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we include amongst the articles of our creed, “ the Communion of Saints.” But there is another distinction between this Church invisible and the Church visible—the one is small, the other is great; the one is known, the other is unknown; the former is in the latter, though it forms it not; just as the people of Israel are declared to be 6 the Lord's portion, and the lot of his inheritance." And yet at one period of their history, out of the whole nation, only Caleb and Joshua, amongst the adults, “ pleased God,” and “ the rest fell in the wilderness” because they were disobedient. So is it with the invisible and the visible Church. Only “one of a city and two of a tribe" are members of the Church which God loves ; whilst the whole city or tribe may belong to the Church which God favours.
Having thus observed the difference, we may trace some points of resemblance; that is, some particulars in which the one Church has shadowed out the other. For the literal Israel intimated the purpose of God with reference to the spiritual Church. For instance, the Mosaic ceremonial was instituted specially for the preservation of the people of Israel from idolatry, and no doubt can be entertained of its typical character. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul traces with an exact pen the parallel between the types of the
Jewish literal Church, and the antitypes of the spiritual Church as it was in his day; and in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, after having related to that Church the sins and the consequent troubles into which the literal Israel had fallen on its road to Canaan, he adds, “ Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples,” or, as the word is, types, and “ they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” And further, in the second Epistle to the same Church, in the third chapter, his argument is founded upon the resemblance which existed between the outward things of the literal and the inward things of the spiritual Church, for which resemblance we contend.
But the apostle does not leave the argument without pressing the most solemn consideration, for he says, “ All are not Israel that are of Israel.” And again, “ He is not a Jew which is one outwardly;" by which a distinction is drawn between the Churches literal and spiritual. And when, in addition, we find other passages, such, for instance, as our text, which make mention of the literal Israel in language which exactly corresponds with the expression used towards the chosen people of God in all times--the Church of the first-born—we are further strengthened in the view which has been taken, and can with
confidence trace, in God's dispensations towards his ancient people, the plan of his dealings with his chosen. And whilst we take not an iota from the promise made therein to Israel, we at the same time read our own marvellous privilege in the words of the song of Moses, “ The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”
Let us, then, look at this promise for a moment in reference to ourselves, first asking of our own hearts the question-are we entitled to it? For we must remember, that “all are not Israel who are of Israel.” “ By their fruits ye shall know them,” saith the Spirit of God. If we find not in our life and conduct the fruits of love and obedience, which characterize the true Israel, we may be sure that ours is not that circumcision of the heart which constitutes membership with the invisible Israel. We have not the seal of God the Father upon our souls; and in vain have we been baptized into the outward Church; in vain do we partake of its sacraments and ordinances; in vain do we join in its communion; in vain is our outward profession as Christians. With us God is not well pleased; and we are in danger of being overthrown. It is our wisdom, if such be the result of the examination, forthwith to seek admission, in fervent prayer and in the study of the Scriptures, whilst
the door of mercy is yet open, lest the time come when we may seek to enter in, and shall not be able, according to that saying of our Lord,
Verily I say unto you, many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able, when once the master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door."
But if, in the searching our heart, we find the Spirit witnessing with our spirits that we the children of God," then may we claim the privilege of these delightful words, “ the Lord's portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." The people of God are his portion in more than
As the sons of Jacob were selected from the nations of the earth, and became the special objects of God's care, so is it with the spiritual Israel. Selected out of a world that lieth in wickedness, plucked as brands from the burning, they are found of him whom they sought not; and, like the Jew of old, who must have often inquired, Why am I so distinguished above the people around me? the true Christian will ask, What is there in me that I am selected to bear the special marks of my heavenly Father's love? And as the reasoning Israelite must have concluded that the choice which fell upon his nation was of God's sovereign will, so doth the believer infer, that his
privileges are the free gift of God, as undeserved by him as they are bounteously bestowed upon him. Again, the Israelites were especially taught dependance upon
God. Surrounded by tens of thousands of idolaters, who looked with an evil eye upon these favoured worshippers of the triune Jehovah, his dangerous position taught him to depend. And when year after year he found his land protected, and the enemies that sought to do him injury driven back by a handful of God's people, or, like Sennacherib's army falling by the stroke of an unseen arm, all these marvellous deliverances were proofs to the son of Israel that “the Lord's portion was his people: Jacob was the lot of his inheritance," and were strong inducements to confidence in God. And so it is with those frequent deliverances which you experience, ye children of the spiritual Israel.
Feeling yourselves weak and your foes strong, the craft of more than human antagonists employed to harass and entangle you, you are led daily to acknowledge the true source from which protection comes, and in humble confidence to say—“ The Lord is on my side; I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” And as in the wanderings of the wilderness Israel received ample proof of the tender love as well as of the power of him who had made “ the people his portion,” in constant protection, in watchful care,