The Ancient Faith

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Benjamin Franklin

TEXT.–“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”–JER. xxxi: 31.

ALL who talk on the matters of the Bible at all use such terms as “first covenant” and “second covenant,” “new covenant” and “old covenant,” “new testament” and “old testament, “new institution” and “old institution,” a “better covenant;” which last implies one not so good. In the use of those terms, we have Moses on one side and Jesus on the other; the law on the one hand and the Gospel on the other; the letter on the one hand and the spirit on the other. We cannot talk on the matters of the Bible without the use of these terms. The ideas contained in these terms run through the entire revelation from God to man, and, whether men understand them or not, they are continually using the terms. Why the King James translators have given us the word “covenant” in the eighth chapter of Hebrews, and “testament” in the ninth chapter, is difficult to conceive, unless it was to darken counsel; for, in the original, we have the same word (diatheke) in both chapters, to express precisely the same thing, or used in the same sense. The mere English reader must see, as soon as the suggestion is made, the “covenant” of the eighth chapter is the same as the “testament” of the ninth. It is not a matter of serious consequence whether you translate the original Greek word diatheke covenant or testament, but certainly it should be translated by the same word in both chapters, as the same thing is meant in both.

By these terms, we have two institutions constantly brought to view–the old and new. The old was by Moses and the new is by Jesus; hence, Moses represents the one and Jesus the other. The law sometimes stands for the one and the Gospel for the other; the letter, in some cases, stands for the one and the spirit for the other; the old covenant, in some cases, stands for the one and the new covenant for the other; the old testament, in some instances, stands for the one and the new testament for the other. No matter which of these representative terms is used, on either side, the same thing is meant. One is the old dispensation and the other the new; the old institution and the new–the former by Moses and the latter by Jesus. It then becomes a matter of transcendent importance to determine distinctly, all the time, what belongs to the old institution and what to the new; what belongs to the better covenant and what belongs to the best–to determine where the one terminates and the other begins. It is hoped that some of these things will be settled clearly and thoroughly in this discourse.


During the past hundred years the world has been furnished with some speculations touching! the matters here introduced. It would be uncourteous to pass all these speculations in silence, therefore a respectful attention shall be given some of them. One of them starts out as follows: “God made a covenant with Abraham, and that covenant has been perpetuated to the present time, and is the Gospel covenant.” The arguments to sustain this theory are styled “arguments to prove the identity of the covenant.” What is meant by “identity of the covenant?” “Identity” is not similarity. Two things may be similar, but cannot be identical. To be identical, it must be the same thing, not two things. It is, therefore, nonsense, to talk of the identity of the covenants, or the two covenants. There must be no two in the case, but the one identical same covenant, made with Abraham, perpetuated through the Mosaic and Christian institutions.

But it would be well, before going farther, to inquire into the importance of sustaining this theory of the identity of the covenant. What is to be gained by it? One replies that “there were infants in the Abrahamic covenant, and, if proved that the same covenant has been perpetuated to the present time, and is the Gospel covenant, infant church-membership is sustained.” If that is the purpose, it would be well enough to look into the matter a little closely and see if it is right.

  1. If the covenant made with Abraham is the Gospel covenant, then neither we nor our children are in it; and that is not the worst–we can not get into it. Gen. xvii: 13, the Lord describes the only classes in that covenant. 1. “He that is born in thy house.” 2. “He that is bought with thy money.” We can not come in under either of those heads. We were not born in Abraham’s house or family, and can not be, neither ourselves nor our children. We were not, neither we nor our children, bought with Abraham’s money, and cannot be. We can come in under neither of these heads. If this is the Gospel covenant, both ourselves and children are forever excluded from it. Do you reply that there were two covenants made with Abraham, and that the reference has been made to the wrong covenant. The covenant referred to is the one having infants in it, and, if you abandon that, you find no infants. It is the one to which you must go to find both infants and circumcision. Your dilemma is this: If you go to that covenant, you find that we are excluded by the description of the only two classes in it; that we were not, and our children were not born in Abraham’s family, nor purchased with his money. If you abandon that covenant, you find no infants nor circumcision. In either case, you are completely defeated and your argument ruined.
  1. Jeremiah, standing thirteen hundred and fifty-one years this side of the time when the Lord made that covenant with Abraham, and, looking forward, says, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” Now, it is no matter how many covenants men talk of; nor what they call them–whether Adamic, Abrahamic, or Mosaic–before Jeremiah spoke, for he points forward to a covenant which the Lord says “I will make,” and not to one which I have made, with Adam, Abraham, Moses, or any body else. But how do you know the prophet was speaking of the Gospel covenant? Because Paul quotes his language–Heb. viii: 8-13–and applies it to the Gospel, showing that the Gospel itself is that new covenant that the Lord said “I will make.” Instead of this new covenant, the Gospel, which the Lord said “I will make,” the old covenant of circumcision, which he had made, the Lord most explicitly states that “it shall not be according to that old covenant.” After a few minutes, it will be necessary to return to the language of Jeremiah again.

Another beautiful theory starts out as follows: “The Lord established a church in the time of Abraham, and that church has been perpetuated down through all the generations and dispensations to the present time, and is now the Gospel Church, or Church of Christ.” You inquire: Suppose all that is so; what of it? He replies: “There were infants in that church that God established in the time of Abraham, and if I can show that the same church has been perpetuated to the present time, and is now the Gospel Church, then there are infants in it now.” Arguments to prove this are styled arguments on the identity of the Church. What do you intend to do with this argument? says one. It must be shown that it is without the shadow of foundation. How can that be done? As follows:

  1. There was no church established in the time of Abraham, nor was there any church in existence at that time. There was no church in the world at the time of Abraham, and there had been none from the beginning of time. There need be no angry feeling nor disputing about what is here said. The statements just made are in regard to a plain matter of fact. It depends on no speculation. If there was any church–Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, or any other–in the time of Abraham, turn to the account of it and read it. There is not one word about any church in the world during the first twenty-five hundred years. The only worship in the world was family worship. The head of the family was the prophet, priest, and ruler. It is outside of the range of all reason and argument to permit men to assume that there was a church in the time of Abraham, and then assume that there were infants in it, and then assume that the Church then and now is the same Church, and, on those three assumptions to found a positive divine institution. You may then dismiss from your mind all idea of any Abrahamic church, with or without infants in it, and give yourself no more trouble about its identity with the Church of God now. Find an account of any church at all in the time of Abraham before you trouble yourself about its identity or similarity with anything. The nation of Israel in the wilderness–Acts vii: 38–is called “the church in the wilderness,” in the common version, but by the Bible union, “the congregation in the wilderness.” This congregation in the wilderness certainly is not identical with the Church now, nor similar.
  1. The Lord said, after he had entered on his public ministry–Matt. xvi: 18–“On this rock I will build my church.” Notice, he does not say have built, but will build. This does not refer to an event past, but future. It does not refer to a church built in the time of Adam, Abraham, or Moses, or to one built any time before the Lord came into the world, but to one which the Lord said “I will build.” As certain as this language is true, the church, or community, established by the Savior was not built or established when the Lord uttered the words “I will build my church.”


  1. Paul says–Eph. ii: 14-18–“For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might make the two one new man in himself, making peace; and might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” What is the Lord represented as doing here? As making one–making one new man. The word “man” here is used figuratively. What does it stand for? For the body, community, or church which Christ established. Then, it will make sense to insert the word church instead of the word “man.” What did the Lord then make of the two?–“one new church.” It was not, then, the continuation of one old church, but the making of one new church. This ought to end all idea of the perpetuation of an old church, and turn our attention to the one new church, which the Lord said “I will build,” and which he did build.
  1. To whom did Peter preach his first discourse after the Holy Spirit came on him and his fellow-apostles, to guide them into all truth? Certainly, to members of the old church, or Jews. They were all in the old, or the Jewish church, before he preached a word. What became of them after they heard Peter and gave themselves to Christ? The history says, “There were, the same day, about three thousand added to them.” Added to whom? To the same old church to which they already belonged? By no means; but to the apostles and the one hundred and twenty brethren–the “one new man,” or church, which the Lord said “I will build,” and which he founded on the day of Pentecost. These were in the old church before they heard one word from Peter; were taken out of it and added to them–the apostles and brethren, or the new church.


But now attention must be given more minutely to the language of the prophet, Jer. xxxi: 31. He not only says, for the Lord, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,” but adds, “It shall not be according to the covenant that I made with their fathers.” If it shall not be according to the covenant made with their fathers, wherein shall it differ from it? He proceeds, “They shall not,” under the new covenant, “teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord.” You inquire, why they shall not teach, saying, Know the Lord? The reason is, that under the new covenant, they shall all know the Lord. He will write his law on their hearts, in their inward parts, or in their minds, and they shall all know him from the least to the greatest. It is a condition on which they shall enter the new covenant, that they shall know the Lord. They cannot enter the new covenant without knowing the Lord. In Christ, they “are all the children of God by faith.” There cannot be one in the new covenant without faith. This brings us to the grand and distinguishing difference between the old covenant and the new. The basis of admission is different. Under the old covenant, the ground of membership was in a birth of flesh, or a purchase with money. The covenant included the two classes: 1. “He that is born in thy house.” 2. “He that is bought with thy money.” This included unconscious infants, who did not know the Lord, and who had to be taught, saying, “Know the Lord.” The ignorant heathen servant, bought with money, was in the covenant by virtue of a purchase with money without knowing the Lord, and they were required to teach him to know the Lord. Under this covenant there were these two grounds of membership, or grounds of which they were in the covenant, without knowing the Lord. In the one case, they were in the covenant on the fleshly basis, or the ground of a blood relation, or a fleshly birthright, the same as gives a man an interest in his father’s estate in our country. In the other, the money basis, or a purchase with money. In neither of these cases did faith have anything to do in the matter. They were not in the covenant on the ground of faith, any change in heart or life, of being “a new creature,” or “born again.”


Under the new covenant, the best covenant, founded on better promises, they are not in it by virtue of the first, or natural birth, but being born again; not on the ground of being born of parents in the Church, but born of God; not on the ground of a fleshly or blood relation to man, but a spiritual relation to God; not in the covenant in ignorance of God, so as to have to be taught to know the Lord, but by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not have to be taught, in the new covenant, to know the Lord, because they cannot enter it without knowing him. No man comes into this new covenant by being born in Abraham’s family, nor by being purchased with his money, nor by being born in any other man’s family, or purchased with his money; but by being born again, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but by the will of God; not of corruptible seed, but the incorruptible seed, the Word of God, that lives and abides forever. No matter, under the new covenant, what blood a man has in his veins, nor to what nation he belongs. That is all nothing. The warning now is, “Say not we have Abraham for our father.” “We have no confidence in the flesh.” “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” Circumcision avails nothing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

This introduces us to the most degrading, corrupting, and damaging error that ever tool: effect on the interests of the kingdom of God–the error of retrograding to the old fleshly basis of membership, and making flesh and not spirit the ground of membership in the Church. This was the precise thing that came up in the conversation between the Savior and Nicodemus. The Savior knew that Nicodemus was standing on fleshly birth, his blood relation to Abraham, and swept all that away by informing him, that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This astonished the rabbi, and he instantly inquired, “How can these things be?” The Lord explained to him, that “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” and further on, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” “Wonder not,” said he, “that I said you must be born again.” If this teaching of our Lord were fully unfolded, how many thousands of honest souls, who have been misled and made to believe they were in the covenant, or in the Church, who are not, would never rest till they would, by faith, enter into Christ, or, which is the same, into his body, the Church?

Nine-tenths of all the Church members in the world, if the language of the Savior with Nicodemus were carried out, in the true meaning and spirit of it, would find that they are not in the body of Christ, the Church. They would find that they have been misled–deceived–and that they are not in Christ. Lift up your eyes and survey the field.


The Pope claims two hundred millions of human beings under his dominion, or about one-sixth of the population of the globe. There are now about three millions and a half of these, or something near one person in eleven of the whole population, in the United States, all claimed as members of the Church. On what grounds are all these claimed as members of the Church? On the ground of faith? of any divine change in heart or life? any personal holiness or piety? No; nothing of this kind. Any knowledge of God? By no means, for they were, at least nine-tenths of them, in the Church before they knew there was a God or Savior. Suppose Archbishop Purcell were to step up before us, and you would inquire of him, Are you a member of the Church? Certainly, he would reply, and not simply a member, but a member of the only true Church. How do you suppose he became a member? A gentleman probably would respond: “I suppose, sir, that he read the doctrines of Holy Mother Church, and became convinced that she was the true Church, and joined.” At first thought, it appears very reasonable that such should have been the case, but the truth is far otherwise. He never joined “Holy Mother Church,” as you call it, nor any other church. He was in the Romish Church before he knew his right hand from his left; before he knew there was a God, a Savior, or a Church; not by “being born again,” but by his birth of the flesh, or by virtue of his mother being in the Church when he was born.

Someone thinks this is true of Romanists, but not of others. But let us look; the Greek Church is put down in the Cyclopedia Americana at sixty-six millions. On what basis is the membership of all these? The same as the Romanists. Their membership is founded in a blood relation, and they are in the Church before they have any faith or knowledge of God. Regeneration is not known among them. There are about seven millions of Jews in the world, all members on the fleshly basis, and in the Church by virtue of a blood relation. What shall be said more? Look at that civil, moral, quiet, and peaceable Friend, or Quaker, with his broad-brimmed hat, his round-breasted and drab-colored coat, as he sedately walks in, and inquire of him, whether he is a member of the Church. He answers, Certainly. You inquire when and where he joined the Church. He explains to you that he never joined the Church at all! A member of the Church, and never joined! How can that be? How would he show that he is a member of the Church if he never joined? Show it from the Bible! Do you inquire, what part of the Bible? The answer is, from the leaves containing the family record, showing that his mother was a member when he was born, and consequently he has a birthright. His membership has nothing to do with faith, the influence of the Spirit, the knowledge of God, his own volition or action, but was secured by a birth of the flesh. Yet he talks about “the light within” and the “teaching of the Spirit,” but nothing of this kind had anything to do with making him a member of the Church.

No doubt many professional and scientific men have looked on preachers as a very stupid class, disputing about sprinkling a little water on the face of an infant, and they have turned to their pursuits, thinking the question one of no consequence. But they misapprehend the question. It is not one about sprinkling water on the face of an infant or anybody else, much water, or little water, that we are discussing. The inquiry is about making a member of the Church without faith, without the knowledge of God, a single divine impression on the heart, any influence of the Spirit of God, the person’s own heart or conscience having anything to do with it. Here is where the controversy lies. The ground here maintained is, that no human being can be a member of the body of Christ without faith, a change in heart and life–the heart, conscience, and volition being involved in the matter.

An English lady, once a school teacher, heard a discourse that roused her considerably, and, in the private circle, introduced the subject of “infant baptism,” as she styled it. The preacher told her that there was a matter lying back of that of much more importance to her. She inquired what it was. He told her that some people insisted that no religious rite, ordinance, or act, could be of any value unless the heart was in it, and inquired how she looked on that matter. She said she insisted the same herself. He inquired what was meant by the terms professors and non-professors of religion. She replied, illustrating by the profession of law, medicine, and teaching. He then said: “Madam, did you ever, for yourself; from your own heart and with your own lips, make a profession of the religion of Christ?” She replied: “My dear mother consecrated me to the Lord when I was a little child.” The preacher continued: “I presume your mother was a good woman and did many good things; but I am inquiring into what you have done yourself. The apostle says: ‘To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are.’ Did you ever from your own heart make a profession yourself, or yield yourself to God?” Under much excitement she rose and left the room. After hearing a few more discourses, she came forward, stood up before her God and Savior, and from her own heart and with her own mouth, confessed the Savior of the world, and yielded herself to be a servant of God.

After all the ado we have had about heart-work, heart-religion, doing from the heart, etc., the strongest charge lying against the popular religion of our times is that there is not enough heart and faith in it. The heart-work is the very thing that is lacking. The idea of making a member of the Church, not only without the “heart-work,” so called, but without faith, a single spiritual impression, religious idea, or even knowledge of the existence of God, or even the exercise of human is one of the most preposterous and absurd things in the records of history. Take another illustration of the principle involved. A preacher was once on a train of cars and soon saw that the two gentlemen sitting just in front of him were both preachers; that they resided in the same city and were rather intimate acquaintances with each other; that one was a Methodist and the other a Presbyterian. As the train glided on, they engaged in conversation, sometimes bordering on argument, touching the comparative merits of their respective churches. After many pleasant hints had been made, the Methodist preacher said to the Presbyterian, “We have the advantage of you in our church.” “In what?” inquired the other. “We give all their choice in baptism; if they require immersion, we immerse; if they prefer sprinkling, we sprinkle, or pouring, we pour.” The other appeared perplexed with this. There was a show of liberality in it that the other did not know how to offset. The Methodist preacher seemed to triumph, in this liberty in his church, of all having their “choice of modes.” After talking loud and in a somewhat exultant manner for some moments, he turned to the preacher sitting back of him, knowing nothing as to who he was, and, seeing that he was listening to the conversation, said, “Stranger, do you not think I have the better of the argument?” “What church do you represent?” said the strange preacher. “The Methodist Episcopal Church,” said he. “Did you say you give all their choice between sprinkling, pouring, and immersion?” “I did,” said he. “I believe you baptize infants sometimes,” said the stranger. “I do,” said he. “What becomes of the choice of an infant when you baptize it?” inquired the stranger. He did not tell. It has no choice, not only between sprinkling, pouring’ and immersion, but it has no choice between Romanists and Protestants, any more than the types that shall print these words have, whether they will print these or some other words; no more choice than the brick in your house, whether they would go into it, or into some other house.

Some years since, when that mysterious political organization, styled “Know-Nothings,” was in full blast in this country, they stated in their publications, that Romish girls, hired as servants in Protestant families, would fall in love with the good lady’s little infant, and when the mother would be out, steal off with it to a priest, to sprinkle water on it, in the name of the Trinity, and thus make a Roman Catholic of it. This was rung in the ears of the archbishop in Cincinnati for weeks. By Protestants it was regarded as a most cruel thing, to take a little infant child and allow a priest to bind its soul down in a system of religion before it could have any choice or knowledge in the matter, or even know good or evil. Nor did anyone ever think the thing any worse than it was. The transaction, on the part of the priest, was the most insidious, unmanly, and covert of all transactions. The idea of a priest, who can’t prove his doctrine, and is afraid to try it, through the assistance of an innocent, but deluded girl, as he goes through society, seeking and obtaining the opportunity to bind down the soul of an unconscious infant and performing the act, is certainly disgusting to an American citizen of intelligence! What wonderful learning and talent it must require to proselyte an infant child, without a spiritual impulse or idea of the will of God to man.

But how much worse is it for a Romish girl, who believes it will be lost if it is not in the Romish Church, to do this, than for the Protestant mother to take it to her preacher and have him bind its soul down in a system before she knows whether it will believe in that system, in God or the Savior? What becomes of all freedom, on the part of the child, volition, private judgment, and even conscience? What becomes of faith, repentance, confession, volition? All these are swept away, and a scheme of making members of infants, without faith, a change of heart, any knowledge of God or the Savior is adopted! This is a grand scheme for a class of men not able to advocate their religious system, by argument, reason, and Scripture before intelligent men and women. These little folks can make no resistance. They can be made Mohammedans as easily as anything, if the mother is so disposed. How different all this from the Gospel, preached by the holy apostles, which appeals to the judgment, the heart, and consciences of men and women, convincing them that Jesus is the Lord, and teaches them that to whomsoever they yield themselves servants to obey, his servants they are. The infant yields not itself, but is bound down by the consent of the mother and the act of the priest before it can yield itself to any thing.

“Then,” says a man, “you have no salvation for infants.”

Is that so? Do you believe they will be lost, if they are not in the Church? “No,” you say. Then, if you can find infant salvation without their being in the Church, why may not others find the same salvation for them? But what do you give them more than those who do not take them into the Church? You give them no Gospel, knowing that they can not understand or receive it. They give them none. So far you and they are even. You give them no faith and they give them none. Here you and they are even again. You give them no repentance and they give them none. This brings you out even again. You do not believe the infant will be lost if it is not in the Church, and they do not. Here you agree again. What, then, do you give the infant which they do not? Nothing under the sun, only a few drops of water on its face. If you, then, have salvation for it and we have not, it is water salvation and precious little of the water at that.

“What, then, will you do with infants?” says a man. Nothing, till they can know the Lord. Till they can believe, nothing can be done for them, nor do they need any thing. Till they can know the Lord and believe, they are not subjects of religion, not accountable. They need no faith, repentance, confession, nor membership in the Church. They need no Church. They have no personal or actual sin. Hence Jesus said of them, “Of such is the kingdom of God,” and to persons of the years of accountability, he said, “Except you repent and become as little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This shows that he did not style them little sinners, needing baptism or church-membership to save them, but as needing nothing, only what any saint needs, a resurrection from the dead and glorification to prepare them for heaven.

No one need begin now to think or talk of children growing up in heathenism. Nothing of that sort is here encouraged, but the farthest possible from it. All here said is in reference to children in infancy, or before they can be taught anything. As soon as possible, teach them to know the Lord, to confide in him, or believe on him and love him. As soon as they are capable, teach them to yield themselves to his divine and glorious authority. Teach them the whole will of God as soon as you possibly can. This is not only right, but you are required to do it. This is a very different thing from binding them down by a vow placed on them before they can know anything.

It is now seen that to hear, believe, repent, turn to God, and become a member of the Church, is a personal thing. It is a personal act, and personal responsibility is involved in it. This perfectly corresponds with the whole new institution.

But now one starts up from a new point, admitting all that has gone before, and says, “I plant myself here: John the Immerser immersed the Savior in Jordan and, as he stood on the bank of the Jordan, the Holy Spirit came on him and consecrated him High Priest of the Christian profession. I, therefore, maintain, that he entered his priestly office immediately after his immersion.” Are you sure of that? There are several things that you should settle before you thus decide:

  1. Where have we an account of his acting as priest while on earth? Certainly, if he entered his priestly office during his personal ministry, his biographers have wholly omitted to mention it. Not one word have we in the book, either about his being consecrated priest immediately after his immersion, or even officiating as priest while on earth. This idea is without one scrap of authority in the book of God.
  2. Paul says, Heb. viii: 4, “For if he were on earth he could not be a priest, seeing that there are already priests who offer gifts according to the law.” He “entered not into the holy places made with hands, figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” See Heb. ix: 24. He never officiated on earth, as a priest, nor in the holy place on earth, but in the true holy place. When he was bleeding, suffering, and dying on the cross, he was not in the capacity nor performing the functions of a priest. He was then the bleeding, suffering, and dying victim. He was not after the order of Aaron, nor Levi; belonged not to the Aaronic nor the Levitical priesthood, but was a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec, who was without descent–that is, lineal descent, belonging to neither of the priestly lines in the old institution. He could not be a priest while these old priests were in authority. Their authority closed when Jesus died and nailed the handwriting of ordinances to the cross. This was the end of the law for righteousness. When the law of carnal commandments was abolished, taken out of the way, and Jesus had ascended to heaven, the true holy place, and not with the blood of bulls and of goats, but with his own blood, as the Great High Priest of the Christian profession, he appeared in the presence of God for us, to purge us forever from our sins.

Under the law the high priests had to enter the holy places on earth with the blood of bulls and of goats, to offer for their own sins and also for the sins of the people. But these offerings could not take away sins, but only laid them over another year, when they were in the same manner brought up in remembrance. Thus all the sins, even of the saints, still remained and were brought into remembrance every year. But when Christ, with the better sacrifice the sacrifice of himself and his own blood–appeared in heaven, the true holy place, once for all, he purged us forever from our sins. There will be no more animal remembrance of sins and no more sin-offerings. He is the end of sin-offering. Our sins and iniquities will be brought into remembrance, in the holy places on earth, by the high priests, no more forever. Jesus, with his one offering, has purged us forever from our old sins. As our high priest, he can now be touched with the feeling of our infirmity, and we can therefore come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain help in every time of need.

In this better covenant, on better promises, we have none, who entered in infancy, without knowing the the Lord, nor any who were brought into the covenant by a purchase with money, without knowing the Lord, who have to be taught saying, “Know the Lord,” but all in the covenant are these by faith, by knowing the Lord, and their own voluntary act. By their own sin-offering their sins have been purged forever, and there is no more remembrance of their sins. They can now offer the daily sacrifice, the fruit of their lips, as the true worshipers, who worship in spirit and in truth. Their religion is not founded in flesh and blood. It is no matter what nation, kindred, or tongue they are of The matter now is a new creature–not to be born of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the will of God.

This new covenant, or testament, was to be written on the heart, in the mind, in their inward parts, and, of course, they would all know him from the least to the greatest. How was this writing to be made? How was the law to be written on their hearts or in their minds? There are two ways of ascertaining how this was to be done: 1. By ascertaining the meaning of this figurative language, and applying it. 2. By going to where the Lord actually put his law into their minds, and learning how he did it. What, then, is the meaning of this figurative language? Literally, there is no writing on the heart or in the mind. The real import is, that it should be put into their minds or understandings. This is represented by the figure of writing. In this figure, the Lord is the writer. He says “I will write.” The heart answers to the paper, or it is that on which the writing is made. “I will write it on their hearts.” The apostles had an instrumentality in it, for Paul says, speaking of this writing, “It was ministered by us”–the apostles. They occupied the place of the pen. But this writing was not with ink, but by “the Spirit of the living God.” The Spirit, then, answers to the ink in this figure.

When the appointed time had come, for the law of “the Lord to go forth from Jerusalem,” and all things were ready for the Lord to commence writing, as in all cases of writing, the first thing was to fill the pen with ink. The apostles answered to the pen, and he filled them with the Holy Spirit, which answered to the ink. Through the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, God spoke the law. When the people heard it “they were cut to the heart.”

But, laying aside all figures, how did the Lord put his law, the new covenant, into the minds of the people? The answer is, that the Gospel was preached by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, which things the angels desired to look into. This was in accordance with the divine arrangement, for the Lord commissioned the apostles to “Go, disciple all nations”–to “Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Paul was sent to the people, and to the Gentiles, to “turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” “To me,” says Paul, “is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which in other ages was hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” See Eph. i: 10. The Lord says, in his last public address to his Father, “The words which thou gavest me I have given them, and they have kept thy word.” These words contained the law of the Lord. The Father gave them to our Lord, the Messiah, and he gave them to the apostles. The Lord then prays for them who should believe on him, through their word.

How, then, did he put his law into the minds of the people? He gave it to his Son, the Mediator of the new covenant. He gave it to the holy apostles, whom he had chosen as his embassadors. They were then filled with the Holy Spirit to bring all things to their remembrance, and preached this law of the Lord. The people heard it, and were cut to the heart, and cried out, “What shall we do?” This is the manner in which he put his law into their minds–wrote it on their hearts. Here, now, are persons inquiring at the door of the kingdom for admission. They want the door opened to them. Here is the man with the keys of the kingdom, ready to open the door, indorsed by the statement of the King: “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Whatever terms of admittance into the kingdom, or of remission of sins, he shall make known in opening the door or answering the question, “What shall we do?” will be ratified or bound in heaven. The terms of entrance into the kingdom, or of pardon, set forth by Peter, on Pentecost, were bound or ratified in heaven, and the persons released from their sins, in accordance with these terms, are really released, and those not released in accordance with these terms are really not released at all. The setting forth of these terms of pardon, or admittance into the kingdom of God, and thus opening the way to inquiring persons, was using the keys of the kingdom–unlocking the door. These terms are now incorporated in the new covenant, or the law of the Lord, and written on the hearts of all in the covenant. No man has anything to do now, in displaying his charity, by any modification of terms of the covenant. The true man of God does not tamper with the terms of induction. He is neither charitable nor uncharitable in the case. He is in no way responsible for the terms of the covenant. His work is honestly to present them as he finds them, giving assurance that the new covenant, with the terms of induction into the kingdom, or, which is the same, the terms of pardon, and everything else in it, is sanctioned by the “two immutable things”–the promise and the oath of God. This covenant, or the law of the Lord, is the immutable counsel of his will. Men may rely on its terms of pardon for the alien who would turn to God, and for the disciple of Jesus who is overtaken in a fault, with the fullest and most unshaken confidence.

This covenant is the last will and testament–the last, the final effort, so to speak–of our most gracious and merciful God, to reclaim and bring back an apostate and sinful race. It contains the infinite goodness and love. It is confirmed by the predictions of all the holy prophets, the testimony of all the apostles, and the Lord himself, surrounded by the most sublime displays of supernatural power, backed up by the greatest purity of both teaching and practice. It comes clothed with all authority in heaven and earth, backed up by the oath of God, the crown and the throne in heaven. This covenant is sealed by the blood of Jesus and signed by the great name of Jehovah. It offers a free and plenary pardon to all offenders on simple and easy terms. It offers the richest rewards to all its subjects–the grandest inheritance ever proposed to erring mortals–a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens–a home in the eternal city, the New Jerusalem–eternal bliss and happiness. This is his last offer, his last invitation to man. The time will soon be out. The door will soon be closed. The language will soon be applicable, “He that is holy, let him be holy still,” “he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” This will be the end of all invitation, of all turning to God, of all reformation.

On the other hand, the threatenings against the persistently impenitent are of the most fearful, terrible, and awful character. Human speech can utter nothing more fearful than “the fire that shall never be quenched,” where “their worm dies not,” “the lake of fire,” “tormented day and night forever and ever,” “everlasting punishment,” “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” The punishment represented by such terms as these is the last resort with the incorrigible, the determined, and obstinate opponents of God and righteousness. In reference to them, God has sworn that to Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, for he must reign till he puts all enemies under his feet.

It is now an “acceptable time and a day of salvation.” “To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the bitter provocation.” The Lord “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Do you reply, sinner, that you “belong to the big church”–that “if you are lost, you will have plenty of company?” So did the masses, in the time of Noah, belong to the “big church.” Noah did not belong to the “big church.” The “big church” was destroyed. Noah and his family were saved. Lot did not belong to the “big church.” He was saved and the “big church” was destroyed.

“If your doctrine is true, there will be but few saved.” That may be. You might have said that to Noah and to Lot, and your words would have proved true. There were but few saved. In human governments, if a large number are condemned, the heart of man would fail to execute them. In the divine government the condemned will be punished, no matter whether many or few. The Lord is able to bring the guilty to punishment, and justice demands it. If all are found guilty, then all will be punished.

“But there is time enough yet.” Where have you obtained any revelation in reference to the time you have got? You have no revelation in reference to it at all. You may be in the very last day of your time, now giving attention to the last exhortation, in the last sermon, concerning the last will of God to man, you will ever hear. Every one either has heard, or will hear, the last discourse some time. You know not, then, that this is not the last discourse, and this the last exhortation you will ever hear. Tamper not, trifle not, and be not indifferent, but hear the entreaties of those who love you, and the Lord who died for you. Turn away from the world, from your sins and follies, and come to him who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and be made unspeakably happy now and prepared for eternal happiness in the world to come.

[This sermon is from Benjamin Franklin’s book entitled, The Gospel Preacher (1869)]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”