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of their own subjects might be excited, and that of their enemies depressed. These false prophets also granted every species of indulgence, and exercised their power of seduction, for gain. Hence it is that they are so frequently and severely stigmatized as deceivers and liars, in the sacred records. Thus was Balaam hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites, at whose power and prowess he was greatly alarmed. Nehemiah informs us that a prophet was hired by Sanballat to terrify him. "I perceived that God had not sent him, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me, for Tobias and Sanballat had hired him; therefore was he hired that I should be afraid and do so and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me." It is not possible for depravity to extend further; nor can the pu nishment of such crimes be too severe. It is true, most of the above instances are taken from the conduct of the Israelites themselves in their degenerate state; but their degeneracy is always ascribed to their imitation of the idolatrous na tions with which they were surrounded. Such characters deserved therefore the severest punishments in their double capacity of Idolaters, and Impostors.
During the period that the Israelites were in a rude and less disciplined state, or before they were duly organized as a nation, extraordinary modes of coercion became absolutely necessary upon urgent occasions; and the earlier approaches. of these people to an imitation of idolatrous rites were punished with peculiar severity. Hence the the miraculous destruction of the three thousand men who compelled Aaron to make a golden calf; the destruction of Horam, Dathan, and Abiram; and similar acts of severity. It is obvious that savage minds, and those who are destitute of mental cultivation, are to be held in subjugation by terror alone: and if their rebellious spirits had not been subdued, the plans of Providence must have failed. But as a proof that the God of mercy does not afflict willingly, as soon as the Jewish constitution had acquired such a degree of stability, that it could be supported by natu ral means, these supernatural punishments were very seldom inflicted; and the offenders were, in general, left to the physical or moral consequences of their own conduct. This will explain the reason why the severe mandates to extirpate the first race of idolaters, upon their taking possession of the promised land, were not res peated after the Israelites had obtained a permanent settlement; why the same awful judgments
did not fall, in a supernatural manner, upon the idolatrous Solomon, which were inflicted upon his less culpable, because more ignorant, ancestors: why persuasions, promises, remonstrances, and threats, were employed, instead of an immediate display of vengeance, in consequence of the idolatrous practices of the house of Israel; -why their final punishment consisted in the national distress, and subsequent captivity, to which their abandoned principles had exposed them, according to the more usual train of human events. We perceive also, that the immediate interpositions of heaven, of any kind, were less frequent in the more advancd state of the nation, than at its first establishment.. Like other human beings, they were left to the exercise of their own volitions, and permitted to act according to the suggestions of their own minds, as far as the security of the grand object would permit.
A concise epitome of the moral and religious history of this people, from their first introduction and establishment in the land of Canaan, by Joshua, to their total disorganization under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar; and their subse- : quent restoration after the days of their captivityTM were expired, will illustrate and confirm the above position; and therefore it deserves our peculiar attention.
ON THE RELIGIOUS AND MORAL CHARACTER OF THE ISRAELITES, UNDER THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF GOVERNMENT, WITH THE CORRES PONDENT CONSEQUENCES.
THIS chosen People, considered as a body, do not appear to have possessed powers of intellect, or degrees of mental improvement, superior to the contemporary nations; and they required a very wise government to enable them to act with tolerable decency and discretion. Their exalted opinion of Moses, founded upon their knowledge of the wonders he had wrought for them, and the wisdom that was so conspicuous in every part of his administration, held them, upon the whole, in due subordination, during their emigration from Egypt, and their abode in the wilderness. His successor Joshua, was a man of sound judgment and undissembled piety. He had himself the strongest assurances of the divine assistance suitable to his exigences; and he was able to inspire the Israelites with a confidence in his government. In the course of his life, the children of Israel subdued many of their enemies, and took possession of their lands; but not to the extent which had
been commanded. It is said that, towards the close of his days, the Lord gave rest unte Israel from all their enemies round about them.” When he felt his end approaching, he enume tated the particulars of God's miraculous conduct towards the people; exhorted them in the most affectionate manner to pay a strict obedience to the divine laws; promised all the bles sings which Moses had formerly pronounced; and warned them of the dreadful consequences which would issue from rebellion. Perceiving that the propensity to worship the gods of the nations which they had subdued, began already tớ operate, he earnestly expostulates with them, on the folly of their conduct; and he strongly recommends resolution and consistency in the service of the true God." Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served, on the other side of the flood and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord; and if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom yei will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served, on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." The people, under a momentary impulse of pious gratitude," answered and said, " God forbid