« ZurückWeiter »
For that which is natural has passed away; and that which is spiritual is now come, and belongs to us and to our children for ever.
Agreeably to this view of the respective characters of the two dispensations, we interpret the conduct of them, in respect of means and external particulars. We see the earlier one distinguished by many splendid outward manifestations, (as the holy garments of Aaron were for glory and for beauty :) by visible symbols of the divine presence; by means of guidance and protection held forth to the very eyesight of the subjects whom it called to obey. But only a temporary end was fully declared; the real and enduring end was hidden, as it were, behind a
Exodus xxviii. 2.
Under the Gospel, this order is reversed. Infinitely surpassing as the glory of the latter revelation is beyond that of the former, yet it is greater only by a spiritual greatnessh. Our business, however, is not to compare, but to unite the two: that, looking at both thoughtfully together, we máy rejoice the rather in perceiving how either covenant was best adapted to the season in which it was revealed ; and in ascertaining, from such thought, more fully, and then pondering more devoutly, wherein surely lies the trial unto which we ourselves are called ; and what responsibility belongs to us, for the use we may make of that fulness of light, which is vouchsafed in the complete knowledge of both dispensations. ..
h As may be illustrated by the proportions of the former and the latter temples. Compare Ezra iii. 12. with Haggai ii. 9.
Thus, then, (if our view be justified by sound reason, and not forbidden by Scripture,) the comparison appears to stand in a sort of reciprocated position. “The Law” had its end, veiled; its means of appeal, outward and visible : “ the Gospel" has its means, tacit and inward ; but its end, fully revealed.
Correspondent, we think, to this view which has been taken, have been, and are, the appearances of the moral world.
The subjects of either dispensation have been found (would that so many of the latter were not still found!) overtaken and seduced by apostasies, analogous to the quality and bearing of their respective trials. The apostasy of the Jews became IDOLATRY ; a gross, palpable crime: the apostasy of modern times appears to be a sPIRITUAL and INTELLECTUAL REJECTION of the Deity; either wholly, or at least in part, as now predicated in his mysterious essence. A portentous form of infidelity! résulting from the abuse of “liberty” into “licentiousness;" from the pruriency of that more subtle part of the constitution of human nature, to which the Gospel addresses its appeal, uninfluenced and unrestrained by that fundamental submission of the will, which it inculcates and insists upon.
Nor is it, I think, fairly to be objected here, that “idolatry,” even in a practical shape, has been exhibited under the Christian covenant.
It seems not, in very strictness, true, so to affirm. For those later outrages of atheism and blasphemy, which may here suggest themselves to recollection, partake more of the nature of exception than of general' rulei. And think as we may concerning such offences as the “image-worship,” and other connected errors, into which some Christians have been betrayed; or true as it is, in regard of its effect hereafter to the beguiled soul, that he, who loves the perishable treasures of this life more than the hope of life eternal, makes his worldly prosperity his “God;" yet there is not, in either of these two cases, that intentional and conscious dereliction of the true God for another ;- for a stock, or a
stone, or a molten image;—which appears to conSee Jerem. stitute the crime of “ idolatry," in its more strict
*: and primitive import; and which I cannot but
conceive, from simple and unbiassed impression, to have been the full offence, under the elder covenant. The application of the term to cavetousness, is obviously made in a sense altogether spiritual, and is therefore confirmative,
i The excesses of the French Revolution are here alluded to.
rather, of our proposition, than at variance with it. And the offence of “image-worship” will, I think, (when impartially considered,) be admitted to be an error, more nearly allied to superstition, than to any general mistrust of the Almighty. Nor does it appear to be expressly characterized by our Church as more than “ a Article “ fond thing vainly invented, and grounded “ upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather re66 pugnant to the word of God." I would not willingly be thought an apologist of error: but there is quite enough of real deformity in the one now before us, to render exaggeration of it unnecessary.
There are other points which might be dwelt upon, in fuller explanation of our general view.
For example: the error of modern times within the pale of faith is a spiritual error, as well as that without; I mean,“ enthusiasm k.” So clearly is this such, that we are continually suffering our jealousy and fear of it to keep our tempers back from that spirituality, to which belongs the kingdom of heaven :--a spirituality, which cannot, indeed, with truth be said to be an opposite to “enthusiasm ;" yet which is as far removed from it as any other excellence is removed from its lesser and kindred extreme; or the use of a blessing from the abuse of it.
5 As the word is popularly employed to designate fanatical excess in religion, not in its philosophical sense.
Again : we might contemplate, in the same light, the aspects of the world (where revelation has been vouchsafed) in respect of improvement, as well as of apostasy. There might be traced in these, I think, exactly that sort of change, which is in proportion and in harmony with the existing dispensation : no violent convulsion, or total unlikeness of latter times to former: but a change, general and indefinite in its operation, rather than specific and measurable ; a tacit, yet most influential, progress of refinement, not eradicating evil, but at once subliming virtue, and softening crime. But to this, the dawn of which seems perceptible almost as soon as ever we enter on the New Testament, we shall have occasion to refer again.
We might refer also (which will serve beautifully to explain, as iť appears to have been a preparation for, this change) to that which may be very intelligibly represented as the twilight of the earlier dispensation. We might observe how the "old" seems gradually to have been modified, until it might melt into the “new;" the “new” to have taken an aspect scarcely its own, as it were, in the beginning, to engraft itself upon the “old.” Witness, on the one hand, the remarkable cessation of idolatry amongst the Jews, subsequently to the captivity of Babylon ; and the increasing expectation of a future state among them, as the advent of the great Deliverer
Lect. v. part 2.