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ESSAY to explain the GOSPEL SCHEME, and the Principal Words and Phrafes the Apofiles have used in defcribing it.

СНАР. І.

The Original and Nature of the Jewish Conflitution of Religion.

NOD, the Father of the universe, who has exercised his boundlefs wifdom, power and goodnefs in producing various beings of different capacities; who created the earth, and appointed divers climates, foils and fituations in it, hath from the beginning of the world introduced feveral fchemes and difpenfations, for promoting the virtue and happiness of his rational creatures, for curing their corruption, and preferving among them the knowledge and worship of himself, the true God, the poffeffor of all being, and the fountain of all good (*).

2. In

(*) We do not know how God can exercile his perfections towards his Creatures, when he has brought them into being, otherwife, than in placing

them

2. In pursuance of this grand and gracious defign, when, about four hundred years after the flood, (which feems in a good measure to have removed the violence and rapine that had raged among the antediluvians,) the generality of mankind were fallen into idolatry, (a vice which in thofe times made its first appearance in the world,) and ferved other gods, thereby renouncing allegiance to the one God, the maker and governor of heaven and earth, he, to counteract this new and prevailing corruption, was pleased, in his infinite wifdom, to felect one family of the earth, to be a repofitory of true knowledge, and the pattern of obedience and reward among the nations. That as mankind were propagated, and idolatry took its rife, and was difperfed from one part of the world into various countries, fo alfo the knowledge, worship, and obedience of the true-God might be propagated and fpread from nearly the fame quarter; or however from thofe parts, which then were moft famous and diftinguished. To this family he particularly revealed himfelf, vifited them with feveral public and remarkable difpenfations of providence; and at laft formed them into a nation, under his fpecial protection, and governed them by laws delivered from him elf, placing them in the open view of the world, firft in Egypt, and afterwards in the land of Canaan.

3. The head, or root of this family, was Abraham, the fon of Terah; who lived in Ur of the Chaldees, beyond Euphrates. His family was infected with the common contagion of idolatry; as appears from Jofhua xxiv. 2, 3. "And Joshua faid unto all the people, thus faith the Lord God of Ifrael, your fathers dwelt on the other fide of the food [or river Euphrates] in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham, and the fa ther of Nachor and they ferved other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other fide of the flood, &c." Here Maimonides, the learned Jew (*), owns it is implied, that Abraham the fon of an idola trous father was bred up in idolatry. For having occafion to mention thefe words of Jofhua, he makes this pathetic reflection upon them. "How great is the benefit we receive from thefe precepts, which have

freed us from fuch a grand error, in which our father was educated; "and converted us to the true belief of God; by teaching us that he “created all things; and that he is to be worshipped, and loved, and "feared, and he only, &c.", And the apoftie Paul intimates as much, Rom. iv. 3, 4, 5. "For what faith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteoufnefs. Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteoufnefs." Abraham is the perfon he is difcourfing about, and he plainly hints, though he did not care to fpeak out, that even Abraham was chargeable with not paying due

reverence

them in various relations and fubordinations to each other, in devising and conducting proper difpenfations, according to different and changing cir cumftances, in order to excite and increase the virtue of moral agents, in providing fuitable happiness for the worthy, and punishments for the

and

wicked.

(*) Patrick's Commentary upon Jof, xxiv. 3.

reverence and worship to God; as the word AZEBHE, which we render ungodly, properly imports.

4. But, though Abraham had been an idolater, God was pleafed, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, to fingle him out to be the head, or root of that family and nation, which he intended to feparate to himself from the reft of mankind, for the forementioned purposes. Accordingly he appeared to him in his native country, and ordered him to leave it, and his idolatrous kindred, and to remove into a diftant land, to which he' would direct and conduct him, declaring at the fame time his covenant, or grant of mercy, to him, in thefe words, Gen. xii. 1, 2, 3,. "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will blefs thee, and make thy name great; and thou fhalt be a bluffing. And I will blefs them that blefs thee, and curfe him that curfeth thee: And in thee fhall all families of the earth be bleffed." So certainly did God make himfelf known to Abraham, that he was fatisfied this was a revelation from the one true God, and that it was his duty to pay an implicit obedience to, it. Accordingly, upon the foot of this faith, he went out, though he did not know whither he was to go. The fame covenant, or promife of bleffings, God afterwards at fundry times repeated: Particularly, Gen. xv. 5. "And the Lord brought him forth abroad, and faid, Look now towards heaven, and tell the ftars, if thou be able to number them: And he faid unto him, So fhall thy feed be." Here again, he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Alfa Gen. xvii. 1-8, he repeats and establisheth the fame covenant " for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto him and his feed after him ;” promifing them "the land of Canaan for an everlafting poffeffion;" and appointing circumcifion, as a perpetual token of the certainty and perpetuity of this covenant. Thus Abraham was taken into God's covenant, and became intitled to the bleffings it conveyed; not becaufe he was not chargeable before God with impiety, irreligion, and idolatry; but becaufe God, on his part, freely forgave his prior tranfgreffings, and because Abraham, on his part, believed in the power and goodness of God: without which belief, or perfuafion, that God was both true, and able to perform what he had promifed, he could have paid no regard to the divine manifeftations; and confequently, muft have been rejected, as a perfon altogether improper to be the head of that family, which God intended to fet apart to himself.

5. And as Abraham, fo likewife his feed, or pofterity, were at the fame time, and before they had a being, taken into God's covenant, and intitled to the bleffings of it. (Gen. xvii. 7, "I will eftablifh my cove nant between me and thee, and thy feed after thee, &c.") Not all his pofterity, but only thofe whom God intended in the promise; namely, firft the nation of the Jews, who hereby became particularly related to God, and invested in fundry invaluable privileges; and after them the believing Gentiles, who were reckoned the children of Abraham, as they fhould believe in God as Abraham did. But more of this hereafter.

6. For about 215 years, from the time God ordered Abraham to leave his native country, he and his, fon Ifaac, and grand-fon Jacob, fojourned in the land of Canaan, under the special protection of Heaven, till infinite Wisdom thought fit to fend the family into Egypt, the

then

then head-quarters of idolatry, with a defign they should there increase into a nation; and there, notwithstanding the cruel oppreffion they long groaned under, they multiplied to a furprifing number. At length God delivered them from the fervitude of Egypt, by the most dreadful difplays of his almighty power; whereby he demonftrated himfelf to be the one true God, in a fignal and compleat triumph over idols, even in their metropolis, and in a country of fame and eminence among all the nations round about. Thus freed from the vileft bondage, God formed them into a kingdom, of which he himfelf was king; gave them a revelation of his nature and will; inftituted fundry ordinances of worship; taught them the way of truth and life; fet before them various motives to duty, promifing fingular bleffings to their obedience and fidelity, and threatning difobedience and apoftacy, or revolt from his government, with very heavy judgments; efpecially that of being expelled from the land of Canaan, and "fcattered among all people, from the one end of the earth unto the other," in a wretched, perfecuted ftate. Deut. xxviii. 63-68. Lev. xxvi. 3, 4, &c. 33. Having fettled their conftitution, he led them through the wildernefs, where he difciplined them for forty years together; made all oppofition fall before them; and at last brought them to the promised land.

7. Here I may obferve, that God did not choofe the Ifraelites out of any partial regard to that nation; nor because they were better than other people, (Deut. ix. 4, 5.) and would always obferve his laws. It is plain he knew the contrary. (Deut. xxxi. 29. xxxii. 5, 6, 15.) It was indeed with great propriety, that among other advantages he gave them alle that, of being defcended from progenitors illuftrious for piety and virtue; and that he grounded the extraordinary favours they enjoyed upon Abraham's faith and obedience, Gen. xxii. 16, 17, 18. But it was not out of regard to the moral character of the Jewish nation that God chose them, [57] (*) any other nation would have ferved as well on that account; but as he thought fit to felect one nation of the world, he felected them out of refpect to the piety and virtue of their ancestors, Exod. iii. 15. vi. 3, 4, 5. Deut. iv. 37.

8. It fhould also be carefully oblerved; that God felected the Ifraelitish nation and manife&ed himself to them by various difplays of hi power and goodness, not principally for their own fakes, to make them a happy and flourishing people; but to be fubfervient to his own high and great defigns with regard to all mankind. And we fball entertain a very wrong, low, and narrow idea of this felect nation, and of the difpenfations of God towards it, if we do not confider it as a beacon, or a light fet upon a hill; as raifed up to be a public voucher of the being and providence of God, and of the truth of the revela tion delivered to them, in all ages, and in all parts of the world and confequently, that the Divine fcheme, in relation to the Jewish polity, had reference to other people, and even to us at this day, as well as to

the

(*) Wherever any number is included in brackets, thus [57], it refers to the paragraph marked with the fame number in this KET; and to no ether part of the book.

the Jews themselves. [75] And the fituation of this nation, lying upon the borders of Afia, Europe, and Africa, was very convenient for fuch a general purpose.

9. It is further obfervable; that this fcheme was wifely calculated to anfwer great ends under all events. If this nation continued obedient, their vifible profperity, under the guardianfhip of an extraordinary Providence, would be a very proper and extenfive inftruction to the nations of the earth. And, no doubt, fo far as they were obedient, and favoured with the fignal interpofals of the Divine Power, their cafe was very useful to their neighbours. On the other hand; if they were disobedient, then their calamities, and efpecially their difperfions, would nearly answer the fame purpofe; by fpreading the knowledge of the true God, and of Revelation, in the countries, where before they were not known. And fo wifely was this fcheme laid at firft, with regard to the laws of the nation, both civil and religious, and fo carefully has it all along been conducted by the Divine Providence, that it ftill holds good, even at this day, full 3600 years from the time when it first took place, and is ftill of public ufe for confirming the truth of Revelation. I mean, not only as the Chriftian profeffion, fpread over a great part of the world, has grown out of this fcheme, but as the Jews themselves, in virtue thereof, after a difperfion of about 1700 years, over all the face of the earth, every where in a ftate of ignomy and contempt, have, notwithstanding, fubfifted in great numbers, diftinct and feparate from all other nations. This feems to me a standing miracle: nor can I affign it to any other cause but the will and extraordinary interpofal of Heaven, when I confider, that, of all the famous nations of the world, who might have been distinguished from others with great advantage, and the moft illuftrious mark of honour and renown; as the Affyrians, Perfians, Macedonians, Romans, who all in their turns held the empire of the world, and were, with great ambition, the lords of mankind, yet thefe, even in their own countries, the feat of their ancient glory, are quite diffolved, and fink into the body of mankind: nor is there a perfon upon earth can boaft he is defcended from thofe renowned, and imperial ancestors. Whereas a small nation, generally defpifed, and which was, both by Pagans and pretended Chriftians, for many ages, haraffed, perfecuted, butchered, and diftreffed, as the moft deteftable of all people upon the face of the earth (**); and which, therefore, one would imagine, every foul that belonged to it, fhould have gladly difowned, and have been willing the odious name fhould be entirely extinguifhed; yet, I fay, this hated nation has continued in a body quite diftinct and feparate from all other people; even in a ftate of difperfion, and grievous perfecution, for about 1700 years; agreeably to the prediction, Ifai. xlvi. 28, I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee, but I will not make a full end of thee. This demonftrates, that the Wisdom, which fo formed them into a peculiar body, and the Providence, which has fo preferved them, that they have, almoft

(**) According to the prophecy of Mofes, Deut. xxviii, 63, &c. See Dr. Patrick's Commentary upon that place.

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