« ForrigeFortsæt »
knowledge of it, that it was, as he asserts it to have been, revealed to him by God himself (1).
We have now seen, from undoubted testimony, that the Pentateuch has been uniformly ascribed to Moses as its author;
that the most ancient traditions remarkably agree with his account of the Creation of the World, the Fall of Man, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind; that about the time mentioned in the Pentateuch, a part of the inhabitants of Egypt, who came originally from the East, did migrate under a person of the name of Moyses or Moses ; that a people, with such laws and institutions as he professes to have given them, have existed from remote antiquity; and we ourselves are eye-witnesses that such a people, so circumstanced, exist at this hour, and in a state exactly conformable to his predictions concerning them. But it may be observed, that the civil history of the Jews is seldom contested, even by those who imagine the Pentateuch to have been written in some age subsequent to that of Moses, from a collection of Annals or Diaries; it is the miraculous part of it which is disputed. To this observation, however, we may oppose the conclusive argument of a professed enemy to revealed religion (m), “that
(1) We are to observe that the Mosaic history of the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Deluge, and the Dispersion of Mankind, not only relates these events as facts which might have been handed down by tradition, but it describes in what manner these events happened, for what purpose they were designed, and what consequences, natural and moral, they were to pro
and that these very circumstances, purposes, and consequences, simply related, materially contribute to the explanation of all those mystic fables of the East, agree with the present state of the natural and moral world, and accord with the doctrines of Christianity. We may indeed retort the charge of credulity upon those, who can believe that any man could write such a history without direct Inspiration from Him“ who knoweth all things.”
(m) Lord Bolingbroke's Letter, occasioned by one of Archbishop Tillotson’s Sermons.
the miraculous part of the Mosaic history is not, like the prodigies of Livy, and other profane authors, unconnected with the facts recorded; it is so intermixed and blended with the narrative, that they must both stand or fall together.” With respect to the Annals, which are mentioned as the supposed foundation of this history, they must have been either true or false; if true, the history of the Israelites remain equally marvellous; if false, how was it possible for the history to acquire the credit and esteem in which it was so universally held ? But upon what is this supposition founded? No particular person is mentioned, with any colour of probability, as the author or compiler of the Pentateuch; no particular age is pointed out with any appearance of certainty, though that of Solomon is usually fixed upon as the most likely. Yet why the most enlightened period of the Jewish history should be chosen as the best adapted to forgery or interpolation, nay, to the most gross imposition that was ever practised upon mankind, it is difficult to conjecture. Was it possible, in such an age, to write the Pentateuch in the name of the venerated lawgiver of the Jews from a collection of annals, and produce the firm belief that it actually had been written more than 400 years before; and this not only throughout the nation itself, but among all those whom the extended fame of Solomon had connected with it, or had induced to study the history and pretensions of this extraordinary people?
But a more particular consideration of the contents of the Pentateuch, as relating immediately to the Jews, will furnish irrefragable arguments to prove its Authenticity, and the truth of its claims to Inspiration. The Pentateuch contains directions for the establishment of the civil and religious polity of the Jews, which, it is acknowledged, existed from the time of Moses; it contains a code of laws, which every individual of the nation was required to ob
serve with the utmost punctuality, under pain of the severest punishment, and with which, therefore, every indidual must be supposed to have been acquainted (n); it contains the history of the ancestors of the Jews, in regular succession from the creation of the world; and a series of prophecies, which, in an especial manner, concerned themselves, and which must have been beyond measure interesting to a people who were alternately enjoying promised blessings, and suffering under predicted calamities; it contains not only the wonders of Creation and Providence in a general view, but also repeated instances of the superintending care of the God of the whole earth over their particular nation, and the institution of feasts and ceremonies in perpetual remembrance of these divine interpositions ; and all these things are professedly addressed in the name, and to the contemporaries, of Moses, to those who had seen the miracles he records, who had been witnesses to the events he relates, and who had heard the awful promulgation of the Law. Let any one reflect upon these extraordinary and wonderful facts, and surely he must be convinced that they could never have obtained the universal belief of those among whose ancestors they are said to have happened, unless there had been the clearest evidence of their certainty and truth. Nor were these facts the transient occurrences of a single hour or day,
(n) “Indeed the greatest part of mankind are so far from living according to their own laws, that they hardly know them; but when they have sinned, they learn from others that they have transgressed the law. Those, also, who are in the highest and principal posts of the government, confess they are not acquainted with those laws, and are obliged to take such persons for their assessors in public administrations, as profess to have skill in those laws. But for our people, if any body do but ask any one of them about our laws, he will more readily tell them all, than he will tell his own name; and this in consequence of our having learned them immediately, as soon as we became sensible of any thing, and of our having them as it were engraven on our souls.” Josephus against Apion.
and witnessed only by a small number of persons; on the contrary, some of them were continued through a space of forty years, and were known and felt by several millions of people; the pillar of the cloud was seen by day, and the pillar of fire by night, during their whole journey in the wilderness (0); nor did the manna fail till they had eaten of the corn in the land of Canaan (p). We see Moses, in the combined characters of leader, lawgiver, and historian, not once or twice, or as it were cautiously and surreptitiously, but avowedly and continually, appealing to the conviction of a whole people, who were witnesses of these manifestations of Divine power, for the justice of their punishments, and resting the authority of the Law upon the truth of the wonderful history he records. And farther, in order to preserve the accurate recollection of these events, and prevent the possibility of any
alteration in this history, he expressly commanded that the whole Pentateuch (q) should be read at the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, at the feast of tabernacles, in the hearing of all Israel, that all the people, men, women, and children, and the strangers within their gates, might hear, and learn to fear the Lord their God, and observe to do all the words of the Law;
and especially that their children, who had not been eye-witnesses of the miracles which established its claim to their faith and obedience, might hear the marvellous history, which they were taught by their fathers, publicly declared and confirmed ; and learn to fear and obey the Lord their God from the wonders of Creation and Providence revealed to his servant Moses, and from the supernatural powers with which he was invested. We have the authority of tradition to say, that every tribe was furnished with a copy
(0) Exod. 40. v. 38. Numbers, c. 9. v. 22.
of the Law before the death of Moses; and indeed, in almost every page of Scripture, the necessity of distributing numerous copies is implied, by the repeated injunctions for public and private instruction. Can we require a more striking proof of the existence and designed publicity of the Law, than the command to “write all the words of the Law
very plainly on pillars of stone, and to set them up on the day they passed over Jordan (the day they took possession of the promised land) and to plaster them over to preserve them (r)?” How could they “teach the Law diligently to their children, and explain to them the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, and the history of their forefathers; talk of them when sitting in the house, when walking in the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up; bind the words for a sign upon their door-posts and gates, and upon their hands, and as frontlets between their eyes (8),” unless the Law had at that time been written, and they could have had easy access to copies of it? Words cannot express more strongly than these do the general obligation of the people to acquire an accurate knowledge of the Law, and to pay a constant habitual attention to its precepts, whether these directions be taken in a literal or figurative sense. Scribes of the Law” are mentioned very early, though it is uncertain whether they were established as a body of men till after the Captivity ; and their very name affords some testimony to a number of copies. But must not the cities of the priests, who were commanded to teach the people, and the schools of the prophets, have been supplied with copies ? And surely the office of the Levite, whom every family was to keep within their gates,” must have been to teach the Law. The command that every king, upon his accession to the throne, should “write him a copy of the
(r) Deut. c. 27. v. 2. Vide Patrick in loc.
(8) Deut. c. 6.