The covenants being in Revelation, the foundation of the Kingdom, must first be received and appreciated.
PROPOSITION 49. The covenants being in Revelation, the foundation of the Kingdom, must first be received and appreciated.
Let us then briefly pass them under review, and notice their contents; this will clearly indicate their fundamental nature.[*]
Note. God promised salvation to Adam and Eve. The Bible gives us the sad history, that, while some through faith sought for deliverance, gradually unbelief and sin enveloped and enshrouded the race. One man and his family were selected by the Almighty to escape the general destruction, that through him the race might be propagated, the promise might be extended and ultimately fulfilled. Again, corruption prevailed (Joshua 24:2, 14 etc.) to such an extent that a new development was necessary to prepare and perpetuate the way of salvation. A descendant of Shem and Noah, possessing peculiar characteristics, was selected as the preeminently chosen one to whom in a more special and particular manner was committed the assurances of a preparatory development and final attainment of Salvation. In him the Divine Purpose becomes more specific, detailed, contracted, definite, and certain. Specific, in distinguishing and separating him from others of the race; detailed, in indicating more of the particulars connected with the purpose of salvation; contracted, in making the Messiah to come directly in his line, to be his “seed;” definite, in entering into covenant relation with him, as his God; and certain, in confirming this covenant relationship by an oath. This, then, is the period, beyond all others, which, descending from the general to the particular, lays, as Kurtz (His. Old Cov., p. 175, comp. Prop. 46, Obs. 1) aptly remarks: “a foundation on which the great Salvation is ultimately to appear;” or, as Oosterzee (Ch. Dog., vol. 2, p. 471) observes: “We have learned to recognize the covenant of God with Abraham as the foundation of the entire revelation of Salvation.” Abraham is this chosen instrument, and through his promised seed complete redemption is to be obtained. Certainly then the Abrahamic history becomes one of absorbing interest, in view of its fundamental and living connection with final Salvation. It deserves and demands our most earnest and closest attention, for to it all other things, in the development, must sustain a close and abiding relation. We cannot overestimate the importance of this, as Isa. 51:1, 2 teaches. Even the incarnation, life, etc., of Christ grow out of the deep significancy, and in behalf of the fulfilment, of the covenant made with Abraham.
I. THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
Obs. 1. The covenant (see good remarks on the meaning of the word “covenant” by Barnes, Notes on Heb. 8:8, and 9:16) made with Abraham is found in Gen. 12:1–3, 7; 13:14–17; 15:4–21; 17:4–16; 22:15–18. The things promised by God are the following: 1. That Abraham’s name shall be great. 2. That a great nation should come from him. 3. He should be a blessing so great that in him shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4. To him personally (“to thee”) and to his seed should be given Palestine forever to inherit. 5. The multitude of his seed should be as the dust of the earth. 6. That whoever blessed him should be blessed, and whosoever cursed him should be cursed. 7. He should be the father of many nations. 8. Kings should proceed from him. 9. The covenant shall be perpetual, “an everlasting covenant.” 10. The land of Canaan shall be “an everlasting possession.” 11. God will be a God to him and to his seed. 12. His seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. 13. In his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.[*]
Note. God added, in order to bring about these promises, predictions, dispensational and providential arrangements, and while in the course of time there has been a partial, inchoate fulfilment, sufficient to authenticate their divine origin and ultimate realization, yet a mere cursory glance at them, and then at history, shows that they have not, to this time, been verified as given. This partial and limited fulfilment has afforded a fund of amusement to unbelief, and it sneeringly points to it as evidence of failure, of Oriental exaggeration, etc. In view, however, of the dispositions already made, the continued progress of the Divine Purpose toward its realization, the constant preservation of Abraham’s descendants, to whom nationally the covenants were given, the raising up of a seed unto Abraham, etc., it would be foolishness to say that they, as recorded, never will be accomplished. To answer unbelief, by endeavoring to make out a fulfilment by spiritualizing the promises, by substituting something else in their place, is only another form of unbelief in the precise words of the covenants.
Obs. 2. Out of the blessings enumerated, several are selected, as illustrative, which have not yet been experienced. Thus e.g. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have Palestine “from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates” promised to them personally, and also to their seed. The repetition of the precise language admits of no other construction. “To thee and to thy seed will I give this land;” “To thee will I give it;” “to give thee this land to inherit;” “I will give it unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession;” “unto thee and to thy seed will I give all these countries;” “the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed;” “the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” How the Patriarchs understood this is evident by referring to what Isaac said to Jacob when he sent him away to Laban (Gen. 28:1–4): “God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee, that thou mayest inherit the land, wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.” Can language be more definite? Does God so carefully reiterate the personal inheriting (and as carefully discriminate from such inheriting a present temporary sojourn in the land), of the land by the Patriarchs, and yet mean something very different from what the words properly denote? Many, alas, tell us yes! but we respond, No! Never!
Note 1. The reason why the covenant was repeated to Isaac and Jacob was owing to the fact that they formed the chosen posterity to the exclusion of others in the Abrahamic line, and with Jacob that exclusion ceased, for as Dr. Kurtz (His. Old Cov., vol. 2, p. 33) aptly expresses it: “Now at length the way of grace entirely coincided with that of nature.” In other words, all the seed of Jacob were called, and the blessing offered to each one of them.
Note 2. Those who deny that the Patriarchs shall personally inherit the land, base their objection on two points; viz.: (1) that it was fulfilled either in themselves sojourning there, or else in their posterity inhabiting the land; and (2) that such an inheriting, as we contend for, demands a resurrection of them. Let us now carefully consider these, in the light of Scripture.
(1) Whatever may be said respecting the temporary possession of Canaan (either as preparatory or initiatory or inchoate,) or whatever may be asserted respecting the descendants being meant “as yet in his loins,” etc., one thing is most positively stated in the Bible, viz.: that this promise was not fulfilled in the Patriarchs, in any of the forms alleged by unbelief. The Spirit, foreseeing this very objection, provided against it, lest our faith should stumble. Thus Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, tells us (Acts 7:5) that “He (God) gave him (Abraham) none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on, yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him.” This (also because accordant with the well-known Jewish views) should be decisive, especially when confirmed by Paul (Heb. 9:8, 9, and 11:13–40), who expressly informs us that the Patriarchs sojourned in “the land of promise,” which they were to receive as “an inheritance,” “pilgrims and strangers,” and that “they died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth.” How, with such evidence before us, can we attribute to only their posterity what is directly asserted of themselves personally? Those modernized views were not known to Stephen and Paul (and others, as e.g. Luke 1:68–73; Mic. 7:20, etc.). Hence it follows that in God’s own time this will be abundantly brought to pass, so that it only becomes us to observe how and when, as revealed in the Word. God will perform this for them, as the Jews held, as the Primitive Church believed, and as taught by every Millenarian writer down to the present day.* The deep reasons which underlie this promise and its relationship to the Kingdom will appear in succeeding pages.
Evidently that which misleads the multitude in this matter is the statement of the apostle (Heb. 11:16), that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly.” Commentators, as Barnes, Bloomfield, etc., overlooking entirely the Theocratic relationship that this country (i.e. Palestine) is to occupy in the Kingdom of God, at once conclude that this “heavenly” country is the third heaven. They forget that this phraseology would not mislead a Hebrew, who was accustomed to designate the restored Davidic Kingdom a heavenly Kingdom, and the country enjoying its restoration and Theocratic blessings, a heavenly country. The expression does not mean “the third heaven” (Prop. 103), but something that pertains to, or partakes of, the heavenly, as heavenly vision, body, calling, etc. (To avoid repetition, comp. Props. 142–154.)
If no other means avail to destroy the express language of the Covenant, recourse is had to the typical theory (Prop. 48, Obs. 4). Thus, Pressense (The Redeemer, p. 74) says, respecting Gen. 17:8, “Without doubt it was designed to have an earthly fulfilment; in fact this it received” (against the testimony of Stephen and Paul), “but the earthly fulfilment was secondary.” That is, it was only “a symbol,” symbolizing heavenly things; and then he asks: “What interest attaches, speaking in a religious sense, to the fact that one family or one people should have in prospect a fair earthly heritage?” Alas! when good men can speak so disparagingly of covenant promise. Has it not a deep religious signification in the light of man’s being deprived by sin of “a fair earthly heritage?” The answer to Pressense is found in such Propositions as 120, 140, 142, 145, etc. Irving (Life of El. Irving, by Mrs. Oliphant, p. 338) in a letter to Dr. Chalmers, more comprehensively remarks: “I trust the Lord will give you time and leisure to consider the great hope of the church first given to Abraham; that she shall be ‘heir of the world.’ Certainly, it is the very substance of Theology.”
(2) Next we are informed that such a procedure must necessitate the resurrection of the Patriarchs. Precisely so; and we feel assured from the faith manifested by Abraham in Isaac’s resurrection from the dead (Heb. 11:17–19), had he sacrificed him, and in his looking forward to the day of Christ (John 8:56; Heb. 11:10, 11), for the fulfilment of these promises, that his hope was based on a resurrection from the dead. A resurrection is implied; it is taken for granted, for the Patriarchs die, the promise is unrealized, and yet God is faithful in His promises. Now to indicate this, and the power of the resurrection, God gives us His “Memorial,”* which was to be “unto all generations” (Ex. 3:15), “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The Lord God of your Fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you; this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” What meaning was couched in this most sublime Memorial? This: I am the God who will remember and be faithful to my covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to fulfil it I will raise them from the dead. Now let the reader notice that this is not my interpretation of it, but that which is given by the greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ. For, when the Sadducees came to Him denying the resurrection, Jesus, well knowing how the Jews held that the Patriarchs would be raised from the dead to inherit the land, told them that Moses taught a resurrection when “he called the Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” This Memorial was then given as proof (Luke 20:37) “that the dead are raised,” and not, as many would teach us, of the immortality of the Patriarchs and their condition in the intermediate state. Neither immortality, nor the intermediate state, was the subject of dispute; the resurrection of the dead was denied, and the resurrection of the dead was defended.† Whatever might be induced inferentially, the direct subject-matter between Christ and the Sadducees was that of the resurrection, and the memorial itself is adduced as proof, decisive, that such a resurrection will occur. Why thus adduced? Simply because the covenant necessitates a resurrection; without it the covenant cannot be fulfilled; and God, in thus calling Himself their God and that He ever shall remain their God, pledges Himself to a strict performance of His promise, that they themselves, personally, shall inherit the land. And in His glorious Majesty, to whom all time is present, in His omnipotence and wisdom, to indicate the fixity and certainty of His divine purpose, He speaks of them—foreseeing their position and regarding it settled as a fact—not as dead men but living. In other words, He speaks only as a God can speak, making things that are not yet fulfilled, owing to their certainty, present and real. God looks at the time when Abraham’s body will arise from the “marble covered with carpets embroidered in gold” (Stanley, His. Jew. Church, Ap. 2, 1 Ser.), when Isaac’s dust shall spring to life, when Jacob’s embalmed body, throwing aside its wrappings, shall be reanimated, and His faithful promise shall be realized, and with this before Him, as Omniscience alone can comprehend, He speaks. Let us reverently hear, and understand.
Obs. 3. The reader, having carefully perused the preceding evidence, will understand the significance of Paul, before Agrippa (Acts 26:6–8), uniting “the promise to the Fathers” with the resurrection of the dead. The promise and the memorial were thus understood, as we explain, by the Jews, and it would be simply an outrage for Paul and others to use language—if another meaning was intended—which would confirm the Jews in their belief. A brief glance at Jewish belief may, in this connection, be serviceable. Mede (Works, B. 4, Ep. 43), Brooks (El. Proph. Interp., p. 33), and other tell us how Rabbi Gamaliel, the Preceptor of Paul, silenced the Sadducees by bringing against them Deut. 11:21, “which land the Lord sware that He would give to your fathers,” arguing “that as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had it not, and God cannot lie, therefore they must be raised from the dead to inherit it.” Wetstein (on Matt. 22:32) cites a Rabbinical writer, who thus argues the resurrection from the memorial. So Mede adduces Rabbi Simai (some later), urging the same from Ex. 6:4, that “the law asserts in this place the resurrection from the dead—to wit, when it said, And also I have established my covenant with them, to give them Canaan,” etc., because the fathers were mentioned by name and the Jews then existing were not specified. The same is quoted by Fairbairn (Typology of Scripture), as contained in the Talmud in Gemara, who also gives Manasseh Ben Israel (referred to by Warburton, B. 6, S. 3) as arguing the resurrection from the covenant promise.1 Thus the Jewish view, entertained and continued, indicates to us unmistakably how the New Test. writers are to be understood, unless we condescend to adopt the miserable and degrading accommodation theory.
Obs. 4. To say that all this was fulfilled in the occupation of Palestine by the preparatory or initiatory possession of it by the descendants of Abraham, is not only contradicted by Scripture, but is a virtual limiting of the promise. Kurtz (His. of Old Cov., vol. 1, P. 131) observes, what history attests, that the descendants never possessed the land promised to Abraham from the Nile to the Euphrates (comp. geographical boundary given by Hengstenberg, from Gen. 15:18, Ex. 23:31, and Deut. 11:22–24). It is only by a perversion of facts that a fulfilment can be made out, although it is attempted under the reigns of David and Solomon. In view of this non-fulfilment, and the land being assigned “for an everlasting or eternal possession,” some writers (e.g. Kurtz, His. Old Cov., vol. 1, p. 214) base an argument upon it in favor of a future restoration of the Jews, but the same reasoning precisely, with the addition of a promise to the Patriarchs personally, demands the fulfilment of the promise by a restoration of the Patriarchs to the land thus geographically bounded.[*]
Note. Warner (In the Levant, p. 82) says: “The country the Hebrews occupied was small; they never conquered or occupied the whole of the Promised Land, which extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian plain, from Hamath to Sinai. Their territory in actual possession reached only from Dan to Beersheba. The coast they never subdued,” etc. He refers to the brief period in the reigns of David and Solomon, when Damascus and the cities of the Philistines paid tribute, “but the Kingdom of Tyre, still in the possession of Hiram, marked the limit of Jewish sway in that direction.” A large number of similar testimonies might be quoted (comp. e.g. Wines’ Com. on Laws, B. 1, ch. 9, etc.), but the student does not require them in such a matter of fact. The past non-fulfilment insures the future fulfilment, as God is faithful in all His promises. God, foreseeing how the Jewish nation would relapse in idolatry, superstition, and extreme bigotry, permitted other nations, as the Phœnicians, etc., within the bounds of the promised land to survive and retain possession. In the recent Art. on “Palestine” in M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop., the decided ground is taken that the land as promised to Abraham was never occupied, extending as it does from the Nile to the Euphrates, and this non-occupation is accounted for in view of the unfaithfulness of the nation. This is true as to the past, but the student must not be misled by this to a denial that it ever will be realized, because the promise to the Patriarchs is unconditional, and confirmed by oath and abundant reiterated promises; and the fulfilment is explained to take place under the promised “seed,” who is David’s Son, and will come again to bring in its realization. The unfaithfulness of some does not rob the faithful of their promised inheritance.
Obs. 5. In view of the Scriptural statements, eminent men, who are inclined to the prevailing modern doctrines, find themselves forced to make admissions corroborative of the correctness of our position. We append a few illustrations. Thus Thompson (Theol. of Christ, p. 186–7) justly takes the ground that (Matt. 22:30, etc.) the Sadducees denied a literal resurrection, that Jesus in His reply holds fast to the Jewish view of a literal resurrection, and that every utterance given is to confirm such a faith, but then leaves a loophole for escape in this sentence: “He went on to assert the Resurrection as set forth by Moses, in the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would ever have a recognized identity in the Kingdom of God.” Fairbairn (Typol. of Scripture) says much that is highly interesting and valuable—entire pages might be transcribed—but he vitiates the whole by making the promise of Canaan, etc., typical of something else. Barnes, Hody, Campbell, etc., that can only see the doctrine of a separate existence of the soul in the memorial, still assert that somehow it infers the resurrection, i.e. because the spirits are alive, the bodies will also be hereafter. Acknowledging the admission forced from them, we fail to see how the existence of spirit in any proves the resurrection of the body; and they have failed to show the connection.[*]
Note. Even McKnight, in that spiritualizing Essay (No. 5, p. 256, “On the Epistles”), which endeavors to make almost everything typical of something else, fully admits that “accordingly our Lord in reasoning with the Sadducees, affirmed, that the promise to give to Abraham and to his immediate descendants the everlasting possession of Canaan, was virtually a promise to raise them from the dead.” This reference to an implied resurrection he sustains by other Scripture, and by quoting the opinions of Jews, as e.g. 2 Mac. 7:9, 36. But the concessions are weakened by making Canaan a type of another world, thus vitiating the promises (making them to denote something not contained in the language), rejecting Christ’s own inheritance, the faith of the Jews, etc. The points in the essay are fully met under various Propositions. It is now sufficient to say, that the express language, as e.g. “the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed,” precludes the typical theory. This itself answers Pressense (The Redeemer, p. 74), and others. We must refer again to the remarkable performance of Fairbairn (Typology, vol. 1, p. 293, etc.), who justly discriminates between the promise to the Patriarchs personally and the promise to their seed; shows by an appeal to the language, to Stephen, etc., that they had a personal interest in the land, which would be verified, although they died, by a resurrection; quotes Jewish authorities to indicate how they associated a resurrection with its fulfilment; goes even so far as to advance the coming of the seed, as fulfilled in “the most exact and literal sense,” thus indicating that the promise “thou shalt inherit the land” will likewise be thus realized; in brief, he is forced to the same conclusions precisely that we arrived at, viz.: that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be raised from the dead and inherit the renewed earth (which “renovated earth being the ultimate inheritance of the heirs of promise,” he, at length and forcibly, defends). But he vitiates it (in order to avoid our Pre-Millenarian position, and to save his spiritualizing of other particulars) by making Canaan a type of this renewed earth. But it is the literal Canaan which they saw, walked and reclined on, that is promised; renewed indeed, but the same Canaan; delivered from the curse, and beautified and adorned. The Theocratic Kingdom, that is to be restored under the Messiah, as numerous predictions (as we shall show) declare, has its central location in Palestine; and the restoration of the Jewish nation, identified with it, is inseparably associated with “the land,” “the city,” etc., although at that time (Isa. 65 and 66) enjoying “new heavens and new earth.” The land promised specially to the Patriarchs has set geographical bounds, and we keep to these as announced; for, as Fairbairn himself asserts (which is all-sufficient to sustain our position), this inheritance is to be “recovered, not made,” being “the possession of this very earth, which we now inhabit, after it shall have been redeemed and glorified.”
Obs. 6. We turn with a sense of relief from the class of writers who constantly change the promises of God into something that the language does not convey (i.e. make it typical, symbolical, spiritual, mystical), to another class who, with faith, accept of them as they are written, in their plain grammatical sense, just as the Jews and Primitive believers. As many of these will be mentioned in connection with other topics, we select but a single illustration. Dr. Candlish (Lectures on Genesis, Lec. 13) takes the position “that the hope of an inheritance for himself, individually, did actually form a part of the faith of Abraham;” that “nowhere does Abraham receive any promise whatever of future good, or of a future inheritance, for himself, if it be not in the announcement, ‘I will give thee this land;’ ” that Paul in Hebrews makes no reference to Abraham’s posterity, but to himself as an individual, so far as inheriting the promise is concerned; that Abraham “sojourned in the land of promise,” and although a stranger and pilgrim in it, yet “it was the land of promise still;” that “the place to which he was called to go out, was the very place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance;” that the fulfilment of the promise is postponed until after his resurrection; that God is his God in respect to both soul and body as when living, and as the covenant relation entered into was when Abraham was living, it must always be regarded in the light of Abraham again living in the body; that the inheritance is not typical but real, evidenced by the renewed earth, the inheriting of the earth, etc.; that this renovated earth with its blessings brings heaven down with its holy influences. This epitome sufficiently indicates the line of reasoning, identical with that of the Primitive Church (as Irenæus, Justin, etc).
Obs. 7. Multitudes allow themselves to be influenced in spiritualizing these promises because “a city” is promised to Abraham, which is taken for granted to be the third heaven, etc. But the churches established by the apostles had no such idea, for they clearly apprehended that this promise of the city, of God being their God, and of not being ashamed to be such, etc., had reference to the glorious Theocratic ordering in the future. For they saw that this city of the great King, in which Abraham shall rejoice, is plainly promised to be here on the earth and not in the third heaven, etc. As this will come up hereafter in detail (e.g. Props. 142, 146, 152, etc.), it may be passed by with the remark that it certainly is strange, if the modernized notions of eminent men respecting this city are correct, that we do not find them existing in the earliest writings of the Chr. Church.[*]
Note. If the reader who (like Barnes, etc.) applies this “city” to heaven, insists, at this stage of our argument, upon a reply, it is amply sufficient to point out the simple fact that the future city of God is represented (Rev. 21:2, 10) as coming out of heaven upon this earth and remaining here. This, of course, fully harmonizes with our view, and with Abraham’s promised inheritance. But we leave this for the present, asking the reader to compare Props. 169, 168, 148, 151, etc., for full particulars.
Obs. 8. God gave an oath for the faithful (Micah 7:20) performance of Covenant promises (Gen. 22:16, and 26:3), thus condescending to present the strongest possible assurance. Now God would not swear to an equivocal covenant, to a covenant which in its plain grammatical sense conveys the promises we have referred to, and yet means something very different. No one can deny this grammatical meaning, seeing that for many centuries it was the only one maintained, and that for several centuries in the Christian Church it was the one presented by the Fathers (Props. 76–78).[*]
Note. Even the very name of God assures the fulfilment of the covenant. The reader will find an interesting “Excursus” on this name in Bengel’s Gnomon, Apoc. 1:8, in which it is contrasted with the names given in the Apoc. The name “He who is” was familiar to the Patriarchs, and this name, in view of the covenanted relationship, was changed into “I will be what I will be,” upon which Bengel remarks: “That is, ‘I will be’ to the Israelites the character which, by the very fact, ‘I will be’ in regard to their fathers, both what I said to them I would be, and what it behooves Me to be to them; namely, by now at length fulfilling the promise which I formerly gave.” There seems, too, aside from the reference to the coming one (comp. Prop. 127), an ascending scale in the name of God in reference to the Covenant, which writers have variously explained, but all have noticed. Thus, e.g. He is known as “the strong One,” inspiring confidence; then as “God Almighty,” confirming faith; then as “Jehovah,” indicating that being Eternal, all things were dependent upon Him and He could fulfil all promises; then Jehovah-Sabaoth, the Eternal leader of the armies of heaven and earth, dependent upon His will and self-existence. “Jehovah” is the personal, self-revealing name (McCaul, Essay 5, p. 226, Aids to Faith); it is the name indicative of His relationship to Israel, of revealing Himself in history, and as He acts in it (Kurtz, Sac. His., p. 26). Comp. Dr. Etheredge’s Targums, Stuart’s Apoc., Kurtz’s Old Cov.
Obs. 9. Some few writers, as Silliman in The World’s Jubilee, “declare that the Abrahamic covenant and the institution at Mt. Sinai made provision, had the Hebrews rendered to them a perfect obedience, for their exemption from death.” On the other hand, we find only provision made for a future resurrection; and in this we are confirmed by the announcement of Abraham’s death at the covenant sacrifice, by the general analogy of the Word, and by the fact that the covenant itself contemplated that it would only be through the seed Christ, at some future unannounced period, that it would be realized—that saints would be honored by a translation. The covenants, in their tenor, look to the future and not the present for realization; the latter being dependent upon the coming of the promised seed and a Theocratic ordering.[*]
Note. Let it be observed, that not only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob acknowledged themselves “pilgrims and strangers” while in Canaan, but the same is true of their descendants in the land, even while under the Theocratic arrangement. This feature is misleading to some, who draw conclusions of a spiritual and third heaven nature not warranted by the fact. Let it be noticed, that if we take Heb. 11, 13; Ps. 39:12, and 119:19; 1 Chron. 29:15, it will be found that, owing to the intervention of death, the temporary sojourn in the land is not recognized as the one that the covenant contemplates, for the latter presents it as “an everlasting possession.” Hence, as we have already shown (e.g. Prop. 25), the Theocracy even was only an earnest of the Theocracy reestablished in power and glory, with its promised perpetuity, etc.
Obs. 10. Infidelity has triumphantly asserted that in the Mosaic Record there is no reference to the resurrection and a future life, and this has been corroborated by the premature statements of some believers. But this is a grave mistake, and one unmistakably refuted by the Record itself. The central point in it—the foundation upon which the Mosaic superstructure rests—necessitates a belief in the resurrection and a future life. This we have shown, and this will more fully appear from what follows.[*]
Note. Simple candor requires that we allow Scripture to interpret itself, and if this is done there can be no question in this matter. Clarke (Ten Religions, p. 250) only repeats what hundreds before him had asserted: “But it is perhaps more strange not to find any trace of the doctrine of a future life in Mosaism when this was so prominent among the Egyptians,” and adds, “That in Moses there is ‘nothing of the future life and judgment to come.’ ” Kant and others hence infer a lack of divinity. This can only be said by ignoring the covenants and the special promises based on them, which, in the nature of the case, positively demand a future life, seeing that death itself is announced to precede the fulfilment of these promises. It is simply folly to say that God promises certain things to the Patriarchs personally, and then tells them that they must experience death before they are realized, and leave the matter in this condition. God expects reason to assert itself, and faith in Himself as God to vindicate His truthfulness. Hence we are sorry to read such utterances as these: Stanley (His. Jew. Ch., 1 ser. Lec. 7) says: “The future life was not denied or contradicted, but it was overlooked, set aside, overshadowed by the consciousness of the living, actual presence of God Himself.” The truth is, that the consciousness of this presence of God inspired faith in the future life (John 8:56; Heb. 11:8–16). This is seen in the promises given being of such a nature, that, if ever fulfilled, a resurrection from the dead is indispensable; they are purposely given in such a manner as to test faith (i.e. by not explaining how they are to be accomplished, leaving that to the Promiser to perform); and now the presence of God, His covenant relationship, the attributes claimed by Him, His oath, are calculated to inspire, bring forth implicit confidence in their fulfilment, notwithstanding the intervention of death (as illustrated in the case of Isaac). The careful student will see that the Mosaic attitude vindicates, and presents to us, in a most striking manner, the Majesty of a God (requiring simple confidence in Himself), and the reason and faith of the Patriarchs. It is a matter of surprise that believers in making concessions to unbelievers overlook three facts: (1) That many things illustrative of personal faith and doctrine are omitted in the rapid outline given in the Old Test., and that, in view of this omission, to conclude ignorance in them, is to judge both harshly and unjustly; (2) that no passage is to be found which either directly teaches, or from which it can be legitimately inferred, e.g. that these ancient worthies had no hope of a future resurrection and life, i.e. the cry of despair, as found in books of unbelief, is not recognized in the Pentateuch; (3) that such omissions occur, is amply sustained by the statements of Jesus and the apostles concerning the personal faith and hope of ancient worthies; and the union of the Old and New Tests., given by the same Spirit, ought to prevent our degrading the knowledge of those who sustained an intimate relationship to God. Even incidental narrative appears to imply this hope, as e.g. the anxiety of Jacob and Joseph to have their bones carried to Canaan. While this may be explained by the desire, common to human nature, to be buried with our relatives, yet in view of the great distance between Egypt and Canaan, and especially of the covenanted relationship of these persons to Canaan, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they were deeply impressed with the idea—derived from covenant promise—that they personally had an interest in that land, and that, some day, they would be raised from the dead to enjoy its possession; and that by such a removal they expressed both their interest in the land and faith and hope in an ultimate acquisition of it according to promise. It was virtually a silent but thrilling appeal to God, when dead, for Him to remember and verify His promise. A number of intelligent writers take the same view of this matter, and they certainly have strong reasons for thus concluding. Thus, e.g. over against the Ch. Union (Sep. 26th, 1877), which asserts that the doctrine of a future life is not in the Pentateuch, and that this “is absolutely indisputable” (against the direct testimony of Jesus, John, and Paul to the contrary), we refer the reader to Fairbairn’s Typology (vol. 1, Ap. C, pp. 369–390 on “The Doctrine of a Future State”), who gives the proof that such knowledge existed. The reader, of course, must allow that by the Advent of Jesus, His teaching and sacrifice, a clear light was thrown on subjects of this kind, because He, in whom their realization depends, was revealed. But this does not imply that a total ignorance existed before His coming; for when the Union says, “It is Christ, not Moses, or David, or Isaiah, who brought life and immortality to light; and if He brought it to light, it was in darkness before,” this is one-sided: (1) ignoring the Old Test. statements and expressed faith (far more than alleged “dreams”); and (2) that the light brought by Jesus refers to the undoubted assurance that we have in Him of its fulfilment through His power, etc.
Obs. 11. But let us return to another promise. It is said that “the Seed” shall inherit the land; and we are told by many that this was fulfilled in the history of the Jews under Joshua, the Judges, and the Kings (comp. Obs. 4). What, however, are the facts as given by the Holy Spirit? Certainly, in the interpretation of covenant promise, Holy Writ should be allowed to be its own interpreter, that we may ascertain the meaning intended by God. Let God, then, and not man, explain: “Now (Gal. 3:16) to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘And to seeds’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ which is Christ.” If language has any definite meaning, then, without doubt we have here the simple declaration that when God promised “Unto thy seed will I give this land,” He meant that the land of Canaan should be inherited by a single Person—pre-eminently the Seed—descended from Abraham, even Jesus the Christ. How this will be verified in David’s Son, inheriting the throne and Kingdom of David will appear as we proceed.[*]
Note. This explanation of Paul’s is discarded by multitudes, on the ground that it has not been fulfilled, and infidels, and even some professed believers, make themselves merry over the foolishness and blind faith that can accept of the same. We know full well that it has not yet been verified, but we know, too, that it took a long, long time before “the seed” came, and we know, from Scripture, why it did not take place at His First Advent, and we also know, from exceedingly precious promises given, that it will occur when He comes the Second time unto Salvation. God’s ways are not our ways; and, therefore, instead of denying His faithfulness in performing, or His explanations of given promises, let us trust—Abraham-like—in a covenant-keeping God, who will yet completely fulfil them. In this connection: As the Seed, which is Christ, is to inherit the land, we only now point to the significancy with which this land is mentioned, and the relationship that it sustains to Christ. Thus e.g. proprietorship in the land of Canaan is expressly reserved to God Himself (Lev. 25:23): “The land shall not be sold forever; for the land is mine; ye are strangers and sojourners with Me”—i.e. mere occupants, not real owners. Hence when Jesus, the Son of God, “came” (John 1:11—and is not His Divinity implied, in view of Lev. 25:23?) “to His own” (land, so Barnes, etc., loci, or country, so Bloomfield, etc., or Judea, so Alford, Campbell, etc., or inheritance, so Lange and others), “and His own (people or nation) received Him not.” This land is called “His Land” (Joel 2:18), “My land” (Ezek. 38:16), “Immanuel’s land” (Isa. 8:8); and being a covenanted inheritance of Abraham’s and David’s Seed, it is called “Thine inheritance.” Christ is designated “an inheritor of my mountains,” and represented as desiring it for a habitation, a rest, to dwell in (Ps. 132:13, 14; Ps. 68:16, etc.). Surely, in the light of these, and numerous other references, we ought to be guarded lest, in our eagerness to vindicate God’s purposes, we interpose our own views and opinions in place of God’s. How often is the heart pained at the exceeding rashness of many, who either reject the language as “grossly carnal,” or make it typical of something else, or spiritualize it into another meaning to suit a theory.
We add: In connection with the individual seed, reference is also made to the posterity of the Patriarchs, as in Gen. 17:7, 8; “in their generations,” in the multiplication of the seed, Gen. 15:5, etc. But Christ is by way of pre-eminence “the Seed” through whom the remaining Seed obtain the promises, for “all the promises of God are in Him, yea, and in Him, Amen.” Why this is so will appear as we proceed. The promise specifically is to the one Seed, and through Him to others (comp. e.g. Fausset’s Com. on Gal. 3:16).
Fairbairn (Typol. of Scripture) justly discards the views of Ainsworth and Bush (who make the promise read “to thee even to thy seed”) as making Abraham and his offspring one, when they are separated (mentioned even as “after thee”) into two parties. So also he rejects Gill’s opinion (who made Abraham receive the title and his posterity the possession; Abraham to sojourn in it and his posterity to dwell in it) as making the title no personal boon and his sojourning no inheritance. Again, he refutes Warburton’s theory (who makes “Abraham and his posterity, put collectively, to signify the race of Abraham”) as swallowing up the specific promises to the Patriarchs, by a generality, in the race, as a violation of the language which distinguishes the Seed from the Patriarchs, as opposed to Stephen’s reference to Abraham, etc. He correctly argues for a “promise personally given to the Patriarchs,” and for distinguishing the Seed from them. Whatever views may be engrafted by him afterward upon these admissions, or however any one may seek to explain them, these are plain facts that must, in consistency, underlie a scriptural statement, and we feel under obligations to him for presenting them so clearly and forcibly. He (p. 357, vol. 1), referring to Hengstenberg and otters, makes the singular “seed” expressive of a distinct line of offspring, and His view is embraced by numerous Millenarian writers, who, making Jesus by way of pre-eminence “the Seed,” include in it all believers, being one with Him and inheriting with Him.
Obs. 12. The reader has seen where the line of argument is leading us, viz.: to our inheriting the land with Abraham and the Christ, being co-heirs, co-inheritors of the same promises. Indeed, let a concordance be taken, and let the passages be sought out which promise to the saints an inheriting of the land and the earth, and the student will be surprised at their number, unity and richness of expression, forming a necessary sequence to this very covenant relationship (comp. Props. 142, 146–152).
Obs. 13. The stumbling-block in the way of multitudes against receiving such promises is, that Christ came and there was no fulfilment, and hence only spiritual blessings are to be anticipated, etc. Our argument will fully meet this objection as we advance; at present, attention is called to a singular prediction, deserving marked notice on account of the connection in which it stands. In Ps. 69, we have (1) the humiliation and affliction of Christ (for the Messianic character of the Ps. is indisputably settled by the New Test. writers); (2) direct reference to His betrayal and crucifixion; (3) His deliverance and that of the prisoners (an allusion to those held by death or the grave, Prop. 126); and then after this (for the prophetic spirit does not see failure in Christ’s death, but a means for accomplishment through the power of the resurrection) the result, not yet attained but covenanted and predicted, for which we should praise God, viz.: “For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and have it in possession. The seed also of His servants shall inherit it; and they that love His name shall dwell therein” (comp. Ps. 22; Ps. 72, and the Mess. Psls. in general). Well may it be asked, Has this followed the Messiah’s death? If not, since God is faithful to His promises, and the affliction, reproach, gall, vinegar, etc., mentioned was all literally fulfilled, we may confidently rest assured that in God’s own time the rest will likewise be accomplished. What little faith, after great professions of the same, men exercise in God’s Word! Let not man, with his limited ideas of fitness, judge God’s proceedings; we see how he failed at the First Advent, deeming it incredible that God should thus humble Himself and literally fulfil His Word, for already multitudes are prejudging, as unworthy of credence, that which is to take place at the Sec. Advent.
Obs. 14. Our faith in this matter is the faith of the Primitive Church, so that we reverently and cordially say with Justin Martyr (Dial. Trypho., ch. 119), “along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being the children of Abraham through the like faith.”* Indeed, with Irenæus (Ag. Her., ch. 32), we may add: “It is fitting that the just, rising at the appearing of God, should in the renewed state receive the promise of inheritance which God covenanted to the Fathers, and should reign in it;” then following the argument respecting the covenant promises made to Abraham and arguing, as we have done, that Abraham received them not, he continues: “Thus, therefore, as God promised to him the inheritance of the earth, and he received it not during the whole time he lived in it, it is necessary that he should receive it, together with his seed, that is, with such of them as fear God and believe in Him—in the resurrection of the just”—and then showing that Christ and the Church are of the true seed and partakers of the same promises, he concludes: “Thus, therefore, those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham; and the same are the children of Abraham. For God repeatedly promised the inheritance of the land to Abraham and his seed; and as neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, have enjoyed any inheritance in it, they will undoubtedly receive it at the resurrection of the just. For true and unchangeable is God; wherefore also He said: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ ” Thus the early Church spoke in strict accordance with unbounded faith in covenant promise. The prevailing modern notions, which make the covenants mean something else, were then unknown; for all the churches established East and West, North and South, both Jewish and Gentile, held to this inheritance as we now receive it.[*]
Note. Contrast the belief of the modern Church with the expressed faith of the early Church, and what a sad departure from covenanted promises is witnessed. Direct attention to this difference, and you meet with the most strenuous and bitter opposition. Advocate a return to the “old paths,” the primitive belief, so plainly pointed out in the grammatical sense, and multitudes are ready to deem you guilty of gross heresy. Present the scriptural reasons for the early faith, and many, many will absolutely refuse even to consider them. Nothing but the terrible persecution of the future following the translation of the first-fruits, awakening the Church from its false exegesis and application and dreams of prosperity, will cause a revulsion and a return to the scriptural ground, because the modern idea is too extensively advocated by eloquent, talented, pious men to be rooted out by other means.
Obs. 15. Having given an illustration of the Primitive faith, it may be interesting to the reader to contrast with it a specimen of the mode of interpretation by which these covenanted promises lost their literal aspect and had another sense engrafted upon them. We select one of the earliest. Origen, who opened the floodgates for fanciful interpretation, in his work against Celsus (B. 7, chs. 28, 29, 30), contends that the land promised to the righteous does not refer to Judea or any portion of the earth, because the earth is cursed, quoting Gen. 3:17, and, therefore, not fit for an inheritance. He argues as if the redemption of the land did not embrace the removal of the curse (Props. 142–148). He forgets the admissions found in other portions of his writings respecting the taking away of the curse; and he admits that Ps. 76:2; Ps. 48:12, and Ps. 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34, refer to the saints’ inheritance, and this admission (in view of the statement and connection of these passages) is all that is necessary to overwhelm his entire theory. But the beauty and propriety of his hypothesis prominently appears, when he draws a concurrent and sympathetic argument from his infidel opponent Celsus. For the latter (B. 7, ch. 28), quoting from Plato, describing the land of the blessed, says of it: “That land which is pure lies in the pure region of heaven.” Origen, not to be outdone, heartily indorses Celsus. Reader, reflect; what a contrast this later and heathen derived interpretation, now, alas, so popular, sustains to the earlier and apostolic.[*]
Note. Origen may be called the father of the typical application, now such a general favorite with Protestant and Romish writers. Some, however, have applied it to this earth, and even to Palestine, but confined it to a possession by the present existing Church. We append an illustration of the latter. Thus (Mosheim’s Eccles. His, vol. 2, p. 144, note 19, Murdock’s Transl.), when the Cathari and Waldenses opposed the Crusades, undertaken to deliver Palestine from the Saracens, a Dominican, Fr. Moneta, employed this argument to refute them: “We read, Gen. 12:7, that God said to Abraham: To thy seed will I give this land. But we (the Christians of Europe) are the seed of Abraham; as says the apostle to the Galat. 3:29: To us, therefore, has that land been given for a possession. Hence, it is the duty of the civil power to make efforts to put us in possession of that land; and it is the duty of the Church to exhort civil rulers to fulfil their duty.”
Obs. 16. Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 197), however he fails himself in logically carrying out the principle in several particulars (viz.: by converting them into types), is certainly correct in opposing Sherlock and Davison, who, both, divide the covenanted promises and prophecies based on them into two classes, one referring to temporal matters which do not concern us, and the other to spiritual things in which alone we are interested. Fairbairn justly remarks: “We take this to be a superficial view of the matter. The outward and the temporal did not exist by itself, but for the higher spiritual things connected with it, and as the necessary means for securing their attainment. To separate such things which God has bound so closely together, and draw a broad line of demarcation between them, is false in principle, and sure to lead to erroneous results.” Well may it be asked, why separate them finally in “the age to come,” where covenant and Theocratic ordering place them? Why not continue to leave them together as the Spirit has bound them, and not, under a mistaken apprehension of exalting them, typify and spiritualize them away? This is the rock upon which many a well-meaning system of interpretation has beaten itself into worthlessness.
Obs. 17. Some writers attempt to get rid of the phrase “everlasting possession,” as if it denoted temporary possession. Thus e.g. Augustine (City of God, B. 16, s. 26) endeavors to cast a shade of suspicion on the word “everlasting,” which may denote “either no end, or to the very end of the world.” Suppose we even take the latter meaning (or that it denotes “possession in, or for, the ages”), it does not help the matter, for history shows that it has not been fulfilled either in the Patriarchs or in their descendants. Instead of such a possession, the Patriarchs and Jews had but a brief sojourn in it, the nation has long ago been driven away and the land has been in the possession (as predicted) of strangers for many centuries. It is the lament of the prophet (Isa. 63:18) that the nation “possessed it but a little while.” It is folly to circumscribe the promise to the past; for then it compresses it into the feeblest of proportions, or makes it an Oriental exaggeration. If it be alleged that the promise was conditional, we grant it (comp. Prop. 18), so far as the individuals composing the nation, and even for a time the nation itself, is concerned, but not so far as the Purpose of God is concerned, which positively, and without any condition annexed, promises this land to the Patriarchs personally (although death shall intervene), and to a Seed by way of preeminence, and then to a seed identified with Abraham by descent or adoption (as explained and enlarged in succeeding revelations), and then to the nation itself (when fully prepared by its course of discipline and the additions made through the resurrecting Messiah)—all of which is yet to be accomplished as the Bible plainly asserts. Otherwise, what will we do with Abraham himself and a multitude of his descendants, who were obedient, who performed the conditions annexed to individuality, and never thus possessed it? What shall we do with the prophetic announcements, that they shall yet obtain it? Has God failed in His foreknowledge, wisdom, and power? To evade this, by making the land typical of heaven, is sheer faithlessness, seeing that the very land “laid waste” and “made desolate” (which the third heaven never was), is the land spoken of—the same land whereon Jacob reclined and which Abraham was requested to survey.[*]
Note. Compare Kurtz’s remarks on “the everlasting Covenant” in the His. of the Old Cov., p. 128. In reference to the unconditionality of the covenant promise—its positive future fulfilment—the epitome of Moses in Deut. 32 is amply sufficient evidence in its favor, even so far as the nation is concerned.
Obs. 18. This lack of faith in the exact fulfilment of God’s covenanted promises may well be left to infidels. Voltaire and others (recently reiterated) raise an objection to the inspiration of God’s Word, because the promise of inheriting the land, given to Abraham personally, was not realized. They fail, just like many believers, to see that the fact of his not inheriting is plainly stated in the Scriptures, and that we are directed to the future, to the resurrection period, for its fulfilment. This feature is unjustly left out of the question, and the discussion carried on without reference to the time designated, the ability and faithfulness of God to perform His promises. It is ever thus with the Divine purposes; they must be received by faith, otherwise God’s designs will be enshrouded in darkness, and the crafty will be taken in a net. It is true to-day, that (Ps. 25:14) “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant”—now to faith—then in happy realization.[*]
Note. Recent writers, like Clarke, etc., treat the faith and hopes of Abraham most unjustly, being utterly unable to look at the Bible as a whole, and observe the connection that one part sustains to the whole. Abraham’s history is regarded isolated and torn from its relations, and upon this detachment, assumptions are readily founded to mislead others. One of the most unfair chapters of the Duke of Somerset’s work (Ch. Theol. and Mod. Skeptic., ch. 20) is the one entitled “Stephen,” in which Stephen’s speech is characterized (a rehash from Paulus, Baur, etc.) as “rambling over the migration of Abraham,” as “lamentably feeble,” as an ignoring of the proof relied on to vindicate Christianity; and yet this was an “able disputant,” who had not received the aid promised to be given before tribunals, etc. The speech of Stephen certainly “is full of incomprehensible anomalies” to a person possessing the Duke’s love of ridiculing sacred things. Stephen’s speech was pre-eminently logical, and the very thing demanded (showing that he was aided) under the circumstances. His hearers believed in the covenants, as the foundation of their religious and national hopes, and hence Stephen begins with the covenant, traces it, and endeavors to show its connection with Jesus as the Messiah. We have only the opening, for when he came to Jesus he was interrupted, and the address remained unfinished. The Jews, posted as they were in the Old Test., powerfully felt its force; if the Duke does not, it is simply because he fails to notice the self-evident connection running through the whole, and that Stephen’s aim was to show that this covenant in which the Jews trusted could only be fulfilled through this Jesus, whom they had crucified. The Duke might well have spared his sneers and attempted sarcasm, at the expense of a martyr!
Obs. 19. Unbelievers have expended their wit over the explanation of Paul (Gal. 3:16) respecting the use of the word “seed” in the singular number, pronouncing it a mere “quibble,” or “Rabbinical interpretation.” Those, too, who believe in the Word, but fail to recognize the distinctiveness of the promises, join, more or less, in the same. Jerome (Chandler, quoted by Barnes, loci) affirmed “that the apostle made use of a false argument, which, although it might appear well enough to the stupid Galatians, would not be approved by wise and learned men.” Le Clerc supposes it to be a trick of argumentation. Borger (Bloomfield, loci) pronounces it an accommodation to Jewish Rabbis. Doddridge even calls it “bad Greek.” Rosenmüller and others, against Paul’s express language, think that the body of the believers, and not the Messiah, is meant. Paul needs no apology from men, for the soundness of his interpretation is apparent from the general tenor of the Word, which indicates that the Divine Purpose contemplates one distinguished Personage, in the specified Abrahamic line, through whom the promises should be realized, and that the apostle properly directs attention to the fact that the very language of the covenant, using the singular number (let it be customary or not), is in accordance with, and significant of, God’s predetermined design. Hence, ridicule falls harmless, and apologetic explanations are of no force, coming from persons who would undertake to decide how God ought even to word His covenant language. We are ready to receive the language as given, finding it precise, significant of an important fact, and in full accord with the analogy of Scripture.[*]
Note. Luther (whom many follow), Com. on Gal. 3:16, remarks: “Now, the promises are made unto Him, not in all the Jews, or in many seeds, but in one seed, which is Christ. The Jews will not receive this interpretation of Paul; for they say that the singular number is here put for the plural, one for many. But we gladly receive this meaning and interpretation of Paul, who oftentimes repeateth this word ‘seed,’ and expoundeth this seed to be Christ; and this he doth with an apostolic spirit. Let the Jews deny it as much as they will; we, notwithstanding, have arguments strong enough, which Paul hath before rehearsed, which also confirm this thing, and they cannot deny them.” (The student will observe that Luther’s reference to the Jews denotes those who endeavor to break the reasoning which would apply it to Jesus, as the Messiah; various commentators and writers oppose Paul’s statement because, as they allege, “the interpretation is found in Rabbinical writers, and the mode of interpretation here adopted is quite Jewish.”) Fausset (Com. loci) makes this seed to be “the Christ,” “and that which is inseparable from Him, the literal Israel, and the spiritual, His body, the Church,” because the covenant promises can only be fulfilled to both through Him. This is correct, as a little reflection and comparison will show, for e.g. it is only through the power of the resurrection obtained through this Seed that His co-heirs obtain the inheritance with Him; and it is only at His Sec. Advent, and through His powerful interference in behalf of the Jewish nation, that it enters upon its glorious national existence. Hence, in view of the Divine Purpose through this Seed, there is eminent fitness and deep significancy in thus singling Him out and expressing it in the form given by Paul.
Obs. 20. The reader is reminded to keep in view how such promises, thus given and thus explained by the apostles, would strike the Jewish mind. The aim of the apostles was to show that “the Seed” was Jesus the Christ, and that through this Jesus the covenant promises given to Abraham would, in due time, be realized. There was no difference of opinion concerning the covenants, as to their actual meaning, but only in reference to Jesus being the Messiah, to the postponement of fulfilment to the Sec. Advent, etc. Hence, so long as the early Church received the covenants as the Jews themselves believed and taught (Obs. 3), they could the more easily find access to Jewish minds and hearts, but just so soon as the Church departed from this view of the covenants (making the land heaven, etc.), then the Jew was the more difficult to reach, seeing that the Old Test. language and promise, upon which he relied as plain and indisputable, was changed and transformed into something else. This substitution made it more troublesome to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, for he naturally and inevitably became more distrustful of a Messiah who was not to fulfil the covenant promises as they were written. The Origenistic interpretation, forced upon the covenants, made the Jew and his fathers virtually believers in “carnality and error,” “gross misconceptions,” which charges are applaudingly repeated by eminent men down to the present day. And then, these lament the unbelief and incredulity of the Jew, without seeing that, saving in the acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah, they are more in darkness than the Jew whom they pity or despise.
Obs. 21. It must not be overlooked that inexpressibly precious spiritual blessings are inseparably connected with those pertaining to this inheritance of the land, the earth. This will fully appear when we come to these same promises enlarged and explained by additional revelation. Already they are contained in the expressions indicative of God in a special manner (Theocratic) becoming their God, becoming an “exceeding great reward,” and becoming a source of enjoyment, honor, and glory. (Comp. e.g. Props. 197, 154–157, etc.)
Obs. 22. The remaining promises of the Abrahamic covenant, and the deep meaning conveyed in the few but precise words, will come up, more appropriately, under following Propositions. Briefly, let it be said, that the witticisms offered at our faith are premature, for the time allotted for fulfilment has, as Scripture itself testifies, not yet arrived. When so much that is preliminary and provisionary has, as predicted, taken place and is now transpiring, it would be foolishness in us to yield up our faith. Let men review these promises and ridicule them; we patiently wait for their fulfilment. Thus e.g. when it is said that Abraham’s name shall be great, men of intelligence and learning may exercise their wit in comparing him with an Arab sheik and extol in contrast the name of a Cæsar and Plato; we, acknowledging the greatness of Abraham’s name already to the faithful, wait for the time when he shall arise from the tomb and inherit the promise—then, indeed, will it be great in honor, dignity, and power. When men ridicule the promise that a great nation shall proceed from him by contrasting the feebleness of the Jewish nation in the past with the powerful Gentile nations that have existed, we, with faith and hope, point to the time, still declared to be in the future, when this nation shall truly be great (comp. Props. 111–114). When the promise is that kings should proceed from him, unbelief laughs at the Kings of Judah and Israel compared with the conquerors of the earth; we wait patiently and hopefully for the Kings, the manifestation yet to come (comp. e.g. Prop. 154). Thus, with other promises that men deride,1 just as if the past was intended for their fulfilment; just as if the Word itself declared not that their realization was still in the future; just as if the Scriptures did not firmly unite their accomplishment with the Sec. Advent of the covenanted Seed; just as if God were not now performing a preparatory work to insure its ultimate, triumphant fulfilment.
Obs. 23. If the question be asked whether Abraham had a knowledge of the manner through which he would inherit the land, the answer is decisively—leaving the entire Record to testify—in the affirmative. A believer must feel convinced from what Jesus declared, John. 8:56 (comp. Heb. 11:8–16), that Abraham had far greater knowledge of the future than the Bible records. Without receiving the view (so Tholuck, etc.) that Abraham saw Jesus in His heavenly existence; without indorsing the notion (Olshausen, etc.) that Jesus was specially manifested to Abraham by a vision unrecorded; without confining ourselves to the idea (Barnes, etc.) of simple faith anticipating and thus beholding the day of Christ, we might perhaps adopt the view (of Bloomfield, etc.) of part faith and part added revelation giving him this knowledge. For certainly it is most reasonable to think and believe that Abraham, the faithful, would not be less favored by special inspiration to behold the future day of Christ than Balaam (Numb. 24:17), especially when Paul teaches us in Hebrews that Abraham had views of the future which are not stated in his history. Being the one to whom the covenant is first given, there is propriety in imparting such added instruction, that he may foresee its final result and be thus confirmed in its meaning.[*]
Note. That Abraham believed that God, who gave life, could after death restore life, is evident in the case of Isaac (Heb. 11:19); that the Patriarchs held the promises respecting the land to relate to the future after death is seen in their regarding themselves merely as “sojourners and strangers,” and not as inheritors and possessors; that even their posterity entertained similar views is abundantly evident from the manner in which they regarded the promises, and themselves as still “sojourners and strangers” (e.g. 1 Chron. 29:15; Ps. 39:12 etc.), i.e., expectants and heirs of something permanent and enduring in the future. Moses clearly foresaw the future, as we show in a number of places, and men, having a third heaven inheritance in mind, greatly prejudge many expressions which, in their estimation, have too earthly a cast, forgetting that this very feature (so objectionable and regarded as temporary in nature) is an essential element in the scheme of Redemption, which includes the sin-cursed earth. It is true, that while these promises relating to the future are sufficiently precise and clear to reason and to faith in God, yet they are purposely kept somewhat in the background, owing to the Theocratic ordering (for being already in the land and having God for their earthly Ruler, they could well trust to Him the manner of fulfilment, which the mode of revelation was calculated to develop), until the Theocracy was overthrown. Then the utterances, already given by Moses, David, etc., became more and more distinct under Daniel and the Prophets.
Obs. 24. Men under the influence of the Origenistic interpretation, or of the Platonic or heathen notion of the future, and thus rejecting the plainly covenanted promises of an earthly inheritance, unnecessarily make an enigma where none exists, and find fault with Moses when the fault really is in themselves. Thus e.g. Clarke (Ten Religions, p. 417) says: “Concerning the future life, upon which the Egyptians had so much to say, Moses taught nothing. His rewards and punishments were inflicted in this world. Retribution, individual and national, took place here. As this could not have been from ignorance or accident, it must have had a purpose, it must have been intentional.” Certainly it was “intentional,” because in the direct line of the truth and of God’s purpose in Salvation. Of course, with a third heaven, an outside world, theory prejudging Moses, it is impossible to find a reference to the future life, for the simple reason that Moses connects the future life with an inheriting of the land and earth, thus making his writings to correspond fully and accurately with the entire tenor of Scripture on the subject (as seen e.g. Props. 142, 131, 137, 141, 148–152, etc.). The fact is, that a dispassionate comparison of Moses with the general analogy of Scripture, and noticing that Moses carefully rejects the Egyptian theories and confines himself to a specific Plan, afterward carefully and consistently developed, is strong corroborative evidence of an inspiration, which, over against existing and prevailing notions entertained, could lay down a foundation in relation to this earth that (if accomplished) is adapted to secure the blessedness of man and creation in deliverance from an imposed curse.[*]
Note. Hence we see why Warburton failed in his “Legation of Moses.” He undertook a labor which it was utterly impossible for him to accomplish, and he sank under it, because he misconceived the plain covenant promises. No man, unless he apprehends the inheritance that Moses says God promised to the Patriarchs and the relation that believers sustain to it through coming resurrection power, can do justice to Moses or properly vindicate his unity with the after statements of prophets and apostles. Accept of the inheriting of the earth as believing Jew and Primitive Christian held, and then Moses stands forth a distinctive teacher in the same contemplated and carried on Divine Purpose of Redemption. We only add: The fulfilment of the covenants as given, at once sets aside a vast mass of mystical, spiritualistic, antagonistic theories of the inheritance, etc., as presented in thousands of works, and the result of fancy, vain imaginings, and adherence to wrong principles of interpretation. For, let it be noticed, the Theocracy pertains to this earth—it is God’s Kingdom here on the earth, He ruling in it as the earthly Ruler—and hence the objection that Warburton and others urge (viz.: that Moses—and during the Theocratic period down to the captivity—presented only motives, rewards, etc., relating to a life on earth), has no force, because, in the very nature of the case, if the Kingdom inaugurated is indeed a Theocracy, it must necessarily present this very feature; for with the Theocracy the interests the rewards, of every believer are identified, and it pertains to the earth. The rewards and punishments relate to its government as established even in its initiatory or earnest form; and the future enjoyment of or banishment from the same, in its higher restored form under the Messiah, is sustained (1) by present obedience or disobedience; (2) by promising and threatening things which God alone can perform; (3) by basing the future on covenants that necessitate a resurrection for their fulfilment; (4) by asserting that if obedient the Kingdom will be perpetuated, but if disobedient it shall, as a punishment, be withdrawn, and when ultimately restored it shall be for the righteous; (5) by making the hopes of the individual and of the nation to centre in the Theocracy, which in its ultimate outcome embraces the future; (6) by exhibiting trust in their Ruler, in His attributes and ability to verify promise which embraced “an everlasting possession” personally here on earth. As we proceed in our argument, step by step, it will be clearly seen that the very idea of a real, actual Theocracy, with which the interests of the individual and the nation are identified, now and hereafter, requires just such language and limitations as Moses and others give; for the reign, rewards, etc., eternal in their nature (which are now under spiritualistic manipulations, applied to the third heaven), pertain to this very Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom re-established by “the Seed” here on the earth. When our opponents, however, assert in connection that a future life was unknown, they—as we have shown—go beyond the Divine Record. (Comp. Wines’ Com. on Heb. Laws.) As we proceed in the argument, these will be brought out under various Propositions.
II. THE SINAITIC COVENANT, MADE WITH ISRAEL AT MOUNT SINAI
Obs. 1. The Sinaitic Covenant is an outgrowth of the Abrahamic covenant, and embraces an offer to the Jews nationally of a complete verification of the blessings tendered under the original promises. This procedure of erecting a Theocracy indicates that it was contemplated in the covenant with Abraham, as preparatory to the future realization of the promises. Its provisionary and initiatory character has already (Prop. 25) been noticed, while its conditional nature (Prop. 26) is evident from the blessings and curses pronounced by Moses in Lev. and Deut., and also by the language of Paul in Hebrews, who, among other things illustrative of this, refers to God as saying: “Because they continued not in my covenant and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” This covenant, as the result shows, was designed both to test the nation and to separate a seed to whom, at some future time, the Kingdom could be safely intrusted. It was the inauguration of means by which a suitable preparation could be made for the ultimate fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant. While it was the bond under which the Kingdom of God, as an earnest, was bestowed, it embraced many things which were only temporary and provisionary, looking forward to a period when the contained and contemplated blessings in the former covenant could be realized in the spirit and manner indicated. So that, in the very nature of the case, the Mosaic covenant being also a legitimate, but yet inferior, resultant of the previous covenant, it must itself, when the original covenant is to be fully fulfilled, give place to its superior. How it does this will appear, e.g. in our next Proposition.[*]
Note. To indicate how able writers enforce the outgrowth of this covenant from the Abrahamic, we select as illustrations the following. Fairbairn (Typology, vol. 2, p. 146) correctly asserts: “Its (i.e. Sinaitic) object was not to disannul the covenant of promise, or to found a new title to gifts and blessings conferred. It was given rather as a handmaid to the covenant, to minister in an inferior but still necessary place, to the higher ends and purposes which the covenant itself has in view.” So Sack (quoted by him, p. 145) says: “The matter of the law is altogether grounded upon the covenant of promise made with Abraham.… The law neither could nor would withdraw the exercise of faith from the covenant of promise, or render that superfluous, but merely formed an intermediate provision, until the fulfilment came.”
Obs. 2. It is a gratification to find that Theologians, urged to it by Rationalistic attacks, are falling back on the old ground that the Mosaic covenant is a result of the previous Abrahamic one, thus preserving the unity of the Divine Purpose. The view, adopted by some, that it is a separate and distinct covenant, simply provisionary without a direct and vital union existing between it and others, is justly held by many able writers to be erroneous and misleading—a violation of Scripture statements. A recent author, Kurtz (His. Old. Cov., vol. 3, p. 109), has some pertinent remarks on this point, saying that “the covenant at Sinai was precisely the same as that which had formerly been concluded at Mamre,” that “the one was merely the renewal of the other,” etc. Admiring the spirit which so accurately keeps in view the connection existing between the two covenants, we would more correctly say, that they are not the same (the proof is, that the promises contained in the Abrahamic covenant were not realized under the Mosaic covenant, thus e.g. Abraham did not inherit the land, etc.), but the Mosaic is a legitimate outgrowth from the former and designed to be preparatory to a realization of the Abrahamic. An important caution is necessary to be observed by the careful student; that is, constantly to keep in mind that God’s Purpose to establish a Theocratic Kingdom will not fail because of its being conditionally set up at Mt. Sinai; that if the Jews rebel against their King and He gives them up to punishment, yet His promise to Abraham—which we see here already takes the form of an outward, external, real Theocratic Kingdom—will ultimately be carried into successful accomplishment. How this will be done, is the subject matter of several of the following Propositions.[*]
Note. Henderson, art. “Dispensation” in Ency. Relig. Knowl., is quoted as saying that the students of prophecy, who hold to a future Messianic Kingdom, make “the Mosaic covenant” “the root of many of the mistaken views of the future state of the Kingdom of Christ,” and argues that its provisionary sacrifices, etc., show that it was to be superseded by the Christian Church, or the present dispensation, which is “spiritual, universal, perpetual.” As our argument fully meets, in detail, his reasoning, we only now say: (1) That the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are “the roots;” (2) that we hold, that much was provisionary under the Mosaic economy; (3) that the form of government itself, Theocratic, was only an earnest of that which should arise under David’s Son and related rulers; (4) that the Church does not in any particular meet covenant promises, and is itself preparative, etc. The student can already see that Waldegrave and others are mistaken, that our doctrine originates in and is founded on (some say, “one passage”) the Apocalypse, or that (as Prof. Sanborn) “the key-stone of the whole system” is in the Pre-Mill. Advent. It requires but a little knowledge of our views to see how deeply and solidly they are founded on the covenants and prophecies.
III. THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
Obs. 1. Having already shown and proven (Props. 28, 31, 32) how the Theocratic element was incorporated with the Davidic line, which God (as the chief Ruler and so acknowledged) chose, attention is now called to the distinguishing covenant with David by which this union is made forever inseparable; and by which this union is to be specially manifested in the sight of, and for the blessings of, the world through a descendant of David’s. The covenant is found in 2 Sam. 7:10–16 (1 Chron. 17:11–14), “The Lord telleth thee that He will make thee a house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His Kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of His Kingdom forever. I will be His Father and He shall be my Son. If he commit iniquity I will chasten Him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men. But my mercy shall not depart away from Him, as I took it from Saul whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy Kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever.”
Note 1. Dr. Clarke (Com. loci), who cannot be accused of special sympathy with our views, renders this sentence: “In suffering for iniquity I will chasten Him (the Messiah) with the rod of men, and with the stripes due to the children of men.” A multitude of our opponents make it to refer, in some way, to the Messiah, and sometimes give fanciful interpretations to this effect. Thus e.g. Augustine (see below, next Obs.) explains “the iniquity of Him” and the sin of the children Ps. 89:30–33, as referring to Christ’s body, the Church, and quotes as proof Acts 9:4, that when Saul persecuted His believing people, Christ said, “Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (It may be said that Ps. 89:30, 31 is not exactly parallel, because it refers not to the special seed but to the descendants of David in general (owing to the fact that the Kingdom is offered continuously (Prop. 26) to his descendants), and this is evidenced by the “nevertheless,” etc., where God returns to the idea of the special seed, previously mentioned, through whom His promise would be verified). Those who refer it to Christ directly (as Tertullian, Lactantius, Beza, Calov, Pfeiffer, Buddeus, Patrick, etc.) or indirectly (as Hengstenberg and others), or in part to Him and in part to Solomon (as Breuz, Sack, etc.), or literally to Solomon and mystically to Christ (as Glass, etc.)—all find that in Jesus we must find the pre-eminent fulfilment.
Note 2. When we come to this Davidic covenant, this perpetuation of the Theocratic relationship with the house of David, how much we regret the lost books of Samuel, Gad, and Nathan on the life of David.
Obs. 2. Learned and able men, forsaking the Primitive view and overlooking the perpetuity of this covenant, gravely tell us that Solomon and other descendants were here denoted; but we vastly prefer to let God explain His own language and the meaning intended. Thus, e.g. Acts 2:30, “David being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;” and Paul, directly quoting this covenant (Heb. 1:5), applies it to Christ Jesus, asking, “Unto which of the angels said He at any time.” … “I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to me a Son.” The announcing angel (Luke 1:30–33) gives the same testimony that the covenant truly refers to Christ.[*]
Note. The concessions of our opponents are all that can be desired. We select, out of the mass, those of an ancient and a modern writer. Augustine (“City of God,” B. 17, s. 8), unable to rid himself of the Primitive interpretation, applies the covenant of 2 Sam. 7:8–16 to Jesus, the Christ. It is interesting to notice that the man to whom the moderns are so largely indebted for spiritualizing views, argues that this covenant is fulfilled in Christ, saying: “He who thinks that this grand promise was fulfilled in Solomon greatly errs,” and adduces as proof that Solomon’s house was not “faithful,” being “full of strange women worshipping false gods, and the King himself, aforetime wise, seduced by them and cast down into the same idolatry; and let him (the reader) not dare to think that God either promised this falsely, or was unable to foreknow that Solomon and his house would become what they did.” He then adds, that the Jews do not understand this to be fulfilled in Solomon, but look for another; that Solomon began to reign while David still lived, before he slept with his fathers, and hence is not the one designated in the promise: “When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers,” etc. Augustine is undoubtedly correct in making Jesus the covenanted Son promised, but incorrect when he attempts to make out a present fulfilment of the promise. Again, Barnes (Com. Acts 2:30) makes 2 Sam. 7:11–16 the basis of such promise, and however inclined to drag in Solomon, is forced to say: “It is clear that the New Test. writers understood them as referring to the Messiah.” He then says that the Jews thus believed, and that such was the belief of David, giving Ps. 2, 22, 69, 17 as proof, and that such a reference must be received as scriptural. So in his Notes on Heb. 1:5, he makes the reference taken from the covenant Messianic, that they were so applied in the time of Paul, and that Paul employs them according to prevailing usage. Indeed, if we admit that the apostles are inspired, no other possible interpretation can be given.
Obs. 3. How did David himself understand this covenant? This is best stated in his own language. Read e.g. Ps. 72, which describes a Son infinitely superior to Solomon; reflect over Ps. 132, and after noticing that “the Lord hath sworn in truth unto David, He will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (which Peter, Acts 2:30, 31, expressly refers to Jesus); consider the numerous Messianic allusions in this and other Psalms (89tn, 110th, 72d, 48th, 45th, 21st, 2d, etc.), so regarded and explicitly quoted in the New Test. by inspired men; ponder the fact that David calls Him “my Lord,” “higher than the kings of the earth,” and gives Him a position, power, dominion, immortality, and perpetuity, that no mortal King can possibly attain to, and most certainly we are not wrong in believing that David himself, according to the tenor of the covenant “thy Kingdom shall be established forever before thee,” expected to be in this Kingdom of his Son and Lord both to witness and experience its blessedness (so Storrs, Diss. on Kingdom, and many others).[*]
Note. There is something wonderful in all this: while seeing and acknowledging that his throne and Kingdom are fully and distinctively incorporated as part of the Kingdom of God, that it shall belong to a Son of his own both by divine right and inheritance, he also perceives and describes that his throne and Kingdom thus occupied, is only, in virtue of its Theocratic relationship, the groundwork of a universality of dominion, it undergoing some peculiar changes to make it harmonize with the evident rulership of immortals. He notices also the connection that this promised Seed of his has with the older promises. For, we have first simply the seed of the woman; next that He shall be Abraham’s seed; next that He shall inherit the land and bless all nations; next, that He shall be a mighty King; and next that He shall be David’s Son and Lord, sitting on David’s throne and from thence exerting a world-wide dominion. Many a reference is made to this connecting series, and it would be highly interesting to trace them, but we have only space for one, which immediately follows the giving of the covenant. David (2 Sam. 7:19, comp. 1 Chron. 17:17) goes to God and expresses his amazement, gratitude, and praise; and, among other things, declares: “And is this the manner (marg. read., law) of the Man, O God,” which Dr. Kennicott renders: “And this is (or must be) the law of the Man or of the Adam.” Bh. Horsley translates it: “And this is the arrangement about the Man, O Lord Jehovah,” thus making an exact parallel with 1 Chron. 17:17, which he renders: “And thou hast regarded me in the arrangement about the Man, that is to be from above, O Lord Jehovah.” (Comp. Jones’s Notes on Scripture, p. 95, Lange’s Com. 2 Sam. loci, Poole’s Synopsis, etc.). In comparing the different renderings, keeping in view what preceded and followed in the Divine Purpose (and noticing Paul in 1 Cor. 15:45–47, there can be no reasonable doubt but that David regarded this Man, this promised Son, as the covenanted Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Man above all others, in whom, as the Second Adam, the Redemptive process would exhibit a complete restitution. This is confirmed by his Psalms, and the use made of them by the apostles. David anticipated, by inspiration, His own Salvation, and the perpetuity of His throne and Kingdom, in the Divine arrangement concerning the Man.
The reader’s attention is called to a feature, which gives us one of these indirect but most forcible (because undesigned) proofs of divine inspiration. Here is David receiving a covenant from the Almighty which explicitly affirms the perpetuity, etc., of his throne and Kingdom, and yet David himself now proceeds to predict the long continued overthrow and desolation (e.g. Ps. 89) of his throne and kingdom, and that this very covenant, confirmed by oath, should for a long, indefinite time be held in abeyance. Now it is not in the nature of man to do this himself, for professing this covenant relationship, the most unlikely thing would be the prediction of such an overthrow. In fact it is unnatural, because the natural man would inevitably eulogize the future prosperity of his throne and Kingdom under the auspices of the Almighty. How then do we account for this mental phenomenon, and that David described the exact condition of his throne and kingdom as it has existed during many centuries? The only reasonable way to explain it is to receive the Biblical account, viz.: that David was inspired by God’s Spirit to foresee and describe the future—accurately—against what the natural man, influenced by desire and such expressed covenanted relationship, would have done.
Obs. 4. The Prophets following, had a similar understanding of this divine-human disposition or ordering, by which David’s Son would personally, through David’s Kingdom, bestow the blessings of perfected Redemption. Thus e.g. Isa. 9:7, Jer. 23:5, 6, and 30:9, and 33:15–26, etc. (comp. Props. 21, 31, 33, 68, 122, etc.).
Obs. 5. Before censuring the Jews, as many do, for believing that Jesus would literally restore the Davidic throne and Kingdom, we must consider, in fairness, that they were justified in so doing by the very language (Props. 4, 21, and 48) of the covenant. It is incredible that God should in the most important matters, affecting the interests and the happiness of man and nearly touching His own veracity, clothe them in words, which, if not true in their obvious and common sense, would deceive the pious and God-fearing of many ages. We cannot, dare not (however upheld by many eminent names) entertain an opinion so dishonoring both to God and His ancient believing children. The Jews are abundantly defended in their faith by the covenant itself; the correctness and justness of their fondly entertained hopes appear from the particulars incorporated with it.
(1) The words and sentences in their plain grammatical acceptation, do expressly teach their belief. This is denied by no one, not even by those who then proceed to spiritualize the language. Therefore already the Jews are excusable in believing what God so definitely declares (comp. Prop. 48).
(2) The covenant is distinctively associated with the Jewish nation and none other. Passing by the numerous proof texts which will be presented hereafter, let us confine ourselves to the understanding of this relationship by David at the giving of the covenant. In 2 Sam. 7:23, 24 (1 Chron. 17:21, 22) ho expresses before God his consciousness of the magnitude of the blessing; that this covenant, in virtue of his throne and Kingdom being thus distinguished, embraces “one nation” (comp. Props. 24, 59, 60, etc.), and this the same nation that was brought out of Egypt (i.e. Abraham’s descendants), who should be established in “thy (God’s) land.” And then ascending to the promise previously given that this nation is specially chosen, i.e. the elect nation, and that this very covenant made with himself is a marvellous confirmation of this truth, he adds: “Thou hast confirmed to Thyself thy people Israel” (the same nation brought out of Egypt, as the connection shows) “to be a people unto Thee forever; and Thou, Lord, art become their God.” With such testimony before them, how could the faithful Jews hesitate in believing as they did respecting their nation, its elect position, its supremacy owing to this Theocratic exaltation in and through the Messiah.
(3) It is called a perpetual covenant, i.e. one that shall endure forever. It may, indeed, require time before its fulfilment; it may even for a time be held, so far as the nation is concerned, in the background, but it must be ultimately realized. David himself, in his last words (2 Sam. 23:5), emphatically says: “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation and all my desire.” The prophet Isaiah reiterates (55:3), pronouncing it “an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David.” Surely no one can fail to see that this denotes, as Barnes (Com. loci), “an unchanging and unwavering covenant,—a covenant which was not to be revoked,”—“one which was not to be abrogated, but which was to be perpetual,”—and that “God would ratify this covenant.” Assuredly so;—why then accuse the Jews of folly in trusting in it?
(4) It was confirmed by oath (Ps. 132:11, and 89:3, 4, 33), thus giving the strongest possible assurance of its ample fulfilment. Could the Jews do less than trust in language thus confirmed? (comp. Props. 47 and 48).
(5) To leave no doubt whatever, and to render unbelief utterly inexcusable, God concisely and most forcibly presents His determination (Psl. 89:34): “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” It would have been sheer presumption and blindness in the Jews to have altered (under the plea—modern—of spirituality) the covenant, and to have refused to accept of the obvious sense conveyed by the words; and there is a heavy responsibility resting upon those, who, even under the most pious intentions, deliberately alter the covenant words and attach to them a foreign meaning.
Note 1. In the context he clearly intimates that his house will not continuously advance in prosperity that of itself it will fall, but that it will rise again under the Messiah to the highest attainable prosperity. Now after so much of fulfilment we can appreciate the sudden transitions from predicted triumph and glory to sad reverses and downfall of throne and kingdom, followed by expressed hopes of a glorious restitution. The reason for such abruptness and a certain degree of obscurity in the allusions to the overthrow, etc., of the Kingdom, will be found in the predetermined offer of this Kingdom to the Jewish nation at the First Advent (Props. 54–66). While foreseeing and foretelling (in order to vindicate His knowledge) this downfall, yet God, in consistency with the moral freedom of the people, offers to perpetuate this throne and kingdom, that not a son shall fail to David to sit on his throne if obedient, etc. He could not do less, and therefore, in testing the nation—which Moses even foretold would fail to endure the test and would meet with a long, prolonged punishment—these things are carefully, prudently revealed so as not to interfere with God’s tender of the Kingdom.
Note 2. Barnes and a host besides do, however, change this identical covenant; seeing its perpetuity so clearly asserted, they receive it as perpetual, but only after changing its meaning. The plain grammatical sense—the one the Jews and Primitive Church received—is rejected as “carnal,” and another substituted by which David’s throne and kingdom is transmuted into God’s throne in the third heaven and God’s Kingdom in heaven or in the church. Alas! when pious and excellent men can thus tamper with the foundations of our hope. (Comp. Prop. 122.)
Note 3. Such altering is only building with “wood, hay, and stubble.” The motives may, like Paul’s in Stephen’s case, result from a zeal for the truth’s sake, but, in the light of the unchangeable covenant, it is evidently misdirected zeal. Learning, philosophy, piety, cannot, ought not to assume the liberty of altering what God has so solemnly spoken; but, alas, it is so prevailingly done that the Church, with here and there some exceptions, has lost sight of this covenant. Theologies that profess to give a systematic statement of the truth either ignore it, or very briefly mention it as something in which we are not interested. Those who cling to this oath-bound, perpetual covenant are regarded as very “carnal” and “Jewish,” etc. The simple reason for all this is, that because there has been no fulfilment of this covenant promise it is taken for granted that either there will be none, or else the language must be spiritualized to suit existing circumstances. From what has taken place in the past, we rest assured that God means just what the words in their plain grammatical sense convey, and that as such they will, in God’s own time, be realized. God has hitherto rejected substitutions of His Word. Abraham tried it, when, after waiting for some years he contemplated adopting a son, thinking that God probably meant an adopted son, and then alter another waiting he went in to Hagar supposing that the seed would be his and not Sarah’s, but God fulfilled His Word just as written. Others attempted this with the same result; no substitution, however learnedly or eloquently presented, is to be received over against the express words of God. We, indeed, may not be able to tell how they can be fulfilled, but if unable, the matter may safely be trusted to God without putting forward our weak, accommodating interpretations. We, therefore, must earnestly protest against the manifest injustice that is done to this covenant. Books specially devoted to the subject of the Covenants have much to say respecting an eternal covenant entered into between Father and Son, at some period in eternity, of which nothing is said, but all is inferred, and a covenant plainly given, confirmed by oath, declared to be perpetual, is coolly set aside. Theologies, Bib. Dictionaries, etc., totally ignore it. Indeed, it has become fashionable to ridicule the Jewish and Primitive belief based on this covenant, as e.g. Gregory (Four Gospels), who declares, with intended sarcasm, that their “Messiah was to be the Jewish Cæsar of the world,” because they “had cast away that grander idea of a spiritual, universal, and everlasting Kingdom (i.e. the Church) which fills the books of the prophets.” It is no matter of surprise to find such writers to have no manner of use for the Davidic covenants, either in “the preparation for the Messiah” or in “the mission of the Jews,” or in the present and future. Instead of being fundamental, it only, in their estimation, is indicative of the Messiah being of David’s line, and can be employed, if at all, in a mystical or spiritual sense. We hold, against all such, that, no matter who was on the throne (David, Solomon, Hezekiah, etc.), and no matter how flourishing the Kingdom, the pious and believing held that the covenant looked for that special “Anointed One,” David’s Son, who should exalt the identical Theocratic throne and Kingdom to a grandeur immeasurably great.
Obs. 6. The language of the apostles is eminently calculated to confirm the Jewish belief in the literal fulfilment of the Davidic covenant. Thus e.g. let any unprejudiced reader take the first sermons that were delivered after the day of Pentecost, addressed to Jews, and he cannot fail to see this feature. Peter (Acts 2:14–36), referring to the covenant promise that Jesus Christ would sit on David’s throne, correctly argues that the performance of this requires the resurrection of Jesus, which David also foretold as a prerequisite. He then informs the Jews that He did thus arise, that He ascended to heaven where He is exalted as Lord and Christ, waiting for the time when His foes shall be made His footstool, “whom (Acts 3:12–26) the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things” (keeping in mind the Jewish idea of restitution as always associated with the restored Davidic Kingdom) shall come, and then “He (God) shall send Jesus Christ” through whom this is effected. He exhorts them on the ground that they “are children of the covenant which God made with our fathers” to repent that they may become worthy participants in “the times of refreshing” (Jewish expression), which “shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Let any one read the covenant and prophecies directly bearing on it, and then place himself in the position (Prop. 20) of a Jewish hearer of Peter, with Jewish faith, expectations, and covenant relationship, and the decided impression will be made that the covenant is not altered but remains unchanged, that the death of Jesus combined with resurrection and exaltation only qualities Him the better to meet the conditions of the covenant, and that through this resurrected Jesus, when the time appointed by the Father arrives, this covenant will be verified.
Obs. 7. This is confirmed by the fully admitted early church view on the subject. Let the reader pause and reflect, how it comes, if the prevalent modern notion of the covenant is correct, that the early Christians (who had the advantages of apostolic, inspired teaching, or were close to it) held to the grammatical sense of the covenant and fully believed with the Jews that the Messiah would come (again, as to Jesus) to restore the Davidic throne and Kingdom? Upon what supposition can it be satisfactorily explained, excepting the one that they were correct?[*]
Note. Acknowledging Neander’s manly concessions to the prevalence of Chiliasm in the early church, and his favorable estimate of Millenarians, he, to make room for his own modern theory, does these ancient worthies injustice, when (His. Church, vol. 1, p. 78) he informs us that it was “a distinguishing character” of Christianity “to lower itself down to the comprehension” of these men. His standard of comparison, derived from an anti-Chiliastic bias, is not a true one; and this appears evident from the covenant itself. These men, believers in whom the truth is perpetuated, embraced a pure, fundamental truth, a high and noble faith, indorsed and supported by Divine authority, and needed not the Origenistic, or the elevating Hegelian, Philosophy to discern it. We leave this able, but in this respect mistaken, writer give the following testimony to the early church doctrine. “Christianity (His. Plant. Chr. Church, vol. 1, p. 500) allied itself to the expectation of a restoration and glorification of the Theocracy, which was preceded by an increasing sense of its fallen state among the Jews. Those who clung to a national and external Theocracy looked forward to this glorification as something external, sensuous (?), and national. The Messiah, they imagined, would exalt by a divine miraculous power the depressed Theocracy of the Jews to a visible glory such as it had never before possessed, and establish a new, and exalted, unchangeable order of things, in place of the transitory earthly institutions which had hitherto existed. Thus the Kingdom of the Messiah would appear as the perfected form of the Theocracy, as the final stage in the terrestrial development of mankind, exceeding in glory everything that a rude fancy could depict under sensible images, a Kingdom in which the Messiah would reign sensibly present as God’s Vicegerent and order all circumstances according to His will. From this point of view, therefore, the reign of the Messiah would appear as belonging entirely to the future; the present condition of the world, with all its evils and defects, would be set in opposition to that future golden age, from which all wickedness and evil would be banished.” He then proceeds to tell us how a change of belief was gradually brought about in the Church doctrine, and the substance, compressed, is, that man unauthorized made this change under the plea that a deeper insight, greater knowledge, indicated the early belief to be erroneous. Such a change may commend itself to human wisdom, but it is not reasonable according to the covenants and the assurances surrounding them, or to the prophecies and the teaching of the first three centuries. No! let us, in all lowliness of mind, seek no change, but content ourselves, even if it gives rise to invidious comparisons, with the faith held by the early confessors and martyrs. (Comp. Props. 75–78.)
It is exceedingly gratifying to find this Jewish faith, thus founded on the covenants, recognized and continued in the early history of the Chr. Church; for, if true, this very feature—now regarded by many as a stain or blot—ought, in the very nature of the case, to characterize the churches established by the apostles and their immediate successors. There is a disposition on the part of some writers to treat this matter unfairly (as in Corrodi’s His. of Chiliasm, Shedd’s His. of Ch. Doctrine, etc.), and to ignore, as much as possible, the early Jewish belief as something of no value to us (as in various Quarterlies, Reviews, Theologies, etc.).
Obs. 8. Having called attention to the covenant and its literal fulfilment, it may be suitable to present the order of fulfilment as given by David himself. Necessarily brief and abrupt, so as not to conflict with the free agency of man, it is a sublime vindication of David’s inspiration, the perpetuity of the covenant, and its ultimate literal realization.[*]
Note. Consider Ps. 89, and observe these particulars as stated: (1) David acknowledges the bestowal of the covenant by God, and its confirmation by oath, “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations” (v. 1–4). (2) He expresses praise that God’s wonders and faithfulness will be shown “in the congregation (gathering) of the saints,” and that He has the authority, power, and mercy to perform His promises (v. 5 to 18). (3) He again refers to the covenant, shows that One shall be specially exalted, and that God says: “I will make Him My First-born, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him forevermore, and My covenant shall stand fast in Him. His (David’s) seed also will I make to endure forever, and His throne as the days of heaven” (v. 19–29). (4) Then as this Kingdom is offered to the regular descendants of David, and it is foreseen that they will become unworthy of it, God foretells the same, with the additional assurance to David that, notwithstanding such rebellion and His withdrawal for a time, the covenant will still be fulfilled, in these pregnant words: “If his (David’s) children forsake My law and walk not in My judgments, if they break My statutes and keep not My commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My Holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven” (v. 30–37). Here it is positively asserted that the relapse of the nation and a resultant infliction of punishment (just as centuries have witnessed) shall not change God’s promise to David respecting that seed of his that shall reign on his throne. (5) Now comes a remarkable transition, which should shame the unbelief of doubting ones, seeing that it is descriptive of the precise condition of things as they exist to-day. David having foretold the conditional overthrow of his kingdom, and yet that God will be faithful in its final restoration, now plainly predicts the downfall itself: “But Thou hast cast off and abhorred; Thou hast been wroth with Thine anointed” (i.e. the Theocratic kings that followed David). “Thou hast made void the covenant of Thy servant; Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground,” etc. “Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground,” etc. The covenant is unrealized; the Theocratic Kingdom is fallen; the very throne and Kingdom, the subject of such special promise, is now overthrown. Then, however, resting upon the assurances given, he asks: “How long, Lord? Wilt Thou hide Thyself forever? Shall Thy wrath burn as fire?” “Lord, where are Thy former lovingkindnesses, which Thou swarest unto David in Thy truth?” David’s faith in God that He would remember His covenant and restore his cast-down crown and throne, is briefly but finely expressed: “Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants.” “Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen and Amen.” Who, that is an humble believer in the Word as written, can, in the face of such predictions, deride the early church faith evolved by them? Who, when observing how carefully every objection is answered lest faith should stumble and fall, can resist the conviction that there is a force in these words, which are yet—when realized—destined to form one of the grandest displays of God’s faithfulness and mercy in the Redemptive scheme?