« PreviousContinue »
to the Ishmaelites the Israelites, while they tarried in the deserts of Arabia, which was the country of the former, who are born to bondage of their mother Hagar, or the covenant of mount Sinai, and being destitute of true righteousness, shall, with Ishmael, be at length turned out of the house of their heavenly Father. For, in that place, Paul does not consider the covenant of mount Sinai as in itself, and in the intention of God, offered to the elect, but as abused by carnal and hypocritical men. Let Calvin again speak : “ The apostle declares, that, by the children of Sinai, he meant hypocrites, persons who are at length cast out of the church of God, and disinherited. What therefore is that generation unto bondage, which he there speaks of? It is doubtless those who basely abuse the law, and conceive nothing concerning it but what is servile. The pious fathers, who lived under the Old Testament, did not so.
For the servile generation of the law did not hinder them from having the spiritual Jerusalem for their mother. But they who stick to the bare law, and acknowledge not its pedagogy, by which they are brought to Christ, but rather make it an obstacle to their coming to him, these are Ishmaelites” (for thus, and I think rightly, Marlorat reads) “ born unto bondage.” The design of the apostle therefore, in that place, is not to teach us, that the covenant of mount Sinai was nothing but a covenant of works, altogether opposite to the gospel-covenant ; but only that the gross
Israelites misunderstood the mind of God, and basely abused his covenant; as all such do, who seek for righteousness by the law. See again Calvin on Rom. x. 4.
LIII. Nor was it formally a covenant of grace: because that requires not only obedience, but also promises; and bestows strength to obey. For thus the covenant of
grace is made known, Jer. xxxii. 39. And I
will give them one heart, anil one way, that thcy may fear me for ever. But such a promise appears not in the covenant made at mount Sinai. Nay, God, on this very account, distinguishes the new covenant of grace from the Sinaitic, Jer. xxxi. 31, 32, 33. And Moses loudly proclaims, Deut. xxix. 4. Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to lear, unto this day. Certainly, the chosen from among
Israel had obtained this : yet not in virtue of this covenant, which stipulated obedience, but gave not power for it; but in virtue of the covenant of grace, which also belonged to them.
LIV. What was it then ? It was a national coucnant between God and Israel, whereby Israel promised to God a sincere obedience to all his precepts, especially to the ten words ; God, on the other hand, promised to Israel, that such an observance would be acceptable to him, nor want its reward, both in this life, and in that which is to come, both as to soul and body. This reciprocal promise supposed a covenant of grace. For, without the assistance of the covenant of grace, man cannot sincerely promise that observance ; and yet that an imperfect observance should be acceptable to God, is wholly owing to the covenant of
grace. posed the doctrine of the covenant of works, the terror of which being increased by those tremendous signs that attended it, they ought to have been excited to embrace that covenant of God. This agreement therefore is a consequent both of the covenant of grace and of works; but was formally neither the one nor the other. A like agreement and renewal of the covenant between God and the pious is frequent ; both national and individual. Of the former see Josh. xxiv. 22. 2 Chron. xv. 12. 2 Kings xxiii. 3. Neh. x. 29. Of the latter, Psal. cxix. 106. It is certain, that in the pas
It also sup
sages we have named, mention is made of some covenant between God and his people. If any should ask me, of what kind, whether of works or of
grace ŞI shall answer, it is formally neither : but a covenant of sincere piety, which supposes both.
. LV. Hence the question, which is very much agitated at this day, may be decided 3. namely, Whether the ten words are nothing but the form of the covenant of grace? This, I apprehend, is by no means an accurate way of speaking. For since a covenant strictly so called consists in a mutual agreement, what is properly the form of the covenant should contain the said mutual agreement. But the ten words contain only a prescription of duty, fenced on the one hand by threatenings, taken from the covenant of works ; on the other, by promises, which belong to the covenant of grace. Hence the scripture, when it speaks properly, says
that a covenant was made upon these ten words, or, aftet the tenor of those words, Exod. xxxiv. 27. distinguishing the covenant itself, which consists in a mụtual agreement, from the ten words, which contain the conditions of it. The form of the covenant is exhibited by those words, which we have already quoted from Exod. xix. 5,6,8. I deny not, that the ten commandments are frequently in scripture called the covenant of Gud. But, at the same time, no person can be ignorant, that the term covenant has various significations in the Hebrew, and often signifies nothing but a precept, as Jer. xxxiv. 13, 14. Thus Moses explains himself on this head, Deut. iv, 13. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform,
, even ten commandments. They are therefore called a
covenant by a synecdoche, because they contain those precepts, ivhich God, when he set his covenant before VOL. III.
them, required the Israelites to observe, and to which the said Israelites bound themselves by covenant.
LVI. The ten words or commandments, therefore, are not the form of a covenant properly so called, but the rule of duty : much less are they the form of the covenant of grace ; because that covenant, in its strict signification, consists of mere promises, and, as it relates to elect persons, has the nature of a testament, or last will, rather than of a covenant strictly speaking, and depends on no condition ; as we have at large ex
l plained and proved, book iïi. chap. i. sect. 8, &c. And Jeremiah has shewn us, that the form of the covenant of grace
consists in absolute promises, chap. xxxi. 33, 34. and xxxii. 38, 39, 40. In like manner, Isaiah, chap: liv. 10.
LVII. Least of all can it be said, that the ten words are nothing but the form of the covenant of grace, since we may look upon them as having a relation to any covenant whatever. They may be considered in a twofold manner. 1. Precisely, as a laro. 2. As an instrument of the covenant. As a laro, they are the rule of our nature and actions, which he has prescribed, who has a right to coinmand. This they were from the beginning, this they still are, and this they will contirrue to be, under whatever covenant, or in whatever state man shall be. As an instrument of the covenant, they point out the way to eternal salvation ; or contain the condition of enjoying that salvation ; and that both under the covenant of grace and of works, but with this difference, that, under the covenant of works, this condition is required to be performed by man himself ; under the covenant of grace it is proposed as already performed, or to be performed by a Mediator. Things, which those very persons, with whom we are now disputing, will not venture to deny.
Of the Doctrine of the Prophets.
HE plan we formerly laid down, should now require to speak a little of those things from Moses himself and the succeeding prophets, which they have published concerning the person, natures, states, offices, and blessings of the Messiah.
And it would be easy to shew, that nothing remarkable did befal our Jesus, nothing great was either said or done by him, which the prophets did not foretel was to come to pass. The
prophets, I say, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto us ; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. and who all, with one consent, give witness to Jesus, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins, Acts x. 43. The apostle Paul, who protested, he had not shunned to declare all the counsel of God, Acts xx. 27. at the same time protests, he suys none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come, Acts xxvi. 22. And certainly, the body itself should exactly agree with the picture, that was long before presented to the view of the ancient church, since it became the wisdom and goodness of God, to give such an exact description of the Messiah, with all his marks or characters, that he might be known by any thoughtful and attentive mind, and distinguished from all manner of impostors, who should impiously pretend to, or counterfeit his name. But this subject has been, both formerly and lately, consi..