« ÎnapoiContinuați »
and enter into the high hill of God.....But few among the great and renowned of that church were able to do this; and they, perhaps, not so completely as the least of them, who enter in by the new and living way, which is consecrated for us through the vail. Bounded, as they were, by partition walls, and covered by the terrors of an altar, great and dreadful as a flaming Sinai, the children of the law were as instinctively characterized by fear and bondage, as the children of the Gospel are by hope and liberty...Standing there, with Moses, at the nicther part of the mount, all the people trembled ; and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. We must not conceive, however, of things of this nature as being undesirable in that church; on the contrary, the spirit of bondage, in the highest degree, even to that of boring the ear to the door post, was the first of its graces.
Being of a different spirit, the characters of these churches differ throughout.... It was lawful, and not unfrequently expedient, for them of old. time to make vows..... Though a man under a vow was in a most humbled state, he was not a free man; it was a deep boring of his ear, and his sacrifices, in taking up his bonds, were oftentimes solemnly embarrassing; for, in this case, it was always to be understood that the dearest and best of all he possessed, was to be devoted; still vows were encouraged, for they accorded well with the humiliation, bondage and service of that state, and they connected with Christ; for, in that state, his ears were bored, Psal. xl. 6; on which account it was that these vows were accepted of God, and in a wonderful manner were availing, as we have many instances in the Scriptures. But it is not proper for us to make vows of this nature, for they would not accord with the liberty unto which we are called, nei
ther would they connect us with Christ, as he is now exalted and glorified; and therefore they would not in us be acceptable to God........ Such transactions would be wholly uncongenial with the exalted and glorified state of the Head of the Church, and with our own gospel state, as being. the Lord's free men.... An oath for confirmation, however, is of another nature, and does not appear to be inconsistent with the character and dignity of the children of the kingdom.
It was also in the spirit of that church to exact forfeits with strictness and severity.....Moses spake the true dialect of that ministration, when he said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth
for a tooth. And when it is considered that the great characteristic of that church was fear, and that the principle of fear was the strength of its discipline; and also, that its state and condition had a special relation to the bonds of Christ, which were to be exacted with the greatest strictness; it will appear proper and glorious in the lawgiver, that he noticed every jot and tittle of right, and that it was an excellence in the magistrate to exact in judginent, to an iota, an equivalent for every injury. But as the church in the Gospel dispensation is not on the earning, but the spending hand, its genius is love and liberality; and as the Lord, our Head, has received all fulness in heaven and earth, to stand upon such punctilios of right would now be improper and inglorious; and as we have received freely the forgiveness of all our sins and trespasses, for us to follow Moses, great, and holy, and good, as he truly was, would be ignoble, immoral and criminal.
Again, it was right in the view of that church to hate their enemies, and to use against them weapons of warfare that were carnal ; it was right for them to make Moab their wash-pot, and over Edom to cast out their shoe; or, to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people :
To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles : with fetters of iron. But as the love of God to the world has appeared, and he has given his Son to die for his enemies, and by his servants, has sent to them the word of reconciliation, it is our part rather to entreat them, and, as in Christ's stead, to beseech them to be reconciled to God....Elijah, in the greatness of his commission, according to , the style of that church, could draw forth from heaven the angel's
flaming sword, and smite down : the captains with their fifties ; but this was a humble business compared with the commission given to us, to wield the sword of the Spirit against principalities and powers, and against spiritual nickedness in high places; and to deal with the minds : and hearts of men ;.“ which always causes us to
triumph in Christ, and inaketh manifest the sa
vour of his knowledge by us in every place....... « For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, "in them that are saved, and in them that perish. " To the one we are the savour of death unto “ death, and to the other the savour of life unto. “ life; and who is sufficient for these things?
As Hagar and Sarah, and the churches they represent, were of so different a character, the one a bond-maid, and the other a free woman; and as their children are generated with so different a spirit, there can but exist between them an instinctive opposition, which is of so radical and active a nature, that the apostle calls it enmity, Eph. ii. 15, 16. It is an opposition absolutely unreconcilable, insomuch, that nothing but the cruel work of death can extinguish it.... To accomplish which, bodies of people and churches, distinguished as Jew and Gentile, will, in this view, by turns, change characters and their relative standings; and whilst the one is favoured and privileged, as the free woman and her children, the other will be concluded in unbelief, and
under sin, and will, therefore, as nature prompts, draw forth the sacrificing sword against the heirs of promise; and thus, unwittingly, they will both be instruments of bringing about the great pacification. The universality of the agency in this dreadful work, which, eventually, will disarm Death, and starve the Grave, and slay the enmity itself, by cutting up all the grounds of nature in which it exists....... This, I say, was shewn in the marvellous issue of divine counsel, that both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, and all had a hand in the condemnation and crucifixion of Christ.
It must be observed, however, that the opposition which exists against the free woman and her children, is not all of the same character; it is of a threefold nature. In one character it is a subject of trial and grief, rather than of crimination; in another, it is malignant, yet it admits of some apology, and is not beyond the reach of a remedy; but, in a third character, it has no apology, and is without any remedy.
In the first of these characters, it existed between Hagar and Sarah, who were both pious women, distinguished favourites of heaven; but such were their relations to each other, and so opposite were the motives and interests which affected their minds, that it was impossible to harmonize them. Abraham was a man of counsel, and possessed the best talents for the good management and government of his family; but this matter baffled all his skill. He did not attempt to decide upon the question of blame; he could only look on with the deepest grief, and leave the matter to work out its own issue. This opposition existed from the different conditions and relations of the parties, and not from their weakness and want of virtue. If they had pos
sessed a thousand times as much virtue as they did, and the one was the bondmaid and the other the free woman, the case had been still the same. In this strife, however, though it was unreconcilable, there did not exist malice. Such was also the nature of the strife between the herdmen of Abraham and of Lot; and a thousand such cases have existed among the people of God, and they are still taking place; and nothing can ever be done for the relief of such parties, but that which was proposed by Abraham to Lot, viz. to raise between them the partition wall.
In the second character, this opposition, in a less or greater degree, is malignant. In some degree, this appears to be the temper of Ismael towards Isaac; and also, of the elder brother in the parable, towards the returning prodigal. These, however, were worthy and good men, such as are ever the honours and stays of families. They were justly intitled to something more than transient acts of endearment, and the glows and kisses of parental aflections; and the splendid scenes of festivity, and other tokens of distinction afforded to their brethren, must have had a most distressing aspect upon their interests and privileges, to have angered their sober minds to such an 'ungovernable degree. Nothing has ever existed, among all the sovereign dispensations of God, so trying and overpowering to the human mind, as those partial unfoldings of his deep counsel, by which the last is made first. This, however, would be far from being a subject of trial, could the whole be taken at once into view; and it was understood that, in the end, the first shall be last.
Nothing could have been more trying to the feelings of the people of Nazareth, among whom our Lord was brought up, and from whom he