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Church. No two persons would perhaps entirely agree on this subject. As there are hypocrites, there will be corruptions and defections in the purest Churches on earth. Matthew xiii. 47, 48. "Again the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a net, which was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gath ered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away." The separation will be made at the day of judgment. Till then, the mixture, in spite of the most industrious discipline, will remain.
It is possible to narrow the boundaries of the Church, in each dispensation of it, too much. To avoid laxness, we should not run into bigotry, or severity. The prudent physician, will try every expedient to heal the diseased limb, before he adopts the painful resolution to cut it off. A man does not become formally dismembered from the christian society, immediately upon his acting an unchristian part. He is still a brother. I. Corinthians v. 11. Forbearance is is to be exercised. Means are to be put in operation to reclaim him. The Society is practically to adopt the language of the God of Zion, "How shall I give thee up Ephraim ?" And if this may be the case with respect to one, it may be with respect to a multitude, even a majority. And who shall set limits to the long suffering of God? If God expressly, and repeatedly, call the house of Israel his people, as it is most certain he does, even when a large proportion of them, probably a majority, had swerved from the covenant, and become corrupt; shall we dare to go directly in the face of his declarations, and say, they are not his people, because they are thus corrupted? It is certainly more prudent to bow to the divine wisdom, than thus to lean to our own understandings.
The Baptists, whose peculiar system is opposed to that which is exhibited in this Treatise, seem to imagine, and often insinuate, even publicly, that their society is distinguished from the rest of the nominally christian world, as a pure Church. The doctrine of
close communion, upon which they generally practice holds out this language.
Is such an exclusive appropriation of the holy character just? It is certainly rash, and against evidence to say, as Dr. Gill does, that national Churches are "good for nothing." Has the visible church of the Redeemer no place here? Would universal heathenism be as good? But the close communion doctrine goes farther. It pronounces all dissenting Churches, if Podobaptist, good for nothing. Many corruptions prevail among them indeed. But what reason is there for this discrimination? If entire spiritual purity, in doctrine and practice, be the essential mark of the visible Church, it is apprehended this excluding society itself, will be found good for nothing. Have they no unchristian opinions or practices among them? Have they not corrupt members? We certainly witness disputes among them, on the fundamental articles of Christianity. Many of them are Arminians, and many have become Universalists and Deists. We witness disregard of the sabbath, and neglect of public worship. We observe disunion, litigation, and angry contests between elders and churches, and between brethren and brethren. We witness marks of that covetousness,' which is idolatry, in the parsimony with which the public teachers of that denomination, are generally treated; and even the extinction of some of their Churches, through the mere perverseness of their members. Let us not then be told, with too much vaunting, of the exclusive purity of any denomination; or that there is such a contrast in moral character, between the Jewish and Christian communities, that they cannot be component parts, of the one Church of the living God.
I am ready to pay a due homage to the candor of Dr. Baldwin, who freely acknowledges the Christian visibility and spirituality of some of our Churches, But how this is reconcileable with the doctrine of close communion, is another question.
Respecting the coincidence of prophecies and facts, in regard to the advent of the Messiah to his people, the Jews; his treatment of them while conversant among them, and the conclu sions which are to be drawn from this treatment.
WE have now come down to the appearance of that extraordinary person, whom the types, predic tions, history, and ritual law of the Old Testament, principally respected. The types, history, and ritual law, held forth a general, and uninterrupted testimony, in regard to him. The predictions ascertained particulars. They informed of his descent, of the time, and place, and manner of his appearing, his character, the nature of the work he would accomplish; the station he would publicly take and retain, as Lord over his own house; and theeffects, which would follow the fulfilment of his mediatorial offices. We can take notice of these prophecies, and their fulfilment, no farther than they stand in connexion with the main design of this Trea tise. Several predictions have been already introduced, which need not here be repeated, determining the unfailing stability, and pepetuity of Israel, as a holy society. We will now attend to a few others, which determine, that the Messiah should arise in the midst of them as such; and what he was actually to do, in his public ministry, in varying, or dissolving, or perpetuating this society. The first prediction to this effect, to which we shall attend, is that of Jacob, respecting Judah. Geneses xlix. 8-12. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy fathers children shall bow down before thee; Judah is a Lion's whelp; from the prey my son, thou art gone up;
he stooped down, he couched as a Lion, and as an old Lion: Who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah; nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine; and his asses colt unto the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk." This whole prediction is of one character. It bespeaks the preeminent station which the tribe of Judah should hold; its strength, perpetuity, and the spiritual blessings, with which it should be remarkably distinguished.By Shiloh, it is conceded on all hands, is meant the Messiah.* The prophecy then determines, that this tribe should continue in its preeminence of spiritual glory, till he should come; that he should appear in the midst of it; that he should take a conspicuous station among the descendants of Jacob, now remaining in this tribe; and be united to them, as their visible head and king.†
Le Clerk is a solitary exception. But his rendering is too tautologus to be admitted.
+ Very different, and generally unsatisfactory, have been the interpratations, which commentators have given to this famous prophecy; particularly this clause. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.". The sceptre and lawgiver, have been interpreted, as having respect to temporal and civil authority. This interpretation makes it necessary, that the tribe of Judah should have and retain, till the appearance of Christ, a civil dominion, not over itself, for that would be an absurdity, nor would it be in agreement with the terms of the prophecy; but over the whole of Israel: And that there should be a succession of individuals in this tribe, as princes, by whom, as the fountain of authority, this dominion should be exercised.
The captivities and degraded state to which the Jews, called so from. Judah, the head of the tribe, were subjected, by the Babylonian, and Mediopersian monarchs, Antiochus, and the Roman Caesars, seem to be entirely in contradiction to the prophecy, in this sense of it. The great body of Israel, had besides, for ages, been entirely disconnected from them; and in no respect, subject to their government. It is beyond all the efforts of ingenuity therefore,to shew how the prophecy has been fulfilled upon this construction of it. The cause of the em barrassment, in attemping to shew its fulfilment, is obvious. A system of political ascendancy is supposed, which was not intended. Upon the principle of this Treatise, which is, that a spiritual or religious society only was projected by God, the interpretation of the prophecy is easy, and the fulfilment of it, evident. "In Judah God was known. He chose the Mount Zion which he loved." Here was always found the remnant, according to the election of grace; the society, consisting of the seed. Here the law was preserved and had its inAuence, For, "from Zion went forth the law and the word of the Lord from
Another prophecy, in agreement with this, and to the same purpose, is presented in the 89th Psalm. Here is recorded God's absolute covenant with David, which has already been quoted at large. We will only introduce two or three verses, which ensure the coming of the Messiah, as the offspring of David, his elevation to his throne, and the perpetual dominion he should maintain. "Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun, before me; it shall be established forever, as the moon; and as a faithful witness, in heaven." This prediction could not have had respect to a temporal dominion. The seed of David did not enjoy it. It respected the Messiah, his descent through the line of David, his appearance in the particular family of David, and the spiritual government he should assume, and maintain over his own people.
Another prophecy, to this purpose, is in Isaiah, ix. 6. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government, and peace, there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it, with judg ment, and justice, from henceforth, even forever." Here the Messiah is undoubtedly designed. His peculiar character, as God manifest in the flesh, is described. He was to appear in the midst of the Jews, his people, in the humble form of a child. He was to
Jerusalem." Here the true religion was maintained. Here the public worship of God, was kept up, in its spirituality, and glory; here the holy oracles were se cured, and transmitted, as a sacred deposit; here the types were perpetuated; here the light of truth continued to shine; and here is to be traced the genealogical descent of Jesus, the son of Mary. This was the nature of the preeminence, to which the tribe of Judah was destined. A preeminence like this, it continued to enjoy, uninterruptedly, till the Savior came. External depressions were not inconsistent with it. Bishop Newton, who mainly follows Sherlock, in the interpretation of this prophecy, does indeed, endeavor to reconcile it with fact, upon the plan of making it mean no more, than that the tribe of Judah should continue as a tribe, and be governed by judges, or princes, from within itself. But this is ir reconcilable with the general tenor of the prophecy, and with fact. This implies no ascendancy above the other tribes; whereas, such an ascendancy is plainly declared. And the very first king over Judah, was from the tribe of Benjamin.