Зображення сторінки
[ocr errors]

have the sanction of the Almighty, were to be ruled by fear rather than by love, is not surprising; and so we find the Lawgiver stern in His commands; and, in His punishment for their infraction, harsh and unrelenting. When He who would give no other account of Himself, even to the favoured instrument of His will, than, “I am that I am," came down from heaven to proclaim His commandments, He descended in fire, and threatened with instant death any who dared to touch the holy mountain on which He had alighted. He visited the sins of those who worshipped other gods,“ upon the children unto the third and fourth generation":

“For thou shalt worship no other God; for the Lord whose

name is jealous is a jealous God.

He that sacrificeth unto any God save unto the Lord only,

he shall be utterly destroyed.”

His criminal code was terrible, and although it was no doubt absolutely necessary, it indicated the savage nature of the people for whom it was framed:

“He that smiteth a man that he die shall surely be put to

He that stealeth a man and selleth him ... shall surely

be put to death. ..
He that smiteth ... and he that curseth his father, or his

mother, shall surely be put to death.
Life for life . . . eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand,

foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe
for stripe."

This was the will of the Deity, who sanctioned the slave

trade though He forbade man-stealing, and who is represented as placing but little value upon the life of a slave: “ If a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he

die under bis hand, he shall surely be punished; notwithstanding if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money.”

Bribery, extortion, and other sins are condemned, but in every case the fears of the people are appealed to, and not their sense of right. When the terrified nation so dreaded their God that:

“They said unto Moses, speak thou with us and we will hear,

but let not God speak with us lest we die,”

he comforted them in these words, “ Fear not, for God is come to prove you, that his fear may be

before your faces and ye sin not.”

Let us not dwell upon this picture. It represents at best a stern Lawgiver and Judge, Ruler of gods and men ; a superior Patriarch, a venerable Jove, claiming undivided allegiance and worship. He curbed the wild passions of the nomad race who claimed Him as their own in prosperity, but turned away from Him at the first breath of adversity to "go a whoring” after other gods. He enjoined also respect to parents and to those in authority, forbade crime and the worst kinds of vice, and condescended to give directions as to the minutest details, not only of religious ceremony, but of domestic management. The divine and human are intimately associated in this first conception of the Jehovah who reigned over Israel. Whilst His commands were issued in a voice of thunder, and were

surrounded by all the terrors with which priestcraft and superstition could invest them, the bolt which followed the infraction of his laws was often averted by the timely intercession of priestly and patriarchal wisdom and mercy, which made atonement" for the sins that merited correction. He was no doubt a Deity well suited to that people and to those days, as he still continues to be a necessary element in modern artificial schemes of salvation; but we shall do well to pass on to a more exalted idea of Him whom no human eye has seen and no ear heard, and who being a Spirit can be worshipped in the spirit alone.


THE GOD OF ISRAEL-continued.

“There is none holy as the Lord, for there is none beside thee, neither is there any rock like our God.”—I. SAMUEL, chap. ii., v. 2.

ALTHOUGH we now leave behind us the picture of the stern Judge to approach that of the benignant Sovereign of the universe, still it is difficult to light upon a representation of Him entirely freed from that “fierce wrath ” which has been so prominent a feature in the early Hebrew conception of the Divinity. Even when we find Him a spiritual Ruler ; the holy, wise, adorable, self-existent Governor of the world, the old anger and vindictiveness sometimes break out, and are rendered more conspicuous by the expanded human sympathies of those by whom He is depicted.

Here is a well-known illustration taken from somewhat later times; God had ordered Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites—"man, woman, infant, suckling, ox, sheep, camel, ass”; but Saul spared Agag the king, and brought away “his sheep, oxen, and chief things that should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord in Gilgal.” Samuel, however, the Priest of Israel, told Saul that God wanted obedience, not sacrifice. Perhaps he did not consider Saul quite so disinterested as he professed, in seeking to preserve Agag and his goods; but be that as it may, he ordered Agag to be brought to him, and not

Hannah says:

[ocr errors]

withstanding the pleading of Saul, “Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal”; and God, to show His disapproval of Saul's forbearance and His approbation of the ferocious justice of Samuel, deposed the former and placed David on his throne.

But now let us reproduce for the first time a woman's picture of her God. Hannah “ There is none holy as the Lord, for there is none beside Thee;

neither is there any rock like our God. ... The Lord is a God of knowledge; by him actions are

weighed. The Lord killeth and maketh alive. . . . The Lord maketh

poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low and lifteth up." and with a true woman's sympathy,

“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust." And then the one true and only God stands forth unmistakably in David's sacred lays : “For the gods of the people are idols; but the Lord made the

Glory and honour are in his presence.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.
Let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice, and let men

say among the nations, the Lord reigneth!
The heavens declare the glory of God, the firinament showeth

his handiwork. O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good: for his mercy

endureth for ever.” And Solomon, too, spreads His praise abroad, chanting the wisdom and goodness of the Infinite: “Behold heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain

Thee; how much less this house which I have built. .. Hear Thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven, and

where Thou hearest, forgive.”


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »