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It is true also that it was in part manifested to man, from time to time before the Christian Æra—first in the promise, the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent. Gen. iii, 15. After this, as the Apostle tells us, to Abraham and his seed were the promises made ; and thus, as he assures us, the covenant was confirmed before, (that is, before the law of Moses) of God in Christ. Gal. iii, 16, 17. The Mosaic Dispensation was, in various respects, a figure, shadow, or representation of the new covenant, by its tabernacle, sacri. fices, &c. As we proceed in reading the sacred volume, the promises and prophecies gradually unfold it with increasing clearness to our view. Though David's expression at the close of his life, may possibly have a more direct application to the covenant made with him personally, as to the throne of Israel, yet therein the promise of Christ was included, and the words are very descriptive of the blessings of this better covenant. He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure--for this is all my salvation, and all my desire ; (2 Sam. xxiii, 5.) as is that expression, the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant. Ps. xxv, 14. Several of the Psalms, as xvi, xl, lxxxix, and cx, clearly shew that the holy men of old entertained, in the progress of time, ideas, and used expressions, too large for the Jewish Dispensation, and applicable only to a different order of things. Isaiah, almost with the clearness of apostolical writers, brings before us that redemption, on which the Dispensation of grace is founded.
But notwithstanding this previous discovery of it, which doubtless engaged the faith, and raised the hope of the servants of God, from the beginning, it is still justly styled new, as it was only fully revealed after the coming of Christ. It is displayed to us in that volume, which is emphatically called the New Testament, or Covenant. Christ, as the Lamb of God, derily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who by him do believe in God. 1 Pet. i, 20.
It was also only fully established by the death of Christ. Solemn promises and engagements were of old established and ratified, by blood-shedding and sacrifices. Gen. xv, 8-18. Hence the Psalmist speaks of the covenant made with God by sacrifice. Ps. 1, 5. Thus the death of Christ was the sacrifice that perfected the new dispensation.
And it was yet farther illustrated and confirmed by the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Thus not only was it proved that his death was accepted as an atonement for sin, and that the divine justice, was satisfied, but he was raised up from the dead, and ascended into heaven to receive those blessings which he had purchased for sinful men, to bestow those blessings on them that believe in his name, and thus to carry on the work of salvation by supplying them according to their individual necessities with grace to help in time of need, and by filling them at proper seasons, with joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Hence, as fully manifested, as completed by the death, and confirmed by the resurrection of Christ, and as compared with the covenant made with Israel on their coming out of Egypt, it is called the new covenant. The former dispensation is no longer necessary, and the Gospel is become the statute law of the whole church of God.
Having thus seen in what respect it is a new covenant, we will next view it IN CONTRAST WITH THE OLD COVENANT. The Scriptures frequently illustrate this subject, by contrasting or comparing one with the other. The Jewish was a religion for a particular nation ; (Deut. iv, 31-34; vii, 6;) the Christian was designed for all nations; (1 John ii, 2; 1 Tim. ii, 4-6;) the Jewish was temporary; (Heb. viii, 7, 13;) the Christian is permanent; (Heb. xii, 27, 28;) the Jewish had conditions to be performed as the ground of obtaining its blessings ; (Exod. xix, 5-8;) the Christian promises those very conditions as blessings which will be freely bestowed. Jer. xxxi, 31-34; Ezek. xxxvi, 27; Rom. iii, 24; Eph, ii, 8, 9. In the first covenant, the law was written on tables of stone ; but the second provides for its being written on the fleshly tables of the heari. 2 Cor. iii, 3. The mediator, priesthood, and sacrifices of the two covenants, are contrasted in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to shew the superior advantages of the latter dispensation.
The old covenant, as considered apart from the discoveries and promises which it contains of the new, was a ministration of death and condemnation, (2 Cor. iii, 7-9.) pronouncing a curse on all who did not obey it perfectly, (Deut. xxvii, 6.) and, in some cases, inflicting the penalty of death, without mercy, on transgressors. Heb. x, 28. The Apostle calls it a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. Acts xv, 10. As a ministration of death and condemnation, it gives those who were never under it a very striking illustration of the sad state of all sinners. Those who sinned not against the
* See the Epistles to the Hebrews and Galatians, passim ; John i, 16, 17; 2 Cor. iii, 3--18, &c.
fight of the Jewish Dispensation, were yet under sin. Rom. iii, 9. They sinned against the light which they had ; (Rom. ii, 12-15.) and God having not left himself without witness, (Acts xiv, 17.) they were without excuse. Rom, i, 29. But the Law entered, that the offence might abound. Rom. v, 20. It discovered and detected yet more strongly the universal and deep corruption, sinfulness, and ruin of man. The soul that sinneth, it shall die : but all have sinned. Hence all, whether under the Jewish law or not, are guilty, (Rom. iii, 19.) under a sentence of death, (Rom. vi, 23.) and condemned before God. John jii, 18.
In this state the new covenant finds all men; and it is a ministration of righteousness, as by it condemned sinners are taught the way of obtaining righteousness through faith in Him who has atened for our sins and fulfilled that law which we had broken. It is also the ministration of the Spirit, as while it is the only doctrine through which life and salvation are communicated to sinners, a much larger measure of the gift of the Holy Ghost is communicated, and to much wider extent, under the administration of the new covenant, than ever was under the old. John xvi, 7; Acts ji.
The old covenant conveyed many intimations of the Gospel; but it was in types and shadows, or by prophecies and promises; it imparted but the beginnings of that salvation which was to be afterwards more largely bestowed. But the new covenant both gives the substance of the emblems, and accomplishes the predictions and promises. John i, 17.
The old was, however, in the various points which have been noticed, and viewed in all its parts, a beautiful and glorious preparatory dispensation, introductory to that which was to be a blessing to the whole world, and wonderfully adapted, in its whole system, to make ready the minds of men to welcome the Gospel. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,
But if that which was done away was glorious, how much more that which remaineth is glorious. What cause have we to thank God that we live under the light and blessings of the most clear and perfect Dispensation which he has ever vouchsafed to his Church ! May it have to be said of us, we all, with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.
The above contrast will enable us the more readily to understand THE NATURE OF THE NEW COVENANT. It will be sufficient to mention some of its leading features. Fully to explain it, would be to transcribe a great part of the sacred volume.
Dr. Watts gives this description of the Divine Dispensations in general.
“ The Public Dispensations of God towards men are those wise and holy constitutions of his will and government revealed, or some way mani. fested to them, in the several successive periods, or ages of the world, wherein are contained the duties which he expects from men, and the blessings which he promises, or encourages them to expect from him, here or hereafter; together with the sins which he forbids, and the punishments which he threatens to inflict on such sinners." We purpose here to confine ourselves to a brief view of the peculiarities of the Christian Dispensation.
It discovers to us God as a RECONCILED FATHER. Col. i, 20, 21. We enemies in our minds by wicked works. Man dislikes the service of that pure and holy God in whom he ought to delight, and daily offends him. He was therefore an object of God's