The Ancient Faith
THE SEVERAL COVENANTS
THE NEED OF DISCRIMINATING BETWEEN THEM.
(1.) No one can understand his duty without knowing to what law he is amenable. God makes a covenant with Noah, and binds him to build an ark of certain dimensions and out of certain timber, and to put into it all kinds of beasts that could not pass the flood without such help. But I am not to learn my duty as a sinner, nor yet as a saint, by reading this covenant. It is not my duty to make an ark of any size. There are neither duties, threats, nor promises to me respecting anything of the kind.
So it is with all the covenants that God has ever made with man–each covenant is for the man or the men, to whom it was given, and for whom it was intended. It belongs to no other man, or men, except extended to them by its Author. In all the individual contracts that God made with the Patriarchs, the demands, duties and blessings were peculiarly the property of the men to whom the covenants belonged. Abel offered a sacrifice by faith (Heb. xi. 4); hence God had required the sacrifice; but it does not follow that I am to go to my flock and prepare an offering, and then come and burn it with fire. He has not required that of me, and therefore I would not be rendering him any service by such a worship. So fathers were high priests, and the rulers of the tribes that grew up about them. They not only offered for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. To these men God gave many primary lessons, containing principles that should remain and have a place in the highest worship that would ever be given to the world. But there were also many things that were peculiar to the times and the people to whom these covenants belonged. Abraham was to go into the country of Moriah, and offer up his son, Isaac, on an altar; but the man who regards that as being direction given to him, is in a fair way to commit murder. That demand was made of Abraham alone. In like manner, the blessings that came to that man from such acts of obedience, were in consequence of the obedience which he rendered. But if any other man should have done that, it would have been a high crime.
It is known in all matters of law among men, that a man is amenable to the law under which he is living. The law of the United Colonies was good, in many respects, but a man would be regarded as bordering on insanity if he should go to it to learn all his duties as a citizen of one of the New England States. No matter if the present law now contains many things that are to be found in the old law, he obeys these demands not because they were found in the law of the Colonies, but because they are found in the law under which he lives.
Common sense has everywhere been sufficient for this question, except in religion. Only when we come to ask the way to heaven, do we seem to lose our interest in the ordinary forms of intelligence, and gather up and appropriate language, and commands, and promises that do not belong to us. I open the Bible, and read that it is the duty of the parent to circumcise his boy of eight days; and I go about the task at once, but every one knowing me is shocked. Why? Is it not in the Bible? You say that it belongs to another people, and these rites and ceremonies are not Christian. That is the difference of covenant. That institution belonged to one age and one people, and I belong to another. Not being under that covenant, I am not to observe that commandment, unless I can find it in the covenant to which I do belong.
(2.) Each covenant that God has made with men may have many things in common with all the others, and yet be distinct. There is nothing more common than to mistake similarity for identity. Several things are the same in both, and therefore it is concluded that they are identical, except that the one is more complete in some particulars than the other. Every covenant that God has ever made with man has contained the thought that God is the supreme and rightful Ruler of the universe, and that it is the highest privilege of mortals to be in harmony with His wish. Hence, the idea of worship and obedience; can be found in every covenant between God and man. It may be said, too, that these things are the great essentials of God’s dealings with men. And yet these covenants are not the same; they do not require the same acts of obedience, nor do they promise the same things; nor do they belong to the same people. Paul says (Rom. ix. 4, 5):
“Who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.”
Here is a law and several covenants and promises that were peculiar to the people of Israel. Hence the duties required in these several contracts were not obligatory upon other nations and peoples, unless God had made similar covenants with them. But certainly the promises were peculiar to the descendants of Abraham, It was to be through him and his posterity that the Christ; should appear. The land of Canaan belonged to them of divine right; the rite of circumcision was peculiar to them; and the law that was given by Moses was for them during the time of their minority, and was only intended to serve as a school-master, or a leader of children, till the Christ should come and establish the faith by which men should be saved (Gal. iii. 23-25).
“And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut. iv. 8).
In the mind of Moses, this law belonged especially to them, and was not the property of any other people.
(3.) Language under one covenant may explain duties under another, in those features in which the two are alike.–Under all forms of divine law men have been required to worship God with a whole heart. Hence we know that the intention has been the same in that respect. Whatever, therefore, may be found in any one of these, on that topic may be used to enforce the thought and stir up the soul to that. devotion which the Lord requires. The devotional Psalms may be used by the Christian, that we may understand the frame of mind that should characterize all who serve the God of heaven and earth. Idolatry is a great sin and has been in all ages; hence any condemnation of that iniquity found in the law of Moses, may be used as an assistance in Christian study. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve,” has been endorsed by the Master, and is for us. The two systems are alike in this respect, and therefore the teachings may be used interchangeably, belonging to one as well as to the other.
So it is with the fact that the Lord wishes men to do His will–that He has more delight in obedience than in sacrifice. This being true, it follows that we are at liberty to get illustrations of obedience and disobedience during any dispensation, that will enable us the better to understand our duty as the disciples of Christ; not in the thing commanded, but in the fact that strict obedience to the word and will of the Lord is required of us as His servants. We are now not to go to the slaughter of the Amalekites, as was commanded to Saul, or to march around Jericho with Joshua; but we are to do the things which are now required of us, as they were those things required of them; the demands have changed, but the absoluteness of obedience remains the same now as then. The Saviour brings a teaching to the disciples respecting the settlement of all difficulties before worship by referring to the altar service; and though this manner of service has been discontinued, yet before we bring our devotions before God we should first go and be reconciled to our brother, and then come and bring our gift.
(4.) The laws of each covenant are supposed to be complete in themselves.–This does not indicate that a man would understand Judaism as well if he had not studied the dealings of God with the Patriarchs as if he had familiarized himself with this feature of divine history. Nor does it mean that a man can ever be perfectly taught respecting the New Institution, without having had a knowledge of the Law and the Prophets. But it does affirm that if a man had never seen the law given by Moses, he could know all his duty toward God, by a careful and thorough study of the New Testament. There were many Gentile congregations which had no knowledge of the law of Moses, and who were entirely dependent upon the teaching of inspired men as they revealed Christ to them. We learn from Christ and the men He ordained, every precept which we are expected to observe–to hear His sayings and do them, is to do the will of His Father in heaven, and therefore to build on the solid rock. It is not now what “thou hast heard, that it hath been said,” but the “I say unto thee,” that is to control us in the service of God as Christians. If we are to be Jews, then we must study, that we may know the law and keep it. Christ has brought forward every grand feature of truth and right, and every act of piety and benevolence that can be of any assistance to us in the Christian life. Paul could afford to be indifferent about everything else but the law of Christ. He says:
“And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that i might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law” (I. Cor. ix. 20, 21).
The forms of the law he might or might not observe; it was to him a matter of indifference, a question of expediency; and as for morals and the principles of truth and piety, they were all to be found in the law of Christ.
(1.) The covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. xx. 1-24):
[NOTE.–It is sometimes denied that this was a covenant. But this comes from not having any clear view of the meaning of the word. It is not now a covenant made with an individual, but with a nation. And it contains the substance of the covenants of flesh, land and circumcision. Its purpose was to serve as a school-master during the time of the minority of that people, to prepare them for the Great Teacher that should come from heaven. The purpose of this covenant is indicated to Moses when he was in Egypt, trying to bring the people out from that cruel bondage.]
“I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they sojourned. And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage; and I will redeem yon with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments” (Ex. vi. 3-8).
In this we have the anticipation of the covenant that God intended to make with this people at Mount Sinai, over His own name, Jehovah. No former covenant had been completed in this name, but after this He was to be known to them by this name.
In Exodus xxxiv. 27, 28, we read:
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”
By referring to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai, it will be seen that it has the form of a covenant–it is given to that people for a guide and a test of obedience, and it is sealed with blood, and enjoined upon them. It was not wholly religious, for the purpose of God in preparing a people ready to receive the Lord when He should come to the world, made it necessary that a government should exist, and that, by the means of a religious nation, He would be able to give a revelation of His will to the world. Hence the law combines the purpose of those covenants of land and flesh, in order that the world may be prepared for Christ (Gal. iii. 8, 16-25).
(2.) The covenant of Christ, made by Him and sealed with His own blood (Jer. xxxi. 31-34; Heb. viii. 6-13; ix. 15; Matt. xxviii. 26).
This covenant was in view during the former dispensations. Every offering and service foretold of the coming redemption, and every prophet, priest and king typified the coming Savior who should be the Anointed of the Lord, representing the Father in His love for the race, in the mercy and justice by which salvation could be possible to those who have sinned, and in the unlimited authority and power and wisdom by which the world could be lifted up and made ready for the heavens. As he is to provide salvation for the race, and extend it to us as a free gift, it belongs to Him, and to Him alone, to say on what terms the blessings of His sacrifice may be enjoyed: hence He is the one Mediator between God and men (I. Tim. ii. 5.)
THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE COVENANT MADE WITH ISRAEL AND THE COVENANT MADE BY THE CHRIST.
(1.) The change in the priesthood. It has been thought that Christ was a priest under the law, and that He was introduced into that priesthood by John the Baptist. But of this there is no evidence. Christ did not claim to be a priest while on the earth; and if He had been, there would have been a violation of the law, which provided for but one high priest at a time, for no one can think that He would have been a priest in any inferior sense. There were many opportunities for Him to have affirmed His priesthood, and His failure to do so is sufficient evidence that He did not occupy that position on the earth. It should be noticed, too, that no apostle ever insinuated, in any way, that the Master was high priest while he was here on the earth. Indeed, Paul takes just the opposite view of the matter (Heb. viii. 4). He was not of the tribe that had been designated for such honors under the law, nor were any of the services observed by which he should have been initiated into that office. The theory has grown out of a felt need. Men have wanted to conglomerate the law and the gospel in order that they might find some support for various doctrines which could not be sustained in any other way.
(a) The high priesthood under that institution belonged to the tribe of Levi, the family of Kohath, and the particular family of Aaron, but in this, it is in the line of Judah, of which tribe Moses said nothing concerning priesthood (Heb. vii. 14).
(b) In that, men were made priests who had infirmity, who needed an offering for themselves first before they officiated for the people; but in this, we have a priest who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and made higher than the heavens (Heb. vii. 26-28; v. 1-4).
(c) Those priests discontinued by reason of death, but Christ remains a priest forever (Heb. vii. 23, 24).
(d) Under that system one could become a priest without an oath, but Christ was made a priest with an oath (Heb. vii. 21).
(e) They were made priests by the law of a carnal commandment, but Christ by the power of an endless life (Heb. vii. 16).
(f) That priesthood belonged to the law of Moses, this to another covenant (Heb. vii. 11-13).
(g) The high priest under the law was not a ruler, and could have no connection with the government in any matter not connected with religious service, or the cleansing of the people from some disease or legal defilement; but Christ is king as well as priest. He was priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was king and priest at the same time. In Himself, He answers all human want–He is the prophet to teach the way of God, the priest to remove all sin, and the king to govern and protect all His disciples. So then we have a faithful and merciful high priest in things pertaining to God.
“Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need” (Heb. iv. 14-16).
Thus Paul connects the priesthood of Christ with the throne of Christ. Thrones did not belong to the high priest under the law, but in this covenant our high priest is also a king.
In Zech. vi. 12, 13, Christ is foretold as a righteous Branch, who should sit and rule on His throne, and be a priest on His throne, and that the government, or counsel of peace, should be between them both.
(2.) There was a change in the atonement.–The covering by the blood of animals could only serve to carry sins forward to the blood of the everlasting Covenant. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Heb. x. 4).
From Lev. xxiii. 26-32, we learn that there was an atonement made once a year. It was on the tenth day of the seventh month. At this time there was a remembrance of the sins committed during the year, and those that had been carried forward (Heb. x. 1-4). Take some of the forms of atonement under the law and the difference between the two institutions will appear as distinct as it would be possible for type to differ from antitype. Ex. xxx. 15, 16, gives the atonement by the use of the half shekel. Lev. viii. 18-34, in the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the service of the Lord; as they must be pure themselves, there had to be an atonement for them. The whole of the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus is taken up in giving an account of the annual atonement made for the people. In all this we can find abundant features of typology, but the atonement differs—
(a) In the time of offering.
(b) The priest making the sacrifice.
(c) The blood that was offered.
(d) The place where the offering was made.
(e) And the results of the sacrifice.
(3.) Change respecting limitation.–The intent of universality of application was never thought of during the times of the law of Moses. In Deut. iv. 7, 8, Moses says:
“For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is whensoever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and judgements so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”
The interrogative form in which this matter is presented here is the strongest form in which Moses could put an affirmative statement. It was the equal of saying, “we all know that no nation has a god so near to them as our God is to us, and no nation has this law, nor anything that approximates it.”
There are many evidences that the law of Moses was never intended to reach beyond the nation to whom it was given. The Pharisees in later times did make efforts at proselyting, but it was the zeal of sectarianism rather than obedience to any command of God. The stranger that should dwell within their gates should be circumcised, and adhere to the commandments as they were found in that law, but the thought of bringing the world to the acceptance of Judaism was no part of the institution itself. Its forms and ceremonies were to avoid the idolatry of the times–to maintain that people intact, that it might be known in after times that the promise made to Abraham, to bring the Messiah into the world through his posterity, had been kept. But if that seed had been permitted to lose itself in the ocean of human beings, no proof of such faithfulness on the part of God would have been possible. By paying attention to the sanitary provisions of the law, it will be seen that there are commands respecting the clean and the unclean, for which there can be found no reasons except in the fact that food which is proper enough in other lands, is not good for them in that country. Hence, when the gospel of Christ was given, all these appointments were removed.
The New Covenant was intended from the very inception of it, to be universal. The first feature of the commission is, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” All its ordinances are arranged with reference to the universality of its principles. It is intended not for a given period, but for all time; not for a portion of the race, but for the whole human family. It was not to know any difference between Jew or Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free, for all should be one in Christ Jesus, the Lord of all, who would be alike rich unto all that would call upon Him.
(4.) They differ in the promises (Heb. viii. 6):
“But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises.”
When Israel came over the Jordan, and temporary peace came, after conquering Jericho and Ai, the hosts were brought to the place appointed between Ebal and Gerizim, and heard the substance of the law, as it related to the promises. Their righteousness must consist in perfect obedience to all the demands of that law; and if such obedience should be rendered, they would be blessed in the basket and store, and in their flocks and herds, and in all the good things that pertained to this life. And, on the other hand, if they failed, they were to be cursed in all these respects. (See Deut. xxviii. 1; xxix. 1; Josh. viii. 30-35).
Even long before they came into this goodly land, they were made to know that the land which flowed with milk and honey was to be their inheritance, upon the condition that they would perfectly follow out the directions of the Lord. This was the good news that was preached to them in the wilderness, which did not profit (in many cases), not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Heb. iii, 4).
It is not to be denied that those who were devout looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and to the glorious redemption which He should accomplish for the whole race. But they saw through a glass darkly. Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible; and Abraham beheld these things from afar, and by faith brought them nigh, so that he could embrace them; and yet it is too much to say that they were a part of the covenant made with them at Sinai, and that belonged to them as a nation.
But the promises in Christ are far better. They are complete pardon, sufficient help, every needed grace and providence, resurrection from the dead, inheritance in the mansions in the heavens prepared by the hands of the Master Himself. No wonder, then, that Paul says that this has been established upon better promises than that.
(5.) The law was written on stones, but the new institution, is put into the minds and the hearts of all who belong to it.
“Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you? Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being made manifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh. And such confidence have we through Christ to Godward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account any thing as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also made us sufficient ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away; how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory” (II. Cor. iii. 1-11).
When Jeremiah saw the coming of this glorious institution, he announced that it would be unlike the covenant that God had made with the children of Israel in the day that He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; but in this new institution He would write His law in their mind and put it into their inward parts.
That covenant was outward and formal, but this is inward and spiritual. Those who belonged to that, depended on the figures, types and symbols, for their knowledge of the Lord; but in this, the Lord from heaven has spoken to us in words that are spirit and life.
(6.) All that are to have a place in the new covenant, shall first know the Lord.–This is the statement that is made by Jeremiah, when he foretold of the coming of the Christian institution: “They shall all know me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” Paul quotes this in the eighth chapter of the Hebrew letter, and applies it to the New Covenant. In the service of God under the law of Moses, this never could have been said to be true. Into that institution they were brought when they were born, and therefore there would always be many of them who did not know the Lord; hence, if they ever should know the Lord, they would have to be taught to know the Lord after they were members of the covenant; but in the new institution it should not be so, for the first thing in it was to teach; and when they should be discipled, or become learners of the Christ, then they were to be brought into the kingdom.
(7.) Sin shall be remembered no more: when once pardoned, in the New Covenant they can not be remembered against the man again.–God said: “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” But this was not so under the law of Moses. Sins not having been perfectly blotted out (Heb. x. 4), there was a remembrance of sin once every year. It is on this account that David asks God not to remember against him the sins of his youth. Had he lived under the reign of Christ, he could have been assured that his sins, having been pardoned once, could never appear against him any more. In that, they were rolled forward a year at a time, and on the day of atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month, they were called up, and azazel sent into the wilderness, that the sins of the people might go into oblivion again for another year. But sins pardoned in Christ once, can never come up again–they are blotted out, and gone forever.
(8.) Into the Old Covenant they were born by a birth of their parents, but into the New, they come by a New birth–of water and the Spirit.–This was the mistake of Nicodemus. He supposed that as he had been in the service of the Lord all his life, and was even a teacher of that religion, there could be no such demand made of him. He ought to have known better, and is therefore to be blamed for not knowing what he ought to have understood, without a teacher. Had he read the law and the prophecies closely, he would have seen that there was coming a spiritual kingdom, in which the law of the Lord should be written in the hearts of all who should constitute its citizenship, hence a new term of membership would be required. But he was disposed to make the same blunder that thousands have made since, in supposing that there is no difference between the two institutions.
(9.) They differ in respect to form and place of worship.–Sacrifices were once to be brought to the door of the tabernacle, and there offered to the Lord. When the temple was built in Jerusalem, that was the place where offerings were to be made. The Samaritan woman was anxious to know of Jesus which were right, the Jews or the Samaritans, respecting the place where men ought to worship the Father. One said at Jerusalem, the other on Mt. Gerizim. But Jesus told her that the worship of God did not belong to either locality, but that any place would do, if the worship was in spirit and truth. This was the only essential. This again shows that the old covenant was a national affair, and was never intended to go beyond the precincts of Palestine. The types and shadows then looked forward to the coming Saviour; and while they taught that man was a sinner, and had lost his right to life, there would be a sacrifice offered by which his sins and iniquities might be washed away. But the ordinances of the church of Christ get their significance, not from the idea of a coming Saviour, but from a Saviour having come, and having died and risen from the dead.
(10.) The law has been abolished and the gospel remains.–This proposition is not readily accepted. During the dark ages Christianity was greatly corrupted. But in no respect did it receive greater injury than in being mixed with other religions. After four centuries of this doctoring, Christianity was little more than baptized heathenism, with lines of Judaism interwoven.
It is well to have the Scriptures clearly before us when we make a statement like this. The world will ask is why we make it, and we must be able to tell.
In Acts xv. 5, we have the demand made of the Pharisees, who had accepted the faith of Christians, that unless the Gentiles would be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, they could not be saved. On this question the convention was held, not that they might vote on the subject and determine what it would be politic for them to require, but to ascertain what God had revealed on the subject. They heard from Paul and Barnabas and Simon Peter as to what God had done by them, and then from James, as to his view of the evidence so far adduced, and that it agreed with the word of the Lord already revealed. And the conclusion of the whole matter was that they were not under that law, and therefore they should not require them to observe any such regulations, but only to observe a few necessary things. (See vers. 20-29.)
Does someone say that this did not free them from the observance of the law, except in the matter of circumcision? That is a mistake. The whole question was before them at the time–being circumcised after the manner of Moses, and keeping the Law of Moses. Now, if there was any part of that law that would remain binding on them by virtue of its having a place in that law, surely someone in that audience would have been aware of the fact, and would have made the statement. But nothing of the kind is mentioned. Certain features of the law were all they required them to observe. Hence, if they were then under the law, it is not too much to say that they did not know it. Hence, the man who says they were yet under the law assumes a wisdom which the inspired apostles did not possess.
Paul argues this question all the way through several of his epistles. I must quote from him several statements in their connection, that no mistake may be made:
“Wherefore remember, that aforetime ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. ii. 11-18).
It would seem impossible to make a statement plainer than this. The Gentiles and Jews have lost all distinction; they are all on the same footing; the law which had served as a partition wall between them had been removed. They were not under the law, but had been brought together in Christ, all differences having been removed.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, this question is argued at length; in fact, the whole letter is largely occupied with it. In some way, some teacher had bewitched them with the idea that they must keep the law (iii. 1). To this Paul objects, assuring them that all their religious blessings had come to them through the hearing of faith, and not through the commandments of the law. He urges that the covenant by which they should be saved was by promise, and not by the law, and that all that was valuable in the law had been transferred to the scheme of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand, by God, the law,, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator 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 make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. Howbeit the Scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept inward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female, for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal iii. 15-29).
This argument cannot be met. Paul has shown it to have been the purpose of God, in giving the law, to furnish the people of Israel with such primary lessons and such government as would, under the circumstances, do them the most good. But that institution was temporal in its purpose. It was intended to lead them during the days of their minority, and prepare them for the great Teacher that should come from God, under whom they were to graduate for the heavens. During the days, of their minority they were under this pedagogue, but when the great Teacher is come, they are no longer under the tutor–this law and authority extended no further.
In the fourth chapter of the Galatian letter, verses 21-31 inclusive, we have full and complete instruction respecting this matter. Here the apostle brings up the question under the form of an allegory, and shows, beyond any doubt, that the law was to be cast out, as well as the bond maid. And in the third chapter of his second letter to the brethren at Corinth, he treats the subject in the form of antithesis, putting the gospel on one side and the law on the other. During this presentation he repeats it three times that the law is done away, and makes especial reference to that part of the law which was written on the two tables of stone.
Then when we go to search for the duty of Christians, for the want of an understanding respecting this matter, many theologians have felt unsafe in adopting the plain truth as a rule of Christian life, lest the necessary authority by which proper conduct shall be secured shall be wanting. Some way they feel that they must come before the people with a “thou shalt,” or they will not be able to secure the obedience which the Lord requires. It has been this feeling that has attached the law to the gospel. On this account they have called the first day of the week “the Sabbath.” Yet every one knows that it is never so denominated in the New Testament; and any one acquainted in the early history of the church is aware that it was far advanced in the sixth century before such phraseology was employed by any one. Both the Ante-Nicene Fathers and the Post-Nicene Fathers speak of the day on which Christians met for worship as the first day of the week, the eighth day, which would be the next day after the seventh; resurrection day; but most generally they use the very words of the apostle John (Rev. i. 10), “The Lord’s day.” All have ever admitted that the ceremonial, judicial–the formal and ritual–features of the law were done away in the crucifixion of Christ, but many claim that something they call the moral law was retained. But for this division of the law there is no authority. There is no such division made by any inspired man, for the reason that no one directed by the Spirit of the Living God ever had any such an idea as that. Many parts of the Old Testament are called by the common term law; sometimes it is divided into the Law and the Prophets; But the largest division that is found anywhere is in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel by Luke–the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. Already we have seen that the apostle Paul makes no such difference as that insisted upon by modern theologians, but sums up the whole of the Old Testament institution, and says that it has been abolished.
In Col. ii. 13-17, Paul settles that question of the continuance of the Law as a rule by which Christians should live. He says:
“And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he quicken together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.”
Let us realize, then, that the institution of Christ is distinct, and that if we would know our duty to God in this dispensation, we must learn it from this, not from that.
HOW CAN WE KNOW WHEN THE COVENANT OF CHRIST BEGAN?–This is a question of no little importance. Even those who agree as to the difference between that made with Israel at Mt. Sinai and that made by the Savior, are not sure respecting the exact time when the one was removed and the other began. We have learned, in many ways, that this covenant was not that which was made with Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or the nation of Israel; but just when it did begin and just when all men ought to have yielded obedience to its requirements, is not so easily determined. We have a few facts, however, that may be of importance in determining this matter.
(1.) Christ live and died a Jew: he walked in obedience to that law; he even went so far as to say:
“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. v. 17-19).
It is impossible to think that Jesus at that time had an independent kingdom, or to suppose that He lived in any way indifferent to the demands of the Law that had been given by Moses. Whatever there was in that Law, He proposed to keep it–God was its Author, and men should observe it.
(2.) During His life, His kingdom, was spoken of as being present, at hand, as if it had not yet been established, but would be in the near future.–When John came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. iii. 2). And when Jesus went forth into Galilee, he preached “the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark. i. 14, 15).
Again, when the Saviour was about to begin the third tour throughout all Galilee, He called to Him His apostles, and appointed them to go into other places in this country, and said to them: “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Then again, just before His transfiguration, he said:
“Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. xvi. 28).
Once more, when he was nearing Jerusalem, for the last time; He is at Jericho; is at the house of Zacchæus; and teaching them that the Son of man had come to seek and save that which was lost.
“And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (Luke xix. 11-13).
And when the parable is spoken, there remains no question in the mind of any reader that it relates to himself–that he was going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return again, that He might reckon with His servants.
Hence he did not begin by establishing his kingdom; it was not established for him; it was not in existence at the time of His going up to Jerusalem to be put to death.
And supposing that his disciples were even tolerably well informed, the kingdom was not yet established when He ascended into the heavens.
“They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts. i. 6).
The answer that follows shows that if the kingdom was then in being, the Saviour did not care to inform them on that point. Indeed, He indicates that it was yet future, and that they should be His agents in the presentation of His claims; but that the time had not yet arrived for the work to begin. They must tarry at Jerusalem for the heavenly enduement; and when that should be received, the work might begin.
(3.) The kingdom was presented by the-Saviour, as having so come that men could press into it.
“The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every man entereth violently into it” (Luke xvi. 16).
There is a difficulty in the minds of many, in these statements. In a number of texts we are taught that, the kingdom of heaven was not established while the Savior was on the earth; and now we come to an affirmation that men were pressing into it during even the lifetime of John. And as it would be absurd to maintain that men could enter that which had no existence, it is demanded that the kingdom be understood to have been in existence after the preaching of John the Baptist. This difficulty is rather apparent than real. The word kingdom in itself does not always have the same meaning. It implies: (1) a king; (2) laws; (3) subjects; (4) penalties for disobedience, and rewards for faithfulness; (5) a throne and power for the king. Any one of these may be put for the word itself, according to a figure yet to be considered. Also, like the word gospel, or good news, it may refer to the time of its coming or to a time when it shall assemble the world for judgment, or any time between these. But what is the meaning in this place? One thing must be conceded at the beginning of the investigation-the Scriptures must not be made to contradict. It will be impossible to make more or less of the texts that we have cited. This fact prepares us to understand the use of the word in question in an unusual sense. But what sense? This question will be best answered by determining after what plan John performed his work. Did he come to establish the kingdom or church of the Christ?
Gabriel tells Zacharias that John was to “Go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him” (Luke i. 17). In verses 76 and 77, of the same chapter, we have Zacharias saying, when the Lord had opened his mouth:
“Yea and thou, child, shaft be called the prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people in the remission of their sins.”
It is evident from all this that John did not come to set up a kingdom, but to introduce the King, and prepare a people for His reception. In harmony with this thought, he preached the approach of the kingdom; and that, in view of that fact, men ought to repent, to turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Then, when the kingdom was preached in the days of John, it was preached not as having come, but coming–near at hand. Hence, when men pressed into it as if by violence, they pressed into that prepared condition which it was John’s work to direct.
While this is the evident meaning of the language, it makes complete harmony with every other statement on the subject.
(4.) While there was a gospel in the sense of good news respecting coming events, there could be no gospel in the complete sense till Christ had come and been put to death, and had risen from the dead (I. Cor. xv. 1-4). Whatever else there may be in the word gospel, the record of the death and the resurrection of the Savior was certainly a part of it. We cannot think of the kingdom or church of Christ as having come, and the gospel not yet preached in its fullness. And yet it would have been impossible for any man to have preached it before His resurrection. The apostles did not know that He was to rise from the dead. And if they had, they could not have preached that He had so risen till He had been redeemed from death. Hence we conclude that it would have been impossible for the church to have been instituted before the crucifixion of the Saviour.
(5.) The limits of Judaism were upon the disciples during the days of the Saviour.–In the tenth chapter of Matthew we have the Master sending out the twelve into the towns and villages of Galilee, but straitly charging them not to go into any road that would lead to the Gentiles, nor into any village of the Samaritans, but to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But when he gave them the great commission, after He had risen from the dead, all restriction is removed. It no longer contains promises for the Jew which are not also to the Gentiles. Then they were to be witnesses to Him in Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Then they were to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; they were to go and make disciples of all the nations. This could not be done while the bonds of Judaism were upon them. Hence the kingdom of Messiah could not have been in existence till the limitations of the Jews’ religion were taken out of the way.
(6.) The law and the priesthood were changed at the same time.–This we have already seen, and only refer to it here by way of remembrance (Heb. vii. 11, 12; viii. 4). We have also seen that Christ was not a priest upon the earth; hence that the law was not changed till He came into that everlasting priesthood after the order of Melchizedek; and this He did not do till He ascended into the heavens, to make an atonement for the sins of the whole world.
(7.) The new law of the kingdom of the Christ should go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah ii. 1-3).
Micah iv. 1, 2, contains the substance of the foregoing. This precludes the possibility of the law of Christ going forth from Jordan. But it has been objected that this does not refer to anything that could have taken place in the days of the apostles, as it relates to the last or latter days. But the last days of what? If Isaiah was prophesying about the world, then it would refer to the latter times of its history or being. But he starts to tell what awaits Judah and Jerusalem in the latter times. Hence this prophecy relates to the latter times of that city and people; before the Jews should be finally dispersed, and their city destroyed, the law should go forth. Those changes came in the year 70 A. D., and hence the law went forth before that time.
(8.) The apostles had the keys of the kingdom (Matt. xvi. 13-19), but they were not at liberty to use them till after the first Pentecost succeeding the resurrection of the Saviour.
“And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, how that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke xxiv. 44-49).
In the appeal of the Saviour to the “thus it is written,” reference is made to the language of Isaiah and Micah, for these alone tell of this new law of salvation going forth from Jerusalem. Just after the Saviour had risen from the dead, the fulfillment of that prediction was near, but it must wait till the heavenly enduement should first come. Thus again we see the impossibility of this law of salvation going forth from any other place, or at any other time than that indicated in the interpretation of the prophecies given by the Saviour himself.
(9.) No covenant could be, in force till it was ratified by the death of the sacrifice appointed to that end.
“For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death; for doth it ever avail while he that made it liveth?” (Heb. ix. 16, 17).
It would be impossible, then, for the new covenant, or testament, to be of force while Christ, who had been appointed as the covenant sacrifice, was living.
A mistake is sometimes indulged here in maintaining that nothing can be regarded as a part of this testament except that which had already been given by the Savior. This, of course, would render all the writings of the apostles worthless, and rule them out, as being no part of the New Testament. This is to push the meaning of the language entirely beyond its import. All that is bound in a covenant may not have been mentioned at the time of sealing it with the people. At the time that Moses took the book and sprinkled it with blood, and enjoined it unto the people, but little more than the Ten Commandments had been stated. The whole of the priesthood and the law of sacrifices had to come afterward. They covenanted not simply with items of law, but with Him who had made the law, and, therefore, bound themselves to all that necessarily adhered in this law. So with the covenant of Christ. He gave them the great principles of the New Institution. But at the time He left them there were lessons which they could not learn. He had these things to say to them, but they could not bear them then. Hence the Holy Spirit had to be given to these men to lead them into all truth, to teach them all things, to bring all things to their remembrance that He had taught them before, to receive the things that belonged to Him and deliver to them. But it would be idle to say that these things that came to the apostles after the ascension of the Saviour were no part of that Institution, or that they were not confirmed unto them when the Lord made the atonement for the sins of the people. The one article of the Christian’s creed being accepted, everything belonging to it is accepted with it. When men confess that they believe with all their heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, they have accepted everything of which He is the author.
The order, then, of making a covenant, is to present the matter clearly before those who are to be parties to the contract, and then seal it with a proper sacrifice. So the great feature of the New Testament was clearly stated, and when sealed with the blood of the appropriate sacrifice, there is bound upon all who accept the Christ, all of which He is clearly the author. But Paul’s reasoning on the subject remains intact-that it could not have been of force till after the death of Him who made it.
(10.) Christ was the corner stone.–In Acts iv. 11, 12, Peter says:
“He is the atone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”
In I. Cor. iii. 11, Paul says:
“For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
And again in Eph. ii. 19-21, he says:
“So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are budded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
In every figure in which the Church of Christ is contemplated as a building, Christ is regarded as the chief corner stone. It is not necessary to say that those who have constructed this figure did not have it in their minds that the building could be erected first and the corner-stone afterwards. It is received without the statement that they supposed the building was erected after the corner-stone was laid, and could not be built before that.
(11.) In all mentions of the kingdom, after the day of Pentecost, it is spoken of as if it were in existence.–A single exception is found in those passages in which the kingdom is spoken of in its triumphant state, in the period of the judgment and everlasting reward. In those the saints are waiting for the kingdom of God; not for its establishment upon the earth, but for the rewards for services rendered. A few of the affirmations of the inspired apostles upon this point will not be out of place. But before giving them, we wish to remind the reader of the statements that were made while the Saviour was living. Then everywhere it was said that the kingdom was at hand. If now it is said to have come, to be in existence, the impression will be unavoidable that it was established in the meantime.
“To the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory” (I. Thess. ii. 12).
“Giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. i. 12).
There is found nothing in the connection in which these texts occur to lessen the full force that should ordinarily be given to the words that are used. Hence we feel in duty bound to receive them in their full import.
“Let not then your good be evil spoken of: for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xiv. 16, 17).
While Paul is not aiming to define the word in this text, be certainly does indicate that the kingdom with which they had to do was in existence.
In Rev. i. 5, John says that Christ was the ruler of the princes of this world, and in the ninth verse he says:
“I John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
Sometimes the Church of God, of Christ, is employed to express the same thought; for instance, in Matt. xvi., the words church and kingdom are used interchangeably–“On this rock I will build my church;” “unto thee do I deliver the keys of the kingdom.” In the use of these terms He is expressing the same thought. No one denies that the Church of Christ came and was fully established on the Pentecost next after the ascension of the Saviour. Hence whatever was the law by which His people should be governed till His return to us again, was sent forth at that time. This was the law of the Lord that should go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. It is that divine law by which all the people of God shall live, and contains the terms upon which sinners may be accepted in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before this time the Master said, “I will build my church;” after that time, they all speak of the church and the kingdom as being in existence.
(12.) The kingdom of Christ was set up on the day of Pentecost next succeeding His ascension.–This statement is the result of the investigation already given. And while on this we might rest the case, it is still in order to give it further consideration, for there are other Scriptures which will throw light on the subject. We wish now to examine the subject as if we were hunting the beginning of a section corner. We have certain field notes, and so many chains and links in one direction will give us a hidden stone which will serve as a witness. And a certain number of chains and links in another direction will give us a tree with a certain mark, which shall be another witness. So in this case, there are prophetic utterances and teachings of the Saviour which will serve as witnesses in the matter.
We have already heard from Jer. xxxi. 31-34, with Paul’s assurance that it referred to the New Covenant. (Heb. viii. 6-13). Hence it marks the time when the law ceased to be the power that controlled the people, and when they became free in Christ.
We have also heard from Isa. ii. 1-3, and Micah iv. 1, 2, and have been informed by them that the New Law should go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And upon these texts we have had the comment of the Saviour, in Luke xxiv. After his resurrection, these passages had not been fulfilled, but. would be in the near future, when repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Also, it is well to be reminded that the Saviour promised the fulfillment of all this when His apostles should be endued from on high. The enduement, too, is pointed out as the promise of the Father which they had heard. And now it is left for us to see what this promise of the Father was, and then find its fulfillment. In doing this we will, beyond all question, find the going forth of that new law spoken by the prophets and the Saviour himself.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel ii. 28, 29).
The Savior announces the fulfillment of this prophecy in John xiv. 15-17, when he promises another comforter, who should abide with them forever. But in the following chapters (xv., xvi.), the promise is made still clearer, and the duty that will then follow:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me: and ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”
Notice, that when the Spirit of truth should come and bear witness, the apostles should also bear witness. In chap. xvi. 12-14, this promise is made still clearer:
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall bear, these shall he speak and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.”
Before the apostles would be qualified for the testimony which they should bear concerning Jesus, they would need this heavenly Comforter and Director, that they might be freed from any weakness in the discharge of the duties that would then devolve upon them. The Master had been more than three years in giving them this new law, by which men should have the remission of their sins and be admitted into that grace in which they would be regarded as the sons of the Living God. Still there were truths that they did not understand while the Lord was with them, and they could not, for their views concerning the Messiah were so erroneous that their minds were blinded. But when the Master had suffered death and had risen again, they were in a better condition to learn. So the Spirit is sent to complete their education, and fully qualify them for their work as the ministers of the gospel of Christ, to give the law of the kingdom to all the nations.
According to Luke, in his gospel (xxiv. 47, 48) and Acts i. 4, the Lord re-announced the commission just before leaving them for the heavens, but forbade them going out till they should receive the promise of the Father, that is-the heavenly Comforter, the Holy Spirit. When he should come to guide them into all truth, then should their work, as indicated in the great commission, begin at Jerusalem; they should then tell to the world the way of life through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is clothed with all authority in heaven and in earth.
To find this beginning of the way of life in Christ, we have only to find when the Spirit came into the world according to all these promises. We have not long to wait for the fulfillment. Within ten days after the Saviour ascended, the Spirit came. And with His coming all that had been promised was fulfilled, in their enduement and the witness that was borne by the Spirit and by the apostles.
“And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues;parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts ii. 1-4).
This has all the appearance of the fulfillment of the prediction of the prophet Joel, and the promise of the Saviour. When Joel wrote, it was a long way off; but when the Saviour spoke, it was near. But Isaiah and Micah had also their minds fixed on the attendance at that time. They said that all nations should flow unto it; from which we understand that all nations should be represented at Jerusalem at that time. And so it is stated by the historian (Acts ii. 5). “Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.”
We are ready to decide in our own minds that the time has come for the work to be done which had been entrusted to the hands of the apostles–to give to the world the new Law of the kingdom. But it is better for us to have the opinion of an inspired man on the subject.
“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day; but this is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel; “And it shall be in the last days, with God, “I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: “And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, “And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams “Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days “Will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts ii. 14-18).
So, then, we have not been mistaken in the appearance of things. Inspired authority declares that this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. But this is not all-they understood now that the promise of the Father had come, and that at that time they were to declare all the words of this life in the name of the new King. And Peter therefore continues to announce that Christ has been raised from the dead, and made to be both the Lord and the anointed One. And when the people ask what they are to do, he tells them to submit to that same Jesus whom they had crucified, that they might be saved. This they did. After this, when Peter had been to the house of Cornelius and preached the gospel of the Christ to them, he was taken to account for it by the brethren who were at Jerusalem. He recounted the whole matter in order, telling them all things that had occurred in his call to that place and the work be did.
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, even as on us at the beginning” (Acts xi. 15).
Now there are a number of things that it will be well for us to note:
- This new covenant should be unlike the old one (Jer. xxxi.; Heb. viii.).
- It should go forth from Jerusalem (Isa. ii.; Micah iv.; Luke xxiv.).
- All nations should be represented there at that time (Isaiah, Micah, Luke, in Acts ii. 5).
- The Holy Spirit should be present at that time, and give them supernatural power (Joel, John, Luke, Acts).
- The Holy Spirit and the apostles should bear witness at that time (John and The Acts).
- The demonstration should be at the beginning of the gospel plan of saving men (Luke xxiv. 44-49; Acts ii. 4; xi. 15).
Surely this is enough. One who will not be able to see from this induction of facts that the kingdom of the Christ was set up on the day of Pentecost, is either unable or unwilling to see the plainest truth.
But against this there is an objection; it is this: If this is so, then there was fifty days that the world was without any authorized law. If the law was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross of Christ, and yet His law did not go forth till the Pentecost, which was fifty days later, then there was no law during the interregnum. Yet all men believe that the law did end with the crucifixion of the Saviour; that from that time there was no more offering for sin or other service in the temple according to divine appointment. And the simple truth is, that all men were amenable to God according to the light which they had. Those who had been the disciples of Christ and knew His requirements, were under obligations to obey them; and those who did not have these advantages, were amenable to God for such light as they did possess. In any age of the world, when any man has done the best that be knows and could know, he has been free from iniquity in the sight of God. And it was then the same that it has ever been in that respect.
From that time the world was not under law to Moses, nor according to Moses, but under law to Christ (I. Cor. ix. 21). It is not now the law that was given to the patriarchs, nor to the people of the Jews at Mt. Sinai; but we are to be the servants of God by accepting Christ and doing His will, as found in the New Testament. Every truth that will malice for our spiritual good is to he found in it. Every sin is there condemned; hence it is to us the perfect rule of life.
Someone again objects that the early Christians did not have the’ New Testament, and therefore were without the law necessary to perfect Christian character. But they had the apostles and direct inspiration, and this was all that they could have needed. The Lord’s will was the same then that it is now, and it was revealed to them then as they needed the knowledge.
THE TRIAL AS TO THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM.
We have already seen that any theory which is opposed by any known fact, cannot be true. Hence we desire to have our theories tried by the facts that have been induced.
(1.) If the kingdom of the Christ was in existence, during the time of John the Baptist, then there were two Laws in force at the same time.–As it is impossible for God to be the author of such a state of things as that, it seems unreasonable to contend that John introduced it.
(2.) Those texts which place the establishment of the kingdom later than the time of John upon the earth, cannot be true, if the church began during his life. It was after he was dead that the Savior sent out men to preach that the kingdom was at hand.
(3.) The Jewish limits or restrictions that were upon the apostles would be incomprehensible upon the hypothesis that kingdom of the Messiah was then in existence. There could be no such limitation to the institution of which Christ was the author, for His was intended to go to the ends of the earth.
(4.) If Christ had been king while on earth, then he would have been priest as well for he became a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was king and priest at the same time. And if he had been priest on the earth, he would certainly have been high priest, for no one can think of the Saviour taking an inferior rank. And if he had been high priest on the earth, then they would have had two high priests at the same time, and that, too, by divine authority. Paul says, “If he were on earth, he would not be a priest.”
(5.) If John instituted, the kingdom by the baptism of Jesus then it was not set up at Jerusalem, according to the prophetic promise, and according to the clear teaching of the Saviour Himself.
(6.) If the kingdom had been established at a time prior to the resurrection of the Saviour, then it could not have been unlocked by the keys held by Peter, for neither he nor any other apostle was at liberty to use such authority till the coming of the heavenly enduement.
(7.) If the church came into being prior to the death of the Savior, then it was built before the laying of the corner-stone. We have already seen that Christ was, and is, the chief corner-stone; and the idea of building the church before the laying of the corner-stone is preposterous.
(8.) If the Covenant of Christ was in force while the Savior was yet alive then Paul’s illustration must pass for nothing. He thought that a covenant was of force after the death of him that made it, not before.
(9.) We have also seen that if the kingdom was established before the ascension of the Lord, then it was established without the apostles knowing it. If they had committed such a blunder as that, it is unaccountable that the Master did not correct them.
(10.) We have already seen that the gospel in its fullness was not and could not be preached till Christ had died and risen again from the dead. Hence, if the church was established before that time, it was in existence before the gospel was, or could be, preached.
[Taken from D. R. Dungan’s book entitled, Hermeneutics: A Text-Book (1888)]