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WARBURTON.—DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES.
AFTER that the preceding sections had gone to press, my attention was directed to Warburton's arguments on the sabbath, by a person whom I highly respect; and therefore, I wish to give them a separate consideration, although I presume that I have already answered such of them as have any weight.
They occur in his fourth book, section 6, in notes on two passages in his book, the first of which is as follows.
Thus, though Moses enjoined circumcision, he hath been careful to record the patriarchal institution of it with all its circumstances; “Moses gave you circumcision, (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers,”) says Jesus. is · His note;—John vii. 22. The parenthesis seems odd enough. It may not, therefore, be unseasonable to explain the admirable reasoning of our divine Master on this occasion. Jesus being charged by the Jews with a transgression of the law of Moses, for having cured a man on the sabbath-day, thus expostulates with his accusers; 6. Moses, therefore, gave unto you circumcision, (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers,) and ye on the sabbath-day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath-day receive ciri cumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken, are ye angry at me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath-day ?” That is, “Moses enjoined you to observe the rite of circumcision, and to perform it on the eighth day; but if this day happen to be on the sabbath, you interrupt its holy rest by performing the rite on this day, because you will not break the law of Moses, which marked out a day certain for this work of charity. Are you therefore angry with me for performing a work of equal charity on the sabbath-day? But you will ask, Why was it so ordered by the law, that either the precept for circumcision, or that for sabbatical rest, must needs be frequently transgressed ? I answer, that though Moses, as I said, gave you circumcision, yet the rite was not originally of Moses, but of the fathers. Now, the fathers enjoined it to be performed on the eighth day: Moses enjoined the seventh day should be a day of rest; consequently the day of rest and the day of circumcision must needs frequently fall together. Moses found circumcision instituted by a previous covenant, which his law could not disannul. (Gal. iii. 17.) But had he originally instituted both, 'tis probable he would have contrived that the two laws should not have interfered.” This I take to be the sense of this very important parenthesis.'
And is it the author of the Divine Legation of Moses who attributes such language to our blessed Lord? What would he have said of an Arian or Socinian, who should have made our Lord Jesus Christ attribute theinstitution of the rite of circumcision to the fathers, and of the law to Moses, and should have represented him as expressing his conjectures as to the contrivances Moses would have made to prevent contradictory laws clashing? Did he forget that Jesus of whom he spake, is 6 God over all, blessed for ever,”-the Creator of the world,—the Author of the sacred rest of the seventh day, and of the primeval command to keep it holy, --the Jehovah who instituted the rite of circumcision,--the Angel of the covenant,—the God who gave the commandments on Sinai, and prescribed to Moses every law, which through him was given to the Israelites,—who sees with one glance, not only through all time, but through all eternity, and can make all his laws harmonise from the beginning to the end of the world ?
I cannot agree with him that the interpretation he has
given, is the true sense of that very important parenthesis. On the contrary, I think that it altogether neutralises it, and destroys the force of our Lord's argument. For if the only reason for performing circumcision on the sabbath, was because it could not be helped on account of a preceding law which Moses could not change, what excuse was that for our Lord curing a man on the sabbath-day, which could have been helped, which could have been done on any other day, and for which there was no stubborn law which could not be interfered with ? Our Saviour manifestly represents the cases as parallel and similar; Warburton destroys their parallelism, and makes them wholly dissimilar.
To give just force to our Lord's argument, and to make the cases parallel and similar, we must understand him as follows ;—“ The performance of the rite of circumcision on the sabbath-day, although it be a work, is perfectly consistent, not only with the nature of that holy day, but with the spirit of your own law. And if it be lawful to perform a work on the sabbath-day, by which an infant is put to pain, it is lawful for me on the sabbath to work a miracle by which a person is relieved from pain and disease, and rendered perfectly whole.” That this was our Lord's meaning, I have shown in another place.
Our author has fallen into some errors very like those of the Jews which he condemns. He argues as if the rest of the sabbath were its end and object, instead of being only the mean for the attainment of the end. The end and object is the worship of God, and consequent sanctification and good of man. In general, rest is the fittest mean, and most conducive to the end: but, if at any time, instead of being promotive, it should be obstructive of the object, and labour or work become the most conducive mean, then labour, and not rest, becomes a duty. And this, as I have elsewhere remarked, our Lord impresses as the true spirit even of the law of Moses.
He seems also to have mistaken the meaning of the parenthesis as much as that of the passage itself. Its obvious meaning seems to be this;—“ Moses enjoined you the rite of circumcision, and the authority of the command rests upon his law, although the institution itself was of much earlier date, and derived from the fathers, (èk Twv Tatépwy,) and not from Moses, (ex Toû Moséwç.)” Thus we, in this country, would say of any part of the common law when enacted by statute, « The authority of this law now rests upon the statute, although the law itself was much more ancient, and derived from our forefathers. That such was our Lords meaning, appears from his saying that they performed the ceremony on the eighth day, that the law of Moses be not broken, not the law of the fathers.
But our author gives us to suppose, that if Moses had been the author of both laws, he would have made some ingenious contrivance to have prevented the clashing of the two interrupting the sacred rest of the sabbath, if the insuperable obstacle of an antecedent law had not prevented him. But unfortunately, the following fact overturns the great discovery. Moses instituted the laborious works of the priests on the sabbath-day, after he had received and delivered the fourth commandment for the observance of the sabbath ; and instead of making ingenious contrivances to prevent their interference, he commanded and enjoined it. This is decisive against his explanation. The reader knows that our Lord quoted these works of the priests on the sabbath, as parallel to his argument from circumcision.
We now come to his second line of argument, contained in a note on the following passage in his text;— So again when he institutes the Jewish sabbath of rest, he records the patriarchal observance of it in these words, “ In six days
the Lord made heaven and earth, &c., and rested the sabbath-day, and hallowed it.”'
- Before I give his argument in his own words, I give its substance thus: “Circumcision and the sabbath are both laws of the same kind, both signs of a covenant; and as circumcision is not a natural duty but a positive command, so is the sabbath; and therefore, only temporary.'
His note;—“No one ever yet mistook circumcision for a natural duty'; while it has been considered a kind of impiety to deny the sabbath to be in that number. There are two circumstances attending the latter institution, which have misled the sabbatarians in judging of its nature.
1. The first is that, which this positive institution, and a natural duty hath in common, namely, the setting apart a certain portion of our time for the service of religion. Natural reason tells us that that Being who gave us all, requires a constant expression of our gratitude for the blessings he has bestowed, which cannot be paid without some expense of time, and this time must first be set apart before it can be used. * But things of very different natures may hold some things in common.
62. The second circumstance is this, that Moses, the better to impress upon the minds of the people the observance of the sabbath, acquaints them with the early institution of it, that it was enjoined by God himself on his finishing the work of creation. But these sabbatarians do not consider that it is not the time when a commandment was given, nor even the author who gave it, that discover
* It is to be wished that he had given us some instances of this lesson having been taught by 'Natural Reason,' to those who never heard of a revelation. I doubt the possibility of his having done so. But our moral philosophers of the two last centuries, were much in the habit of attributing to natural reason, what they them. selves had learned from revelation, and nowhere else.