« PreviousContinue »
prohibition, viz. because the life or blood of the animal was claimed by God, and given to God, to make atonement for the soul, which is very expressly asserted ; Lev. xvii. 10–14. And by the pouring the blood out before God on the ground, the flesh was, as it were, sanctified to the use of food for the eater. And no doubt this was the chief reason why eating blood was prohibiterbo to Noah and his sons, and it was derived duwn to the patriarchs, together with the doctrine of sacrifices. And so long as blood had any manner of appearance of making atonement in sacrifice, that is, till the dissolution of the Jewish state ; so long was blood forbidden to the Jews, and to those gentile christians, especially who dwelt near them, or conversed with them. But when the Jewish state was dissolved, and all such brutal sacrifices were utterly abolished, then Judaism vanished, and gospel liberty was more established ; and there could be very few or none to take offence at the eating of blood. And then perhaps St. Paul's advice to other gentile churches became universal, and set them all free as, “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink ;" Col. ü. 16. “ Whatsoever is sold in the shambles eat, asking no question for conscience-sake ;" that is, not enquiring whether it were offered to idols, or whether it were killed in the Jewis h manner, by letting out all the blood, and I Cor. x. 25. for to the pure all things are pure ; Tit. i. 15.“ I know and I am persuaded by the Lord Je. sus, there is nothing unclean of itself, but let no man put a stumbling-block in his brother's way;" Rom. xiv. 13, 14.“ Meat commendeth us not to God ; neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat pot are we the worse;" 1 Cor. viii. 8. “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified,” not by pouring out the blood, but by the word of God and prayer; 1 Tim. iv. 3, 4, 5.
XIV. But the gradual change from Judaison to christianity will be more fully understood, if we attend to this which follows. In the Jewish dispensation there were three sorts of laws, viz. moral, ceremonial, and political :
1. The moral laws were everlasting, and belonged to all the dispensations of God, which relate to the children of men in all ages, whether patrarchal, Jewish or christian, and were never abolished.--2. The political laws of the Jews were the civil laws of that nation, which God, as their supreme king or political head, gave them by Moses, to be observed in their country, so long as their state or polity subsisted. The gentiles were never under these laws; and therefore when they turned christians, their conversion could by no means bring them into a subjection thereto; for christianity makes no alteration in the civil goveroments of this world. The Jews or subjects of the government of Judea, especially while they resided in the land of Judea, were the proper subjects of these VOL. III.
political laws, whether they received christianity or no: And therefore Jewish christians in Judea complied with them, till their polity was finished by the destruction of Jerusalem.3. As for the ceremonial laws, they were particularly designed, not only to distinguish the Jews from other nations, but also to be types and figures of the blessings of the gospel; and therefore as they are wisely appointed to foreshew these blessings of christianity, and to be a distinguishing mark of the Jews, so they were as wisely worn out aud abolished when christianity was introduced, and the partition wall of distinction between Jews and gentiles was broken down. They were but shadows or figures for the time being, and must vanish when the substance appeared. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, chapter ix. and x. and to the Colossians, chapter ii. evidently uses this argument for their abolition, the great design of them being fulfilled.
XV. It is plain therefore, that these ceremonial or religi. ous laws were not lawful for the gentile converts out of Judea, to observe at all, as St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Galatians, If ye are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing ; Gal. v. 2. since they were never appointed for the gentiles by the great God, nor imposed upon them by Christ; and he is zealous to maintain this their liberty against all Jewish iinpositions and impostors, who would persuade the gentiles to be circumcised, and to observe their ceremonies.
XVI. As for the Jewish christians, though they were not obliged to observe them as matters of religion, after the setting up of christianity, yet since all the Jewish nation were so much prejudiced in favour of these ceremonies, and since the Jewish christians, and even some of the apostles, could so hardly be brought off froin them, they seemed to be indulged for a season in this practice.
And even St. Paul himself, who was a Jewish christian, at particular times engages in the practice of them; not as things which he believed necessary in order to serve God, but as mere lawful and indifferent things, and as matters of present expediency, which were wearing off, waxing old and vanishing away, as Heb. viii. 13. that is, they were vanishing as fast as Judaism hasted to its period, and as fast as human nature could bear the wearing out of its old prejudices : And therefore he became all to all at that time that he might gain some proselytes ; 1 Cor. ix. 20---22. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. I am made all things to men, that I might by all means save some.” Therefore he took Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess, and circumcised him, when he sent him out as a preacher ; Acts xvi. 1-3. in order to ingratiate him with the Jews, or lest he should give offence to the Jewish christians : Therefore he himself consented to go through the rites of a purification as a Nazarite, after the Jewish manner ; Acts xxi. 23, 24, 26. So graciously has God, the ruler of the world, condescended to the weakness of men, by indulging these indifferent things for a season in several parts of his transactions with them, and in divers ages, because human nature can hardly be led all at once into so great a change of principles and practices.
XVII. There might also be another reason for St. Paul and other Jewish converts, to comply with some of these ceremonies for a season, because the ceremonial and political laws along the Jews, were so intermingled, that it was sometimes very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the one froin the other : And while the Jewish polity lasted, several of these ceremonial laws might be complied with by Jewish christians, under the civil government of the Jews, considered as parts of that polity or government, though they might know their own real freedom and release, which Christ had given them from all Jewish ceremonies, considered as matters of religion*.
XVIII. But after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the dissolution of the Jewish state, their political as well as ceremonial laws were utterly abolished ; and by this time, not only the remaining apostles, but all the Jewish christians, were let more clearly into the knowledge of their own liberty in Christ Jesus, and their freedom from every thing written in the laws of Moses, which was not moral. Then the differences between the Jewish and gentile converts were taken away, and by degrees they caine more perfectly to unite themselves together in all ordinances of christian communion, in their several churches through the world, according to the frequent directions and exhortations that St. Paul had given them in the xiv. chapter to the Romans, and several other parts of his writings. See on this subject an excellent dissertation of Mr. Benson, at the end of his late paraphrase and notes on Titus. Thus much shall suffice concerning the five dispensations of the covenant of grace.
* Yet, perhaps, it may be worth enquiring, whether those ceremonies, which were plainly and purely religious, might not be appointed, partly for the public god visible honour of God, when he resided in a bright cloud in the tabernacle and the temple, as iha visible Head of a visible church on earth : And though he dever did reside visibly in the second temple, yet when he rent tbe veil of the lemple at the death of Christ, and when the Holy of Holies, which was his presence chamber, was throwo open aod common, tben God ceased to have any apo pearance of a residence there, and their church-state was in a great measure dis. solved, they havior, if I may so express it, driven God from among them, by slayiog his Son. And from that time their religious ceremonies might be so far abolished, as to become needless; yet they were indulged for a season, as indifferent things to the Jewish cbristiaos, who had been used to practise them, till the boly city and the temple, or God's visible palace, were uttterly destroyed, and whose remains of a visible church, were scattered through the earth.
Chap. XII.-Of those who have had no Revelation.
1. As for all the persons, the families and the nations of 'mankind, who have lived under these various dispensations of grace, it is evident that they have had the means of grace and salvation set before them, to recover them from the ruin of the fall of Adam. If they neglect this great salvation, they must perish with great justice. But as for those who by the negligence and iniquity of their fathers, have lost all notices and traditions of all divine revelations, and of all the dispensations of grace, and particularly of the last of them which their fa. thers enjoyed, whether it were patriarchal, Jewish or christian, and which they were entrusted to convey to their posterity, these have nothing remaining, but that knowledge of God, his law, his government and his mercy, which they could derive from the light of nature, and reason, and observation. And indeed, there were many religious observations which they could and ought to have made on the nature and mercy of the great God, and his gracious providence, his long-suffering, and his continued benefits, as well as from the working of their own consciences, in accusing or excusing their conduct, &c. from which they might infer something of grace and hope.
II. It appears by their daily experience, that they are sinners : Conscience tells them much of their duty, shews them the law of works, accuses them of sin, and condemns them thereby. The daily providence of God, shews them that they have time and space to repent of sin, and trust in his mercy: he hath given them the common coipforts of life, and filled their hearts with food and gladness, and thereby he hath left himself not without wilness, both of his power, government, and goodness to them: Acts'xiv. 17. He hath intimated to them hereby, that they should seek after God and his mercy, if they might haply feel after him, and find him; Acts xvii. 27. supposing they should or or might know that the long-suffering and forbearance of God, should lead them to repentance; Rom. ii. 4. So that, at least, they might reasonably say with the Ninevites, to encourage their repentance and their faith, who can tell but God
be gracious? Jonah iii. 9.
III. All this, with many other things, seem to give us some notice, that the sinful race of the heathens and savages, even those who never heard of the gospel, in any revealed dispensation of it, are not left merely in the condition of fallen angels to perish unavoidably without any hope, or any grace, to trust in, or without any encouragement or motive to repentance.
IV. It is true, their light is but dim, and their means of grace run. very low; yet if there shall be found among these
persons or nations, any who fear God and work righteousness, who repent of sin, and hope in a' merciful God, we believe they shall be accepted of him, through an unknown Mediator as Cornelius was: For this fear of God, repentance and hope is God's own work in their hearts, and he will not condemn the penitent soul; Acts x. 35. Prov. xxvii. 13. Nor will he destroy his own good work in the heart of man, nor shall any penitent and pious creature perish for not knowing and believing those revelations of grace, which he never heard of, and which be could pever know or believe.
Chap. XIII.-The Last Judgment. I. When all the dispensations of grace are finished-then comes the great day of judgment. Then all mankind, who have acted their parts on the stage of the world, in the several successive ages, shall appear together ; those wlio are gone down to death, shall arise from the dead at the call or summons of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is appointed Judge of the quick and dead: That is, of those who shall then be found living at his appearance, as well as of those who shall be raised from
II. In that great and solemn day, every man shall be judged according to that dispensation of grace, under which he lived, whether it were that of Adam or Noah, Abraham, Moses or Christ : And sentence shall be passed upon every man according to his works, that is, according to his compliance or non-coinpliance with the rules of that dispensation.
III. Those who have refused to repent of sin, and to trust in divine mercy, so far as it was revealed in the dispensation, under which they lived, they stand already condemned by the original moral law of God, or the law of innocence, which they have broken ; and they shall have that condemnation, as it were doubly sealed upon them, for refusing to accept of offered grace. Jobo iii. 18, 36. He that believeth not, is condemned already : And the wrath of God abideth on him, because he hath not be lieved on the Son of God. But those who have repented of sin and trusted in grace, and lived according to the dispensation under which they were placed, they may hope the condemning seutence of the broken law is reversed, and that they shall be publicly acquitted and absolved from their guilt, they shall have all their imperfections publicly forgiven for the sake of what Christ has done and suffered, they shall be accepted and their good works approved, they shall be ackno:: ledged as the children of God, and be adjudged to eternal life, Come ye
blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundalion of the world; Mat. xxv. 31. IV. Here let it be observed, that in the sense of the gose