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but gather sticks on the Sabbath, he was to be stoned without mercy: if a Jew brought an offering, it was of no avail if not presented at the door of the Tabernacle : the manner, the time, the circumstances were all minutely instituted ; and no devotion or piety of spirit could exempt a man from the yoke of all these observances, for God had appoiuted these as the way in which he chose that a devout Jew should express his state of mind.
But the New Dispensation changed the whole system. Religion was now to become more peculiarly a spiritual transaction between God and the soul ; and independent, in a higher measure than ever before, of all positive institutions. Its few simple institutions had no further object, than the preservation of the unity, order, soundness, and purity of the Church-in regard to doctrine, government, and discipline.
Nor had these appointments that character of unaccommodating inflexibility, which marked the institutions of the Old Dispensation. All nations, men of all habits and manners, are to drink life from the beneficent stream as it flows. It is to throw down no obstructions, that are not absolutely incompatible with its progress. But it is appointed to pervade every place which it visits. Some, it enters without obstruction, and passes directly through. In some, it meets with mounds and obstacles; yet rises till it finds an entrance.
Others are so fenced and fortified, that it winds round them and flows forward : continuing to do so, till it, at length, finds some method of insinuating itself.
And thus the Dispensation of Grace in the Church accommodates itself to the various tempers and habits which it finds in different ages, nations, and bodies of men: it leaves in existence numberless opinions and prejudices, if they are not inconsistent with its main design, and mingles and insinuates itself among them. It has not limited Christianity to any one form of Church Polity, ordained and perfected in all its parts by divine authority: but Christians are left to act herein according to circumstances, and to the exercise of sound discretion under those circumstances.
TYPICAL AND ALLEGORICAL
EXPLANATIONS OF SCRIPTURE.
It might be expected, that, when God had détermined to send his Son into the world, there would be a train and concatenation of circumstances preparatory to his coming—that the History, which declared that he was to come, should exhibit many persons and things, which should form a grand preparation for the event, though not so many as an absurd fancy might imagine.
There is a certain class of persons, who wish to rid themselves of the Types. Sykes insists that even the Brazen Serpent is called in by our Lord by way of illustration only, and not as a designed type. Robinson, of Cambridge, when he began to verge toward Socinianism, began to ridicule the types: and to find matter of sport in the pomegranates and the bells of the High Priests garment. At all events, the subject should not be treated with levity and irreverence: it deserves serious reflection..
With respect to the expediency of employing the types much in the pulpit, that is another question. I seldom employ them. I am jealous for
Truth and its Sanctions. The Old Dispensation was à Typical Dispensation : but the New is a dispensation 'unrolled. When speaking of the Typical Dispensation, we must admire a master, like St. Paul. But to us, modesty becomes a duty in treating such subjects in our ministry: Remember, « This is none other but the house of God !' and this is the gate of heaven! How dreadful if I lead thousands with nonsense!--if I lose the opportunity of impressing solid truths !, if I waste their precious time!".
A Minister should say to himself: I would labour to cut off occasions of objecting to the Truth. I would labour to grapple with men's consciences. I would shew them that there is no strange twist in our view of religion. I must avoid as much as possible, having ‘my judgment called in question: many watch for this, and will avail themselves of any advantage. Some who hear me, are thus continually seeking excuses for not listening to the warnings and invitations of the word : they are endeavouring to get out of our reach; but I would hold them fast with such passages aš, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul !"
Many men labour to make the Bible THEIR Bible. This is one way of getting its yoke off their necks. The MEANING, however, of the Bible, is the Bible. If I preach, then, on Imputed Righteousness, for instance, why should I preach from the skies pour down righteousness, and then
anathematize men for not believing the doctrine, when it is not declared in the passage, and there are hundreds of places so expressly to the point?
Most of the folly on this subject of allegorical interpretation, has arisen from a want of holy awe on the mind. An evil fashion may lead some men into it; and so far, the case is somewhat extenuated. We should ever remember, however, that it is a very different thing to allegorize the New Dispensation from allegorizing the Old: the New is a Dispensation of substance and realities.
When a careless young man, I remember to have felt alarms in my conscience from some preachers; while others, from this method of treating their subjects, let me off easily. I heard the man as a weak allegorizer: I despised him as a foolish preacher: till I met with some plain, simple, solid man who seized and urged the obvious meaning. I shall, therefore, carry to my grave a deep conviction of the danger of entering far into typical and allegorical interpretations.
Accommodation of Scripture, if sober, will give variety. The Apostles do this so far as to shew that it may have its use and advantage. It should, however, never be taken as a ground-work, but employed only in the way of allusion. I may use the passage There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, by way of allusion to Christ; but I cannot employ it as the ground-work of a discourse on him.