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their instrumentality, and through their medium, a preparation is made for the general welfare of mankind, by the gradual progress of knowlege, virtue, and piety, which are so essential to human happiness. The works of righteousness can alone be productive of peace, and the effects of righteousness be quietness and assurance for
Yet these people are not destined to be the medium of important blessings to others, from which they shall be totally excluded. Their impieties have opened a way for the communication of those blessings to the Gentiles, which they had despised. But the same prophecies give them the encouraging assurance, that they shall finally become partakers of them. Their continuing firm in the profession of Monotheism, and their scrupulous renunciation of those idolatrous customs, to which they had formerly been so prone, were not sufficient to secure a perpetuity of the divine favour. They were but as means for more important ends. These people were still destitute of purity of morals, and genuine devotion, which alone could render. them a consolation to each other, and secure the favour of heaven. Their religious habits degenerated into cold, uninfluential ceremonies, which in place of forming the minds to the habits of
virtue, became substitutes for them. Their prophets, in primitive times, frequently complained of their approaching to God with their lips, while their hearts were far from him; and the great Prophet afterwards reproached them with being scrupulously exact in the payment of the tythe of mint, annise, and cummin, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faithfulness. But as they have, by the severe dispensations of providence, been cured of idolatry, they are now under a discipline which will correct their remaining depravities. When these important purposes are accomplished, he that scattered Israel "will gather them, and keep them as a shepherd doth his flock." Many declarations of this kind are so intermixed with the prophecies relative to their return from the Babylonish captivity, that it may be difficult to distinguish them; but others possess characteristic marks which cannot be mistaken; for they refer to a state of religion and morality, which has hitherto been unknown. “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband to them, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me; from the least of them unto the greatest of them; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."*
ON THE NATURÁL AND MORAL INFLUENCE OF THE JEWISH RELIGION, IN MITIGATING THE HORRORS OF PAGANISM.
It would manifest great ignorance of the nature of man, and of the power which habits, prejudices, and predilections have upon his mind, to expect that the nations who were deeply immersed in barbarism and idolatry, who had de
* Jerem. ch. xxxi. v. 31–34. See also Jer. ch. I. v. 20. Ezek. ch. xxxiv. v. 11, passim. Ezek. ch. xxxvii. v. 21–28.
rived principles from their ancestors which were deemed sacred during successive generations, should, without a divine impulse upon every individual mind, renounce immediately all their gods, and all their superstitious rites, upon their becoming acquainted with invaders who professed a purer and more sublime religion. The utmost that could at first be expected must be a perception that the God of the Israelites was greatly superior to the deities whom they serv ed. They would first learn to fear his matchless power; to wonder at the great things done for this strange people; and to acknowledge that . this people must be happy under such a protector. These impressions would prepare the way for others, which had a tendency to mitigate the horrors of a religion which their habits would not permit them to relinquish entirely, and render them less tenacious of its most profligate rites.
Such effects, which it was natural to expect, were produced to a considerable extent.
A multiplicity of Gods was essential to paganism. Most of these Gods were considered as the tutelar deities of particular kingdoms, provinces, minuter districts, and as agents in all the personal concerns of individuals. This very multiplicity generally rendered the Pagans
tolerant, and upon great occasions they readily adopted the gods of their neighbours, or of their enemies, of whose patronage they had formed an exalted opinion. But the long captivity of the Hebrews, and the insulting hardships to which they were continually exposed, could not inspire these Egyptians with a favourable opinion of the God of Israel. As the Hebrews were. suffered to remain in a state of the most abject penitence, for so many centuries, the Egyptians would be disposed to infer, that their Jehovah was impotent to save them from the hands of masters, who were under the protection of more potent deities. Contrary to the usual custom of paganism, this people were so far intolerant, that they would not permit their slaves to exercise the public solemnities of worship. When Pharaoh was induced, by terror, to grant them the indulgence of public sacrifices in the. land, the answer of Moses discovers to us the severity of their restrictions. "Shall we sacrifice. the abominations of the Egyptians before their: eyes, and will they not stone us?" The severity may be ascribed to the veneration in whichthose animals were held, which constituted the most solemn sacrifice of the Israelites; but it manifested the greatness of Pharaoh's panic in being willing to grant an indulgence in a ritual which insulted the divinities of Egypt,