The plan of human redemption may be divided, for the purpose of more distinct views of it, into two great periods; — including some subordinate distinctions and periods, to which it is not necessary to give particular attention here.
The first period is that which is antecedent to the coming of Christ; — comprehending the whole interval of time from the fall of Adam to the hour of the Savior’s birth. The second period, having no conclusion which is definitely anticipated and known by men, extends from the advent of Christ to the termination, whenever it may take place, of human history.
In the first period, the only account of which is to be found in the books of the Old Testament, we have the affecting records of human sin and sorrow, interspersed with intimations of better things to come. At an early period, God, who is merciful in his judgments, selected a peculiar people, a chosen generation, to whom he made his communications, and through whom other nations and ages have been taught how widely they have wandered, and in what way they may expect to return. It is in this period that we find the histories of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and many others, whose lives and labors are connected in various ways with the great remedial plan. It is here that we find prophecy added to prophecy; — the faint intimation uttered to the sorrowing hearts of Adam and Eve, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head;"— the promise to the patriarch Abraham, that in his seed "all the nations of the earth should be blessed;" — the prophetic declaration of Jacob, " the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until SHILOH come;" — the remarkable saying of God to Moses, — a saying generally understood by commentators to have a special application to Christ, the greatest of prophets, — "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth;" — and the prophecies of Christ's coming, and of a better and more glorious period, prophecies specific in statement and sublime in imagery, which are found in the writings of Isaiah. [Gen. 3:15; 22:18. Deut. 18:15, 18. Isa. 53.]
It is here, in this first period, that we find intimations and declarations of God's abhorrence of sin; the announcement on Mount Sinai of the eternal principles of the moral law, which sin had obliterated or obscured in the human heart; and indications, some of them of terrible import, that the relations between sin and suffering are unchangeable, and that iniquity cannot go unpunished. The Tabernacle and the Temple, during successive generations, ministered in the development and inculcation of these great truths. Priests and Levites, in the performance of their allotted duties, helped to illustrate and confirm them. They had an expression in offerings and sacrifices, which declared the hopes as well as the transgressions of the world. It was by means of the bleeding sacrifices in particular that the Jews were taught, and other nations were destined to be taught through them, that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission."
The portion of human history, which is illustrated in the records of the Old Testament, is exceedingly interesting and important. The principles which are inculcated, (all those truths and principles which have relation to God, to man's spiritual nature, to sin, redemption, and holiness,) are the same as those in the New; — less distinctly revealed, but not differing in nature. The New is the complement and fulfillment of the Old. And it will be found true, that the Old Testament will be valued, — its history, its poetry, its prophecies, its types, will be studied and gratefully appreciated, — just in proportion as the spirit of the New is felt and realized in the human heart.
— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union Part 7, Chapter 1.