Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

LECTURE XX.

Sketch of the Jewish Theocracy - A dispensation of Typical

Rites, and therefore inapplicable to the Kingdom of Christ, Deplorable Results of its Adoption by Constantine and the Clergy of his day Persecution of Heretics erroneonsly founded upon it Retrospect of the original Constitution of the Christian Church-Mosheim's Account of the Primitive Bishops--Character of the Clergy of Constantine's DayMistaken Conduct of the Emperor-Origin of Church Revenues-Glance at the Abuses in our day-Recapitulation and Improvement. A. D. 300 to 400.

Having, in the last Lecture, entered into an investigation of the grounds of Ecclesiastical Establishments of Christianity, and, I hope, satisfactorily shown that the least objectionable of them is unnecessary, untenable, unscriptural,--in a word, such as the spiritual nature of the Redeemer's Kingdom protests against I might here rest the matter ; but the subject is of such vital interest, that it may be useful to enlarge further upon it before we proceed, and to trace out some of the most glaring evils which naturally result, and actually have resulted, from mingling the devices of men with divine institutions.

The student of Ecclesiastical History, who bends his attention to the subject and investigates the principles on which the advocates of national establishments of Christianity have in all ages proceeded, will find that they are mostly to be traced to a perverse and imprudent imitation of the old economy, or Jewish Theocracy. Princes and politicians have mistakenly imagined, that a government must, of course, be so much the more perfect

[ocr errors]

as it approached the Israelitish polity, instituted by Jehovah himself. This seems to have been the ground taken by Constantine and the Clergy of his day ; but unhappily overlooking the difference between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and not properly recollecting that the same wise institution does not agree with all times, places, and nations; and that all laws cannot be adapted to every form of government. Those individuals to whose guidance and direction the affairs of Christ's Kingdom have, from time to time, been entrusted, would have acted more wisely had they always well attended to the difference of the two economies, distinguishing the external from the spiritual kingdom,-in other words, discriminating between the kingdom of David and the kingdom of Christ. As this subject hạs been much misunderstood in almost every age of the church, from the days of Constantine to the present; as much learning and talent have been employed in order to obscure and mystify it; and as the misunderstanding of it has been the source of incalculable evil and corruption in the church, it may be useful to enlarge a little upon it in this place.

The form of government established in the kingdom of David was, properly speaking, a Theocracy. God himself condescended to become the political Sovereign of the nation of Israel, performed all the functions of an earthly monarch, and received the customary homage of a temporal king. To us it may appear, at first sight, beneath the dignity of the Supreme Lord of heaven and earth to be chosen the king of a particular people ; to be present as such by an external indication ; to dwell first in a tabernacle, afterwards in a splendid palace ; there to have his table, his altar, and his ministers; to be honoured with external splendour and pomp; to go forth with, and command the army in war ; to legislate, to execute the laws, and do all things that pertain to the office of an earthly Sovereign. Yet this form of Government, instituted by the Most High for the wisest and most worthy reasons, was the constitution in all respects best adapted to the purposes which infinite wisdom had in view, in separating the Hebrews from the surrounding nations, and taking them into covenant with himself. This constitution of things could not take place without the formation-of many laws and various institutes, which had their use in that

[ocr errors]

THE KINGDOM OF DAVID A THEOCRACY. 375 economy; but suited only to the nature of that government, which being abolished, they consequently disappeared, having answered the end for which they were ordained. The whole economy was typical; and therefore the ceremonial and religious statutes of that kingdom should not be incorporated into the kingdom of Christ, which is established in the minds of men, and is, in fact, the truth and substance of the former economy. In the Jewish theocracy, or kingdom of David, the same divine personage was king of the people and head of the church. The political and ecclesiastical laws were mingled together, and the government was a singular compound of political and ecclesiastical ingredients; for the same individuals were rulers of the church and of the city:

In such a constitution of church and state, the divine dignity, the majesty of the Great Supreme, must have been transcendantly great; so also was the authority of the high-priest, for he was prime minister of their God and King: the ordinary priests also enjoyed extraordinary prerogatives. As the honoured ministers of their God and King, they possessed a typical holiness, and were regarded as sacred and reverend. Subordinate to them was a class of ecclesiastics termed Levites, who, with the priests, were set apart to officiate in holy rites; these alone approached the altar and entered into the holy temple. At the head of this hierarchy was the high-priest, adorned with a regal diadem, arrayed in royal habiliments, and invested with the title of Prince. He exclusively appeared in the holiest of all, before the throne of the celestial majesty, and, by his own authority he regulated the whole worship of God, according to the prescribed form in the law of Moses. He, with the other priests and elders of Israel, constituted the court of judicature, not only in sacred causes, but also in such as were civil and criminal.From their sentence there was no appeal; and the man who refused to obey was punished capitally as being guilty of high treason.

Now, to enter into the import of this singular constitution of things, we must constantly bear in mind that it was a system of types ;-these high-priests, who were at once both kings and priests, were types or figures of the Messiah, who is at once the Great High Priest over the house of God and King of Zion, or the true church, according to the prophecy of Zech. vi. 13, where, alluding to the Messiah, it is said, “ He shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory; and he shall. sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne ; and the council of peace shall be between them both,” that is, between the kingly and priestly offices of Christ.

I have presented you with this brief outline of the Jewish theocracy, or kingdom of David, for this special reason, because, as I shall have many occasions hereafter to show, it became the pattern, platform, and object of imitation to the clergy in the days of Constantine the Great ; and, when once adopted and followed out in the church of Rome, it issued in “ Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” At present I may remark, that the genius of the kingdom of Christ is so essentially different from the old economy, that any attempt at imitation must argue the grossest ignorance or perverseness of mind. Christ's kingdom is not of this world ; it is internal, spiritual, heavenly; a kingdom of truth and peace and righteousness ; supported by no external force, disdaining all human pomp and display, propagated only in a way of -instruction; and all the real subjects of it are equals and brethren. He alone is Priest and King; and the only standing officebearers in it are elders and deacons ; the former appointed to labour in the ministry of the word, dispense his ordinances, and rule his house ; and the latter to serve tables, or take care of the poor. In the simplicity of New Testament worship, as instituted by the apostles in Christ's name and exemplified in the primitive churches, there is nothing to minister to the pride of the human heart, but every thing the reverse ;-it holds out no iuducement to any man to accept the office of a bishop or overseer, but the promise of a crown of glory to the faithful servant when the chief shepherd shall appear; and, in the mean time, the servant of the Lord is called to tread in the footsteps of the great leader, the Captain of salvation, and set an example to the flock in faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, humility, and every Christian virtue. But these things were far from meeting the approbation, or the views and wishes, of the leaders of religion in the days of Constantine. Dazzled with the ancient lustre of the sacred order under the Jewish dispensation, they broached the distinction between the clergy and the laity,*

* The distinction between the Clergy and the Laity. The terms are derived from two Greek words, viz. xanpos, lot or inheritance, and 2005, people. The plain inten

THE JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN KINGDOMS CONTRASTED. 377

which became the fruitful parent of the various prerogatives of the ecclesiastical order; and in process of time there were to be found in the Christian church new high-priests lording it over their brethren, and arrogating to themselves the supreme dominion on earth in matters both sacred and civil.

Under the former dispensation, God, as the King of Israel, was publicly honoured with great splendour and show. The most holy place of the temple was the fixed abode of his majesty; and here all glittered with gold, all shone with pomp and grandeur, every thing manifested royal magnificence, whether we contemplate the splendid temple with the courts and edifices annexed; the hierarchy of ecclesiastics, composed of ministers, prime and subordinate; the costly furniture; or, finally, the manner of worship, including the music, vocal and instrumental. This pomp and splendour of the Jewish church, which were all designed to be typical of the glory of the Messiah's reign --a glory wholly internal, spiritual, and heavenly, consisting in the remission of sins, peace with God, adoption into his family, the enjoyment of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, and the hope of a blessed immortality—this outward pomp and splendour in the days of Constantine began to find its way into the temples of professed Christians, and polluted their rational and spiritual worship. Numerous rites that were purely of Jewish origin were, from time to time, adopted and incorporated-ridiculous processions, the tonsure of the clergy, the preparation of lights commonly kindled in the churches, lustral water, various anoint

tion was to suggest, that the former, the pastors, or clergy, were selected and contradistinguished from the multitude, as being in the present world, by way of eminence, God's peculium, or special inheritance. It is impossible to conceive a claim in appearance, or in reality, worse founded. Under the former dispensation, we find Moses, in an address to God, speaking of the whole nation of Israel as God's people and clergy. They are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power,” Deut. ix. 29. Here the same persons are in the same sentence declared to be both the naos, people, and xanpos, clergy, SEPT. : they were at once both laymen and clergy! When we recur to the use of the term in the New Testament, we find the apostle Peter giving a charge to the elders or pas, tors, “ not to be lords over God's clergy, xanpwr, or heritage, but to be examples to the flock," 1 Peter v. 3. Here we find the flock, committed to the charge of overseers, elders, or pastors, termed God's heritage, or clergy. There is therefore no foundation for this arrogant distinction, either in the Old or New Testament. See Dr. Geo. Campbell's Ecclesiastical History, Lect. ix.

« ZurückWeiter »