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of this changed manifestation of act, in support of the same principle, that it is an advance, terrible indeed in itself, and in all its circumstances --still it is only an evident and progressive advance of the unchanged method of moral government, of making known and maintaining his character of spotless holiness to his rational creatures. In the previous exhibitions of this mode of inculcating his truth, we have seen God testifying his displeasure against the rebellion, the atheism, the vio lence and corrupt licentiousness, the false faith and idolatrous worship, of men both universally and partially. We now have to contemplate him as ruler among the nations, punishing and rewarding them as nations. This is a very important view; ard with the principles of his government, which we have been already led to consider as fully manifested and established, this delegated administration and execution is a manifest advance, consistent with all that had gone before. He chooses a people to whom he gives all his law, among whom he rules as present king and judge; and these are examples to all the world, the organs to manifest to mankind the unchangeable faithfulness of his character. Let us observe, then, the gradations of this advancing scheme; he had spoken to the inhabitants of the earth by his own voice, he had committed to them his truth, his laws and promises, he had warned and punished them universally or partially, by his own hand, or by the agency of the elements and the powers of nature; but as the last and greatest step of all, he employs moral agents to execute the foredoomed sentence of those who had resisted all attempts to inculcate obedience to his law, and belief of the truths upon which it was founded. This is evidently giving to his eternal law a local and permanent abode upon earth, establishing a nation as its commissioned examples and administrators. Henceforth, to the nations of the earth, it is no longer a vague generality which must be sought for in the darkness of a distant tradition, or in the manifested language of partial judgments, or in the modified interpretations of the ever-changing sentiments and notions of men; it is a sanctioned and established reality, whose principles and precepts are under the immediate direction and administration of a present legislator, and king, and judge.
It is in this character that God gave forth his decree for the extermination of the Canaanites—it is in this character that the Israelites executed the decree that came forth from the throne of eternal justice-it is in this terrible, yet necessary, manner that God taught the unchangeable principles of his
divine law to the nations of the earth. Now, we say, if it is consistent with the justice, nay, with the general goodness and universal mercy of God, to cut off an individual or a nation for sin--if it is consistent with that character to exterminate, by one wide sweeping destruction, a whole world lapsed into hopeless error and abandoned licentiousness—if it is no infringement upon that character of justice and mercy to employ one or all of the elements of material nature as instruments to execute his will, we think it plain that the argument will become stronger, and the testimony to the divine character clearer and fuller, when the agents employed for the same purpose are intelligent and moral beings. In Egypt, in the wilderness, in the land of Judea, against the Assyrian host of Sennacherib, we read that the destroying angel unsheathed the sword of divine vengeance, and executed the doom of heaven. It might have been done by the vollied thunderbolt, by the invisible arrows of the pestilence, or by the withering blast of the desert simoom; but it appears to come more directly from the throne of the Judge of all the earth, when these holy ministers of his will are sent upon the work of destruction. In like manner, but even in a higher degree, we would say, when the sentence is executed by agents of Aesh and blood, children of the earth upon their brethren of the dust, under a divine command, and with a divine commission, it must come to them, and to the objects of that demonstration of divine anger, with a deeper and more awful contrast, and bring the human characters of sinfulness and obedience into immediate and irreconcileable
opposition—it makes that salutary awe of God and hatred of sin a matter of every day feeling. This lesson it was most unquestionably intended to teach the Israelites, that they were to have no intercourse, but that of deadly antagonism, with those nations sunk in licentiousness and doomed of God. It was in wisdom and mercy to them, and to the other nations of the earth; for what could come from that putrid and pestilential moral atmosphere but moral disease and death? To the nations themselves that suffered the doom of total extirpation, as nations, it was also a deed of mercy mixed with terrible justice. These degraded worshippers of Moloch, and Ashtaroth, and Baal, had run their career of national probation, and could never of themselves have recovered from the Lethean slumber of error -- from the lethargic moral death into which they had for ages been sinking. By the disobedience, and for the sinfulness of the Israelites, these nations were not totally exterminated; but some of them were left to try and to punish the chosen people in coming ages, and to humble them for their sins. And how much did they suffer time after time—how deeply had they cause to repent of their temporising and foolish mercy, in not executing the recorded and issued sentence of the Almighty ? It was by them, and the licentious rites of Astarte, that the recreant and ambitious son of Beor tempted the Israelites in the plains of Moab to heathen aboininations and spiritual infidelity. It was by them that the wise heart of the uxorious king was seduced to erect idol temples, and countenance vile rites, upon every high hill, and under every green tree. It was by intercourse with these nations that Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, and Ahab, and Ahaz, learned and adopted, and introduced idolatrous rites, and false doctrines, and false worship. Instead, therefore, of considering the total extermination of the nations of Canaan a deed of savage and unnecessary cruelty, and thus an argument against the divine truth of the religion under which it was commanded, in the view we have taken of it, we see it to be in perfect accordance with the whole of the previous system of instruction by judgment, which had alone been found effectual to impress upon man a fear of God, a belief of his government, and a submission to his law. Upon the whole, we consider it as the perfected form of that disciplinary mode of instructing the world in righteousness, to which alone, age after age, man had proved that he would listen—a mode of instruction that most necessarily proves itself divine, because, in its progressive advancement and change of form, in adaptation to the circumstances that called for its application, no created wisdom durst venture to appeal to such a system as its own contrivance—no mortal power could venture to pledge itself for the certainty of its administration and execution. It is a system, in all its details, that is competent alone for God to administer; and being found in that book alone which claims his authority, it must prove its divine origin, and of course the truth of all the doctrines it teaches.
We need not farther prosecute the illustration of the leading proposition of this chapter; because though, throughout the whole of that history of God's providential government of the world, we could get many similar instances in the way of denounced and executed judgments, as in the cases of Nineveh, and Babylon, and Tyre, and indeed all the neighbouring nations, all these are only instances of this new and completed method of the divine government, which we have considered at some length. These, taken in connexion with prophecy, prove nothing more than what has been already established, that God has all along interposed to uphold his laws, and punish the nations for the neglect and transgression of them. The mighty energies of nature—the earthquake, pestilence, and famine-war and civil disturbance—and the lawless and fiendish passions of man-are still used by God in the same way to punish nations for their sins against him, as in days of old. But observe the difference now. In those primeval ages, when the world, in its inexperience knew not God, and the nature and universality of his law and his government, or, in its perversity, constantly forgot them, these manifestations of his displeasure were always given with the express and particular intimation of the cause and object, and the great truth they were intended to teach. But in these latter days, when that truth has been inculcated deeply upon the world's conviction and belief, by terrible example, and a fearful series of ruinous experiences, men have been left to apply it by their reason to cases of national chastisement and national destruction, when they occur. The very change, however, of the mode of inculcating these fully-established truths, and of the mode of administering that government, as exhibited in the Scripture, is proof complete that none but God is, or could be, its author. There we find no exhibition of random caprice or fitful change, as in the political movements of the rulers of earth; but all is in perfect harmony with itself, in complete adaptation to the character of the times, to the degree of knowledge, to the state of powerlessness of the yet uneducated and inexperienced moral principle among men—all is a unique scheme, rising and advancing in perfection, in accordance with the progressive development of the rest of the divine plan, and the expanding power of human knowledge.
HISTORY OF THE ISRAELITES IN CONNEXION WITH THEIR OBEDIENCE OR
DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, A PROOF THAT THE SYSTEM WAS GIVEN BY GOD, AND UNDER HIS CONSTANT ADMINISTRATION.
This proposition forms a natural sequel and supplement to the argument of the preceding chapter. If that system of occasional and successive manifestations, by way of judgment, of the great truths of religion, God's hatred of sin, and his determination to uphold his own glory, by the teaching of truth and maintaining of righteousness among men, is proof sufficient to the world of the divine authority of the Mosaic history, that of the theocracy, through its whole continuance, must be a still more striking and convincing proof of the divinity of the whole system. The conclusiveness of the argument is obvious—a code of laws, a system of moral and religious doctrines, and an extensive and particular ceremonial, lay claim to the sanction of divine authority, and declare repeatedly and solemnly, that the people are under the immediate temporal government of God, with the as solemn promise that full and conscientious obedience shall be rewarded, and the threat that disobedience shall be punished, both in the nation and in individuals. Had this been an unfounded pretence, had it been the vain boast of a cunning and ambitious lawgiver, detection and disgrace must have been speedy and inevitable.
Now, we say that the whole history of that people shows that their obedience to that law, as a nation, was forced
upon them—that it was a compulsory submission from which they durst not escape, thrust upon them by the constraining power of circumstances under which they felt themselves placed. Even from the day that God appeared to them in the terrible majesty of his celestial throne on Sinai, and gave them that law, and revealed to them that whole system of truths, down through the whole period of their national existence to the destruction of Jerusalem—a period of fifteen hundred years—their history shows that they seldom ceased to murmur, and trans