« AnteriorContinua »
partly of ceremonial ordinances, and directions respecting points originally indifferent. The former branch contained a clear revelation of the eternity, the power, the wisdom, the goodness, and the other infinite perfections, of the only God, the Maker, the Preserver, the Governor, and the Judge of the universe. In the Ten Commandments, the sum of moral duty may truly be said to be comprehended. For, in the first place, the prohibition of the chief crime in each class of offences evidently includes, by parity of reasoning, the prohibition of all inferior crimes of that class, as partaking of the sinful nature, and tending ultimately to produce the guilt, of the greatest. In the second place, the prohibition of any crime inculcates by a natural and obvious consequence the practice of the opposite virtue. And, thirdly, the denunciation in the Tenth Commandment against the inward desire to do evil extends, by manifest analogy, to every one of the preceding commandments; and in this spiritual and unlimited application is expounded and established by St. John, and by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. * The duties thus implied in the commandments were afterwards in a great variety of cases detailed and exemplified at large in other parts of the books of Moses. This branch of the law is manifestly of universal and perpetual obligation; and is repeatedly mentioned as such by our Saviour. The other branch was designed to be obligatory on the Jews only; and on them no longer than until the coming of the Messiah, whose sufferings and atonement many of its rites and ceremonies prefigured. If in this part of the law we should meet with some directions, the object and utility of which should not at first sight be apparent to us ; let us beware of setting up the conclusions of our ignorance against the unbounded wisdom of the Deity. A closer consideration of the subject will teach us humbly to acknowledge, that all these institutions answered the purposes of exercising the Israelites in faith and obedience; of preserving them a distinct and separate people ; and of training them by a peculiar mode of discipline *, wisely according with their habits, prepossessions, and circumstances, for the reception of the new dispensation to be revealed under the Messiah. It will teach us also that many of those directions, which rashness and presumption are sometimes heard to censure as trifling, and unworthy of the Divine attention, were specifically calculated to guard the people of Israel from being betrayed into certain particular modes of idolatry and wickedness prevalent in the nations among whom they were to dwell.
* Matt. v. 27, 28.
1 John, iii, 15.
Joshua having received from the Almighty a promise of unfailing support, and a renewed grant, in behalf of the Israelites, of the whole region extending from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, and from the mountains of Lebanon on the north to the Wilderness of Sin on the south +, prepared to put the twelve tribes into possession of their inheritance. The hand of God was stretched out to aid him. The waters of the river Jordan, at that time overflowing, like the Nile, with its annual inundation, were miraculously parted asunder, to afford a passage on dry ground to the host. The walls of Jericho fell to the earth. The sun and the moon stood still to afford Israel time for the complete overthrow of his enemies. The extirpation of the Canaanites was gradual; that the beasts of the field might not have time to multiply and overspread the land. I But before the death of Joshua, the country, though a considerable portion remained to be subdued, was divided by lot, according to the command of God, among the tribes; with the exception of that of Levi, and of those which had already received at their own
* Joshua, i. 5. + Joshua, i. 4. See also Numb. xxxiv. 3. Deut. xi. 24. Gen. xv. 18.
| Deut. vii. 22.
request their inheritance in the conquered kingdoms of the Amorites, on the other side of the Jordan. The Levites were provided with cities for the residence of their families ; and with an ample subsistence from the sacrifices and tithes of other tribes, on whose behalf, as well as on their own, they were to minister at the altar.
The command, which God had given to Israel, respecting the Canaanites, was, that they should be exterminated. “ Of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee, for thine inheritance, thou shalt save nothing alive that breatheth.” The reason of this injunction is immediately subjoined: “ Thou shalt utterly destroy them, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: that they teach you not to do after all their abomination." * Persons who seem to have conceived that to cavil at the Bible is a mark of discernment, have eagerly seized upon this passage: and have represented it as containing a sanguinary edict, unworthy of a merciful Governor of the universe; and as, in fact, affording a conclusive proof that the Bible is not the word of God. Our faith, however, in the truth of Scripture is founded on too many irrefragable arguments to be staggered by such an objection as this, even if an answer, in every point satisfactory, could not be returned it. In every work of God around us there is much that we cannot perfectly understand. Why then should we be surprised, if he should permit that, for the exercise of our understandings, the excitement of studious and devout investigation, and the trial of our faith, some difficulties should exist in his word also ? But the difficulty in question is of no formidable nature. The command is fully justified, even to human apprehension, by the reason which God himself assigned for it. We know that the Canaanites, in their gross and bloody idolworship, a worship celebrated with the sacrifice of their own children, and in the universal and unbridled profligacy of their manners, had abandoned themselves to such shameless and detestable wickedness, that in the emphatical language of Holy Writ, the land itself abhorred and vomited out her inhabitants. * We know the obstinate propensity of the Israelites to forsake their Supreme Benefactor, and to pollute themselves with idolatry and all its attendant abominations. We know, too, that when they disobeyed the injunction to extirpate all the nations which dwelt in Canaan, and contented themselves with subjecting some of them to tribute, those Canaanites, who were thus permitted to remain, proved thorns and snares to the people of Israel ; grievous as enemies, corrupting as friends, and ultimately the cause of their ruin, according to the previous warnings delivered from God himself by the mouth of Moses and of Joshua.t The destruction of the Canaanites, therefore, was fully deserved by their crimes; and was requisite in the sight of the Divine Wisdom, to preserve the Israelites from being ensnared by them or by their posterity, into the same crimes. The latter circumstance explains the reason why even the young children of the people of Canaan, who when grown up would not only have sought to revenge the destruction of their ancestors, but would naturally have reverted to their unhallowed worship, were included in the sentence of extirpation: and “ justifies the ways of God to man” in an instance
* Deut. xx. 16.