Page images

ments of the Lord their God, his judgments and his statutes;" that they would break through every evil habit, and resist every future temptation.

They afterwards proceeded to regulate their civil concerns, and to appoint the respective abodes both of priests and people. The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem. Nine tenths were destined by lots to inhabit the other cities of Judah, and one tenth to continue in Jeru salem. This being the post of the greatest danger, the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem." The walls of Jerusalem were solemnly dedicated with great festivity, and with every mark of grateful joy. They separated also from the Ammonites and Moabites, upon discovering that, by the law of Moses, they were com manded to be a distinct people. This command was founded upon the refusal of these nations to grant the assistance solicited by the Israelites. upon their first approach to the land of Canaan; but its moral tendency is most obvious. Nehemiah, being obliged to visit the court of Artaxerxes at the stipulated time, the above separation was not so complete as the law had

enjoined; for Eliashib the priest, manifested a partiality for Tobias who was an alien, because by marriage he became related to him. This was resented by Nehemiah at his return to Jerusalem, with great indignation. He corrected other abuses respecting the priesthood, and the observance of the sabbath. He reclaimed also some who had intermarried with the neighbouring nations.

Thus finally was a new æra introduced among this wonderful people. Their religion was restored to its primitive purity. Their former sufferings, and their encouragements to expect future peace and prosperity, by an observance of the divine laws, at length subdued their minds to obedience; and they made every sacrifice required of them by those pious leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah. As a people they did not return to a state of independence, nor was the royal dignity immediately restored. They were tributary to foreign powers, and they had various connexions with the neighbouring nations; but as a people they remained stedfast to their religious principles. The general propensity to the worship of Idols was totally subdued; and they became Monotheists in the strictest sense of the


term. To this point all the Dispensations of God were directed; and it is precisely at this point that the sacred history terminated.

The whole current of profane history bears witness to the permanency of this wonderful change! A people whose ancestors were igno miniously prone to idolatry, through a series of ages, in opposition to every principle of common sense, to the express prohibitions of Jehovah, and to every motive of gratitude or of interest, have continued firm in their abhorrence of idolatry, and in their adherence to pure Monotheism, under every persecution. They have carried their principles with them wherever they were dispersed. They have submitted to every indignity which ignorance or bigotry could inflict, and resisted every temptation to adopt the customs of the nations among whom they dwelt; and they are, to this day, a monument of the final and permanent efficacy of those means which the Supreme Director employed, completely to separate them from an idolatrous world.*

* See Note L.




[ocr errors]


The moral character of the Jewish nation did not entitle them to this exclusive honour.

[ocr errors]

WE have seen that the Jews, and the Jews alone, as a nation, finally became Monotheists, and that "unto them were committed the oracles of God." We shall now enquire for what purposes this people were chosen from the general mass, and rendered a deposit of divine truths; that we may be able to trace the immediate effects of the plan, as introductory to the Christian revelation. The enquiry will also enable us to appreciate the national character of the ancient Jews, in a proper manner; and discover to us the nature and extent of the advantages derived to other nations, from this highly favoured people.

The distinguished honours conferred upon the Hebrews; their being selected and separated from a world immersed in ignorance and idolatry; their possessing, for a series of ages, many exclusive privileges;-their being represented in the language of scripture, as the peculiar people of God, have induced many Christians to entertain sentiments concerning that nation, which are not supported by historical facts; neither are they consistent with our ideas of the divine impartiality. Misconceptions also, respecting this subject, have inspired the descendants from the faithful Abraham, with extravagant conceptions of their own superiority. Such vain expectations have thus been fostered, as became an impediment to their receiving a Dispensation, for which that communicated to their ancestors was preparatory.


It is readily admitted that numerous passages in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophecies, are expressive of an affectionate predilection. Jehovah is emphatically styled "the God of Israel; the God of Jacob." children of Jacob are his chosen ones." "I loved thee with an everlasting love." " How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Israel?" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compas

« PreviousContinue »