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that the community of Israel, was not perpetuated, in its religious character.
5. God's treatment of Israel, determines the continuance of their relation to him, under this character.He extended an immediate superintendance over them, and subjected them to discipline, as appropriately his people, in distinction from the rest of the world. The ignorance of the rest of the world he winked at.* He left its impieties comparatively unreproved. To Israel, he extended the instructions, reproofs, and chastisements of a Father. To this purpose, is that memorable passage in Isaiah liy. chapter. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee; in a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness, will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer." St. Paul, addressing those, who were lineally descended from Abraham, says, Hebrews xii. 5. "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you, as unto children. My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons. But if ye be without chastening, where of all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.' This manifestation of paternity was made towards the Hebrew, as clearly as it is towards the Christian Church. What abundant warnings; what pointed reproofs; what displays of anger; what tender remonstrances; and what denunciations of evil, against the guilty, run through the Old Testament? The mission of prophets, and the giving of oracular responses; the establishment of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple, as a symbol of God's special residence; the altar, and the sacrifice; the presence, and the withdrawment of the visible glory,called the Shekinah, were expressions of the same thing. How do God's dispensations, in bestowing blessings, and inflicting judg ments, in protecting, or exterminatiog, vary, as obę.
* Acts xvii. 30.
dience or disobience, is manifested by this people? What deliverances were wrought, when a spirit of re-, pentance prevailed? And what terrible calamities followed general declensions? How often, and how extensively, were the rebellious cut off from the midst of their people, when they had flagrantly broken the covenant? The idolatry at the foot of Sinai, the sedition of Korah, the impure intercourse with the Midianites, the faithless report of the spies, the presumption at Ai, and the general murmurings of the wilderness, were not suffered to pass unpunished- During the period, now especially under our view, captivities, devastations, intestine, and national wars, famines, and pestitilences, severely reproved prevailing sins, and wasted the rebellious.
5. It is to be carefully observed, that in the worst times, and when the greater part of this people, were, for their wickedness, cast off of God, there is always particular mention made of a remnant, who were the true Israel, and in whom the society was continued. Thus in the 6th chap. of Isaiah, after mentioning the reprobation of the refractory part of Israel, who, with respect to the period of which the prophet speaks, would seem to have been a majority, he adds, But
yet, in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and be eaten, as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves, so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof." In the time of the general defection, under the reign of Ahab, God says, Kings xix. 18. "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." Jer. xv. 11. "The Lord said, verily it shall be well with thy remnant." Ezek. ix. 6. "Slay utterly old, and young, both maids and little children, and women, but come not near any man upon whom is the mark." lb. xiv. 22. "Yet behold therein shall be left a remnant, that shall be brought forth, &c." Micah iv. 7. And I will make her that hatted a remnant, and her that was cast off a strong nation; and the Lord
shall reign over them in Mount Zion, from henceforth even forever." It is needless to multiply quotations of this kind. They are to be drawn from almost every part of the Bible. And the idea will be necessarily illustrated and confirmed farther, as we proceed.
If there was perpetually, even in the worst times, a remnant, then the Community of Israel never did become, according to the intimation of Paul, as Sodoma, or was made like unto Gomorrah. They never were totally corrupted; nor did they, as a Church, become
To obviate the objection drawn from the regal government, which commenced in the person of Saul, it may be observed, in addition to what has been already said, that God expressly protested against the introduction of this sort of government, as inconsistent with that holy relation, which subsisted between him, and Israel. He dissuaded them from this experiment; this wanton défection from the covenant; by foretelling the innumerable evils which would ensue; and by portentous testimonials of his displeasure. Therefore, though on the principle of forbearance, he tolerated this defection, with all its attendant abuses, it is to be considered as altogether an innovation. Events proved that it was a rod in the hand of God. It begot divis ions, spent itself in desolating wars, facilitated the in troduction, and spread of idolatry; and diffused corruption in manners.
But allowing that this adventitious government had a divine sanction, it was a mere modal affair, which respected the external ordering of the society, but did by no means destroy its peculiar character. Some of the kings, at least on the throne of Ju dah, were pious men, and employed their authority in favor of real religion. The bad kings, and the corruptions they introduced, were condemned, and punished.
War was one of the scourges which God employed to chastise his people. It served to lop off the withered limbs; and to promote, on the whole, the growth, and fruitfulness of the tree.
Idolatry was pursued with unceasing denunciations and judgments. It served, therefore, to prove the holiness of the society, rather than the opposite. Why were apostates to idolatry scourged out of it, but because the society, in itself, was on a purely religious design ?
And with respect to the bad character fixed on the Jews by the prophets, great abstractions ought to be made, or our estimate will not be just. It is to be remembered, that the ten tribes, who had renounced the covenant alliance with Judah, and taken separate ground, under Jeroboam and his successors, were, after long forbearance, and the resistance of multiplied means to reclaim them, openly rejected; so that they were no longer counted as of the heritage of the Lord. And with respect to the tribe of Judah, who, with the tribe of Benjamin, and individuals undoubtedly from the other tribes, maintained its Church state; as the leading object of the mission of the prophets, be sides foretelling future events, was to reprove wickedness, we ought to consider, that their representations apply to the disobedient only.
The prophets have introduced us into the outer court, rather than into the cleanly, and ornamented apartments of the inner temple. As the counterpart to this view of Zion, in a state of disease; it ought to be considered, how she appeared in her seasons of health and vigor. Though the spirit was not poured out so plentifully, as it has been in the Gospel day, the people of Israel were distinguished from the uncovenanted world, by many seasons of rich refreshings, from the presence of the Lord. That generation which entered the promised land was very generally pious; and so was the generation which succeeded. Seasons of general repentance are mentioned afterwards. The indignation, excited by the abuse done to the concubine of the Levite at Gibeah, proved that a respect to the laws of God, was at that time, by no means, lost among this people. There was a great reformation in Samuel's time. See 1. Samuel vii. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The grief which was spread when the ark of God was taken; and the joy
with which it was received again; the building and dedication of the temple; the maintenance of its solemn worship; and the general resort of the people to it, as the consecrated place of prayer, and praise; are indications of a considerable prevalence of real piety. The honorable mention, which is often made by God, of this Church is a testimony to the same thing. A very extensive and thorough reformation took place, on the return from the Babylonian captivity. The temple was then rebuilt, and the law put in practice, with singular zeal, and self denial; and we have evidence that there was then, and that there continued even to the coming of the Messiah, a settled abhorrence of idolatry, so that it was no more practised.
The corruption of the visible Christian Church, seems as flagrant, and as extensive, as was that of the Jewish. There was one corrupt member in the family of the Savior. There were many such in the days of the Apostles. There were such in the Church at Corinth. And there were such in the Churches of the Lesser Asia, which were planted and superintended by Paul himself. There have been such in every period since; and there are many such in the visible Church at the present day.
Indeed it is not so easy as some people may imag ine, to ascertain the exact boundaries of the visible
Dr. Gill, in his reply to Clark, prefents us this large concession. "It is to be observed, that a large stride, is taken by me from the eleventh to the fourth century; not being able, in the space of more than six hundred years, to find one instance of an opposer of infant baptism." He subjoins, "This will not seam strange to those who know what a time of ignorance this was; partly through the prevalence of popery, and partly through the inundation of the barbarous nations, which brought a flood of darkness upon the Empire, and very few witnesses arose against the superstitions of the Church of Rome." Thus it appears from Dr. Gill, one of the most learned opposers of Paedobaptism, that for more than 600 years of the Christian era, he is not able to find a single person, with whom strict baptists could hold Christian fellowship. A hard case this for them to manage! A hard case too, for those who have temerity enough to attempt to trace up the history of Antipedobaptism, to the days of the Apostles! When the Antipodobaptists, who take delight in sinking the religious character of primitive Israel, shall be able to demonstrate the perpetuity of the real spiritual Church of Christ, through these awfully dark and corrupt centuries, in which not even a remnant is to be found, in a manner which shall be clear of all difficulties; it may be presumed, the principles will be furnished, for proving, the possibility at least, of the continuance of Israel, as a religious society, from the Exodus to the coming of Christ.