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Eiving a view of the actual character of the Hebrew Communi.
ty, from the establishment of the Sinai covenant, to the ad. vent of the Messiah.
WE have found that the Sinai covenant was administered to Israel, not as a temporal Commonwealth, but as the Church of God. This covenant multiplied instructions, means, and motives, beyond any preceding parallel ; all calculated to attach the people to God, in a holy allegiance. These means were numerous and impressive, on purpose that this favored people might be put under trial ; that the human character might clearly appear; and that when the Spirit should be poured out in more copious effusions in the Gospel day, the grace exercised might be the more conspicuous and glorious. Deuteronomy viii. 1, 2, 3. “ All the commandments which I command thee this day, shall ye observe to do, that ye may live and multiply, and go in, and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers. 'And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, this forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart; whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not ; nei. ther did thy Fathers know ; that he might make thee know, that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live." The trial was to continue as long as the dispensation should last.
ä season of trial, it was necessarily a season of forbear. ance. *
“ I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” If the kingdom of God had been taken directly from the rebellious part of Israel, upon the appearance of rebellion, and given to another people ; this forbearance would not have had its proper illustration. The system of trial would have been defective. Neither the character of God, nor the human character would have been so fully made known. There would not have been so much justice in the enquiry, “ What could I have done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked, that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ? If then, in tracing the actual char-, acter of Israel, we find much perverseness in individ. uals, or in the body at large, we must expect also, as has been already hinted, to find much forbearance.
It is not to our purpose, to trace minutely the histo ry of this people. The only question which it is of im, portance for us to resolve, is, whether they continued, through the period now under consideration, to main tain, in fact, their distinctive character, as the Church of God. It is said, that, whatever may have been the plan of the Hebrew community, as originally constituted by God; and however demonstrably it may be proved, that the Sinai covenant, as a posterior institu. tion, was not designed, and did not operate, to change its character from a religious to a civil society, it did in fact, become a mere nation, like all the other nations of the earth; that here were kings, and their courts ;. generals, armies, and battles ; that the character of the Jews, as drawn by their own prophets, was very bad ; that, instead of brotherly love, by which saints are distinguished, wrongs of every description prevail. ed ; that idolatry was substituted for the worship of God ; and, in short, that this community, religiously
Avox Romans iii. 25. " Whom God hath set forth, to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteo usness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” is by a scene of admirable forbearance, displayed through successive ages, that the work of redemption is xcomplished.
considered, had much more the appearance of a socie. ty of knaves, than of a spiritual Church.
It is confessed, that the institution, originally holy, was corrupted ; that there were seasons of extensive apostacy; and that the character given to Israel, Holi. ness to the Lord, was, during these seasons, in a great measure lost. We are willing that the history, and prophetic reproofs, of the Old Testament, should have their full effect, to sink the character of this people, from that height of religious purity, to which we should naturally expect, that the Sinai covenant, and the accompanying dispensations would form them. But let them not be sunk lower than the determination of God will warrant. His sentence must prevail ; and all human opinions, which are not in conformity to it, are certainly erroneous.
After every allowance to their disadvantage, we still insist, that they continued to maintain their relation and character, in contradistinction to all other societies of men, 'as the kingdom or Church of God, quite down to the coming of the Messiah. This position is an important part of the scheme exhibited in this Treatise. To confirm it the following things are submitted.
1. It has been proved from the design of the separ. ation of Abraham; from the view which the scriptures give us of his character, and relative state, prior to what is commonly called the covenant of circumcision ; and from the analysis which has been exhibited of that covenant, that in him was founded a society, character. istically religious; that this society was to consist, primarily of lineal descendents from him; that it was to be transmitted, by an uninterrupted succession, through their generations ; and that it was to be indissolvable, and interminable. It has been proved that provision was made for the maintenance of its visible character, by such exceptions, as God should be pleased to make, in the course of his providence, and by the execution of such disciplinary laws, as he had ordained, or should enact. The actual continuation of this society as a religious society, till it is found underthe guidance of God,
at the foot of Sinai, has been evinced. It has been shown, that the Sinai covenant did not, in any degree, transform this society into one of a different description. It is not pretended, that there is any other part of the posterity of Abraham in whose persons it was perpetuated. The perpetuation of it, was absolutely necessary, for the purpose of transmitting the holy oracles of God. In the midst of it, we are certain, the Messiah, who is eminently the seed, was to arise ; and when he appeared, and shewed himself unto Israel, “ he came un. to his own."
From all which, it will demonstrably follow ; not how any conclusion can follow, more undeniably, from any premises, that the Hebrew Community re. tained its character, as the kingdom of God, till the coming of Christ. To say that it terminated ; and it did terminate, if it was transformed into a mere nation, according to the civil and ordinary acceptation of that term, is to say, that God's plan, in establishing a visible Church in the person and family of Abraham, was frustrated; and that his absolute promises, given un. der the form of an oath, failed of accomplishment. But,
2. Asa farther proof of this position, it may be ob served, that the same distinctive epithets, continue to be applied to this community ; that God still recognizes the relation ; owns them for his people, and de. clares himself their God; and this relation is expres. sed in terms, implying the same spiritual nearness, which subsisted between God and Abraham.*. The Lord God of Israel, the God of Jacob; the God of Zion ; are expressions which occur perpetually. God speaks of Israel collectively, as a servant, and a son, just as he addressed them before the exodus. Isaiah xliv.
* There are exceptions, in seasons of apostacy, and respecting the subjects of that apostacy, Thus, it is said,
" Then said the Lord, call his name: Loammi ; for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.” But this is not inconsistent with the truth of the above remark. It rather confirms it. For this passage supposes, that till that time, at least, God had been, by covenant relation, their God. And it is evident, from the context, that it respects Israel, or the ten tribes, in distinction from Judah. See the preceding verse. Nay, the verse following shews, that it was not against the whole of Israel, that the rejection was entered. Why should there be these exceptions at all, if the whole community, in its spiritual relation, had long ago ceased to exist?
1. " Yet now, hear, O Jacob, my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen." Jeremiah xxxi. 20. Ephraim, my dear son? Is he a pleasant child ? For, since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still.” Psalm lxxxi. 8, 9, 10.
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee. Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; there shall no strange God be in thee, neither shalt thou worship any strange God. I am the Lord, thy God; which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm c. 3. “Know ye that the Lord, he is God ; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." Psalm cxlviii. 8, 14." He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints, even of the children of Israel, à people near unto him.” Isaiah, xliii. 1. “But now, thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob; and he that formed thee, O Israel ; Fear 'not, for I havc redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; for thou art mine.". Verse 5. '” Fear not, for I am with thee.” 15th verse. “I am the Lord your holy one, the creator of Israel, your king." Surely, this language, which is abundant all over the Bible, is entirely against the idea, of the termination of the community of Israel, as a Church.
3. That the religious character of Israel, aş a community, was continued, is evident, from the numerous expressions of endearment, which are interspersed in the sacred books of the Old Testament. Thus, in the xliii. chapter of Isaiah 4th verse, God says, “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life." Psalm lxxiv. 19. “ O deliver not the soul of thy turtle dove, unto the multitude of the wicked, forget not the congregation of thy poor forever.” Psalm Ixxviii. 68. chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion, which he loved." Psalm cxxxii. 13, 14.' " For the Lord hath chosen Zion, he hath desired it for his habitation.-This is my rest forever ; here will I dwell; for I have