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and we find that in the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia, they were brought from Babylon into Judea, where they settled and built the city of Jerusalem.
Thus far there is no room for denial or doubt, by any inquirer who possesses even a superficial acquaintance with the history of the world.. But beyond this, the scriptural account of them has been denied; and one of the daring falsehoods which infidelity has put forward with unblushing effrontery, is, that we know nothing of the Jewish nation antecedent to what is insidiously called their emigration from Babylon. In tracing their origin still farther, therefore, let us fortify our statement with legitimate proof.
Our assertion is, that the Scriptural history of the Hebrews, from the call of Abraham till the captivity of Zedekiah, king of Judah, including a variety of miraculous interpositions by the God of the whole earth, is true,—true in the obvious meaning of the language, without any evasion. Our proof of this rests its first firm step upon a matter of fact, undeniably before our eyes.
The Jews of the present day possess and revere a very remarkable collection of books, which they say were given to their forefathers by the immediate inspiration of Almighty God. These books record a variety of stupendous miracles; and the Jews, as a nation, at this moment, believe that a generation of their ancestors beheld the performance of those miracles, and therefore handed down these books to their posterity, as genuine and authentic.
That this is the present opinion of the nation, may be learned from any intelligent Jew in London or elsewhere. We know, say they, that God spake to Moses and the prophets. Now a most important question is, token did they first begin to believe these things concerning these books? And a manifest absurdity rests upon the supposition, that any generation of Jews, except that one which saw the miracles, could have been th$ first, to acknowledge the divine authority of the books. For observe how the case stands. Suppose any impostor to have forged those books in later times; and suppose them coming for the first time into the hands of a Jew. He reads in them that his forefathers were miraculously delivered out of the land of Egypt, and led through the Red Sea, and that an ordinance of religious worship, called the Passover, had been instituted in remembrance of that deliverance, and continued from father to son, down to his own days. He pauses, and stares at the strange statement. What! he says; my father never taught me any thing about this Passover; I was never present at it myself; I have never even heard of it till now; and yet this book says it was instituted many years ago, and has been celebrated annually by all the Jews ever since. I know to a certainty this is not the case: therefore this book is not true. How could such a man have been persuaded to embrace the truth, and contend for the divine inspiration of such a book? To believe that, not an individual man only, but a whole nation simultaneously adopted such a book under such circumstances, is a splendid triumph of the credulity of scepticism.
This argument holds good, at whatever period of the history of the nation it is pretended that the books were forged, and for the first time published. The contents of the books themselves, therefore, supply an insuperable hindrance to their being received as inspired by any generation except that one which saw the miracles, and thereupon commenced the celebration of the commemorative ordinances.
If any man or set of men in this country were now to write a book, and say in it that all the British people had been in France; that they had been miraculously brought through the sea into their own land; that a great national feast had been established in remembrance of their escape from their enemies; and that all the people of England went once a year to London to keep that feast: who among us would not laugh at the silly absurdity of imagining that such a book could be received by the nation, and cause us now, for the first time, to believe that miraculous escape, and now, for the first time, to celebrate that feast? This line of argument applies to any and every period of the history of England.
We conclude, therefore, that the Jewish books were written and made public at the time when the miracles recorded in those books are said to have been performed; or, at least, during the life-time of those persons who were eye-witnesses of the miracles; because no other persons could have received the books, and because we do actually see with our own eyes that the books are received.
This, then, establishes the important fact; that the miracles were indeed performed. For observe how the argument stands in this respect. If any minister were now to publish a book, and declare in it that on a certain day last year, or the year before, he had wrought a miracle in the presence of his whole congregation: that they wTere fainting with thirst, for example, and that he had struck a rock with a rod, and brought out for them all an abundant supply of water: and if he were now to come and announce a number of laws and regulations, some of them exceedingly inconvenient and disagreeable to his people, and command the universal observance of those laws on pain of death, appealing for his authority to the miracle wThich he said he had wrought before their faces last year ;—what would they say to him? Would not their indignation be roused against such intolerable effrontery? And might they not well say, Away with your laws and regulations; you have no authority over us: as for your pretended miracle, we were upon the spot when you say it was performed, and we never saw it; yet you allege it was of such a nature, that had it been performed we must have seen it, and could not but recollect it?
If Moses had written a book, and made it public among the Israelites, saying, that on a certain day, when they were all pursued by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he had stretched his rod over the sea; that the waters had divided, leaving a dry passage between; and that the whole congregation had passed safely through, which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned; that on another day, when they were murmuring for water in the wilderness, he had smitten a rock, and procured a rich supply for the whole multitude; that on another day, when some of them had rebelled against him and his brother Aaron, he