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as an act of exemplary penal justice, and, as such consistent with the character of the moral governor of the universe. The objection, therefore, is not to the Canaanitish nations being destroyed (for when their national wickedness is considered, and when that is expressly stated as the cause of their destruction, the dispensation, however severe, will not be questioned); but the objection is solely to the manner of destroying them. I mean there is nothing but the manner left to be objected to: their wickedness accounts for the thing itself. To which objection it
may be replied, that if the thing itself be just, the manner is of little signification : of little signification even to the sufferers themselves. For where is the great difference, even to them, whether they were destroyed by an earthquake, a pestilence, a famine, or by the hands of an enemy? Where is the difference, even to our imperfect apprehensions of divine justice, provided it be, and is known to be, for their wickedness that they are destroyed ? but this destruction, you say, confounded the innocent with the guilty. The sword of Joshua, and of the Jews, spared neither
women nor children. Is it not the same with all other national visitations ? Would not an earthquake, or a fire, or a plague, or a famine amongst them have done the same ? Even in an ordinary and natural death the same thing happens. God takes away the life he lends, without regard, that'we can perceive; to age, or sex, or character. But, after all, promiscuous massacres, the burning of cities, the laying waste of countries, are things dreadful to
Who doubts it? so are all the judgments of Almighty God. The effect, in whatever way it shows itself, must necessarily be tremendous, when the Lord, as the Psalmist expresses it, “ moveth out of his place to punish the wicked.” But it ought to satisfy us ; at least this is the point upon which we ought to rest and fix our attention; that it was for excessive, wilful, and fore-warned wickedness, that all this befel them, and that it is all along so declared in the history which recites it.
But, further ; if punishing them by the hands of the Israelites rather than by a pestilence, an earthquake, a fire, or any
such calamity, be still an objection, we may perceive, I think, some reasons for this method of punishment in preference to any other whatever : always, however, bearing in our mind, that the question is not concerning the justice of the punishment, but the mode of it. It is well known, that the people of those ages were affected by no proof of the power of the gods which they worshipped so deeply, as by their giving them victory in war. It was by this species of evidence that the superiority of their own gods above the gods of the nations which they conquered, was, in their opinion, evinced. This being the actual persuasion which then prevailed in the world, no matter whether well or ill founded, how were the neighbouring nations, for whose admonition this dreadful example was intended, how were they to be convinced of the supreme power of the God of Israel above the pretended gods of other nations, and of the righteous character of Jehovah, that is, of his abhorrence of the vices which prevailed in the land of Canaan : how, I say, were they to be convinced so well, or at all indeed, as by enabling the Israelites, whose God he was known and acknowledged to be, to conquer
under his banner, and drive out before them, those who resisted the execution of that commission with which the Israelites declared themselves to be invested, viz. the expulsion and extermination of the Canaanitish nations ? This convinced surrounding countries, and all who were observers or spectators of what passed, first, that the God of Israel was a real God : secondly, that the gods which other nations worshipped were either no gods, or had no power against the God of Israel : and thirdly, that it was he, and he alone, who possessed both the power and the will, to punish, to destroy, and to exterminate, from before his face, both nations and individuals, who gave themselves up to the crimes and wickedness for which the Canaanites were notorious. Nothing of this sort would have appeared, or with the same evidence however, from an earthquake, or a plague, or any natural calamity. These might not have been attributed to divine agency at all, or not to the interposition of the God of Israel.
Another reason, which made this dėstruc tion both more necessary, and more general, than it would have otherwise been, was the consideration, that if any of the old inhabitants were left, they would prove a snare to those who succeeded them in the country; would draw and seduce them by degrees into the vices and corruptions which prevailed amongst themselves. Vices of all kinds, but vices most particularly of the licentious kind, are astonishingly infectious. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A small number of persons addicted to them and allowed to practise them with impunity or encouragement, will spread them through the whole mass. This reason is formally and expressly assigned, not simply for the punishment, but for the extent to which it was carried : namely, extermination, 66 Thou shalt utterly destroy them, that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods."
To conclude; In reading the Old Testament account of the Jewish wars and conquests in Canaan, and the terrible de