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after its construction? Should we entertain any doubt, that he would confine himself to describing its general arrangement and effect? But the manner in which it is treated in the passage, to which I refer, is of a very different character. In the first place, the most minute directions are given as to the manner of its construction, as one would give an order to mechanics respecting a work for which great solicitude was felt; and then, with the same particularity of detail, it is related how those orders were executed. I am at a loss to point to any principle in human nature, which will help us to account for such a composition, proceeding from any other person than one so situated as Moses is related to have been.*
Further; there are laws, which, if I may so speak, seem to breathe the desert air ; arrangements, for which there was no apparent necessity, and scarcely any possibility of their observance, after the wanderings in the Arabian wilderness were over.
I believe we shall meet with not a few such. To whom does it not occur, that the direction to the males of the nation to assemble three times in every year had its first occasion in the necessity of preserving the integrity of the people, by preventing those who had the care of flocks and herds from wandering, in their nomadic excursions, to too great a distance from the central camp?
* The justness of the remark here made may be tested by a comparison with what is actually said on the subject in question by Josephus. Respecting the laws, that writer says, (Antiq., lib. 4, cap. 8, § 4) “ All things are written [by me) as he left them; nothing being added for the sake of ornament, nor which Moses did not leave. But I have made the innovation of arranging every thing agreeably to its subject. For by him the things written were left without arrangement, just as he had obtained them severally from God.” In another place (lib. 3, cap. 6), Josephus describes the tabernacle ; and the description which he gives is precisely of that kind, which, as above intimated, might be expected from a writer of any age subsequent to that of its erection.
There are few things, perhaps, in the Pentateuch, which go so far to create a prejudice against the supposition of a supernatural authority in its writer, as what is thought the rude, anthropomorphitic character of some representations in it of the divine Being. That subject is not yet before us. I touch upon it no further than to say, that such representations, as far as they do exist, whatever other observation they may call for, are just so much proof to us of the early origin of the book containing them. Such representations have clearly some relation to the views of a rude people. They would be out of place, if prepared for the comparatively refined age of David, or Solomon, or Hezekiah. Their character is scarcely reconcilable with the supposition of their having had any such late source.
There is a remarkable chasm in the history between the book of Genesis and the book of Exodus. It corresponds to the interval between the time of Jacob and the time of Moses, about four hundred years. How is this to be accounted for, on the supposition of a late origin of the books? That period, the period of the sojourn of the Jews in Egypt, enveloped in the mists of a foreign region and an ancient time, would have made, to a late annalist, precisely the fairy land of legendary history. How came this alone, of all the ages between Abraham's and the writer's own, to be wholly omitted, when we should, on the contrary, expect it to be made peculiarly prominent, on the supposition that a comparatively modern inhabitant of Palestine was the writer? Why was it not filled up by him with marvels, like the period of the Judges ? I think that the question admits of no plausible reply. On the supposition of Moses' authorship, no such problem is presented. We shall see the reason of his writing the history of his own time, and of those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
and I think we shall see that there was no like reason, and no apparent reason whatever, for him to write more particularly, than he has done in two or three verses, of the generations which had intervened between that of Joseph and his own.
Once more (for other remarks of a similar character must be left to find their several places hereafter); I see not how any one can imagine, that the taste of a people and age, capable of relishing such compositions, as, for instance, the Psalms of David, and the Prophecies of Isaiah, could have offered any demand or encouragement for such relations as some of those in the early part of Genesis. For myself, as far as, from the contemporaneous productions, I am able to form any conception of the habits of thought and writing of those later times, the reference of the first book of the Pentateuch, and of not a few parts of the others, to those times, seems to me no less than an anachronism of the most palpable description.
I do not pretend to have treated, in this lecture, an argument of such extent as the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. I have scarcely aimed at more than to lay out the ground, and prepare the way for future observations. The internal evidence will be brought before us, in the whole progress of our inquiries respecting the contents of these five books; while to the external, contributions will be obtained from many of the more recent Jewish writings (whether canonical or not) which are to come under our view. For the present, I conclude with the remark, that, without urging the external evidence with a confidence such as has been professed in respect to it, but such as I think it will not justify, it yet appears to me, that whatever there is, favors the commonly received opinion; and that it is substantially what we should be entitled to expect on the supposi
tion of the correctness of that opinion, the actual circumstances hardly admitting, in any such case, of more. The internal evidence alleged against the authenticity, I conceive to be based, for the most part, on mere misapprehensions, while that in its favor is of a very weighty kind and large amount, as I hope we may see in the sequel of these discussions. I make no separate questions, at present, of the Mosaic origin of the books of Genesis and Deuteronomy. We may find reason, in the sequel, to think, that the existence of the one is scarcely to be accounted for, except by regarding it as a Preface, or of the other, except by considering it as an Appendix, to the Law contained in the three other books.
EXODUS II. 11. – VI. 30.
PURPOSE OF THE Mosaic Revelation. OBJECTION TO IT, FROM
THE LIMITATION OF Its Benefits. — Fitness OF THE PUBLICATION OF A Pure THEOLOGY, HOWEVER LIMITED. -- DISCRIMINATION, A ParT OF THE UNIVERSAL LAW OF PROVIDENCE. – The Mosaic SYSTEM ADMITTED PROSELYTES, — WAS DESIGNED FOR THE ULTIMATE GOOD OF MANKIND, — CannoT BE SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN THE ONLY Ancient REVELATION.- OBJECTION TO IT FROM RUDENESS AND IMPERFECTION. - UNREASONABLENESS OF THE ExPECTATION THAT WHATEVER PROCEEDS FROM GOD SHALL BE PERFECT. — THE Mosaic System WAS ACCOMMODATED TO THE Minds WHICH IT WAS TO ADDRESS. DIFFICULTIES ATTENDING ITS INTERPRETATION. REMARKS ON VARIOUS PASSAGES CONNECTED WITH Moses' ASSUMPTION OF His OFFICE.
I Begin my remarks on the contents of the Old Testament, at the point where Moses, if the history be his, takes up the narrative upon his own personal knowledge; the previous portion of his work relating to what he could only have known through information derived from others. The passage before us records the circumstances, under which he assumed the office of revealing to the Jews a religious law, and guiding them to a national independence.
And here is the proper place to consider what was the object of the Mosaic revelation, and to maintain the fitness of that object, as deserving to be regarded by the Divine Being, against any incredulity, with which, presented in its general statement, it may be viewed.
That object, I conceive, is correctly stated as follows; To put the Jewish people in possession of a pure theology, and to place them in a condition to preserve it