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THE SELECTION OF THE JEWISH NATION FROM THE PAGAN WORLD, AS INTRODUC-,
TORY TO A DISPENSATION BY WHICH.
The moral character of the Jewish nation did not
entitle them to this exclusive honour.
WE have seen that the Jews, and the Jews alone, as a nation, finally became Monotheists, and that “unto them were committed the oracles of God.” We shall now enquire for what purposes this people were chosen from the general mass, and rendered a deposit of divine truths; that we may be able to trace the immediate effects of the plan, as introductory to the Christian revelation. The enquiry will also enable us to appreciate the national character of the ancient Jews, in a proper manner; and discover to us the nature and extent of the advantages derived to other nations, from this highly favoured people.
The distinguished honours conferred
the Hebrews; their being selected and separated from a world immersed in ignorance and idolatry; their possessing, for a series of ages, many exclusive privileges ;-their being represented in the language of scripture, as the peculiar people of God, have induced many Christians to entertain sentiments concerning that nation, which are not supported by historical facts; neither are they consistent with our ideas of the divine impartiality. Misconceptions also, respecting this subject, have inspired the descendants from the faithful Abraham, with extravagant conceptions of their own superiority. Such vain expectations have thus been fostered, as became an impediment to their receiving a Dispensation, for which that communicated to their ancestors was preparatory.
It is readily admitted that numerous passages in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophecies, are expressive of an affectionate predilection. Jehovah is empliatically styled " the God of Israel; the God of Jacob.” children of Jacob are his chosen ones. «1 loved thee with an everlasting love."
How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Israel?" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compas
sion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” These, and many other expressions of a similar import, seem to testify a peculiar attachment to this peo : ple, notwithstanding those enormities of conduct which are so frequently and so severely reprehended. Hence do these expressions appear to be inconsistent with that impartiality which our reason ascribes to the universal parent, by giving to this people an exclusive title to the divine favour, which they deserved not. The subject demands consideration,
When we were treating of the nature of Love, in a preceding volume, we considered it both as a principle and an affection. It was observed that the principle of love, respects an invariable predilection for good, seated in the mind of a percipient, who knows, or thinks that he knows, in what good consists, and in what respects it relates to well-being. When the principle is directed towards any particular object it becomes an affection; that is, the mind is well disposed towards the object, or strongly affected by it. This affection, as it respects others, may again be distinguished into the love of Benevolence, and of Complacency. The benevolent affections may be extended to all sentient beings, whose susceptibility respecting good or evil is sufficient to excite them. True benevolence requires no other quality in the object, than his power of enjoyment, or exposure to sufferings. It may therefore be extended, not only to strangers, but to enemies, even to those whose demerits are great and conspicuous. It may sometimes be alarmed by the perception of the dangers to which a subject is exposed, in consequence of his demerits. In such cases its operations are exemplified by the affection of a wise and good parent, for a son who is precipitating himself into ruin, by the profligacy of his conduct: they are illustrated by the philanthropist, who consults the good of the most ignorant and depraved part of mankind; and they shine with peculiar lustre in the merciful man, who remits the punishment due to an offender, and forms plans for his welfare.
The case is very different in the love of Complacency. In this, some degree of merit is always presupposed. It can alone be excited by some kind of apparent worth; some real or supposed excellence. It rises or falls, augments or diminishes, according to obvious gradations in this scale.
The affection of Complacency may be much
perverted, and it will have its partialities in weak minds. But these partialities proceed from a conception that pleasing and amiable qualities exist in the beloved object, to a greater degree than justice will allow. The slightest appearance of worth will thus be magnified, while every fault will be concealed or palliated. Where truth and reason preside over the affection, this partial fondness cannot be indulged. The manifestations of complacency will accompany real worth alone. It will always be withdrawn from obvious demerit, although it may leave Commiseration to operate with the greater force.
There is, however, one mode of manifesting complacency, exclusive of any distinguished merit in the object, which seems at first view to oppose the above statement. Peculiar favour is frequently shown to individuals, merely on account of their close connection with persons; whose conductor character have obtained our warm approbation. A liberal mind is disposed to confer
peculiar marks of favour upon those who are des-titute of every personal claim, in consequence
alone of the complacent affections entertained for their relatives and connexions. This principle is not only.implanted in our nature, but is - highly respectable ; although it is too often mis