« AnteriorContinuar »
of the wisdom of God and the harmony of his works, but it is also a proof of the Divine origin of the way of salvation. For though men may imitate nature, and adapt their conduct and systems to the state of things immediately around them, yet here is such a perfect agreement between the works and ways of God—the first and the last—the present and the future, so far as they are made known to us, as plainly shows them all to have emanated from that Divine Being, who, as he knew what it was his determination to effect, could anticipate the end from the beginning.
III. We are reminded of the obligations under which we are laid.
As though God would show his creatures that the salvation of the soul is not merely the result of any advantages they may possess, however great, some even in the Gentile world (sunk in ignorance, guilt, and darkness as it was), have been found, who were under the influence of sacred principles; and many of the Jews, in the worst state of affairs among them, feared and loved God, and brought forth the fruits of righteousness; but if they attained the holiness of character for which many of the servants of God under former dispensations were celebrated, what excuse can there be for us if we are below them in attainments, piety, and zeal.
The great principle, according to which the Divine government will ever be regulated, is to accept of every man "according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not."* “And that servant, which knew his lord's will,
* 2 Cor. viii. 12.
and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."* “ The ignorance of the Gentile world God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”+ Whatever allowance is to be made for the disciples of Moses, on account of the imperfection of the system they were under, nothing will exonerate us :
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” I Nevertheless, how many there are among the professed disciples of Christ, who are far behind the day in which they live, and whose standard of piety is more suited to a Jewish than to a Christian state.
Now nothing is more common than for persons to think that if they were favoured with other means, superior to those they possess, they would be better than they are; and it is by a supposed inferiority to others in this respect, that they excuse themselves in their neglect of their spiritual affairs; but if our salvation is of free and sovereign grace, as it most unquestionably is, then no stated means or privileges can be in themselves of more efficient
* Luke xii. 47, 48. † Acts xvii. 30. I Heb. ii. 3.
avail than others; and provided they are such as answer the end of leaving us without excuse, then we cannot justly desire others. This was the delusion of the rich man in hell. Knowing how he had viewed the means of grace, and lived all his life in the neglect of them, and perhaps had done so under the idea that they were insufficient, he intreated that Lazarus might be sent to his seven brethren, lest they should come into the place of torment in which he was suffering; but what was the answer he received ? “ They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."*
As a proof that the means themselves do not make the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever (however desirable it may be to possess the most appropriate of them), it may be noted that some of the best of characters have been found in the worst of places, and in the most depraved times. There was Noah in the old world, when the wickedness of man was so great that it grieved the Almighty that he had made him on the earth. Lot was preserved in the midst of Sodom, and saints were found in Cæsar's household. I We read of a few names, even in Sardis, who had not defiled their garments;s and Christ approved of some who dwelt " where Satan's seat was.”ll
IV. A comparison of the latter with the former dispensations of religion with all their attendant properties, is well calculated to pro* Luke xvi. 29. + Gen. vi. 6. Phil. iv. 22. $ Rev. iii. 4.
|| Rev. ii. 13.
voke our gratitude to God for the superior advantage we enjoy.
This appears not only in the freedom we possess, from a number of rites and ceremonies which, in former ages, constituted a burden too weighty to be borne, in the “liberty wherewith Christ has made us free,”* but more especially in the great light we enjoy, and the clearness with which the objects of our faith are placed before our eyes. We have not to contemplate a Saviour as set forth in a bleeding lamb, or bullock slain, nor heavenly things in those of earth, which were the figures of the true; but before our eyes Jesus Christ is evidently set forth crucified amongst us. And if Christ could tell his disciples that their eyes and ears were blessed because they saw and heard the things which many prophets and righteous men desired to see and hear, but were not permitted, I how much more true is this of us, who live so near the full development of the latter-day glory. Surely we reap that whereon we have bestowed no labour; other men laboured and we enter into their labours.
V. Here we may learn the proper use of positive institutions.
However great our admiration of any object may be, it is increased in proportion as we become acquainted with the time which it previously engaged the attention of him from whom it emanates, and the interesting manner in which he has brought it about. As parts of a whole, sometimes very trifling things impart an interest which in an isolated form they would fail to
* Gal. v. 1. + Gal. iii. 1. Matt. xiii. 17.
create. The ceremonial law, viewed in connection with the Gospel which it was designed to introduce, is a wonderful contrivance of the Deity to make way for the most gracious and glorious manifestation of himself; but whatever glory shone around it was not emitted merely from itself, but was foreshadowed from that state by the superior glory of which it was ultimately to be excelled. It was the divinely adapted and appropriate way that was prepared for the Lord, though now it serves few other purposes than that of enabling us to trace the progress of the plan of Divine wisdom to a gracious issue. It was only the framework devised to assist in growth, and to defend from injury the plant of heaven which has now approached sufficiently to maturity as to stand and flourish without its aid; so that to depend upon it now is to be more interested with the way than the end—to retain and admire the scaffolding to the neglect of the building it was constructed to raise. This, however, was the error into which the Jews in the time of Christ fell. They went back to the first principles instead of going on to perfection, and preferred the dawn of the morning to the splendour of meridian day; hence, we find so much said by Christ and his apostles, more or less in every Gospel and Epistle, to draw their minds from such a course.
But though the law was not designed to do for God's ancient people what they desired and expected from it, and is not now able to effect any saving purpose, yet it may be looked upon and studied as imparting very important instructions. It is like many of the former convul