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Moral Rule, and the simple immutability of his purpose concerning the Christian Covenant; for as to the disclosure made by Prophecy concerning this Covenant at the æra of the Law, the authentic page of Scripture constrains us to acknowledge it was neither copious nor distinct.
But yet this stock of Christian prophecy furnished to the Israelite an adequate exercise of his faith. In the Pentateuch he had before him, the original promise in Paradise, the Patriarchal revelation, and some addition of prophecy annexed to the Law. In his simpler resources of Revealed Religion, a few predictions, like these, would be of great moment. They would give him a considerable object to his attention, and the duties of a religious principle to be exercised upon them, are not to be measured by the degree of light which they afforded, so much as by the integrity wherewith men were willing to attend to that light, whatever it might be.
Prophecy, however, had its subject at this period, whereon it enlarged in a more full and distinct revelation. But that subject was of another kind, the Temporal; of which I must speak by itself apart, and consider the greater clearness of evidence which is diffused over this second branch of the prophetic revelation accompanying the Law.
NOTE ON PAGE 133.-From this point of view, whilst we are examining the declared stipulations of the Mosaic Religion, perhaps we shall see into the import of that remarkable saying, which Moses has introduced upon one of his general enforcements of the Law, and whilst he is delivering at large what he had given him to say of its inducements and threatenings. "The secret things," he says, "belong unto the Lord our God; "but those things which are revealed, belong unto us, and to "our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this "law*." Striking words, in a recital of the legal rewards and punishments, and such as almost suggest the further retributions, which yet they withhold from open view. But secret things there were; and if we might conjecture of them at all, what so likely to be implied, as the other, and those the greater, requitals of the unrevealed world? The text has been accommodated to Discourses upon such doctrines as that of the Trinity, or others generally of a mysterious nature, which, in some respects, will always be among the arcana of religion, the "secret things of God." But such an use of the text is only an accommodation of it-its proper force and spirit must be sought in the subject to which it is directed, the constitution of the Law.
A distinguished Commentator on the Laws of Moses, Michaelis, vindicates their temporal sanctions, on the ground of the Mosaic code being of the nature of a Civil System, to "the statutes" of which the rewards of a future eternal state would be incongruous and unsuitable. But this solution of the matter is inadmissible, inasmuch as the Law comprehends both a moral and a civil code, and prescribes to the private as well as the public duty. It was a Law of Religion, as well of Government. The perfect love of God, which is one commandment of Moses; the Tenth commandment of the Decalogue, and many others, never can be reduced to "statutes of the land," to be
* Deuteronomy xxix. 29.
administered and enforced on the rules of a civil government. It is only surprising that a person of so great learning and research should propose the solution, or entertain the hypothesis on which it is founded; which yet he does with great deliberation. But the divine Law has its true and proper vindication, on far other grounds than such a limited and incorrect view of its use.-J. D. Michaelis, Mosaic Law, Art. xiv.
The same Commentator rests the defence of the occupation of Canaan, made by the Israelites, upon an hereditary title, derived to them, as he argues, from their ancestors, a Nomadic tribe of Palestine. He thinks, they had relinquished for a time the possession of that country, without surrendering, or forfeiting, their right to it; whilst the occupants, who were afterwards dispossessed, had not acquired in the interim, which was more than two hundred years, a perfect title by their more recent settlement. This claim of human right is to soften the supposed violence of the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land: the supernatural grant, the declared gift of God, joined with his judicial expulsion or excision of the inhabitants, (which is the Mosaic account of the proceeding), not appearing to the author to be a sufficient justification of what was done.Comment. Art. xxxi. Smith's translation. [Or see Syntagm. Commentat. tom. ii. p. 210.]
Such expositions can scarcely be deemed Commentaries, when the comment has so little of consistency with the text; and I have cited this second instance of the vitiated latitudinarian Theology of this author, on a point connected with the Mosaic dispensation, to make it appear the more probable that he has gone upon some wrong principle in the whole judgment he has formed of that dispensation. A mere civil law, in the one case, and a human right, in the other, agree sufficiently well together: but how do they agree with the genuine character of God's revelation, or the majesty of his gift? The gratuitous donation of Canaan is one of the essentials of the promise of it; and so it is perpetually represented to be; a free gift, and
nothing else; gratuitous as to the right, though not as to the condition; and both the letter and spirit of the Mosaic history concur in establishing the divine donation of Canaan, and excluding the claim of right.
But what if a common human right could be proved? Though it might seem to conciliate the unbeliever, it will scarcely be satisfactory to the Christian, inasmuch as it would impair or confound in one chief point the harmony of the divine dispensations; which have made the grant of Canaan under the Law, and the promise of eternal life under the Gospel, equally a favour and a gift. The Temporal promise, in this quality of it, is of a kind with the Evangelical; and all this is made so plain in the text of Holy Writ, that it requires some learning to miss it.
The extent of right which the Israelites really had in Canaan was in a place of sepulture, the purchased burying-place of the Patriarchs. To this spot of ground, Jacob was carried from Egypt; it was an asylum of their faith in God's promise, and shewed their hope, but not their claim, to the rest of Canaan: which indeed there is no proof that their ancestors occupied, except in part.
But I fear the author's general ideas of the foundation of this supposed right are as untenable, as his theology. For, besides what may be justly urged against it on the common principle of all law, whether Civil, or that of Nations, viz. that the free discontinuance of possession, in course of time, impairs the dominion, and at last forfeits it; leaving the derelict properly to any new occupant, unless the exposed right be guarded in a far stricter manner than the Israelites in Egypt could guard their territory in Canaan; besides this, I say that the territorial right of a Nomadic tribe is of all others the most fugitive and evanescent, inasmuch as it imprints upon the earth, the subject of it, few or none of the improvements or modifications of human labour. No labours of the plough, none of planting, none of the operose building of houses or cities, attach to the
pure pastoral state; and few of these could have taken place among the ancient Nomads of Palestine. But if a migratory tribe of herdsmen could acquire a lasting property on every spot where their tents have been pitched, or their herds have grazed, they might take much of the earth to themselves in a short time, against the plainest intentions of God, and the common justice of the world. The digging of wells is perhaps the greatest effort of the Nomadic life to an appropriation of the soil. Otherwise their right, without continued occupancy, is as perishable as the herbage which they consume. But how justly does Moses express to the Israelites their total want of pretension of right on these very accounts. "And it shall be "when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land "which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to "Jacob, to give thee, great and goodly cities which thou buildedst "not, and houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, "and wells digged which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive "trees, which thou plantedst not, when thou shalt have eaten " and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the Lord thy God.” Deuter. vi. 10, 11.-He it was who " gave them the lands of "the Heathen, and they took the labours of the people in possession." Psalm. cv.
Lastly, the author insists on the general inconvenient consequences which would ensue to the world, if a title to enter a country were founded either upon a prophecy, or upon the irreligion and wickedness of its inhabitants; and he puts cases of imagined invasion and dispossession which might be justified among the Turks and Russians, and the Catholic and Protestant powers, upon the like pretences. [Art. xxviii.] In all which he argues upon a double mistake. For, first, to the Israelites it was not a simple prophecy, but an express command to enter: [See Exodus, Deuter. Joshua]; and it was a part of their imputed sin that they were so unwilling to follow the leading of that command. But the sense and operation of such a positive command can never be carried into simple prophecies