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A. M. 4037, radise, yet did not leave them wholly to themselves, but revealed his will to the patri&c. or 5442. archs of the different families from time to time, as they had occasion for such superVulg. Er. 33, natural instruction, and were inclined to receive it. Sin, however, which had now en&c. or 31. tered into the world, spread like a contagious disease; the most monstrous idolatry was combined with almost universal corruption; and mankind became totally unfit for that incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, to which they had the Divine promise that they should in due time be restored through the mediation of one born of a woman. From this depravity it was necessary to reclaim them; for to such "sensual, earthly, devilish beings," a redemption from the death which they had incurred by the sin of Adam, could have been no blessing.
The principal object of this Work is to give an historical view of all the means that were from time to time employed by infinite wisdom and perfect goodness to accomplish so benevolent a purpose. Revelations, as hath been just observed, were occasionally given to the patriarchs both before and after the flood, some of them followed by the most tremendous judgments on the most guilty part of those to whom they were made; but they failed as well to preserve the comparatively innocent in the paths of duty, as to extricate the more guilty from the labyrinth of error and the mire of corruption, in which they had so deeply intangled themselves. Religion, guarded by the sanction of rewards and punishments, which were neither seen nor felt in this world, laid no hold of the minds of groveling idolaters, who, when they had reached the last stage of their depravity, had probably little faith in a future state.: A religion therefore enforced by the moral sanction of rewards and punishments immediately dispensed in this world with inflexible justice, seems to have been the only expedient left for the reformation of mankind sunk in the abyss of sin and idolatry; and this expedient the wisdom and goodness of God adopted. It is obvious, however, that such a religion could not be made universal, so as to comprehend the whole human race living in a state which was intended to be merely preparatory to another, and which no man was to quit but by passing through the valley and shadow of death; for were piety and virtue uniformly rewarded, and profaneness and vice as uniformly punished in this world, it is not easy to be conceived by what means the eye of faith could be kept steadily fixed on another state beyond the grave. God therefore was graciously pleased to make choice of a single family, which advanced into a nation, might be placed under a theocratic government, and made the centre from which the principles of true religion were to be gradually diffused, as men should be able to receive them, over the face of the whole earth.
Such, as we have seen in the course of this work, was the ultimate purpose for which the children of Israel were separated from the rest of the world, and placed under a government, by the administration of which every sin was in this world punished as a crime against the laws of the state, and idolatry or apostacy, as high treason, which it really was, against their king as well as God. By these means the principles of what is called natural religion were as faithfully guarded in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as have been the practice of common honesty, and all the external duties of social life, in any other nation under heaven; whilst the history of the creation and fall of man; of the destruction of the world for its wickedness by the deluge; of the call of their illustrious ancestor Abraham, and the promise made to him, that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed, were preserved, and read with reverence, in their most sacred books. In those books were likewise prescribed a ritual and form of worship admirably calculated to preserve them from the contagion of the surrounding idolatry, and at the same time to give them some general notion of the means, by which the consequences of the first transgression were to be removed, and all the promises, in the fulness of time, fulfilled, which had been made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their notions of these things appear indeed to have been at first very ob
scure; but the veil was gradually removed by the prophets, as the people became more from Matth. and more able to bear the splendour of the light within, which was very far from being end, Mark xi. the case with them at the period of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, or indeed 15. to the end, for many generations afterwards.
xx. 10. to the
Luke xix. 45. to the end, and
The Mosaic law therefore is with great propriety styled by St Paul (a) the school-John xii. 19. master of the Jews to bring them to Christ; and we have seen, in the history of that to the end. people, and of the nations with which they had the most considerable intercourse, how admirably it was calculated, not only to serve that purpose, but also to diffuse through the world the principles of true religion, as well as the expectation of some great prince to arise in Judea for the good of mankind—an expectation which actually prevailed in the East about the period of our Lord's advent. The dispensation therefore under which the descendants of Israel lived, is not to be considered as having been given for the sake of that people alone, but as an essential link of that great chain, which will be found to extend from the fall of man to the consummation of all things —as an important part of that vast scheme of revealed religion, which began when our first parents fell from their paradisaical state, and will continue till the final judgment, when Christ, as the Mediator, "shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is DEATH," when the redemption of man will be completed. "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him. that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
As the Jewish nation was selected and set apart from all other nations, to be the repository of Divine truth, and the instruments of converting the rest of the world, they are called the elect or chosen people of God (b); and so great was the change from Egyptian bondage and idolatry into that happy state, into which they had been called by the God of their fathers, that it is compared to a new creation, a new birth, and a new life (c); and they themselves are said to have been saved, delivered, purchased, and redeemed (d) by him. When they were settled in the land of Canaan, and their government completely formed, they became the Kingdom of God; because he was their temporal Sovereign (e), as well as the sole object of their religious adoration, and they his subjects. As the great and ultimate purpose for which they were established under that form of government, was not only that true religion might be preserved among themselves, but also that from them it might be gradually diffused through the whole world, they are called a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (f); though it is plain to every reader of their history, that among them the priesthood was confined to one family, and that personal holiness was far from being at any time the attribute of every individual of the nation. As the other nations of the world, though equally with the descendants of Israel related to God, who was the Creator of them all, did not belong to this peculiar kingdom of God, and so were not his subjects in the same sense with the Jews, they are frequently described as strangers and aliens, and sometimes as being even not a people; (g) whilst, on account of their idolatries and corrupt morals, they are occasionally called the enemies of God. These strangers, aliens, and enemies, however, could, on certain conditions, be incorporated with the Israelites, and become in all respects as one born in the land, (h) entitled to every privilege of the Mosaic dispensation,
(a) Gal. iii. 24. Isaiah xli. 8, 9. xlv. 4.
(b) Deut. iv. 37. vii. 6. x. 15. Psalm xxxiii. 12. cv. 43. cvi. 5. (c) Deut. xxxii. 18. Isa. xliii. 1. 7. 15. Ezek. xvi. 3. 6. Zech. x. 9, (d) Exodus iii. 8. vi. 6. xiv. 80. xv. 16. Deuteronomy xxxiii. 29. Psalm lxxiv. 2. cvi. 21. Isaiah xliii. 3. (e) Book v. chap. iii. of this Work; Dissertation C. (f) Exod. xix. 6. (g) Deut. xiv. 21. xxxii. 21. Hosea i. 10. ii. 23. Psalm lxxviii. 66. Isaiah xlii. 13. lix. 18. Romans v. 10. ix. 25, 26. (h) Exod. xii. 48, 49. Numb. ix. 14.
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and as much the elect of God and subjects of his peculiar kingdom, as those who by ordinary generation had descended in a direct line from either of the patriarchs Judah and Benjamin.
This elect people of God are frequently called the congregation or church of the Lord, (a) as well as his kingdom; and as such are repeatedly said to be sanctified (b) as a body, though as individuals they were a rebellious and backsliding people. When a proselyte from heathenism was by baptism and circumcision admitted into this holy church of the Jews, and had offered sacrifice, he was said to have been born again and become a new creature; insomuch that his former relation to his father and mother and brothers and sisters, nay, even to his wife herself, was considered as wholly dissolved, if those persons continued idolaters *.
This elect and chosen people, who had been called out of Egypt and its idolatries; this congregation of the Lord; this kingdom of Israel, of Judah, and of GOD, was the true and only church of God from the giving of the law to the rending of the vail of the temple at the crucifixion of our Lord. Its members enjoyed many advantages over all the other nations then in the world; for " to them were committed the oracles of God" to guide them to "the knowledge of the truth," and instruct them how " to obey it:" to them" appertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; their's were the fathers, and of them as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all God blessed forever (c)." But the ultimate purpose, for which all these privileges were conferred on the posterity of Israel, was that from them, as from a centre, the light of revelation might be diffused over the whole earth, so as to communicate to all mankind, as they should become able to receive it, the knowledge of the relation in which they stand to God; of the stupendous scheme, by which life and immortality, after being forfeited by their first parents, had been restored to the whole human race; and of those pure principles of religion, on which alone they could "work out their own salvation with fear and trembling," and thus become, through Divine grace, meet to be partakers" of the inheritance of the saints in light."
This ultimate end of the Mosaic dispensation was indeed but obscurely prefigured in the rites of the law, of which the immediate sanctions were temporal rewards and punishments; and the rest to which the great body of the church looked forward in earnest expectation, when wandering in the wilderness, was probably nothing more than full possession of the land of Canaan and great worldly prosperity. Similar expectations of worldly greatness, with a firm persuasion of the perpetual obligation of the law of Moses, prevailed among that blinded people till the final removal of their "place and nation," to use their own words; but from the very beginning many of them undoubtedly saw through the vail, to that future rest behind it, of which the land of Canaan was but a very faint type. By the additional light which the prophets in succession threw upon this obscure object, and by other circumstances which it would be of no use to state here, the hope of a future state, and of the resurrection of the dead, became at last almost national, though their ideas of the enjoyments of that state appear to have been very gross; whilst by some of them it was confined to their own nation alone. Even this progress in religious knowledge, small as to us it must appear, together with the
(a) Numb. xvi. 3. xxvii. 17. 1 Chron. xxviii. 8. Ps. lxxiv. 2. Acts vii. 38.
(6) Exod. xxxi. 13. Lev.. xx. 8. xxi. 8. xxii. 9, 16,
* Inter Gentem Judaicam hoc traditum est, et communiter receptum; Quod Gentilis factus Prosely tus, et servus manumissus, ecce est ut puer modo natus: nam pro cognatis consanguineis, quos habuit
dum erat Ethnicus aut servus, reputare non debet. Lightfoot, Quatuor Evangelist. Harm. p. iii. sect. 14. See likewise Hammond's and Whitby's Annotations on the various texts of the new Testament, in which mention is made of regeneration, and being born again.
(c) Rom. iii. 2. ix. 4, 5,
end, Mark xi.
to the end, and
universal peace that prevailed in the world during the greater part of the reign of Augustus, From Matth. constituted the fulness of time for the appearance of him, whose office it was to "abo- xx. 10. to the lish death and bring life and immortality" to light through the Gospel;" to correct their 15. to the end gross notions of heavenly happiness; to "break down the middle wall of partition be- Luke xix. 45. tween the Jews and Gentiles-making of both one people; to reconcile both to God in John xii. 19. to one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; to preach peace to them that the end. were afar off, as well as to those that were nigh;" and to be "a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel." (a)
The preaching of the Gospel however is not to be considered as a revelation entirely new. Our Lord and his apostles constantly appealed to the law and the prophets; and what they taught was merely the completion of that great plan for rendering man meet for the inheritance which had been recovered for him by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; a plan which had commenced with the fall of our first parents, and was gradually unfolded through the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations; till "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins (δι ̓ ἑαυτοῦ καθαρισμὸν ποιησάμενος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," (b) thus proving himself to be the seed of the woman promised to our first parents, and "the author and finisher of our faith." (c)
He who had the power of death was now actually destroyed; and the kingdom of heaven, which had been shut against the whole human race by the fall of the first Adam, was again opened to all men by this triumph of the second over hell and the grave; but all were not meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. The natural man was not then, is not now, nor indeed ever will be of himself, able to receive the things of the Spirit of God, so as to become fit by his own attainments for the society of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven. At his first formation, when he came pure from the hands of his Creator, he was not deemed fit for that society, but was placed in the terrestrial paradise as in a school of probation, where, under the immediate tuition of God, he might acquire the principles, dispositions, and habits necessary to enable him to enjoy the happiness for which he was ultimately intended-" to relish the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but which it hath not entered into the heart of any mere man adequately to conceive." If such tuition was necessary to our first parents in their state of innocence, how much more necessary had it become to their descendants, sunk for ages in ignorance, idolatry, and the most debasing vices? If the first pair were not, as we have seen they were not, able to guide themselves without the aid of Divine illumination, how much less able were their idolatrous descendants to recover themselves from the slavery of sin and Satan, under which they had groaned for five thousand years? And except the small territory of Judea, the whole earth was in this deplorable state. It was part of our Lord's office therefore to redeem mankind from sin as well as from death, to instruct them by his word, and to sanctify them by his Spirit, that they might become capable of reaping all the benefits which by his precious blood shedding he had obtained to them. All this he hath accomplished, or will ultimately accomplish, by means similar to those, by which the principles of natural religion, and some obscure expectation of a future and better dispensation were disseminated from Judea, through different neighbouring nations, as light is diffused from the sun as a centre.
Had our Redeemer left the Gospel to be preached by inspired individuals, acting all
(a) Eph. ii. 11-19. Luke ii. 32.
(6) Heb. i. 1-4,
(c) Ibid. xii. 2.
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A. M. 4037, independently of each other, we may infer from the little effect produced by the preach. Ann. Dom. ing of individual prophets in the patriarchal ages, both before and after the flood, that Vulg. Er. 33, no such reformation as he intended to accomplish could ever have been produced in &c. or 31. heathen nations. He therefore formed his disciples into an organized society or Church, which is in the New Testament called the household or family of the faith (rovs oineícus tâc TISTES), the kingdom of God, and of heaven; and he built that Church or kingdom on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, HE himself being the chief corner-stone. It was not a church entirely new, but the old church of God, of which the limits were extended from the small territory of Judea to the circumference of the whole world, and the rites, which were merely preparatory to his sacrifice of himself for the sins of mankind, of course abolished, as the fogs of the morning are dissipated by the rising of the sun. It was founded for the very same purpose with the Jewish church; but that purpose was more completely and clearly developed. The object of both churches was to diffuse the principles and enforce the practice of true religion throughout the world; but mankind had become, at least throughout the Roman empire, more capable, in the reign of Tiberius, of comprehending the spiritual and sublime truths of Christianity, than any people appears to have been at the period of the Israelites deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. Under every dispensation of religion, the final object of our Heavenly Father has been the same, though under different dispensations that object appears to have been promoted by different means. So true is it, that under both dispensations-the Christian as well as the Mosaic-" the church hath been the pillar and ground of the truth (a)," and that the Gospel is not likely to make progress among heathen nations, when preached by individuals, however zealous or however learned, who have separated themselves from that society of which "Christ is the Head, from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that, which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love (b)."
As the Jewish and Christian churches were both of Divine origin, and founded for the same purpose, they are denominated by the same or similar names, have the same privileges attributed to them in Scripture, and were in succession equally entrusted with the oracles of God. The members of both societies were, at their first foundation, elected from mankind at large, not for any particular merit of those who were chosen, but that when placed under proper government, each might, in its own order, be the repository of Divine truth, and the instrument of converting the world. As the Jews were first elected for this purpose, the Gospel was everywhere first preached to them; and had the whole nation embraced the truth as it is in Jesus, they alone would probably have continued to be called, what they once unquestionably were, the elect of God, as from them alone would have been diffused, through the whole world, the light of the glorious Gospel. From the believing Jews it was in fact diffused; for our Lord's apostles and evangelists, as well as himself according to the flesh, were all of that nation; but when the majority of the people, who were originally chosen to be the keepers of the word of God, "rejected it, and acted as if they had judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life, the apostles turned to the Gentiles," to whom their mission ultimately extended, as well as to "the lost sheep of the House of Israel."
As we have seen that God's ancient people the Jews were, as a body, called his chosen or elect; so is the whole body of the Christian church called the elect, because they were selected from the rest of mankind, and taken into the kingdom of God, to be there instructed in the knowledge, worship, and obedience necessary to fit them for that eternal life (c), which Christ hath brought to light by his Gospel, and which, by his death
(6) Eph. iv. 15, 16.
(c) Rom. viii. 32-36. Eph. i. 4-—13.
(a) 1 Tim. iii. 15.
1 Peter i. 1, 2. ii. 9, 10. v. 13.