Page images
PDF
EPUB

yet so divinely suited to all the purposes contemplated by God, and to all the varieties of human circumstances, that we can conceive of nothing more calculated to illustrate and promote its universal object. No splendid temple is requisite for the observance of its rites; no weary pilgrimages need be performed in order to enjoy its benefits; no costly sacrifices are demanded from its worshippers; no hereditary and richly endowed priesthood is essential to its ministrations. Wherever men lift up holy hands, without wrath or doubting, they are encouraged to expect that they shall be heard. Where two or three meet in Christ's name, he has engaged to be in the midst of them. Not in Jerusalem only, or on Mount Gerizim, or in any other holy place exclusively, may acceptable worship be rendered to God. He is a spirit, and every spiritual worshipper all over the globe has access to his throne, and is assured of acceptance there

“O how unlike the complex works of man,

Heaven's easy, artless, unencumber'd plan.”

Were it practicable for me to go into the discussion of the designed universality of the dispensation, I would argue it from the fact which I have just established its universal adaptation. For I maintain that a system, which so manifestly shows that it is adapted by God to the case and circumstances of the whole world, it must be the intention of God, that the world should one day enjoy. I would argue it from the divine command to make this system known to all nations; as that cannot be according to the will of God that it should be done, which it is not the intention of God should sometime be enjoyed. I would argue it from the promises which encourage the efforts of faith and zeal to propagate the gospel; from the predictions respecting the progress and final success of the gospel, with which the scriptures abound; and from the connexion between the universal reign of righteousness and peace, and the glory of the Contriver and Author of man's salvation. But these tempting and interesting topics I can merely mention, to leave me time to notice,

III. The third feature in the character of the present dispensation-its PERPETUITY. This topic alone would furnish matter for a long discourse, and yet I feel that I must dismiss it with a very partial consideration. When we speak of the perpetuity of the dispensation, we do not mean that it is to last for ever, but that it is to last to the end of time that it is to undergo no change in its principles or administration, till the heavens shall be no more; that

while it shall one day embrace a wider field of operation, be better understood, and more happily illustrated, it shall be still the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, consisting not in meat and drink, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost, till faith be lost in sight, and hope swallowed up in enjoyment, and earth exchanged for heaven.

The words of our text supply us with a powerful and unanswerable argument in support of this position. The context contains a beautiful contrast, instituted by the apostle between the circumstances of the past economy or dispensation, and those which constitute the glory of the one under which we now live. Referring to the giving of the law, which was attended with so much majesty and terror, he says at the 26th verse, “ Whose voice then shook the earth;” but now (alluding to the prophecy of Haggai, in which the erection of the gospel kingdom is foretold) he hath promised, saying, " Yet once more, I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” 'From this promise, the apostle draws several conclusions. The first is, that the oracle signifieth the removing or alteration of those things which were shaken, that is, the whole earthly Mosaic dispensation, with all its moveable apparatus of tabernacle priesthood, sacrifices, covenant, and inheritance, as of things that were intended only for a tem

ce

2

LOT

porary purpose, and which had served that purpose. His second conclusion is, that the things that were shaken were removed, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain; in other words, that the gospel priesthood, sacrifices, covenant, and promises, might be substituted in their place, and enjoy their full authority. The third conclusion, which is inferred from the prophet's words, is, that the words once more clearly intimate that only one such change was contemplated by God, when that oracle was delivered. Consequently, when the immoveable should be substituted in the place of the moveable things, no subsequent alteration should take place till the final consummation.

To prevent any one supposing that this shaking refers to a period yet distant or future, the apostle not only describes the gospel kingdom as one that cannot be shaken or changed, but positively asserts that we have received it; and founds an argument on its nature, and on our enjoyment of its privileges, for our keeping possession of it. " Wherefore we, having received the kingdom which cannot be moved, let us hold fast the gift, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” In this interpretation of the passage I adopt no new hypothesis to answer any temporary purpose. The following extract from the exposition of our venerable Owen will show how entirely be accorded with what has been stated. “ That which is here peculiarly intended is, that the kingdom of Christ is not obnoxious unto such a shaking and removal, as the church state was under the old testament; that is, God himself would never make any alteration in it, nor ever introduce another church state or worship. God hath put the last hand, the hand of his only Son, unto all revelations and institutions. No addition shall be made unto what he hath done, nor alteration in it. No other way of calling, sanctifying, ruling, and saving of the church shall ever be appointed or admitted : for it is here called an immoveable kingdom, in opposition to that church state of the Jews, which God himself first shook, and then took away, for it was ordained only for a season."*

On the authority of this one important passage, therefore, I might rest the perpetuity of the dispensation of christianity. That which is clearly and forcibly stated in one portion of inspired scripture is enough, independent of all other evidence, to support the truth which it conveys. But we do not require to rest the argument on one declaration; the substance of the whole epistle to the Hebrews, if I understand it right,

* Owen on the Hebrews, vol, vii. p. 391.

..

« PreviousContinue »