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carly state of the world :-Of the universal deluge :-The division of mankind into different nations and languages :- The story of Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people; whose unshaken faith and obedience, under the severest trial human nature could sustain, obtained such favour in the sight of God, that he vouchsafed to style him his friend, and promised to make of his posterity a great nation;, and that in his seed—that is in one of his descendants—all the kingdoms of the earth should be blessed: This you will easily see, refers to the Messiah, who was to be the blessing and deliverance of all nations.
11. It is amazing that the Jews, possessing this prophecy among many others, should have been so blinded by prejudice, as to have expected from this great personage, only a temporal deliverance of their own nation from the subjections to which they were reduced under the Romans ; It is equally amazing, that some Christians should, even now, confine the blessed efsects of his appearance upon earth, to this or that particular sect or profession, when he is so clearly and emphatically described as the Saviour of the whole world.
12. The story of Abraham's proceeding to sacrifice his only son at the command of God, is affecting in the highest degree, and sets forth a pattern of unlimited resignation, that every one ought to imitate in those .trials of obedience under temptation or of acquiescence under afflicting dispensations, which fall to their lot; of this we may be assured, that our trials will be always proportioned to the powers afforded us: if we have not Abraham's strength of mind, neither shall we be called upon to lift the bloody knife against the bosom of an only child; but if the Almighty's arm should be lifted up against him, we must be ready to resign him, and all we hold dear, to the Divine will.
13. This action of Abraham has been censured by some who do not attend to the distinction between obedience to a special command, and the detestibly cruel sacrifices of the heathens, who sometimes volutarily, and without any divine injunctions, offered up their own children, under the notion of appeasing the anger of their gods. An absolute command from God himselfas in the case of Abraham-entirely alters the moral nature of the action ; since he, and he only, has a perfect right over the lives of his creatures, and may appoint whom he will, either angel or man, to be his instrument of destruction.
14. That it was really the voice of God which pronounced the rommand, and not a delusion, might be made certain to Abrahan's mind, by means we do not comprehend, but which we know to be within the power of him who made our souls as well 'as bodies, and who can controul and direct every faculty of the human mind: and we may be assured that if he was pleased to reveal himself so miraculously, he would not leave a possibility of doubting whether it was real or imaginary revelation ; thus the sacrifice of Abraham appears to be clear of all superstition, and remains the noblest instance of religious faith and submission, that was ever given by a mere man: we cannot wonder that the blessings bestowed on him for it, should have been extended to his posterity.
15. This book proceeds with the history of Isaac, which becomes very interesting to us, from the touching scene I have mentioned-and, still more so, if we consider him as the type of our Saviour: It recounts his marriage with Rebecca--the birth and history of his two sons, Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes, and Esau, the father of the Edmonites or Idumeans—the exquisitely affecting story of Joseph and his brethren, and of his transplanting the Israelites into Egypt, who there multiplied to a. great nation.
Of Exodus. 16. IN Exodus, you read of a series of wonders, wrought by the Almighty to rescue the oppressed Israelites from the cruel tyranny of the Egyptians, who having first received them aš. guests, by degrees reduced them to a state of slavery. By the most peculiar mercies and exertions in their favour, God prepared his chosen people to receive with reverent and obedient hearts, the solemn restitution of those primitive laws, which probably he had revealed to Adam and his immediate decendants; or which, at least he had made known by the dictate of conscience, but which time, and the degeneracy of mankind, had much obscured.
17. This important revelation was made to them in the wilderness of Sinah; there, assembled before the burning mountain, surrounded “ with blackness, and darkness, and tempest," they heard the awful voice of God pronounce the eternal law, impressing it on their hearts, with cingumstances of terror, but without those encouragements and those excellent promises, which were afterwards offered to mankind by Jesus Christ. Thus were the great laws of morality restored to the Jews, and through them transmitted to other nations; and by that means a great restraint was opposed to the torrent of vice and impiety, which began to prevail over the world.
18. To those moral precepts, which are of perpetual and upiversal obligation, were superadded by the administration of Moses, many peculiar institutions wisely adapted to different ends meither to fix the memory of those past deliverances, which were figurative of a future and far greater salvation-to place in viotable barriers between the Jews and the idolatrous nations, by
whom they were surrounded—or, to be the civil law by which the community was to be governed.
19. To conduct this series of events, and to establish these laws with his people, God raised up that great prophet Moses, whose faith and piety enabled him to undertake and execute the most arduous enterprises, and to pursue, with unabated zeal, the welfare of his countrymen; even in the hour of death, this generous ardour still prevailed: his last moments were employed in fervent prayers for their prosperity, and, in rapturous gratitude, for the glimpse vouchsafed him of a Saviour, far greater than himself, whom God would one day raise up to his people.
20. Thus did Moses, by the excellency of his faith, obtain a glorious pre-eminence, among the saints and prophets in heaven ; while on earth he will be for ever revered as the first of those benefactors to mankind, whose labours for the public good have endeared their memory to all ages.
Of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 21. THE next book is Leviticus which contains little besides the laws for the peculiar ritual observance of the Jews, and therefore affords no great instruction to us now; you may pass it over entirely—and for the same reason you may omit the first eighteen chapters of Numbers., The rest of Numbers is chiefly a continuation of the history, with some ritual laws.
22. In Deuteronomy Moses makes a recapitulation of the fore. going history, with zealous exhortations to the people, faithfully to worship and obey that God who had worked such amazing wonders for them: he promises them the noblest temporal blessings if they prove obedient, and adds the most awful and striking denunciations against them, if they rebel, or forsake the true God.
23. I have before observed, that the sanctions of the Mosaic law, were temporal rewards and punishments ; those of the NewTestaments are eternal : These last, as they are so infinitely more forcible than the first, were reserved for the last, best gift to mankind--and were revealed by the Messiah, in the fullest and clearest manner. Moses in this book directs the method in which the Israelites were to deal with the seven nations, whom they were appointed to punish for their profligacy and idolatry, and whose land they were to possess, when they had driven out the old inhabitants. He gives them excellent laws, civil as well as religious, which were after the standing municipal laws of that people--This book concludes with Moses' song and death.
Of Joshua. 24. THE book of Joshua contains the conquests of the Is
raelites over the seven nations, and their establishment in the promised land. Their treatment of these conquered nations must appear to you very cruel and unjust, if you consider it as their own act, unauthorised by a positive command : but they had the most absolute injunctions, not to spare these corrupt people;“ to make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy to them, but utterly to destroy them !" and the reason is given," lest they should turn away the Israelites from following the Lord, that they might serve other gods." The children of Israel are to be considered as instruments in the hand of the Lord, to punish those whose idolatry and wickedness had deservedly brought de. struction on them; this example, therefore, cannot be pleaded in behalf of cruelty, or bring any imputation on the character of the Jews.
25. With regard to other cities, which did not belong to these seven nations, they were directed to deal with them according to the common law of arms at that time. If the city submitted, it became tributary, and the people were spored; if it resisted, the men were to be slain, but the women and children saved.
26. Yet, though the crime of cruelty cannot be justly laid to their charge on this occasion, you will observe in the course of their history, many things recorded of them very different from what you would expect from the chosen people of God, if you suppose them selected on account of their own merit; their naucional character was by no means amiable; and we are repeatedly told, that they were not chosen for their superior righteousness
“for they were a stiff-necked people, and provoked the Lord with their rebellions from the day, they left Egypt.--" You have been rebellious against the Lord (says Moses) from the day that I knew you."-And he vehemently exhorts them, not to flatter themselves that their success was, in any degree, owing to their own merits.
27. They were appointed to be the scourge of other nations whose crimes rendered them fit objects of divine chastisement. For the sake of righteous Abraham their founder, and perhaps for many other wise reasons, undiscovered to us, they were selected from a word over-run with idolatry to preserve upon earth the pure worship of the one only God, and to be honoured with the birth of the Messiah amongst them. For this end, they were precluded, by Divine command, from mixing with any other people, and defended, by a great number of peculiar rites and observances from falling into the corrupt worship practised by their neighbours.
Of Judges, Samuel, and Kings. 28. THE book of Judges in which you will find the affecting stories of Sampson and Jeptha, carries on the history from the death of Joshua about two hundred and fifty years; but the facts
are not told in the times in which they happened, which makes some confusion; and it will be necessary to consult the marginal dates and notes, as well as the index, in order to get any clear idea of the succession of events during that period.
29. The history then proceeds regularly through the two books of Samuel, and those of Kings: nothing can be more interesting and entertaining than the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon ; but, after the death of Solomon, when ten tribes revolted from his son Rehoboam, and became a separate kingdom, you will find some diffiulty in understanding distinctly the histories of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which are blended together, and by the likeness of the name, and other particular, will be apt to confound your mind, without great attention to the different threads thus carried on together : The index here will be of great use to you. The second book of Kings concludes with the Babylonish captivity, 588 years before Christ till which time the kingdom of Judah had descended uninter. ruptedly in the line of David.
Of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. 30. TÉE first book of Chronicles begins with a generalogy from Adam, through all the tribes of Israel and Judah, and the remainder is the same history which is contained in the book of Kings, with little or no variation, till the separation of the ten tribes: From that period it proceeds with the history of the kingdom of Judah alone, and gives therefore a more regular and clear account of the affairs of Judah than the books of Kings. You may pass over the first book; of Chronicles, and the nine first chapters of the second book ; but, by all means, read the remaining chapters, as ihey will give you more clear and distinct ideas of the history of Judah, than that you read in the second book of Kings. The second of Chronicles ends, like the second of Kings, with the Babylonish captivity.
31. You must pursue the history in the book of Ezra, which gives the account of the return of some of the Jews on the edict of Cyrus, and of the rebuilding of the Lord's temple.
32. Nehemiah carries on the history for about twelve years, when he himself was governor of Jerusalem, with authority to rebuild the walls, &c.
33. The stories of Esther is prior in time to that of Ezra, and Nehemiah; as you will see by the marginal dates; however, as it happened during the seventy years captivity, and is a kind of episode, it may be read in its own place.
34. This is the last of the canonical books that is properly historical; and I would therefore advise, that you pass over what follows, till you have continued the history through the apocryphal books.