« PreviousContinue »
ham, renewed the promise of salvation. But the faith of Abraham's posterity concerning the fulfilment of that promise, depended on their experiencing the accomplishment of the promises in which they were immediately concerned. It was therefore necessary that this should be so fully established as to remove the possibility of doubt; and that infidelity might have no excuse, the descendants of Abraham, now multiplied into a great people, were brought forth from the country which had been their residence for so many years, by a miraculous interposition of Divine power.
Moses was chosen by God to be the messenger of his will, and the leader of his people; but that he was so, they did not believe till after many and repeated proofs. Now it is evident that God might have given them this assurance by means of a miraculous lous impression made on every individual mind; but he who in the works of nature displays his wisdom in the apparent simplicity of the means, his power in the grandeur of the effect, ordained that the Israelites should be convinced of the Divine authority of his messenger, by proofs submitted to the investigation of the senses.
Having led them into the wilderness, to a distance from all that might disturb their attention, the Almighty now proceeds to institute those laws which were to serve the several purposes of enlightening them concerning the Divine nature and government, of confirming all that reason had ascertained of moral truth; of keeping them a distinct and separate people, appropriated to the special purpose of being the conservators of the promise of redemption; and of preserving in the world the knowledge of the one D 3 true true God, until that promise should be accomplished.
A slight consideration of these several particulars will serve to convince us of their importance. With regard to the knowledge of God, the light of revelation which had descended by tradition to all the nations of the earth, had become obscure, and so far corrupted by human inventions, as to be, to all moral purposes, nearly lost. A belief in the existence of some superior intelligence was, indeed, preserved; but how little was known concerning the nature of the Supreme Being is evident from the nature of the worship instituted in his honour. Reason taught the human mind to embrace a belief in the Creator, but how little did it teach concerning him! Reason could not declare whether it was not oae God who made the sun, and another other who made the moon, and another who formed the earth. Nay, reason could not ascertain whether these useful orbs were not the gods who made the world!
With regard to the moral qualities which are essential to the existence of society, reason had been taught by experience to appreciate them with tolerable accuracy; but it was no slight thing to have all that reason ascertained concerning them confirmed by express revelation. And as to the method appointed by God for the pardon of sin, and the justification of transgressors, it is evident that it could never have been discovered by other means than immediate communications from the Divine Being. Let lis then with humility adore and reverence that goodness and mercy which, in compassion to our infirmities, vouchsafed, by- the splendour of revelation, to lend D 4 assistance
assistance to reason's feebler beamHad not this revelation been given in splendour, it would have failed of producing its effect. But we shall in examining the circumstances be sensible that however aweful, however sublime or magnificent, neither the terrors nor the magnificence displayed, were more than was demanded by the occasion.
■ In the third month from the period of their departure from Egypt, God intimated to Moses what were the peculiar designs of his providence with regard to the people whom he had so miraculously delivered from a foreign yoke.
They (the Israelites) were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched their tents in the wilderness before the mount. "And Moses went up "unto God (i. e. to worship God in "prayer), and the Lord called unto