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were sent unto her, and the crucifixion of her Lord had now matured her wickedness. In judgment against her, armies were soon to encompass her walls and desolation to sit enthroned in her high places. Soon she was to become a reproach and a by-word among the nations, her inhabitants to perish, to wander and die, and christianity banished from the land of its birth to seek on other shores a resting place and home. Fully conscious of the impending ruin, Paul wrote this epistle as the last and despairing effort for their salvation
With an unearthly solemnity he rings the death-token in their dull ears, and with the vividness of lightning flashes upon their obscuring visions the fearful certainties of approaching doom. He addresses all the powers of reason, appeals to every sensibility of the heart, and by all that is fearful in judgment, and all that is glorious in salvation beseeches them to be reconciled to God.
Nor does this epistle apply with much, if any less force to us, and to all people, than it did originally to the Jews. I think that We will find it replete with holy instruction, and abounding with the most thrilling warnings to the wicked and careless.
In the text, the apostle at once with great dignity and elegance, proceeds to the general declaration of his main position; viz. the superior excellence of the Gospel of Christ. Several particulars are comprised in this statement, in which this superiority is strongly narked. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.” These thoughts it will then be my business to develop and urge upon your consideration.
We are extremely prone to go through the formal exercise of reading the Scriptures, and of passing our eyes over the books, chapters, verses and lines, without having the truths which are there laught to make any impression on our minds. And even when we ntend to be thoughtful and studious, the phrases and modes of expression often appear so familiar, that we pass on without properly understanding their meaning, or feeling their power. Hence, it shall be my object in this lecture, and all that succeed it in this series, to illustrate and enforce the more obvious and striking thoughts and reflections, as they occur in the text. And I sincerely ask you who know how to pray, to unite with me in supplicating the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in order that I may rightly conceive and present the word of God.
It is stated concerning God's communications to the fathers, that they were made “at sundry times.” The original of this contains two shades of meaning, both of which may properly be made the subject of special remark. The first is, that God's former communications were made by several parts, by detached parcels. And how manifest is the correctness of this statement in regard to the whole history of revelation preceding the Advent of Christ. It was only here and there at separate intervals, that the intimations of Jehovah's will were given. All that can be gathered of revelation from the ages preceding the commencement of the christian era, consists of mere broken fragments. Now and then a voice from heaven was heard, or a prophet rose up to rebuke some particular vice-enjoin some particular virtue—or to save men from utter despair by the mysterious utterance of some joyful promise. The fountains of heavenly truth were all kept so closely sealed, that the world had to rest content with the mere occasional drippings. There was nothing complete. What was given it is true, did serve to raise the drooping spirits and animate the hopes of those to whom it was delivered; but still there were many vacancies to be supplied, and many dark intervening spots to be illuminated. A deep moral night still hung heavily upon the nations, though a little relieved by the dim twinkling of scattered stars. All the light which was given to Adam, to the patriarchs, to the Hebrews, by angels, by prophets, and through ordinances; though it kindled up many a glad hope, still left man sighing anxiously through the gloom« Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" The prophets themselves were convinced of the dark, broken and undeveloped character of the truths which they uttered. Peter represents them as searching and inquiring diligently, but never fully comprehending their deep and hidden import.
Observe then the superior excellence of the Gospel of Christ. Here we have a revelation of the Divine will, not in an imperfect and disconnected form; but all that we need, and all that God in. tends to give us in this life, we have entire. We have now no Jonger to rest satisfied with the drippings, the Lion of the tribe of Judah bas broken the seals from the richest fountains of truth, whose glad waters now flow with exhaustless plenty for all the earth. We need no longer grope our way through the dimness of starlight, amid murky sbades and dingy gloom; but cheered by the
beams of a full-orbed day we may walk without fear of stumbling, run and not be weary. According to the prophecy of Isaiah it has happened unto us. The darkness which covered the earth, and the gross darkness which brooded over the minds of the people, has been chased away by the brightness of the Savior's co niny. When Jesus opened his saintly lips, the veil was rent, and the sunlight of heaven let in upon the world. And though in the study of the Scriptures, we occasionally meet with little perplexities and difficulties which the utmost wisdom of man cannot explain; yet, these no more effect the perfection of the christian revelation, than the specks and partial obscurations which lie scattered over the disk of the sun, obstruct the blazing radiance of his beams. So far as our capacities and circumstances admit, or our wants require, our Scriptures are perfect. Not that every shade or phase of the diversified cases of human character is specifically provided for; but that such a perfect set of principles has been so clearly revealed, as to furnish all that is necessary to our welfare here, and our glory hereafter.
Another signification aftaching to the phrase "sundry times” is, that of slow and gradual development. This is also true in reference to God's communications to the fathers. The main body of the Old Testament was more than one thousand years compiling. Imperfect as the ancient Scriptures are, they were more than three thousand years in reaching their full development. From the first communications to Adam to those made to Noah, there was a period of nearly a thousand years of long unbroken silence. Then followed the patriarchal age, embracing nearly one thousand years more, in which but little addition was made to the stock of revelation. And from Moses down to Malachi, embracing another thousand years, the amount of sacred knowledge was very slowly and tediously parceled out. Now one prophet was raised up;' after a while another. Now one portion of prophecy or history was given; then something in addition. So that it was by the slow and tedious development of nearly fifty centuries, that the measure of Old Testament Theology was filled up. About thirty successive prophets spent their energies in perfecting the edifice of Judaism, and then left it but a temporary shelter for the guilty soul. Three distinct dispensations were instituted for the gradual opening of the will of
God to the ancients; and even then it remained very imperfectly understood.
But the measure of revelation under the christian economy, was filled up in one age. There were no successions of dispensationsno long lines of prophets to be accomplished. All was brought to perfection in half a century. Nearly all the apostles were yet alive, when every part of the New Testament was finished. It was not at sundry times, that the glorious Gospel was given to the world. It was given at once in all its perfection and fulness. It at once threw open the doors of Jehovah's council chamber, and let man in to hear and understand to every desirable extent, what is the will of God. The veil which for ages concealed the mysteries of grace, Christ at once tore away, and the full blaze of a perfect revelation shed its brightness over the deep gloom of our world.
Again, the superior excellence of the Gospel may be seen in the mode of its communication. God not only spoke to the fathers in time past at sundry times, but also in “divers manners.” Various, complex, and often mistakeable were the forms in which Divine truth was presented to the view of the ancients. Some few direct promises and annunciations were made, but nearly all that referred to spiritual and eternal things, was enveloped in considerable obscurity. The promise made in the garden of Eden, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, though it doubtless accomplished the purposes for which it was intended; yet is wrapt up in a mystery which must then have been impenetrable. The several covenants at different times entered into, were all of such a character that their highest signification was almost, if not entirely, lost sight of. The figures, types, and symbols that were instituted in former dispensations to convey to man a knowledge of the Divine purposes, were extremely dark and mystical. To us who have a knowledge of the facts to which they referred, they seem plain enough. But the interpretation of types by the truths typified, and the discovery of truth through the medium of types alone, are two things. In the one case the whole matter may be clear as light; but in the other we may be driven to exclaim with one of old “truly thou art a God who hidest thyself.” The ark of Noah, though expressly stated in the New Testament to be a type of Christ, was certainly never so understood by the ancients. The bondage of the descendants of Jacob in Egypt, and their deliverance by Moses,
beautifully as it typified the great redemption of the Gospel, was never so considered. The sacrifices and bloody rites of the temple, all shadowing forth the blessed sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, were seldom so viewed by the Jewish worshippers. These figures were entirely too complicated to strike the mind with any degree of vividness. The literal meaning was the one which mostly engrossed their attention, whilst the great and weighty truths which they symbolized were greatly overlooked. And much more than ordinary sagacity was required, to enable them to grasp from these dim shadows the high conceptions which they typically embodied.
The prophecies too, which were intended to point more directly to the Divine purposes, and though by far the clearest portions of ancient revelation, consisted mostly of mysterious dreams and visions, which were very indefinite in their impressions, and could not convey an exact knowledge of the events predicted. With such modes of teaching, no people could have been led to an entirely correct conception of the truth. These divers manners in which God spake in time past to the fathers, were doubtless chosen for wise purposes, and subserve gracious ends; but they must be looked upon as greatly inferior to that simple, definite, and complete mode in which the Gospel was communicated. But few obscure types and mysterious visions are found in the writings of the New Testament. And though different writers were employed, they have all dwelt upon the same subject with the same distinct phraseology. Its precepts are the most clearly stated, and its promises the most unambiguously uttered. All the essential doctrines are couched in such unequivocal language, that none need mistake them. Everything is characterized with such clearness and perspicuity, that “he who runs may read, and a way-faring man though a fool need not err therein."
The superior excellence of the Gospel is also to be seen in the instrumentality by which it was delivered. In former dispensations, the principal channels through which the word of God was communicated, were the prophets. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets." These were mere men, subject to like passions and infirmities with ourselves. Moses, who was the first and greatest, is charged in the Scriptures with some serious manifestations of depravity. Eli