Page images

confirmation of this is in the fact, that in the Epistle to the Hebrews (xi. 4) Abel is said to have offered his sacrifice in faith ; that is, it was not will-worship, but offered in reliance on a Divine command: whereas Cain's, being willworship, was rejected.

But while this prophecy and this type may be said to have formed the groundwork of Revealed Religion till the coming of the Messiah, the great truths hid under these mysteries were brought gradually more and more to light by other prophecies and other types.

From Gen. iii. to Exod. xx., a period of about 2500 years, we find but few prophecies and types. This period from Adam to Moses—has been called the Patriarchal Dispensation.

By the word Patriarch is meant the head of a family, who, in those early ages, was the supreme governor of it, both in civil and religious matters. Such were Adam, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, before the Flood; Job, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons, after the Flood. By the word Dispensation is here meant some particular way in which God deals with his creatures.

This period of 2500 years is called the Patriarchal Dispensation, because God carried on the preparation for the coming of the Messiah as the Saviour of the world by means of these individuals, who, in the midst of a wicked world, constituted His church. These became the guardians of prophecy; and their history, as well as worship, was in some respects typical.-See Jude 14 (Enoch); 1 Pet. iii. 21; Gen. viii. 20 (Noah); Heb. v. vii. (Melchizedek); Job xix. 25 (Job); but more particularly Gen. xii. 3, &c.; xxvi. 4. xlix. 10 (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah). It is observable that in the patriarchal dispensation may be traced the dawn of the Mosaic. This appears in reference to that great rite of sacrifice which was the distinguishing characteristic of both. In the solemn covenant which God made with Abraham (Gen. xv.) every animal commanded or allowed to be sacrificed under the Mosaic law is here mentioned (see Gen. xv. 9). And even in the time of Noah a distinction was made of clean and unclean animals in reference to sacrifice; while the intention of sacrifice, as a means of turning away God's anger, is evidently implied in God's command to Job respecting his friends (Job xlii. 7, 8), and in the domestic practice of Job himself (Job i. 5).

But in the covenant made through Moses with the Jewish people, about 1500 years before the coming of our Blessed Lord-called the Mosaic Dispensationthe intention of animal sacrifice was more distinctly explained (Lev. i. 4. vi. 247. xvi. 21. xvii. 11): many other types were instituted--typical persons, places, things.

The Jewish people were formed into a typical nation (1 Cor. x. ; Epistle to Hebrews throughout), both by their religious institutions and history. Prophecies were increased both in number and clearness. (See those of Balaam, Numb. xxiv., and Moses.)

While from Samuel to Malachi (Acts iii. 24), a period of about 600 years, a succession of prophets were sent, who gradually unfolded, with more distinctness than Moses had done, the person and office of the Messiah, and the great doctrines of the Gospel. They searched what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. i. 11); particularly by the outpouring of the Spirit upon the church, as the fruit of his ascension (Ps. lxviii. 18, with Acts ii. 33; also Joel ii. 28).

A comparison of the book of Isaiah with the Pentateuch will illustrate this; particularly Deut. xviii. 15—the clearest prophecy in the Pentateuch respecting the Messiah-with Isaiah liii. &c.

By these means, chiefly, the impression of the coming of the Messiah was from age to age preserved. As these accumulated, it was deepened ; and such was the result, that we have the confirmation of two heathen historians, Suetonius and Tacitus, to the fact, that at the time of our blessed Lord's appearing there was a general expectation, not only among the Jews, but throughout the East, that some Great Person should come into the world. See Hag. ii. 7.

Thus the Old Testament prepared for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour. It was a light of hope

cherishing, for thousands of years, the expectation of the world's deliverance.

It was a light of evidence---proving, in our Lord's fulfilment of its prophecies and types, that He was that Deliverer.

2. The New Testament presents to us our blessed Lord in our nature ; actually come; purchasing that salvation ; by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit unfolding its whole plan; illustrating, by facts, its effects on mankind when thus unfolded; and, through prophecy, continuing the history of those effects to the consummation of all things.

(1.) In the Gospels is the account of our blessed Lord, by his obedience unto death, purchasing that salvation, after having, by his miracles, &c., proved he was the promised Saviour, and in his preaching touched on all the great doctrines of salvation.

(2.) In the Acts are facts illustrating the effects of that salvation, when fully preached and applied by the Holy Spirit, in the establishment of the Christian church, uniting Jew and Gentile on one foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.

(3.) In the Epistles are clearly unfolded the doctrines of that salvation, as fully preached by the Apostles in the Acts.

(4.) In the Revelation of St. John the work of prophecy is continued; and as in the Acts are seen the effects of that salvation in the establishment of the Christian church, so in this book is traced its progress till the consummation of all things.

Thus is the Christian dispensation presented to us as 16 the master-piece of the Divine Providence; that point in which all the lines of God's manifold wisdom meet, as in their centre,” Eph. iii. 10. (See Lowth's Directions for Reading the Scriptures.)

What a view this subject gives us of the harmony of the Bible with itself, especially of the doctrines of the Bible with its facts! The great doctrine of the Bible, as has been already noticed (page 38), is the atonement and mediation of a Divine Person—the Messiah, in order to the recovery of the world. And is not the preparation made in the Old Testament for his coming answerable to so great an object? Are we not prepared in some measure, by the types and prophecies announcing the Messiah in the Old Testament, for the coming of no less a person than Him who is declared in the New Testament to be God manifest in the flesh ?

“ For what manner of person must he be who shall answer all the expectation raised from age to age of his appearance? How powerful must this Seed of the woman be, who shall bruise the serpent's head, the ancient deceiver of mankind ! How happy this Seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed! How wonderful the Prophet who shall perfect and complete the Law given at Mount Sinai, and ordained by angels ! How mighty the Prince who shall sit on the throne of David for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end ! How majestic the Angel of the Covenant, of whose coming to the temple such things were spoken! ....The temple built and adorned by Solomon was still richer in heavenly gifts, when the precious stones of Aaron's breast-plate shone with an oracular brightness, and a cloud, the symbol of the Divine presence, overshadowed the mercy-seat. Yet we are assured that the glory of the latter house, though destitute of these, shall be greater than that of the former. Who, then, is He whose presence shall thus ennoble this temple? Who is this King of Glory, who shall enter into our gates with all the honours upon him which Heaven before divided among its favoured sons : whom Adam represented as the Father of mankind; Melchizedeck, as a priest of the Most High God; Moses, as a Mediator between God and man; Joseph, as a Saviour; David, as a shepherd of his people, a ruler, and a king? Who can this King of Glory be-promised to all ages-proclaimed by all inspired prophets-prefigured by all great examples? who, but the Lord, even the Lord of Hosts, Himself; Emmanuel, or God with us?”- Townson.

And such He is declared to be, Matt. i. 23.

In the view of such elaborate preparations for our happiness, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?

QUESTIONS ON CHAP. III. Why is the history of the Jews, as recorded in the Bible, of such importance to us? (pp. 42 & 47.]

Though men's different circumstances may alter the mode of God's dealing with them, what views do the Scriptures give of His character, which shew God never alters the principles on which He acts towards them ? [p. 43.]

To understand how the great work of man's redemption was revealed gradually, what view may be taken of the Old and New Testament ? (pp. 48, 51 & 52.]

What makes the neglect of salvation so dangerous ?


Contents.—$ i. The terms used in speaking of God. $ ii. Application to ourselves of Scripture examples. $ iii. On the interpretation of Doctrines, of Promises, fc. § iv. Prophecy. § v. Types. $ vi. Parables. vii. Importance of comparing Scripture with Scripture. s viii. Words used in different senses. § ix. Proper names. Value of some knowledge of—$ x. Geography, § xi. Natural History, § xii. Chronology, Š xiii. Profane History, Š xiv. Manners and Customs of Eastern Nations, fc. $ xv. On the difficulties and seeming contradictions of the Bible. $ xvi. Quotations illustrating the leading object of this chapter. In this chapter, as in every other part of the work, hints are all that can be offered-hints, the effect of which, it is hoped, may be to awaken inquiry ; to make the reader feel how vast the subject is; how little has been told of it; and, therefore, with what humility and diligence he must himself apply to the study of God's word, searching as for hidden treasure (Prov. ii. 1-6).

§ i. On the terms used in speaking of God. As we have remarked, that the foundation of all right knowledge in religion, and therefore of all right conduct, is laid in just views of God, some remarks are necessary, as an assistance to the interpretation of the passages of Scripture which speak of God.

1. Let it be deeply impressed upon the mind,—that it is from the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, we derive just views of God; that as the design of all Scripture is to make us wise unto salvation, it gives us such a view of God's character as is adapted to that object, and no further; that the Scriptures pursue that object in a manner suited to the capacities of mankind at large.

Condescending to the feebleness of our conceptions, they give, because we are not capable of higher views, such representations of God as are borrowed chiefly from ourselves, from our nature and manner of acting. For instance,

« PreviousContinue »