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The uncleanness of the leper-Lev. 13; his being obliged to rent his clothes, make bare, his head, put a covering on his upper lip, and to cry, unclean, unclean: his exclusion from the camp, while his leprosy was upon him; and the ceremonies appointed for the cleansing of him who was healed of his leprosy ;
The uncleanness of houses infected with leprosy, the necessity of tearing away the parts of the house infected, and carrying them without the city, and of a ceremonial cleansing of the house-Lev. 14·
The uncleanness attached to all issues of the body--Ib. 15; and finally,
The manner in which Aaron, was to enter the holy place annually, his flesh washed in water, attired in the consecrated robes of his office; with a burnt offering and a sin offering for himself, and for his house; with two goats taken from the people; the one to be slain as a sin offering in their behalf; and the other to be a scape goat to bear their sins into the wilderness; with the burning of incense before the mercy seat, with the blood of beasts, sprinkled upon the mercy seat, seven times, for an atonement for the transgressions of the people. These things certainly had a moral language. What did they teach? Did they teach, that the people, though they had nothing but moral pollution within, should be accepted as holy, if they were but externally obedient? The analogy of scripture, would lead us to conclude, they taught just the opposite. Nay, some passages clearly determine, that they did teach the opposite. It is observed, Heb. x. 1, that, "the law had a shadow of good things to come." It set forth, and therefore certainly taught, that spiritual purification, which the covenant of grace secured; and which the agency of the Spirit was to produce in the Gospel day." In those sacrifices" (which were prescribed in the ritual law) it is said, verse 3, "remembrance was made of sins every year." They taught, and were designed instrumentally to beget repentance. But repentance is the spiritual purification of the soul. It is the opposite of a mere external service, not founded in
true piety. The Apostle Peter, in his 1st Epistle, iii. 21. in respect to the flood, says, "The like figure whereunto, even baptism doth now save us; not the putting away of the filth of the flesh; but the answer of a good conscience towards God." Providential and instituted baptisms, in the Church of God, always were figures or instructive sensible emblems, of inward moral purity; such purity as God himself requires, and can approve.
Thus evidence crowds upon us from every source, that the Sinai Covenant, as it was not a covenant of works, so neither did it partake at all of the nature of a civil compact.
But it is said the Apostle Paul, calls the ritual institutions of the Sinai covenant, elements of the world, Gal. iv. 3; weak and beggarly elements, 9th verse; A carnal commandment, Heb, vii, 16. And says, that it had a worldly sanctuary; Ib ix. 1. and that its ordinances were carnal, 10th verse. Very well. But, if we pervert the Apostle's meaning; if we palm a perverse construction upon his testimony, and so fasten a character upon the Sinai covenant, which is altogether reproachful to the Divine Majesty, and repugnant to the uniform representations of his word, the fault will be ours, and not the Apostle's. What does he intend by. these expressions ? Is it his aim to teach us, that these institutions were really worldly, in opposition to religious? Or in the same sense, that mere civil institutions are worldly? Is it to be imagined, he insinuates, that they were foolish, and contemptible impositions; that they really required, a mercenary and selfish service, and were carnal, as sinful? No such thing. He is shewing the essential difference between law and grace, or works and faith, as grounds of justification. He explains his meaning, when he says, that these ritual institutions, "could not make the comers thereunto perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." In themselves, they were entirely inefficacious, to the purposes of procuring pardon and acceptance with God. They were but a shadow of good things to come; useful for the
time then present, as shewing the necessity of a Savior, and pointing to one; a yoke of bondage indeed, as the institutions of the Gospel are, when observed without saving faith, and on a mercenary principle; and gendering to bondage, as the law worketh wrath to the hypocrite. But it by no means follows, that the Sinai covenant was not a strictly religious institution; or that the real believing observance of it, while in force, was not true religion.
It is objected again, that in Ezekiel, xx. 25. God himself speaks of the laws of the Sinai covenant, as requiring something short of that real piety, to which the promise of eternal life is made. The words are, "Wherefore, I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live." This is a passage of difficult interpretation. From the following verse, however, we seem to be led to consider the purport of it to be, that God, in punishment of the sins of the disobedient part of Israel, gave them up, in his providence, to the impious institutions and laws, of idolatrous nations; which they either introduced; or followed in the countries whither they were carried captive. This interpretation is adopted by Calvin. Whether it be the right interpretation or not, one thing is certain, that it is not the design of this passage, to depreciate the character of the Sinai law. Such a supposition makes it flatly contradict the 21st verse. "They walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them; which, if a man do, he shall even live in them." It is impossible that both these contrary characters should apply to the same law.
On the whole, the Sinai covenant, though in itself it actually secured neither obedience, nor its rewards; as its precepts, institutions, and motives, were holy; as it was subservient to the effectuating of God's great object, the salvation of the Church; and as its promises were gracious, and terminated in the highest good, appears to have been such as to accord with the character which the Psalmist gives of it. Psalm xix. 7. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting (construc
tively and instrumentally) the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey comb. Moreover also by them, is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is a great reward."
Giving a view of the actual character of the Hebrew Community, from the establishment of the Sinai covenant, to the ad. vent of the Messiah.
WE have found that the Sinai covenant was administered to Israel, not as a temporal Commonwealth, but as the Church of God. This covenantmultiplied instructions, means, and motives, beyond any preceding parallel; all calculated to attach the people to God, in a holy allegiance. These means were numerous and impressive, on purpose that this favored people might be put under trial; that the human character might clearly appear; and that when the Spirit should be poured out in more copious effusions in the Gospel day, the grace exercised might be the more conspicuous and glorious. Deuteronomy viii. 1, 2, 3. "All the commandments which I command thee this day, shall ye observe to do, that ye may live and multiply, and go in, and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, this forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart; whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not; neither did thy Fathers know; that he might make thee know, that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live." The trial was to continue as long as the dispensation should last. This being