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ment of Israel was not merely for the Punishment of Idolatry, but for the Cure of it. For God having chofen Isruel for his peculiar People, the World was to learn from them, from their Examples, and from their Rewards and Punishments, the Knowledge and Worship of the One Supreme God. And could there be a more sensible Confutation of Idolatry, than to. fee a Nation, which had been visibly consecrated to the Worship of the One Supreme God, as visibly punished, whenever they declined to Idolatry?
That New Generation, which sprung up after the Days of Foshua, who had not seen God's Wonders in Egypt, and in the Wilderness, nor known the Wars of Canaan, soon forgot the God of their Fathers, and wanted some new Experiments of God's Power and Presence among them ; and whenever they declined to Idolatry, God took care they should not want them, tho' they paid very dear for them; for he delivered them into the Hands of their Enemies, and brought many Evils on them, till they should remember the God of their Fathers. This Account God himself gives of it, 31. Deut. 16, 17. And the Lord faid unto Moses, Behold thou shalt seep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the Gods of the strangers, wbither they go to be amongst them; and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will bide my face from them ; and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befal them ; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because the Lord our God is not amongst us! This the Psalmist tells us, was
the Effect of such Judgments, tho' not always so lafting as it ought to have been. When be flew them, then they fought him, and returned, and enquired early after God : And they remembred, that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer, 78. Pfal. 34, 35;
By thefe means, God made them sensible of his Justice and Power, and reclaim'd them from their Idolatries, and restored his own Worship among them : For they certainly knew, by the Threatnings of their own Law, for what Reafons they were thus punish’d. And indeed, their own Experience was sufficient to satisfy them in this ; for they no sooner forfook the God of their Fathers, and worshipped other Gods, but they were oppressed by their Enemies, and when they repented of their Idolatries, and returned to God, he raised up Saviours and Deliverers, who
vanguished their Enemies, and reftored them to Liberty and Peace : Especially, fince those wonderful Deliverances, which God wrought for them by the Hands of their Judges, gave that Generation of Men, which knew not the Wars of Canaan, new and visible Proofs of God's Power and Presence among them. And we know what Effe& this Discipline had : It did not wholly prevenc their 'Idolatries, which they were very prone to, when the Memory of such Judgments were worn out, by a long Peace and Prosperity : But then the Repetition of such Judgments, as they repeated their Provocations, joined with the Admoniti. ons of their Prophets, whom God raised up in several Ages, did generally bring them to Repentance, and reftore the Worship of God aimongst them till at last the Ten Tribes grew incurable, and were therefore utterly rejected
by God, and carried into a perpetual Captivity, never to return more into their own Land; and Judah, who would not take Warning by the Punishment of Israel, was carried Captive into Babylon for Seventy Years ; which fo perfectly cured their Idolatry, that we hear no more Complaints of that, after their Return from Captivity:
And this answered God's Design, with respect to the rest of the World, as much as if they had never been guilty of Idolatry : For notwithftanding their several Relapses into Idolatry, it was well known, that Ifrael was consecrated to the Worship of the Lord Fehovah ; and. when the Nations round about were Witnesses of God's Judgments against Israel, when they forsook the Lord their God, and of their Happy and Prosperous State while they kept his Covenant ; it was a convincing Proof of the Power and Justice of the God of Israel ; efpecially when they should see the Ten Tribes utterly rooted out for their Idolatry, and Judab carried Captive into Babylon, and the City and Temple of Jerusalem destroyed, and the Land laid waste and defolate, without Inhabitants ; the Justice and Power of God, in driving them out of their Land, would then be as much taken notice of, as his wonderful Providence in delivering them out of Egypt, and placing them in that good Land, was; as God himself tells Solomon, in Answer to his Prayer at the Dedication of the Temple, 2 Chron. 7. 19, 20, 21, 22,
But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes, and my commandments, which 'I have set before you, and Mall go and serve other gods, and worship them : Then will I pluck them up by the roots, out of my land which I have given them; and this
house which I bave sanctified for my Name, will i cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb, and a by-word among all Nations. And this bousé wbich is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it ; so that he shall say, Why bath the Lord done thus unto this Land, and unto this house? And it shall be answered, Because they forSook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them fortb out of the Land of Egypt, and laid bold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them
i therefore bath he brought all this evil upon them.
For we must observe, that God had as well chose the Land of Canaan to be the seat of his Worship, as Israel to be his Worshippers ; and the Inheritance of the Land of Canaan was beftowed on them, in Virtue of God's Covenant to be their God, and they to be his People ; that is, that they should worship no other Gods besides him. And the Breach of Covenant on their Part, by declining to Idolatry, was a Forfeiture of their Right to the Promised Land ; and the proper Punishment of it was, either Oppression at Home, which made them Servants and Strangers in their own Land; or Captivity in Foreign countries : And this was so publickly known, that when any such Evils befel Israel, the Nations round about were able to give the Reason of it ; Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers. So that the very Opprellion and Captivity of Israel, published the Supreme Power and Glory of the God of Israel, who is a jealous God, and will admit of no Partners in Worship; but when his own People forsake him, and serve strange Gods in the Land which he had given them, and separated to his own Worship, he makes them serve strangers, in A Land which is not theirs, s. Jer. 19.
2dly; These Captivities and Dispersions of Israel, especially the long Captivity of Judab in Babylon, ferved other Ends besides the Punishment and the Cure of their Idolatry ; for into what Country soever they were carried Captive, they carried the knowledge of the God of Israel along with them.
While they lived at Home in their own Country, and had little Commerce with any other People, the very Name of Israel was known only to their Neighbours; and the God of Israel could be known no further than Israel was : But when they were carried Captive to Babylon, and dispersed thro' all the Provinces of that vaft Empire ; this spread the Knowledge of God too, who, by many wonderful Provi. dences, owned these Captives for his people, and made the Heathens fee and confess his Glory and Power.
But the better to understand this, we must consider that wise Preparation God made for it, in those great Revolutions of States and Empires, which began about this Time.
To prevent the general Corruption of Mankind, as I observed before, God confounded their Languages, and thereby separated them from each other, and formed them into several distinct Independent Societies and Kingdoms; which was an effectual means to prevent the spreading of the Infection, and to force them to the Practice of a great many Moral and Po. litick Virtues. But when the whole world was corrupted by Idolatry, and God saw a proper Season to begin a Reformation, to make the Cure more ealy and universal, it was neceffa-' ry to establish a more general Communication