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arrive at much important knowledge regarding the condition of our present estate. For the present, my theme confines me to the evidences of the past; how the present dispensation may be the image of the future state, I may yet find a fitting occasion to declare.
A promise of redemption was the first good word spoken to man by God, after his original sentence of punishment ; and this word of hope fell as a seed upon a soil that craved it, and it grew therein and brought forth fruits, the only ones which could remind the exile of his lost paradise, fruits of holy knowledge and restored life, to be one day tasted without farther danger. And as the different families of the human race did separate from their first dwelling place after the flood, and disperse into distant lands, each took with it some graft or seedling of this precious plant, as a memorial of its lost, and of its hoped-for destinies, and bequeathed it to its descendants as a sacred and priceless trust. In fact, there is no mythology so dark as not to promise the restoration of some forfeited golden age; and a heathen fable has recorded to us the belief, that of all the treasures which heaven bestowed upon him at his formation, hope was alone left to forlorn man, when he lost them by his folly. But how soon were all these divine promises disfigured and corrupted; how soon was their true purport clean forgotten; how completely did they degenerate into the fond inventions of men, and fall into the wicked subserviency of all their worst desires! And, hence, whatever were the benefits intended by God's goodness in giving this entailed blessing to the human race, all those benefits would have been inevitably lost, the goodness which designed them would have been thrown away, and the blessing itself would have been but as a prodigal's gift, if God's infinite wisdom had not provided an expedient against such a sad misfortune.
For this purpose, he chose out of all the nations of the earth, one people whom he made the keeper of his great deposit; he separated them from among the rest, he made them the sacerdotal caste of the human race, he surrounded them
with badges of his protection, and of his special watchfulness over them, he gave into their hands documents of their authority to teach; and then, placing the rest of mankind, no matter how learned or how polished, in the rank of untaught scholars, he left them to receive from those alone, all accurate knowledge of what concerned holier truths and purer revelations. Then, as all those organs in animate or inanimate nature, which have to perform notable functions, are themselves composite, being made up of smaller organs like themselves, and these again involving within them an ever decreasing compound series, so here also, out of this people he chose one tribe, and out of that tribe one family, and from that family one man and his line, that each should respectively stand towards the class whence chosen in the same superior relationship, and so the connecting band should be drawn spirally round from mankind to the sanctuary, and the saving influences which blessed God's promises pass, through still widening channels, upon the world.
From this it would appear, that the means taken by God's wisdom for preserving those doctrines of hope which he had communicated unto mankind, was to institute a visible and compact society within which he, virtually, guaranteed their perseverance, and over which he watched with tender solicitude: and we see that his action upon this body was not detailed upon each individual, but through a more select order of men, constituting a graduated hierarchy, whose duty it was to edify by example, to purify by sacrifice, to instruct by explanations of the law, to stand in fine between God and his people, ministering unto both, as His chosen servants, and their appointed teachers. The object of this internal organization could only be the preservation of essential unity of worship and of heart. Reuben was obliged yearly to come from beyond the Jordan, and Zabulon from over the mountains, and both to worship with their brethren, at one altar, in Jerusalem; lest new opinions or rites should creep in among them, and that communion which is the essence of religion, be even slightly broken.
Now, looking for the application of this beautiful constitution to the dispensation whereof it was a shadow, the first thing that must strike us is, how completely the New Testament links the one unto the other, by applying to the new state all the imagery and phraseology employed in prophecy, as descriptive of the peculiar characteristics of the old. The Church, or dispensation of faith, is now the kingdom which was to be restored with its worship by the Son of David ; there is a priesthood and an altar, there is authority and subordination, there is union and unity all as before; and indeed in the later prophecies of the Old Law, the Church is never otherwise described than as the revival, extension, and perfection of the former state. Now, this is all explained only by two reflections. First, that the former constitution was not abolished but exchanged, and by that change perfected; and in this manner did Jesus say, that he came not to abolish, but to complete or accomplish: secondly, that the former was a type and merged into its reality, not so much dying as passing into a second existence, where a true sacrifice covered a typical oblation, where redemption given passed before redemption expected, where uncertainty had ripened into knowledge, and hope yielded its kingdom to faith. To illustrate the noble by the base, the former state was, as that living but creeping sheath wherein lie infolded for a time the corresponding parts of a more splendid and gorgeous insect, which in due time takes upon itself the vital functions, till then, by the other, exercised--and rises towards heaven, the same yet different-a transmigration rather than an offspring.
It is evident, then, that there must be counterparts in the two dispensations, analogies and resemblances, clearly showing ours to be the perfecting and filling up of the other's outline; that all forms or institutions, framed to ennoble the former before the nations of earth, to draw their respect and attention
towards it, to invite them to learn the truths entrusted to it, must be found here in greater perfection; that to it must be granted a stronger guarantee and security of God's constant love, protection, and support; that in it must reign, far beyond the other, that beautiful co-ordination of parts, sympathy of feeling, and harmony of design, which God did in its prototype ordain. If you admit not all these, not only do you destroy all necessary resemblance, but you lower infinitely the present beyond the former dispensation ; you invert the order of God's working, you destroy that fair progressive course of development, which is the characteristic of all his works, wherein are no breaks or violent passages, but all succeeds by a most sweetly-guiding ordinance.
And are the truths and blessings now communicated to mankind less precious than those former ones, that they should require smaller securities, and less jealous precautions for their preservation, than of old ? Should there be less dignity, less authority conferred upon their depositaries ? Or have men so changed, that what before was necessary to keep them from fatal error and corruption, is now no longer needed ? On the contrary, my brethren, hope, the great deposit of the elder dispensation, is that feeling which we are the first to conceive, and the last to throw off, a feeling rather dangerous from its tendency to increase, than from a fear of its extinction ; while faith is ever a sterner and drier quality; something which we adopt with effort and pain, and lose more easily; and requires consequently still stronger defences. Then again, there is a still greater difference; for hope may in its forms be various as the divers imaginings of men, borrowing its scenery and lively shapes from whatever to each seems most desirable ; but faith is the impress—the coinage of God's own truth upon the soul, and God's own truth can be but one.
In all this, methinks we have a key to explaining much in what Christ was pleased to ordain. For, if I see him appoint teachers to his people, shepherds to his flock, and esta
blish thus an order of subordination in doctrine and faith ; then promising his uninterrupted guidance till the end of time to those whom he has appointed to rule and instruct, and thus secure unreserved assurance to all that follow their doctrine; and I take all these arrangements and ordinances in their plain and simple meaning, and construct thereupon, in my mind, a great religious community, professing entire unity of doctrines under teachers directed by God; I see there so complete, so just a reality to the shadow of the previous dispensation, so true a correspondence of parts, so nice a fitness to similar ends—and all this so improved, so ennobled, so perfected into a purer and more spiritual character, from the nature of its objects, of its doctrines, of its diviner sanctions, that I cannot for a moment hesitate to believe, that, hereby alone, could accomplishment be given to the foreshowings of the former state, and that consequently no other conception of its fulfilment could be correct.
But now resolve, on the other hand, religion into a mere aggregate of individuals, each having his own peculiar measure of faith, bound up only together, as in one bundle, by external ties, not inly communicating by vital influences like branches of one tree; deprive them collectively as individually of all security against fatal error, of all promise of permanent support; deny in it the existence of any one universal aggregation towards which all men, no matter what their colour or country, shall turn in full assurance that it can give them life; strip it of all the venerable rights which authority and a divine sanction alone can give, and assuredly you shall have produced something so curiously different from all whereunto God had so long prepared the world, that they who look therein for the accomplishment of past types, and the completion of the former state, must perforce acknowledge that the order of God's designs hath suffered strange perturbations.
But you will say, with all the precautions which his providence took to secure the safe transmission of his promises, see