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could not eat with them, and consequently could not keep company with them; and this law has the same effect to this day with the modern Jews. The second intention of it was of a moral or spiritual kind; to suggest a figurative lesson of purity, obedience, and patience, from the various instincts of animals.
Read the 11th chapter of Leviticus, and you will see how the creatures are distinguished. The gentle, tame, and profitable kinds are allowed for food: and all creatures of wild, fierce, or filthy manners, are forbidden. Thus the Israelites were reminded daily by what they ate, what manner of persons they ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness; by what was forbidden, they were taught to abhor the vices of the heathen. So saith the law itself: Ye shall not walk in the vianners of the nations which I cast out before yon—/ am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people; ye shall therefore put a difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean—and ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people that ye should bt* mine*. This passage puts the moral intention of the distinction of meats out of dispute, and
h * Lev. xx. 23, kc.
is indeed a direct affirmation of it: the people of God were to avoid unclean meats, as a sign that he had separated them from unclean Gentiles to be holy unto himself.
But in the fulness of time, when the Gentiles were to be admitted to Christian baptism, and taken into the church with the Jews, this act of grace in the divine ceconomy was signified to St. Peter, by a new licence to feed upon unclean beasts. The case was this: Peter was about to be invited to preach the gospel to Cornelius a Roman, into whose house he could not come; because the law which he had always observed commanded the Jews to keep themselves separate from heathens in their conversation; as, in their diet, they abstained from unclean beasts.
While this matter was depending, Peter fell into a trance, and saw a vision. A great sheet, kjiit at the four corners, was let down to the earth, containing all those living creatures which were forbidden food by the Levitical law, and he was commanded to kill and eat: to which, when he objected, as being contrary to the law, a voice said, what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. The message from Cornelius which immediately followed, shewed the design of this vision; that it sig
VOL. iv. F nified nified the reception and cleansing of the Gentile world, and that the Jews were no longer to count them unclean. So Peter himself thus explained it when he visited Cornelius: Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore those living creatures of all kinds, which had been presented to him in the vision, were the people of all nations; the linen sheet which contained them signified their sanctification by the gospel 5 and it was knit at four corners, to shew that they were gathered together from the four quarters of the world, and brought into the church.
Nothing more need be said to prove that the distinctions amongst men were figuratively expressed under the law by a distinction amongst beasts and birds and all living creatures. In the subtilty of the fox, the fierceness of the tyger, the filthiness of the swine, the impudence of the dog, you see, as in a glass, the manners of those idolatrous nations, from whom the Jews were separated. In the gentleness of the sheep, the integrity of the labouring ox, the innocence and profitableness of other tame creatures fit for food, you see the virtues of an
Israelite Israelite indeed, such as those people ought to be, who were gathered into the fold of the church, and had God for their shepherd. But when God had mercy upon all, and the Jew and Gentile became one fold in Christ Jesus, then this distinction was set aside. However, to all readers of the bible, the moral or spirit of this law is as much in force as ever. Wild, subtile, fierce, unclean manners, are as hateful in Christians, as they were of old in heathens: and the heathens were taken into the church, on condition that they should put off their savage manners; as the unclean creatures had before put off their natures and became tame, when they were admitted into the ark of Noah, a figure of the church. This change was again to happen under the gospel; and the prophet foretells the conversion of the heathens under the figure of a miraculous reformation of manners in wild beasts: the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the failing together; and though they were once so fierce and terrible that a man dared not to come near them, they shall be so changed, that a little child may lead them—they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.
Authors of natural history divide their subF 2 ject ject into three parts, under the heads of animals, plants, and minerals—I would follow the same order to keep my subject within a moderate compass.
Plants are applied to explain the growth of the mind, with its different qualities and productions. Thus preached John the Baptist: The ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which beareth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into the f re. At the transgressions of former times God had winked, and suffered men to walk in their own ways; but now the serious day of reformation was come, and men were commanded to repent or to look for speedy execution; which accordingly came upon the unbelieving Jews, who did not take the Baptists warning. The ax was sharp; and the hand that held it being just and irresistible, it soon laid them level with the ground.
In the first psalm, the righteous man is described as a tree flourishing by the water side, and bringing forth its fruit in due season. Such is he whom the grace of God attends, and whose delight is in meditating day and night upon the law of the Lord; while the ungodly are like unprofitable chaff, driven away by the wind. No fruitless tree will be permitted to