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of the mind and will of God: it was in every respect "holy, and just, and good," and, if followed in every part, would assimilate the people to God himself. The ceremonial law also, notwithstanding it was burthensome in many respects, afforded peace and comfort to all who were bowed down with a sense of sin, and desirous of finding acceptance with an offended God. As for the heathen world, they had none of these advantages: they had no such light for the government of their states, no such instruction for the regulation of their conduct, no such consolations under the convictions of guilt or the dread of punishment. They had no better guide than their own weak unassisted reason: and though by means of that they were able to frame laws for the public good, they never could devise a system whereby the soul should be restored to holiness or peace. In these respects the Jews were elevated above all the world. The excellence and authority of their laws were undisputed; and every one was made happy by his observance of them.]
But still the Jews themselves had little to boast of in comparison of,
II. The superior privileges which we enjoy
Our access to God is much nearer than theirs
[They had, it is true, in some respects the advantage. No person now can hope for such special directions as were imparted by the Urim and Thummim. But it must be remembered that this mode of ascertaining the mind of God was of necessity confined to few: it was not possible for every person to go to the high-priest, and to obtain his mediation with the Deity on every subject that might require light: this liberty could be used by few, and only on occasions of great public importance. But our access to the Deity is unlimited: every person, at all times, in every place, on every occasion, may come to God, without the intervention of a fellow-creature: in this respect every child of God is on a par with the high-priest himself, or rather, is elevated to a state far above him, in proportion as a spiritual approach is nearer than that which is bodily, and an immediate access is nearer than that which is through the medium of an ephod and a breast-plate. Indeed the liberty given to us is unbounded: "In every thing we may make our requests known unto God;" and we may "ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us." Though therefore the Jews were privileged beyond the Gentiles, whose gods of wood and stone could not attend to their supplications, yet we are no less privileged above them, and can adopt a language unknown to them, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."]
Our dispensation too is more excellent than theirs
[We need not to disparage theirs in any respect, in order to raise in our estimation that under which we live. give to that all the honour it deserves, and yet not be afraid that ours will suffer any thing in the comparison. Theirs, excellent as it was, was only a shadow, of which ours is the substance. Whatever good theirs had, is retained and perfected in ours; whatever it had that was weak and burthensome, is done away. The peace which that afforded to the guilty conscience was slight and temporary: the very means of forgiveness were only so many fresh remembrances of unforgiven sin: but the peace obtained by us " passeth all understanding:" the joy we taste is "unspeakable and full of glory." The blood of bulls and of goats afforded a very weak ground for hope, in comparison of the blood of God's only-begotten Son: that "cleanseth from all sin," and "perfects for ever them that are sanctified." Again, the law of the ten commandments denounced a curse for one single violation of them, however small; and afforded no assistance to those who desired to fulfil it: but the precepts of the Gospel, though as holy and as perfect as the Law itself, are accompanied with promises of grace and offers of mercy to all who endeavour to obey them: God undertakes to write them on our hearts, so as to make a compliance with them both easy and delightful. In a word, their law was a yoke of bondage, productive only of slavish fears, and ineffectual efforts: whereas our law, the law of faith, begets a filial spirit, and transforms us "into the image of our God in righteousness and true holiness." Compare the two dispensations, and we shall see in a moment our superior advantages: for whilst they were only slaves under the lash, we have the happiness of being "sons and heirs."]
If such be our distinguished privileges, it becomes us to consider,
III. Our duty in reference to them
This was a point which Moses was extremely anxious to impress on the mind of every individual; Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently." In like manner would we urge you in relation to the privileges you enjoy,
1. To keep up the remembrance of them in your own hearts
[It is scarcely necessary to observe, how apt we are to forget the mercies which God has vouchsafed unto us. The mere facts indeed may easily be retained in our heads; but a due sense
of the kindness expressed in them, and of the obligations conferred by them, is not easily preserved upon the soul. The smallest trifle is sufficient to draw us from heavenly contemplations, and to engage those affections, which should be exclusively fixed on God. Hence Moses bade the people "take heed, lest the things which they had seen should depart from their heart." What then must we do? We must avoid the things which would weaken our sense of God's mercies to us; and abound in those exercises which will keep alive the sense of them upon our hearts. Worldly cares, worldly pleasures, worldly company, should all be regarded by us with a godly fear and jealousy, lest they "choke the seed" which is springing up in our hearts, and prevent us from "bringing forth fruit unto perfection." On the other hand, our meditation on the Christian's privileges should be frequent: we should muse on them, till the fire kindle in our hearts, and we are constrained to speak of them with our tongues. It is thus that we must trim the lamps of our sanctuary; it is thus that we must be keeping up the fire on the altar of our hearts. In a word, if we will improve our privileges, we shall have them augmented and confirmed: if, on the other hand, we slumber over them, we shall give advantage to our enemy to despoil us of them.]
2. To transmit the memory of them to posterity
[The Jews were made depositaries of divine knowledge for the good of the Christian Church: and it is in the same light that we are to consider the Scriptures which are committed to us; they are not for our personal benefit merely, but for the use of the Church in all future ages. Hence then we are bound to "teach them to our sons, and our sons' sons." It is greatly to be lamented indeed that so little attention is paid to the sacred oracles in the public seminaries of learning. Something of a form indeed may be observed; a form, from which the very persons who enforce it neither expect nor desire any practical effect but if one half the pains were taken to make us understand and feel the exalted privileges of Christianity, as are bestowed on elucidating the beauties of classic writers, or exploring the depths of science and philosophy, we should see religion and morals in a very different state amongst us. It was for the instructing of their children in righteousness that the awful transactions that took place at Mount Horeb were required to be more particularly impressed on all succeeding generations: and if the law from Mount Sinai was to be so carefully communicated to the children of Jews, ought not "the law that came forth from Mount Zion," even "the law of faith," to be proclaimed to our children? If they were to
d See also Heb. ii. 1. e Matt. xiii. 12. f ver. 10. g Isai. ii. 3.
remember Horeb, shall not we remember Bethlehem, where the Son of God was born into the world; and Calvary, where he shed his blood; and Olivet, from whence he ascended up to heaven, and led captive all the powers of darkness? Yes surely, these great transactions should be dwelt upon, not as mere historical facts, but as truths whereon are founded all the hopes and expectations of sinful man: and we cannot but regard it as a blessing to the Christian world, that days are set apart for the special remembrance of those great events; that so not one of them may be overlooked, but that all in succession may be presented to the view of every Christian in the land. Let us then habituate ourselves to dwell upon them as the most delightful of all subjects", and "account both our time and money well spent in promoting the knowledge of them in the world."]
h Deut. xi. 18-20.
EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY."
Deut. v. 28, 29. They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!
THE historical parts of the Old Testament are more worthy of our attention than men generally imagine. A multitude of facts recorded in them are replete with spiritual instruction, being intended by God to serve as emblems of those deep mysteries which were afterwards to be revealed. For instance: What is related of our first parent, his creation, his marriage, his sabbatic rest, was emblematic of that new creation which God will produce in us, and of that union with Christ whereby it shall be effected, and of the glorious rest to which it shall introduce us, as well in this world as in the world to come. In like manner the promises made to Adam, to Abraham, and to David, whatever reference they might have to the particular circumstances of those illustrious individuals, had a further and more important accomplishment in the Lord Jesus Christ,
This and the following Sermons on the same subject were preached before the University of Cambridge.
who is the second Adam, the Promised Seed, the King of Israel.
The whole of the Mosaic dispensation was altogether figurative, as we see from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the figures themselves are illustrated and explained. But there are some facts which appear too trifling to afford any instruction of this kind. We might expect indeed that so remarkable a fact as the promulgation of the Law from Mount Sinai should have in it something mysterious; but that the fears of the people on that occasion, and the request dictated by those fears, should be intended by God to convey any particular instruction, we should not have readily supposed: yet by these did God intend to shadow forth the whole mystery of Redemption. We are sure that there was somewhat remarkable in the people's speech, by the commendation which God himself bestowed upon it: still however, unless we have turned our minds particularly to the subject, we shall scarcely conceive how much is contained in it.
The point for our consideration is, The request which the Israelites made in consequence of the terror with which the display of the Divine Majesty had inspired them. The explication and improvement of that point is all that properly belongs to the passage before us. But we have a further view in taking this text: we propose, after considering it in its true and proper sense, to take it in an improper and accommodated sense; and, after making some observations upon it in reference to the request which the Israelites then offered, to notice it in reference to the requests which we from time to time make unto God in the Liturgy of our Established Church.
The former view of the text is that which we propose for our present consideration: the latter will be reserved for future discussion.
The Israelites made an earnest request to God: and God expressed his approbation of it in the words which we have just recited; "They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such