Page images

benignity to operate in favour of the Pagan world. But no apostles were expressly sent to convert them. It is most obvious that the Hebrews who first entered into the land of Canaan, were not formed for missionaries. They would themselves have been corrupted by the vicious practices and principles of these gross idolaters, instead of making converts to so pure a religion. Nor were there many of these Pagans whose minds were prepared to receive so refined a system of Theism.

In subsequent ages, when the Heathens had been taught, by severe experience, that the Jehovah of the Israelites was superior to the gods whom they served; prophets were occasionally appointed to alarm their fears, by denouncing the terrible judgments of God, against the enormities committed by particular nations; but this wrath was directed against their Immoralities alone, and not their theological Ignorance.

It was in consequence of this ignorant and. depraved state of the human mind, that a knowledge of the God of Israel was introduced among the Pagans, by the name of the Lord God Almighty; the King of Glory; the Lord mighty in battle. It is repeatedly asserted by the prophets, that the Lord of Hosts is his name;

and it was, "that the Heathens may fear the name of the Lord."

The whole history of the Jews, as a distinct nation, informs us, that although the terrors of the Lord were suspended over them, yet they were abundantly favoured with consolations of Hope. Desirable objects were placed before their eyes, to draw them out of the abject servility of fear; to give them a personal interest in their faithful services, and to secure to them a much larger portion of good, than what is obtained by the mere exemption from evil. They were so far advanced in mental culture, that Promises of the most encouraging kind were largely intermixed with the threats. Worldly prosperity was ensured to them, upon the condition of their obedience.

This Principle pervades the whole of the Jewish Dispensation. It has already been shewn that their history consists, chiefly, of journals of their obedience, rebellions, repentances, and of the prosperous or calamitous results. They were severely chastised for their transgressions; but whenever they conformed to the divine commands, they were prosperous and happy. We shall therefore simply observe, that

the objects of Hope, as well as of punishment, placed before them, were such as would most powerfully influence minds incapable of being elevated above sensible objects. Temporal blessings, and temporal evils alone were presented to them. They immediately and unequivocally experienced, in their own persons, the just recompense of their conduct: and their moral history was faithfully recorded in their journals, for the admonition of subsequent ages. Such striking examples, which no one could doubt or deny, were better calculated to impress their minds, than any promises or threats respecting a future world; where their minds could not penetrate, and concerning which no reports could be made.

The Hope, therefore, of exemption from temporal calamities, and of possessing positive good, was proposed as the operative Principle, during the whole of the Jewish oeconomy; and by this it was expected that the nation at large should be influenced. The more pious and considerate Subjects, under the divine government, were also duly impressed with the Goodness of the Lord, which shone conspicuously in the midst of his judgments: and although the grand injunction was, "Stand in awe, and sin not;” yet frequent exclamations of devout minds were,

"Oh that men would praise the Lord; for he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever."

LOVE, although it is later in exercise, as we have already remarked, yet it is by far the most noble of our affections; and in its nature peculiarly operative. Fear seeks not only to escape, but to elude. It engages not in any voluntary services; for it never acts beyond absolute necessity. Hope has some specific object before it, and will perform the task for the sake of the result. It will discharge its duty in such a manner as to ensure the recompense; but it remains confined in the district of selfishness, and may be totally indifferent respecting any other object. But Love implies an attachment; an attachment to something apparently good. When Love respects the Character of a moral agent, it is placed upon what we discover to be amiable. We imagine that the object is kind and benevolent; or that he is disposed to communicate good, as opportunities may present. This has a natural tendency to inspire a reciprocal disposition. No one will deliberately offend, or neglect to oblige, the object whom he loves. He will rather seek to anticipate wishes; and where it is practicable, to surprise by some tokens of re

spect. Love, of all the affections, is the most pleasant in its exercise. This renders it so dangerous when placed upon improper objects.

The objects which claim a title to our love, must be supposed to possess worth. A perception of worth, will inspire sentiments of respect and esteem, towards a stranger. On these perceptions of worth are engrafted particular Attachments, either from the actual reception of benefits, or by the assurance that plans of goodness are formed, and are operating in our favour. For these present us with personal proofs, that the Being who thus wills to do us good, is benevolent in his dispositions. Such acts of kindness have a tendency to awaken gratitude; which, as it were, rivets our affections, while it ennobles the recipient, under his humble consciousness of an obligation conferred upon him. Where this obligation is connected with extraordinary circumstances of condescension, or of extreme liberality in the Agent, to the affections of Love and Gratitude, will be united the emotions of Admiration; which accelerate every disposition to make the most grateful returns.

To these pleasing and dignified affections of Love, Gratitude, and Admiration, is the Gospel Dispensation peculiarly directed. These it principally seeks to call forth. Upon these are its

« PreviousContinue »