« AnteriorContinuar »
was limited to his own future offspring and to the present domestics of his household, mainly to the former, out of whom God purposed to raise up a nation which should be the chosen depositary of his merciful designs. Abraham therefore had nothing to bring forward in the lieu of Patriarchism : he was simply a reformer of the religion, professed by Adam and by Noah: no alteration was made in the ancient ritual : the rite of circumcision was alone superinduced; but that concerned none save his own family, nor was it necessary that he should work a miracle to ensure the adoption of it.
4. Agreeably then to this view of the subject, it is worthy of observation, that not a single miracle is recorded, as having been wrought by a human agent, during the whole period of the Patriarchal dispensation. The first which is mentioned, and the first which I believe to have been so wrought, is introduced to our notice at the precise time, when Patriarchism is on the point of being abrogated, and when the Levitical dispensation is about to be promulgated.
II. That some extraordinary power was necessary to convince the patriarchizing children of Israel, that they might safely and piously receive a new legislator, who would annul the religious system of their fathers, and who would propose to them a system considerably different in outward form; was evidently and strongly felt by Moses at the time, when he conversed with Jehovah in the bush. Behold, said he, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice : for they will
say, the Lord hath not appeared unto thee."
1. I take it, that, in using this language, Moses did but speak his own sentiments. Conscious, that he himself would not believe a person, who should claim to be a special delegate from heaven, simply because that person asserted himself to have a divine commission; he very naturally concluded, that others would be as little inclined to acknowledge his pretensions, unless he could bring some better evidence than his own declaration. Nor was his language censured by the Lord, as unreasonable: on the contrary, the power of working miracles in attestation of his authority was explicitly promised to him, a power never as yet conferred upon mortal man; and, to remove all cause of distrust, he was enabled instantly to work two miracles, that so he might have the evidence of his own senses as to his really enjoying such a power. Accordingly, he henceforth continued to exert it so repeatedly and upon so gigantic a scale, that no reasonable doubt could be entertained of his divine legation. Matters being thus prepared, a new dispensation was promulgated by his ministry : and the primeval dispensation, from which the postdiluvians had so shamefully apostatised, was abrogated by the formal dissolution of its priesthood and by the transfer of the sacerdotal dignity to one particular family."
2. As Moses was enabled to work miracles, because he was the prophet of a new dispensation; so, because Ezra was only a reformer and reviver of the Law, he received no such extraordinary power. He had nothing to abrogate, nothing new to introduce: an appeal therefore to the written Word of God was abundantly sufficient to answer every purpose of bis mission.
III. But, when the time arrived for the Mosaical dispensation to be annulled, the same miraculous evidence again became necessary : for, without such evidence, it could not be required of men to believe, that a dispensation, which itself confessedly rested upon that identical evidence, was indeed authoritatively abrogated.
1. Hence we find, that, in reply to the inquiries of the Baptist, whether Jesus were indeed the expected Messiah, our blessed Saviour forthwith refers him to the evidence of his miracles : and hence, when the Jews prepared to stone him, because, as the Angel of Jehovah whom they knew to be the same as the promised Messiah, he claimed to be one with the Father; he immediately charged them to believe his mighty works, though they might most contradictorily deny himself.” Yet such is the strange effect of inveterate prejudice, that the very evidence, which led their more rational fathers to admit the divine legation of Moses, served only to induce the later Jews to reject the divine legation of Christ. His miracles they ac
knowledged, for the facts were too palpable to be controverted : but the obvious inference from them they evaded, by ascribing his supernatural power to the prince of darkness.
2. The Christian dispensation then, like the Mosaical, rests upon the basis of miracles : but, to reform any corruptions which might hereafter be superinduced upon it, the exertion of a miraculous power was evidently quite unnecessary; just as such a power had equally been judged unnecessary in the case of its two predecessors. Here therefore we may perceive the strange inconclusiveness of the Romanists, when they object to Luther and the first protestants their inability to work miracles. Had those illustrious men elaimed to introduce a new dispensation, the demand would have been perfectly in point : hut, as they specially professed to abide solely by the written document which exhibits the genuine features of the already existing dispensation, and as they disclaimed all novelty for in fact the real innovators were their opponents ; nothing could be more nugatory and irrelevant.
THE CONNECTION OF THE THREE DISPENSA
TIONS BY MEANS OF TYPES.
THE END OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE LAW.
When man first transgressed the command of heaven, and forfeited his native innocence; though the sentence of death was pronounced upon him, yet its terrors were alleviated by the promise of the Messiah. The remembrance of this prediction was carefully preserved by the ancient patriarchs ; the expected Redeemer was prefigured by the Levitical ordinances ; and the benefits of his death and passion shine with their full lustre in the sacred volume of the Gospel. Although the Almighty may, at different periods, have revealed his counsels to mankind with different degrees of clearness; yet the whole, both of the Hebrew and of the