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really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught.-The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it, proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law or of the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only to outward things, it is here laid aside.
Obs. XIX. There is a duty incumbent on every man to instruct others, according to his ability and opportunity, in the knowledge of God; the law whereof being natural and eternal, is always obligatory on all sorts of persons.--This is not here either prohibited or superseded, but only it is foretold, that as to a certain manner of the performance of it, it should cease. That it generally ceaseth now in the world, is no effect of the promise of God, but a cursed fruit of the unbelief and wickedness of men. The highest degree in religion which men now aim at, is but to attend unto and learn by the publie teaching of the ministry. And, alas ! how few are there who do it conscientiously unto the glory of God, and the spiritual benefit of their own souls! The whole business of teaching and learning the knowledge of God, is generally turned into a formal spending, if not mispense of so much time. But as for the teaching of others according to ability and opportunity, or endeavouring to acquire abilities, or seeking for opportunities thereof, it is not only for the most part neglected, but despised. How few are there who take any care to instruet their own children and servants ! but to carry this duty farther according unto opportunities of instructing others, is a thing that would be looked on almost as madness in the days wherein we live. We have far more, that mutually teach one another sin, folly, yea villany of all sorts, than the knowledge of God, and the duty we owe to him. This is not what God here promiseth in a way of grace, but what he hath given up careless, unbelieving professors of the gospel unto, in a way of vengeance.
Obs. XX. It is the Spirit of grace alone as promised in the new covenant, which frees the church from a laborious, but ineffectual way of teaching:-Such was that in use among the Jews of old; and it is well if somewhat not much unlike it do not prevail among many at this day. Whoever he be who in all his teaching doth not take his encouragement from the internal, effectual teaching of God, under the covenant of grace, and bends not all his endeavours to be subservient thereunto, hath but an Old Testament ministry, which ceaseth as unto any divine approbation.
Obs. XXI. There was a hidden treasure of divine wisdom, of the knowledge of God, laid up in the mystical revelations and institutions of the Old Testament, which the people were not then able to look into, nor to comprehend. --The confirmation and explanation of this truth, is the principal design of the VOL. VI
apostle in this whole Epistle. This knowledge those among them that feared God, and believed the promises, stirred up themselves and one another, to look after and to inquire into, saying unto one another, . Know the Lord;' howbeit their attainments were but small, in comparison of what is contained in the ensuing promise.
Obs. XXI. The whole knowledge of God in Christ, is both plainly revealed and savingly communicated, by virtue of the new covenant, unto them who do believe, as the next words declare.
The positive part of the promise remaineth unto consideration. And two things must be inquired into: 1. Unto whom it is made. 2. What is the subject matter of it. *. First, Those unto whom it is made, are so expressed in the
, . The absolutely, and then by a distribution, is emplatical
. The tormer the apostle renders in the plural number, as the words are in the original, παντες αυτων. But the terms of the distribution he rendereth in the singular number, which increaseth the emphasis, απο μικρα αυτων ως μιγαλά αυτων. The proposition is universal, as to the modification of the subject marris, • all;' but in the word avtw, "of' them,' it is restrained unto those alone with whom this covenant is made. The distribution of them is made in a proverbial speech, • from the least to the greatest,' used in a peculiar manner by Jeremiah, ch. vi. 13. viii. 10. xxxi. 34. xlii. 1. xliv. 12. It is only once more used in the Old Testament, and not elsewhere, Jonah iii. 5. And it may denote either the universality, or the generality of them that are spoken of, so as none be particularly excluded or excepted, though all absolutely be not intended.' Besides, several sorts and degrees of persons are intended. So there ever were, and ever will be, naturally, politically and spiritually, in the church of God. None of them, upon the account of their difference from others on the one hand or the other, be they the least or the greatest, are excepted or excluded from the grace of this promise. And this may be the sense of the words, if only the external admi. nistration of the grace of the new covenant be intended. None are excluded from the tender of it, or from the outward means of the communication of it in the full, plain revelation of the knowledge of God.
But whereas it is the internal, effectual grace of the covenant, and not only the means, but the infallible event thereon, not only that they shall be all taught to know, but that they shall all actually know the Lord, all individuals are intended that is, that whole church, all whose children are to be taught of God, and so to learn as to come unto him by saving faith in Christ. So doth this part of the promise hold proportion with the other, of writing the law in the hearts of the covenanters. As unto all these it is promised absolutely, that they shall know the Lord.
But yet, among them, there are many distinctions and degrees of persons, as they are variously differenced by internal and external circumstances. There are some that are greatest, and some that are least, and various intermediate degrees bea tween them. So it hath been, and so it ever must be, whilst the natural, acquired and spiritual abilities of men have great variety of degrees among them, and while men's outward advantages and opportunities do also differ. Wbereas therefore it is promised, that they shall all of them know the Lord, it is not implied that they shall all do so equally, or have the same degree of spiritual wisdom and understanding. There is a measure of saving knowledge due unto, provided for all in the covenant of grace, such as is necessary unto the participation of all other blessings and privileges of it. But in the degrees hereof, some may and do very much excel others. And we may observe,
Obs. XXIII. There are, and ever were, different degrees of persons in the church, as unto the saving knowledge of God. Hence is that distribution of them into fathers, young men, and children, 1 John ii. 13, 14. All have not one measure, all arrive not to the same stature; but yet as to the ends of the covenant, and the duties required of them in their walk before God, they that have most have nothing over, nothing to spare; and they that have least, shall have no lack. Every one's duty, it is to be content with what he receives, and to improve it unto the uttermost.
Obs. XXIV. Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the new covenant can be pretended.
Secondly, The thing promised, is the knowledge of God: • They shall all know me.' No duty is more frequently commanded than this is, nor any grace more frequently promised ; see Deut. xxix. 6. Jer. xxiv. 7. Ezek. xi. 10. xxxvi. 23. 26, 27. for it is the foundation of all other duties of obedience, and of all communion with God in them. All graces as unto their exercise, as faith, love and hope, are founded therein. And the woful want of it, which is visible in the world, is an evidence how little there is of true evangelical obedience among the generality of them that are called Christians. And two things may be considered in this promise. 1. The object, or what is to be known. 2. The knowledge itself, of what kind and nature it is.
The first is God himself, Esànoxo Ms. They shall know me,' saith the Lord. And it is so not absolutely, but as unto some especial revelation of himself. For there is a knowledge of God, as God, by the light of nature. This is not here intended, nor is it the subject of any gracious promise, but is common unto all men. There was moreover a knowledge of God by revelation under the old covenant, but attended with great obscu. rity in sundry things of the highest importance. Wherefore, there is something farther intended, as is evident from the antithesis between the two states herein declared. In brief, it is the knowledge of him as revealed in Jesus Christ, under the New Testament. To shew what is contained herein doctrinally, were to go over the principal articles of our faith, as declared in the gospel. The sum is, to know the Lord,' is to know God as he is in Christ personally, as he will be unto us in Christ graciously, and to know what he requires of us and accepts in us through the beloved. In all these things, notwithstanding all their teachings and diligence therein, the church was greatly in the dark under the Old Testament. But all these things are more clearly revealed in the gospel.
2. The knowledge of these things, is that which is promised. For notwithstanding the clear revelation of them, we abide in ourselves unable to discern them, and receive them. For such a spiritual knowledge is intended, as renews the mind, being accompanied with faith and love in the heart. This is that know. ledge which is promised in the new covenant, and which shall be wrought in all them who are interested therein. And we may observe,
Obs. XXV. The full and clear declaration of God, as he is to be known of us in this life, is a privilege reserved for and belonging unto the days of the New Testament.–Formerly, it was not made ; and more than is now made, is not to be expected in this world. And the reason hereof is, because it was made by Christ. See the exposition on chap. i. 1, 2.
Obs. XXVI. To know God as he is revealed in Christ, is the highest privilege, whereof in this life we can be made partakers. -For this is life eternal, that we may know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, John xvii. 3.
Obs. XXVII. Persons destitute of this saving knowledge, are utter strangers unto the covenant of grace.-- For this is a principal promise and effect of it, wherever it doth take place. VER. 12.-For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and
their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. This is the great fundamental promise and grace of the new covenant. For though it be last expressed, yet, in order of na ture, it precedeth the other mercies and privileges mentioned, and is the foundation of the collation or communication of them unto us. This the causal óri, whereby the apostle rendereth's in the prophet, doth demonstrate. What I have spoken, saith the Lord, shall be accomplished, for I will be merciful,' &c. without which there could be no participation of the other things
mentioned. Wherefore, not only an addition of new grace and mercy, is expressed in these words, but a reason also is rendered why, or on what grounds, he would bestow on them those other mercies.
• The house of Israel and Judah,' with whom this covenant was made in the first place, and who are spoken of, as representatives of all others who are taken into it, and who thereon be. come the Israel of God, were such as had broken and disannul. led God's former covenant by their disobedience ; · which my covenant they brake.' Nor is there any mention of any other qualification, whereby they should be prepared for, or disposed to an entrance into this new covenant. Wherefore the first thing in order of nature that is to be done unto this end, is the free pardon of sin. Without a supposition hereof, no other mercy can they be made partakers of. For while they continue un. der the guilt of sin, they are also under the curse. Wherefore a reason is here rendered, and that the only reason, why God will give unto them the other blessings mentioned, for I will be merciful'
Ons. XXVIII Free, sovereign and undeserved grace in the pardon of sin, is the original spring and foundation of all covenant mercies and blessings. -Hereby, and hereby alone, is the glory of God, and the safety of the church, provided for. And those who like not God's covenant on those terms, as none do by nature, will eternally fall short of the grace of it. Hereby all glorying, and all boasting in ourselves, is excluded, which was that which God aimed at in the contrivance and establishment of this covenant, Rom iii. 27. I Cor. i. 29–31. For this could not be, if the fundamental grace of it did depend on any condition or qualification in ourselves. If we let go the free pardon of sin, without respect unto any thing in those that receive it, we renounce the gospel. Pardon of sin is not merited by antecedent duties, but is the strongest obligation unto future duties. He that will not receive pardon, unless he can one way or other de serve it, or make himself meer for it ; or pretends to have rea ceived it, and finds not himself obliged unto universal obedience by it, neither is nor shall be partaker of it.
In the promise itself we may consider, 1. Who it is made unto. 2. What it is that is promised.
First, The first is expressed in the pronoun avtwo, their,' three times repeated. All those absolutely, and only those with whom God makes this covenant, are intended. Those whose sins are not pardoned, do in no sense partake of this covenant, it is not made with them. For this is the covenant that God makes witb them, that he will be merciful unto their sins,' that is unto them in the pardon of them. Some speak of a universal condicional covenant made pith all mankind. If there be any such