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“Lord, are there few that be saved ?" "Be saved !' Is not this the method of Jesus ? And is there not a Divine philosophy in the method ? Be saved, and then thou shalt understand as much of salvation as can be known on earth. Be born again, enter into the kingdom, and then thou shalt see the things of the kingdom. Be willing to do His will, and thou shalt know of the doctrine.
The action of this principle in the case of them who have already submitted themselves to the constraining and controlling power of Divine grace is very obvious. The most serious source of religious difficulty is removed by the fact of that submission. When the soul is reconciled to God, when it has acquainted itself with Him, mental rest on many of life's vexed problems is one of the surest results. And it is not otherwise as regards the questions of the other life and of the spiritual sphere. When a man is at one with God, the tendency to reply against God is removed, the principle of agreement with Him is implanted. The secret of the Lord is with such. The longer I love my friend, the closer I walk with him, the better I get to know him; because I learn to sympathise more thoroughly with him as I grow more like him. This law of learning has a length and breadth, a height and depth, when applied to the life of God in the soul of man, which no human analogy can reach. Let us, then, dear brethren in Christ, see that we add (as provision is made in Christ for our adding)“ unto faith, virtue (manliness), and unto virtue, knowledge." "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you.” See that ye abide in it. Laying firm hold on its radical truths, planting them in your soul as vital seeds, see that your Christianity be a life, for in all life there is growth. Let not your faith be a mere stock of opinions received once for all, unverified and unextended by any after-experience. From the zeal and strength of the young disciple, advance to the large-mindedness in the things of God which mark the ripened saint. Expect to get deeper views of truth than you now have, and, because deeper, truly wider; for it is promised to Christian “growth in grace,” that one day we shall see eye to eye with all God's children, and face to face with God Himself.
THE NEWNESS OF THE COVENANT:
REV. JAMES C. BURNS,
“This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel : After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.”—JER. xxxi. 33.
A COVENANT is a contract or agreement between two parties, binding each to the other, and equally binding on both. It may be a covenant of mutual friendship, like that between David and Jonathan; or a covenant of mutual protection, like that between Isaac and Abimelech, king of Gerar; or it may be a covenant of mutual commercial benefit, like that between Solomon king of Israel, and Hiram king of Tyre.
The eligibility of any such covenant depends on the fitness of the parties concerned to carry out the terms, the conditions of it,—when on both sides equally, there is alike the will and the power to act upon it, to adhere to it. A covenant may be said to be faultless, when the covenanting parties are mutually faithful, and when the expected advantages of the transaction are mutually and equally realised. But, should one of the parties prove faithless, and “break the covenant,” of course it ceases, from that moment, to be binding on the other. Like a broken vessel, there is no longer any pleasure in it. It is of no more use. And whatever service, thereafter may be rendered by that one of the parties who has been defrauded, or wronged, to the other who has defrauded or wronged him, must be of his mere good-will and grace. There could be no reflection cast upon
him, though he were to disown, and break off any further communication with, the covenant-breaker.
The two parties to the covenant referred to in the verse preceding our text (verse 32), were “the God of Israel,” and “ the House of Israel.” It was made “with their fathers in the day that He took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” That was the date of it. It was a covenant, we cannot say of mutual protection, but of mutual friendship or goodwill, and of mutual service. There was great inequality, of course, between the parties,—the greatest possible ; but God was pleased so to condescend from His high pre-eminence, so to set bounds, as it were, to His own sovereignty, as to make that inequality no hindrance to transact with the men of Israel “after the manner of men.” He bound Himself by promises to them, and they bound themselves by promises to Him. It was a marriage. He was “an husband unto them” (verse 32), and it was something equivalent, in respect of sacredness, to the marriage vow by which, as His chosen bride, their fidelity was pledged to Him.
“Which covenant,” however “ they brake,"—they "continued not in it,"—they “forsook” it,—"although He was an husband unto them,” and had done a husband's part, not one good thing having failed of all that He had spoken. “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord” (chap. iii. 20). Their idolatry was “adultery.”
Thus broken on the one side, the obligation of the covenant necessarily ceased on the other. It had become null and void. The only claim which Israel had thereafter was to “get a bill of divorcement, and to be put away." Her merited doom would have been final rejection,-to have had “a full end made” of her, as there was to be, as there has been, of the other nations, such as Babylon, whither the Lord scattered her.
Instead of this, however, a wondrous announcement, prefaced by the word “Behold,” is here made (ver. 33). The former covenant having come to nought, through the failure of one of the contracting parties, God says, He will make another, He will make another with the same “treacherous house of Israel," —He will bind Himself to them anew.
But He will so make it this time, as to ensure its being kept. He will become bound for both the parties, He will undertake for the fidelity of His partner, as well as for His own. “Behold
the days come, that I will make a new 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 that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they brake,-although I was an husband unto them,"
-no, but one of quite a different nature: I will make a covenant which they (the children of these fathers) will not break, which they will not wish to break-will not need to break, which I will secure them against breaking, which shall never “decay or wax old, or vanish away!” Thus saith the Lord.
The days thus spoken of as about to come after those other days, have not come as yet for the literal, historical fulfilment of this great pledge,—for the second marriage, so to speak, of the whole undivided house of Israel, the ten tribes and the two, for the "receiving back” of the people who were cast away. The good time is coming,—and perhaps it is near. Perhaps the recent war in the East may hasten it,-may bring it. But it has not yet come; the vision tarries, and must be waited for.
Though not literally, however, “the days have come," so far as a remnant, at least a representative portion, of the ancient people is concerned, who have obtained that which God promised, that position of nearness to Him, and favour with Him, which “the rest are so blinded, that they blindly seek it, and grope after it in vain." There are thousands of Christian Israelites, converted Hebrews alive to-day; hundreds of them Christian ministers, not a few of them missionaries of the Cross, who have found Christ in the Old Testament, and finding Him, have had this prediction made good to them,—made good to them in Him, as Himself the Head, the Husband of the house of Israel,—the successor of Moses,—and Abraham's promised seed.
And yet, in a larger sense than this, “the days have come.” Whereas all believers in Christ, though originally belonging, like ourselves, to the “wild olive-tree” of Gentile nature and nationality, are said to be graffed into the “good olive-tree of the stock of Israel,” counted as “sons and daughters of Abraham," like Zaccheus the publican, and Cornelius the centurion (when they believed)," the days” spoken of here are, in reference to us,—to the Gentile Church, to all Christendom,—the very days in which we live. We are heirs according to this promise, and have a right to claim the benefit. So it is that, in his Epistle to the Hebrews (Chap. viii.), the Apostle, quoting this whole passage, refers to it as a prophecy fulfilled, speaks of the making of this new covenant
as an accomplished fact. “If,” he says, “ the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." But, so far from that, it laboured under this capital defect, that those with whom it was made, did not, because they could not keep it; and therefore it was, because God had “ to find fault” with them for breaking it, that He sought and found place for a second covenant, both “new and better," established upon better promises, a covenant without a fault, to supersede the first and make it old,—that should never be old itself, nor cease to be fresh and new.
It is the "covenant of grace," then, of which the text speaks, as the presently existing regime, the basis of the Constitution, under which, as the subjects of God's moral government, we now live; “the Covenant,” one and alone, without a second, like the one “bow in the cloud,” in the day of rain, spanning the world in its embrace. It is called “new” for the reason just stated, as the second half of the Bible is called the New Testament to distinguish it from the Old, as the New world of America is called new, in distinction from the Old world of Europe. But in substance it is not “new;" it is old. It is older, a great deal, than that which is called “old.” It is as old, if not as the Creation, whensoever that was, at least as the Fall. Its date is from Paradise. It is one, not of the secondary or the tertiary, but of the “Primary Formations” of theology. From the moment that man became a sinner, à covenant-breaker, it became hopeless for him to expect any further intercourse with God on the former footing,—that of friendship, of mutual service, of anything like equality. If there was to be any intercourse at all, except that which necessarily passes between one who administers the Law, and one who breaks it, it behoved to take the form of concession, gratuity, grace, rather than of contract or of claim; and, if there was to be any covenant at all, it behoved not to be two-sided as before, but one-sided, if such a thing could be imagined or devised, or at least so one-sided in form as to be two-sided or mutual, in reality and in effect.
And such in point of fact was the covenant, which, having devised it in the counsels of a long-past eternity, God revealed. at the very dawn of time,-revealed to our first parents, as the first covenant-breakers, so soon as the necessity for, it arose, so soon as it became evident that even an innocent man could not take care of himself, that a sinless man could not keep out of sin. It was then the Gospel was first preached. Adam and Eve were