« AnteriorContinuar »
" It is finished," said our Lord when he expired upon the cross. What was then finished ? The fol. lowing events. God had early manifested to the fathers his purpose of grace to redeem the world. He chose a peculiar people from whom the Redeemer was to descend, and appointed a dispensation of religion to prepare the world for his appearance. By the death of Jesus, this ancient dispensation was finished.
Jesus Christ, foretold by all the prophets, had now appeared unto Israel. As the Prophet of the world, he published a new religion which he adorned by his life, which he confirmed by his miracles, and which he had now sealed with his blood. By the death on the cross, his mission to the Jews, as the Author of a new religion, was finished.
From the beginning of the world, God had appointed sacrifices to make atonement for sin. These could not by any virtue of their own propitiate the Deity, or purify the soul from pollution. A more perfect facrifice, therefore, was necessary in order to atone the divine wrath. By the death of Jesus, this atonement was finished. Jesus Christ, thus constituted the Prophet of the world, and the Priest who was to make atonement for the sins of men, was to be made perfect through suffering. By the appointment of Providence, he was to suffer before he entered into his glory. By his death on the cross, these sufferings were finished.
That is ; the Old Testament dispensation was fin. ished, the mission of Christ to Israel, as the Author of a new religion, was finished, the atonement requisite for the sins of the world was finished, and the sufferings of the Messiah were finished.
In the first place, then, The ancient dispensation which had been erected, and the plan of Providence which had been carrying on to introduce the time of the Messiah, were now finished.'
When our first parents had broken the covenant of innocence, had forfeited their title to immortality, and exposed themselves to the sanction of the violated law, the Judge descended to pronounce their sentence. But along with the terrors of the Judge, he mingled also the grace of the Saviour; and when he pronounced their doom, he comforted them with the hopes of mercy. He discovered to them his benevolent design of redeeming the world by a mediator who was to interpose in their behalf, and gave them the gracious promise, that the feed of the wom. an fhould bruise the head of the serpent. Thus, no fooner had man fallen, than the Redeemer was promised who was to repair the ruins of his fall. In the following ages, the providence of God seems to have been entirely occupied in preparing the world for this great event. If he manifests himself to the patriarchs, it is to show them the day of the Messiah afar off ; if he inspires the prophets, it is to foretel his appearance ; if he chooses a peculiar peó. ple, it is to render them the depositaries of the promises concerning his coming ; if he appoints sacrifices, ceremonies, and religious rites, it is to trace beforehand the history of the Messiah. Do you read of the blood of the paschal lamb, which being sprinkled on the doors of the Israelites, secured them from the destroying angel? It was a figure of Jesus Christ, the Lamb lain from the foundation of the world, who, as our passover, was sacrificed to deliv
er us from eternal death. Do you read of a rock, which being smitten, furnished waters to a great people? That rock, says Paul, was a figure of Christ, from whom proceed fountains of living water springing up into everlasting life. Do you read of a brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness which cured the Israelites ? It was a type of the Son of man who was lifted up on the cross for the salvation of the world. In short, the whole legal economy, the whole system of Levitical worship was intended to prefigure, and to introduce a better dispensation.
The plan of Providence which had been carrying on to prepare the world for this great event, was not confined to the Jewish nation ; it extended over the whole earth. This was the great end of all the designs of the Deity, and furnishes the key to all the divine dispensations. . 6 If empires rose or fell; if “ war divided, or peace united the nations ; if learn« ing civilized their manners, or philosophy enlarged as their views, all was, by the secret decree of heaven, " made to ripen the world for that fulness of time “ when Christ was to publish the whole counsel of “ God.” What a magnificent conception, my friends, does it give us of the divine government, when we behold the princes, the kings, and the masters of the world, entering one after another upon the stage of time, to prepare the way of the King of kings!
If, in the Gentile world, a plan was carrying on to prepare the nations for the coming of the Messiah, among the chosen people a dispensation was erected to typify and prefigure the great events of his life. The economy which was established; the facrifices
which were appointed, the ceremonies in their church, and the events in their history, all concurred to this great end. Do you read of a continual burntoffering ? It was a type of him who through the eternal Spirit offered up himself a sacrifice without spot unto God. Do you read of the paschal lamb ? It was a type of that Lamb which was slain from the foundation of the world. The law only paved the way to the gospel. Moses and the prophets were but the harbingers of the Messiah. This ancient dispensation was now come to a close : and when our Saviour on the cross cried out, It is finished, “ the law ceaf“ed, the gospel commenced.”
In the second place, The mission of Christ to Israel as the author of a new religion was finished.
God had never left the nations without a witness of himself. In the early ages of the world he sent forth his light and his truth. He manifested himself to the fathers, and taught them theknowledge of the true religion. From time to time righteous men were raised up, and a succession of prophets and of martyrs was carried on, whose lives and doctrines distinguish and adorn the several ages of the world. One nation was chosen above the rest, to whom the living oracles were committed. The particular reyelations which had been delivered in the patriarchal ages, the various rays from the Father of lights which had been scattered over the earth, were here
collected, and shone out with new fplendour. Ney. · ertheless, though God was the Author of this dif
pensation, though he himself was the King of Jeshurun, and a Lawgiver to Israel, the economy which he establilhed among his own people, was not intend
ed to be immutable, or make the comers thereunto perfect. It is one of the great laws by which this world is governed, that no perfection of any kind is. attained of a sudden. There is a rise and a progress in the works of nature. This holds in all the productions of the natural, and in all the improvements of the moral world. This also seems to have regulated the divine conduct with resped to the dispensations of grace.
“ The light of religion was not poured upon the “ world all at once, and with its full splendour ; the - obscurity of the dawn went before the brightness 6 of the noon-day. The will of God was at first s made known by revelations, useful indeed, but .“ dark and mysterious. To thefe succeeded others “ more clear and perfect. In proportion as the fit. 6 uation of the world rendered it necessary, the Al"mighty was pleased further to open and unfold “ his gracious scheme.” The light increased as it shone. Star after star' arose to enlighten and bless the earth, till the day-spring from on high appeared. As in the early period of our days the inftru&ions which we receive look forward to manhood, and the various steps we take conduct us to future life; fo in this infancy of the church, a dispensation took place which was only intended to introduce a better. Every thing in the Jewish dispensation testified that it was not intended to last for ever. The presence of God circumscribed to one nation, the place of acceptable worship confined to Jerusalem, the numerous rites and burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic law, the typical and shadowy nature of the whole dispensation, showed that it was nothing more than