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they declared,—" All that the Lord hath spoken will we do. popular vote, unanimously and without precedent, God became their king and sovereign, and the commandments and statutes of the Lord their written constitution.
Each of the ten articles of this instrument was made the basis of subsequent legislation, alike applicable to church and
Each was a kernel or root, capable of expansion and innumerable applications, much as the separate articles of the constitution of the United States. The more profoundly either are studied, the more apparent is their susceptibility of application to all emergencies, indicating latent principles yet to become universally developed and applied.
THEOCRACY. Here is its inauguration, a government from God, enacted and administered by Moses during his lifetime, then by Joshua and his successors for more than four centuries. In some respects it reminds one of the consular government of Rome, though difering from that and all others, yet warring upon none.
Its object was three-fold; first, to insure the worship of the one only true God, as supreme, perfect and worthy ; second, to proscribe idolatry, then universally prevalent ; third, to secure in return the highest welfare of the people. An additional object may have been, the illustration of moral principles in human governments.
Resistance to any theocratic requirement or to any one trusted with the administration of government, was rebellion against God, against the state and church, a violation of a solemn covenant. In accepting God as king, they pledged themselves to strict obedience to him, and, of necessity, to whatever he ordained. By popular vote they had made idolatry a crime, treason, punishable with death. Hence, the severity of the legislation against the worship of idols.
UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
We have it in Theocracy as here established. The government then forming, was, from the nature of the case, theocratic and of a two-fold nature, religious and secular. It was quite unlike all other existing governments in being furnished with a written constitution, proposed to and considered by the people, acted upon and accepted by popular vote.
RELIGION A STATE INSTITUTION. This was deducible from theocracy. It was required of all; to it, all were pledged. They were forbidden to copy or mix with the heathen, the worship of whose gods was treason. The presidency and worship of the one God were to be acknowledged and promoted ; and when, subsequently, they rejected their theocratic government, they repudiated God as king, and in his dethronement were chargeable with the highest possible crime.
UNITY OF THE PEOPLE.
This comes from the consolidation of the tribes. By that, though twelve separate bodies, they were cemented into one. The precise time of consolidation, whether previous to their Sinaitic encampment or subsequent, may not be as apparent as the fact itself, but, by reorganization or otherwise, the compact was formed, and the twelve tribes, united in one, held councils on public affairs; the united body having the same oneness of interest, a similar individuality characterizing the larger as the less. In both instances, the general welfare was the object ; for this they entered into union, the parts were blended into a whole; yet, like our states, each retained certain prerogatives and local considerations, not essential to the perfection of the union. But this perfection of organization was only that of an earthly compound, for the compact was frequently broken. The tribes, as states, having interests of their own not surrendered to the union, took exceptions to the majority rule and occasionally revolted. The loyal tribes resorted to coercive measures to reduce the disloyal to submission. A revolt against the general government, by person or tribe, was an offence against each loyal person and tribe. Examples are found in the 11th and 20th chapters of Judges, and also in the cases of Absalom and Rehoboam. Tribes struggled for supremacy, especially Ephraim and Judah. Each was ambitious to lead, hence the conflicts and trials of relative strength, recorded in several of the Biblical historical books. Yet these were exceptions, and occurred a long time subsequent to the organization of the general government. The government was a peace establishment, though liable to perversions. Expeditions were forbidden, foreign conquests were unlawful, cavalry was prohibited, horses were proscribed to guard against temptation. Standing armies were neither lawful nor essential, though by impromptu organization invasions might be repelled, and rebellions suppressed. But in this, the government was humane, often, if not always, proposing terms of submission before letting loose the thunder-bolts of war.
Unity of the people, as a rule, is not only evident from the fusion of the tribes, but from the unity of the object of their worship, from the requirement of unity in their worship, from the unity of church and state, in short, from their accepted Theocracy. It is evident also from the manner in which they are addressed, always implying one people; in the prohibitions and requirements and also in the guarantees of government, in return for individual concessions to the state. There was no central power to overawe beyond what the people delegated, and being the source of power, they could withdraw it if abused, ever holding magistrates responsible. The part which the masses took in the formation of the
government, as seen in their frequent conventions, by delegates or en masse, the interest had in carrying forward the government in the appointments and elections, also their public sanctions, the consultation of one and the same oracle by magistrate and people through one invariable medium, and also the general neutrality of the ruling and ruled, are all in proof that their confederation was a one people's government. And this was strengthened by the fact that their officers were not salaried, at once preventing distinctions arising from popular favor ; and, being plain men, laboring for the general welfare, patrons of morality, promoters of religion, serving church and state, having neither badge nor diadem, excepting the high priest, the masses regarded them fraternally.
The Hebrews were a nation of peasants, agriculture was the basis of the state, the ownership of land the source of power. The same principle universally holds good at the present time, the possessors of the greater amount of landed property being allowed corresponding influence and power in the government. Excess leads to monopoly and oppression, to class distinctions, but the legislation of Moses provided against this in a general distribution of land. Large estates and baronies were proscribed. Excepting the Levites, every Hebrew male child was put in possession of a tract of land. A farm for every one was the policy. All were equal in this, none could become absolute. The cultivator of the soil was its owner. All were interested in the soil they cultivated. All were stimulated to activity, to improvment, to the increase and support of families, to the development of manhood, to the means of happiness and to an equal interest in the state, its magistrates, laws and institutions. To the same extent was forced, unpaid labor prevented; poverty, unthrift and dependence guarded against, and independence secured. In the same proportion were the people not only interested in the state and its government, but were able to meet current expenses, pay taxes, and otherwise contribute to the public welfare.
To preserve equality and secure ownership of land on a permanent basis, provision was made, that, where lands had been mortgaged, as sometimes they were, and temporarily passed into other hands, they should return to the original owners. If allowed to remain permanently possessed by the mortgagee the equilibrium of society would be disturbed ; estates would enlarge, power accumulate in the hands of a few, aristocracy and wealth on the one hand, servility and poverty on the other, would inevitably follow; labor become unpopular, the land unproductive, and suffering or want be confronted by affluence and oppression. To prevent this, lands were made hereditary, and as an additional safeguard, there was an established limitation to debts and other obligations.
THE SEVENTH YEAR.
The foregoing provision received an illustration on every seventh year. Even the land shared in its cultivation that year being forbidden, the year previous producing enough for two
years, so that with the discharge of poor debtors and the release of a certain portion of apprenticed servants, the land itself should have rest and share in the festivity. Debts weighing heavily for one or more of the six preceding years were canceled, died of limitation. The poor man, disappointed in business, or otherwise unfortunate, and unable to discharge his obligations, was fully released and encouraged to begin anew. But the greater festival, the equalizer and leveller,—the great smoothing plane, was
Its legal occurrence was every fiftieth year. Its great significance arose from the fact that on that year, not only were all debts discharged, as on the seventh, but all slaves were liberated, and all mortgaged lands, as previously noticed, reverted to the possession of former owners or their heirs. Thus, monopoly of ownership and power, destitution and degradation were foreclosed. Laborers, for years in the employ of others, became the owners of the lands they cultivated, possessors of homesteads, hitherto controlled by and worked for the benefit of a quasi nobility.
By such means, agriculture became a pleasant and profitable pursuit, and the principal employment of the people. It enlisted the first, the highest and best men of the Old Testament history. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Amos and others of note, all“ loved husbandry.” No other department of labor received so strong legal stimulants, none was so attractive to the wise, the considerate and the good, and none was so conducive to the general welfare. In this we make no exception, not even to commerce, thought by some, worthier of legislation,-an opinion, unsupported by considerations of profit, morality or patriotism, simplicity of manners or domestic happiness. Thus, and by other legal means, social relations were provided for, life rendered sacred, industry encouraged as well as demanded, idleness made a crime, and labor and love of country pronounced sterling virtues.
They were held three times in every year, calling together