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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 summoned the rebels before all the people, and said, (Numb. xvi. 29, 30,) “ If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.”—And if Moses had come afterwards to the Israelites, with a number of laws and regulations, some of them exceedingly inconvenient and disagreeable to the people ; and had commanded them to obey, on pain of death, appealing for his authority to the miracles which he said he performed before their eyes : and if these miracles had not taken place, what would the Israelites have said to Moses? Would they not very naturally have said-away with your laws and regulations; we reject your authority: as for those miracles which you allege you performed, we were upon the spot when you say they took place; you describe them as of such a nature, that they could not possibly have escaped our notice or our
memory; yet we never saw them. Your book wears falsehood upon the face of it.— Would not this have been the result, if Moses had been an impostor ?
But on the other hand, if the Israelites had acknowledged the justice of his appeal ; if they had yielded to his authority, and entered upon a long course of self-denying obedience to his laws; would not this be a conclusive proof that they had verily and indeed seen the miracles which he alleges they had seen? For the miracles of Moses were not done in a corner, but in the presence of the whole congregation of Israel, about six hundred thousand that were men, besides children.
We see then, that the avowed publicity of the miracles, connected with the circumstance (already proved) of the books having been written during the lifetime of multitudes, who were said in the books to have seen the miracles; would render a successful imposture morally impossible. What then is the truth ? Is it that six hundred thousand men were persuaded at once to yield to an authority, founded upon an assertion, that certain great miracles, affecting even the lives of every one of them, had taken place before their eyes; which miracles, they must all have known perfectly well, had never taken place? Or is it, that a whole nation, at some time unknown, and by some influence unknown, were persuaded to embrace, as the truth of God, a record, which declared, that they and their ancestors had religiously observed certain annual festivals ; which festivals they must have known had never been observed or heard of, till the fabrication of that record? Or is it, that Almighty God himself did interfere in a miraculous manner, on behalf of the nation of Israel, to make known in the earth his power and providence? On which side does credulity range herself ?-and on which side, rational conviction ?
We are not, therefore, proceeding without our proof, when we say, that the Jews are what they say they are- the descendants of that nation, that ancient nation, which sprang from Abraham of Ur of the Chaldees; which was divided into twelve tribes in the family of Jacob; which was brought into Egypt, and settled in Goshen, under the superintending care of Joseph; which was oppressed by Pharaoh ; which was miraculously delivered under the guidance of Moses; which triumphed over the nations of Canaan, by the victorious sword of Joshua; which rebelled against God, was chastened, repented, and was delivered, and rebelled again; which disregarded the warnings of the inspired messengers of God; which was carried away captive by the king of Babylon, and oppressed seventy years ; which was restored to their own land; which turned again in obstinacy against God, despising, rejecting, and cruci. fying the Lord of glory; which was rooted out by the conquering arms of the victorious Romans ; which was scattered among all nations to the four winds of heaven; which was preserved a separate people, not mingling among any people in their dispersion; which is still a separate people in this, and other countries and cities; scattered and peeled, as described by the prophet; a nation wonderful indeed, from their beginning hitherto.
Thus, in answering the question, Who are they? -We have anticipated, in one very important respect, the question
II. What are they ?
They are God's witnesses, living witnesses ; bearing a testimony to the genuineness, the authenticity, and consequently, the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures ; a testimony which may indeed be denied, (ignorance or obstinacy may deny any thing,) which may indeed be cavilled at or evaded, but which cannot be refuted. Witnesses, therefore, manifesting the moral attributes of Jehovah, in a more striking manner than do any of his other works. Does any man inquire about the character of God-we answer, look at the Jews! behold, in his dealings with them, his sovereign prerogative of distinguishing grace; his holiness ; his severity, kind even in its heaviest judgments; his kindling compassion, when he beholds the repentance of his people; his tremendous indignation, when at last poured forth ; his faithfulness to his promise ; his mysterious Providence, and all this, (with the great predicted result of it all,) for the manifestation of
himself, that the world may know, that HE IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE, and none else. “ Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord; I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you : therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was, I am He: and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work and who shall let it ?”
Having thus briefly answered the questions who, and what, are the Jews, we inquire
III. What shall they be?
To supply a scriptural answer to this interesting inquiry, is the object of the following pages.