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providence, had prepared the world to receive him. When God had made ready a people prepared for him, then Chrift came, and fully explained the nature, laws, extent, and glory of the kingdom of God, and fulfilled the great and most excellent defigns of divine wisdom, by giving himself a facrifice and propitiation for the fin of the world.

XII. Then the great mystery of God, the calling of other nations, befides the Jews, into his kingdom and church, was opened, and made manifeft by the preaching of the gofpel. For which purpose, he sent out his apostles, furnished with proper powers and credentials, efpecially the gift of tongues, whereby they were inabled to communicate the wonderful things of God to people of different countries. And by this means, the glad tidings of falvation, and the glorious light and privi leges of the gofpel, have reached even to us in Great-Britain, who dwell in the uttermoft parts of the earth.

XIII. But as Christ came to reftore, to explain, and by the most glorious discoveries, and the richeft promises, to inforce the law of nature, the true religion of all nations; and confequently, as his defign was to erect an universal religion, which should recommend itfelf to all people, under their several political diftinctions, and which, therefore, was to interfere with no political establishments, but should leave them, in every country, just as it found them, teaching the nations only to obferve the eternal rules of righteousness in the hope of eternal life; I fay, upon this grand, noble, and extensive plan, the Jewish polity would be funk to a level with all other national governments; and the Jew, on account of any prior national advantages, would have no more claim to the bleffings and privileges of the kingdom of God, than any of the Gentiles, or nations, who, in any of the most barbarous and despised parts of the earth, fhould receive the faith of the gospel. For in the chriftian religion there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcifion nor uncircumcifion, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Chrift, i. e. the faith and obedience, or true religion, which Chrift taught, is all, and in all, Col. iii. 11. Thus the few is fallen from his fuperior claims and privileges; and he falls by that very method of divine wisdom and grace, which brought falvation to all other nations. Thus the diminishing of the Jews is the riches of the world, and the cafting away of them is the reconciling of the world, (Rom. xi. 12, 15.) or the opening a door for the whole world to come into the peculiar kingdom of God.

This is the idea we ought to have of the rejection of the Jews. The grace of God was, and ftill is, as free to them as to other people, upon their embracing the gofpel; but their political conftitution from hence forth gave them no diftinction, or privileges in the kingdom of God above the reft of mankind. And in no long time after the publication of the gospel, their polity and civil conftitution, which otherwise would have remained in full force, and have obliged them to obey its laws, as much as the conftitutions of the other kingdoms of the world obliged their several fubjects, was quite overthrown, by the deftruction of the temple, and the expulfion of the Jews out of the land of Canaan. Which they have not been able to recover, but remain difperfed over the face of the whole earth to this day. Thus the gospel difpenfation was erected, and spread and prevailed every where.

XIV. The

XIV. The next of God's works was the permiting and managing a grand apoftacy and corruption of religion in the chriftian church, foretold by the Apoftles, and at large in the book of the Revelation. After the apoftles were removed out of the world, it pleased God to leave the profeffors of the gofpel, in matters of religion, to their own ignorance, paffions and prepoffeffions. Thus the chriftian faith, by degrees, was depraved, till the Man of Sin arofe, a tyrannical, ufurped power, domineering over, and impofing upon confcience, forbiding the use of underftanding, and intoxicating the inhabiters of the earth with falfe and delufive learning, worldly pomp and fplendor, religious forcery, and cruel perfecution of the truth. This, as it was the propereft mean of producing the most eminent and nobleft characters, was to be a long and fevere trial of the faith and patience of the faints. In the times of this fad difpenfation, it is certain, we are now living; but, we hope, towards the latter end of it. Through the whole courfe of it God hath varioufly ap→ peared, both in wrath upon the corrupters of religion, and in mercy for the comfort and support of those who opposed it. And thus the wheels of providence moved on, till the morning of reformation appeared in our happy land, which, for fome centuries, hath been gradually advancing, and ftill continues to advance, towards the perfect day. For a fpirit of religious liberty, which hath been long oppreffed, revives and gains ftrength, the fcriptures are more carefully ftudied, ecclefiaftical tyranny and perfecution, under every form, more generally detefted; and things feem to have a tendency towards love, unity, and concord, the most perfect ftate of religion in this world.

XV. This must give pleasure to every good man, and he will chearfully join his endeavours to bring on the next glorious dispensation, which we have in profpect, when the mystery of God, with regard to the aforefaid corrupt ftate of religion, shall be finished, when Babylon, in all its principles and powers, fhall fall; when the holy city, the new Ferufalem, fhall come down from Heaven, and God fhall fet up a pure and happy state of the


XVI. How long that state will continue, we do not certainly know. Nor have we any further clear difcoveries of God's works till the awful day of the refurrection, when the Lord himself fhall in person descend from heaven with a fhout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and the trump of God. Then all they that fleep in the duft of the earth shall awake, and fhall be judged, fome to everlafting life, and fome to fhame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wife, under any of the changes and difpenfations of this prefent world, fhall fhine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that work together with God, and endeavour to turn many to righteousness, as the ftars for ever and ever.

Thus I have given a fketch of the works of God from the begining of the world to the confummation of all things. And very beautiful and furprizing would the whole appear, could we see them in a full and clear light. But before we attempt a more particular explication of them in their feveral views, circumftances, and connections, we muft make a few general remarks, which will affift our conceptions and enquiries.



GENERAL REMARKS upon the DIVINE DISPENSATIONS. *****ONCERNING the foregoing difpenfations, we may, in C general, remark, that as they are devifed and executed by God

1. They are all agreable to the most perfect rules of righteousness and truth. Nothing false, unjuft, or injurious, can be charged upon the divine conftitutions. For (Deut. xxxii. 4.) all God's ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; juft and right is he. Pfal. cxlv. 17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy, fteadily acting according to truth, in all his works. See alfo Rev, xv. 3. And therefore they are in perfect confiftence with each other.

H. The ways of God are not to be confidered as the effect of neceffity, as if the end propofed could not poffibly have been otherwife gained; but as the refult of wife choice, or divine prudence, prefering fuch particular methods as preferable to any other; as beft adapted to our circumstances, or, all things confidered, as the moft likely to make mankind wife and happy. For inftance, it is by the difpenfation of God, that our prefent life is fuftained by food; not because it is impoffible we fhould live in any other way, for God could fuftain our life in perfect health and ftrength by an act of his own immediate power. Again, our food is produced by the influence of the fun, by rain, the fertility of the ground, human labor and fkill; not because food could not be otherwife produced, for God could, by an immediate act of his own power, create food for us every day, as he did for the Ifraelites in the wilderness; but this method of fuftaining our life is a contrivance of divine wisdom; to fhew himself to our underftandings, (for had we been fuftained by an immediate act of divine power, we should have been led to imagine, that, not God, but our own nature, had fuftained itself,) and to exercife our virtue and industry in providing a fubfiftence, and to be mutually helpful to each other. Hence the works of God, in fcripture, are affigned to his wisdom. See Pfal. eiv. 24. Prov. viii. 22. Ephef. i. 5, &c.-iii. 9, 10.

III. Affuredly all the difpenfations of God are calculated to promote virtue and happiness. This is the line which runs through the whole, as will appear in our future enquiries into the nature and tendencies of each of them. At prefent it may fuffice to obferve, that however our circumftances may differ from thofe of our firft parents, the end of our being is the fame as theirs; and we, as well as they, are upon trial, in order to our having the habits of holiness formed in us, and our being fited for eternal life. And though it is a fad reflection to confider, how the wickedness of men, hath from time to time fatigued the patience of God, yet it must give us pleasure to obferve, how his goodnefs hath applied various remedies to prevent, or heal, the corruptions of mankind. In what way foever men have gone aftray from him, his wisdom has never been at lofs to find out the most proper expedients to reclaim them.


Evidently his defign is to fave a finful world, and to carry religion both in its perfonal influences, and general prevalence, to the highest perfection our prefent condition will admit*.

IV. The fcriptural difpenfations, which have been enumerated, were feverally adapted to the then capacities and improvements, the moral ftate and circumstances of mankind. The feveral ages of the world may be compared to the feveral ftages of human life, infancy, youth, manhood, and old age. Now, as a man under due culture gradually improves in knowledge and wifdom, from infancy to old age, fo we may conceive of the world, from the begining to the end, as gradually improving in mental and religious attainments under the feveral divine difpenfations+. Which difpenfations have been in every period fuited to the improvements in knowledge and wisdom, which then fubfifted in the world. Adam, when created, may be confidered as a child without knowledge, learning, and experience; and therefore the dispensation he was under, was very different from that, which we are under, who enjoy the benefit and light of fo many preceding difpenfations.

COROLLARY. A preceding difpenfation is intended and adapted to introduce and prepare for that which comes after it. Experience is a natural and certain mean of improving in knowledge and wisdom. This is univerfally true, as well with regard to communities as fingle perfons. It is therefore agreeable to the nature of things, that in a progreffive course of knowledge, and moral improvement, what we already have experienced fhould be a step to further advances; and confequently, in a juft plan or fcheme of difcipline, it is fit, that what goes before, fhould be adapted to clear and establish what is to come after. Thus mankind, reflecting upon preceding difpenfations, will be admonished and directed to reform old errors and corruptions; and thus, even the monsterous apoftacy of the church of Rome may ferve to introduce and establish that most perfect state of christianity, which we expect will fucceed the difpenfation we are now under.

V. All God's difpenfations are in a moral way, and adapted to the nature of rational agents. Exod. xiii. 17. Force and co-action destroy


Now, if fuch a defign fhall appear evidently to run through the Books of the Old and New Teftament, a man may, with infinitely greater propriety, suppose the most perfect drama (where the finest defign is carried on by the best chofen plot, and by the most confiftent underplots, and beautiful, wellproportioned incidents) to have been writ by a number of the greatest madmen or idiots, by piece-meal, in different ages; than imagine a thread of fuch an end and mean runing through above 40 writers, in more than 1600 years, to be the work of fo many enthufiafts. Or, we may as well fuppofe the world to be framed by mere chance; or the moft magnificent, beautiful, and convenient palace, that the imagination can figure to itself, to be built by men unacquainted with all the rules of architecture, in feveral diftant ages, and without any model to build by, and to be fupported by meer chance, through as many more; as imagine fuch an unity of defign and mean, as I have defcribed, to be the refult of enthusiasm and accident mixed together. Ld. Barrington's Efay on the Div. Difpenfations. Part. I. Preface, p. 26.

+ Ages of a Man. 6. 16. 20. 30. 40. 50. 60. 70. Ages of the World. 600. 1600. 2000. 3000. 4000. 5000. 6000. 7000.

the very nature of holiness; and therefore all divine methods of reformation are fo wifely adjusted, as to leave human actions in their proper state of freedom. By none of his works did God ever intend to render wickednefs impracticable; and he hath always provided fufficient fupports for integrity and virtue. With this very fentiment prophecy in Daniel and in the Revelation is fealed up! Rev. xxii. 11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust ftill; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy ftill. That is to fay, there is no cure for the obftinately blind and wicked; neither are the ways of God intended to purify thofe, who will not be made clean; but, after all that God hath done, the wicked (Dan. xii. 10.) shall be left to do wickedly. And none of the wicked will understand, but only the wife will understand. But he that is righteous, let him be righteous ftill; and he that is holy, let him be holy ftill. Hof. xiv. 9. Who is wife, and [for] he shall understand these things? Prudent, and [for] he shall know them? For the ways of Jehovah are right; and the juft fhall walk in them; but the tranfgreffors fball fall in them, The fincere and upright, who choofe the way of truth, or turn from fin unto righteoufnefs, the righteous and merciful God will never forfake. They make a wife improvement of his difpenfations, and, under all trials and difficulties, he will guide and fupport them; and their path fhall be as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day.

COROLLARY. Hence we may conclude-That in computing the progrefs of religion, under any difpenfation, the quantity of knowledge and religion is to be measured only by the improvement of the righteous; and that the wicked, how many foever, are not to be taken into the account, as making any deductions from it. Or, the advances of knowledge and religion, under any difpenfation, are not to be estimated by numbers, but by the proficiency of fingle perfons, how few foever. Noah, a fingle perfon, was, at the time of the deluge, the true ftandard of religious improvement in that age; though all the rest of mankind were exceeding corrupt and


VI. Known unto God are all his works from the begining of the world, faith the apostle James, Acts xv. 18. Then all God's works were formed and planned in his counfels, and lay under his eye in one comprehensive view; and therefore must be perfectly confiftent. One uniform fcheme must be laid, and one even thread of design must run through the whole. They are not the refult of fudden, incoherent thoughts; but a well digefted plan, formed upon the most juft principles by him, who feeth all his works from the begining to the end. Whence it follows, that if we do not difcern one coherent defign in the divine difpenfations, or if we make any one part clash with the reft, we may be fure we do not understand them. Goodnefs was the principle of creation. God made man because be delighted to communicate being and happiness. Confequently, goodnefs and fatherly love, which was the begining and foundation of God's works, must run equally through them all, from firft to last.


VII. Previous notice was given of fome of the principal difpenfations, either for warning, or to prepare men for the reception of them. deluge was preached by Noah 120 years before it came to pafs. The Jewish difpenfation was predicted to Abraham 430 years beforehand. Jeremiah foretold the Babylonish captivity; and Paul, and John at large,


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