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STATE OF PROPHECY CONTEMPORARY WITH THE PROMUL
GATION OF THE MOSAIC LAW.
Deut. XVIII. 15.
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from
the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him ye
shall hearken. Having brought the consideration of Prophecy in the Patriarchal times to a close, we may pass to the next epoch of it, which is coincident with the
promulgation of the Mosaic Law.
The deliverance from Egypt being the step of God's Providence preparatory to the institution of that Law, and to the possession of Canaan connected therewith; and being also the accomplishment of one principal part of antecedent prophecy; I will take a brief view of that event of deliverance, and of the ordinary and miraculous Providence combined, by which it was brought to pass.
After which, I will speak of the Law, and the accompanying prophecies which were joined with its promulgation.
But on moving upon this line of the prophetic history, I shall find it necessary to enter into some discussion concerning the Mosaic Law itself: for, except upon some clear and definite ideas of its nature and constitution, it will be impossible to treat sincerely of the state of prophecy concurrent with it. The principles of that Law therefore, its Sanctions, and its Types, will come under consideration; and some of the questions which have been raised on these points will be examined. And, as the result of such preliminary discussion, I propose to deduce the true and determinate relation subsisting between Prophecy, in each of its parts, and the Mosaic Law, and shew what was the state of Faith and Religion under which men were placed by those connected members of Revelation. Craving, then, a patient indulgence to a course of argument, which in some points may appear digressive, but is in truth directed throughout to the single object of elucidating the state of Prophecy, and its use, I go on with the prophetic subject.
I. Four hundred years had been foretold to Abraham, as the term of the abode appointed to his family in a foreign land; during the latter half of which period, from the death of Jacob to the Exodus, there is a pause in the communications of prophecy. When “ the time of the promise drew
nigh which God had sworn, the people grew and multiplied * ;” nor did the persecution of their Egyptian masters impede the progress of their increase and greatness; but, as it is written, “the “ more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied " and grew
* Acts vii. 17.
*.” This persecution of bondage, which was enforced with an unsparing hand, because with the rigour of a declared policy f, was an instrument which furthered the purposes of Providence to their liberation. It did not succeed to the diminution or decay of the people upon whom it was inflicted; it did succeed in disposing them to wish for their deliverance out of a land which was become, throughout its coasts, their prison-house. Nor was it more than sufficient to break off their growing attachment to their present home—that home was a seat of plenty, and had won them, under all their sufferings, by the gratification it afforded to the meaner appetites, which under the debasing influence of slavery are so apt to gain in strength, and prevail upon the character. When therefore Moses, their deliverer, had brought them out into freedom, but set before them only the table of Providence in the desert, we have their manner of spirit significantly given: “ in their heart they turned back into “ Egypt; starting aside like a broken bow *.” They turned back to the fruits and plenty they had left behind, and started aside from their great directing marksman's aim. In no material instance did they promote, scarcely did they follow, the high things proposed to be done for them. But as they were unwilling agents in the cause of prophecy, they are efficient witnesses to it in the same degree. It had foretold that which they would have defeated, had the fulfilment been left simply to their obliquity of action.
* Exod. i. 12.
† Exod. i. 10.
Psalm lxxviii. 57.
Their redemption from Egypt, which had been the subject of prophecy, was the work of miracles. God's mighty arm verified his own oracles. The judicial plagues, inflicted upon Pharaoh and his
people, were the vindication wrought by the God of Israel in his own cause : first, in pursuance of his covenant of mercy to his people, to which covenant a constant reference is made through this scene of his doings; secondly, to the confusion of “ the gods of Egypt,” and the impieties of false religion in the person of his idolatrous enemies, and to the overthrow of that obstinate pride of Unbelief which defying his commands, given in behalf of his people, opposed itself to the most sufficient evidence of a divine power, enforcing those commands. “ Who is the Lord that I should obey him," was the impious demand of Pharaoh. The reproof of his obduracy was in plagues and death upon him and his people. Tyrannic oppression, unbelief, pride, false religion, were arrayed on the one part. On the other, miracles, which had failed to convince, were multiplied to subdue; and the issue of these miracles