Page images

man Race; together with the former Traditions concerning the Creation, the Fall, the original Promise, &c. all which Noah was well acquainted with ; and the farther Alterations made in the Face of the Earth by the Deluge, and the shortening the Lives of Men, the Length of which had through their Abuse of it probably contributed to that great Corruption of Manners in the old World ; all these Things manifestly tended to revive and maintain a religious Sense of the Deity, and a just Regard to his wife and holy Providence. And in this State of Things, it cannot be denied, that enough was done on God's Part in his Dispensations towards Men, to keep up the Knowledge and Practice of Religion and Virtue in the World. And if he had done no more in an ordinary Way for Mankind, but had after this left them wholly to the Light of Nature and Reason, strengthened with these traditional Helps, none could reasonably have found fault. It is probable, that when Mankind came to be scattered abroad, fome Time after the Flood, all over the Face of the Earth, the Heads of the Families carried the main principles of the patriarchal Religion, which they had received by Tradition, and which were also highly agreeable to Reafon, with them into the several Places of their Dispersion. And there is Reason to think that considerable Remains of it were for a long Time preserved among the Nations. This may be gathered from the best Accounts that are given us of the ancient Perhans and Arabians, and other People of the East. And the same would probably appear concerning many other Nations, if we were better acquainted with the ancient History of Mankind. Even among the Greeks there had been old Traditions relating to the Providence of God, the Immortality of the Soul, and other Things probably derived from the first Ages, as appeareth from the Testimony of some of their own most celebrated Writers. It was in Chaldea, Canaan, Egypt, and the neighbouring Countries. And accordingly it pleased God in his wife and good Providence to take

their proper

Methods for putting an early Check to the growing Corruption, even in those Parts of the World where it chiefly prevailed. For this Purpose he called Abraham, and made extraordinary Discoveries of his Will to him, who was à Person of great Eminence, and an illustrious Example of Faith, of Piety, and Goodness. He sojourned in Chaldea, in Egypt, and above all in Canaan, where at that Time also was Melchifedek and others, among whom the primitive patriarchal Religion was still preserved. About the fame Time, the extraordinary Judgment inflicted upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their great Wickedness had a manifest Tendency to awaken in Men, and particularly in the Inhabitants of Canaan, and the neighbouring Countries, a just and affecting Sense of God's holy and righteous Providence, and of his Detestation against Vice and Wickedness. From Abraham by Hagar and Keturah proceeded several great Nations ; among whom the Knowledge and Practice of Religion derived from their great Ancestor, who was very careful to instruct his Children and his Houshold after him, Gen. xviii. 19. was probably continued for a considerable Time; of which there are noble Specimens in the Book of Job. But especially particular Care was taken to preserve the true Religion in the Line by Ifaac, who was the Heir of Abraham's Faith, from whom came Efau and Jacob, and their numerous Descendents.

The Advancement of Jofeph in Egypt, and the settling Jacob and his Family there, who foon were remarkably blessed,

grew up into a Nation, and among whom, though many of them degenerated, the true ancient Religion was in a great Measure preserved, ought to have had a good Effect upon the Egyptians, to recover



[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

them from their growing Corruption and Idolatry. And when all this proved ineffectual, the bringing the Ifraelites out of Egypt with such amazing Displays of the divine Power, and the dreadful Plagues and Judgments inflicted upon the Egyptians, and their Gods, which was a visible Triumph over Idolatry in the principal Seat of it; these Things had certainly a great Tendency, where ever the Knowledge of them reached (and no Country seems then to have been better known than Egypt) to awaken Mankind, and reclaim them from the Prevalence of Vice and Idolatry, to the true Fear and Worship and Obedience of the Deity. This also was one principal Design of Providence, in the erecting the Ifraelites into a peculiar Polity, the fundamental Principle of which was the Acknowledgment and pure Adoration of the only true God, and in the giving them a Body of such holy and excellent Laws, in which the main Duties of Religion and Morality, which, through the Corruption of Mankind had been very much defaced, were plainly laid clear and express Precepts. All this was designed, not merely for the Benefit of that particular Nation, to whom thefe Laws were immediately delivered, but to be of extensive Advantage. And it is very probable, that,


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

as fome learned Men have obferved, they were the Original of several of the Laws that were afterwards published in other Nations. The fettling the Ifraelites in the Land of Canaan in fuch an extraordinary Manner, the awful Punishments inflicted upon the Canaanites, and which were exprefly declared to be upon the Account of their abominable Wickedness and Vices of all Kinds, as well as Idolatry; and God's whole fubfequent Proceedings towards the People of Ifrael; the Profperity and Happiness they enjoyed according to the Promises that were made them, whilst they adhered to the true Worship of God, and obferved his holy Laws; and the great Calamities inflicted upon them, when they relapsed into Idolatry and Wickedness: all thefe Things were vifible amazing Proofs of a moft wife and righteous Providence, and should have had a great Effect, not only upon the Ifraelites, but upon all the Nations around them, to bring them to the Knowledge and Worship of the only true God, and to the Practice of Righteoufnefs. Their Captivities and Difperfions, which had been foretold in their Law, all tended to the fame End; and their being fcattered abroad in the latter Times of their State in fuch vaft Numbers in Babylonia, Perfia, and throughout the Eaft, as well as in


« PreviousContinue »