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I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” And moreover, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” The old covenant “was comparatively severe in its inflictions; marked every offense with strictness; and employed the language of mercy much less frequently than that of justice. It was a system where law and justice reigned, not where mercy was the crowning and prevalent attribute. It was true that it contemplated pardon, and made arrangements for it; but it is still true that this is much more prominent in the new dispensation than in the old. It is there the leading idea. It is that which separates it from all other systems. The entire arrangement is one for the pardon of sin in a manner consistent with the claims of law and justice, and it bestows the benefit of forgiveness in the most ample and perfect manner on all who are interested in the plan. In fact, the peculiarity by which the Gospel is distinguished from all other systems, ancient and modern, philosophical and moral, pagan and deistical, is that it is a system making provision for the forgiveness of sin, and actually bestowing pardon on the guilty. This is the centre, the crown, the glory of the new dispensation. God is merciful to the unrighteousness of men; and their sins are remembered no more.” Not that God literally forgets that men are sinners, but that through the provisions of his grace he treats them as if they never had been sinners. Their transgressions are thrown into the shade; and though once depraved and alienated, Jehovah becomes to them a God, and they to him a people. No condescension and mercy like this marked the old dispensation. It is here and here only that the Divine love receives its full expression. It was especially in view of this that David sung, “ O, render thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever.”
Finally, the former dispensation was temporary, and in its hoary decrepitude was ready to vanish away. This was plainly implied in the promise of a new. But the new covenant is invariably represented as an “everlasting covenant.” Thus it is designated in the prophecy to which the apostle refers. (Jer. xxxi. & xxxii.) The sun and the moon, and the stars shall fail from before the Lord rather than his covenant not stand. It is to be succeeded by no other
Barnes in loc.
dispensation, but is to stand until the winding up of all things, when God shall be all, and in all.
How desirable then is the new covenant! It writes the laws of God on the mind and on the heart, and effectually secures their true and spiritual observance. In this every other institution has failed. Legislators have enacted good laws-parents have uttered good precepts-sages have expressed sound maxims—and nature from age to age has been whispering lessons of duty into the ears of man; but what have these things done in regulating the outward conduct, to say nothing about the dispositions of the soul? They may be written in books-recorded on tablets--hung up in temples -and preached to the four winds; but will men regard them? Are their evil passions restrained by them? Can a single instance of their adequacy be adduced ? No. It is the Gospel alone that checks the war-horse of passion back upon his haunches, and bends the stubborn impulses of the soul to the commands of God. How well then is it adapted to our wants? And how highly should we prize, and how grateful should we be for so blessed an arrangement!
The new covenant presents us with a God whom we can call ours. Man cannot exist without a God. His soul cannot live without having some Divinity on which to lean. But woe be unto him, when his soul goes out in search of an object on which to rest its adoring affections, if it fails to centre upon Him who sits upon the throne. Mistakes like these have watered the earth with tears and blood, and multiplied the numbers of the damned. Philosophy wants a God; heathenism wants a God; infidelity wants a God; atheism wants a God; and wretched, sinful, dying man everywhere wants a God. And this is a want wbich the Gospel alone can supply. But thanks be unto God, the Gospel is able to supply it. Thus saith the Lord, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”
The new covenant also contemplates the general diffusion of the knowledge of God. Ignorance or forgetfulness of God has been at the root of all impiety. The great reason assigned in the Scriptures for human profligacy, is that the wicked have not God in all their thoughts. And without a correct view of the Divine character there can be no true religion—no genuine faith-no commendable virtue—no saving piety. Real righteousness is the reflection of the Divine image in us, and if our impressions of the Deity are
indistinct, our characters must suffer a corresponding modification. It is by a view of God that we are first impelled to piety, and it is through fear of him that our holiness is to be perfected. Should it not then be made a subject of joy and gratitude, that the Gospel proposes to supply the great want of man in this respect !
Finally, the new covenant offers unto us a free and full pardon for sin. How to escape from the power and effects of sin, has been the anxious sigh of human nature for ages. It is a question whose answer is sought in every system of religion, and by every bloody offering. Generation after generation on their way to oblivion cried for pardon, and inquired the way in which forgiveness was to be obtained. The devotee urged the inquiry at the shrine of his god—the priest at his altar of sacrifice—and the sage repeated it as he walked amid the works and wonders of creation; but the only full reply is given in “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.” Here it is written in characters clear as light that sin may be pardoned, as well as how it may be done. For the Lord hath said, “I will be merciful to their uprighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." No matter how numerous the instances of offense, or how malignant their character, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool; if ye be willing and obedient,” saith the Lord.
Let us then make it our frequent business to contemplate the mercies of this better covenant, and the favors of that dispensation whose smiles and sunshine we are privileged to enjoy. It is in its nature so excellent, and its provisions are so rich and so suitable, that it is altogether worthy of any and every man's serious meditation. The man who can treat it contemptuously and carelessly, can sport with his own life, and is ready to throw away his interests in both worlds with a jeer. Like the poor idiot who gathers up his broken and filthy rubbish and broods over it with a miser's solicitude; so he who can ridicule christianity hugs corruption to his bosom, and takes damnation with an appetite!
But I trust that I have none among my present hearers, who do not realize to some extent, at least, the importance of the christian economy, and the consequent obligations of gratitude under which it places you. Let those then who number yourselves among God's peculiar people, be careful to show your gratitude, in endeavoring
to the utmost of your ability to extend unto others the same privileges with which you have been blessed. And let those of you who have never yet taken upon yourselves a profession of religion, be exceedingly careful how you conduct yourselves in respect to the Gospel. Your situation is a very critical and dangerous one. See to it that you secure an interest in the new covenant. For how can you escape, if you neglect so great salvation? May Almighty God incline each heart to do his will !
THE TABERNACLE OF MOSES.
Heb. ix. 1-5. Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary: And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
There seems to be two prominent respects in which the priesthood of Messiah is superior to the Aaronic priesthood; viz: in its rank—and in the nature and virtue of its services. The apostle disposed of the first of these in the 7th chapter, and in the one upon which we are now entering he comes to discuss the second. In conducting this discussion, he first gives us a brief discription of the ancient Tabernacle; secondly, a discription of the services therein performed; and thirdly, he draws some important reflections concerning their efficacy, and the efficacy of the mediation of Jesus Christ.
In discoursing from the words read, it is my design to present you with some amplification and explanation of Paul's discription of the Tabernacle and its furniture, with such doctrinal and practical remarks as the subject may suggest.
There are some persons who object to such a use of these little matters of the Old Testament, particularly as there is so much that is plain and practical in the Bible besides them. But I am disposed to think that you will all agree with the statement, that the volume of Revelation contains nothing that is redundant or superfluous; and that no records made of the things of the past have been continued on its sacred pages as the mere lumber of a repealed economy, and which are of no use to us under the new dispensation. We have been taught from our childhood, and from the highest authority, that “ All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” There truly are many things which to us are difficult to understand, and others which