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§ 305. Respecting Moses. 381
represented to be the case in Genesis 2: 2. Many traces of moral discipline occur, Gen. 4: 6–16. 6:3—8. 11:4–6. 13: 8, 14: 14–24, 18; 19. We must not suppose, however, that nothing more of God, and of moral discipline, was known by these pious patriarchs, than is given in the historical fragments of Genesis. For those things only appear to have been selected for insertion, which, more than any others, had a tendency to prepare the way for the introduction of the Mosaic dispensation.
Very many of the Hebrews were addicted to the worship of the Egyptian gods, at the time that Moses was sent in the character of a divine messenger, to break the chains of their servitude, Exod. 3: 13. To rescue the Hebrews from their bondage, who were destined to be the defenders of the true religion, and to bring them back to that worship, which they had lost, while in Egypt, gave occasion for the most surprising miracles; miracles, which not only compelled Pharaoh to dismiss the Hebrews, and brought destruction upon his army, when he pursued them; but were also a new and overwhelming proof to the Hebrews themselves, that there is indeed a God, all powerful and omniscient, and that Moses, by whom these wonderful works had been predicted and performed, was in truth his messenger, Exod. 6: 7. 7: 5, 9: 14–16, 29. 10: 2. 14: 4, 17–18, 31. 16: 12, 19: 4,9. Deut. 4: 35, 39. It was at the same time shown by the miracles, of which we are speaking, that the Egyptian gods, being altogether unable to protect their votaries, were destitute of power, and, in a word, were nothing, Exod. 12:12. But the Hebrews, after all, if they had not afterwards, when in Arabia, been confirmed by new miracles in the belief of the divine omniscience and omnipotence, would not have persevered in the worship of the true God, and would not have received those ceremonies and Laws, without which, surrounded as they were by nations, who regarded idolatry, as conformable to right reason, they could not have succeeded in maintaining their religious integrity. This is clear from the fact, that, after all the instructions they had received, and after all the laws, which were enacted, they went so often back to various superstitions. o
382 § 306. opinions of Moses in Respect
Note. Those, who attribute the miracles of Moses to legerdemain, and undertake to rank them in the same class with the tricks of jugglers, also those, who contend that the accounts of them are fabulous, and are to be placed on the same footing with the wonders of profane mythology, can neither reconcile the ground, which they take, with the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt, nor with their subsequent history, nor with the origin of the notion of a God, as it appears in their early writings. The exodus, the subsequent history, and their ideas in respect to God, all bear testimony, that the miracles were actually performed. Compare the large German Edition of this work, P. III. § 12. Note and $13.
§ 306. ON THE QUESTION, “whether Moses TAught THE Existence of A MERELY NATIONAL GoD 7”
That the God of Moses was something more than the tutelary or national God of the Hebrews, is clear from so many passages of scripture, it is wonderful, any should have adopted a contrary opinion. For he calls him by the name Jehovah, who created heaven and earth, Gen. 1: Exod, 20:8–12. 31: 17. Deut. 4:23, and who sent the deluge, Gen. 6: 17. He is addressed by Abraham and Melchisedek as the most high, the Lord of heaven and earth, Gen. 14:18—20. 17: 1. 18: 16––25. He is acknowledged by Joseph to be the all-wise governour of the universe. Gen. 39: 9. 45: 5, 3. 50: 20. He calls himself Jehovah, who is always the same, Exod. 6: 3; who both predicted, and performed those wonderful works in Egypt and Arabia, which proved him to be omniscient and omnipotent, Deut. 4: 32—36. 10: 21. Exod. 6: 7. 7: 5. 10: 1, 2, 16:12. 29:46; who is the author of every living thing, Num. 16:22. 27:16; who is invisible, (for the descriptions, which represent him as appearing at times in a bodily form, are symbolick,) Exod. 33: 13–23. Deut. 4:12–20, 39; who is the Lord of heaven and earth, and every thing in them, and the friend of strangers, as well as of the Hebrews, Deut. 10: 14–18. Besides him there is no other God, Deut. 4:39. 6:4. 32:39. Moses every where exhibits him, as the omnipotent, the ruler of all men, who cannot be corrupted by gifts and sacrifices, but who is kind and merciful to the penitent. He teaches, that he is the true God, who is worthy of being honoured by the Hebrews, not only because He alone is
TO THE CHARACTER OF GOD. 383
God, but because he had promised great mercies to the Patriarchs and their posterity, and had already bestowed them in part; because He led them out of Egypt, had furnished them with laws, would soon introduce them into Canaan, and protect them through future ages; finally, because they had chosen God for their king. The whole object of the Mosaic ritual was to preserve the worship of God, as the creator and governour of all, till the time when the true religion should be made known to the rest of the world, for which grand end it had been originally committed to Abraham and his posterity, Gen. 17: 9–14. 18; 19.
§ 307. ON THE QUESTION, “WHETHER THE CHARACTER of Jehovah, As REPRESENTED BY MOSES, is MERELY THAT OF A BEING INExor ABLY JUST 7”
That God is often represented by Moses, as a just judge, who punishes with no little severity those, who are wicked, is not at all to be wondered at. The inconstant, stiff-necked, and intractable people, whom he had to deal with, could not be restrained from vices, nor be brought in subjection to the Laws, without holding up such a representation. Such a representation was the more necessary, because Jehovah was not only the God, but in a strict sense the king of the Jews; on whom it fell, consequently, (in order to render due protection to the good,) to condemn transgressors, and to make them objects of punishment. Had it been otherwise, had he not defended the good from the attacks of the bad, or had pardon been given to the guilty, all his laws would have been in vain. Still, although what has now been said be true, the statement, which some have made, viz. that Moses has made God an inexorable Judge, and that only, is utterly false.
The original promises to the Patriarchs, which were so often repeated to their descendants, the liberation from Egyptian servitude, the laws, enacted in the wilderness, the entrance, that was granted to the Hebrews into the land of Canaan, are deeds of kindness, which prove the beneficence of God, Deut. 7: 6–9. 8: 2—20. 9:4–8: 10:1–11. Hence it is often inculcated upon the Hebrews to exhibit gratitude towards God; and the fact also, that they are expressly commanded to love God, is at least an implied admission of his kindness and beneficence, Deut. 6: 4, 5, 11: 12, 15, 22.
384 § 308. REGULATIONs to PRESERVE RELIGION.
. Moses calls God the father of his people, the merciful, the clement, the benign, the faithful Jehovah, who exhibits through a thousand generations the love of a parent to his good and faithful followers, who forgives iniquity and transgression, but to whose mercy, nevertheless, there are limits, and who visits the sins of the fathers on the posterity to the third and fourth generation, Deut. 8: 5. 32: 6. Exod. 34:6, 7. Num. 14: 18. Deut. 7: 9, 10. The infliction of punishments even to the fourth generation, (i.e. by means of publick calamities, the consequences of which would be experienced even by posterity,) a principle, which makes its appearance even in the FUNDAMENTAL LAws, Exod. 20: 5, 6, has given offence to many, who are either unable or unwilling to perceive, that the prospect of misery falling on their posterity, could be a real source of punishment to the parents, who, it may observed, were in that age, particularly solicitous about the well-being of their descendants. We learn, nevertheless, from other places and other considerations, that the punishments, which were due to the fathers, were not so much designed to be inflicted in truth on their posterity, as to remain to them warnings, that if they trod in their fathers' footsteps, they would expose themselves to the same evil and fearful consequences, and that, when they had done evil, their only course was to repent. That such would be the case, the deep and serious evils of the Babylonish Captivity gave them so clear a proof, as to preclude all subsequent doubts on the subjects; they repented of their evil ways, and, as Moses himself had predicted, became at length the constant worshippers of God, Lev. 26: 20–25. Deut. 4: 28–31. 30: 1—10.
§ 308. RESPECTING THE REGULATIONs, which were MADE IN order to PRESERVE THE TRUE RELIGION.
That the Hebrews, who, while in Egypt, had to a great extent worshipped idols, and had with much difficulty, and not without the aid of striking miracles, been at length restored to the true worship, might thereafter remain firm, nor he easily led astray by the example of neighbouring nations, God offered himself to them, as their King. (See the two hundred and fourteenth section.) As such he was accepted; and hence it happened, that
§ 308. REGULATIONs to PRESERVE RELIGION. 385
the obedience, which they rendered him as king, became identified in a manner with the reverence, to which he had a right, as God, and that while they yielded the former, they would not be likely to withhold the latter. This theocratical feature in the form of the commonwealth, by means of which the people were so often reminded, that the laws of their King were no other than the laws of God, of course perpetually recalled the true God to their minds. The rigid observation also of the sabbath, of the feast of Pentecost after the seven weeks of the harvest, of the seventh or sabbatick year, of the year of Jubilee after seven sabbatick years, were all of them symbolick acknowledgments of God, as the creator and governour of all things. The Passover likewise, and the feast of tabernacles vividly recalled to their memory the fact, that the creating God had been their deliverer from the Egyptians, and their guide through Arabia. And when on the feast of tabernacles and of Pentecost, they were called upon to render thanks for the fruits, they had received, they were taught, that these also were to be referred to the creating power and the goodness of God. That their minds might be accustomed to the fact of God's invisibility, that they might have no disposition to attach any efficacy to idols, and that all temptation to believe in a plurality of Gods might be avoided, any images, which were intended, as a bodily or visible representation of the divine Being, were absolutely prohibited. The erection of a Tabernacle alone was permitted; and to this there could clearly be no objection, since it did not admit of an Apotheosis. But, in order to prevent any superstitious rites from introducing themselves into this sacred place, all the ceremonies were prescribed by law. It was commanded, that all the sacrifices should be offered on one altar; this, with the reciprocal inspection, that was exercised over each other by Priests and Levites, would have an influence to prevent the introduction of any practices, which might have a tendency to pave the way for idolatry. It was sedulously inculcated on parents, that, on every occasion, especially at the return of the national festivals, and when performing the ceremonies prescribed by the Law, they should instruct their children, both in the religion, and the history of their nation. From the fear, that their instructions might,
through ignorance or from a failure of memory, be, in some re