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ion. For in the first place no impostor would have dar-, ed to institute public memorials of extraordinary facts, which never existed, and especially to require all the citizens of a nation frequently to leave their territory and families undefended, in order to attend these memorials. As none but a madman would attempt such an imposition; so no people in their senses could be seduced by it. Certainly Moses could not persuade the Jews of his age to believe and commemorate their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, and preservation in the wilderness, if these wonders never took place. Nor could a bold deceiver, in some after age, impose a false history of these facts and observances upon the public credulity ; because the history itself, which was received by the Jews, frequently asserts that the institutions contained in it, were appointed, published, and statedly observed from the very time, when the facts are said to have happened. But surely no people could be made to believe that they and their ancestors had constantly performed certain rites in memory of certain events, when both the events and rites were wholly unknown, till their pretended history appeared. The sacred festivals and other ob. servances of the Hebrews are therefore invincible argu. ments both to them and to us, that their religion is true and divine. These arguments are exceedingly strengthened, when we consider how extravagant, dangerous, and even destructive these celebrations must have been, had they not been warranted by truth, and protected by hea
Yet it is a well known fact that the Jews constantly attended these ceremonies without any fear of danger; and that their most vigilant enemies never invaded or injured them during these sacred rites. Can any sober philosopher account for these facts, without admitting
that this wonderful people were assured of the divine authority of their institutions, and were favored with extraordinary protection in observing them?
Importance of God's early and visible manifestations of himself to
bis antient people. The manner in which these manifestations were made.
Nature and use of the tabernacle. Particular de scription of the temple at Jerusalem.
OUR last lecture explained the import and utility of the three great annual feasts of the antient Hebrews. It also hinted several particulars relative to these solemnities, and to the Jewish worship in general, which require a more distinct elucidation. Among these may be reckoned the visible appearances of Deity to his antient worshippers, his peculiar and stated abode in the sanctuary, and the limitation of his worship, at least of its principal rites, to one place, viz. the temple at Jerusalem. These circumstances may strike us, at first view, as inconsistent with the spiritual nature and universal presence of the infinite Being. They may seem to represent him as a material and local deity, and thus to nourish in his votaries a gross and debasing superstition, instead of rational piety and virtue. But a due attention to the reasons, on which these circumstances were founded, will lead us to admire their fitness and beauty.
In the first place, the importance of some visible appearance of Jehovah, or symbol of his presence, will be readily perceived, if we advert to the condition of man in the early ages. The state of mankind at first was simple and uncultivated. In this state they were incapable of that abstract reasoning, of that quick mental perception and feeling, which are found among polished pations. The first ideas of every human being must be
borrowed from sense. In the untutored mind scarce any ideas exist, but those, which the senses introduce. The laboring classes of men even in the most refined communities derive their religious belief, not from their own researches, but from instruction. and tradition. They have neither leisure nor capacity for that nice and abstruse speculation, by which natural theology and ethics are investigated, systematized, and rationally confirmed. In the early state of society the human faculties are chained down to a few necessary objects of attention, and cannot of themselves ascend to original ideas or spiritual contemplations; they cannot rise from material and finite effects to an immaterial and infinite cause. The idea of a universe produccd from nothing, constantly sustained and governed by an intelligent, allpowerful Spirit, though familiar to our minds, exalted by science and revelation, is too profound and remote for the rude sons of nature. We hence see the necessity, not only of a supernatural revelation to mankind in the early ages, but of some visible appearance of Deity, to give credit and force to such revelation. A divine revelation to us does not need this enforcement, because it is amply attested by miracles and prophecy. But in the first ages mankind could not be convinced by miracles, because they had too little experience and information of the laws of nature, to distinguish accurately between miraculous and natural effects. Nor was prophecy a suitable mean of conviction; because this kind of proof depends on the future accomplishment of the prediction, which often requires a long interval of time. It remains then that the visible presence or appearance of Jehovah was the only proper expedient, which suited the early exigences of mankind. Of this appearance, however miraculous, they were qualified to judge. For since their first notions of the Author of their being would present him as transcendently great, some glorious appearance of his presence, accompanying and giving sanction to sublime and useful discoveries of his will, would coincide with and confirm their natural sentiments. It is probable that mankind in their infancy had no just conceptions of God as an infinite Spirit. Perhaps too a discovery of his spiritual nature was not proper to be communicated at first. The first needful instructions were their dependence on and obligations to their Maker. These would be strikingly taught and impressed on their hearts by some august exhibition of his presence, attended with such communications of truth, as suited their puerile state. Instruction, thus addressed to their senses, would find the easiest access, not only to their understandings, but to their feelings and practice. The account,given in the Old Testament, of God’s early dealings with men, especially with his Hebrew church, admirably corresponds with these rational deductions. We have indeed no express narrative of any visible appearance of Deity until the time of Abraham. But this need not surprise us, when we consider that the Mosaic history, prior to this period, consists only of a few leading hints, and often crouds the events of many ages into the compass of a single chapter. But these hints, compared with the subsequent story of the divine conduct, strongly infer that God, from the beginning, conversed with man in a visible manner, that is, by some sensible and glorious manifestation of his presence. That he conversed in this mode with our first parents in innocency is suggested by this circumstance, that after they had lost their robe of purity and glory, they are said to have “hid