A.M. 2553. obstacle and improbability, he not only succeeded in this mighty B.C. 1451. project, but every step was so easy, every circumstance so accu

rately adjusted to promote his design, and yet so perfectly independent of his control, that we are forcibly and at once impressed with a conviction of his superiority to any other person, and behold in him the agent of a superintending Providence.

2. All the proceedings of Moses, subsequently to the deliverance out of Egypt, were characterized by an imprudence bordering upon insanity, if he be considered as acting from his own sole authority, uninfluenced by a divine appointment. The people, whom he voluntarily undertook to guide, were plunged by him into labyrinths of inextricable difficulty. Instead of leading them in the short and direct road to that luxurious residence, of the possession of which they were assured after expelling the present occupiers, he takes them in an opposite direction; so that a journey, which might have been accomplished in a few weeks, was protracted into forty years ; during which, they wandered about from wilderness to wilderness, in a thousand contrary paths—defenceless, destitute, and anxious. His personal safety was evidently endangered by this apparent misconduct; for what else could he anticipate than discontent and rebellion ? Was there not every reason to suppose they would rid themselves of so injudicious a commander ? and, in point of fact, they frequently upbraided him in the bitterest language, and demanded to be carried back to the country from which they had been induced to depart. But infinite wisdom knew how to relieve the people from distress, and to supply their every want. No embarrassments could possibly perplex the mind of God; and the Israelites were obviously involved in them according to his directions given to Moses, as the chief agent in his mysterious movements, in order to evince their dependence upon his power and goodness, and to show them that human means were altogether unavailable for

their salvation. Miracles he 3. The miracles of Moses, could not but afford to the Israelites, performed.

as the well authenticated record of them affords to us, indisputable attestations to his mission. Miracles must be considered in the light of divine credentials when they are performed by one who delivers a message in the sacred name of God; and appeals to them as evidences of having received a commission from heaven-supposing them to be wrought at the time by or in favour of the person himself who makes the pretension. They are to be viewed in such a case, as signs and testimonies of the divine approbation; and nothing can be more decisive. For the Supreme Being could never sanction falsehood by a miraculous interposition, inasmuch as he could neither deceive others, nor be himself deceived : and it is most obvious, that nothing but the execution of some design of the highest importance, could induce the Supreme Being to depart, in such a manner, from the order of his government, and suspend

Miracles he

[ocr errors]

those laws by which he regulates the universe. The twofold pur- A.M. 2553.
pose of Moses, was to prove his own commission, and to exhibit B.C. 1451.
the true character and undoubted supremacy of that God, in whose
name he demanded the release of the Israelites from their servitude:
the miracles he performed, both before Pharaoh, and during the
sojourn in the wilderness, furnished these requisite illustrations. At
the outset, he was indeed confronted by the Egyptian magicians;
but Farmer has shown, by a series of ingenious demonstrations,
that his opponents were not able to perform work really supernatural,
nor were they assisted by any superior invisible being. They pre-
tended to magic, and were jugglers by profession and practice; so
that Scripture not only denies them the power of discovering or
effecting any thing miraculous, but denounces them in express terms
as liars, and their performances as lying vanities. The intention of
Pharaoh in sending for them, was to ascertain from them whether
the sign given by Moses, was really supernatural, or only such as
their art enabled them to accomplish: it would be contradictory to
the fundamental principles of the pagan theology, to represent them
as engaging the gods of Egypt in a contest or trial of strength with
the God of Israel, because the claims of their deities were supposed
to be consistent with each other; and, instead of being taught that
one deity should act in defiance of another, for their protection, they
were led to believe that they should rather attempt to appease and
conciliate other divinities. They had, at the same time, a very
powerful inducement to try their utmost of deceptive skill, since
they must perceive the solicitude of the king to retain the Israelites
as his subjects and servants. All the sacred writers, and Moses in
particular, describe the heathen deities as unsupported by any
invisible aid, and as utterly impotent; and the point which the
legate of heaven was to establish, was the sole divinity of Jehovah,
in opposition to idolatry; it is not, therefore, conceivable, that the
gods of the heathen should be able, through the instrumentality of
the magicians, to perform supernatural works: Moses, besides,
appropriates all miracles to God, and urges each one distinctly, as
a separate proof of his divinity and of his own mission.

4. The prophetic character of Moses ought to be viewed, in con- Prophetic
nection with his miraculous performances, as furnishing accumulative character.
evidence in his favour. The volume of inspiration has transmitted
to our age a variety of his predictions, particularly with regard to
the advent of the Messiah, the character by which he should be
distinguished, and the condition of his far distant posterity in the
closing dispensation of time. There is to be observed, in all these
prophetic intimations, a precision and accuracy of reference, by which
the shadowing forth of the marvellous events anticipated, may be
discerned with all that certainty which arises from the most exact
coincidence. The frame of the prophecy is in every case so accurately
constructed, that the subsequent and corresponding event fits into it

Laws of divine authority.

ton's hypothesis.

A.M. 2553. as by a sort of moral mechanism ; evincing the designed connection B.C. 1451, and conformity. After furnishing a general illustration of the Mosaic

predictions, a learned writer concludes in these terms: “Here are instances of prophecies, prophecies delivered above three thousand years ago, and yet, as we see, fulfilling in the world at this very time: and what stronger proofs can we desire of the divine legation of Moses? How these instances may affect others, I know not; but for myself, I must acknowledge, they not only convince, but amaze and astonish me beyond expression. They are truly, as Moses foretold they would be, a sign and a wonder for ever.

5. An important and decisive argument, in support of the divine authority of the mission of the Jewish leader, may be deduced from the very nature and character of those laws which he promulgated among the Israelites. These we shall have occasion hereafter to explain: and to the whole of our subsequent statement upon this subject, we refer the reader for corroborative evidence; but there is one peculiar feature of Mosaic legislation, which has excited no small discussion in modern times; and which, from the celebrity of its

author, and the eloquence with which he defended it, requires upon Bp. Warbur- the principles of our work a brief development. “We demand

sis. only,” says WARBURTON, “ this single postulatum, that hath all the

clearness of self-evidence: namely, that a skilful lawgiver, establishing
a religious and civil policy, acts with certain views and for certain
ends; and not capriciously, or without purpose or design. This
being granted, we erect our demonstration on these three very clear
and simple propositions. 1. That the inculcating the doctrine of a
future state of rewards and punishments, is necessary to the wellbeing
of civil society. 2. That all mankind, especially the most wise and
learned nations of antiquity, have concurred in believing and teaching
that this doctrine was of such use to civil society. 3. That the doctrine
of a future state of rewards and punishments is not to be found in,
nor did make part of, the Mosaic dispensation. Hence it must be
inferred, that the law of Moses is of divine original : upon this
principle, that whatever religion and society have no future state for
their support, must be supported by an extraordinary Providence.
Such was the Jewish religion and society; and as this was the
universal conviction of all ancient lawgivers, Moses, who instituted
such a religion, and was a person of that description, believed his
religion was supported by an extraordinary Providence. With regard
to the first of these propositions, be it observed, that society is in
itself essentially defective ; for its laws can have no further efficacy
than to restrain mankind from open transgression; private delin-
quency being concealed from view, escapes censure. But even the
influence of civil laws cannot extend to every case, as when the
prohibition of one irregularity tends to produce another—the care of
the whole may often lead to the neglect of individuals ; civil laws
are necessarily silent respecting duties of imperfect obligation, such

Warburton's arguments.

as gratitude, hospitality, and charity; and besides it originates a A.M. 2553. new set of duties of the same description; society tends also to B.C. 1451. increase those very desires it was contrived to correct, in consequence of the multiplication of our wants proportionally with the arts of civilized life. Society is not only imperfect with respect to the administration of that power which it possesses, of punishing the disobedient, but still more so, in the dispensation of rewards to the obedient; understanding by this term, not the recompense bestowed in consideration of meritorious service, but such as is conferred on every one for obeying the laws of his country. Two things are here to be noticed—the first, that by the original constitution of civil government, the sanction of rewards was not established ; the only stipulation between the magistrate and the people being the mere protection on the one side, and obedience on the other, which arose out of their respective conditions: the second, that by the very nature of civil government, rewards could not be enforced by it; for society could neither distinguish the objects of its favour, all that could be done being merely to discover whether the act were wilful or voluntary, without taking cognizance of the motive; nor could it reward, though it should discover them, because no society can find a sufficient fund without raising it on the people as a tax to pay it back as a reward. Some other power, therefore, is needed to remedy these defects, and preserve society from confusion ; but there is no other power to be found than religion, which teaches an overruling Providence, the rewarder of good men, and the punisher of bad ones ; and thus obliges to the duties of what are technically termed duties of imperfect obligation, which are overlooked by human regulations. Were it possible, which it is not, that there could be religion not founded on the doctrine of a Providence, it would be of no service to society; consequently, whatever is necessary to support this doctrine, is necessary to the wellbeing of society. The doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments is thus necessary, and must be inculcated. The second proposition relating to the concurrence of all Second mankind, in believing and teaching the utility of this doctrine, is prop demonstrable by appealing, first, to the conduct of lawgivers and institutors of civil polity; who always propagated religion wherever they instituted laws. There never was a people in any age, the Jews only excepted, who had a religion, the chief foundation of which was not the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. The care of the civil magistrate in cultivating religion, is evinced from the universality of it amongst all civilized nations ;—from the very apparent absence of all traces of it, in many savage people, proving the extraordinary care taken for its preservation in a different state of society ;-and from the genius of pagan religion, with regard Proofs from

ganism. to the origin and nature of their gods, who were chiefly departed pagan legislators, kings, and founders of civil polity; the attributes assigned to them, which corresponded with the nature and genius of each


A.M. 2553. government, as gentle or severe; and the mode of their public worship, B.C. 1451. which concerned individuals who were confessed to be under an

unequal Providence, which necessarily introduced the doctrine of a future state for the support of the divine government and society in its corporate character, which displayed a more equal Providence administered to the state. Hence, religion and government were blended together, and prodigies constituted a part of the public administration, no less than civil edicts. The particular arts employed by the magistrate to support and propagate religion, consisted in pretending a revelation from some god, by whose express commands his policy had been framed: and hence Plato represents legislation as proceeding from God, and not from man; and Homer constantly describes kings by the epithets Aloyevels born of the gods; and Alotpepers, bred or tutored by the gods. This pretence to inspiration was adopted for the purpose of establishing the opinion of the superintendence of the gods over the affairs of mankind, not to secure the reception of their laws, nor to render those laws perpetual and immutable. Aristotle, in his maxims for setting up and supporting tyranny, gives this direction: “ To seem extremely attached to the worship of the gods, for that men have no apprehension of injustice from such as they deem to be religious, and to have a high sense of Providence. Nor will the people be apt to run into plots and conspiracies against those whom they believe the gods will, in their turn, fight for and support.”Another measure of the legislator was to introduce the general doctrine of a Providence, as a preface to give a sanction to his regulations: of this, antiquity has transmitted two valuable specimens in the prefaces to the laws of Zaleucus and Charondas, lawgivers of the Locrians, and contemporaries with Lycurgus. The next art was the institution of the mysteries, the most sacred part of the pagan religion, precisely adapted to strike the imaginations of the multitude, and instituted solely for the support of the doctrine of a future state of retribution. They consisted of secret worship; which, in addition to the public solemnities, was paid to each of the gods; and to which none were admitted, but those who were properly initiated, by certain preparatory ceremonies. This secrecy was observed for two reasons: the one, to excite curiosity; the other, to secure the sole instruction of the initiated, into some things which it would have been improper to have communicated to all. A further instance of the care of the magistrate for religion, was evinced in the establishment of a national worship. The direct purpose, in this case, was to support the religion which was already propagated, by taking it into civil protection, and uniting

it with the state. This touches upon a subject of much and frequent From the controversy. Warburton endeavours to show, that an established ment of religion is the universal voice of nature, and that the right to establish religion. it is vested in civil government: but in whatever manner these

Arist. Polit. L. 5, C. 11.


« 前へ次へ »