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than in the other. The ancients lived in faith, and so do we. They died in faith, "not having received the promises," and so must we: for though some promises are fulfilled, yet others are not, nor can be, in this world. Our knowlege is not the less certain, nor our faith, built upon it, the less firm, because we have not exact and adequate notions of the manner of Christ's coming, the circumstances of the last judgment, and the glory that is to follow. The facts are sufficiently predicted; for an idea of the mode we must be contented to wait, till faith shall give place to sight. And let the same observation be applied to the patriarchs and Israelites.
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.' The enemies and the salvation, here intended by Zacharias, are, without doubt, spiritual. Such a salvation, therefore, from such enemies, God "promised by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began." When he saved his people of old from their enemies, and from the hand of all that hated them, his mercy so displayed was a figure for the time then present, a pledge and earnest of eternal redemption; as if hehad said, "Ye shall see greater things than these." And the Psalms, formerly composed to celebrate the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian and Babylonian captivi ties, are now used by the Church-christian to praise God for salvation from sin, death, and Satan: they are sung new in the kingdom of Messiah." Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new :" legal figures are vanished, and the terms employed to describe them are transferred to Evangelical truths. When the prophets composed psalms on occasion of temporal deliverances, they looked forward to a future spiritual salvation; as Zacharias, in his hymn, the subject of which is a spiritual salvation, looks back, and has a reference to past temporal deliverances.
5. "To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant
The " mercy promised to our fathers" was, therefore, spiritual mercy; and the "covenant" made with them was a gospel covenant; for otherwise, God could not be said, by raising up Christ, to have "performed that mercy," and "remembered that covenant." Accordingly, we are elsewhere told, "the gospel was preached to Nn 2 Abraham;
Abraham*;" and the covenant made with him is styled "the covenant of God in Christ +." The gospel, then, was prior to the law, and was the patrimony of all the children of Abraham. "The law, which was four hundred and thirty years after," whatever might be its intention, could not dispossess them of this their inheritance; it could not" disannul the covenant, and make the promise of none effect." But if, on the contrary, it was designed to keep up, and further the knowlege of them; if it was a standing prophecy; if it was "a schoolmaster," by its elements training up and conducting its scholars to Christ;" then certainly nothing was wanting on the part of God. The Jews minded earthly things; but to infer from thence, that they were never taught the knowlege of things heavenly, would be a method of arguing too hazardous to be ventured upon; since, from the behaviour of many who profess the Christian religion, it might as fairly be concluded, that their Master promised nothing but loaves and fishes." Israelites might set their hearts too much on " fields and vineyards," forgetting or neglecting better things, as men are apt to do, who are blessed with prosperity in this present world. But when they did so, they did wrong; prophets were sent to reprove the error, and judgments to convince them, that Canaan was not the end of the "covenant," nor a plentiful harvest" the mercy promised."
6. "The oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham
The amazing condescension of God in vouchsafing, for man's satisfaction and assurance, to confirm his promise by an oath, is finely touched upon in the epistle to the Hebrews. When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee-For men verily swear by a greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing to shew to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us." O the goodness of God, who hath given his
Gal. iii. 8. + Ibid. 17.
Heb. vi. 13.
creatures the assurance of an oath! O the infidelity of his creatures who distrust that assurance*!
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 8. “ In holiness and righteousness before him all the
days of our life.” The promise made with an oath to Abraham, was made, after the intentional sacrifice of Isaac, in the following terms: “ By myself have I sworn-that in blessing will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessedt.” The objects of the blessing here promised are the faithful children of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles; the "seed," in whom they are blessed, is Christ; the manner in which he obtains the blessing, is by possessing the gate of his enemies," that is, subduing them and seizing their strong holds; the blessing itself consisteth in a redemption from bondage under those enemies, and an admission into the service of God. Such is the substance and intention of the promise made with an oath to Abraham, as explained by Zacharius, and fulfilled under the gospel. In the mean time, between the promise and its accomplishment, it pleased God to interpose a dispensation, which exhibited a visible representation of this great and important transaction, in the case of the children of Israel, or the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh, who, after being long detained in cruel bondage by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, were" delivered out of the hands of their enemies;" and delivered for this purpose, that they might serve God with a prefigurative service, calculated to last « till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made.” For thus Jehovah saith to Moses,“ when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, they shall serve God upon this mountain." So that when, at the transfiguration of our Lord upon mount Tabor, Moses discoursed with him on the subject of his decease,” or, as
* O beatos nos, quorum causu Deus jurat! O miserrimos, si nec juranti Domino credimus!
TERTULL. † Gen, xxii, 16. | Exodus, iii. 12.
it is in the original, his Exodus, “ which he should ac complish at Jerusalem,” may we not imagine to ourselves the deliverer of Israel addressing the world's Redeemer in some such words as these :-By my hand the Lord God of Israel did once vouchsafe to bring forth hispeople from the afflicting bondage of Egypt; but thou shalt turn the multitude of the Gentiles from the power of Satan to God. I saw the Lord make a path through the waters, for his redeemed to pass over; but thou shalt find a more wonderful way through the waves of death; and though the floods shall compass thee about, yet shall thy life be brought up from corruption. I beheld the chariots of Pharaoh, and the mighty hosts of Egypt plunging in the deep, when the morning appeared; but thou shalt triumph over principalities and powers, and see them overwhelmed in the lake of fire. I led my people through the wilderness, and gave them a law which had “ the shadow of good things to come;" buť thou shalt conduct them through the world, and teach them to worship in spirit and in truth.” I went before Israel to the borders of the promised land ; but thou art the true shepherd of souls, and they who follow thee shall "
from death unto life.” Zacharias concludes his divine song with an apostrophe to the infant Baptist, as one who was designed by Providence to be the precursor of such'a Saviour, and the publisher of such salvation. 9. “And thou child shalt be called the prophet of the
Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the
ways; 10. To give knowlege of salvation unto his people for
the remission of their sins-" « The law prophesied until John," who succeeded it in its office of pointing out the Messiah, and spake the language of its institutions, when he said, “ Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” * Remission of sins," is the doctrine in which the Christian religion justly glorieth, as that most necessary and fundamental point, in which every other religion fails. The heathen confesseth himself to be in the dark; he guesseth only what is the will of God, whom he knoweth not. He hath not strength to perform what he imagineth to be such; and he understandeth not the meaning of vie, sacrifices and lustrations derived to him by tradition. The blood of bulls and goats cannot wash away the sins
of the Jew; and his oblations since the truth is come, which they were intended to prefigure, are preposterous and impious. The Mahometan hath no evidence for the mission of his prophet, no argument for his religion but the sword, and no heaven but sense. The doctrine of "salvation by the remission of sins," through faith in a Redeemer, was, from the beginning, the sum and substance of true religion, which subsisted in promise, prophecy, and figure, till John preached their accomplishment in the person of Jesus. Paganism was a corruption of it before that time, as Mahometism hath been since; and modern Judaism is an apostasy from it. And will Christians go away, and forsake their Redeemer? To whom can they go? He hath the words of eternal life: he only can give "salvation by the remission of sins." It is this religion which enlightens the understanding with true knowlege, and warms the heart with true charity: it is this which alone brings confidence, and comfort, and joy, and bids fear and despondency fly away: it is this which raises the soul, as it were, from the dead, puts new vigour into all her powers and faculties, and animates her to duty, by the powerful motives it suggesteth: it is this which is a counterbalance to the temptations of sense, by the promises made to our faith; which supports the infirmity of nature by the glorious objects pro posed to our hope; and which triumphs over the opposi tion of the world by the love of God shed abroad in our hearts: it procures us the only solid happiness there is in this world, and opens a way to the felicities of the next: it holds him out to us, who is our "shield" on earth, and will be our "exceeding great reward" in hea ven; who "guides us with his counsel, and will, after that, receive us to glory.-Whom have we in heaven, O Lord, but thee; and there is none upon earth we can desire in comparison of thee*!
11. "Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby
St. John was the morning-star, that preceded the sun of righteousness at his rising; an event, the glory of which
Psalm xxiii, 24.