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and benefits, of which they were designed as types and prefigurations. I know this writer will not allow this, but he must not take it ill if we prefer the authority of the apostle Paul to his; what he offers against it shall be considered afterwards.
But though many and various rites are enjoined and prescribed in the Mosaical law, yet still it is evident that the main stress is there laid on things of a moral nature, the great essential duties of religion. The absolute necessity of real universal righteousness, piety, and charity, justice, temperance, the fear and love of God, is there frequently and strongly inculcated, and most pathetically enforced. Scarce anything can be more moving and affecting than the exhortations to piety and virtue given by Moses to the people of Israel, especially in the last part of his life in the book of Deuteronomy. Any one that seriously and impartially considers them will find such a wonderful force and pathos, as well as a divine solemnity in them,
cannot but give a very advantageous idea of that excellent person, and of the laws he gave them in the name of God. All along in that law the favour of God is promised to those that go on in the practice of righteousness; that God will love them, and delight in them, and will most certainly reward them, and make them happy. And on the other hand, the most awful threatenings are there denounced against presumptuous transgressors. God's purity and holiness, his detestation against sin, and the terrors of his wrath and vengeance, are there described in the most strong, and ardent, and significant expressions, which have a manifest tendency where they are really believed, and seriously considered to fill men with a deep sense of the evil and malignity of sin, and to deter them from committing it.
It is true that the immortality of the soul and a future state of rewards and punishments, is rather supposed and implied in the law of Moses, than directly asserted and revealed ; and one reason of this might be, that these things were not controverted or denied in those early ages. A considerable part even of the idolatry that then prevailed, proceeded upon the notion of separate incorporeal beings; and especially the worship of departed heroes, necessarily supposed that their souls survived after death. Cicero speaks of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, as a tradition derived from the most ancient time. And it might easily be shown that it spread universally through all nations, and still continued to be believed among them, even when they had lost the true knowledge and worship of God. This appears from the best accounts we have of the sentiments of the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phænicians, Scythians, &c., but afterwards through the false refinements of philosophy and vain deceit in the latter ages, under the pretence of wisdom above the vulgar, many began to dispute against, and to deny the immortality of the soul and a future state. And therefore it became then absolutely necessary to make the most clear and express revelation of it, and to set it in the strongest light, as it is done by the gospel of Jesus; but as far as appears, it was universally acknowledged when the law of Moses was given ; and I shall afterwards show that it is plainly implied in that law, and was all along believed by the body of the Jewish nation in all ages.
But it must be considered, that as the law of Moses was immediately directed to the whole people of Israel considered as a nation or community, so the sanctions of that law, or the promises and threatenings whereby obedience to it was enforced, were suited to the nature and circumstances of a community, and therefore were directly and immediately of a temporal nature, relating to the happiness or misery, the good or evil consequences, their obedience or disobedience would bring upon them in this present world. there was a manifest propriety in it, that these things should be much insisted on in that law; because some of its injunctions and observances, though instituted for wise reasons, seeined laborious and burdensome, as well as contrary to those of other nations ; God was pleased therefore to assure them that this should not turn to their disadvantage even in this present state; that he would abundantly compensate their obedience by various blessings, which he would pour forth upon them in this world; and that by a faithful adherence to his service they would promote their present interest, and by a neglect and disobedience to his laws would draw upon themselves the greatest evils and calamities. Such promises and blessings were most likely to make strong and vigorous impressions on the minds of the people, and were wisely and condescendingly adapted to their tempers and circumstances, to allure and engage them to obedience, and to deter them from idolatry and wickedness. But still these did not exclude the rewards and punishments of a future state, which were all along supposed and implied, and the knowledge and belief of which was derived to them from the ancient patriarchs, and had obtained among them and other nations from the beginning.
Upon this brief view of the law of Moses, it appears that the main design of it was most excellent, viz. to preserve those to whom it was given from the general idolatry and wickedness that had overspread the world, and to maintain the knowledge and worship of the only true God, and the practice of true religion and righteousness among them. And all the subsequent administrations of God toward them were wisely fitted to promote the same valuable design. It was for this that he interposed from time to time in an extraordinary manner, by signal acts of Providence, in a way of judgment or mercy, sufficient to awaken the most stupid to acknowledge and adore his hand, and to convince them that their blessings and punishments came from him. The idolatrous nations had with the true worship of God almost lost the right notions of his Providence. They attributed their blessings and calamities wholly to inferior deities, in whose hands they supposed the administration and government of human affairs to be vested ; to whom therefore they addressed themselves, and paid all their worship and homage, whilst they almost entirely neglected the Supreme Being, as not concerning himself with the affairs of men.
God's treatment of the Jews, and his way of administration towards them, was a constant proof of his Providence, and was peculiarly fitted to prevent their being led away by those pernicious notions, and to lead them to regard and consider the hand of God in all things that befel them.
If it be urged as an absurd thing in that constitution, that God is there represented as entering into a peculiar relation to one particular people, who were to be kept distinct and separate from all others ; let it be considered that the particular relation that for wise ends he entered into towards this people, was no way inconsistent with his universal dominion and government, but supposed it. He was still as much as ever the Ruler of the world, and the God and Parent of all mankind. Nor did the particular and special benefits conferred upon this people at all lessen his universal goodness. And surely no man who believeth that God presides over all events, and concerns himself in human affairs, and at the same time doth observe the mighty difference that hath been and is made between some persons, and some nations, and others, with respect to all advantages for improvement in knowledge and virtue, will pretend to say that it is inconsistent with the wisdom or goodness of Divine Providence, to distinguish one nation with peculiar privileges and advantages above others, since it is still true that he doth, and hath all along done, much good to all in the methods of his kind providence, and giveth them many advantages if they were careful to make a right improvement of them.
But besides it must be considered, that God's thus selecting a peculiar people or nation in so extraordinary a manner, and giving them such laws, was not merely designed for the sake of that particular people, but was designed in a subserviency to the general good, and had a tendency to promote it by keeping up the knowledge of true religion in the world, which otherwise was in danger of being extinguished. By virtue of this peculiar constitution there was still a remnant preserved, professing and maintaining the knowledge and worship of the only true God free from idolatry. There was still true religion maintained like a light shining in a dark place, and how far this light was diffused, and how many kindled their lamps at it, we cannot tell. The Israelites were placed in a convenient situation between Egypt, and Assyria, and Chaldea, the most remarkable countries then on earth. And the carrying them out of Egypt in such a wonderful manner, and settling them in Canaan, with such a series of mighty acts, and an outstretched arm, and afterwards the marvellous interpositions of Divine Providence towards them in a way of judgment or mercy, would probably reach a great way, and spread the fear of God unto distant nations. And in many passages of Scripture it is signified that this was one design for which they were intended. The fame of the mighty acts done for Israel, and the laws given them, is represented as reaching to the heathens, and spreading the glory and majesty of God; and the nations are called upon to regard
and to consider them.* It is very probable, particularly that in the days of David, when the kingdom of Israel made a great figure, and was of considerable extent, and in the reign of Solomon, who was so admired and sought unto from all parts for his wisdom, and under whom the most glorious structure was built to the onty true God that ever the world saw; the Israelites and their laws and constitutions, became more generally known, and this might have a very good effect in bringing many to the knowledge and worship and obedience of the true God. It is evident, from the language of Hiram, king of Tyre, and of the queen of Sheba, that they had a high esteem and veneration for the Lord Jehovah, the God of Israel, 2 Chron. xi. 11, 12, 1 Kings x. 9, and the like may be sup
, posed concerning many others.
After this even their captivities and dispersions were made subservient by Divine Providence towards spreading the knowledge of religion in the countries where they were scattered, and where many of them became very eminent, and with a remarkable steadiness adhered to their law, and to the religion and worship of the true God there prescribed. The decrees of Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius, and Cyrus, show the esteem they had for the only living and true God, the God of Israel, Dan, xi. 47, iii. 29, iv. 33–37, vi. 25—27 ; Ezra i. 2, 4. And it has been very probably supposed by many learned men, and it was owing very much to the light derived from the Jews, and the admirable writings and laws preserved among them, that there was more of the knowledge of God, and of some of the main principles of religion preserved in the East than in other parts of the world. The nearer we come to the times of the gospel, the plainer proofs we have of the knowledge and worship
of the true God and religion, being spread and propagated by the Jews. As they were diffused almost all over the Roman empire, as well as in Persia and the Eastern countries, so they every where proselyted great numbers to the worship of the only true God in opposition to the fashionable idolatry which then universally prevailed. It does not appear that any of the most refined philosophers, those men of admired knowledge and genius, cver converted so much as a single person or village from their idolatrous superstitions ; on the contrary, they all meanly submitted and conformed to the idolatry established in their respective countries, and exhorted others to do so too. Whereas the Jews were instrumental to turn many from idolatry, and to spread the knowledge of the true God far and wide in many parts of the Roman empire, Babylonia, Persia, &c., and this tended to prepare the world for receiving that last and most perfect dispensation which our Lord Jesus Christ was to introduce.
This naturally leads our thoughts to another valuable end, which shows the propriety of erecting the Jews into a particular polity, and separating them from the rest of mankind by peculiar laws ;
Seo Exod. vii. 5, ix. 6; Lev. xxvi. 45; Numb. xiv. 13, 15 ; Deut. iv. 6; 1 Kings viii. 41-43, lvii, 9, lxvi, 1–5; Psal. xcviii. 1-4; Jer. xxxiii. 9.
and that is, the subserviency this had to the great design the wisdom of God had all along in view, viz. the sending bis Son in the fulness of time, to save and to redeem mankind, and to bring the clearest and most perfect revelation of įhis will. There had been some general promises and expectations of the Redeemer to come made and communicated to mankind from the beginning of the world. But this, like other traditions derived from the earliest ages, was, in process of time, corrupted and lost; so that if this promise and hope had been left merely at large among the nations in general, there would have been scarce any traces of it remaining. This the divine wisdom foresaw, and therefore it pleased God for this, as well as other purposes, to select a peculiar people, to be, as it were, the depositaries of that hope and promise, who accordingly were kept distinct, as a kind of special inclosure from the rest of mankind. He appointed that the Saviour who was to come, and who had been foretold from the beginning, should spring and arise out of that nation, and from a particular tribe and family amongst them. He ordered it so, that many of their laws and rights had a reference to this great event. A succession of prophets was raised among them, who described that glorious person that was to come by his most remarkable characters; foretold the benefits of his kingdom, and plainly pointed out the time and place of his birth, and principal circumstances of his appearance. And accordingly
. among that people there was constantly kept up a belief and expectation of his coming, and from them it spread generally through the nations. All this prepared the world' for receiving him, and together with the illustrious attestations given to him at his actual appearance, by the miracles he performed, by his resurrection from the dead, and the consequent effusion of the Holy Ghost, yielded all the evidence that was proper in a case of such vast importance. Thus that peculiar constitution tended to keep the proofs of his mission more distinct, and give them a greater force. Accordingly the first harvest of converts to Christianity was among the Jews, and the Jewish proselytes, who were prepared for it by the knowledge of the only true God, and the belief of the Mosaic and prophetical writings. And even the unbelieving Jews, who rejected the Messiah ; when he actually came, were, and still are, without intending it, remarkable witnesses for Christianity. The proofs drawn from those books, the divine inspiration of which they themselves acknowledge, come with greater force and evidence when transmitted and attested by enemies, than if they had been conveyed to us by them as friends. And when after their long infidelity, the body of them shall be converted to the Christian faith, which I think is plain from what the apostle Paul saith in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, this shall give a farther evidence in favour of Christianity. All this we may justly suppose to have entered into the scheme of God's most wise providence, who saw all things from the beginning, in setting apart the Jews to be a peculiar people to himself, and giving them such a