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Bible Truths.

By S. S.

No. VI
The Laws Of Sinai.

In discussing the Laws of Sinai, I shall not fatigue the reader by quoting them at length; for they are, or ought to be, familiar to all believers in revelation, whether they bow in worship before the ever present, but unseen “I am;” whether they believe in the atoning power of the Son of Joseph; or acknowledge Mahomet as a prophet of God; but I shall merely discuss their bearings upon the human race, as regards their duties towards God, their duties towards society, and their duties towards themselves. And first, as regards their

Duties Towards God.

From the midst of a soul-debasing bondage had the Lord redeemed the descendants of the last of the patriarchs, and, from an abject state of poverty, had raised them to one of affluence; He had also on their wearisome journey from Egypt to the plains of Sinai, supplied the daily wants of their numerous hosts; and for these great benefits He expected them to show a grateful spirit and an obedient heart. But yet the Most High did not demand a blind obedience from our forefathers—He placed no mysteries before them, which their minds could not comprehend; He asked for no exercise of faith, which reason would not sanction; but spread before their view a Law and a Covenant, which they had the liberty of accepting or rejecting. A contract it was, which they entered into without any coercion of the will, but, of the binding force of which, having once accepted it for themselves and their children they could not afterwards divest themselves unless released by God himself; yet this release, if such was ever granted, is not found recorded in the Sepher Torah.

I will show the nature of this Covenant, by quoting from the second to the tenth verse, of the nineteenth chapter of Exodus. “And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say unto the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel, Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of Israel, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do; and Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.”

Thus spoke the beneficent Father of mankind, to that race, whom He had chosen as the receptacle of his law—whom He had chosen as the instruments of civilizing and humanizing mankind. It is true a civilization had made some progress amongst the nations of antiquity; but it was of an indurating kind,—the heart had no share in it; even that tendency of the mind, its spiritual longing, had but a dwarfish growth; for its worship was one of fear, not of love. But the void in the heart of humanity was now to be filled; a voice, gentle as the soul of music, floated around the mighty host encamped before the holy mount, proclaiming “thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all. thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” And who was this Being, whom we might thus love with the whole intenseness of our natures? was it a being endowed with all the frailties of the heathen deities? was it one over whom life or death had power? No! it was the Creator of the heavens and of the earth; it was the uncreated and eternal God; it was an all-powerful and ever-present Being, who promised to cheer the captive in his dungeon, to protect the monarch on his throne, to garland the <<190>> portals of the tomb with flowers, if we would but love Him. Dear to the heart of man is the bride of his bosom, unselfish is the affection he bears to his offspring; but a dearer, a more soul-subduing, and a less selfish love was he to offer to the Omnipresent. It required no words to utter forth this love; it required no offerings to prove it; for the all-seeing Eye could behold it germinate and bloom;— it was blighted by no doubts or difficulties; for however humble our station, however poor our abilities, however unpolished our manners, we were assured of a return. It demanded but one thing of us, “to keep our lips from uttering evil, and our hearts free from guile.” As the Holy Spirit was invisible to our mortal sight, our daily walks of life were to be surrounded with mementoes, that should recall, at all times, such parts of his law as would place our duties ever before us.

These duties, however, required no self-denial on our part for their performance. They were indeed the lighteners of existence. The first was the sanctification of the seventh day; a day kept in memorial of the time, that the finishing hand of the Creator had placed the crown of beauty on this fair and lovely earth. It was to be spent in calm rejoicings. Part of it should be passed in communing through the voice of prayer, with our heavenly Father; part in the enjoyment of social delights. Care and sor­row were banished from its presence; and on it we were to have a foretaste of that eternal Sabbath that reigns evermore in the shadow of the throne of God.

Another duty was performed by obeying the command “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” We were told that in the image of God was man created, and that he was formed, not called into being, by the Creator. To be at all times ready to enter into our Maker’s presence, we were to rule our appetites, and keep our nature pure. This purity, the law informed us, could not be obtained so long as we gave our imagination a free scope, and indulged in all sensual delights. We were restricted the free par­taking of such animal food (Leviticus xi.) as was pronounced unclean; and though allowed to deprive a certain part of the sentient creation of life, to satisfy our desires, we were to do it <<191>> in such a manner that the blood, the principle of life, should flow freely forth, so that the animal should suffer no unnecessary pain.

Another duty was performed in commemorating, in a proper manner, those times and seasons, wherein the providence of the Most High had either blessed us with plenty, or those which recalled some period in our history, when the Omnipotent had stretched out his arm to redeem us from peril, or to ward off danger. And these seasons were to be hailed as periods of glad delight; they were to be spent in prayer and rejoicing,—deeds of good fellowship and social joys. They were to bind more strongly together the family circle; they were to impress upon our minds more forcibly the watchful care of God’s providence; they were to revivify our faith, and strengthen our trust in the Most High, and inspire us with such feelings of love towards our beneficent Protector, as can alone emanate from a pure and grateful heart.

Another great duty we had to perform, was, to be ever ready to bear testimony to the unity and incorporeality of God (Exodus chap. xx.), even to the sacrifice of life itself. Of all the errors of mankind, none seem more prevalent, than a belief in a plurality of the Godhead, or rather I should say, in the belief that the powers of the “one God” are divided amongst a number of beings possessing more or less energy, and this notwithstanding the Most High so often declares throughout the Sepher Torah, that He is the sole, undivided, incorporeal God, and this in language so plain and forcible, that human thought is at a loss for terms of a more explicit weight. Yet has this heathen belief still such force and hold upon the human mind, that a portion of those who believe in revelation, have not been able to divest themselves of it. And as in the ancient superstition prevailing amongst the Canaanites and Tyrians, it was said that their god Baal, the god of the Sun, and the god of the fire (the Moloch of the Bible), sacrificed his son to heaven: so in a more modern creed has it been set forth, that the God of heaven required a human sacrifice, and that sacrifice, his son and equal. So abhor rent was this sin, “the bowing down and the worshipping of other gods” (Exodus xx. 5) to the Eternal One, that the evil attending it was even to be visited upon the children of the third and <<192>> fourth generation. The idea of the greatness of God, would indeed lose much of its sublimity and grandeur, were we to acknowledge, that He had coequals; that the glorious creations which science has opened to our view, coursing through the fields of space, had other architects, than the sole “I am.” But fortunately for man, the belief in the unity of God, was placed beyond the reach of accident or time; for when the Eternal proclaimed it from amidst the thick clouds which veiled his glory, when He descended on Mount Sinai, He impressed it so indelibly upon the hearts of his hearers, that they should “believe for ever.”

And have not the powers of earth used all their might for the extir­pation of this belief? Have not the rack, the fire, and the sword, each striven to pluck it forth from out the hearts of the sons of Israel? Have not the charms of beauty, the lust of power, the magic of gold, each been exerted to woo the child of God from his duty to God’s Law;— and have they succeeded? Ask the winds which blow over the icy regions of the North, whether they bear not testimony to the unity of Him who allows them to wander? Ask the perfumed breezes of the lovely South, what words mix with the incense of their breath, from the farthest East to the distant West;— ask the airy messengers, and their answer shall be—“In the cool of the morning, in the shades of the evening, we alike hear the words, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom, for ever and ever.’ ”