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After this, in Moses' and Joshua's time, the great God ' was pleased to manifest himself in a series of the most astona, ishing miracles, for about fifty years together, wrought in the most public manner, in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan, in the view, as it were, of the whole world ; miracles by which the world was shaken, the whole frame of the visible creation, earth, seas and rivers, the atmosphere, the clouds, sun, moon and stars were affected ; miracles, greatly tending to convince the nations of the world, of the vanity of their false gods, shewing Jehovah to be infinitely above them, in the thing wherein they dealt most proudly, and exhibiting God's awful displeasure at the wickedness of the Heathen world.' And these things are expressly spoken of as one end of these great miracles, in Exod. ix. 14, Numb. xiv. 21, Josh. iv, 23, 24, and other places. However, no reformation followed these things ; but, by the scripture account, the nations which had them most in view, were dreadfully hardened, stupidly refusing all conviction and reformation, and obstinately went on in an opposition to the living God, to their own destruction.
After this, God did from time to time very publicly manifest himself to the nations of the world, by wonderful works, wrought in the time of the Judges, of a like tendency with those already mentioned. Particularly in so miraculously destroying, by the hand of Gideon, almost the whole of that vast army of the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the Children of the East, consisting of about 135,000 men, Judges vii. 12, and viii. 10. But no reformation followed this, or the other great works of God, wrought in the times of Deborah and Ba. rak, Jephtha and Sampson.
After these things, God used new, and in some respects much greater means with the heathen world, to bring them to the knowledge and service of the true God, in the days of David and Solomon. He raised up David, a man after his own heart, a most fervent worshipper of the true God, and zealous hater of idols, and subdued before him almost all the nations between Egypt and Euphrates ; often miraculously assisting him in his battles with his enemies ; and he con
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firmed Solomon, his son, in the full and quiet possession of that great empire, for about forty years; and made him the wisest, richest, most magnificent, and every way the greatest monarch that ever had been in the world ; and by far the most famous, and of greatest name among the nations; especially for his wisdom, and things concerning the name of his God; particularly the temple he built, which was exceeding magnificent, that it might be of fame and glory throughout all Lands; 1 Chron. xxii. 5. And we are told, that there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth ; 1 Kings iv. 34, and x. 24. And the scripture informs us, that these great things were done, that the “ Nations in far countries might hear of God's great name, and of his outstretched arm; that all the people of the earth might fear him, as well as his people Israel: And that all the people of the earth might know, that the Lord was God, and that there was none else." 1 Kings viii. 41....43, 60. But still there is no appearance of any considerable abiding effect, with regard to any one heathen nation.
After this, before the captivity in Babylon, many great things were done in the sight of the Gentile nations, very much tending to enlighten, affect, and persuade them : As, God's destroying the army of the Ethiopians of a thousand thousand, before Asa; Elijah's and Elisha's miracles; espe, cially Elijah's miraculously confounding Baal's prophets and worshippers; Elisha's healing Naaman, the king of Syrla's prime minister, and the miraculous victories obtained through Elisha's prayers, over the Syrians, Moabites and Edomites; the miraculous destruction of the vast united army of the children of Moab, Amon and Edom, at Jehoshaphat's prayer. (2 Chron. xx.) Jonah's preaching at Nineveh, together with the miracle of his deliverance from the whale's belly; which was published and well attested, as a sign to confirm his preaching; but more especially that great work of God, in destroying Sennacherib's army by an angel, for his contempt of the God of Israel, as if he had been no more than the gods of the heathen.
When all these things proved ineffectual, God took a new method with the heathen world, and used, in some respects, much greater means to convince and reclaim them, than ever before. In the first place, his people the Jews were remov. ed to Babylon, the head and heart of the heathen world (Chaldea baving been very much the fourtain of idolatry) to carry thither the revelations which God had made of himself, contained in the sacred writings; and there to bear their tes. timony against idolatry; as some of them, particularly Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, did, in a very oper manner before the king and the greatest men of the empire, with such circumstances as made their testimony very famous in the world ; God confirming it with great miracles, which were published through the empire, by order of its monarch, as the mighty works of the God of Israel, shewing him to be above all gods : Daniel, that great prophet, at the same time being exalted to be governor of all the wise men of Babylon, and one of the chief officers of Nebuchadnezzar's court.
After this, God raised up Cyrus to destroy Babylon, for its obstinate contempt of the true God, and injuriousness toWards his people ; according to the prophecies of Isaiah, speaking of him by name, instructing him concerning the nature and dominion of the true God. (Isa. xlv.) which prophecies were probably shewn to him, whereby he was induced to publish his testimony concerning the God of Israel, as the God. (Ezra i. 2, 3.) Daniel, about the same time, being advanced to be prime minister of state in the new empire, erected under Darius, did in that place appear openly as a worshipper of the God of Israel, and him alone ; God confirming his testimony for him, before the king and all the grandees of bis kingdom, by preserving him in the den of lions; whereby Darius was induced to publish to all people, nations and languages, that dwelt in all the earth, his testimony, that the God of Israel was the living God, and steadfast for ever, &c.
When, after the destruction of Babylon, some of the Jews returned to their own land, multitudes never returned, but were dispersed abroad through many parts of the vast Persian empire ; as appears by the book of Esther. And many of
them afterwards, as good histories inform, were removed into the more western parts of the world ; and so were dispersed as it were all over the heathen world, having the Holy Scriptures with them, and Synagogues every where, for the worship of the true God. And so it continued to be, to the days of Christ and his apostles ; as appears by the acts of the apostles. Thus that light, which God had given them, was in the providence of God carried abroad into all parts of the world : So that now they had far greater advantages, to come to the knowledge of the truth, in matters of religion, if they had been disposed to improve their advantages.
And besides all these things, from about Cyrus's time, learning and philosophy increased, and was carried to a great height. God raised up a number of men of prodigious genius, to instruct others, and improve their reason and under. standing in the nature of things; and philosophic knowledge, having gone on to increase for several ages, seemed to be got to its height before Christ came, or about that time.
And now let it be considered what was the effect of all these things ; instead of a reformation, or any appearance or prospect of it, the heathen world in general rather grew worse. As Dr. Winder observes, “ The inveterate absurdities of Pagan idolatry continued without remedy, and increas. ed, as arts and learning increased ; and paganism prevailed in all its height of absurdity, when Pagan nations were polished to the height, and in the most polite cities and countries; and thus continued to the last breath of Pagan power." And so it was with respect to wickedness in general, as well as idolatry; as appears by what the Apostle Paul obscrves in Rom. i. Dr. Taylor, speaking of the time when the gospel scheme was introduced, ( Key, $ 289.) says, “ The moral and religious state of the heathen was very deplorable, being gen. erally sunk into great ignorance, gross idolatry, and abominable vice.” Abominable vices prevailed, not only among the common people, but even among their philosophers themselves, yea, some of the chief of them, and of greatest genius ; so Dr. Taylor himself obscrves, as to that detestable rice of Sodomy, which they commonly and openly allowed and practised without shame. See Dr. Taylor's note on Rom. i. 27.
Having thus considered the state of the heathen world, with regard to the effect of means used for its reforma. tion, during the Jewish dispensation, from the first foundation of it in Abraham's time; let us now consider how it was with that people themselves, that were distinguished with the peculiar privileges of that dispensation. The means used with the heathen nations were great ; but they were small, if compared with those used with the Israelites. The advantages by which that people were distinguished, are represent. ed in scripture as vastly above all parallel, in passages which Dr. Taylor takes notice of. (Key, $ 54.) And he reckons these privileges among those which he calls antecedent bless. ings, consisting in motives to virtue and obedience ; and says, (Key, S 66.) “ That this was the very end and design of the dispensation of God's extraordinary favors to the Jews, viz. to engage them to duty and obedience, or that it was a scheme for promoting virtue, is clear beyond dispute, from every part of the Old Testament.” Nevertheless, as has been al. ready shewn, the generality of that people, through all the successive periods of that dispensation, were men of a wicked character. But it will be more abundantly manifest, how strong the natural bias to iniquity appeared to be among that people, by considering more particularly how things were with them from time to time.
Notwithstanding the great things God had done in the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to separate them and their posterity from the idolatrous world, that they might be a holy people to himself; yet in about two hundred years after Jacob's death, and in less than one hundred and fifty years after the death of Joseph, and while some were alive that had seen Joseph, the people had in a great measure lost the true religion, and were apace conforming to the heathen world : When, for a remedy, and the more effectually to alienate them from idols, and engage them to the God of their fathers, God appeared to bring them out from among the Egyptians, and separate them from the heathen world, and to reveal bim