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have equally refused the religion of Mahomet, of China, of the ancient Romans or the Egyptians, for this one reason, that any one of them, not having more marks of verity than another, and nothing which simply and positively determines the question, reason could never incline to one in preference to the rest.
But, whilst thus considering this varied and strange contrariety of religious customs and creeds at different periods, I find in one small portion of the world, a peculiar people, separated from all the other nations of the earth, and whose historical records are older, by several centuries, than those of the most ancient of other nations. I find this a great and numerous people; who adore one God, and who are governed by a law which they profess to have received from his hand. They maintain, that to them only, of all the world, has God revealed his mysteries: that all mankind are corrupt, and under the divine displeasure: that' men are all given up to the guidance of their corrupt affections, and their own understandings; and that hence originate all the strange irregularities and continual changes among men, both in religion and manners, whilst they remained as to their rule of conduct, unaltered; but that God will not leave even the other nations eternally in darkness; that a deliverer shall oome forth for them; that they are in the world to announce him; that they were prepared expressly as the heralds of his advent, and to summon all nations to unite with them in the expectation of this Saviour.
The meeting with such a people surprises me, and on account of the many wonderful and singular events connected with them, they seem to me worthy of the greatest attention,
They are a nation of brethren; and whilst other nations are found of an infinite number of families, this people, though so extraordinarily populous, are all descended from one man; and being thus one flesh, and members one of another, they compose a mighty power, concentrated in one single family. This is an instance without parallel.
This is the most ancient people, within the memory of man ; a circumstance which makes them worthy of peculiar regard, and especially with reference to our present inquiry: for if God did in all previous time, communicate with man, then it is to this, the most ancient people, that we must come to ascertain the tradition,
This people is not only considerable for its antiquity, but for its duration, which has ever continued from its origin till now: for while the nations of Greece, of Italy, of Lacedemon, Athens or Rome, and others that have arisen much later, have long since passed away; this nation still subsists, and notwithstanding the efforts of many mighty kings, who, according to historic testimony, have tried a hundred times to destroy them; an event, also, which is easy to suppose would have occurred in the natural course of events in so many years; yet they have been always preserved; and their history, extending from the primitive times to the present, involves the period of all other histories within its own.
The law by which this people is governed, is at the same time the most ancient, the most perfect, and the only one which has been recognised without interruption in a state. Philo, the Jew, shews this in several places; and so does Josephus against Appion, where he observes that it is so ancient, that even the term (name?) of law was not known by the most ancient nations, till more that 1000 years afterwards ; so that Homer, who speaks of so many nations, never uses it. And it is easy to form an idea of its perfection, by simply reading it; where we see that it had provided for all things with so much wisdom, equity and prudence, that the most ancient Greek and Roman legislators, have received a measure of its light, have borrowed from it their chief and best institutions. This appears from the twelve tables, and from the other proofs adduced by Josephus.
This law is also, at the same time, the most severe and rigorous of all; enjoining on this people, under
pain of death, a thousand peculiar and painful obseryances, as the means of keeping them in their duty. So that it is very wonderful, that this law should have been preserved for so many ages, amidst a people so rebellious and impatient of the yoke ; whilst all other nations have repeatedly changed their laws, though much more easy of observance.
2. This people must also be admired for their sincerity. They keep with affection and fidelity, the book in which Moses declares, that they have been ungrateful to their God, and that he knows they will be still more so, after his death ; but that he calls heaven and earth to witness against them, that he had given them an ample warning: that at length God, becoming angry with them, would scatter them among all the nations of the earth; and that as they had angered him in worshipping those as Gods who were no Gods, he would anger them in calling a people who were not his people. Yet this book, which so copiously dishonors them, they preserve at the expense of their life. This is a sincerity which has no parallel in the world, and has not its radical principle in mere human nature.
Then, finally, I find no reason to doubt the truth of the book, which contains all these things; for there is a great difference between a book which an individual writes and introduces among a people and a book which actually forms that people.
There can be no doubt that this book is as old as the nation. It is a book written by contemporary authors. All history that is not contemporary, is questionable, as the books of the Sybil, of Trismegistus, and many others that have obtained credit with the world, and in the course of time, have been proved to be false. But this is not the case with contemporary historians.
3. How different this from other books! I do not wonder that the Greeks have their Iliad, or the Egyptians and Chinese their histories. We have only to observe how this occurs. These fabulous historians are not contemporary with the matters which they re
cord. Homer writes a romance, which he sends forth as such ; for scarcely any one doubts that Troy and Agamemnon no more existed, than the golden apple. His object was not to write a history, but a book of amusement. It was the only book of his day. The beauty of the composition preserved it. Every one learned it and spoke of it. It must be known. Every one knew it by heart. Then four hundred years afterwards, the witnesses of things have ceased to exist. No one knew by his own knowledge whether it was truth or fable. All they knew was, that they learned it from their ancestors. It may pass then for truth.
The creation and the deluge having taken place, and God not purposing again to destroy or to create the world, nor again to youchsafe such extraordinary evidences of himself, began to establish a people on the earth, formed expressly to continue till the coming of that people whom Messiah should form to himself by
2. God, willing to make it evident that he could form a people possessed of a sanctity invisible to the world, and filled with eternal glory, has exhibited a pattern in temporal things, of what he purposed to do in spiritual blessings; that men might learn from his excellent doings in the things which are seen, his ability to do his will in the things which are not seen.
With this view, in the person of Noah, he saved his people from the deluge; he caused them to be born of Abraham; he redeemed them from their enemies, and gave them rest.
The purpose of God was not to save a people from the flood, and to cause them to spring from Abraham, merely that he might plant them in a fruitful land; but that as nature is in a measure symbolical of grace, these visible wonders might indicate the unseen wonders which he purposed to perform.
3. Another reason of his choosing the Jewish people is, that as he purposed to deprive his own people of carnal and perishable possessions, he would shew by this series of miracles, that their poverty was at least not imputable to his impotence.
This people had cherished these earthly conceits, that God loved their father Abraham personally, and all who descended from him : that on this account, he had multiplied their nation and distinguished them from all others, and forbidden their intermingling with them; and that therefore he led them out of Egypt: with such mighty signs; that he fed them with manna in the wilderness; that he brought them into a happy and fruitful land ; that he gave them kings, and a beautiful temple for the sacrifice of victims, and for their purification by the shedding of blood; and that he purposed ultimately to send them a Messiah, to make them masters of the whole world.
The Jews being accustomed to great and splendid miracles, and having considered the events at the Red Sea, and in the land of Canaan, but as a sample of the great things to be done by Messiab, expected from him the accomplishment of wonders far more brilliant, and compared with which, the miracles of Moses should be but as a spark.
When the Jewish nation had grown old in these low and sensual views, Jesus Christ came at the time predicted, but not with the state which they had anticipated, and, consequently, they did not think that it could be he. After his death, St. Paul came to teach men that all the events of the Jewish history were figurative; that the kingdom of God was not carnal, but spiritual ; that the enemies of men were not the Babylonians, but their own passions ; that God delighteth not in temples made with hands, but in a pure and penitent heart; that the circumcision of the body was unavailing, but that he required the circumcision of the heart.