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themselves, and to become the instruments, in good time, of communicating it, under better circumstances, to the rest of the world.
An objection naturally occurs to the limitation of knowledge so valuable. Why, it may be asked, should so desirable a revelation, of truths of which the whole idolatrous world stood so much in need, be limited to a single nation, and that a nation politically so insignificant ?
I might reply, first, that to have a pure worship of God ascend but from one corner of this our earth, would seem, as far as we may judge, to be, in itself, an object suitable to be accomplished. When such questions are asked, as that to which I have just referred, we are apt to look for answers involving considerations of men's benefit exclusively. Without laying much stress upon the thought, (since I grant that it connects itself with considerations, which we are little competent to discuss,) I would, however, inquire in passing, whether this question of men's greater or less benefit, is in fact the only question in the case. Is it not an intelligible, and, as far as we may reason, a probable thing, that, as an independent object, God's honor was to be consulted by his worship not being permitted to be wholly banished from this earth? When the misguided nations were doing homage to some foolish imagination of their own hearts, might there not be an abstract fitness, regarding alone the relation of the Divine Being to the worlds he has made, requiring that the knowledge and service of Him should not be allowed to be utterly excluded from this portion of his universe ?
But, secondly, when it is asked, why a revelation, if worth communicating, should have been communicated to the Jews alone, and other nations not been allowed to partake in its benefits, I reply, that this is a question
to which we have no right to expect an answer, any further than an answer is furnished by observation on the whole course of divine Providence. We might as well ask, why one nation enjoys a better climate than another; why, among individual men, there are native differences of talent and disposition ; why one man is made to live under a government which oppresses his mind, and another under social influences, which give his mind scope and excitement; why one man's religious interests are made to prosper, from the first, under exemplary parental care, and another is exposed from his infancy to all sorts of moral contamination. The question concerning the justice of such inequalities, may or not be a question hard to answer; but, such as it is, it relates to the whole acknowledged course of the divine administration, and accordingly cannot, with any propriety, be made a ground of distrust of the divine original of the Jewish system. Undoubtedly, it applies as much to Christianity as it does to Judaism. But it applies no more to either, than it does to all the endless variety in human fortunes and condition. That, which is seen to be the universal method of divine operation, certainly cannot, when presented among the circumstances of a supposed revelation, be urged as a ground of objection to its pretended origin. That there should be a difference of privilege among different nations, is but one instance of that infinite variety which we see to be studied in all the works and providence of God; nor is it inconsistent with his justice, inasmuch as it remains for justice ultimately to make the requisite allowance, when final retribution comes to be assigned. If the order of the divine government was not to be deviated from in this instance, then part of the world was to be preferred before other parts ; and, had the preference fallen on some
other nation instead of the Jews, the same question would still have remained to be asked. Yet it is not necessary, nor fit, to suppose, that the selection of the Jews, for the distinction they enjoyed, was arbitrary. The most that we can say is, that we do not know the reasons which determined the Divine Mind in making the distinction. Could we look back into antiquity, as a more complete history would enable us, we might, perhaps, see some such reasons in the capacities, character, condition, relations of this particular people. And perhaps we might not. , But certainly there is nothing to surprise us in our being unable to see what it was, that determined the Divine Mind to such a preference, nor does it raise any presumption against the fact that such a preference was actually exerciséd.
Thirdly; I suggest, that preference of one nation was not, in fact, in this instance, exclusion of the rest of mankind. Other men, to whom the knowledge of the Mosaic religion might come, could adopt it, if they would. It made express provision for receiving proselytes to every privilege of the chosen race; and we find, both in its earlier and later history, that proselytes did, in fact, receive the religion, and come to stand, in respect to it, on the same footing with the descendants of Israel. But, much more than this; the institution, so far from excluding, in any sense, the mass of mankind from its benefits, was expressly designed to be ultimately for the benefit of all mankind, by being an introduction to Christianity; by preparing the way for a system, which mankind in their existing state of culture could not have been made to embrace, without some violence done to that free agency of theirs, which God never violates; but which, through the preparation of the intervening ages, they would be brought into a con
dition to receive. Men were now universally bigoted to idolatry. To reclaim the whole ultimately to better views, the fittest way for God, who always works by means, to adopt, — the only apparent way (I would say it with reverence) to secure the end without invading men's free-will, - was to reclaim first a portion of mankind, by subjecting them to a minute, detailed, (shall I say, technical ?) discipline, only capable of being administered in a small community. Such we shall find the Jewish system to have been ;-a system well adapted to train one community to the profession of religious truth, which, when they were established in it, they would be fit instruments for communicating, in an extended and spiritualized form, to the world. And their situation, both while an independent and a subjugated people, favored this design. At one time (that is, in the reign of Solomon,) Judea was itself a great power, having extensive relations as such; and at other periods, the people were successively connected, in a different relation, with the four great empires of ancient history, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman; while, at all times, their geographical position, having on their border the nation which carried on the commerce of the world, and inhabiting a territory which made the thoroughfare of whatever intercourse there was by land between the three continents, favored the dissemination of a knowledge of their sacred institutions.
Once more; though I do not undertake to deny, yet I certainly would not venture to assert, that the ground of all this questioning is solid; and that the Jews were the only people in antiquity favored with a supernaturally revealed religion. Perhaps the most, that with safety and modesty we could affirm upon the subject, is this ; that we have no sufficient evidence to
show, that any other nation has been so privileged. If ever any other people did receive a religious system supernaturally sent from God, and therefore pure, I am as ready as others to own, that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is now lost; since I know no other, which can produce evidence of having been so sent by him. But this is not proof, that he never did make any other such revelation.
other such revelation. When he does make a revelation, I conceive that, in every just view of the case, he is to be considered as committing the truths revealed, like any other gift, to the care of human conscientiousness and wisdom. In proportion as these are wanting to their trust, the truths disclosed (as we know from the history of Christianity and Judaism themselves) may be obscured, and, for aught we are authorized to say, may eventually be wholly lost. God, having bestowed his gifts, will not, by a constant miracle, continue to protect them, against misuse or even forfeiture. Christianity was so corrupted during the dark ages, as to be all but lost for the time being, and to be apparently in danger of absolute extinction. It may be, that some other system or systems, adapted, in their respective ways, to the wants and condition of other nations than the Jews, were revealed in remote antiquity, which, however, have been in time so crusted over with corruptions, as to have lost all the appropriate signatures of truth. Would it be safe, for example, to affirm, that the Hindoo faith had not its source, however corrupted and ruined now, in a divine revelation? Some of its interpreters say, that its original documents teach a perfectly pure and rational theology.* If it be so, then
* I refer particularly to some of the publications of that extraordinary man, the late Rammohun Roy. In the preface to his translation, published in 1816, of one of the chapters of the Ved, he said of that book; "The unity of the Supreme Being, as the Sole Ruler of the Universe, is