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prejudice. We would smile at the incredulity of an aboriginal American, or of the inhabitant of any newly discovered island of the Pacific, who, because he could not confide in the accuracy of the traditions of his own tribe, or country, to the distance of a few generations, should therefore pretend to disparage or deny the history of Britain or of France; and aver that there was no such prince as William the Conqueror, or no such transaction as the National Union between Scotland and England.
There was a remarkable incident connected with the transmission of the Books of Moses, about nearly half the interval between the time when they were written and the Christian era, or about seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, which shows that they not only then existed, but that they existed in precisely the same form as at present. After the ten tribes had been carried into Babylon, the king of Babylon, to people the desolate country, sent colonies of his heathen subjects from Babylon and Cuthah, and Ava and Sepharvaim, to dwell in Samaria, and thus originated the nation afterwards known in history as the Samaritan. You find it mentioned in 2 Kings, xvii. that the community thus located in the vacant cities of the Israelites, being harassed by lions, sent a request to the king of Assyria, to provide them with means of instruction, that they might be taught how they should fear the Lord. The result was that a priest of Israel was sent to perform this duty: and the whole population, though they inconsistently continued to cling to their former idols, nevertheless became also worshippers of the God of Israel. The Samaritans received the five Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch, which they esteemed sacred and inspired-and the Samaritan Pentateuch still exists to the present day identically the same with that of the Jews, with the exception of .such discrepances as may have unavoidably arisen from errors in transcribing it. , Now when you keep in mind that the Jews had no friendly dealings with the Samaritans, you cannot conceive that two nations so inveterately hostile could ever have combined to deceive the world, as to the antiquity and genuineness of the Books of Moses. Thus then we arrive at an important point in the proof of the divine origin of the Jewish dispensation. You have the most incontestable evidence that the Pentateuch could not have been written either at or subsequent to the period of the dispersion of the ten tribes, but was then universally acknowledged by the whole Jewish nation as a faithful and inspired record of God's dealings with them, from the call of Abraham to their establishment in the land of Canaan. The moral, the civil, and the ceremonial laws of the Jews, must have been then the same as now—that is, the same as delivered in the Books of Moses. Thus then we find that more than two thousand five hundred years ago, and within seven hundred years of their deliverance from Egypt and their passage through the wilderness and es tablishment in Canaan, the Jews were in regard to the Scriptures, their customs, and their belief, the very same as they still are. The question then comes to be, were they deceived into an adoption of the Pentateuch, as a true and inspired history of their na tion at any time within the period of the seven hundred years; or did they combine to deceive the world by putting forth or supporting this narrative, though they knew it to be an idle and wicked fabrication? That they could not be deceived is manifest from this very simple but conclusive fact. The Pentateuch or, dains them to observe certain annual feasts and other institutions, such as circumcision, sacrifice, the worship of the tabernacle, and so forth, for certain special reasons. It commands them for instance to keep the Passover, because their forefathers, by keeping this solemn ordinance, escaped from the last and greatest judgment which, on the night of escaping from Egypt, involved the death of the first-born of their oppressors. Now the Israelites actually kept this feast or they did not, for the reason assigned. If they did not, they could not büt know the book which ordained such a rite never to have had any authority, and therefore to be false; but if they did, keep it, they must have
known the authority on which they did so, in other words, have known the truth of the Pentateuch. The question then comes to this point, as the Jews could not be deceived themselves, did they combine to deceive the world, and pretend that those things took place which the Pentateuch describes, and which their institutions commemorated, although they knew that they had in reality no foundation whatever in truth? If they were guilty of such an imposture, it must have been for some end. The most probable one that could be imagined would be their own honour and glory. But nothing could be less secured than this by the actual history of the Pentateuch. It is a record of their national rebellion and perverseness, of the murmuring, the unbelief, and the sins of their fathers, and the many judgments incurred, both in the wilderness and on subsequent occasions, by their repeated transgressions. But the scheme would not be more absurd than impracticable. How could the Jews expect the surrounding nations to believe the events narrated in the Books of Moses, if they did not take place? Would the Egyptians, who had never held them in bondage, admit the reality of the miracles connected with the Exodus—would the Canaanites, who had never been vanquished by them, allow them to take credit for the wonders connected with their establishment in the land of promise ?
But in addition to the historical argument for the divine origin of the Jewish dispensation, we are supplied with the evidence of miracles and prophecies of the most unquestionable and decisive nature, demonstrative of the same fact. And further, the special providence under which the Jews lived as a nation, by which judgments and mercies were severally allotted to them, according as they remained faithful in their allegiance to God, and walked in his statutes and ordinances, or swerved into idolatry and transgression, was an additional and most remarkable as well as continued proof of the divine origin of that dispensation, and of those institutions to which the support of providential retributions was so: peculiarly extended. Whilst they enjoyed the countenance and favour of God, there was no emergency so great, no combination of enemies so numerous and threatening, and no condition so perplexing and discouraging, as to present them with any just ground for dismay or terror: but, on the other hand, did they incur the forfeiture of the Divine approbation, the punishment of their iniquity was sure to overtake them, let them use every precaution to secure themselves against it that they couldand whatever were the alliances by which they were induced in policy to strengthen themselves, or the bravery and skill with which they managed their affairs, the result was invariably calamitous; and such as to demonstrate that no deliverance can be obtained by those whom God, in his infinite righteousness, has resolved to visit for their transgressions. Nor did the distinction arising from this cause continue only during a certain period of the Jewish history, but spread itself over the whole course of their national existence, and even in their present dispersed and rejected condition, may we perceive them to be dealt with on principles which accord with a retributive dispensation.
The direct and superintending providence thus exercised for the support and vindication of the Levitical dispensation, has been adopted by Dr. Warburton, as of itself a sufficient and invincible argument for the divine legation of Moses, and consequently for the divine origin of that dispensation which he was appointed to establish. Other lawgivers, he contends, felt themselves compelled to revert to the awful sanctions of futurity, to give weight and authority to their enactments; but Moses could dispense with motives drawn from this source, and appeal to a present retributive superintendence, in support of the laws and institutions which he delivered. But whilst we admit in a great measure the force of this argument, we demur to the principle, that the sanctions of futurity were altogether excluded by the prospect of temporal rewards and punishments, from giving their own peculiar and sacred weight to the Jewish dispensation. We regard the prospect of providential retribution, rather as su
peradded to the doctrine of man's responsibility in a future state, to afford greater security for the obedience of the Jewish people to the peculiar system which they were appointed sacredly to reverence and obey. It made godliness profitable to them in all things, having, in an eminent degree, the promise both of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come.
But instead of enlarging at greater length upon this part of our subject, let us now proceed to direct your attention to the second branch of the lecture, and illustrate the design and uses of that remarkable dispensation, whose divine origin we have endeavoured to establish. We have already seen, that at the time of the call of Abram, the world was immersed, to an unprecedented extent, in ignorance and idolatry; and that the patriarchal dispensation, characterized as it was by the spirituality of its worship, the universality and benignity of its principles, and the simplicity of its ritual, was incapable of withstanding the strong tendency to demoralization and apostasy, by which, at last, it was completely borne down and carried away. The primary design of the Jewish dispensation was no doubt therefore to supply the ends which had failed to be accomplished by the patriarchal dispensation, to provide a barrier sufficiently strong to resist the encroachments of superstition and idolatry, to preserve and transmit, from age to age, the knowledge of the true God, together with his worship; and above all, to prepare the world for the coming of Christ-and the introduction of that more perfect and abiding dispensation which has now been established. Even as at the creation, the light which, at its first formation, was enshrined in no particular sphere, but universally diffused, and therefore far too attenuated and feeble for the use for which it was formed, was at length taken and condensed in the solar orb, that it might issue forth, not in diverse and contending rays, but in one strong and united blaze; so, in like manner, the knowledge of God, which, in patriarchal times was confined to no temple, and committed to the care of no particular nation or class of men, but was left at