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whatever had reference to the condition of a more regulated society, rose in importance. Through the books of Leviticus and Numbers, on the other hand, which contain the nation's history at the first stage of its political existence, we have modifications and additions, particularly to the religious laws, but also to others; we have, in short, the original outline of the Law filled up, by degrees, after the manner which has just now been hinted at. That outline itself was given in the passage now before us; viz. in the twentieth and the three next following chapters. The Law promulgated from Mount Sinai did not comprehend the whole Mosaic legislation; but essentially it was an epitome of the whole. The Jewish people, now formed into a social state, were to be apprized, from the beginning, on what leading principles their society was to rest; and of this they were to be informed under such circumstances as would strongly impress their minds for the time being, prepare them to receive whatever further communications should be made through Moses' ministry, and form a striking record of divine revelations for the conviction of their descendants.
Such was the occasion, and such the character, of the first compendious Law announced upon Mount Sinai. And here, with this portion of the narrative before us, I would pause a moment, to recall attention to what strikes me as an important bearing which it has upon the question of the authenticity of the books which exhibit it. I can imagine no reason, which could have influenced a writer, not contemporaneous with the promulgation of the Law, to write it down in the disjointed shape in which it has descended to us. place ourselves in the time of David, or of Hezekiah, or of the Judges, or any other time subsequent to that of Moses, and ask whether there is any conceivable
state of mind, in which we could have been induced to commit to writing, in such an arrangement, either what we had received as the ancient code of our nation, or what we had ourselves devised, and intended to impose upon the faith of others, in that character. Can there be any doubt, that, under such circumstances, we should give the Law as a whole, either as it had been actually received, or as we desired that it should be; digested, at least, into one system, and probably with some formal disposition of the parts ? On the other hand, attribute the writing to Moses, and all is perfectly natural. It was fit that the Law should make successive advances towards completeness and precision ; that it should not all be made known and fixed at once, but be gradually modified and enlarged according to the growing and altering wants, intelligence, and experience of the people; and that as, step by step, it approached its mature condition, so, step by step, the record should be made.
We have here, then, I think, one of the striking instances of that journal character of a large portion of the Pentateuch, which makes it so exceedingly difficult to attribute its composition to any age, subsequent to that of the occurrence of the events which it records. Supposing the composition to have proceeded from Moses, we have a satisfactory account of the form which it has taken. He would write down events as they occurred, and laws as they were delivered. If some incident called for a new enactment, the enactment and its occasion would be both set down together. If some provision was qualified or suppressed, the change would be added to the record, but the original provision would still keep its place. But who, in a later age, after a law had been abrogated and disused, would think of any such embalming of its memory?
Is it said, that all this was but the artifice of a forger, who designed, by such an arrangement of his work, to provide a basis for the argument, which I am urging? I submit, on the contrary, to any candid mind, whether the fact is not one of that unobtrusive class, which never would be devised to sustain a fraud, since it is so little suited to attract attention, on the part of any but the studious and careful; — whether it is not one of that description of facts, (so powerfully urged by Paley in his “Horæ Paulinæ,” for their bearing on the authenticity of part of the New Testament,) which, notwithstanding their reality and importance, are so latent as to preclude the supposition of their having been devised in aid of an imposture.
Another remark to be made upon the Jewish Law, relates to what I may term its secular character. Accustomed as we are, and rightly, to think of the Mosaic system as one designed for religious uses, we naturally enough come to suppose, that the positive enactments of its code will all be found to bear on the individual's religious illumination and discipline. In a certain sense, no doubt, they all do; for when a divinely approved rule has, for any purpose, been given, the individual's duty and improvement are concerned in obedience to it. But, in the sense in which the supposition is commonly entertained, a very little examination shows it to be erroneous. We shall see at greater length hereafter, but already we may partially see, in this first epitome of the Law, that, while many of its provisions related to the nation's religious security, or the individual's. religious improvement, others belonged rather to the class which the civil and criminal codes of all nations embrace, while others again had nothing to do with abstract duty even in this form, but were merely
matters of police regulation, in the nature (for instance) of health laws.
The question then is naturally presented; With what propriety are laws, which do but tend to the ordering and security of a prosperous commonwealth, embraced in a system, designed, as that of Moses has been represented to be, for a religious use ? And the proper and sufficient reply I take to be as follows. The operation of the laws in question, secured what, humanly speaking, was an indispensable means to the great end proposed. In order that the Jewish nation should fulfil the office, for which it was set apart, it was necessary, that, for a time at least, it should retain its individuality and independence. Overrun and subdued, at least at any earlier time than when recollections of past national glory might sustain the captive in adherence to his faith, the nation would inevitably lose the treasure of religious truth committed to its keeping. But, in order to its continuing independent, it needed to be made capable and desirous of maintaining its liberty; it needed, in other words, to become numerous, prosperous, patriotic, united, and strong. Thus all arrangements, which go to build up a powerful state, - even such as regarded the general health, such as tended, within suitable limits, to the increase of wealth and population, such as would generate a national fellow-feeling, and such as would make the public resources available for the public security, -assumed an important relation to the great end proposed, and came within the contemplation of the Jewish Law. And, further, not a few particulars of what might most strictly be called domestic institution, will be found to have reference to the peculiar position which the Israelites occupied, and to have been designed to place
them in circumstances to execute the religious trust they had received for the world.
When we come to examine the Law in this its primitive shape, we find its contents to be actually such, as, on the ground of the views above presented, we might expect. Along with precepts touching the relation which it was designed that the Jews should bear peculiarly to God, it embraces provisions suited to meet any community's first and most pressing wants, and principles, which, carried out into their applications as they were designed subsequently to be, embrace a wide field of civil legislation.
In the Decalogue, the part of the Law announced earliest, and under circumstances of peculiar solemnity, we immediately remark two great divisions. The first division relates directly to the great purpose of the Jewish institution, the establishment of a pure and unparticipated worship of the One True God ;— the first commandment prohibiting the acknowledgment of any other deity;* the second forbidding any address even to Him through that medium of sensible symbols,t
* “ Thou shalt have no other gods before me”; (xx. 3 ;) that is, not in preference to me, but in my presence. I am present with the nation of Israel. Let me not be offended by the acknowledgment there of any other God.
† “ Thou shalt not make to thyself, — thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them;" (4, 5.) that is, in the simple Hebrew idiom, Thou shalt not make them for the purpose of bowing down and worshipping them. The command does not forbid the mere representation, whether by sculpture, painting, or embroidery, of animated objects existing in nature. The brazen laver of the temple stood on sculptured oxen. Figures of animals were embroidered by divine roommand on the hangings of the tabernacle, and cherubim were erected even in the most Holy Place. — “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” (5); rather, I think, zealous, determined, a well-ascertained meaning of the word &:2, and better corresponding with the context. — “ Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” (ibid.); that is, in national calamities.
If the parents apostatize, and, deserting my service, and neglecting my laws, in which