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people after a method, of which, though the ordinances were strict, and cumbrous, and multiplied, yet the manner was familiar and natural. Temporal blessings and temporal curses; a land Joshua v.6.
Exod. xxiji. flowing with milk and honey; fruitful seasons ; 25, 26, &c. prolific herds; exemption from sickness; bread to the full; and security in their possessions ;—are not these, and the like things with these, (accompanied by a denunciation of their opposites, in case of disobedience and rebellion,) the things which we should first of all pronounce most likely, by our intuitive judgment, at once to reconcile the persons to whom they were offered to a strict yoke of positive institutions, and to secure them in moral obedience ?
Let the question be referred to the analogy implied in the text. The law, says the Apostle, was our schoolmaster; and therefore had to do with children. Do its conditions, then, appear to have been significantly proportioned and adapted to the natures with which it had to do? I fear it must be admitted to be at least the general nature of children, to be influenced only by present motives. With them, the immediate gift of a mere bauble will outweigh the most impressive assurance of reward, ten times as great, at a remote period. Nor will the power of any pure moral satisfaction (such, for example, as the consciousness of a parent's approbation) be often found of equal effect with immediate tangible
indulgence. Such appeals must be reserved for the maturer period, when the child, grown up to the intelligence and advanced to the title of a son, becomes a fit depositary of the spirit of his father's counsels ; capable of apprehending the grounds and reasons of that obedience, in the exercise of which he was before retained by inferior motives. But I forbear to dwell upon this
topic; since to apply it would only be to weaken, Gal. iv. 1— by transplanting, the very reasoning of St. Paul
himself. To return therefore to our own pur
Such, as has been represented, we conceive to be the manner of appeal made under the Law. That, however, while it was so made, through the influence of temporal encouragements and present rewards, a real and enduring REST was prepared in heaven for the faithful, appears most sure. That many of the Fathers, and of the Jews, both before and after the delivery of the Mosaic revelation, had respect unto this eternal recompense, and lived by faith in it, is most sure also 8.
But however this may have been, and to whatever extent the hope of everlasting life may then
& See the express argument of Hebrews, chap. iv. v. and chap. xi. and, by way of comment, several of Bishop Bull's Sermons; with whom it seems to have been a favourite subject: also a Sermon of Jones of Nayland, entitled, “ Eter"nal Life the great Promise of the Law.” .
have been entertained, or at what period and from whencesoever the error of the Sadducees may have arisen; I cannot but think it is to be maintained, as well from the whole general scope of teaching under the Law and the Prophets, as Lect. vi. §. from what the Gospel has subsequently shown to have been the necessity of the case; that the full doctrine of the resurrection had no place among mankind, as a sure and authoritative argument of persuasion unto holy living, before the first-fruits of the great harvest, that shall be, had risen from the dead, in the person of our Saviour.
While we now believe, and are assured, that a permanent existence is, and always has been intended as man's final destiny, we perceive, at the same time, how the knowledge of this great truth has been revealed only gradually, and not developed in its full practical power, until it bad first seemed good to the Divine Wisdom to prepare reasonable creatures, through other means, for a full perception of its value, as a motive to true holiness. It seems to have been, throughout, the method of the Deity, to offer persuasions to his thinking creatures “by little “and little:" in no case ever withholding that which was sufficient, according to the proportion expected in return; but neither exhibiting at any time more than was sufficient, nor exert
Cf. Ecclus. ing a power subversive of the essential freedom xv. 14–20.
of man's choice between good and evil.
Thus, under the Mosaic covenant, he tried man first in his more mixed or sensitive nature: or, to speak more simply, in that expression of the Apostle before referred to, (for I would not rashly intermeddle with metaphysical distinctions and niceties, that trial came the first, which was a natural.” The fulness of time was not yet come, when a further trial might be made, with all things ready for its probable success. An appeal directed wholly to the better part, to the spirit of man; to motives, and hopes, and faculties of a character altogether spiritual, refined, and unseen; appears to have been reserved, until the ministration of death and condemnation, put to proof, and found wanting, might itself stand forth, in its wreck and insufficiency, an additional and most convincing argument, that to live by sight is not the way to conquer the perverse will, nor to bring the heart of man unto that extent of obedience and of purity, of which, even in this present life, God is pleased to make it capable.
When the history of the Jews, then, had thus worked its prefatory way; when all the inducements, which we should most naturally think
would lead to stedfast obedience, had been offered Ps. Ixxviii. ineffectually; when, while the meat was yet in their
as now I
mouths, the fathers sinned still ; when the singleedged sword of temporal visitation fell blunted from hearts of stone; then came the DISPENSATION OF THE SPIRIT, for keener and more exclusive trial of the soul.
The appeal was now made to man, as a spiritual and immortal being; the armour was flung aside, with which he that called himself the servant of the true God had been furnished before ; and that armour put on, which is described by St. Paul in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to Eph. vi.
11-17. the Ephesians, and characterized as the whole armour of God: the allurement of present recompense, in such sense as it had been employed before, was over. We look no longer for an earthly rest; for it has been made sure, that this is not our rest. While we trust still, (as we think it is so often permitted to us through the bounty of our heavenly Father to perceive,) that there is both a positive and tangible, as well as a moral sense, in which godliness has the promise 1 Tim. iv.8. of both worlds; we no longer lay our account by temporal enjoyment, but are prepared, if it be God's will, to encounter, in its stead, afflictions, or present burdens. We expect no visible interference of Almighty power to direct and strengthen us: it is enough to know, that he hath promised, and will surely give, to them that ask it faithfully, the secret and illuminating influence of the Spirit, to sanctify their hearts.