« AnteriorContinuar »
them, but their celebration was confined to the Hebrew people alone. In fact, many of them were of such a nature as to preclude their general adoption; and it was their tendency in this respect to keep the Jews a separate people, that was the reason why they were appointed. Having from eternity determined to bring his Son into the world, in a direct traceable line from Adam, through the seed of Abraham,—to keep up amongst them the doctrine of the Divine unity, and to preserve other important truths which were in danger of being lost amidst the aboundings of idolatry and human depravity, as well as to instruct them in a way suited to their circumstances and capacity,—the Almighty ordered such a state of things as should most effectually accomplish these purposes.
That not a few among the rites and institutions of the Mosaic economy were designed to accomplish a present national advantage cannot be denied; nor can we look at some of them without being struck with the proofs they afford of the consummate wisdom and skill of the great Jewish legislator. Several,-as the year of jubilee, and the right of redemption,-were intended to promote, as far as it was desirable, the equality of the people, to create and maintain a sympathy amongst all their tribes, and to bind them together in one indissoluble bond of union; while others, as the feast of tabernacles, had for their object to keep in their remembrance the many wonderful interpositions of God on their behalf, and to show them how great was the debt which they owed to that Divine Providence by which they had been
raised to distinction and affluence, and made a happy and flourishing nation. A considerable number of them were intended to promote the health and physical improvement of the different classes of society; while the unity of their faith and worship was the end sought to be accomplished by others. So that both with regard to those institutions concerning which he had received positive Divine command, and others in regard to which he was left more especially to his own discretion, under the general guidance of Divine wisdom, Moses could well say, “ What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law which I set before thee this day?"*
But however useful and wisely designed many of them may have been for the time then present, they were all appointed with a double end in view; and with respect to a great number of them, if not the larger portion, the typical was the principal use, and in some cases the only one that was to be contemplated. They seem to have been uncalled for by any immediate event or circumstance connected with their establishment; nor does any civil obligation or moral lesson appear to have been taught by their use. · This was the case with the ceremony of pouring out water before the Lord, mentioned in 1 Sam. vii. 6; the anointing of the Tabernacle and its utensils ; † the ordinance of the Scape-goat;I the red Heifer, ß and various others; and in some instances, when this was not the case, the * Deut. iv. 8. + Exod. xxx. 26. | Levit, xvi. 9.
§ Num. xix. 2.
peculiar character of which they partook, too clearly showed that something further was designed than to allow those who practised them to consider that all rested with their present benefit. Had that been all that was to be contemplated, they would not have seemed to comport with the wisdom of the Creator in appointing them. Nor is it a circumstance entirely without weight in this inquiry, that though generally kept up during the whole time of the existence of the Old Testament dispensation, there were periods when they were dispensed with, as in the days of Samuel.
Nothing, however, is so likely to impress and instruct the human race as living examples and the actions of men: it was not therefore for the sake of variety, but to bring out more fully the character and offices of the true Messiah that a number of individuals were constituted active types. These persons, in all their actions, and in the stations they filled, were perfectly free. Many of them were prompted by an earnest desire to serve their generation in their day, and to take leading parts in the service of God in which they saw their labours were required, or to occupy the posts of honourable distinction to which, by the Divine appointment, they were raised: but while the duties they discharged seemed to be called for by the times in which they lived, or to grow out of the offices to which by the ordinary course of things they had been elevated, the mysterious providence of God was accomplishing in them a twofold purpose, -one immediately answered; the other remote, and connected with events
which future history was to unfold. That many of them knew that this was the case with respect to themselves is clear from the manner in which they speak of their own lives and actions, and the way in which others allude to them; but in regard to a large portion, it was a secret but partially discovered by the singularity of their actions, and the little connection which what they did had with their times and circumstances.
In fact, the whole of the Old Testament dispensation had a double or typical character. The Hebrew nation, being distinct and separate from all others, set forth the peculiarity of the people of Christ. The land of Canaan which they inhabited, was the representation of a better country, even a heavenly; and the manner in which they became possessed of it showed the spiritual struggle which was to take place for the rest which God in covenant has given to those who love him. Every office that was sustained by their leading men, pointed out some feature of the Redeemer's official character; and a great part of their prophecies are to be understood in a double sense.
Section III. The scriptural authority for believing the Old Testament
Dispensation to be typical, figurative, and transitory in its nature.
Such is the darkness of the human mind in its natural state, and so little is it able to discover the true character of God even with the aid of Divine revelation, that without super
natural guidance and assistance men cannot rightly apply the means by which the Divine Being has made himself known, or properly understand their nature, and appreciate their use and importance. Placed under a system of instruction so well suited as that of the Mosaic dispensation was to the circumstances and capacities of the Jews, and so appropriate to lead them to the knowledge of the truth of the Gospel, and to Christ the true Messiah, it might have been expected that an acquaintance with their rites and ceremonies would have facilitated their conversion to Christianity. The reverse, however, was the case. Instead of regarding the law as their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ,* they looked upon it as complete and perfect in itself, and urged the possession of it as a justification of their unbelief. To correct their error in this respect is the design of a large part of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hence the writer addressed them, chap. x. 1 : “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered ? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." By the term shadow, in this place the apostle
• Gal. iii. 24.