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was what St. Paul calls it, διακονία θανάτου, and διακονία SERM. Kaтaκρíσews, a ministry of death and condemnation; XV. a subjection to a curse; a killing letter; bearing 2 Cor. iii. nothing less in the looks and language thereof, than Gal. iii. 10. certain death and unavoidable ruin; a lying under insupportable slavery, both to the guilt and punishment of sin. If thou doest ill, sin lieth at the door.
2 Cor. iii. 6.
Neither in discoursing thus do we lay any mis- Gen. iv. 7. beseeming imputation upon God, the author of that religion; the making so imperfect a revelation nowise being disagreeable to his wisdom, his goodness, or his justice. As for a time he might withhold the declaration of his mind to all mankind, so might he, upon the same or like grounds of wise counsel, forbear to declare some part thereof to that people: no special reason appears that could oblige, that might induce him not to be reserved, as well in part to these few men, as in whole to those, all the rest of men; yea, there be good reasons assignable, why the divine wisdom should be then so sparing of its mind, why God should only shew his back parts, as it were, to Moses, and not let him see his face; not discover all of his nature and of his pleasure to him; why then he should seem to delight in, to lay so much stress on those carnal and ceremonious observances; why he should forbear to exact that height of spiritual duty, and not draw men to compliance with the best motives of pure reason. A dawning of light perhaps more became that morning of times than a meridian brightness; that infancy of the world was not, it may be, ripe for a more deep and perfect instruction; that nation, however, to whose state, to whose disposition and capacity those laws and insti
SERM. tutions were adapted, was very unfit for the highest and hardest lessons. For a nation it was (as from infallible hands we have it) not wise, or considerate; not grave, or constant; not meek, or pliable; but a very stupid and heady, a very fickle and humourous, a very froward and stubborn generation of men ; Deut. xxxii. They are a nation void of counsel, neither is there Jer. iv. 22. any understanding, was said of them at first by him who delivered their law, or rather by God himIsa. xlviii.4. self, who enjoined it: and, I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee, saith the prophet concerning the house of Jacob; alluding, it seems, to those many Deut. xxxi. passages in the law, where they are termed a stiffnecked people: uncapable thence both of the finest notions and the more rigorous precepts; like children, by reason of the grossness of their apprehension, and the unruliness of their passion, they were not oikeio aкpoatai, proper auditors, of a more pure and accurate discipline; wherefore as such the divine wisdom and goodness was pleased to deal with them; dispensing with the infirmities of their age, condescending to the meanness of their capacities, feeding them with milk, alluring them with petty shows, scaring them with frightful appearances, indulging them innocent trifles, pastimes, and sports; so tempering his ordinances as might best serve to keep them in good humour; to draw and entice them easily unto somewhat good, to curb and restrain them from mischief. Whence St. Paul calls those Gal. iv. 9,3. institutions with good reason elements; (poor and mean elements, and elements of the world; rudiments of knowledge and discipline, suited to the capacity
xxxii. 9. Deut. ix. 6, 13, &c.
of the first age, and the meanest rank; such as vul- SERM. gar and silly people were fit to learn, and able to practise ;) with good reason he calls the law a pe- Gal. iii. 24. dagogue, that by instilling into those vý, (those infants, or little children, so also he terms them,) some imperfect notions of truth; by keeping them in some good order, did prepare them for a higher instruction, did predispose them toward a better course of life. Indeed, we may easily conceive that such variety of superficial formalities might well agree to childish and plebeian fancies; but to men of somewhat elevated minds, and well improved reason; of sound judgment, and large experience; who had tasted, and could relish rational entertainments, (and such in some measure and comparatively are men generally born and brought up in countries and places where civility hath obtained; at least they are capable of being so, fit means being used to render them so,) they must needs be insipid and disgustful. In the study of truth and practice of virtue, there are alluring beauties and sweetnesses; which it cannot but displease him, who hath seen and felt them, to be diverted from, by an obligation to attend so precisely upon such an abundance of petty, circumstantial, exterior observances; to be forced, I say, to chew such husks of things, to him, who thereby must neglect so delicious kernels, cannot but be grievous and irksome. Wiser men are never much affected with laborious and tedious pomps; they are designed always to amuse children, and the common sort. I add, that this dispensation was suited not only to the childish fancy, but to the slavish spirit of that people; who, having in them little of ingenuity, or willingness freely to do good, would be apt
SERM. to wax not only dronish and lazy, but sturdy and insolent, had they not been kept under and inured to something of burden and toil. Such all wise men know to be the proper course of managing people of slavish temper; but toward men of a disposition more ingenuous, tractable, and free, such as commonly men civilized and well governed are or may become, such a proceeding were incongruous; they will either refuse to undergo such unnecessary burdens, or bear them unwillingly; their obedience will be none, or lame, or unkindly and heartless. God therefore dealt according to wisdom with the Jews, when he imposed such burdens upon their shoulders, when he pinched their stiff necks with such yokes, when he detained them in such fetters; so they were, and so they are truly called by our apostles; Acts xv. 10, burdens intolerably heavy; yokes very galling and Gal. v. 1. vexatious; fetters very strait and grievous; which they reasonably therefore reckon it a very valuable privilege and benefit, purchased by our Saviour for us, to be loosed from. But such a dispensation could not be convenient for the rational nature in common, and for perpetuity: it neither becomes God himself, who will not without need or profit vex his creatures; who cannot be fully satisfied with performances of so mean a sort; who necessarily doth affect services of a more excellent nature and importance; (those spiritual services of love, reverence, and gratitude; of purity, righteousness, and goodness.) It doth not suit man, not being apt to perfect his nature, not being able to satisfy his mind. As he, by the improvement and use of his reason, will easily discern the small worth of such performances, so will he not readily comply with them with
out regret; but will soon apprehend the matter to SERM. be indeed, as St. Paul represents it, that an obliga- XV. tion to such rites is a bond against us, (¿§aλeías To Coloss. ii. καθ ̓ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν, ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν,) 90 which in reason he may expect to be wiped out and cancelled; that a law consisting of such precepts hath an enmity, or repugnance to his nature; that such a dispensation is a pupillage, and a slavery, Gal. iii. 24. which he earnestly must desire to be redeemed and iv. 1, 3, 5, mancipated from.
Thus doth this revelation upon many respects, grounded on the very intrinsic nature thereof, appear partial and imperfect; and consequently not such as that which we reasonably may expect from the divine wisdom and goodness.
i. 11, 12,
Hos. vi. 6.
It is true, which some may deem an objection against our discourse, but I should rather take for a good confirmation thereof, that God did afterward annex some labels, as it were, to this deed; that he imparted by degrees further manifestations of light and grace to that people, by the instructions, and by the exemplary practices of prophets and holy men Isa. Ixvi. 3. raised up among them by his especial instinct and 13, &c. order; in a manner and upon occasions extraordi- Mic. vi. 7. nary. The prophets frequently declared, that God Psal. 1. 8,9, &c. li. 16. had not much delight in those ceremonious observ- 1. 14. li. 6, ances; nor would accept them otherwise than as Isa. i. 16, proceeding from good dispositions of mind, and as Mic. vi. 8. accompanied with practices of moral duty and more Hos. vi. 6. spiritual piety: that he chiefly did require of them 3, 4 hearty reverence toward himself, and submission to lv. 7. his will; strict justice, and tender charity toward 21. xxxiii. their neighbours; meekness and patience in their behaviour; temperance and sobriety in all their con
Isa. i. 18.