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consider, is the ceremonial, the object of which was twofold, to separate the Israelites from all other nations, and to direct their attention to the great redemption, and the means of its accomplishment.
It was the will of God to make a particular people the depositaries of the true religion, and for a time to leave the rest of mankind without any other means of instruction than their own reason, and some traditionary notices. The rejection of the Gentiles is to be dated from the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, or from their settlement in Canaan. Prior to this period there had been in every nation, good men who feared God and wrought righteousness; and who, guided by the light of revelation, which was universal in the family of Noah, and favoured with the influences of grace, were acceptable to him. But henceforth, “ darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.” No interposition on the part of Heaven was made in their behalf; no prophet was sent to reclaim them from idolatry to the knowledge and worship of the true God; no miracles were wronght to display his power, and confirm the truth of his oracles. It was partly with an intention to maintain this separation that the ceremonial law was given to the Israelites; and that it was well fitted to accomplish this design, is evident from the religious rites which it prescribed, and which were contrary to those of other nations, and from the rules which it laid down with respect to some of the common usages of life. Tacitus has justly described the character and spirit of the Mosaic institutions, when he says, “ Moses, quo sibi in posterum_gentem firmaret, novos ritus contrariosque ceteris mortalibus indidit. Profana illic omnia, quæ apud nos sacræ, rursum concessa apud illos, quæ nobis incesta.”* He perceived the studied opposition of the Jewish rites to those of other nations, and regarded it as an expedient for preserving that people distinct and separate. This was, in a particular manner, the design of those laws which related to meats, and pronounced some to be clean, and others to be unclean : “ I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean ; and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." The Israelites could not associate with their neighbours on familiar terms, and sit down at table with them, because there was danger of contracting pollution by eating their food. The ultimate intention was to prevent free intercourse with the heathen, by which the Israelites might have been led to join in their idolatrous worship. It was the will of God, that the people should dwell alone, and should not be reckoned among the nations, and that all temptation should be taken away to corrupt the religion which had been committed to their trust.
The other design of the ceremonial law, was to prefigure Christ, and redemption through his blood. Its institutions were typical. A type is a person or thing by which another person or thing is adumbrated. That which corresponds to it, is called the antitype. The latter is considered as future ; and in this view, the type partakes of the nature of a prediction. To serve its purpose, it must be instituted by God, who alone can establish the relation; and it is by no means sufficient, that between two distinct persons or events there should be an accidental resemblance. The essence of a type consists, not in its similarity to another object, but in its being divinely appointed to be a representation of it.
That the Mosaic institutions were typical, is a point about which there has been little difference of opinion. Some, indeed, have denied it, and laboured * Hist. lib. v. 4.
Lev. XX. 24-26.
to show that in the New Testament there are only allusions to them, as if the writers had merely taken advantage of a resemblance between the two dispensations, to illustrate the one by the other. The ground of this opinion is not any solid, or even any plausible reason, but a wish to evade the evidence in favour of the atonement of Christ, arising from the vicarious and propitiatory nature of the sacrifices of the law. We detest the disingenuity which resorts to the most unfair means to establish a favourite point, and the impiety which impeaches the veracity and judgment of an apostle.' Nothing can be more explicit than the affirmation of Paul, that the ceremonial ordinances were shadows of good things to come; and the professed design of his Epistle to the Hebrews is to illustrate this position by a variety of particulars. The high-priest represented Jesus Christ; the sin-offerings were symbolical of his expiatory oblation on the cross; the aspersions of blood were significant of the application of the virtue of his atonement to the conscience; and the annual entrance into the holy of holies was a figure of his entrance into heaven, in the name of his people, to plead the merit of his death in their behalf, and to procure the enjoyment of spiritual blessings.
A type, I have said, bears a resemblance to the antitype. But however exact the likeness might be, it could not of itself have led the mind to the antitype, which was distant and future, and either altogether unknown or imperfectly understood. Notwithstanding, therefore, the perfection of the Levitical law as an adunibration of good things to come, it would not have served its great purpose, by directing the views of the Israelites to the Messiah, if it had been given alone. It contained the substance of the Gospel ; but it was the Gospel in a mystery, the sense of which no human sagacity could have discovered without assistance. Had no light been thrown on its design, it would have appeared a series of unmeaning observances; or it would have suggested false ideas to the Israelites, as if its animal sacrifices were sufficient to atone for their guilt and reconcile them to God, and its external ablutions could purify them from the defilement of sin. But prior to the establishment of this law, the people of God were in possession of information concerning the redemption which was to be effected by the promised Redeemer; and when sacrifices were first appointed, we may presume that men received some general instruction respecting their ulterior design. Whether Moses explained his institutions to the Israelites, we cannot tell, as the history is silent on this subject; but it is certain, that under the legal economy many intimations are given of the future Saviour, and of the new dispensation which it was the purpose of God to introduce. Prophets arose in succession, who adınonished the people not to rest in the sacrifices which were required by the law, but to look to him who would put away our sins by the oblation of himself. If he was sometimes described as a mighty conqueror, and his kingdom was portrayed in all the pomp and magnificence of a worldly monarchy, the triumph of his religion being exhibited under these figures ; at other times he was held out to view as an humble, lowly person, a sufferer, wounded, bruised, and put to death ; a piacular victim, through whom peace with God would be established, and whose blessings would be all of a spiritual nature.
In this manner the Jewish church was instructed, and under this form of administration religion subsisted from the days of Moses to the coming of Christ, a period of fifteen hundred years. To some, the ceremonial system of worship may seem too carnal to have been given by a spiritual Being, and the apparent childishness of its rites may be deemed unworthy of the majesty of God. Viewing it, indeed, in itself, we perceive nothing which might lead us to refer it to a divine origin, and with Tacitus, we might attribute it to the political contrivance of Moses. But when considered in its relation to the Vol. I.-19
future economy which it prefigured, it assumes a new aspect, and affords a striking display of the wisdom of its author. As there were reasons why the Redeemer should not be manifested till the fulness of the time was come, and it was necessary that sinful men should possess some knowledge of him, to encourage them to worship God and hope in his mercy, it was evidently proper that they should be instructed not only by prophecies, the meaning of which could not be distinctly understood prior to their fulfilment, but also by symbols and symbolical actions, which would throw light upon the prophecies, by giving as it were a body and form to the event which they announced. No idea could have been affixed to the declaration that the Messiah would die for the sins of men, if they had not been accustomed to see sacrifices substituted in their room, and slain to avert the anger of God from the offerers.
As images and pictures have been called the books of the unlearned, so types were instituted to enable those who could not read, or could not understand, to form some conception of the fundamental truth upon which the religion of sinners depends, the suretiship and propitiatory sufferings of the Seed of the woman.
But all the information which could be derived from typical institutions and unfulfilled prophecies, was limited and indistinct. A general expectation was excited of a Redeemer, who would restore our forfeited happiness, and a vague idea was perhaps entertained of the means by which his benevolent design would be accomplished, but the particulars were unknown till time developed them. Many prophets and righteous men desired to see and hear those things which the disciples witnessed, believing that more glorious discoveries were reserved for their successors. So great, indeed, is the difference between the degree of knowledge under the past and the present dispensation, that the former is represented as the night and the latter as the day :
" The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.”* Let it be observed, however, that this is figurative language, and ought not to be too rigidly explained. It is not true that under the legal economy there was absolute darkness; but, so much clearer are the manifestations of divine things which are now made, that the prior revelation seems to be wrapt up in obscurity. The Sun of righteousness has now ascended above the horizon, and diffused his bright and salutary beams.
We may remark also concerning the former dispensation, that it was very burdensome in consequence of the nature and the multiplicity of its injunctions,-a yoke, as Peter says, which the Jews were not able to bear. The observance of many holidays was enjoined, which caused frequent interruptions of their necessary labours. The laws respecting meats must have required much caution and care in the preparation of their food, and would subject them on many occasions to great inconvenience. They might be polluted, not only by what they ate, but by what they touched, and by other causes over which they had no control; and in such cases, it was necessary to wash their bodies and their garments, and to remain unclean until the evening When they had committed any sin, it could not be expiated without a sacrifice, and Jerusalem was the only place in which it was lawful to offer it. To Jerusalem, all the males were commanded to repair three times in a year; and as it was situated at a great distance from some parts of the country, many of them must have performed long and fatiguing journeys. The offerings demanded from them were costly, a lamb, a ram, a bullock, or a he-goat; and a single sacrifice would have cost an Israelite more than most Christians are called to give in a year for the support of the simple institutions of the Gospel.
Notwithstanding these disadvantages, the Israelites enjoyed the true religion, and the law was a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ. It is a great error, in 1 John ii. 8.
† Acts xv. 10.
comparing the two dispensations, to exalt the one, as some do, at. the expense of the other, by representing the Christian as spiritual, and the Jewish as altogether carnal. Let it not be imagined, that when an Israelite had gone through the forms of his religion ; when he had offered sacrifices, and performed ablutions, and observed holidays, he had fulfilled all its demands. He who is a Spirit must require the same worship in every age of the world. It was the service of the heart which alone was acceptable to him then, as it is now; the ordinances were carnal, but the intention of them was spiritual ; and between the two dispensations this is the difference, that the spirituality of the worship is now more evidently signified, because the multitude of ceremonies is abolished, and only a few simple forms are left to express the devotion of the soul. In the Old Testament, the most exact conformity to the Mosaic ritual is treated as a thing of no value, and indignantly rejected, when not accompanied with pious sentiments, and the practice of holiness.
There is another mistake, against which it is necessary to be on our guard, and the more so, because it may seem, on a superficial view, to be countenanced by Scripture itself, when it describes the times of the Gospel as the dispensation of the Spirit, and may be understood to confine it to that period. The Gospel, indeed, is called “the ministration of the Spirit,”* and a copious effusion of his influences is mentioned by the prophets as the privilege and glory of the new economy. But we are not to conclude that he was not given before the coming of Christ. Without him, religion would have been a cold and lifeless form; there would have been no faith, no repentance, no love, no holiness, for these, we know, are the fruits of the Spirit. Besides the express testimonies in the Jewish Scriptures to his presence with the people of God under the law, the existence of genuine piety in the hearts of many individuals is a proof that they were the subjects of his gracious operation. The high attainments of some of the ancient saints, the faith of Abraham, which is a pattern to all succeeding generations, the sublime devotion of David, and the patience of Job, demonstrate that they enjoyed no ordinary share of his influences.
After all, the church was in a state of infancy. The dispensation was too imperfect to be final; it was accommodated to the times which then were, and it did not realize all that the people of God were taught to expect. God had provided some better things for us, which we enjoy through the ministry of his Son, by whom he has spoken to us in the last days. Of the Christian dispensation, I shall speak in the next Lecture.
THE DISPENSATION OF RELIGION.
Ministry of John the Baptist-Appearance of Christ-Abrogation of the old Dispensation
Characteristics of the Christian Dispensation : its Author; its Revelations ; its Ministers; System of Worship; Advantages and Attainments of its Subjects; its Catholicity.
Tue Old Testament closes with the following prediction and command : “Unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and
* 2 Cor. ii. 8.
dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the chil. dren, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."* The system of laws and ordinances which God had delivered to his chosen people by the ministry of Moses, was to be carefully observed in all their generations. No change was to be made in it for a long succession of years; and religion was to consist in a close and devout adherence to its institutions. But an event was announced, which would be introductory to a great revolution, the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, the appearance of the Messiah, who would come, not to give the sanction of his authority to the law of Moses, but to establish a new law of superior excellence, and perpetual duration. A messenger would precede him to proclaim his advent, by whose ministry the expectations of men would be excited, and they would be prepared to receive the Redeemer himself.
That messenger was John, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who, endowed with the spirit and power of Elijah, appeared on the banks of Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance, and telling the people that there was one coming after him, “ the latchet of whose shoes he was not worthy to unloose, who would baptize them with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”+ As when great monarchs were to undertake a journey to any part of their dominions, pioneers were sent before them to put the highways in a complete state of repair, that there might be no obstacle to their progress, to level mountains, and to fill up valleys, so the object of the mission of the Baptist was to awaken the Jews to a sense of their sins, to overthrow the vain confidence which they placed in their descent from Abraham, and their external privileges, that, feeling their need of a spiritual Saviour, they might give him a cordial reception. “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face; he shall prepare the way before thee." Upon the greater part of his hearers, the doctrine of the Baptist made no impression; but the attention of many was directed to the Messiah, and in consequence of the instructions and exhortations of his forerunner, they resorted to him, and became his disciples.
The Baptist held an intermediate place between the Old and the New Dispensation, between the Prophets and the Apostles. He was superior to the Prophets, and inferior to the Apostles. His superiority to the Prophets arose from the near relation in which he stood to our Saviour, whose approach he proclaimed, and from his seeing him and conversing with him ; in consequence of which, his views were clearer and more extensive than those of the most distinguished persons who lived at such a distance from the event. But the Apostles enjoyed greater advantages, because they were the familiar associates of the Messiah, hearers of his doctrine, and witnesses of his miracles, and death, and resurrection ; and because they received more ample measure of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, by whom they were fully instructed in the scheme of redemption. Indeed, so much light is thrown upon the prophecies by their fulfilment, so much more distinctly are the character and work of the Messiah now understood, that the knowledge even of an uninspired Christian exceeds that of the Baptist. Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.''I
When John had executed his office for some months, our Lord himself came forth to public view; and having received baptism from the hand of his forerunner, began to preach in Galilee and Judea. With respect to the period of his manifestation we may remark, that it is called to a limpo peso tou zpovou, " the fulness of the time;"'S an expression which imports, that it was the exact time pointed out by prophecy, and that it was chosen by divine wisdom as the fittest. If it should be asked, why there was so long an interval between the fall and the mission of our Saviour as four thousand years; why he was not sent sooner,
Mal. iv. 2, 4--6. + Luke ii. 16. | Matth. xi. 11. Gal. iv. 4.