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Moses, the wisdom of the laws he framed for the people of Israel, his plan of government, preferable to the best human schemes, and which accordingly continued longer than any of them ever did, without the addition or repeal of one law; these show this most ancient and venerable. legislator to have been above any such gross absurdity as would have appeared in making laws obligatory on the mind, which is naturally free, and whose motions are cog. nizable by no judge but the Searcher of hearts; and all this without any authority above human. And, that intentions, as well as actions, were accordingly commonly punished in that people, is plain from their history. But to proceed.
In the second commandment, the worship even of the true God, by images or representations, is prohibited, as leading naturally to unworthy ideas of a pure, uncorporeal, infinitely perfect mind; and as symbolizing with the idolatry of the nations round. In the third, the due reverence for the name, and consequently the attributes and honours of the Divine Majesty, is secured by a most awful threatening against those who should be guilty of any irreverent manner of treating the tremendous name of God. And the fourth sets apart one day in seren as sacred to God and religion.
The remaining six laws secure the observance of duty with respect to the life, chastity, property, and reputation of others; which set of laws are very properly founded in due reverence to parents, from whom all relative and social obligations take their rise. And in the tenth commandment, there is again another instance suitable to the Divine authority which enacted those laws; this precept being obligatory on the mind only, and having no regard to any outward action.
The people of Israel, as observed above, were of a temper too gross and earthly to be capable of religion, like The Christian, wholly spiritual. Those early ages of the world were not sufficiently improved, to be, in general, fit for any thing above mere sense ; or bowever, were more likely to be affected by what was fit to act upon the senses, than what might be addressed to the understanding. A body of religious ceremonies was therefore in
corporated with, and made a part of their polity, or constitution. But even in them, the ultimate design of separating that people from all others, is every where visible, and almost every particular holds it forth. For the religious ceremonies may in general be considered as tending to give typical representations of the Christian scheme, which was the finishing of all the Divine dispensations ; under which head may be comprehended the various sacrifices and obligations, and to keep the people continually in mind of their being in a state of guilt before God; for which purpose the ceremonial purifications were properly adapted; to prevent their deviating into idolatry, by giving them a religion, which might employ them, and in some respect suit their gross apprehensions: accordingly, the ceremonies of the law are in Scripture called imperfect statutes, and carnal ordinances; to prove a yoke and punishment for their frequent tendency to idolatry and imageworship; the ceremonial law is therefore called, in Scripture, an intolerable yoke ; and to convey many noble morals under sensible signs; of which one considerable one may be, That by the frequent infliction of death on the viciims offered, they might never be suffered to forget, that death is the wages of sin. - We have in Scripture the history of that most extraordinary people, partly related, and partly predicted, during a period of above three thousand years, making a continued series of miraculous interpositions, (for their present state is as much so as any of the past,) in which the various unexampled vicissitudes they have undergone, and which they are yet to pass through, are evidently owing to direct interpositions of Divine Providence, and are all along the immediate consequence of their behaviour to their God.
Thus, to mention a few remarkable instances, if they murmur against Moses in the wilderness, and worship idols of their wn making, their carcasses fall there, and none of them is allowed to enter the promised land, which is given to their children. If they avariciously, and contrary to command, keep the spoils of the heathenish enemy, they are vanquished in the next engagement. If they be obedient to God, and attack their enemies in full confidence of Divine strength, they conquer. If one king sets
up the worship of idols, the Divine vengeance punishes him and his people. If another destroys the high places where those infamous rites were celebrated, all goes well in his time. If a succession of inspired prophets is raised among them, to keep them in mind of their allegiance to God, and they put them to death, one after another, for their unacceptable freedom, in reproving the prevailing vices of both king and people ; and deviate, from time to time, through the infection of the neighbouring countries, into idolatry and vice, they are carried away captive to Babylon. If they repent of their fatal degeneracy, and remember their God, whom they have forsaken, he turns their captivity, and brings about their restoration to their own land once more. And lastly, if they fill up the measure of their iniquity by imbruing their wicked hands in the blood of their Messiah, they are totally rooted out of the land which was given to their fathers; their temple is demolished; their country given to the Gentiles, and themselves so scattered abroad in all nations, that greater numbers of them may be found almost in any country than their own; and to this dispersion, which has already continued for upwards of seventeen hundred years, is added, according to the prediction of Moses, such uncommon distress as is not to be equalled in the history of any other nation.
The early and total dispersion of the ten tribes, without any return hitherto, (though it is expected, according to ancient prophecy, in the last ages of the world,) ought to have been considered by them as an awful warning of what the remaining part of that people might expect to be their own fate if they proved disobedient. And from the history of the whole twelve tribes, one of the noblest and most important morals may be drawn, viz. That a nation may expect to prosper or sink, according as it is favoured by Divine Providence, or the contrary; and that therefore, virtue is the only sure foundation of national happiness.
But after all their irregularities and degeneracies from their God, and his obedience and worship, they are all, (the posterity of the ten tribes, as well as the two,) according to ancient prophecy, to be finally replaced in their own country, in greater happiness and glory than even
All which peculiar honours, important dispensations, and singular interpositions for this people, the posterity of Abraham, are intended as a standing proof, during a period of near four thousand years already, and how much longer God knows, of what value in the sight of God, the singular piety of that venerable patriarch was, for whom it seems as if he could not (so to speak) do favours enough, even to the latest posterity, of him who had greatly stood up alone for the worship of the true God against a whole world sunk in idolatry.
Prophecy makes a very considerable part of revelation. In the predictions of Scripture there is found some account of the future fate of many of the empires and cities which have made the greatest figure in the world: from whence we learn, that the author of prophecy is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews: that neither his presence nor his power is limited to the affairs of any one nation whatever.
No branch of Scripture prophecy is so interesting to us as those which hold forth the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom, which shine more and more clearly from the first obscure one given immediately after the fall, "That the Seed of the woman should bruise the Serpent's head;" down through a period of four thousand years, to those plain ones given by Zacharias, the priest, Simeon, Anna, and John the baptist, his immediate forerunner; and thus the important designs of God, with regard to mankind, opened by degrees, every great prophecy carrying on the view, to the last glorious ages; till at length our Saviour himself comes as a light into the world, and carries his sublime informations and heavenly precepts immensely beyond what had been done by all the prophets, law-givers, and philosophers; opening a prospect into eternity, and bringing life and immortality to light. Of prophecy, more hereafter.
The history of our Saviour's birth, life, miracles, doctrine, predictions, death, resurrection, and ascension, makes a very considerable part of Scripture.
The Christian scheme itself may be considered as the publication of an act of grace to a rebellious world, and of the terms upon which God will mercifully receive man
kind into favour. The sublime, the interesting, and coinfortable views it exbibits, are these :
God, the original of all being, the father of mankind, who brought the species into existence, with a view wholly to their happiness, willing to forgive his oflending, guilty creatures upon any terms consistent with the bonour of his government; but at the same time displeased with vice and irregularity, and not to be reconciled to offenders, but upon proper conditions. Or, in other words, the Christian religion represents Almighty God in the twofold character of the wise and righteous governor of the moral world, and of the tender and merciful father of his creatures.
The Christian scheme represents the human species, who were originally, as all orders of rational beings, obliged to a perfect obedience to the Divine authority, and, in consequence of that, insured a happy immortality, universally degenerate, and become obnoxious to punishment by disobedience; which renders some expedient necessary for saving them from destruction, consistently with the dignity of the Divine government. The third character
concorned in the Christian scheme, is the Messiah, the Son of God, who is in it exhibited as learing his celestial state, and assuming the human nature, to give up voluntarily his life for the sins of mankind, in order to their being restored to a capacity of pardon upon repentance and reformation.
In the blameless life of this glorious person, while on earth, a perfect example is set before mankind of obedience to the Divine laws; and in his sufferings, of patience and resignation to the will of God.
In his doctrines, the perfections of God are more clear ly manifested to mankind than by any or all the other teachers that ever appeared, the evil of vice, the excellency of virtue, and their respective connexions with happiness and misery, more fully set forth. The dignity of the human nature more gloriously manifested in the im. portance of the scheme for the restoration of man, and the high elevation to which Christianity teaches to aspire. The proper and acceptable method of worshipping God declared, the certainty of obtaining pardon upon repente