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and attainments. but the principle is the same in all ages, and under all circumstances.
Edward. Our Lord, however, appeared at a period so far advanced, as to have developed those modes of conduct; and in the Gospel we are furnished with the best preservative against similar errors.
Mr. B. On reviewing the whole plan of redemption as displayed in the Holy Scriptures, connecting the Old and New Testaments with each other, it appears in all respects worthy of God. Every portion of it will, on such a survey, be found in its proper place, requisite for some beneficial purpose, and sufficient to the accomplishment of that for which it was designed. The Bible discloses a more magnificent display of the government of the great Creator of all things, than we could possibly have imagined, had we been destitute of this light.
Maria. And what additional interest is thereby given to religion, when we see all things regulated with a regard to the improvement of man by its means !
Mr. B. The rise and fall of empires two or three thousand years ago, is indeed to us a matter of little consequence; but of what infinite importance it is to us, that, during the political convulsions which attended them, mankind were placed in a state of moral discipline, by which they were trained to be in a fit state to receive that Gospel which was able to make them wise unto salvation ! Even in the eyes of an enlightened Deist, the fixing the religion of a nation on the belief of one God, by whatever means effected, must appear of incalculable importance to the human race.
They who are indifferent to revealed religion, acknowledge the benefit conferred on Europe by the Reformation, however they may lament peculiar circumstances connected with it. Upon the same principle that partial and temporary evils, in this case, are overlooked for the sake of universal and permanent good, we ought to argue with
54 What difference is there between our own situation, in the particular named, and that of the Jews at the time of our Lord's appearance?55 If we review the whole plan of redemption, what will be the result? 56 What does the Bible disclose ?—57 In the rise and fall of empires, two or three thousand years ago, what does Mr. B. say is most important?58 How does be say that enlightened deists ought to view this subject?
respect to the events which led to the firm establishment of the religion delivered by Moses.
Edward. The case was desperate, and called for desperate remedies.
Mr. B. But those remedies were administered by Infinite Wisdom, which knew how to even the wrath of man work to his praise, and to restrain its excess. With regard to the severe judgments which attended the Mosaic dispensation, the only real difficulty which appears to me existing, is the impression which might have been made on the minds of the Canaanites and other nations, by seeing such a people as the Israelites so highly favoured by Heaven.
Edward. The Israelites themselves could not be ignorant that it was only on account of the wickedness of these nations that they were commanded to destroy them; this being often and emphatically repeated in their law, and their own sins as strongly reprobated.
Maria. But the Canaanites, who were destroyed without mercy, could hardly have comprehended the reason of this; they could only look upon the Israelites as robbers.
Mr. B. Putting religion out of the question, no more objection lies against the invasion of Canaan than any other invasion. In those countries, and in those times, robbery and oppression were alike common to all; so that I do not apprehend the Canaanites, who knew nothing of the religion of the Jews (if such there were), regarded the matter in any other light than a common war. They would have been equally ready to spoil and plunder others, had they had the power. Some of their kings had already given pretty convincing proofs of their disposition in this way.
Maria. But it is in seeing the spoiling of the country sanctioned by God that the difficulty consists.
59 Edward remarks that the case was desperate, and required desperate remedies--what is the reply of Mr. B. to him?-60 What does he say is the only real difficulty in regard to the severe judgments which attended the Mosaic dispensation?–61 How does Edward suppose the Israelites must have viewed those judgments ?-62 What does Mr. B. say of the invasion of ancient Canaan by the Jews?
-63 In what does Maria think the difficulty of this case consists?
Mr. B. Those who were acquainted with the Jewish religion, must have known that all those who came up with the descendants of Israel from Egypt were not of the seed of Abraham. It could have been no difficult matter for individuals who truly abhorred the cruel and abominable superstitions of Canaan, to have united themselves to them. Some actually did so. There was decisive evidence against the religion of Canaan in itself; there was decisive evidence for the religion of the Jews in their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, and preservation in the desert.
Maria. The passage of the Jordan, and the fall of the walls of Jericho, were, at least, a solemn warning to the whole nation of the consequences which must ensue upon any opposition to the God of Israel: they must have known they were fighting against God.
Mr. B. They must also have known that God was justly displeased at them, nor can I think they were ignorant that he was yet of great mercy; but their sins were, in fact, such that they were not fit to live. The 'attack of the Israelites was to them what the fire from heaven had been to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah It was announced as such; it was received as such; it was regarded by others as such. They knew they were guilty; and such as despaired of mercy from heaven resisted and perished.
Edward. As to the possession of the country, they had only held it before by permission from God; and at a time when he openly resumed his own, on account of their having forsaken him, it seems absurd to consider the Israelites as mere robbers and plunderers.
Mr. B. They acted under a special dispensation: the finger of God was manifest in the whole proceeding. The heavy doom which came upon them can only prove, that the worship and service of God is a matter of much
64 How does Mr. B. reply to her?-65 What comparison does he make between the religion of the Jews and that of Canaan? -66 To what miracles does Maria allude, and how does she say they must have been viewed? -67 How must the Canaanites have viewed the calamities which came upon them?–68 In what manner does Edward
say that they themselves had beld the country!-69 How is the conduct of the Israelites to be viewed in the agency which they performed in these transactions?
more importance than some would persuade us. The same truth was afterwards as fully declared in the punishment of the Israelites, so that there is no such thing as the partiality which infidels would persuade us exists. The Israelites served the purpose for which they were separated from other nations, probably as well as any other people would have done. In the nature of things, general laws may press hard upon particular individuals; but when we see God invariably apportioning to nations the results due by general laws to their conduct as nations, and yet know, that in every nation he that “ feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him," and that hereafter every man shall receive according to his works, -we must confess that the judgment of God is according to truth.
Mr. B. All the previous dispensations had been limited as to their nature and extent, had reference to local and temporary circumstances, and were supported by means of a similar kind. Christianity, however, was designed to go far beyond these; it was to be that in which the knowledge of the Lord should cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; it was designed to last for ever; of this kingdom there was to be no end. The objects to which it was directed were of a higher kind, and the means by which it was to prevail were to be such as should alike endure through all time, and in all countries.
Edward. But this involves several important questions. Is it certain that Christianity not only professes to be of
70 How may we be enabled, in this and in all similar cases, to see and know that God judges according to truth?
1 What is said of the nature of the institutions of religion, which existed prior to Christianity?-2 What is said of Christianity by way of contrast?
this nature, but is also capable of universal reception and perpetual duration ?
Mr. B. It is certain; and hence arises one of the strongest proofs of its divine origin. If all other evidences in its favour could be overcome, this alone would present an insuperable difficulty to the sceptic. This religion arose at a time when no such thing as an universal religion had ever, even for a moment, been deemed possible by uninspired legislators. All out of Judea had sought to make religion universal, only by tolerating every species of superstition that might be invented. In Judea a religion strictly local prevailed; it was believed permanent, and its permanence depended upon the Jews remaining a separate people. Now what human cause could induce the idea of establishing a new religion which should be universal as to its extent; perpetual as to its duration; and yet exclusive as to every species of accommodation with any other religion? Such an idea might possibly be compatible with the state of our knowledge, but is altogether incompatible with that which then existed.
Edward. If it had been suggested by the state of the world at that time, or by reflections on its previous history, traces of it would have been found in other writers.
Maria. But might they not take it from old writings?
Edward. This only increases the difficulty, by removing it to a period still less likely to give birth to such an idea.
Mr. B. Now this idea originated in Palestine, among the very people most indifferent to the welfare of other nations, most exclusive in their views of national aggrandizement.
Edward. No one would ever have expected from a Jew the giving up the prejudices of education for public
3 What, in the nature and design of Christianity, presents an insuperable difficulty to sceptics?–4 How had heathens endeavoured to make an universal religion?-5 What is remarked of the improbability of the Jews acknowledging the truth of a religion so unlike that to which they had been accustomed?–6 Where did the idea of such a religion originate ?–7 What does Edward say of the Jews, in reference to their having an agency in the establishment of the new religion?