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manners and customs of the Jews, and those of Gentile inhabitants of the east, but the laws and institutions of the Jewish nation were evidently based upon something far superior to those of other lands. As Moses declared, “ These words” (of the ten commandments)“ the Lord spake unto your assembly in the mount.” The details were, by the desire of the people, thus spoken unto Moses, and repeated by him to them. See the whole
22-33. The Hebrew nation were placed in the centre of the civilized world, then a world of idolaters, to exemplify the great doctrine of One God, as the Creator of all things, and the Governor of the universe, as opposed to the idolatry and worship of many gods which then prevailed, Deut. vi. 13–14. Some few of the most enlightened men in other lands had partial ideas of this truth, derived either from the Jews themselves, or more remotely from the patriarchs. As a proof of the Divine origin of this principle, the Jews were to prosper more than any other nation, as long as they were obedient; and they did so. This principle was not exemplified in the same manner by any other people. The Rites and Worship of the Jews were especially instituted for them as a nation, as has been elsewhere shown,* while the purity taught in all their laws and observances plainly pointed out Him, who has enforced his laws by the declaration, “ Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy," Levit. xix. 2. How different was their case from that of every heathen nation, which possessed, in all the histories of their gods, a record of criminal actions, that encouraged and allowed sin ! A poet has thus referred to the superior condition of Israel :
“ Ask now of history's authentic page,
* In the RITES AND WORSHIP OF THE JEWS, published by the Religious Tract Society, as a separate work, also forming part of this volume, p. 170.
WHEN considering the details of the Jewish law, as given to Moses from on high, and taught by him, we should mark for our own guidance at the present day, the principles more than the details. The principles are of universal application, as they proceed from the mind of Him who changeth not, but the details are not so to be viewed. They were admirably adapted to promote the welfare and happiness of the Jewish nation, à people of whom God nimself declared, “I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel,” Numb. xxxv. 34 ; and who were separated from the nations, 1 Kings viii. 53, not only as a special favour to them, but as a type of the spiritual Israel, the people of God, who in later ages should be called from all nations. Also, as God works by means, many of the details had special reference to the state of Israel, as liable to be corrupted by the nations around, and therefore severed from
other people, Levit. xx. 26. Others are grounded upon various circumstances of the climate or situation, therefore not adapted or intended for adoption universally. But while it is lawful to adopt or decline the matters of detail, the principles which regulated Moses while king in Jeshurun, Deut. xxxiii. 5, issuing his commands from the tabernacle in the wilderness ; or Solomon, when all Israel were dwelling in peace and safety, every man under his own vine and fig tree, 1 Kings iv. 25, are of universal application : these should guide the monarchs, rulers, and legislators of
every land in the present day. The details commanded by Moses were all in perfect accordance with the principles. Miserable work did the Jewish doctors and rulers make in later days, when they carried on the details without having reference, in the first instance, to the main principle which our blessed Lord himself declared to those rulers was “ mercy, and not sacrifice,” Matt xii. 7. Very striking instances of this occur in considering the Mishna and oral law, of which our Saviour spoke when he said, “ Ye have made the Law" (the principles emanating from the Godhead) “of none effect by your traditions,” (by your enactments in opposition to those principles,) Matt. xv. 6. This, be it observed, is the natural tendency of the human heart. The strict, sanctimonious Pharisees, and the libertine Sadducees, have not been the only teachers and rulers pretending to have special reverence for the word of God, while departing widely from the principles it sets forth. The pontiffs of Rome, though pretending to claim only spiritual guidance, brought in a domination, a tyranny over both the souls and bodies of men, impossible to be borne. Tendencies to similar interference with the happiness and the consciences of men have appeared even in the proceedings of purer churches, and less selfish leaders. It is to be remarked, that every spiritual domination has departed more or less in its details from the clear principles of the Divine law. “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men,” Luke ii. 14. These seldom, or for any long time, have really actuated any ruling power, but a time will come when these principles shall be universally carried out, when one greater and wiser than Solomon shall reign, of whom it has been declared, Psalm lxxii. 17.
66 Men shall be blessed in Him ;
All nations shall call Him blessed."
Well might the sweet psalmist of Israel, the king over the Jewish nation, return from the sheep-folds to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance, while anticipating this glorious carrying out of the Divine principles of legislation into the details of human laws, say, “ Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things ; And blessed be His glorious name for ever :
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen." and then close with the emphatic declaration,
“ The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.” Psa. lxxii. 18–20.
The judicial laws of the Jews may be considered as those referring—first, to their polity or government, which differed in different periods of the Jewish history, and will be hereafter considered under the title of Polity. The second division relates to the laws, both civil and criminal, by means of which justice was to be administered, and punishment inflicted. On these a few remarks will next be made. *
In order the more clearly to point out the difference between Moses and other lawgivers, some laws as to outward conduct may first be noticed, observing that it must be kept in mind that all these laws proceed from a Lawgiver who was able to search and judge the heart of man. As already observed, they are all based upon, and reducible to the golden precept, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” -or in plain words, “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you," a principle which never has been adopted by mere human lawgivers. While the Jews were subject to these laws, the heathen nations around them were under
different codes. In one of the most virtuous of these, namely, that of Sparta, theft was allowed ; it was not a crime to steal, but to do it so as to be detected. In others, piracy was honoured ; licentiousness and unnatural crimes were sanctioned; revenge was counted praiseworthy, though in the eye of a heart-searching God it was murder. In many cases parents and masters were allowed to kill their children and slaves with impunity, to say nothing of the public murders sanctioned by the permission of human sacrifices.
* Considerable use has been made of the valuable work by Dean Graves, “ On the Pentateuch, showing the Divine Origin of the Jewish Religion, chiefly from Internal Evidence.”
Graves well remarks, how clearly the importance of Revelation is shown by the turpitude and cruelty of the system of public morals, recommended by Plato, one of the greatest of the ancient philosophers, in his ideal scheme of perfection for a state, even for what he considered a perfect republic. Some infidels have endeavoured to make out that Judaism was derived from heathenism, but the moral law of the Jews sufficiently proves that it had a far superior origin. Artificial light may be good in the absence of the sun, but all the discoveries of science cannot produce a light which will supply the place of the solar rays.
Nor is there any perfect code of morality but that revealed in Scripture, enforced by the example of Christ.
“ Talk they of morals ? O thou bleeding Lamb,
How little have those examined the subject, who consider the Jewish law as a mere system of outward ceremonies ! It is a perfect summary of moral duty, and bears the image of its Author. And when we consider the great purposes attained by the keeping Israel a separate people, we see that this object was worthy the interposition of the Deity. Hereby the people were prepared for those great objects described in Scripture, especially for the coming of the Redeemer, and the fulfilment of the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” Gen. xxvi. 4; and here was a pattern given, by adherence to which, in a greater or lesser degree, the happiness of other nations has been more or less attained.
Observe how distinctly revenge is forbidden, Lev. xix. 18. “ Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” And this was not to those of their own nation only, as the rabbins endeavoured to limit it, but to the stranger also, ver. 34. “ The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Also the Divine principle was extended even farther, to “love your enemies,” Exod. xxiii. 4, 5. “If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring