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I. When the Gospel made progress among the Gentiles, by means of the preaching of Paul and and Barnabas; that is, at the commencement of this dispensation, and when a controversy arose at Antioch respecting the circumcision of the Gentile converts; a council of the apostolical church was called together at Jerusalem, to consider and determine the point in dispute. In that council Peter referred to the special revelation by which he had been led, some time before, to go and preach in the house of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion ; upon which James made the following remarkable comment : Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles,
A PEOPLE FOR HIS
Now, if we believe (as we profess to
* Acts xv. 14-17. To this agree the words of the Prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up ; that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called saith the Lord, who doeth all these things."
After this I will return ! After what? After a period of desertion, during which the house of David shall be desolate and broken down. After such a period I will return to it, and build it up. But during that period what is to be done? Is God to be without a people on the earth, while he is turned away from the Jewish people, and until he returns to them? No. In the interim he hath visited the Gentiles, to take
, out of them a people for his name. To this agree the words
do) that this is not merely the opinion of the Apostle, but that he spake these words as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, then we have here a distinct declaration of God himself that the design of this dispensation is to take and save a people out of the Gentiles, which is certainly a very different thing from converting and blessing all the families of the earth. On this point proofs may be multiplied from the experience, the number, and the character of the real disciples of Jesus Christ, as largely described in the New Testament.
Concerning the experience of true believers under this dispensation, we read, 2 Tim. iii. 12,
of the Prophets, who say, after this I will return; and I will build again what was fallen down. What is it that is thus described as fallen down and deserted for a season, and afterwards built up again as in days of old ? (Compare Amos ix, 11,) Clearly the Jewish nation, the consequence of whose restoration is immediately added, that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, even all the Gentiles.
Thus there is first a period revealed, during which the Jews would be trodden down; and the characteristic of this period is, a people taken out of the Gentiles. Then, secondly, after this, a period at which the Jews will be lifted up again. And, thirdly, a period immediately consequent, when all the Gentiles will call upon the Lord. Such is the apostolical order, —
1. The casting away of the Jews.
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;" Matt. v 11, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake;" also, John xv. 19, “If
ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you;" Luke xii. 51-53, “ Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you nay, but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter-in law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law ;" Matt. x. 36, “And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Concerning the number of true believers, we read, Matt. xxii. 14, “ Many are called, but few are chosen;" Matt. vii. 13, 14, 21, 22, 23, “Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you ; depart from me ye that work iniquity.”
Concerning the character of true believers, we read, 1 John ii. 15. “Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” James iv. 4, “The friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, he is the enemy of God." 2. Cor. vi. 17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” “ And I beseech you, by the mercies of God," saith the Apostle, “that ye be not conformed to this world.” Rom. xii. 1, 2.
These passages of Scripture avowedly belong to this dispensation. They have applied in every age, and do still apply to the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. On the supposition, that we have rightly interpreted the language of James, at the council of Jerusalem, and that the design of this dispensation is to take a people out of the
Gentiles, these Scriptures will continue to apply till the end of this dispensation; but on the supposition, that the dispensation is to enlarge itself by degrees into the universal blessedness predicted by the prophets, then these Scriptures will not continue to apply. And who is to determine at what point of the progress they cease to be applicable? If the world become Christian, the world will no longer persecute Christians. If all the families of the earth be blessed with eternal life, the way of life will be no longer narrow. If the world become Christian, then Christians cannot separate from the world. It is obvious, that in the passage from our present state to a state of universal holiness, these characteristic sayings of the New Testament must cease to have any application, and become obsolete, not to say false. . And again, I ask, who is to determine at what point of the progress they cease to apply? If it be answered, when the more favourable circumstances of the church cease to require them: the question recurs, who is to judge of those circumstances ? Some persons in this country think that already true religion is not thus exposed to hatred and enmity, but only extravagance and enthusiasm, provoking a cross for themselves : while others consider such an opinion as a proof that those who hold it are, themselves, ignorant