« PreviousContinue »
This Divine Being was present at the creation and the fall of man, and conversed with our parents in Eden. Unless they were, then, instructed in the use of language and the choice of food, as well as in the law of marriage and the knowledge of God, the sagacity with which they were endowed, must have been greater than that with which untaught men are now gifted. As God conversed with them, we may fairly conclude he imparted his will to them, and thus Religion commenced, from Revelation, in a state of innocence (9).
The first event of which we read after the Fall, was the offering of sacrifice, and the clothing of men with the skins of beasts. The same Being is represented, as still contimuing his charge over the fallen race. The offering of an animal in sacrifice to God, appears so utterly unreasonable and useless, that I cannot but believe the primitive sacrifice to have originated in the divine command. No other solution can be justly given of the difficulty. Whether the 327 xnn be rendered with Archbishop Magee, “a sinoffering coucheth at the door," or with Mr. Davison, and our translators,“ Sin lieth at the door,” is a matter of little moment. Positive evidence cannot be procured. The brevity of Moses in this part appears to have been intentional; his object being, to hasten to the history of Abraham. As the superintending Being, the Angel Jehovah was still with them, it is not probable that the first worship of our primæval ancestors would be of their own invention. It is not necessary to suppose that they were fully instructed in the typical meaning of the sacrifice, as the emblem of the atonement. The enactment might have been arbitrary, and commanded as a proof of their obedience, and of their faith in some future developement of the meaning of the sacrifice. They appear to have brought their offering at an appointed time; and mankind have been divided from the period of the rejection of the sacrifice of Cain, into two opposite parties, the good and evil (r).
After the general destruction of the first race by a flood, which the Angel Jehovah expressly declares was brought on the world by himself (s), he appeared to Noah, and renewed his covenant. When the patriarchal religion in the various settlements of men, was corrupted by the idolatry which endeavoured to reconcile outward worship with actual vice and speculative error—when they did not like to retain the spirituality of God in their knowledge, but assigned human attributes to the Creator-the same Divine Being renewed, and enlarged, the revelation of himself to Abraham; and continued personally to repeat, and extend that revelation by frequent manifestations of his presence, to the descendants of Abraham, to the Patriarchs, to Moses, and to the Prophets, who at length completed in their predictions, the anticipated history of their incarnated Redeemer. All this was done slowly and gradually. The attention of mankind was continually directed to the one great deliverer, who should be at once the Prophet, the Priest, and the King—the Sacrifice and the Deity-the uniter of the divine and human nature—the mysterious and merciful Saviour—the present Protector, and the future Judge of mankind.
The New Testament contains the history of the accomplishment of all these prophecies. We may justly expect to trace in this portion of the inspired writings the same gradual revelation which characterized the former. Bishop Law has endeavoured to point out the mode in which the Deity has thus made himself known to mankind, in his work on the theory of religion. The first Lord Barrington published an essay on the dispensations in the order in which they lie in the Bible. In the preface to the Miscellanea Sacra, he observes—“The true way to obtain a thorough under" standing of the Scriptures, would be to make ourselves " well acquainted with each of these periods, as they are " described and distinguished in the Bible, and as they stand
* in order of time; the former of these always preparing for " the latter; and the latter still referring to the former: 80 " that we must critically understand each of these, before " we can have the whole compags of that knowledge, and " the proof of it, which the Bible is designed to give us, “ God having thought fit, at sundry times, and in divers
manners, or in different parts, sections, or periods,” (Mr. Davison (t) translates the words “ in different portions,") « πολυμερώς, και πολυτρόπως, to speak to the Fathers by " the Prophets, and to us by his Son. I am sensible that “ this is a work, that will require much time, and care, " but the very outlines of such a design would be of great « use and service (u)."
Upon the foundation of such reasoning, I have planned the several divisions of this arrangement. I trust the order and gradual revelation, which I am of opinion may be observed in the Scriptures of the New Testament, will be better perceived by a short abstract of the contents of the fifteen chapters, into which the work is portioned. "I shall " be rejoiced (I again quote from Lord Barrington) if this
attempt should provoke others to study the New Testa“ment in this way, and in all others, that may give such
light to the obscure parts of it, as is necessary to satisfy " the strict inquirers, who are the best friends to religion.”
I. The first chapter includes the period from the birth of Christ to His temptation. It may be regarded as the introduction to His ministry. This part of the New Testa ment does not appear to have been considered with the atten tion it deserves. The careful reader, however, will observe the manner in which it pleased God that the attention of the existing generation should be directed to the Son of Mary, the poor and humble Virgin, of the family of David. All the ancient proofs of His peculiar superintendance of the race of Abraham, were accumulated at this period. The vision of angels. was granted to Zacharias, in the temple the age of miraculous interference returned, and all the priests in the temple, the dwellers at Jerusalem, and consequently the whole nation, who were accustomed to visit Jerusalem every year, must have been acquainted with these events. When his miraculous dumbness ceased, the spirit of prophecy came upon him, and he predicted the glory of his own son, as the forerunner of the Messiah; together with the approaching blessings of the Messiah's kingdom. The superhuman dream, another mode by which God imparted his will to mankind, was revived in the vision of Joseph. The descent of the spirit of prophecy upon women, was renewed in the salutation of Elizabeth, and the prediction of Anna. The same spirit of prophecy returned also in the speech of the aged Simeon. The astonishing answers of our Lord in the temple, when he was twelve years of age, must have convinced the learned and aged rabbis then assembled, that the Child thus marked out by these supernatural interpositions, was superior to all they had either known or heard. The public declaration also of the inspired Baptist, and the wonderful manifestation of the divine presence at the baptism of Christ, must of themselves have convinced the Jews, that their expected Messiah was among them; if they had not perverted their prophecies, and anticipated a temporal deliverer from the Roman do minion.
I have endeavoured at some length to shew the difference between the conceptual Logos of the ancients, and the personal Logos of Scripture; and to prove that the Logos of St. John, the Angel Jehovah of the Old Testament, “ the Word” of the Targumists, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the New Testament, the Founder and only Head of the Christian Church, was the one only manifested Jehovah, the Creator and Preserver of the world. The miraculous conception,and the mystery of the incarnation, demonstrate the divinity, which was united with the assumed
humanity of the condescending Incarnate; and his temptation, demonstrates him to be the second Adam, who should retrace the steps of the first, and restore us by his sinless obedience to the Paradise which our primal ancestor had lost. The mysteries with which this sublime system of man's redemption commences, will be the subjects of our inquiry when our faculties are enlarged in a future state: and, I believe, upon the undeniable evidences which confirm the truth of Christianity, doctrines which I do not comprehend—that the Creator of the world, the Guide of mankind from Paradise to the judgment, was manifested in the flesh, as an infant, a child, and a patient, suffering man.
II. The dispensations of God always blend with each other, distinct, and yet inseparable, as the rays of light, and the colours of the rainbow. Though the way had now been prepared for the public manifestation of Christ to the Jewish nation; he did not openly and publicly declare his claims to the Messiahship of Israel, till the Baptist, the founder of the intermediate dispensation into which men had been baptized, was put into prison. I have placed therefore, as a separate chapter, the events between the temptation of Christ, and the public assertion of his miss ·sion after the imprisonment of John. The reply of the Baptist to the deputation from the authorities at Jerusalem, positively affirming the Messiahship of Him, whom ami.. raculous descent of the Holy Spirit, and the voice, the Bath Col, had marked as a superhuman being, in the midst of the assembled thousands from Judea--the uninvited attachment of the disciples of the Baptist to our Lord, when St. John pointed him out as the Lamb of God-the unostentatious miracle at Cana, when the silent operation of our Lord's power began to manifest his still concealed glory-his return to Capernaum with his family, as the preaching of the Baptist continued —his cleansing the temple, by miraculously overawing the mercenary intruders--his still