« AnteriorContinuar »
adversity from choice; and the zealous servant of the most high God.
The history of Job, one of the most sublime compositions in the original) ever produced in any age or country, is purposely placed immediately after the events recorded in the Book of Genesis, as well from its strong claims to antiquity, as the numerous proofs it affords of having been written by the great Jewish lawgiver him. self. It is the history of a real sufferer, delivered in the grandest style of Eastern poetry, and exhibits the most exalted pattern of virtue and integrity under every accumulated affliction. This great man, whose piety was still greater than his temporal grandeur, was the patron of the poor, a father to the fatherless, the scourge of injustice and oppression ; honoured and esteemed by the good, and dreaded by the vicious and profane. By the Divine permission, and the malice of the devil, he is at once reduced to the most indigent and deplorable circumstances, stripped of all his substance, bereaved of his children, and seized with a noisome and painful disease ; a spectacle of sorrow and wretchedness, of misery and horror, even to his dearest friends. But, sustained by the hand of the Almighty, and becoming resignation to the Divine will, he rises superior to all his afflictions, holds out the brightest example of true fortitude to the church of God in every succeeding age, has his family restored, his fortunes doubled, and ends a long life in the joyful assurance, that his Redeemer, in whom alone was all his hope, would raise him up at the last day. From this great example, we learn, that even the darkest dispensations of Providence are made subservient to the benefit of good men, and that the Lord will amply recompense all their sufferings in a future world. The doctrines of the resurrection, and the separate state of departed spirits, are clearly pointed out, while the sacrifice offered by Job for his three friends, plainly shews, it was well understood that by such means the way was open to the divine favour and acceptance.
In this, as well as in the whole of the writings of Moses, we perceive clear indications that the ancient Patriarchs and Sages, in every age expected the Messiah (and hence may be distinctiy traced their anxious desire for children) many of whom were fully satisfied of the insufficiency of the first covenant to take away sin. For though it is observed upon the solemn occasion of Noah's sacrifice immediately after the deluge, the Lord said, “I will not “ again curse the ground any more for man's sake,” yet it is plain from St. Paul, as well as from David, that it was faith alone in the promised Redeemer, which rendered the sacrifice acceptable to God.
Pharaoh, the proud tyrant and blasphemous oppressor of Israel, unhumbled by ten plagues, the loss of his first. born, and the desolation of his country, pursues his rescued captives, and sinks deservedly under the hand of Omnipotence beneath the waves of the Red Sea.
In the subsequent conduct of the Israelites we see an exact portrait of the human heart : prone to rebellion, fond of every idol set up by the vain imagination, forget. fui of recent mercies, and slavishly devoted to the good things of the present life. Their travels in the Wilderness, are a lively emblem of the Christian's course toward the heavenly Canaan through the wilderness of this world, and too often both are seen unmindful of the hand that gives them angels' food, and rains down bread from hea. ven. The solemn institution of the passover, the sprinkling of blood, and the daily sacrifice, point out the coming of that one, great, full and perfect oblation, which was to be offered for the sins of the whole world.
War, now become through the prevalence of sin, a profession, approaches the nations of Canaan. Sunk in the deepest idolatry, the grossest superstitions, and a corruption of manners scarcely to be conceived, we see the Canaanites fall before the stroke of Israel; and they imbibing the profliga of the conquered, for which, deserted of God, their heads were often made to bow low in battle, and sink before the spear of despicable foes,
The book of Joshua serves as a foundation for the history of the Jews for four hundred and thirty years, when the common wealth under Judges was changed into a monarchy almost absolute.
The book of Judges, as we have seen, has an essential connexion, both with the books of Moses, and that of Joshua. The sufferings and captivities of Isracl, were a natural consequence of their idolatries and corruptions. Nor is the sacred history of those remote ages left unsupported by the evidence of Pagan writers. Their testimony is sufficiently ample to confound the unblusing assertions of the boasted friends of infidelity in this age of
The fall and deluge are recognized among all the ancient nations. The memory of Joshua and his conquests, was preserved among the heathen; and there are ancient monuments still extant, which prove that the Carthaginians were a colony of the Tyrians who escaped from him. The storm of hail recorded in the eleventh chapter of Joshua, was transformed by the poets into a tempest of stones, with which, as they say, Jupiter assailed the enemies of Hercules in Arim, which is exactly the country where Joshua fought with the children of Anak. The actions of Gideon are preserved by Sanchoniathon, a Tyrian writer, who lived soon after him, and whose antiquity is attested by Porphyry, one of the most violent enemies of Christianity. We shall add but one more, out of many that may be adduced in corroboration of the great events of these early ages, recorded in Jewish history.
* The great General of the Israelites says before his army, “ SOLAR LIGHT stay upon Gibeon ; and LUNAR
light in the valley of Ajalon.” The inacuracy of our translation makes it, “Sun and moon stand still." It is evi. dent from the original that Joshua neither meant vor addressed the bodies of the sun and moon, and yet Infidelity affects a foolish triumph, as if all the planetary system must have been thrown into confusion had such an event taken place as the cessation of motion in the earth and moon, whereas nothing can be more evident from the original, than that he addressed the Solar light and Lunar light, to remain above the horizon, until Israel was avenged of its enemies.
* See Pike's Philosophia Sacra, p. 44. and the late learned and Rev. Julius Bate, on Joshua, cb. x. o. 12, 13.
The History of China contains a tradition, that in the sisty-seventh year of the reign of their eighth Emperor Yav, about five hundred and forty-seven years after the decease of Fohi the first Emperor, and one thousand four hundred and fifty-one years before our Saviour's incarnation (corresponding with the miracle recorded in Joshua) the sun did not set for a considerable time. They add, that it was declining toward the west when the light of it was suspended in the heavens. China being so far to the Eastward of Palestine, the sun would set five hours earlier at Pekin, the capital of China, than at Jerusalem, which makes the evidence from the Chinese account still stronger. The difference of longitude in time is 5h 1'36'. or 81° 36 in distance. The Hebrew text says, “ The Solar
light stayed in the DIVISION of the heavens (the horizon) “ and hasted not to go off A Bout a whole day.” The corrected Chinese account makes it stationary about ten hours, arising probably from their not having noticed the beginning of this extraordinary phænomenon. We also learn from Herodotus (Lib. 2. Chap. 142.) that the Egyptians and their priests gave that historian some account of this miracle.
In the fall of Samson, we see the natural consequence of fatal passions, attaching the wise and good to women destitute of virtue, and at last becoming the victims of sen. suality. Instead of remaining the judge and avenger of his injured people, he sacrifices his duty to God and his country to a treacherous Delilah, who sells him into his enemies' hands, where, deserted of his almighty Defender, his lamentable death leaves us an awful and instructive lesson, that God is not to be deserted with impunity, and that no departure from the paths of rectitude can escape the eye of Him that seeth all things.
The History of Ruth displays a specimen of Patriarchal simplicity, as well in language as manners, hardly any - where else to be parallelled in ancient history. The he. roine of the piece deserves the highest praise. Like the great Lawgiver, she prefers affliction with the people of God to all the enjoyments of worldly wealth ; and adopts the wise resolution that the God of Israel shall be her only
portion. And how is she rewarded? The Moabitish damsel, the poor but faithful attendant of the forlorn Naomi, becomes the mother in Israel of a long and illustrious race of kings, and the distinguished ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While Israel is bowing its neck to the yoke of bondage before the nations of Canaan, and the Philistines, possessed of the coasts, are laying the foundation of their commercial grandeur, God is raising up, in his faithful servant Samuel, a defender of his people, and the preserver of his worship. Eli's age and infirmities, but above all, the criniinality of his sons, and the unpopularity of his family, rendered it highly expedient that some one should take the lead in the government, in whom the people should place an entire confidence. Such was Samuel, whose courage and integrity could only be ex. ceeded by his zeal for the honour of God, and an anxious desire to Hee his people from corruptmanners and servile bondage. He is particularly distinguished as the great founder of the Schools of the Prophets, which subsisted under various revolutions and persecutions to the time of the Babylonish Captivity. They were seminaries for the instruction of youth in the law; in the duties of religion; the exercises of piety, and the praises of God. * Samuel was the first head or governor of these schools, and many of the greatest characters in the following ages were his successors, among whom we shall have occasion to notice particularly Elijah and Elisha. As an historian, the books of Ruth, Judges, and twenty-four first chapters of the first Book which bears the Prophet's name, appear to be his composition, and are distinguishable among the books of Scripture for perspicuity in the narrative and conciseness of style. This truly great and good man, in the whole tenor of his life and conduct, seems uniformly to have aimed at no other object, than the promotion of religion and literature, and the glory of God.
* See 1 Sam. x, 5. 1 Chron, xxv. 1, 2.