« ElőzőTovább »
thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground : for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return."
The punishment denounced against the first murderer
record was the following : " And the Lord said unto Cain, now thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thine hands. When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.".
When the Sins of the Antediluvian World were augmented and spread beyond the power of reformation, when "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," so that, according to the strong andexpressive language of Scripture, “it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart;" the punishment threatened, and afterwards executed, was,
“I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping things, and the fowls of the air, for it repenteth me that I have made them.”
The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, being sunk into the depths of human depravity, which was as universal as it was shameful, the punishment was total destruction, « The Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven ; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”
All the sanctions of the laws promulgated by Moses, under the divine direction, whether these laws were civil, ceremonial, or moral, consisted in the promise of every kind of worldly prosperity, upon the obedience of the Jewish nation
; and the threat of every calamity that can fall upon a people, as a punishment of disobedience. “ And it shall come to pass if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments, which I have commanded thee this day; that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth, and all these blessings shall come upon thee. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, blessed shalt thou be in the field, &c. &c. And it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, all these Curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field; cursed thy basket and thy store ; cursed the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land; the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep; cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, and all that thou settest thine hand upon for to do; until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly ; because of the wickedness of thy doings whereby thou hast forsaken me, &c.”*
The whole history of the Jewish nation is a perpetual comment upon these promises and threatenings. This has been made evident from the sketch of their history, given in a preceding disquisition. The reward of obedience was national prosperity. Their occasional rebellions received the chastisement of public calamities, wars, pestilence, famine, captivities ; and those who were irreclaimably wicked, which was the character of the ten revolting tribes, were dispersed and destroyed as a people.
The expostulations and pathetic invitations to repentance, which are so frequently interspersed with the judgements threatened or inflicted, speak a similar language. They are warnings to avoid impending destruction.
" Cast away from you all your transgressions whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye
* Deut. ch. xviii.
die, O house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, wherefore turn yourselves and live, &c. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ; how shall I deliver thee, Israel ? &c. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim."
In a word, the severest punishment of the wicked is always expressed by the terms death, destruction, perdition. They had no conceptions of a punishment more severe, or which was extended to a future state. In the books where the law is promulgated and enforced, in the Psalms of David, in the Proverbs of Solomon, and in the books of the Prophets, the uniform language is, “Let thine enemies perish, O Lord. I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiffnecked people ; let me alone that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven. Thou lovest all-devouring words. 0 thou deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy thee for ever ; he shall take thee away and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. * When the wicked perish there is a shouting. Behold the day of the Lord
* Ez. xviii. 31, 32. # Ps. lii. 4, 5.
+ Deut. ix. 13. § Prov. xi. 10.
cometh, cruel both with wrath and with fierce anger, to lay the land desolate ; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Isaiah xii. 9. I will dash them one against anotlier, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the Lord: I will not pity nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them."*
To enumerate all the passages containing similar expressions, would be to transcribe too large a portion of the Old Testament. They are to be found in almost every page. They are not incidental, that is, called forth by incidental circumstances, to which they are con fined, and by which they are to be explained. They constitute the uniform language of the scriptures, wherever a reference is made to punishment, or to the consequences of guilt. Hence they are totally distinct from metaphorical forms of speech, which are deviations from the current style, and are always employed, not to introduce new principles, but to illustrate and enforce what is already known.
The important question is, what can be the import of all these expressions ? What ideas are they calculated, or were they intended to convey? There are three modes of interpretation. Death, Destruction, Perishing, may signify
+ See Note E.
* Jer. xiii. 14.