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man, that hath heard, and . hath learned of the Fa. ther, cometh unto me. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life : and he, that believeth not the Son, shall not see life : but the wrath of God abideth on him.".
The dispensation of the Spirit is again distin. guished by the following peculiar language. This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel : In the last days,” or under the last dispensations of my grace," saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, upon my servants, and upon my hand-maidens : and they shall prophesy, Jesus, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father, the promise of the Holy Ghost, hath shed forth this" plenitude of grace, the effects of " which ye now see and hear. Repent," therefore," and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost. · For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
If at any time it is to be apprehended, that be. lievers are still carnal, and unrenewed by the Spirit of God, the pastor, who is conversant with these dif. ferent economies of grace, enquires with St. Paul; 6. Have ye received the Holy Ghost, since ye believed ? When others, among his flock, demon. state both by their conversation and conduct, that they are influenced by the Spirit of Christ, he exhorts them in a manner suitable to the glorious dispensation under which they live. Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Your body j: the temple of the Holy Ghost : therefore glorify God, in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Be. filled with the Spirit ; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts unto the Lord. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks."
This language is too elevated for natural inen, who understand it no more than illiterate persons comprehend the most abstruse parts of science. Hence it is necessary, that the faithful minister should acquaint himself with the different conditions and capacities of all his hearers, if he would happily accomodate spiritual things to spiritual men. With out this knowledge, he will, under every dispensation, run the hazard of refusing to advanced christians the solid nourishment they need, and of presenting to the natural man that celestial manna, which his very soul abhors.
THE DIFFERENT DISPENSATIONS ARE PRODUCED
BY THAT LOVELY VARIETY, WITH WHICH THE ALMIGHTY IS PLEASED TO DISTRIBUTE HIS FA. VOURS.
If the light of the Gospel had been due from God to every individual sinner; if he had not been left entirely free in every sense of the word, to impart it to whom, at what time, and in what degree soever was most pleasing to himself; his impartial justice would then have engaged him equally to illuminate all mankind, and he must have caused the Sun of righteousness, immediately after the fall, to have shone out in its meridian brightness. In such case, there would have been but one dispensasion of grace ; and the light of the Gospel would riot have proceeded to its highest glory, by such just grada. tions, as are observable in all the productions of nature.
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But the Almighty has proceeded in the work of our redemption, according to the dictates of his own unerring wisdom, and not upon the plans of our pretended sages. The day of the Gospel, whether it be considered as enlightening the world in general, or the heart in particular, rises, like the natural day, from one degree of brightness to another, till all its glories are fully manifested.
The confusion which many divines have spread over this part of theology, makes it necessary to go into particulars, that we may place in a just point of view, both the gradations and the harmony of those three dispensations, which collectively form the glorious Gospel of God.
If some naturalists were determined to confine their observations upon the rainbow, to those lines in it that are manifestly red; if naturalists of another class as were obstinate in contemplating those of an orange hue; and if others were as resolutely bent in singling out those of a blue colour; they would contradict and dispute with each other in as ridiculous a manner, as many ignorant worshippers of the triune God are observed to do at this day. Thus deists dispute for the honour of God the Creator; and while some christians pay all their homage to God the Redeemer, others are as wholly taken up with God the Sanctifier. Amidst all the confusion of these jarring sentiments, the prudent pastor admils, in their proper place, the various dispensations of Evangelical light, conducting his followers from faith to faiih, till he beholds them illuminated with all the truths, and experiencing all the power of the christian religion.
We acknowledge that God is just, though the light of the natural sun approaches us only in a gradual manner, producing a constant variety both in our days and seasons. We do not accuse the supreme Being of injustice, because he is not pleased to bring
the fruits of the earth, in an instant to their highest maturity ; or because the same species of fruit, which is esteemed for its delicious flavour in one climate, is found worthless and insipid in another. And if the Sovereign of the world is nol expected to ripen on a sudden, either the reason of individuals, or the knowledge of nations, it should not be matter of surprize to observe him acting in his, usual manner, with respect to things of a spiritual nature. His plans are all equally wise : but it is impossible for man to form a perfect judgment of them, unless the creature could stand for a moment in the place of the Creator, snd take one comprehensive view of earth and heaven, time and eternity. If,“ one day is with the Lord as a thousand years," when he is pleased in an unexpected manner, to fulfil his grand designs : " and a thousand years as one day," when he sees good to accomplish his purposes in a more gradual way: why should it so strangely afflict and amaze us, that he has left the human race in a state of suspence, with regard to his unsearchable counsels, for near six thousand years? The time is coming when he will discover to us that stupendous plan, which, in our present circumstances, we coniem. plate with every disadvantage ; and just as an animalcule, whose life is limited to six hours, would contemplate the plan of an immense palace, which a skilful architect had promised to complete in as many years. Supposing such an insect endued with reason, and coming into existence during the night, should blindly crawl among the loose materials of which the intended edifice was to be constructed ; what opinion could it form either of the architect, or his plan? Would not this insignificant creature be led to judge of these malters, as the pretended philosopher inconsiderately judges of that mysterious plan, upon which the Almighty is erecting the tem. ple of truth, and creating an incorruptible world ? If the Creator thought it necessary to employ six days in completing the beauties of the material world ; and if the Redeemer judges it expedient, progressively lo perfect the more lasting beauties of a spi. ritual world during six of his more ample days; bow little reason have we to despise the comprehensive design ; especially, when we consider six thou. sand years are far more inconsiderable in comparison of eternity, than six atoms in comparison with this terrestrial globe ?
Now if such a plan is not only reasonable, but has been evidently adopted by him, who "giveth not account of any of his matters," it is undoubiedly true, that those who have lived in different periods of time, have not been permitted to enjoy all the various truths, which God has successively revealed to man. Nevertheless, it is equally certain, that every man, in what period of time, and in what peculiar circumstances socver he found himself placed has received sufficient light to discover, as well as sufficient power to perform, what God has been pleased to require at his hands.
The day of evangelical truth is graciously allow. ed to all mankind, that they may thereby be assisted to discover, to love, and to obey their celestial Pa.. rent: and finally that they may reach the mark of their high destination, which is the enjoyment of those different degrees of blessedness, which are reserved for the different classes of the faithful. Let us consider the morning of this sacred day. When the first man had extinguished in his heart the light of truth and the fire of charity ; when he became sufficiently stupid to think of concealing himself from his God among the trees of the garden, and sufficiently impious to throw the blame of his offence upon his companion in transgression, instead of confessing his disobedience with all its aggrava. tions : it is evident, that man was then without Chiist, i. e. without a Saviour, without hope, and without God in the world." In that night of error,