Imágenes de páginas

Vindication of the divine Justice and Goodness, in distinguishing the Jews by a peculiar Covenant. And now I proceed,

II. To speak concerning the Expiration of that Covenant, and its ceasing to oblige or avail any Part of Mankind. You will natutally understand me to mean, that such Things only ceased, as were peculiar to the Mosaic Dispensation : whether Ceremonies in Religion, or Methods of proceeding in Civil Government. For what all Men were bound to, before the Law of Mofes, they were certainly bound to, afterwards. And wherever that Law was merely an Explanation of the Law of Nature, the Explanation was a just and authorized one, and ought to be followed by as many, as come to the Knowledge of it.

But the Jewifh Converts to Christianity, who were the first it had, and, though not the Majority of that People, yet a large Number, were inclined to carry the Matter much farther than this. They were indeed humble and reasonable enough to receive Jesus for the Meffiah: but still they were proud enough to think, that he was sent only to themselves. Accordingly the Apostles for some Time preached the


[ocr errors]

Gospel to none, but their own Nation. · And when St. Peter was satisfied by a Vision from Heaven of the Duty of doing otherwise, they that were of the Circumcision blamed him for what he had done : till, having an Account laid before them of the Authority he went upon, they held their Peace, and glorified God, saying : Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life b. But when this Difficulty was over, another very great one was immediately started; whether he had granted it on any other Terms, than their observing the Jewish Law: on which Point was held a Council at Jerufalem, as you may read, AEts XV, where after the Matter had been throughly debated, the Apostles, Elders, and Brethren, directed by the Holy Ghost, unanimously determined, that since the Jews had never been able to keep their own Law in Strictness; and therefore could not themselves be saved, but through the Grace of the Lord Jefus Chrift; and since the Gentiles, without the Law, had not only been purified by the fame Faith, but had received the fame Gifts of the Holy Ghost, with the Jews; this was Evidence enough, that they were accepted in

[ocr errors]

A Ads xi. I 8.

A 2 2


their present Condition, as the Prophets had intimated they should : and therefore it was needless and unjust to lay a new Yoke upon them, which they had never been enjoined before to undertake, nor would be able to bear


But even after this, one Doubt remained still, whether the Jews at least ought not to continue observing their own Law. For it had been declared in the old Testament an Ordinance to endure for ever.

And our Saviour himself had not only, pursuant to its Direction, been circumcised in his Infancy, but throughout his Life was obedient to every Precept of the Mosaic Covenant : and therefore it might seem requisite, that all his Difciples of that Nation should be fo too. Now contradicting this Notion immediately and openly, must, considering how fond the Jews were of their religious Ceremonies, have proved a great Hindrance to their embracing the Faith of Christ. And therefore he did not apprise his very Apostles clearly at first of his whole Intention, as to these Matters; but told them, that he had many Things to say unto them, which then they could not bear ; but that e Exod. xii. 14, &c.


[ocr errors]

when the Spirit of Truth should come, he would
guide them into all Truth". And after they
were more fully instructed, they exercised great
Prudence and Patience towards their Country-
men: permitting, and even practising along
with them, for a while, what they knew to
be unnecessary; and gently loosening their
deeply-rooted Prejudices. For, when exa-
mined with Care, they will evidently appear
to be Nothing more than Prejudices. The
Phrase, for ever, used concerning the Conti-
nuance of the Law, is used in that Law itself
concerning very small Periods of Time; the
Term of a Man's Life, the Term of fifty Years
and less: in short, it means no more, than
this ; that what is appointed, shall be done,
so long as the State of Things, to which the
Appointment refers, shall last. And there-
fore, notwithstanding such Words ; when Cir-
cumstances visibly alter, God may as justly
and as wisely repeal any of his Laws, as Men

of theirs, into which the same, and like Words, have been inserted, Now the Coming of Christ made a most evident and material Alteration. It was indeed very fit, that to Thew himself perfectly obedient, and

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

prevent all Possibility of Cavil against him on that Head, he should fulfil the whole Righteoufness of the Covenant, under which he was born. But when he had exhibited the Substance of those good Things, of which the legal Ceremonies were Shadows; and completed all that the Mosaic Difpenfation prefigured, one great End of its Existence plainly ceased. When Men were grown capable, as God saw they were by that Time, of a freer, and more spiritual, and manly Service, instead of those formal Restraints to keep them from going wrong, and those outward carnal Ordinances to strike their Imaginations, under which they had been placed in the earlier Ages, compared by the Apostle to a State of Childhood e: then a second Design of the Law ceased. And when the Time came, in which God judged it proper, that the Jews, who had been distinguished from the Gentiles, to preserve true Religion in the World for their common Benefit, should be reunited to them, that they might practise it together, and be one Fold under one Shepherd; then the third End of the Law ceased; and breaking down the Wall of Partition', that is taking away the Ceree Gal. iv, 1, &c.

Eph. ii. 14.

« AnteriorContinuar »