« הקודםהמשך »
was in the fulfilment of an engagement of prophecy, in the judgment of the oppressor, and the consequent rescue of the chosen people from their ignoble captivity and affliction of bondage. For so to Abraham it had been foretold, “ Know of a surety that “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not " theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict " them four hundred years. And also that nation “ whom they shall serve will I judge, and afterwards
they shall come out with great substance*.'
II. Subsequently to the departure from Egypt, but before the entrance into Canaan, the promulgation of the Law was interposed. The rescued people were at large; they were disengaged, as much as men could be, from the holdings of local or civil connexion ; in that sense they were ready to receive an entire body of civil laws and polity, if there should be an adequate authority to impose it: but they were placed in a state which has not been known, I believe, to produce any other second instance of the like phenomenon. When did a migration through a desert ever besides produce a new and complicated Polity, exempted in its principles from the impieties of a surrounding dominant superstition, framed on the reverse model, and opposed to an assimilation with them; fully digested in the detail, and wrought into the public choice of the migratory people? A desert does not supply the matter upon which a great part of such a system could attach, and which usually serves to mould the frame of it; in fact, well-ordered Polities in the common experience of the world grow up out of their first essays of administration, and do not precede it. But, as I have said, the moral capacity of this sequestered people was ready for such a system to be imposed, because their minds were so far unoccupied and detached; though the taint of corruption they had imbibed in Egypt was never wholly purged away; and God, without doing violence to their moral state, supplied what else was wanting, the wisdom of framing their law, and the authority of imposing it: the very reception of which law, under such circumstances, would itself bave been the great miracle, had others been wanting to attest that law, and to enforce it.
* Genesis xxy. 14.
But the preceding miracles of Egypt ushered in the act of divine Legislature. They were its credentials; they established it in its principle, and in its whole authority. Its principle was the confession of the Unity of God, and of his Sovereignty, as the exclusive object of obedience and of worship. The miracles of Egypt were the direct and sensible vindication of this bis Sovereign character, and they clothed his delegated Messenger and Prophet with the authority required for the admission of his law. Those works of power were therefore to the children of Israel the palpable proofs of the One true
God whom they were to serve, and the credentials of the law under which they were to serve him. What had been fire to consume their enemies was light to them. And such, perhaps, we may infer to have been the adequate and ultimate purpose of those signs and wonders, which, being simply neither for destruction, nor deliverance, but including both, were intended to consign in indelible characters, and with an irresistible force, the truth and divine origin of the dispensation about to be revealed. For the signs of God have a bearing upon some law of faith, or doctrine of obedience. He works Miracles to give force to Truth. So it was in the wonders of Egypt, the prelude to his Law; so it was in the wonders of the Wilderness, which crowded round its promulgation.
III. The Law was given in its several branches, Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial. First, in the order, as in worth, came the Moral Law, in the comprebensive rule of the Ten Commandments, with other precepts of essential duty connected with it; next, the digest of their Civil government; lastly, the complex code of their Priesthood, Ritual, and Worship.
Under this complete regimen of an inspired law, dictated in all its parts, they took possession of the promised land, through the overthrow of its inhabitants; whom their loathsome and obdurate wickedness, ripened to the full, had doomed, under a judi
cial sentence, to extirpation. On which side soever the Israelites looked, whether behind them or before, to Egypt, or to the Wilderness, or to Canaan, they beheld in all that befel their enemies, and in all that was done for themselves, the manifestation of a supernatural power, authenticating by a proportionate evidence the obligations of the singular covenant under which they were placed. Such was their Law, and such the establishment of it. But next of the peculiar Sanctions wherewith it was enforced.
IV. The sanctions of this covenant were Temporal. The blessings of Canaan, and the plagues of the present world, are the system of reward and punishment which the wisdom of God thought fit to bind upon it. No other sanctions, none acknowledged and expressed, are to be found associated with its enactments, to ratify them in the publication, or in the observance. Large and general declarations there are, interspersed throughout the books of the law, of the rewarding goodness and favour of God, and of the intensity of his displeasure upon disobedience; the force of which is to create indefinite hopes and fears, under an extent, which, as God had not limited, so neither could man presume to do so. But positive stipulations there are none, save the temporal. “The law of “ Moses whose endearment was nothing but temporal
goods and transient evils, could never make the
“ comers thereunto perfect;" says Bishop Taylor, in his sermon on the Evangelical righteousness described. Or, if we choose to take the judgment of one of the most exact and faithful explorers of scriptural theology, let it be that of the memorable Hales. “If we look into the Jew's commonwealth, “and consider the letter of Moses' law, they may
seem not only to have a direct promise of tempo“ ral felicity, but of no other save that. For in the “ law God gives to Moses the dispensation of no “ other but temporal blessings and cursings. In " the xxvi of Leviticus, and xxviii of Deuteronomy, “where God seems to strive with all possible effi
cacy to express himself in both kinds, there is not
a line concerning that which should betide them " at their ends; all their weal, all their woe,
seemed " to expire with their lives *.” To the accuracy
of which representation nothing can be added.
In this quality of the sanctions of the Mosaic Law we mark a prominent example of that difference, which the whole tenour of scripture commands us to confess, as subsisting between the Jewish and the Christian covenants ; the Christian being founded on “the better promises ;” and Moses, as
* Hales' Remains, p. 238. Augustine has occasionally expressed the same ideas. See in particular Tractat. xxx. in Evangel. Joannis. Hieronymus Epist. 129. ad Dardanum. “ In Evangelio promittuntur regna cælorum, quæ Instrumen“ tum Vetus omnino non nominat."