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law; and not to any of those positive precepts which were peculiar to the Sinai dispensation.
To discriminate the precepts of the abolished law, so as to leave the moral law, which was interwoveri with it entire, may be a work of some difficulty. But this law may, I think, be discriminated under the characters of typical, sacerdotal, local, governmental, and penal.
1. Those precepts which respected institutions merely typical, are of the law which is abolished. That the institutions of the Sinai covenant, had principally, a typical design, and in that light instructed the people of Israel in Gospel truth, will not be denied. We are expressly told that the law had a shadow of good things to come; and that the cleansings, sacrifices, and atonements it ordained, were a figure for the time then present. The shadow is certainly useless since the substance has appeared. The law which presented this shadow must of course have ceased. To continue the type would imply that the antitype had not come. This is what our Savior probably intended when he said at the moment that he expired, "It is finished.” It is not consistent with the brevity consulted to point out these precepts distinctly. Nor can it be necessaThe tabernacle, the altar, the incense, the sacrifices, the sprinkling of blood, the offerings, and atonements, come evidently under a typical character.
2. That part of the law which we have presumed to denominate sacerdotal, is evidently of the law which is disannulled. No doubt the priesthood was in a measure typical. The office of the high priest is expressly alluded to in that light. But the priesthood was ordained for a special service. The whole tribe of Levi was set apart to this service, immediately or remotely. The duties of the priests are distinctly pointed out in the law, the manner of their consecration, their attire, and the period of their service; and particular laws were given to provide for their comfortable subsistence among their brethren. All these laws beyond a doubt are disannulled, as the tabernacle is taken down, and
all the services of it at an end. Since there is a change in the priesthood, "there is made of necessity a change also of the law;"* in all the parts of it which respected the priesthood.
3. So far as the law is of a local character, it must be understood to be abolished. It pleased God to plant his Israel in a particular territory; by which they were locally separated from the other parts of the world. In consequence of this appointment, the tribes were territorially distributed, and had their precise boundaries. The tabernacle, and afterwards the temple, in which the sacrifices were to be offered, where the feasts were to be kept, and the worship of God was publicly celebrated, had a fixed place. The law, so far as it is of this character must have ceased to oblige, since an end has been put to this territorial establishment. The laws respecting leprosy, ceremonial purifications, things clean and unclean, clothing, tythes, first fruits, general convocations, &c. seem to be of this class.
4. That part of the law which may be considered as governmental, i. e. which respected the ordering of the society, must be understood to belong to the law which is abolished. There was a species of government in Israel somewhat resembling the arrangements of ordinary civil government. This might not improperly be called the economy of the society. There was a council of seventy erected by divine appointment.— There were rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds,. rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. These were denominated judges. The priesthood was invested with an authority peculiar to itself. To this authority the people were to repair in questions of difficulty. In controversies between man and man, the judges were to preside as arbitrators. There were besides, rules determining who should act as soldiers in the camp, the manner of carrying on war, and the treatment of captives. Under this head may be classed also those directions which related to the alienation and redemption of property, inheritances, personal wrongs,
Hebrews vii. 12.
frauds, and marriages. All these laws, and this econ omy, had evident respect to Israel, as occupying the land of promise, and were of a subordinate nature. When Israel ceased to occupy this land; and was entirely new modified under the direction of Christ, these laws necessarily lost their authority. They cannot be obligatory upon christians in these days, nor determine the manner in which the christian church is to be gov. erned. One great object of the Messiah's appearing, was to order and establish his kingdom forever. How he ordered it in this respect, we are to learn, not from the law which preceded; but from the appointments which followed.
5. That which may be considered as the penal part of the Mosaic institute, must be of that law which is abolished. No part of this penal code appears to have an establishment in the New Testament. It was evidently a system appropriate to the dispensation which preceded Christ's coming, and that state of the church which precluded the control of ordinary civil government. The covenant making no provision for the actual sanctification of all the visible members of the society, the entire moral purity of it was not secured. It was supposed, of course, that overt crimes might be committed, and that wrongs might be done. It was necessary that motives resulting from the exercise of immediate retributive justice, should be presented to prevent them. It was necessary that their influence should be counteracted, when committed. It was no less proper therefore, that the church should have the power of life and death in its hands, than that the civil magistrate should. If capital punishment be necessary in the one case, it might be in the other. The church is now in an entirely different condition from what it was at that period. It exists in a dispersed, moveable state, among the civil governments of the world. The penal law is now inapplicable to its condition. The ultimate exercise of power among christians, by the express direction of Christ, is confined to this." Let him be unto thee, as an heathen man, and a publican."
Other sorts of punishment can be inflicted by the civil magistrate only.
It is not to be understood that all the positive precepts of the Old Testament belonged peculiarly to the Sinai covenant. The sabbath, circumcision, and the passover, were positive institutions, and obligatory by positive precepts. It has appeared that these were established before the Sinai covenant was introduced. The prohibition of the use of blood, as food, was given before this covenant was established. This law, with that which respects fornication, has an express confir mation in the New Testament. The law which forbade the children of Israel to intermarry with the idolatrous people around them, seems to be a law which is attached to the church through every period of its existence. Accordingly this also has an express confirmation in the New Testament. The laws in favor of the manumission, and kind treatment of servants, are evidently founded in humanity; and so far as they are, may be considered as explanatory of the general principle taught by Christ; "And whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, that do ye also to them." The laws respecting usury and pledges, are plainly implied in the general christian law of brotherly love. To all duty of this kind, that precept of our Savior extends But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again."
These precepts do not come under either of those characters which have been given to the abolished law. Upon a general comparison of the two dispensations, that which preceded, and that which followed Christ, it is evident that in their moral nature, they are precisely the same. The one is not more spiritual than the other. The moral law has the same authority in both. Both are alike founded in grace: And the qualifications for membership are the same in the one which they are in the other. The only considerable difference which is to be observed, seems to be in the form, which the church, under the latter dispensation has assumed, and the great augmentation of light, and gra
cious influences which it has enjoyed. The Gospel has undoubtedly brought to the world a vast addition of light. The fulfilment of prophecies and promises, in a series of facts, has confirmed the truth of scripture testimony, and shewn more clearly to mankind the nature of the marvellous work of redemption. It has illustrated the glory of Jehovah's character, and brought life and immortality more clearly into view. It has multiplied motives to piety, and greatly increased the number of the subjects of it. The spirit is given in more plentiful effusions, and grace is more triumphant. But it has been shewn that this increase of light and grace, cannot be drawn into an argument against the identity of the Jewish and Christian church. Differences, as great in these respects, are observable in particular periods of the last dispensation. The dif ference between the states of the church in the elev. enth, and the sixteenth centuries, is at least as great as is to be observed between the two dispensations generally. And the difference between its present state, and that which is approaching, in the ingathering of the Jews with the fulness of the Gentiles, must be greater still.
This very interesting event, which is a leading subject of the faith and prayers of all the people of God, so far as it falls within the plan of this treatise, we will next briefly consider.