« ElőzőTovább »
lence, a famine, or by the hands of an enemy? Where is the difference, even to our imperfect apprehensions of Divine justice, provided it be, and is known to be, for their wickedness that they are destroyed?—But this destruction, you say, confounded the innocent with the guilty. The sword of Joshua and of the Jews spared neither women nor children. Is it not the same with all other national visitations? Would not an earthquake, or a fire, or a plague, or a famine amongst them have done the same? Even in an ordinary and natural death the same thing happens. God takes away the life he lends, without regard, that we can perceive, to age or sex or character. But, after all, promiscuous massacres, the burning of cities, the laying waste of countries, are things dreadful to reflect upon. Who doubts it ? so are all the judgments of Almighty God. The effect, in whatever way it shows itself, must necessarily be tremendous, when the Lord, as the Psalmist expresses it, “ moveth out of his place to punish the wicked.” But it ought to satisfy us: at least this is the point upon which we ought to rest and fix our attention; that it was for excessive, wilful, and forewarned wickedness that all this befel them, and that it is expressly so declared in the history which recites it.
But, farther, if punishing them by the hands of the Israelites, rather than by a pestilence, an earthquake, a fire, or any such calamity, be still an objection, we may perceive, I think, some reasons for this method of punishment in preference to any other whatever: always, however, bearing in our mind that the ques. tion is not concerning the justice of the punishment, but the mode of it. It is well known that the people of those ages were affected by no proof of the power of the gods, which they worshipped, so deeply, as by their giving them victory in war. It was by this
species of evidence that the superiority of their own god, above the gods of the nations which they conconquered, was in their opinion evinced. This being the actual persuasion which then prevailed in the world, no matter whether well or ill founded, how were the neighbouring nations for whose admonition this dreadful example was intended, how were they to be convinced of the supreme power of the God of Israel above the pretended gods of other nations, and of the righteous character of Jehovah, that is, of his abhorrence of the vices which then prevailed in the land of Canaan; how, I say, were they to be convinced so well, or at all indeed, as by enabling the Israelites, whose God he was known and acknowledged to be, to conquer under his banner, and drive before them those who resisted the execution of that commission with which the Israelites declared themselves to be invested,—the expulsionand extermination of the Canaanitish nations? This convinced surrounding countries, and all who were observers or spectators of what passed, first, that the God of Israel was a real God; secondly, that the gods which other nations worshipped were either no gods or had no power against the God of Israel; and, thirdly, that it was he, and he alone, who possessed both the power and the will to punish, to destroy, and to exterminate from before his face both nations and individuals who gave themselves up to the crimes and wickedness for which the Canaanites were notorious. Nothing of this sort would have appeared, or with the same evi. dence however, from an earthquake or a plague, or any natural calamity. These might not have been attributed to Divine agency at all, or not to the interposition of the God of Israel.
Another reason, which made this destruction both more necessary and more general than it would have otherwise been, was the consideration, that if any
of the old inhabitants were left, they would prove a snare to those who succeeded them in the country; would draw and seduce them by degrees into the vices and corruptions which prevailed amongst themselves. Vice of all kind, but vice most particularly of the licentious kind, is astonishingly infectious. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A small number of persons addicted to them, and allowed to practice them with impunity or encouragement, will spread them through the whole mass. This reason is formally and expressly assigned, not simply for the punishment, but the extent to which it was carried ; namely, extermination. “Thou shalt utterly destroy them, that they teach
not to do after all their abominations which they have done unto their gods.”
To conclude; In reading the Old Testament account of the Jewish wars and conquests in Canaan, and the terrible destruction brought upon the inhabitants thereof, we are constantly to bear in our minds that we are reading the execution of a dreadful but just sentence pronounced by God against the intolerable and incorrigible crimes of these nations—that they were intended to be made an example to the whole world of God's avenging wrath against sins, sins of this magnitude and this kind : sins, which, if they had been suffered to continue, might have polluted the whole ancient world, and which could only be checked by the signal and public overthrow of nations notoriously addicted to them, and so addicted as to have incorporated them even into their religion and their public institutions ; that the miseries inflicted upon the nations by the invasion of the Jews were expressly declared to be inflicted on account of their abominable sins—that God had borne with them long : that God did not proceed to execute his judg
ments till their wickedness was full : that the Israelites were mere instruments in the hands of a righteous Providence for the effectuating the extermination of a people, whom it was necessary to make a public example to the rest of mankind : that this extermination, which might have been accomplished by a pestilence, by fire, by earthquakes, was appointed to be done by the hands of the Israelites, as being the clearest and most intelligible method of displaying the power and righteousness of the God of Israel, his power over the pretended gods of other nations, and his righteous hatred of the crimes into which they were fallen.
This is the true statement of the case. forced or invented construction, but the idea of the transaction set forth in Scripture; and it is an idea which, if retained in our thoughts, may fairly, I think, reconcile us to everything which we read in the Old Testament concerning it.
It is no XXX.
NEGLECT OF WARNINGS.
DEUTERONOMY, xxxii. 29. Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that
they would consider their latter end. There is one great sin, which, nevertheless, may not be amongst the number of those of which we are sensible, and of which our consciences accuse us; and that sin is the neglect of warnings.
It is our duty to consider this life throughout as a probationary state : nor do we ever think truly, or act rightly, but so long as we have this consideration fully before our eyes. Now one character of a state, suited to qualify and prepare rational and improvable creatures for a better state, consists in the warnings which it is constantly giving them; and the providence of God, by placing us in such a state, becomes the author of these warnings. It is his paternal care which admonishes us by and through the events of life and death that pass before us. Therefore it is a sin against Providence to neglect them. It is hardiness and determination in sin ; or it is blindness, which in whole or in part is wilful : or it is giddiness and levity and contemptuousness in a subject, which admits not of these dispositions towards it, without great offence
A serious man hardly ever passes a day, never a week, without meeting with some warning to his conscience; without something to call to his mind his