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The divine scheme of religion, which is only known by revelation, was gradually opened up from one period to another throughout the old testament. At different times GOD furnished his people with fresh discoveries concerning himself, Every age was blest with some new revelation of his character, which, like the morning light, shined more and more, until the noon-day glory, manifested in the new testament, by the sun of righteousness, the LORD JESUS CHRIST: whose coming was foretold in every age, from the time that the original pair resided in paradise, to the preaching of John the baptist, his immediate fore-runner.
Among the many sublime things, said by the prophets concerning him, and the peculiar advantages that should attend the dispensation of his gospel, I have often admired the beauty of Isaiah's descriptions; in one of which, when speaking of the privileges the kingdom of Christ should enjoy, he says, "It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice, even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given into it; the excellency of Carmel and Sharon." Then he introduces a surprising climax. Not only should the substance of the most lively shadows among the Jews be the privilege of this kingdom, even their temple and consecrated things, which they boasted of as the glory of Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon: but, as if these were small things, he ascends to the quintessence of excellency and glory." They shall see.
This much I thought necessary, for the sake of such readers as might not be acquainted with the meaning of the word ECONOMY, and in what sense it is applied to this subject. And, I earnestly desire the reader, before he goes further, to have a clear conception of the idea designed by the use of the word, and carry it along with him attentively, in the further consider. ation of this work.
Isa. xxxv. 2.
the glory of the LORD (JEHOVAH) the excellency of our GOD (ELOHIM)." A more glorious discovery than the most striking appearance of the Jewish temple. They should see him who is the divine medium, that represents all the infinite perfections of JEHOVAH,- They shall see the glory of JEHOVAH." Him, whose character and work exhibit the glorious relations in which the divine three are made known to the church:-"They shall see the excellency of ELOHIM."
When we consider Jesus Christ as the medium of that knowledge we have of the divine perfections, our ideas are confined to the notion of unity: for we cannot suppose more than one possessed of infinite perfections or attributes. So that whatever we learn of divine perfections manifested in Christ, leads us to the unity of JEHOVAH, who alone is infinite, unchangeable, and eternal. But when we learn the revealed relations GOD stands in to us, which are also made known in Christ, revelation leads us to the knowledge of a plurality pointed out in the word ELOHIM, and clearly expressed in three particular relative names or characters, which confine our ideas to the notion of a plurality. To each of the three, revelation ascribes a particular work, in the execution of the divine purposes concerning men. In this economy there is an inequality of character, a manifest subordination among the divine three, which must be limited to the NAMES they bear, the WORK which revelation assigns to each, in the plan of redemption, or to the RELATION each stands in to mankind, as the objects of that redemption.
In this respect, we may safely, being agreeable to revelation, consider a superiority and inferiority among the three, who, with relation thereto are called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Notwith
standing, this revealed distinction does by no means destroy the unity of Deity; nor does this economi cal subordination destroy the equality of the divine three; that is conspicuously supported throughout the scriptures, which ascribe to each the names, attributes, works, and worship, proper only to Deity, and which would be derogatory to the wisdom and honor of God, to allow any being, but what is purely divine.
With respect to these, the wisdom of God is peculiarly displayed, in the manner of scripture phraseology, and in no instance that I remember, more than in the phrase, so very common in the old testament, LORD GOD, or JEHOVAH ELOHIM: which at the same time points out a plurality in the word ELOHIM, and the equality of that plurality, by being expressed in the same term. This would be very incongruous, if there were the least inequa lity among these implied in the term. And all is consistent with the unity of Deity, expressed in the word JEHOVAH. So that the divine unity, plurality, equality, or sameness, are all pointed out in the expression JEHOVAH ELOHIM. But the reader will suffer me to clear this a little further, as it has an immediate relation to the subject in hand.
As it is very certain that the plural ELOHIM is not used by chance, but is the fruit of choice, and so must be significant, the greatest care is taken in scripture to prevent polytheism from being grafted on an expression which seems so naturally to lead to it. Therefore that text, "Hear, O Israel, JEHOVAH, Our ELOHIM, is ONE JEHOVAH," was to be of the greatest moment among the Jews; they were to lay it up in their heart,-cause their children to learn it,-write it on the posts of their houses, and front of their gates,-wear it as a sign upon their arms, and frontlets between their eyes,
so important, that all their laws were ushered in with it. And the value of this precept to that people, appears further from what our LORD says of it, when interrogated, which was the first and greatest commandment? he readily gave the preference to this, as the first and highest of the law, "Hear, O Israel, JEHOVAH, our ELOHIM, is ONE JEHOVAH."
Now, as the noun JEHOVAH is singular, and has no plural, there was not the least occasion for so solemn a declaration, that JEHOVAH is one,—is no plural, if it were not for the plural word ELOHIM, which might lead into a mistake: to prevent which, this solemn declaration was given, and so many instructions concerning the importance of it, that they might never forget, though there were distinct ELOHIM, yet but one JEHOVAH; which is allowing a plurality, but not of distinct Deities, for JEHOVAH is one.
Though the unity of JEHOVAH is expressly settled by this, and many other texts, yet we read of distinct agents to whom the name and perfections of JEHOVAH are ascribed; as the name JEHOVAH, the Word JEHOVAH, the angel JEHOVAH, the Spirit JEHOVAH. And however unwilling the Jews and some others are to see the particular emphasis in the plural ELOHIM, it is most certain, the word itself carries some idea in it, descriptive of some character, some relation, the being described by that name bears to man. This is plain from the use made of it in scripture, where the relatives my, thy, our, their, his, &c. are commonly joined with ELO
As the word implies relation, it should have been translated by some word that pointed out that sense. But it is rendered by GoD or GODS, which,
as far as we know by the derivation, carries no idea of relation to us, or to any being else. If the word God is used as a sound only, to raise the idea of the infinite, eternal Being, without any significant meaning in itself; then the applying that word by the relatives, my, thy, his, their, &c. is improper; for the eternal Being, absolutely considered, has no more relation to one, than another. If the term ever had any signification of relation originally, it has been lost before the Septuagint translation. Nor do we know any meaning the Saxon word GOD has, but to denote the Supreme Being. ELOHIM should either have been translated by a word that signified relation, or retained the Hebrew term, rendering it totidem literas, giving the same letters in the translation as are done in proper names. If this would have partly left men in the dark, it would have been still safer than to be so misled by an authority which is too implicitly followed.
Though a divine plurality is very clearly pointed out in the old testament, in a variety of expressions, which cannot be properly interpreted otherwise; yet this is one glory peculiar to the new testament, that this plurality are clearly distin guished by the different names, FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST, which appears necessary in the further execution of the divine plan, at the commencement of that period, and gives the clearest discovery to men, of the distinct parts they acted with relation to men, in the great transaction agreed among the ELOHIM.
He, who, in the new testament, is known by the name Jesus Christ, did under the old govern all things, particularly the Jewish theocracy, assuming the names and glory of JEHOVAH, the GOD, King, and Holy One of Israel. And as to what is said