« ZurückWeiter »
notable parts of it, and particularly to instruct them in the miracles attending the deliverance from Egypt, as they sat in their houses, as they walked by the way, as they lay down, and as they rose up, &c.
3. Besides the authority that promulgated the law, there was a solemn covenant and agreement between God and the people, whereby the people became bound to keep, preserve, and observe this law, and all that was contained in it: and God became bound to be the God of the Israelitish people, to protect, and prosper them: and this covenant, towards the end of their sojourning in the wilderness, was solemnly renewed.
4. The particulars of this covenant, upon God's part, were, to give the people the good land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, to preserve and protect them in it; to give them perpetual endurance, and victory over their and his enemies; to prosper them in all their labours ; to give them the increase of their fields and flocks; and to make them a great, a happy, and a flourishing people; on condition that they kept and obey. ed his law.
5. The particulars, on the part of the people, were, to serve Jehovah, and no other God, in the way directed by the law; to preserve, observe, and obey the law carefully, and exactly; and if they failed or transgressed, to submit and consent to the severe sanction of the law and covenant, which, in many instances, was, to individuals transgressing, death (to be cut off from the people); and to the bulk of the people, destruction,
captivity, dispersion, blindness, madness, &c. be sides the forfeiture of all the good promises.
6. Besides the other blessings and pre-emi. nences, God was, by some special visible symbol of his presence, to reside continually with the people; first, in the tabernacle, which was made in the wilderness for that end, and afterwards in the temple; whence he was to give judgment and directions, and to answer prayers and accept of vows.
7. This covenant was also reduced into writing, and was the tenure by which the Israelites held the land of Canaan, and on which all their hopes were founded: wherefore it must in all generations be considered by them as a thing of no small moment.
As God was the head of this state, and as the people held immediately their land of him; so he made several regulations for holding that property that are very remarkable.
1. The land was by his command divided into twelve lots, one for each tribe; and they were put in possession accordingly, to the exclusion of the tribe of Levi, who for their portion had no more than what attended the service of God's house, and some cities with suburbs, dispersed amongst other tribes.
2. Not only were the descendants of each tribe to enjoy, in exclusion of other tribes, their own lot, but the particular fields and parcels, within each tribe, were to remain for ever with the respective families that first possessed them, and on failure of the issue of the possessor, to the nearest
of that family : hence all lands sold, returned at the jubilee to the proprietor, or his nearest a-kin; he who had a right to revenge blood might redeem.
3. This right of blood, depending upon knowledge of descent and genealogy, made it absolutely necessary for the children of Israel to keep very exact records and proofs of their descent : not to mention the expectation they had of something surprisingly singular from the many promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the blessing to mankind should spring from their seed; and, in tracing their genealogy, we see they were very critical, upon their return from Babylon : so that, before their records were disturbed by the captivity, it could not well be otherwise, but that every body of any note amongst the Jews could tell you the name of his ancestor, who first had the family possession, in the days of Joshua, and how many degrees, and by what descent he was removed from him. And as these first possessors, pursuant to the custom of the nation, must have been described by their father's name, it is highly probable, they could have quoted by name that ancestor who saw the miracles in Egypt, who saw the law given, who entered into the covenant, and who contributed to the setting up the ark and tabernacle.
4. The very surprising care taken by the Deity to keep the breed of the Jews pure and genuine, by the proofs of virginity, and by the miraculous waters of jealousy, is a circumstance that merits attention, and will easily induce a belief that descent and birth was a matter much minded amongst them. And,
5. The appointment and observance of the sabbatical year, and, after the seventh sabbatical year, a year of jubilee, for the general release of debts, lands, &c. is a circumstance of great moment, not only as these notable periods were useful towards the easy computation of time, but as it made inquiry into titles, and consequently genealogy, necessary every fiftieth year; and as the cessation from culture every seventh year gave continual occasions for the Deity's displaying his power in increasing the crop of the sixth, pursuant to his promise.
Now, taking these circumstances together under consideration, could any human precaution have provided more means to keep up the memory and evidence of any fact? Could this have been done by human foresight or force? Has any thing like to it ever been in the world besides ?
What could tend more to perpetuate the memory of any event, than to deliver a whole people, by public glorious miracles, from intolerable slavery? To publish a very extraordinary system of laws immediately from heaven? To put this law in writing together with the covenant for the obeying it? To make the tenure of the estates depend on the original division of the land, to men who saw the miracles, and first took possession, and on the proximity of relation, by descent to them? To appoint a return of lands every fiftieth year, which should give perpetual occasion to canvass those descents? To order a sabbath every seventh year for the land, the loss of which should be supplied by the preceding year's increase? And to select a whole tribe consisting of many
thousands, to be the guardians, in some degree the judges and the executors of this law: who were barred from any portion of the land, in common with their brethren, and were contented with the contributions that came from the other tribes, without any fixed portion amongst them. This must keep up the belief and authority of the law amongst the descendants of that people, or nothing could : and if such a belief, under all these circumstances, prevailed amongst a people so constituted, that belief could not possibly proceed from imposture: because the very means provided, for proof of the truth, are so many checks against any possibility of imposition.
THAT THE LEGATION OF MOSES COULD NOT HAVE
BEEN FORGED. If any man will suggest that the law of the Jews is no more than human invention, and that the book of the law is a forgery; let him say when it was imposed upon that people, or at what period it could have possibly been imposed upon them, so as to gain belief, later than the period they mention, and under other circumstances than those they relate. · Could the whole people have been persuaded at any one period, by any impostor, that they were told severally by their fathers, and they by theirs, that the law was given with such circumstances, and under such promises and threats, if they were not really told so; or that they, throughout all their generations, had worn certain pas