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These facts render the conviction irresistible, that some superior influence was necessary to effect a reformation in the moral condition, the laws, manners and habits of human society. And it is in vain for any man to attempt to deceive us by assertions, that reason and philosophy were sufficient to effect this moral change; for if this were true, why did they not accomplish so desirable an object, during the protracted period of more than two thousand years, in which they exerted their power throughout the Grecian and Roman states? The state of society, however, is vastly improved, in every country where the scriptures have been received and accredited: Nor can this salutary change be traced to any other assignable cause, than that of the influence of revealed religion. The conclusion is therefore unavoidable, from this glaring contrast, that a revelation from God was absolutely necessary to produce this astonishing improvement.
It is barely possible that the facts and arguments which I have employed to show the insufficiency of reason and philosophy to reform the errors of mankind, correct the abuses of power, improve the moral condition of the world, and advance the refinement and happiness of human society, may have been mistaken by some superficial minds, for a total abandonment and rejection of these invaluable aids, in the acquisition of all that is ennobling and happifying to man. Should this be the case with any who have given me a hearing, I beg leave here to correct the error. So far from abandoning the aid of reason, I have appealed to your reason to judge and decide, from the facts which I have laid before you, upon the necessity of a revelation from God, by contrasting the condition of man, with, and without, the light of revelation. It is by the assistance of this precious gift, that we are qualified to judge of the merits of what claims to be revelation. And if I were disposed to condemn reason, think ye that I would appeal to your understandings, with a view to convince you that God has made a revelation of his mind and will to man? The very thought is pregnant with the grossest absurdity. It is the gift of reason which qualifies us to profit by the sublime instructions which revelation brings to man.Without it, a revelation might as well have been address
ed to brute beasts; or even to stalks and stones. Think not then that we discard reason, when we assign to it its only proper place in the great system of divine truth: Nor presume to esteem it the less valuable because it was not designed to unlock the counsels of eternity, nor judge of the secrets of God before they were revealed: For reason was never designed to be the revealer, but the receiver of divine truth. Nor are we the enemies of philosophy, because we are the friends of revelation. We prize its aid, and delight to explore its extended fields. We view it as the servant and handmaid of religion, and draw upon its ample stores for all the purposes of demonstration in the science of moral truth: But we dare not pay an atheistical homage to this great mental accomplishment, by exalting it to an equality with the adorable fountain of wisdom and truth. The exclusive pretensions of our opposers, therefore, to this distinguishing excellence, in the departments of science, is a most arrogant assumption, clearly attested by the splendid monuments of mental and scientific attainment, reared through the whole history of christian literature. And may I not safely add, that skeptics of the present day, are indebted to christian philosophers for the noblest achievements of which the science itself can boast? Do not the names of Watts, Paley, Newton, Locke, Reid and Stewart, stand unrivalled in the annals of literary fame? Then let skepticism blush and hide her head, when she charges the friends of revelation with being the enemies of philosophy.
The question being settled which relates to the necessity of a revelation, for the civil, political and moral improvement of mankind; it cannot be denied, that an allwise and benevolent Being should reasonably be expected to afford such a revelation of his mind and will as the condition of his creatures might require: And it is perfectly plain to every historian, that unless the Bible do contain such a revelation, no revelation has ever been made. But the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments claim that honor, and fearlessly challenge investigation. As this book professes to contain the elements of genuine history, as well as the great truths of revelation, we shall now invite your attention to the credibility of the Mosaic history.
It cannot, with the shadow of reason, be denied, that the Jews are a people of great antiquity, and that they have, with the utmost zeal and diligence, preserved their customs and religious rites from a period of remote antiquity. It is true, that in the first century of the christian era, some ignorant and uninformed zealots among the Greek writers, denied the antiquity of their origin because they were not mentioned by certain Greek historians who had gone before them: But the same is true with regard to the Romans: For notwithstanding they had long existed as a war-like and powerful people, yet they are never mentioned by Herodotus, Thucydides, nor any of their cotemporaries. The reason why the Jews were so little known by many nations, was owing to their inhabiting an inland country, and devoting themselves almost exclusively to the business of agriculture. It is easy, however, to show, that they were not so secluded as to be passed unnoticed by the most ancient nations, nor even by the best Greek historians. The more ancient nations whose writers have made mention of the Jews, are the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Tyrians and Chaldeans. Of their antiquity and authority, no suspicion can be entertained, unless we discard the voice of history altogether.
Manetho, the Egyptian historian, is alleged by Josephus to have mentioned their departure, with their families and effects, out of Egypt, and their settlement in Jerusalem in the land of Judea. And notwithstanding this historian is supposed to have blended much fable with his narrative of facts, yet the description which he gives of them as shepherds renders it a credible conclusion that the ancient Israelites were intended to be described.
Justin, a Latin historian, who abridged the universal history of Trogus Pompeius, which was written about half a century before the birth of Christ, speaks of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, but assigns a different cause for their exodus. This, however, does not invalidate, but is evidence of the fact, that in the days of this historian, the account of the departure of the children of Israel, under the conduct of Moses, was a truth universally acknowledged. Trogus Pompeius asserts "that the magicians caused Moses and the Israelites to be expelled,
because they themselves were afflicted with a kind of murrain or leprosy, and were afraid" that the disease would become general. To this measure they pretended to have been directed by an oracle. This seems plainly to allude to the plague of biles, with which the Egyptians were smitten; and therefore directly corroborates the Mosaic history of that signal judgment upon the cruel and oppressive Egyptians.
Tacitus, the Roman historian, tells us that the Jews were expelled from Egypt, on account of their having the leprosy. Now these testimonies show that Moses and the Israelites were, for some cause or other, hurried out of the land of Egypt. Thus history, both sacred and profane, confirms the fact, that the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, and that they suddenly left that country in the days of Moses. Two causes are assigned for their sudden departure from the land of their oppression; the one by Moses, and the other by heathen historians And first, the hand or power of God, visibly displayed for their deliverance; and secondly, the fear of the Egyptians, lest the leprosy should be communicated to their own people by the Israelites: But the latter cause assigned was impossible and absurd, for this plain reason-It is a well-known fact that the leprosy was a distemper common to the Egyptians, and is therefore called the disease of Egypt, by the Hebrew Legislator. And is there the least shadow of consistency in supposing that the Egyptians would expel the Israelites from their country on account of a distemper which was common to the climate, and to which they had always been subjected? If such a conclusion then be inadmissible, to what assignable cause can their exodus be traced, but to that which is recorded in the writings of Moses?
In addition to these evidences, the most ancient historians agree that there were from Two to SIX HUNdred thouSAND of the Israelites which left Egypt in the days, and under the conduct of Moses. Numenius, a Pythagorian philosopher, informs his readers that Jannas and Jambres were employed by the Egyptians to oppose the efforts and prayers of Moses and to hinder the effects of his miracles, which had brought down so many and grievous plagues
upon Egypt, about the time that the Jews were banished from that country: and reference is made by a writer of the New Testament to the same fact. 2d Tim. iii. 8.
The Phoenician records, as preserved by the Tyrians, mention the friendly intercourse between Solomon, king of Israel, and Hiram, king of Tyre, and tell us that Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem: Although this fact does not directly concern the Mosaic history, yet it is thought proper to give it a place, as we pass along, since it is an important evidence of the existence of the Jewish nation, more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ ; and at that remote period, nothing can be more obvious than the fact, that the Mosaic records were not only received and credited, but universally acknowledged as of divine authority.
The Phoenician historian, Menander, the Ephesian, who recorded the acts of the Greeks and barbarians, under all the Tyrian kings, also mentions the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, in the 12th year of the reign of Hiram.
Berosus, the Chaldean historian, not only mentions many of the most wonderful events which are recorded by Moses, such as the deluge, the ark, and the repeopling of the post-deluvian world; but he mentions the Jews, in particular, and their captivity in Babylon.
Cherilus, an ancient Greek poet, mentions the Jews, as constituting a part of the army of Xerxes, in his expedition against Greece, and describes them as speaking the Phoenician tongue, (which, according to Josephus, they did speak,) and tells his readers that they came from the Solymian mountains, (which were in Judea,) near a broad lake; which could be none other than the lake Asphaltitis, so famous in biblical history.
Pythagoras is represented by his biographer, Hermippus, to have acknowledged the doctrines of the Jews; and it is believed from good evidence, that he incorporated many of their laws into his philosophy.
Hecateus, of Abdera, who was contemporary with Alexander the Great, while this prince was a youth, compos-, ed one entire book concerning the Jews, embracing a valuable but brief history of their country, their laws, their antiquity, their customs, their religious rites, their suffer