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But was this the case of the Israelites, in the point before us? A candid and good man would, methinks, be apt to doubt, and to hope, (and it may be Mr. Chubb did so) that it was not. The reader will judge for himself. · It is evident from the ixth chapter of the book of Joshua, that when yohua and the princes made a league with the Gibeonîtes, the people were greatly offended with them * Whatever the pretences of this resentment might be, (nor did they want such as were plausible enough) the true reason seems sufficiently apparent; they were, by this league, deprived of the lands and spoils of the Gibeonites. Did these reasons cease in the days of Saul? Or rather did they not still fubfist; and with more force, in proportion as the people of Israel, and their wants, increased, in a narrow land? But however this may be, why did Saul slay them now? The text plainly faith, that he did it, in bis zeal for the children of
* Whoever will take the trouble to read this chapter, will plainly see, that the people would have had this league broken ; which 7 ofhua and the princes opposed; pleading the inviolable obligation of the folemn oath with which it was ratified.
Israel and Judab (2 Sam. xxi. 2.). But the question still returns, How could the destroying these poor people manifest bis zeal for Israel and Yudab? There is, to me, but one imaginable way how this could be done. The Gibeonites had one city in the tribe of Judah, and three in Benjamin : and when they were destroyed out of these cities, who could pretend any right to them, but Ifrael (that is, Benjamin) and Judab? So that Saul destroyed the Gibeonites, as the kindest and most obliging thing he could do for his people. And are we to believe, that they deemed that destruction a kindness to them, if they were no way benefited by it? Or are we to doubt whether they themselves were the instruments of this destruction ? Was this kindness done them against their will? Or is there the least colour to believe, that they, in any degree, remonstrated against, or opposed, this proceeding of their prince ? as they had a right, nay, were nearly interested and obliged to do, as a nation bound to make good the public faith they had given, and sworn to preserve; the violation of which might justly draw a curse on them, and their land. And were the peo
ple innocent, either in this agency, or this omiffion? And if they suffered a famine for the slaughter of the Gibeonites, did they suffer only for the fin of Saul? Or rather, were they not confenting, aiding and abetting, were they not sharers in his guilt ? And is it unequitable, that they should also be sufferers? Or did they suffer beyond their demerit? The divine punishment of perjury is destruction, say the Twelve Tables *. I ain in good hopes, that this candid author will, at least, reverence their decision; and if he doth, I have some hopes, that we shall no more see the oracles of God and his holy prophet reproached, and their veracity exploded, upon such rash and unsearching surmises.
But however some great philosophers may allow themselves in this triumph of their reason, and insult upon facred truths; good Christians will (I trust in GOD) continue nevertheless in the humility of believing the truth of the sacred history; will continue to believe the truly pious and noble spirit of David incapable of so atheistical, so murderous, so perjurous an hypocrisy :
* Perjurii poena divina exitium.
and I will yet hope, bad as the world is, that there are few spirits in it so unbridled and uncheck'd in their censures and suspicions, as to believe this great man capable of so black, so deliberate, so Machiavilian a vil. lainy.
BESIDES, if he were that hellish villain, which this calm and uncredulous philosopher takes him to be, why did he stop here? why slay only seven of Saul's descendants ? why did he not cut them all off from the face of the earth? But above all, why did he cut off only collateral branches, and spare all those in the direct line of succession to the throne ? Why spared he the heir apparent to the crown, even when an accusation of high treason was laid against him? Why spared he Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, and Micah his son, and his four sons (whom in all probability bę lived to see)? And why did he not prevent, perhaps, the moft numerous descent from any one person of the age he lived in? (See 1 Chron. viii. 33. and following verses.)
But why should Saul's descendants suffer for the fins of their fathers ? Is not this contrary to God's own declaration, Ezek. xviii: 20. The Soul that finneth it shall die, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, &c.
But what if Saul's family were sharers in his guilt, instruments of his cruelty, and receivers of his robberies? Should they then go unpunished ? ; .. COMMENTATORS, who have considered this paffage, are mightily puzzled to know why Saul's posterity were not rather punished for his cruelty to the priests of God, than to the Gibeonites. But the answer to this is obvious ; his family refused to be the instruments of his cruelty in that malfacre. This appears from 1 Sam. xxii. 17, 18. compared with ver. 7. of the same chapter. From the 17th and 18th ver, we learn that Saul's servants refused to obey him in the slaughter of the priests; and that Doeg the Edomite (chief of his herd-men) was the executioner. And from the 7th verse we learn, that these feryants were of his own stock *, and such of it too as he seemed most solicitous to
* In the English translation they are called Benjamites, but in the Hebrew they are called the sons of Jemini, who seems from 1 Sam. ix. I. to be a more immediate founder of Saul's family, so that these fervants were not only of his tribe, but of his kindred.