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pression be, "the sins of the fathers," without spe-
cifying in that clause what sins, yet in fair con-
struction, and indeed in common construction, we
may well suppose it to be that kind and class of
sins, for the restraint of which the command was
given, and against which its force was directed.
The punishment, threatened by any law, must
naturally be applied to the offence particularly for
bidden by that law, and not to offences in general,

One reason, why you may not probably perceive
the full weight of what I am saying, is, that we do
test at this day understand, or think much, con-
cerning the sin of idolatry, or the necessity, or
importance of God's delivering a specific, a 80-
lemn, a terrifying sentence against it. The sin
itself hath in a manner ceased from among us;
Othersins, God knows, have come in its place;
but this, in a great measure, is withdrawn from
our observation : whereas in the age of the world,
and among those people, when and to whom the
ten commandments were promulged, false wor-
ship, or the worship of false gods, was the sin,
which lay at the root and foundation of every
other. The worship of the one true God, in op-
position to the vain and false, and wicked religions,
which had then obtained amongst mankind, was
the grand point to be inculcated. It was the con-
test then carried on; and the then world, as well
as future ages, were deeply interested in it. His-
tory testifiés, experience testifies, that there can-
not be true morality, or true virtue, where there
is false religion, false worship, false gods; for

which reason you find that this great article (for such it then was) was not only made the subjecto A command, but placed at the head of all the res

ay, more; from the whole strain and tenor

and considered as one commandment. The subject, to which they both relate, is false worship, or the worship of false gods. This is the single subject, to which the prohibition of both commandments relates : the single class of sins which is guarded against. Although, therefore, the ex. pression be, “the sins of the fathers,” without spe. cifying in that clause what sins, yet in fair construction, and indeed in common construction, we may well suppose it to be that kind and class of sins, for the restraint of which the command was given, and against which its force was directed. The punishment, threatened by any law, must naturally be applied to the offence particularly forbidden by that law, and not to offences in general.

One reason, why you may not probably perceive the full weight of what I am saying, is, that we do not at this day understand, or think much, concerning the sin of idolatry, or the necessity, or importance of God's delivering a specific, a solemn, a terrifying sentence against it. The sin itself hath in a manner ceased from among us ; other sins, God knows, have come in its place ; but this, in a great measure, is withdrawn from our observation : whereas in the age of the world, and among those people, when and to whom the ten commandments were promulged, false wor. ship, or the worship of false gods, was the sin, which lay at the root and foundation of every other. The worship of the one true God, in opposition to the vain and false, and wicked religions, which had then obtained amongst mankind, was the grand point to be inculcated. It was the contest then carried on; and the then world, as well as future ages, were deeply interested in it. His. tory testifies, experience testifies, that there cannot be true morality, or true virtue, where there is false religion, false worship, false gods; for which reason you find, that this great article (for such it then was) was not only made the subject of A command, but placed at the head of all the rest. Nay, more; from the whole strain and tenor of

UPON THE CHILDREN. 109
s temporal, or more properly speaking, to fami-

prosperity and adversity. In the history of the
Jews, most particularly of their kings, of whom,
is was to be expected, we read and know the most,
we meet with repeated instances of this, some
threat being both pronounced and executed against
their family prosperity; and for this very same
cause, their desertion of the true God, and going

108 SINS OF THE FATHERS
the Old Testament, there is good reason to be-
lieve, that the maintaining in the world the
knowledge and worship of the one true God, ho-
ly, just, and good, in contradiction to the idola-
trous worship which prevailed, was the great and
principal scheme and end of the Jewish poli-
ty and most singular constitution. As the Jewish
nation, therefore, was to be the depository of, and
the means of preserving in the world, the knowl-
edge and worship of the one true God, when it was
lost and darkened in other countries, it became of
the last importance to the execution of this pur-
pose, that this nation should be warned and de-
terred, by every moral means, from sliding them.
selves into those practices, those errors, and that
crime, against which it was the very design of
their institution, that they should strive and con-
tend.

The form of expression used in the second com. mandment, and in this very part of it, much favours the interpretation for which I argue, namely, that the sentence or threatening was aimed against the sin of idolatry alone. The words are, « For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children." These two things, of being jealous, and visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, are spoken of God in conjunction ; and in such a manner, as to shew, that they refer to one subject. Now jealousy implies a rival. God's being jealous means, that he would not allow any other god to share with himself in the worship of his creatures: that is what is imported in the word jealous ; and, therefore, that is the subject, to which the threat of visiting the fathers upon the children is applied. According to this interpretation, the

ons of the commandment, “them that hate me, and them that love me,” signify them that forsake and desert my worship and religion, for the worship and religion of other gods, and them who adhere firmly and faithfully to my worship, in opposition to every other worship.

My second proposition is, that the threat relates

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over, after the example of the nations around them, to the worship of false gods. Amongst v2. rious other instances, one is very memorable and very direct to our present argument: and that is the instance of Ahab, who of all the idolatrous kings of Israel was the worst. The punishment threatened and denounced against his crime was this: “ Behold I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboamn, the son of Ne. bat, and like the house of Baasha, the son of Abijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.” The provocation, you will observe, was the introduction of false gods into his kingdom; and the propliet here not only threatens Ahab with the ruin and destruction of his family, as the punishment of his sin, but points out to him two instances of great families having been destroved for the very same reason. You afterward read the full accomplishment of this sentence by the hand of Jehu. Now, I consider these instances as, in fact, the execution of the second commandment, and as shewing what sense that commandment bore. But if it were so, if the force of the threat was, that in the distribution and assignment of temporal prosperity and adversity, to families and to a man's race, respect would be had to his fidelity to God, or his rebellion against him in this article of false and idolatrous worship, then is the punishment as to the nature and justice of it, agreeably to what we

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see in the constant and ordinary course of God's
providence. The wealth and grandeur of fami
Ties are commonly owing not to the present gens

to temporal, or more properly speaking, to family prosperity and adversity. In the history of the Jews, most particularly of their kings, of whom, as was to be expected, we read and know the most, we meet with repeated instances of this, some threat being both pronounced and executed against their family prosperity; and for this very same cause, their desertion of the true God, and going over, after the example of the nations around them, to the worship of false gods. Amongst various other instances, one is very memorable and very direct to our present argument: and that is the instance of Ahab, who of all the idolatrous kings of Israel was the worst. The punishment threatened and denounced against his crime was this : “ Behold I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha, the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.” The provocation, you will observe, was the introduction of false gods into his kingdom; and the prophet here not only threatens Ahab with the ruin and destruction of his family, as the punishment of his sin, but points out to him two instances of great families having been destroyed for the very same reason. You afterward read the full accomplishment of this sentence by the hand of Jehu. Now, I consider these instancesas, in fact, the execution of the second commandment, and as shewing what sense that commandment bore. But if it were so, if the force of the threat was, that in the distribution and assignment of temporal prosperity and adversity, to families and to a man's race, respect would be had to his fidelity to God, or his rebellion against him in this article of false and idolatrous worship, then is the punishment as to the nature and justice of it, agreeably to what we see in the constant and ordinary course of God's providence. The wealth and grandeur of fami. lies are commonly owing not to the present genes

110 SINS OF THE FATHERS
ration, but to the industry, wisdom, or good con-
duct of a former ancestor. The poverty and de.
pression of a family are not imputable to the pre-
sent representatives of the family, but to the fault,
the extravagance, or mismanagement of those,
who went before them; of which, nevertheless,
they feel the effects. All this we see every day;
and we see it without surprise or complaint.
What, therefore, accords with the state of things
under the ordinary dispensations of Providence, as
to temporal prosperity and adversity, was, by a
special Providence, and by a particular sentence,
ordained to be the mode, and probably a most ef-
ficacious mode, of restraining and correcting an
offence, from which it was of the utmost impor-
tance to deter the Jewish nation.

My third proposition is, that this commandment related particularly to the Jewish economy. In the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, you find Moses, with prodigious solemnity, pronouncing the blessings and cursings which awaited the children of Israel under the dispensation, to which they were called ; and you will observe, that these blessings consisted altogether of worldly benefits, and these curses of worldly punishments. Moses in effect declared, that with respect to this peculiar peo. ple, when they came into their own land, there should be amongst them such a signal and extra. ordinary, and visible interposition of Providence, as to shower down blessings and happiness, and prosperity, upon those who adhered faithfully to the God of their fathers, and to punish with exemplary misfortunes, those, who disobeyed and deserted him. Such, Moses told them, would be the order of God's government over them. This dispensation dealt in temporal rewards and punishments. And the second commandment, which made the temporal prosperity and adversity of families depend, in many instances, upon the reJigious behaviour of the ancestor of such families, was a branch and consistent part of that dispensation.

111 UPON THE CHILDREN. But, lastly and principally, my fourth proposition is, that at no rate does it affect, or was ever meant to affect, the acceptance or salvation of individuals in a future life. My proof of this proposition I draw from the 18th chapter of Ezekiel. It should seem from this chapter, that some of the Jews, at that time, had put too large an interpretation upon the second commandment; for the prophet puts this question into the mouth of his countrymen; he supposes them to be thus, as it were, expostulating with God. Ye say, Why? “Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?" that is the question he makes them ask. Now take notice of the answer; the answer, which the prophet delivers, in the name of God, is this ; “ When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father; neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." ver. 19, 20.

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In the preceding part of the chapter, the prophet has dilated a good deal, and very expressly indeed, upon the same subject all to confirm the great truth which he lays down;“Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Now apply this to the second commandment; and the only way of reconciling them together is by supposing, that the second commandment related solely to temporal, or rather family adversity and prosperity, and Ezekiel's chapter to the rewards and punishments of a fun ture state. - When to this is added what hath been observed, that the threat in the second commandment belongs to the crime forbidden in that commandment, namely, the going over to false gods, and deserting the one true God; and that it also formed a part or branch of the Mosaic system, which dealt throughout in temporal rewards ani!

andament, namely, Time forbidden icommand

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