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a long succession of ages, and such a state of intermediate discipline and preparation, as might best serve to introduce the intended blessing with effect.
In the first ages of the world, God taught men by the dictates of nature, and the common notices of good and evil, by lively oracles, and great examples of piety. He set forth the holy patriarchs as tutors to the rest of mankind, who, by their religious lives, might train
others to the practice of virtue, and instil into the mind, a reverence of the Deity. At this early period, the priesthood was vested in the head of every tribe, to whom it belonged to bless the family, to offer sacrifice, to intercede for them by prayer, and to minister in other solemn acts of religion. Abel offered a sacrifice to God, and was accepted. We are informed by St. Paul, that he offered this sacrifice in faith, and it is impossible to conceive in what manner his faith was exerted, or to what object it could look, unless it was founded on some divine promise. But no divine promise is mentioned in the scriptures, as made to mankind, except through a Redeemer.
By faith, Enoch, the seventh from Adam, without undergoing the ordinary change of death, was miraculously translated into heaven, for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
- It was by faith,” says the apostle, that he attained to such a high distinction. It was owing therefore to his firm persuasion of the truth and excellence of what God had revealed, being instructed, no doubt, by Adam, (with whom he was cotemporary for three hundred years,) not only with respect to the existence and perfections of God, and his work of creation, but also in the consequences of the fall, and the way of reconciliation, by the promised Saviour. We are not told what degree of light he had in the doctrines of the gospel, but he was certainly acquainted with the grand design of redemption by Christ, and could not be ignorant of his first coming, when he foretold his second. 6. phesied of these, saying, behold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.” Jude, 14 v.
After the deluge, Noah builded an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings on the altar, on this occasion also the offering was accepted ; and why was the blood of an animal slied, and offered up as a religious rite, but to direct the faith of the worshipper to the great propitiatory sacrifice hereafter to be made for the sins of mankind, To Abraham it was promised, -" In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed," a prediction designed as an intimation of the Messiah, who was to descend from him, and by whom alone, the curse of sin can be taken away, and the sinner become truly blessed ; accordingly our Saviour says to the Jews, “ Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and was glad.” “All these," says St. Paul, speaking of the old testament witnesses,“ died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,” entertaining the most perfect confidence that the gospel would be, ultimately, fully revealed.
The code and digest of laws which God gave to the Jews, under the Mosaic dispensation, consisted of three kinds, moral, political, and ecclesiastical, mentioned in the Pentateuch, under the names of laws, judgments, and statutes. By laws, I understand the moral law, or ten commandments, by judgments, rules for the peaceable and prudent administration of the commonwealth, and by statutes, those ceremonial and sacrificial rites, intended as a kind of prophecy by action, to prefigure to the world, the death of Christ. St. Paul tells us, that the ancient tabernacle was a figure for the time present. In the service performed in it, victims were continually offered, under the name of sin-offerings, and by them an atonement was made for the sins, and for the souls of the people. This is clear from many passages in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, especially with regard to those sacrifices, called vicarious, piacular, and expiatory. But we learn from the same apostle, that it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin, yet this blood is said in many parts of scripture, to be the means of making an atonement, for those who offered it. In what manner was this true? St. Paul himself hath taught us, that it was true in the typical or physical sense only. All these sacrifices, as he has told us expressly in the 9th and 10th chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, were only types of the sacrifice of Christ, and the atonement professedly made by them, was only a type of the real atonement made by him,-particularly the ceremonial of the sacrifice on the great day of expiation, (when the high priest made an atonement for himself, his family, the priests, and the whole congregation of Israel,) was a remarkable, and most striking type of the death and resurrection of Christ. On this day, the tenth day of the seventh month, annually, two goats were selected for an offering to Godone of these was killed, and his blood sprinkled upon, and before the mercy seat, and upon the horns of the altar. This was called making an atonement for the holy place, and reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle and the altar unto God, as having been polluted during the preceding year, by the imperfect services of sinful beings. On the head of the living goat, called the scape goat, the high priest bound a piece of scarlet, (in allusion to that passage in Isaiah, i. 18.)