« PreviousContinue »
him blessed. Nuw, considering the promise before-mentioned in this light, it signifies that, like as Israel, during the reign of Solomôn, inherited the utmost extent of country promised to them, so the church, during the reign of the Messiah, should possess the utmost extent of country promised to bim, which is the whole world, or the uttermost parts of the earth. In the joyful prospect of these times, the Psalm concludes : Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things : and blessed be his glori. ous name for ever, AND LET THE WHOLE EARTH BE FILLED WITH YIS GLORY, AMEN, AND AMEN!
The taking possession of Canaan, and the setting up of the true worship of God in it, not only prefigured the kingdom of the Messiah, but were preparatory to it-the foundation of the gospel structure. The carnal Jews, at the coming of our Saviour, it is true, did not enter into these views ; and even his own disciples
: were much in the dark; but the ancient Israelites understood and felt them. God be merciful unto us, said they, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us— -Wherefore ? That they might be a holy and happy people? Doubtless this was a part of their desire ; but not the whole. They prayed to be blessed, that they might be blessings to the world ; that God's way might be known, through them, upon earth, and his saving health among all nations; that the people might praise him, yea, that all the people might praise him, and all the ends of the earth fear before him. Canaan was a country situated in the centre of the world, and, therefore, adapted to be the spot on which Jehovah should set up his standard for the subjugation of the world to himself. From hence, the little leaven should diffuse its influence through the earth, till the whole were leavened. Such appears to bave been the design of God, in bestowing it upon the posterity of Abraham, and such are the effects which have been actually, though gradually, produced: Out of Zion has gone forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
There are several points of dissimilarity, I allow, between the undertaking of the Israelites and that of christians to disseminate the gospel; but, whatever differences there are, they are altogether in our favour. They went forth armed with the temporal VOL. VII.
sword ; we with the sword of the Spirit: their commission was to destroy men's lives ; ours to save their souls ; cities, and fields, and vineyards, and olive-yards, were their reward ; our hope, and
li joy, and crown, are sinners rescued from destruction, standing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming, Finally: The people whom they encountered were appointed by the Lord of the universe to utter destruction, as the just demerit of their crimes ; and, thougb some submitted and were spared, yet the invaders were not given to hope, or directed to wait, for a change of this kind in the body of the people ; but were commanded to drive them out, and take their place. It is not so with us: we lire under a dispensation of mercy: go wbere we will, we have glad tidings of great joy to communicate. They, having no hopes of the people, might have said, We seek not you, but yours : but our hopes terminate on the people; we, therefore, can say, We seek not yours, but you.
There are several important points, however, in which the undertakings are similar. The following have occurred to me, as the most remarkable :
1. The ultimate object of the one was to overturn the kingdom of Satan, and to establish the knowledge and worship of the true God; and the same is true of the other. The world, at that time, not a nation exempted, was under the dominion of Satan, enveloped in idolatry, and the abominations which always accompany it; so that, if God had not selected a people for himself, and, after having taught them to fear and obey him, given them a possession among the nations, he had had no people nor name nor worship upon the face of the earth. And what is the state of mankind at present? Not altogether so deplorable: but, whatever difference there may be, it is owing to that divine revelation wbich God communicated to Israel, and, by them, to the Gentile nations. In Heatben countries, the god of this world reigns uncontrolled. The children of men, from generation to generation, are led captive by bim at his will. Much the same may be said of those countries which are overspread by Mahometanism. Nor is it materially otherwise where the corruptions of Popery maintain their sway, , And even in our own country, where the scriptures are read in the
native language, there are but few who pay any serious attention to them. Is it not evident, to an impartial spectator, that the great body of the people are practical Atheists, living without hope, and without God in the world? The number of worshippers, including even the laxest and most inattentive, in all our cities, and, I fear, in most of our towns and villages, is few, when compared with those who attend upon no worship at all. In the earlier times of the Reformation, whatever defects might exist with respect to church-government and discipline, the doctrine of salvation by the cross of Christ was much more generally preached and believed than at present. Since the great principles of evangelical truth (alike clearly stated in the Articles of the Established Church and in the catechisms and confessions of Dissenters) have been relinquisbed, and a species of heathen inorality substituted in their place, the nation has been almost heathenized. If the Lord had not left us a seed of faithful men, some in the Establishment and some out of it, whose object it has been to propagate the common salvation, and to inculcate the holy practice which becomes it, surely we had, ere now, been as Sodom. Or if, like a certain great nation near home, we had revoked the laws in favour of religious liberty, and massacred, silenced, or banished the faithful witaesses of Christ, surely, like them, we had been lost in the gulf of Infidelity.
2. In invading the country of the Canaanites, Israel went forth by divine authority; and the same authority attends our invasion of the empire of sin and Satan. Nothing short of an express com. mandment could have justified a people in destroying or subjugating another people, whatever might be their moral character: but the Creator of the world had an indisputable right to dispose of any part of it, and to punish transgressors in what manner he pleased. And, though the gospel is far from being injurious to the temporal interests of mankind, yet the opposition to it has been as fierce and as decided, as if it had been aimed to rob them of every thing necessary to their happiness. The servants of Christ have been taught to expect opposition, and all the evils which a world lying in wickedness, and hating to have their repose disturbed, can inflict upon them. And though, by the kind hand of God,
whose influence governs all human counsels, they have had their seasons of peace and rest, yet the enmity has been much the same. The truly zealous and faithful labourers in Christ's harvest have generally, even in the most favourable periods, had to encounter a large portion of reproach and misrepresentation. And what bat the authority of heaven should induce us to expose ourselves to such inconveniences? We have our feelings, as well as other men; and it would, doubtless, be agreeable to us to possess the good opinion of all about us. We have no ill will to those who preach even what we account another gospel, and not the gospel of Christ, whether in or out of the Establishment; and if we had, we have so much good will to ourselves, that, if consistently with the love of Christ and the souls of men we could hold our peace, we should probably be inclined to do so, and employ ourselves in something less offensive, and more adapted to promote our temporal interests. But the command of Christ is not to be trifled with. He to whom we must shortly give account of the use we have made of every talent committed to us, has said, Go, TEACH ALL NATIONS-PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE! If we have any authority from Christ to preach at all, (which I shall not here inquire,) we are, doubtless, warranted and obliged, by this commission, to embrace any opening, in any part of the earth, within our reach, for the imparting of the word of life to them that are without it. The primitive ministers went every where preaching the gospel, and gave no less offence to its enemies,
the established teachers of religion, than we give; and were by them reproached as ignorant men, no less than we are. Yet they persevered in their work, and endured the consequ ces. If we be ministers of Jesus Christ, we ought to follow their example. It is true, there are some things of an extraordinary kind, in which we cannot follow them ; but the work of spreading the gospel is ordinary, and not confined to a single age. Had not Christ's commission been binding to the latest posterity, it would not have been added, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!
3. The Israelites went forth, not only by divine authority, but under a divine promise ; and the same is true of Christian ministers. God, spake unto Abraham, saying, I will give unto thee, and
to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession ; and I will be their God. This, in substance, was often repeated to the patriarchs ; so often, that the country was from thence denominated, The land of promise. This it was that supported the faith of Caleb and Joshua. It was not in a dependence on their numbers, or their prowess, that they said, We are well able ; but on the arm of Him who had spoken in his holiness. - Nor do those who labour in the Lord's service, in the present times, whether at home or abroad, (for I consider the work as one,) go forth with less encouragement. The father bas promised his son, that he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; that he will divide him a portion with the great, and that he shall divide the spoil with the strong. Travail, in a figurative sense, commonly signifies, grievous affliction issuing in a great and important good. Such was the suffering of our Lord, and such must be the effect rising out of it. A portion with the great, may refer to the territories of the great ones of this world; such as the Ael anders and the Cæsars, who, in their day, grasped a large extent of empire : but the kingdom of Christ shall be greater than the greatest of them. The division of the spoil, implies a victory, and denotes, in this place, that Christ shall triumph over all the false religion and irreligion of the world. And, as the Father's word is given to his Son, so the word of the Son is given unto us. He that said, Go, teach all nations, added, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. These declarations afford equal ground for confidence, as those which supported a Caleb and a Joshua.
4. The promise to Israel was gradually fulálled; and the same is observable of that which is made to Christ and his people. It was almost five hundred years, from the time that God entered into covenant with Abraham, before his posterity were permitted to set foot upon the land, as possessors of it, and nearly five hundred years more elapsed before their possession was completed. And, in establishing the kingdom of his Son, God has proceeded in a similar manner. The accession of the Gentiles was promised to Noah, under the form of Japheth being persuaded to dwell in the tents of Shem · but more than two thousand years roll on be