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gistrate, though great and extensive, could not be arbitrary. For he was obliged, as we have seen, to propose all greater matters to the congregation and senate for their consideration and decision ; and both he and they were to consult and be directed by the oracle ; the import of which may hereafter be explained. The executive power then was sufficiently balanced by the advice of the senate, the consent of the people, and the approbation of Jehovah, expressed by his oracle. This part of the Jewish constitution will receive still further light from the manner of Joshua's induction or accession to the government. In the first place Moses, a little before his death, by divine direction, publickly invests him with the office, and administers a solemn charge of fidelity. After the decease of Moses, God by the voice of the or. acle solemnly approves and confirms him in his new function, and engages to him his patronage and benediction. In the next place all the people and their elders expressly recognize his authority in these words—" All that thou commandest us, we will do ; whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. As we hearkened unto Moses, 80 will we hearken unto thee only ; the Lord thy God be with thee as he was with Moses." Thus he was le. gally established in his authority by the formal consent both of God and the people. In a word, the Hebrew judge was vested with the chief command in war, and the first magistracy in peace.
He summoned the senatorial and popular assemblies, proposed subjects for their deliberation, presided in their counsels, and executed their resolutions. He acted in all things as viceroy of Jehovah, the king of Israel. To use the words of the very learned Calmet, “ he was protector of the law, defender of
religion, avenger of crimes, especially of idolatry ; still he had no power to make new laws, or to impose new taxes. He was without show, without pomp, without followers, without equipage. The revenues of his office were merely gratuitous ; he had no settled stipend ; nor did he raise any thing from the people.” How liberal and beneficent was this part of their government ! It united their wisdom and force in one man for the common safety ; while it prevented him from stretching his authority into despotism, and protected him from every ambitious encroachment or seditious attempt. He could not acquire unlimited power, not only for the reasons before hinted, but because his very counsellors were both rulers and members of three distinct tribes and armies, consisting of free, hardy, and jealous freeholders. A mercinary standing army had no existence. If instruments of wicked ambition could have been hired, yet neither the chief '
magistrate, nor any other citizen possessed or could raise a sufficient fund for that purpose. For similar reasons no aspiring demagogue, nor supposed combination of them, could effectually resist or subvert the supreme executive authority.
We readily grant, that the Jews did not for any great length of time enjoy freedom and prosperity under this happy constitution. The cause is evident. They soon departed from its excellent principles. By neglecting to appoint or to cooperate with the executive power, they first experienced the dreadful evils of anarchy ; and then by an easy transition they gradually and easily resorted to absolute monarchy. May we, who enjoy civil constitutions in many respects corresponding with theirs, learn wisdom and virtue from their fatal example. In particular at this mo
ment, when the Moses and Joshua of our American Israel have retired from the administration, let us, like good citizens and christians, devoutly pray and hope that their spirit of wisdom and integrity, and the presence of their God, may eminently characterize and prosper their successor, and all our future magistrates and people to the latest generation.
The superior excellence and authority of the Hebrew constitution and
laws, as an immediate communication from Jehovah. The manner, in which this communication was made. Hebrew theocra. cy the most antient system of government. The particular design of the Jewish oracle, and the happy effects of its establishment. IN
several preceding lectures we have given a brief analysis of the antient Hebrew government. We have shown that this government, besides possessing other advantages peculiar to itself, combined all the essential features of the most perfect constitutions adopted in after ages ; particularly that it established those three great departments or balances of power, a popular assembly, a senatorial council, and a presiding magistrate. But the most distinguishing and crowning excellency of this constitution was, that it placed at the head of administra . tion a perfect Sovereign, viz. Jehovah himself. As God was the Creator and moral Governor of the Israelites, in common with the rest of mankind, and in this capacity enjoined upon them all moral duties; and as he was also their religious or ecclesiastical Head, and in this character prescribed the peculiar forms and rites of their worship; so he was the Sovereign of their body politic ; and in this relation he gave them civil and judicial laws, proclaimed war and peace, and appointed officers in the
As their political King, he ordered a palace to be built for his residence among them, I mean the tabernacle, and afterward the temple, in which he visibly dwelt, or manifested his presence, by the Shechinah, or bright cloud of glory, appearing over the mercy seat between
the two cherubims, in the innermost room of the palace ; on which account he is said to “ dwell,” and to “sit between the cherubims.” From this seat he gave forth oracles, or notified his pleasure respecting important matters, which were not previously settled by the written laws. It is evident, at first view, that if God was in a peculiar sense the King of the Hebrew nation, as their whole history proves ; he must have had some fixt and unequivocal method of conveying to them his royal pleasure ; otherwise his authority would have been nugatory, and his will perpetually liable to be counterfeited, mistaken, or perverted. It is therefore an important guestion, how the voice or oracle of Jehovah, which was the highest and last resort in the Jewish administration, was given forth and ascertained : This question demands a more critical attention, on account of that fashionable incredulity and indiscriminate contempt, with which some modern inquirers regard every antient story of oracular or supernatural inspiration. The mind of man, at this day, enlightened by christian knowledge and human science, is forcibly struck with that combination of deep cunning and ignorant superstition, which gave birth and reputation to the heathen oracles and auguries even among the refined Greeks and Romans. We readily grant that the heathen oracles were in general the artful devices of priests and priestesses, who gave forth responses according to the pay, which they expected or received; and who uttered their predictions in such equivocal terms, as might suit the event, whether favorable or adverse. Kircher, an eminent philosopher, with a view to undeceive the credulous, and to account for some strange