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open and great transgression ; and yet there is reason to think, that in these times of corruption, for the most part, they held circumcision and the passover: and we do not find their attending on these ordinances under such circumstances, any more expressly charged on them as a sin, than their coming without piety of heart. The ten tribes continued constantly in idolatry for about 250 years, and there is a ground to suppose, that in the mean time they ordinarily kept up circumcision and the passover. For though they worshipped God by images, yet they maintained most of the ceremonial observances of the law of Moses, called the manner of the God of the land, which their priests taught the Samaritans, who were settled in their stead, 2 Kings xvii. 26, 27. Nevertheless we do not find Elijah, Elisha, or other prophets, reproving them for attending these ordinances without the required moral qualifications. Indeed there are some things in the writings of the prophets, which may be interpreted as a reproof of this; but no more as a reproof of this, than of attending God's ordinances without a gracious sincerity and true piety of heart and life.
How many seasons were there wherein the people in general fell into and lived in idolatry, that scandal of scandals, in the times of the judges, and of the kings both in Judah and Israel ? But still amidst all this wickedness, they continued to attend the sacrament of circumcision. We have every whit as much evidence of it, as that they attended the passover without a profession of godliness. We have no account of their ever leaving it off at such seasons, nor any hint of its being renewed (as a thing which had ceased) when they came to reform. Though we have so full an account of the particulars of Josiah's reformation, after the long scandalous reign of Manasseh, there is no hint of any reviving of circumcision, or returning to it after a cessation. And where have we an account of the people being once reproved for attending this holy sacrament while thus involved in scandalous sin, in all the Old Testament? And where is this once charged on them as a sin, any more than in the case of unconverted persons attending the sacrament of the passover ?*
Answ. 2. Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the Old Testament dispensation, I humbly conceive it is nothing to the purpose in the present argument, nor needful to determine us with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the Christian dispensation, which is a matter of such plain fact in the New Testament. Far
* Let the Reader here take notice of what is observed in the conclusion of my answer to the objection from the instance of Judas.
am I from thinking the Old Testament to be like an old alma. nack out of use; nay, I think it is evident from the New Testament, that some things which had their first institution under the Old Testament, are continued under the New ; for instance, the acceptance of the infant-seed of believers as children of the covenant with their parents ; and probably some things belonging to the order and discipline of Christian churches, had their first beginning in the Jewish synagogue. But yet all allow that the Old Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances; and I think, in a manner pertaining to the constitution and order of the New Testament church-a matter of fact, wherein the New Testament itself is express, full, and abundant —to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless, and out of reason. There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ.* And probably the reason why God has left it so intricate, is, because our un. derstanding the ancient dispensation, and God's design in it, is not of so great importance, nor does it so nearly concern us.Since God uses great plainness of speech in the New Testament, which is as it were the charter and municipal law of the Christian church, what need we run back to the ceremonial and typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein God's declared design was, to deliver divine things in comparative obscurity, hid under a veil, and involved in clouds ?
We have no more occasion for going to search among the types, dark revelations, and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament, to find out whether this matter of fact concerning the constitution and order of the New Testament church be true, than we have occasion of going there to find out whether any other matter of fact, of which we have an account in the New Testament, be true; as particularly, whether there were such officers in the primitive church as bishops and deacons, whether miraculous gifts of the Spirit were common in the apostle's days, whether the believing Gentiles were received into the primitive Christian church, and the like.
Answer 3. I think, nothing can be alleged from the Holy Scripture, sufficient to prove a profession of godliness to be not a qualification requisite in order to a due and regular participation of the passover.
Although none of the requisite moral qualifications for this
* On this “ precise agreement and difference,” Dr. Owen has written with admirable clearness in his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the prefixed Exercitation.-W.
Jewish sacrament, are near so clearly made known in the Old Testament as the qualifications for the Christian sacraments are in the New ; and although a supposed visibility of either moral sincerity or sanctifying grace, is involved in some obscurity and difficulty ; yet I would humbly offer what appears to me to be the truth concerning that matter, in the things that follow.
(1.) Although the people in Egypt, before the first passover, probably made no explicit public profession at all, either of their humiliation for their former idolatry, or of present devotedness of heart to God; it being before any particular institution of an express public profession, either of godliness, or repentance in case of scandal : Yet I think, there was some sort of public manifestation, or implicit profession of both.Probably in Egypt they implicitly professed the same things, which they afterwards professed more expressly and solemnly in the wilderness. The Israelites in Egypt had very much to affect their hearts, before the last plague, in the great things that God had done for them ; especially in some of the latter plagues, wherein they were so remarkably distinguished from the Egyptians. They seem now to be brought to a tender frame, and a disposition to show much respect to God (see Exod. xi. 27 ;) and were probably now very forward to profess themselves devoted to him, and true penitents.
(2.) After the institution of an explicit public profession of devotedness to God, or (which is the same thing) of true piety of heart, this was wont to be required in order to a partaking of the passover and other sacrifices and sacraments that adult persons were admitted to. Accordingly all the adult persons that were circumcised at Gilgal, had made this profession a little before on the plains of Moab. Not that all of them were truly gracious; but seeing they all had a profession and visibility, Christ in his dealings with his church as to external things, acted not as the Searcher of Hearts, but as the Head of the visible church, accommodating himself to the present state of mankind; and therefore he represents himself in Scripture as trusting his people's profession ; as I formerly observed.
(3.) In degenerate,times in Israel, both priests and people were very lax with respect to covenanting with God, and professing devotedness to him; and these professions were used, as public professions commonly are still in corrupt times, merely as matters of form and ceremony, at least by great multitudes.
(4.) Such was the nature of the Levitical dispensation, that it had in no measure so great a tendency to preclude and prevent hypocritical professions, as the New Testament dispensation ; particularly, on account of the vastly greater darkness of it. For ihe covenant of grace was not then so fully revealed, and consequently the nature of the conditions of that covenant was not then so well known. There was then a far more obscure reve. lation of those great duties of repentance towards God and faith in the Mediator, and of those things wherein true holiness consists and wherein it is distinguished from other things. Persons then had not equal advantage to know their own hearts, while viewing themselves in this comparatively dim light of Moses' law, as now they have in the clear sun-shine of the gospel. In that state of the minority of the church, the nature of true piety, as consisting in the Spirit of adoption, or ingenuous filial love to God, and as distinguished from a spirit of bondage, servile fear, and self-love, was not so clearly made known. The Israelites were therefore the more ready to mistake for true piety, that moral seriousness, and those warm affections and resolutions that resulted from that spirit of bondage, which showed itself in Israel remarkably at Mount Sinai ; and to which through all the Old Testament times, they were especially incident.
(5.) God was pleased in a great measure to suffer (though he did not properly allow) a laxness among the people, with regard to the visibility of holiness, and the moral qualifications requisite to an attendance on their sacrainents. This he also did in many other cases of great irregularity, under that dark, imperfect, and comparatively carnal dispensation ; such as polygamy, putting away their wifes at pleasure, the revenging of blood, killing the man-slayer, &c. And he winked at their worshipping in high places in Solomon's time, (1 Kings iii. 4, the neglect of keeping the feast of tabernacles according to the law, from Joshua's time till after the captivity, (Neh. viii. 17 ;) and the neglect of the synagogue-worship, or the public service of God in particular congregations, till after the captivity,* though the light of nature, together with the general rules of the law of Moses, did sufficiently teach and require it.
(6.) It seems to be foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament, that there would be a great alteration in this respect, in the days of the gospel; that under the new dispensation there should be far greater purity in the church. Thus, in the forementioned place in Ezekiel it is foretold, that “those who are [visibly] uncircumcised in heart, should no MORE enter into God's sanctuary.” Again, Ezek. xx. 37, 38. “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me." It seems to be a prophecy of the greater purity of those who are visibly in covenant with God. Isa. iv. 3. “ And it shall come to pass that he that is left
* Prid. Connect. Part I. p. 354–536, and 555, 556, 9th edit. The word translated synagogues, Psal. Ixxiv. signifies assemblies ; and is supposed by the generality of learned men to relate to another sort of assemblies.
in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living [i. e. has a name to live, or is enrolled among the saints) in Jerusalem.” Isa. lii. 1. “ Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; from henceforth there shall no more come to thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.” Zech. xiv. 21. “ And in that day, there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord."
(7.) This is just such an alteration as might reasonably be expected from what we are taught of the whole nature of the two dispensations. As the one had carnal ordinances, (so they are called Heb. ix. 10,) the other a spiritual service, (John iv, 24 ;) the one an earthly Canaan, the other an heavenly; the one an external Jerusalem, the other a spiritual ; the one an earthly high-priest, the other an heavenly; the one a worldly sanctuary, the other a spiritual; the one a bodily and temporal redemption, (which is all that they generally discerned or understood in the passover,) the other a spiritual and eternal. And agreeably to these things, it was so ordered in providence, that Israel, the congregation that should enter this worldly sanctuary, and attend these carnal ordinances, should be much more a worldly, carnal congregation, than the New Testament congregation. One reason of such a difference, seems to be this, viz. that the Messiah might have the honour of introducing a state of greater purity and spiritual glory. Hence God is said to find fault with that ancient dispensation of the covenant, Heb. viii. 7,8. And the time of introducing the new dispensation is called the time of reformation, Heb. ix. 10. And one thing, wherein the amendment of what God found fault with in the former dispensation should consist, the apostle intimates, is the greater purity and spirituality of the church, Heb. viii. 7, 8, 11.
It is not reasonable to suppose, that the multitudes which John the Baptist baptized, made a profession of saving grace, or had any such visibility of true piety, as has been insisted on.
Answ. Those whom John baptized, came to him confessing their sins, making a profession of some kind of repentance; and it is not reasonable to suppose, the repentance they professed was specifically or in kind diverse from that which he had instructed them in, and called them to, which is called repentance for the remission of sins; and that is saving repentance. John's baptism is called the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins : I know not how such a phrase can be reasonably understood any otherwise, than so as to imply, that his bap.