Page images

and peace with God, any other way but by the promise. For representing the commands of the covenant of works, requiring perfect sinless obedience, under the penalty of the curse, it convinced men that this was no way for sinners to seek for life and salvation by. And herewith it so urged the consciences of men, that they could have no rest nor peace in themselves, but what the promise would afford them, whereunto they saw a necessity of betaking themselves.

2. By representing the ways and means of the accomplishment of the promise, and of that whereon all the efficacy of it, unto the justification and salvation of sinners, doth depend. This was the death, blood-shedding, oblation or sacrifice of Christ the promised Seed. This all its offerings and ordinances of worship directed unto; as his incarnation, with the inhabitation of God in his human nature, was typified by the tabernacle and temple. Wherefore, it was so far from disannulling the promise, or diverting the minds of the people of God from it, that by all means it established it, and led unto it. But,

[ocr errors]

Thirdly, It will be said, as was before observed, that if it did neither abrogate the first covenant of works, and come in the room thereof, nor disannul the promise made unto Abraham, then unto what end did it serve, or what benefit did the church receive thereby? I answer,

1. There hath been, with respect unto God's dealing with the church, xevoμid twv kuigwy, a certain dispensation and dispo*sition of times and seasons, reserved unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God. Hence, from the beginning he revealed himself, πολυτρόπως and πολυμερώς, 6 as seemed good unto him, ch. i. 1. "And this dispensation of times had a neu, a fulness,' assigned unto it, wherein all things, namely, that belong unto the revelation and communication of God unto the church, should come to their height, and have as it were the last hand given unto them. This was in the sending of Christ, as the apostle 'declares, Eph. i. 10. that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might bring all unto an head in Christ.' Until this season came, God dealt variously with the church, an e, in manifold or various wisdom,' according as he saw it needful and useful for it, in that season which it was to pass through, before the fulness of times came. Of this nature was his entrance into the covenant with the church at Sinai, the reasons whereof we shall immediately inquire into. In the mean time, if we had no other answer to this inquiry, but only this, that in the order of the disposal or dispensation of the seasons of the church, before the fulness of times came, God in his manifold wisdom saw it necessary for the then present state of the church in that season, we may well acquiesce therein. But,

2. The apostle acquaints us in general with the ends of this

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


dispensation of God, Gal. iii. 19-24. Wherefore then serv eth the law? it was added, because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made, and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith, which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.' Much light might be given unto the mind of the Holy Ghost in these words, and that in things not commonly discerned by expositors, if we should divert unto the opening of them. I will at present only mark from them what is unto our present purpose.

There is a double inquiry made by the apostle with respect unto the law, or the covenant of Sinai.

1. Unto what end in general it served. 2. Whether it were not contrary to the promise of God. Unto both these, the apostle answereth from the nature, office and work of that covenant. For there were, as hath been declared, two things in it.

1st, A revival and representation of the first covenant of works, with its sanction and curse.

2dly, A direction of the church unto the accomplishment of the promise. From these two doth the apostle frame his answer unto the double inquiry, laid down.

First, Unto the first inquiry, unto what end it served? he answers, it was added because of transgressions. The promise being given, there seems to have been no need of it; why then was it added to it at that season? it was added because of transgressions.' The fulness of time was not yet come wherein the promise was to be fulfilled, accomplished and established as the only covenant wherein the church was to walk with God; or the seed was not yet come, as the apostle here speaks, to whom the promise was made. In the mean time, some order must be taken about sin and transgression, that all the order of things appointed of God, might not be overflowed by them. And this was done two ways by the law.

1. By reviving the commands of the covenant of works, with the sanction of death, it put, an awe on the minds of men, and set bounds unto their lusts, that they should not dare to run forth into that excess to which they were naturally inclined. It was therefore added because of transgressions,' that in the declaration of God's severity against them, some bounds,

might be fixed unto them; for the knowledge of sin is by the law. 2. To shut up unbelievers, and such as would not seek for righteousness, life and salvation by the promise, under the power of the covenant of works, and curse attending it. It concluded, or shut up all under sin, saith the apostle, Gal. iii. 22. This was the end of the law, for this end was it added, as it gave a revival unto the covenant of works.

Secondly, Unto the second inquiry, which ariseth out of this supposition, namely, that the law did convince of sin, and condemn for sin, which is, whether it be not then contrary to the grace of God? the apostle, in like manner, returns a double answer, taken from the second use of the law before insisted on, with respect unto the promise. And,

1. He says, that although the law doth thus rebuke sin, convince of sin, and condemn for sin, so setting bounds unto transgressions and transgressors, yet did God never intend it as a means to give life and righteousness, nor was it able so to do. The end of the promise was to give righteousness, justification and salvation, all by Christ, to whom and concerning whom it was made. But this was not the end for which the law was revived in the covenant of Sinai. For although in itself it requires a perfect righteousness, and gives a promise of life thereon, he that doth these things he shall live in them;' yet it could give neither righteousness nor life, unto any in the state of sin; see Rom. viii. 3. x. 4. Wherefore the promise and the law having divers ends, they are not contrary to one another.

2. The law, saith he, had a great respect unto the promise, and was given of God for this very end, that it might lead and direct men unto Christ, which is sufficient to answer the question proposed at the beginning of this discourse, about the ends of this covenant, and the advantage which the church received thereby.

What hath been spoken, may suffice to declare the nature of this covenant in general; and two things do here evidently follow, wherein the substance of the whole truth contended for by the apostle doth consist.

1. That whilst the covenant of grace was contained and proposed only in the promise, before it was solemnly confirmed in the blood and sacrifice of Christ, and so legalized or established as the only rule of the worship of the church, the introduction of this other covenant on Sinai did not constitute a new way or means of righteousness, life and salvation; but believers sought for them by the covenant of grace alone, as declared in the promise. This follows evidently upon what we have discoursed, and it secures absolutely that great fundamental truth, which the apostle in this and all his other epistles so earnestly contendeth for; namely, that there neither is, nor ever was, either righteousness, justification, life or salvation to be

attained by any law, or the works of it, (for this covenant at Mount Sinai comprehended every law that God ever gave unto the church), but by Christ alone, and faith in him.

2. That whereas, when this covenant was introduced in the pleasure of God, there was prescribed with it a form of outward worship, suited to that dispensation of times, and to the then present state of the church; so, upon the introduction of the new covenant in the fulness of times, to be the rule of all intercourse between God and the church, both that covenant and all its worship must be disannulled. This is that which the apostle proves with all sorts of arguments, manifesting the great advantage of the church thereby. These things, I say do evidently follow on the preceding discourses, and are the main truths contended for by the apostle.

Fourthly, There remaineth one thing more only to be considered, before we enter on the comparison between the two covenants, here directed unto by the apostle. And this is, how this first covenant came to be an especial covenant unto that people; wherein we shall manifest the reason of its introduction at that season. And unto this end sundry things are to be considered concerning that people, and the church of God in them, with whom this covenant was made, which will farther evidence both the nature, use and necessity of it.

First, This people were the posterity of Abraham unto whom the promise was made, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Wherefore, from among them was the promised seed to be raised up in the fulness of time, or its proper season. From among them was the Son of God to take on him the seed of Abraham. To this end sundry things were necessary.

1. That they should have a certain abiding place or country, which they might freely inhabit, distinct from other nations, and under a rule or sceptre of their own. So it is said of them,

that the people should dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations,' Numb. xxiii. 9. and the Sceptre was not to depart from them until Shiloh came,' Gen. xlix. 10. For God had regard unto his own glory in his faithfulness, as unto his word and oath given unto Abraham, not only that they should be accomplished, but that their accomplishment should be evident and conspicuous. But if this posterity of Abraham, from among whom the promised seed was to rise, had been, as it is at this day with them, scattered abroad on the face of the earth, mixed with all nations, and under their power, although God might have accomplished his promise really in raising up Christ from among some of his posterity, yet could it not be proved or evidenced that he had so done, by reason of the confusion and mixture of the people with others. Wherefore God provided a land and country for them, which they might in

habit by themselves, and as their own, even the land of Canaan, And this was so suited unto all the ends, of God towards that people, as might be declared in sundry instances, that God is said, to have espied this land, out for them,' Ezek. xx. 6. He chose it out as most meet for his purpose, towards that people, of all lands under heaven.


2. That there should be always kept among them, an open confession and visible representation of the end for which they were so separated from all the nations of the world. They were not to dwell in the land of Canaan, merely for secular ends, and to make, as it were, a dumb shew: but as they were there maintained and preserved to evidence the faithfulness of God, in bringing forth the promised seed in the fulness of time; so there was to be a testimony kept up among them unto that end of God whereunto they were preserved. This was the end of all their ordinances of worship, of the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices and ordinances, which were all appointed by Moses on the command of God, for a testimony of those things which should be spoken afterwards,' Heb. iii. 5. These things were necessary, in the first place, with respect unto the ends of God towards that people.


Secondly, It becomes not the wisdom, holiness, and sovereignty of God, to call any people into an especial relation unto himself, to do them, good in an eminent and peculiar manner, and then to suffer them to live at their pleasure, without any regard unto what he had done for them. Wherefore, having granted unto this people, those great privileges of the land of Canaan, and the ordinances of worship relating unto the great end mentioned, he moreover prescribed unto them laws, rules, and terms of obedience, whereon they should hold and enjoy that land, with all the privileges annexed unto the possession thereof. And these are both expressed, and frequently inculcated in the repetition and promises of the law. But yet, in the prescription of these terms, God, reserved to himself the sovereignty of dealing with them. For, had he left them to stand or fall, absolutely by the terms prescribed unto them, they might and would have utterly forfeited both the land, and all the privileges they enjoyed therein. And had it so fallen out, then the great end of God in preserving them a separate people until the seed should come, and in presenting a represen tation thereof among them, had been frustrated. Wherefore, although he punished them for their transgressions, according to the threatenings of the law, yet would he not bring the 7, or curse of the law' upon them, and utterly cast them off, until his great end was accomplished, Mal. iv. 4-6.

Thirdly, God would not take this people off from the promise, because his church was among them, and they could nei ther please God, nor be accepted with him, but by faith there

« EelmineJätka »