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as before, absolutely necessary. Paganism comprehended within itself all the leading essentials of genuine Patriarchism, though exhibited after a woefully corrupt and degraded fashion. Nothing therefore was requisite, but to devise some mode of counteracting the evil, and to take such measures as might eventually reclaim mankind from their folly and bring them back with even increased knowledge into the old paths whence they had so unhappily strayed.
III. Correspondent then with the evil must be the remedy.
Man had lapsed into the absurdities of polytheism, and was in danger of entirely losing the true doctrine of redemption amidst the cloud of superstitious and horrible rites with which it was inveloped. Hence the now effete Patriarchal Dispensation must be superseded by a new and intermediate Dispensation; which should at once most prominently inculcate the doctrine of the Divine Unity, and perpetuate and confirm with increasing light from time to time the sincere aboriginal doctrine of redemption.
Such, accordingly, is the object of the Levitical Dispensation.
As God is the moral governor of the Universe, and as he does not violently overrule the actions of men so as to convert them into mere machines, this new Dispensation, like its predecessor in two successive instances, commenced with a single family. That family grew up into a na
tion; and, when that nation passing out of the reformed Patriarchism of its pious ancestors Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, received the Law from Sinai; it long held up to a benighted world the torch of divine truth, shining indeed but as a light in a dark place, yet often shining not ineffectually, until the day dawned and the day-star arose in the hearts of our bewildered race. Then again did sacred knowledge go forth, though with a rapidity hitherto unknown, from out of the bosom, as it were, of a single family; even the adopted and variously chosen family of the great Deliverer himself: and we are taught to believe and expect, that in the last ages this knowledge will be yet more widely diffused than as yet it has ever been; so that its peaceful and holy triumphs will be even commensurate with the bloody and polluted triumphs of mimic and delusive Paganism.
It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem'.
The object then of the intermediate Levitical 1 Isaiah ii. 2, 3.
Dispensation was to preserve the knowledge of the true God in the midst of surrounding polytheism and to perpetuate and confirm with increasing light the ancient patriarchal doctrine of redemption through a promised Deliverer.
There seems but little need to adduce a laboured proof of either of these points. With respect to the former of them, the whole code of the Hebrew Law is built 'professedly upon the unity of Jehovah, while it reprobates in the most indignant terms the folly and wickedness of po lytheism: and with respect to the latter of them, the entire ritual of piacular sacrifice spoke in language sufficiently intelligible that man could only be reconciled to his Maker through the medium of an atonement, while from age to age the volume of prophecy set forth with perpetually increasing light the character and office and expiatory death and finally triumphant progress of him who was first predicted as the special seed of the woman.
IV. But, though neither of these matters can be thought to require any proof, the second of them involves the discussion of a most important and much litigated topic, which affects at once both the Patriarchal and the Levitical Dispensation.
A great writer, though with various subsequent mitigations and allowances, not only denies the knowledge of a future state of retribution to the persons who lived under those two
Dispensations; but even employs the alleged ignorance of the Jews on this point and the circumstance of Moses not making a future retributory state the sanction of his Law, as a medium of demonstrating the divine legation of the Hebrew Legislator.
I am free to allow, that, if the ancient Israelites were really as ignorant of a future state as Bishop Warburton contends; the undoubted circumstance, that the ONLY sanction of the Mosaical Law is TEMPORAL rewards and punishments, would be an invincible proof that the promulger of that Law was indeed a minister sent and commissioned of God: for, whatever might be the reason WHY temporal rewards and punishments were ALONE proposed as its sanction, this very matter would itself demonstrate that Moses could not be an impostor; both because an impostor would never have neglected to avail himself of so powerful an instrument as the doctrine of a future state, because an impostor would never have dared to propose a sanction wholly beyond his controul namely the sanction of temporal rewards and punishments; and because it is morally impossible (as we have beheld the bishop's acute and well-grounded theory demonstrated even practically in the course of our own age) that a people living under an unequal providence and yet not remedying its apparent injustice by a belief in a future retributory state should have remained from generation to gene
ration without falling into absolute atheism and anarchy. But it is obvious, that the whole stress of the bishop's argument rests upon the alleged fact, that the ancient Israelites were IGNORANT of a future state of retribution: for, if they were NOT ignorant of it, the mere circumstance of their Law being made to rest upon a temporal sanction, would not prevent their antecedent and independent knowledge of a future state from operating upon their religious views and their moral habits, just as powerfully as it does upon our own. To them such knowledge, if they possessed it, would to all intents and purposes be a sanction, whether expressed or not expressed in the Law itself. The grand question therefore is, whether they did possess it.