« السابقةمتابعة »
adults, whose characters are doubtful, or who are brought under a diciplinary process. God sets us an example of long suffering; which it would seem we ought to imitate. But his long suffering has its limits, and there ought to be bounds to that of his people. A regard to the general interest of Christianity must govern,
Excommunication, though an act of just severity, is a kind expedient. It is calculated; and were the plan of the covenant carried into faithful, uniform, and efficient practice, would be much more powerfully calculated, than we can now well conceive, to save the soul from death. That such is the natural tendency, and end, of all discipline, and of excommunication itself, is evident from Paul's words, I Cor. v. 5. "To deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
No believing parent can be unwilling to yield his child to such a maternal treatment from the Church, He who refuses to do so, must be considered as re jecting the covenant, despising the authority of God, and cruelly disregarding the eternal well being of his child.
If such a system of instruction, watchfulness, and dicipline, were pursued with respect to infant members, it is evident, no reason could exist, for the objection which some are disposed to make to the doctrine of infant membership, that it is a principle calculated to destroy the spirituality of Churches, and turn them into societies of formalists and hypocrites. "It is the direct way," it is said "to form great national Churches, which are good for nothing; but a real, living, spiritual Church, cannot exist upon this principle." Let us not judge too rashly. Let us well consider what sort of premises they are, from which we draw so for midable a conclusion. Let us beware how we make use of the horrid neglects of men to decry the economy of God. Has the all wise God established his Church upon a constitution calculated to ruin it? Does not the opposite very plainly appear? Is not the system consistent in itself? Has it not an extent and grandeur, consonant to the covenant, and worthy of its contriver? Is it not
disembarrassed of the contradictions in practice of other theories? Are not the means adapted to the end? Is not the end secured by absolute promise? If the scheme of infant membership were faithfully carried into execution must not the Church, altogether more than upon the opposite principle, "look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and be terrible as an army with banners?" Can it be possible that, with such an object in view, and with such perpetual activity in the employment of means, a Church should sink into greater carnality, than without the object, and in the disuse of the means?
But it is said farther, "such discipline is impracticable." Why Why impracticable? Nothing is to be done, but what may easily be done; nothing but what benevolence dictates. It is indeed difficult to serve God, and Mammon; to be diligent in the duties of piety, and at the same time buried in worldly pursuits. By many Churches, every essential doctrine and duty of Christianity is trampled in the dust; experimental religion is discarded; nothing that is right is practicable. They have a name to live, but are dead. The covenant of God is not with them, and nothing is done in compliance with it. The institutions of God are sunk into abuse; and his offerings made offensive.
But with real Christians, with men who are created anew in Christ Jesus, and led by the Spirit of God, there is nothing in the scheme of infant membership which is impracticable. Very much indeed will be to be done. But we are told to do, with our might, whatsoever our hand findeth to do, in obedience to to Christ, and for the glory of his kingdom, while it is day; for that the night cometh wherein no man can work. Self denial must be practised. But in vain do we expect to meet the final approbation of our judge without the constant practice of it. For "if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Therefore we labor, that whether present, or absent, we may be accep ted of him."
Respecting the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant, and the difference between the dispensation which preceded, and that which followed, the advent of the Messiah.
THE Sinai Covenant has been examined, distinguished from the Covenant of circumcision, proved to have been superadded to it, and temporay in its duration; and it has been shewn, that it terminated at the appearing of the Messiah. Its purpose being answered as an intervening mean, it was then abolished. But it becomes a question of great importance, in what sense, and how far it was abolished. It is as dangerous to consider those institutions of the Deity annulled, which remain in all their force; as it is to perpetuate appointments, which he, by his authority, has made void.
The explanations which have been given, will assist us to understand what is meant in the scriptures by the abrogation or disannulling of the Sinai covenant. They will aid us to determine what, pertaining to this covenant is, and what is not, now obligatory upon christian believers. For our greater security, we will here collect the several passages in the New Testament, which expressly speak of this subject.
The first distinct mention of it that I observe, is in II. Corinthians iii. 7. The words in this place are, "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Isra el could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away." The term glory is a supplement made by the translators. Perhaps it is correct. But this glory, which seems to have been external and visible, was expressive of the inherent excellency of the law.
It was the law which was written, and engraven in stones. The law is the Testament to which the New Testament is contrasted in the context. The law is the letter which killeth; as we have it in the preceding verse. The law, and that only, is the ministration of death, and condemnation. That it is the law, which the apostle speaks of as done away, is evident from the 11th verse. "For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." It was not properly the glory which was done away; but that which is characterized as glorious. This was the law. Law, we have seen, was the constituent principle, the chief matter of the Sinai Covenant.
The next passage, which speaks of the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant, is in Gal. iii. 19. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." Here the Sinai covenant is spoken of expressly as the law. It was evidently the law which was added. The conditional promises were not. For they are involved in, and published with God's gracious covenant, under every dispensation of it. The curse was not added as peculiar to this covenant. It extends to all times, and applies to every individual, who is not interested in God's gracious covenant. The law also meets the design which the apostle expresses. It was added because of transgressions; "i. e. to convince of sin, and keep up a remembrance of it; to remove all hope upon the ground of personal desert, and to impress the absolute necessity of salvation by grace. An equivalent manner of expression we have in Hebrews x. 13. "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins every year." In like manner the apostle says, Romans vii. 7. "Nay, I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." These passages unite in the idea, that the great design of the dispensation of the Si
nai law, was to convince men of sin, and thus to shut them up to the faith of the Gospel. In this view it is styled a schoolmaster, verse 24. "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
The apostle says, the law was added till the seed should come. This mode of speaking implies, that then, at the coming of the Messiah, it was set aside. Coincident with which is the idea, suggested in the 25th verse. "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." This implies a disconnexion from the law, or that it ceases to bind.
Another passage to the same purpose is found in Ephesians ii. 14, 15. "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished, in his flesh, the enmity, even the law of commandments, in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace." The terms of this passage inform us expressly what was abolished by the incarna, tion and death of Christ. It was the law of commandments in ordinances. This idea is perfectly conformable to the passages before introduced.
The next passage which claims to be noticed, as instructing us in the abolition of the Sinai. covenant, is in Colossians ii. 14. "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.' According to these words, the abolition extended to the handwriting of ordinances. This was the Sinai law.
The subject is introduced several times into the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is thus mentioned in the 7th chapter, 18th verse. "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." This commandment, which is here expressly said to be disannulled, is called, in the next verse, the law. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.” It is mentioned again in the 8th chap. 13th verse. that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old.