covenant; and the obedience to him, which is exacted, imports that he was to be of not less dignity. That is, Moses is made to speak of Christ: the Legislator of the first covenant, to abate the exclusive pretensions of his own ministry, is directed to turn the eyes of his people to his successor, the Prophet of the second.

The scope of this prophecy is strongly decided by the origin and occasion of it. The Israelites could not endure the Voice and Fire of Mount Sinai. They asked an intermediate messenger between God and them, who should temper the awfulness of his voice, and impart to them his will in a milder way. In answer to this their prayer, God declares they had well spoken, and that he would accordingly raise up unto them a Prophet conformable to their desire. How aptly the prophecy, so modified, agrees with the compassionate mildness and condescension of the Christian revelation, both in the spirit of that revelation, and the mode of its delivery, any one must immediately see: or St. Paul may lead him to see it, in the contrast which he has drawn between the Law and the Gospel *, in the principle of their terrific and attractive characters, opposed as they are the one to the other: or the Sermon on the Mount, which is Christ's promulgation of his Law, compared with the thunders of Sinai, may satisfy him in the justness of the pro

*Heb. xii. 18-24.

phecy. I ask no more, however, than that an inquirer should admit the prediction in question to bear this sense, viz. that the mission of the second prophet like unto Moses, was to be for a revelation of the divine Will; that will to be revealed by him in a particular way, differing from the terrours of the Law given from Mount Sinai.

That the prediction was understood, in later times at least, in the sense here assigned to it, as relating to one distinguished Prophet, and not to a succession of inferior prophets, is pointedly shewn in the Gospel history, when, at the beginning of Christ's ministry, Philip, like a Jew acquainted with the ancient scriptures, and expecting the prophet to come, concluded Christ to be the person described in the prediction. "We have found him "of whom Moses in the law did write *." The same is its most obvious and natural sense; and in that import I may consider it as having been understood, or as being open to be understood, from the first date of it.

The application made of it by St. Peter and St. Stephen †, strictly determines its sense. This, however, is a determination made after "the Prophet of the Gospel" had appeared, which, as the proper event, clears the prediction; and so much now being seen, there ought to be no doubt as to its real sense, though some Commentators have

• John i. 45.

† Acts iii. 22; vii. 37.

looked for it another way. But our present inquiry is rather how the prophecy could be understood, when given, than since it has been accomplished.

To justify its application to Christ, the resemblance between him and Moses has often been deduced at large, and drawn into a variety of particulars, among which several points have been taken, minute and precarious, or having so little of dignity or clearness of representation in them, that it would be wise to discard them from the prophetic evidence. The great and essential characters of similitude between Christ and Moses are in the fulness and luminous intuition of their communications with God*; the magnitude of the revelations made, and the institution of a Religion founded upon those revelations. In these points, none of the other prophets were like to Moses; and in these, Moses is like to Christ, as the less to his greater. But there is also another resemblance, plainly included in the scope of the prediction, and resting in a quality which began with Moses. For the greatest part of former prophecy had been communicated in oracles and visions from God to Individuals. So it was in the Patriarchal age; and so before; and when some of the Patriarchs were inspired to prophecy, it was only upon the occasion: they had no constant authorized office of that na"A prophet raised up from among hi


See Numbers xii. 6, 7, 8. John i. 19.

"brethren," and set forth as the declared Interpreter of God's will, a living Oracle of divine communication, was hitherto unknown till the mission of Moses; in which sense his own prophetic office is to be distinguished, and in the same sense his prediction of the Prophet, who should come after him, is to be understood.

Let me combine then, and draw to a point the intimations of Prophecy which now existed, implying some further change, or addition to be made, upon the Mosaic Law; intimations either of an earlier date, or concurrent with the Law, and offering themselves to view in a prominent relation with its history. There were, 1. The original promise of a blessing to all the nations of the earth, ratified to Abraham, and renewed again to the other Patriarchs. 2. The prediction of the distinguishing hopes attached to the tribe of Judah. 3. The prophecy of Balaam. 4. That of Moses: the one an oracle put into the mouth of an alien and enemy; the other delivered by the prophet and messenger of the law itself.

Such were the communications extant, and serving to direct the Israelite towards a new, or an enlarged economy of God. They plainly forbade him to rest his views altogether in Canaan, or his law. They gave him reason to look beyond both. We refer the expectation which they respectively raised to the universal grace and blessing; the kingdom;

the revelation; the Prophet, of the Gospel; which satisfies the sense of them all. But yet, if we will place ourselves in the condition of the ancient Israelite, and look at these prophecies with his eye, on his entrance into Canaan, we shall confess that they could not convey to him more than a very indistinct information concerning the things in which they have had their completion. They were “a light shining in a dark place." They were sufficient, however, to create hope and inquiry, and induce men to watch and wait for any future discoveries which God might be pleased to make, and by the scantiness of their information might dispose attentive minds to profit by other more explicit revelations adding to their sense and evidence.

-The intent of Prophecy, therefore, at this period, with respect to the Christian subject, we may conclude to have been to promote the patient inquiries of faith, rather than give to it any clear illumination. There broke forth from the law some few rays of gospel light. They were an evidence, in their kind, of God's eternal purpose in the mission of Christ into the world. The Types of the Law were another, a suppressed evidence, in due time manifesting the same purpose. But it is withal exceedingly plain, that God has chosen to make a great difference, in every material respect, between the state of religion under the Law and under the Gospel, excepting only in the authority of the

« VorigeDoorgaan »