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of? Where was there ever, besides Moses, a prophet that was a Mediator, a Lawgiver, a Ruler, a Deliverer? Was there ever such an one, except Jesus? And was not Jesus such an one in all respects? Yes; he has wrought for you not a mere temporal deliverance like Moses, but a spiritual and eternal deliverance from sin and Satan, death and hell: He has redeemed you, not by power only, but by price also, even the inestimable price of his own blood. Having thus bought you with his blood, he ever liveth in heaven itself to make continual intercession for you. A new law also has he given you,“ the law of faith,” in conformity to which he enjoins you to walk, and by which he will judge you in the last day. Of this blessed your own prophets have spoken; and this very Moses, in whom you trust, declares to you, that, “ if you will not hear and obey this Prophet, God will require it of you." When therefore you plead the authority of Moses, we join issue with you, and say, Be consistent. Renounce false prophets, because he bids you: but believe in the true Prophet, whom God according to his word has raised up to you, because he bids you. Let his authority weigh equally with you in both cases: and then we shall not fear, but that you will embrace the salvation offered you in the Gospel, and be the spiritual children, as ye already are the natural descendants, of believing Abraham. “Abraham looked forward with eager expectation to see the day of Christ, and saw it, and was glad.” May ye also now see it, and rejoice in him as your Saviour for evermore!
It is for your partiality in this respect that God has punished you now these eighteen hundred years, and is punishing you at this day. He told you,
“ he would require of you” your rejection of this Prophet; and he has required it more severely, than he has all your other sins ever since you became a nation. . O repent of this evil, and turn to God in his appointed way! so shall his wrath be turned away from you, and
you shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.”
We cannot coNCLUDE our subject without suggest
ing a suitable improvement of it to our Christian
brethrenAs the Jews were constantly assailed by idolaters who sought to draw them from the worship of the true God, so are you by infidels, or worldlings, to draw you from the belief or practice of the Gospel. But do infidels assault you? Ask them whether their objections, all of which arise from ignorance alone, are sufficient to invalidate all the evidences which may be adduced in support of our religion? If not, then“ hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering.” Do worldlings tell you that God does not require you to renounce the world, and to give yourselves up entirely to him? Ask them, what proof they can give, that God has authorized them to set aside the plainest declarations of his word. You may expect at least that they shall be possessed of miraculous and prophetic powers, or else they have not so much as the semblance of true prophets. But even if they had these powers and displayed them evidently before your eyes, yet ought you not to regard their counsels, because they seek to turn you from God to a poor perishing and worthless idol ; from God, who has redeemed you by the blood of his only dear Son, and given you all things in and with him, to an idol, that never has done any thing for you, nor ever can. Be firm therefore, even though your father or your mother, your brother or your sister, or even the wife of your own bosom, should seek to turn you from the Lord. Your plain answer to them all is, “ Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Whatever temptations they offer, or menaces they employ, let nothing induce you to draw back from following the Lord fully “Be faithful unto death; and he will give you a crown of life.”
GUILT AND DANGER OF DEPARTING FROM GOD. Deut. xiii. 6-11. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or
thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him; but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.
THERE is a striking difference between the laws of man and the laws of God: those which are framed by human legislators, proportion always the sanctions to the influence which crimes have upon the public welfare: whereas those enacted by our heavenly Lawgiver, mark with greater severity the evils which more immediately affect his own honour and glory. If one man robbed or maimed another, his law required only a four-fold restitution, or the infliction of a punishment precisely similar to the injury sustained: but if a man, even the dearest relative they had, should only propose to any of his people to worship another god in preference to Jehovah, he must instantly be brought before the magistrates, and, on conviction of the offence, be stoned to death.
It will be proper to consider this ordinance in a two-fold view I. As a temporary enactment
This enactment, or law, appears at first sight to be severe: but we undertake to shew that it was, 1. Just, as it respected the individual
[The greatest crimes against any human government are treason, and murder; and, by the general consent of mankind, the principals who are found guilty of those crimes are put to death. Now, in the tempting of men to idolatry, both these crimes were contained : there was treason against the King of kings; and there was murder, not indeed of the bodies, but of the souls, of men. The person who made the proposal, did by that very act endeavour to draw men from their allegiance to God, and to engage them on the side of God's enemy and rival. And, as far as his endeavours were attended with success, he eternally destroyed all who complied with his solicitations. Now compare
the crimes, and see whether those committed against God and the souls of men be not infinitely more heinous than those which reach no further than to human governments, and the bodily life: and, if they be, the justice of the punishment annexed to them will admit of no doubt: it will be just, that He whose throne we would subvert, should inflict upon us the penalty of death; and that they whom we would ruin for ever, should be made the executioners of that sentence.] 2. Merciful, as it respected the public
[The Jews had been nurtured in the midst of an idolatrous nation; and, after their settlement in Canaan, they were surrounded with idolaters on every side. Moreover they were of themselves exceedingly addicted to idolatry. But the consequence of their departure from God would be, that they would bring his heaviest judgments upon them, and be reduced to a more calamitous condition than any people under heaven. But God was graciously pleased to put a barrier in their way, which, it might be hoped, they should never be able to pass. He not only annexed the penalty of death to an act of idolatry, but even to a proposal to commit that sin: yea, to prevent such a proposal from being ever made, he not only authorized, but commanded, the person to whom it was made, to give immediate information of it to the magistrates, and to be the first in inflicting the punishment of death. If the person making the proposal should be ever so dear to him, though it should be his own brother, or son or daughter, or even the wife of his bosom, or his friend that is as his own soul, he must make no difference; he must shew no respect of persons whatever : “ Thou shalt not consent unto him, says God, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceai hím; but thou shalt surely kill him :" all natural affection must be laid aside, and be swallowed up in a concern for God's honour; and the man himself must become the informer, the witness, and the executioner, even where the delinquent is dearer to him than his own soul. What child, what wife, what friend, if he had conceived an idolatrous inclination in his heart, would dare to mention it, when the person to whom he should mention it was precluded from all exercise of mercy, and was constrained to proceed against him according to this law? Thus then provision was made to prevent the possibility, as it should seem, of the nation ever yielding to idolatry, or provoking God to abandon them according to the threatenings which he had denounced against them. We are informed in the text that the very execution of this law was designed to produce this salutary effecta ; and therefore much more must the enactment of it be an expression of love and mercy to the whole nation.]
This law indeed was only temporary: it was to continue in force only during the continuance of the Jewish polity: but it is nevertheless most instructive
II. As a lasting admonition
To the very end of time it will speak loudly to us; it declares to us, in the strongest terms, 1. The evil of departing from God
[The annexing of the penalty of death, and of so cruel a death as that of stoning, is of itself no slight intimation of the evil of idolatry: but the requiring a man to execute this sentence against the wife of his bosom, or the friend that is as his own soul; the requiring him to do it even on account of a mere proposal, though the proposal was never carried into effect; the not suffering him to overlook or conceal the matter, but constraining him instantly to enforce the law without pity; how was it possible for God' himself to mark the evil of this sin in blacker colours, or to shew his abhorrence of it in a stronger manner, than by such an enactment as this? The command to destroy a whole city for idolatry was scarcely a more awful demonstration of his anger than this.
But it may be said, “ This was idolatry, a sin to which we have no temptation.” It was idolatry: but permit me to ask, wherein the great evil of idolatry consists? Is it not in alienating our affections from God, and placing them on some creature ? Is it not justly described by the Apostle as “ loving and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore ?” Is it not in this very view of the subject that covetousness is called idolatry, and that men are said to make “a god of their belly ?” Is it not in this view that St. John says to all the Christian Church, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols?” What then does it signify, that we are not bowing down to stocks and stones, if there be idols enthroned in our hearts? God is equally provoked to jealousy, a ver. 11.