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21. CHAPTER 1: ::
THE OBJECT OF THE LEVITICAL DISPENSATION " WAS TO PRESERVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
TRUE GOD IN THE MIDST OF SURROUNDING
FIRM THE ABORIGINAL DOCTRINE OF RE:: DEMPTION.; -ms i
s, a , ';: i: Of the Patriarchal Dispensation, then, the special object was to inculcate the doctrine of RÉDEMPTION:a doctrine, which, in some shape or other, must needs form the basis of any religion that could be suitable to the state of a fallen creature; for, separated from the hope of reconciliation, it is plain, that any approach to God on the part of such a creature must be altogether useless and nugatory. If the doctrine of redemption, in short, had not entered, as a main ingredient, into the religion of lapsed mankind; I see not, how they could have rationally professed any religion at all. Those reprobate spirits, the fallen angels, have no religion whatsoever, in the proper sense of the word. They believe indeed : but they believe only to tremble and to despair, not to
TREATISE ON THE (BOOK II. hope and to love and to worship. Now take away from fallen man the doctrine of redemption and the assured promise of reconciliation : and in what respect can we deem him a more fit subject of religion than a reprobate evil spirit?
I. Hence it is, that the denial of the atonement and the denial of our inherent corruption always go together.
So long as man confesses himself to be a ruined creature, his religion must stand or fall upon the doctrine of redemption : nor can he possibly excogitate any other system, until he has first denied the lapse of Adam and its consequence original sin. But any other system is built upon a fundamental error: and this error is of such deleterious magnitude and importance; that, if persisted in, it leaves even to God himself no alternative save that of utter excision..
Here, therefore, unless I be much mistaken, we have the true rationale of the deluge. A general apostasy from the vital doctrine of redemption had taken place. Other sins may be repented of and pardoned: but this crowning sin, while it eats out the very core of the only religion suit able to fallen man, excludes (as it were) the possibility of repentance by claiming to be itself the sole truth and light and wisdom. Under such circumstances, God was in a manner necessitated to destroy the work of his own hands. Every mean of reclamation had failed. With the exception of a single family, the whole world
of antediluvians were not only sinners; for, through the blood of the promised atonement, their sins might have been blotted out: but they were fearless and avowed and systematically impenitent rebels against the Lord and against his Christ. What then remained, when the Spirit of a merciful and long-suffering God had sufficiently striven with man, but utter excision? The case was plainly desperate: the very foun: tain itself was corrupted : and from a corrupt fountain nought can proceed, save, waters of irremediable bitterness. · II. But, after the flood, matters took an entirely different turn.'. i . ;
The children of Noah soon apostatised indeed: yet they apostatised upon a totally opposite principle. Instead of rejecting the doctrine of the atonement, and the hope of the promised Deliverer, they made these points, though with a mischievously perverse ingenuity, the very basis of their apostasy itself. Their whole ritual was built upon the avowed belief of the piacular effi, cacy of sacrifice : and, though they divided and multiplied their hero-gods at pleasure, while they assigned to them as their fittest habitations the brilliant Host of Heaven ; still the remote prototype of each venerated demon was the predicted Seed of the woman supposed to have corporeally manifested himself in this or in that illustrious human character. ...This being the case, utter excision became not,