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which yet is not, I think, sufficiently considered by your nation at present.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD :) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel ; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts ; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. xxxi. 31–34.)
In order to understand the full meaning and excellence of this promise, we must consider, in the first place, the nature of the Covenant made with Israel on Mount Sinai;
And, in the second, Wherein this new Covenant differs from and excels it.
In discussing these points, I shall give you, without reserve, what I conceive to be the truth of God, as revealed in those Scriptures which you admit to be His word. My first endeavour will be, to deal faithfully with you; and my appeal is to Moses and the prophets, and io facts. I may seem to be severe: yet much should I rejoice, if,—instead of the language of rebuke, which I must sometimes use,-1 could see occasion for none other but that of encouragement, consolation, and thanksgiving to the Lord. But, if I am persuaded that a fellow-sinner is in the ways of danger and self-delusion, it seems to me no more than common humanity to warn him earnestly, and to tell him what I fear. The greatest Pattern of love and compassion that ever was seen upon earth tells us, “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” And if you will receive in love the plain statements here extracted from the oracles of God, the time, I trust, will come, when you and I shall meet, with rejoicing and thanksgiving, in
that world, where the Lord shall be our everlasting light, and our God our glory. Consider, therefore, calmly what is here stated, and search the Scriptures daily, whether these things be so.
Do this with earnest prayer; and then, if I have erred, you still will find the good and right way, and at length be guided into all truth; which is my one desire in addressing you.
The History of the Institution of God's Covenant with Israel
at Mount Sinai. In order rightly to understand the first point proposed, we must refer to the history of the events, which we find recorded Ex. xix.-xxiv.
In the third month, on the first day of the month, being the forty-sixth day from their setting forth to leave Egypt, the children of Israel came into the wilderness of Sinai, and encamped before the mount. " And Moses went up unto God," (probably on the following day,) " and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, and made the first proposal of entering into covenant with Israel. The Lord God Almighty might certainly have imposed His laws upon His creatures, according to His sovereign will,—which none in earth or heaven can presume to question ;-but He was pleased, in infinite condescension and mercy, rather to send a gracious invitation ; “ Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel ; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people : for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
" And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people
answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do." They could do no less than accept such an offer, without hesitation, and with one consent: for never had a proposal so wonderful and advantageous been made to any people, from the beginning of the world until that hour.
“ And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD,"—who accordingly gives directions, how the people should prepare themselves to receive this signal display of His glory and grace, --commanding them to sanctify themselves that day, (which, I conceive, is to be taken for the third day of the month, which was then just beginning, as we may suppose the previous transactions to have oc. cupied the time till the evening of the second day,—that is, till almost the beginning of the third,) and the next day, and to be ready against the third day, which (according to this calculation) would be the fifth of the third month. Care also was to be taken to set bounds round about the mountain, that not so much as a hand or foot should touch it, either of man or beast, upon pain of immediate death.
These preparations being made, “ It came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." With all these circumstances of awe and terror, it pleased God to reveal himself to men ; and (as if even this were not enough) Moses was commanded to warn the people again solemnly, lest any should be tempted to break through the bounds which had been set, and the Lord should therefore break forth upon them, and destroy them.
After all these preparations, the Lord declares the terms of the Covenant, or what was required on the part of the people of Israel, as the conditions upon which the love and mercy of God, as a covenant God, were to depend, These are comprised in the Ten Commandments; (Ex. xx. 1-17;) which were proclaimed with an audible and awful voice, calculated to penetrate the very souls of all who heard, with a deep sense of the majesty of the Lawgiver, and of the strictness and purity of the Law. We find accordingly, that the next circumstance mentioned is, the consternation of the people. “ And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear : but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Neither was this impression any thing more than the appearances presented were calculated and intended to produce: it was a desirable and salutary impression, which ought to have been cherished, and to have influenced the people ever after: therefore Moses said unto them, “ Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that
sin not.” And the LORD graciously accepted their desire, to hear the word from the lips of Moses, and not directly from Himself. The people accordingly withdrew, and stood afar off, while the Lord continued to deliver His further instructions to Moses. It was enough, that all the people knew, that God indeed had talked with thein from Heaven, and thus had a satisfying assurance, that this covenant, in all its particulars, had its origin in the Divine Wisdom and Mercy, and was no contrivance of man.
The passages which follow (Ex. xx. 23—xxiii. 19) might appear needless digressions in this place: but are here introduced for wise purposes. They relate to the conduct and government of the people in the Promised Land, which was secured to them by this Covenant. So Moses himself elsewhere explains it; “ The LORD commanded me at the time to teach you statutes and judgements, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.” (Deut. iv. 14.) Accordingly we have some directions concerning the worship of God;-a variety of laws respecting the administration of justice, and the punishment of offenders ;-and the solemn feasts, and other observances, which were specially intended to keep them in remembrance of the mercies of their Covenant God. All which seems to be here introduced, in order to show, that all the Commandments of God, to whatever particulars they might relate, were to be considered as included in the terms of the Covenant; and as a warning to the people, not to take the Divine Laws in a contracted sense, according to their own narrow notions and convenience, but in their fullest and spiritual meaning and to cut off all occasion of representing future explanations and enforcements, as arbitrary and unexpected additions to the strictness and difficulty of the Covenant.
Upon this follow the gracious promises of the Covenant, (Ex. xxiii. 20—33,) or what God engages to do for His people, if they obeyed His laws ;-namely, to send His Angel before them, to keep them in the way, and to bring them into the land of Canaan; to drive out all their enemies before them, by little and little, and to bless them abundantly in all the works of their hands.
All this, we may suppose, took place on the fifth day of the month, as there is no note in these four chapters (xx.--xxiii.) of a day beginning or ending. We next proceed to the ratification of this Covenant:
“ Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgements : and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do." (Ex. xxiv. 3.) Thus they again expressed their willing and unanimous acceptance of the gracious proposals of the Lord. “ And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD,”—that is, he solemnly committed to writing the terms of the Covenant. And the next day (being the sixth of the month), he “ rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the LORD.” For it was a principle already well understood, that no covenant could be ratified without blood, and that there could be no communion between God and man without sacrifices. Accordingly,
- Moses took half of the blood and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
66 And he took the book of the Covenant, and read in the audience of the people : and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said,