The Kingdom being based on the covenants, the covenants must be carefully examined, and (Prop. 4) the literal language of the same must be maintained.
PROPOSITION 48. The Kingdom being based on the covenants, the covenants must be carefully examined, and (Prop. 4) the literal language of the same must be maintained.
The appointment, arrangement, disposition, or institution of a covenant relation, in whatever (as voluntary, a contract, etc.) light it may be regarded, presupposes two parties; the one who promises or imparts, and the other who will receive or attains. In all earthly transactions, when a promise, agreement, or contract is entered into by which one party gives a promise of value to another, it is universally the custom to explain such a relationship and its promises by the well-known laws of language contained in our grammars or in common usage. It would be regarded absurd and trifling to view them in any other light. (Comp. Prop. 4.)
Obs. 1. Why, then, should this universal rule be laid aside when coming to the covenants of the Bible? If it is important in any mere earthly relationship for the parties to understand each other, and such a comprehension is based on the plain grammatical sense of the language used, is it not equally, yea more, essential in so weighty a case as this; and to insure comprehension of the same is it not most reasonable to expect the same literal language? Indeed, when the covenants embrace the vital interests of a nation and the destiny of the race and the world, is it not requisite that they should be presented in such a form that the parties to whom they are given can readily perceive their meaning, without searching around for another and very different one to be engrafted upon them, or, without waiting for an Origen or Swedenborg to arise and spiritualize them into a proper conception?[*]
Note. It is saddening (it would be crushing to the few believing ones, if this lack of faith—its universality—had not been also predicted) to see how extensively the latter is done by good and great men, thereby darkening knowledge and obscuring the revealed purposes of God. On the other hand, let us firmly hold that the very nature of a covenant demands, that it should be so worded, so plainly expressed, that it conveys a decisive meaning, and not a hidden or mystical one that requires many centuries to revolve in order to develop. Otherwise it becomes deceptive and misleading, fostering a faith that can never be attained, and leading to hopes that can never be realized—which, if unworthy in an earthly transaction between man and man, is more discreditable when the Divine Being becomes a party. No! God never gave the covenants to deceive in their plain, grammatical sense! Men, indeed, say so; learned men declare it so; but this does not make it so—leaving the Word to speak for itself.
Obs. 2. This, however, does not imply, especially if the covenant is a voluntary one on the part of God and contains His merciful purposes of Salvation, that it may not be briefly expressed or concisely stated, and be afterward enlarged by way of additions, by explaining how it will be performed, etc. All this may, indeed, be attached to it for prudential and wise reasons, and yet, as far as given, we are not at liberty to reject the plain meaning presented. And the less so if the additions afterward appended accurately coincide with the express language of the covenants.
Obs. 3. Our Proposition is confirmed by the indisputable fact that God has stamped the grammatical sense as the correct one by literally fulfilling a portion of the covenants. Take e.g. the promised “seed.” He has come from Abraham, through the line of David, in a manner recognizable (implied by the terms) and indicative of His power to redeem and bless. A sufficiency is found in the history of the past to show that these covenants contain a real, substantial, verified grammatical meaning. Hence we are not allowed to change it for something else.[*]
Note. If all the rest contained in these covenants has not yet been thus literally confirmed by fulfilment, we should not hastily limit the Almighty in His dispensational proceedings by rejecting the remainder, or by attaching another meaning to it to suit present circumstances. No! with Abrahamic faith clinging to His revealed intention, at some time, to fulfil them as He has done a part, let us calmly ask, Why has it not all been thus fulfilled? When this question is scripturally answered, and the reasons assigned, which God Himself gives, then, then we shall not only be satisfied to let its plain meaning stand, but rejoice in its precious significance.
Obs. 4. The promises in the covenants are not typical, as many argue (impelled to it by not seeing a present fulfilment, and by a disbelief in a future fulfilment), for a typical character is opposed to the very nature of a covenant. It would in a great measure make the real truth unrecognizable until the appearance of the antitype, and the result would be to enshroud the covenants themselves in conjecture and mystery, which is opposed to the simple fact that God appeals to the covenants as to promises well comprehended. The partial fulfilment of them clearly shows that they are not to be regarded as typical.[*]
Note. As this is a point of great importance, having a marked influence upon the interpretation of much Scripture, a few remarks ought to be appended. Many excellent writers, as Fairbairn and others, make e.g. the inheritance promised to the Patriarchs a typical one, and the proof texts assigned for this are the passages which speak of the saints inheriting the earth, of Abraham being “heir of the world,” etc. But this is a begging of the question, for these passages in no shape or form intimate a typical nature of the inheritance but, on the contrary, the reality of the promise; for, as we shall show hereafter (Props. 142, 131, 137, 141, etc.) this Scripture teaches an exact fulfilment of covenant promise, unless they themselves are also made typical (as e.g. inheriting the earth to mean inheriting third heaven, etc.). That no type is intended may be briefly stated thus: Jesus Christ, according to the Prophets, as David’s Son and Theocratic King inherits not only David’s throne and kingdom but also the territory, but in connection with this, in virtue of His Divine-Human character and the original design contemplated, His dominion, based on His rightful inheritance, is to extend over the whole earth. To show the contrary, Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 266) introduces a very inapt and unfortunate inferential proof. For he tells us that the inheritance can only be explained “with what it typically represented, in the same way that Christ is called Abraham’s seed,” viz.: as “the ultimate child of promise.” Here comes in the fatal mistake that he and others make in supposing that covenant promises are typical, impelling them, as an illustration of the same, to infer the typical nature of “the seed.” We may well ask, in reply, Was not Christ Abraham’s natural seed, and if so, did “seed” stand for a type? Certainly not, for there is a literal fulfilment of promise. Precisely so, with the inheritance; it is better to wait and see what God yet intends to do, before we explain away His own words by a typical process. For if we adopt this modernized principle, so prevailing, where is then a promise in the covenants to which can be ascribed certainty of meaning? Rejecting the plain one that the letter contains, or more conveniently converting it into a type, the promise may then represent what the ingenuity of man ascribes to it, and conjecture follows. Men may derisively call our view, an adhering to the “husk,” “shell,” or “rind” and congratulate themselves in having “the developed germ” or “matured fruit,” but amid the unproven varieties of “fruit,” from Origen to Swedenborg, we are content to abide by the former, as certainly God-given. The truth is, that these writers all come to the Word with an unproven hypothesis, viz.: that the church, as now constituted, is the covenanted Messianic Kingdom, and hence all Scripture, including the precise and determinate language of the covenants, must be interpreted to correspond with a prejudged case. Learning and ability must champion a fundamental misconception.