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sands of them who love him and keep his commandments.”
Thus it manifestly appears to be a grand characteristic of this Dispensation, that it communicates a knowledge of the one true God, and of his moral attributes; enjoins the practice of every moral duty from a principle of Obedience; and presents us with numerous instances of exemplary rewards and punishments, according to the moral character, and religious conduct of his peculiar people.
In the preceding chapter we have shewn, that under the Jewish Dispensation, it was an important object to inculcate just, reverential, and sublime sentiments of religion, and to impress upon the mind the grand duty of Obedience. It was also proved, that this obedience consisted in a perfect confidence in the Divine administration, unreserved submission to the Divine will, and a strict conformity to all the duties of morality: that is, in principles and dispositions essential to human happiness.
The Jewish people were instructed in the doctrines of religion and morality, in a manner, and to an extent, totally unknown to the Pagan world. As this people were, in the course of human events, to be perpetually exposed to all
the ignorance and vices of surrounding nations, and to the seductive influence of example, every expedient was employed to counteract the inju. rious effects of example, that was consistent with the primitive constitution of man ; that might do honour to the freedom of his choice, and render all the offices of piety, and the practice of every virtue, the acts of a wise mind, and well-regulated dispositions. - The accomplishment of this purpose required a process which was to continue many ages, and to be conducted through manifold contingences, which might arise during so long a period. The nature of these contingent circumstances, and the manner in which the grand design was effected, now demand our attention.
The subject is extensive, and it consists of various branches, which, notwithstanding their diversity, have an intimate relation to the grand object. In treating it we shall observe the following order.
I. We shall consider the early state of the world, respecting Religion.
II. The selection of a particular family in order to prevent an universal apostasy from Monotheism, or the principles of true religion ; and also the deliverance of this family from a state of bondage,
III. The religious Ceremonies, instituted during the sojournment of the Hebrews, in the wilderness; their nature and object,
IV. The propensity of the Hebrews to Idolatry, and its causes : The nature and pernicious influence, of idolatry; and the injunctions, necessary to preserve this people from its fatal seductions,
V. The religious, and moral character of the Israelites, under the different forms of government, with the correspondent consequences produced.
VI. The instrumentality of the Prophets of Jehovah, in the preservation of true religion.
VII. The Captivity of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and its salutary effects in the * final establishment of Monotheism in the land of Judea.
CURSORY VIEW OF THE EARLY STATE OF THE
WORLD, RESPECTING RELIGION.
Ir being the chief object of the sacred : historian to treat of the theological and moral history of this selected nation, the events of several preceding ages are passed over in the most rapid manner. Hints are simply given of certain facts which were introductory to his principal design. Noris it practicable for any modern to fill up the large vacancies, observable between different periods, with conjectures of a satisfactory nature, by tlie deepest researches into antiquity. Yet these hints, concise as they are, furnish a clue which enables us to trace, with some degree of precision, the designs of the moral governor of the world, and the manner in which these designs are accomplishing. Where there is great obscurity, and doubtless for wise reasons an intended obscurity, thrown over the early state of mankind, it is indecent to substitute vague conjectures, or hypothetic doctrines, as absolute facts ; and it is dangerous to venerate the particular opinions of the wisest men, as if they were indubitable and historical truths, or the infallible oracles of God.
As the sacred history commences with the account of Adam's formation, and relates his disobedience and punishment, thus it presents us with some insight into his superiority as an intelligent and moral agent. We perceive, in this account, the distinguished honours conferred upon Man, in the very mode of his creation, as well as in his mental powers. God is represented as ordering the Earth to bring forth