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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 down.in 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,
as some learned Men have observed, they were the Original of several of the Laws that were afterwards published in other Nations. The settling the Ifraelites in the Land of Canaan in such 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 subsequent Proceedings towards the People of Israel; the Prosperity and Happiness they enjoyed according to the Promises that were made them, whilst they adhered to the true Worship of God, and observed his holy. Laws; and the great Calamities inflicted upon them, when they relapsed into Idolatry and Wickedness : all these Things were visible amazing Proofs of a most wise and righteous Providence, and should have had a great Effect, not only upon the Israelites, 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 Righteousness. Their Captivities and Dispersions, which had been foretold in their Law, all tended to the same End; and their being scattered abroad in the latter Times of their State in such vast Numbers in Babylonia, Perfia, and throughout the East, as well as in
the several Parts of the wide extended Roman Empire, contributed to spread the Knowledge of Religion, which had been in a great Measure lost among, the Nations. And finally, the whole Frame of the Jewish Oeconomy was designed to prepare the Way for the Christian Dispensation, which was the most admirable Scheme of Divine Providence for recovering Mankind from the amazing Corruption into which they were fallen, to the Knowledge, Obedience, and pure Adoration of the Deity, and to the Love and Practice of Holiness and Virtue. God, in his great Love to Mankind, fent his own Son into the World, a Person of unparalleled Dignity and Excellence, to bring a more clear and full Discovery of his divine Will and Counsels for our Salvation, and a more perfect System of pure Morals than ever had been made known to Mankind before; to exhibit a bright Example of universal Goodness and Purity for our Imitation; to make Atonement for our Sins by his Sufferings and Death; and to give the fullest Assurances of a blessed Immortality, and a visible Pledge of it by his own Resurrection from the Dead. This whole Dispensation exhibiteth the most glorious Displays of God's marvellous Grace and Goodness towards Mankind, and at the same Time of his perfect Holiness and
rity, and is most excellently fitted to prós mote real Piety, and the Practice of universal Righteousness. We have there the most admirable Directions, the most
powerful Motives, the most effectual Helps and Encouragements to a holy Life. This was made known to the World at a Time when it was most wanted, and when Idolatry and Corruption of all kinds had arrived to the greatest Height; and in Circumstances that feemed best fitted for the universal Diffusion and Propagation of it. For it made its firft Appearance in the Roman Empire, which had brought a great Part of the then known World under its Dominion. And it was introduced in a Manner that was very proper for engaging the Attention and Admiration of Mankind, as being attended with the most illustrious Proofs and Evidences of a divine Power, Presence, and Glory. This Religion hath spread very far, and if Christians had been as careful both to preserve it in its Purity, and to propagate and recommend it by their Instructions and Example, as they are bound by the strongest Obligations to be, it would have been probably before now diffused through the Earth. And from the Jewish and Chriftian Revelation is derived whatever of Good there is in Mohometanism, which hath been over-ruled
by Divine Providence for freeing fome Nations from gross Pagan Idolatry.
Thus it appeareth, that God hath in the Course of his Providence done a great deal for preserving and promoting the Knowledge and Practice of Religion and Virtue among Men, and for recovering it when it was in a great Measure loft. And this should fill our Hearts with a grateful Sense of his infinite Goodness as well as Purity, and of his Concern for human Happiness. How many Ways hath he striven with the Perverseness of Men! Of this the Scripture giveth us a noble and affecting View, where we have the best Account of the various Dispensations of God towards Mankind. And what farther extraordinary Means it may please God to make Use of for diffusing and establishing true Religion in the World, we cannot tell; but something of this kind we are taught to expect by several Passages of Scripture, which seem to refer to a future more general Conversion of the Jews to the Christian Faith, and the bringing in the Fulness of the Gentiles. And whenever this shall happen, it will disclose a surprising Scene that will fill us with a pleasing Astonishment, and tend mightily to illustrate the Glory of Divine Providence. In the mean