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vealed his further intentions concerning them ? And if so, what are those intentions ? : Now, as the further and more glorious predic, tions concerning the Jews, stand closely connected with the conclusion of the times of the Gentiles, or this our existing dispensation; it seems necessary, in order to avoid ambiguity of expression, and the misunderstanding inevitably consequent thereupon, to consider, in passing, what we mean by this present dispensation, and what our views are respecting its design, and the nature and period of its close.
This, therefore, is our present subject; and though it may perhaps appear, at first sight, to be a digression from the topic more immediately be. fore us, it will be found, in the sequel, to be too intimately blended with the Jewish question, to be omitted in any thing like an orderly inquiry into the prophecies relative to the Jewish nation.
It is written, that “there is a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Eccles. ii. 1–8.) And as in the affairs of men here enumerated, so also in the great purpose of God, there is a time for the accomplishment of each part. In each of these times, the Lord gives out, or dispenses a portion of his eternal design. Hence a dispensation of religion may be thus defined:- A revelation of some part or parts of the divine will, accompanied by the performance of some corresponding part or parts of the divine plan.
It will not be denied, that from the beginning, or ever the mountains were brought forth, Jehovah had a plan in view, concerning this world : not its commencement merely, but its continuance also, and its termination ; according as it is written, “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.”. A part of this plan was, that at some particular period, known only unto himself, and kept in his own power, all the families of the earth should be blessed with the true and saving knowledge of God--the great enemy of God and man being bruised under the seed of the woman. This we know, by referring to the promises made to Adam and Abraham, as recorded in the book of Genesis. Our attention is then directed to the manner in which it has pleased God to proceed towards the accomplishment of this his gracious purpose.
He did not make Eve the mother of the promised seed of the woman, and so destroy the serpent at once, and make a short work upon the earth.--No! the promise was given ; but the performance of the thing promised, was delayed. Meanwhile, however, some few of the families of the earth were blessed: they believed the promise; through faith they became interested in the benefit of its yet future accomplishment; and being influenced by the blessing, “ they walked with God :" but the bulk of the inhabitants of the earth were still under the curse, led captives by the devil at his will, and working uncleanness with greediness. This state of things continued, till the iniquity of man abounding in the earth, so moved Almighty God to anger, that he destroyed the guilty race, saving only the small family of his servant Noah. At that time, the promise to Adam, instead of being fulfilled, or in apparently progressive fulfilment, seemed to be forgotten: nay more, it seemed to be contradicted. But God's ways are not as our ways; neither is God's mode of proceeding to be judged of by what seems suitable to us. · Again, when God called Abraham, and told him, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, he did not make Sarah the mother of the promised seed. Here, as before, the promise was given-but the performance delayed. In the meantime, God separated to himself a people—a peculiar nation—and gave them in types and prophecies more and more clear instruction respecting the execution of his plan. Some believed; through faith, they became interested in the benefit of the yet future accomplishment of the promise ; and, influenced by the same faith, they too “ walked with God :” but the bulk of even that favoured nation, and all the rest of mankind, were still under the curse. Israel rebelled against the Lord, rejected his counsel, despised and persecuted his messengers, and in the end, crucified his Son; they so moved him to anger, that he cut them off from their privileges ; destroyed their
temple and city; and dispersed them, in disgrace and degradation, among the heathen. At that time, the promise to Abraham, instead of being fulfilled, or even in apparently progressive fulfilment, seemed to be forgotten ; for the families of the earth, instead of being blessed, were still under the wrath and curse of God. But God's ways are not as our ways. :. The promised seed' was now indeed come: but so unlike what had been expected-s0 unlike the powerful One, who could bruise the serpent's head, and bless all the families upon the earth, that few, very few, recognized him as the seed: few, therefore, derived any benefit from his coming ; the nation rejected him; and thus the accomplishment of the promise made to Abraham was partly brought to pass, and partly delayed. The seed was come: the families of the earth were not blessed in him. • Then it was, that in the wisdom of God, true religion was extended to other people and nations. Another portion of the Divine plan was dispensed. Another dispensation was introduced. The glad tidings of salvation by the long predicted seed of the woman, were preached to the Greeks and Romans, and other heathen nations, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; and then it seemed as though the whole of the great promises made to Adam and Abraham, and repeated by all the prophets, were .
about to be fulfilled: the head of the serpent
This is possible, to say no more: and whether it is the revealed purpose of God or not, deserves, at least, a fair inquiry. Is this dispensation under which we are living, the final dispensation, which will issue in the full performance of the divine plan of mercy to the whole world ? or, is it another in,