« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
affected the whole human race; the conclusion would obviously follow, that the benefit of the victory would be as extensive as the evil of man's apostasy, and that all future nations would be alike interested in the benignant victor.
Indeed the very notion, that God's covenant was to be for ever limited to a single people, would never once occur to the individuals who lived under the Patriarchal dispensation : nor could it ever at a subsequent period have been industriously fostered, as an apt basis for a mishapen structure of theological arrogance; if the Jews had attended to the declarations of their own inspired writers, and if they had carefully studied the ultimate purpose of God in making their nation for a season the exclusive depositary of his revealed purposes.
(2.) Thus again, when it was successively promised to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, that in their seed ALL the nations of the earth should be blessed : it was evidently declared, that, at some future period, and under some future dispensation much more efficacious than that with which they were conversant, an universal benefit should be derived to the world, a benefit therefore extending far beyond the nation which was destined to spring. from their loins, in consequence of the birth of some remarkable person among their descendants.
(3.) Thus likewise, when Jacob foretold that the gathering of the Gentiles should be to an extraordinary character, who was about to appear when the sceptre departed from Judah : however his auditors might be in the dark as to subordinate
particulars, they could not but perceive, that, notwithstanding the special privileges assigned to their own posterity, neither they nor their children had any exclusive interest in that character; but that, whatever benefits were to result from his manifestation, those benefits were to be marked by the impress of universality.
2. When Patriarchism was superseded by the Levitical dispensation, and when it was thus evident that one divine dispensation had given way to another : those, who were placed exclusively under the new modification of the original system, might have been even yet more sure than their predecessors, that some ultimate and crowning dispensation was to be confidently expected.
For those, who flourished under Patriarchism which was professedly a catholic religion, could not be absolutely certain, that any greater change would occur, than that effected by the naked accomplishment of the first prophecy and by the general recovery of mankind from their idolatrous or infidel apostasy. But they, who were exclusively placed under the tuition of the Law, might have felt themselves infallibly assured, that the Levitical dispensation, from the very circumstance of its exclusiveness, could not possibly be the last : for, even by the light of the patriarchal prophecies which were duly handed down to them, and even if no further information on the subject had been hereafter vouchsafed ; they might have perceived, that, in order to the accomplishment of those early prophecies, it was absolutely necessary for their exclusive
dispensation to be superseded by another, the characteristic of which, like the characteristic of Patriarchism, should be universality. texture therefore of the middle dispensation was itself a standing proof, during the whole period of its continuance, that it was but temporary. If all the Gentiles were to be gathered to the promised deliverer, if all the families of the earth were to be blessed in the seed of the faithful patriarchs : it is indisputable, that, whenever that time should arrive, the exclusive dispensation must necessarily give place to a catholic dispensation. Nor could any rational Jew contend, that the once exclusive dispensation was not to be superseded by a new dispensation; but that it was still to remain unaltered, save in the single point of exchanging its exclusiveness for catholicity. If he perused his ceremonial Law with only a moderate degree of attention, he would find that such an extension of it was physically impossible. The whole ritual of the Levitical dispensation is plainly calculated and designed for only a single people in a single particular country. Even by this one people the accurate observance of it was a matter of no small difficulty and labour: but, if it were enjoined upon the whole world, if (to give a single instance) all mankind were solemnly required to appear at Jerusalem three times in each year; God would plainly impose as a duty, what in its very nature was impracticable. The whole therefore of mankind could never be brought under the Levitical dispensation : but all nations were to be gathered to the promised de
liverer ; consequently, those nations, when gathered to him, must be gathered to him under a new dispensation essentially differing in its outward form from the Levitical.
But the Israelites were not left to gather the truth merely in the way of inference. Their great lawgiver solemnly announced to them, that they were to expect another prophet like himself; that is to say, a prophet who should resemble him in the peculiarity of being also a sovereign and a legislator: and the manifestation of this exalted personage, together with the various offices which he was to sustain, forms, with increasing clearness, the grand theme of most of those who succeeded Moses in his prophetic functions. Like the ancient patriarchal oracles, those predictions, which were delivered to the Israelites, dwell perpetually upon the call of the Gentiles and upon their admission into covenant with the God of the Hebrews.
From these consequently, as from the preceding declarations of the patriarchal age, it necessarily followed, that the Levitical dispensation was in due time to give place to one more perfect.
3. Nor is there any room left for imagining, that the third dispensation was to be succeeded by another.
(1.) This might be collected from the very reason of the thing.
For, as the grand object, to which all the three dispensations referred, was permanently manifested under the third ; and, as that gracious plan of reconciliation, to which the two earlier dispensations
looked forward, was accomplished under the third : it is obvious, that nothing more could remain to be done under any yet future dispensation. And, as the characteristic of the third dispensation was universality, and as by this characteristic it offered the message of reconciliation to all mankind : it is equally obvious, that no supposeable fourth dispensation could be better calculated to effect the proposed end; namely, the reconciliation of the world to God by the sacrifice of the atonement through the sanctification of the Spirit. But an all-wise God never acts in vain. Therefore, as a fourth dispensation would be palpably useless and superfluous ; a fourth dispensation is, on that account, plainly impossible.
(2.) Agreeably to what may be thus deduced from right reason and from the very nature of things themselves, runs the testimony, either implied or expressed, of all the three dispensations.
Not a hint is given in any of the patriarchal vaticinations, that, after the Seed of the woman had been revealed and after the Gentiles had been gathered to him, his reign should cease, and the Gentiles should be gathered to some other person. On the contrary, it is clearly implied, that the dispensation, which should witness the advent of the promised Seed, contained within its span the accomplishment of all God's gracious purposes.
The prophecies under the Levitical dispensation are yet more explicit. God declares, that he will make a NEW covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah : a covenant, NOT