; which teaches, that when Christ, as the second Adam, comes to remove and destroy that death, which came by the first Adam, he finds it not as a friend, but an enemy. 1 Cor. xv. 22. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (with 1 Cor. xv. 25, 26.) “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death.”
Dr. T. urges, that the afflictions to which mankind are subjected, and particularly their common mortality, are represented in Scripture as the chastisements of our heavenly Father; and therefore are designed for our spiritual good, and consequently are not of the nature of punishments. (So in p. 68, 69. 38, 39. S.)
Though I think the thing asserted far from being true, viz. that the Scripture represents the afflictions of mankind in general, and particularly their common mortality, as the chastisement of a heavenly Father; yet it is needless to stand to dispute that matter. For if it be so, it will be no argument that the afflictions and death of mankind are not evidences of their sinfulness. Those would be strange chastisements from the hand of a wise and good Father, which are wholly for nothing; especially such severe chastisements, as to break the child’s bones, when at the same time the father does not suppose any guilt, fault, or offense, in any respect, belonging to the child; but it is chastised in this terrible manner, only for fear that it will be faulty hereafter. I say, these would be a strange sort of chastisements; yea, though he should be able to make it up to the child afterwards. Dr. T. speaks of representations made by the whole current of Scripture; I am certain, it is not agreeable to the current of Scripture, to represent divine fatherly chastisements after this manner. It is true, the Scripture supposes such chastenings to be the fruit of God’s goodness; yet at the 175 same time it evermore represents them as being for the sin of the subject, and as evidences of the divine displeasure for its sinfulness. Thus the apostle (1 Cor. xi. 30-32. ) speaks of God chastening his people by mortal sickness, for their good, that they might not be condemned with the world, and yet signifies that it was for their sin; for this causemany are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep: that is, for the profaneness and sinful disorder before mentioned. So Elihu (Job xxxiii. 16, &c.) speaks of the same chastening by sickness, as for men’s good; to withdraw man from his sinful purpose, and to hide pride from man, and keep back his soul from the pit; that therefore God chastens man with pain on his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain. But these chastenings are for his sins, as appears by what follows; (Job xxxiii. 28.) Where it is observed, that when God by this means has brought men to repent, and humbly confess their sins, he delivers them. Again, the same Elihu, speaking of the unfailing love of God to the righteous, even when he chastens them, and they are bound in fetters, and holden in cords of affliction (Job xxxvi. 7, &c.) yet speaks of these chastenings as being for their sins ( ver. 9.) “Then he showeth them their work, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded.” So David (Psal. xxx) speaks of God’s chastening by some afflictions, as being for his good, and issuing joyfully; and yet being the fruit of God’s anger for his sin (Psal. xxx. 5.) God’s anger endureth but for a moment, &c. (Compare Psal. cxix. 67, 71, 75.) God’s fatherly chastisements are spoken of as being for sin. (2 Sam. vii. 14, 15.) “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him.” So the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the great affliction that God’s people suffered in the time of the captivity, as being for their good. (Lam. iii. 25, &c.) But yet these chastisements are spoken of as being for their SIN, (see especially Lam. iii. 39, 40.) So Christ says, Rev. iii. 19.“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” But the words following show, that these chastenings from love are for sin that should be repented of: “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” And though Christ tells us, they are blessed that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and have reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad; yet even the persecutions of God’s people, as ordered in divine providence, are spoken of as divine chastenings for sin, like the just corrections of a father, when the children deserve them, Heb. xii. The apostle there speaking to the Christians concerning the persecutions which they suffered, calls their sufferings by the name of divine rebukes; which implies testifying against a fault: and that they may not be discouraged, puts them in mind, that whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son that he receiveth. It is also very plain, that the persecutions of God’s people, as they are from the disposing hand of God, are chastisements for sin. 259259 See 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18, compared with Prov. xi. 31. See also Psal. lxix. 4-9.
If divine chastisements in general are certain evidences that the subjects are not wholly without sin, some way belonging to them, then in a peculiar manner is death so; for these reasons:
(1.) Because slaying, or delivering to death, is often spoken of as, in general, a more awful thing than the chastisements which are endured in this life. Thus, Psal. cxviii. 17, 18.“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over unto death.” So the Psalmist, (Psal. lxxxviii. 15.) setting forth the extremity of his affliction, represents it as what was next to death. “I am afflicted, and ready to die,—while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.” (See 1 Sam. xx. 3.) And so God’s tenderness towards persons under chastisement, is, from time to time, set forth, that he did not proceed so far, as to make an end of them by death. 260260 As in Psal. lxxviii. 38, 39. Psal. ciii. 9. with Psal. ciii. 14, 15. Psal. xxx. 2, 3, 9. and Job xxxiii. 22-24. God’s people often pray, when under great affliction, that God would not proceed to this, as the greatest extremity. Psal. xiii. 3.“Consider, and hear me, O Lord, my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” 261261 So Job x. 9. Psal. vi. 1-5. Psal. lxxxviii 9, 10, 11. and Psal. cxliii. 7.
Especially may death be looked upon as the most extreme of all temporal sufferings, when attended with such dreadful circumstances, and extreme pains, as those with which Providence sometimes brings it on infants; as on the children that were offered up to Moloch, and some other idols, who were tormented to death in burning brass. Dr. T. says (p. 83, 128. S.) “The Lord of all being can never want time, and place, and power, to compensate abundantly any sufferings infants now undergo in subserviency to his good providence.” But there are no bounds to such a license, in evading evidences from fact. It might as well be said, that there is not and cannot be any such thing as evidence, from events of God’s displeasure; which is most contrary to the whole current of Scripture, as may appear in part from what has been observed. This gentleman might as well go further still, and say, that God may cast guiltless persons into hell fire, to remain there in the most unutterable torments for ages of ages, (which bear no greater proportion to eternity than a quarter of an hour,) and if he does so, it is no evidence of God’s displeasure; because he can never want time, place, and power, abundantly to compensate their sufferings afterwards. If it be so, it is not to the purpose, as long as the Scripture so abundantly teaches us to look on great calamities and sufferings which God brings on men, especially death, as marks of his displeasure for sin, and for sin belonging to them who suffer.
(2.) Another thing—which may well lead us to suppose death, in a peculiar manner, above other temporal sufferings, to be intended as a testimony of God’s displeasure for sin—is, that death is attended with that awful appearance, that gloomy and terrible aspect, which naturally suggests to our minds God’s awful displeasure. Of this Dr. T. himself takes particular notice, when (p. 69.) speaking of death; “Herein (says he) have we before our eyes a striking demonstration, that sin is infinitely hateful to God, and the corruption and ruin of our nature. Nothing is more proper than such a sight to give us the utmost abhorrence of all iniquity,” &c. Now, if death be no testimony of God’s displeasure for sin—no evidence that the subject is looked upon, by him who inflicts it, as any other than perfectly innocent, free from all imputation of guilt, and treated only as an object of favour—is it not strange, that God should annex to it such affecting appearances of his hatred and anger for sin, more than to other chastisements? Which yet the Scripture teaches us are always for sin. These gloomy and striking manifestations of God’s hatred of sin attending death, are equivalent to the awful frowns of God attending the stroke of his hand. If we should see a wise and just father chastising his child, mixing terrible frowns with severe strokes, we should justly argue, that the father considered his child as having in him something displeasing, and that he did not thus treat his child only under a notion of mortifying him, and preventing his being faulty hereafter, and making it up to him afterwards, when he had been perfectly innocent, and without fault, either of action or disposition.
We may well argue from these things, that infants are not sinless, but are by nature children of wrath, seeing this terrible evil comes so heavily on mankind at this early period. But, besides the mortality of infants in general, there are some particular cases of their death attended with circumstances, which, in a peculiar manner, give evidence of their sinfulness, and of their just exposedness to divine wrath. Particularly,
The destroying of the infants in Sodom and the neighbouring cities, may be pleaded in evidence; for these cities destroyed in so miraculous and awful a manner, are set forth as a signal example of God’s dreadful vengeance for sin. (Jude, ver. 7.) God did not reprove, but manifestly countenanced, Abraham, when he said, with respect to the destruction of Sodom, (Gen. xviii.23, 25.) “Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham’s words imply that God 176 would not destroy the innocent with the guilty. We may well understand innocent as included in the word righteous, according to the language usual in Scripture, in speaking of such cases of judgment and punishment. 262262 Gen. xx. 4. Exod. xxiii. 7. Deut. xxv. 1. 2 Sam. iv. 11. 2 Chron. vi. 23. and Prov. xviii. 5. Eliphaz says, Job iv. 7.“Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” We see what great care God took that Lot should not be involved in that destruction. He was miraculously rescued by angels, sent on purpose; who laid hold on him, brought him, set him without the gates of the city, and told him that they could do nothing till he was out of the way (Gen. xix. 22.) And not only was he thus miraculously delivered, but his two wicked daughters for his sake. The whole affair, both the destruction and the rescue, was miraculous; and God could as easily have delivered the infants which were in those cities. And if they had been without sin, their perfect innocence, one should think, would have pleaded much more strongly for them, than those lewd women’s relation to Lot pleaded for them. When in such a case, we must suppose these infants much further from deserving to be involved in that destruction, than even Lot himself. To say, that God could make it up to those infants in another world, must be an insufficient reply. For so he could as easily have made it up to Lot, or to ten or fifty righteous, if they had been destroyed in the same fire. Nevertheless, it is plainly signified, that this would not have been agreeable to the wise and holy proceedings of the judge of all the earth.
Since God declared, that if there had been found but ten righteous in Sodom, he would have spared the whole city for their sakes, may we not well suppose, if infants are perfectly innocent, that he would have spared the old world, in which there were, without doubt, many hundred thousand infants, and in general, one in every family, whose perfect innocence pleaded for its preservation? Especially when such vast care was taken to save Noah and his family, (some of whom, one at least, seem to have been none of the best,) that they might not be involved in that destruction. If the perfect sinlessness of infants had been a notion entertained among the people of God, in the ages next following the flood—handed down from Noah and his children, who well knew that vast multitudes of infants perished in the flood—is it likely that Eliphaz, who lived within a few generations of Shem and Noah, would have said to Job (Job iv. 7.) “Who ever perished, being innocent? and when were the righteous cut off? Especially, since in the same discourse (Job v.1.) he appeals to the tradition of the ancients for a confirmation of this very point, (also in Job xv. 7-10. and Job xxii.15, 16.) and he mentions the destruction of the wicked by the flood, as an instance of that perishing of the wicked, which he supposes to be peculiar to them, for Job’s conviction; in which the wicked were cut down out of time, their foundation being overflown with a flood. Where it is also observable, that he speaks of such an untimeliness of death as they suffered by the flood, as one evidence of guilt; as he also does, Job xv. 32, 33. “It shall be accomplished before his time; and his branch shall not be green.” But those who were destroyed by the flood in infancy, above all the rest, were cut down out of time; when instead of living above nine hundred years, according to the common period of man’s life, at that time, many were cut down before they were one year old.
When God executed vengeance on the ancient inhabitants of Canaan, he not only did not spare their cities and families for the sake of their infants, nor took care that they should not be involved in the destruction; but he often repeated his express commands, that their infants should not be spared, but should be utterly destroyed, without any pity; while Rahab the harlot (who had been far from innocence, though she expressed her faith in entertaining and safely dismissing the spies) were preserved, and all her friends for her sake. And when God executed his wrath on the Egyptians, by slaying their first-born—though the children of Israel, who were most of them wicked men, as was before shown, were wonderfully spared by the destroying angel, yet—the Egyptian infants were not spared. They not only were not rescued by the angel, and no miracle wrought to save them (as was observed in the case of the infants of Sodom,) but the angel destroyed them by his own immediate hand, and a miracle was wrought to kill them.
Not to be particular, concerning the command by Moses, respecting the destruction of the infants of the Midianites; (Numb. xxxi. 17.) and that given to Saul to destroy all the infants of the Amalekites; (1 Sam. xv. 3.) and what is said concerning Edom, (Psal. cxxxvii. 9.) “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones;” I proceed to take notice of something remarkable concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, represented in Ezek. ix. when command was given to destroy the inhabitants, ver. 1-8. And this reason is given for it, that their iniquity required it, and it was a just recompense of their sin, (Ezek. ix. 9, 10). God, at the same time, was most particular and exact in his care, that such as had proved by their behavior, that they were not partakers in the abominations of the city, should by no means be involved in the slaughter. Command was given to the angel to go through the city, and set a mark upon their foreheads, and the destroying angel had a strict charge not to come near any man, on whom was the mark; yet the infants were not marked, nor a word said of sparing them: on the contrary, infants were expressly mentioned as those that should be utterly destroyed, without pity, (Ezek. ix. 5, 6.) “Go through the city and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity. Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark.”
And if any should suspect, that such instances as these were peculiar to a more severe dispensation, under the Old Testament, let us consider a remarkable instance in the days of the glorious gospel of the grace of God; even the last destruction of Jerusalem. This was far more terrible, and with greater testimonies of God’s wrath and indignation, that the destruction of Sodom, or of Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, or anything that ever had happened to any city, or people, from the beginning of the world to that time (Agreeable to Matt. xxiv. 21. and Luke xxi. 22, 23.) At that time particular care was taken to distinguish and to deliver God’s people; as foretold, Dan. xii. 1. And we have in the New Testament a particular account of the care Christ took for the preservation of his followers: he gave them a sign, by which they might know when the desolation of the city was nigh, that they who were in Jerusalem might flee to the mountains, and escape. And, as history relates, the Christians followed the directions given, and escaped to a place in the mountains called Pella, and were preserved. Yet no care was taken to preserve the infants of the city, in general; but according to the predictions of that event, they were involved with others in that great destruction. So heavily did the calamity fall upon them, that those words were verified, Luke xxiii. 29. “Behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck:” and that prophecy in Deut. xxxii. 21-25. which has undoubtedly a special respect to this very time, and is so applied by the best commentators;—“I will provoke them to jealousy with those that are not a people: for a fire is kindled in mine anger,—and it shall burn to the lowest hell. I will heap mischiefs upon them: I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and bitter destruction. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man, and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of grey hairs.” And, by the history of that destruction appears, that then it was a remarkable fulfillment of Deut. xxviii. 53-57, concerning parents eating their children in the siege,—and the tender and delicate woman eating her new-born child. And here it must be remembered, that these very destructions of that city and land are spoken of as clear evidences of God’s wrath, to all nations who shall behold them. And if so, they were evidences of God’s wrath towards infants; who, equally with the rest, were the subject of the destruction. If a particular kind or rank of persons, which 177 made a very considerable part of the inhabitants, were from time to time partakers of the overthrow, without any distinction made in Divine Providence, and yet this was no evidence at all of God’s displeasure with any of them; then being the subjects of such a calamity could not be an evidence of God’s wrath against any of the inhabitants, to the reason of all nations, or any nation, or so much as one person.
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