« НазадПродовжити »
INE MUTUAL CONNECTION OF GOD'S SEVERAL
GENERAL GROUNDS OF THE MUTUAL CONNEC
TION OF GOD'S SEVERAL DISPENSATIONS.
We have now sufficiently established the divine legation of Moses, and consequently the divine authority of the dispensation which he was appointed to promulgate : we must next investigate the mode, in which it stands connected with the other dispensations of God.
I. The Levitical dispensation itself did not commence, until many years after the deluge, and therefore until many more years after the creation : and, as its very contexture shews it to be intended for a particular people in a particular country; we have, from the mere facts of the general dispersion of the Jews and the desolation of their holy place for more than seventeen centuries, as decisive proof as can be desired, that by the counsels of infinite wisdom it is now completely abrogated. Such being the case, it occupies an intermediate period of time, cut out (as it were) from the entire number of years, which have elapsed between the creation of the world and the day of our own mortal existence. Hence we have a considerable space of time before the promulgation of the Hebrew Law, and another considerable space of time after its abrogation, So that the whole period, which has elapsed from the creation to the present hour, theologically divides itself into three smaller periods : the time previous to the Law, the tiine occupied by the Law, and the time subsequent to the Law. Now the time occupied by the Law is a period, occupied by, what we have proved to be, a dispensation miraculously promulged from heaven by the subordinate agency of Moses. Here therefore an important question naturally
Under what aspect are we to view the two periods, before and after the Law? Has God been pleased to reveal his will only to a single people and during a single period ? Have the two periods before and after the Law been left wholly destitute of any communication of the divine will ? Did God, after a long night of utter mental darkness and uncertainty, first declare himself to Moses : and, now that he has been pleased so manifestly to abrogate his own dispensation to a single peculiar people, a dispensation plainly incapable of universal adoption ; has he altogether withdrawn himself from mankind, vouchsafing no
communication of his will which might occupy the place of the abrogated dispensation and which might be suited for the general benefit of the whole world ?
It is obvious, that, unless a divine dispensation 'has both preceded and succeeded the Law, we shall find ourselves called upon to account for the extraordinary circumstance, of God having exclusively declared himself to a single nation, and of his afterwards having withdrawn himself from that nation without affording any statement of his will to his other rational creatures. The deist, who rejects all revelation, advocates at least a consistent and homogeneous theory: but the inquirer, who has been compelled to acknowledge the divine origin and authority of the Levitical dispensation, will find himself strangely perplexed in accounting for the existence of this Oasis in the midst of a widely extended moral desert, if he can bring forward no warrant for believing that the Hebrew Law has been both preceded and succeeded by a dispensation from heaven.
II. All, that we can know of any previous dispensation, must be learned from that ancient history, which is prefixed to the Hebrew Law with its concomitant transactions, and which constitutes the first book of the Pentateuch : but any subsequent dispensation can only be spoken of, by Moses or by other persons recorded in his writings, prophetically and in the way of anticipation.
Now with our own eyes we behold the existence of a subsequent dispensation ; which was first promul
gated by a divine lawgiver in many points resembling Moses himself, shortly before the Levitical dispensation was practically abrogated, by the destruction of the temple, by the cessation of the daily sacrifice, by the dissipation of the Jews, and by the impossibility of the heaven-ordained ritual being any longer punctually observed. On the other hand, we are distinctly taught in the Pentateuch, that the Law of Moses was preceded by a more ancient dispensation : in the course of which God frequently revealed himself to man, as the moral governor of the universe; who, agreeably to the tenor of certain well-known though but orallyexisting statutes, was the rewarder of the pious and the punisher of the impious.
We now therefore find, that the whole period of time, from the creation down to the present hour, is occupied by three successive dispensations ; whieh are usually denominated the Patriarchal, the Levitical, and the Christian.
Of these we may observe, that there is a closer affinity between the Patriarchal and the Christian, than between either of them and the Levitical : for the Patriarchal and the Christian are equally catholic, but the Levitical is confined to the single nation of the Israelites.
III. Now, as all the three dispensations are of divine origin; for, to omit other distinct evidences, the Levitical, which we have ascertained to be from God, attests the divinity both of the Christian and of the Patriarchal, and the Patriarchal again attests the divinity of the Christian : as all the