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imperfection of the old law; or imagine that some mysteries, beyond their comprehension, are concealed under these external appearances. Others, for want of faith, or uprightness of heart, are tempted, upon such pretences, to despise the Scripture itself, as if full of mean and trivial matters ; or draw wrong conclusions from it to countenance their own vices.
But, upon comparing the manners of the Israelites with those of the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and other people of former ages, which we hold in the highest veneration, these prejudices soon vanish. We observe a noble simplicity in them, greatly preferable to all refinements; that the Israelites had every thing that was valuable in the customs of their contemporaries, without many of their defects; and a great advantage over them in understanding (what ought to be our chief aim in this life) the nature of that true religion, which is the foundation of morality.
We must learn then to distinguish what is only offensive to us in their customs, from what is really blame-worthy; what we do not like, upon account of the distance of times and places, though it be itself indifferent, from that which, being good in itself, displeases for no other reason, than because we are corrupt in our manners. For most of the difference betwixt us and them does not proceed from our being more enlightened by Christianity, but from our being less guided by reason.
The Christian religion did not introduce this great inequality of conditions, this disdain of labour, this eagerness for diversion, this authority of women and young people, this aversion from a simple and frugal life, which make us differ so much from the ancients.
It would have been much easier to have made good · Christians of those shepherds and ploughmen whom we see in their history, than of our courtiers, lawyers, or farmers of the revenue, and many others that spend their lives in an idle and discontented poverty. · Let it be observed, that I do not pretend to make a panegyric upon this people ; but to give a very plain account, like that of travellers, who have seen far distant countries. I shall describe what is good, bad, or indifferent, just as it is ; and only desire the reader to divest himself of all prejudice, that he may judge of these customs by good sense and right reason alone; to discard the ideas that are peculiar to his own age and country, and consider the Israelites in the circumstances of time and place wherein they lived; to compare them with their nearest neighbours, and by that means to enter into their spirit and maxims. We must, indeed, be entire strangers to history, not to see the great difference which distance of time and place occasions in people's manners. We inhabit the same country which the antient. Britons, and afterwards the Romans, dwelt in: and yet, how much do we vary from both in their way of living ; nay, even from that of our own countrymen, who lived seven or eight hundred years ago?* And at present
• Who would imagine that the present inhabitants of Great Britain, who spend so much time and money in uomeaning,
what likeness is there between our customs and those of the Turks, Indians, and Chinese? If then we consider these two sorts of distances together, we shall be so far from being astonished, that they who lived in Palestine three thousand years ago had customs different from ours, that we shall rather wonder if we find any thing in them alike,
We must not imagine, however, that these changes are regular, and always come on in the same space of time. Countries that are very near each other often differ widely in their religion and politics; as, at this day, Spain and Africa, which, under the Roman empire, had the same customs. On the contrary, there is now a great resemblance betwixt those of Spain and Germany, though there was then none. The same holds good in respect to the difference of times. They that are not acquainted with history having heard it said that the people of former ages were more simple than we, suppose the world is always growing more polite ; and that the farther any one looks back into antiquity, the more stupid and ignorant he will find mankind to have been.
But it is not really so in countries that have been inhabited successively by different people: the revolutions that have happened there have always, from time to time, introduced misery and ignorance, after prosperity and good manners. So Italy is now in a much better condition than it was eight hundred years ago. But eight hundred years before that, under the first Cæsars, it was happier, and in a more prosperous state, than it is at present. It is true, if we go back eight hundred years more, near the time that Rome was founded, the same Italy will appear much poorer and less polished, though at that time very populous: and still the higher we ascend, it will seem more wretched and uncultivated. Nations have their periods of duration, like particular men. The most flourishing state of the Greeks was under Alexander; of the Romans, under Augustus ; and of the Israelites, under Solomon.
useless, and ridiculous modes of dress, are the descendants of a race of people, who in the very same climate and land went almost naked, not only during the scorching heats of summer, but also through the chilling blasts of winter? And yet were more healthy, vigorous and robust, than their present degenerate offspring.
We ought therefore to distinguish in every people their beginning, their greatest prosperity, and their declension. In this manner I shall consider the Israelites, during all that space of time that they were a people, from the calling of Abraham to the last destruction of Jerusalem. It contains more than two thousand years, which I shall divide into three periods, according to the three different states of this people. The first of the Patriarchs; the second of the Israelites, from their going out of Egypt to the Babylonish captivity; and the third of the Jews, after they returned from captivity to the promulgation of the Gospel.
of the Patriarchs."— Their Nobility.
THE Patriarchs lived after a noble manner, in perfect freedom and great plenty, notwithstanding their way of living was plain and laborious. Abraham knew the whole succession of his ancestors; and no way lessened his nobility, since he married into his own family. He took care to provide a wife of the same race for his son, in whom were fulfilled all the promises that God had made to him: and Isaac taught Jacob to observe the same law.
The long lives of the fathers gave them an opportunity of educating their children well, and of
Patriarch, from the Greek matplapXons, which literally signifies the chief, or head of a family. The term is applied properly to the progenitors of the Jewish people, and especially to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the twelve sons of the latter. The patriarchal government existed in the fathers of families, and their first-born sons after them; and included the regal and sacerdotal authority, and not unfrequently the prophetic. This authority, which every first-born son exercised over all the widely extended branches of a numerous family, is termed in Scripture the birth-right. The patriarchal dispensation includes all the time from the creation of the world till the giving of the Law. The Patriarchs are divided into classes, the Antediluvian and Postdiluvian: to the former belong Adam, Seth, Enosh, &c.; to the latter, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, &c.