« PreviousContinue »
books of laws possess ; for they not only contain the laws of the jewish nation, but also, an historical account of their institution, and mention that their laws were immediately reduced to practice ; particularly, that the festival of the passover was observed, Exod. xii. that from the time it was ordained, all the firstborn in Israel were dedicated to God, Numb. viii. 17, 28 ; that Aaron's rod, which budded, was preserved in the ark, to commemorate the rebellion and destruction of Korah, Dathan and Ahiram, and also, for the confirmation of the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, Numb. xvii. ; that the pot of manna was likewise preserved to perpetuate the fact, that the Israelites were sustained, by manna, forty years in the wilderness, Exod. xvi. 29, &c. that the brazen serpent was kept in memory of the miraculous healing of the people of Israel, on their beholding it when bitten by fiery: serpents in the wilderness, Numb. xxi. 9 ; and also, that the feast of Pentecost was celebrated, Exod. xxiii. 16.
Besides these remembrances of particular actions and events; there were other solemn institutions to commemorate the deliverance of these people from Egyptian bondage; their sabbath ; their daily sacrifices and yearly expiation ; their new moons, and various feasts and fasts ; so that there were yearly, monthly, weekly and daily remembrance and observ. ances of certain things and occurrences.
The books of Moses likewise mention, that a particular tribe was appointed and consecrated by God, as his priests; by whom the sacrifices of the people were to be offered, and these solemn institutions to be celebrated, and that it was death for any other persons to sacrifice at the altar; that the high priest wore a mitre and magnificent robes, of God's own appointment, with the miraculous urim and thummim in his breast-plate, from whence the divine responses were given ; that, at his word, the King, and all the people, were to go out and come in ; that the Levites were the chief judges, even in all civil cases, and that it was a forfeiture of life to resist their sentence.
At what time soever it may be supposed, that these books were forged, after the death of Moses, it is impossible they could have been received by the Jews as genuine, unless they could have been induced to have believed that they had received them from their fathers ; had been instructed in them when they were children, and had taught them to their children ; and also, that they had been circumcised, and did circumcise their children, in pursuance to what was commanded in these books; that they had observed the yearly passover,' the new moons, the weekly sabbath, and all tliose various feasts, fasts and ceremonies enjoined in these books: And further, that they had never eaten any swine's fesh, nor other meat prohibited in these books ; that they had a magaificent tabernacle, with a priesthood to administer in it, which was confined to the tribe of Levi, over whom was placed an high priest, invested with great prerogatives, whose death only could give deliverance to those who had fled to the cities of refuge. But altogether impossible would it have been to have persuaded a whole nation, that they had known and p1; actised ail these things, if the contrary had been the fact; or to have received a book as true that declared they had practised them, ani, as a confirmation of the declaration, appealed to their practice! Here, therefore, is a concurrence of the third and fourth marks before mentioned.
Le us now descend to the utmost degree of supposition ; that these things were practised before the books of Moses were supposed to have been forged; and that they imposed on the nation, in causing them to believe, that they had regarded these observances in memory of certain things inserted in these books. But will not the same impossibilities occur here, as in the former case? For we must conclude, th:t the Jews must have kept all these observances in memory of no object, or without having had any knowledge of their original, or any reason why they kept them ; whereas these observances very particularly expressed the reasons why they were instituted; that the pasg.
over, for instance, was ordained to commemorate God's passing over the children of the Israelites, in the night in which he slew all the first-born of the Egyptians. Let it be supposed, though entirely contrary to the truth, that the jews were not informed of any reason why they regarded ihese observances; in such case, would it have been possible to have persuaded them to have believed, that they had kept these observances in memory of facts they had never had any knowledge of?
Should a person now invent some romantic story, which declared that strange things were transacted a thousand years ago, and, in confirmation of this tale, endeavor to persuade the christian world, that they had, during this period, observed the first day of the week in memory of Appollonius, Barcosbas or Mahomet ; that they had been baptized in his name, sworn by: his name, and upon a book which the said person had forged, and which to thein was before unknown, in their public courts of judicature ; that this book had been their gospel and their law, which they had for a thousand years past, universally received and owned, and no other; I would ask a deist, whether he thinks it possible that such a deceplion could be im. posed on the christian world? But as impossible would it have been to have caused the books of Moses to have been imposed on the Jewish nation, had they been forged!
As the union of these four marks affords a certainty of a matter of fact, it prevents also, the imposition of any fabulous book upon men, at what period soever invented; whether at the time in which the matters of fact it relates were said to have happened, or in any succeeding age.
It is well known, for example, there is a stonhenge in Salisbury-Plain; but no man knows the reason why those great stones were placed there; by whom, or in memory of what event. Should, however, a book be written, and it be asserted therein that these stones were set up by Hercules or Polyphemus, in memory of sone of their actions. And to confirm
this assertion, should it be mentioned in this book,
the sea of the plain, even the salt-sea, failed and were cut off; and the people passed over against Jericho: The priests stood in the midst of Jordan, till all the armies of Israel had passed over. And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, were come up, out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests feet were lifted up upon the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all its banks as they did before. And the people came up out of Jordan, on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east side of Jericho; and these twelve stones which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, say. ing; when your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying ; what mean these stones? Then shall ye let your children know, saying ; Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dryed up the waters of Jordon from before you, until we were gone over ; as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dryed up, from before us, until we were gone over ; that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty ; that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever, Josh. iv. 18. &c.
But let it be supposed, that the passage over Jordan, as here related, was fictitious ; that these stones, at Gilgal, were erecled upon soing other occasion, in some subsequent age; that then some person invented the book of Joshua, and said it was written by Joshua himself, when this event happened, and that the author of this book, offered this stonhenge, at Gilgal, as a testimony of its truth ; would not the Jews have said to him, u we know the stonhenge at Gilgal, but we were, until noiv, wholly unacquainted with the reason of it: nor have we had any previous knowledge of the book of Joshua! Where hath it been deposited for so many ages ; and how came you in possession of it after so long a period ? But this book of Joshua informs us, that it was commanded, that this passage over Jordan should be taught to our children, from age to age ; and,