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seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of Numb. xvi. them, and the Lord is among them; therefore, all spiritual subordination is to be rejected. Very far otherwise. But they appear to respect the personal rights of their disciples, as fit subjects to be strictly put upon their own responsibility ; and therefore (we presume, by permission and influence of the Divine Comforter) they seem to condescend, and to entreat, more than any who had taught before them : not as if they had dominion over their disciples' faith, but were 2 Cor. i. helpers of their joy. They speak like per- CE. 1 Pet. sons unwilling to proceed to severities. Wit-1 Cor. iv. ness that tender language of St. Paul, even where compelled to hold out threatening; What Ver. 21. will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness : and again ; I beseech you, that I may not be bold, when I 2 Cor. x. am present, with that confidence wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us, as if we walked according to the flesh. They indicate 2 Cor. vi. a full sense of being themselves exposed to scrutiny; not concealing (or rather, openly confessing, as though they never thought any thing else) their natural fellowship in human weakness ; and, by consequence, exercising an appropriate modesty, and prudent discretion. I repeat, they seem quite sure of their divine commission; fully prepared to give account of their stewardship; and declaring it to be a small 1 Cor. iv.
thing, that they should be judged of man's judgment: and yet, they treat the reasonable consciences of
grace, as fit subjects unto 1 Cor. x. which to make appeal. I speak, says St. Paul,
as to wise men ; judge ye what I say.
II. I forbear to multiply characteristics. Our groundwork being thus sufficiently prepared, let us proceed to consider the distinctions thus delineated with reference to the position of the present Lecture. Let us examine, whether these peculiarities, severally attributed to a succession of inspired ministers, the stewards all of one continuous scheme, do indeed appear so well adapted to the quality and spirit of their respective dispensations, as to support our inference, that “ there appears, through them, the pro“gressive method of a wisdom, which knew 66 what was in man."
Now, the plan I shall adopt for ascertaining whether the characters of these successive administrators of “ revelation" were suited to their purpose, shall be, not to suppose ourselves in the place of Jews who lived three thousand years
ago; or of Christians, in the days when they Acts xi. 26. were so called first at Antioch; and so, to imaCf. Lect. gine fictitious cases, for persons whom we can
not personate ; but to review these several particularities, as they present themselves to us, and to our own spiritual faculties, (wherein our trial lies,) at this day.
vii. ad init.
Il. 1. Consider, then, in this light, the manner of the “ Old” Testament, first.' Dismiss the parts that are really obsolete ; the national and Levitical proprieties, and the mere localities; and refer only to the features that are permanent; to the qualities of our forefathers as men; to the heart, the spirit, and the passions, speaking through their personal conduct: and thus (for we have already seen that the same heart, Lectt. iv. v. and spirit, and passions are our own) consider it as addressing our own state of religious infancy.
I do not mean a state through which we have all actually and literally passed, or of which we are likely to obtain an apprehension, in equal degrees. In fact, any apprehension of it is an attainment altogether “ spiritual;" and therefore' will (of course) depend on many varieties of circumstance ; upon the manner in Cf. John which we have kept or broken our baptismal covenant; upon the extent, (in consequence,) and length of time, during which we have distinctly understood our deliverance from such a condition, by having personally and heartily accepted of the faith and understanding that come by Jesus Christ. Not, therefore, (I say,) a state, through which we have passed actually and literally ; but by proxy, as it were, and spiritually: of which, if we do stand firm in the faith, and hope, and knowledge that come by
the revelation of the Gospel, an apprehension will be present, and remain with us of this nature; that it is “a condition from whose essential
bondage we now stand exempted by virtue “ of that purer faith, and better hope, and fuller “ knowledge only." A state, now become representative for ever, of this predicament; “ of
man, possessed of a perfect knowledge that God “ is, and demands obedience, and is angry against “ sin ; without an equally certain knowledge of a “ life to come, and of an atonement, or sure “ channel of reconciliation, for offences incurring " that displeasure.” A state likewise declarative for ever, of the “extent of natural corruptness, “ under control of imperfect motives ; and of “ the absolute inability of wrath and terror, and “ of all immediate, visible manifestations to “ effect that change in it, which, by our mere
“natural apprehension, we cannot but suppose P. 36–42. “ they must have effected.” A state, of which
the last and best, and highest confession comes Rom. vii. to the acknowledgment; O wretched man that I
am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
thing equivalent to which) as many as are not Cf. I Cor. men in Christ, and have not put away child
ish things, must yet continue ; and towards which the very strongest must at least be conscious of a natural gravitation, so often as their
passions triumph, and their faith is for a season obscured. I will not say, that by such failings any are thrown back into it, out of the protecting pale of their own happier privileges, unless the failure happen by deliberate choice ; neither would I affirm that any may not be thrown back into it, or into a worse estate, en-Cf. Heb. vi.
4, 5, 6. tirely. But (which is enough at present) I contend, that believers must feel themselves acquainted with the secret of such a-state ; they Cf. Psalm will comprehend what is meant by it; the descriptions of it will find entrance into their own bosoms.
Consider, then, the manner of the “ Law and “of the Prophets” with this personal interest; and then put it on its trial, as adapted to the nature of man.
And as there is nothing in the matter of the earlier Scripture which we would now de- Cf. Lect. v. sire to find omitted, seeing to what awfully im- and Lectiv. portant purposes all is subservient; so, we think, it will be acknowledged of its manner of instruction, that nothing can be better calculated for its purpose, than this is. While there is enough of love and mercy found in it to forbid despair, and to point at intervals to better things to come ; Cf. Heb. x. we may rejoice, that its prevailing tone is of another character; of a character, that clearly CE. Lect.iii. shows the offended, more than the returning Father; that makes us indeed hate şin, and fear its consequences,
and tremble for ourselves. For,
§.3. §. 4.