« PreviousContinue »
of the event. Secondly, God did not constitute the Israelites judges of the Canaanites; he left it not to them to think what the wickedness of those nations deserved. It was his own judgment, his own sentence, of which the Israelites were nothing but the instruments in part to execute it. The divine command, the divine judgment, fully revealed, were in each case the authority. But what if nations or men, without such a warrant, without such a special revelation, will act as if they had it, and break through the rules of justice which are the known will of God, who can excuse them? His Word remains unimpeached, and their abuse of it would be not the least part of their crime.-I would be excused also from reckoning the Turkish and the Mosaic prophecies as of the same value even in this general argument. For a real Revelation has its proper authority, which an imposture has not. But it is not the real prediction, but the direct command, which puts an end to the question.
So fallacious is this whole hypothesis of the learned philosophic Commentator, whose various and extensive erudition are sufficiently known.
ON THE TEMPORAL PROPHECY CONCURRENT WITH THE PROMULGATION OF THE LAW.
DEUT. XXVIII. 15.
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.
THE people of Israel were no sooner incorporated into a nation by their legislator, and placed under the regimen of their law, than he was instructed to reveal to them a very different state of their national existence. His prophetic commission went to pronounce upon them, in the event of their disobedience, if that disobedience should pass to great corruption and impenitency, the dissolution of their polity, under a sentence of captivity, dispersion, and desolation, aggravated by circumstances of a rare, if not unexampled, atrocity of suffering. They were doomed to be made as great in their punishment,
as they had been in their visible blessings. The avenging hand of God was to be upon them for evil; but instead of their being worn out and annihilated by the excess of their sufferings, they were to survive, "pining away" amidst the extremities of desolation and oppression," to be a sign, a byword, and an astonishment to the nations of the "earth." "All these curses," saith the Prophet, "shall come upon thee, and they shall be upon "thee for a sign, and for a wonder, and upon thy "seed for ever*." When broken to pieces, the very fragments of this people were to shew the stamp and dint of the singular character which had been impressed upon them, and by their imperishable hardness to remind the world by whose hands they had been made.
Such is the narrative of this monument of prophecy. There followed in later times other predictions of the like tenour, and directed to the same general event; for Prophecy gave the warning by reiterated alarms to this obdurate and insensible people. But none of the later predictions go beyond the Mosaic in describing the extent, the bitterness, and the long duration of the plagues appointed for the execution of the divine anger upon them. There is a vivid force, and an elaborate impression in the language of Moses, upon the doom of the Hebrew people thus foreshewn, which the other Prophets have not exceeded; and if they have added Deuteronomy xxviii. 46.
particulars concerning the approach of the punishment, and the nations by whose hands at several times the punishment was to be inflicted, they have left the oldest prophecy relating to it among the most conspicuous. It is a page of the Pentateuch to which we may turn, after we have read all that there is besides in the other prophetic books descriptive of the same event.
The prediction however, with all its force, was not absolute, or irrespective; it rested on a condition; the condition of a final impenitency and disobedience of the people to whom it was addressed. But yet the veracity of the prediction could not be uncertain; for if the punishment were inflicted, it was so bound to a particular kind and manner of suffering, that there could be no mistake in tracing the agreement between the fact and the prophecy. The general condition did not vacate the determinate character of the penal retribution foretold. But there is further a provision made to guard the prediction in this very point, as to the ambiguity which might be supposed to result from its conditional nature. Moses does not leave it in doubt whether the sin would ensue, and the prediction take place. Read the xxxist chapter of Deuteronomy: he there decides the alternative of their conduct, and the consequence of it. He foretels in terms, that they would so act as to bring the evil upom them. Among other words to the same effect, "I know that after my death will utterly
corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way "which I have commanded you; and evil will be66 fal you in the latter days, because will do evil ye "in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger "through the work of your hands*." Nor is it without some evidence of the same foretoken of the evil, that in the joint description of the blessings and the curses portended to them, there is in each case, where that description occurs, a manifest superiority in the stress and copiousness given to the afflictive side of the prophecy, as if it were intended at once to awaken and to foretel. This statement will be justified by the xxvi th chapter of Leviticus, and the xxviii th of Deuteronomy, which are the principal documents of the whole subject.
The examination of this prophecy, concerning the extraordinary doom of the Hebrew people, as to the prescience and inspiration of it proved in its fulfilment, belongs to another place in my inquiry. I am now speaking of the structure of the Prophecies, and their use in relation to the seasons when they were delivered; and on this head I have some observations to make upon the temporal prophecy which is now before us.
I. First, it is a striking fact in the delivery of this prophecy, that it comes from the mouth of Moses, the legislator of the commonwealth whose dissolution he is directed to foreshew. It is concurrent * Deut. xxxi. 29.