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gion, morals, and legislation, being as superior to that of all their contemporaries as the moving pillar of fire was more awful than the descent of Belus, the Mosaic law more exalted than the twelve tables, and the Hebrew judges wiser than heathen legislators. As long as none presumed to add to or to diminish from the word which the Eternal imparted, his people were glorious, enlightened, and blessed; while the sages
of the heathens could not attain to the wisdom of the least among the sons of Israel.
This unreserved submission to the voice from heaven is not, however, inconsistent with the desire and the endeavour to understand, as far as possible, the designs of that Providence whose guidance is acknowledged. Though there is sin and folly in seeking to forestall or change the Divine counsels, there is piety and wisdom in striving to comprehend them when they are disclosed; because that obedience must ever be the most perfect which is the most enlightened. Moses was reproved for his backwardness in fulfilling his mission to his brethren in bondage, and vengeance from the Lord followed Jonah when he would have evaded his duty of prophesying destruction to Nineveh, because in both cases these prophets ventured to prejudge the event which was in the hand of God: but the people were also rebuked when they yielded a blind external obedience only, instead of the ready cooperation of the heart with the will of God; and were perpetually exhorted to examine into and understand his ways, , that their obedience might be not only strict but enlightened.
The duty of ascertaining the Divine purposes from his dispensations becomes more important as the facilities for the investigation are multiplied. The more ancient the dispensation, the more easy it becomes to understand its object. Ezra the scribe, and the people who listened to him as he read the law, were better able to comprehend the designs of the Allwise in separating his people from the rest of the world, than the judges who were under Moses; and those judges knew more concerning this dispensation, than any one of all the multi
tudes on the day that they crossed the Red Sea. These designs of Providence have also been growing clearer and clearer to this day; and it therefore becomes more and more the duty of all who acknowledge that Providence, to search into his ways, and see how the spirit of man may best cooperate with God for the sanctification of man.
In such an investigation there is no danger, as long as the inquirer is careful to admit no evidence but that which God himself has given. It is indeed the highest and holiest employment in which the human faculties can be occupied, and as acceptable to him who loves the obedience of an understanding heart, as it is salutary to the heart itself. As long as men interpret, instead of imagining the ways of God; as long as they seek to know, instead of presuming to dictate his will, they may hope for some portion of that favour which blessed the child Samuel in the tabernacle, which distinguished David as “the man after God's own heart," and magnified the wisdom of the mighty Solomon.
Hesitate not, therefore, to enter on a full investigation of the designs of the Allwise in separating your nation from other nations, and in calling you peculiarly his own. Dismiss from your minds, as far as you can, all remembrance of the religious systems framed by man with which people of other modes of faith have disgusted you. Repel, with the reprobation they deserve, all attempts to mix superstition with the worship which the Eternal established among you. Cast out as impious all suggestions which would change your views of the nature and attributes of the One God, and the offices of his chosen prophets; and taking for your guides only the Scriptures of your people, and the history of your nation and of the world, endeavour to trace those ways and thoughts, which, however higher than ours, are placed in some degree within the reach of our comprehension; which, however shrouded in the future, are disclosed in the past.
The best method by which an individual can pursue such an inquiry as is now proposed, is to collect all the evidence
he can obtain, and deduce from it the truth he seeks. This is the mode in which a solitary student should proceed. But when several inquirers are invited to advance together, and are conducted by one who has gone over the ground before them, the method may advantageously be reversed, for the sake of proceeding in a clear and orderly manner: as in the schools, where a definite object is first placed before the view of the students, and then the sources of evidence are laid open to them by which they may establish the truth for themselves. Such a method will now, for the sake of clearness, be pursued. The apparent design of the Eternal in his providence towards the Hebrew nation will be first disclosed, and evidences of this design will be afterwards offered to your consideration.
The plan of Providence is a strictly correct expression; because, though time and eternity are alike to the One God, though to him “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day,” yet, as his children are weak in sight and narrow in comprehension, they cannot see the end from the beginning, but only understand it by slow degrees. By the gradual development of a plan only can they so far comprehend anything that exists, as to be able to use their bodily powers in action, and the faculties of their minds in understanding. If the fruits of the earth were not brought forth according to a regular plan, if the soil and the dews, and the sunshine and the seed, were not perceived to be adapted to produce the corn, there would be no seed-time and no harvest among men; for no one would comprehend how it could be in the power of man to raise food out of the ground, and the whole race must be nourished, like your fathers in the wilderness, by miracle, or not at all. The whole of the creation was conducted by a plan; the preservation of created things is ordered by a plan; the destinies of the human race, spiritual as well as material, are also evolved according to a plan ;mysterious, like other plans, in its commencement, but growing more and more intelligible as it is gradually disclosed, and
more and more evidently harmonious with other plans, and with all that is known of Him who ordained the whole.
Before a plan can be comprehended, its object must be discerned. In contemplating the plan of Providence, this consideration causes no difficulty or delay; for all who acknowledge the Eternal, acknowledge his inseparable attributes, his wisdom, his justice, his boundless love; and by the existence of these attributes are men assured that in his dealings with the human race his object is to promote their perfection and happiness. While no individual is forgotten before him, the progress of the race is advanced by all his dispensations. While some are favoured with peculiar privileges, it is for the sake of mankind that those privileges are conferred; and while your nation has been distinguished by a closer communion with him than has been enjoyed by any other, the promise has not been forgotten, that in the seed of Abraham should all the families of the earth be blessed.
The history of the world shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is for the unassisted reason of man to attain to the notion of One God, who should be at the same time the creator of all things, the preserver of the whole universe, the moral governor of all rational beings. Every nation on the face of the earth has had an idea of Deity, but always under the form of a plurality of gods. Some few men, philosophers here and there among the heathens, have attained the notion that the same Being might create and preserve, that there might be One Governor among many people, that One Almighty Will might dispense happiness and misery; but these instances are so few and scattered, that they produced no visible effect on the spiritual advancement of the race. If it had not been for the revelation vouchsafed to your fathers, the whole world might now have been sunk in the ignorance of polytheism; since the light of nature appears too feeble to lead men to a knowledge of the Eternal, till after the lapse of more ages than the world has yet existed. It appears, then, to have been in the everlasting counsels of the Allwise to communicate the grand truth
of his existence and government by a revelation ; and in the mode of making and conducting this revelation may be found as powerful an evidence of the wisdom and love of the Father of men as the human mind is capable of receiving.
The object of revelation was to give to all men the knowledge of the true God. If the revelation had been made to every individual, a great degree of perplexity might have prevailed among so many particular experiences, and the attention of the careless would not have been so intently fixed as by a national dispensation. If a separate revelation had been made to every people, the Eternal would have been regarded by each as a national God, as it is well known he was long considered by your fathers, who, while they worshiped the God of the Hebrews, supposed that other nations might each have a god, though inferior to their own. The method adopted was therefore neither to give a separate revelation to individuals nor to all nations, but to take one people under the special tutelage of Providence, in the sight of the whole world, that through this favoured nation the true God might be made known to the human race at large. From the days of Abraham until now, your nation has, for this purpose, been the most conspicuous object in the annals of humanity.
While your fathers dwelt in the land which the Eternal had given them, they were objects of attention to nations capable of observing their proceedings, of perceiving much that was remarkable in the establishment of your people, and much that was peculiar in the temporal and spiritual government of the Hebrews. They saw that the great temporal changes of your people were never unforeseen; that all came to pass according to previous promises or warnings, and in proportion to the obedience or disobedience of the nation to the law of him who was thus clearly shown to be a spiritual governor and judge, as well as the director of temporal affairs.
The designs of God are further shown by the manner in which he chose and led forth his people from among others. Even those who knew nothing of a Providence could not fail