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a Prophet, who, like thee, shall bring into the Church a new dispensation, and change whatever needs alteration in the old; even as thou hast done with respect to the patriarchal dispensation.
The same truth is, also, abundantly declared by preceding Prophets, especially Isaiah; who describes at large the very changes, actually made by Christ in this dispensation, almost as distinctly as the Apostles; at least in several particulars.
Christ published this abolition of the peculiarities of the Mosaic system.
In the first place, by teaching, that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, were henceforth to be the people of God.
And, I, saith he, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me. John xii. 32. Again; And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them, also, must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.
The Jews, under the dispensation of Moses, were the only people of God. All others, who became members of the Church, became such by being proselyted to the Jewish religion, and obeying the Jewish laws throughout; in other words, by becoming Jews in every thing except blood. But Christ here declares, that the Gentiles, as such, shall become members of his Church, and belong to his fold; hear, and follow him; and thus constitute a part of the people of God.
Secondly. By teaching the uselessness of external rites.
Christ exhibited in many ways the emptiness of external rites. particularly by declaring, that meats and washings, and other things of the like nature, neither purified on the one hand, nor on the other defiled, the man; and universally by showing, that internal purity and integrity constituted the only object of the divine approbation, and the only title to the kingdom of God.
Thirdly. By instituting a new Ministry in the Church.
This he did by Commissioning the Apostles, and all other ministers, Matt. xxviii. 18, &c. to go into all the World, preaching the Gospel, and discipling all nations, and baptizing them in, or into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. In this, Commission he invested a new set of men, in the place of Jewish Priests and Levites, with all the authority, and offices, of ministers in the future Church of God. The Jewish Ministry was therefore, henceforth done away.
Fourthly. By substituting Baptism and the Lord's Supper for the Jewish Sacraments of Circumcision and the Passover.
Christ made Baptism the initiatory ordinance of the Christian Church, and the Lord's Supper the confirmatory one. Circumcision, therefore, and the Passover, ceased of course. Besides, the Death of Christ the Antitype of the Passover, having taken place; the Passover, which typified it. ceased of course. Fifthly. By substituting a new, simple, and spiritual, worship for the ceremonial worship of the Jews. In his discourse with the SamaVOL. II.
ritan woman, Christ said, The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worhippers shall worship the Father, in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
In the parable of the sower, also, he declares, that they, who received the seed in good ground, are such as receive the word in an honest and good heart; and that these only are either fruitful or accepted.
Sixthly. By teaching that God was to be worshipped, acceptably, wherever he was sincerely worshipped, and not in the temple at Jerusalem only.
In the abovementioned conversation with the Samaritan woman, Christ said, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. He also, as you well know, predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and its services; declaring, that not one stone of the temple should be left upon another, which should not be thrown down; that Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled; and that all these things should come to pass during the continuance of the then existing generation. In the mean time, he declared to his disciples, that wherever two or three of them should be met together in his name, there he would be in the midst of them.
It needs no proof, that in these declarations he caused the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and put a final end to the peculiarities of the Mosaic system.
II. Christ taught the same system of Religion, which was taught by Moses.
The system of Religion, taught in the Old and New-Testament, is one, and the same. This Christ has himself sufficiently declared in his sermon on the Mount. One of the first declarations in it, is this: Think not, I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
The system of Natural Religion, taught in the Scriptures, is one, and unchangeable. Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away than one jot, or one tittle, of the Law, on which it is founded, and by which the duties of it are required. As the Law is unchangeable; so the duties, which it requires, are unchangeable also. The Relations, on which this Law is founded, and whence these duties arise, are eternal and immutable. Of course, the Law itself, the duties which it requires, and the conditions of acceptance and rejection, together with all the truths, or doctrines, which in Natural Religion, or the Religion founded on mere Law, are the proper, obligatory objects of Faith, must for ever be the same. Accordingly, our Saviour, when the Lawyer asked him, Which is the first and great commandment of the Law? declared, after reciting the two great commands, that on these two hang all the Law and the Prophets; or the system of Religion contained in the Old Testament. At the same time, he
recited these commands, as being those, on which was also suspended his own religion; which were still in full force, and the foundation of all Virtue or Moral Excellence.
Nor is the Christian system substantially different in the New Testament from what it is in the Old. By the Christian system I intend the system of doctrines and duties, by means of which apostate creatures are restored to obedience and favour. The Gospel, says St. Paul, was preached to Abraham. It was also disclosed to our first parents. Christ, says St. Peter, preached, (that is, by the Voice of Noah) to the spirits in prison: viz, the rebellious world, imprisoned under the divine sentence, during one hundred and twenty years preceding the Deluge. Your father Abraham, says our Saviour to the Jews, rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. All these, says St. Paul, speaking of the Old Testament Witnesses from Abel to Daniel and his companions, died in Faith: that is, the Faith of the Gospel. Now therefore, says the same Apostle again to the Ephesian Christians, Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone. It would be useless to recite more passages to this purpose; although many more might easily be recited. These prove in the most decisive manner, that there is One system of Religion, only, taught in the Old and the New Testament; one Law, on which the whole is ultimately founded; one system of doctrines and duties of what is called natural religion; one system of doctrines and duties of the Christian system, appropriately so called: that the Gospel was preached not only to Abraham, but to the Jewish and Patriarchal churches in every age: that good men have always died in the faith of the Gospel: that the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles is the same: and that of both, Jesus Christ is the chief corner-stone.
III. Christ taught all the fundamental doctrines of this system. By the fundamental doctrines of the Christian system, I intend those, which are necessary to be believed, and obeyed, in order to the attainment of salvation. Such, for example, are the existence and perfections of the one God; the law of God; its righteous and reasonable character; the rebellion, apostacy, and corruption, of man; the impossibility of justification by the works of the Law; Christ's own divine character as the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; justification by faith in him; the nature and necessity of regeneration, faith, repentance, and holiness of heart and life; a future state; a judgment; and a recompense of reward to the righteous and the wicked beyond the grave.
I will not say, that the belief of every one of these is indispensa ble to salvation, but they are all essential parts of one system; and within this list is found whatever is thus necessary to be believed. That Christ taught all these things will not, I suppose, be questioned by any man, who admits that they are at all taught in the Scriptures.
IV. Christ taught the religion of the Scriptures more plainly and perfectly, than those who went before him.
In a former discourse, I considered the character of the Redeemer, as the Light of the world; and observed, that he is exhibited in the Scriptures, as the source of all knowledge, natural, revealed, and spiritual, concerning moral subjects. Agreeably to this general character, he appeared with peculiar splendour, as the great Luminary of the world, while executing the office of a Preacher of truth and righteousness. Every subject, which he discussed, he illustrated, and every duty, enjoined by him, he inculcated, with a force, distinctness, and impression, utterly unrivalled by any preceding instructer.
Particularly; he explained the nature and extent of the Divine Law far more perfectly than Moses and the Prophets. Of this truth his Sermon on the Mount is the most illustrious instance, of which we are able to form a conception. In this wonderful discourse he inverted some, and subverted others, of the Jewish opinions, established a long time before he commenced his ministry, concerning the substance of the Mosaic religious system; explained the extent and comprehensiveness of the law; and taught the wonderfully various, minute, and exact, manner, in which its precepts are applicable to the moral concerns of mankind. David had formerly said, while addressing himself to the Most High, Thy commandment is exceeding broad. But Christ first unfolded the extension of the divine law to every thought and affection, as well as to every word and action, of mankind. At the same time, he exhibited the nature of genuine obedience in a light, new, and altogether nobler than had before been imagined; presenting to the eyes of mankind this obedience, otherwise termed holiness, or virtue, as more expanded, more dignified, more refined, and formed for a destination superior to what was found in the instructions, given by the wisest men under the Mosaic dispensation. Whatever was limited, and merely Jewish, he took away; cleansing the intellect from every film, which had bedimmed, or narrowed, its views; and releasing the heart from every clog, which had checked the progress of its affections. The soul, therefore, freed in this manner from its former corporeal incumbrances, was prepared by his instructions to renew its strength, to mount up with wings as an eagle, to run in the Christian course and not be weary, to walk and not faint.
In the same perfect manner, and to a considerable extent in this very discourse, as well as more fully in his discourses at large, he explained the Gospel to mankind. The scheme of salvation to apostates through a Redeemer was very imperfectly taught by Moses, and was left in no small degree of obscurity even by David and Isaiah. It was reserved for Christ, by whom came grace and truth, to make the way of holiness a highway, in which way-faring men, though fools, were by no necessity compelled to err. So fully, so distinctly, so completely, has Christ pointed out the way to eternal
life, that we often see heathens, savages, slaves, and even little children, as well as unlettered men in Christian countries, entering into it, and walking safely onward to the end.
Among the things which Christ has thus clearly explained to mankind, I have selected the following.
1st. He taught mankind, that the heart is the seat of all virtue and vice, or, in Scriptural language, of holiness and sin.
Matt. xv. 16, Jesus said to his disciples: Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. And again, Matthew xii. 34, He said to the Pharisees, O generation of vipers! how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
By declaring that the heart was the only seat of good and evil, Christ taught us several lessons of great importance to our safety, and well-being.
He taught us, particularly, how to distinguish with accuracy between moral good and evil.
So long as men supposed moral good and evil to lie either wholly, or partially, in their external actions, it was impossible, that they should make this distinction with any degree of accuracy: for the very same external actions, so entirely the same as to be distinguishable by no human eye, proceed from principles directly opposite, and are intended to promote directly opposite ends. In the actions themselves, therefore, there is no difference; and, of course, no foundation for any distinction in their moral character. But, when the good and evil are referred to the heart, the intention, the accordance with different motives, we cannot fail, unless through an unnecessary, and therefore criminal, negligence, to discern whether we form good or bad intentions, and whether we accord with good or evil motives. In this manner our duty, and our disobedience also, are in ordinary cases, to say the least, made plain and obvious; and we are saved from that perplexity and suspense, whose only influence is to delay, bewilder, and distress the
In this manner also, Christ has taught us where our principal safety lies; (viz.) in carefully watching our thoughts.
David, in those golden precepts recited by Solomon in the 4th chapter of Proverbs, had, long before our Saviour's incarnation, said, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. But this precept seems to have been imperfectly understood,