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Commentaries on the Laws of the Ancient Hebrews

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By E. C. Wines

We have here a book that will disappoint no one who looks for the fruits of ripe and thorough scholarship. Dr. Wines has given ten or twelve years of the best part of his life to the careful investigation of this subject. The treatment, we are told, is an attempt to analyze and develop systematically, the civil polity of the Hebrew Lawgiver. The substance of the book was originally delivered in the form of lectures in various theological seminaries and other places. We remember with what singular interest we listened to them, some years since.

The reader will see, therefore, that this work, though learned, is not designed exclusively for theologians and students; it is a book to be read as well as studied; and there is not a layman in the Church, or a citizen in the republic, to whom it might not be interesting and profitable.

The work indeed is especially pertinent to the legislator, the civilian, and political economist, for as it has been well remarked, Statesmen and legislators, equally with theologians, moralists and lawyers, will find the study of the Mosaic legislation a rich source of knowledge and wisdom. This code contains, undeniably, the germ of almost everything precious in modern civilization. It is a common fountain, from which the mast enlightened nations of subsequent ages have drawn their best principles of political, civil and criminal law. It abounds in shining specimens of philosophical, statesmanship and legislative policy. In short, it is a system of legislation which embodies and applies with an admirable skill and efficiency, most of the great principles of just, wise, and equal government.

Our wants in this direction should be, at least in a measure, supplied by American scholars. Granting the large liberty to draw from the exhaustless storehouse of French and German learning, our text book should, to a greater extent, be supplied by those who, having been educated under the influence of American institutions, understand the genius and necessities of our people. We look with hope to the time when the export of a critical literature, the product of accomplished scholarship, shall commence. As an earnest of that happy future, we welcome such a work as the Commentaries of the Laws of the Ancient Hebrews.

This volume appears opportunely. We have fallen upon times, where infidelity puts on its most deceptive guises. The gross and unblushing impiety of a former age, that could write its abuse of revelation without even a copy of the sacred volume, has given place to a more refined and cultivated skepticism, making many pretensions to scholarship and critical learning. And it is noticeable that all the more extensive and popular forms of infidelity seem to tend naturally to the undermining of inspiration. Scarce any thug would tend to produce a deeper respect for the Scriptures than a thorough understanding of the principles of the Hebrew commonwealth.

In the Introductory Essay on Civil Society and Government, timely, when so much is said of the principles of legislation, and so many attempts are being made to modify constitutions, the author proceeds to analyze and develop the Mosaic Code, regarding it as containing the seminal principles of all true legislation and government, and suggesting the elements of all necessary human laws and civil organizations.

The Presbyterian and Quarterly Review (March 1854)

Hardback; 642 pages

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