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God, at a time when the whole human race appears to have been struggling, or, rather I should say, to have been basely grovelling, in the darkness of polytheism. This luminous manifestation of the Infinite Spirit, fifteen centuries before Jesus Christ, contemporary with the old fables of Europe and Asia, amidst the Fetichism of Egypt, on the one hand, and the debasing superstitions of Canaan, on the other, this is the great moral miracle at the dawn of the world's history; a miracle, which throws a supernatural light around the Mosaic law, and draws the attention of mankind to that point so far back in the ages, so diminutive in space, so despised by the fastidious refinement of the philosophers.
"It would seem, indeed, as if neither the historian, the philosopher, nor the religious man could remain indifferent with such a phenomenon before their eyes. How can they refrain from asking themselves, whence comes this wonderful superiority of the Mosaic religion over all others, and of the Hebrew people over all the civilized nations of antiquity, and what were the destinies thus presaged to that people; what end the legislator had in view? As to the first of these questions, here is not the place to answer it. This we have already done elsewhere, and we hope what remains of this book also will indirectly serve as an answer. As to the second question, we proceed to point out the end, for which the legislation was evidently revealed; all the sequel of the work is but the development of that end.
"What that end was, has, doubtless, been already anticipated. It seems to us written all over the institutions of the Hebrews. It is that, which harmonizes and explains them all; without which we are tossed about in inextricable darkness, and with which all becomes light. It was the will of God, of him, who destined man for salvation and Christ for the world, to establish by way of preparation a peculiar people, under such circumstances that they might receive, guard, and preserve, till the grand advent, the light of theism and the deposit of preparatory revelations. Here was the great end of the Mosaic revelation, and surely it was one in harmony with the ways of him, who, in grace as in nature, is faithful to a law chosen by his wisdom, and proclaimed aloud by all his works, that law by which he wills and brings to pass no change, that is not prepared; no result, in which man and time have not their part to do; no miracle, I had almost said, to which the operation of second causes and his ordinary providence are not called to contribute. Now, we behold him inciting man to progress, and now leading him on by his own right hand, ever making the education of the race progressive, while he is silently preparing for them glorious
and immortal destinies; ever long-suffering, because everlasting. Such is our God, as he constantly manifests himself." — Vol. I. pp. 79-82.
As for the sources of the legislation, it is in the Pentateuch alone that they are to be sought, for that alone contains the original and complete views of the legislator. The history of the Hebrews will only serve indirectly as a help in coming at the primitive plan, so utterly changed and perverted was the law by the Hebrews disobeying the command to drive out the Canaanites, by the establishment of the monarchy, by the despotic and oriental customs soon introduced into the royal court, by the schism between the two kingdoms, to say nothing of other causes less prominent. Sometimes, however, the history is useful in throwing light upon obscure portions of the law.
The archeology of the East, were it better known, might, as well as the Jewish history, occupy a secondary place in the sources of the legislation, many of the Mosaic laws resting upon more ancient customs adopted in part by the legislator.
No good would come from consulting the Rabbis and the Talmud, faint and dubious lights, when our object is only to discover how the Jews applied their law, and much more so, when we wish to understand the law itself. What a host of errors and follies would commentators have saved themselves, if they had but looked at the Pentateuch as the source of the Mosaic law, instead of substituting in its place the commandments of men, who in later times have disfigured its beauty!
Before showing what course he intends to pursue in the study of the legislation itself, the author lays down the following principles, the legitimate results of views already presented, but necessary to form a just estimate of his work. He then gives a brief outline of his plan:
"1. We are not to look for a code of laws, like our ordinary codes, flexible and applicable to many nations. The position, the character, the mission of the Jewish people, were all peculiar. We must expect, then, to find a legislation corresponding to these peculiar circumstances, a legislation purely and exclusively Jewish.
"2. It is the aim of the legislator to transform, radically to transform, the national habits of the Hebrews. Now, how shall he succeed in this? Not by vague and general laws, — not, as legislators commonly do, by regulating outward circumstances
and the civil relations merely. He will be obliged to follow the individual into the privacies of domestic life, enter into petty details, and extend an inflexible law over the least and most hidden elements of the social and moral man. Our attention, then, must be directed particularly to this influence; this private, familiar, steady influence. And let no one be surprised at seeing us carefully weigh a thousand circumstances apparently insignificant, unworthy perhaps of a legislation all human, where they would be out of place and ridiculous, because without effect; yet here important, effective, and deserving special consideration.
"3. Let us beware, also, how we look, even into the Pentateuch, for a complete exposé of the legislation. In reality it will be founded, for example, on various customs handed down to the Hebrews by their fathers, and adopted by the legislator. These long-established customs he assumes as being already familiar to the Hebrews, and does little more than point out what modifications and what restrictions they need. Perhaps the very foundation of an institution will be taken for granted, though veiled in some obscurity. Hence the various chasms we shall -find, which need not surprise us.
"Let us now proceed to develop the order of ideas, which appears to have directed the Mosaic legislation, and with regard to which we are about to examine it.
"I. The divine legislator, at the outset, prepares the people for the legislation they are to receive.
"II. In order to act upon the people with a constant and energetic power, he makes choice of a peculiar instrument, Theocracy. At the same time, he regulates and qualifies the use of it.
"III. He puts the legislation on a level with the people, by accommodating himself to their ignorance and their wants, by leaving the shortest path, when circumstances call for it, to guide the people along that, which will lead more surely to the end.
"IV. He conforms the legislation exactly to the country, which the Hebrews are to occupy, and adapts it to the mode of life, which they are to lead there.
"So much for the legislation itself and its immediate action. But all this would not be enough, for the present is not all. It is necessary to provide for the future, and anticipate the dangers, which the Hebrews would be likely to meet either from without or from within.
Dangers from without:
"V. To guard against these, the legislator labors to keep the people enclosed within the compass of the Promised Land, and
isolated from strangers, who would infallibly corrupt or enslave them.
"VI. That he may leave them in a condition to repel the foreign enemy, he aims to secure their strength, independence, and prosperity.
Dangers from within:
Corruption of morals, popular disaffection, disunion, the absence of public spirit, were enemies still more to be dreaded than the Egyptians or the Amalekites.
"VII. To arrest the growth of evils like these, the legislator labors to ensure the happiness of his people —
"VIII. To keep alive in their breasts a religious spirit
"IX. To prevent corruption of morals.
"But the Hebrew people had a mission to fulfil very different from that of nations in general. The legislator had to educate them for a special, though a distant future.
"X. With this end in view, he prepares for the people that degree of civilization and that kind of social advancement, which comport with their destination, while he refuses them other states of civilization, as incompatible, in their peculiar position, with the preservation of theism and of morals.
"XI. Finally, he predisposes the Hebrews to receive one day the light of Christianity, to be transmitted by them to other nations."— Vol. I. pp. 84-87.
Such are the ideas, the eleven points of view, about which all the legislation of the Hebrews is grouped, and by which it is explained, developed, and classified by Cellerier. The sequel of his work is divided into eleven sections, corresponding to these eleven points. The ideas, which here are barely thrown out, are there amplified, coupled with details, illustrated, and fully unfolded in the same beautiful order. The present article is intended to give the reader some general idea of the plan and object of the work, and the train of thought, which presides over the whole. But we must follow our author into the happy development of his views and principles, if we would catch his spirit and feel the full value of his labors. To do this, we must avail ourselves of some future occasion.
ART. V. The Great Presbyterian Church Case. Hon. Molton C. Rogers's Charge to the Jury, in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, March 26, 1839. Commonwealth at the suggestion of James Todd and others versus Ashbel Green and others. *
OUR readers are, we suppose, already apprized of the prominent facts in this case, and of the decision of the tribunal to which it was submitted. From the nature of the interests concerned, and the character of the parties engaged, few civil causes have excited stronger interest. To the whole Presbyterian denomination, one of the oldest and most numerous, and for many years, until its division, perhaps the most powerful of the religious sects of the country, it was of course a question of special interest. But involving, as it did, the rights and privileges of a large body of Christians, not fewer, it appears, than "five hundred and nine ministers and near sixty thousand communicants," it could not be regarded with indifference by any, with whom religious liberty and Christian charity are objects of any value. In truth, the whole religious community felt deeply interested in this cause, and we presume we are hazarding nothing in expressing the belief, that the result, except to the party losing, has been universally satisfactory. There is a strong natural tendency to sympathize with all, whose rights of any sort are invaded; and when those rights are of a sacred nature, affecting religious condition and privilege, the same sentiment is awakened to no ordinary degree. Whatever may be the intrinsic merits of the case, the community look with an almost instinctive jealousy upon any act of ecclesiastical domination. And though by the constitution of the body exercising it, by established usage or canons, it may be proved to have included nothing in it of usurpation, nay, in all respects to have been legal, such proofs will seldom avail to remove the prejudice against all such acts themselves. One of the last things, which a free community are willing to excuse is religious—if the phrase be not a self-contradiction
* It is proper to state, that a considerable portion of the following article was written, and had gone from the hands of the writer, before the appeal of the defendants from the verdict of the jury, and the subsequent judgment of the full bench were known.