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powers and dispositions during a period of about one third the whole time that has elapsed since the fall.
Maria. The consequence we know was most fatal to the interests of mankind, as well as of religion; for the “whole earth was full of violence, and the imaginations of the heart of man were only evil, and that continually.”
Mr. B. That this statement is correct, all the light which remote antiquity can afford seems to testify; the general tradition appearing to have been, that man deteriorated from bad to worse. The general experience of mankind seems to testify that man is unable to live in society without religion. When the worship of the true God was lost, it therefore became necessary to supply its place. We have not time to enter into an inquiry as to the origin of Pagan idolatry; I only refer to it now, as affording a sufficient reason for the separation of Abraham from his country. Experience had already shown to the world (and it was to the world that it was necessary this fact should be shown,) that the tendency of man was to forsake God. If the patriarchal dispensation did not prove the forbearance of God, and the fallen state of man, I know not what could prove them. Those who object to the length of time which had elapsed before our Lord's coming into the world, must at least give up
the objection against the forbearance of God, as described in the Old Testament. We know from the history of the world in subsequent periods, what could be effected by man when advancing from a state of barbarism, and certainly have a right to argue from the ordinary development of the human powers in society, that at the call of Abraham a very different state of things ought to have existed from that which in fact did exist.
Edward. This shows that the call of Abraham was not premature, but that full time had been given as a state of trial in this dispensation.
Mr. B. All experience proved that there was no human probability of religion being preserved without express
6 How was the character and the condition of man affected by this want?–7 Why was Abraham separated from his country!-8 What did the patriarchal dispensation prove?-9 What do we know from the history of the world in subsequent periods?—10 What does all experience prove?
revelation and a new dispensation: these were accordingly given. I would now ask, what conld be better calculated to secure the great purposes which then became more fully developed in prophecy, than the situation in which Abraham and his descendants were placed, the life they were required to lead, and the promises given unto them?
Maria. But even among them there was no small tendency to imitate the evil deeds of those around them. Mr. B. True, and mark the next step.
By a series of circumstances in which the finger of God is most plainly perceptible, and which must have produced a strong impression at the time among them, we find them fixed in Egypt, then certainly inferior to no country in the world, either as to riches or advancement in arts and sciences. By their observance of the worship and institutes of God they continue a separate people; as such they excite the jealousy of the king and nation-are exposed to persecution—they cry for help to the God of their fathers, and are delivered.
Maria. Up to the moment of their deliverance our pity is certainly excited for the Israelites; but after that we look
upon them as the injurers rather than the injured. Mr. B. But in all these transactions we still see the agreement of the providence of God with the declarations of his word—we see a marked design of giving the nations
every chance for repentance. The Israelites went down into Egypt with all the advantages that the successful administration of Joseph could secure; they went down too few in number to alarm the people; they were regarded as the conferers of benefits; and they carried with them the knowledge of the one true God. After a residence of two hundred years, we find no impression made upon Egyptian idolatry; even a succession of heavy judgments only affecting them for the time during which they were operating: and the very earliest ac
11 What question does Mr. B. ask respecting Abraham and his descendants ?-12 What is said of their being planted in Egypt?–13 What may we see in the transactions to which Maria has alluded? - 14 How was the religious character of the Egyptians by the long residence of the Israelites among them?
counts we have of this country from Pagan writers, represent it as the very hotbed of the most monstrous superstitions.
Edward. And if this was the first of nations, what must the worst have been?
Mr. B. To this degraded state had the world then sunk; from this it had to be rescued; from the consequences also of guilt like this was salvation requisite. A Saviour had been promised; but how could he appear when the world was in such a state? As a long series of years
had been granted to “prove what was in man,” a consid* erable time was necessary to prepare the world for the
salvation which experience had shown to be so absolutely necessary.
The salvation to be effected was of the highest kind, and it became therefore necessary to show that it was such by corresponding preparation.
Maria. And that preparation was, I suppose, afforded in the Jewish Theocracy, and the dispensation of the law of Moses. " The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ."
Mr. B. It was so; and when you next read the Pentateuch, mark with what care it was drawn up for that purpose. The great truths of natural religion were now confirmed and strengthened; a definite law was added, and a special providence connected with its observance; a better covenant intimated, and a greater prophet than Moses promised. On every side the Israelite saw the hand of God present: the divine voice was ever sounding in his ears; he could not escape from the knowledge of God. Yet of how singular a nature was the knowledge thus given—the mercy of God so abundant, his justice so rigid, his holiness so intense! Again, their connexion with him was no less singular; the highest blessings and most terrible curses suspended over them; the most singular injunctions, with promises connected
15 What question is asked respecting the moral state of the world at this time?-16 How does Mr. B. reply to him?-17 In what manner does Maria suppose that the preparation for the gospel dispensation was afforded?-18 What will be observed from an attentive examination of the Pentateuch?–19 What appears wonderfully singular in the relation of this people to the Supreme Being?
with them equally strange; commands utterly to destroy the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, with the fearful warning that the same doom would be theirs, if they followed their example; the gift of a kingdom, with the incessant admonition that it only became theirs on account of the wickedness of the inhabitants, and not for any merit in themselves; precepts of the most terrible rigour as to their conduct towards man, with others of the most tender care, even for animals; and yet these again sacrificed in profusion to a God whose tender mercies were over all his works.
Edward. This appears a strange mixture.
Mr. B. Yet, taken with reference only to itself, it was of the greatest consequence in preparing this people to become the depositories of the will of God till the promised Saviour came, and, when explained by the New Testament, furnishes abundant proof of “the manifold wisdom of God.'
It was only by the most severe judgments that this people could be kept in the service of God. They were taught, first, by the most terrible examples of the ruin of others, and, secondly, by their own sufferings, the truth and certainty of the commandments of God. So far. as common life was concerned, their law is admirable for its justice, its benevolence, and its anxious care for the welfare of each; but all was to give place to this first and great commandment, -"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;”-and it was only where this was observed, that the second followed, which however was then equally to be obeyed, -" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” It is not easy to conceive of any
method likely to be more effectual in impressing the mind with the strictness and extent of the commands of God, and of the necessity of observing them.
Maria. The whole character of the Old Testament has always struck me as that of excessive strictness.
20 When all this was taken in reference to itself, how does it appear? -21. How only could this people be kept in the service of God?-22 What is said of their law, and to what was it to give place ?-23 of what degree of value is the system of moral instruction in the gospel?
Mr. B. That the establishment of the Israelites in Canäan, and their subsequent preservation, must have had a most powerful effect in restoring and preserving the knowledge of the true God, cannot be doubted, though we are not able, from the length of time which has since elapsed, to ascertain the extent to which this was carried. With regard to other nations, we find their knowledge of the divine unity generally to be traced to the vicinity of this nation; and where we inquire among nations that decidedly had no connexion with them, we find nothing but the most disgusting superstitions.
Edward. These circumstances strongly corroborate the Scripture statements, and equally show the necessity of securing the continuance of some knowledge of God till such time as a revelation capable of universal dissemination could be established.
Mr. B. We must now turn our attention to some things more immediately connected with that revelation, and without which no reasonable conjecture can be formed for their institution. Besides the moral law, we have another, the Levitical or ceremonial law, containing such an immense number of observances, that at first we can hardly fix our attention even on the more prominent parts, so as to inquire for what purpose they could be enjoined.
Edward. It does indeed appear strange, that in the same work we should find such high ideas of God inculcated, with such trifling regulations for his worship, and such an incessant flow of blood to Him who was the Creator of all.
Mr. B. But if you turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews, you will see sufficient reason given for all this: you
there find that all had an object; that all was designed to lead to just conclusions on the nature of God, the situation of man, the guilt of sin, the necessity of atonement, Mediator betwixt God and man, of purity of heart, and devotion to God.
24 What are the remarks of Mr. B. on the establishment of the Israel. ites in Canaan?—25 What does Edward say of the circumstances connected with that establishment?-26 To what does Mr. B. now propose to turn the attention ?-27 What appears strange to Edward?-28 What reasons are given for this in the epistle to the Hebrews?