This is an Experimental addition to the website – It is a large file.

Owen’s discussion of the Covenant of Grace is justly famous, although Owen was a Congregationalist and actually a Paedobaptist, the theology expressed is the historic Baptist covenant theology that so many of us have lost sight of. It differs from the Presbyterian understanding. A more accessible read is Arthur Pink’s “The Divine Covenants” (available to download on this site).

This text was from John Owen’s exposition of Hebrews and I have tried to modernise Owen’s language slightly without changing the meaning.

(This was part of a project in which I hoped to produce an essay that clarified the Baptist understanding of the covenants –but the exercise became largely redundant when I found the work by Arthur Pink).

 

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JOHN OWEN on HEBREWS Chapter 8 Verse 6.

 

Table of Contents

Contents................................................................................................................................... 1

Introduction............................................................................................................................. 3

The Jewish church-state.................................................................................................... 3

The Excellence of Christ..................................................................................................... 3

The Excellence of His Ministry.......................................................................................... 3

1  The timing of the new covenant................................................................................ 3

2  The Ministry of Christ................................................................................................... 4

3  How Christ Obtained His Ministry............................................................................. 4

4  The Quality of Christ’s Ministry.................................................................................. 5

5  The Degree of Pre-eminence.................................................................................... 5

The Excellence of His Covenant...................................................................................... 5

1  Christ as Mediator........................................................................................................ 6

1.1 There must be different parties............................................................................ 6

1.2  The Parties must need Mediation....................................................................... 6

1.3  The Mediator must be Mutually Acceptable...................................................... 6

1.4  The Perfect Mediator shares Both Natures....................................................... 7

1.5   The Mediator must be Willing............................................................................. 7

1.6  Two things required of the Mediator................................................................... 7

1.7 The Mediator must give Assurance to Both Parties.......................................... 7

2.The determination of Christ’s mediatory office in the new covenant;................. 8

2.1  He was Mediator of a Covenant.......................................................................... 8

2.2  Which was the “Old Covenant”?......................................................................... 8

The Adamic Covenant.............................................................................................. 9

Seen as a Law Only............................................................................................... 9

Seen as a Covenant.............................................................................................. 9

God’s part of the Adamic Covenant.................................................................... 9

Man’s part of the Adamic Covenant.................................................................... 9

The Adamic Covenant not the Old Covenant of Hebrews 6.8........................... 9

The Adamic covenant could not be called a testament................................... 9

The Adamic Covenant had long since ceased as a covenant....................... 9

The Church was never under the Adamic covenant..................................... 10

Other Federal Transactions................................................................................... 10

The Sinaitic Covenant............................................................................................ 10

3. The proof of the excellence of the nature of the New Covenant: it was “established on better promises.......................................................................................................................... 11

Every Covenant founded on Promises................................................................... 11

The New Covenant is founded on Better “Promises”........................................... 13

Two Covenants or One?................................................................................................... 13

Preliminary Clarifications................................................................................................. 14

The Plausibility of the One Covenant View.................................................................. 14

The Differences Between the “Administrations”...................................................... 14

1  The manner of the declaration of God’s will...................................................... 14

2  The Plentiful Communication of Grace.............................................................. 15

3  The Manner of Access to God.............................................................................. 15

4  The Way of Worship............................................................................................... 15

5  The Extent of the Dispensation of the Grace of God........................................ 15

The Lutheran Insistence on Two Distinct Covenants................................................. 15

The Two Covenants are distinct covenants................................................................ 16

The First Covenant was a Distinct Covenant............................................................... 18

It had particular purposes............................................................................................. 18

It did not supersede the Covenant with Abraham.................................................... 19

The Purposes of the Old Covenant................................................................................ 20

Paul’s Twofold Enquiry................................................................................................. 20

No-one saved or condemned by the Law.................................................................. 23

The Differences Between The Covenants................................................................... 24

Rome’s wrong points of difference................................................................................ 24

The Scriptural points of difference................................................................................. 24

1 In Circumstance of Time........................................................................................... 24

2 In Circumstance of Place.......................................................................................... 24

3  In the Manner of Their Establishment.................................................................... 25

4  In Their Mediators...................................................................................................... 26

5  In Subject Matter........................................................................................................ 26

6  In Manner of Dedication and Sanction.................................................................. 26

7 In Their Priesthood..................................................................................................... 27

8 In Their Sacrifices....................................................................................................... 27

9  In the Manner of Their Writing or Enrolment........................................................ 27

10  In Their Purposes.................................................................................................... 27

11  In Their Effects......................................................................................................... 27

The Old Covenant a Ministration of Death............................................................. 28

The New Covenant A Covenant of Liberty............................................................. 28

How this Liberty is Communicated.......................................................................... 29

12  In the The Dispensation of the Holy Spirit.......................................................... 29

13  In the Decleration of the Kingdom of God........................................................... 30

14  In their Substance and End................................................................................... 30

15  In the Extent of their Administration..................................................................... 30

16  In their Effectiveness.............................................................................................. 30

17 In their Duration........................................................................................................ 31

The Old Covenant had Lesser promises, not NO Promises...................................... 31

The Old Covenant was in itself unspeakable grace............................................. 31

Obligations of the New Covenant............................................................................... 32

 


 

Introduction

Hebrews Chapter 8 Verse 6. —But now he hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by howmuch also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was

established on better promises.

 

In this verse the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews begins to discuss the differences between the old and new covenants, stating the pre-eminence of the new above the old, and of the ministry of Christ above the high priests on that account.

 

The Jewish church-state

The whole church-state of the Jews, with its ordinances and worship, and the privileges annexed to it, depended wholly on the covenant that God made with them at Sinai. But the introduction of this new priesthood that the apostle is describing, necessarily abolished that covenant, and put an end to all the ceremonies and rites associated wth it. This could not well be offered to them without the supply of another covenant, which should excel the former in privileges and advantages.

 

The Jews granted that it was the design of God to carry on the church unto a perfect  state, as had been declared on Hebrews 7; wherefore he would not lead   it backward, nor deprive it of any thing it had enjoyed, without provision of something better in its place. This, the apostle is here undertaking to declare. And he does it in his customary manner, arguing from such principles and testimonies as the Jews already held and admitted among themselves.

 

Two points are made to this purpose by express testimonies from the prophet Jeremiah:

1. That besides the covenant made with their fathers in Sinai, God had promised to make another covenant with the church, in his appointed time and season.

2. That this other promised covenant should be of another nature than the former, excelling it in spiritual advantages, and in breadth of admission {alternative words ;eligibility, scope, inclusion, inclusiveness,}.

 

From these two points, the apostle infers the necessity of a time coming when the first covenant that the Jews held to and trusted would have to be abrogated.

 

And here he proceeds to declare the nature of the two covenants and where they differ. This is the subject of the remainder of this chapter.

 

 

The Excellence of Christ

This verse is a transition from one subject to another. Paul has just demonstrated the pre-eminence of the priesthood of Christ above that of the earthly high-priests of the law, and he now moves on to show the superiority of the new covenant above the old.

 

And in the course of this new discussion the apostle ably proves and confirms his last argument, of the pre-eminency of Christ, from the qualities of the new covenant of which Christ was the mediator

The Excellence of His Ministry

 

The text can be taken in two parts: The first part being an assertion of the excellence of  the  ministry of Christ. This he expresses by way of comparison; “He hath obtained a more excellent ministry:” and then he declares the degree of that comparison; “By how much also.” Secondly, he supplies the proof of this assertion; in that Christ is “the mediator of a better covenant, established on better” or “more excellent” promises. In the first part of there occur these five things: —

 

1   The note of its introduction; “But now:”

2   What is implied in the assertion  about the Lord Christ; and that is a  “ministry:”

3   How he came by that ministry; “He hath obtained it:”

4   The quality of this ministry; it is “better” or “more excellent” than the other:

5        The measure and degree of this excellence; “By how much also:”

all of which must be addressed, for the opening of the words: —

 

1  The timing of the new covenant

The introduction of the assertion is by the particles nuni< de>, —”but now.” Nu~n, “now,” is a note of time, of the present time. But it is true that there are some instances where these adverbial particles  (conjoined as here) do not seem to denote any time or season, but are merely adversative, eg  Romans 7:17; 1  Corinthians 5:11, 7:14. But even in those places there does seem to be some respect to time also; and so it shouldn’t be excluded here.

 

As the opposition of the new covenant to the old covenant and to the Levitical priesthood is being intimated; so is the timing of the introduction of the new new covenant and the better ministry that accompanied it. — ‘“now,” at this time, which is the season that God has appointed for the introduction of the new covenant and ministry.’ To the same purpose The apostle expresses the same thought, treating of the same subject, in  Romans 3:26: “To declare ejn tw~| nu~n kairw~|,” “at this instant season,” now the gospel is preached, “his righteousness.”

 

Obs. I. God, in his infinite wisdom, gives proper times and seasons to all his dispensations to and towards the church. —So the accomplishment of these things was in “the fullness of times,”  Ephesians 1:10; that is, when all things rendered it seasonable and suitable for the condition of the church, and for the manifestation of his own glory. He hasteneth all his works of grace in their own appointed time,  Isaiah 60:22. And our duty it is to leave the ordering of all the concerns of the church, in the accomplishment of promises, to God in his own time,  Acts 1:7.

 

2  The Ministry of Christ

That which is ascribed unto the Lord Christ is leitougri>a, —a “ministry.” The priests of old had a ministry; they ministered at the altar, as in the foregoing verse. And the Lord Christ was “a minister” also; so the apostle had said before, he was lei>tourgov tw~n ajgi>wn, verse 2, —”a minister of the holythings.” For this reason he had a “liturgy,” a “ministry,”a service, committed to him. By God the Father And this included two elements: —

 

(2.1.) That the office Christ undertook was that of ministry. He is not called a minister with respect to one particular act of ministration;— as we are said to “minister unto the necessity of the saints,” which yet denotes no office in them that do so. But he had a standing office committed to him, as the word imports. In that sense also he is called dia>konov, a “minister” in office,  Romans 15:8.

 

(2.2.) Subordination under God. With respect unto the church his office is supreme, accompanied with sovereign power and authority; he is “ Lord over his own house.” But he holds his office in subordination to God, being “faithful unto him that appointed him.” In like manner the angels are said to minister unto God, Daniel 7:10; that is, to do all things according to his will, and at his command. So had the Lord Christ a ministry. And we may observe, —

 

Obs. II. That the whole office of Christ was designed for the accomplishment of the will and dispensation of the grace of God. For these ends his ministry was committed to him. We can never sufficiently admire the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in undertaking this office for us. The greatness and glory of the duties which he performed in the discharge of it, with the benefits we receive from them, are unspeakable, being the immediate cause of all grace and glory. Yet we are not absolutely to rest in them, but to ascend by faith to the eternal spring of them. This is the grace, the love, the mercy of God, all acted in a way of sovereign power. These are everywhere in the Scripture represented as the original spring of all grace, and the ultimate object of our faith, with respect to the benefits which we receive by the mediation of Christ. His office was committed to him by God, even the Father; and his will did he do in the discharge of it. Yet also, —

 

Obs. III. The condescension of the Son of God to undertake the office of the ministry on our behalf is unspeakable, and for ever to be admired. —It will appear so especially, when we consider who it was who undertook it, what it cost him, what he did and wet through in the accomplishment and discharge of it, as it is all expressed in  Philippians 2:6-8. Not only does what he continues to do in heaven at the right hand of God belong to this ministry, but all that he suffered upon the earth. His ministry, in the undertaking of it, was not a dignity, a promotion, or a revenue,  Matthew 20:28. It is true, it issued in glory, but not until he had undergone all the evils that human nature is capable of undergoing. And we ought to undergo anything cheerfully for him who underwent this ministry for us.

 

Obs. IV. The Lord Christ, by undertaking this office of the ministry, has consecrated and made honourable that office to all that are rightly called  into it, and do rightly discharge it. —It is true, his ministry and ours are not of the same kind and nature; but they agree in this, that they are both of them a ministry to God in the holy things of his worship. And considering that Christ himself was God’s minister, we have far greater reason to tremble in ourselves on an apprehension of our own insufficiency for such an office, than to be discouraged with all the hardships and contests we meet with in the world on account of it.

 

3  How Christ Obtained His Ministry

The words of our text express the general way in which our Lord Christ came into this ministry. Te>teuce, —”He obtained it.” Tugca>nw is either “sorte contingo,” “to have a lot or portion;” or to have any thing befall a man, as it were by accident; or “assequor,” “obtineo,” to “attain” or “obtain” any thing which before we had not. But the apostle chose not to use this word for the especial call of Christ, or for the particular way he came into his ministry, but only to say in general that he had it, and possessed it, in the appointed season, not having possessed it before. The way he entered on the whole office and work of his mediation is expressed by  keklhrono>mnke,  Hebrews 1:4, — he had it by “inheritance;” that is, by free grant and perpetual gift, made to him as the Son. See the exposition on that place. (look this up)

 

There were two things that meet in Christ’s obtaining this ministry:

(l. ) The eternal purpose and counsel of God appointing him to it as an act of the divine will accompanied with infinite wisdom, love, and power.

(2.) The actual call of God, especially his annointing with the Spirit above measure for the holy discharge of his whole office. Thus did he obtain this ministry, and not by any legal constitution, succession, or carnal rite, as did the priests of old. And we may see that,

 

Obs. V. The exaltation of the human nature of Christ into the office of this glorious ministry depended solely on the God ‘s sovereign wisdom, grace, and love. —When the human nature of Christ was united to the divine, it became, in the person of the Son of God, apropriate and able to make satisfaction for the sins of the church, and to procure righteousness and eternal life for all that do believe. But it did not merit that union, nor could it do so. For as it was utterly impossible that any created nature, by any act of its own, should merit the hypostatical union (union of natures), so it was granted to the human nature of Christ before any act of its own in the way of obedience to God.; for it was united to the person of the Son by virtue of that union. Wherefore, antecedently to it, it could merit nothing. Hence its whole exaltation, and the ministry that was discharged in it, depended solely on the sovereign wisdom and pleasure of God.

 

In this election of the human nature of Christ to grace and glory, we may see the pattern of our own. For if it was not on consideration of the obedience of the human nature of Christ that it was chosen for the grace of the hypostatical union, but of the mere sovereign grace of God; how much less could a foresight of any thing in us be the cause of God choosing us in him before the foundation of the world to grace and glory!

 

4  The Quality of Christ’s Ministry

The  comparative quality of Christ’s  ministry , in its excellence, is also expressed: Diaforwte>rav, — “More excellent.” The word is used only in this epistle in this sense, in  Hebrews 1:4, and here. The original word denotes only a difference from other things; but in the comparative degree, as here used, it signifies a difference with a preference, ie a comparative excellency. The ministry of the Levitical priests, was good and useful in its time and season; this of our Lord Jesus Christ so differed from it as to be better, and more excellent; pollw~| a]meinon. And, —

 

 

5  The Degree of Pre-eminence

The apostle answers the question “by how much was the ministry of Christ more excellent than that of the Levitical priests?” He answers in the word o[ow~|, — “byhow much.” ‘So much more excellent, by how much.’

 

The superiority of his ministry above that of the Levitical priests bears proportion to the excellency of the covenant he mediates  above the old covenant in which they  administered; of which more later.

 

This is the apostle’s assertion, concerning the excellency of the ministry of Christ. And with this he closes the discourse  about the pre-eminence of Christ in his office above the high priests of old. And indeed, this being the very hinge on which his whole controversy with the Jews  depended, he could not give  too much evidence, nor too full a confirmation.

 

For our own present concerns we are taught  that, —

 

Obs. VI. It is both our duty and our security to acquiesce absolutely in the ministry of Jesus Christ. —That which He was purposed for,  in God’s infinite wisdom and grace ; that which he was so equipped and fitted for by the communication of the Spirit in all fullness; that which all other priesthoods were removed to make way for, must  be sufficient and effectual for all the puposes God intended.

 

 It may be said, ‘This is that which all men do; all that are called Christians do fully acquiesce in the ministry of Jesus Christ.’ But if it is so, why do we hear the bleating of another sort of cattle? What do those other priests mean, and the repeated sacrifices, which make up the worship of the church of Rome? If they rest in the ministry of Christ, why do they appoint one of their own to do the same things that he has done once and for all, —namely, to offer sacrifice to God ?

 

The Excellence of His Covenant

 

Secondly, Paul adds the proof of his assertion; in that he is “the mediator of a better covenant, established on “better” or “more excellent promises

 

The proof of this assertion lies in the latter part of these words; “By how much he is the mediator of a better covenant, established on better promises” The words are so disposed, that some think the apostle intends now to prove the excellency of the covenant from the excellency of his ministry in it. But the other sense is more suited to the scope of the place, and the nature of the argument the apostle is pressing on the Hebrews. For, once suppose that there was indeed another, and a “better” covenant, to be established,  —which they could not deny, — and it plainly follows that he on whose ministry the dispensation of that covenant depended must be “more excellent” in that ministry than they of the covenant which was to be abolished. However, it may be granted that these things mutually corroborate and illustrate one another. Such as the priest is, such is the covenant; such as the covenant is in dignity, such is the priest also.

 

In the text there are three things observable: —

 

1. The nature of Christ’s ministry is declared, he was a “mediator:”

 

2. He is declared mediator of the new covenant; “of a better covenant:”

 

3. The proof or demonstration of the superior nature of this covenant; it was “established on better promises:” —

 

1  Christ as Mediator

His office is that of a mediator, —mesi>thv, one that interposed between God and man, to do all the things required to establish a covenant between them.

 

But this description of a mediator is also wholly applicable to Moses, and suited to his office in giving the law. See Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:27, 28.

 

Exodus 20:19;  And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

 

Deut 5:27&28. Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it. And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.

 

What is said here does immediately belong to the mediatory office of Christ, but it is not unique to it. In fact, it excludes the principal parts of His mediation. And while there is nothing here that does not belong to Christ’s [I]prophetical[/I] office, it would be improperly applied as a description of such a (substitutionary redeeming) mediator as Paul does intend.

Therefore, when Paul comes later to declare what distinguishes such a mediator of the covenant as he intended, he expressly cites Christ’s “death for the redemption of transgressions,”  Hebrews 9:15; affirming that ”for that cause he was a mediator.”

 

But there is nothing of this in the description given us here of this office. This the apostle does elsewhere, in 1 Timothy 2:5, 6,

“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.”

The principal part of his mediation consisted in the “giving himself (as) a ransom,” or a price of redemption for the whole church. Which is why this description of a mediator of the new testament is feigned only, to exclude his satisfaction, or his offering himself to God in his death and blood-shedding, with the atonement made thereby.

 

The Lord Christ, then, in his ministry, is called mesi>thv, the “mediator” of the covenant, in the same sense as he is called e]gguov, the “surety;” which we see from the exposition on  Hebrews 7:22. He is, in the new covenant, the mediator, the surety, the priest, the sacrifice, all in his own person. The ignorance and want of a due consideration of this, are the great evidence of the degeneracy of Christian religion.

 

Whereas this is the first general notion of the office of Christ, that which comprises the whole ministry committed to him, and contains in itself the special offices of king, priest, and prophet, by which he discharges his mediation, some things must be mentioned that are declare its nature and use. And to this end we may observe,

1.1 There must be different parties

That for there to be a mediator there must be different parties willing to be involved in the covenant, (as there must be in every contract of any kind). So says our apostle, “A mediator is not of one, but God is one,”  Galatians 3:20; that is, if there were none but God concerned in this matter, as is the case in an absolute promise or a sovereign precept, there would be no need of or place for a mediator. Such a mediator as Christ is. So our consent to the covenant is required in the very notion of a mediator.

 

1.2  The Parties must need Mediation

The parties entering into covenant will be in a state and condition that prevents them treating immediately with each other as to the ends of the covenant; for if they can do so then a mediator to go between is altogether needless.

 

This was the case in the original covenant with Adam, which had no mediator. But in the giving of the law at Sinai, which was to be a covenant between God and the people, they found themselves utterly insufficient for an immediate treaty with God, and therefore desired that they might have an intermediary to go between God and them, to bring his proposals, and carry back their consent, Deuteronomy 5:23-27. And this is the voice of all who are  really convinced of the holiness of God, and of their own condition. Such is the state between God and sinners. The law and the curse of it did so interpose between them, that they could not enter into any immediate treaty with God,  Psalm 5:3-5. This made a mediator necessary, so that the new covenant might be established; of which more later.

 

1.3  The Mediator must be Mutually Acceptable

The mediator must be accepted, trusted, and rested in by both sides, or both parties mutually entering into covenant. An absolute trust must be placed in him, so that each party may be fully obliged in what he undertakes on their behalf; and those who do not accept his terms can have no benefit by, or no interest in the covenant. So was it with the Lord Christ in this matter. On the part of God, He reposed the whole trust of all the concerns of the covenant in him’ “Behold,” saith he of him, “my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth,” or is “well pleased,” —ejn w+| eujdo>khsa, Isaiah 42:l; Matthew 3:17. When he undertook this office, and said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” the soul of God rested in him,  Exodus 23:21;  John 5:20-22. And to him he gives an account at last of his discharge of his task,” I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do “John 17:4. And on our part, unless we resign ourselves absolutely to a complete trust and reliance on him, and unless we accept  all the terms of the covenant as proposed by him, and engage to stand by all that he has undertaken on our behalf, we can have neither share nor interest in this matter.

 

1.4  The Perfect Mediator shares Both Natures

 A mediator must be a middle person between both parties entering into a covenant; and if they are of different natures, a perfect, complete mediator ought to comprise each of their natures in the same person.

 

1.5   The Mediator must be Willing

A mediator must be one who voluntarily and of his own accord undertakes the work of mediation. This is required of every one who will effectually mediate between any persons at variance, to bring them to an agreement on equal terms. So it was required that the will and consent of Christ should concur in his acceptance of this office; and that hedid so, he expressly testifies,  Hebrews 10:5-10.

 

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 10:8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 10:9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 

It is true, he was appointed by the Father to this office; hence he is called his “servant,” and constantly witnesses of himself, that he came to do the will and commandment of him that sent him: but what he had  to do in thedischarge of this office,  could not, according to any rule of divine righteousness, be imposed on him without his voluntary consent. And this was the ground of the eternal compact between the Father and the Son, with respect to his mediation; And the testimony of his own will, grace, and love, in the acceptance of this office, is a principal motive to that faith and trust which the church places in him, as the mediator between God and them.

 

Upon this, his voluntary undertaking, does the soul of God rest in him, and God reposes the whole trust in him of accomplishing God’s will and pleasure,  the design of his love and grace in this covenant,  Isaiah 53:10-12.

 

And the faith of the church, on whch salvation depends, must be inseparably accompanied by love to his person. Love to Christ is no less necessary to salvation than faith in him. And as faith is resolved into the sovereign wisdom and grace of God in sending him, and Christ’s own ability to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him; so love arises from the consideration of Christ’s own love and grace in his voluntary undertaking of this office, and his discharge of it.

 

 

1.6  Two things required of the Mediator

In this voluntary undertaking to be a mediator, two things were required: —

 

[1.] That he should remove whatever kept the covenanters at a distance, whatever was a cause of enmity between them. For it is supposed that there was such an enmity, or there had been no need of a mediator. Therefore in the covenant made with Adam, where there was no enmity between God and man, there was no mediator. But the design of this covenant was to make reconciliation and peace. On this, therefore, depended the necessity of satisfaction, redemption, and the making of atonement, by sacrifice. For man having sinned and apostatized from the rule of God, thereby bringing himself under Gods wrath, according to the eternal rule of righteousness, and in particular the curse of the law, there could be no new peace and agreement made with God unless due satisfaction were made for these things. For although God was willing, in infinite love, grace, and mercy, to enter into a new covenant with fallen man, yet he would not do it to the prejudice of his righteousness, the dishonour of his rule, and the contempt of his law. Therefore noone could undertake to be a mediator of this covenant, but one that was able to satisfy the justice of God, glorify his government, and fulfill the law. And this could be done by no-one but Christ, concerning whom it might be said that “God purchased his church with his own blood.

 

And [2.] That he should procure, in a way suited to the glory of God, the actual delivery of all the good things prepared and proposed in this covenant; that is, grace and glory, with all that is associated with them, on behalf  of those whose surety he was. And this is the foundation of the merit of Christ, and of the grant of all good things to us for his sake.

 

1.7 The Mediator must give Assurance to Both Parties

(1.7.) It is required of this mediator, as such, that he give assurance to and undertake for the parties mutually concerned, the accomplishment of the terms of the covenant, undertaking on each hand for them: —

 

[1.] On the part of God towards men, that they shall have peace and acceptance with him, in the sure accomplishment of all the promises of the covenant. This he does only declaratively, in the doctrine of the gospel, and in the institution of the ordinances of evangelical worship. For he was not a surety for God, nor did God need any, having confirmed his promise with an oath, swearing by himself, because he had no greater to swear by.

 

And [2.] On our part, he undertakes to God for our acceptance of the terms of the covenant, and our accomplishment of them, by his enabling us to do so.

 

These things, among others, were necessary in a full and complete mediator of the new covenant, such as Christ was. And, —

 

Obs. VII. The provision of this mediator between God and man was an effect of infinite wisdom and grace. It was the greatest and most glorious external effect ever produced by them or that will be in this world. The creation of all things at first out of nothing was a glorious effect of infinite wisdom and power; but when the glory of that design was eclipsed by the entrance of sin, this provision of a mediator, — one through whom all things were restored into a condition  bringing even more glory to God, and securing for ever the blessed estate of those whose mediator he is, —this is accompanied with more evidences of the divine excellencies than even creation. Ephesians 1:10. “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:”

 

2.The determination of Christ’s mediatory office in the new covenant;

Two things are added in the description of this mediator:

[1.] That he was a mediator of a covenant;

 

And [2] That this covenant was better than another of which he was not the mediator: —

 

2.1  He was Mediator of a Covenant

 He was the mediator of a “covenant.” And two things are supposed in this: —

 

[1.] That there was a covenant prepared between God and man; that is, it was so far made, as that God who made it had prepared the terms of it in a sovereign act of wisdom and grace..

 

And [2.] [DMH1] That there was need of a mediator, that this covenant might be effective in its proper ends, the glory of God and the obedience of mankind, with their reward.

 

This was not required from the nature of a covenant in general; for a covenant may be made and entered into between different parties without any mediator, merely on the equity of the terms of it.

 

Nor was it so from the nature of a covenant between God and man,as man was at first created of God; for the first covenant between them was immediate, without the interposition of a mediator. But it became necessary from the state and condition of those with whom this covenant was made, and the special nature of this covenant.

 

This the apostle declares, Romans 8:3,

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”

 

The law was the moral instrument or rule of the covenant that was made immediately between God and man: but it could not continue to be so after the entrance of sin; that is, so that God might be glorified by it, in the obedience and reward of men. Wherefore he “sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh;” that is, he provided a mediator for a new covenant. The persons with whom this covenant was to be made ,being all of them sinners and apostatized from God, it did not become the holiness or righteousness of God to deal immediately with them any more. Nor would it have answered his holy purposes to have done so. For if,when they were in a condition of uprightness and integrity, they did not  keep the terms of that covenant made immediately with them, without a mediator, although they were then holy, just, good, and equal; how much less could any such thing be expected from them in their depraved condition of apostasy from God and enmity against him? It therefore did not become the wisdom of God to enter again into a covenant with mankind, without assurance that the terms of the covenant should be accepted, and the grace of it made effectual.

 

As men we could not provide this assurance, indeed we gave every possible evidence to the contrary, in that “God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually,”  Genesis 6:5.

So it was necessary that there should be a mediator to be the surety of this covenant. Again, the covenant itself was so prepared, in the counsel, wisdom, and grace of God, so that the principal, and indeed, all the benefits of it, would depend on what was to be done by a mediator, and that could not otherwise be accomplished. The mediator would accomplish satisfaction for sin, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness; which are the foundation of this covenant.

 

2.2  Which was the “Old Covenant”?

To proceed with the text; the covenant mediated by the Lord Christ is said to be a “better covenant.” This supposes  another covenant, of which the Lord Christ was not the mediator. In the following verses there are two covenants, a first and a latter, an old and a new, compared together. It is the key to the whole understanding of the apostle’s subsequent discourse to determine precisely which covenant was that other “old covenant”, that is now inferior to Christ’s”.

 

And because this is a subject wrapped up in much obscurity, and with many potential difficulties, it will be necessary to be as clear and unambiguous in the determination of the truth and in the statement of it, as we can be.

 

 And I shall first explain the text, and then discuss the difficulties which arise from it: —

The Adamic Covenant

[1.] There was an original covenant made with Adam, and all mankind in him. The rule of obedience and reward that was between God and him was not expressly called a covenant, but it contained the express nature of a covenant; for it was the agreement of God and man concerning obedience and disobedience, rewards and punishments. Where there is a law concerning these things, and an agreement upon it by all parties concerned, there is a formal covenant. Wherefore[DMH2]  it may be considered two ways: —

 

Seen as a Law Only

1st. As it was a law only; so it proceeded from, and was a consequence of the nature of God and man, with their mutual relation to one another. God being considered as the creator, governor, and benefactor of man; and man as an intellectual creature, capable of moral obedience; this law was necessary, and is eternally indispensable.

 

Seen as a Covenant

2dly. As it was a covenant; and this depended on the will and pleasure of God.

 

I will not discuss whether God might have given a law to men that had nothing in it of a covenant, such as the law of creation is to all other creatures, which has no rewards nor punishments annexed to it.

 

Yet this God calls a covenant also, inasmuch as it is an effect of his purpose, his unalterable will and pleasure,  Jeremiah 33:20, 21.

Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant,that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.

 

But that this law of our obedience should be a formal, complete covenant, there were moreover some things required on the part of God, and some also on the part of man.

 

Two things were done on the part of God to complete this covenant: —

God’s part of the Adamic Covenant

(1st.) He annexed to it promises of reward and threatenings of punishment; the first of grace, the other of justice.

 

(2dly.) He expressed these promises and threatenings in external signs; the first in the tree of life, the latter in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By these signs God established the original law of creation as a covenant, and gave it the nature of a covenant.

 

Man’s part of the Adamic Covenant

On the part of man, it was required that he accept this (God’s) law as the rule of the covenant which God made with him. And this he did two ways: —

 

[1st.] By the innate principles of reason and obedience created in him as part of his very nature. By these he absolutely and in all things gave his assent to the law, as proposed with promises and threatenings, as holy, just, and good, —as what was meet for God to require, and what was equal and good for himself.

 

[2dly.] By his acceptance of the commands concerning the tree of life, and that of the knowledge of good and evil, as the signs and pledges of this covenant. So was it established as a covenant between God and man, without the interposition of any mediator.This is the covenant of works, absolutely the old, or first covenant that God made with men. But this is not the old covenant of Hebrews 6.8 for, —

 

The Adamic Covenant not the Old Covenant of Hebrews 6.8
The Adamic covenant could not be called a testament.

1st. The old covenant we seek is called afterwards (where[DMH3] ?)  “the first,” was diatheke, a “testament.” And so it is called here. It was therefore such a covenant as could be termed a testament also. Now there can be no testament, but there must be death for the confirmation of it,  Hebrews 9:16.

 

But in the making of the covenant with Adam, there was no death of any thing, whereby it might be called a testament. But in the confirmation of the covenant at Sinai there was the death of beasts in sacrifice, as we shall see afterwards. And it must be observed, that although I use the term “covenant,” as we have rendered the word diatheke, [because the true signification [DMH4] of that word will more properly occur to us in another place,] yet I do not understand by its use here a covenant properly and strictly, but a covenant that is also a testament, in which the good things (of him that makes it) are bequeathed  to the beneficiaries. Neither the word used constantly by the apostle in this argument, nor the design of his discourse, admit of any other meaning of covenant to be understood in this place. Whereas, since the first covenant made with Adam was not a testament, it cannot be the old covenant in question.

 

The Adamic Covenant had long since ceased as a covenant

2dly. That first covenant made with Adam had ceased long before, even at the first  entrance of sin. It was not abolished or abrogated by any act of God, as a law, but it was made weak and insufficient to its first end, as a covenant.

 

God had provided a way for the salvation of sinners, declared in the first promise. When this is actually embraced, that first covenant ceases towards them, as to its curse, in all its concerns as a covenant, and obligation to sinless obedience as the condition of life because both of them are answered by the mediator of the new covenant. But as to all those who do not receive the grace tendered in the promise, it  remains in full force, not as a covenant, but as a law; and that because neither the obedience it requires nor the curse which it threatens is fulfilled. Hence, if any man believeth not, “the wrath of God abideth on him.”

 

For as its commands and curse depend on the necessary relation between God and man, with the righteousness of God as the supreme governor of mankind, so they must be answered and fulfilled. Therefore it was never formally abrogated. But as all unbelievers are still obliged by it, and under it must stand or fall, so it is perfectly fulfilled in all believers, —not in their own persons, but in the person of their surety.

God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” Romans 8:3, 4.

 

But as a covenant, obliging personal, perfect, sinless obedience, as the condition of life, to be performed by individuals, so it ceased to be, long before the introduction of the new covenant which the apostle speaks of,and that was promised “in the latter days.” But the other covenant we seek and  that is here spoken of was not removed or taken away, until this new covenant was actually established.

 

 

The Church was never under the Adamic covenant

3dly. The church of Israel was never absolutely under the power of that covenant as a covenant of life; for from the days of Abraham, the promise was given to them and their seed. And the apostle proves that no law could afterwards be given, or covenant made, that should disannul that promise, Galatians 3:17

 

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

 

 But had they been brought under the old covenant of works, it would have disannulled the promise; for that covenant and the promise are diametrically opposed. And moreover, if they were under that covenant, then they were all under the curse, and so would perished eternally: which is clearly false; for it is testified of them  (where?) that they pleased God by faith, and so were saved. But it is evident that the old covenant that we seek was a covenant in which the church of Israel walked with God, until such time as this better covenant was solemnly introduced. This is plainly declared in the ensuing context, especially at the close of chapter Eight, where, speaking of this former covenant, Paul says, it had “become old,” and so “ready to disappear.” Therefore it is not the covenant of works made with Adam that is intended, when the New is said to be a “better covenant.”

 

Other Federal Transactions

[2.] There were other federal transactions between God and the church before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. There were two of them into which all the rest were resolved: —

1st. The first promise, given to our first parents immediately after the fall. This had in it the nature of a covenant, grounded on a promise of grace, and requiring obedience of all that received the promise.

2dly. The promise given and sworn to Abraham, which is expressly called the covenant of God, and had the whole nature of a covenant in it, with a solemn outward seal appointed for its confirmation and establishment. Hereof we have treated at large on the sixth chapter.[DMH5] 

 

Neither of these, nor any transaction between God and man that may be reduced to them, as explanations, renovations, or confirmations of them, is the “first covenant” intended here. For they are not only consistent with the “new covenant,” so that there was no need to remove them out of the way for its introduction, but they did indeed contain in them the essence and nature of the new covenant it, and so were confirmed in it  and by it. Hence the Lord Christ himself is said to be “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,”  Romans 15:8. As he was the mediator of the new covenant, he was so far from departing from, or abolishing those promises, that it belonged to his office to confirm them.

 

Wherefore, —

The Sinaitic Covenant

[3.]. The other covenant or testament here supposed, inferior to that of which  the Lord Christ was the mediator, is none other than that which God made with the people of Israel on mount Sinai. So the Apostle expressly affirms, verse 9: “The covenant which I made with your fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” This was that covenant which had all the institutions of worship annexed to it,  Hebrews 9:1-3.

 

It is with respect to this “old covenant” that  the Lord Christ is said to be the “mediator of a better covenant;” that is, of another one distinct from it, and better.

 

It remains to the exposition of the words, to enquire just what the new covenant is of which our Lord Christ was the mediator. It can be no other but that  we call “the covenant of grace.” It is so called in contrast to “the covenant of works,” which was the one made with us in Adam; for these two, grace and works, divide the ways of our relation to God, being diametrically opposed, and in every way inconsistent,

 Romans 11:6. Of this covenant the Lord Christ was the mediator from the foundation of the world, namely, from the giving of the first promise,

 Revelation 13:8; And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  ---for it was given on Christ’s interposition, and all the benefits of it depended on his future actual mediation. But here arises the first difficulty of the context, in two things; for, —

 

[1.] If this covenant of grace was made from the beginning, and if the LORD Christ was the mediator of it from the first, then where is the privilege of the gospel-state as opposed to the law, by virtue of this covenant, seeing that while under the covenant of the law,  the Lord Christ was even then the mediator of that covenant of grace, which was from the beginning ?

 

[2.] If it is the covenant of grace which is intended (by the “new covenant”), and that is opposed to the covenant of works made with Adam, then surely the other covenant must be that covenant of works so made with Adam, which we have before disproved.

 

The answer is in the word here used by the apostle concerning this new covenant: nenomoqe>thtai, themeaning of which must be inquired into.

 

I say, therefore, that the apostle does not here consider the new covenant in its absolute [DMH6] sense (as it was virtually administered from the foundation of the world), in the way of a promise; for as such it was consistent with that covenant made with the people in Sinai. And the apostle proves expressly that the renovation of it made to Abraham was in no way abrogated by the giving of the law,  Galatians 3:17. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

 

There was no interruption of the administration of the (absolute )covenant of grace made by the introduction of the law. But Paul treats of such an establishment of the new covenant as wherewith the old covenant made at Sinai was absolutely inconsistent, and which therefore had to be removed out of the way.

 

Wherefore he considers ithe new covenantt here as it was actually completed, so as to bring along with it all the ordinances of worship which are proper under it, the dispensation of the Spirit in them, and all the spiritual privileges with which they are accompanied. The new covenant is now so brought in as to become the entire rule of the church’s faith, obedience, and worship, in all things. This is the meaning of the word nenomoqe>thtai: “established,” say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance to the church.

 

That which beforehad lain hidden in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hidden in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant of grace which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar to it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship for the whole church, nothing else being admitted but what belongs to it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by nenomoqe>thtai, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. From here on the other (old) covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the old covenant itself, but the whole system of sacred worship by which it was administered.

 

This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was superinduced [DMH7] into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent therewith.

 

When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a form of worship and privileges expressive of it. It was therefore then (for that time) consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, (and those composed into a yoke of bondage) which did not belong to it. They belonged to the (old) covenant of the Law.  And as these, being added after its [DMH8] giving, did not overthrow its nature as a promise, so they were inconsistent with it when it was completed as a covenant; for then all the worship of the church was to proceed from it, and to conformed to it. Then it was established. Hence, in answer to the second difficulty, it follows that as a promise, it was opposed to the covenant of works; as a covenant, it was opposed to that of Sinai. This legalizing of it, or authoritative establishment of the new covenant, and the worship belonging to it , made this alteration[DMH9] .

 

 

3. The proof of the excellence of the nature of the New Covenant: it was “established on better promises

 

In the last place, the apostle tells what the new covenant was establishedon ; and that is ejpi krei>ttosin ejpaggeli>aiv, —”on better promises.” For the better understanding of this we must consider the origin[DMH10] aland use of divine promises in our relation to God. And observe, —

Every Covenant founded on Promises

(3.1) That every covenant between God and man must be founded on and resolved into “promises.” Hence essentially a promise and a covenant the same; and God calls an absolute promise, founded on an absolute decree, his covenant,  

Genesis 9:11.  And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”

 

And his purpose for the continuation of the course of nature until the end of the world, he calls his covenant with day and night,  

Jeremiah 33:20. Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;

 

The being and essence of a divine covenant lies in the promise. Hence they are called “the covenants of promise,”  

Ephesians 2:12; “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

 

—such as are founded on and consist in promises. And it is necessary that it should be so. For, —

 

[3.1.1.] The nature of God who makes these covenants requires that it should be so. It becomes his greatness and goodness, in all his voluntary transactions with his creatures, to propose that to them in which their advantage, their happiness and blessedness, does consist. We inquire not how God may deal with his creatures as such; what he may absolutely require of them, on the account of his own being, his absolute essential excellencies, with their universal dependence on him. Who can express or limit the sovereignty of God over his creatures? All the disputes about it are foolish. We have no measures of what is infinite. May he not do with his own what he pleases? Are we not in his hands, as clay in the hands of the potter? And whether he makes or mars a vessel, who shall say to him, What doest thou? He gives no account of his matters. But given that he will condescend to enter into covenant with his creatures, and to come to agreement with them according to the terms of it, it becomes his greatness and goodness to give them promises as the foundation of it, in which he proposes to them the things wherein their blessedness and reward do consist. For,

 

3.1.1.1       First Herein he proposes himself to them as the eternal spring and fountain of all power and goodness. Had he treated with us merely by a law, he would have only revealed his sovereign authority and holiness; the one in the giving of the law, and the other in the nature of it. But in his promises he reveals himself as the eternal spring of goodness and power; for the matter of all promises is something good; and the communication of it depends on sovereign power. That God should so declare himself in his covenant, was absolutely necessary to direct and encourage the obedience of the covenanters; and he did so accordingly,


 
Genesis 15:1, After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward

Genesis17:1, 2. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

 

3.1.1.2            2dly hereby he reserves all the glory to himself. For although the terms of agreement which he proposes between himself and us are in their own nature “holy, just, and good,” yet if there were not something on his part which was independent of any goodness, obedience, or desert in us, we  should have something to credit and glory of in ourselves; which is inconsistent with the glory of God. But the matter of those promises in which  the covenant is founded is free, undeserved, and without respect to anything in us that could in any sense procure it. And so in the first covenant (Adamic), which was given in a form of law, attended with a penal sanction, yet the foundation of it was in a promise of a free and undeserved reward, even of the eternal enjoyment of God: which no goodness or obedience in the creature could possibly merit the attainment of. So that if a man should by virtue of any covenant be justified by works, though he might have something to glory of before men, yet could he not glory before God, as the apostle declares,

Romans 4:2; For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

and that because the reward proposed in the promise infinitely exceeds the obedience performed.

3.1.2. It was also necessary on our part that every divine covenant should be founded and established on promises; for there is no state in which we may be taken into covenant with God, but supposes that we are not yet arrived at that perfection and blessedness of which our nature is capable, and which we cannot but desire.

 

 

And therefore when we come to heaven, and the full enjoyment of God, there shall be no need of any covenant any more, seeing we shall be in eternal rest, in the enjoyment of all the blessedness of which we capable, and shall consistently adhere to God without any further expectation. But while we are in the way, we have still principal parts of our blessedness, to desire, expect, and believe. So in the state of Adam’s innocence, though it had all the perfection which a state of obedience according to a law was capable of, yet it did not have the blessedness of eternal rest, for which we were made. Now, whilst it is thus with us, we cannot but desire and seek that full and complete happiness, which our nature cannot come to rest without. This, therefore, renders it necessary that there should be a promise of it given as the foundation of the covenant; without which we should lack our principal encouragement to obedience. Much more must it be so in the state of sin and apostasy from God; for we are now not only most remote from our utmost happiness, but involved in a condition of misery, without deliverance from which we cannot be induced to surrender to covenant obedience. Wherefore, unless we are prevented [DMH11] in the covenant with promises of deliverance and future blessedness, no covenant could be of use or advantage to us.

 

[3.1.3.]It is necessary from the nature of a covenant. For every covenant that is proposed to men, and accepted by them, requires something to be performed on their part, otherwise it is no covenant.

Where any thing is required from them to whom a covenant is proposed, it further supposes that something is promised by them proposing the covenant,as the foundation of its acceptance, and the reason of the duties required in it.

 All this appears most evidently in the covenant of grace, which is here said to be “established on promises;” and this on two accounts. For, —

 

[3.1.3.1.] At the same time that much is required of us in the way of duty and obedience, we are told in the Scripture, and find it by experience, that of ourselves we can do nothing.

Wherefore, unless the precept of the covenant is founded in a promise of giving  us grace and spiritual strength, by which we may be enabled to perform those duties, the covenant can be of no benefit or advantage to us. Every covenant is founded in promises, and that the promises give life to the precepts of it. And the want of this one consideration has perverted the minds of many to suppose an ability in ourselves to yield obedience to those precepts, without grace received beforehand to enable us to do so.  Such ability in men would overthrow the nature of the new covenant.

 

[3.1.3.2.] As was observed, we are all actually guilty of sin before this covenant was made with us. So unless there is a promise given of the pardon of sin, it is to no purpose to propose any new covenant terms to us. For “the wages of sin is death;” and we having sinned must die, whatever we do afterwards, unless our sins be pardoned. This, therefore, must be proposed to us as the foundation of the covenant, or it will be of no effect. And herein lies the great difference between the promises of the covenant of works and those of the covenant of grace. The first were only concerning future things; eternal life and blessedness on the accomplishment of perfect obedience. It needed no promises of present mercy and pardon  and was not capable of such. Nor had it any promises of giving more grace, or supplies of it; but man was wholly left to what he had at first received. Hence the covenant was quickly broken. But in the covenant of grace all things are founded in promises of present mercy, and continual supplies of grace, as well as of future blessedness. Hence it comes to be “ordered in all things, and sure.” And this is the first thing that was to be declared, namely, that every divine covenant is established on promises.

 

The New Covenant is founded on Better “Promises”

(3.2.) These promises are said to be “better promises” than those of the (Sinaitic) covenant, which had its promises particular to it. It was, indeed, principally represented under a system of precepts or laws, but it had its promises also, and we shall now look at the nature of these promises. That the new covenant should be founded in promises, was necessary from its general nature as a covenant, and more necessary from its especial nature as a covenant of grace. That these promises are said to be “better promises,” is said  with respect those of the old covenant. But this is so said absolutely. They are not only better than the old promises, but they are positively good themselves, and absolutely the best that God ever gave, or will ever give to the church. Just what they are we must consider as we progress. Several things may be observed from these words: —

 

Obs. VIII. There is infinite grace in every divine covenant, in as much as it is established on promises. —It is infinite condescension in God, that he will enter into covenant with dust and ashes, with poor worms of the earth. In this lies the spring of all grace, from which all the streams of it flow. And its first expression is the laying of its foundation in some undeserved promises. And this was was appropriate to the goodness and greatness of his nature, the means whereby we are brought to adhere to him in faith, hope, trust, and obedience, until we come to the enioyment of him; for that is the use of promises, to keep us in adherence to God, as the first original [DMH12] and spring of all goodness, and the ultimate satisfactory reward of our souls,

 2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

 

Obs. IX. The promises of the covenant of grace are better than those of any other covenant, as for many other reasons, so especially because the grace of them prevents any condition or qualification on our part. — not to say  that the covenant of grace is absolutely without conditions, if by conditions we intend the duties of obedience which God requires of us in and by virtue of that covenant; but to say, the principal promises of it are not in the first place remunerative of our obedience in the covenant, but efficaciously  (effectually) assumptive of us into covenant, and establishing or confirming  (us?) in the covenant.

The Adamic covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative, respecting a prior obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar to the covenant of Sinai). They were, indeed, also of grace, in that the reward did infinitely exceed the merit of our obedience; but yet they all supposed obedience it, and the subject of them was formally reward only. In the covenant of grace it is not so; for several of the promises of it are the means of our being taken into covenant, of our entering into covenant with God. The first covenant absolutely was established on promises, in that when men (Adam & Eve) were actually taken into it, they were encouraged to obedience by the promises of a future reward. But the new promises, namely, of the pardon of sin and writing of the law in our hearts, which the apostle expressly insists upon as the peculiar promises of this new covenant, do take place and are effectual prior to our covenant obedience. For although faith is required in order of nature before our actual receiving of the pardon of sin, yet  that faith itself is wrought in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedence to pardon is with respect only the order that God has appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.

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Two Covenants or One?

The apostle has thus entered into his discourse of the two covenants, which he continues to the end of the chapter (Hebrews 8). But the whole discourse is not without its difficulties. Many things in particular will occur to us in our progress, which should be considered in their proper places. In the meantime there are some general things which may usefully be discussed at this point, and the determination of which will shed much light on what follows.

 

First, therefore, the apostle is evidently discussing two covenants, or two testaments, comparing the one with the other, and declaring the disannulling of the one by the introduction and establishment of the other. What these two covenants  are in general we have declared, — namely, that made with the church of Israel at mount Sinai, and that made with us in the gospel; not cosidered as the covenant of grace in its absolute sense (as it predates the creation), but considered as actually established in the death of Christ, with all the worship that belongs to it.

 

Here then arises a difference of no small importance, namely, whether these are indeed two distinct covenants, as to the essence and substance of them, or whether they are only different ways of the dispensation and administration of the same covenant.

 

And the (reason of the) difficulty lies in this: 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 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.

 

Some, indeed, in these latter days, have revived the old Pelagian [DMH13] imagination, that before the law men were saved by the conduct of natural light and reason; and under the law they were saved by the directive doctrines, precepts, and sacrifices, —without any respect to the Lord Christ or his mediation in another covenant. But I shall not here contend with them, as having elsewhere sufficiently refuted these imaginations[DMH14] .  I shall take it here for granted, that no man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant, and the mediation of Christ in it .

 

Suppose then, that this new covenant of grace was extant (in existence) and effectual under the old testament, so that the church was saved by virtue of it, and the mediation of Christ in it, how could it be that there should at the same time be another covenant (the Sinaitic) between God and them, of a different nature from this, accompanied with other promises, and other effects?

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Preliminary Clarifications

On this consideration it is said by some, that the two covenants mentioned, the new and the old, were not indeed two distinct covenants, in 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 clearly discuss this with the minimum of unnecessary difficulty the following clarifications should be observed and noted, —

 

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 different in its essence and substance 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.This latter being the point to be examined.

 

As on the other hand, there is such express mention made, not only in this, but in several other places in the Scriptures, of two distinct covenants, or testaments, and such different natures, properties, and effects, ascribed to them, as seem to constitute two distinct covenants. This, therefore, we must inquire into; and shall first declare what is agreed by those who are sober in this matter, though they differ in their judgments about this question, whether two distinct covenants, or only a twofold administration of the same covenant, be intended. And indeed there is so much agreed , as that what remains seems rather to be a difference about the expression of the same truth, than any real contradiction about the things themselves. For, —

 

The Plausibility of the One Covenant View

1. It is agreed that the way of reconciliation with God, of justification and salvation, was always one and the same; and that from the giving of the first promise no-one was ever justified or saved but by the new covenant, and Jesus Christ, the mediator of it. The foolish imagination before mentioned, that men were saved before the giving of the law by following the guidance of the light of nature, and after the giving of the law by obedience to its directions, is rejected by all that are sober, as being destructive of the Old Testament and the New.

 

2. That the writings of the Old Testament, namely, the Law, the Psalms, and Prophets, do contain and declare the doctrine of justification and salvation by Christ. This the church of old believed, and walked with God in the faith of it. This is undeniably proved, in that the doctrine mentioned is frequently confirmed in the New Testament by testimonies taken out of the Old.

 

3. That by Sinaitic covenant, as the Law is properly called, separated from its figurative relation to the covenant of grace, no-one was ever eternally saved.

 

4. That the use of all the institutions by which the old covenant was administered, was to represent and direct men to Jesus Christ, and his mediation.

 

These things being granted, the only way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ, under the old testament and the new, is secured; which is the substance of the truth we are now concerned in. On these grounds we may proceed with our inquiry.

 

The judgment of most reformed divines is, that the church under the old testament had the same promise of Christ, the same interest in him by faith, remission of sins, reconciliation with God, justification and salvation by the same way and means, that believers have under the new. And whereas the essence and the substance of the covenant consists in these things, they are not to be said to be under another covenant, but only a different administration of it. But this was so different from that which is established in the gospel after the coming of Christ, that it has the appearance and name of another covenant. And the difference between the two administrations may be reduced to the following heads: —

 

The Differences Between the “Administrations”

1  The manner of the declaration of God’s will

It consisted in the way and manner of the declaration of the mystery of the love and will of God in Christ; of the work of reconciliation and redemption, with our justification by faith. For in this the gospel, in which “life and immortality are brought to light,” does in plainness, clearness, and evidence, far excel the administration and declaration of the same truths under the law. And the greatness of the privilege of the church in this is not easily expressed. For hereby

with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
The man whose eyes the Lord Christ opened,
Mark 8:23-25, represents these two states. When he first touched him, his eyes were opened, and he saw, but he saw nothing clearly; so, when he looked, he said, “I see men as trees, walking,” verse 24: but upon his second touch, he saw every man clearly,” verse 25.
They had their sight under the old testament, and the object was proposed to them, but at a great distance, with such an interposition of mists, clouds, and shadows, as that they saw men like trees, walking,” —nothing clearly and perfectly: but now, under the gospel, the object, which is Christ, being brought near to us, and all clouds and shadows being removed, we do or may see all things clearly. When an olden traveller on his way in moors or hills is encompassed with a thick mist and fog, though he is in his way yet he is uncertain, and nothing is presented to him in its proper shape and distance; things near seem to be afar off, and things afar off to be near, and every thing has, though not a false, yet an uncertain appearance. Let the sun cme out and scatter the mists and fogs, and immediately every thing appears quite in another shape to him, so as indeed he is ready to think he is not where he was. His way is plain, he is certain of it, and all the region about lies in clear sight; yet  there was no alteration made but the removal of the mists and clouds that interrupted his sight. So it was with them that were under the law. The types and shadows that they were enclosed in, and which were the only medium they had to view spiritual things, did not represent them clearly and in their proper shape. But now the types and shadows are removed, by the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings, in the dispensation of the gospel, the whole mystery of God in Christ is clearly manifested to them that do believe. And the greatness of this privilege of the gospel above the law is inexpressible; of which we must speak afterwards.

 

2  The Plentiful Communication of Grace

In the plentiful communication of grace to the community of the church; for now it is that we receive “grace for grace,” or a plentiful outpouring of it, by Jesus Christ. There was grace given in an eminent manner to many holy persons under the old testament, and all true believers had true, real, saving grace communicated to them; but the measures of grace in the true church under the new testament exceed those of the community of the church under the old. And therefore, as God winked at some things under the old testament, as polygamy, and the like, which are expressly and severely forbidden under the new, nor are consistent with the present administrations of it; so are several duties, such as those of self-denial, readiness to bear the cross, to forsake houses, lands, and habitations, more expressly directed to us than to them. And the obedience which God requires in any covenant, or administration of it, is proportional to the strength which the administration of that covenant exhibits. And if those who profess the gospel content themselves without any interest in this privilege of it, if they endeavour not for a share in that plentiful outpouring of grace which does accompany its present administration, the gospel itself will be of no other use to them, but to increase and aggravate their condemnation.

 

3  The Manner of Access to God

In the manner of our access to God.  Much of all that is called religion consists in this; for on it all our outward worship of God depends. And in this the advantages of the gospel-administration of the covenant above that of the law is in all things very eminent. Our access now to God is immediate, by Jesus Christ, with liberty and boldness, as we shall afterwards declare. Those under the law were immediately conversant, in their whole worship, with outward, typical things, — the tabernacle, the altar, the ark, the mercy-seat, and the like as obscure representations of the presence of God. Besides, the manner of the making of the covenant with them at mount Sinai filled them with fear, and brought them into bondage, so that they had comparatively a servile frame of spirit in all their holy worship.

 

4  The Way of Worship

In the way of worship required under each administration. For under the Law, it seemed good to God to appoint a great number of outward rites, ceremonies, and observances. These were obscure in their meaning, and in their use and ends. By reason of their nature, number, and the severe penalties under which they were commanded, they were grievous and burdensome to observe. But the way of worship under the gospel is spiritual, rational, and plainly serves the ends of the covenant itself; so that the purpose, ends, benefits, and advantages of it are evident to all.

 

5  The Extent of the Dispensation of the Grace of God

In the extent of the dispensation of the grace of God; for this is greatly enlarged under the gospel. For under the old testament it was upon the matter confined to the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh; but under the new testament it extends itself to all nations under heaven. Several other things are usually added by our divines to the same purpose. See Calvin. Institut. lib. 2:cap. xi.; Martyr. Loc. Com. loc. 16, sect. 2; Bucan. loc. 22, etc.

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The Lutheran Insistence on Two Distinct Covenants

The Lutherans, on the other side, insist on two arguments to prove that there is not  a twofold administration of the same covenant, but that there are substantially distinct covenants  and that this is intended in this discourse of the apostle.

 

Their arguments are

 

1. Because in the Scripture they are often so called (separate covenants), and compared with one another, and sometimes opposed to one another; the first and the last, the new and the old.

 

2. Because the covenant of grace in Christ is eternal, immutable, always the same, subject [DMH15] to no alteration, no change or abrogation; neither can these things be said of it with respect to any administration of it as they are of the old covenant.

 

The Two Covenants are distinct covenants

To state our thoughts rightly on this matter, and to give shed what light we can on the truth, the following should be observed: —

 

1. When we speak of the “old covenant,” we do not intend covenant of works made with Adam, and his whole posterity in him; concerning which there is no difference or difficulty, whether it be a distinct covenant from the new or no. It is undoubtedly distinct.

 

2. When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though it were not before in exstence and effect, before the introduction of that which is promised here. For it was always the same, substantially, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and effectiveness, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted,  grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, —

that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation to the church, from the first entrance of sin.

 

But for two reasons, it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect to any other things, nor was it called a covenant under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it to Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but this covenant with Abraham was with respect to other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely, under the old testament, the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture,  

 

Acts 2:39; For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.

 

Hebrews 6:14-16. Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

 

The apostle indeed says, that the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ, before the giving of the law,  Galatians 3:17. And so it was, not absolutely in itself, but in the promise and benefits of it. The nomoqesi>a, or full legal establishment of it, when it became formally a covenant with the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament; for it needed two things to be a formal covenant: —

 

(2.1.) It wanted its solemn confirmation and establishment, by the blood of the only sacrifice which belonged to it. Before this was done in the death of Christ, it had not the formal nature of a covenant or a testament, as our apostle proves,

 Hebrews 9:15-23. And 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. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things

 

For neither, as he shows, would the law given at Sinai have been a covenant, had it not been confirmed with the blood of sacrifices. The promise of the new covenant (“the covenant of grace”)was threfore not then a formal and solemn covenant prior to its consummating sacrifice of the Lord Christ..

 

(2.2.) The promise of the new covenant  (“the covenant of grace”) was not a formal covenant since it was not the spring, rule, and measure of all the worship of the church. This belongs to every covenant, properly so called, that God makes with the church, to be the entire rule of all the worship that God requires of it.  But the covenant of grace was not so under the old testament; for God required of the church then many duties of worship that did not belong to the new covenant. But now, under the new testament, the new covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship. Therefore the new covenant promised in the Scripture, and here contrasted with the old, is not “merely” the promise of grace, mercy, life, and salvation by Christ, absolutely considered, but as it had the formal nature of a covenant given to it, in its establishment by the death of Christ, the procuring cause of all its benefits, and its declaration to be the only rule of worship and obedience for the church. So that although by “the covenant of grace,” we often understand no more but the way of life, grace, mercy, and salvation by Christ; yet by “the new covenant,” we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ, with the establishment of that blessed way of worship which it settled in the church. The “new covenant” is properly the full establishment of the eternal “covenant of grace” as the rule of the church following its establishment by the actual death of the Lord Jesus Christ

 

3. Whilst the church enjoyed all the spiritual benefits of the promise, in which  the substance of the covenant of grace was contained, before it was confirmed and made the sole rule of worship for the church, it was not inconsistent with the holiness and wisdom of God to bring it under any other covenant he chose, or to prescribe to it what forms of worship he pleased. This is based upon these three suppositions[DMH16] : —

 

(3.1.) That the Sinaitic covenant did not disannul or make ineffectual the promise that was given before (to Abraham), but that that still continued as the only means of life and salvation. And that this was so, our apostle proves at large,  Galatians 3:17-19.

17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

 

(3.2.) That the Sinaitic covenant, with all the worship contained in it and required by it, did not divert from, but direct and lead towards, the future establishment of the promise in the solemnity of a covenant, by the atoning death of the Lord Christ And [DMcS17] that the covenant made in Sinai, with all its ordinances, did so, the apostle likewise proves lin Galatians 3:17-19, as also in the whole epistle to the Hebrews.

 

(3.3.) That the law was of immediate use and advantage to the church in its then present condition. This the apostle acknowledges to be a great objection against the use and effectiveness of the promise under the old testament, as to life and salvation; namely, ‘To what end then serveth the giving of the law?’ which he answers, by showing the necessity and use of the law to the church in its then present condition,  Galatians 3:17-19.

 

4. Thaving  noted these things, we may consider that the Scripture does plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way as can hardly be accommodated by a twofold administration of the same covenant.

 

The one is mentioned and described,eg in Exodus 24:3-8 and Deuteronomy 5:2-5,

 

Exodus 24:3-8,

 

And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

 

Deuteronomy 5:2-5, —

 

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, 5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, namely, the covenant that God made with the people of Israel in Sinai; and which is commonly called “the covenant,” where the people under the old testament are said to keep or break God’s covenant; which for the most part is spoken with respect unto that worship which was peculiar to it. 

 

The other is promised,  Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:40; which is the new or gospel covenant, as before explained, mentioned  Matthew26:28;  Mark 14:24.

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 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, saith the LORD: 33 But 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; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

 

Jeremiah 32:40

 

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.

 

Matthew26:28

 

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

 

Mark 14:24.

 

And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

 

 

And these two covenants, or testaments, are compared one with the other, and opposed one to another,  2 Corinthians 3:6-9;  Galatians 4:24-26;  Hebrews 7:22, 9:15-20.

 

2 Corinthians 3:6-9;

 

Who also hath 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.7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

 

Galatians 4:24-26;

 

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

 

Hebrews 7:22

 

By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

 

Hebrews 9:15-20

 

And 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. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 9:18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

 

These two we call “the old and the new testaments.” By the “old testament” here, we do not mean the books of the Old Testament, or the oracles of God committed then to the church, (Although they may once  be so termed, in 2 Corinthians 3:14, “The veil remaineth untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament,” —that is, of the books of it; unless  the apostle intends only the reading of the things which concern the old testament proper in the Scripture;) . This old covenant, or testament, is abrogated and taken away, as the apostle expressly proves, but the word of God in the books of the Old Testament abides for ever. And those writings are called the Old Testament, or the books of the Old Testament, not as though they contained in them nothing but what belongs to the old covenant, for they contain the doctrine of the New Testament also; but they are so termed because they were committed to the church while the old covenant was in force, as the rule and law of its worship and obedience.

 

5. Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than merely a twofold administration of the same covenant, to be intended. We must do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, —and with great pretence of reason, for it is the sole foundation of all who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, —’That [DMH18] this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation is the same under both, then indeed they are the same for the substance of them is but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue of it, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, while they were under the old covenant.

 

Having shown in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition to the old covenant, so I shall propose several things which relate to the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace: —

The First Covenant was a Distinct Covenant

It had particular purposes

 

1 This covenant, called “the old covenant,” was never intended to be of itself the absolute rule and law of life and salvation for the church, but was made with a particular design, and for particular ends. This the apostle proves undeniably in this epistle, especially in the Hebrews 7, 9 &10 (or 8 &9?). Hence it follows that it could abrogate or disannul nothing which God at any time before had given as a general rule to the church. For the particular cannot abrogate any thing that was general, and prior, in the way that the general does abrogate all preceding particulars, as the new covenant abrogates the old. This we must consider in both the instances here. For, —

 

(1.1.) God had previously given the covenant of works, or perfect obedience, to all mankind in Adam and Eve, in the law of creation. But this covenant at Sinai did not abrogate or disannul that covenant, nor in any way fulfill it. And the reason is, because it was never intended to take its place, as a covenant, containing an entire rule of all the faith and obedience of the whole church. God did not intend in it to abrogate the covenant of works, and to substitute this in its place; in fact, in several things it re-enforced, established, and confirmed that covenant. For, —

 

[1.1.1.] It revived, declared, and expressed all the commands of that covenant in the decalogue; for that is nothing but a divine summary of the law written in the heart of man at his creation. And here the dreadful manner of its delivery or promulgation, with its writing in tablets of stone, is also to be considered; for in them the nature of that first covenant, with its inexorableness as to perfect obedience, was represented. And because no-one could answer its demands, or comply with it in this, it was called “the ministration of death,” causing fear and bondage,  2 Corinthians 3:7.

 

But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

 

[1.1.2.] It revived the sanction of the first covenant, in the curse or sentence of death which it denounced against all transgressors. Death was the penalty of the transgression of the first covenant: “In the day that thou eatest, thou shalt die the death.” And this sentence was revived and re-presented in the curse with which this covenant was ratified,

Deuteronomy 27:26;

 

Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them,

 

and Galatians 3:10.

 

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

 

For the design of God in it was to bind a sense of that curse on the consciences of men, until He came by whom it was taken away, as the apostle declares,

Galatians 3:19.

 

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator

 

 

[1.1.3.] It revived the promise of that covenant, —that of eternal life upon perfect obedience. So the apostle tells us that Moses describeth the righteousness of the law thus, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,”  

 

Romans 10:5;

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

 

as Moses does,  Leviticus 18:5.

 

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

 

Now this is no other but the covenant of works revived. Nor had this covenant of Sinai any promise of eternal life annexed to it, as such, but only the promise inseparable from the covenant of works which it revived, saying, “Do this, and live.”

 

Hence it is, that when our apostle disputes against justification by the law,or by the works of the law, he does not intend the works peculiar to the covenant of Sinai, as were the rites and ceremonies of the worship then instituted; but he intends also the works of the first covenant, which alone had the promise of life annexed to them.

 

And so it follows also, that it was not a new covenant of works established in the place of the first, for the absolute rule of faith and obedience for the whole church; for then it would have abrogated and taken away that first covenant, and all the force of it, which it did not.

 

(1.2.) The other instance is in the promise. This also went before it; neither was it abrogated or disannulled by the introduction of this Sinaitic covenant. This promise was given to our first parents immediately after the entrance of sin, and was established as containing the only way and means of the salvation of sinners. Now, this promise could not be abrogated by the introduction of this covenant, and a new way of justification and salvation  thereby established. For the promise, being given out in general for the whole church, as containing the way appointed by God for righteousness, life, and salvation, could not be disannulled or changed, without a change and alteration in the counsels of Him “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Much less could this be effected by a particular covenant, such as Sinai was, when the promise had been as a general and eternal rule.

 

It did not supersede the Covenant with Abraham

2. But while there was an especial promise given to Abraham, in the faith of which he became “the father of the faithful,” he being their progenitor, it should seem that this Sinaitic covenant wholly disannulled or superseded that promise, and took the church of his posterity from building on that foundation, and so fixed them wholly on this “new” (Sinaitic) covenant now made with them. As Moses says,

Deuteronomy 5:3.

The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day,”  

 

God did not make this covenant on mount Sinai with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but with the people then present, and their posterity, as he declares,

 

 Deuteronomy 29:14, 15.

Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:

 

 

This, therefore, should seem to take them off wholly from that promise made to Abraham, and so to disannul it. But that this it did not, nor could not do as the apostle strictly proves,  Galatians 3:17-22. Indeed, it established that promise, both as first given and as afterwards confirmed with the oath of God to Abraham, two ways especially: —

 

(2.1.) Sinai declared the impossibility of obtaining reconciliation and peace with God any other way but by the promise. For by re-presenting the commands of the original covenant of works, requiring perfect, sinless obedience, under the penalty of the curse, it convinced men that this was no way for sinners to seek for life and salvation. And with this it so strongly urged the consciences of men, that they could have no rest nor peace in themselves but that afforded by the promise, of which they better saw their need.

 

(2.2.) By representing, through typical ceremonies of sacrifice and atonement, the ways and means of ultimate accomplishment of the promise, on which all its  effictiveness  for the justification and salvation of sinners depends. This was the death, blood-shedding, oblation, or sacrifice of Christ, the promised seed. This was what all its offerings and ordinances of worship pointed to; as his incarnation, with the inhabitation of God in his human nature, was typified by the tabernacle and temple. So the Sinaitic, or old covenant or Law was so far from disannulling the promise, or diverting the minds of the people of God from it, that by all means it established it and led to it. But, —

 

 

The Purposes of the Old Covenant

3. It will be said, as was before observed, ‘That if it the Sinaitic covenant neither abrogated the first covenant of works, and replace that, nor disannul the promise made to Abraham, then what end did it serve, or what benefit did the church receive by it?’ I answer, —

 

(3.1.) There has been, with respect to God’s dealing with the church, oijkonomi>atw~n kairw~n, —a “certain dispensation” and disposition of times and seasons, reserved to the sovereign will and pleasure of God. Hence from the beginning he revealed himself polutro>pwv and polumerw~v, as seemed good to him,

 

 Hebrews 1:1

God, who at several times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,.

 

And this dispensation of times had a plh>rwma, a “fullness” assigned to it, in which all things, that belong to the revelation and communication of God to the church, should come to their height, and be completed This was in the sending of Christ, as the apostle declares,  

 

Ephesians 1:10,

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might bring all unto a head in Christ.”

 

Until this season came, God dealt variously with the church, ejn poiki>lh |sofi>a|, “in manifold” or “various wisdom,” according as he saw it needful and useful for it, in that season which it was to pass through, before the fullness of times came. This was the nature of  his entrance into the covenant with the church at Sinai; the reasons for which we shall immediately inquire into. In the meantime, if we had no other answer to this inquiry but this, that in the order of the disposal of the seasons of the church, before the fullness of times came, God in his wisdom saw it necessary for the church in that season, we may well acquiesce in that. But, —

 

(3.2.) The apostle acquaints us in general with the ends of this dispensation of God,  Galatians 3:19-24: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto[DMH19]  the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Much light might be given to the mind of the Holy Spirit in these words, and that in things not commonly discerned by expositors, if we should divert to examine them. I will at present only mark from them what is to our present purpose.

 

Paul’s Twofold Enquiry

(3.3)There is a twofold inquiry made here by the apostle with respect to the law, or the covenant of Sinai:

 

[1.] What end did it serve.

[2.] Whether it was then contrary to the promise of God.

 

Paul answers both from the nature, office, and work of that covenant. For there were, as has been declared, two things in it:

 

[1[DMH20] .] A revival and re-presentation of the covenant of works, with its sanction and curse.

[2.] A direction of the church to the accomplishment of the promise.

 

From these the apostle frames his answer to the twofold inquiry.

 

And to the first inquiry, “what end it served,” he answers, “It was added because of transgressions.” Since the promise being given, there might seem to have been no need of the law, why then was it added to it at that season? “It was added because of transgressions.” The fullness of time was not yet come, when the promise was to be fulfilled, accomplished and established as the only covenant the church would have with God. In short, the “seed”  was not yet come to whom the promise was made. In the meantime a stand was necessary over sin and transgression, to prevent them overrunning of the order of things appointed by God. And this was done two ways by the law: —

 

[1.] By reviving the commands of the covenant of works, with the sanction of death, it put an awe on the minds of men, and set bounds to their lusts, that they should not dare to sin to that excess which they were naturally inclined unto. The Law was therefore “added because of transgressions;” that, by the declaration of God’s severity against transgressions, some limits might be fixed for conduct and transgression; for “by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

 

[2.] To shut up unbelievers, and such as would not seek for righteousness, life, and salvation by the promise, under the power of the covenant of works, and the curse attending it. “It concluded” or “shut up all under sin,” saith the apostle, Galatians 3:22. This was the purpose of the law, for this end was it added, as it revived the covenant of works.

 

To the second inquiry, that follows from this purpose of the law, namely, that the law convinced of sin, and condemned for sin, that is, “whether it  is then contrary to the grace of God,” the apostle also returns a double answer, taken from the second use of the law, before insisted on, with respect to the promise.

And, —

[1.] He says, ‘That [DMH21] although the law doth thus rebuke sin, convince of sin, and condemn for sin, so setting bounds to transgressions and transgressors, yet did God never intend it as a means to give life and righteousness, nor was it able so to do.’

 

The end of the promise was to give righteousness, justification, and salvation, all by Christ, to whom and concerning whom the promise was made. But this was not the end for which the law was revived in the covenant of Sinai. For although in itself it requires a perfect righteousness, and gives a promise of life on that condition, (“He that doeth these things, he shall live in them,”) yet it could give neither righteousness nor life to any in the state of sin. See Romans 8:3 and 10:4,

 

 

Romans 8:3,

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

 

Romans 10:4.

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

 

Therefore since the promise and the Law have diverse ends, they are not contrary to one another.

 

[2.] Saith Paul[DMH22] , ‘The law has a great respect unto the promise; and was given of God for this very end, that it might lead and direct men unto Christ;’ —which is sufficient to answer the question proposed at the beginning of this discourse, about the purpose of this covenant, and its advantage to the church. What has been said may suffice to declare the nature of this covenant in general; and two things evidently follow, in which the substance of the whole truth contended for by the apostle consist: —

 

(1.) That whilst the covenant of grace was contained and proposed only in the promise, before it was solemnly confirmed in the blood and sacrifice of Christ, and so legalized or established as the only rule of the worship of the church, the introduction of this other covenant on Sinai did not constitute a new way or means of righteousness, life, and salvation; but believers sought for them alone by the covenant of grace as declared in the promise. This follows evidently from our discourse; and it secures absolutely that great fundamental truth, which the apostle in this and all his other epistles so earnestly contends for, namely, that there neither is, nor ever was, either righteousness, justification, life, or salvation, to be attained by any law, or the its works, (for this covenant at mount Sinai comprehended every law that God ever gave to the church,) but by Christ alone, and faith in him.

 

(2.) That whereas this covenant being introduced in the pleasure of God, there was prescribed with it a form of outward worship suited to that dispensation of times and state of the church. On the introduction of the new covenant in the fullness of times, to be the rule of all intercourse between God and the church, both that old ovenant and all its worship must be disannulled. This the apostle proves with all sorts of arguments, manifesting the great advantage of the new covenant to the church.

 

These things evidently follow from the preceding discourses, and are the main truths the apostle contends for in the text.

 

4. There remains only [DMH23] one thing more to be considered, before we enter on the comparison between the two covenants (directed by the apostle). And this is, how this first covenant came to be a special covenant to that people: in which we shall give the reason for its introduction at that season. To this end several things are to be considered concerning that people and the church of God in them, with whom this covenant was made; which will further show the nature, use, and necessity of it: —

 

(4.1.) This people were the posterity of Abraham, to whom the promise was made that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Wherefore from among them was the promised Seed to be raised up in the fullness of time, ( its proper season,) — from among them was the Son of God to take on him the seed of Abraham. To this end several things were necessary: —

 

[4.4.1.] That they should have a certain abiding place or country, which they might freely inhabit, distinct from other nations, and under a rule or sceptre of their own. So it is said of them, that

 

“the people should dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations,”   Numbers 23:9; and

 

“the sceptre was not to depart from them until Shiloh came,” Genesis 49:10.

 

For God had regard to his own glory in his faithfulness to his oath given to Abraham, not only that it should be accomplished, but that its accomplishment should be evident and conspicuous. But if this posterity of Abraham, from among whom the promised Seed was to rise, had been, as it is today, scattered abroad on the face of the earth, mixed with all nations, and under their power (remember [DMH24] the modern state of Israel is not Biblical people of Israel), although God might have accomplished his promise in raising up Christ from among some of his posterity, yet could it not be proved or demonstrated that he had so done, by reason of the confusion and mixture of the people with others. Wherefore God provided a land and country for them to inhabit by themselves as their own, even the land of Canaan. This was so suited to all the purposes of God towards that people that God is said to have “espied this land out for them,”  Ezekiel 20:6. He chose it out, as most suitable for his purpose towards that people of all the lands under heaven.

 

[4.1.2.] That there should be always kept among them an open confession and visible representation of the purpose for which they were so separated from all the nations of the world. They were not to dwell in the land of Canaan merely for secular ends, and to make as it were a dumb show; but as they were there maintained and preserved to demostrate the faithfulness of God in bringing forth the promised Seed in the fullness of time, so there was to be a testimony kept up among them to that end of God for which they were preserved. This was the purpose of all their ordinances of worship, of the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices and ordinances; which were all appointed by Moses, on the command of God, “for a testimony of those things which should be spoken afterwards,”  Hebrews 3:5.  These things were necessary in the first place, with respect to the purposes of God towards that people.

 

(4.2.) It does not become the wisdom, holiness, and sovereignty of God, to call any people into a special relation to himself, to do them good in an eminent and peculiar manner, and then to suffer them to live as they please, with no regard to what he has done for them. Wherefore, having granted this people those great privileges of the land of Canaan, and the ordinances of worship relating to the great purpose mentioned, he moreover prescribed to them laws, rules, and terms of obedience, on which conditions they should hold and enjoy that land, with all the privileges annexed to its possession. And these are both expressed and frequently inculcated[DMH25] , in the repetition and promises of the law. But yet in the prescription of these terms, God reserved the sovereignty of dealing with them to himself. For had he left them to stand or fall absolutely by the terms prescribed to them, they might and would have utterly forfeited both the land and all the privileges they enjoyed. And had it so transpired, then the great purpose of God in preserving them as a separate people until the Seed should come, and a representation thereof among them[DMH26] , had been frustrated. Wherefore, although he punished them for their transgressions, according to the threatenings of the law, yet would he not bring the µr,je , or “curse of the law,” upon them, and utterly cast them off, until his great end was accomplished, Malachi 4:4-6.

 

(4.3.) God would not altogether take [DMH27] this people from the promise, because his church was among them, and they (the church) could neither please God nor be accepted with him but by faith in the promise. But yet they were to be dealt with appropriately for they were generally a people of a hard heart, and stiff-necked, lifted up with an opinion of their own righteousness and worth above others. This Moses endeavours to cure them of, in the book of Deuteronomy. Yet it was not achieved among the bulk of them, nor is it to this day; for in the midst of all their wickedness and misery, they still trust to and boast of their own righteousness, and will have it that God has a special obligation to them on that account. For this cause God saw it necessary, and it pleased him to put a grievous and heavy yoke upon them, to subdue the pride of their spirits, and to cause them to long for deliverance. This the apostle Peter calls “a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear,”  Acts 15:10; that is, with peace, ease, and rest: which therefore the Lord Christ invited them to seek in himself alone,  Matthew 11:29, 30. And this yoke that God put on them consisted in these three things: —

 

[4.3.1.] In a multitude of precepts, hard to be understood, and difficult to be observed. The present Jews reckon up six hundred and thirteen of them; about the sense of most of which they dispute endlessly among themselves. But the truth is, since the days of the Pharisees they have increased their own yoke, and made obedience to their law in any tolerable manner altogether impracticable. It is easy to show, for instance, that no man under heaven ever did, or ever can, keep the Sabbath according to the rules they give about it in the Talmud. And they generally scarce observe one of them themselves. But in the law, as given by God himself, it is certain that there are a multitude of arbitrary precepts, not in themselves accompanied with any spiritual advantages, as our apostle shows,

 

 Hebrews 9:9, 10;

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

 

only they were obliged to perform them by a mere sovereign act of power and authority.

 

[4.3.2.] In the severity with which the observance of all those precepts was enjoined them. And this was the threat of death; for “he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy,” and “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.” Hence their complaint of old, Numbers 17:12, 13.

“Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?”  

And the curse against every one that breached the law was continually before them.

 

[4.3.3.] In a spirit of bondage to fear. This was administered in the giving and dispensation of the law, even as a spirit of liberty and power is administered in and by the gospel. And as this was with respec to their present obedience, and manner of  performing it, so in particular it regarded death not yet conquered by Christ. Hence our apostle affirms, that “through fear of death they were all their lifetime subject unto bondage.” God brought them into this state partly to subdue the pride of their hearts, and their trust in their own righteousness, and partly to cause them to look out earnestly for the promised deliverer.

 

(4.4.) Into this state and condition God brought them by a solemn covenant, confirmed by mutual consent between him and them. The tenor, force, and solemn ratification of this covenant, are expressed,  Exodus 24:3-8.

 

And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

 

The whole church was obliged indispensably to the terms and conditions of this covenant, on pain of extermination, until all was accomplished,  Malachi 4:4-6. To this covenant belonged the decalogue, with all precepts of moral obedience summarised in them thence educed[DMH28] .  So also did the laws of political rule established among them, and the whole system of religious worship given to them. All these laws were brought within the terms of this covenant, and were the substance of it. And it had special promises and threatenings annexed to it as such;  none of which passed the bounds of the land of Canaan. For many of the laws had no force outside Canaan, such as the law of the sabbatical year, and all their sacrifices. There was sin and obedience in these laws or about them in the land of Canaan, but none elsewhere. Hence, —

No-one saved or condemned by the Law

(4.5.) This covenant thus made, with these purposes and promises, never saved nor condemned any man eternally. All that lived under it attained eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and in this, as the apostle says, was “the ministry of condemnation,” 2 Corinthians: 3:9; for “by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.” And on the other hand, it directed also to the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation to all that did believe. But as to what the old covenant had of its own, it was confined to temporal things. Believers were saved while under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally while under it, but by the curse of the original law of works. And, —

 

(4.6.) Here occasionally arose the ruin of that people; “their table became a snare unto them, and that which should have been for their welfare became a trap,” according to the prediction of our Saviour,  Psalm 69:22. It was this covenant that raised and ruined them. It raised them to glory and honour when given by God; it ruined them when abused by themselves to ends contrary to the express declarations of his mind and will. For although mostly they were wicked and rebellious, always breaking the terms of the covenant so far as it was possible they should, whilst God determined to reign over them to the appointed season; yet they would have this covenant to be the only rule and means of righteousness, life, and salvation, as the apostle declares,    Romans 9:31-33, 10:3.

 

9:31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

 

10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

 

 For, as we have often said, there were two things in it, both which they abused to other ends than what God designed them: —

[

4.6.1.] There was the renovation of the rule of the covenant of works for righteousness and life. And this they would have (wanted, desired) to be given to them for those ends, and so sought for righteousness by the works of the law.

 

[4.6.2.] There was ordained in the Law a typical representation of the way and means whereby the promise was to be fulfilled, namely, in the mediation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; which was the purpose of all their ordinances of worship. And the outward law of these things, with the observance of its institution, they looked on erroneously as their only relief when they came short of exact and perfect righteousness.Against both these pernicious errors the apostle disputes expressly in his epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, to save them, if it were possible, from the ruin they were casting themselves into. In this “the elect obtained,” but “the rest were hardened.” For by doing as they did they made an absolute renunciation of the promise, in which alone God had wrapped the way of life and salvation.

 

This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people at Sinai; it was a particular, temporary covenant, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.

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The Differences Between The Covenants

 

That which remains for the declaration of the mind of the Holy Spirit in this whole matter, is to declare the differences that are between those two covenants, for which the one is said to be “better” than the other, and to be “built upon better promises.”

Rome’s wrong points of difference

Those of the church of Rome [DMH29] do commonly place this difference in three things:

1. In the promises of each of them: which in the old covenant were temporal only; in the new, spiritual and heavenly.

2. In the precepts of them: which under the old, required only external obedience, designing the righteousness of the outward man; under the new, they are internal, respecting principally the inner man of the heart.

3. In their sacraments: for those under the old testament were only outwardly figurative; but those of the new are operative of grace.

 

But these things do not express much, if any thing at all, of what the Scripture places the difference in. And besides, as by some of Rome explained, they are not true, especially the latter two. I cannot but admire how it came into the heart or mind of any man to think or say, that God ever gave a laws or precepts, that should “respect the outward man only, and the regulation of external duties.” Such a thought is contrary to all the essential properties of the nature of God, and liable only to generate wrong understandings of him quite unsuited to his glorious excellencies.

 

The life and foundation of all the laws under the old testament was, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy soul;” without which no outward obedience was ever accepted by him.

 

And for the third of the supposed differences, the sacraments of the law were not so barely “figurative,” that they failed to exhibit Christ to believers: for “they all drank of the spiritual rock; which rock was Christ.” Nor are those of the gospel so operative of grace, but that without faith they are also useless to them that do receive them.

 

 

The Scriptural points of difference

The things in which the difference does consist, as expressed in the Scripture, are partly circumstantial, and partly substantial, and may be reduced to the following heads: —

 

1 In Circumstance of Time

These two covenants differ in the circumstance of time as to their promulgation, declaration, and establishment. This difference the apostle expresses from the prophet Jeremiah, in the ninth verse of this chapter, where it must be more fully spoken unto. [DMH30] In brief, the first covenant was made at the time that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and took its date from the third month after their coming up from thence,  Exodus 19:24. From the time of what is reported there, where the people give their actual consent to the terms of it, it began its formal obligation as a covenant. And we must inquire when it was abrogated and ceased to oblige the church. The new covenant was declared and made known “in the latter days,”  Hebrews 1:1, 2; “in the dispensation of the fullness of times,”  Ephesians 1:10. And it took date, as a covenant formally obliging the whole church, from the death,resurrection, ascension of Christ, and sending of the Holy Spirit. I bring them all into the epoch of this covenant, because though principally it was established by the first of these (Calvary), it was not absolutely obligatory as a covenant until after the last of them (Pentecost).

 

2 In Circumstance of Place

They differ in the circumstance of place as to their promulgation; which the Scripture also takes notice of. The first was declared on mount Sinai; the manner of which, and the station of the people in receiving the law, I have in my Exercitations on the first part of this Exposition at large declared, and thither the reader is referred,f5  Exodus 19:18[DMH31] . The other was declared on mount Zion, and the law of it went forth from Jerusalem,  Isaiah 2:3.

 

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

 

This difference, with many remarkable instances from it, our apostle insists on,  Galatians 4:24-26: “These are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” That is, Agar, the bondwoman whom Abraham took before the heir of promise was born. She was a type of the old covenant given on Sinai, before the introduction of the new, or the covenant of promise; for so he adds: “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” This mount Sinai, where the old covenant was given, and which was represented by Agar, is in Arabia,  —cast quite out of the verge and confines of the church. And it “answereth,” or “is placed in the same series, rank, and order with Jerusalem,” namely, in the opposition of the two covenants. For as the new covenant, the covenant of promise, giving freedom and liberty, was given at Jerusalem, in the death and resurrection of Christ, with the preaching of the gospel which followed on it; so the old covenant, that brought the people into bondage, was given at mount Sinai in Arabia.

 

3  In the Manner of Their Establishment

They differ in the manner of their promulgation and establishment. There were two remarkable things that accompanied the solemn declaration of the first covenant: —

 

(3.1.) The dread and terror of the outward appearance on mount Sinai, which filled all the people, and Moses himself, with fear and trembling,  Hebrews 12:18-21;

 

12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

 

 Exodus 19:16, 20:18,19.

 

19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

 

20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

 

Together with this a spirit of fear and bondage was administered to all the people, so  that they chose to keep at a distance, and not to draw nigh unto God,  Deuteronomy 5:23-27.

 

5:23 And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; 24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. 25 Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.

 

(3.2.) That it was given by the ministry and “disposition of angels,”  Acts 7:53;  Galatians 3:19. Hence the people were in a sense “put in subjection unto angels,” and angels had an authoritative ministry in that covenant. The church that then was, was put into some kind of subjection to angels, as the apostle plainly intimates,  Hebrews 2:5.

2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

 

Hence the worshipping or adoration of angels began among that people,  Colossians 2:18;

2:18” Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,”

 

-which some even now, as an addition to their error and superstition, would introduce into the Christian church, in which the angels have no such authoritative ministry as they had under the old covenant.

 

Things are quite otherwise in the promulgation of the new covenant. The Son of God in his own person did declare it. This he “spake from heaven,”as the apostle observes; in opposition to the giving of the law “on the earth,”  Hebrews 12:25.

 

12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

 

 Yet did he speak on the earth also; the mystery of which he himself declares, John 3:13.

3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

 

And he did all the things that established this covenant in a spirit of meekness and condescension, with the highest evidence of love, grace, and compassion, encouraging and inviting the weary, the burdened,and the heavy laden to come to him. And by his Spirit he makes his disciples carry on the same work until the covenant was fully declared, Hebrews 2:3.

2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

 

See  John 1:17, 18.

1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

 

And the whole ministry of angels, in the giving of this covenant, was merely in a way of service and obedience to Christ; and they owned themselves the “fellow-servants” only of them that have “the testimony of Jesus,”  Revelation 19:10.

19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

 

So that this “world to come,” as it was called of old, that is the new covenant, was no way put in subjection unto angels.

 

4  In Their Mediators

They differ in their mediators. The mediator of the first covenant was Moses. “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator,”  Galatians 3:19. And this was no other than Moses, who was a servant in the house of God,  Hebrews 3:5. And he was a mediator, by God’s design, chosen by the people, following the dread that befell them on the terrible promulgation of the law.  For they saw that they could no way bear the immediate presence of God, nor deal with him in their own persons. Wherefore they desired that there might be a go-between, a mediator between God and them, and that Moses might be the person,  Deuteronomy 5:24-27.

24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. 25 Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.

 

 But the mediator of the new covenant is the Son of God himself. For “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all,”  1 Timothy 2:5. He who is the Son, and the Lord over his own house, graciously undertook in his own person to be the mediator of this

covenant; and in this the new covenant is unspeakably superior to the old covenant.

 

5  In Subject Matter

They differ in their subject-matter, both as to precepts and  to promises, the advantage being on the part of the new covenant. For, —

 

(5.1.) The old covenant, in the preceptive part of it, renewed the commands of the covenant of works on their original terms. It forbade sin, — that is, all and every sin, in deed and thought, act and attitude,— on pain of death; and it gave the promise of life for perfect, sinless obedience only: from which the decalogue  itself, as a transcript of the law of works, is called “the covenant,”  Exodus 34:28

34:28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments..

 

And besides this, as observed before, it had innumerable other precepts, suited to the condition of the people, and imposed on them with rigour.

 

But in the new covenant, the very first thing that is proposed, is the fulfilment and establishment of the covenant of works, both as to its commands and its sanction, in the obedience and suffering of the mediator. In this the commands of the new covenant to the covenanters are not grievous; the yoke of Christ being easy, and his burden light.

 

(5.2.) The old testament, absolutely considered, had,

[1.] No promise of grace, to communicate spiritual strength, or to assist us in obedience;

[2.] Nor promise of eternal life, any otherwise than as had been contained in the promise of the original covenant of works, ie “The man that doeth these things shall live in them;” and,

[3.] Contained promises of temporal things in the land of Canaan as inseparable parts of it.

 

In the new covenant all these things are otherwise, as will be declared[DMH32] .

 

6  In Manner of Dedication and Sanction.

They differ principally in the manner of their dedication and sanction. This is what provides the formal nature of a covenant or testament. There may be a promise, there may be an agreement in general, which has not the formal nature of a covenant, or testament, — and such was the covenant of grace before the death of Christ, — but it is the solemnity and manner of the confirmation, dedication, and sanction of any promise or agreement, that give it the formal nature of a covenant or testament. And this is by a sacrifice, in which there is both blood shedding and death following from it. Now this, in the confirmation of the old covenant, was only the sacrifice of beasts, whose blood was sprinkled on all the people,  Exodus 24:5-8.

 

24:5-8 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

 

 But the new testament was solemnly confirmed by the sacrifice and blood of Christ himself,  Zechariah 9:11;  

9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

 

 

Hebrews 10:29, 13:20.

10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

 

13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

 

And the Lord Christ dying as the mediator and surety of the covenant, he purchased all good things for the church; and as a testator bequeathed them to it. Hence he says of the sacramental cup, that it is “the new testament in his blood,” or the pledge of his bequeathing to the church all the promises and mercies of the covenant; which is the new testament, or the disposition of his goods to his children. This is fully considered in  John Owen onHebrews 9:18-23, (we must thither refer the full consideration of it).[DMH33] 

 

 

7 In Their Priesthood

They differ in the priests that were to officiate before God on behalf of the people. In the old covenant, Aaron and his posterity alone were to discharge that office; in the new covenant, the Son of God himself is the only priest of the church. This difference, with the advantage of the gospel-state established on it has been handled at large in the exposition of the chapter foregoing.[DMH34] 

 

8 In Their Sacrifices.

They differ in the sacrifices on which the tendered peace and reconciliation with God  tendered depends. And this also must be spoken to in the ensuing chapter, [DMH35] if God permit.

 

9  In the Manner of Their Writing or Enrolment[DMH36] 

They differ in the way and manner of their solemn writing or enrolment. All covenants were of old solemnly written in tables of brass or stone, where they might be faithfully preserved for the use of the parties concerned. So the old covenant, as to the principal, fundamental part of it, was “engraven in tables of stone,” which were kept in the ark,  Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; 2 Corinthians 3:7. And God so ordered it in his providence, that the first draft of them should be broken, to intimate that the covenant contained in them was not everlasting nor unalterable. But the new covenant is written in the “fleshy tables of the hearts” of them that do believe

 2 Corinthians 3:3; Jeremiah 31:33.

 

10  In Their Purposes

They differ in their ends (purposes). The principal end of the first covenant was to discover sin, to condemn it, and to set bounds to it. So says the apostle, “It was added because of transgressions.” And this it did several ways: —

(1.) By conviction: for “by the law is the knowledge of sin;” it convinced sinners, and caused every mouth to be stopped before God.

(2.) By condemning the sinner, in an application of the sanction of the law to his conscience.

(3.) By the judgments and punishments by which on all occasions it was accompanied. In all it manifested and represented the justice and severity of God.

 

The end of the new covenant is, to declare the love, grace, and mercy of God; and from these to give repentance, remission of sin, and eternal life.

 

11  In Their Effects

11. They differed in their effects. For the first covenant being the “ministration of death” and “condemnation,” it brought the minds and spirits of those under it into servitude and bondage; whereas spiritual liberty is the immediate effect of the new testament. And there is no one thing in which the Spirit of God more frequently gives us an account of the difference between these two covenants, than in the liberty of the one and the bondage of the other. See  Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 4:1-7, 24, 26, 30, 31; Hebrews 2:14, 15.

 

Romans 8:15

8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

 

2 Corinthians 3:17;

3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

 

Galatians 4:1-7, 24, 26, 30, 31;  

 

4:1-7 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all;  2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

 

4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

 

4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

 

4:30-31 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

 

Hebrews 2:14, 15.

2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The [DMH37] Old Covenant a Ministration of Death

 

This, therefore, we must explain. Why the bondage which was the effect of the old covenant arose from several causes concurring to that effect: —

 

(11.1.1.) The renovation of the terms and sanction of the covenant of works contributed much to this. For the people did not see how the commands of that covenant could be observed, nor how its curse could be avoided. They could not see it  by any thing in the covenant of Sinai; which therefore “gendered unto bondage.” All the prospect they had of deliverance was from the promise.

 

(11.1.2.) It arose from the manner of the delivery of the law, and God’s so entering into covenant with them. This was ordered on purpose to fill them with dread and fear. And it could not but do so, whenever they remembered it.

 

(11.1.3.) From the severity of the penalties annexed to the transgression of the law. God had taken upon himself, that where punishment was not exacted according to the law, he himself would “cut them off.” This kept them always anxious and solicitous, not knowing when they were safe or secure.

 

(11.1.4.) From the nature of the whole ministry of the law, which was the “ministration of death” and “condemnation,”  2 Corinthians 3:7, 9; which declared the desert of every sin to be death, and denounced death to every sinner, administering no relief to the minds and consciences of men. So it was the “letter that killed” those that were under its power.

 

(11.1.5.) From the darkness of their own minds, in the means, ways, and causes of deliverance from all these things. It is true, they had the promise before  the Law of life and salvation, and it was not abolished by this covenant, even the promise made to Abraham; but this did not belong to this covenant, and the way of its accomplishment, by the incarnation and mediation of the Son of God, was hidden from them, —even from the prophets themselves who yet foretold these things. This left them under bondage. For the principal cause and means of the liberty  believers have under the gospel, arises from the clear knowledge they have of the mystery of the love and grace of God in Christ. This knowledge and faith of his incarnation,

humiliation, sufferings, and sacrifice, by which he made atonement for sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness, is what gives them liberty and boldness in their obedience,  2 Corinthians 3:17, 18. Whilst those of old were in the dark as to these things, they must needs have been kept under much bondage.

 

(11.1.6.) It was increased by the yoke of a multitude of laws, rites, and ceremonies, imposed on them; which made the whole of their worship a burden unto them, and insupportable,  Acts 15:10.

Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

In and by all these ways and means there was a spirit of bondage and fear administered to them. And God dealt with them thus so that they might not rest in that state, but continually look out after deliverance.

 

 

The [DMH38] New Covenant A Covenant of Liberty

On the other hand, the new covenant gives liberty and boldness, the liberty and boldness of children, to all believers. It is the Spirit of the Son in it that makes us free, or gives us universally all that liberty which is any way needful or useful to us. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” namely, to serve God, “not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit.” And it is declared that this was the great end of bringing in the new covenant, in the accomplishment of the promise made to Abraham, namely, “that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve God without fear ...... all the days of our life,” Luke 1:72-75. And we may briefly consider in what things  this deliverance and liberty by the new covenant  consists, as follows: —

 

(11.2.1.) In our freedom from the commanding power of the law, as to sinless, perfect obedience, in order for righteousness and justification before God. Its commands we are still subject to, but not  for life and salvation; for to these ends it is fulfilled in and by the mediator of the new covenant, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4.

 

(11.2.2.) In our freedom from the condemning power of the law, and the sanction of it in the curse. This being undergone and answered by him who was “made a curse for us,” we are freed from it,  Romans 7:6;  Galatians 3:13, 14. And here we are also “delivered from the fear of death,”  Hebrews 2:15, as it was penal and an entrance into judgment or condemnation,  John 5:24.

 

(11.2.3.) In our freedom from conscience of sin,  Hebrews 10:2, — that is, conscience disquieting, perplexing, and condemning us; the hearts of all that believe being “sprinkled from an evil conscience” by the blood of Christ.

 

(11.2.4.) In our freedom from the whole system of Mosaic worship, in all the rites, and ceremonies, and ordinances of it; which the apostles declared to be such a burden, Acts 15, and our apostle in his epistle to the Galatians.

 

(11.2.5.) From all the laws of men in things pertaining to the worship of God,  1 Corinthians 7:23. And by all these, and the like instances of spiritual liberty, the gospel frees believers from that “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which was administered under the old covenant.

 

How this Liberty is Communicated

It remains only that we point out the heads of those ways this liberty is communicated to us under the new covenant. It is done,—

 

(11.3.1.) Principally by the grant and communication of the Spirit of the Son as a Spirit of adoption, giving the freedom, boldness, and liberty of children,  John 1:12;  Romans 8:15-17;  Galatians 4:6, 7. From hence the apostle lays it down as a certain rule, that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,”  2 Corinthians 3:17. Let men pretend what they will, let them boast of the freedom of their outward condition in this world, and of the inward liberty or freedom of their wills, there is indeed no true liberty

where there is not the Spirit of God. The ways in which he gives freedom, power, soundness of mind, spiritual boldness, courage, contempt of the cross, holy confidence before God,  readiness for obedience, and enlargedness of heart in duties, with all other things in which true liberty consists, or which any way belong to it, I must not here divert to declare. The world judges that there is no bondage except  where the Spirit of God is; for he gives that conscientious fear of sin, that awe of God in all our thoughts, actions, and ways, that careful and circumspect walking, that temperance in things lawful, that abstinence from all appearance of evil, which they judge to be the greatest bondage on earth. But those who have received him, know that the whole world lies in evil, and that those to whom spiritual liberty is a bondage are the servants and slaves of Satan.

 

(11.3.2.) It is obtained by the evidence of our justification before God, and the causes of our justification before Godit. Men were largely in the dark about this under the first covenant, although all stable peace with God depends on it; for it is in the gospel that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,” Romans 1:17. Indeed “the righteousness of God without the law is witnessed by the law and the prophets,”  Romans 3:21; that is, testimony is given to it in legal institutions and the promises recorded in the prophets. But these things were obscure to them who were to seek for it under the veils and shadows of priests and sacrifices, atonements and expiations.  But our justification before God, and all the causes of it, is now fully revealed and made plain and has a great influence on spiritual liberty and boldness.

 

(11.3.3.) By the spiritual knowledge which is given to believers into the mystery of God in Christ. This the apostle affirms to have been “hid in God from the beginning of the world,”  Ephesians 3:9. It was planned and prepared in the counsel and wisdom of God from all eternity. Some intimation of it was given in the first promise, Gen 3:15? and it was afterwards foreshadowed by several legal institutions; but the depth, the glory, the beauty and fullness of it, were “hid in God,” in his mind and will, until it was fully revealed in the gospel The saints under the old testament believed that they should be delivered by the promised Seed, that they should be saved for the Lord’s sake, that the Angel of the covenant would save them, that the Lord himself would come to his temple; and they diligently inquired into what was prophesied concerning “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” But all this while their thoughts and conceptions were greatly in the dark as to those glorious things which are made so plain in the new covenant, concerning the incarnation, mediation, sufferings, and sacrifice of the Son of God, —concerning the way of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Now as darkness gives fear, so light gives liberty.

 

(11.3.4.) We obtain this liberty by the opening of the way into the holiest, and by this we have access to the throne of grace with boldness This the apostle particularly insists on in several places of his following discourses, such as  Hebrews 9:8, 10:19-22: where it must be spoken to, [DMH39] , at large; for a great part of the liberty of the new testament consists in this.

 

(11.3.5.) By all the ordinances of gospel worship. It has been declared how the ordinances of worship under the old testament lead the people into bondage;  but those of the new testament, through the plainness of signigication, their immediate respect to the Lord Christ, with their use and effictiveness to guide believers in their communion with God, all work together to our evangelical liberty. Of such importance is our liberty in this instance, that when the apostles saw it necessary, to avoid offence and scandal, to continue the observance of one or two legal institutions, in abstinence from some things in themselves indifferent, they did it only for a season, and declared that it was only in case of scandal that they would allow this temporary abridgment of the liberty given us by the gospel.

 

12  In the The Dispensation of the Holy Spirit

They differ greatly with respect to the dispensation and grant of the Holy Spirit. It is certain that God did grant the gift of the Holy Spirit under the old testament,  but it is no less certain, that there was always a promise of his greater outpouring and activity on the confirmation and establishment of the new covenant. See in particular that great promise to this purpose,  Joel 2:28, 29, as applied and expounded by the apostle Peter,  Acts 2:16-18.

2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

 

Indeed so sparing was the communication of the Holy Spirit under the old testament, compared with his effusion under the new, as that the John affirms that “the Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified,”  John 7:39; that is, he was not yet given in that manner he was to be given on the confirmation of the new covenant. And those of the church of the Hebrews who had received the doctrine of John, yet affirmed that “they had not so much as heard whether there were any Holy Spirit” or no,  Acts 19:2; that is, any such gift and communication of him as was then proposed as the chief privilege of the gospel.

 

Neither does this concern only the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those miraculous gifts and operations with which the doctrine and establishment of the new covenant was testified  and confirmed. It also gave a signal (key) difference between the two covenants; for the first covenant was confirmed by dreadful appearances and  operations, performed by the ministry of angels, but the new covenant by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit himself.

 

But this difference principally consists in this, that under the new testament the Holy Spirit has graciously condescended to bear the office of the comforter of the church. That this unspeakable privilege is peculiar to the new testament, is evident from all the promises of his being sent as a comforter made by our Saviour,  John 14-16.; especially as he assures his disciples that “unless he went away” (in which he confirmed the new covenant) “the Comforter would not come; but if he so went away, he would send him from the Father,”  John 16:7. And the difference between the two covenants  following from this is inexpressible.

 

13  In the Decleration of the Kingdom of God.

They differ in the declaration made in them of the kingdom of God. Iaugustine observed that the very name  “the kingdom of heaven” is peculiar to the new testament. It is true that God reigned in and over the church under the old testament; but his rule was such, and had such a relation to secular things, especially to the land of Canaan, and the flourishing condition of the people in it, as to have an appearance of a kingdom of this world. And that this was intentionally so, consisting in empire, power, victory, wealth, and peace, was so deeply fixed on the minds of the people, that even the disciples of Christ could not free themselves of that apprehension, until the new testament was fully established. But now in the gospel, the nature of the kingdom of God, where it is, and what it consists of, is plainly and evidently declared.This is to the great consolation of believers. For while it is now known and experienced as internal, spiritual, and heavenly, believers have no less assured interest in it and advantage by it, in all the troubles which they undergo in this world, than they could have in the fullest possession of all earthly enjoyments.

 

14  In their Substance and End

They differ in their substance and end. The old covenant was typical, shadowy, and removable,  Hebrews 10:1.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereto perfect.

 

The new covenant is substantial and permanent, as containing the body, which is Christ. Now, compare the old covenant with the new, and these qualities, that it was typical and shadowy, are great limitations of it. But consider it absolutely, and the types and shadows were its greatest glory; for in these things alone was it a token and pledge of the love and grace of God. For those things in the old covenant which were most binding and had the most of bondage in their use and practice, had the most light and grace in their signification. This was the design of God in all the ordinances of worship belonging to that covenant, namely, to typify, shadow, and represent the heaven]y, substantial things of the new covenant, or the Lord Christ and the work of his mediation. This the tabernacle, ark, altar, priests, and sacrifices all did; and this was their glory that did so. However, compared with the substance in the new covenant, they have no glory to speak of.

 

15  In the Extent of their Administration

They differ in the extent of their administration, according to the will of God. The first was confined to the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh, and to those especially in the land of Canaan,  Deuteronomy 5:3, with some few proselytes that joined them, excluding all others from participation in the benefits of it. And hence it was, that whereas the personal ministry of our Saviour himself, in preaching  the gospel, preceded the introduction of the new covenant, it was confined to the people of Israel,  Matthew 15:24 And he was the “minister of the circumcision,”  Romans 15:8.

 

Such narrow bounds and limits had the administration of this covenant fixed to it by the will and pleasure of God,  Psalm 147:19, 20. But the administration of the new covenant is extended to all nations under heaven; none being excluded, on the account of tongue, language, family, nation, or place of habitation. All have an equal interest in the rising Sun. The partition wall is broken down, and the gates of the new Jerusalem are set open to all comers upon the gospel invitation. This is frequently taken notice of in the Scripture. See  Matthew 28:19;  Mark 16:15;  John 11:51, 52,  12:32;  Acts 11:18,  17:30;  Galatians 5:6;  Ephesians 2:11-16,  3:8-10; Colossians; 3:10, 11;  1 John 2:2;  Revelation 5:9. This is the grand charter of the poor wandering Gentiles. Having wilfully abandoned God, he was pleased, in his holiness and severity, to leave all our ancestors for many generations to serve and worship the devil. And the mystery of our recovery was “hid in God from the beginning of the world,”  Ephesians 3:8-10. And although it was so foretold, so prophesied, so promised under the old testament, yet, such was the pride, blindness, and obstinacy, of the greatest part of the church of the Jews, that its accomplishment was one great part of that stumbling-block at which they fell; indeed, the greatness and glory of this mystery was such, that Christ’s disciples themselves comprehended it not, until it was testified to them by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the great promise of the new covenant, upon some of those poor Gentiles, Acts 11:18.

 

16  In their Effectiveness.

They differ in their efficacy; for the old covenant “made nothing perfect,” it could effect none of the things it represented, nor introduce that perfect or complete state which God had designed for the church. But this we have at large insisted on in our exposition of the foregoing chapter.[DMH40] 

 

 

 

17 In their Duration

Lastly, They differ in their duration: for the one was to be removed, and the other to stand for ever; which must be declared on the following [DMH41] verses.

 

 

It may be that other things of a like nature may be added to these mentioned, on which the difference between the two covenants consists; but these instances are sufficient to show that they are distinct. For some, when they hear that the covenant of grace was always one and the same, of the same nature and efficacy under both testaments, —that the way of salvation by Christ was always one and the same, —are ready to think that there was no such great difference between their state and ours as is claimed.

 

But we see that on that supposition, the covenant which God brought the people into at Sinai,  the yoke they were to abide under until the new covenant was established, had all the disadvantages just described. And those who do not understand how great and glorious the privileges are that are added to the covenant of grace, in the administration of it, by the introduction and establishment of the new covenant, are utterly blind to and unacquainted with the nature of spiritual and heavenly things.

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The Old Covenant had Lesser promises, not NO Promises

There remains yet one thing more, which the Socinians give us occasion to speak to from these words of the apostle, that the new covenant is “established on better promises.” For from this they conclude that there were no promises of life under the old testament; which,  is a senseless opinion. And, —

 

 

1. The apostle in this place intends only those promises on which the new testament was legally ratified, and reduced to the form of a covenant; which were, as he declares, the promises of special pardoning mercy, and of the efficacy of grace in the renovation of our natures, But it is granted that the old covenant was legally established on promises which respected the land of Canaan. Wherefore it is granted, that as to the promises whereby the covenants were actually established, those of the new covenant were better than the other.

 

2. The old covenant had express promise of eternal life: “He that doeth these things shall live in them.” It was, indeed, with respect to perfect obedience that it gave that promise; however it did have that promise, which is all  we are inquiring after here.

 

3. The institutions of worship which belonged to that covenant, -the whole ministry of the tabernacle, as representing heavenly things,- had the nature of a promise in them; for they all directed the church to seek for life and salvation in and by Jesus Christ alone.

 

4. The question is not, “What promises are given in the law itself, or the old covenant formally considered as such?”,  but, “What promises did  they possess who lived under that covenant, and that it did not disannul?” for we have sufficiently proved, that the addition of this covenant did not abolish or supersede the efficacy of any promise that God had before given the church. And to say that the first promise, and that given to Abraham, confirmed with the oath of God, were not promises of eternal life, is to overthrow the whole Bible, both Old Testament and New. And we may observe from the foregoing discourses, —

 

Obs. X. Although one state of the church has had great advantages and privileges above another, yet no state has had any cause to complain, while they observed the terms prescribed to them. The Old Covenant was in itself unspeakable grace.

 

 

The Old Covenant was in itself unspeakable grace.

 

—We have seen in how many things, of the highest importance, the state of the church under the new covenant excels the state of the church under the old; yet the old was in itself a state of unspeakable grace and privilege. For, —

 

1It was a state of near relation to God, by virtue of a covenant. And when all mankind had absolutely broken covenant with God by sin, to call any of them into a covenant relation with himself, was an act of sovereign grace and mercy. In this they were distinguished from the residue of mankind, whom God suffered to walk in their own ways, and winked at their ignorance, while they all perished in the pursuit of their foolish imaginations. A great part of the Book of Deuteronomy is designed to impress a sense of this upon the minds of the people. And it is summarily expressed by the psalmist,  Psalm 147:19, 20;

19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.

and by the prophet,
Isaiah 63:19.

“We are thine: thou never barest rule over them: thy name was not called upon by them,”

 

2. The Sinaitic covenant of God was in itself holy, just, and equal. For although there were imposed in it several burdensome things, they were such things as God in his infinite wisdom saw necessary for that people, and such as they could not have been without. Hence on all occasions God refers it even to themselves to judge whether his ways towards them were not fair, and their own unfair. And it was not only a just covenant, but attended with promises of unspeakable advantages above all other people.

 

3. God in dealing with them in the way of a covenant, to which the mutual consent of both parties covenanting is required, proposed the covenant  to them for their acceptance, and they did willingly accept it, Exodus 24, Deuteronomy 5; so that they had nothing to complain of in its terms.

 

4. In that state of discipline in which God was pleased to hold them, they enjoyed the way of life and salvation in the promise; for, as we have shown,  the promise was not disannulled by the introduction of this covenant. Therefore, although God reserved a better and more complete state for the church under the new testament, having “ordained better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect;” yet  that other state was in itself good and holy, and sufficient to bring all believers to the enjoyment of God.

$$

Obligations of the New Covenant

Obs. XI. Two things follow from the state of the gospel, or of the church under the new testament, being accompanied with the highest spiritual privileges and advantages possible in this world:

1. The great obligation on all believers to holiness and fruitfulness in obedience, for the glory of God. We have in this new covenant the utmost condescension of divine grace, and the greatest effects of it that God will communicate on this side of glory.


That which all these things tend to, that which God requires and expects for them, is the thankful and fruitful obedience of those that are made partakers of them. And they who do not feel this obligation are strangers to the things themselves, and are not able to discern spiritual things, because they are to be spiritually discerned.

 

2. The heinousness of the sin of those who neglect or despise this covenant is hence abundantly manifest. This the apostle particularly asserts and insists upon, Hebrews 2:2, 3,  10:28, 29.

 

Heb 2:2-3  For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

 

Heb 10:29,30 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

 

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 [DMH1]Some significant repetition in the next few paras

 [DMH2]Better word for wherefore?

 [DMH3]Add a reference, probably later in Hebrews.

 [DMH4]Significance, meaning, connotation

 [DMH5]Decide how much to import

 

 [DMH6]Might need to expand this idea for clarity and in simpler language

 [DMH7]Look up in Oxford dict

 [DMH8]the new covenant as promise

 [DMH9]change effective or alteration effective or just “change”

 [DMH10]origin ?

 [DMH11]Gone before?  Need a translation try Oxford Dict.

 [DMH12]Origin?

 [DMH13]Note on Pelagianism or delete the reference

 [DMH14]Where does JO refute this?

 [DMH15]Recast this phrase after looking up obnoxious

 [DMH16]propositions? Or  Observations?

 [DMH18]Could delete the first clause

 [DMH19]in or to

 [DMH20]This is a summary of the preceding section 3, “Purposes of the Old Covenant”

 [DMH21]Who is JO quoting here, not scripture unless his own translation?

 [DMH22]Where does he say this?

 [DMH23]We’ll see

 [DMH24]footnote to this effect.

 [DMH25]Need synonym

 [DMH26]representATION OR RE-PRESENTATION. Thereof being the seed, the church, the Seed, or the purpose?

 [DMH27]Clumsy phrasing

 [DMH28]translate!

 [DMH29]Any value in the comments against RC? Any application of the words to liberal protestants. I think so.

 [DMH30]Comment on Hebrews 6:9

 [DMH31]Add comment from JO’s Exercitations. Follow the reference he gives

 [DMH32]in the exosition of te ensuing verses. Need to read ahead in Owen a bit.

 [DMH33]Another refreence to pursue.

 [DMH34]And another reference to pursue. Or tighten the scope and summarise in my own words.

 [DMH35]And again, follow the reference to the next chapter.

 [DMH36]Better Title?

 [DMH37]Change this title. Along with the next subtitle it is only a placemarker until the structure is sorted out,

 [DMH38]. Needs better wording.

 [DMH39]Follow reference in JO

 [DMH40] JO on Hebrews 7

 [DMH41]of Hebrews 8