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Do, then, the successive commissioners of the divine purpose for man's redemption (that is to say, the “ Prophets,” as its harbingers ;
“ Lord” himself, as its Author and Finisher; the " Apostles,” whose writings have descended to us, as its Interpreters under immediate inspiration) severally speak, and conduct themselves in such manner and proportion, as seems consistent and reasonable? like teachers taking men as they were at the season of their respective ministries ; directing their efforts according to the power and commission with which they felt themselves invested ; and leaving provision for things to come, with reference to practical possibilities –That they should do so, seems to be “ nature ;” and nature (in such sense) may be pronounced one evidence of wisdom and of truth a.
a It is very possible, that this proposition may not meet with general assent. But, however this may be, I would not, at any rate, be supposed to lay such stress upon a view, which may be altogether fanciful, as essentially to implicate the truth of Scripture in its failure, if erroneous.
It is not meant to attribute positive intention and studied arrangement to the penmen of the sacred Volume, in such particulars. The consciousness of “ inspiration” forms a state, and a measure of knowledge, of which we can form no worthy notion : and it were therefore lost labour, not to say presumption, to speculate upon it.
But if, according to that which we do know and can estimate, according to the most ingenious and solid distributions of human art, we now can perceive the general volume of holy
We will first, then, state what appears to be the characteristic manner of address, severally, of
Prophets ;” of “our Lord,” and of the “ Apostles ;” and secondly, consider each with reference to the position of the present Lecture.
I. 1. The characteristic manner of the “ Pro
phets” (that is to say, of all the expressly commissioned teachers under the Old Testa
ment) may be dismissed very briefly. That in 1 Pet. i. 12. their prophetic office they spake as men unto
whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which they testified, will not be disallowed. It is, however, their didactic manner which more concerns the present question. And as to this, they spake and taught always like men personally conscious of direct influence, and strong only by virtue of recurring communication with the power whose instruments they were. Without distinction and special revelation, they seem
Writ comprising, as though by very force of its materials, each form of proof that seems most acceptable, and most convincing to man, on other subjects, (cf. Aristot. Rhet. b. 1. c. 2. $.3.) it will be something, to discover more familiarlyI will not say that “ divine truth is, after all, the best “ rhetoric;" (it does not want that praise, and cannot receive honour from it;) but “ how our study of an excel“ lent art may be made profitable, and the art itself be ho“ noured, by being rendered subservient to the illustration of - divine truth.”.
not to have spoken at all b. Their tone is rather abrupt and minatory, than gentle and persuasive. They speak like preachers under a system of more immediate and visible impressions. Their appeal is more to “ fear,” than to “ love." Not that there are no exceptions; but this is their prevailing manner.
“ Fear” is unquestionably the motive of the Old Testament. It seems as though the constitution of human nature required that it should be so. It was necessary, to the illustration in due season of the dispensation of “ love." It is not extinguished, even under that, until love be perfect.
be perfect. As we spoke Cf. 1 John before of a reciprocation between the “ Law" and the “Gospel,” in respect of their“ end” and Lect
. ii. p. “ means ;" so may a like interchange be discovered here, between the “ rule” and the “
ception” of their severally prevailing manners of address. In the Old Testament, terror forms the rule, and tenderness the exception ; in the New, it is terror which appears to be the exception, and tenderness the rule.
I. 2. The case of " our Lord” himself, on earth, is quite peculiar; and as before it none
b This might be inferred from what is said in the third chapter of the first book of Samuel. The word of the Lord was precious in those days, there was no open vision. (v. 1.) But it is only necessary to refer to their express formal introductions ; as, Thus saith the Lord; or, The word of the Lord which came, &c. and such like phrases.
was ever like unto it, neither shall be any hereafter, we might be perplexed, if a corresponding peculiarity were not discernible in his manner and character.
For he came not as a minister and ambassador alone; these do not complete his pretensions,
even as a teacher : (setting aside, for a while, his Collect for included purpose, to be “an ensample of godly Sunday life.”) He was not merely the herald, but (if
I may so speak) himself the evident proprietor of a more perfect commission; announced by his forerunner, in terms as distinctive and express as
the following. He that cometh from above is 31, 34, 35.
above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and
of more perfect “authority;" of one, who (how strictly soever he might unite with his unequal yoke-fellows in all concern for man's conviction; and so far speak, persuade, and, admonish, as they had done, and were to do) yet stands distinguished above all, by a manifestation of conscious independence belonging to himself alone.
Now that our “ Lord” was distinguished in character and manner from the “ Prophets," as it needs no proof, and is not of so much weight towards the object of the whole comparison, is a point that shall not be dwelt upon. But the quality of distinction here meant between himself and his chosen servants in the Gospel, de mands a further illustration, which shall be given, first, from instances wherein they have spoken of the same thing. 1. Compare, then, our Saviour, saying, Woe Matt. xxiii.
29, 31, 32, unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Ye 33. be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. . Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ? with St. Paul, writingThe Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and 1 Thess. ii.
14, 15, 16. their own prophets, and have persecuted us ; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their own sins alway : for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. That tone, which is judicial in the one passage, seems rather sorrowful and pathetic in the other. Nor does St. Stephen (though much nearer the judicial spirit than St. Paul) ) go the full length of declaring the conclusion to which his protest led, in his defence before the Acts vii. Jewish council c.
51, 52, 53,
• Compare, again, our Lord's description of the “day “ of judgment,” (Matt. xxv. 31-46.) with St. Paul's lan