« PredošláPokračovať »
attainments in faith and holiness, we should fix no bounds to our desires; but when we ask for temporal blessings, our requests should be offered with submission to the will of God. « Lord, I know not what is good for me; give or withhold what thou seest best," should be our language.
In a word, this subject should lead us to make the salvation and improvement of the soul our first and chief care.-As this is our highest interest, it surely demands our supreme attention. To know ourselves to know the Redeemerto obtain an interest in his blood and righteousness by faithto enjoy, through him, acceptance with God—to possess that purity of heart, without which none can see the Lord; but which, where it is possessed, becomes the meetness for, and earnest of the heavenly inheritance; and then to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ : this should be our first concern. P'y a regard to this, we should regulate all inferior things; and, in humble dependence upon the promised support of the Spirit, steadily pursuing the narrow path, and endeavouring to discharge every duty in its proper time and place, we should, with the simplicity and confidence of children, submit all our temporal concerns to the disposal of Him who alone knows what is best for us, and who hath graciously promised that while we thus seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness of it, all other things that are necessary shall be added.
THE PUBLIC MANNER IN WHICH DIVINE REVELATION HAS BEEN
COMMUNICATED TO MEN.
(Continued from page 51.) JEHOVALI called Noah's descendants to repentance by confounding their language, shortening their lives, and dispersing them over the earth ; but all in vain. They advanced rapidly in idolatry, and corrupted the religion of heaven. Had they been left entirely to their choice, God would have undoubtedly been banished from the earth. But, jealous of his own name, he will never give his glory to idols. In rich mercy he interposed to maintain the true religion in the earth. To effect this, he selected Abraham and his race to be his peculiar people, and with them he deposited the revelation of his will; not, however, that they alone might enjoy it, but that all nations might from them have an opportunity of knowing and serving him. That this was his merciful design in choosing Abraham's race, is obvious from his express declarations, as well as from all his future dealings with them, Gen. xii. 1-3, Abraham's native country was little known in his day; it was not, therefore, proper that he should remain in it, since he was called to illuminate and bless the world. Egypt and Phenicia were at this time, according to the testimony of the ancients, the countries best known. Thither alt resorted from other nations, who were ambitious to be distin. guished by wealth, wisdom, or honour. The principal personages of Greece, whose names have been celebrated in all ages
in the civilized world, are said to have obtained the most valuable part of their knowledge, by travelling in Phenicia and Egypt. With peculiar propriety, Abraham and his race were appointed to sojourn in these countries, while they continued in the zenith of their glory. During the long period of their pilgrimage, many events tended to excite enquiry respecting them. Their character, their wealth, their religion, attracted the attention of all, and not unfrequently excited the alarm of the princes of the people, whom God sometimes warned y visions of the night, saying, “ Touch not mine anointed; do my prophets no harm.”
The longer they remained in these countries, the greater became their influence. The first Minister of Egypt was well known to be a principal person among them ; his religion and their's was one, and he was their professed protector for a long period. Every part of his history, which he was forward to make known, was astonishing; and loudly proclaimed, the character of his God, and the God of his fathers. This was well known at Court, to all Egypt, and to the neighbouring nations, who, for seven years' general famine, found in Egypt alone, the means of subsistance. liad their influence received no check, human probability seemed to intimate, that the few strangers, worshippers of the true God, should speedily supplant the original inhabitants, overthrow idolatry, establish the true religion, and rule the world. Probably it was this view of them which roused the envy and malice of the rising generation of the Egyptians. Be this as it may, never was the truth more manifest, “ that the wise are taken in their own craftiness," when they set themselves against the counsels of divine mercy, than in the history of Egypt, as far as it afterwards respects the race of Abraham. They no sooner became neglected, hated, and persecuted by the king who arose and knew not Joseph, than God began in a more visible and striking manner, than hitherto, to plead their cause, and that for the express purpose, and ultimate end, “ that his name might be known in all the earth." All the awful events, therefore, which followed, were judgments on Egypt, but mercy to the world.
This country was yet glorious among the nations, the envy and dread of all; and therefore the most proper theatre, on which Jehovah might exhibit his dreadful majesty, that all
men might fear and worship his glorious and terrible name. This was the avowed object he sought to promote by all the awful miracles which he wrought in Egypt, and at the Red Sea, for the salvation of Israel, and the destruction of Egypt. For the same purpose, Israel sojourned in the wil. derness, till they became a nation incorporated ; regulated, in themeantime, by a system of laws, diverse from those of all people, supported by miracles, and directed by the presence of the deity. These things were not done in secret; they were carefully observed by the surrounding nations, on whom the terror of Israel fell. Had the nations regarded their best interests, such events must have disseminated extensively the knowledge of God. Few, however, availed themselves of the privileges which were proffered them. A mixed multitude cast in their lot with Israel, when they left Egypt, but the great body of the inhabitants loved darkness rather than light. Rahab, the Gibeonites, and perhaps a few others, preferred Israel to their own countrymen, the multitude of whom, defied the armies of the living God, and were destroyed.
The complete conquest of Canaan, and the establishment of the splendid and instructive ritual of Moses, were much calculated to promote the circulation of divine revelation. The former was accompanied with many great miracles, which must have excited general inquiry respecting the people, in whose behalf they were wrought. The whole, and every part of the Jewish ritual, powerfully called men's attention from idols to God. And the promises and merciful laws delivered by Moses, with regard to other nations, invited all men to join Israel in the service of Jehovah. In one word, by the judgments of God on his enemies, and his blessings on his servants, he did every thing most adapted to recover mankind from idolatry, and to lead them to worship him in sincerity and truth.
The generation that obtained, under Joshua, the land of Canaan, observed, with fervour and perseverance, the laws of God; and thus recommended, both by example and precept, the revelation of heaven. But the succeeding generations.gradually departed from God, and, with the exception of some marvellous interpositions of heaven for their salvation, whenever they returned to him, there is little to notice which tended to advance the knowledge of divine truth. The glory of Israel was veiled from the days of Joshua, till those of David, and his son Solomon. Then was manifested anew, the superiority of Israel, as God's servants, above all nations. Their dominion and influence were greatly enlarged; their religion became the subject of general inquiry, i Kings X. throughout. During this period, the close connection which subsisted between Israel and the Tyrians, was much fitted to Vol. II.-No. 4.
give publicity to the revelation of God. Tyre had gradually risen by her commerce, to the highest eminence among
the nations, to the most exalted state of grandeur, power and wealth. Her government was proad and ambitious; her citizens were bold, adventurous and aspiring. The extent of their commerce by sea, has excited the astonishment of all ages.
They were in this, never equalled by any people, previous to the knowledge of the compass; and, perhaps, with their limited advantages, it was not possible for human ingenuity or fortitude, to exceed them. Some have also supposed, (and the supposition is more then plausible) from the language of Ezekiel, chap. xxviii. 10, 15, 16. that they had also adopted the religion of heaven. If this were the case, every thing in their situation, employment and circumstances, rendered their connection with Israel, eminently favourable to the best interests of mankind. It is certain, that the Tyrians lived in close friendship with Israel, in the days of David; but their friendship became closer, when Solomon ascended the throne. They zealously united to advance by the arts and commerce, the mutual interests of their kingdoms. The genius, wisdom, and wealth of the Tyrjans, in common with the Israelites, were devoted to promote the glory of Jerusalem and its Temple. Hiram and Solomon had fleets at Sea, that repeatedly made voyages, each of which required years. The Tyrians were every where -admired. With such associates, the Israelites had every facility afforded them, to communicate the knowledge of their God, and of him they could not but speak, if they gave any account of themselves, their country, or their king.
The Israelites were well known to those nations, which made the greatest figure in the ancient, civilized world. This circumstance certainly merits particular notice, when we trace the methods which God hrath chosen to make his name knowrr; for wherever Israel were known, their religion could not be hid: it formed tou singular and conspicuous a part of their history, to be passed over. The Assyrimy first assumed the sovereignty of Asia, the most distinguished quarter of the world ; and to them Israel was too well known; for they made war on the whole nation, and succeeded in carrying ten tribes into captivity. The preservation and wonderful deliverance of the two tribes from the rapacious conqueror, were well fitted to make a deep impression on the Assyrian empire, and gave an instructive lesson to all nations. The ten tribes. were given into the hands of their enemies, because of their idolatry; which cireumstance, doubtless, rendered their captivity of less importance to the world. But though the body of the people were devoted to idols, it is more than probable, that some of them carried with them the sacred oracies, and continued to wors ship the God of their Fathers. Consequently, while their . captivity was the heaviest curse that could fall on them, it might prove a blessing to the countries through which they were scattered. In one instance, in the Divine Records, we find this remark strikingly verified. A young female captive, fell to the lot of the Chief Captain of the Syrians. In consequence of her faith in the prophets of the Lord, her Master was saved from leprosy, an incurable disease, and brought to the knowledge of the true God. It is impossible to calculate how much this striking event might contribute to the publicity of divine revelation. The kingdom of Judah gradually sunk into idolatry, and when the cup of her iniquity was full, ker subjects became captives to Babylon. But notwithstanding their general apostacy, many of them feared God, and carried with them the knowledge of his will. They remembered him in the land of their enemies, and through their instrumentality, many of their brethren were brought to repentance, and multitudes of the Gentiles were taught the true character of the God of Abraham. During the seventy years .captivity, the Jews doubtless experienced much misery, but it is not Jess evident, that through the whole preceding period of their existence as a nation, they had never conferred so much spiritual benefit on the world. Though degraded as captive slaves, their influence-as töreligion was astonishingły great, and extended farther than it had done in the days of their greatest glory in the holy land. Of this every one must be sensible, who reads with care their history as recorded by Ezra, Nehemiah, and the prophets. The interpositions of God in their behalf were not less conspicuous, than they were wonderful and miraculous. No individual in the empires of Babylon or Persia could be ignorant of them, or destitute of means to know the true God, whose character these events were designed and completely fitted to illustrate and recommend: nor did they fail to produce suitable effects. The rulers of the empires feared the God of the Jews; and by several decrees proclaimed his name to all their sulijects, and solemnly called on thémy to worship him, not as an idol, whom the kings capriciously preferred, but as the true God, the Creator of all things, and ibe Saviour of his servants. Vast multitudes obeyed, and be- ” came Jews; and many of them we may hope, not because it' was the will of their rulers, but from a conviction of the just elaims of Jehovah to their reverence and worship.