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CHAPTER IV,

OBSERVATIONS AND INFERENCES RESPECTING

THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE

JEWISH DISPENSATION,

We have in the preceding Chapters stated every leading circumstance, in the history of this wonderful people, that the grand object may appear in a conspicuous point of view, and the characteristic excellences of the dispensation become duly impressive. The whole history of events, relative to the subject, is placed before the reader, without the selection of par. ticular facts, in order to support a favourite hypothesis. The reader is thus enabled to pronounce concerning the validity of the writer's

narks, and the legitimacy of his inferences.

In his opinion, the preceding investigations have established the position as indubitable, that the Jewish dispensation is most worthy of a divine origin ;~from its nature and tendency ;--from the peculiar manner in which the important plan

has been executed ;-and from the moral characters of the agents employed. With a short illustration of these three positions, we shall close the present subject.

I. The Jewish dispensation, and this dispensation alone, communicated to mankind at a very early period, while the reasoning powers were in their lowest exercise, such sentiments of the being, natural and relative perfections of God, as perfectly correspond with the dictates of the most enlightened reason; and it has pro

mulgated, in the most ample manner, those · religious and moral duties, which we have proved : to be essential to human happiness. It has also given the strongest evidences, that the perfor

mance of these duties is, in every age, and in $ every situation, an acceptable service. Obe

dience has always been rewarded; omissions : have always been punished; repentance and re

formation have always been received with pardon and complacency. We shall leave our readers to compare these facts with the wisest institutes of antiquity, which affect a divine origin, or with the most renowned systems of ethics which antiquity can boast. We are confident that a comparison will produce the conviction that, at no one period of human existence, have such steady permanent efforts been made in any other nation, for a series of ages, to maintain the principles of rational theology in their extent and sublimity; or to enforce the practice of morality with such purity, and so correspondent with the universal claims of men, as are eminently displayed through the whole of this dis pensation. These singularities are alone to be discovered in the legislation of Moses, and in the pious zeal of his successors. *

One grand object of this dispensation was, to render the principles of true religion, amonga distinct people, finally triumphant over the ignorance and darkness which were prevalent in the world. Without such a provision, there is reason to suppose that the whole world would have lost the knowledge of the true God. That universal darkness and error cannot correct themselves is most evident; and the extreme difficulty with which the Jewish people were preserved from idolatry, notwithstanding the superior light and knowledge they enjoyed, manifests the extreme difficulty which attends this process under circumstances the most advan: tageous.

* See Note O.

The happy consequences of religious knowledge, were not confined to this nation. They : were introductory to blessings of which the Gentiles were to become partakers. The repeated annunciation of these facts, in conjunction with the moral history of the Pagan world, represents the Deity as universally benevolent, by a conduct which, upon a superficial view, may appear to have been arbitrary and partial.

The diffusion of religious knowledge, in a : manner perfectly adapted to the laws of human - nature, and the respected freedom of the human

will, are objects worthy of the Deity, and of the relative character he sustains with all his intelligent offspring; and they forcibly teach human beings to respect themselves.

These truths have been rendered so conspicuous in the preceding epitome of the Jewish history, that further enlargement will be unnecessary.

II. As the plan was worthy of God, thus was his superintendence, both ordinary and extraordinary, requisite for its accomplishment. No one can deny the utility, or even the absolute necessity, of those occasional appearances to the patriarchs, at the commencement of this impor

hundred years ;

tant process, in order to call them forth from the general mass of mankind, to direct their steps, confirm their faith, and ensure their obedience. If it be admitted that the removal of the Hebiews from a state of bondage in Egypt, and placing them in the land of Canaan, was an important part of the divine plan, the credibility, nay, the necessity of an extraordinary and miraculous interference, must also be admitted. For we cannot suppose that any means simply natural, would have been influential to remove them from a country, where they and their ancestors had sojourned for the space of four

; and where they had been accustomed to long and debasing habits of subjection. Their inspectors, and task masters, their native ignorance, and the extreme servility of their state, precluded the possibility of any united and personal exertion. They could not conspire, much less could they act. Their important services, and their being employed in the most laborioụs and degrading offices, rendered it highly interesting, both to the Egyptians and their sovereign, to detain them in the land of their bondage. No voluntary concessions or courtesies could be expected from these quarters; and by what strong chain of natural events could upwards of two millions of people thus

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