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SECOND PERIOD.

CHAPTER I.

EGYPTIAN CAPTIVITY AND JOCHEBED.

We are now to commence the second period of our history-an interval, differing materially from that which went before, and from that which will succeed it, yet of vital importance to the women of Israel. Their station is no longer to depend upon the changes of time and states. The protection, tenderness, reverence, and support, which, in their varied relations of life, they so imperatively need, no longer rest on the will of man alone: the God of Abraham proclaims Himself their Guardian and their Father, and, by innumerable statutes in His Holy Law, provides for their temporal and eternal welfare equally with that of man.

The mother, the wife, the daughter, the maid-servant, the widow, and the fatherless-for each and all, His love and mercy so provided, that every social and domestic duty became obedience unto Him, and woman was thus raised to that rank in the scale of intellectual and immortal beings, by the ordinance of God, from which her weakness of frame and gentle delicacy of mind would, had she depended on man's judgment alone, have entirely deprived her.

For the women of Israel were those laws issued which were to guard the innocence, purity, honour, and well-doing of woman in general throughout the world;

for, however other revelations may profess to be the first and purest, however the smile of scorn and unbelief may attend the mention of the Jewish dispensation in conjunction with woman, the truth remains the same, that as from that law every other sprung, so from that law does woman in every age, clime, rank, and race, receive her guardianship on earth, and hope of heaven.

That this assertion will meet with scorn and denial on all sides, we believe--perchance even from those whom nationality and duty both, should arouse to its defence. Yet firmly and unhesitatingly we retain the position we have advanced, prepared to defend it from the same blessed Book on which it is founded-the Word of God. Much has been said of the wide distinction between ancient and modern Judaism, of Talmudical perversions of Holy Writ, of Jewish degradation of woman, and a melancholy list of similar accusations. With them we neither have nor intend to have any thing to do, save boldly to assert, that IF there be this wide distinction between ancient and modern Judaism-IF customs and laws derogatory to God's changeless truth, and contrary to His holy Word, have crept in amongst us, the dark and bloody eras of persecution are at fault, not the ancient fathers, who knew how to die for their faith, but not to sully or degrade it. And it behoves us, in this blessed age of peace and this land of freedom, to prove the falsity of the charge, to awake and manifest to all men, that the religion of the Jew is the religion of Moses, as given by the Lord; and that if laws have crept in contrary to the spirit and the ordinances of His word, they are not Judaism, but the

remnants of an age of barbarism and darkness, when that pure and holy word was almost death to read. Oh! why has not Israel joined heart and hand in this holy cause? Why has he not borne, in charity and patience, with those who differ from him in minor points, and thought only how, by union, harmony, and love, he could exalt his nation and his faith in the sight of the Gentile world, and prove that, however close and binding may be the casket, the jewel it enshrines is still the revelation of the Lord, the religion of the Bible?

But our present task has not to do with the nation and Judaism at large; it is simply to prove to the women of Israel their position in the sight of God, and their duties towards man. The intricacies of the law, as commented upon and explained by our ancient fathers, are not for us. Woman needs only comfort, strength, and guidance, so simply yet so clearly given, that a little child may read and understand them; and these are ours, alike in the records of our female ancestors and in the precepts of the Lord.

Hitherto we have been regarding His love, mercy, and justice, as manifested to individuals; deriving lessons from example, and guidance from the Eternal's dealings with His creatures. Recorded in His book, we know that their lives are now intended for our instruction and benefit, or they would not have been written. But God knew that something yet more was needed, for the religious training and well-doing of His elected people; something more than the mere history of the past, bright as that was with the wonderful manifestations of His presence in direct communings with His saints;-and for the love He bore His faithful servant Abraham, it pleased Him to bring from the deepest darkness the purest light,

and vouchsafed a law which was to last for ever, and through which, not alone His chosen, but every nation should be blessed.

From the death of Joseph to a short time preceding the birth of Moses, Holy Writ is silent as to the history of the Israelites, both individually and nationally, except the important truth that "they were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied and waxed exceeding mighty, and the land was filled with them." Though no law had been given, they were still, it is evident, a completely distinct people, retaining a pure religion in the midst of barbarous idolatry. With no ordained worship—no re⚫ vealed ordinances-no appointed sacrifice, or priest; still they were the elect and beloved of the Lord, requiring no mediator, either angelic or human, to bring up their prayers before God, and render them acceptable. Yet God not only "heard their cry, but had respect unto them." This is a point in our history too important to be overlooked, though it concerns Israel generally, not the women of Israel alone. It is very often brought forward as a proof, that we must now be wholly rejected by the Lord, because the daily sacrifice has ceased, and many parts of the law, obligatory upon us in our own land, are scarcely possible to be observed in our captivity-the cessation of sacrifices and atonement-offerings especially are perpetually insisted upon, as proving that unless we acknowledge the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and regard him as our High Priest, we are lost temporally and eternally.

The simple fact that the Israelites in Egypt had neither sacrifice nor high priest, though the former was already ordained, yet were still a distinct people, still the

first-born of the Lord, and had power to lift up their cry to Him, and be heard, compassionated, and answered, is a sufficiently convincing answer. Israel is now, and has been for eighteen hundred years, as he was in Egypt, with the sole difference that there we were not the captives of the Lord as we are now; nor had we then a law to guide us, and by obedience prove repentance. We are now fulfilling the prophecy, that "Israel shall abide many days without priest or sacrifice," etc. (Hosea iii. 4); but the same blessed word which foretells this, says not one word of our being utterly cast off, but repeatedly enforces the divine consolation, that we have but to cry unto the Lord, even from the lands of our captivity, to be heard and compassionated as we were in Egypt. We have no need of sacrifice, when God Himself ordained that it should cease; nor can we have the head of the nation, alike of its religious, civil, and even military divisions, while scattered in every quarter of the globe. Were we to accept Jesus, in his blended character of sacrifice, atoner, and high priest, the prophecies would all remain unfulfilled; as we should still possess all these, instead of being, as the prophet so expressly declared, deprived during our captivity of "king, prince, sacrifice, image, ephod, and teraphim," Hosea iii. 4.

To Israel in Egypt they were not given; to Israel in her lengthened captivity they have ceased, until she be purified and chastened sufficiently to receive once again the visible manifestation of the Lord's acceptance, their constant attendant, and which was forfeited by our rebellion. Yet still, even as in Egypt, we are the firstborn of the Lord, and have, nationally and individually, equal access to His compassionating love.

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