« PreviousContinue »
in setting forth the nature, substance, and end of our obligations; and, without entering on minute discussions, in taking in the whole compass of duty; for by this means the paths of life are not only pointed out to each individual, and his personal character formed; but the minds of mankind, in general, are furnished and enriched with the beauty, copiousness, and variety of all virtues. -The Prophets announce not only the promises, but also the characteristic marks of the Messiah, with the threats against sinners, and those calamities which were to befal the Jews and other nations. The Psalms unite in themselves the chief subjects, and all the different excellencies of the Old Testament. In a word, every thing in the Sacred Writings will appear, as it truly is, holy, grand, and profitable, provided it be read with suitable dispositions.
ANTIQUITY AND VALUE OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS. Look into a book so common that almost every body has it, and so excellent that no person ought to be without it-Grotius on the truth of the Christian religion-and you will there meet abundant testimony to the truth of all the principal facts recorded in Genesis. The testimony is not that of Jews, Christians, and priests; it is the testimony of the philosophers, poets, and historians of antiquity. The oldest book in the world is Genesis ; and it is remarkable, that those books which come nearest to it in age, are those which make either the most distinct mention of, or the most evident allusion to, the facts related in Genesis concerning the formation of the world from a chaotic mass, the primeval innocence and subsequent fall of man, the longevity of mankind in the first ages of the world, the antediluvians, and the destruction of the world.—Read the tenth chapter of Genesis. It may appear to you to contain nothing but an uninteresting narration of the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japeth ; 'a mere fable, an invented absurdity, a downright lie.*' No, sir, it is one of the most valuable, and the most venerable records of antiquity. It explains, what all historians were ignorant of, the origin of nations. Had it told us, as other books do, that one nation had sprung out of the earth they inhabited; another from a cricket or a grasshopper; another from an oak; another from a mushroom; another from a dragon's tooth; then indeed it would have merited the appellation you, with so much temerity, bestow upon it. Instead of these absurdities, it gives such an account of the peopling of the earth after the deluge, as no other book in the world ever did give; and the truth of which all other books in the world, which contain any thing on the subject, confirm. The last verse of the chapter says, “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth, after the food.' It would require great learning to trace out, precisely, either the actual situation of all the countries in
which these founders of empires settled, or to ascertain the extent of their dominions. This, however, has been done by various authors, to the satisfaction of all competent judges; so much, at least, to my satisfaction, that had I no other proof of the authenticity of Genesis, I should consider this as sufficient. But, without the aid of learning, any man who can barely read the Bible, and has but heard of such people as the Assyrians, the Elamites, the Lydians, the Medes, the Ionians, the Thracians, will readily acknowledge, that they had Assur, and Elam, and Lud, and Madai, and Javan, and Tiros, grandsons of Noah, for their respective founders; and knowing this, he will not, I hope, part with his Bible, as a system of fables. I am no enemy to philosophy; but when philosophy would rob me of my Bible, I must say of it, as Cicero said of the twelve tables, “This little book alone exceeds the libraries of all the philosophers in the weight of its authority, and in the extent of its utility.'
PROOFS OF THE DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES. The evidence the Jews had to believe the several matters related by Moses, preceding the deliverance from Egypt, was, so far as we know, no more than Moses's word; whose credit was sufficiently established, by the testimonies given to him by the Deity; but, at the same time, it is not certain that they had not some distinct tradition concerning these things. But, as to his authority, and the authority of the laws and institutions given by him, they had, and their children, and we, who take it from their children, have the strongest
evidence the nature of the thing is capable of. For,
1. The whole people, an infinite multitude, were witnesses of all the miracles wrought preceding the deliverance from Egypt, and of the final miracle that achieved their deliverance; in memory whereof, the passover, an annual solemnity, was instituted, with the strongest injunctions to acquaint their children with the cause of that observance, and to mark that night throughout all their generations for ever.
2. The whole people were witnesses to the miracle in passing the Red Sea, and sung that hymn which Moses composed on that occasion. which was preserved for the use of their children.
3. The whole people were witnesses to the dreadful promulgation of the law. from Sinai, with which they were also to acquaint their children; and the feast of pentecost was annually to be observed on the day on which that law was given ; besides that the very tables in which the ten commandments were written, were deposited in the ark, and remained, at least, till the building of Solomon's temple, and probably till the destruction of it.
4. The whole people were witnesses to the many miracles wrought, during the space of forty years, in the wilderness; to the pillar of fire and cloud, to the manna, quails, &c. a sample of the manna remained to future generations : and they were directed to relate what they saw to their children,
5. The whole people were witnesses to the framing and building of the ark and tabernacle; they were all contributors to it; they saw the cloud fill and rest upon it, and they assisted at the services performed there : and, to commemorate this, as well as their sojourning in tents in the wilderness, the annual feast of tabernacles was appointed, which in succeeding years they were to explain to their children.
As these things were absolutely sufficient to satisfy the children of Israel, then in being, touching the authority and obligation of this law, several things were added to enforce the observance, and to preserve the memory and evidence of what was to be observed.
1. The law was by Moses, at the command of God, put into writing, for the greater certainty, as well as all the directions for making the ark, the cherubim, the tabernacle, the priest's garments, &c. and all the rules of government, judicature, &c. with every other circumstance revealed, for directing the faith and the conduct of the nation.
2. The law was to be preserved, perused, and attended to, in the most careful manner; the priests, who were to judge in questions relating to it, must be well versed in it; the king, who was to rule over the nation, was to write out a copy of it for himself, and to peruse it continually; and the people were to write out passages of it, and to wear them by way of signs, upon their hands; and of frontlets, between their eyes ; and to write them upon the post of their doors, &c. And they wer
to teach their children the most