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ANSW. This is the foundation of Mr. M.'s scheme. And perhaps there never was a fabric built on a more sandy foundation. For he has mistaken the external seal of the covenant for the covenant itself. Because it is said, this is my covenant, he at once concludes that circumcision is the very covenant itself. Just as the papists do in the doctrine of transubstantiation: because it is said, this is my body, they at once conclude that the bread is the very body of Christ itself. Whereas nothing can be plainer, than that the contents of God's covenant had been stated, and Abraham had complied with them, above 20 years before the institution of circumcision. And this very covenant, which had, from time to time, been renewed, is again renewed in Gen. xvii.; and an external seal is appointed to it. So that nothing hinders but that the covenant with Abraham may be what the Scriptures teach it to be, and what the Christian world have always thought it to be; viz. the covenant of grace: and circumcision may still be, what it has been always thought to be; viz. an external seal of the covenant of grace, which God made with Abraham f. And if God's
ƒ And if circumcision was a seal of the covenant of grace, then every circumcised Israelite was under covenant bonds, in all things to comply with and live up to the covenant of grace, as administered under that dispensation. Particularly, he was under covenant bonds to separate himself and his household from the idolatrous world, and to love and worship the true God, and to believe in and wait for the promised Messiah, and to look for a better country, that is, an heavenly one. And he was under covenant bonds in these views, and with this temper, to circumcise his children, and bind them in all things to comply with and live up to the covenant of grace. And to neglect this was to be guilty of the breach of the Abrahamic covenant. And those who persisted in this neglect proved themselves to be not the genuine children of Abraham, but rather apostates from the God of their father: and as such they deserved to be cut off according to Gen. xvii. 14.; for Abraham acted sincerely and from the heart in complying with God's call to leave his native country, and in separating himself and his household from the idolatrous world, to worship and serve the true God, to believe in and wait for the promised Messiah, looking upon the land of Canaan as a type of heaven, which was indeed the country for which he sought. For this world was not his home. But he was a pilgrim and stranger on earth. And all the genuine children of Abraham are of the same spirit. For they do the works of Abraham. John viii. 89. All his seed therefore according to the flesh, by being circumcised on the eighth day, were bound by God to be of the same spirit. And when they became adult, and children were born to them, they were bound in the same spirit to cir
covenant with Abraham was the covenant of grace, and if the same covenant which took place then, continues under the gospel dispensation, as Mr. M. asserts, p. 12. then the dispute is at end. Mr. M.'s scheme is demolished. However, because he means to gather strength from the Sinai covenant, let us proceed to consider that.
N. B. If the Abrahamic covenant was in no sense any part of the Sinai covenant, then circumcision was in no sense a seal of the Sinai covenant: and in this view the Sinai covenant ought to be entirely left out of the dispute. Be
cumcise their children. If they neglected to circumcise their children in this spirit, they broke God's covenant. If they performed the external rite of circumcising their children, they did, by that action, practically profess to be of this spirit. For this was the import of the action. If their hearts were answerable to their external conduct, then they were Abraham's children indeed; and heirs, not only of earthly, but also of the heavenly Canaan. If they had no love to the God of Abraham, or faith in the promised Messiah, they were pagans at heart. Or in other words, they were uncircumcised in heart; and will be considered and treated accordingly, as soon as ever they shall come to stand before the bar of God, as searcher of hearts, in the invisible world. For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart. But if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Rom. ii. 25-29. However, in this present world, God conducted toward them not as the searcher of hearts, but in the character of a visible head; and therefore dealt with them according to visible appearances, trusting their profession, saying, surely they are my people, children that will not lie. And in this character he considered them as covenant-breakers, not according to what they were in heart secretly, but according to what they appeared to be in external conduct. These hints may serve to show the true import of Gen. xvii. 14. and the meaning of Exod. iv. 24, 25, 26.
There have been four dispensations of the covenant of grace; the Adamaic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and the Christian. Repentance toward God, and faith in the promised seed, and holiness of heart and life, have been equally necessary in all times, and under all dispensations; but rites and ceremonies have been varied. Offering sacrifice was always practised from the days of Adam, but circumcision was appointed to the family of Abraham. Melchizedek and Lot were under the Adamaic dispensation, therefore they practised sacrificing, but not circumcision. But there never was a covenant made by God adapted to the temper and conduct of impenitent self-righteous sinners, requiring men to feel and act as they do, in their religious exercises and performances; but from the early days of Cain to the present period. God has ever refused to smell a sweet savour in such sacrifices. The first persecution and the first martyr was relative to this point. Gen. iv. 8-8.
cause we are all agreed, that the Gospel covenant is the same for substance with the Abrahamic: However, let us see what evidence there is that the Sinai covenant was a holy covenant, which could not be really complied with, but in the exercise of real holiness.
The covenant with the Israelites in the wilderness was a holy covenant, and could not be really complied with, but in the exercise of real holiness.
THE whole law of Moses, which was written in a book, comprises at large all the contents of the covenant with the Israelites in the wilderness. This book, therefore, was called the book of the covenant. And the little chest in which it was put, from the special use to which it was appropriated, was called the Ark of the covenant. Deut. xxxi. 9. 25, 26. A brief summary of this law was written on two tables of stone. Deut. iv. 13. Which two tables of stone were, therefore, called the tables of the covenant, Deut. ix. 9, 10, 11. 15. and were also put into the Ark of the covenant. Deut. x. 4, 5. So that we may be as certain of the nature of that covenant, as we can be of the meaning of the Mosiac law.
The Israelites in the wilderness professed a compliance with this covenant, and with no other, as is beyond dispute certain from Exod. xix. 8. And chap. xxiv. 3. Deut. v. 1– 6. And chap. xxvi. 16, 17, 18. Chap. xxviii. 1. 15. 58. And chap. xxix. 9-13. compared with chap. xxx. 10-16.
And as soon as they should pass over Jordan they were expressly commanded to set up great stones, and plaister them with plaister, and write upon them all the words of this law; and to build an altar, and offer sacrifice; and half the tribes were to stand on mount Ebal, and half on mount Gerizzim, and the Levites were to`say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice, cursed be the man, &c. that breaks this and that law, twelve times successively, according to the number
of the twelve tribes of Israel. And finally, to sum all in one word, Cursed be the man that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them and all the people shall say, Amen. Deut. xxvii. And this most solemn and affecting affair was accordingly attended, soon after they had passed over Jordan. Josh. viii. 30-35.
So that, by their own act and deed, they did, in the most public and explicit manner, declare their hearty approbation of, and acquiescence in, not Mr. M.'s external covenant, but the perfect law of God, in all its strictness, and with all its curses, as holy, just, and good. Nor was there, according to that constitution, any hope of pardon in case of transgression, but by the blood of atonement. Nor was there any pardon to be obtained in this way until they repented, until their uncircumcised hearts were humbled, even so deeply humbled as to accept the punishment of their iniquity. Lev. xxvi. 40, 41. Neh. ix. Dan. ix. Then they were to pray for pardon, looking towards God's holy dwelling-place, where the covenant was laid up in the ark, and covered with a lid all made of pure gold, to keep the law in honour, which was a type of Christ, whose office it is to magnify the law, and make it honourable, and to open a way for grace to reign. That lid was called the mercy-seat, or rather as critics say, it ought to have been translated, the propitiatory; for it was a shadow of Christ the great propitiatory. And moreover, to complete the shadow, without shedding of blood there was no remission. Just thus stands the account in the sacred writings..
This cordial approbation of their law in all its extent, and with all its curses; and this praying for pardon, looking towards God's holy dwelling-place, offering sacrifices, &c. was for substance, the same with what the apostle Paul meant by repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, which was the sum of that Gospel he used to preach to the Jew and also to the Greek. Acts xx. 21. For in repentance toward God, the divine law is heartily acquiesced in, and loved as holy, just, and good; and the whole blame of every transgression is taken to ourselves; with a disposition to say unto God, thou art just when thou spcakest, and clear
when thou judgest. And in faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, we look only to free grace through him for pardon and eternal life. So that the covenant of grace in a legal dress, was the very covenant into which they professed to enter. So Paul understood it; Rom. x. 6-10. compared with Deut. 30. 11-14.; of which more presently.
But a heart wholly dead in sin, is in a state of total contrariety to the divine law, and to the way of salvation through Jesus Christ; or in the language of Scripture, is enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. So that there is not the least degree of real compliance with this holy covenant in one who is entirely destitute of holiness and so no degree of real compliance can be understandingly and honestly professed. But if the truth was known, and the truth was spoken by graceless sinners, they would all as one man declare agreeable to our confession of faith, "we are utterly indisposed, disabled and apposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil;" for this is the very truth of the case; as Mr. M. himself professes to believe.
And where now is there the least appearance of Mr. M.'s external graceless covenant in the Old Testament? The contents of Abraham's covenant are justifying faith; he believed in the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness, and Gospel obedience; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And he was called the friend of God. James ii. 23. The contents of the covenant at Sinai, is the holy law of God as the rule of life, and the blood of atonement as the foundation of hope. And where is this unholy covenant? But to be more parti
cular in the confutation of this notion:
1. It is readily granted, that a notion of the Sinai covenant, somewhat like this, was once espoused by the most respectable sect in the Jewish church: I mean the Pharisees. They understood the Mosaic law in this very sense, and in no other. And in this they were more consistent than Mr. Mather: for he understands the Mosaic law in' this very sense, and in a sense diametrically opposite to it, at the same time; for he believes the Mosaic law requires perfect holiness, even that every law which was itself the rule