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unto Him, raised up to them deliverers, called judges.
In this description of Israel is represented, as in a glass, the condition of all mankind under the Gospel Dispensation: upon their faithfulness, and obedience to Divine manifestations, depends the enjoyment of inward peace and tranquillity of mind, as well as the securing of Divine favour and protection.
The formation of the Israelites into a distinct people and church; the many miracles and deliverances wrought for them; the blessings and curses pronounced upon their obedience and disobedience; their entrance into the promised land, were not merely for their enlargement, and the suppression of their enemies, but typified the sufferings and rejoicings, which the members of Christ's militant church should experience; together with his glorious interposition for the destruction of their spiritual enemies.*
The Israelites disregarded the conditions of continuing in peaceable possession of the promised land; and, in so doing, slighted the privilege of being under the protection of the Lord of Hosts. In consequence, they became distracted and divided amongst themselves; their disunion, and want of concert, in coming up together to battle, is pathetically deplored in the song of
Deborah: "For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? Gilead abode beyond Jordan; and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea-shore, and abode in his breaches. Zebulon and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death, in the high places of the field."
Having forfeited Divine favour, their trust and confidence in Almighty power and protection would be withdrawn; and finding themselves involved in many troubles, it was natural for them to look out for other means of help. Then they began to contemplate the advantages the neighbouring kingdoms had over them, in their forces and physical strength being concentrated under one head. Nothing now would satisfy them short of a king to go before them. In this they rejected Theocracy, that is, would not have God to rule over them, after the peculiar manner in which He had heretofore condescended to be their King.
Notwithstanding all this, the Most High condescended to their request, and graciously raised up a succession of inspired persons, called men of God, seers, and prophets, to whom they might apply for counsel and direction, on all occasions
of moment, so long as the kingdom of Judah subsisted. David was a prophet as well as a king. Regal government was favourable to civil and political arrangements, to the establishment of order, subordination and tranquillity; a conditio:: the most conducive to national prosperity, and the advancement of useful arts. And we see this form of government has prevailed most in the world. The succession of the kings was for the most part hereditary, an order which has been established in most countries in this day, to prevent that periodical bloodshed and misery, which the history of ancient, imperial Rome, and the more modern experience of Poland and Germany, show us are the consequences, in elective kingdoms, of ambitious men aspiring to regal dignity.
The history of the Hebrews, under all their forms of government, demonstrates that it is righteousness which most certainly exalteth a nation; and that justice and equity are the surest supports of all power and authority.
With respect to patriarchal religion, it is supposed that within 370 years after the flood, the Egyptians and Babylonians had introduced idolatrous principles and practices. From Joshua xxiv. 2, it appears to have crept into the family of Shem. Maimonides, the learned Jew, sup
poses the advocates of this corrupt worship argued after this manner: "For as much as God hath created the heavenly bodies to govern the world, and set them on high, and imparted honour to them, and they are the ministers that minister before Him, it is meet that man should glorify, and give them honour. For it is the will of God that we should magnify and honour whatsoever He magnifieth, even as a king would have them honoured that stand before him."
Thus we see, the first corrupters of religion had principles and reasons, perhaps as good as those had, who in like manner have corrupted Christianity, by introducing idolatrous practices into it. The doctrine before mentioned is such as might be expected from magicians, astrologers, and soothsayers, who were much in request in the courts of Egypt and Babylon.
The wide spreading of the notions which they inculcated, must be attributed to the artifice of designing persons, who were interested in taking advantages of the credulity of the world. But in all ages, Divine Goodness has raised up witnesses against the corruptions of the times; and not any period affords a more illustrious instance, than that of Job. He was a prince of the greatest eminence, wealth, and authority,