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in. But yet they were to be dealt withal, according as it was meet. 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 endeavoureth, by all manner of reasons and instances to the contrary, to take them off from, in the book of Deuteronomy. Yet was it not effected among the generality of them, nor is 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 hath an especial obligation unto 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 breathe after deliverance. This, the apostle Peter calls a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear, Acts xv. 10. that is, with peace, ease and rest; which, therefore, the Lord Christ invited them to seek for, in himself alone, Matt. xi. 29, 30. And this yoke that God put on them, consisted in these three things.
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 unto their law, in any tolerable manner, altogether unpracticable. It were easy to manifest, for instance, that no man under heaven ever did, or ever can keep the Sabbath, according to the rules they give about it in their Talmuds. And they generally scarce observe one of them themselves. But in the law, as given by God himself, it is certain, that there were a multitude of arbitrary precepts, and those in themselves, not accompanied with any spiritual advantages, as our apostle shews, chap. ix. 9, 10. only they were obliged to perform them, by a mere sovereign act of power and authority.
2. In the severity wherewith the observance of all those pre cepts were enjoined then. And this was the threatening of death. For he that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward. Hence was their complaint of old, Behold we die, we perish, we all perish; whosoever cometh near unto the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die; shall we be consumed with dying? Num. xvii. 12, 13. And the curse solemnly denounced against every one that confirmed not all things written in the law, was continually before them.
3. In a spirit of bondage unto 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 respected their present obedience, and manner of its per
formance, 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. This state God brought them into, partly to subdue the pride of their hearts trusting in their own righteousness, and partly to cause them to look out earnestly after the promised deliverer.
Fourthly, Into this estate and condition, God brought them by a solemn covenant, confirmed by mutual consent between him and them. The tenure, force, and solemn ratification of this covenant is expressed, Exod. xxiv. 3-8. Unto the terms and conditions of this covenant, was the whole church obliged indispensably on pain of extermination, until all was accomplished, Mal. iv. 4-6. Unto this covenant belonged the decalogue, with all precepts of moral obedience, thence educed. So also did the laws of political rule, established among them, and the whole system of religious worship, given unto them. All these laws were brought within the verge of this covenant, and were the matter of it. And it had especial promises and threatenings annexed unto it as such, whereof none did exceed the bounds of the land of Canaan. For even many of the laws of it, were such as obliged no where else. Such was the law of the Sabbatical year, and all their sacrifices. There was sin and obedience in them, or about them, in the land of Canaan, none elsewhere. Hence,
Fifthly, This covenant thus made with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it, did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant formally as such. It did indeed revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works, and therein, as the apostle speaks, was the ministry of condemnation, 2 Cor. iii. 9. For, by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.' And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works. And,
Sixthly, Hereon occasionally fell out 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, Psal. Ixix. 22. It was this covenant that raised and ruined them: it raised them to glory and honour when given of God; it ruined them when abused by themselves, contrary to express declarations of his mind and will. For although the generality of them were always wicked and rebellious, breaking the terms of the covenant which God made with them, so far as it was possible they should,
whilst God determined to reign over them until the appointed season; and although they repined under the burden of it, yet they would have this covenant to be the only rule and means of righteousness, life and salvation, as the apostle declares, Rom. ix. 31-33. x. 3. For, as we have often said, there were two things in it, both which they abused unto other ends than what God designed them.
1. There was the renovation of the rule of the covenant of works for righteousness and life. And this they would have to be given unto them for those ends, and so sought for righteousness by the works of the law.
2. There was ordained in it a typical representation of the way and means whereby the promise was to be made effectual, namely, in the mediation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which was the end of all their ordinances of worship. And the out ward law thereof, with the observance of its institution, they looked on as their only relief when they came short of exact and perfect righteousness. Against both these pernicious errors,: the apostle disputes expressly in his epistle unto the Romans and the Galatians, to save them, if it were possible, from that ruin into which they were casting themselves. Hereon the elect obtained, but the rest were hardened. For hereby they made an absolute renunciation of the promise, wherein alone, God had enwrapped the way of life and salvation.
This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.
That which remains for the declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in this whole matter, is to declare the differences that are between those two covenants, whence the one is said to be better than the other, and to be built upon better promises.
Those of the church of Rome, da commonly place this difference in three things.
1. In the promises 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 placeth this difference in. And besides, as by some of them explained, they are not true, especially the two latter of them. For I cannot but somewhat adinire, how it came into the heart or mind of any man to think or say, that God ever gave a law or laws, precept or precepts, that
should respect the outward man only, and the regulation of external duties. The thought of it is contrary unto all the essential properties of the nature of God, and meet only to ingenerate apprehensions of him, unsuited unto all 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 with him. And for the third of the supposed differences, neither were the sacraments of the law so barely figurative, but that they did exhibit Christ unto 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 useless unto them that do receive them.
The things wherein this difference doth consist, as expressed in the Scripture, are partly circumstantial, and partly substantial, and may be reduced unto the heads ensuing.
I. These two covenants differ in the circumstance of time, as to their promulgation, declaration and establishment. This difference the apostle expresseth from the prophet Jeremiah in the 9th verse of this chapter, where it must be more fully spo ken unto. 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, Exod. xix. and chap. xxiv. From what is reported in the latter place, wherein the people give their actual consent to the terms of it, it began its formal obligation as a covenant. And we must afterwards inquire when it was abrogated and ceased to oblige the church. The new covenant was declared and made known in the latter days, Heb. i. 1. in the dispensation of the fulness of time, Eph. i. 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 Ghost. I bring these all into the epoch of this covenant, because, though principally it was established by the first, yet it was not absolutely obligatory as a covenant, until after the last of them.
II. They differ in the circumstance of place as to their promulgation, which the Scripture also taketh notice of. The first was declared on Mount Sinai, the manner whereof, and the station of the people in receiving the law, I have in my Exercitations unto the first part of this Exposition, at large declared, and thither the reader is referred, Exod. xix. 18. The other was declared on Mount Sinai, and the law of it went forth from Jerusalem, Isa. ii. 2. This difference, with many remarkable instances from it, our apostle insists on, Gal. iv. 24-26. These are the two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai, which gendereth unto bondage, which is Agar.' That is, Agar the bondwoman, whom Abraham took before the heir of
promise was born, 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 Årabia, and answereth unto Jerusalem that now is, and is in bondage with her children.' This Mount Sinai, when 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 ensued thereon; so the old covenant that brought the people into bondage, was given at Mount Sinai in Arabia.
III. They differ in the manner of their promulgation and establishment. There were two things remarkable that accompanied the solemn declaration of the first covenant.
1. The dread and terror of the outward appearance on Mount Sinai, which filled all the people, yea, Moses himself, with fear and trembling, Heb. xii. 18-21. Exod. xix. 16. xx. 18, 19. Together herewith, was a spirit of fear and bondage administered unto all the people, so as that they chose to keep at a distance and not draw nigh unto God, Deut. v. 23-27.
2. That it was given by the ministry and disposition of angels, Acts vii. 53. Gal. iii. 19. Hence the people were in a sense, put in subjection to angels, and they 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, Heb. ii. 5. Hence the worshipping or adoration of angels began among the people, Col. ii. 18. Which some, with an addition unto their folly and superstition, would introduce into the Christian church, wherein they 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 unto the giving of the law on the earth, Heb. xii. 25. yet did he speak on the earth also; the mystery whereof himself declares, John iii. 13. And he did all things that belong unto the establishment of 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 made his disciples to carry on the same work, until the covenant was fully declared, Heb. ii. 3.; see John i. 17, 18. And the whole ministry of angels in the giving of this covenant, was merely in a way of service and obedience unto Christ, and they owned themselves the fellow-servants only of them that have the testimony of Jesus, Rev. xix. 10. So that this