« PredošláPokračovať »
Row referred to, and others of the like nature; for it is plain that the apostle, referring to one of them, to wit, the words of the Psalmist, in Rom. iv. 6. compared with ver. 9. says, that therein David describes the blessedness that cometh not on the circumcision only, that is, not only on the Jews, but on the uncircumcision also, that is, the gospel-church; which is a plain argument, that this blessedness, that accompanies forgiveness, was a privilege, that the Old Testament-church enjoyed, and not barely a promise of what the New Testament-church was to expect: 9. d. was the Old Testament-church the only blessed persons in enjoying forgiveness ? No, says he, as they formerly enjoyed it, we who believe, are partakers of the same privilege
And to this we may add, that, in consistency with this scheme, they entertain some unwarrantable notions about the justification of the Old Testament church. Some say, that it was less full ; others, which is a more unguarded way of speaking, that it was less true ; * and, agreeably hereunto, they suppose, that they had no other ideas of the doctrine of justification, but as implying in it the divine forbearance, or not punishing sin ; though they had a perpetual dread that it would be punished at last, and no comfortable sense of the forgiveness thereof. But this is certainly an extending the terror and bondage of that dispensation farther than we have just ground, from scripture, to do, whatever turns they give to several scriptures in defence thereof; and therefore we must conclude, as it is observed in this answer, that the Old Testament-church had full remission of sins, as well as eternal salvation.
II. We are now to consider the covenant of grace, as administered under the New Testament, which is the dispensation thereof, that we are under and is to continue to the end of the world, which by way of eminency, we call the gospeldispensation; concerning which it is observed,
• Minus plena, or minus vera.
† For the proof of this, they often refer to that scripture in Rom. iii. 25. in which it is said, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness, for the remission of sins that are past, through, or after, the forbearance, of God, which they suppose to contain an intimation of the privilege which the gospel-church enjoyed, namely, remission of sins; whereas, under the legal dispensation, there was nothing else apprehended by them, but the forbearance of God: 80 that the Old Testament-church kad rapton auaple; the New Testament church, aoitw; and they all suppose, that they looked upon Christ as Fide-jussor, and not Expromissor, which are terms used in the civil law; the former of which signifies a person's undertaking to be a surety, and, at the same time, leaving the creditor at his liberty to exact the debt, either of him, or the debtor himself; whereas, Expromissor, signifies, a person's undertaking to be a surety, in so full and large a sense, as that, by virtue hereof, the debtor is discharged. Therefore, since they did not, so clearly, know that God would discharge them, by virtue of Christ's undertaking to be a Surety, but concluded that he might exact the debt, either of him, or them; this was the foundation of that terror and bondage, which they were perpetually subject to.
1. That it began when Christ, the Substance, was exhibited. He is called the Substance thereof, without any particular limitation of the word; and therefore we may understand thereby, either that he was the Substance of the ceremonial law, as all the promises and types thereof had a peculiar reference to him; and, as the apostle says, To him give all the prophets witness, Acts x. 43. or else he may be considered as the Substance of the New Testament-dispensation, the subject-matter of the ministry of the gospel. Thus the apostle speaks of Christ crucified, as the principal thing which he determined to know, or insist on, in the exercise of his ministry, and that with good reason, since all gospel-doctrines were designed to lead us to him, and set forth his glory, as the Fountain and Author of our salvation, 1 Cor. i. 23. chap. ii. 2. And both the scals of the new covenant, namely, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, signify that salvation which we enjoy, or hope for, by Christ, our consecration to him, and communion with him: thus he is truly styled the substance of both the dispensations of the covenant; the former looked forward, and pointed out Christ to come, as the object of the church's desire and expectation; the latter represents him as being come, and so the object of our joy and thankfulness, for the blessings which he has procured for us.
And this leads us to consider when it was that the New Testament-dispensation commenced, which is here said to be upon Christ's being exhibited. Christ's exhibition implies in it, either his public appearing when he was made flcsh, and dwelt amongst us, or else it has a particular respect to the time when he first entered on his public ministry and went about doing good, confirming his mission by uncontested miracles: this he did immediately after his baptism, whereby he appear. ed to be the Person, whose coming the prophets had foretold, and whom John the Baptist had pointed at, and given the world ground to expect that he would immediately shew him. self, in a public manner to them which he did accordingly. This appearing of Christ, was like the sun's rising after a night of darkness, and therefore, in some respects, the gospel-dispensation might be said to begin then; nevertheless, in propriety of speaking, it could not be said fully to commence till Christ's resurrection: then it was that the ceremonial law ceased, all the types and ordinances thereof having had their accomplishment in him. Thus the prophet Daniel speaks first of Christ's being cut off, and thereby confirming the covenant, and then of the sacrifice and oblation's ceasing, Dan. ix. 26, 27. and, when that "dispensation was at an end, the gospel dispensation immediately succeeded it. We are now to consider,
2. How these two dispensations differ. They were, indeed, the same for substance, both before and since the coming of Christ, as was before observed, when we considered that the covenant of grace, notwithstanding the different dispensations thereof, is but one. And this farther appears, in that the blessings promised therein were the same, to wit, redemption through the blood of Christ, and compleat salvation by him. He was the Mediator and Fountain of all that happiness which his people enjoyed, either before or after his incarnation; nevertheless, the way of administering this covenant, under the gospel dispensation, differs from its former way;
(1.) In that it was, before this, predicted and signified, that Christ should come, and therefore the Old Testament-church waited for his appearing; and accordingly they are represented as saying, Until the day break, and the shadows flee away; turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether, Cant. ii. 17. But the New Testament-church adores and magnifies him, as having appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and fully accomplish the work of our redemption thereby; and, in the preaching of the gospel, he is represented as having abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, and done every thing for us that is necessary to bring about our redemption. And this is also signified by the sacraments of the New Testament, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, which, though they may be justly called gospel-types, or external signs of Christ, and the blessings of the covenant of grace; yet they differ from the types under the ceremonial law, not only in the matter of them, but in that they refer to the work of redemption, as fully accomplished by him, which the ceremonial law could not from the nature of the thing, be said to have done.
(2.) The gospel-dispensation differs from the legal, and very much excels it, as grace and salvation is therein held forth in more fulness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations. This is founded on what the apostle says, 2 Cor. iii. 7-11. when comparing the two dispensations together, he calls one the minis, iration of death, or condemnation, and describes it, as that which is now done away, which while it continued, was glorious ; the other he calls, the ministration of the Spirit, or of righteousness, and speaks of it, as excelling in glory. Whether the former is styled, The ministration of death, because of the terrible manner in which the law was given from mount Sinai, upon which occasion the people said to Moses Let not God speak with us, in such a way, any more, lest we die; or whether it respects the many curses and threatenings, denounced in that dispensation, to deter the people from sin, we will not determine : but it is certain, that the apostle speaks of the gos, Vol. II.
pel-dispensation, as excelling in glory, which is the principal thing we are now to consider, and this it might be said to do,
1st, As grace and salvation are therein held forth with greatcr clearness, or evidence. This we may truly say without supposing the legal dispensation to be so dark, as that none of the church, in any age thereof, could see Christ, and the way of salvation by him, to be signified by any of its types or ordinances. We may observe, that when the apostle speaks of this dispensation, he does not say absolutely that it had no glory, but that it had no glory in this respect by reason of, or compared with, the glory that excelleth. "Now the gospel-dispensation excels the legal, as to its clearness, or fulness of evidence, in that the accomplishment of the predictions, or the making good of the promises of redemption and salvation by Christ, affords greater evidence of the truth and reality of these blessings, than the bare giving the promises could be said te do; for though one gave them the expectation, the other put them into the actual possession thereof, when Christ the Substance, was, as was before observed, exhibited, and the ceremonial law had its accomplishment in him.
2dly, Under the gospel-dispensation, grace and salvation revealed therein, are attended with greater efficacy; for as the greatest part of the Old Testament-church were not so much disposed, as they ought, especially in some ages thereof, to enquire into, or endeavour to attain a clearer discerning of the spiritual meaning of the ceremonial institutions, through the blindness of their minds, and the hardness of their hearts, so the effect and consequence hereof, was answerable thereunto, inasmuch as there was but a small remnant of them, who obtained mercy to be faithful, who rejoiced to see Christ's day, and embraced the promises which they beheld afar off; whereas, in the gospel-dispensation, the word of the Lord had free course, and was more eminently glorified in those places where it was made known : but this will farther appear, if we consider,
3dly, That it excelled in glory, in regard of the extent thereof; for it was under this dispensation that that promise was to have its accomplishment, that Christ should be a light to the Gentiles, and God's salvation unto the end of the earth, Isa. xlix. 6. or that God would destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that was spread over all nations, chap. xxv. 7. It was then that a commission was given to preach the Gospel to every creature, Mark xvi. 15. or that Christ should be preached unto the Gentiles and believed on in the world, 1 Tim. iii. 16. In this respect, the gospel-dispensation certainly excelleth in glory, and it is owing hereunto that we enjoy, at present, this invaluable privilege. But if this present
dispensation be only reckoned the dawn and twilight, or the beginning of that glory that shall be revealed at Christ's second coining, as grace is sometimes styled glory begun; or it the apostle's description of it, when he says, that we are come unto ihe heavenly Ferusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb. xii. 22, 23. contains an intimation, that the glory, which still remains to be revealed, is nothing else but the perfection of this present dispensation, that we may conclude that it far excelleth all others in glory.
From what has been said, in comparing the former, and present dispensation of the covenant of grace, we may infer.
[1.] The care of God extended to his church, in all the ages thereof; so that he never left them without the means of grace, which, how various soever they have been as to the matter of them, have yet tended to answer the same end, namely, leading the church into the knowledge of Christ.
[2.] We may farther infer the necessity of external and visi. ble worship, which the church was never wholly destitute of, for then it would have ceased to have been a church; and also the necessity of divine revelation, as to what respects the way of salvation by Christ; and therefore we must not conclude, that the church was, at any time, without some beams of gospellight shining into it, or that they were left, as the Heathen are, to seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, as the apostle speaks, Acts xvii. 27. or that, before the gospel-dispensation commenced, salvation was to be obtained, by adhering to the light and dictates of nature, which discovers nothing of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, or of that remission of sin, which is only to be obtained through him.
[3.] Christ's having been revealed to, and consequently known by the Old Testament church, as the promised Messiah, may give some light to our understanding what we often read in the New Testament concerning persons believing in him, upon his working of miracles, or using some other methods to convince them that he was the Messiah, when, at the same time, we do not read of any particular discovery made to them relating to the glory of his Person, and offices, and the design of his coming into the world, which was necessary to their believing him, in a saving way, to be the Messiah. Thus when he converted the woman of Samaria, by revealing himself to be that Prophet, whom the church expected, when he told her some of the secret actions of her life, she immediately believed in him, John iv. 18, 19, 29. and many of her fellowcitizens believed on him, upon the report that she gave them hereof, ver. 39. and, when he opened the eyes of the man that