Page images
PDF
EPUB

they were exposed, when a rival worship was set up in Samaria, and when they were prohibited from going to worship at the true altar of God. But, at the same time, never does it result from all this, that the doctrines taught to the Jews were completely lost : for we find, that, at the time of our Saviour they were clearly in possession of the whole body of doctrines which had been delivered to them; and we find, that whenever his messengers, the prophets, were sent to wash away, as it were, the imperfections which crept into his worship, and to arouse the fallen fervour of his people, that they always found sufficient yet remaining whereupon to work, and from which to begin the task of complete reformation. But it is here, as I said before, that I see the fulfilment of the old in the new order of God's providence. The Jewish dispensation was necessarily imperfect ; for, if it had not been so, it need not have been replaced. Hence it is, that we are not to expect the last development of perfection, which, had it been granted, would have allowed no room for further improvement. Had God so guaranteed the existence of his truth among the Jews as that there could be no' possibility even that it could be tarnished, or have been partially impaired, there would have been no need, comparatively, of any other system whatever, although additional truths the Almighty might have thought it proper to give. But it was an imperfect system, and God therefore, established a means of checking the perpetual errors to which it was liable, and providing a permanent institution whereby the loss of his truth might be repaired. For this purpose he sent, from time to time, bis prophets with extraordinary commissions, to reform all abuses, to take upon themselves the alteration of such points as would appear to them to require that change. But, even this institution prophets, which appeared certain intervals, was a permanent institution, an essential part of the system of the old law ; for the regulations are clearly laid down in the law of Moses whereby these prophets were to be tried and judged, and their mission from God verified before the people.

Now, therefore, if we have to find a parallel in the new law to this institution of the old, we must expect that what the prophets represented should now come in their place, and that the effect should be, not the removal, but the actual prevention of error. I think we shall find, in looking into the New Testament, how this was perfectly accomplished, and that in a twofold and in a most beautiful manner. In the first place, the prophets were all types of our Saviour, we may expect, therefore, to find our Saviour himself taking their place; and, as they were sent to remove all errors from the church of old, we must expect that our Saviour, in like manner, as he died, (and has no need of appearing from time to time), should continue ever to teach in their place, and that his teaching should be such, as it necessarily must

be, where he instructs not merely to correct, but absolutely to prevent,

error.

In the second place, the prophets were the mouths of the Holy Ghost ; they were inspired by the Holy Spirit; they were the tongues through which he spake to mankind. We might, therefore, justly expect also, to find a provision in the new law whereby the Holy Spirit should take the place of the prophets, and likewise so continue to teach there for ever. I think we shall find, that we have the complete parallel between the old and new dispensations; the fulfilment taking place, also, in this regard; and we shall see how God, by this twofold fulfilment, gave the last touch and perfection to the system directed to preserve truth among men, by himself remaining perpetually with it, teaching and preserving them from any mistake.

But, my brethren, hitherto I must say, I have rather appealed to your own recollections, than brought before you any specific authority, either for the connection which I mentioned between the old and the new law regarding the institution of means for preserving mankind from fatal error, or as to the peculiar correspondence of the institutions of the two. I could indeed have occupied your attention much longer by entering into a detailed exposition of all the prophecies of the old law; I could have, indeed, shown you, from the very beginning unto the end, that there is a series of the most beautiful developments that can possibly be conceived, always unfolding new qualities in this king. dom of Christ, until, at length, the picture is not only as complete as I have given it, but going beyond it in clearness and strength as much as the words of God can be beyond those of man. But I will, that I may not appear to be building a great deal upon a small foundation, read one prophecy, and a very small portion of another, wbich seems, as it were, to gather within itself all that I have laid down, and to give us much more than we can require for that train of argument to which I shall afterwards proceed. It is from the prophet Isaiah, the fifty-fourth chapter, a chapter which all interpreters that admit the existence of prophecy, allow to be directed to the church of the Messiah. « En. large,” says the prophet, “the place of thy tent, and stretch out the skins of thy tabernacles, spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.

For thou shalt pass on to the right hand, and to the left: and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and shall inhabit the desolate cities. Fear not, for thou shalt not be confounded: nor blush, for thou shalt not be put to shame, because thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt remember no more the reproach of thy widowhood. For he that made thee shall rule over thee, the Lord of Hosts is his name: and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, shall be called the God of all the earth. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken, and mourning in spirit, and as a wife cast off from her youth,

said thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a moment of indignation have I hid my face a little while from thee, but with everlasting kindness have I had mercy on thee, said the Lord thy Redeemer. This thing is to me as in the days of Noe, to whom I swore, that I would no more bring in the waters of Noe upon the earth, so have I sworn not to be angry with thee, and not to rebuke thee. For the mountains shall be moved, and the hills shall tremble: but my mercy shall not depart from thee, and the covenant of my peace shall not be moved, said the Lord that hath mercy on thee. All thy children shall be taught of the Lord : and great shall be the peace of thy children. And thou shalt be founded in justice ; depart far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near thee. Behold, an inhabitant shall come, who was not with me, he that was a stranger to thee before shall be joined to thee. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the killer to destroy. · No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that resisteth thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the inheritance of the servants of the Lord, and their justice with me, saith the Lord.” And, in the fiftyninth chapter of this prophecy, and the concluding verses—" And there shall come a Redeemer to Zion, and to them that return from iniquity in Jacob, saith the Lord. This is the covenant with them, saith the Lord: My Spirit that is in thee, and my word that I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”

Assuredly, my brethren, the drift of these passages cannot be misunderstood. We are there expressly told, that the church of God still addressed as the Jewish church then existing-should not continue much longer in that state of abasement in which it then was; but that God should raise it up, and extend it in such a way, that many, from the east and from the west, and strangers that before knew it not, should be joined unto it; that it should be authorized to condemn any one who should rise up against it in judgment; that its teaching should be such that the words once put into its mouth by God should never depart from its seed, or its latest posterity, till the end of time; that God, the Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, the God of all the earth, should himself teach in it, and that this teacher should be the Redeemer of his people in such a way that all its children should be taught of God; and, moreover, that his protection should be such as to prevent every attempt from prospering which was made against its existence and prosperity.

Now, my brethren, this, I believe, will be sufficient not only to show you the exact connection between the old and new dispensations, inasmuch as the latter may be considered as a prolongation and continuation of the former ; but it also gives the most direct and positive demonstration of the religion which Christ came to establish_its universality, its authority, its eternal duration, and its being taught and instructed by the Almighty himself, by the Redeemer of God's people.

Hence, therefore, if all that I have said be correct; if we look into the New Testament, we must necessarily expect to find such an insti. tution as will exactly contain within itself all the terms of this prediction : something which will exactly correspond to the institution that is mentioned, and, as I showed you, did exist in the old law erected by God to teach mankind, and to preserve from destruction the doctrines which he delivered. I think, that if we diligently study several passages of the New Testament, we shall not be at a loss to discover some such sanction, and some such established system; and, perhaps, that which will show us, better than any other, all these important qualities, will be the concluding words wherewith our Saviour constituted his apostles his successors on earth, and the depositaries of his authority. For we read, in the last verse of St. Matthew, how, before he ascended into heaven, he called them all together, and addressed them in his last and most solemn charge. He prefaces it by recurring, as it were, to the testimony of authority which I quoted at the beginning of my discourse, namely, he himself baving been delegated and appointed by his Father, with full and unlimited authority. “ All power,” he says, “is given to me in heaven and on earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the world”—“ I am with you always, even to the end of the world."

What, my brethren, is the meaning of these important words? There are two different ways of reading and studying the word of God. No. thing is more easy than, by reading over a passage, to attach to it that sense which best accords with the system that we have adopted, and which seems best to confirm the doctrines which we have embraced. In this way, whether those that differ from us in the system of religion, or whether we read these words, it is evident that there will be a dif. ferent meaning attached to them; that is to say, that while the Catholic feels assured, that there is clearly given a promise of our blessed Redeemer, that he would be so with the apostles, and their successors, to the end of time, that he would prevent the possibility of their falling into error, or the admixture of any error among the truths which he taught them to deliver : while we should draw these important consequences, others would say, that no more was there promised than merely a certain protection and superintendence; some security to the scheme

[ocr errors]

of his doctrines; and that a general belief in Christianity would never be lost upon earth. Now it is evident, that these two interpretations cannot both be correct, that is to say, inasmuch as the one is meant to exclude the other; for that which we give does comprehend that which others propose, inasmuch as we do believe that there is that providential care, but we believe it with the addition of something much more important, which the interpretation of others necessarily excludes, and is directly intended to exclude, because otherwise, indeed, they must admit our opinions. Now, therefore, it is plain, that there must be certain criterions, certain ways, whereby we can arrive at an accurate knowledge of our Saviour's meaning: and I know not what rule can be better proposed than that most obvious one followed on every other occasion, that is, to analyze, to weigh, the signification of each portion of the sentence, to arrive at the meaning of the words ; and thereby, as it were, re-constructing the sentence, from the intention of all its parts, see what can be the meaning intended by him who spake ; and, for this purpose, we cannot possibly have a better guide than the Holy Scriptures themselves. If we examine what is the meaning of any word or expression in every passage in which it occurs, or which can be in any wise applicable to the interpretation of the passage, assuredly every one will agree that we have chosen the most satisfactory, and the only true method of arriving at the sense intended by our Lord.

Such, therefore, is the method to be pursued. The force of the text lies manifestly in its latter portion ; therefore, we may, first of all ask, what is the exact meaning of all its parts; and then see if, from Scripture, we find any sort of clue to discover how it is to be attached to that which precedes, and how it bears upon the general object of the commission.

Our Saviour therefore says, that he will be with bis disciples always, even unto the end the consummation or end of the world. What is the meaning in Scripture of God being with any person? It signifies, a more special providence or regard of that individual, than is manifested towards others; a particular watchfulness on the part of God over his interests in such a way, that whatever he undertakes invariably succeeds. Thus, for instance, in the book of Genesis, we have Abimelech saying to Abraham, in the twenty-first chapter and twenty-second verse, “ God is with thee in all that thou doest.” It is manifest, from the success of your actions, that you have a special assistance from God. In the twenty-sixth chapter, and third'verse, God says to Isaac, “ Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and bless thee.” Again, in the twenty-fourth verse, “ Fear not, for I am with thee." And, in the thirty-ninth chapter, the second and third verses, “ The Lord was with Joseph, and he was prosperous; and his master saw that the Lord was him, and that he made all that he did to prosper in his hands.” And, in

« PreviousContinue »