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both of natural religion and of the Jewish dispensation, the religion of Christ has superadded several most important informations concerning the character and proceedings of the Deity in regard to the human race. The religion of nature discovers the unity and attributes of God merely as the Creator, the Governor, and the Judge of the world, and as exacting from rational creatures complete obedience to his laws. But it cannot make, and never has attempted to make, any provision for the pardon and recovery of sinners, any farther than the general notions of the divine clemency might lead to expect. Nor has it ever afforded accurate and definite notions of that moral rectitude which could lay claim to the divine favour, or been able to prescribe to man a just and comprehensive standard of duty in his present condition and circumstances. Accordingly, all the most enlightened heathen moralists take for granted, that their conceptions of the virtuous character are adequate and complete, and suppose that whosoever exhibited these realized in conduct, was certain to obtain the favour of the Deity, and the highest felicity of human nature.
But their most magnificent descriptions of virtue evince their very inadequate conceptions of it in some of its essential ingredients, and consequently the lofty, but hollow ground on which they seemed to stand, was incapable of bearing the solid structure of true religion. To say nothing more, they had no just ideas of duty towards God himself, and entertained no notion of the nécessity of an economy of grace for fallen and degenerate man. Under the Mosaical dispensation the Deity is most gloriously described, and his attributes are exhibited with the most wonderful sublimity of conception, and the most impressive energy of language. Still, under that dispensation, he appears rather in the character of a just and tremendous judge, exacting strict obedience to his statutes, and rewarding or punishing according to its fulfilment or neglect, than in that of a merciful and affectionate father. “ Cursed is every one,” saith the apostle, quoting Deut. xxvii. 26, “ that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The Mosaical law, it is true, prescribes various modes of expiating offences of a ritual and ceremonial nature. But, to use again the words of the same apostle, “ the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, could never, with those sacrifices which they offered
year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect;" that is, could have no effect to deliver from the guilt and punishment of moral depravity. Indeed, as it is stated in this very passage, the chief excellence and ef
.a Gal. iii. 10.
fect of these temporary modes of expiation consisted in their being typical representations of the grand and ultimate deliverance to be accomplished by Jesus Christ, and in directing the view of those who lived under the previous dispensation, to that economy
which he announced and completed, and which is, without a figure, “an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.” The gospel manifests God, to our degenerate and miserable race, in the most amiable, soothing, and solacing colours. It possesses, in the most eminent and paramount degree, that indispensable requisite in any system of religion designed for those who are placed in these unhappy circumstances, namely, the certain assurance of pardon, acceptance, and aid to the sincerely penitent, desirous of moral reformation, and diligent in the pursuit of it. It displays God as “not willing that
perish, but that all should come to repentance;' and as “in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” From this view of a pardoning, reconciled, and exuberantly gracious deity, all the peculiar doctrines of the gospel directly flow, or are closely connected with it. In stating these with all possible brevity, I shall observe their gradual and beautiful development, as it is disclosed in the
b See part i. chap. i.
C2 Pet. iii. 9.
a 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. d. 2 Cor. v. 19.
New Testament. It will be found, on accurate examination, that they all relate, in one way or other, to the person and offices of Christ, to the person and offices of the Holy Ghost, and to the present and future state and condition of man.
1st, In the evangelical history, it is evident that Christ required of the Jews to acknowledge him as the Messiah. On this acknowledgment they were admitted among believers, and received as his converts and disciples. Thus, "Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God."* Thus, Martha, when Jesus was about to raise her brother Lazarus, “ I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who should come into the world. Thus, , the apostles Philip, Andrew, and Peter, to Nathaniel, " We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph ;” and Nathaniel to Christ, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel." Christ himself declares, in his address to the Father, “that this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.d Both Jews and Gentiles seem to be comprehended in this annunciation ; so that the latter, abjuring polytheism and idolatry, should acknowledge and worship one only God, according to
a Mat. xvi. 16.
b John xi. 27. c John i. 45, 49.
d John xvii. 3.
his own appointment; and the former, having admitted the accomplishment, in the person of Christ, of all that related to the Messiah in their own dispensation, should receive him in that capacity. The apostle Paul testifies, and solemnly declares, “that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It appears not that Christ himself directly asserted his essential divinity. But the apostle Thomas thus addressed him, without reproof or correction, "My Lord! and my God! In the sense of his claiming divinity, he was under. stood by the Jews, “who sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his father, making himself equal with God.” But Christ instituted a new form of baptism, “in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." He declared “ that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; and that all things that the Father had, were his.” If Christ knew that he was a mere man, and allowed the mistakes of others, in regard to this point, to pass unrectified, must be considered as having spoken and acted (with due reverence be it said) in a rash and even impious manner. Such occurrences as these, when viewed in their connexion,
a 1 Cor. iii. 11.
Mat. xxviii. 19.
b John xx. 28.
e John v. 18. e John v. 23 ; xvi. 15.