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author makes of it, and we shall find the following mistakes about it.
1. That our author reports this, as if Isaac had given Jacob this blessing immediately upon his purchasing the birthright; for he says, “when Jacob bought, Isaac blessed him;" which is plainly otherwise in the Scripture: for it appears, there was a distance of time be'tween, and if we will take the story in the order it lies, it must be no small distance: all Isaac's sojourning in Gerar, and transactions with Abimelech, Gen. xxvi. coming between ; Rebecca being then beautiful, and consequently young: but Isaac, when he blessed Jacob, was old and decrepit: and Esau also complains of Jacob, Gen. xxvii. 36, that two times he had supplanted him; “ he took away my birthright, (says he) and behold now he hath taken away my blessing;" words, that I think signify distance of time and difference of action.
2. Another mistake of our author's is, that he supposes Isaac gave Jacob the blessing, and bid him be 6 lord over his brethren," because he had the birthright; for our author brings this example to prove, that he that has the birthright, has thereby a right to “ be lord over his brethren.” But it is also manifest by the text, that Isaac had no consideration of Jacob's having bought the birthright; for when he blessed him, he considered him not as Jacob, but took him for Esau. Nor did Esau understand any such connexion between birthright and the blessing; for he says, “ He hath supplanted me these two times; he took away my birthright, and behold now he hath taken away my blessing:” whereas had the blessing, which was to be “ lord over his brethren,” belonged to the birthright, Esau could not have complained of this second as a cheat, Jacob having got nothing but what Esau had sold him, when he sold him his birthright; so that it is plain, dominion, if these words signify it, was not understood to belong to the birthright.
$ 114. And that, in those days of the patriarchs, dominion was not understood to be the right of the heir,
but only a greater portion of goods, is plain from Gen. xxi. 10; for Sarah, taking Isaac to be heir, says, & cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son : whereby could be meant nothing, but that he should not have a pretence to an equal share of his father's estate after his death, but should have his portion presently, and be gone. Accordingly we read, Gen. xxv. 5, 6, “ That Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac: but unto the sons of the concubines which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived.” That is, Abraham having given portions to all his other sons, and sent them away, that which he had reserved, being the greatest part of his substance, Isaac as heir possessed after his death: but by being heir, he had no right to be “ lord over his children;" for if he had, why should' Sarah endeavour to rob him of one of his subjects, or lessen the number of his slaves, by desiring to have Ishmael sent away.
$ 115. Thus, as under the law, the privilege of birthright was nothing but a double portion : so we see that before Moses, in the patriarchs' time, from whence our author pretends to take his model, there was no knowledge, no thought, that birthright gave rule or empire, paternal or kingly authority, to any one over his brethren. If this be not plain enough in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, he that will look into 1 Chron. v.1, may there read these words : “ Reuben was the first-born : but forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright; for Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's.” What this birthright was, Jacob blessing Joseph, Gen. xlviii. 22, telleth us in these words, “ Moreover I have given thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite, with my sword and with my bow.” Whereby it is not only plain that the birthright was nothing but a double portion, but
the text in Chronicles is express against our author's doctrine, and shows that dominion was no part of the birthright; for it tells us, that Joseph had the birthright, but Judah the dominion. One would think our author were very fond of the very name of birthright, when he brings this instance of Jacob and Esau, to prove that dominion belongs to the heir over his brethren.
$ 116. 1. Because it will be but an ill example to prove, that dominion by God's ordination belonged to the eldest son, because Jacob the youngest here had it, let him come by it how he would : for if it prove any thing, it can only prove, against our author, that the “ assignment of dominion to the eldest is not by divine institution,” which would then be unalterable : for if by the law of God, or nature, absolute power and empire belongs to the eldest son and his heirs, so that they are supreme monarchs, and all the rest of their brethren slaves, our author gives us reason to doubt whether the eldest son has a power to part with it, to the prejudice of his posterity, since he tells us, O. 158, “That in grants and gifts that have their original from God or nature, no inferior power of man can limit, or make any law of prescription against them."
$ 117. 2. Because this place, Gen. xxvii. 29, brought by our author, concerns not at all the dominion of one brother over the other, nor the subjection of Esau to Jacob: for it is plain in history, that Esau was never subject to Jacob, but lived apart in mount Seir, where he founded a distinct people and government, and was himself prince over them, as much as Jacob was in his. own family. The text, if considered, can never be understood of Esau himself, or the personal dominion of Jacob over him : for the words brethren and sons of thy mother, could not be used literally by Isaac, who knew Jacob had only one brother; and these words are so far from being true in a literal sense, or establishing any dominion in Jacob over Esau, that in the story we find the quite contrary; for Gen. xxxii. Jacob several times calls Esau lord, and himself his servant; and Gen. xxxii. " he bowed himself seven times to the ground to Esau.”
Whether Esau then were a subject and vassal (nay, as our author tells us, all subjects are slaves to Jacob), and Jacob his sovereign prince by birthright, I leave the reader to judge; and to believe, if he can, that these words of Ísaac,“ be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee,” confirmed Jacob in a sovereignty over Esau, upon the account of the birthright he had got from him.
§ 118. He that reads the story of Jacob and Esau, will find there never was any jurisdiction or authority, that either of them had over the other, after their father's death : they lived with the friendship and equality of brethren, neither lord, neither slave to his brother; but independent of each other, were both heads of their distinct families, where they received no laws from one another, but lived separately, and were the roots out of which sprang two distinct people under two distinct governments. This blessing then of Isaac, whereon our author would build the dominion of the elder brother, signifies no more, but what Rebecca had been told from God, Gen. xxv. 23, “ Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger :" and so Jacob blessed Judah, Gen. xlix., and gave him the sceptre and dominion; from whence our author might have argued as well, that jurisdiction and dominion belongs to the third son over his brethren, as well as from this blessing of Isaac, that it belonged to Jacob: both these places contain only predictions of what should long after happen to their posterities, and not any declaration of the right of inheritance to dominion in either. And thus we have our author's two great and only arguments to prove, that “ heirs are lords over their brethren."
1. Because God tells Cain, Gen. iv. that however sin might set upon him, he ought or might be master of it: for the most learned interpreters understood the words of sin, and not of Abel, and give so strong reasons for it, that nothing can convincingly be inferred from so doubtful a text to our author's purpose.
2. Because in this of Gen. xxvii. Isaac foretels that the Israelites, the posterity of Jacob, should have dominion over the Edomites, the posterity of Esau; therefore, says our author,“heirs are lords of their brethren:” I leave any one to judge of the conclusion.
$ 119. And now we see our author has provided for the descending, and conveyance down of Adam's monarchical power, or paternal dominion, to posterity, by the inheritance of his heir, succeeding to all his father's authority, and becoming upon his death as much lord as his father was, “ not only over his own children, but over his brethren,” and all descended from his father, and so in infinitum: But yet who this heir is, he does not once teil us; and all the light we have from him in this so fundamental a point, is only that in his instance of Jacob, by using the word birthright, as that which passed from Esau to Jacob, he leaves us to guess, that by heir he means the eldest son; though I do not remember he any where mentions expressly the title of the first-born, but all along keeps himself under the shelter of the indefinite term heir. But taking it to be has meaning, that the eldest son is heir (for if the eldest be not, there will be no pretence why the sons should not be all heirs alike) and so by right of primogeniture has dominion over his brethren; this is but one step towards the settlement of succession, and the difficulties remain still as much as ever, till he can show us who is meant by right heir, in all those cases which may happen where the present possessor hath no son. This he silently passes over, and perhaps wisely too: for what can be wiser, after one has affirmed, that “the person having that power, as well as the power and form of government, is the ordinance of God, and by divine institution,” vid. 0. 254, p. 12, than to be careful, not to start any question concerning the person, the resolution whereof will certainly lead him into a confession, that God and nature hath determined nothing about him? And if our author cannot show who by right of nature, or a clear positive law of God, has the next right to inherit the dominion of this natural monarch he has been at such pains about, when he died without