« ÎnapoiContinuă »
brutal than generous bravery, sacrificed their sons to the public good: but who would not rather admire the obedience of pious Abraham, who had devoted his beloved Isaac a victim to the will of God? Historians and poets may applaud the courage of the Horatii and others, who in defence of their country slew their enemies in single combat: but how short do they come of the heroic David, who, though but a stripling, encountered and slew the gigantic Goliah, and by his death, procured an easy victory over the Philistines? Alexander's virtue is worthy of praise, who when he had conquered Darius, would not allow himself the pleasure of surveying his beautiful captives, lest he should be tempted to desire: but what is this to the continence of Joseph, who fled from the actual solicitations of his lascivious mistress into a loathsome dungeon. They may talk of the fortitude and success of their warlike heroes, their Cæsar, Pompey, Scipio, Hannibal, and Alexander; but how much more illustrious are the examples of Moses, Joshua, Samson, Gideon, David and Saul? who inspired with more than human courage, with a handful of men, trampled on their numerous enemies; and to facilitate whose conquests the very elements conspired, and fought on their side.
I. But besides these general advantages of the Old Testament, there are some more peculiar to it; the first of which is, that the New Testament cannot be understood without it. The apostles often cite it, and more frequently allude to it, and our blessed Lord taking his leave of his disciples, says, "These are the words which I spake unto you, whilst I was still with you; that all must be fulfilled, which was written of me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms," Luke xxiv. 44.
II. Christ being the end of the law, many things which are spoken of in the Old Testament, relate to Christ and his servants, as well in a literal as an allegorical sense: "Our Fathers," saith St. Paul," were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptised unto Moses, and in that cloud, and that sea; and did all eat the same spiritual food, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. Now B
all these things were types unto them, and were written to admonish us, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
III. Another great advantage is, that the Old Testament is a magazine furnished, with a variety of figures, examples, doctrines and sententious oracles, not only relating to faith, but to a good life, that from thence we may furnish ourselves with directions on all occasions. Thus our blessed Lord, by the example of Noah, and Lot's wife, stirs up the slothful to watchfulness, Luke xvii. 27, 32. He threatens the obstinate Jews, by the remembrance of Sodom and Nineveh, and the queen of the South; and terrifies the uncharitable rich with the words of Abraham to Dives in hell; "They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them, Luke xvi. 29." St. Paul, as hath been before observed, says, "all these things were done to them for examples to us, that we should avoid those judgments God had afflicted them with for their fornication, idolatry, murmuring, &c."
IV. The last advantage I shall mention is, that as the Old Testament had the honour to precede the New, so it gave witness to it as St. John Baptist did to Christ; both he, Moses, and the prophets going before him to prepare the way," to give knowledge of salvation to his people, to give light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." In confirmation of which, Moses and Elias appeared at the transfiguration of Christ on the Mount, bearing witness of him, and speaking of his departure, Luke ix. 31. Indeed, so great is the force of the gospel-truths, that comparing the transactions of our Saviour's life, with what was foretold of them, none can doubt of the completion of those predictions in him only. But none go so far in the eulogies of Moses and the law, as our blessed Lord himself. "There is one that accuseth you, even Moses; had ye believed on him, ye would have believed on me; for he wrote of me: but if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words, John v. 45, 46. Certainly as Tertullian observes, the harmony between the two Testaments, the agreement between Moses and Christ, the prophets and the apostles, the synagogue and the church, must needs be a great testimony of the truth of Christ and his gospel.
Having said thus much of those incomparable histories and other excellent things contained in the Old Testament, it may not be improper to say something of the writers or compilers of them. And first of Moses.
And here, considering the dignity of that great and excellent legislator, to whom God did the honour of speaking face to face, it may seem almost a presumption to attempt his character. I shall only say, that for some thousands of years, the sun did not behold his equal. He was from his infancy brought up in a court, where he received all the advantages of a royal education. He was skilled in Egyptian learning, conversing at court till he was forty years old: at which time being divinely inspired, he withdrew from the court of Pharaoh, and, disdaining to be thought the son of Pharaoh's daughter, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of a sinful life, Being obliged to flee to Midian, he undertook the humble employment of feeding sheep. In which time God appeared to him in the bush, and gave him a commission to be ruler and leader of his people.
But if we enquire more particularly into the character of this excellent person, we shall find him the most honoured mortal that ever was born, till the Son of God appeared to bless the form in human shape. He was prophet, prince, and poet. For the first we have his own acknowledgment: "The Lord thy God shall raise up unto thee a prophet like unto me, from among thy brethren, Deut. xviii. 15." For the second, God himself invested him with royal power, when he gave him a commission to deliver and govern his people, Exod. iii. 10. That he was a poet, appears from those eleven Psalms ascribed to him, from Psalm lxxxix. to Psalm c. Besides the many personal favours God bestowed upon this great man, he was pleased to honour him. with this commendation, that he was the most faithful of his servants, to whom he would communicate his will by express words, Numb. xii. 7, 8. And indeed, if we consider the frequent interviews between God and Moses, the conveyance of the law by him, and his daily pleading for the people in the tabernacle, where God more immediately relieved himself, we
may justly call him the secretary of the divine wisdom. I shall not need to advance his character by enumerating his wonderous works in Egypt: his miraculous conduct of the Israelites through the Red Sea; his furnishing them with food from heaven: his producing water by a miracle; and his vindicating God's honor and his own reputation from the calumnies of their enemies by a just execution on Korah and his associates. Whoever examines his adminstration, will find in it the most refined polity and most exact economy that ever adorned the character of the most illustrious legislator; for he had to do with a most obstinate, rebellious people, and whom he governed with such dexterity, that he always brought them to a sense of their duty. Nor was his humility the least embellishment of his character; for though the Israelites had often provoked him by their reproaches, and apostacy, and sometimes threatened to stone him, unmoved he beheld their ingratitude, and instead of revenging himself by threats and punishments, he humbly addressed himself to God in their behalf, to deprecate the judgments they deserved. And for this virtue God himself expressly distinguishes him with this eulogy, "That he was the meekest man upon earth.”
As to the other writers of the Old Testament, little need be said; besides, confining myself chiefly to the historical part of it, I shall be the more brief, giving an account only of those books of the Scripture, from whence the history is collected.
The first catalogue of sacred books, was made by the Jews, but by whom is not certainly known. It is highly probable, it was by Ezra, who collected all the sacred books of the Old Testament, and shewing the collection to the Jews, it was received and approved by the whole nation.
The five books written by Moses, contain the history of near three thousand years, from the creation till his death. The prophets who succeeded him, wrote in thirteen books, all that happened from his death to the reign of Artaxerxes.
It is not certain whether Joshua wrote the book that goes by his name; but it is very probable it was written by his command, and soon after his death; for Moses had often, during his administration, ordered him to write the most remarkable occurrences in a book. It contained a history of about seventeen years.
Some are of opinion, that every judge wrote what was transacted in his days; and that all these transactions were collected either by Samuel or Ezra. The book of Judges contains the history of three hundred years and upwards, from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson. As for the story of Ruth, it is certain she lived in the time of the judges, probably under Shamgar.
The four books that follow, contain the history of near six hundred years. The first book of Samuel to the twenty-fifth chapter, was written by Samuel himself; the prophets Gad and Nathan finished it, and wrote the second book of Samuel. The two books of Kings were written by Jeremiah or Ezra.
The two books of Chronicles were written after the four former. It is generally believed they were composed by Ezra, who collected them partly out of the other books of the Bible, and partly out of the papers which were yet extant in his days, but since lost.
Ezra wrote that book which is called by his name: and contains the history of eighty-two years, from the first year of Cyrus to the twentieth of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
The book of Nehemiah was certainly written by himself, and contains the history of about thirty-one years, from the reign of Artaxerxes to the beginning of the reign of Darius.
The time and author of the book of Esther are very uncertain. Some think it was written by Ezra, or Joachim the priest, the grandson of Jozedec.
As to the story of Job, some have questioned the truth of it; but Job being mentioned in Holy Writ with so much applause, it would be criminal to doubt it.* The time in which he lived is difficult to be ascertained, as well as the author. Some say, it was written by himself, others by Moses. These are but conjectures. It is generally believed that Job lived before Moses, and that his afflictions befel him when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. Some are of opinion, that he was descended of Nahor, Abraham's brother; others from Esau, which last is most probable.
*See Ezek. xiv. 14, James v. 11,