« 上一頁繼續 »
Essay on the Character of Moses. THERE are four several points of light in which we may consider Moses ; as the head of a religious dispensation, a lawgiver, an historian, and a prophet. But we must take our account of him chiefly from the Bible. On the one hand, Josephus, with the view of enhancing the reputation of the Jews, has related many things concerning Moses which are doubtful, if not fabulous; while Tacitus, a cele. brated Roman author, has gone into the opposite extreme, for the sake of vilifying a people whom he and his countrymen seem to bare regarded as the dregs and “ offscouring” of mankind.
On Moses the honour was bestowed of delivering a numerous race from slavery and oppression, and of rena dering them a distinct and mighty nation. His preservation from death, during his earliest infancy, was not a little memorable : and in the circumstances and the instrument of it we clearly trace the Divine hand. Having become the adopted son of the daughter of the King of Egypt, he was educated at court, and instructed in the learning of the Egyptians.* But he preferred danger to ease, the worship of the one true God to idolatry, and the active efforts of benevolence and patriotism to the luxury of a palace. When he had reached manhood, the depressed situation of his brethren, the Israelites, so affected his mind, that he burned with an eager desire of avenging their wrongs and ending their sufferings. He saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew; and instantly Moses slew the Egyptian. Being, in consequence, threatened by Pharoah with capital punishment, he fled to the land of Midian, where he kept the flock of Jethro, whose daughter he married.
While he was in this situation, God commissioned him to undertake the deliverance of the Hebrews from their abject servitude. If any person ask, whether Moses might not, and did not, receive the suggestions of his own mind
* Acts vi, 22.
as divine communications, and whether those 'assurances of success on which he relied, were not merely the dictates of his enterprising spirit and fervent temper, I answer, that the event proved the contrary. It is not possible to resolve the signs and wonders wrought by him into facts short of miraculous. He who can bring himself to suppose that they were nothing more than the effects of a superior acquaintance with the powers of nature, must not be forward to charge credulity on believers in revelation. Moses, as appears from the history, was reluctant to go into the presence of Pharoah, in order to demand from him the release of the Israelites, nor was his reluctance soon or easily overcome. In reply to the heavenly command, he urged the unwillingness of the people to credit his assertions and respect his authority: he urged his own want of the talent of persuasion; and a miracle was found necessary for the purpose of silenciog his doubts.
Concerning the personal character of Moses it may be remarked, that his piety was ardent, habitual, and, for the age in which he lived, enlightened. To his honour it is recorded that he was eminently meek. But we cannot wonder that his patience and gentlenes's were occasionally disturbed by the provocations which he experienced from the obstinacy and perverseness of the Israelites. Sacred history is not silent respecting the blemishes of his cha- racter and the errors of his conduct; both of which, how
ever, bore a very small proportion to his virtues. In Moses superior talents were adorned by a strict and uniform adherence to religious principle, by the warmest love to his country, by unremitting fidelity to the interests of those of whom he had the care, and by a solicitude to administer impartial justice. It is evident that he was signally qualified for being the mediator between God and the seed of Abraham, for acting as the head of a religious dispensation, the grand object of which was to preserve and spread abroad the knowledge and worship of the one Jehovah.
He is next to be regarded as a lawgiver. The code which, under the especial sanction of the Deity, tre enjoined on the Hebrews, was of two kinds-ecclesiastical and civil. In the ecclesiastical division of it were included the directions relating to sacrifices, festivals and the tabernacle, or, in language sometimes employed on this subject, to
i holy things, times and places—in the civil division, all those wbich respected the temporal and national welfare of the people. As to both, he judged and acted under the immediate influence of God: yet bis inspiration, doubtless, left room for the exercise of his own knowledge and sagacity.
What, though some unbelievers have attempted to cast ridicule on his numerous and minute precepts in respect of sacrifices : what, though this matter has been ill considered and represented by many of the friends of revelation ? Men of competent reflection and candour will not here be forward to express censure or astonishment. The great design of the Hebrew ritual was to guard the chosen seed from the contagion of idolatry. Every command, every prohibition, contained in the Levitical system, had this end in view. Such was the method by which Divine Wisdom saw fit to prove the fidelity and obedience of the people, and to secure them, as far as possible, from revolt against their Almighty Ruler.
In the legislative, ordinances of Moses for the civil government of the Hebrews, we discern a comprehension of understanding and a humanity of temper superior not merely to the character of the laws of other states in that period of the world, but, further, to the genius of several codes in modern times and in Christian countries. Moses, as the lawgiver of the Jews, was the instrument of an unspeakably greater lawgiver: none of his institutions are calculated to promote his own honour, separately from the solid benefit of his people.
Let us now contemplate him as an historian. The firstfive books of the Old Testament are commonly ascribed to his pen : and, though it must be admitted that some passages of them could not, from the nature of the case, have been written by him, the usually received opinion upon this head appears correct in substance. External testimony declares that Moses was the author of these books : the style and the contents strengthen this attestation ; and it were difficult, if not impossible, to assign any other date or source of the Pentateuch.
A more interesting narrative was never presented to the world, except in the memoirs of the life of Christ, and in the records of the publication of his doctrine. It is in the bigbest degree simple, beautiful and grand, and every where authenticates itself. The impartiality and faithful
ness of it are especially deserving of our notice. How earnestly solicitous is the writer to relate facts precisely as they occurred, without covering and disguise ! He conceals neither the faults of his countrynen nor his own. There is evidently no wish cherished in his mind to exhibit them in any other light than that in which they really appeared. Had those who arraign the evidences of the Jewish revelation been duly just and candid, they would not have overlooked this circumstance. Their objections are, for the most part, founded on passages which the integrity of the historian would not permit him to suppress. But this integrity is a far stronger presumption of the truth of what he writes than the passages in question are against his accuracy : and, though the reasoning to which I allude has been easily and effectually repelled, the argument in favour of Judaism arises from the impression made by the whole of the history, rather than from that . which is produced by detached parts. Let it be added,
that those histories are usually most attractive which have been drawn up by the individuals who bore the largest share in the transactions of which they treat, and that a vast number of the events related by Moses were witnessed and brought about by himself.
To Moses, as the instrument of God, we owe the only consistent and faithful account which exists of the origin of all things, of the creation and descent of mankind. of their varieties of language and dispersion through the world. We are further indebted to him for a narrative of the events by which the wisdom and goodness of the Deity prepared the way for the publication of Christianity, and of the measures employed, in early ages of the world, for delivering the human race from their intellectual and moral degradation.
I shall not long digress in representing the character of Moses as a poet. His historical books contain specimens of his poetical compositions. One of these* is eminently sublime, abounding in bold and noble imagery, and indi. cating a lofty genius, cherished by an acquaintance with the perfections and government of the one living God, and aided by supernatural inspiration. It is probable that 14 another poem commonly attributed to him + has, in part at least, a different writer and a later date.
Among the Hebrews the characters of the poet and the prophet were frequently united in the same individual. He whom the Deity employed to foretel the fates of kingdoms and of monarchs, almost invariably uttered his predictions in the measured arrangement and the figurative style of poetry. This is in some measure true of Moses, though in a far lower degree than of other illustrious men among the ancient Israelites. Many of the prophecies of this lawgiver are delivered in the language of ordinary discourse or writing : most of them relate to the fortunes of his people ; and, however conveyed, they have been verified with a strictness and accuracy which forbid us to look on them in any other light'than as the dictates of an inspired messenger of God.
Moses had the happiness of beholding, though from a distance, the land of Canaan, of which God had by him promised the possession to the children of Israel : but he was denied the honour of conducting them into that territory. There were wise and good reasons why his labours and his life should cease on his having guided his countrymen through the wilderness. In particular, Moses was not a military leader. His qualifications were of another kind : and God, who invariably selects the fittest instruments for his purposes, appointed Joshua to the office of commander of the Hebrew forces, at the very moment when such an individual was required for the command.
The Rose and Snail.--A Fable.
(AFTER THE FRENCH.)
" O fairest thou and sweetest flow'r
And shed her sweetness through the bow'r ! “ Pardon, I pray, your humble slave,
(Pursued the Snail, with great respect,)
Which you might easily correct.
Which wound whoe'er approaches near;