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to enforce and confirm that principle, to be of retrospective or necessary obligation upon themselves. However this be, those descendants of Terah, who are not included in the promise, must have peopled a great portion of Asia. They include the offspring of Abraham's brother, and sons by Keturah, of Ishmaël, and of Esau. All these tribes may have retained some notion of a common origin, as well as many customs and opinions of their great ancestors. All would be disposed to cherish those observances, which reminded them of their superiority over others, and which, superadded to the peculiar principle which prevailed around them, and which they shared, rendered them distinct among the distinct. The most eminent of these tribes was that of Ishmael's descendants; into which the others most probably, in a great measure, merged; and from whom, as Mr. Forster proves, the nobler tribes of the Arabians sprang. These would inherit many traditions and precepts, all tending to exalt the principle of separation and division, as sanctioned and confirmed by the divine approbation. It appears, indeed, to have been connected with sentiments of delicacy, dignity, honour, morality, and religion; and its degeneracy consisted in becoming disjoined from these sentiments, and existing only as a superstitious prejudice, not op
posed to the most depraved state of worship and manners. How do we know but that this feeling may have originally been the real lex non scripta, the law of natural conscience,—the unerring, “never-dying echo of the eternal voice ?” It had prevailed for many centuries among the merely natural descendants of Abraham, when, among his spiritual descendants, it was renewed, augmented, and sanctioned by the Divine Revelation and Will. The Mosaic Law applied the principle of separation to a whole people; extended, ratified, and guarded it by stronger and more definite barriers. The Israëlites had probably observed very many of the rites of their Law, long before it had been promulgated ; and they had lived amongst a people who, although in no way derived from the Abrahamic stock, carried the indefinable principle to which we allude to a most superstitious height. The Mosaic ritual added to the ancient observances some borrowed from the Egyptian, and others original ; and was enjoined upon the chosen people, as an unalienable and solemn pledge of the distinction, separation, and division to be kept up between them and the Gentiles. The juxtaposition of some of those observances, which are merely ceremonial, by those duties strictly moral, and their intermixture and association in various injunctions and prohibitions, must con
vince us of the importance attached to the principle in question. The conquest of Canaan,—the establishment of the Jews,—their wars with the Philistines,-their kingdom,--the glories and commerce of Solomon,—the subsequent misfortunes, emigrations, and dispersions of the people, -the invasions of Judea,--the captivities,-the convulsions of the time of Alexander the Great,--the
persecutions of the Syro-Grecian rulers,--the grandeur of the Maccabees and of Herod, contributed to maintain a knowledge of the Jewish religion among the neighbouring nations. The Arabians, at the period of the Exodus, were probably, in general, worshippers of the True God; for Job and the father-in-law of Moses were both Arabs. They seem to have subsequently declined to heroworship and Sabeanism. Their error would appear to have mainly consisted in an adoration of certain symbolical representations of the creative power of the Deity; to which power the cherubim of the mercy-seat may have possessed some references: but in their idolatrous practices, the Israëlites willingly rivalled them; nor did much practical distinction exist between the subjects of Jeroboam and his successors and the surrounding and bordering Arab tribes. To both, the notions of repugnance to the “cò xosvov," (see Rev. xxi, 27,) the principle of distinction, would be a sen
timent sacredly cherished. With both, the practice of circumcision prevailed; to both were prophecies addressed, and Jewish prophets sent; and, as might be conjectured, many of the Arabs, the Idumæans, and others, professed at last the Jewish religion. This faith, no doubt, would have been still further promulgated among the Arabs, had not a natural prejudice rendered them unwilling to degrade their great ancestor Ishmaël, or diminish his dignity by acknowledging the supremacy of the offspring of Isaac.
The manner in which Christianity dealt with this innate ancient Law, and its upholders and recipients, was remarkable. With the Mosaic obligations Christianity came into direct collision ; and nothing can be more admirable than the readiness with which the first evangelic teachers prohibited the imposition of customs and ceremonies intertwined with every occurrence of life, and dear to the feelings of pride and veneration, to a degree which we can hardly conceive. Even circumcision, common to the Jewish and Ishmaëlite race, and regarded as the seal and pledge of the Abrahamic covenant, was no more enjoined; yet, whilst any prospective promulgation of these rites was discountenanced and prohibited, those who had already received and practised them were suffered to retain them; and, moreover, by
an express decree, the grand eastern law of separation was recognised and recommended. The mandate of the Apostles, from Jerusalem, contains four prohibitions only-forbidding the eating of meats offered to idols, of blood, of things strangled, and fornication. But the principle of separation and division is plainly to be traced in it; and it involves the same intermixture of ritual with moral “ vetita” and “inhonesta," as is observable in the Mosaic code. It was addressed to the Christians of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia; but was probably communicated also to those Christians whose origin or country would lead them to entertain the same scruples as those which agitated the above churches, and would be accepted as a pledge that those feelings, regarded as sacred for ages, would not be rudely violated, but purified by the introduction of Christianity. No doubt this decision removed a powerful obstacle to the progress of the Gospel, which spread rapidly in Asia Minor and Egypt, and obtained a deep footing in Abyssinia. Still, it must not be denied, that the general spirit of Christianity opposed the excluding principle we speak of. The apostolic mandate was, in all probability, addressed to those only who needed it, and was designed to be only of local and temporary authority. Among the European Christians it was perhaps unknown,