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Pentateuch (9) should be read at the end of every seven years in the solemnity of the year of release, at the feast of tabernacles, in the hearing of all Israel, that all the people, men, women, and children, and the strangers within their gates, might hear, and learn to fear the Lord their God, and observe to do all the words of the Law; and especially that their children, who had not been eye-witnesses of the miracles which established its claim to their faith and obedience, might hear the marvellous history, which they were taught by their fathers, publicly declared and confirmed; and learn to fear and obey the Lord their God from the wonders of creation and providence revealed to his servant Moses, and from the supernatural powers with which he was invested. We have the authority of tradition to say, that every tribe was furnished with a copy of the Law before the death of Moses; and indeed, in almost every page of Scripture, the necessity of distributing numerous copies is implied, by the repeated injunctions for public and private instruction. · Can we require a more striking proof of the existence and designed publicity of the Law, than the command to “write all the words of the Law very plainly on pillars of
(q; Deut. c. 31, v. 10. &c.
stone, and to set them up on the day they passed over Jordan (the day they look possession of the promised land) and to plaster them over to preserve them (r)?” How could they “ teach the Law diligently to their children, and explain to them the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, and the history of their forefathers; talk of them when sitting in the house, when walking in the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up; bind the words for a sign upon their door-posts and gates, and upon their hands, and as frontlets between their eyes (s),” unless the Law had at that time been written, and they could have had easy access to copies of it? Words cannot express more strongly than these do, the general obligation of the people to acquire an accurate knowledge of the Law, and to pay a constant habitual attention to its precepts, whether these directions be taken in a literal or figurative
“Scribes of the Law" are mentioned very early, though it is uncertain whether they were established as a body of men till after the Captivity; and their very name affords some testimony to a number of copies. But must not the cities of the priests, who were commanded to teach the people, and the schools of the prophets, have
(r) Deut, c. 27. v. 2. Vide Patrick in loc,
been supplied with copies ? And surely the office of the Levite, whom every family was “ to keep within their gates," must have been to teach the Law. The command that every king, upon his accession to the throne, should “write him a copy of the Law in a book, out of that which is before the priests (t),” is a proof not only that the Law existed in writing, but that there was a copy of it under the peculiar care of the priests, that is, deposited in the tabernacle, or temple. Jacobus Capellus thought that the reading of the Law on every sabbath and festival was as old as the time of Joshua, but that it was neglected in the reign of wicked kings; and the question of the Shunamite woman's husband, “Wherefore wilt thou go up to him (the man of God) to-day? it is neither new-moon nor sabbath (u),” is a strong confirmation of his opinion, or at least of its being the custom several hundred years before the Captivity, And St. Luķe informs us, that “Moses in old time had in every city them that preached him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day (w),” which may refer to a still earlier period.
Is it credible that any people would have submitted to so rigorous and burdensome a law as
that (t) Deut. c. 17. v. 18. (u) 2 Kings, c. 4. v. 23.
(w) Acts, c. 15. V. 21,
that of Moses, unless they had been fully convinced, by a series of miracles, that he was a prophet sent from God? and being thus convinced of the divine mission of Moses, would they have suffered any writing to pass under his venerated name, of which he was not really the author ? Had fraud or imposture of any kind belonged to any part of it, would not the Israelites, at the moment of rebellion, have availed themselves of that circumstance as a ground or justification of their disobedience ? “ The Jews were exceedingly prone to transgress the Law of Moses, and to fall into idolatry; but if there had been any the least suspicion of any falsity or imposture in the writings of Moses, the ringleaders of their revolts would have sufficiently promulged it among them, as the most plausible plea to draw them off from the worship of the true God. Can we think that a nation and religion so maligned as the Jewish were, could have escaped discovery, if there had been any deceit in it, when so many lay in wait continually to expose them to all contumelies imaginable? Nay, among themselves in their frequent apostasies, and occasions given for such a pretence, how comes this to be never heard of, nor in the least questioned, whether the Law was undoubtedly of Moses's writing, or no? What
an excellent plea would this have been for Jeroboam's calves in Dan and Bethel, for the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim, could any the least suspicion have been raised among them concerning the Authenticity of the fundamental records of the Jewish commonwealth! And, which is most observable, the Jews, who were a people strangely suspicious and incredulous while they were fed and clothed by miracles, yet could never find ground to question this ; nay, and Moses himself, we plainly see, was hugely envied by many of the Israelites even in the wilderness, as is evident in the conspiracy of Korah and his accomplices; and that on this very ground that ' he took too much upon him;' how unlikely then is it, that amidst so many enemies he should dare to venture any thing into public records, which was not most undoubtedly true, or undertake to prescribe a law to oblige the people to posterity; or that after his own age any thing should come out under his name, which would not be presently detected by the emulators of his glory? What then, is the thing itself incredible ? Surely not, that Moses should write the records we speak of? Were they not able to understand the truth of it? What, not those who were in the same age, and conveyed it down by a certain tradition to posterity ? Or,