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kind. These principles pre-eminently distin
guish the Jewish dispensation. They filled and
elevated the minds of their poets and their prophets; inspiring them with strains of devotion which have never been equalled, and which cannot be exceeded. How superior to the poetry of the heathens, when they attempted to celebrate their divinities . When these poets were the most successful, their excellence consisted in a brilliancy of thoughts, set off by all the laboured arts of composition; by, which they manifestly attempted to honour themselves, while they professed to sing paans to their gods. The devotional language inspired by the sublimities of true religion, immediately flows from the dictates of the Heart. The glowing expressions manifest a Mind filled with a sense of the matchless greatness, and
unbounded goodness of their God. Self is for
gotten, and as it were annihilated, before the throne of so glorious a being ! These exalted sentiments respecting the great first cause, were rendered perfectly familiar to a people, who were despised by all their contemporaries, and treated by the more polished nations as ignorant and illiterate slaves. They were carefully preserved among a people, many of whom, through the seductive influence of bad examples, manifested, upon various occasions, a Perverse disposition to worship the gods of their neighbours. Notwithstanding such deviations, although this people were so much inferior in the other branches of science, they eminently excelled in theological knowledge. They alone embraced and retained such sentiments of the great first Cause, as philosophy had never reached, and which it were extravagant to expect from the ignorant and illiterate, who had neither the power, nor the disposition, to abstract their minds from things mundane and sensual.
It was under a full conviction of the wisdom, righteousness, and benignity of the divine character and government, that frequent exhortations were given to the people, by their inspired teachers, to place their sole confidence in God. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me and heard my cry.” “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man; it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil; for thou-art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
: We have remarked, that one requisite for the steady practice of virtue, from religious motives, is a full assurance that the practice of every virtue is acceptable to the Being whom we serve, Such a requisition was not ascribed to the heathen gods, by the generality of their worshippers; but it is evinced in every part of the Jewish religion. The strictest attention to virtue and morality is conspicuous in their civil code; in the repeated counsels and warnings of their legislators and prophets, and all the sacred writers; in the rewards. promised, and judgments threatened; and in numberless events recorded in their history, illustrative of the execution both of promises and threats. . . . . ;
In the ten commandments, which were announced with awful solemnity from , mount Sinai, we behold a summary of religious and moral duties, the exclusive worship of the one supreme, observance of his ordinances, and the practice of all the social virtues, emphatically enjoined. The various species of injustice are enumerated, and forbidden; Disobedience to Parents, Murder, Adultery, Theft, Malice, and Envy. . . . . . . . . . . . ;
The civil and political institutions of their appointed legislator, Moses, indicate the nicest discriminations respecting the requisitions, of
justice and mercy. The penal laws were as correspondent as the nature of the offence would admit, to the degrees of its moral turpitude; by which the practice of morality was invariably associated with obedience to the laws of the land; nor was a greater immorality committed by the legislator, in the undue severities of punishment, than had been committed by the professed criminal. . The strict infliction of penalties, proportionate to the turpitude of the crime, became a great security to the honest and peaceable members of society, without perpetually exciting horror in the breasts of spectators, overwhelming the innocent relations of an offender with: an accumulation of disgrace which HE did not deserve, or compelling compassion to abuse its generous nature, by conniving at, every pitiful evasion, that the guilty may totally escape punishment, rather than be . unjustly sacrificed by sanguinary laws. | Wilful Murder, Man-stealing, brutal and incorrigible conduct of a Son towards his Parents, Adultery, Idolatry, and Sorcery, unnatural Lusts, being enormities of the greatest magnitude, were considered as worthy of death. Some of these offences were totally destructive of the personal or social happiness of the parties injured; others, as Idolatry, and Sorcery, were
rebellion against the sovereign ruler; an open and dangerous violation of that grand principle which constituted the basis of the Jewish oeconomy—the purity of religion. Incorrigible Disobedience, to parents was deemed rebellion against the representatives of Deity, as the sources of existence and support, as wise and affectionate instructors and protectors. The other crimes reduce the criminal to a level with the brutes, or sink him below them. : Culpable carelessness was punished according to the magnitude of the injury suffered, and the degrees of demerit in the offender. Thus, if an injury were accidentally committed by an Ox, the death of the animal taught the owner future eare and discretion, and was a caution to those who were witnesses to the punishment. But “if the Ox were wont to push with his horns in time past, and it hath been testified to the owner, and he hath not kept him in,” this inhuman and destructive carelessness was considered as equivalent to murder: the Ox was stoned and the owner put to death. Other instances of culpable inattention were also punished, with a just severity. “If a man shall open a pit, and not cover it, and an Ox or an Ass fall therein, the owner of the pit shall make it good, give money to the owner of them, and the dead beasts shall be his."