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1. That ministers must faithfully execute their high office,
[It was not from a want of tenderness that Moses thus faithfully declared the whole counsel of God, but because his duty to God, and to the people also, constrained him to declare it: and there is something peculiarly instructive in the directions he gave respecting the delivery of the blessing and the curse from the two contiguous mounts. Six of the tribes were to be stationed on the one mount, and six on the other: those who were born of the free-women, were to be on Mount Gerizim; and those who were of the bond-women, together with Reuben, who had been degraded, and Zebulun, the youngest of Leah's children, (to make the numbers equal,) were to be on Mount Ebal, from whence the curses were to proceed. The tribe of Levi then were, where we should expect to find them, on the side from whence the blessings were pronounced! This shewed, that, whilst the liberty of the Gospel led to true blessedness, it was the true end and scope of the ministry to make men blessed m: that is the delightful employment of the sons of Levi: the highest character of a pious minister is, to be “a helper of your joy." But it was ordered that some of the Levites should also be stationed on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses "; because, however painful it may be to ministers to exhibit the terrors of the law, the necessities of men require it, and the duties of their office demand it. Let us not then be thought harsh, if on proper occasions we make known to you the dangers of disobedience: necessity is imposed upon us; and woe be to us if we decline" executing the commission we have received. We must " warn every man, as well as teach every man, if we would present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
It would be a more pleasing task to dwell only on the brighter side, and to speak to you only from Mount Gerizim; but we must occasionally stand also on Mount Ebal, and make you to hear the more awful part of the alternative which we are commissioned to propose.
The message which we must deliver to every creature that is under heaven, consists of these two parts, “ He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned.")
2. That faith and works are equally necessary to our salvation, though on different grounds
[God forbid that for one moment we should attempt to lessen the importance and necessity of good works: they are
1 Deut. xxvii. 11-13. n Deut. xxvii. 14, 15.
m Deut. x. 8. o Col. i. 28.
indispensably necessary to our salvation: they are as necessary under the Gospel, as under the law: the only difference is, that, according to the strict tenor of the law, they were the ground of our hope; whereas, under the Gospel, they are the fruits and evidences of our faith. To found our hopes of salvation on our obedience to the holy law of God, would, as we have before seen, cut off all possibility of salvation; because our obedience must be perfect, in order to secure the promised “ blessing;' and every act of disobedience has entailed on us an everlasting "curse:” but, if we comprehend, in our views of obedience, an obedience to the Gospel; if we comprehend in it the trusting
Christ for salvation, and the free endeavours of the soul to serve and honour him; then we may adopt the words of our text, and address them confidently to every living man. But then we must not forget, that it is the atoning sacrifice of Christ that alone enables us to hear even such a proposal with any degree of comfort. We can no more yield a perfect obedience to the Gospel, than we could to the Law: our faith is imperfect, as well as our works: but, if we seek reconciliation with God through the death of his Son, we shall have peace with him, and may eat our peace-offering with confidence and joy. In our views of this subject, we need only set before our eyes that solemn transaction, to which we have referred: we shall there see, on what all the hopes of Israel were founded, namely, the sacrifice of Christ: we shall see at the same time, to what all Israel were bound, namely, a life of holy and unreserved obedience. It is precisely thus with ourselves; our obedience does not supersede the necessity of faith; nor does our faith set aside the necessity of obedience: one is the root, and the other is the fruit; one is the foundation, the other is the superstructure; one is the means of acceptance with God, the other is the means of honouring him and of adorning our holy profession.]
3. That happiness or misery is the fruit of our own choice
[The very proposal of an alternative implies a choice: but this choice is yet intimated in a subsequent passage to the same effect P: nor can there be any doubt but that every man is called to make his election; and that his eternal state is fixed agreeably to the choice he makes. Not that we mean to set aside the election of God; for we know full well, that God's people are “a remnant according to the election of grace?;" and that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Nevertheless, no man is brought to heaven against his own will. He has felt the attractive influences of divine grace, and has been “made willing in the day of God's powers.” He is drawn indeed, but it is “ with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love." On the other hand, no man is sentenced to misery, who has not first chosen the ways of sin. He perishes, not because God has “ ordained him to wrath,” but because “he will not come to Christ that he may have life"." Christ would gladly have “gathered him, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but he would not.”
p Deut. xxx. 15, 19.
a Rom. xi. 5.
r Rom. ix. 15, 16.
It may be said perhaps, that, whilst we thus attempt to vindicate the justice of God, we countenance the workings of pride in man. But we have no fear that any one who has been drawn by the Spirit of God, will ever ascribe his conversion to the operations of his own natural will: he will readily own, that “it is God, who of his own good pleasure has given him both to will and to do *;” and that it is “ by the grace of God he is what he is.” On the other hand, all excuse is cut off from the ungodly: they must ever take the whole blame of their condemnation to themselves, and never presume to cast the least atom of it upon God.
Make ye then your choice, beloved Brethren: we this day set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse: choose ye therefore life, that
live. God has declared that “ he willeth not the death of any sinner: therefore turn yourselves, and live yey.” In his sacred name I promise to the righteous, that "it shall be well with him; but I denounce a woe unto the wicked, for it shall be ill with him, and the reward of his hands shall be given to him?."]
s Ps. cx. 3. t 1 Thess. v. 9. u John v. 40. x Phil. ii. 13, y Ezek. xviii. 32. and xxxiii. 11. z Isai. iii. 10, 11,
THE PROHIBITION OF EATING BLOOD.
Deut. xii. 23—25. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood :
for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh: thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water: thou shalt not eat it, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.
THERE are many injunctions in the Mosaic law, which appear to have been given with more solemnity than their comparative importance demands : nor can we account for the stress laid upon them, but by supposing them to have had a typical reference. What is here said, for instance, respecting the eating of blood, if we consider it as intended only to give an oblique hint of the duties of humanity and self-denial, is delivered in a far more emphatical manner than we should expect such an intimation to be given: for though a plain precept relating to them might fitly be enjoined in the strongest terms, and enforced by the strongest sanctions, it is not to be conceived that the image by which they would be shadowed forth, should be made to assume such an important aspect. If we mark the force and energy with which the prohibition of eating blood is here repeated, we shall be well persuaded that it contains some deeper mystery, which demands our most attentive consideration. But as, from the strength of the expressions, we may be ready to imagine that it is still binding upon us, we feel it necessary to guard against that mistake; and shall therefore consider, I. The prohibition given
The manner in which it was given, must by no means be overlooked
[There is not in all the sacred volume any prohibition or command delivered more peremptorily than this. Four times it is repeated even in the short space of our text, “ Thou mayest not eat of it; Thou shalt not eat of it; Be sure thou eat not of it.” The frequency too with which it is received in the Scriptures is truly astonishing. When first the use of animals for food was permitted to Noah, the grant was accompanied with this restriction, “ But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eata." By Moses the restriction is repeated again, and again. The sanctions with which it is enforced are also peculiarly awful. Not only was the prosperity of the people suspended on their obedience to this command, but they were threatened with the most tremendous vengeance, if they should presume to violate it: “I will set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people d.” Even if they took in hunting or caught by any means a beast or fowl, they must “pour its blood upon the earth as water, and cover it with duste:” and all these injunctions must be observed by all, by strangers and sojourners as well as natives. Now I ask, Would this prohibition have been so peremptorily' given, so frequently repeated, so solemnly enforced; would such particular directions have been added; and would they have been made so universally binding, if there had been nothing mysterious in this appointment?]
a Gen. ix. 3, 4.
6 Lev. ii. 16, 17. and vii. 26, 27. Deut. xv. 23. and several other places.
c See the text. d Read attentively Lev. xvii. 10–14.
We may be sure that the grounds of it are deserving of the deepest investigation
[We speak not of such grounds as might probably exist, such as those before referred to, namely, the promotion of humanity and self-denial, (though in both these views the prohibition may be considered as highly instructive;) but of those grounds which we know assuredly to have been the principal, if not the only, object of the institution.
We must remember, that offerings were by the divine appointment presented from time to time as an atonement for sin; that the blood of those offerings being, as it were, the life of the animals, was considered as exclusively prevailing for the remission of sins; and that on that very account it was poured out upon the altar, in token, that it was presented to God as an expiation for iniquity, and was accepted by him instead of the life of the offender.
We must remember also, that all these offerings had respect to the sacrifice of Christ, which was in due time to be offered for the sins of the whole world.
Now it was of infinite importance that the highest possible veneration should be instilled into the minds of men for the offerings which they presented to God; and that they should be deeply impressed with a consciousness of their mysterious reference to the sacrifice of Christ. But, if they had been permitted to eat of blood, this reverence would have quickly abated : whereas by the strictness of the prohibition, it was kept alive in their minds: and even their common meals were rendered an occasion of bringing to their recollection the use of blood in their offerings, and the efficacy of that blood which was at a future period to be poured out upon the cross.
Here then was a reason for the prohibition; a reason, which accounts at once for the strictness, the frequency, the vehemence, with which it was given, and for the tremendous sanctions with which it was enforced. Nothing could be unimportant that had such a reference: and the more insignificant the prohibited thing was in itself, the more need there was that all possible weight should be given to it by the manner of its prohibition.]
But we shall not have a complete view of the subject, unless we consider,
| Read attentively Lev. xvii. 10–14.