Page images

might abound;” and, by teaching them “ the knowledge of sin," and the “weakness of the flesh,” might be “their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ." “The heirs of promise," died on the land of which they had possession, as well as the unbelievers;—died under the curse of the legal covenant. They were, therefore, compelled to journey on in the footsteps of that faith of their father Abraham, which could trust in God as raising the dead, and executing a covenant of eternal life for Abraham, and all his believing seed, as he had promised and sworn.

This is the covenant, therefore, which we are to contrast with that promised to Abraham and put in force, when “the promised seed” died and rose, and as mediator passed into the heavens. The Sinaic covenant coming in first, made that a second. This covenant at Sinai was but“ for the time being,” and “waxed old,” which made the covenant promised to Abraham a new one when it came to be carried into effect. The Jews, as a nation, have rejected the new covenant, and “are cut off from their olive tree;" "a remnant were saved through faith," “ according to the election of grace,” and God is now “visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name." But the day will come, when the survivors of Israel in the flesh will be brought into the bonds of this new covenant, and established in their land for ever.

This covenant, which God made with the fathers of Israel in the desert, promised life and suspended death, in the land promised to Abraham for his descendants; not the life of the children of the resurrection in the heavenly country, but the removal of the sentence of death pronounced on Adam and his children, and a prolonged existence for ever in the land of Canaan ; that very blessing which we have seen described, as the assured portion of Israel in the age to come. On that occasion, it promised this, however, on condition of observing the moral law; a summary of which, in its chief heads, God himself, in all the majesty of manifested Godhead, pronounced on Mount Sinai; but it threatened, at the same time, death for the breach of any one commandment.

And though much, according to the Divine institution in this covenant-at least after Moses descending from the Mount had broken the first “ two tables of stone, in utter despair, and was commanded to make two others, and to place them in an ark inclosed by a mercy seat-might be purged with sacrifice and offering; yet, all a sinful man would need, could not; there were things from which “they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” There were ever “transgressions under the first covenant,” which only the death of the victim under the second “could remove.” So that not only the dispersion of the nation, but the death of every individual Israelite, manifested him a violator of this special covenant. The death of an individual before this transaction, and beyond the bonds of this covenant, attached by the imputation of Adam's transgression ;--the very notion of being taken into the Berith of Elohim “the author of eternal life to them that obey him,” removed this sentence, and the Israelite died on the land of promise,



condemned by the law as a violator of the covenant of Elohim. The believing seed of Abraham, as we have just observed, who"walked in the footsteps of his faith,” had not on that account the promise of length of days for ever and ever in the land of promise ; ? but; they were interested in the true Berith, the promised covenant; and, like the father of the faithful, after the known forfeiture of the present life, under the curse of the broken law looked for a resurrection, and a “heavenly country,” and to be with him "heirs of the world to come.” The Sinaic covenant they all transgressed; it was to them, as far as it went, "the administration of death." 1: But God promises, in the texts we are considering, that when he shall finally restore the Israelites, he will make with them a new covenant, respecting their life and possession of the same promised land, and it is called, as, we have seen, a "new covenant, as contrasted with the one that he made with their fathers when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. And we may say from the passages before us, it is entered into on the same terms; they are to keep his commandments, the commandments of the moral law, of which the decalogue is a summary, and all of which and every comment thereon, hangs on the two commandments, Thou shalt love God with all thine heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.”

Here, however, will be the difference. These terms are not exacted as a condition on their part, which they are to supply, or forfeit the privileges of the covenant: but God engages, on his part, to supply an influence from his Almighty Spirit that shall secure

[ocr errors]

on their side, the never-failing fulfilment of these terms. So that it will no longer be, strictly speaking, a conditional covenant, that leaves them in a capacity to violate it, as was the case under the former covenant. Respecting that covenant which pledged no divine influence—when the people, in their alarm at the terrors of Sinai, exclaimed: We will hear it and do it!" the expression of the divine wisdom is, “O, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever." * Moses too, after an experience of forty years, saw the deficiency of this covenant: “Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharoah, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles; yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." +

How different the circumstances of the new national covenant, which the Lord will make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, when “he shall bring again their captivity:"-"I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them, and ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your Elohim." This is certainly an unconditional covenant, as to * Deuteronomy v. 29.

f xxix. 2, &c.

any condition to be supplied on the part of Israel, where they might a second time fail, God engages for both parties in the transaction, “I will not turn away from them from doing them good, and I will put my fear into their hearts, that they may not depart from me.” This certainly is a “covenant ordered in all things, and sure.” And we may safely infer, the perpetuity of restored Israel's prosperity

, and their deathless state,-for, through the good hand of God upon them, they cannot fail to do those things “which whosoever doeth shall live by them,”—as well from the nature of their new corenant relations to God, as from those express declarations of his holy word, which we before considered; when they have been made righteous, therefore, the blessing written in their law will indeed come upon them: “That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon earth."*

“For he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers,” &c.t

It has, however, been a great mistake among Christian divines, to confound the provisions of this national covenant, to be made with the Israelites of the last days, with the salvation of the remnants according to the election of grace under the gospel dispensation ; which, though it be the first enforcement of the new covenant, and is the same as that

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »