« PreviousContinue »
prosperity of his seed in the land of Canaan, the other to the blessing which through him and his seed was to be conveyed to all nations of the earth ; the question is, to which of these two covenants the law of Moses is annexed. If the law was given in execution of the promise made to all nations, then have the nations nothing farther to expect; God has fulfilled his word : the Jews are right in adhering to their law, and we in the wrong in rejecting it; but if the law of Moses is built on the temporal covenant only, and given properly to the Jews only, then both Jews and Gentiles have farther hopes, and a just expectation remaining, to see God's promise to all nations accomplished, which was not accomplished by the giving of the law.
I have already, in the course of this argument, observed to you that the law of Moses was given to the Jews only, and not to all nations; for which these reasons, among others, may be assigned :
First, the obligation of no law extends beyond the terms of its promulgation. Now the law of Moses was promulged to the Jews only; the words are, · Hear, O Israel;' whereas, had the law been intended for all nations, it ought to have been promulged to all, and the words should have been, “Hear, all nations of the earth. And thus the Christian law is promulged; the Apostles had it expressly in commission from Christ,““ to teach all nations, baptising them 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and lo, I' am with you alway, even unto the end of the world :' a commission which plainly shows that the gospel dispensation extends to all places and all times, even to the end of the world; and that no other new law is to be expected.
Secondly, the law of Moses relates to the temporal covenant only, as being established expressly on the terms and conditions of it. The ten commandments are founded on this, that God brought them, the Jews, 'out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage :' a reason which extended to the people of the Jews only; for all other nations were not brought out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondage. The first threatening is temporal, of visiting the iniquity of the fathers
on the children unto the third and fourth generation; the promise is of the same kind; both relative to the temporal covenant: as is likewise the promise of the fifth commandment, ' that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'
Thirdly, many rights and performances of the law were confined to the land of Canaan and the temple of Jerusalem; for which reason even the Jews, in their dispersion, pretend not to observe the law in these points, and they would be transgressors of the law if they did. Now it is absurd, if the law was intended for all people, that the main performances of it should be confined within the territories of one particular people only; and therefore when the Christian law was to take place, every country was to be a proper place of divine worship; which is the true meaning of our Saviour's words to the woman of Samaria : 'Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye
shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father :' John iv. 21.
Now this being the case, it is evident that the promise of a blessing to all nations subsisted in its full force and vigor during the continuance of the law of Moses ; for as the promise was not completed by the giving of the law, in which all nations were not concerned : so neither could so general a promise be annulled or set aside by a private law, given to one people only. And this is the true sense and meaning of St. Paul's argument, Gal. iii. 17. • This I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.'
Secondly, another question proper to be considered with respect to the state of religion under the Jewish dispensation, is this : how far the religion of the Jews was preparatory to that new dispensation which was in due time to be revealed, in accomplishment of the promise made to all nations. Now if Abraham and his posterity were chosen, not merely for their own sakes, or out of any partial views and regards towards them, but to be instruments in the hand of God for bringing about his great designs in the world ; if the temporal covenant was given for the sake of the everlasting covenant, and to be sub
servient to the introduction of it; it is highly probable that all parts of the Jewish dispensation were adapted to serve the same end, and that the law founded on the temporal covenant itself was to prepare the way to better promises. If this, on the whole, appears to be a reasonable supposition, then have we a foundation to inquire into the meaning of the law, not merely as it is a literal command to the Jews, but as containing the figure and image of good things to come. It can hardly be supposed that God, intending finally to save the world by Christ and the preaching of the gospel, should give an intermediate law, which had no respect nor relation to the covenant which he intended to establish for ever. And whoever will be at the pains to consider seriously the whole administration of Providence together from the beginning to the end, may see perhaps more reason than he imagines, to allow of types and figures in the Jewish law.
To proceed then. The Jewish dispensation not conveying to all nations the blessings promised through Abraham's seed, but being only the administration of the hopes and expectations created by the promise of God, in this respect it stood intirely on the word of prophecy; for future hopes and expectations from God can have no other real foundation. Inasmuch then as the Jewish religion did virtually contain the hopes of the gospel, the religion itself was a prophecy; and as the Jewish church was founded to preserve and to administer these hopes, the prophetical office was in some measure necessary and essential to this church, to nourish and support their hopes and expectations from God.
In what manner the " blessing of all men was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we have already seen. The next limitation of it is to the tribe of Judah, in that famous prophecy delivered by Jacob just before his death : • The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come ; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be:' Gen. xlix. 10. There are so many interpretations of this prophecy, some peculiar to the Jews and some to Christians, and so many difficulties to be accounted for whatever way we take, that I shall not pretend to enter into the decision of them at present. But take the whole prophecy re
lating to the tribe of Judah together, and there will be enough to answer our immediate purpose, without entering into these obscurities. “Judah,' says Jacob, • thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise ; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies : thy father's children shall bow down before thee. In a form of words not unlike this, the peculiar blessing was appropriated to Shem: “Japhet shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant :' Gen. ix. 27. And when Jacob himself had the blessing of Abraham settled on him by his father Isaac in preference to his brother Esau, the very words in which the grant was made to him are these : • Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be thou lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee :' Gen. xxvii. 29. Now when Jacob uses partly these very words, partly others of like import, can he be understood to bestow any other blessing on his son Judah than that very blessing which he, in this same form of words, received from his father? Could he forget the import of his own blessing when he was preferred to Esau ? or could he use this solemn form of words, and mean something quite different from the sense they carried when his ancient father pronounced them over him? The other parts of this prophecy relate, I think, to the temporal prosperity of Judah, and promise a continuance of that tribe till the blessing of Abraham’ should come and be extended to all nations : but I will not enter into this large field of controversy.
The next and the last limitation of this special promise is to the family of David; a point so uncontested, that there is no room to call it in question without rejecting the authority of all the prophets; and so plain withal, that it needs no proving. Here the promise rested until it fell on Him for whom it was reserved, and to whom it was ever due; on Him to whom the birthright appertained, who was the first-born of every creature; and concerning whom the Almighty had declared long before, 'I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth. Here it is fixed, and here it must rest, till • all things are accomplished; for he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; till death itself is swallowed up
It is much to be observed that the prophecies relating to the covenant of better hopes were given to the people of God when religion itself seemed to be in distress, and to want all helps to support it in the world. When Abraham was called to forsake the country and the religion of his fathers, then had he the promise of the blessed seed. Isaac and Jacob being surrounded on all sides with idolatry, in the midst of a very corrupt and degenerate world, were sustained by the same hopes. When the people of Israel were in Egypt, and under many temptations of following the gods of the country, then was the promise settled on Judah, and the remarkable prophecy given of Shiloh's coming. As soon as God appeared manifestly, and oftentimes miraculously, making good the promises of the temporal covenant to the children of Abraham, and the people wanted no other evidence to keep them steadfast in their obedience, or to secure them from falling away to the gods of the nations round them, we meet with few instances of this sort of prophecy. Whilst God himself was governor and king of the people, and directed all their affairs by the voice of his prophets, their adversity and their prosperity, which were always in proportion to their obedience and disobedience, were a sufficient instruction to them to cleave to God steadfastly. This was the case from Moses to David, who had the promise of the everlasting covenant established with him and with his seed, in reward of his constancy and faith towards God under all the difficulties through which he made his way to the crown appointed to him by God. But when the succeeding kings fell into idolatry, and the people, prone to evil, followed their example, so that God determined to remove them out of his sight and scatter them among the idolatrous nations whose gods they had chosen before the Lord their Saviour; then for the sake of the few righteous were the better hopes revived, that “the just might live by faith, and that a remnant might be saved.' The prophet Isaiah, who speaks so plainly of the kingdom of Christ, entered on his office not long before the ten tribes were carried into captivity as a punishment for their idolatry. The prophet Jeremy saw the other tribes carried away to Babylon; and Daniel was himself one of the children of the captivity. This was the time in which true faith wanted