Sidor som bilder

been supplied with copies? And surely the office of the Levite, whom every family was "to keep within their gates," must have been to teach the Law. The command that every king, upon his accession to the throne, should "write him a copy of the Law in a book, out of that which is before the priests (t)," is a proof not only that the Law existed in writing, but that there was a copy of it under the peculiar care of the priests, that is, deposited in the tabernacle, or temple. Jacobus Capellus thought that the reading of the Law on every sabbath and festival was as old as the time of Joshua, but that it was neglected in the reign of wicked kings; and the question of the Shunamite woman's husband, "Wherefore wilt thou go up to him (the man of God) to-day? it is neither new-moon nor sabbath (u),". is a strong confirmation of his opinion, or at least of its being the custom several hundred years before the Captivity. And St. Luke informs us, that "Moses in old time had in every city them that preached him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day (w)," which may refer to a still earlier period.

Is it credible that any people would have submitted to so rigorous and burdensome a law as that

(u) 2 Kings, c. 4. v. 23, (w) Acts, c. 15. v. 21,

(t) Deut. c. 17. v. 18.

that of Moses, unless they had been fully convinced, by a series of miracles, that he was a prophet sent from God? and being thus convinced of the divine mission of Moses, would they have suffered any writing to pass under his venerated name, of which he was not really the author? Had fraud or imposture of any kind belonged to any part of it, would not the Israelites, at the moment of rebellion, have availed themselves of that circumstance as a ground or justification of their disobedience? "The Jews were exceedingly prone to transgress the Law of Moses, and to fall into idolatry; but if there had been any the least suspicion of any falsity or imposture in the writings of Moses, the ringleaders of their revolts would have sufficiently promulged it among them, as the most plausible plea to draw them off from the worship of the true God. Can we think that a nation and religion so maligned as the Jewish were, could have escaped discovery, if there' had been any deceit in it, when so many lay in wait continually to expose them to all contumelies imaginable? Nay, among themselves in their frequent apostasies, and occasions given for such a pretence, how comes this to be never heard of, nor in the least questioned, whether the Law was undoubtedly of Moses's writing, or no? What


an excellent plea would this have been for Jeroboam's calves in Dan and Bethel, for the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim, could any the least suspicion have been raised among them concerning the Authenticity of the fundamental records of the Jewish commonwealth! And, which is most observable, the Jews, who were a people strangely suspicious and incredulous while they were fed and clothed by miracles, yet could never find ground to question this; nay, and Moses himself, we plainly see, was hugely envied by many of the Israelites even in the wilderness, as is evident in the conspiracy of Korah and his accomplices; and that on this very ground that he took too much upon him;' how unlikely then is it, that amidst so many enemies. he should dare to venture any thing into public records, which was not most undoubtedly true, or undertake to prescribe a law to oblige the people to posterity; or that after his own age any thing should come out under his name, which would not be presently detected by the emulators of his glory? What then, is the thing it self incredible? Surely not, that Moses should write the records we speak of? Were they not able to understand the truth of it? What, not those who were in the same age, and conveyed it down by a certain tradition to posterity? Or,




did not the Israelites all constantly believe it? What, not they who would sooner part with their lives and fortunes than admit any variation or alteration as to their Law (x)?"

The first submission to such a Law as that of Moses, must have been while all the tremendous circumstances of its promulgation were fresh upon their minds; and indeed the nature and design of the institution demanded that it should be carried into immediate effect (y). And could the Israelites have continued for any length of time in observance of all these numerous ordinances and regulations, religious and civil, without any written authority to refer to? Is there any instance of this sort in the history of the civilized part of mankind? of a legislator requiring

(x) Stillingfleet Or. Sacræ, book 2. ch. 1.

(y) Stillingfleet observes, that it is not easily believed that a people whose characteristic was stubbornness, would have been brought to submit to such a law, unless they had been habituated to it previous to their settlement in the land of Canaan; or that a nation, whose subsistence was derived from agriculture and pasturage, would have submitted to laws apparently so contrary to their interest, as those relating to the sabbatical and jubilee years, unless they had been convinced that miraculous plenty and security would be the certain consequence of obedience. For observations on the sabbatical and jubilee years, see Whiston on the Chronology of Josephus.

requiring obedience to laws orally delivered, without giving a lex scripta as a rule of conduct (2), a criterion by which disputes were to be decided, and offenders were to be judged? Among the many peculiarities of the Jewish nation noticed by profane authors, is any circumstance of this kind mentioned or alluded to? Had any such thing ever existed, it must have been known to the Jews, who were living when the Law was put into its present form; and remarkable as it would have been, the memory of it must have been transmitted to all succeeding ages. Moses not only required obedience to his laws, but he ordered that no alteration should be made in them; "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, ther shall ye diminish aught from it (a)." There must surely have been a written copy of the Law, which was to be thus strictly observed. Bishop Stillingfleet considers the "national constitution

(*) It is said that Lycurgus did not commit his laws to writing; but whoever reads an account of them in Plutarch will observe, that they were merely general political regulations, and very different from the minute and particular laws of Moses, which extended to every point, civil, moral, and religious. Besides, Lycurgus's regulations were introduced into a city with a very small surrounding territory, which had a kingly government, previously established in it,

(a) Deut. c. 4. V. 2.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »