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time then present, as shewing the necessity of a Savior, and pointing to one; a yoke of bondage indeed, as the institutions of the Gospel are, when observed without saving faith, and on a mercenary principle ; and gendering to bondage, as the law worketh wrath to the hyp. ocrite. But it by no means follows, that the Sinai covenant was not a stricdy religious institution; or that the real believing observance of it, while in force, was not true religion. •
It is objected again, that in Ezekiel, xx. 25. God himself speaks of the laws of the Sinai covenant, as requiring soraething short of that real piety, to which the promise of eternal life is made. The words are, "Wherefore, I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live." This is a passage of difficult interpretation. From the following verse, however, we seem to be led to consider the purport of it to be, that God, in punishment of the sins of the disobedient part of Israel, gave them up, in his providence, to the impious institutions and laws, of idolatrous nations; which they either introduced; or followed in the countries whither they were carried captive. This interpretation is adopted by Calvin. Whether it be the right interpretation or not, one thing is certain, that it is not the design of this passage, to depreciate the character of the Sinai law. Such a supposition makes it flady contradict the 21st verse. "They walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them; which, if a man do, he shall even live in them." It is impossible that both these contrary characters should apply to the same law.
'On the whole, the Sinai covenant, though in itself it actually secured neither obedience, nor its rewards; as its precepts, institutions, and motives, were holy ; as it was subservient to the effectuating of God's great object, the salvation of the Church; and as its promises were gracious, and terminated in the highest good, appears to have been such as to accord with the character which the Psalmist gives of it. Psalm xix. 7. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting (construelively and instrumentally) the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey comb. Moreover also by them, is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is a great reward."
'OitAng a view of the actual character of the Hebrew Communis ty, from the establishment of the Sinai covenant, to the ad' vent of the Messiah.
WE have found that the Sinai covenant was administered to Israel, not as a temporal Commonwealth, but as the Church of God. This covenant multiplied instructions, means, and motives, beyond any preceding parallel; all calculated to attach the people to God, in a holy allegiance. These means were numerous and impressive, on purpose that this favored people might be put under trial; that the human character might clearly appear; and that when the Spirit should be poured out in more copious effusions in the Gospel day, the grace exercised might be the more conspicuous and glorious. Deuteronomy viii. 1,2, 3. "All the commandments which I command thee this day, shall ye observe to do, that ye may live and multiply, and go in, and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, this forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart; tvhether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not; neither did thy Fathers know ; that he might make thee know, that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live.'* "The trial was to continue as long as the dispensation should last. This being
a season of trial, it was necessarily a season of forbearance.* "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." If the kingdom of God had been taken directly from the rebellious part of Israel, upon the appearance of rebellion, and given to another people; this forbearance would not have had its proper illustration. The system of trial would have been defective. Neither the character of God, nor the human character would have been so fully made known. There would not have been so much justice in the enquiry, "What could I have done more to my . vineyard that I have not done in it ? Wherefore, when I looked, that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ? If then, in tracing the actual character of Israel, we find much perverseness in individuals, or in the body at large, we must expect also, as has been already hinted, to find much forbearance.
It is not to our purpose, to trace minutely the history of this people. The only question which it is of im» portance for us to resolve, is, whether they continued, through the period now under consideration, to maintain, in fact, their distinctive character, as the Church of God. It is said, that, whatever may have been the plan of the Hebrew community, as originally constituted by God; and however demonstrably it may be proved, that the Sinai covenant, as a posterior institution, was not designed^ and did not operate, to change its character from a religious to a civil society, it did m fact, become a mere nation, like all the other nations of the earth; that here were kings, and their courts; generals, armies, and battles; that the character of the Jews, as drawn by their own prophets, was very bad; that, instead of brotherly love, by which saints are distinguished, wrongs of every description prevailed; that idolatry was substituted for the worship of God; and, in short, thatrthis community, religiously
* Afojc«i Romans iii. 25. "Whom God hath set forth, to be a propitiation. through faith in his blood, to declare his righteo usness for the remission of sins *« are past, through the forbearance of Cod." It is by a scene of admirable forbearance, displayed through successive ages, that the work of redemption is sccornnlisried.
6onsidercd, had much more the appearance of a society of knaves, than of a spiritual Church.
. It is confessed, that the institution, originally holy, was corrupted; that there were seasons of extensive apostacy ; and that the character given to Israel, Holiness to the Lord, was, during these seasons, in a great measure lost. We are willing that the history, and prophetic reproofs, of the Old Testament, should have their full effect, to sink the character of this people, from that height of religious purity, to which we should naturally expect, that the Sinai covenant, and the accompanying dispensations would form them. But let them not be sunk lower than the determination of God will warrant. His sentence must prevail; and all human opinions, which are not in conformity to it, ,are certainly erroneous.
After every allowance to their disadvantage, we still insist, that theyjeontinued to maintain their relation and character, in contradistinction to all other societies of men, as the kingdom or Church of God, quite down to the coming of the Messiah. This position is an important part of the scheme exhibited in this Treatise. To confirm it the following things are submitted. 1. It has been proved from the design of the separation of Abraham j from the view which the scriptures give us of his character, and relative state, prior to what is commonly called the covenant of circumcision; and from the analysis which has been exhibited of that covenant, that in him was founded a society, characteristically religious; that this society was to consist, primarily ,of lineal descendants from him; that it was to be transmitted,by an uninterrupted succession,through their generations; and that it was to be indissolvabie, and interminable. It has been proved that provision was made for the maintenance of its visible character, by such exceptions, as God should be pleased to make, in the course of his providence, and by the execution of such disciplinary laws, as he had ordained, or should enact. The actual continuation of this society as a religioussociety, till it is found underthe guidance of God,