|« Prev||OBJ. III. Jews partook of the Passover.||Next »|
Those in Israel, who made no profession of piety of heart, did according to divine institution partake of the passover; a Jewish sacrament, representing the same things, and a seal of the very same covenant of grace, with the Lord’s supper; and particularly, it would be unreasonable to suppose, that all made a profession of godliness whom God commanded to keep that first passover in Egypt, which the whole congregation were required to keep, and there is no shadow of any such thing as all first making a solemn public profession of those things wherein true piety consists: and so the people in general partook of the passover, from generation to generation; but it would be improbable to suppose, that they all professed a supreme regard to God in their hearts.
Answ. 1. The affair of the Israelites’ participation of the passover, and particularly that first passover in Egypt, is attended with altogether as much difficulty in regard to the qualifications which the objectors themselves suppose requisite in communicants at the Lord’s table, as with regard to those which I insist upon; and if there be any argument in the case, it is fully as strong an argument against their scheme, as mine.
One thing they insist upon as a requisite qualification for the Lord’s supper, is a public profession of religion as to the essential doctrines of it. But there is no more public profession of this kind, preceding that passover in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness. Here, not to insist on the great doctrines of the fall of man, of our undone state by nature, of the Trinity, of our dependence on the free grace of God for justification, &c. let us take only those two doctrines of a future state of rewards and punishments, and the doctrine of the Messiah to come, that Messiah who was represented in the passover. Is there any more appearance, in sacred story, of the people making a public profession in Egypt of these doctrines, before they partook of the passover, than of their making profession of the love of God? And is there any more probability of the former, than of the latter? Another thing which they on the other side suppose necessary to a due attendance on the Lord’s supper, is, that when any have openly been guilty of gross sins, they should before they come to this sacrament, openly confess and humble themselves for their faults. Now it is evident by many scriptures, that a great part of the children of Israel in Egypt had been guilty of joining with the Egyptians in worshipping their false gods, and had lived in idolatry. But the history in Exodus gives us no account of any public solemn confession of, or humiliation, for this great sin, before they came to the passover. Mr. Stoddard observes, (Appeal, p. 58, 59.) that there was in the church of Israel a way appointed by God for the removal of scandals; men being required in that case to offer up their sacrifices, attended with confession and visible signs of repentance. But where do we read of the people offering up sacrifices in Egypt, attended with confession, for removing the scandal of that most heinous sin of idolatry they had lived in? Or is there any more probability of their publicly professing their repentance and humiliation for their sin, before their celebrating the passover, than of their publicly professing to love God above all? Another thing which they suppose to be requisite in order to admission to the Lord’s table, and about which they would have a particular care to be taken, is, that every person admitted give evidence of a competent knowledge in the doctrines of religion, and none be allowed to partake who are grossly ignorant. Now there is no more appearance of this with regard to the congregation in Egypt, than of a profession of godliness; and it is as difficult to suppose it. There is abundant reason to suppose, that vast numbers in that nation, consisting of more than a million of adult persons, had been brought up in a great degree of ignorance, amidst their slavery in Egypt, where the people seem to have almost forgotten the true God and the true religion. And though pains had been taken by Moses, now for a short season, to instruct the people better; yet it must be considered, it is a very great work, to take a whole nation under such degrees of ignorance and prejudice, and bring every one of them to a competent degree of knowledge in religion; and a greater work still for Moses both thus to instruct them, and also by examination or otherwise, to come to a just satisfaction, that all had indeed attained to such knowledge.
Mr. Stoddard insists, that if grace be requisite in the Lord’s supper, it would have been as much so in the passover, inasmuch as the chief thing which the passover (as well as the Lord’s supper) represents, is Christ’s sufferings. But if, on this account, the same qualifications are requisite in both ordinances, then it would be as requisite that the partakers should have knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, (in Mr. Stoddard’s sense of 1 Cor. xi. 29..) in the passover, as in the Lord’s supper. But this certainly is as difficult to suppose, as that they professed godliness. For how does it appear, that the people in general who partook of the passover—knew that it signified the death of the Messiah, and the way in which he should make atonement for sin by his blood? Does it look very likely that they should know this, when Christ’s own disciples had not knowledge thus to discern the Lord’s body in the passover, of which they partook from year to year with their Master? Can it be supposed, they actually knew Christ’s death and the design of it to be thereby signified, when they did not so much as realize the fact itself, that Christ was to die, at least not till the year before the last passover? Besides, how unreasonable would it be, to suppose, that the Jews understood what was signified, pertaining to Christ and salvation by him, in all those many kinds of sacrifices, which they attended and partook of, and all the vast variety of ceremonies belonging to them; all which sacrifices were sacramental representations of Christ’s death, as well as the sacrifice of the passover! The apostle tells us, that all these things had a shadow of good things to come, the things concerning Christ: and yet there are many of them, which the church of Christ to this day does not understand; though we are under a thousand times greater advantage to understand them, than they were. For we have the New Testament, wherein God uses great plainness of speech, to guide us, and live in days wherein the vail which Moses put over his face is taken away in Christ, and the vail of the temple rent, and have the substance and antitype plainly exhibited, and so have opportunity to compare these with those shadows.
If it be objected, as a difficulty that lies against our supposing a profession of godliness requisite to a participation of the passover, that they who were uncircumcised were expressly forbidden to partake, and if conversion was as important and a more important qualification than circumcision, why were not the unregenerate as expressly forbidden? I answer; Why were not scandalous sinners as expressly forbidden? And why was not moral sincerity as expressly required as circumcision?
If it be objected, that they were all expressly and strictly required to keep the passover; but if grace was requisite, and God knew that many of the partakers would have no grace, why would he give such universal orders?
I answer; When God gave those commands, he knew that the commands, in all their strictness, would reach many persons who in the time of the passover would be without so much as moral sincerity in religion. Every man in the nation, from the first institution till the death of Christ, were all (excepting such as were ceremonially unclean, or on a journey) strictly required to keep the feast of passover; and yet God knew that multitudes would be without the qualification of moral seriousness in religion. It would be very unreasonable to suppose, that every single person in the nation was morally serious, even in the very best time, or that ever there was such a happy day with any nation under heaven, wherein all were morally sincere in religion. How much then was it otherwise many times with that nation, which was so prone 465 to corruption, and so often generally involved in gross wickedness! But the strict command of God to keep the passover reached the morally insincere, as well as others; they are no where excepted, any more than the unconverted. And as to any general commands of God’s word, these no more required men to turn from a state of moral insincerity before they came to the passover, than they required them to turn from a graceless state.
But further, I reply, that God required them all to keep the passover, no more strictly than he required them all to love the Lord their God with their whole heart. And if God might strictly command this, he might also strictly command them to keep that ordinance wherein they were especially to profess it, and seal their profession of it. That evil generation were not expressly forbidden to keep the passover in succeeding years, for the whole forty years during which they went on provoking God, very often by gross sin and open rebellion; but still the express and strict commands for the whole congregation to keep the passover reached them, nor were they released from their obligation.
If it be said, that we must suppose multitudes in Israel attended the passover, from age to age, without such a visibility of piety as I have insisted on; and yet we do not find their attending this ordinance charged on them as a sin, in Scripture: I answer; We must also suppose that multitudes in Israel, from age to age, attended the passover, who lived in moral insincerity, yea and scandalous wickedness. For the people in general very often notoriously corrupted themselves, and declined to ways of open and great transgression; and yet there is reason to think, that in these times of corruption, for the most part, they held circumcision and the passover; and we do not find their attending on these ordinances under such circumstances, any more expressly charged on them as a sin, than their coming without piety of heart. The ten tribes continued constantly in idolatry for about 250 years, and there is a ground to suppose, that in the mean time they ordinarily kept up circumcision and the passover. For though they worshipped God by images, yet they maintained most of the ceremonial observances of the law of Moses, called the manner of the God of the land, which their priests taught the Samaritans who were settled in their stead, 2 Kings xvii. 26, 27.. Nevertheless we do not find Elijah, Elisha, or other prophets, reproving them for attending these ordinances without the required moral qualifications. Indeed there are some things in the writings of the prophets, which may be interpreted as a reproof of this; but no more as a reproof of this, than of attending God’s ordinances without a gracious sincerity and true piety of heart and life.
How many seasons were there, wherein the people in general fell into and lived in idolatry, that scandal of scandals, in the times of the judges, and of the kings both in Judah and Israel! But still amidst all this wickedness, they continued to attend the sacrament of circumcision. We have every whit as much evidence of it, as that they attended the passover without a profession of godliness. We have no account of their ever leaving it off at such seasons, nor any hint of its being renewed (as a thing which had ceased) when they came to reform. Though we have so full an account of the particulars of Josiah’s reformation, after the long and scandalous reign of Manasseh, there is no hint of any reviving of circumcision, or returning to it after a cessation. And where have we an account of the people being once reproved for attending this holy sacrament while thus involved in scandalous sin, in all the Old Testament? And where is this once charged on them as a sin, any more than in the case of unconverted persons attending the sacrament of the passover?(
Answ. 2. Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the Old-Testament dispensation, I humbly conceive it is nothing to the purpose in the present argument, nor needful to determine us with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the christian dispensation, which is a matter of such plain fact in the New Testament. Far am I from thinking the Old Testament to be like an old almanack out of use; nay, I think it is evident from the New Testament, that some things which had their first institution under the Old Testament, are continued under the New; for instance, the acceptance of the infant-seed of believers as children of the covenant with their parents; and probably some things belonging to the order and discipline of christian churches, had their first beginning in the Jewish synagogue. But yet all allow that the Old-Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances; and I think, in a matter pertaining to the constitution and order of the New-Testament church—a matter of fact, wherein the New Testament itself is express, full, and abundant—to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless, and out of reason. There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ. 560560 On this “precise agreement and difference,” Dr. Owen has written with admirable clearness in his Exposition to the Epistle to the Hebrews and the prefixed exercitation.—W. And probably the reason why God has left it so intricate, is, because our understanding the ancient dispensation, and God’s design in it, is not of so great importance, nor does it so nearly concern us. Since God uses great plainness of speech in the New Testament, which is as it were the charter and municipal law of the christian church, what need we run back to the ceremonial and typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein God’s declared design was, to deliver divine things in comparative obscurity, hid under a veil, and involved in clouds?
We have no more occasion for going to search among the types, dark revelations, and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament, to find out whether this matter of fact concerning the constitution and order of the New-Testament church be true, than we have occasion for going there to find out whether any other matter of fact, of which we have an account in the New Testament, be true; as particularly, whether there were such officers in the primitive church as bishops and deacons, whether miraculous gifts of the Spirit were common in the apostles’ days, whether the believing Gentiles were received into the primitive christian church, and the like.
Answ. 3. I think, nothing can be alleged from, the Holy Scripture, sufficient to prove a profession of godliness to be not a qualification requisite in order to a due and regular participation of the passover.
Although none of the requisite moral qualifications for this Jewish sacrament, are near so clearly made known in the Old Testament, as the qualifications for the christian sacraments are in the New; and although a supposed visibility of either moral sincerity or sanctifying grace, is involved in some obscurity and difficulty; yet I would humbly offer what appears to me to be the truth concerning that matter, in the things that follow.
(1.) Although the people in Egypt before the first passover, probably made no explicit public profession at all, either of their humiliation for their former idolatry or of present devotedness of heart to God; it being before any particular institution of an express public profession, either of godliness, or repentance in case of scandal: yet I think, there was some sort of public manifestation, or implicit profession of both.—Probably in Egypt they implicitly professed the same things, which they afterwards professed more expressly and solemnly in the wilderness. The Israelites in Egypt had very much to affect their hearts, before the last plague, in the great things that God had done for them; especially in some of the latter plagues, wherein they were so remarkably distinguished from the Egyptians. They seem now to be brought to a tender frame, and a disposition to show much respect to God; (see Exod. xii. 27..) and were probably now very forward to profess themselves devoted to him, and true penitents.
(2.) After the institution of an explicit public profession of devotedness to God, or (which is the same thing) of true piety of heart, this was wont to be required in order to a partaking of the passover and other sacrifices and sacraments 466 that adult persons were admitted to. Accordingly all the adult persons that were circumcised at Gilgal, had made this profession a little before on the plains of Moab. Not that all of them were truly gracious; but seeing they all had a profession and visibility, Christ in his dealings with his church as to external things, acted not as the Searcher of hearts, but as the Head of the visible church, accommodating himself to the present state of mankind; and therefore he represents himself in Scripture as trusting his people’s profession; as I formerly observed.
(3.) In degenerate times in Israel, both priests and people were very lax with respect to covenanting with God, and professing devotedness to him; and these professions were used, as public professions commonly are still in corrupt times, merely as matters of form and ceremony, at least by great multitudes.
(4.) Such was the nature of the Levitical dispensation, that it had in no measure so great a tendency to preclude and prevent hypocritical professions, as the New-Testament dispensation; particularly, on account of the vastly greater darkness of it. For the covenant of grace was not then so fully revealed, and consequently the nature of the conditions of that covenant was not then so well known. There was then a far more obscure revelation of those great duties of repentance towards God and faith in the Mediator, and of those things wherein true holiness consists, and wherein it is distinguished from other things. Persons then had not equal advantage to know their own hearts, while viewing themselves in this comparatively dim light of Moses’ law, as now they have in the clear sun-shine of the gospel. In that state of the minority of the church, the nature of true piety, as consisting in the Spirit of adoption, or ingenuous filial love to God, and as distinguished from a spirit of bondage, servile fear, and self-love, was not so clearly made known. The Israelites were therefore the more ready to mistake for true piety, that moral seriousness and those warm affections and resolutions that resulted from that spirit of bondage, which showed itself in Israel remarkably at mount Sinai; and to which through all the Old-Testament times, they were especially incident.
(5.) God was pleased in a great measure to suffer (though he did not properly allow) a laxness among the people, with regard to the visibility of holiness, and the moral qualifications requisite to an attendance on their sacraments. This he also did in many other cases of great irregularity, under that dark, imperfect, and comparatively carnal dispensation; such as polygamy, putting away their wives at pleasure, the revenging of blood, killing the man-slayer, &c. And he winked at their worshipping in high places in Solomon’s time, (1 Kings iii. 4, 5..) the neglect of keeping the feast of tabernacles according to the law, from Joshua’s time till after the captivity, (Neh. viii. 17..) and the neglect of the synagogue-worship, or the public service of God in particular congregations, till after the captivity, 561561 Prid. Connect. Part I. p. 354—536. and 555, 556. 9th Edit. The word translated synagogues, Psal. lxxiv. 8. signifies assemblies; and is supposed by the generality of learned men to relate to another sort of assemblies. though the light of nature, together with the general rules of the law of Moses, did sufficiently teach and require it.
(6.) It seems to be foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament, that there would be a great alteration in this respect, in the days of the gospel; that under the new dispensation there should be far greater purity in the church. Thus, in the forementioned place in Ezekiel it is foretold, that “those who are [visibly] uncircumcised in heart, should no more enter into God’s sanctuary.” Again, Ezek. xx. 37, 38.. “And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me.” It seems to be a prophecy of the greater purity of those who are visibly in covenant with God. Isa. iv. 3. “And it shall come to pass that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living [i. e. has a name to live, or is enrolled among the saints] in Jerusalem.” Isa. lii. 1. “Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; from henceforth there shall no more come to thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.” Zech. xiv. 21. “And in that day, there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord.”
(7.) This is just such an alteration as might reasonably be expected from what we are taught of the whole nature of the two dispensations. As the one had carnal ordinances, (so they are called Heb. ix. 10..) the other a spiritual service; (John iv. 24..) the one an earthly Canaan, the other a heavenly; the one an external Jerusalem, the other a spiritual; the one an earthly high priest, the other a heavenly; the one a worldly sanctuary, the other a spiritual; the one a bodily and temporal redemption, (which is all that they generally discerned or understood in the passover,) the other a spiritual and eternal. And agreeably to these things, it was so ordered in providence, that Israel, the congregation that should enter this worldly sanctuary, and attend these carnal ordinances, should be much more a worldly, carnal congregation, than the New-Testament congregation. One reason of such a difference seems to be this, viz. That the Messiah might have the honour of introducing a state of greater purity and spiritual glory. Hence God is said to find fault with the ancient dispensation of the covenant, Heb. viii. 7, 8.. And the time of introducing the new dispensation is called the time of reformation, Heb. ix. 10.. And one thing, wherein the amendment of what God found fault with in the former dispensation should consist, the apostle intimates, is the greater purity and spirituality of the church, Heb. viii. 7, 8, 11..
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