« AnteriorContinuar »
propagation of the gospel under the conduct of Jesus Christ. The powers of the world were all against it, but the sound of the gospel from the mouths of the apostles prevailed against them all. Weak and contemptible as the means might appear which God had appointed, the end was answered. Idolatry was overpowered: Satan was cast out of his strong holds, which he had so long possessed in peace; and the kingdom of the world became the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
Here it is a wonderful thing to consider, that the Canaanitish nations, who possessed the land promised to the people of God, were all Idolaters, or Gentiles as they are called, such as the Roman empire and all the kingdoms of the world were before the establishment of Christianity. This circumstance is taken notice of and applied in the apology of St. Stephen against the Jews. Our fathers, said he, had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness—which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles. The tabernacle of God was transferred to the Gentiles, and there established under Joshua; to signify in a figure, that the church, under Jesus Christ, should be transferred from the Jews to the Gentiles. The first set of people who came out of Egypt, rebelled against Moses, and refused to hear the exhortation of Joshua: so they died in their unbelief, and their carcases were left in the wilderness. But those who came after, (as St. Stephen words it) the successors of that disobedient generation, entered with the tabernacle into the possession of the Gentiles; as the new children of Abraham, who came after the apostate Jews, followed the true Jesus, when his religion was translated into the heathen world.
The time is yet to be expected, when every power of this world and the other shall fall before him. As those wicked Canaanites were driven out of their land, when the measure of their iniquities was filled up; so shall the wicked be driven out of the earth, when that vengeance of God shall overtake them, which they have so long held in contempt and defiance. The world itself shall be surrounded by the Son of God, as the Captain of our Salvation, and the army of saints and angels which shall attend upon him at his coming. The last trumpet shall sound, and the world shall be overthrown, as Jericho fell flat, when it had been compassed about seven days by the priests and ministers of God. When the priests blew, as they were commanded, at the time appointed, and all the people shouted with a great shout, (Josh. vi. 5.) the fortifications of that proud city sụnk at once into a heap of ruins. With reference to which history, we are reminded that the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout (1 Thess. iv. 16.) with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.
It pleased the wisdom of God to describe beforehand, in the manner I have now explained to you from the Old Testament, the things relating to the person of the Son of God, as our Lawgiver, our High Priest, and our Saviour ; with the works he was to perform for the redemption of mankind. Wonder not that they were all so particularly delineated by ceremonies, signs, and miracles. They are so great and important, that had they been written in the firmament of heaven as plainly as they are written in the books of Moses and the Prophets, they would have been worthy of it.
THE RELIGION AND FAITH OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD, THE
SAME (IN SUBSTANCE) UNDER BOTH TESTAMENTS.
The nature of man being the same now as from the beginning of the world, and the nature of God being unchangeable; it must follow, that the great object of the dispensations of God to man must be the same in every age; though the form and manner after which that object is pursued may be different: so that what God spake in former times to the fathers by the prophets will be found the same in sense and effect with what he spoke in the last days by his Son; though he spoke in divers manners, as occasion might require at sundry times. This is a matter of the utmost consequence; and it is what I propose to shew you in the present lecture; namely, that it was the design of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, to teach them that the religion of the people of God is, for substance and intention, the same under both Testaments.
This I shall prove from two general reasons, and afterwards from some particular ones.
My first general reason is this; that religion has the same name under the two dispensations of Moses and of Jesus Christ : it is called the Gospel : for the apostle, speaking of those who were under the teaching of God in the wilderness, says, unto us was the Gospel preached as well as unto them * ; making the religion, delivered to us in the New Testament, but a repetition of what had always been delivered to the Church. The Gospel signifies a message from God for the salvation of man; and as such was delivered at sundry times by Moses and the prophets. If the word preached did not profit some, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it, this is no argument against the sense or sufficiency of the word itself; it only shews us, that, in all ages of the world, some there have been and will be, who being carnally minded, and wholly attached to this world, are destitute of that principle, which the scripture calls by the name of faith ; and which, as a universal test to the servants of God, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
What I here say leads me to my second general reason, to prove that religion is the same under both Testaments; and this is, that it has the same general characteristic, or mark, by which it is to be distinguished. If we ask, what was the religion of the Jews, who received the law from Moses? The answer is plain; it was a religion which believed things past, and had faith in things to come, expecting the present favour of God from the observation of certain acts of religious worship, as seeing him that is invisible. This principle of faith has been the characteristic of the true religion from the beginning of the world. To Adam the generation of the world was an article of faith ; and the effects of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge were no objects of his sight. After the Fall, the expectation of a Saviour, the seed of the woman, who should bruise the
* Chap. iv. 2.
head of the serpent, was another article of faith; as was also the curse to be executed upon the earth, which the world in the days of Noah had neglected and forgotten. There never was a time when true religion did not believe something past, and expected something to come, and conform itself to ordinances, the effects of which were of a spiritual nature; and it is the trial of man in this life, whether he will observe such ordinances, and depend upon them. Adam's dependence was upon the sacramental Tree of Eden. The Patriarchs and Jews depended on the rites of sacrifices and purifications, imposed on them till the times of reformation; and we are taught, by the example of Abel, that a sacrifice was accepted for the faith of him that offered it. Christians now depend on the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper. With regard to the past, they believe that Christ suffered for their sins, and arose from the dead : and, with regard to the future, that he shall come again to judge the world. The religion of the people of God always was, and always will be, a scheme of faith and dependence : therefore it is an universal doctrine, common to all ages, which a prophet delivered and an apostle hath confirmed, that the just shall live by faith*. Let him be as just as he will, his life is not from his justice, but from his faith : without which, he has nothing of that life which true religion gives; and is dead in the sight of God. To the same effect, our apostle speaking of Enoch, that according to the testimony of the scripture, he pleased God t; draws an inference in favour of Enoch’s faith, because without faith it is impossible to please him I. This general principle of faith, while it reconciles and * Chap. x. 38. + Gen. v. 22, and Ecclus. xliv. 16. ! Chap. xi. 6.