The Kingdom will be the outgrowth of the renewed Abrahamic covenant, under which renewal we now live.
PROPOSITION 50. The Kingdom will be the outgrowth of the renewed Abrahamic covenant, under which renewal we now live.
Leaving the first part of the proposition to be brought out by our general argument and the considerations under various propositions hereafter, we confine ourselves to the other fact stated, viz.: that the Abrahamic covenant is renewed or re-confirmed in this dispensation, under which re-confirmation we now live.
Obs. 1. This, indeed, might already be inferred by the reflection, that the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom being overthrown, and the Mosaic institutions abrogated, and the covenant made with David being held in abeyance (or, as David expressed its “made void,” i.e. not fulfilled) the original Abrahamic covenant, from which the others spring, in consequence alone remains in complete force. The covenant of this dispensation, called the New Testament, or the New Covenant, is none other than the Abrahamic renewed or confirmed by Jesus the Christ. We are not left to conjecture or inference on so important a point; it is one plainly taught in Holy Writ.[*]
Note. The reader will carefully regard this matter, as it is essential to a correct understanding of much Scripture. It is a sad fact, that more ignorance and misunderstanding exist in relation to the covenants than perhaps of any other portion of the Bible. This originates from the manner in which the subject has been handled by theologians of talent and eminence. Instead of confining themselves to the covenants in which man is directly interested and which have been directly given to him by God, they have much to say concerning “a covenant of Redemption” entered into by the Father and Son from eternity (and undertake to give the particulars of what is not on record), and “a Covenant of Grace” (which embraces the particulars of salvation, etc.), but the distinctive Abrahamic covenant and the manner in which it is confirmed is left without due consideration. This introduces a series of wild and fanciful interpretations, such as that all nations are now in the position once occupied by the Jewish nation; that God does not regard the Jewish nation with more favor than other nations; that the promises to the Jewish nation are typical, temporary, conditional, etc. Believing that we are under an entire New Covenant (which they cannot point out in the Scriptures, but which they affirm is this or that, viz.: this dispensation, or the sacrifice of Christ, or the tender of salvation to all believers, etc.), they, of course, ignore the necessity of our becoming “the seed of Abraham, of our being engrafted, etc. The relationship that believers sustain to the Jewish nation is utterly misapprehended, and inevitable confusion and antagonism arise. (Comp. e.g. Pres. Edwards’s His. Redemp., Russell, Witsius, Boston, Strong, etc., on the Covenants, and our various systems of Theology). It is painful to notice the discrepancies, amid a show of profound learning and speculation.
Obs. 2. Turn to Galatians (the more significant, because addressed to Gentile believers), ch. 3, and the apostle argues that Gentiles come in under the Abrahamic covenant, which, consequently, must be the one under which believers live and inherit. Notice: (1) v. 16, “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made,”—the promises of salvation pertain then to this covenant. (2) By this seed) v. 16) is denoted “Christ”—so that Christ Himself as Abraham’s seed has the promises pertaining to Himself in the same covenant. (3) Hence (v. 17) this “covenant was, confirmed before of God in Christ”—i.e. the Divine Purpose embraced this as a fact to be accomplished, and therefore the Messiah came. (4) In view of the relationship of this Abrahamic covenant to Jesus Christ, it is added (v. 17) that the law or Mosaic institution, which was afterward given, “cannot disannul” this previously given one. (5) For, if it did disannul it, then it would “make the promise of none effect,” i.e. it could not be realized, but because the covenant continues unimpaired, the promise also is sure. (6) The inheritance of the saints is originally given (v. 18) by God “to Abraham by promise,” and hence is not affected by the abrogation of the law. (7) For the law “was (v. 19) added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (8) By the death of the Seed provision is made so “that (v. 13, 14) the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,”—i.e. the promise contained in the Abrahamic covenant. (9) Now “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise;”—we become inheritors with Abraham and Christ of promises contained in the Abrahamic covenant. (10) Hence we “receive (ch. 4:5, 7) the adoption of sons,” “and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ;” i.e. we inherit in God’s Theocratic Kingdom. (11) “Then (ch. 5:5) we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” contained in the covenant promise, and (v. 21) can “inherit the Kingdom of God” (Rom. 4:11, 18). Thus then according to the apostle we are living under the precious Abrahamic covenant, which is renewed or confirmed in Christ; and if we desire to inherit with Abraham and Christ, we must, by faith, become the seed of Abraham, and thus come into proper covenant relationship. Well may we say, in view of this, with Paul (Gal. 3:15), “Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto.”
Obs. 3. This is corroborated and strengthened by what the apostle says in other places respecting the Abrahamic covenant containing the promises, which we hope to inherit through and with Christ. The entire analogy of the Word sustains our position.[*]
Note. Having given Paul’s views addressed to Gentiles, let us turn to the same as given to Jews, who were well acquainted with the covenant. Notice the train of thought as given in Hebrews. (1) Paul informs us (ch. 2:16), as a preliminary, that Jesus “took on Him the seed of Abraham;” covenant relationship demanded it. (2) Then after referring to the rest that remaineth for the people of God (and mind, speaking of it as something well understood by his hearers, comp. Prop. 143), exhorting to steadfastness, upholding the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises, he approaches the subject of the covenant by informing us (ch. 7:18) of the “disannulling” of the Mosaic law, and (v. 22) that “Jesus was made surety of a better covenant;” that (ch. 8:6) “He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if the first covenant” (Mosaic, as all admit, being the first in actual course of realization) “had been faultless, then should no place have been found for the second;” i.e. the Mosaic had many things attached which were merely provisionary. Let the reader pause and consider what is “the better covenant” here designated. According to Gal. 3 it is the one established on better promises; the one which gives the promises of blessing and inheritance to Abraham and his Seed, the Christ—in brief, the Abrahamic, and which, therefore, not being annulled or set aside, remains in force, for otherwise “the promise would be of none effect.” Jesus becomes, by virtue of His being the Seed of Abraham and because of His death (which provides the way of ultimate fulfilment through resurrection power, etc.). “the surety” of its final realization. But we will leave the apostle to state this in his own language. (3) Then he adds (v. 8:13), “For finding fault with them” (viz.: Mosaic), “He saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new” (comp. Obs. 4, following) “covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them out of Egypt,” etc. “In that He saith a new covenant. He hath made the first old.” While the Sinaitic covenant is an outgrowth of the Abrahamic, and yet, owing to the foreseen defection of the nation and to the necessity of securing a satisfactory remission of sin, it was in many of its provisions merely preparatory, and hence, when removed, must give place to that which introduced it. Here the Mosaic is called the first because under it the Theocratic government was first established, and the Abrahamic is designated the second or new because under it, when fulfilled, that government will be re-established and existing. Paul, it must be remembered, wrote to Jews, and used this quotation as they employed it. Now that the Abrahamic covenant is alluded to in this quotation from Jer. 31:31, etc., is evident: (a) from the context in which the passage stands in Jeremiah—preceded, followed, and connected with a literal restoration of the Jewish nation, and identified with (for the prophet does not contradict himself) the Davidic covenant (which is an amplification of the Abrahamic, showing how it will be fulfilled) in its renewal. (b) The prophet calls this “a new” covenant, not because it is entirely new, but, as is said by the apostle, because the other is superseded by it, i.e. it is renewed, as e.g. in the coming of the seed, etc. (c) It is given to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” which, as all commentators admit (however they may afterward spiritualize), in its literal aspect denotes the Jewish people. It is the same people, too, that were “scattered,” “plucked up,” “destroyed,” and “afflicted,” who shall be restored to their “land” and “cities.” Although not yet verified, the apostle aptly quotes it to prove that God predicts such a superseding of the Mosaic. Addressing Jews and admitting their hopes of a restoration under the Messiah, they would feel the force of such an argument, which indicated the setting aside of the law. (d) Unity of prediction requires this, for we have decided references to this renewed Abrahamic covenant, conjoined with the Davidic, being a distinguishing characteristic of, and fundamental to, the Messianic period, as e.g. Mic. 7:9; Ezek. 16:60–63; Isa. 55:3, etc. Indeed, many are the prophecies which assume that under the Messiah both the Abrahamic and the explanatory Davidic, shall be realized. As we shall have occasion hereafter to quote these largely, it is sufficient here to say that they not only specifically refer to it, but denominate it (hence it cannot be superseded) “an everlasting covenant” (which it must be, since its promises bring Salvation). This does not interfere, as the predictions themselves intimate, in allowing other and new arrangements under the reign of the Messiah, as e.g. a new dispensation, the rulership of immortals, the renewal of the earth, etc. But the Bible still insists that these covenants are fundamental to all those things; that the dispensation, honor, privileges, glory, etc., enjoyed, are all the resultants of an existing and then realized Abrahamic-Davidic covenant—the Abrahamic being the foundation of the others.
But to return to Paul: (e) In the next chapter he shows how the Mosaic introduced rites, sacrifices, etc., which were typical, and that to obtain the promise of the inheritance (for we have already shown, Prop. 49, how it necessitates, e.g. a resurrection) the death of Jesus is requisite. Hence (ch. 9:15), “For this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” This promise, let the reader notice, of inheriting the land forever, is found in the Abrahamic covenant. Now the Mosaic economy made no provision for the Patriarch’s or Christ’s inheriting (and through them of the righteous dead), because it provided for no resurrecting power through which it could be accomplished, but pointed onward, by its types and sacrifices, to Him who should have power to perform it. In this Plan, the death of Jesus is an important factor. Therefore, he adds (v. 16, 17), “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” While the original word, constantly and carefully selected, does not mean either a will or testament,* but an arrangement, disposition, disposal of matters, or ordering of things, yet Paul illustrates the fact that the Abrahamic covenant required, before its realization, the death of Christ, by what occurs with the disposition men usually make of their affairs, which disposition is effective after their death as far as inheriting is concerned. (This is also additional proof of the correctness of our position that the promises of the covenant are not yet fulfilled.) Without keeping in view this manifest allusion to the promise of inheriting, the illustration would be unnatural and out of place. Or, if it be preferred, as some do, that the illustration be drawn from the ratification of a covenant or arrangement over dead sacrifices, the same truth is still presented, that without the death of Christ the promise of inheritance cannot be obtained. (7) The matter is summed up (v. 28), and attention directed to the time of inheriting: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” To a Jew, with his belief in the covenanted mercies of Abraham and David, the only possible conclusion, from the language of the apostle, was, that at the second coming, thus specified, the covenant would be realized. This Jewish opinion would be strengthened by the direct quotations from the covenants; by speaking of “the world to come” (a favorite Jewish phrase, employed to designate the period when these covenants would be fulfilled); by declaring that “this man” “sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool;” by foretelling “the day approaching,” “the day of Jesus Christ,” in which salvation (as covenanted) was to be experienced; by saying: “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry;” by pointing to Abraham and all the ancient worthies that they had not received the promise in fulfilment, but would with us at the appearing of this Jesus; and by adopting, in conclusion, the prophetical and Jewish denomination of “everlasting covenant” in the phrase “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” thus showing that the Abrahamic, known as “the everlasting,” was ratified by the blood or death of Jesus. Thus a perfect unity of doctrine is preserved between the Old and the New Testaments, both uniting in the same declaration, that the Kingdom of the Messiah, the glory and blessedness of the reign of David’s Son, is a resultant of an existing, confirmed covenant relationship, a divine arrangement, which finds its basis, so far as humanity is related, in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Jewish nation, and, above all, in the man Christ Jesus.
Obs. 4. Persons are apt to be misled by the use of the word “new,” thinking that it necessarily means something entirely new, different from what preceded. They forget that in Bible usage it frequently means renewed, restored again, newly confirmed, etc., as in new heart, new moon, new creature, new heavens and new earth, new commandment, drink new (Matt. 26:29), etc. It is important then to discriminate whenever the word is employed, especially in so weighty a matter as this, seeing the high interests that are involved. As the phrase “new covenant” only appears once in the Old Test. and but a few times in the New, the general analogy of Scripture must be allowed to determine the sense in which it is used.
Obs. 5. The corroborating proof, drawn from the fact that Gentiles to inherit the promises must become the seed of Abraham, has already been briefly given in Props. 24, 29, 30 (united), but will be presented in detail under Props. 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, etc. To avoid repeating, let it only be said that the very engrafting or adoption of Gentile believers into the covenanted, elect nation, is itself evidence that we live under the reconfirmed Abrahamic covenant.
As a correct knowledge of covenant relationship is essential to a proper understanding of the truth in Redemption, and to inspire within us correct hopes of the future, it seems reasonable to suppose that those believers who lived the nearest to apostolic times and enjoyed the advantages of apostolic explanations upon so interesting and fundamental a subject, ought to know under what covenant we are living, what covenant Jesus confirmed by His death, and under what covenant saints inherit. Now down to Origen not a single Father has the least idea of an entire new covenant instituted by Jesus, but every one, either directly or indirectly as far as we can gather, confirms our view of it. If moderns are correct with their notions respecting a new covenant as taught in Hebrews, is it not remarkable that they cannot point to a single church, Jewish or Gentile, that received and taught their views in the first and second centuries. If the modern notion is so plain and distinct, as is claimed, why not then proclaimed by some, at least, of the earliest Fathers?[*]
Note. This is seen by their Chiliastic attitude and looking for the fulfilment of the Abrahamic-Davidic covenant at the speedy Advent of Jesus. They all held that Christ is become the surety or pledge of the Abrahamic covenant; that He will fulfil it in connection with the Davidic, with which it is incorporated; and that they would, through Christ, inherit the promises under that covenant. A large array of quotations might be presented to indicate the general sentiment on this point, but having already given (Prop. 49, etc.) some testimony, and having occasion hereafter in connection with other points to quote others, it is unnecessary (the more so, in view of the admissions already quoted from Neander and others respecting the prevailing belief) to do more than simply refer to the Epistle of Barnabas, who (Sec. 14 and 15) positively argues that God has not yet fulfilled the Abrahamic covenant, excepting in sending the Seed, Christ, who is the covenanted pledge that the remainder will be realized at the Sec. Advent, at “the day of restitution,” at “the renewal of all things.” The decided and impressive testimony of these early Fathers, given amidst weakness and imperfection, and the strong and unwavering faith they manifested, held amidst derision and persecution,—that they were living under this renewed Abrahamic covenant as the seed of Abraham, which the death and exaltation of Jesus ensured to them of finally realizing in the inheriting of the land with Abraham,—this cannot be set aside as a departure from the truth, or as “carnal,” without undermining the foundations of Christianity itself. If these men, who appealed to the apostles and elders, are not to be trusted in giving an exhibit of the covenanted foundation of their Christian faith,—if they were in error and deceived,—then who in the Church can be trusted in presenting one? Shall we select Origen, or Augustine, or Jerome, or some later one? We prefer to take that which harmonizes with Scriptural authorities and keeps the closest to covenant promise as written, and, therefore, in making our selection, we find Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenĉus, and their fellows in like faith, consistent both with covenant language and explanation as given in Holy Writ. In their simplicity, and with all their imperfection, they have far more of the truth, fundamental, than multitudes, learned and eminent, who deride them. (Comp. Props. 73–78.)
Obs. 6. This view of the covenant was overshadowed and crushed by the Alexandrian, monkish, and Popish theories introduced (comp. Props. 77 and 78). It was entertained in some of its leading aspects by a few (as e.g. Waldenses, Albigenses) down to the Reformation, when it was partially (not in its primitive purity) revived by the Reformers. The influence of the late Fathers (as Augustine, etc.) and of the schoolmen, prevented that clear, consistent, and simple statement that once pervaded the Primitive Church. But notwithstanding this, every Reformer saw and recognized the fundamental character of the Abrahamic covenant, that we lived under its promises, that Christ made provision for their fulfilment, and thus confirmed the covenant. Thus e.g. Luther repeatedly asserts the present existing force of the Abrahamic covenant in his Com. on Galatians; Calvin in his Institutes (B. 2, ch. 10) rightly makes the promises of this covenant to extend over into the future.[*]
Note. It is interesting to notice Luther’s views. Thus e.g. in Com. on Gal. ch. 3, taking “the testament” in the sense of a will (instead of disposition, etc.), he expressly says (v. 15): “Now, if a man’s will be kept with so great fidelity, that nothing is added to it or taken from it after his death, how much more ought the last will of God to be faithfully kept, which He promised and gave unto Abraham and his seed after him? For when Christ died, then was it confirmed in Him, and after His death, the writing of His last testament was opened; that is to say: ‘the promised blessing of Abraham was preached among all nations dispersed throughout the world.’ This was the last will and testament of God, the great Testator, confirmed by the death of Christ; therefore no man ought to change it, or add anything to it, as they that teach the law and man’s traditions do.” He tells under v. 16, that “the promises of God made unto Abraham” being called “a testament” makes them “a donation or free gift,” and that the “heirs look not for laws, exactions, or any burdens to be laid upon them by a testament, but they look for the inheritance confirmed thereby.” In commenting on v. 17, he advocates the perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant (hence is not superseded,—God forbid!), and beautifully illustrates the relation that the Sinaitic covenant sustained to it: “the promise was not abolished either by the law, or by the ceremonies of the law; but rather by the same, as by certain seals, it was for a time confirmed, until the letters themselves, or the writing of the testament (to wit, the promise), might be opened and by the preaching of the Gospel be spread abroad among all nations.” He frequently expresses his faith in this promise, that he rests in it, that he hopes to obtain the inheritance (in which, mingling the means for obtaining the inheritance with the inheritance itself, and thus introducing confusion of ideas, he includes, v. 18, “remission of sins, righteous, salvation, and everlasting life; that we should be sons and heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ”) through it, and that to receive the promise we must, v. 29, become “the children of Abraham by adoption,” and “the heirs of Abraham after the promise.” Thus Luther makes much of an existing Abrahamic covenant, confirmed to us by the death of Jesus, under which we already enjoy an earnest or prelude to the final inheritance.
Obs. 7. Many writers might be presented who acknowledged the essentials, viz.: that the Abrahamic covenant is an existing one, made sure by the death of Christ, under which we have the hope of inheritance, and which shall finally be realized. But under a strange misapprehension, they either deny, or else omit to state, that all the promises of the covenant will be fulfilled; some they make literal, others are typical or spiritual, and others are ignored. Whatever view may be entertained, they are forced by the tenor of Scripture representation to confess its continued fundamental relationship to Christianity.[*]
Note. We append a few illustrations: Schmucker (Pop. Theol., p. 247–8) says that the covenant made with Abraham “was not a temporary one, soon to be abolished, but that it was to remain in its essential features through all future generations, for an everlasting covenant.” Hodge (Sys. Div.) asserts the identity of the Abrahamic covenant in succeeding dispensations and speaks of it as “the common doctrine of the church.” When Hodge says of Christ. “He guarantees the fulfilment of all the promises and conditions of the covenant; His blood was the blood of the covenant” it may well be asked, were not those promises contained in the Abrahamic, and is not, therefore, the Abrahamic covenant the one sealed by His blood? Any amount of such testimony, which flatly contradicts other statements of the same writers, might be adduced, but these are sufficient to show how fundamental the covenant is regarded even by those who are largely addicted to spiritualizing. When drawing up the first draft of this Proposition, the writer (March 27th, 1873), being in company with his former theological instructor, Rev. Dr. Sprecher, directly asked him the question: Under what covenant do we now live? The Dr. quickly and unhesitatingly replied: that the church now lived under the Abrahamic covenant and that it would ultimately reap the promises of that covenant; and that the new covenant was the Abrahamic renewed or confirmed by the death of Christ, so that we had the strongest possible assurance in its realization. It was a gratification to find my honored friend thus cordially receive the Primitive doctrine, which is the only Scriptural and logical view.
Obs. 8. There are writers who clearly apprehend the truth and fairly state it. These, of course, are Millenarians; for it is a distinguishing feature of their system, from the Primitive Church down, that it is directly founded on the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Holding to those covenants as written, clinging to those promises without changing them, believing that they will all, as recorded, be finally realized through Jesus Christ,—leads necessarily to Chiliasm. The history of the Church conclusively shows, that just as Chiliasm in its purity prevailed, in that proportion were the covenants upheld and exalted as signal landmarks; and Just as the Origenistic, Popish, and Mystical interpretation extended so were these covenants ignored as non-essential, or else spiritualized so as to make them scarcely recognizable.[*]
Note. Outside of the Scriptures, we are alone indebted to Chiliasts for a distinct statement of the relationship that the covenants sustain to the Plan of Salvation or to the Kingdom of God. But even some Millenarians, influenced by the neglect that the covenants have sustained, or, not realizing sufficiently their vital and fundamental relationship to the Kingdom, either omit an extended reference to them when such an one would be in place, or intimate the same with the briefest mention. It is, indeed, a very simple doctrine when contrasted with many of the elaborate antagonistic systems of divinity originated by the assumptions of Popish doctors, the Schoolmen, Philosophers, etc., but its simplicity, to a scholar posted in the history of doctrine, and to a believer who knows that “the just live by faith,” only recommends it the more to our notice. Nearly every Millenarian work refers to the covenant as we have done, more or less, extended. Admirable things are found in the writings of M’Neile, Noel, Bonars, Shimeall, Bickersteth, Jones, etc., etc. An illustration is given: Brooks (El. Proph. Inter., p. 19) says: “The covenant made with Abraham is what is called the ‘New Covenant’ and the ‘Covenant of Promise’; for unless he (the reader) be clear in this matter, he will be unable to understand ‘the hope of his calling’ in Christ Jesus, as set forth in the word of prophecy. It is the more needful to premise thus much, seeing that many, even pious Christians, have but a vague notion of the nature of the covenant of grace.” Brethren, who may differ from the author, must not become offended at the plainness of speech, seeing that faith is involved. Luther once said: “Charity beareth all things, faith nothing.” Charity will be gentle, embracing those from whom we are compelled to differ; faith makes no compromise in doctrine and states its position plainly, and frankly, and boldly.
Obs. 9. Those who advocate that an entire new covenant was given and confirmed by the death of Jesus differ very much as to the nature and meaning of this alleged covenant. A variety of explanations are tendered, but all these, so far as noticed, with but few exceptions, attempt no Scriptural proof. We are simply to receive assertion, without having the new covenant itself pointed out and its language quoted. If Jesus gave such a covenant, as alleged, it ought, in the very nature of the case (like preceding ones) to be plainly stated; for a covenant is of so special a character that it cannot be taken for granted, or be simply inferred. Now not a single writer of this class has attempted to produce the covenant itself.[*]
Note. To indicate this variety and the loose method of procedure, several illustrations are annexed. Augustine (City of God, B. 17, S. 3), makes Heb. 8:8–10, the new covenant, to refer to King Solomon building the temple (against the context of Jeremiah), and thus to the earthly Jerusalem historically, and then spiritualized: “without doubt this is prophesied to the Jerusalem above,” i.e. as elsewhere explained “the true Jerusalem eternal in the heavens.” And such nonsense—if not worse—is to be received as worthy of reception. Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 301) calls it “a new dispensation, a new economy, that which Jesus had called a new covenant.” Barnes (Com. Matt. 26:28) terms it, “the Gospel economy,” a new compact with men, etc. The Encycl. Relig. Knowl., Art. “Covenant,” makes the new covenant “a new dispensation,” or “the Christian Economy.” Knapp (Ch. Theol., p. 499) says: “On the day of Christ’s death the ancient Mosaic dispensation ceased, and the new covenant or the new dispensation, instituted by God through Christ for the Salvation of men, commenced.” “It is therefore the uniform doctrine of the apostles that the new dispensation of God began with the death of Christ, and was thereby solemnly consecrated.” The texts cited to prove such an important deduction are all of a nature, first, to show that the Mosaic economy is abolished (which we do not deny), and secondly, to indicate the efficacy, etc., of Christ’s death (which we as cordially accept), but in none is the slightest hint given that this dispensation is the New Covenant, which is inferred from Matt. 26:28. Certainly this process of reasoning, which makes a dispensation equivalent to the bestowal of a covenant, is utterly wrong and derogatory to the Word itself, whose explanation of the covenant is passed by for an unlawful inference. Those who favor the dispensational theory involve themselves at once in a gross absurdity and contradiction. Thus e.g. Hodge, a writer in Encycl. Relig. Knowl., Schmucker, etc., call this covenant “an everlasting,” “an eternal” one, and yet they make it identical with a dispensation or economy which they tell us is not eternal, but will come to an end. The trouble with this class of dispensational theorists is, that making this the final dispensation, everything, whether it fits or not, must be crowded into it to fulfil the Scriptures. Lange (Com. Genl. Introd., p. 20), makes “the New Testament the covenant itself,” which is totally irrelevant. Something of the kind must have influenced the mind of Origen, for we are indebted to him (Horne’s Introd., vol. 1, p. 38) for first applying the phrase “New Testament” to the writings of the Apostles. (This is a title, which, while merely of human origin and incorrect, if understood as pertaining to the New Covenant, may be retained.) Some, therefore, are misled in making the Scriptures as contained in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse, the New Covenant. This embraces too much, and defeats itself. Lange, however, only applies this in a general way, for on the same page he particularizes: “the Lord designates the Eucharist the New Covenant in His blood, in the strict sense of the term.” But Lange is again mistaken, for Christ did not call the Eucharist or Supper the covenant, because “the cup” is significant of the Eucharist, and hence “the cup of the New Testament” shows that the Supper or that expressed by it is separate from the covenant. It simply denotes what we have already shown, that by the death represented in this cup the covenant itself is renewed or confirmed. Otherwise if the covenant is the Eucharist, the propriety even of language is violated, for we have “the Eucharist (the cup) of the Eucharist.” Pressense (The Redeemer, p. 95) has the old covenant spiritualized to form the New, for he informs us: “He (Christ) cannot develop it (the old covenant) except by rendering it spiritual; and the ancient covenant when made spiritual becomes the New Covenant.” This is simply a repetition of Augustine (City of God, B. 16, S. 26), who says: “The New Covenant is shadowed forth in the old. For what does the old covenant imply, but the concealing of the New? And what does the term New Covenant imply, but the revealing of the Old?” All this proceeds on the assumption that the old covenant was not also of a spiritual nature, which is refuted by the spiritual blessings that it also promises. And if temporal blessings, blessings relating to this earth, are connected with it, how can these in an everlasting covenant be changed, modified, altered, spiritualized without invalidating God’s truthfulness? And, if it is so exclusively spiritual, how comes it that Jesus came literally in the flesh as the promised Seed? And if spiritual, who, of all those who spiritualize it, have spiritualized it correctly? For Jesus, the Christ, certainly never, never spiritualized away His own inheritance (comp. Prop. 122). Schmid (Bib. Theol., p. 213) defines the New Covenant to be “a covenant of more complete alliance and forgiveness, concluded and consecrated by the death of Christ,” etc. Cheerfully admitting the necessity and efficacy of Christ’s death, yet the Abrahamic covenant itself requires in those who shall inherit its promises the remission of sins, and as the shedding of blood is required according to the Scriptures, provision is made for fulfilment in and through the death of Jesus, so that the resurrection power implied (Prop. 49) in the covenant may be exerted. Hence, it will not answer to exalt the provision made by Christ for the fulfilment of covenant promise, however indispensable and precious, into the position of the covenant itself. Where is the express covenant, consecrated by the death of Jesus, found, if not in the Abrahamic? If any other exists, as Schmid and others state, why is it not formally expressed somewhere in the Scriptures. Others, however, refer us to Isa. 49:8 and 42:6, where it is predicted of Christ, “I will give Thee for a covenant of the people,” and assert that this means that Christ Himself is the New Covenant, or that He will make such an one. As to the first, that Christ is the covenant, commentators admit (even Barnes, loci) that the phrase does not mean that Christ himself is the covenant but the One through whom it is to be effected or established, appealing to Mic. 5:5, “and this man shall be the peace,” i.e. the establisher of peace, etc. Aside from some Germans (Hitzig, Ewald, etc.), rendering the word “covenant” “a mediatorial people” or “covenant people,” which Alexander (Com. loci) says “yields a good sense,” we accept of Alexander’s explanation: “this use of ‘covenant’ although unusual is in itself not more unnatural or forced than that of ‘light’ in the next phrase. As light of the nations must mean a source or disponser of light to them, so ‘covenant of the people’ in the very same sentence may naturally mean the dispenser or mediator of a covenant with them.” Christ, because He confirms the Abrahamic covenant and eventually fulfils it, bears this significant title. As to the second idea, that Christ makes an entire new covenant, it is pure inference and remains unproven. The reader has only to read the context of these phrases in Isaiah, and he will find our position fully sustained by its intimate relationship to the restoration of the covenanted Jewish nation, and hence these references to Christ denote that He causes the covenant to be realized. These examples are amply sufficient to illustrate the opposite views and to indicate their variety and strength. Hence, we cannot receive the current phraseology on the subject, as e.g. Pressense (The Early Days of Christianity, p. 240), who says of Paul’s teaching: “The new covenant is to him essentially a new fact, the proclamation of pardon, the sovereign manifestation of grace—in one word, the Gospel”—for this is simply to mistake the means intended to secure covenant blessings for the covenant itself. Much that is said of a “covenant of grace” (as distinguished from a “covenant of works”), while correct in principle and showing the contrast between the dispensations, may be retained, but just so soon as it is made to occupy the position of “the everlasting covenant” which contains the promises and under which we inherit by grace extended, then we reject it as unscriptural and misleading.
Obs. 10. It follows, then, that it is a grave misapprehension of Scripture teaching to say, as some do, that all the older covenants ended in Christ. Able writers take the position (Kurtz, His. of Old Cov., Vol. 1, p. 1) that the old covenant ended in the Incarnation of Christ (Knapp, Ch. Theol., p. 499, prefers to end it at the death of Jesus), giving place to an entire new one. Kurtz tells us that “the ultimate aim and the highest point of the Divine covenant activity in all its manifestations is the incarnation of God in Christ,” and (p. 221) that Christ is “the highest and last representative of the Abrahamic covenant.” No! never! for the covenant comprehends immensely more than the incarnation of the Messiah; it embraces His inheritance and future glory; it is world-embracing, for, as will be shown hereafter, in its brief but pregnant sentences, it includes the resurrection, restoration, and inheriting of the Patriarchs and of their believing descendants and of the adopted seed,—the Kingdom under the reign of that pre-eminent Seed, the ultimate salvation of the race as a race, the final removal of the curse, and the perfected Redemption of man and the creation. The Incarnation, inexpressibly precious and indispensably necessary, is an important—the first in magnitude—means for the accomplishment of covenant promises, but it too is only preparatory. Hence it is wrong to narrow down the covenant to the First Advent, just as if the Seed was not in His glorified humanity (comp. e.g. Props. 82, 83, 199–203) yet to exhibit a glorious part in the fulfilment of covenanted promises at His Second Advent.[*]
Note. Seeing the weighty consequences resulting to interpretation from this source, we leave Dr. Kurtz (p. 207) present his view as follows: After justly speaking of the fulness of the name of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” calling it “the inscription on the portal of the historical development of the covenant,” and “the seal of that covenant,” he then adds, that it continued such until the appearance of Jesus Christ, “until the time arrived in which Abraham ceased to be the rock whence the people of the covenant were hewn and Sarah the hole of the pit whence they were digged (Isa. 51:1, 2), and the new Israel found in Christ the author and finisher of faith, and in the Spirit of God the fountain of life.” This is a serious misstatement of “the hope of our calling,” and if true, then our promised inheritance is withheld from us and God’s promises covenanted to Abraham will not be faithfully performed. Let us briefly point out the fallacy of such language (selecting Kurtz as the ablest advocate of this view), because of its bearing upon the highest interests of man. (1) The reference to Abraham and Sarah (Isa. 51:1, 2) is an utter reversal of what the inspired prophet declares. Kurtz informs us that in the Messianic times we shall not look to Abraham, because the people of the covenant are not derived from him; the Prophet says exactly the reverse, viz.: that we shall look to him, and the reason is assigned because of his election (“for I called him alone”). It stands connected with a glorious Millennial portrayal. In some way (as we shall explain, Props. 61–65) Abraham is still our Father, i.e. of the elect, them that believe, and because of his being chosen and his seed in him “the Lord shall comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places,” etc. (2) When the Jews were rejected nationally during the allotted “times of the Gentiles” still a seed must be raised up unto Abraham, to be recognized as his children. Why? Because to him and to his seed was given the covenant, and hence we must be related to him. (3) Believers inherit with Abraham, and this because they come into covenant relationship with him. (4) All who are received as the seed of Abraham are received on the same principle of faith that Abraham was, i.e. by faith, and in view of the same are adopted as his “children,”—thus are connected with him. (5) Hence Abraham is expressly called the Father of all the faithful, because of a sustained relationship. (6) The chosen are never called the children of Christ, but His brethren, co-heirs, etc., because they inherit with Him covenanted promises given to Abraham. (7) Being the author and finisher of our faith does not by any means place Christ in the position of Abraham, it only shows how through Christ we can attain and retain Abrahamic faith. (8) Christ Himself is the subject of covenanted promise not yet fulfilled, and therefore the covenant is not superseded in Christ, for that would destroy promises pertaining to Him. (9) The “Spirit of God” was just as much “the fountain of life” to Abraham and believing Jews as to us now, for the Bible abundantly testifies (comp. Prop. 171) how that Spirit attended, enlightened, confirmed, and strengthened them. In the light of the Abrahamic covenant, we dare not depart from the plain statements of the Word and reverse one of the most impressive utterances of Isaiah, and destroy our own covenanted hopes of a blessed inheritance. Men may honestly and sincerely think that they are exalting Christ by this method, but the real truth is, that they are lowering Christ as a faithful Fulfiller of the promises made to the Fathers.
Obs. 11. We read and hear, at present, what are supposed to be axiomatic truths respecting the New Covenant, which are eminently calculated to mislead the inquirer. An immense array of alleged self-evident truth will not stand the test of Scriptural examination; and yet men, blinded and biased by the authority of great names who promulgate them, persist in retaining them because of their plausible appearance. It is singular how a rut made by the ornamental carriage of an Augustine or of a Cyprian, or even by the ruder cart of some monk, has been followed for centuries, unquestioned, as if it alone, and none other, was the proper road to an intended goal. The time has arrived when those well worn ruts are carefully, through their entire length, examined both by the enemies and friends of the truth; and we may rest assured, from the nature of truth itself, that if honestly made the Divine Directory will never suffer.[*]
Note. If men have erred, if even the multitude have gone astray, it is only what the Bible has predicted, has threatened, has warned us against, and has pointed out as the natural result of human wisdom, weakness, and depravity. Hence, as in the present case, when but few really entertain the truth on a given subject, instead of feeling that this is antagonistic to the truth, we ought rather to say that it precisely corresponds with what God Himself asserts respecting it. A lack of great faith is predicted, and as Gentiles we are warned not to be “high-minded” in our privileges. Indeed, we ought only the more narrowly examine even the things that may be deemed well established. Surely in such a procedure is there safety and well-grounded hope. For, as practical Christianity is fostered and strengthened by a constant renewal and self-examination, so theoretical or doctrinal Christianity is confirmed and improved by reflection, study, and testing. When a student has advanced so far that he is unwilling to have his most cherished views subject to a candid but searching criticism, then advancement in knowledge, and improvement in understanding, also ceases;—he no longer occupies a student’s attitude. By the axiomatic truths alluded to in the Obs., we mean the exalting of means to accomplish the covenant into the covenant itself; the elevation of this dispensation, which is only preparatory, into the covenant; the making the Gospel, which gives the glad tidings how the covenant is to be realized and that we are invited to participate in its realization, the covenant, etc. The student can readily find them in ten thousand works.
Obs. 12. Some readers may desire to have the mistakes, into which a misconception of the covenant necessarily leads, pointed out. In the annexed note several of the more prominent are given, in addition to those already specified.[*]
Note. (1) Making an entire New Covenant and the Old Covenants abrogated, necessarily disconnects this dispensation from the preceding, and erects an independency which is destructive to the unity of Divine Purpose as exhibited in the Abrahamic covenant. The reverse of this follows our argument.
(2) Professing to live under an entire New Covenant, and that the Old is no longer existing, leads to a denial of the Jewish elect and covenanted position, and that the Jewish nation has certain indisputable privileges pertaining to it which it is plainly predicted to realize in the future. The reverse of this follows the reception of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
(3) The annulling of the Abrahamic covenant in Christ and the bestowal of another covenant, while unjust to the faith of centuries in that covenant, while hostile to the grammatical sense of the covenant, evinces the grossest injustice in that it denies that Gentiles, to participate in the blessings of the covenant, must also, in some way, be identified with the believing portion of the Jewish nation that received the covenant.
(4) The fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant in Christ, and a consequent New one entered into, flatly denies the inheritance of the land promised to Abraham’s Seed, the resurrection and subsequent inheriting of the land by the Patriarchs, etc., and thus entirely misapprehends the nature of Christ’s inheritance and that of the Patriarchs.
(5) Having such a New Covenant and ignoring the Old, causes its advocates to insist upon a present fulfilment of promises which are located at the Sec. Advent. To make such an application, the grammatical meaning must give place to engrafted spiritual ones. Preparatory measures, means of grace, the earnests of faith and hope, are elevated into an ample fulfilment.
(6) Those who admit the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant in the distant future, but deny that we live under it now (making a new covenant existing), thus ignore its not having been annulled, that our adoption as children of Abraham hinges on it, that Christ’s death confirms its validity to us, and that all our blessings flow from it. The dislocation offered by them is unnatural and destroys the unity.
(7) Those who make the covenants exclusively pertaining to the Jews, the natural descendants of Abraham, and hence something not pertaining to the Gentiles, the latter being under another and new covenant—forget that it is the blessing of Abraham that is to be extended to the Gentile believers, but only on the ground of their becoming the seed of Abraham through faith, so that they may inherit the promises with Abraham. The Bible makes no distinction between the believing natural descendants or the believing adopted. It is, however, not as Gentiles that we can inherit, but Gentiles who, on account of faith, are adopted, engrafted.
(8) Those who make a New Covenant existing, because the Old was conditional, overlook the fact that its unconditionality is expressly asserted in that all believers inherit under it. It is an everlasting covenant unto all generations, and cannot, will not fail to be realized in the Patriarchs and their seed—those natural and adopted who are of faith.
(9) To create a New Covenant on the ground that the Abrahamic will not be realized because the Jewish nation has rejected Christ, is to raise up a false issue, and make it the basis of an important doctrine. For if there is a truth distinctly taught in the Bible, it is, that the Jewish nation will some time in the future recognize Him whom they have pierced as the Messiah, the one who is to fulfil the Abrahamic covenant. This will be shown at length as our argument proceeds.
(10) Advocating a New Covenant and ignoring the renewed Abrahamic, leads to an entire change of Biblical terms. Thus e.g. Israel and Judah are made to mean simply believers in Christ without the slightest reference to their adoption as the children of Abraham by which they become entitled to the name. The true Israel are a covenanted people, which they obtain by their relationship to Abraham as the covenanted head. Gentiles only can become such by adoption.
Such are some of the mistakes made on this subject; and let not the reader consider them unimportant, for they largely affect the interpretation of the Word, a correct faith and hope in the things of God. By adopting them, no proper discrimination can be maintained in the fulfilment of promises, no existing and vital connection between the dispensations under covenant is observed, no satisfactory and unvarying fundamental covenant forms the theological basis of doctrine, no undeviating usage of the sense contained in language is constantly preserved, in brief, no correct and consistent Plan of Salvation, preserving the promises to Abraham, to David, and to Christ, can be successfully advocated. In this again, the Primitive Church shows its wisdom and logical consistency.
Obs. 13. The very coming of the Seed covenanted to Abraham, insures the fulfilment of the covenant as written. It is in view of this that He Himself is designated “the covenant,” for He is the Fulfiller of it, and without Him it could not possibly be realized. Justin Martyr (Dial. with Trypho, ch. 51) and others of the Fathers, who viewed the covenant in the light that we do, called Christ. “the New Testament,” meaning that in Him the covenant was confirmed and fully assured of ultimate fulfilment. The Advent of Abraham’s Seed, then, is evidence already that the purposes of God expressed in that covenant are sure. Literally He came, vindicating the truthfulness of the covenant given many centuries before, and teaching us, if we will but receive it, that every promise will be literally verified.[*]
Note. Hence Paul in 1 Cor. 11:26, having directed attention to this covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus, immediately in connection points to the Sec. Advent as certain, and the means of fulfilment, thus: “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.”
Obs. 14. In the promises of the covenant are involved blessings, such as a resurrection from the dead, a perpetual inheritance, a constant presence and blessing of God, a Theocratic ordering intimated, etc., which to be secured in all their fulness, as the Divine Plan in its unfolding shows, demands a Mediator, a Sacrifice for sin, in order that those who believe unto obedience may be thus blessed. The death of Jesus becomes a prerequisite to the fulfilment of the covenant, for through this death, as Paul says in Heb. 9:15, all (in the past, present, and future) “which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” By that death not only the power and majesty of moral law is vindicated, not only a never-failing proof of God’s love and mercy is manifested, etc., but it constitutes Him a worthy Messiah, a worthy Theocratic King, tested and tried, acknowledged and accepted by the Father, able to save unto the uttermost, able to save from sin and death, able to verify the promises, able to secure the inheritors of the Kingdom, able to carry out the Divine Will in Redemption in ransoming from the grave and restoring, once forfeited but now covenanted, the blessings of an Edenic state. By His birth, death, and resurrection He is become the promised immortal David’s Son; by the same He has given assurance to all men that He is “the surety” of the Abrahamic covenant, so that its words cannot fail; by the same He has confirmed and ratified it, showing in the most impressive manner how it can be realized (embracing as it does an endless life and unchangeable happiness) in the justification, purification, and immortality that He graciously provides.
Obs. 15. How can we refuse to believe in the promises of a covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus, established by His resurrection, and confirmed by His present exaltation? Yea, in all the promises; not merely in the Seed, it being said “to thy Seed,” but in what is promised to this Seed. What faith does it require to receive part of the sentence and explain away the remainder, just as if God never intended that the remainder “to thy Seed will I give this land to inherit” should likewise be fulfilled? What faith is this, to accept of a portion literally and deny the remainder when joined together by God Himself. Because not yet realized, is that a reason that it never will be accomplished? Do men forget how long (humanly speaking) it takes for covenanted blessings to be realized, owing to the necessary preliminary measures? Let the Scriptures testify on these points, and with reverent, believing hearts let us receive the same, especially when a crucified and resurrected Abraham’s Seed is given to us as a pledge of its ultimate and most happy realization. That Seed, as we shall show, is yet to exhibit a most triumphant Redemptive work in connection with His earthly inheritance.
Obs. 16. This enables us better to comprehend the passage in 2 Cor. 3:6 (already referred to at length, under Prop. 4, Obs. 3): “Who has made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” Let the reader notice how the word “giveth life,” “quickeneth,” is directly applied to the resurrection in 1 Pet. 3:18 (comp. Barnes’ admirable comment, Com. loci), and in other places; then let him remember how the covenant for its fulfilment necessitates a resurrection, and how Jesus has amply provided for the resurrection of His believers, and in the light of this renewed covenant the passage is easily understood.[*]
Note. Paul says that they are made sufficient, competent ministers or expounders of a renewed covenant (which remained after the Mosaic came to an end), not of the letter as Abraham received it and trusted in it, but of the Spirit, as it has been unfolded and ratified by the appearance of the Seed, His death and resurrection, etc.; for the mere letter, without this attestation and provision, killeth, i.e. it cannot give life because although Abraham and all the ancient worthies believed in it yet they all died without receiving the promise. Something more than the letter is required, and this is furnished in Christ whom Paul in the context calls “the Spirit.” The Spirit giveth life, i.e. it insures the fulfilment of this covenant by the power of the resurrection (ch. 4:14), seeing that the dead can and will now be quickened. That this is the meaning of the apostle is evident from the use of the word “quickeneth,” and by a comparison of chs. 1:9, 14, 20, 22, and 2:17 and 4:14 and 5:5, in the same epistle. It is wrong to decry, under the cloak of this passage, as worthless the literal meaning of the Word, and we can see how through a false interpretation of it (comp. Prop. 4, Obs. 3, etc.), the floodgates of professed spiritual interpretation have been opened, and the valuable treasures of God’s promises so covered over with man’s additions that they are unrecognizable. No! the apostle means that we now, in a covenant renewed by the blood of Jesus and by His resurrection from among the dead, have immensely more than the mere letter originally given and which in itself cannot save from death; for now we have the Spirit, which in the same chapter is said to be Christ, who “giveth life,” i.e. fully ensuring to all who receive the promises that they by being also “quickened” shall inherit the covenanted promises. Christ is the root of the whole matter; without Him and His solemn ratifying acts, the Abrahamic covenant would forever remain a dead letter. It is in Him, through Him, by Him, and for Him, that it is given, and proceeds to its final accomplishment.
Obs. 17. The blood of the covenant, i.e. the blood or sacrifice pertaining to or sealing the covenant, brings us, if received by faith, into covenant relationship. This is clearly announced in Eph. 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Notice the train of the apostle’s reasoning: (1) The Jews were nigh (v. 17), being already in covenanted relationship; (2) the Gentiles who “were far off,” i.e. not in such a covenanted position, are now, when believing (otherwise not), brought also “nigh,” i.e. they too obtain an interest in the covenanted blessings; (3) this covenanted attitude brings them into union and fellowship with the covenanted people of God, “the commonwealth of Israel;” (4) and this, enjoying now the same privileges and hopes of the covenanted people, makes them co-heirs with the inheritors of covenanted promises; (5) but to become this believing covenanted people, faith (leading to obedience) must be exercised in the sacrifice of Christ, through which provision is made for fulfilment of promises.
Obs. 18. The covenant being thus confirmed in Christ, we are not at liberty (as multitudes do) to select portions of it for belief, and reject others as unworthy of credence; or, to accept of one part as literally fulfilled, and refuse such a literalness to the remaining; or to receive the Seed and then disdainfully refuse, as “carnal, sensual, lowering,” etc., the inheriting of the land. It is not to be set aside in any of its features; it is not to be limited in any of its promises; but it is to be received in all its statements, as written, without substitution, change, or addition. It is God that promises, not man.
Obs. 19. We Gentiles should be careful lest we fall into an error the reverse of the Jewish. The Jews at the First Advent believed in the covenant, but refusing to credit the fact that the covenant must be sealed with the blood of the Messiah, they rejected the Seed through whom alone the covenant can be realized. The error of many Gentiles now is, that while receiving the crucified One, they reject the covenant promises and do not look for their fulfilment, as recorded, on the ground that it would be “too Jewish” (comp. Prop. 68). The latter error, while not so fatal as the former, obscures the truth, and destroys the wonderful unity of the Bible.
Obs. 20. As we proceed in our argument, this covenant will pour a flood of light on many precious promises linked with it. Language, otherwise dark, becomes easy of comprehension; dispensational procedures, otherwise dim and unaccountable, become precise and significant in their meaning; the preaching of John, Jesus, disciples, and apostles, instead of being contradictory or accommodating to error, is found consistent. It explains much that enables us the more clearly to perceive and appreciate a regular Divine Plan in preparing for and ultimately establishing the Theocratic Kingdom under the Messiah. It tells us, as nothing else can, why the Gentiles must be grafted in, why “blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them.” It, and it alone, as the outgrowths from it are developed, gives us a strict historical, providential, doctrinal, and Divine Unity of Purpose in the Word (comp. e.g. Props. 182, 184, 186, 187, 194, and 196).
Obs. 21. Persons under the influence of an entire New Covenant theory make the Gospel to begin with the Incarnation, or the death of Jesus, or the call of the Gentiles. But this is a mistake; for “the Gospel” is already contained in the Abrahamic covenant, so that (Gal. 3:8) God “preached the Gospel before unto Abraham,” and (Heb. 4:2) “unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them,” i.e. the Fathers, only that with a covenant reconfirmed, “the Gospel” is clearer in sound, and far more faith-inspiring. Now, instead of having the eye of faith solely directed to the future for the Seed as it once was, it is directed to the Seed as He came at the First Advent, and, hopeful at what it sees thus far, it looks onward to the Seed, glorified, as He shall come again.
Obs. 22. It seems almost unnecessary to add, and yet its importance will justify it, that this Abrahamic covenant was always received by faith, simple faith. Thus the Patriarchs, the ancient worthies, the Apostolic Fathers, and many others, have received it. It demands to-day the same simple, confiding faith exercised by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, only that, in view of what God has done to verify it through Christ, we are less excusable if we do not entertain such faith.[*]
Note. Alas! how little of such faith is prevalent. Reason and Philosophy linked with unbelief, cannot possibly comprehend the covenant, for it is united with the miraculous, the Supernatural. Hence its promises are idle dreams. But even professed believers are unwilling to believe and coolly ask, how this and that is to be accomplished, just as if no Omnipotent God had given the promises. Unbelief even, not seeing the connection of these promises with the Second Advent (therefore called “the blessed hope”), deliberately proposes to reject the doctrine of the Second Advent itself as an addition made by enthusiastic followers. Now the clamor is, to have everything demonstrated and leave nothing to faith. But this is fundamentally opposed to a Scriptural attitude and a Christian character. Science and unbelief joined may in fancied triumph and scorn ask, how this and that can be accomplished, and we may, like the Patriarchs, be utterly unable to explain, yet this should not prevent us from clinging to a covenant rendered the more credible and estimable, the more worthy of faith and hope, by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the earnest of blessing that we receive. Brethren, fellow-Gentiles, it is as true to-day as it ever was, that “salvation is of the Jews;” and if, owing to their fall, we have been brought in by faith, let us exercise such faith in humble acknowledgment of our dependence on a covenanted people, lest we be “high-minded” (as Paul warns us Rom. 11:20), and also be cut off on account of our unbelief and being “wise in our own conceits.” It is saddening to think how many ministers and churches there are, professedly believing and even pious and devoted to much truth, of whom it can be truthfully said, that they have no faith in “the everlasting covenant,” saving perhaps that in some spiritual way all the blessings are to be heaped on the Gentiles, or that all has been perfected at the First Advent so that it concerns us little.
Obs. 23. The doctrine of the Kingdom presupposes the covenants. Hence the New Test. Scriptures begin with taking the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants for granted, as something well known and correctly apprehended. These fundamentals of knowledge were so deeply rooted in the national faith, were so constantly the subjects suggestive of hopeful anticipations of future glory, that no necessity existed for their recapitulation. Allusions to them, confirmatory teaching, a consistent harmony with their promises, is all that is required, and this is abundantly found in every writer.
Obs. 24. Let a peculiarity, attached to the fulfilment of this covenant, be deeply pondered, viz.: that in the history of a partial fulfilment in the past, it has never yet been so realized as to meet the natural wisdom of man, or to answer to the general anticipations of the period when thus fulfilled. Observe this procedure in the very beginning, when Abraham, contrary to all human expectations, raised up Seed in the covenanted line against the course of nature. And down to the miraculous birth of Abraham’s pre-eminent Seed, all things were so ordered that they did not meet the expectations of the mass of the nation. The Advent itself, a strictly literal fulfilment, did not meet the hopes entertained by the Jews. The calling of the Gentiles, to raise up a seed unto Abraham, was a thing unanticipated. Judging from the writings of the Church, its expectations have been repeatedly disappointed, so much so that now men deliberately and unhesitatingly deny some of the most precious promises of the covenants, both relating to the Christ and His co-heirs, as e.g. the restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom and the inheriting of the land. Analogy teaches us what prophecy distinctly announces, that at the period when this covenant is to be most amply fulfilled by the Christ who confirmed it, the multitude including the kings and nations of the earth, will be arrayed against it, will have no faith in its realization. This, alone, should make us thoughtful and careful.[*]
Note. Now, as illustrative of our position in general, we may give the views of two writers. Take e.g. Dr. Brown (Com. Rom. 11:29, to which special attention is invited because of his being Post-Millenarian and a writer against us), and he allows the connection of the covenant with the future conversion and restoration of the Jewish nation. He refers to the irrevocable nature of the Abrahamic covenant in view of the unchangeableness of God, as it applies to “the final destiny of the Israelitish nation,” saying: “It is clear that the perpetuity through all time of the Abrahamic covenant, is the thing here affirmed. And lest any should say that though Israel, as a nation has ‘no destiny at all under the Gospel, but as a people disappeared from the stage when the middle wall of partition was broken down, yet the Abrahamic covenant still endures in the spiritual seed of Abraham, made up of Jews and Gentiles in one undistinguished mass of redeemed men under the Gospel, the apostle, as if to preclude that supposition, expressly states that the very Israel who, as concerning the Gospel, are regarded as ‘enemies for the Gentiles’ sakes,’ are ‘beloved for the fathers’ sake;’ and it is in proof of this that he adds, ‘For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ But in what sense are the now unbelieving and excluded children of Israel ‘beloved for the fathers’ sakes?’ Not merely from ancestral recollections, as one looks with fond interest on the child of a dear friend for that friend’s sake (Dr. Arnold)—a beautiful thought, and not foreign to Scripture in this very matter (see 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8)—but it is from ancestral connections and obligations, or their lineal descent from, and oneness in, covenant with the fathers with whom God originally established it. In other words, the natural Israel—not ‘the remnant of them according to the election of grace,’ but the nation, sprung from Abraham according to the flesh—are still an elect people, and as such ‘beloved.’ The very same love which chose the fathers and rested on the fathers as a parent stem of the nation, still rests on their descendants at large, and will yet recover them from unbelief, and reinstate them in the family of God.” In a note (6), he adds: “God’s covenant with Abraham and his natural seed, is a perpetual covenant, in equal force under the Gospel as before it. Therefore it is that the Jews as a nation still survive, in spite of all the laws which, in similar circumstances, have either extinguished or destroyed the identity of other nations. And therefore it is that the Jews as a nation will yet be restored to the family of God, through the subjection of their proud hearts to Him whom they have pierced.” Then take a Pre-Millenarian: Fausset (Com. Jer. 31:31) says of this passage, which so many apply to a present fulfilment: “The new covenant is made with literal Israel and Judah, not with the spiritual Israel, i.e. believers, except secondarily, and as grafted on the stock of Israel (Rom. 11:16–27). For the whole subject of chs. 30 and 31, is the restoration of the Hebrews (ch. 30:4, 7, 10, 18, and ch. 31:7, 10, 11, 23, 24, 27, 36). With the remnant according to the election of grace’ in Israel, the new covenant has already taken effect. But with regard to the whole nation, its realization is reserved for the last days, to which Paul refers this prophecy in an abridged form (Rom. 11:27).” Comp. e.g. Ezek. 36:26, 27, and context.