Imatges de pàgina


of the consequence, except what he could learn by Now experience. The more we think upon this subject, the greater will this advantage appear to be. Mankind might, for ages, have been little more than brutes, without some provision and are fistance of this kind.

If the object of this trial, viz. the abstaining from the fruit of a tree, appear triling, we should consider the infantile state of the first man, and the only dangerous excesses that, in his situation, he could be guilty of; and we may see the greatest propriety in this very circumstance. Would it not have been much more absurd to have forbidden him to steal, to commit adultery, or, indeed, to have enjoined him the observance of any of the ten commandments of the moral law. What is more natural, or common with ourselves, than to forbid children to eat of certain kinds of food, or to meddle with things that are most in their way, by which they are liable to do harm to themselves or others. They are not capable of offending in any other respects, or of understanding any higher precepts. We are not made acquainted with all the restrictions under which our first parents were laid; but it cannot be doubted, but that they must have been of a falutary nature, whether they themselves might be aware of it or not. We do not always give our children the reason of the restrictions we lay them under, because they are not always capa


ble of understanding them. The prohibition to eat of a particular fruit is the only one that is men. tioned by Mofes, because that was the case in which Adam transgressed; but, for any thing we know, he might have been as expressly forbidden to jump from a precipice, or to plunge into a pit of water ; and the forbidden fruit might have been as naturally hurtful to him as either of them.

It is by no means improbable, but that something of fable may have mixed with so antient a history as that of the Fall; and the present condirion of man was, no doubt, both foreseen and ine, tended by our all-wise creator, as the best for us upon the whole; but I think we cannot reasona ably object to the leading circumstances in Moses's account of the manner in which we came into it. And as it represents man as entering upon existe ence under a sense of moral government, it is far more agreeable to the ideas we conceive of the wisdom and goodness of God, more favourable to the human race, and more confonant to the natural provision he has made for enlarging the comprehension of the human mind, and thereby pera fecting our natures, and advancing our happinefs; and therefore far superior to the condition in which Lucretius, and the rest of the Epicureans, repre. sent the introduction of man into the world, i. e, with no greater advantage for looking before him,


enlarging his views, and increasing his happiness, chan the lowest of the animal creation. : In the sentence passed upon man after the fall, we see an opportunity is taken of carrying the views of the human mind to objects still more remote; and encouraging, though obscure views are opened to him, in the promise, that the feed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. - In the patriarchal ages, the intercourse between the divine being and the human race is continued ; but without his assuming a higher character than men in those times were capable of having intercourse with. Consequently, their apprehensions of moral government would be growing more clear and determinate, and their ideas of duty and obligation (together with their expectation of consequences corresponding to their actions) more definite and certain ; so as to incuce them to be less influenced by prospects of immediate pleasure or gain than before. . . - The fate of men's children and posterity is always an interesting object to them, and must have been peculiarly so in the early ages of the world, when the whole earth was before them, and every man had the chance of being the founder of great and mighty nations. These, therefore, were the views with which the divine being thought proper, at that time, to engage the attention of the patriarchs, and enforce the obligation of virtue.

Abraç Abraham had the promise of becoming the father of many nations, and that in his feed all the families of the earth should be blesed. With these prospects, we find his mind so much enlarged, and his faith in futurity so strong, that he leaves his native land; content and happy in being a sojourner in the country which his posterity were to possess.

In the whole course of the Jewish history, repeated miracles and prophecies wouid constantly tend to keep up the views of that people to great and remote objects. And this, together with the disinet ideas they had of the origin of the world, and the early history of it, their knowledge of the rise of their own nation, and of the frequent in.. terpositions of the divine being in their favour, would give a dignity to their conceptions, and a grandeur to their prospects, to which the heathen nations must have been strangers. There was a majesty and dignity in the Jewish ritual, in their temple, and the service of it, which far exceeded any thing in the heathen world; and being accompanied with just and fublime ideas of the one true God, it must have given a sublimity to their sentiments, and a warmth and fer vour to their religious impresfions, to which other nations could not have attained. Accordingly, in all the compositions of the heathen poets, in honour of their gods, there are no traces of any thing like that spirit of manly devotion, which animates the psalms of David.

In the frequent relapses of the Jews into idolae try, the prophets are continually sent of God, to remind them of the allegiance they owed to their maker, to hold out to them the expectation of his favour or resentment, and thereby preserve uport their minds the influence of great and remote objects.

When they were effectually cured of their pronenefs to idolatry, by the Babylonish captivity; and, therefore, such frequent interpositions of the divine being were les necessary, their minds were prepared for that long interruption of miracles which ensued, by the remarkably distinct prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, and Malachi, concerning future and glorious times under the Meffiah. The Pery year of his appearance was fixed by Daniel, and though it was not done in such a manner as to enable them to make it out with perfect exactness, yet it was fufficient to keep up their attention to it; and, in fact, they were not so far out in their calculations, but that, at the time of our Saviour, and not long before, we find a general and most ardent expectation raised in the whole body of the

Jewish nation of some approaching deliverer. - In this interval, therefore, between the captivi

ty and the birth of Christ, far greater views and prospects were present to the mind of a Jew, than



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