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THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES.
JOSHUA, X. 40.
So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.
I HAVE known serious and well disposed Christians much affected with the accounts, which are delivered in the 'Old Testament,' of the Jewish wars and dealings with the inhabitants of Canaan. From the Israelites first setting foot in that country, to their complete establishment in it, which takes up the whole 'Book of Joshua' and part of the Book of Judges,' we read, it must be confessed, of massacres and desolations unlike what are practised nowadays between nations at war, of cities and districts laid waste, of the inhabitants being totally destroyed, and this, as it is alleged in the history, by the authority and command of Almighty God. Some have been induced to think such accounts incredible, inasmuch as such conduct could never, they say, be authorized by the good and merciful Governor of the universe.
I intend in the following discourse to consider this matter so far as to show that these transactions were calculated for a beneficial purpose, and for the general advantage of mankind; and, being so calculated, were not inconsistent either with the justice of God, or with the usual proceedings of Divine Providence.
Now the first and chief thing to be observed is, that the nations of Canaan were destroyed for their wickedness. In proof of this point, I produce the eighteenth chapter of 'Leviticus,' the twenty-fourth and the following verses. Moses, in this chapter, after laying down prohibitions against brutal and abominable vices, proceeds in the twenty-fourth verse thus -"Defile not yourselves in any of these things, for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you, and the land is defiled; therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: for all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you, and the land is defiled, that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from amongst their people. Therefore shall ye keep my ordinances, that ye commit not any of these abominable customs which were committed before you; and that ye defile not yourselves therein." Now the facts disclosed in this passage are for our present purpose extremely material, and extremely satisfactory, First, The passage testifies the principal point, namely, that the Canaanites were the wicked people we represent them to be; and that this point does not rest upon supposition, but upon proof: in particular, the following words contain an express assertion of the guilt of that people: "In all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you; for all these abominations have the men of the land done." Secondly, The form and turn of expression seems to show that
these detestable practices were general amongst them, and habitual: they they are said to be abominable customs which were committed. Now the word custom is not applicable to a few single or extraordinary instances, but to usage and to national character, which argues that not only the practice but the sense and notion of morality was corrupted amongst them, or lost; and it is observable that these practices, so far from being checked by their religion, formed a part of it. They are described not only under the name of abominations, but of abominations which they have done unto their gods. What a state of national morals must that have been! Thirdly, The passage before us positively and directly asserts that it was for these sins that the nations of Canaan were destroyed. This, in my judgment, is the important part of the inquiry? And what do the words under consideration declare? "In all these, namely, the odious and brutal vices which had been spoken of, the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it." This is the reason and cause of the calamities which I bring on it. The land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. The very land is sick of its inhabitants; of their odious and brutal practices; of their corruption and wickedness. This, and no other, was the reason for destroying them. This, and no other, is the reason here alleged. It was not, as hath been imagined, to make way for the Israelites: nor was it simply for their idolatry. It appears to me extremely probable that idolatry in those times led in all countries to the vices here described: and also that the detestation, threats, and severities, expressed against idolatry in the 'Old Testament,' were not against idolatry simply, or considered as an erroneous religion, but against the abominable crimes which usually accompanied it.
I think it quite certain that the case was so in the nations of Canaan.-Fourthly, it appears from the passage before us, and what is surely of great consequence to the question, that God's abhorrence and God's treatment of these crimes were impartial without distinction, and without respect of nations or perThe words which point out the Divine impartiality are those, in which Moses warns the Israelites against falling into any of the like wicked courses; "that the land," says he, "cast not you out also, when you defile it, as it cast out the nations that were before you; for whoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people." The Jews are sometimes called the chosen and favoured people of God, and, in a certain sense, and for some purposes, they were so; yet is this very people, both in this place, and in other places over and over again, reminded that, if they followed the same practices, they must expect the same fate. "Ye shall not walk in the way of the nations which I cast out before you : for they committed all those things, and therefore I abhorred them; as the nations which the Lord destroyed before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye were not obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God."
What farther proves, not only the justice, but the clemency of God, his long-suffering, and that it was the incorrigible wickedness of those nations which at last drew down upon them their destruction, is, that he suspended, as we may so say, the stroke till their wickedness was come to such a pitch that they were no longer to be endured. In the fifteenth chapter of 'Genesis,' God tells Abraham that his descendants of the fourth generation should return into that country, and not before: "for the iniquity," saith he, "of the
Amorites is not yet full." It should seem from hence that so long as their crimes were confined within any bounds, they were permitted to remain in their country. We conclude therefore, and we are well warranted in concluding, that the Canaanites were destroyed on account of their wickedness. And that wickedness was perhaps aggravated by their having had amongst them Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; examples of a purer religion and a better conduct; still more by the judgments of God so remarkably set before them in the history of Abraham's family; particularly by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; at least these things prove that they were not without warning, and that God did not leave himself without witness among them.
Now when God, for the wickedness of a people, sends an earthquake, or a fire, or a plague amongst them, there is no complaint of injustice, especially when the calamity is known, or expressly declared beforehand, to be inflicted for the wickedness of such people. It is rather regarded as an act of exemplary penal justice, and, as such, consistent with the character of the moral Governor of the universe. objection, therefore, is not to the Canaanitish nations. being destroyed (for when their national wickedness is considered, and when that is expressly stated, as the cause of their destruction, the dispensation, however severe, will not be questioned): but the objection is solely to the manner of destroying them. I mean there is nothing but the manner left to be objected to: their wickedness accounts for the thing itself. To which objection it may be replied, that, if the thing itself be just, the manner is of little signification: of little signification even to the sufferers themselves. For where is the great difference, even to them, whether they were destroyed by an earthquake, a pesti