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of dividing the actions of our Lord, according to the number of the passovers during which he lived upon earth. This plan did not seem to convey any definite idea of the peculiar propriety of the several actions, which are recorded of our Saviour. The beauty of the narrative, and the proofs of design and wisdom which are every where discoverable in the sacred Scriptures, seemed obscured or neglected by harmonizing the several Gospels with reference only to the number of passovers—or the various journeys of our Lordor even the perfect arrangement of the events themselves, if they were considered only as a collection of wonderful facts. Much higher and nobler views ought to be taken of the contents of the sacred writings. The Christian Revelation is the completion of that great system of religion which began at the Fall, and will continue till this our state of trial is over. The principal object of an Arranger of the New Testament, therefore, ought to be, to place before his readers the gradual developement of that dispensation of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which began with the revival of miracle immediately before the birth of Christ, and terminated with the closing of the Canon of the Scriptures of the New Testament, and the cessation of the miraculous gifts.
It will, I think, appear evident, that an arrangement of the New Testament will be most usefully formed upon this view of the gradual discovery of God to the world. God has imparted the knowledge of his will to the world, as men were able to bear it. Without Revelation there would have been no Religion: neither is there any proof whatever, that man could have invented for himself a system of religious belief. There has never been a Religion of Nature, since the world was created. When men were few in number, and had not yet collected in large cities, their reason might have confirmed their conviction of the truth which had been originally revealed to them, respecting the existence and unity of God. The relations of life might have instructed them in the necessity of the observance of certain moral duties. When they had become assembled in cities, and had acquired opulence and security, the necessities of society might have taught them various other moral duties, as well as some system of civil polity; and all these may in one sense be called Natural Religion. But there is no proof whatever, either from the nature of man, from the probable origin of human society, or from the testimony of Scripture, that man was capable of framing for himself a consistent scheme of religion ; and all that Wollaston and other laborious writers have proved on this point, is their own ingenuity and talent. The conclusions of philosophical inquirers, in an advanced state of refined society, when they are unsupported by undeniable facts, must be received as speculations, and not as history. I shall briefly dwell on this point : and more fully explain the plan of this arrangement.
The one only true religion which derived its origin from God alone, began at the Fall, and will be completed only in another state of existence. It is characterised throughout by one peculiar doctrine; the continued superintendence of the affairs of mankind by a Divine Being, who was repeatedly manifested before his permanent incarnation as a manwho is now living in an invisible state, where he is interested in all that concerns the human race-and from which he will again become manifested, in a more glorious manner, than at any preceding time. This Being was called by the ancient Jews, and by the Evangelist St. John, and by the early Fathers, the Word of God. In the Old Testament he is called the Angel Jehovah; in the New Testament he is revealed to us as Jesus Christ. The world in which we live is Christ's world. As he led the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, so is he leading the family of man into the Paradise of God, from which they have fallen.
This Divine Being was present at the creation and the fall of man, and conversed with our parents in Eden. Unless they were, then, instructed in the use of language and the choice of food, as well as in the law of marriage and the knowledge of God, the sagacity with which they were endowed must have been greater than that with which untaught men are now gifted. As God conversed with them, we may fairly conclude he imparted his will to them, and thus Religion commenced, from Revelation, in a state of innocence (q).
The first circumstance, which we collect from the sacred records after the account of the Fall, was the offering of sacrifice. The same Divine Being is represented, as still continuing his charge over the fallen race. The offering of an animal in sacrifice to God appears so utterly unreasonable and useless, that I cannot but believe the primitive sacrifice to have originated in the divine command. No other solution can be justly given of the difficulty. Whether the 321 DROn be rendered with Archbishop Magee, “ a sinoffering coucheth at the door," or with Mr. Davison and our translators, “Sin lieth at the door," is a matter of little moment. Positive evidence cannot be procured. The brevity of Moses in this part appears to have been intentional; his object being, to hasten to the history of Abraham. As the superintending Being, the Angel Jehovah, was still with them, it is not probable that the first worship of our primæval ancestors would be of their own invention. It is not necessary to suppose that they were fully instructed in the typical meaning of the sacrifice, as the emblem of the atonement. The enactment might have been arbitrary, and commanded as a proof of their obedience, and of their faith in some future developement of the meaning of the sacrifice. They appear to have brought their offering at an appointed time; and mankind have been divided, from the period of the rejection of the sacrifice of Cain, into two opposite parties, the good and evil (r).
(9) I cannot stop here to discuss Bishop Warburton's theory, that our first parents were created out of Eden, and then removed into the garden, to be tempted and fall. It is amply refuted by Mr. Faber, in his connected view of the three dispensations. (r) See Davison on Primitive Sacrifice, and Archbishop
After the general destruction of the first race by a flood, which the Angel Jehovah expressly declares was brought on the world by himself (s), he appeared to Noah, and renewed his covenant. When the patriarchal religion, in the various settlements of men, was corrupted by the idolatry which endeavoured to reconcile outward worship with actual vice and speculative error—when they did not like to retain the spirituality of God in their knowledge, but assigned human attributes to the Creator-the same Divine Being renewed, and enlarged, the revelation of himself to Abraham; and continued personally to repeat and extend that revelation, by frequent manifestations of his presence, to the descendants of Abraham, to the Patriarchs, to Moses, and to the Prophets, who at length completed, in their predictions, the anticipated history of their incarnated Redeemer. All this was done slowly and gradually. The attention of mankind was continually directed to the one great deliverer, who should be at once the Prophet, the Priest, and the Kingthe Sacrifice and the Deity—the uniter of the divine and human nature—the mysterious and merciful Saviour—the present Protector, and the future Judge of mankind.
The New Testament contains the history of the accomplishment of all these prophecies. We may justly expect to trace in this portion of the inspired writings the same gradual revelation which characterised the former. Bishop Law has endeavoured to point out the mode in which the Deity has thus made himself known to mankind, in his work on the theory of religion. The first Lord Barrington published an essay on the dispensations, in the order in which they lie in
Magee on the Atonement. Mr. Davison's arguments have not shaken my conviction of the divine origin of sacrifice. But this is not the place to discuss this matter. I must not however omit here to observe that another most eminent of our modern theologians has embraced also, an opposite opinion, on this point. See Mr. Benson's remarks on the Sacrifice of Abel, in his Sermons on the difficulties of Scripture. (s) “I, even I, do bring a flood of waters on the earth.” See the note in loc. Arrangement of the Old Testament.
the Bible. In the preface to the Miscellanea Sacra, he observes : “ The true way to obtain a thorough understanding of the Scriptures, would be to make ourselves well acquainted with each of these periods, as they are described and distinguished in the Bible, and as they stand in order of time; the former of these always preparing for the latter; and the latter still referring to the former: so that we must critically understand each of these, before we can have the whole compass of that knowledge, and the proof of it, which the Bible is designed to give us. God having thought fit, at sundry times, and in divers manners, or in different parts, sections, or periods,” (Mr. Davison (t) translates the words“ in different portions,”) “ πολυμερώς, και πολυτρόπως, to speak to the Fathers by the Prophets, and to us by his Son. I am sensible that this is a work, that will require much time, and care, but the very outlines of such a design would be of great use and service (u)."
Upon the foundation of such reasoning, I have planned the several divisions of this arrangement. I trust the order and gradual revelation, which I am of opinion may be observed in the Scriptures of the New Testament, will be better perceived by a short abstract of the contents of the fifteen chapters, into which the work is portioned. “ I shall be rejoiced (I again quote from Lord Barrington) if this attempt should provoke others to study the New Testament in this way, and in all others, that may give such light to the obscure parts of it, as is necessary to satisfy the strict inquirers, who are the best friends to religion.”
I. The first chapter includes the period from the birth of Christ to his temptation. It may be regarded as the introduction to his ministry. This part of the New Testament does not appear to have been considered with the attention it deserves. The careful reader, however, will observe the manner in which it pleased God that the attention of the existing
(u) Preface to the Miscellanea
(1) In his invaluable work on Prophecy. Sacra, p. xxxiv.