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But in the new covenant the thing is different. Though it gives us “ the promise of the life which now is,” it also furnishes the promise of “that which is to come.” Instead of giving earth the prominence in the picture, it presents the realities of eternity directly before us. Instead of holding out to us earthly good, it promises "treasures where moth doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.” The great promise of the new covenant, and which in fact comprehends all its blessings, is eternal life. "" The Scriptures make mention of it as the great end of the incarnation and sufferings of Christ: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.' It is emphatically represented as the promise, to denote not merely its pre-eminence, but its comprehensiveness : This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.' By reflecting upon the subject you will perceive that all the blessings of grace and glory are included in it. The enjoyment of it is not confined to the future state; it commences in this world, when the believer not only obtains a title to immortal happiness, but is illuminated, and sanctified, and comforted by the Spirit of grace, and it will be perfected in the world to
* This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life. These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.'”1
Who does not see that these promises are far better than those of the legal dispensation? As eternity is longer than time—as heaven is higher than earth—as everlasting life is preferable to temporal prosperity, so is the measure of superiority in the promises of the new covenant to those of the old.
But again, the new covenant is better than the old in that it does not rest in external observances, but is mainly spiritual in its character. 66 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." The laws of the former dispensation had reference mainly to the regulation of the external conduct. Their worship was a worship of forms and ceremo
Dick's Tbeology. Vol. 1, page 508.
nies. Their purifications were outward purifications. Their obedience was an obedience of the outward man. All affecting the heart it is true when attended to in sincerity, but indirectly and remotely. It was not immediately with the soul that the Mosaic law dealt. But the laws of the new dispensation relate particularly to the inner man, and are designed to control the heart. It prescribes few external rites, and those are but simple expressions of the pious feelings of the heart; and all attempts to increase their number, or to clothe them with imposing gorgeousness, have only tended to mar the simplicity and corrupt the purity of the religion of Jesus It takes down the Divine laws from the places they formerly occupied on tablets of stone, and from which they frowned upon us in all the wrath of their violated dignity, and writes them on the tables of the heart and of the mind. It engraves them upon the soul itself. It is an arrangement which effectually secures the spiritual observance of the Divine requirements. It gives man a liking of soul for what he formerly rebelled against. It communicates to his soul a bent toward obedience. It plants the principle of obedience in the heart, and turns the taste and inclinations of him who is brought under this gracious constitution in a direction which falls in with the entire spirit of the law. And as if carried forward by the spontaneous and inborn alacrity of a constitutional impulse, he runs with delight the way of all the commandments.
Nor is it a very difficult task for us to specify the different precepts of the decalogue as they have been transferred safe and entire to the heart of him who has drunk in the genius of our better dispensation. “We are sure that such a man will have his supreme affections fastened upon God, and renouncing every idol, whether of wealth, or of ambition, or of vanity, that can dethrone the Father of his spirit from his rightful ascendency, he will prefer no one object of regard, or of reverence before him. We are sure that such a man will be quite in earnest to have a right knowledge and tonception of God—that the Being he worships may be the true God-and lest, by directing his homage to some false and distorted picture of his own fancy, he may incur all the guilt, and be carried away by all the delusion of him who falls down to a material image, in lowly and bending adoration. We are sure that such a man will do honor to the hallowed name of his Master, who is in heaven, and be sickened and appalled by that profaneness which is so cur
rent in many of our companies." We are sure that the holy Sabbath will be to him, with all its images and circumstances, a thing of delightful memory, and all its consecrated hours the subjects of scrupulous and devout regard. “We are sure that such a man will revere his earthly parents, and will stand by them in the midst of their sinking infirmities; and whether in the form of a declining father, or a widowed mother, who has thrown the whole burden of her dependence on the children who remain to her, we are sure that he will never turn a contemptuous ear to the feebleness of their entreating voice—but will bid his proud and aspiring manhood give up to their authority all its waywardness, and all its tumultuous independence. We are quite sure, that in the heart of such a man, there is an aspiration of kindliness towards everything that breathes, and that the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, carries in his bosom the widely extended import of thou shalt not conceive one purpose, nor carry against a single human being, one rankling sentiment of malignity. We are sure that such a man, far removed from all that is licentious in practice, will recoil, even in the unseen solitude of thought, from all that is licentious in conception, and spurning away from the pure sanctuary of his heart every evil and unhallowed visitation, he will present to the approving eye of Heaven, all the adornments of a spiritual temple, all the graces and all the beauties of an unspotted offering. We are sure that such a man, with a hand unsoiled with any one of the gains of injustice, will with all the sensitiveness of his high-minded and honorable principle, keep himself as nobly aloof from substantial as from literal dishonesty. He will feel superior to every one of those tolerated artifices, and those practical disguises, which throughout the great mass of mercantile society, have so hardened and so worn down the consciences of those, who, for years, have been spending and bustling their way amongst a variety of manifold transactionsand in the high walk of simplicity and Godly sincerity, will he carry along with him the impress of one of the peculiar people, amid all the legalized fraudulency of a selfish and unprincipled generation. We are quite sure that such a man, seeing that he had put on the deeds of the new creature, would never suffer the burning infamy of a lie to rest upon bim. All that was within him, and about him, would be clear as the etherial firmament. The wiles of a deceitful policy would be utterly unknown to him. The openness and
ingenuousness of truth, would sit upon his forehead, and every utterance bear upon it as decided a stamp of authority, as if shielded by a solemn appeal to God and to the judgment-seat. And lastly, we are quite sure that such a man could not breathe a single avari. cious desire after the substance of another. His heart is set on another treasure. He has entered the service of another master than the mammon of unrighteousness. His affections have settled on a more enduring substance. With the eye of faith, he looks to heaven, and to its unfading and imperishable riches: and all the splendor of this world's vain and empty magnificence, sink into worthlessness before them. He can eye the golden career of his more prosperous neighbors, without one wistful sentiment either of covetousness or envy; and feels not the meanness and the hardships of his huinbler condition, and the tranquillities of a heart that is cherishing a better prospect, and reposing on the sure anticipation of a happier and more enduring home.”
Now all this is not the fruit of a direct effort on the part of such a man to conform himself to the law; it is the impulse created in his heart through his faith. It is the nature of a christian to do right. Hence it is said that “whosoever is born of God cannot sin, because he is born of God.” His new nature leads him in the path of right. The law is in his mind and in his heart.
We see that the Gospel has taken hold of the very springs of action, and turned the deepest emotions of his soul in the way of piety. The spirituality, and hence the superiority, of the new covenant is thus very clearly shown.
And this leads to a third instance of the superiority of the second over the first covenant, viz. its superior efficiency. “And they shall teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
“ This passage does not refer to the fact that the true religion will be universally diffused, but that among those who are interested in the blessings of the new covenant there would be an accurate and just knowledge of the the Lord.” Having the law in their hearts and minds, “they shall have a much more certain and effectual teaching than they can derive from another.” 3
That the knowledge of God under the old covenant was imper
Barnes in loc.
Chalmer's Works, page 432. > Doddridge.
fect and limited, we have numerous reasons to believe. 1st. The manner in which their knowledge of God was obtained was imperfect and ineffectual. “Under the old covenant, properly speaking, there was no public instruction: before the erection of synagogues, all worship was confined at first to the tabernacle, afterward to the temple. When synagogues were established, they were used principally for the bare reading of the law and the prophets : and scarcely any such thing as a public ministry for the continual instruction of the common people was found in the land, till the time of John the Baptist, our Lord, and his apostles.”! 2nd. Their Scriptures lacked the clearest part of the volume of revelation as possessed under the new dispensation. It was only through the communications of the Son of God and secondarily of his apostles, that a complete knowledge of the Divine character was given to mankind. All the additional light of the Christian Scriptures the Jews lacked. 3d. We find it moreover recorded in their history, that they frequently lapsed into idolatry, and went off to the worship of stocks and stones—a thing entirely incompatible with a correct idea of the Divine character. But under the new dispensation the knowledge of God is so clearly revealed in the Scriptures, and so effectually graven on the heart by the Holy Spirit, that it is not at all necessary for those who are the subjects of this new arrangement to instruct each other in a private capacity respecting this point. There is such a profusion of light, and that light so clearly apprehended, that “they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”
The truth of this prophetic representation of the new covenant is not to be doubted. It may be seen by comparing the ideas of God prevalent to this day among the Jews, with those entertained by christians; or, by comparing the Old Testament with the New. The three short sentences, “God is a spirit”/“God is light”“God is love,” give us a clearer idea of the Divine character than is to be learned from all the Jewish Scriptures taken together. And the simple consciousness of the christian, furnishes him as complete a conception of the Deity, as that with which the combined wisdom of Jewish theologians could furnish him.
Again, the new covenant is superior to the old, in that it is more strongly marked with the Divine condescension and mercy.