Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

first coming of Christ; so this second and new administration of the covenant is carried through various successive periods, under his second coming. The book of the revelation exhibits the state of the church from the resurrection of Christ to his personal coming; and particularly the seven churches of Asia are einblematical of it in the several successive periods of time within that interval; and represent it in its various changes and vicissitudes, as sometimes in prosperity and sometimes in adversity; sometimes in the freer use and enjoyment of the ministry of the word and ordinances, and sometimes as under clouds, darkness and discouragements, through persecutors and false teachers, until the spi. ritual reign of Christ takes place; when the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, and be enlightened with his glory; when the gospel will be in its purity every where, and the ordinances kept as they were first delivered, and gospel-churches set up, and gospel-discipline maintained every where; which will be followed with the personal reign of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and the ultimate glory: of each of which in their proper place.

OF THE LAW OF GOD. It appears by what has been observed, that there was an intermixture of Law and Gospel under the former dispensation, as there also is in the present one; they are interspersed in both Testaments; though the law was more, largely held forth than the gospel, under the former dispensation; and therefore we commonly call it the legal dispensation; and there is more of the gospel chan of the law under the present dispensation; for which reason we call it the gospel dis. pensation; yet there are of each in both; and here will be a proper place to treat of law and gospel distinctly, which will connect what has been already said, to what is yet to be said; and by the latter I shall be naturally led to the great and glorious truths of the gospel I intend to treat distinctly of. And shall begin with the law.

The word law is variously used, sometimes for a part of the scriptures only, the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses; as when it is mentioned in the division of the scriptures by Christ, Luke xxiv. 44. and along with the prophets, and as distinct from them, John i. 45. sometimes for all the books of the Old Testament, which in general go by the name of the law, as does the book of Psalms on that account, as the places quoted out of it, or referred to in it, shew, John x. 34.—xii. 34.—XV. 25. sometimes it signifies the doctrine of the scriptures in general, both legal and evangelical, Psal. xix. 7. and the doctrine of the gospel in particular, even the doctrine of the Messiah, Isai. ii. 3. and xlii. 4. called in the New Testament the law, or doctrine of faith, Rom. iii. 27. and sometimes it signifies the whole body of laws given from God by Moses to the children of

VOL. II.

E

Israel, as distinct from the gospel of the grace of God, John i. 14. and which may be distinguished into the laws ceremonial, judicial and moral.

* I. The ceremonial law, of which little need be said, since much has been ob.. served concerning it already; this concerns the ecclesiastical state of the Jews, their priests, sacrifices, feasts, and fasts, washings, &c. and though some of these rites were before the times of Moses, aś sacrifices, the distinction of clean and unclean creatures, circumcision, &c. yet these were renewed and confirined, and others added to them; and the whole digested into a body of laws by Moses, and given by hiin under a divine direction to the people of Israel. This law was a shadow of good things to coine by Christ, of evangelical things, and indeed was no other than the gospel veiled in types and figures ; the priests served to the example and shadow of heavenly things, the sacrifices of Christ; the festivals were shadows of which Christ was the body and substance, the ablutions typified cleansing by the blood of Christ; and the whole was a schoolmaster to the Jews, until he came; but when faith came, that is, Christ, the object of faith, they were no longer under a schoolmaster, nor had they need of the law as such; there was a disannulling of it, because of its weakness and unprofitableness; for it became useless and unnecessary, having its accomplishment in Christ.

IL The judicial law, which respects the political state, or civil government of the Jews, and consists of statutes and judgments, according to which the judges in Israel determined all causes brought before them, and passed sentence; in which sentence the people were to acquiesce, Deut. xvii. 8-11. Such as related to any injuries done to their persons or property, and to the punishinent of offences, both of a greater and of a lesser kind; these were given by Moses; but not made by him: they were made by God himself. The government of the Jews was a very particular forin of government; it was a theocracy, a government immediately under God; through he is King of the whole world; and Governor among and over the nations of it, yet he was in a special and peculiar manner King over Israel ; and he madę laws for them, by which they were to be ruled and governed: nor had the commonwcalth of Israel a power to make any new laws; nor any of their judges and rulers, not even Moses, their lawgiver under God: and therefore, when any matter came before him, not clearly determined by any law given by God, he suspended the determination of it until he knew the mind of God about it; see Lev. xxiv. 12. Numb, $v.

34. And when the people of Israel were desirous of a king, after the manner of neighbouring nations, it was resented by the Lord, and reckoned by him as a rejection of him from being their King; and though he gave them a king, or suffered them to have bric, it was in anger; and so far he still kept the peculiar government of them in his hands, that their kings never had any power to make new laws; nor did their best and wisest of kings make any, as David and Solomon; and when a reformation was made among tltem, as by Hezekiah and Josiah, it was not by making any new regulations, but by putting the

[ocr errors]

old laws into execution; and by directing and requiring of the Judges, and other officers, to act according to them.

It may be enquired, whether the judicial laws, or the laws respecting the Jewish polity, are now in force or not, and to be observed or not? which may be resolved by distinguishing between them; there were some that were peculiar to the state of the Jews, their continuance in the land of Canaan, and whilst their polity lasted, and until the coming of the Messiah, when they were to cease, as is clear from Gen. xlix. 10. such as related to inheritances, and the alienation of them by marriage, or otherwise; the restoration of them when sold at the year of jubilee; the marrying of a brother's wife when he died without issue, &c. the design of which was, to keep the tribes distinct until the Messiah came, that it might be clearly known from what tribe he sprung. And there were others that were peculiarly suited to the natural temper and disposition of that people, who were covetous, cruel, and oppressive of the poor, froward and perverse, jealous and revengeful; hence the laws concerning the manumission of sei vants sold, at the end of the sixth year; the release of debts, and letting the land rest from tillage every seventh year; concerning lending on usury, leaving a corner in the field for the poor, and the forgotten sheaf; and others concerning divorces, and the trial of a suspected wife, and the cities of refuge to flee to from the avenger of blood: these, with others, ceased when the Jewish polity did, and are not binding on other nations. But then there were other judicial laws, which were founded on the light of nature, on reason, and on justice and equity, and these remain in full for.ce; and they must be wise, as well as righteous laws, which were made by God himself, their King and Legislator, as they are said to be, Deut. iv. 6, 8. And they are, certainly, the best constituted and regulated governments that come nearest to the common wealth of Israel, and the civil laws of it, which are of the kind last described and where they are acted up unto, there what is said by Wisdom is most truly verified, By me kings reign, and princes decree judginent; and if these laws were more strictly attended to, which respect the punishment of offences, especially capital ones, things would be put upon a better footing than they are in soine governments; and judges, in passing sentences, would be able to do that part of their office with more certainty and safety, and with a better conscience. And whereas the commonwealth of Israel was governed by these laws for many hundreds of years, and needed no other in their civil polity, when, in such a course of time, every case that ordinarily happens, must arise, and be brought into a court of judicature; I cannot but be of opinion, that a digest of civil laws might be made out of the Bible, the law of the Lord that is perfeet, either as lying in express words in it, or to be deduced by the analogy of things and cases, and by just consequence, as would be sufficient for the government of any nation: and then there would be no need of so many law-books, nor of sa many lawyers; and perhaps there would be fewer law-suits. However, we

christians, under whatsoever government we are, are directed to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and for conscience-sake, even to every one that is not contrary to common sense and reason, and to religion and conscience.

III. The moral law, which lies chiefly in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, Exod. xx. 3—17. and which our Lord has reduced, even both tables of the law, to two capital ones, love to God, and love to our neighbour, Matt. xxii. 36-40. as the apostle has reduced the commands of the second table to one, that is, love, which he calls the fulfilling of the law, Rom. xiii. 9, 10. And this law, to love God and our neighbour, is binding on every man, and is eternal, and remains invariable and unalterable ; and concerning which I shall treat more largely; and shall consider,

1. The author and giver of this law; God was the Author and Maker of it; Moses the giver and minister of it from God; it was God that first spoke the Ten Words, or Commands, to the children of Israel; and it was he that wrote and engraved them on tables of stone ; the writing was the writing of God, and the engraving was by the finger of God; it was from his right hand this fiery law went: the ministry of angels was made use of in it; it is called, the word spoken by angels; it was given by the disposition of them; it was ordained by them in the hands of a mediator, who was Moses, who stood between God and the people, received the lively Oracles from him, and delivered them to them. There was a law in being before the times of Moses; or otherwise there would have been no transgression, no imputation of sin, no charge of guilt, nor any punishment inflicted; whereas death, the just demerit of sin, reigned froin Adam to Moses; and besides the positive law, which forbid the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; and was given as a trial of man's obedience to the whole moral law, and in the form of a covenant in which Adam stood as a federal head to all his posterity; and which covenant he broke, and involved himself and his, in misery and ruin. Besides this, there was the law of nature, inscribed on his heart by his Makei, as the rule of his obedience to him; and by which he knew much of God, and of the nature of moral good and evil; and which, though much obliterated by the fall, some remains of it are to be discerned in Adam's posterity, and even in the Gentiles, Rom. ii. 14, 15. and which is reinscribed in the hearts of God's people in regeneration, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, Jer. xxxi. 33. Now the law of Moses, for matter and substance, is the same with the law of nature, though differing in the form of administration; and this was renewel in the times of Moses, that it might be confirmed, and that it might not be forgotten, and be wholly lost out of the minds of men; of which there was great danger, through the great prevalence of corruption in the world: and it was written, that it might remain, litera scripta manet; and it was written on tables of stone, that it might be the more durable; the apostle says, it was added because of transgressions, to forbid them, restrain them, and punish for them; and it entered

that the offence might abound, the sin of Adam; that the heinousness of it might appear, and the justness of its imputation to all his posterity might be manifesti as well as all other offences might be seen by it to be exceeding sinful, and tighteously punishable; Rom. v. 20. and vii. 13. It was not delivered as a pure covenant of works, though the self-righteous Jews turned it into one, and sought for life and righteousness by it; and so it gendered to bondage, and became a killing letter; nor a pure covenant of grace, though it was given as a distinguishing favour to the people of Israel, Deut. iv. 6, 8. Rom. ix. 4. and much mercy and kindness are expressed in it; and it is prefaced with a declaration of the Lord being the God of Israel, who had, of his great goodness brought them out of the land of Egypt. But it was a part and branch of the typical covenant, under which the covenant of grace was adıninistered under the former dispensation; and of what it was typical has been observed before; and a prinscipal end of its being renewed was, that Christ, who was to come of the Jews, might appear to be made under the law, as che surety of his people, the riglateousness of which he was to fulfil, and indeed, all righteousness; being the end of the law, the scope at which it aimed, as well as the fulfiller of it.

11. The epithets of this law, or the properties of it, may be next considered; such as the scriptures expressly give to it; and which will lead into the nature and quality of it. As, - 1. That it is perfect. The law of the Lord is perfect, Psal. xix. 7. which is true of the moral law, by which inen come to know wlüt is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, Rom. xii. 2. what it is his will should be done, and what not be done; it takes in the whole duty of men, bosh to God and man; for to fear God, and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man; it includes love to God, and love to our neighbour; and which are comprehensive of every duty to both: it is very large and capacious ; it is the commandment which is exceeding broad; it is so complete and perfect, that-as nothing is to be detracted from it, so nothing is to be added to it, nor can be added to it, to make it more perfect: the papists talk of counsels, exhortations, &c. as additions; but these belong neither to law or gospel. And the Socinians say, that Christ came to make the law more perfect; which they infer from some passages in Matt. v. where Christ observes, that it had been said by some of the ancients of old, thus and thus; but he said, so and so; which is not to be understood of any new laws made by him, but as giving the true sense of the old laws, and vindicating them from the false glosses and interpretations of the Scribes and Pharisees. and when the apostle John speaks of a new commandment, he means the old commandment to love one another, as he himself explains it, 1 John ii. 7, 1. and which he calls new, because enforced by a new instance and example of Christ's love in dying for his people, and by new inotives and arguments taken from the same. — 2. It is spiritual; We know that the law is spiritual, says the apostle, Rom. vii. 14. which is to be understood of the moral law; for as for the ceremonial law, that is called, The law of a carnal commandment; and is said to stand in carnal ordinances, Heb. vii. 16. and ix. 10,

« AnteriorContinuar »