Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

still in operation, and is yet to have a more extended effect, with respect both to the house of Israel, and the Gentiles, than has hitherto been experienced. * The Sinai covenant, different in all the particulars which have been mentioned, was superinduced upon the covenant which God established with Abraham ; or, as the apostle expresses it, added. “Wherefore then," he asks, Galatians iii. 19, “serveth the law ?And answers, " It was added because of trangressions, till the seed should come, to whom the promises were made.”Till the seed should come. This manner of expression proves, that the Sinai covenant was to con- . tinue only till the coming of the seed, the Messiah ; and then we know it was abolished. Hebrews viii. 13. “ In that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now, that which decayeth, and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away.”.

That which is added, may be removed at pleasure, and leave that to which it is added, as it was, before the addition was made. Hence, the apostle observes, Gal. iii. 17. “And this I say, that the covenant which was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was 430 years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” The Sinai cov. enant was like the first tabernacle, to which it is compared, Hebrews ix. 2. This was distinguished from the holiest of all. In the latter, was the mercy seat ; not in the former. This “ was a figure for the time then present; in which were offered both gifts, and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the ser. vice perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.

[ocr errors]

* “ Though the covenant is called a new and second covenant, yet only with respect to the former administration of it under the legal dispensation ; and both administrations of it, under the law, and under the Gospel, are only se many exhibitions and manifestations of the covenant, under different forms, which was made in eternity.” Gill's Reply to Clark, page 11.

The reason here given why the covenant is called a new one, is not the true reason ; for it is called new in contrast to the Sinai covenant. It might be new in this sense, and yet old as to its date in itself considered ; and there is full demonstration that it is old as eternity. This excepted, the passage accords extirely with our statement.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

From what has been said, it appears, that though the Sinai covenant was law, and this law was sanc. tioned by the curse ; and though many of the reasonings of Paul, appear to have respect to it, in that light merely, it was not altogether legal, nor in any respect hostile to grace ; but, in coincidence with it, and operating in aid to it. Therefore, it was not the covenant of works. Such it is often very erroneously represented to be.* Quite different is the account which Paul gives of it. Gal. iii. 21–24. “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid. --Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” To the law, as the basis of the covenant of Sinai, were appended promises, altogether of a gracious nature. It is an act of great condescension and grace, for the holy God, to make promises, though they are but conditional, to guilty creatures ; especially when the promises em. brace the highest possible good, and the condition, is that obedience, which is obligatory, in itself, and prior to the annunciation of promise.t In its natural tendency, the Sinai covenant operated in aid to the Abrahamic covenant. To use the figure of the apostle, it was a schoolmaster, to lead those, to whom it was administered, to Christ, who was the great confirmer of that covenant. The promises of it were founded in Christ's

*66 On the other hand that covenant which requires obedience, and promises blessings conditionally, is the covenannt of works.” Andrews's Vindication page 37

66 The truth is, that the Sinai Covenant, which was confessedly the constitution of the Jewish Church, was, in the nature of it, a covenant of works." Ib. page 69.

+ By condition, here, as it respects the Sinai covenant, is meant no more than what the apostle means, when he says, Hebrews iii. 14: 6. For we are ma de partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." The legal Jews treated the Sinai covenant as conditional in a very different sense. They treated it in a manner which entirely excluded grace. condition, as suggested by the apostle in this passage, is perfectly evangelic. It applies to grace, as truly as to law. “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelations iii. 20. Faith involves the in. scription of the law upon the heart. Christ is the end of the law; and he who hath Christ nath life. He who believeth shall be saved ; he who believeth not shall be damned. Jews and Gentiles must be obedient to law, or they cannot be saved. The law, though, not the principle of life, is still the narrow way. It is as much so to the Gentiles, as it ever was to the Jews. Faith does not make void the law ; yea, it establishes the law.

But

intervention ; and grew out of that one eternal covenant, which all that is done for the salvation of the Church, in this world, does but execute. The priesthood, sacrifices, and ablutions, which this covenant ordained, were all typical of Christ, or referred to him. Hence, we are told, Hebrews iv. 2, that the Gospel was. preached unto them, as well as unto us. And hence, Moses, with evident design to preclude the idea, that the blessing was to be expected upon a mere legal principle, expressly told the people, Deuteronomy ix. 4: "Speak not in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out before thee, saying, For my righteousness, the Lord hath brought me to possess this land ; but for the wickedness of these nations, doth the Lord drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess this land ; but for the wicked ness of these nations, doth the Lord thy God drive them out from before thee ; and that he may perform the word, which he swäre unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.The blessing proposed in the Sinai covenant, if conferred at all, was to be conferred entirely by grace, and in fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant. The Sinai covenant, therefore, was very far from being the original covenant of works. The coyenant of works was wholly done away by the apostacy of the progenitors of our race. It could never be overtured afterwards, as a foundation of hope, among any of their guilty descendants ; no, not upon the supposition of their repentance. The covenant of works supposes those to whom it is proposed, to be innocent. The covenant of Sinai supposes that the objects of it are guilty. The covenant of works makes no provi. sion for pardon. The covenant of Sinai does. The covenant of works makes sinless obedience the condi. tion of the blessing. The covenant of Sinai made provision for the forgiveness of sins, not yet committed; therefore the blessings of it were suspended upon obedience short of that which is absolutely sinless. Those who failed of entering the promised land, did not fail because they had not strictly obeyed the covenant of works; but because of unbelief. And those who entered, entered not on the ground, that they had been perfectly obedient to the covenant of works, but because they were subjects of faith, as a character. Faith, in the Gospel sense, had nothing to do with the obedience which belonged to the covenant of works : But faith is the principle of that obedience which is required in the Sinai covenant. Compare Deuteronomy xxx. 11, 12, 13, 14, with Romans x. 6, and on.

The difficulty with the law, was, that it did not secure this obedience. Faith in Christ does. Faith is always of a truly obedient nature. Moses is expressly mentioned by the writer to the Hebrews, as an eminent subject of faith ; and his faith certainly involved obedience to the Sinai law. If he had not been obedient to that law, he would have been an object of the curse.

Faith is mentioned by our Savior himself as among the weightier matters of the law; Matthew xxiii. 23.

"Wo unto you Scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.The Sinai covenant then was very far from being a covenant of works, or a covenant with which faith, in the evangelical sense of that term, was not concerned.

It is indeed infinitely derogatory to the supreme Ruler of the universe, to insinuate, that he addressed a covenant to his people, which made perfect personal obedience, the meritorious ground of hope, and that exclusively ; when their known disobedience had exclud. ed the possibility of such a hope. This would have had a direct tendency to lead them into the most fatal delusion.

Nor was the Sinai covenant a civil compact ; making God and the people, parties ; He as their political sovereign, and they as his subjects. It had not in it a vestige of any thing of this kind. It was simply a religious institution, and designed for no purposes but such as were purely religious.

Here we advance a negative against laboured theories, and high authorities; even among those, who are not driven to any exigence, for the support of a sectarian hypothesis. It is therefore necessary, before we close our examination of the Sinai covenant, to look into this matter with particular attention. Modesty, it is presumed, does not forbid it.

By civil, in this connexion, is to be understood, that which merely appertains to objects of our présent temporal life; and which has no foundation in religion, or respect to it. The term civil has a Latin deriva- . tion. Civis, denoted a subject of the Roman governa ment. Civilis, qualified persons, actions, or things, which respected that government merely. But no one will pretend, that the Roman government was founded upon, or acted in aid to religion. A temporal sovereign, as such, is designated for purposes merely temporal. Temporal governments, instead of being promotive of religion, have almost universally been the scourges

of it. No doubt a civil magistrate may be a religious man, and perform the duties of his office religiously. And civil government may be subservient to religion ; as we know all opposition to God in. directly is. But a mere civil interest, is very far indeed, from being a religious interest. Generally, if not universally, they are opposing interests. Suppose the whole world to this moment had been as perfectly subject to God's government, as the holy angels are ; and suppose, that 500 persons were to go off, and form to themselves a government of another kind, which should have no respect to the government under which they had hitherto lived; and in which, God, and his authority, should be disowned. Would not this government be founded in apostacy and atheism ? Allow that these persons live, under this new government, in tol. erable order, without however the least affectionate acknowledgement of God, Would they not still live in complete practical atheism? “ Render,” said our Saviour “unto Cæsar, the things which are Cæsar's ; and unto God, the things which are God's.” Their pretentions are entirely distinct.

« ZurückWeiter »