Page images

the necessity of studying it to certain periods of the world, or certain classes of persons, or times of leisure, which may remain after having fulfilled those duties which they consider as more important. They suppose that the whole scheme of God is summed up in certain doctrines, which they call emphatically the Gospel; and that the Christian's sole object should be to understand these doctrines, and to apply them to his own soul. We maintain all these doctrines as strenuously as they do, and press home upon each other's consciences the paramount necessity of being rooted and grounded in these: but we stop not here; we press on unto perfection. It is not merely the Gospel, but the Gospel of the kingdom, which is every where announced in Scripture; and the good news with which we congratulate each other, is the glad tidings of the coming glories of our Lord. A man must secure his own personal salvation before he can understand, much more before he can delight in the study of, that glory which shall be revealed; but, these preliminaries being secured, it does appear to me narrow, and selfish, and groveling, not to expatiate in that ample revelation of the latter-day glory with which every prophecy in the Bible finishes; and I delight my soul in the contemplation, that all the elect of God shall not only escape the misery of hell, but shall feel themselves glorified in being instruments of effecting the great purpose of God, and exulting in the successive developments of his designs through all eternity. They are raised out of the narrow, selfish, personal feeling of mere safety, into the ennobling, generous, dignified rank of becoming monuments of the Divine glory.

But there are many humble, pious minds, who, from fear of becoming presumptuous, may not feel willing to indulge in these exalting hopes. To such persons I would address some considerations, drawn from the times in which we live, which have convinced me of the imperative duty which now rests upon us of studying Prophecy.

I am fully convinced, from the study of all the Scriptures, that we are now on the eve of a crisis incomparably the most important that the world has yet passed through. Greater than the Deluge, for it is the baptism of fire (2 Pet. iii. 5, 12); greater than the deliverance from Egypt, which shall no more be remembered nor come into mind (Jer. xxiii. 7, 8); greater than the destruction of Jerusalem, or any other national calamity, for it shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time, no, nor ever shall be (Dan xii. 1; Matt. xxiv. 21; Mark xiii. 19). Nor shall it be only a time of affliction, but it shall also be a time of subtle deceit; when false Christs and false prophets shall arise, deceiving, if it were possible, the very elect (Matt. xxiv. 24; Mark xiii. 22). In a crisis like this, which is approaching-so full of peril, and so pregnant with

mistake we need all the support and all the direction which the revelation of God can supply. By studying the prophecies I find, that in this crisis the Lord shall manifest himself in an extraordinary way, and simultaneously accomplish many most important events; the chief of which are these:-1. the Papacy shall be broken down; 2. the people of Israel shall be restored; 3. all the enemies of Christ shall be destroyed; 4. the second advent of our Lord shall take place; 5. his millennial reign shall commence; 6. and at some period during the progress of these events, which begin with the destruction of Babylon and run on to the commencement of the Millennium, the first resurrection shall take place. All these events are so closely bound together in Scripture, that, treating of any one, you can scarcely avoid bringing in all the rest; and, fixing any one of them to a particular time, you do thereby fix all the others, each to its own time: for Babylon's destruction frees Israel-Christ's enemies gather against Israel when restored-He in person destroys his enemies-when he thus cometh, his risen saints are with him-and the destruction of his enemies ushers in his millennial reign of peace and joy.

These events, even when considered only in their relation to ourselves as men, are vast and important: but when we consider them as the consummation of that great purpose of God, for the manifestation of which the creation was called into being; and that the several changes and revolutions in things visible have been only different developments of this purpose, and successive steps advancing nearer and nearer to this glorious consummation; it is then, and then only, that we feel all the dignity and importance of the age in which we live; and, according to our several characters of apprehension, of hope, of admiration, of daring, of high emprise, are irresistibly impelled, and eagerly resort to those prophetic records whence alone we can ascertain the signs of the forthcoming events, or learn to direct our course. One of these events has been especially singled out by God as that which shall most peculiarly redound to his glory among men: he has even condescended to represent himself as receiving joy and honour in its accomplishment; has staked thereon his own veracity; and pledged himself thereto with a vehemency of asseveration which I cannot find employed for any other purpose throughout the whole Scripture—namely, the restoration of the Jews: "I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return......Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good; and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart and with my whole soul." (See Jer. xxiii. and xxxii.)





(Jer. xxxi. 31; Heb. viii. 8. 13.)

THE difficulties which have been found to exist upon the subject of the Old and New Covenants, and the consequent discrepancy of opinion among divines, I plead as my excuse for bringing forward the following observations, although the responsibility attached to it be great.

If Witsius felt such sacred awe in treating this subject, when his view had the support of the church in general, what should I feel, in bringing forward views that have the direct support of few ?-though I shall adduce the collateral evidence of


But, on the other hand, if it has pleased the Lord, in these latter times, by the foolish things of this world to reveal a truth more simple; more in accordance with the word; and in a manner which removes the necessity of doing violence to the sacred oracles (of which all the present interpretations appear to be more or less guilty): then does an awful responsibility attach to those who, stumbling at the instrument the Lord may use, should reject without inquiry opinions which may be consonant with the truth.

I attribute the confusion, or indistinctness, on this subject, to not attaching definite and separate ideas to the two forms in which God conveys his benefits to man; both being rendered by one and the same Greek word, diatheké (dianкn).

I first received my ideas, not simply from the word diatheké, but the coherence of the text in the different parts of Scripture where it occurs; and thereby I perceived, that what is predicated of diatheké in Heb. ix. 16 (" For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator"), requires the rendering to be testament; whereas, in ch. viii. ver. 8 ("Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel," &c.), it is equally necessary to render it by covenant. Thus, having once clearly perceived that there were both covenants and testaments mentioned, I was next led to observe a fallacy in the general mode of treating the subject.

I will, first, lay down my position; that those who read this treatise may be better able to scrutinize what I wish to establish; which I will also shew to be in a great measure supported by received authorities.

I will, secondly, lay down what appears to be the Scriptural distinction between covenant and testament. In doing which, I will mention every place where the word diatheké is used in the New Testament, and fix the rendering of each passage by only one of the words, testament or covenant, as the sense of the context may require.

I will, thirdly, consider the single place in the Old Testament, with its quotation in the New, where the term "new" is added covenant."


[ocr errors]

And, lastly, I will compare some places in the Old, with their parallels in the New Testament, where a future covenant is mentioned, which evidently appears the same new covenant.


And may the Lord give grace to his church to prove things and hold fast only that which is good; and prevent his servant from handling the word of the Lord deceitfully, or wresting the Scripture to his own destruction!

I. My position is, that we are not under the new, but the old, covenant-that is, the Abrahamic covenant. We are under A new dispensation, in opposition to the former dispensations; and we are under THE new testament, in opposition to the old, or Mosaic, testament, which was the symbolic acting of prospective faith but the new covenant is still future.

God's covenant with Abraham before Christ's advent, is the covenant we are now under, though diverse in its circumstances. or accidents before Christ, there was a looking forward to conditions to be performed; whereas during the present dispensation there is a looking back to the conditions which have been performed. "Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." (Rom. xv. 8.) "To perform the mercy (promised) to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he sware unto our father Abraham." (Luke i. 72.)

Christ completed the conditions of the covenant on his part: thereby he freed the old covenant from the super-addition of the Mosaic testament, with the curse of the Law, and left the Abrahamic covenant as his testament. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law,....that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through him." (Gal. iii. 13, 14.) The condition of the covenant of imputed righteousness was, that it should become a testament-namely, "that by means of death....they which are (or have been) called, might receive the promise of eternal life." (Heb. ix. 15.)

This is the outline of my view.

I have now to shew from the opinions of others that we are not under a covenant distinct from the Abrahamic, but only a different administration of the same covenant. Dr. Owen is the

first writer I shall cite; not only because his authority is great, but because his arguments are strong.

"Here then," says he, "ariseth a difference of no small importance—namely, whether there are indeed two distinct covenants, as to the essence and substance of them; or only different ways of the dispensation and administration of the same covenant. And the reason of the difficulty lieth herein: we must grant one of these three things:

"1. That either the covenant of grace was in force under the Old Testament; or,

"2. That the church was saved without it, or without any benefit by Jesus Christ, who is the Mediator of it alone; or, "3. That they all perished everlastingly. And neither of the two latter can be admitted.

[ocr errors]

Suppose, then, that this (new) covenant of grace was extant and effectual under the Old Testament, so as the church was saved by virtue hereof, and the mediation of Christ herein; how could it be that there should at the same time be another covenant between God and them, of a different nature from this, accompanied with other promises and other effects?"

I must here observe, that, according to the position laid down above, the covenant of which he is speaking is not the new; that being the question in agitation. Nor can the covenant of grace be any distinction, because all covenants between God and the creature must be of mere grace: this I shall shew from Owen hereafter. But, as by the expression, "this new covenant of grace," the present dispensation is intended, it does not affect the point he is urging, so I will pass on to the method which he takes to remove the objection.

"On this consideration it is said that the two covenants mentioned, the new and the old, were not indeed two distinct covenants as to their essence and substance, but only different administrations of the same covenant. Called two covenants, from some different outward solemnities and duties of worship attending them. To clear this, it must be observed,

1. That by the old covenant, the original covenant of works made with Adam, and all mankind in him, is not intended; for this is undoubtedly a covenant differing in the essence and substance of it from the new.

"2. By the new covenant, not the new covenant absolutely and originally, as given in the first promise, is intended; but in its complete Gospel administration, when it was actually established by the death of Christ, as administered in and by the ordinances of the New Testament. This, with the covenant of Sinai, were, as most say, but different administrations of the

same covenant.

[ocr errors]

But, on the other hand, there is such express mention made,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »