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they were kept distinct from other nations, as well as of that special providence which made them the object of its care, could not fail to make them the subject of notice, of remark, and of inquiry.
Besides, though for important ends they were kept distinct from other nations, they had frequent intercourse with them, and were required to receive all who would consent to forsake idolatry, and worship the living and true God. To shew that a leading design of all that God had done for them was to spread the knowledge of God over the earth, Solomon, in the dedication of the temple, alludes to this effect.
Concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; for they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm; when he shall come and pray toward this house, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house which I have builded is called by thy name*.' Their correspondence with foreigners was extensive in the reign of Solomon, whose wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. “ And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of this wisdom t." These illustrious foreigners would be instructed while at Jerusalem in the law of God, and would carry with them to their respective countries the knowledge of God as the Creator and Preserver of the world, and the moral Governor and Judge of all men.
* 2 Chron. vi. 32, 33.
op 1 Kings x. 24. 2 Chron. ix. 23.
To ensure the extended dissemination of this knowledge, Israel and Judah were sent into captivity, and lived during many years around the metropolis, and some of them in the palace, of that mighty monarch, whose empire reached over the greatest portion of the habitable globe. That their residence, during their captivity, in Babylon and Assyria was not in vain, we learn from the language in which the decrees of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Cyrus, and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia, are couched, in which they acknowledge the God of Israel to be the God of the whole earth, whose dominion is over all, and who doth among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the world, that which seemeth good in his sight. After the return of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to Jerusalem, many thousands of all the tribes of Israel remained in a state of dispersion over the globe, and were in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the
grass. A Jewish historian affirms, that there were not less than a million of them in Alexandria and in other parts of Egypt, where, by the favour of Alexander the Great, they enjoyed many privileges and immunities, were allowed to be governed by their own laws, and to exhibit, in the midst of idolaters, the character, the worship, and the ordinances of the living God; and that their religious advantages might be more generally and effectually shared by the whole family of men, a translation was made of
the sacred scriptures into the Greek, then the language of the civilized world, about two hundred years
before the christian æra. We are informed by authentic history, that the Jews about that period, and subsequent to it, were dispersed in all lands, so that there was not a people upon earth which had not some portion of their nation among them.
So numerous and varied were the means which God employed for bearing witness to his own being and perfections, and for preserving mankind in the know. ledge and worship of himself. In all the ways which have been mentioned is the Apostle's statement confirmed-that that which may be known of God was manifest in them; for God had shewed it unto them. They could not plead ignorance, then, as an apology for their idolatry; for they enjoyed many means of obtaining divine knowledge, and of being convinced of the folly and deep criminality of worshipping and serving the creature to the neglect of the Creator. In their idolatry and immorality they acted in direct opposition to the law written on the heart, to the light of nature, and to the numerous revelations which God gave of himself, and of his will, and of which they ought not to have been ignorant. They were therefore without excuse, and merited the judicial blindness to which they were given up, and that wrath from heaven which is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
We learn from this subject, in the first place, the deep depravity and guilt of mankind. These are the source of that polytheism and idolatry, that impiety and immorality, which so nearly covered the world. To
see a being who has been formed in the image of God, with capacities and powers by which he is fitted to know, love, worship, and serve the glorious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of all, pay religious homage to cats, dogs, reptiles, to blocks of wood and of stone, to the stars of heaven, to the earth or the elements, is surely the most humbling spectacle that can be wit, nessed, and shews the length to which fallen man has departed from the fountain of light, and truth, and blessedness. Yet of this practice, and during many ages, nearly all mankind were guilty--the enlightened and the illiterate, kings, heroes, philosophers, and all ranks of the people. They persisted in it, notwithstanding the numerous intimations that were given them of the folly and criminality of their conduct, and proved how willingly they alienated their hearts, their thoughts, their worship and obedience, from the God of all perfection. They lived dishonouring him, as if he were not, and were without him in the world. How wonderful the goodness and the patience of God, who ceased not to shower down his blessings on an apostate and rebellious race, and to give them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness! It was in this condition of impiety, of guilt, and moral ruin, that mankind were placed, at the very time when a Divine Messenger from heaven announced to the inhabitants of Palestine those heart-cheering and memorable words, “ God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For, God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
We learn from this subject, in the second place, the necessity of Divine Revelation, and of that great salvation from sin and death which it brings to light. The actual condition of mankind, wherever the light of revelation is not enjoyed, affords incontestible proof of this. This condition, as we have seen, is as hopeless as it is helpless. The aid of mere man, of the wisest, the best, and the most exalted of men, was proved to be vain. The light of reason and of nature, in regard to religion, was hid by the gross and palpable darkness in which all were enveloped. A race of immortals were living without any certain knowledge of their immortality; and beings formed for finding happiness in God, as the chief good, were all wandering from him, and in the consciousness of their guilt and misery, all crying, who will shew us any good ? How necessary was it, then, if mankind were ever delivered from this condition, that God should interpose, return again in kindness and compassion to the world that had forsaken him, and dispel the thick gloom that covered it by the glorious brightness of the manifestation of himself!
He hath done so: he has sent his Son to be “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel.” He has wrought out, by his obedience and death, a great salvation for us, and as the consequence, invites all men to return to him, assuring them of his readiness to pardon, and that he is in, Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself, and not