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THERE are two general parts of this chapter
1. A further explication of the excellency of the priesthood of Christ, or of Christ himself as vested with that office, that is, both in his personal glory and in the usefulness of his office unto the church, above those of the order of Aaron.
2. A further confirmation hereof; wherein is introduced the consideration, of the two covenants, the old and the new. For unto the former was the whole administration of the Levitical priests confined; of the latter, Christ, as our high priest, was the mediator and surety. And therefore the apostle fully proves the excellency of this new covenant above the old; which redounds unto the glory of its mediator.
The first part is contained in the first five verses; the latter extends from thence to the end of the chapter.
In the first part two things are designed:
1. A recapitulation of some things before delivered.
2. The addition of some further arguments in the confirmation of the same truth, so long before insisted on. Both of them he compriseth in three instances of the excellency of Christ in his priesthood, or in the discharge of his office:
1. In his exaltation and the place of his present residence, Hebrews 8:1.
2. In the sanctuary whereof he is a minister, and the tabernacle wherein at present he doth administer, Hebrews 8:2.
3. In the sacrifice he had to offer, or which he offered before his entrance into that sanctuary, Hebrews 8:3; which he illustrates by two especial considerations, Hebrews 8:4-58.8.5.
Κεφάλαιον δὲ ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις , τοιοῦτον ἔχομεν ἀρχειρέα , ὅς ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θρόνου τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν τοῖς οὐραςοῖς .
Κεφάλαιον . Syr., רִישָׁאִ , “caput.” Vulg., “capitulum,” “summa.” Beta, “caeterum eorum quae diximus haec summa est,” “moreover this is the sum of what we speak;” “summatim autem dicendo,” “to speak briefly.”
᾿Επὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις . Syr., דְּכֻלְּהֵין , “of all these things;” the head, chief, or principal of all these things. Vulg., “super ea quae dicuntur.” Rhem., “the sum concerning these things which he said.”
Τοιοῦτον ἔχομεν . Syr., “We have an high priest, him who sitteth ; ” omitting this word, or including it in אֵינָא , “is,” “ille.”
Τῆς μεγαλωσύνης . Vulg., “magnitudinis;” which the Rhemists render by “majesty;” and they retain “sedis” for θρόνου . Beza, “majestatis illius;” or, “throni virtutis magnificandi.” 
 TRANSLATIONS. . Literally, “of the things which are being spoken.” Conybeare and Howson. “Of which we are speaking.” Craik. ” In the course of being spoken.” Turner. “To what has been hitherto said.” Ebrard. Κεφάλ . “The prominent point.” Turner. “The crowning point.” Craik. “‘Sum’will do here, if understood not of a recapitulation, but as a product resulting from all that goes before.” Ebrard. “The most important thing in regard to what we are now treating of.” Stuart. ED .
Hebrews 8:1 . Now of the things that are spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
This first verse contains two things:
1. A preface unto that part of the ensuing discourse which immediately concerns the priesthood of Christ, unto the end of verse 5.
2. A declaration of the first pre-eminence of our high priest; which the apostle would have us in an especial manner to consider.
First, The preface is in these words, κεφάλαιον δὲ ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις : which may be considered either as unto its design in general, or as unto the sense of the words:
1. The design of the apostle in this interlocution (which is not unusual with him), is to stir up the Hebrews unto a diligent consideration of what he insisted on, and to leave an impression of it on their minds. And this he doth for two reasons:
(1.) Lest the length and difficulty of his preceding discourse should have any way discomposed their minds, or wearied them in their attention, so as that they could not well retain the substance of what he pleaded. In such cases it was always usual with them who pleaded important causes before the wisest judges, to recapitulate what had been spoken at length before, and to show what hath been evinced by the arguments they had used in their plea. To this purpose speaks Quintilian, lib. 6: cap. i.:
“Perorationis duplex ratio est posita, aut in rebus, aut in affectibus. Rerum repetitio et congregatio, quae Graece dicitur ἀνακεφαλαίωσις , a quibusdam Latinorum enumeratio, et memoriam judicis reficit, et totam simul causam ante oculos ponit; et etiam si per singula minus moverat, turba valet. In hac, quaae repetemus quam brevissime dicenda sunt, et (quod Graeco verbo patet) decurrendum per capita.”
How this whole course is steered by the apostle in this place is easy for any one to observe.
(2.) Because of the importance of the matter in hand. He is treating of the very head of all the differences between the law and the gospel, between those who adhered unto Mosaical institutions and those who embraced the faith. Hence he calleth them unto a renewed attention unto what he delivered. For herein he set life and death before them, and was zealous for them, and earnest with them, that they would choose life, and not die in their unbelief.
2. The sense of the words is to be considered. Κεφάλαιον is “capitulum,” “caput;” properly the “head” of any living creature. But the most frequent use of it is in a sense metaphorical, as it is here used by the apostle. And so it hath a double sense and use, whereunto it is principally applied (for it hath also other significations). For,
(1.) It is taken for that which is chief and principal in any matter, business, or cause. Κεφάλαιον ὅλου τοῦ πράγματος , Isoc.; ”The head of the whole business.” κεφάλαιον δὴ παιδείας , κέγομεν τὴν ὀρθὴν τροφήν , Plato, de Legib., lib.; ”The principal thing in education or instruction.” And so is “caput” used among the Latins: “Caput est in omni procuratione negotii et muneris publici, ut avaritiae pellatur etiam minima suspicio;” ”This is the chief or principal thing in the management of all public affairs, that all suspicion of covetousness be far away.”
(2.) It is taken for the sum and substance of what hath been spoken or declared, reduced into a short scheme: ῾Ως δὲ ἐν κεφαλαίῳ εἰπεῖν , “Ut summatim dicam,” Demosthenes. And so some render these words “summatim dicendo.” And Isocrates hath an expression directly answering that of the apostle in this place, Nicoc.: Κεφάλαιον δὲ τῶν εἰρημένων , ”The sum of what hath been spoken.” So ראֹשׁ , “caput,” the “head,” is used in the Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּי תִשָּׂא אֶתאּראֹשׁ בְּנֵיאּ , Exodus 30:12; ”When thou takest the head” (the “sum”) of the children of Israel.” So also Numbers 4:2. And in this sense is ἀνακεφαλαιοῦμαι , used by our apostle, as some think, Ephesians 1:10: but it may have another sense in that place.
In whether of these two significations it is here used by our apostle, will best appear from the consideration of what it is applied unto, ἐπὶ τοῖς λεγομένοις . For these words also are capable of a double interpretation.
(1.) ᾿Επί may be put for ἐν , “in” or “among;” and then the things themselves treated of may be intended., And if so, κεφάλαιον requires the first signification, “the chief and principal thing” or “matter:” ‘Among all the things treated of, this is the principal;’ as indeed it is, and that which all other things in debate did depend upon.
(2.) If ἐπί be in a manner redundant, and no more is intended but τῶν λεγομένων , “of the things spoken,” then κεφάλαιον is to be taken in the second signification, and denotes a recapitulation of them: ‘This is that which my arguments amount unto, the sum of what I have pleaded.’
Both these senses are consistent. For the apostle in this and the ensuing verses doth both briefly recapitulate what he had evinced by his preceding arguments, and also declare what is the principal thing that he had contended for and proved. I incline unto the latter signification of the word, respected in our translation; yet so as that the former also is true, and safely applicable unto the text.
And some directions we may take from the wisdom of the apostle in this management of his present subject, in our preaching or teaching of spiritual things; for,
Obs. 1. When the nature and weight of the matter treated of, or the variety of arguments wherein it is concerned, do require that our discourse of it should be drawn forth unto a length more than ordinary, it is useful to refresh the minds and relieve the memories of our hearers, by a brief recapitulation of the things insisted on. It is so, I say, sometimes; as this way is taken once, and but once, by our apostle. When it is necessary, is left unto the wisdom and choice of those who are called unto this work. I mean, of such who, laboring diligently and conscientiously in the discharge of it, do really consider at all times what is for the benefit and edification of their hearers. But this is to be done only on great and important occasions. The usual way of the repetition of the heads of sermons before preached, is, in my judgment, useless and unprofitable.
Obs. 2. When doctrines are important, and such as the eternal welfare of the souls of men are immediately concerned in, we are by all means to endeavor an impression of them on the minds of our hearers. Be they never so precious and worthy of all acceptation, ofttimes they will not obtain an entrance into men’s minds, unless they have an edge ministerially put upon them. Wherefore they are by all suitable means, with gravity and zeal, to be called unto a diligent attendance unto them. Weight is to be laid doctrinally, in their delivery, on things that are of weight really in themselves.
And this is the first part of this verse, or the preface of what ensues,
Secondly, The second part of it, in the following words, contains the first general pre-eminence of our high priest, and that taken from his present and eternal state or condition. And there are three things considerable in the words:
1. Our relation unto this high priest.
2. The general denotation of him.
3. His eminency and dignity in particular above all others.
1. Our relation unto him is expressed in the word ἔχομεν , “we have.” For the apostle, together with his assertion of the priesthood of Christ, and the declaration of the nature of it, doth frequently intersert the mention of our interest therein, or our relation unto him in the discharge of that office: “Such an high priest became us,” Hebrews 7:26; “We have not an high priest that cannot,” etc., Hebrews 4:15; “The high priest of our profession,” Hebrews 3:1; and here, “We have such an high priest.” And to the same purpose, “We have an altar,” Hebrews 13:10. And three things the apostle seems to design herein:
(1.) The dignity of the Christian church, as now separated from the church of the Jews. In all their confidence in their worship, that which they principally boasted of was their high priest and his office. He was anointed with the holy oil. He wore the garments that were made “for beauty and for glory.” He had on his forehead a plate of gold with that glorious inscription, “Holiness unto Jehovah.” And he alone entered into the holy place, having made expiation for the sins of the people. The Christians, who were now separated from them, they despised, as those who had no lot nor portion in all this glory; no such visible high priest as they had. So the same persons were afterwards reproached by the Pagans, that they had neither temples, nor altars, nor images or visible deities. So hard was it to call off the carnal minds of men from things visible and sensible in divine worship, unto those that are spiritual and heavenly. And herein lies the reproach of degenerated Christians, especially those of the Roman church, that whereas the gospel, in asserting the pure, heavenly, spiritual worship of God, had prevailed against the world, and triumphed over all that is carnal, invented to please the senses and satisfy the superstitious minds of men; they have made themselves the scorn and spoil of their conquered enemies, by returning to the same kind of worship, in various degrees, which was before destroyed and triumphed over.. And as therein they seem to make a public acknowledgment, that the gospel, in the management of their predecessors, had much injured the world, in the introduction of a worship spiritual and divine, excluding all those visible glories which it had found out to entertain the minds of men; so it will appear in the issue that they have made themselves transgressors, by building up what was before destroyed. But the primitive Christians did still oppose the spiritual worship of sanctified souls, in the observation of the institutions of Christ, unto all the pretences of glory and beauty pleaded to be in their outward forms. So the apostle here, to evince the dignity of the Christian church against the unbelief of the Jews, pleads their relation unto an invisible, spiritual high priest, exalted in glory and dignity far above all that they could enjoy by virtue of a carnal commandment. ‘Whatever you think of us, whatever you boast of yourselves, “we have an high priest;”’and that such an one as he immediately declares.
(2.) He would teach us, that whatever be the glory and dignity of this high priest, without an interest in him, without an especial relation unto him, unless “we have an high priest,” we are not concerned therein. Many do give their assent unto this truth, that Christ is a high priest; but how or wherein he is so to them they know not, nor yet do they make any use of him as such. Yea, unto many, the principal mysteries of the gospel are but mere notions and barren speculations; what it is to be practically influenced by them, and to live in the power of them, they know not. That there is a high priest, they believe, but what it is for them to have a high priest, they cannot understand. But this is that we are to look after, if we intend any benefit by it. And we may know whether we have a high priest or no, really and substantially, by the use which we make of him as such in all our approaches unto God. For he presides over the whole house of God, and all the sacred services thereof. None can come unto the Father but by him. Through him have we boldness, through him have we ability, through him have we access unto and acceptance with God. He presents both our persons and duties unto him. Without a daily improvement by faith of the office of Christ unto these ends, it cannot be said that we have a high priest.
(3.) That the office of the priesthood of Christ is confined unto the church, unto believers. Theirs he is, and for them alone doth he administer before God in this office.
2. There is a general denotation of this priest, as to his qualifications, in the word τοιοῦτον . He doth not now say, that ‘we have an high priest,’ only; nor ‘another high priest, not according to the ordinances of the law,’ which he had proved before, from the type of Melchisedec and the testimony of the psalmist; but moreover such an one as hath that dignity and those excellencies which he now ascribes unto him. The salvation of the church doth not depend merely on its having a high priest, which yet in itself is absolutely necessary thereunto, but on his dignity and excellency, his exaltation and glory.
Wherefore it is affirmed of him, that he is “such an high priest as is set on the right hand of the throne of the glorious Majesty in the heavens.” And two things we must consider in these words:
(1.) The design of the apostle in them; and,
(2.) Their particular interpretation:
(1.) The design of the apostle, as we observed before, was not to prove the reality of his priesthood, that he was truly a priest; nor yet absolutely the qualifications of his person; but his dignity and excellency. For our LORD Jesus Christ, when he was on the earth, and whilst he offered up to God his great propitiatory sacrifice, was, as unto his outward state and condition, inferior unto the Levitical high priests, who were in great honor and veneration among the people. But the state and condition of any in the bearing and discharge of an office is not to be esteemed and reckoned from what he condescends unto, with respect unto any action or duty belonging unto that office, for a king may condescend unto very mean services, when the condition of his subjects and good of the kingdom require it of him, but it is to be reckoned from his durable estate, and perpetual abode therein. Now, although our LORD Christ was for a season in a condition of deep humiliation, taking on him “the form of a servant,” and being esteemed even as “a worm, and no man,” which was necessary unto the sacrifice he had to offer, yet as unto his durable state, wherein he continues in the discharge of his office, he is incomparably exalted above all the high priests under the law. And this is that which the apostle designs here to declare. For what did the high priest do, after he had offered the anniversary sacrifice of expiation unto God? He entered, indeed, into the holy place with the blood of the sacrifice, presenting it there before the august pledges of the presence of God; but all the while he was there, he stood before the typical throne, or ark and mercy-seat, with holy awe and reverence; and immediately on the discharge of his present duty, he was to withdraw and go out of the holy place. A great privilege this was, and a great honor was herein put on the high priest; for all others, both priests and people, were everlastingly excluded out of that sanctuary. But what is this unto the glory of our high priest? For after he had offered his great sacrifice unto God, he “entered not into the holy place made with hands, but into heaven itself.” And he entered, not to stand with humble reverence before the throne, but to sit on the throne of God, at his right hand. Nor did he do so to abide there for a season, but for evermore.
(2.) As to the words themselves, we may observe, that the apostle three times in this epistle maketh use of them with some little variety, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 12:2, and in this place. Hebrews 1:3, “He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” where there is no mention of the throne. Hebrews 12:2, “He is set down at the right hand of the throne of God;” where “ Majesty ” is not added. Here we have both, “The right hand of the throne of the Majesty.” In the first place, the glory of his kingly power is intended; in the last, his exaltation and glory, as they ensued on his sufferings; and in this place, the declaration of his glory in his priestly office. The same glory and advancement hath respect unto various acts and powers in the LORD Christ:
[1.] The manner of his enjoyment of this dignity and glory is expressed in the word ἐκάθισεν , “he sat down.” Hereof there was nothing typical in the legal high priest, who never sat down in the holy place. But as he was in many things typed by the Levitical priests, so in what they could not reach unto, he was represented in Melchisedec, who was both a king and a priest. And hence he is prophesied of as “a priest upon his throne,” Zechariah 6:13. And the immutable stability of his state and condition is also intended.
[2.] The dignity itself consists in the place of his residence, where he sat down; and this was ἐν δεξιᾷ , “at the right hand.” See the exposition hereof, Hebrews 1:3.
[3.] This right hand is said to be τοῦ θρόνου τῆς μεγαλωσύνης . There is frequent mention in the Scripture of the throne of God. A throne is “insigne regium,” an ensign of royal power. That intended by it is the manifestation of the glory and power of God, in his authority and sovereign rule over all.
[4.] This throne is here said to be τῆς μεγαλωσύνης , of “Majesty,” or “glorious greatness and power;” that is, of God himself, for his essential glory and power are intended. “The right hand of the throne of Majesty,” is the same with “the right hand of God;” only God is represented in all his glory, as on his throne. Christ is set down at the right hand of God, as considered in all his glorious power and rule. Higher expression there cannot be used to lead us into a holy adoration of the tremendous invisible glory which is intended. And this is the eternal stable condition of the LORD Christ, our high priest, a state of inconceivable power and glory. Herein he dischargeth the remaining duties of his mediation, according as the nature of his especial offices do require. In this state doth he take care to provide for the application of the benefits of his oblation or sacrifice unto believers; and that by intercession, whereof we have spoken.
[5.] Thus is he said to be ἐν οὐρανοῖς , in the heavens;” as in the other place ἐν ὐψηλοῖς , “in the highest,” that is, heavens. And by “the heavens” here, not these visible, aspectable heavens are intended, for with respect unto them he is said to be “exalted above all heavens,” and to have “passed through them,” but it is that which the Scripture calls “the heaven of heavens,” 1 Kings 8:27, wherein is the especial residence and manifestation of the glorious presence of God. With respect hereunto our Savior hath taught us to call on “our Father which is in heaven.” And from the words we may observe, that,
Obs. 3. The principal glory of the priestly office of Christ depends on the glorious exaltation of his person. To this end is it here pleaded by the apostle, and thereby he evinceth his glorious excellency above all the high priests under the law. To evidence and make useful this observation, the things ensuing are to be observed:
1. The divine nature of Christ is capable of no real exaltation by an addition of glory, but only by the way of manifestation. So God absolutely is often in the Scriptures said to be “exalted;” that is, he is so when he himself, by any acts of grace or providence, makes the eternal glory of his power, his holiness, or any other property of his nature, manifest and conspicuous; or when others ascribe unto him the glory and praise that are his due. So only may the LORD Christ be exalted, or made glorious, with respect unto his divine nature, wherein he is essentially “over all, God blessed for ever.” And there is in this way an exaltation or manifestation of glory peculiar and proper unto the person of Christ, as distinct from the persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit; for he did in a peculiar way and manner for a season forego and leave his glory, as to the manifestation of it. For
“being” (essentially) “in the form of God, and counting it not robbery to be equal with God,” yet he “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,” Philippians 2:6-50.2.7.
In his incarnation, and his whole converse on the earth, he cast a veil over his eternal glory, so as that it appeared not in its own native lustre. Those, indeed, who believed on him,
“beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1:14;
but they saw it “darkly,” and “as in a glass,” during the time of his humiliation. But after his resurrection his glory was unveiled, and made conspicuous, even when he was
“declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” Romans 1:4.
2. The person of Christ, as to his divine nature, was always on the throne, and is incapable of the exaltation here mentioned, of sitting down at the right hand of it. Although “he came down from heaven,” although “he descended into the lower parts of the earth,” although he was exposed unto all miseries, was “obedient unto death, the death of the cross,” wherein “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” yet did he all this in the human nature that he assumed. His divine person can no more really leave the throne of majesty than cease to be. So he saith of himself,
“No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Sea of man, which is in heaven,” John 3:13,
His ascension into heaven in this place, which preceded the actual ascension of his human nature, is nothing but his admission into the knowledge of heavenly things, of all the secrets of the counsel of God (see John 1:18, Matthew 11:27); for it is of the knowledge of heavenly mysteries that he is there discoursing with Nicodemus. In his incarnation, he came down from heaven, assuming a nature upon the earth; the highest condescension of God, And whereas the acting of his power on the earth is often called his coming down from heaven, Genesis 18:21, Isaiah 64:1, how much more may this infinite condescension of the second person in assuming our nature be so called! But yet he was still in heaven; ”the Son of man, which is in heaven.” In his divine nature he was still on the throne of majesty; for this being an inseparable property of divine authority, he could never really forego it. Then,
3. It is the human nature of Christ, or Christ in his human nature, or with respect unto it, that is capable of this real exaltation, by a real addition of glory. It is not the manifestation of his glory with respect unto his human nature, but the real collation of glory on him after his ascension, that is intended. This the whole Scripture testifieth unto, namely, a real communication of glory unto Christ by the Father, after his ascension, which he had not before. See Luke 24:26; John 17:24; Acts 2:33, Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:20-49.1.23; Philippians 2:9-50.2.11; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 1:21; Revelation 5:12. And concerning this glory given him of God, we may observe,
(1.) That it is not absolutely infinite and essentially divine glory. This cannot be communicated unto any. A creature, as was the human nature of Christ, cannot be made God, by an essential communication of divine properties unto it. Neither are they so communicable, nor is that a capable subject of their inhesion. Wherefore they speak dangerously who assert a real communication of the properties of the one nature of Christ unto the other, so as that the human nature of Christ shall be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient: neither doth the union of the two natures in the person of Christ require any more the transfusion of the divine properties into the human, than those of the human into the divine. If, therefore, by that union, the human nature should be thought to be rendered subjectively omnipotent and omnipresent, the divine, on the other hand, must become limited and finite. But whatever belongs unto Christ with respect unto either nature, belongs unto the person of Christ; and therein he is all that he is in either nature; and in both hath done and doth what in either of them he hath done and doth, they yet continuing distinct in their essential properties.
(2.) Yet this exaltation and glory of Christ in his human nature is not only absolutely above, but also of another kind, than the utmost of what any other created being either hath or is capable of. It is more than any other creature is capable of, because it is founded in the union of his person; a privilege which no other creature can ever pretend unto, or be made partaker of unto eternity, Hebrews 2:16. This renders his glory in his exaltation of another kind than that of the most glorious creatures in their best condition. Again, it consists greatly in that power and authority over the whole creation, and every individual in it, and all their concerns, which is committed unto him. See our explanation hereof at large on Hebrews 1:3.
4. This exaltation of the person of Christ gives glory unto his office, as the apostle here declares. It is the person of Christ which is vested with the office of the priesthood, or God could not have “redeemed the church with his own blood;” although he exercises all the duties of it, both here below and above, in the human nature only. And it is the person of Christ which is thus exalted and made glorious, although the especial subject of this exaltation and glory be the human nature only. And this gives glory unto his office; for, (1.) This is a manifest pledge and evidence of the absolute perfection of his oblation, and that “‘by one offering he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified.” When the high priest of old appeared for a while in the holy place, he returned again unto his former station, that he might be in a condition to offer another sacrifice at the return of the year; and hence doth our apostle prove that none of the worshippers were perfected by those sacrifices. But our high priest, having offered himself once for all, now sitting down for ever at the right hand of God, in glory and majesty inconceivable, it is evident that he hath fully expiated the sins of all that come unto God by him. And this declares the glory of his office.
(2.) By his glorious power he makes all things subservient unto the ends of his mediation; for he is given to be “head over all things to the church.” All things are in his power and at his disposal, as he is exalted at the right hand of God; and he will assuredly make them all work together for the good of them that do believe. And,
(3.) He is able to render the persons and duties of believers accepted in the sight of God. To present them unto God is the great remaining duty of his office. That they be so, is their only real concern in this world, and that alone which their minds are principally exercised about. And what greater security can they have hereof than the interest and glory which this their high priest hath in heaven? 1 John 2:1-62.2.2.
The second pre-eminence of our LORD Christ as our high priest, which the apostle calls over in this summary of his discourse, is contained in this second verse.
Hebrews 8:2 . Τῶν ἀγίων λειτουργὸς , καὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθινῆς , ἥν ἔπηξεν ὁ Κύριος καὶ οὐκ ἄνθρωπος .
Λειτουρηγός , “minister.” Τῶν ἁγίων . Vulg. Lat., “sanctorum.” Rhem., “of the holies.” Syr., דְּבֵיתת קוּדְשָׁא , “of the holy house,” or “domus sanctuarii;” “of the house of the sanctuary.” “Sanctuarii,” “of the sanctuary,” as we shall see. ῞Ην ἔπηξεν ὁ Κύριος . Vulg. Lat., “quod fixit Deus,” “which God hath fixed” or “pitched.” Rhem., “which our LORD pight;” following the original as to the word Κύριος . Syr. אַלָהָא “God” וְלָא בַּי נָשָׁא “and not a son of man.” Some copies of the Vulgar Latin, “Dominus.”
Hebrews 8:2 . A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched, and not man.
There are two parts of these words, expressing,
1. What is affirmed of our high priest; namely, that he was “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle.”
2. An amplification of what is so affirmed, by the description and distinction of this tabernacle; “which the LORD fixed, and not man.”
In the first also there are two things:
1. The assertion of his office; he is “a minister.”
2. The assignation and limitation of his discharge of that office; it is “the sanctuary and true tabernacle.”
1. It is affirmed that he is λειτουργός , “a minister.” Having declared the glory and dignity which he is exalted unto, as “sitting down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” what can be further expected from him? There he lives, eternally happy in the enjoyment of his own blessedness and glory. Is it not reasonable it should be so, after all the hardships and miseries which he, being the Son of God, underwent in this world? Who can expect that he should any longer condescend unto office and duty? Neither generally have men any other thoughts concerning him. But where, then, would lie the advantage of the church in his exaltation, which the apostle designs in an especial manner to demonstrate? Wherefore unto the mention of it he immediately subjoins the continuation of his office. He is still λειτουργός , a “public minister” for the church.
Λειτουργέω is “to minister,” either with God or before God, as a priest for others; or for God, in the name of God towards others, as do magistrates and ministers of the gospel. And therefore all these sorts are called λειτουργοί , or said to be λειτουργῆσαι . The LORD Christ is expressly spoken of here as a priest; it is a name of his priestly office, wherein he acts towards God. Nor is he anywhere called or said to be διάκονος in any of his actings from God towards us; although he be said therein to be διάκονος , Romans 15:8: that is, he was so in the days of his flesh, but that name now no way belongeth unto him. He is not therefore styled “a minister,” because he executeth the purposes of God towards us, as Schlichtingius fancieth; but he acts towards God and before God on our behalf, according to the duty of a priest. He went into heaven to “appear in the presence of God for us,” and to discharge his office before God on our behalf. And it is granted also, that by virtue thereof he doth also communicate all good things from God unto us; for the whole administration of things sacred between God and the church is committed unto him. And we must observe, that,
Obs. 1. The LORD Christ, in the height of his glory, condescends to discharge the office of a public minister in the behalf of the church. We are not to bound our faith on Christ as unto what he did for us on the earth. The life and efficacy of the whole of his mediation depend on what he did antecedently thereunto, and what he doth consequently unto it; for in these things doth the glory of his love and grace most eminently appear. Antecedently unto what he did on earth, and to make way for it, there was his infinite condescension in assuming our nature. He was “in the form of God,” and in the eternal enjoyment of all the blessedness which the divine nature is essentially accompanied withal. Yet being thus “rich,” this was his “grace,” that “for our sakes he became poor.” This ineffable grace and love of Christ is the principal object of our faith and admiration, as it is declared by the apostle, Philippians season, to undertake the work of mediation; so now he hath resumed his glory, as to the manifestation of his divine power, and hath the highest addition of glory in his human nature, by his exaltation at the right hand of God, yet he continueth his care of and love towards the church, so as to discharge the office of a public minister in their behalf. As all the shame, reproach, misery, with death, that he was to undergo on the earth, deterred him not from undertaking this work; so all the glory which he is environed withal in heaven diverts him not from continuing the discharge of it.
2. There is a limitation of this ministration of our high priest, with respect unto its proper object, and that in a double expression. For he is a minister,
(1.) Τῶν ἁγίων .
(2.) Τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθιν ης .
(1.) He is so τῶν ἁγίων . The word may be either of the masculine or of the neuter gender, and so respect either persons or things. If it be taken in the former way, it is of the saints. And this is the ordinary sense of ἅγιοι in the books of the New Testament, ”saints,” or “holy persons.” But they cannot be here precisely intended; and the apostle useth this word frequently in another sense in this epistle. Τῶν ἁγίων , from ἅγια , of the neuter gender, may have a double signification:
[1.] Of holy things in general;
[2.] Of holy places:
[1.] Of things. So the Vulg. Lat. renders the word, “sanctorum;” which the Rhemists translate “holies;” that is, of holy persons or holy things. And ours place “holy things” in the margin. And the sense is true, if the signification of the word be extended unto all holy things; for the ministration of them all is committed unto Jesus Christ. But the word hath yet a more peculiar signification.
[2.] The inmost part of the tabernacle our apostle calls ἅγια ἁγίων , Hebrews 9:3; that is, קֹרֶשׁ הַקֵּדָשִׁים , the “holy of holies,” “the most holy place.” And absolutely he calls it ἅγια , “the holies,” Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 13:11. And in answer thereunto, he calleth our spiritual presence before God, whereunto we have an access by the blood of Christ, by the same name, Hebrews 10:19. And hence the word is rendered by sanctuary;” particularly that part of the tabernacle whereinto the high priest entered alone, and that but once a year. Take this sanctuary properly and literally, and Christ was not the minister of it. He never entered into it, nor could, nor had any right so to do; because it belonged and was appropriated unto others, as our apostle declares, Hebrews 10:4.
Wherefore we must take our direction herein from the words following. For mentioning the whole tabernacle, as he doth here one part of it, namely, the sanctuary, he gives it a note of distinction from the old tabernacle of Moses, ”the true tabernacle.” So must “the sanctuary” be distinguished from that of old. It is that which answers thereunto. And this is nothing but heaven itself. Heaven, not as considered absolutely, but as the place of God’s glorious presence, the temple of the living God, where the worship of the church is presented, and all its affairs transacted. This is called God’s sanctuary, Psalms 102:19: “He looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth.” And so the apostle himself plainly interprets this place, Hebrews 9:24: “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself.”
And this is called “the sanctuary,” because there doth really dwell and abide all that was typically represented in the sanctuary below. And therein doth the LORD Christ discharge his priestly office for the good of the church. It was a joyful time with the church of old, when the high priest entered into the holy place; for he carried with him the blood wherewith atonement was made for all their sins. Yet he was quickly again to leave that place, and his ministration therein. But our high priest abides in the sanctuary, in the holy place, for ever, always representing the efficacy of the blood whereby atonement was made for all our sins. As no interposition between heaven and us should discourage us, while Christ is there ministering for us; so his being there will draw our hearts and minds thither continually, if so be we are really interested in his holy ministrations. These things are to some in darkness and obscurity; if not wholly out of their sight, yet out of their practice. In their faith, worship, and obedience, they find no concernment in the heavenly ministrations of this high priest. Things within the veil are hid from them. Yet would such persons be esteemed Christians. But the relief, the direction, the consolation, which true believers do or may, in the due exercise of faith, receive by the consideration hereof, are gracious and pleasant, yea, full of glory.
(2.) The second part of the limitation of the ministration of our high priest is in these words, καὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τῆς ἀληθινῆς , ”and of that true tabernacle;” which is further described by its efficient cause, expressed both positively and negatively, “which the LORD pitched, and not man.”
Expositors generally agree that by “true” in this place, that which is substantial, solid, and abiding, is intended; for it is opposed unto that which is umbratile, transitory, and figurative. The old tabernacle could in no sense be said to be false, or deceiving; for it was an ordinance of God, set up and used by his appointment, and gave true directions unto its proper end. But it was figurative and typical, denoting somewhat that was to be the true and substantial tabernacle of God. So is the expression interpreted, John 6:32, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven;” that is, spiritually substantial and abiding, nourishing the soul unto eternal life.
But what is the “tabernacle” here intended, deserves our diligent inquiry. And I find a fourfold sense to be given of these words, “the true tabernacle:”
[1.] Some (as Grotius) take it for “this whole universe, the fabric of heaven and earth.” This some, even among the heathen, have called “the tabernacle and temple of God.” This he hath made as it were to dwell in, as a certain fixed place for the manifestation of his glory. And whereas the ministry of Christ, at least as unto the effects of it, is not confined unto any certain place, above or below, to no material tabernacle or temple, the whole universe is called his tabernacle, as being that which is true, substantial, and abiding. And thus it may answer what is affirmed of “all power being given unto him in heaven and in earth,” and his being “given to be the head over all things unto the church.” I see nothing absurd in this opinion, nor contradictory unto the analogy of faith. But the design of the apostle in using these words and expressions, will not allow this to be his especial meaning; for somewhat he doth intend that the old tabernacle did typify and represent, which it did not the fabric of the universe, but that especial pattern which was showed unto Moses in the mount.
[2.] Some, with more probability, do judge that by “‘the true tabernacle,’ the universal spiritual, catholic church,” is intended; for this is compared expressly unto a tabernacle, Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 54:2. And herein doth God dwell, and walk amongst men. Hereof Christ may be said to be the minister; for as he is the head of it, so he dwelleth in it. And it is undoubtedly in the behalf of this tabernacle that he continueth to administer in the holy place; and all the benefits of his ministration do redound hereunto. But yet all this doth not suffice to have the LORD Christ called the minister of this tabernacle. This, indeed, is that which he ministereth for; but it is not that which he ministereth by. The tabernacle and the things contained in it were the means of worship, and that which was materially employed in divine service; which the catholic church answereth not unto. Neither was the tabernacle of old, which is here alluded unto, a type of the church, but of Christ himself.
[3.] Most expositors take “the tabernacle,” as they do “the sanctuary,” for heaven itself. And they would have the word “true,” by a zeugma, to belong unto the sanctuary as well as unto the tabernacle; which we have also before allowed. But yet this proveth not that the sanctuary and the tabernacle must be the same, though both be equally true in the same sense. This way go the Greek expositors, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and OEcumenius, on the place. And because this tabernacle is said to be “fixed of God,” Chrysostom reproacheth them who say that the heavens do move and are spherical, though he never had a prophetical dream of the Copernican hypothesis, But yet, as Beza well observes, they forsook their own interpretation on Hebrews 9:11-58.9.12, where the tabernacle is spoken of in the same sense that here it is. But besides the reasons that shall be given immediately for another interpretation, two things will not comply with this: For,
1st . There is no reason why the apostle should express the same thing, first under the name of the sanctuary, and then of a tabernacle.
2dly . There is no especial reason why it should be added peculiarly concerning the heavens, “which God hath fixed, and not man;” for this was never questioned.
[4.] I say, therefore, that by this “true tabernacle,” the human nature of the LORD Christ himself is intended. Hereof he is the minister; herein doth he minister before God above. For,
1st . Hereof the old tabernacle was a type. Thence is the expression taken, and thereunto is opposition made in the epithet, “true.” This, therefore, is our best direction and rule in the interpretation of this expression. For look what that type did signify, what was to be the substantial antitype of it, that is the “true tabernacle,” whereof the LORD Christ is the minister; for all agree that it is called “true” in opposition and answer unto that which was umbratile and figurative. Now that tabernacle was not erected to be a type of heaven, nor is any such thing intimated in the Scripture. A token, pledge, and means it was, of God’s presence with his people here on earth, of his nearness unto them; whence also he is said to “dwell among them.” But this he doth really and substantially only through Christ. He therefore alone is this “true tabernacle.” For,
2dly . In answer hereunto, when he was incarnate, and came into the world, it is said that ἐσκήνωσε , “he fixed his tabernacle among us,” John 1:14; that is the signification of the word which we have translated to “dwell,” because the tabernacle of old was the way and means of God’s dwelling among the people, in the pledges of his gracious presence. All that old curious structure, for a habitation for God, did only represent his taking our nature upon him, fixing his tent thereby among men. What was the pattern of this tabernacle, showed unto Moses on the mount, we must inquire, on Hebrews 8:5.
3dly . He himself called his own body his temple, with respect unto the temple of Jerusalem, which was of the same nature and use with the tabernacle, John 2:19-43.2.22. And this he did, because his body was that true, substantial temple and tabernacle whereof he was the minister.
4thly . That is the true tabernacle, which God truly and really inhabiteth, and on the account whereof he is our God. This was the nature, use, and end of the tabernacle of old. God dwelt therein, in the signs and pledges of his presence; and was on the account thereof the God of that people, according to the terms of the covenant between them, Exodus 25:8; Revelation 21:3. That, therefore, wherein God dwells really and substantially, and on the account whereof he is our God in the covenant of grace, that, and no other, is the true tabernacle. But this is in Christ alone; for “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” Colossians 2:9. Thus the human nature of Christ is that true, substantial tabernacle, wherein God dwelleth personally.
5thly . He is the only way and means of our approach unto God in holy worship, as the tabernacle was of old; which we have elsewhere declared.
That alone which seems to be of any force against this interpretation, is,
‘That the human nature of Christ is that whereby he is the minister of this tabernacle; it cannot therefore be the tabernacle itself wherein he doth administer: and therefore the place of his abode must be intended by the tabernacle whereof he is the minister.’
Ans. By the same rule it would follow, that because Christ is the high priest, he is not the sacrifice; for the priest and the sacrifice among men cannot be the same. Howbeit Christ offered himself only. And the reason of these things is, that he was in his own person, and what he did therein, to answer all those types of priest, sacrifice, altar, tabernacle, and what belonged thereunto. He was the body and substance of them all, Colossians 2:17. No one of them was able to represent the fullness of grace that was to be in Christ; therefore were there many of them ordained, and those of various sorts. And therefore his being eminently intended in one of them, no way hinders his being so in another. He was all in himself, priest, tabernacle, altar, and sacrifice.
Again; The efficient cause of this true tabernacle is declared, both positively and negatively; “which the LORD pitched, and not man,” ἥν ἔπηξεν ὁ Κύριος . It is in the article ἥν confined unto the tabernacle, and extends not unto the sanctuary mentioned before; “of the true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched.” And hereby this tabernacle is distinguished from both the sanctuaries, the typical here below, and the real above, even heaven itself; for it was not of the same building with either of them, as the apostle declares, Hebrews 9:11.
῎Επηξεν , “pitched,” “fixed.” It is a word proper unto the erection and establishment of a tabernacle. The fixing of stakes and pillars, with the fastening of cords thereunto, was the principal means of setting up a tabernacle, Isaiah 54:2. The preparation of the human nature or body of Christ is that which is intended. “A body hast thou prepared me,” Hebrews 10:5. And this body was to be taken down, and folded up for a season, and afterwards to be erected again, without the breaking or loss of any part of it. This of all buildings was peculiar unto a tabernacle, and so was it with the body of Christ in his death and resurrection.
῾Ο Κύριος . The author of this work was “the LORD.” This is the word or name whereby the writers of the New Testament do express the name Jehovah. And whereas, in the revelation of that name, God declared that self-subsisting firmitude and unchangeableness of his nature, whereby he would infallibly give subsistence unto his word, and accomplishment unto his promises, the apostle hath respect unto it in this great work, wherein all the promises of God became “yea and amen.” How this tabernacle was prepared and fixed immediately by the Holy Ghost, acting the infinite power of God alone therein, I have at large elsewhere declared.
It is added negatively, “and not man.” Some suppose a pleonasm in the words, and that this expression is redundant; for to say it was pitched by God, sufficiently includes that it was not done by man. But the expression is emphatical, and the apostle hath an especial design in it; for,
1. The old tabernacle itself may in some sense be said to be pitched by God. It was done by his command, order, and direction, as were all other ordinances of his appointment. But it cannot be said that God pitched it, and not man; which excludes the whole service and ministry of man: for the ministry of men was used in the preparation, framing, and erection of it. But the pitching of this “true tabernacle” was the work of God alone, without any ministry or service of men: “A body hast thou prepared me.”
2. The apostle hath an especial respect unto the incarnation of Christ, without the concurrence of man in natural generation. This is expressed in answer unto that inquiry of the blessed Virgin, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Luke 1:34-42.1.35.
This was “the true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched,” and whereof Christ is the “minister.” And we may observe,
Obs. 2. That all spiritually sacred and holy things are laid up in Christ. All the utensils of holy worship of old, all means of sacred light and purification, were all placed and laid up in the tabernacle. And these were all “patterns of the heavenly things themselves,” which are all laid up in Christ, “the true tabernacle.” They are all enclosed in him, and it will be in vain to seek for them elsewhere. For,
Obs. 3. He hath the ministration of all these holy things committed unto him. He is the minister both of the sanctuary and tabernacle, and of all things contained in them. Herein he stands in no need of help or assistance; nor can any take his work out of his hand.
Obs. 4. The human nature of Christ is the only true tabernacle, wherein God would dwell personally and substantially. The dwelling of God with men was ever looked on as an infinite condescension. So Solomon expressed it, in his prayer at the dedication of the temple, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee,” 1 Kings 8:27.
But there are various degrees of this condescension, various kinds of this inhabitation of God among men. Under the old testament, he dwelt in the tabernacle and temple, by many symbols and pledges of his glorious presence. Such in especial were the ark and mercy-seat; whence that which was done before the ark is said to be done “before the LORD,” Exodus 30:8. This was, as Solomon expresseth it, a great condescension in the infinite, incomprehensible God; and there was a great glory accompanying this his presence. Under the new testament, God dwelleth in his saints by his Spirit, whereby they become a holy temple unto him. And of this inhabitation of God I have treated elsewhere.  But his dwelling in the human nature of Christ is quite of another nature than either of these; and his love with his condescension, inconceivably more conspicuous than in them.
 See vol. 2:232, 3:549, 4:383, of the author’s miscellaneous works. ED.
Hence is that expression of our apostle: “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” Colossians 2:9. It is not any sign or token, it is not any effect of the divine power, goodness, and grace, that dwells in him, but “the fullness of the Godhead;” that is, the divine nature itself. And this dwelleth in him “bodily;” that is, by the assumption of the body or the human nature into personal subsistence with the Son of God. How glorious should this be in our eyes! How did they admire the condescension of God of old, in his dwelling in the tabernacle and temple by the glorious signs of his presence! and yet was it all but a dark representation and shadow of this glorious love and grace, whereby he dwells in our nature in Christ.
Obs. 5. The church hath lost nothing by the removal of the old tabernacle and temple, all being supplied by this sanctuary, true tabernacle, and minister thereof. The glory and worship of the temple was that which the Jews would by no means part withal. They chose rather to reject Christ and the gospel than to part with the temple, and its outward, pompous worship. And it is almost incredible how the vain mind of man is addicted unto an outward beauty and splendor in religious worship. Take it away, and with the most you destroy all religion itself; as if there were no beauty but in painting; no evidence of health or vigor of body, but in warts and wens. The Christians of old suffered in nothing more, from the prejudice of the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, than in this, that they had a religion without temples, altars, images, or any solemnity of worship. And in later ages men ceased not, until they had brought into Christianity itself a worship vying for external order, ceremony, pomp, and painting, with whatever was in the tabernacle or temple of old; coming short of it principally in this, that that was of God’s institution for a time, this of the invention of weak, superstitious, and foolish men. Thus is it in the church of Rome. And a hard thing it is to raise the minds of men unto a satisfaction in things merely spiritual and heavenly. They suppose they cannot make a worse change, nor more to their disadvantage, than to part with what is a present object and entertainment unto their senses, fancies, carnal affections, and superstitions, for that which they can have no benefit by, nor satisfaction in, but only in the exercise of faith and love, inclining us to that within the veil. Hence is there at this day so great a contest in the world about tabernacles and temples, modes of worship and ceremonies, which men have found out in the room of them which they cannot deny but God would have removed; for so they judge that he will be satisfied with their carnal ordinances in the church, when the time is come that he would bear his own no longer. But “unto them that believe Christ is precious” And this “true tabernacle,” with his ministration, is more unto them than all the old pompous ceremonies and services of divine institution, much more the superstitious observances of human invention.
Obs. 6. We are to look for the gracious presence of God in Christ only. Of old all the tokens and symbols of God’s presence were confined unto and included in the tabernacle. There were they to be found, and nowhere else. Many altars the people of old did erect elsewhere, many high places they found out and prepared: but they were all sin and misery unto them; God granted his presence unto none of them all, Hosea 8:11; Hosea 12:11. And many ways there are whereby men may and do seek after the presence of God, after his favor, and acceptance with him, not in and by this “true tabernacle:” but they labor in vain, and spend their strength for that which doth not profit; neither the love, nor grace, nor goodness, nor mercy of God, is elsewhere to be found, nor can we by any other way be made partakers of them.
Obs. 7. It is by Christ alone that we can make our approach unto God in his worship. All sacrifices of old were to be brought unto the door of the tabernacle. What was offered elsewhere was an abomination to the LORD. With the instruments, with the fire, with the incense that belonged unto the tabernacle, were they to be offered, and not otherwise. And it is now by Christ alone that we have an “access in one Spirit unto the Father,” Ephesians 2:18. He is the only way of going to him, John 14:6. And it is in and by his blood that he hath “consecrated a new and living way” unto the holy place, Hebrews 10:19-58.10.20.
Obs. 8. It was an institution of God, that the people in all their distresses should look unto and make their supplications towards the tabernacle, or holy temple, 1 Kings 8:29-11.8.30. And it is unto the LORD Christ alone, who is both the true tabernacle and the minister thereof, that we are to look in all our spiritual distresses.
Obs. 9. If any one else can offer the body of Christ, he also is the minister of the true tabernacle. For the LORD Christ did no more. He did but offer himself; and they that can offer him, do put themselves in his place.
The summary description of our high priest designed is carried on in this verse. And the apostle manifests, that as he wanted nothing which any other high priest had, that was necessary unto the discharge of his office, so he had it all in a more eminent manner than any other had.
Hebrews 8:3 . Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχειρεὺς εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας καθίσταται· ὅθεν ἀναγκαῖον ἔχειν τι καὶ τοῦτο ὅ προσενέγκῃ .
Καθίσταται εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν . Syr., דְּקָאֵם דַּנְקַיִב “qui stat ut offerat,” “who standeth” (that is, at the altar) “that he may offer;” rendering καθίσταται neutrally, the whole sense is imperfect, “For every high priest who standeth” (at the altar) “that he may offer gifts and sacrifices; therefore,” etc.
Δῶρα . Syr., קיּיְבָּנֵא , “ oblationem. ” Vulg., “munera.” Some rather use “dona,” and some “donaria,” “sacred gifts.”
Καὶ θυσίας . Syr.. דְבָחֵא . that is זְבָחִים , “sacrifices.” Vulg., “hostias;” and the Rhemists, “hosts;” It may be to countenance their name of the host in the mass.
᾿Αναγκαῖον . Syr., זָדְקָא חֲיָת , “justum erat,” “aequum erat;” “it was just and equal.” Vulg., “necesse est,” in the present tense; “it is necessary.” Beza, “necesse fuit,” “it was necessary;” properly: and so the Syriac renders the verb substantive understood in the original, or included in the infinitive mood following, in the preterimperfect tense.
῎Εχειν , “habere,” “hunt habere.” Syr., לְהָנָא דְּיֶהְוֵא לֵהּ “huic ut esset ei;” “to this man that there should be to him,” or “with him.”
῞Ο προσενεγκῆ . Vulg., “aliquid quod offerat;” “something that he may offer.” Syr., מֵדֵם דַּנְקַיֵב , “something that he should offer.” The Arabic adds, “for himself,” corruptly.
Hebrews 8:3 . For every high priest is ordained [ appointed ] to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity [ it was necessary ] that this man [ should ] have somewhat also to offer. The connection of these words unto what was before asserted, which giveth us the design of the apostle in them, is expressed in the causal conjunction, γάρ , “for.” He both giveth a confirmation of what he had before affirmed, namely, that Christ was the “minister of the true tabernacle,” that is, of his body, and rendereth a reason why it should so be; and this he further confirms in the verses ensuing.
The reason he insists on is taken from the general nature of the office of “every high priest” That the LORD Christ is our high priest, he had sufficiently demonstrated and confirmed before; this, therefore, he now assumes as granted. And hereon what belongs unto him as such he further manifests, by showing what the nature of that office required, and what did necessarily belong unto every one that was partaker thereof.
There are therefore two things in the words:
1. A general assertion of the nature, duty, and office of every high priest.
2. A particular inference from thence, of what did necessarily belong unto the LORD Christ in the susception and discharge of this office.
In the first,
1. The universality of the expression is to be observed: Πᾶς ἀρχιερεύς , ”Every high priest.” By the context, this universal is cast under a limitation with respect unto the law: “Every high priest” that is “made” or “appointed by the law;” for of those alone the apostle treateth.
There was, indeed, never any high priest accepted of God but those ordained by the law, yet was it necessary unto the apostle to make mention of the law also. And although they were many of them, yet were they all of the same order and office; and so were all alike authorized and obliged unto the same duties. Wherefore the apostle thus expresseth it by “every high priest,” to evidence that there lay no exception against his argument, seeing that, in the whole multitude of high priests, in their succession from first to last, there was no one but he was appointed unto this end, and had this duty incumbent on him. Yea, it is not one especial duty of their office, that might be omitted, which he insisteth on, but the general end for which they were ordained; as he expresseth it in the next word.
2 . Καθίσταται , “is ordained;” that is, appointed of God by the law. Of the sense of this word I have spoken before, as also of the thing intended. See Hebrews 5:1-58.5.2.
Obs. 1. God’s ordination or appointment gives rules, measures, and ends, unto all sacred offices and employments. Whoever undertakes any thing in religion or divine worship without it, besides it, beyond it, is a transgressor, and therein worshippeth God in vain. He whom God doth not ordain in his service, is an intruder; and that which he doth not appoint is a usurpation. Nor will he accept of any duties, but what he himself hath made so.
3. The principal end why the high priests were ordained of God is expressed; it was “to offer gifts and sacrifices.”
This appears in their original institution, Exodus 28:29.
(1.) They were to offer. God appointed Aaron and his successors, on purpose to offer gifts and sacrifices for the whole people.
(2.) None but they were to offer; that is, none but the priests were to offer, none but they might approach unto God, to offer any thing sacredly unto him. The people might bring their offerings unto God; but they could not offer them on the altar. And some offerings, as those at the feast of expiation, were appropriated unto the high priests only. So is the case stated by Azariah, the high priest, 2 Chronicles 26:18:
“Not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated;”
Exodus 30:7, Numbers 18:7. And God hereby taught the people that nothing should ever be accepted from them, but in and by the hand of the great high priest who was to come. And this is that which we are yet taught thereby. And whoever he be, if as great and prosperous as king Uzziah, who shall think to approach unto God immediately, without the interposition of this high priest, he is smitten with the plague of spiritual leprosy.
4. What they were to offer is also declared: “gifts and sacrifices;” δῶρα , “munera,” “donaria,” “dona.” Sometimes all קָרְבָּנִים , the “corbanim” in general, are intended by this word; for all sacred offerings, of what sort soever, are so called at their first institution, Leviticus 1:2: “If any one among you bring his corban unto the LORD.” And thereon the especial kinds of offerings and sacrifices are enumerated, which in general were all “corbanim.” So every thing that is brought unto the altar is called δῶρον , Matthew 5:23-40.5.24: Προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρον , ”When thou bringest thy gift;” that is, אִםאּתַּקְרִיב קָרְבָּנְךָ , to “offer gifts,” sacred gifts of all sorts, especially sacrifices properly so called. Or, by δῶρα the מִנְהוֹת , “minchoth,” may be intended; as by θυσίας the “zebachim” are. For these two contain the whole complex of sacred offering, For “zebachim,” or θυσίαι , are bloody sacrifices, sacrifices by immolation or killing, of what sort soever the matter of it was, or unto what especial end soever it was designed; and the “minchoth” were offerings of dead things, as of corn, oil, meats, and drinks. To offer all these was the office of the priesthood ordained. And we are taught thereby, that,
Obs. 2. There is no approach unto God without continual respect unto sacrifice and atonement. The principal end of sacrifices was to make atonement for sin. And so necessary was this to be done, that the office of the priesthood was appointed for it. Men do but dream of the pardon of sin, or acceptance with God, without atonement. This the apostle layeth down as that which was necessary for “every high priest,” by God’s institution. There never was any high priest, but his office and duty it was to “offer gifts and sacrifices;” for unto that end was he ordained of God.
Secondly, Hence he infers that it was necessary that “this man should have somewhat to offer.” For being a minister of the heavenly sanctuary, and the true tabernacle, a high priest he was. But this he could not be, unless he had somewhat to offer unto God. A priest that hath nothing to offer, that was not ordained unto that end, is indeed no priest at all.
And in this assumption of the apostle we may observe,
1. The note of inference, “wherefore.”
2. The designation of the person spoken of, “this man.”
3. The manner of the ascription made unto him, “he must have.”
4. The matter of it, “somewhat to offer:”
1. The note of inference is ὅθεν , “wherefore.” It is frequently used by the apostle in this epistle, when he proves his present assertions, from the old institutions of the law and their signification, Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 9:18. And the whole force of this inference, especially that in this place, depends on this supposition, that all the old typical institutions did represent what was really to be accomplished in Christ; whence it was “necessary” that he should be what they did signify and represent. Hence it is often observed in the Gospel, that he did or suffered such things, or in such a manner, because things were so ordered under the law.
2. The designation of the person is expressed: τοῦτον , “this man;” ‘he of whom we speak, this high priest of the new testament; whom he had before described, and specified by his name, “Jesus;” and by his dignity, “the Son of God:” that “this man,” this Jesus, the high priest of the new testament.
3. The subject being stated, that which he affirms thereof is, that he, this priest, must have “somewhat to offer.” And this was “of necessity” that so it should be. For whatever otherwise this glorious person were, or might be, yet a high priest he could not be, unless he had somewhat to offer; for to offer gifts and sacrifices is the sole end of that office. This “necessity,” then, was absolute. For without this no office of priesthood could be discharged, and consequently no atonement be made, nor could we be brought unto God. And it is said that it was thus necessary ἔχειν , “that he should have. ” And it is not possession only that is intended, but possession with respect unto use. He was so to have somewhat to offer, as to offer it accordingly. For it would not avail the church to have a high priest that should have somewhat to offer, if it were not actually offered. Wherefore respect is had both unto the meetness of Christ unto his office and his faithfulness therein. He had what to offer, and he did offer it.
4. The matter of his offering is expressed: τὶ ὁ προσενέγκη , “somewhat to offer;” that is, in sacrifice unto God. The apostle expresseth it indefinitely, τὶ ὁ : but what it is which he was to have, he doth riot as yet declare. He was not engaged further by his present argument. But he elsewhere declares expressly what this was that he had to offer, what was the matter of his sacrifice, and what it was necessary that it should be. And this was “himself,” his whole human nature, soul and body.
It may be it will be said, that it doth not necessarily follow, that if he have somewhat to offer, it must be himself; for he might offer somewhat else out of the flocks and herds, as they did of old. Nor, indeed, doth the apostle intend directly to prove it in this place, namely, that it must be himself which he must offer. But it doth necessarily follow from the arguments before insisted on, Hebrews 7:0; for whatever else God had appointed or approved of to be offered in sacrifice, he had ordained the Levitical priesthood to offer, and appropriated the offering of it unto them; so as no such sacrifice could ever be offered by any who was not of the seed of Aaron. Whereas, therefore, our high priest was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah, it is evident that he could not offer any of the things which were appropriated unto their ministry and service. And hence our apostle in the next verse affirms directly, that “if he were on the earth,” that is, to officiate in his office with the things of the earth, after the manner of other priests, he could not be so much as a priest at all; seeing all such services were appropriated unto and performed by the priests of another order. Again; if he might have done so, and accordingly had done so, our apostle manifests that his priesthood must have been ineffectual as unto the proper ends of it. For “the law could make nothing perfect;” not only because of the infirmity and imperfection of its priests, but also because of the insufficiency of its sacrifices unto the great ends of expiating sin, by whomsoever they were offered. For “it is impossible,” as he declares, “that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins,” or “purge the conscience” of the sinner, Hebrews 10:1-58.10.4, etc. Wherefore, as it was necessary that he should have somewhat to offer, so it was necessary that this somewhat should be himself, and nothing else.
Something must yet be added as unto the rendering of the words themselves, which influenceth their proper sense. ᾿Αναγκαῖον , “necessary,” “of necessity,” must have the verb substantive added, to determine its signification. Erasmus adds “est,” “it is necessary;” and we render it, “it is of necessity.” Beza supplies “fuit,” as doth the Syriac interpreter הֲוָא , “fuit,” “erat;” “it was necessary.” And so he renders ὁ προσενέγκῃ by “quod offerret,” “which he should offer;” in both respecting the time past. Others render it by “quod offerat,” “which he may offer;” with respect unto the time present or to come. And Beza gives this account of his translation, namely, that the apostle having respect unto the sacrifice of Christ, which was past, affirms that “ it was necessary that he should have somewhat that he might offer;” and not that “ it is necessary that he should have somewhat to offer.” And although I will not deny but that the Lord, by reason of the perpetual efficacy of his oblation, and the representation of it in his intercession, may be said to offer himself, yet his sacrifice and oblation of himself were properly on the earth, as I have fully proved elsewhere. This text being urged by Grotius with respect unto the offering and sacrifice of Christ, Crellius replies, “Concludit scriptor divinus ex eo quod Christus sit sacerdos, necesse esse ut habeat quod offerat; non, ut loquitur Grotius, necesse fuisse ut haberet quod offerret, quasi de re praeterita loquatur,” Respons. ad cap. 10. But, as Beza very well observes, the apostle had before mentioned the one offering of Christ as already perfected and completed, Hebrews 7:27. He cannot, therefore, speak of it now but as that which was past; and here he only shows how necessary it was that he should have himself to offer, and so to offer himself, as he had done. And from these words we may observe,
Obs. 3. That there was no salvation to be had for us, no, not by Jesus Christ himself, without his sacrifice and oblation. ”It was of necessity that he should have somewhat to offer,” as well as those priests had of old according to the law. Some would have it that the Lord Christ is our Savior because he declared unto us the way of salvation, and gave us an example of the way whereby we may attain it, in his own personal obedience. But whence, then, was it “of necessity that he must have somewhat to offer” unto God as our priest; that is, for us? For this belongeth neither unto his doctrine nor example. And it was necessary that he should have somewhat to offer, in answer unto those sacrifices of old which were offered for the expiation of sin. Nor could our salvation be otherwise effected, by any other acts or duties of our high priest; for the church could not be saved without taking away the guilt of sin. And the whole design of the priests and sacrifices of old, was to teach and instruct the church how alone this might be performed. And this was only by making atonement for it by sacrifice; wherein the beast sacrificed did suffer in the room of the sinner, and did by God’s institution bear his iniquity. And this our apostle hath respect unto, and the realizing of all those typical representations in Christ; without which his whole discourse is useless and vain. Wherefore there was no other way for our salvation, but by a real propitiation or atonement made for our sins. And whosoever looketh for it otherwise but in the faith and virtue thereof, will be deceived.
Obs. 4. As God designed unto the Lord Christ the work which he had to do, so he provided for him, and furnished him with whatever was necessary thereunto. Somewhat he must have to offer. And this could not be any thing which was the matter of the sacrifices of the priests of old. For all those sacrifices were appropriated unto the discharge of the priesthood; and besides, they were none of them able to effect that which he was designed to do. Wherefore a body did God prepare for him, as is declared at large, Hebrews 10:1-58.10.8, etc.
Obs. 5. The Lord Christ being to save the church in the way of office, he was not to be spared in any thing necessary thereunto. And in conformity unto him,
Obs. 6. Whatever state or condition we are called unto, what is necessary unto that state is indispensably required of us. So are holiness and obedience required unto a state of reconciliation and peace with God.
Εἰ μὲν γὰρ η῏ν ἐπὶ γῆς , οὐδ᾿ ἅν ἧν ἱερεὺς , ὄντων τῶν ἱερέων τῶν προσφερόντων κατὰ τὸν νόμον τὰ δῶρα .
Vulg. Lat., “si esset super terrain;” all others, “in terra,” to the same purpose. Syr., בַּארְעָא , “in the earth.” Οὐδ᾿ ἄν η῏ν ἱερεύς , אַף לָא כּיּמָרֵא הָוֵא , “even also he should not be a priest.” ῎Οντων τῶν ἱερέων . The Vulgar omits ἱερέων , and renders the words, “cure essent qui offerrent.” Rhem., “whereas there were who did offer.” The Syriac agrees with the original. Beza, “manentibus illis sacerdotibus;” “quum sint alii sacerdotes.”
In the preceding discourses the apostle hath fully proved, that the introduction of this new priesthood under the gospel had put an end unto the old; and that it was necessary so it should do, because, as he had abundantly discovered in many instances, it was utterly insufficient to bring us unto God, or to make the church-state perfect. And withal he had declared the nature of this new priesthood. In particular he hath showed, that although this high priest offered his great expiatory sacrifice once for all, yet the consummation of this sacrifice, and the derivation of the benefits of it unto the church, depended on the following discharge of his office, with his personal state and condition therein; for so was it with the high priest under the law, as unto his great anniversary sacrifice at the feast of expiation, whose efficacy depended on his entrance afterwards into the holy place. Wherefore he declares this state of our high priest to be spiritual and heavenly, as consisting in the ministry of his own body in the sanctuary of heaven.
Having fully manifested these things, unfolding the mystery of them, he proceeds in this verse to show how necessary it was that so it should be, namely, that he should neither offer the things appointed in the law, nor yet abide in the state and condition of a priest here on earth, as those other priests did. In brief, he proves that he was not in any thing to take on him the administration of holy things in the church according as they were then established by law. For whereas it might be objected, ‘If the Lord Christ was a high priest, as he pleaded, why then did he not administer the holy things of the church, according to the duty of a priest?’To which he replies, that so he was not to do; yea, a supposition that he might do so was inconsistent with his office, and destructive both of the law and the gospel. For it would utterly overthrow the law, for one that was not of the line of Aaron to officiate in the holy place; and God had by the law made provision of others, that there was neither room nor place for his ministry. And the gospel also would have been of no use thereby, seeing the sacrifice which it is built upon would have been of the same nature with those under the law. This the apostle confirms in this verse.
Hebrews 8:4 . For indeed if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.
The words are a hypothetical proposition, with the reason or confirmation of it. The proposition is in the former part of the verse, “For indeed if he were on earth, he should not be a priest.” Hereof the remainder of the words is the reason or confirmation, “Seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.”
And we may consider first the causal connection, “for,” which relates unto what he had discoursed immediately before, as introducing a reason why things ought to be as he had declared. He had in sundry instances manifested his present state and condition, with the way and manner of the discharge of his office. A priest he was; and therefore he must have somewhat to offer; which must be somewhat of his own, seeing the law would not accommodate him with a sacrifice, nor yet the whole creation; the law having prepossessed unto its own use all that was clean and fit to be offered unto God. A sanctuary he must also have wherein to officiate; and this was to be heaven itself, because he was himself exalted into heaven, and set down at the right hand of God. And of all this there was yet another special reason: “For if he were on the earth,” etc.
“If indeed he were on earth.” The emphasis of the particle μέν , is not to be omitted, ’If really it were so;’for therein is force granted unto the concession that the apostle here makes: ‘Truly it must be so.’ “If he were on earth,” includes two things:
1 . His continuance and abode on the earth: If he were not exalted into heaven in the discharge of his office; if he were not at the right hand of God; if he were not entered into the heavenly sanctuary, but could have discharged his whole office here on the earth, without any of these things. If he were thus on the earth, or thus to have been on the earth. 2 . The state and condition of his priesthood: If he were on the earth, or had a priesthood of the same order and constitution with that of the law; if he were to have offered the same sacrifices, or of the same kind with them, which were to be perfected on the earth; if he were not to have offered himself, wherein his sacrifice could not be absolutely consummated without the presentation of himself in the most holy place not made with hands.
These two things the apostle was treating of:
1. His present state and condition, as to the sanctuary wherein he administered; which was heavenly.
2. His sacrifice and tabernacle; which was himself. In opposition unto both these is this supposition made, “If he were on the earth.”
This, therefore, is the full sense of this supposition, which is well to be observed, to clear the meaning of the whole verse, which the Socinians endeavor with all their skill and force to wrest unto their heresy, ‘If we did aver him to have such a priesthood as in the discharge thereof he were always to continue on the earth, and to administer in the sanctuary of the tabernacle or temple, with the blood of legal sacrifices.’On this supposition the apostle grants that “he could not be a priest.” He had not been, or could not be so much as a priest, or a priest at all in any sense. That a priest he was to be, and that of necessity he must be so, had proved before. And on the occasion thereof he declares the nature of his sacrifice, tabernacle, and sanctuary; and now proves that they were so necessary for him, that without them he could not have been a priest.
It will be said, that he was a priest “on the earth;” and that therein he offered his great expiatory sacrifice, in and by his own blood. And it is true. But,
1. This was not “on the earth” in the sense of the law, which alone appointed the sacrifices on the earth; it was not in the way nor after the manner of the sacrifices of the law, which are expressed by that phrase, “on the earth.”
2. Although his oblation or sacrifice of himself was complete on the earth, yet the whole service belonging thereunto, to make it effectual in the behalf of them for whom it was offered, could not be accomplished on the earth. Had he not entered into heaven, to make a representation of his sacrifice in the holy place, he could not have been the high priest of the church from that offering of himself; because the church could have enjoyed no benefit thereby. Nor would he ever have offered that sacrifice, if he had been to abide on the earth, and not afterwards to have entered the heavenly sanctuary to make it effectual. The high priest, on the great day of expiation, perfected his sacrifice for his own sin and the sins of the people without the tabernacle; but yet he neither could, nor would, nor ought to have attempted the offering of it, had it not been with a design to carry the blood into the holy place, to sprinkle it before the ark and mercy-seat, the throne of grace. So was Christ to enter into the holy place not made with hands, or he could not have been a priest.
The reason of this assertion and concession is added in the latter part of the verse, “Seeing there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.”
῎Οντων τῶν ἱερέων , “sacerdotibus existentibus,” “cum sint sacerdotes;” “whereas there are priests.” The apostle doth not grant that at that time when he wrote this epistle there were legal priests” de jure,” offering sacrifices according to the law. “De facto,” indeed, there were yet such priests ministering in the temple, which was yet standing; but in this whole epistle, as to right and acceptance with God, he proves that their office was ceased, and their administrations useless. Wherefore ὄντων respects the legal institution of the priests, and their right to officiate then, when ther Lord Christ offered his sacrifice. Then there were priests who had a right to officiate in their office, and to “offer gifts according to the law.”
Two things are to be inquired into, to give us the sense of these words, and the force of the reason in them:
1. Why might not the Lord Christ be a priest, and offer his sacrifice, continuing on the earth to consummate it, notwithstanding the continuance of these priests according unto the law?
2. Why did he not in the first place take away and abolish this order of priests, and so make way for the introduction of his own priesthood?
1. I answer unto the first, That if he had been a priest on the earth, to have discharged the whole work of his priesthood here below, whilst they were priests also, then he must either have been of the same order with them, or of another; and have offered sacrifices of the same kind as they did, or sacrifices of another kind. But neither of these could be. For he could not be of the same order with them. This the apostle proves because he was of the tribe of Judah, which was excluded from the priesthood, in that it was appropriated unto the tribe of Levi, and family of Aaron. And therefore also he could not offer the same sacrifices with them; for none might do so by the law but themselves. And of another order together with them he could not be.; for there is nothing foretold of priests of several orders in the church at the same time. Yea, as we have proved before, the introduction of a priesthood of another order was not only inconsistent with that priesthood, but destructive of the law itself, and all its institutions. Wherefore, whilst they continued priests according to the law, Christ could not be a priest among them, neither of their order nor of another; that is, if the whole administration of his office had been upon the earth together with theirs, he could not be a priest among them.
2. Unto the second inquiry, I say the Lord Christ could not by any means take away that other priesthood, until he himself had accomplished all that ever was signified thereby, according unto God’s institution. The whole end and design of God in its institution had been frustrated, if the office had ceased “de jure” before the whole of what was prefigured by its being, duties, and offices, was fulfilled. And therefore, although there was an intercision of its administrations for seventy years, during the Babylonish captivity, yet was the office itself continued in its right and dignity, because what it designed to prefigure was not yet attained. And this was not done till the Lord Christ ascended into the heavenly sanctuary, to administer in the presence of God for the church; for until then, the high priest’s entering into the holy place in the tabernacle once a year had not an accomplishment in what was prefigured thereby. Wherefore there was not an end put unto their office and ministration by the oblation of Christ on the cross, but they still continued to offer sacrifices according to the law; for there yet remained, unto the fulfilling of what was designed in their whole office, his entering into the holy place above. Wherefore they were still to continue priests, until he had completed the whole service prefigured by them, in the oblation of himself, and entering thereon into the heavenly sanctuary.
This, therefore, is the sense of the apostle’s reasoning in this place: The priests of the order of Aaron continued “de jure” their administrations of holy things, or were so to do, until all was accomplished that was signified thereby. This was not done until the ascension of Christ into heaven; for the first tabernacle was to stand until the way was made open into the holiest of all, as we shall see afterwards. Now, the Lord Christ was not a priest after their order, nor could he offer the sacrifices appointed by the law. Hence it is evident, that he could not have been a priest had he been to continue on the earth, and to administer on the earth: for so their priesthood, with which his was inconsistent, could never have had an end; for this could not be without his entrance as a priest into the heavenly sanctuary.
It appears, therefore, how vain the pretense of the Socinians is, from this place to prove that the Lord Christ did not offer his expiatory sacrifice here on the earth. For the apostle speaks nothing of his oblation, which he had before declared to have been “once for all,” before he entered into heaven to make intercession for us; but he speaks only of the order of his priesthood, and the state and condition wherein the present administration of it was to be continued.
Obs. 1. God’s institutions, tightly stated, do never interfere. So we see those of the ancient priesthood and that of Christ did not. They had both of them their proper bounds and seasons; nor could the latter completely commence and take place until the former was expired. The entrance of Christ into the holy place, which stated him in that condition wherein he was to continue the exercise of his priesthood unto the consummation of all things, put an absolute period unto the former priesthood, by accomplishing all that was signified thereby, with a due and seasonable end unto all legal worship, as to fight and efficacy . When he had done all that was figured by them, he took the whole work into his own hand.
Obs. 2. The discharge of all the parts and duties of the priestly office of Christ, in their proper order, was needful unto the salvation of the church. His oblation was to be on the earth, but the continuation of the discharge of his office was to be in heaven. Without this the former would not profit us; if he had done no more he could not have been a priest. For,
1. As this dependeth on the infinite wisdom of God, ordering and disposing all things that concern the discharge of this office unto their proper times and seasons; so,
2. Believers do find in their own experience , how all things are suited unto their conditions and wants. Unless the foundation of a propitiation for their sins be first laid, they can have no hope of acceptance with God. This, therefore, was first done, in “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” But when this is done, unless they have a continual application of the efficacy of it unto their souls, neither their peace with God nor their access unto God can be maintained. And this is done by the ministration of his office in the heavenly sanctuary, which ensues thereon.
Οἵτινες ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ λατρεύουσι τῶν ἐπουρανίων , καθὼς κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσῆς , μέλλων ἐπιτελεῖν τὴν σκηνή· Ορα γὰρ , φησὶ , ποιήσῃς πάντα κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει .
Οἵτινες , “qui,” “ut qui;” “as those who.” Λατρεύουσι , “deserviunt,” “inserviunt.” Syr, דַּמְשַׁמְשִׁין , “who ministered,” (as in a sacred office); properly. ῾ψποδείγματι , “exemplari.” Rhem., “that serve the exemplar and shadow;” every way imperfectly. Syr., לִדְוּתֵא , “unto the similitude.” Τῶν ἐπουρανίων . Eras., “ecelestium.” Others, “rerum coelestium;” “of heavenly things.” Syr., דְּבַשַׁמיָּא דְּהָלֵין . “of the things which are in heaven.” Καθὼς κεχρημάτιοται , “sicut responsum est Mosi.” Rhem., “as it was answered Moses.” Κρηματισμός is not an “answer,” but an “oracle,” given out upon inquiry, and so “any divine instruction.” “Quemadmodum divinitus dictum est.” “Admonished of God,” say we. Syr., דֶּאתַאמְרַת , “it was spoken,” simply; which expresseth not the original.
Hebrews 8:5 . Who serve [ in sacred worship ] unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, even as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.
1. We must first consider the reading of these words, by reason of the testimony which the apostle quotes out of the law, and his rendering thereof. The words in the original, Exodus 25:40, are, וַעֲשֵׁה בְּתַבְנִיתָם אֲשֶׁרִַאתָּה מָרְאֶה בָּהָר וּרְאֵה ; ”And look” (or “take heed”) “and make after their pattern which was showed thee in the mount.” The apostle adds πάντα , “all things;” which is not in the original, nor in the version of the LXX. But,
(1.) He might take it from verse 9 of the chapter, where the word is expressed, מַרְאֶה אוֹתְךָ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי ; ”according unto all that I shall show thee.”
(2.) Things indefinitely expressed are to be expounded universally: 1 Kings 8:39, “And to give to every man according to his ways;” that is, 2 Chronicles 6:30, “and render to every man according to all his ways.”
Deuteronomy 19:15, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the month of three witnesses, shall the matter be established;” that is, 2 Corinthians 13:1, “shall every word be established.” Psalms 110:1, “Until I make thine enemies thy footstool;” that is, 1 Corinthians 15:25, “all enemies.” Wherefore the apostle, by the addition of πάντα , “all things,” says no more but what is expressed in one place, and necessarily understood in the other.
בְּתַבְנִיתָם , “according to their pattern,” or “the pattern of them,” the apostle renders by κατὰ τὸ τύπον only, “according to the pattern;” which comes all to one.
Τύπος . The word is from בָּנָה , to “bind;” and it is used for a prepared pattern or similitude that any thing is to be framed unto. So whereas the apostle renders it by τύπος , he intends πρωτότυπος , or ἀρχέτυπος , not ἔκτυπος , such a type or pattern as other things are to be framed by, and not that which is the effigy or representation of somewhat else.
2. The connection of these words with the preceding discourse, which gives us the general design of the apostle, is nextly to be considered. He had before intimated two things:
(1.) That the high priests according to the law did not minister the heavenly things;
(2.) That the Lord Christ alone did so: whence he concludes his dignity and pre-eminence above them; which is the argument he hath in hand.
Both these he confirms in these words. For he confines their ministry unto the types of heavenly things, exclusively unto the heavenly things themselves. And by showing, as in the verse preceding, that if Christ had been to continue on the earth he could not have been a priest, he manifests that he alone was to administer those heavenly things.
3. The argument in general whereby the apostle proves that “they served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,” that is, only so, and no more, is taken from the words of God to Moses. And the force of the argument is evident. For God in those words declares that there was something above and beyond that material tabernacle which was prescribed unto him; for he showed him either an original or an exemplar in the top of the mount, which what he was to do below did but shadow and represent. And therefore they who ministered in what he was to make could serve only therein to be “the example and shadow of heavenly things.” This, therefore, is the apostle’s argument from this testimony: ‘If God showed unto Moses on the top of the mount that which was heavenly, and he was to make an example or shadow of it; then they that ministered therein “served only unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.”’
In the words may be observed,
1. The persons spoken of; “who.”
2. What is ascribed unto them; they “serve.”
3. The limitation of that service: wherein there is,
(1.) The present immediate object of it; an “example and shadow:”
(2.) The ultimate things intended; “heavenly things.”
4. The proof of the whole assertion, from the words of God to Moses: wherein there is,
(1.) The manner of the instruction given him; “he was warned of God:”
(2.) The instruction or warning itself;. “See that thou make,” etc.
1. There are the persons spoken of; οἵτινες , ”who.” It refers unto the priests mentioned verse 4, “Seeing there are priests that offer gifts; who.” But although that expression comprises the whole order of Levitical priests, yet it refers in particular unto the high priests, verse 3, Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεύς , ”Every high priest ......; which high priests.”
2. What is ascribed unto them; λατρέουσι , ”do serve.” The general signification of the English word “to serve” is not intended, as any thing doth serve for an end, or one person serves another. For it is a sacred word, and signifies only to minister in sacred worship and service, as the Syriac translation renders it. And in particular, it respects here all the δικαιώματα λατρείας , “the ordinances of divine service,” which were appointed under the first tabernacle, Hebrews 9:1. “They do serve,”
‘They do, according unto the law, officiate in sacred things; that is, they did so “de jure,” in their first institution, and continue “de facto” so to do still.’And the word λατρεύω is applied both unto the inward spiritual, and outward instituted holy worship of God. See Matthew 4:10; Acts 7:7; Romans 1:9. It respects, therefore, all that the high priests did, or had to do, in the worship of God, in the tabernacle or temple.
3. The limitation of their sacred service, is, that it was ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ , ”to an example and shadow.” Δεῖγμα is a “specimen” of any thing; that whereby any thing is manifested by a part or instance. It is used in the New Testament only in Jude 1:7: Πρόκεινται δεῖγμα , ”Are set forth for an example,” (speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah,) or a “particular instance” of what would be God’s dealing with provoking sinners at the last day.
(1.) Δειγματίζω , which is framed of δεῖγμα , is but once used in the New Testament, Colossians 2:15, where we render it to “make a show;” that is, a representation of what was done. ῾ψπόδειγμα , the word here used, is an “ example ” showing or declaring any thing in a way of instance: John 13:15, ῾ψπόδειγμα ἔδωκα ὑμῖν , “I have given you an example,” saith our Savior, when he had washed his disciples’feet; that is, ‘showed you, in what I have done, what ye ought to do also.’So James 5:10, “Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example.” But whereas principally and commonly examples are patterns of other things, that which they are to be conformed unto, as in the places cited, John 13:15, James 5:10, this cannot be the sense of it in this place; for the heavenly things were not framed and fashioned after the example of these, but on the contrary. Wherefore examples are of two sorts, “effigiantia” and “effigiata;” that is, πρωτότυπα and ἔκτυπα , such as other things are framed by, or such as are framed by other things. In this latter sense it is here used; and I would choose to render it by a “resemblance.” It is less than δεῖγμα , “simile,” “quiddam,” an obscure representation. Hence it is added,
Καὶ σκιᾷ , “and the shadow.” Some suppose a “shadow” is taken artificially, and opposed unto an express image or complete delineation of any thing, by a similitude taken from the first lines and shadows of any thing that is afterwards to be drawn to the life; and so they say it is used Hebrews 10:1, “The law had only a shadow of good things to come, and not the express image of the things themselves.” But properly it is taken naturally, and opposed unto a body, or substance: Colossians 2:17, “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is Christ.” It is indifferent in whether sense we here take the word, for what is affirmed is true in both. If we take it in the first way, it intends that obscure delineation of heavenly mysteries which was in the legal institutions. They did represent and teach them, and so were taught and represented in the divine service of those priests; but it was so obscurely, that none could see their beauty and excellency therein. If it be used in the latter way, then it declares that the substance of what God intended in all his worship was not contained nor comprised in the services of those priests. There were some lines and shadows, to represent the body, but the body itself was not there. There was something above them and beyond them, which they reached not unto.
(2.) The things themselves whence they are restrained by this limitation are expressed; “of heavenly things.” The things intended in these words are no other than what God showed unto Moses in the mount; and therefore we shall defer our inquiry into them until we come unto those words. This, therefore, is the meaning of the words: ‘The whole ministry of the priests of old was in and about earthly things, which had in them only a resemblance and shadow of things above.’And we may observe by the way,
Obs. 1. God alone limits the signification and use of all his own institutions. We ought not to derogate from them, nor to take any thing out of them which God hath put into them; nor can we put any thing into them that God hath not furnished them withal. And we are apt to err in both extremes. The Jews to this day believe that the ministration of their priests contained the heavenly things themselves. They do so, contrary to the nature and end of them, which the Scripture so often speaks unto. This is one occasion of their obstinacy in unbelief. They will imagine that there was nothing above or beyond their legal institutions, no other heavenly mysteries of grace and truth but what is comprised in them. They put more in them than ever God furnished them withal, and perish in their vain confidence.
It hath so fallen out also under the new testament. God hath instituted his holy sacraments, and hath put this virtue into them, that they should represent and exhibit unto the faith of believers the grace which he intendeth and designeth by them. But men have not been contented herewith; and therefore they will put more into them than God hath furnished them withal. They will have them to contain the grace in them which they exhibit in the way of a promise, and to communicate it unto all sorts of persons that are partakers of them. Thus, some would have baptism to be regeneration itself, and that there is no other evangelical regeneration but that alone, with the profession which is made thereon. Every one who is baptized is thereby regenerated. The sign and figure of grace, they would have to be the grace itself. Nothing can be invented more pernicious unto the souls of men; for all sorts of persons may be brought to a ruinous security about their spiritual condition by it, and diverted from endeavors after that real internal work, in the change of their hearts and natures, without which none shall see God. This is to put that into it which God never placed there. Some suppose it to be such a distinguishing, or rather separating ordinance, that the administration of it in such a way or at such a season, is the fundamental rule of all church fellowship and communion; whereas God never designed it unto any such end.
In the supper of the Lord, the church of Rome in particular is not contented that we have a representation and instituted memorial of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the signs of his body as broken and his blood as shed for us, with an exhibition of grace in the word of promise, or the gospel; but they will have the natural body and blood of Christ, his flesh and bones, to be contained therein, and to be eaten or devoured by all that partake of the outward signs! This is to put that into the ordinance which God never put into it, and so to overthrow it. And there are two grounds or ends of what they do. The
First is, to turn the wisdom of faith into a carnal imagination. It requires the light and wisdom of faith to apprehend the spiritual exhibition of Christ in the sacrament unto us. It is a great spiritual mystery, not at all to be apprehended but by the supernatural light of faith. This, the vain, darkened minds of men like not, they cannot away with it; it is foolishness unto them. Wherefore, under the name of a “mystery,” they have invented the most horrible and monstrous figments that ever befell the minds of men. This is easily received and admitted by a mere act of carnal imagination; and the more blind and dark men are, the more are they pleased with it. Secondly, They do it to exclude the exercise of faith in the participation of it. As they deal with the wisdom of faith as unto its nature, so they do with the exercise of faith as unto its use. God hath given this measure unto this ordinance, that it shall exhibit and communicate nothing unto us, that we shall receive no benefit by it, but in the actual exercise of faith. This the carnal minds and hearts of men like not. It requires a peculiar exercise of this grace, and that in a peculiar manner, unto a participation of any benefit by it. But this, under the notion of bringing more into the ordinance than ever. God put into it, they exclude, and ease all men of. Let them but bring their mouths and their teeth, and they fail not of eating the body and drinking the very blood of Christ. So, under a pretense of putting that in the ordinance which God never put into it, they have cast out of the hearts of men the necessity of those duties which alone render it useful and beneficial.
Some, on the other side, do derogate from them, and will not allow them that station or use which God hath appointed unto them in the church.
(1.) Some do so from their dignity. They do so, by joining their own appointments unto them, as of equal worth and dignity with them.
(2.) Some do so from their necessity, practically setting light by or disregarding the participation of them.
(3.) Some do so from their use, openly denying their continuance in the church of God.
The reasons why men are so prone to deviate from the will of God in his institutions, and to despise the measures he hath given them, are,
(1.) Want of faith in its principal power and act, which is submission and resignation of soul unto the sovereignty of God. Faith alone renders that an all-sufficient reason of obedience.
(2.) Want of spiritual wisdom and understanding to discern the mystery of the wisdom and grace of God in them.
Obs. 2. It is an honor to be employed in any sacred service that belongs unto the worship of God, though it be of an inferior nature unto other parts of it. It is so, I say, if we are called of God thereunto. This was the greatest honor that any were made partakers of under the old testament, that they “served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things” only. And if now God call any of us into his service, wherein yet, by the meanness of our gifts, or want of opportunities, we cannot serve him in so eminent a manner as some others do, yet if we abide in our station and duty, there is great honor in the meanest divine service.
Obs. 3. So great was the glory of heavenly ministration in the mediation of Jesus Christ, as that God would not at once bring it forth in the church, until he had prepared the minds of men, by types, shadows, examples, and representations of it. This was the end of all legal institutions of divine worship and service. And herein the wisdom of God provided in these to cases that were necessary. 
 The meaning intended seems to be, “made provision to accomplish two necessary objects.” ED.
(1.) He filled them with glory and beauty, that they might affect the minds of men with an admiration and expectation of that greater glory which they represented and pointed unto. And this they did among all them who truly believed; so that they continually looked and longed after the coming of Him, the glory of whose ministry was represented in them. In these two things did their faith principally act itself:
[1.] In a diligent inquiry into the mediation and ministry of Christ, with the glory which it was to be accompanied withal, 1 Peter 1:10-60.1.11.
[2.] In earnest desire after the enjoyment of what they saw afar off, and which was obscurely represented unto them, Song of Solomon 2:17; Song of Solomon 4:6. From both these arose that fervent love unto, zeal for, and delight in those ordinances of worship, which did so lead them unto these things that were so glorious; which in the Scripture are everywhere expressed, and which were so well-pleasing unto God.
(2.) On the other hand, because these institutions were to be so glorious, that they might be shadows of heavenly things, and the people unto whom they were given were carnal, and given to rest themselves in present outward appearances, God was pleased to intermix with them many services that were hard to be borne, and many laws with penalties severe and dreadful. This provision was laid in by divine wisdom, that they might not rest in what he designed only to prepare their minds for the introduction of that which was far more glorious. And well is it for us if we have a due apprehension of the glory of the heavenly ministration of Christ, now it is introduced. It is too evident that with many, yea, with most that are called Christians, it is far otherwise; for they are still seeking after the outward glory of a carnal worship, as though they had no view of the spiritual glory of the heavenly ministration of the gospel in the hand of Jesus Christ, our high priest. Nor will it be otherwise with any of us, unless we are enabled by faith to look within the veil, and see the beauty of the appearance of Christ at the right hand of God. The apostle tells us, that “the ministration of the law was glorious; yet had it no glory in comparison of that which doth excel.” But if we are not able to discern this more excellent glory, and satisfy ourselves therein, it is a great sign that we ourselves are carnal, and therefore are delighted with those things that are so. But we must proceed with our exposition.
4. The proof of the foregoing assertion is added by the apostle, in the words which God spake unto Moses with respect unto his building the tabernacle, which was the seat of all the divine service they were to administer. And there are two things to be considered in this testimony:
(1.) The manner of its introduction.
(2.) The words of the testimony itself:
(1.) The words of the introduction are, καθὼς κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσῆς , ”admonished of God.” Χρηματισμός we render “the answer of God,” Romans 11:4: “But what saith unto him ὁ χρματισμός ,” “the divine oracle;” a “responsum,” a word or answer from God, giving caution or direction. And it is used principally for such an oracle of God as hath a warning or caution in it, for the avoiding somewhat on the one hand, as well as doing what is given in charge on the other. So Joseph was χρηματισθείς , “divinely warned” to avoid the danger that was designed unto the child Jesus, Matthew 2:22; as the wise men were to avoid going unto Herod, Matthew 2:12. So Hebrews 11:7, “Noah being χρηματισθείς , ” “divinely warned, was moved with fear.” Yet sometimes it is used for any immediate private revelation, Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22. Wherefore two things are intended in this expression:
[1.] That Moses had an immediate word, command, or oracle, from God, to the purpose intended. And,
[2.] That he was to use great caution and heed about what was enjoined him, that there might be no miscarriage or mistake: “Admonished of God.” And the manner of the expression in the original carrieth admonition in it: וּרְאֵה יַעֲשֵׂה , ”And look to it and do,” Exodus 25:40; take diligent care about it. The same is the sense of ὅρα , when thus used, “take heed,” “look well to it.” When John, upon surprisal, would have fallen down before the angel to worship him, he replied, ῞Ορα μή , ”See thou do it not,” avoid it with care, Revelation 22:9. The matter was of the greatest importance, and the utmost diligence was to be used about it; whence the divine oracle was given out in a way of charge and admonition, as we have well rendered the word. And we may observe,
Obs. 4. That our utmost care and diligence in the consideration of the mind of God are required in all that we do about his worship. There is nothing wherein men for the most part are more careless. Some suppose it belongs unto their own wisdom to order things in the worship of God as it seems most meet unto them; an apprehension that I shall leave this world in admiration of, that ever it should befall the minds of so many good and honest men as it hath done. But the power of prejudice is inexpressible. Some think they are no further concerned in these things than only to follow the traditions of their fathers. This unto the community of Christians is the only rule of divine worship. To suppose that it is their duty to inquire into the way and manner of the worship of God, the grounds and reasons of what they practice therein, is most remote from them. ‘It was Moses that had the command to take care about the making of the tabernacle, and not the people. There was nothing left unto them but to do and observe what he had appointed.’And it is true; when God first reveals the way of his worship immediately from himself, as he did first by Moses, and last of all by his Son Jesus Christ, the people have nothing to do therewith, but only to observe and do what is appointed, as our Savior expressly declares, Matthew 28:20: but when his worship is so revealed and declared, there is not the meanest person, who professeth obedience unto him, who is exempted from this command of taking most diligent care about the due discharge of his duty herein. And this care and diligence are necessary,
[1.] From the aptness and proneness of the minds of men unto pernicious extremes in this matter; for,
1st. The generality of men have been stupidly negligent herein, as if it were a matter wherein they were not at all concerned. What is provided for them, what is proposed unto them, what comes in the ordinary way whereunto they have been accustomed, whatever it be, that they follow. And as they take it up on light grounds, so they observe it with light spirits. And this hath been the true cause of that inundation of profaneness which is come on the Christian world. For when once men come unto such an unconcernment in the worship of God, as to engage in it they know not well why, and to perform it they know not how, all manner of impiety will ensue in their lives; as is manifest in experience beyond the evidence of a thousand arguments.
2dly. Many in all ages have been prone to indulge unto their own imaginations and inventions, in the disposal of divine worship. And this bitter root hath sprung up into all the superstition and idolatry that the earth is filled withal at this day. From these two poisoned springs hath proceeded that woful apostasy from Christ and evangelical worship which the world groans under. Wherefore our utmost care and diligence are required herein.
[2.] The concernment of the glory of God calls for the same care in like manner. It were no hard thing to demonstrate, that the principal way and means whereby God expects that we should give glory unto him in this world, is by a due observation of the divine worship that he hath appointed; for herein do we in an especial manner ascribe unto him the glory of his sovereignty, of his wisdom, of his grace and holiness. When in his worship we bow down our souls under his authority alone; when we see such an impress of divine wisdom on all his institutions, as to judge all other ways folly in comparison of them; when we have experience of the grace represented and exhibited in them; then do we glorify God aright. And without these things, whatever we pretend, we honor him not in the solemnities of our worship. But we return.
(2.) In the charge given to Moses two things are observable:
[1.] The time when it was given him.
[2.] The charge itself.
[1.] The time when it was given: Μέλλων ἐπιτελεῖν τὴν σκηνήν , “When he was about to make the tabernacle.” Μέλλων expresseth that which is immediately future. He was “in procinctu,” in readiness for that work; just as it were taking it in hand, and going about it. This made the divine warning seasonable. It was given him upon the entrance of his work, that it might make an effectual impression on his mind. And it is our duty, upon an entrance into any work we are called unto, to charge our consciences with a divine admonition. What immediate revelation was to Moses, that the written word is to us. To charge our consciences with rule from it, and its authority, will preserve us in whatever may fall out in the way of our duty; and nothing else will do it.
᾿Επιτελεῖν is “perficere,” “to accomplish,” “to perfect,” “to finish.” But it includes here the beginning as well as the end of the work which he was to perfect. The same with , ποιῆσαι , Acts 7:44, where this whole passage is somewhat otherwise expressed, to the same purpose: Καθὼς διετάξατω ὁ λαλῶν τῷ Μωϋσῇ· ποιῆσαι αὐτὴν κατὰ τὸν τὺπον ὅν ἑωράκει “As he appointed who spake unto Moses,” (which was God himself, as our apostle here declares, in the second person, the great Angel of the covenant), “that he should make it according to the pattern which he saw.” Wherefore ἐπιτελεῖν compriseth the whole service of Moses, in making, framing, and finishing the tabernacle.
[2.] The warning and charge itself is, that “he should make all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount.” What, this “pattern” was, how it was “showed unto Moses,” and how he was to “make all things according unto it,” are all of them things not easy to be explained.
In general, it is certain that God intended to declare hereby that, the work which Moses had to do, the tabernacle he was to erect, and the worship thereof, was not, either in the whole, or in any part of it, or any thing that belonged unto it, a matter of his own invention or contrivance, nor what he set upon by chance; but an exact representation of what God had instructed him in and showed unto him. This was the foundation of all the worship of God under the old testament, and the security of the worshippers. Hence, at the finishing of this work, it is eight times repeated in one chapter, that all things were done “as the LORD commanded Moses.” And herein was that truth fully consecrated unto the perpetual use of the church in all ages, that the will and command of God are the sole reason, rule, and measure, of all religious worship.
For the pattern itself, expositors generally agree, that on the top of the mount God caused to appear unto Moses, the form, fashion, dimensions, and utensils, of that tabernacle which he was to erect. Whether this representation were made to Moses by the way of internal vision, as the temple was represented unto Ezekiel, or whether there were an ethereal fabric proposed unto his bodily senses, is hard to determine. And this תַּבְגִית , “exemplar,” or “pattern,” our apostle here calls “heavenly things.”
For to prove that the priests served only unto “the resemblance and shadow of heavenly things,” he produceth this testimony, that Moses was to “make all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount.” And this pattern, with all that belonged unto it, is called “heavenly things,” because it was made to appear in the air on the top of the mount, with respect unto that which was to be made beneath: or it may be called “heavenly,” because it was the immediate effect of the power of God, who worketh from heaven. But supposing such an ethereal tabernacle represented unto Moses, yet it cannot be said that it was the substance of the heavenly things themselves, but only a shadow or representation of them. The heavenly things themselves, in the mind of God, were of another nature, and this pattern on the mount was but an external representation of them. So that here must be three things intended:
1st . The heavenly things themselves;
2 dly . The representation of them on the mount;
3 dly . The tabernacle made by Moses in imitation thereof: wherefore this tabernacle and its worship, wherein the Levitical priests administered their office, was so far from being the shadow of the substance of the heavenly things themselves, as that they were but a shadow of that shadow of them which was represented in the mount.
I know not that there is any thing in this exposition of the words that is contrary unto the analogy of faith, or inconsistent with the design of the apostle; but withal I must acknowledge, that these things seem to me exceeding difficult, and such as I know not how fully to embrace, and that for the reasons following:
1st . If such a representation were made unto Moses in the mount, and that be the “pattern” intended, then the tabernacle with all its ministry was a shadow thereof. But this is contrary unto our apostle in another place, who tells us that indeed all legal institutions were only a “shadow,” but withal that the “substance” or “body was of Christ,” Colossians 2:17. And it is the body that the shadow doth immediately depend upon and represent. But according unto this exposition, this figure or appearance made in the mount must be the body or substance which those legal institutions did represent. But this figure was not Christ. And it is hard to say that this figure was the body which the tabernacle below was the shadow of, and that body was the shadow of Christ. But that Christ himself, his mediation and his church, that is, his mystical body, were not immediately represented by the tabernacle and the service of it, but somewhat else that was a figure of them, is contrary unto the whole dispute of the apostle in this place, and the analogy of faith.
2 dly . I do not see how the priests could minister in the earthly tabernacle as an example and shadow of such an ethereal tabernacle. For if there were any such thing, it immediately vanished after its appearance; it ceased to be any thing, and therefore could not be any longer a “heavenly thing.”
Wherefore, with respect thereunto, they could not continue to “serve unto the example of heavenly things,” which were not.
3 dly . No tolerable account can be given of the reason or use of such a representation. For God doth not dwell in any such tabernacle in heaven, that it should be thought to represent his holy habitation; and as unto that which was to be made on the earth, he had given such punctual instructions unto Moses, confirming the remembrance and knowledge of them in his mind by the Holy Spirit, by whom he was acted and guided, as that he needed no help from his imagination, in the view of the representation of such a fabric.
4thly . Whatever Moses did, it was “for a testimony unto the things which were to be spoken afterwards,” Hebrews 3:5. But these were the things of Christ and the gospel; which therefore he was to have an immediate respect unto.
The sense of the words must be determined from the apostle himself. And it is evident,
1 st. That “the heavenly things,” unto whose resemblance the legal priests did minister, and “the pattern showed unto Moses in the mount,” were the same. Hereon depends the whole force of his proof from this testimony.
2 dly . These “heavenly things,” he expressly tells us, were those which were consecrated, dedicated unto God, and purified, by the sacrifice of the blood of Christ, Hebrews 9:23.
3 dly . That Christ by his sacrifice did dedicate both himself, the whole church, and its worship, unto God. From these things it follows,
4 thly . That God did spiritually and mystically represent unto Moses the incarnation and mediation of Christ, with the church of the elect which was to be gathered thereby, and its spiritual worship. And moreover, he let him know how the tabernacle and all that belonged thereunto, did represent him and them. For the tabernacle that Moses made was a sign and figure of the body of Christ. This we have proved in the exposition of the second verse of this chapter; and it is positively affirmed by the apostle, Colossians 2:17. For therein would God dwell really and substantially: Colossians 2:9, “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” And the tabernacle was but to represent this inhabitation of God in Christ. Therefore did he dwell therein typically by sundry pledges of his presence, that he might represent the real substantial inhabitation of the Godhead in the body or human nature of Christ. This, therefore, was the ἀρχέτυπος , whereunto the tabernacle was to be framed; and this was that which was showed unto Moses on the top of the mount. These were the “heavenly things,” which they served unto the resemblance and shadow of. It is therefore most probable, and most agreeable unto the mystery of the wisdom of God in these things, that, before the building of the tabernacle below, God did show unto Moses what was to be signified and represented thereby, and what he would introduce when that was to be taken away. He first showed “the true tabernacle,” then appointed a figure of it, which was to abide and serve the worship of the church, until that true one was to be introduced, when this was to be taken down and removed out of the way: which is the substance of what the apostle designeth to prove.
It will be said, ‘That what was showed unto Moses in the mount was only תַּבְנֹית and τύπος , as here; that is, a “likeness,” “similitude,” and “type” of other things. This, therefore, could not be Christ himself and his mediation, which are the substance of heavenly things, and not a resemblance of them.’
I answer, 1 st . All representations of Christ himself, antecedent unto his actual exhibition in the flesh (as his appearances in human shape of old), were but resemblances and types of what should be afterwards. 2 dly . His manifestation unto Moses is so called, not that it was a type of any other things above, but because it was the prototype of all that was to be done below.
(1st.) This was the foundation of the faith of the church of Israel in all generations. Their faith in God was not confined unto the outward things they enjoyed, but [rested] on Christ in them, and represented by them. They believed that they were only resemblances of him and his mediation; which when they lost the faith of, they lost all acceptance with God in their worship. The relation of their ordinances unto him, their expression of him as their prototype and substance, was the line of life, wisdom, beauty, glory, and usefulness, that ran through them all. This being now taken away, they are all as a dead thing. When Christ was in them they were the delight of God, and the joy of the souls of his saints. Now he hath unclothed himself of them, and left them to be rolled up as a vesture, as a monument of the garments he thought meet to wear in the immature age of the church, they are of no more use at all. Who now could see any beauty, any glory, in the old temple administrations, should they be revived? Where Christ is, there is glory, if we have the light of faith to discern it; and we may say of every thing wherein he is not, be it never so pompous unto the eyes of flesh, “Ichabod,” ”Where is the glory of it?” or “It hath no glory.”
Jude tells us of a contest between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses, verse 9. It is generally thought that the devil would have hindered the burial of it, that in process of time it might have been an occasion of idolatry among that people. But that which was signified hereby, was the contest he made to keep the body of Moses, the whole system of Mosaical worship and ceremonies, from being buried, when the life and soul of it was departed. And this hath proved the ruin of the Jews unto this day.
(2dly.) Consider the progress of these heavenly things; that is, of Jesus Christ, and all the effects of his mediation in grace and glory.
[1 st .] The idea, the original pattern or exemplar of them, was in the mind, the counsel, the wisdom, and will of God, Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:8-49.1.9.
[2 dly .] Hereof God made various accidental representations, preparatory for the full expression of the glorious eternal idea of his mind. So he did in the appearance of Christ in the form of human nature to Abraham, Jacob, and others; so he did in the pattern that he showed unto Moses in the mount, which infused a spirit of life into all that was made unto a resemblance of it; so he did in the tabernacle and temple, as will be more fully declared afterwards.
[3 dly .] He gave a substantial representation of the eternal idea of his wisdom and grace in the incarnation of the Son, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt substantially, and in the discharge of his work of mediation.
[4 thly .] An exposition of the whole is given us in the Gospel, which is God’s means of instructing us in the eternal counsels of his wisdom, love, and grace, as revealed in Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18.
The actings of faith with respect unto these heavenly things do begin where the divine progress of them doth end, and end where it begins. Faith in the first place respects and receives the revelation of the Gospel, which is the means of its receiving and resting in Christ himself; and through Christ our faith is in God, 1 Peter 1:21, as the eternal spring and fountain of all grace and glory.
Νυνὶ δὲ διαφορωτέρας τέτευχε λειτουργίας , ὅσῳ καὶ κρείττονός ἐστι διαθήκης μεσίτης , ἥτις ἐπὶ κρείττοσιν ἐπαγγελίαις νενομοθέτηται . 
 EXPOSITION. Turner remarks that νυνί , now, is not here so much a mark of time, as a formula to introduce with earnestness something which has close, and may have even logical, connection with what precedes. See also for this use of the term, ch. 11:16, 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1Co 12:18 ; 1 Corinthians 12:20; in which passages it does not refer to time, but implies strong conviction grounded upon preceding arguments. ED.
There is no material difference in any translators, ancient or modern, in the rendering of these words; their signification in particular will be given in the exposition.
Hebrews 8:6 . But now he hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
In this verse beginneth the second part of the chapter, concerning the difference between the two covenants, the old and the new, with the pre- eminence of the latter above the former, and of the ministry of Christ above the high priests on that account. The whole church-state of the Jews, with all the ordinances and worship of it, and the privileges annexed unto it, depended wholly on the covenant that God made with them at Sinai. But the introduction of this new priesthood whereof the apostle is discoursing, did necessarily abolish that covenant, and put an end unto all sacred ministrations that belonged unto it. And this could not well be offered unto them without the supply of another covenant, which should excel the former in privileges and advantages. For it was granted among them that it was the design of God to carry on the church unto a perfect state, as hath been declared on Hebrews 7:0; wherefore he would not lead it backward, nor deprive it of any thing it had enjoyed, without provision of what was better in its room. This, therefore, the apostle here undertakes to declare. And he doth it after his wonted manner, from such principles and testimonies as were admitted among themselves.
Two things unto this purpose he proves by express testimonies out of the prophet Jeremiah:
1. That besides the covenant made with their fathers in Sinai, God had promised to make another covenant with the church, in his appointed time and season.
2. That this other promised covenant should be of another nature than the former, and much more excellent, as unto spiritual advantages, unto them who were taken into it.
From both these, fully proved, the apostle infers the necessity of the abrogation of that first covenant, wherein they trusted, and unto which they adhered, when the appointed time was come. And hereon he takes occasion to declare the nature of the two covenants in sundry instances, and wherein the differences between them did consist. This is the substance of the remainder of this chapter.
This verse is a transition from one subject unto another; namely, from the excellency of the priesthood of Christ above that of the law, unto the excellency of the new covenant above the old. And herein also the apostle artificially compriseth and confirmeth his last argument, of the pre- eminency of Christ, his priesthood and ministry, above those of the law. And this he doth from the nature and excellency of that covenant whereof he was the mediator in the discharge of his office.
There are two parts of the words:
First, An assertion of the excellency of the ministry of Christ. And this he expresseth by way of comparison; “He hath obtained a more excellent ministry:” and after he declareth the degree of that comparison; “By how much also.”
Secondly, He annexeth the proof of this assertion; in that he is “the mediator of a better covenant, established on better” or “more excellent promises.”
In the first of these there occur these five things:
1. The note of its introduction; “But now:”
2. What is ascribed in the assertion unto the Lord Christ; and that is a “ministry:”
3. How he came by that ministry; “He hath obtained it:”
4. The quality of this ministry; it is “better” or “more excellent” than the other:
5. The measure and degree of this excellency; “By how much also:” all which must be spoken unto, for the opening of the words:
1. The introduction of the assertion is by the particles νυνὶ δέ , ”but now.” Νῦν , “now,” is a note of time, of the present time. But there are instances where these adverbial particles, thus conjoined, do not seem to denote any time or season, but are merely adversative, Romans 7:17; 1Co 5:11 ; 1 Corinthians 7:14. But even in those places there seems a respect unto time also; and therefore I know not why it should be here excluded. As, therefore, there is an opposition intended unto the old covenant, and the Levitical priesthood; so the season is intimated of the introduction of the new covenant, and the better ministry wherewith it was accompanied; “now,” at this time, which is the season that God hath appointed for the introduction of the new covenant and ministry.’To the same purpose the apostle expresseth himself, treating of the same subject, Romans 3:26: “To declare ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ ,” “at this instant season,” now the gospel is preached, “his righteousness.” For,
Obs. 1. God, in his infinite wisdom, gives proper times and seasons unto all his dispensations unto and towards the church. So the accomplishment of these things was in “the fullness of times,” Ephesians 1:10; that is, when all things rendered it seasonable and suitable unto the condition of the church, and for the manifestation of his own glory. He hasteneth all his works of grace in their own appointed times, Isaiah 60:22. And our duty it is to leave the ordering of all the concerns of the church, in the accomplishment of promises, unto God in his own time, Acts 1:7.
2. That which is ascribed unto the Lord Christ is λειτουγρία , a “ministry.” The priests of old had a ministry; they ministered at the altar, as in the foregoing verse. And the Lord Christ was “a minister” also; so the apostle had said before, he was λείτουργος τῶν ἀγίων , Hebrews 8:2, ”a minister of the holy things.” Wherefore he had a “liturgy,” a “ministry,” a service, committed unto him. And two things are included herein:
(1.) That it was an office of ministry that the LORD Christ undertook. He is not called a minister with respect unto one particular act of ministration; so are we said to “minister unto the necessity of the saints,” which yet denotes no office in them that do so. But he had a standing office committed unto him, as the word imports. In that sense also he is called διάκονος , a “minister” in office, Romans 15:8.
(2.) Subordination unto God is included herein. With respect unto the church his office is supreme, accompanied with sovereign power and authority; he is “ Lord over his own house.” But he holds his office in subordination unto God, being “faithful unto him that appointed him.” So the angels are said to minister unto God, Daniel 7:10; that is, to do all things according unto his will, and at his command. So had the Lord Christ a ministry. And we may observe,
Obs. 2. That the whole office of Christ was designed unto the accomplishment of the will and dispensation of the grace of God. For these ends was his ministry committed unto him. We can never sufficiently admire the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in undertaking this office for us. The greatness and glory of the duties which he performed in the discharge thereof, with the benefits we receive thereby, are unspeakable, being the immediate cause of all grace and glory. Yet we are not absolutely to rest in them, but to ascend by faith unto the eternal spring of them. This is the grace, the love, the mercy of God, all acted in a way of sovereign power. These are everywhere in the Scripture represented as the original spring of all grace, and the ultimate object of our faith, with respect unto the benefits which we receive by the mediation of Christ. His office was committed unto him of God, even the Father; and his will did he do in the discharge of it. Yet also,
Obs. 3. The condescension of the Son of God to undertake the office of the ministry on our behalf is unspeakable, and for ever to be admired. Especially will it appear so to be, when we consider who it was who undertook it, what it cost him, what he did and underwent in the pursuance and discharge of it, as it is all expressed, Philippians 2:6-50.2.8. Not only what he continueth to do in heaven at the right hand of God belongeth unto this ministry, but all that he suffered also upon the earth. His ministry, in the undertaking of it, was not a dignity, a promotion, a revenue, Matthew 20:28. It is true, it is issued in glory, but not until he had undergone all the evils that human nature is capable of undergoing. And we ought to undergo any thing cheerfully for him who underwent this ministry for us.
Obs. 4. The Lord Christ, by undertaking this office of the ministry, hath consecrated and made honorable that office unto all that are rightly called unto it, and do rightly discharge it. It is true, his ministry and ours are not of the same kind and nature; but they agree in this, that they are both of them a ministry unto God in the holy things of his worship. And considering that Christ himself was God’s minister, we have far greater reason to tremble in ourselves on an apprehension of our own insufficiency for such an office, than to be discouraged with all the hardships and contests we meet withal in the world upon the account of it.
3. The general way whereby our Lord Christ came unto this ministry is expressed: Τέτευχε , ”He obtained it.” Τυγχάνω is either “sorte contingo,” “to have a lot or portion;” or to have any thing befall a man, as it were by accident; or “assequor,” “obtineo,” to “attain” or “obtain” any thing which before we had not. But the apostle designeth not to express in this word the especial call of Christ, or the particular way whereby he came unto his ministry, but only in general that he had it, and was possessed of it, in the appointed season, which before he had not. The way whereby he entered on the whole office and work of his mediation he expresseth by κεκληρονόμνκε , Hebrews 1:4, he had it by “inheritance;” that is, by free grant and perpetual donation, made unto him as the Son. See the exposition on that place.
There were two things that concurred unto his obtaining this ministry:
(1.) The eternal purpose and counsel of God designing him thereunto; an act of the divine will accompanied with infinite wisdom, love, and power.
(2.) The actual call of God, whereunto many things did concur, especially his unction with the Spirit above measure for the holy discharge of his whole office. Thus did he obtain this ministry, and not by any legal constitution, succession, or carnal rite, as did the priests of old. And we may see that,
Obs. 5. The exaltation of the human nature of Christ into the office of this glorious ministry depended solely on the sovereign wisdom, grace, and love of God. When the human nature of Christ was united unto the divine, it became, in the person of the Son of God, meet and capable to make satisfaction for the sins of the church, and to procure righteousness and life eternal for all that do believe. But it did not merit that union, nor could do so. For as it was utterly impossible that any created nature, by any act of its own, should merit the hypostatical union, so it was granted unto the human nature of Christ antecedently unto any act of its own in way of obedience unto God; for it was united unto the person of the Son by virtue of that union. Wherefore, antecedently unto it, it could merit nothing. Hence its whole exaltation, and the ministry that was discharged therein, depended solely on the sovereign wisdom and pleasure of God. And in this election and designation of the human nature of Christ unto grace and glory, we may see the pattern and example of our own. For if it was not upon the consideration or foresight of the obedience of the human nature of Christ that it was predestinated and chosen unto the grace of the hypostatical union, with the ministry and glory which depended thereon, but of the mere sovereign grace of God; how much less could a foresight of any thing in us be the cause why God should choose us in him before the foundation of the world unto grace and glory!
4. The quality of this ministry, thus obtained, as unto a comparative excellency, is also expressed: Διαφορωτέρας , “More excellent.” The word is used only in this epistle in this sense, Hebrews 1:4, and in this place. The original word denotes only a difference from other things; but in the comparative degree, as here used, it signifies a difference with a preference, or a comparative excellency. The ministry of the Levitical priests, was good and useful in its time and season; this of our Lord Jesus Christ so differed from it as to be better than it, and more excellent; πολλῷ ἄμεινον . And,
5. There is added hereunto the degree of this pre-eminence, so far as it is intended in this place and the present argument, in the word ὅοῷ , “by how much.” ‘So much more excellent, by how much.’The excellency of his ministry above that of the Levitical priests, bears proportion with the excellency of the covenant whereof he was the mediator above the old covenant wherein they administered; whereof afterwards.
So have we explained the apostle’s assertion, concerning the excellency of the ministry of Christ. And herewith he closeth his discourse which he had so long engaged in, about the pre-eminence of Christ in his office above the high priests of old. And indeed, this being the very hinge whereon his whole controversy with the Jews did depend, he could not give it too much evidence, nor too full a confirmation. And as unto what concerns ourselves at present, we are taught thereby, that,
Obs. 6. It is our duty and our safety to acquiesce universally and absolutely in the ministry of Jesus Christ. That which he was so designed unto, in the infinite wisdom and grace of God; that which he was so furnished for the discharge of by the communication of the Spirit unto him in all fullness; that which all other priesthoods were removed to make way for, must needs be sufficient and effectual for all the ends unto which it is designed. It may be said, ‘This is that which all men do; all that are called Christians do fully acquiesce in the ministry of Jesus Christ.’But if it be so, why do we hear the bleating of another sort of cattle? What mean those other priests, and reiterated sacrifices, which make up the worship of the church of Rome? If they rest in the ministry of Christ, why do they appoint one of their own to do the same things that he hath done, namely, to offer sacrifice unto God ?
Secondly, The proof of this assertion lies in the latter part of these words; “By how much he is the mediator of a better covenant, established on better promises” The words are so disposed, that some think the apostle intends now to prove the excellency of the covenant from the excellency of his ministry therein. But the other sense is more suited unto the scope of the place, and the nature of the argument which the apostle presseth the Hebrews withal. For on supposition that there was indeed another, and that a “better covenant,” to be introduced and established, than that which the Levitical priests served in, which they could not deny, it plainly follows, that he on whose ministry the dispensation of that covenant did depend must of necessity be “more excellent” in that ministry than they who appertained unto that covenant which was to be abolished. However, it may be granted that these things do mutually testify unto and illustrate one another. Such as the priest is, such is the covenant; such as the covenant is in dignity, such is the priest also.
1. What is in general ascribed unto Christ, declaring the nature of his ministry; he was a “mediator:”
2. The determination of his mediatory office unto the new covenant; “of a better covenant:”
3. The proof or demonstration of the nature of this covenant as unto its excellency, it was “established on better promises:”
1. His office is that of a mediator, μεσίτης , one that interposed between God and man, for the doing of all those things whereby a covenant might be established between them, and made effectual Schlichtingius on the place gives this description of a mediator:
“Mediatorem foederis esse nihil aliud est, quam Dei esse interpretem, et internuntium in foedere cum hominibus pangendo; per quem scilicet et Deus voluntatem suam hominibus declarer, et illi vicissim divinae voluntatis notitia instructi ad Deum accedant, cumque eo reconciliati, pacem in posterum colant,”
And Grotius speaks much unto the same purpose.
But this description of a mediator is wholly applicable unto Moses, and suited unto his office in giving of the law. See Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:27-5.5.28. What is said by them doth indeed immediately belong unto the mediatory office of Christ, but it is not confined thereunto; yea, it is exclusive of the principal parts of his mediation. And whereas there is nothing in it but what belongs unto the prophetical office of Christ, which the apostle here doth not principally intend, it is most improperly applied as a description of such a mediator as he doth intend. And therefore, when he comes afterwards to declare in particular what belonged unto such a mediator of the covenant as he designed, he expressly placeth it in his “death for the redemption of transgressions,”
Hebrews 9:15; affirming that “for that cause he was a mediator.” But hereof there is nothing at all in the description they give us of this office. But this the apostle doth in his, elsewhere, 1 Timothy 2:5-54.2.6,
“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.”
The principal part of his mediation consisted in the “giving himself a ransom,” or a price of redemption for the whole church. Wherefore this description of a mediator of the new testament is feigned only, to exclude his satisfaction, or his offering himself unto God in his death and blood- shedding, with the atonement made thereby.
The Lord Christ, then, in his ministry, is called μεσίτης , the “mediator” of the covenant, in the same sense as he is called ἔγγυος , the “surety;” whereof see the exposition on Hebrews 7:22. He is, in the new covenant, the mediator, the surety, the priest, the sacrifice, all in his own person. The ignorance and want of a due consideration hereof, are the great evidence of the degeneracy of Christian religion.
Whereas this is the first general notion of the office of Christ, that which compriseth the whole ministry committed unto him, and containeth in itself the especial offices of king, priest, and prophet, whereby he dischargeth his mediation, some things must be mentioned that are declarative of its nature and use. And we may unto this purpose observe,
(1.) That unto the office of a mediator it is required that there be different persons concerned in the covenant, and that by their own wills; as it must be in every compact, of what sort soever. So saith our apostle, “A mediator is not of one, but God is one,” Galatians 3:20; that is, if there were none but God concerned in this matter, as it is in an absolute promise or sovereign precept, there would be no need of, no place for a mediator, such a mediator as Christ is. Wherefore our consent in and unto the covenant is required in the very notion of a mediator.
(2.) That the persons entering into covenant be in such a state and condition as that it is no way convenient or morally possible that they should treat immediately with each other as to the ends of the covenant; for if they are so, a mediator to go between is altogether needless. So was it in the original covenant with Adam, which had no mediator. But in the giving of the law, which was to be a covenant between God and the people, they found themselves utterly insufficient for an immediate treaty with God, and therefore desired that they might have an internuncius to go between God and them, to bring his proposals, and carry back their consent, Deuteronomy 5:23-5.5.27. And this is the voice of all men really convinced of the holiness of God, and of their own condition. Such is the state between God and sinners. The law and the curse of it did so interpose between them, that they could not enter into any immediate treaty with God, Psalms 5:3-19.5.5. This made a mediator necessary, that the new covenant might be established; whereof we shall speak afterwards.
(3.) That he who is this mediator be accepted, trusted, and rested in on both sides, or the parties mutually entering into covenant. An absolute trust must be reposed in him, so that each party may be everlastingly obliged in what he undertaketh on their behalf; and such as admit not of his terms, can have no benefit by, no interest in the covenant. So was it with the Lord Christ in this matter. On the part of God, he reposed the whole trust of all the concernments of the covenant in him, and absolutely rested therein. “Behold,” saith he of him, “my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth,” or is “well pleased,” ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα , Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17. When he undertook this office, and said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” the soul of God rested in him, Exodus 23:21; John 5:20-43.5.22. And to him he gives an account at last of his discharge of this thing, John 17:4. And on our part, unless we resign ourselves absolutely unto a universal trust in him and reliance on him, and unless we accept of all the terms of the covenant as by him proposed, and engage to stand unto all that he hath undertaken on our behalf, we can have neither share nor interest in this matter.
(4.) A mediator must be a middle person between both parties entering into covenant; and if they be of different natures, a perfect, complete mediator ought to partake of each of their natures in the same person. The necessity hereof, and the glorious wisdom of God herein, I have elsewhere at large demonstrated, and shall not therefore here again insist upon it.
(5.) A mediator must be one who voluntarily and of his own accord undertaketh the work of mediation. This is required of every one who will effectually mediate between any persons at variance, to bring them unto an agreement on equal terms. So it was required that the will and consent of Christ should concur in his susception of this office; and that they did so, himself expressly testifieth, Hebrews 10:5-58.10.10. It is true, he was designed and appointed by the Father unto this office; whence he is called his “servant,” and constantly witnesseth of himself, that he came to do the will and commandment of him that sent him: but he had that to do in the discharge of this office, which could not, according unto any rule of divine righteousness, be imposed on him without his own voluntary consent. And this was the ground of the eternal compact that was between the Father and the Son, with respect unto his mediation; which I have elsewhere explained. And the testification of his own will, grace, and love, in the susception of this office, is a principal motive unto that faith and trust which the church placeth in him, as the mediator between God and them. Upon this his voluntary undertaking doth the soul of God rest in him, and he reposeth the whole trust in him of accomplishing his will and pleasure, or the design of his love and grace in this covenant, Isaiah 53:10-23.53.12. And the faith of the church, whereon salvation doth depend, must have love unto his person inseparably accompanying it. Love unto Christ is no less necessary unto salvation, than faith in him. And as faith is resolved into the sovereign wisdom and grace of God in sending him, and his own ability to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him; so love ariseth from the consideration of his own love and grace in his voluntary undertaking of this office, and the discharge of it.
(6.) In this voluntary undertaking to be a mediator, two things were required:
[1.] That he should remove and take out of the way whatever kept the covenanters at a distance, or was a cause of enmity between them. For it is supposed that such an enmity there was, or there had been no need of a mediator. Therefore in the covenant made with Adam, there having been no variance between God and man, nor any distance but what necessarily ensued from the distinct natures of the Creator and a creature, there was no mediator. But the design of this covenant was to make reconciliation and peace. Hereon, therefore, depended the necessity of satisfaction, redemption, and the making of atonement by sacrifice. For man having sinned and apostatized from the rule of God, making himself thereby obnoxious unto his wrath, according unto the eternal rule of righteousness, and in particular unto the curse of the law, there could be no new peace and agreement made with God unless due satisfaction were made for these things. For although God was willing, in infinite love, grace, and mercy, to enter into a new covenant with fallen man, yet would he not do it unto the prejudice of his righteousness, the dishonor of his rule, and the contempt of his law. Wherefore none could undertake to be a mediator of this covenant, but he that was able to satisfy the justice of God, glorify his government, and fulfill the law. And this could be done by none but him, concerning whom it might be said that “God purchased his church with his own blood.
[2.] That he should procure and purchase, in a way suited unto the glory of God, the actual communication of all the good things prepared and proposed in this covenant; that is, grace and glory, with all that belong unto them, for them and on their behalf whose surety he was. And this is the foundation of the merit of Christ, and of the grant of all good things unto us for his sake.
(7.) It is required of this mediator, as such, that he give assurance to and undertake for the parties mutually concerned, as to the accomplishment of the terms of the covenant, undertaking on each hand for them:
[1.] On the part of God towards men, that they shall have peace and acceptance with him, in the sure accomplishment of all the promises of the covenant. This he doth only declaratively, in the doctrine of the gospel, and in the institution of the ordinances of evangelical worship. For he was not a surety for God, nor did God need any, having confirmed his promise with an oath, swearing by himself, because he had no greater to swear by.
[2.] On our part, he undertakes unto God for our acceptance of the terms of the covenant, and our accomplishment of them, by his enabling us thereunto.
These things, among others, were necessary unto a full and complete mediator of the new covenant, such as Christ was. And,
Obs. 7. The provision of this mediator between God and man was an effect of infinite wisdom and grace; yea, it was the greatest and most glorious external effect of them that ever they did produce, or ever will do in this world. The creation of all things at first out of nothing was a glorious effect of infinite wisdom and power; but when the glory of that design was eclipsed by the entrance of sin, this provision of a mediator, one whereby all things were restored and retrieved into a condition of bringing more glory unto God, and securing for ever the blessed estate of them whose mediator he is, is accompanied with more evidences of the divine excellencies than that was. See Ephesians 1:10.
2. Two things are added in the description of this mediator:
(1.) That he was a mediator of a covenant;
(2.) That this covenant was better than another which respect is had unto, whereof he was not the mediator:
(1.) He was the mediator of a “covenant.” And two things are supposed herein:
[1.] That there was a covenant made or prepared between God and man; that is, it was so far made, as that God who made it had prepared the terms of it in a sovereign act of wisdom and grace. The preparation of the covenant, consisting in the will and purpose of God graciously to bestow on all men the good things which are contained in it, all things belonging unto grace and glory, as also to make way for the obedience which he required herein, is supposed unto the constitution of this covenant. [2.] That there was need of a mediator, that this covenant might be effectual unto its proper ends, of the glory of God and the obedience of mankind, with their reward. This was not necessary from the nature of a covenant in general; for a covenant may be made and entered into between different parties without any mediator, merely on the equity of the terms of it. Nor was it so from the nature of a covenant between God and man, as man was at first created of God; for the first covenant between them was immediate, without the interposition of a mediator. But it became necessary from the state and condition of them with whom this covenant was made, and the especial nature of this covenant. This the apostle declares, Romans 8:3,
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”
The law was the moral instrument or rule of the covenant that was made immediately between God and man: but it could not continue to be so after the entrance of sin; that is, so as that God might be glorified thereby, in the obedience and reward of men. Wherefore he “sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh;” that is, provided a mediator for a new covenant. The persons with whom this covenant was to be made being all of them sinners, and apostatized from God, it became not the holiness or righteousness of God to treat immediately with them any more. Nor would it have answered his holy ends so to have done. For if when they were in a condition of uprightness and integrity, they kept not the terms of that covenant which was made immediately with them, without a mediator, although they were holy, just, good, and equal; how much less could any such thing be expected from them in their depraved condition of apostasy from God and enmity against him! It therefore became not the wisdom of God to enter anew into covenant with mankind, without security that the terms of the covenant should be accepted, and the grace of it made effectual. This we could not give; yea, we gave all evidences possible unto the contrary, in that
“God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually,” Genesis 6:5; Genesis 6:5.
Wherefore it was necessary there should be a mediator, to be the surety of this covenant. Again, the covenant itself was so prepared, in the counsel, wisdom, and grace of God, as that the principal, yea, indeed, all the benefits of it, were to depend on what was to be done by a mediator, and could not otherwise be effected. Such were satisfaction for sin, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness; which are the foundation of this covenant.
(2.) To proceed with the text; this covenant, whereof the Lord Christ is the mediator, is said to be a “better covenant.” Wherefore it is supposed that there was another covenant, whereof the Lord Christ was not the mediator. And in the following verses there are two covenants, a first and a latter, an old and a new, compared together. We must therefore consider what was that other covenant, than which this is said to be better; for upon the determination thereof depends the right understanding of the whole ensuing discourse of the apostle. And because this is a subject wrapped up in much obscurity, and attended with many difficulties, it will be necessary that we use the best of our diligence, both in the investigation of the truth and in the declaration of it, so as that it may be distinctly apprehended. And I shall first explain the text, and then speak to the difficulties which arise from it:
[1.] There was an original covenant made with Adam, and all mankind in him. The rule of obedience and reward that was between God and him was not expressly called a covenant, but it contained the express nature of a covenant; for it was the agreement of God and man concerning obedience and disobedience, rewards and punishments. Where there is a law concerning these things, and an agreement upon it by all parties concerned, there is a formal covenant. Wherefore it may be considered two ways:
1st . As it was a law only; so it proceeded from, and was a consequent of the nature of God and man, with their mutual relation unto one another. God being considered as the creator, governor, and benefactor of man; and man as an intellectual creature, capable of moral obedience; this law was necessary, and is eternally indispensable.
2 dly . As it was a covenant; and this depended on the will and pleasure of God. I will not dispute whether God might have given a law unto men that should have had nothing in it of a covenant, properly so called; as is the law of creation unto all other creatures, which hath no rewards nor punishments annexed unto it. Yet this God calls a covenant also, inasmuch as it is an effect of his purpose, his unalterable will and pleasure, Jeremiah 33:20-24.33.21. But that this law of our obedience should be a formal, complete covenant, there were moreover some things required on the part of God, and some also on the part of man. Two things were required on the part of God to complete this covenant, or he did so complete it by two things:
(1st.) By annexing unto it promises and threatenings of reward and punishment; the first of grace, the other of justice.
(2dly.) The expression of these promises and threatenings in external signs; the first in the tree of life, the latter in that of the knowledge of good and evil. By these did God establish the original law of creation as a covenant, gave it the nature of a covenant. On the part of man, it was required that he accept of this law as the rule of the covenant which God made with him. And this he did two ways:
[1st.] By the innate principles of light and obedience concreated with his nature. By these he absolutely and universally assented unto the law, as proposed with promises and threatenings, as holy, just, good, what was meet for God to require, what was equal and good unto himself.
[2 dly .] By his acceptance of the commands concerning the tree of life, and that of the knowledge of good and evil, as the signs and pledges of this covenant. So was it established as a covenant between God and man, without the interposition of any mediator.
This is the covenant of works, absolutely the old, or first covenant that God made with men. But this is not the covenant here intended; for,
1 st . The covenant called afterwards “the first,” was διαθήκη , a “testament.” So it is here called. It was such a covenant as was a testament also. Now there can be no testament, but there must be death for the confirmation of it, Hebrews 9:16. But in the making of the covenant with Adam, there was not the death of any thing, whence it might be called a testament. But there was the death of beasts in sacrifice in the confirmation of the covenant at Sinai, as we shall see afterwards. And it must be observed, that although I use the name of a “covenant,” as we have rendered the word διαθήκη , because the true signification of that word will more properly occur unto us in another place, yet I do not understand thereby a covenant properly and strictly so called, but such a one as hath the nature of a testament also, wherein the good things of him that makes it are bequeathed unto them for whom they are designed. Neither the word used constantly by the apostle in this argument, nor the design of his discourse, will admit of any other covenant to be understood in this place. Whereas, therefore, the first covenant made with Adam was in no sense a testament also, it cannot be here intended.
2dly . That first covenant made with Adam, had, as unto any benefit to be expected from it, with respect unto acceptation with God, life, and salvation, ceased long before, even at the entrance of sin. It was not abolished or abrogated by any act of God, as a law, but only was made weak and insufficient unto its first end, as a covenant. God had provided a way for the salvation of sinners, declared in the first promise. When this is actually embraced, that first covenant ceaseth towards them, as unto its curse, in all its concerns as a covenant, and obligation unto sinless obedience as the condition of life; because both of them are answered by the mediator of the new covenant. But as unto all those who receive not the grace tendered in the promise, it doth remain in fill force and efficacy, not as a covenant, but as a law; and that because neither the obedience it requires nor the curse which it threatens is answered. Hence, if any man believeth not, “the wrath of God abideth on him.” For its commands and curse depending on the necessary relation between God and man, with the righteousness of God as the supreme governor of mankind, they must be answered and fulfilled. Wherefore it was never abrogated formally. But as all unbelievers are still obliged by it, and unto it must stand or fall, so it is perfectly fulfilled in all believers, not in their own persons, but in the person of their surety.
“God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” Romans 8:3-45.8.4.
But as a covenant, obliging unto personal, perfect, sinless obedience, as the condition of life, to be performed by themselves, so it ceased to be, long before the introduction of the new covenant which the apostle speaks of, that was promised “in the latter days.” But the other covenant here spoken of was not removed or taken away, until this new covenant was actually established.
3dly . The church of Israel was never absolutely under the power of that covenant as a covenant of life; for from the days of Abraham, the promise was given unto them and their seed. And the apostle proves that no law could afterwards be given, or covenant made, that should disannul that promise, Galatians 3:17. But had they been brought under the old covenant of works, it would have disannulled the promise; for that covenant and the promise are diametrically opposite. And moreover, if they were under that covenant, they were all under the curse, and so perished eternally: which is openly false; for it is testified of them that they pleased God by faith, and so were saved. But it is evident that the covenant intended was a covenant wherein the church of Israel walked with God, until such time as this better covenant was solemnly introduced. This is plainly declared in the ensuing context, especially in the close of the chapter, where, speaking of this former covenant, he says, it was “become old,” and so “ready to disappear.” Wherefore it is not the covenant of works made with Adam that is intended, when this other is said to be a “better covenant.”
[2.] There were other federal transactions between God and the church before the giving of the law on mount Sinai. Two of them there were into which all the rest were resolved:
1 st . The first promise, given unto our first parents immediately after the fall. This had in it the nature of a covenant, grounded on a promise of grace, and requiring obedience in all that received the promise.
2dly . The promise given and sworn unto Abraham, which is expressly called the covenant of God, and had the whole nature of a covenant in it, with a solemn outward seal appointed for its confirmation and establishment. Hereof we have treated at large on the sixth chapter.
Neither of these, nor any transaction between God and man that may be reduced unto them, as explanations, renovations, or confirmations of them, is the “first covenant” here intended. For they are not only consistent with the “new covenant,” so as that there was no necessity to remove them out of the way for its introduction, but did indeed contain in them the essence and nature of it, and so were confirmed therein. Hence the Lord Christ himself is said to be “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,” Romans 15:8. As he was the mediator of the new covenant, he was so far from taking off from, or abolishing those promises, that it belonged unto his office to confirm them. Wherefore,
[3.]. The other covenant or testament here supposed, whereunto that whereof the Lord Christ was the mediator is preferred, is none other but that which God made with the people of Israel on mount Sinai. So it is expressly affirmed, verse 9: “The covenant which I made with your fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” This was that covenant which had all the institutions of worship annexed unto it, Hebrews 9:1-58.9.3; whereof we must treat afterwards more at large. With respect hereunto it is that the Lord Christ is said to be the “mediator of a better covenant;” that is, of another distinct from it, and more excellent.
It remains unto the exposition of the words, that we inquire what was this covenant, whereof our Lord Christ was the mediator, and what is here affirmed of it.
This can be no other in general but that which we call “the covenant of grace. ” And it is so called in opposition unto that of “works,” which was made with us in Adam; for these two, grace and works, do divide the ways of our relation unto God, being diametrically opposite, and every way inconsistent, Romans 11:6. Of this covenant the Lord Christ was the mediator from the foundation of the world, namely, from the giving of the first promise, Revelation 13:8; for it was given on his interposition, and all the benefits of it depended on his future actual mediation. But here ariseth the first difficulty of the context, and that in two things; for,
[1.] If this covenant of grace was made from the beginning, and if the LORD Christ was the mediator of it from the first, then where is the privilege of the gospel-state in opposition unto the law, by virtue of this covenant, seeing that under the law also the Lord Christ was the mediator of that covenant, which was from the beginning ?
[2.] If it be the covenant of grace which is intended, and that be opposed unto the covenant of works made with Adam, then the other covenant must be that covenant of works so made with Adam, which we have before disproved.
The answer hereunto is in the word here used by the apostle concerning this new covenant: νενομοθέτηται , whose meaning we must inquire into. I say, therefore, that the apostle doth not here consider the new covenant absolutely, and as it was virtually administered from the foundation of the world, in the way of a promise; for as such it was consistent with that covenant made with the people in Sinai. And the apostle proves expressly, that the renovation of it made unto Abraham was no way abrogated by the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. There was no interruption of its administration made by the introduction of the law. But he treats of such an establishment of the new covenant as wherewith the old covenant made at Sinai was absolutely inconsistent, and which was therefore to be removed out of the way. Wherefore he considers it here as it was actually completed, so as to bring along with it all the ordinances of worship which are proper unto it, the dispensation of the Spirit in them, and all the spiritual privileges wherewith they are accompanied. It is now so brought in as to become the entire rule of the church’s faith, obedience, and worship, in all things.
This is the meaning of the word νενομοθέτηται : “established,” say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance unto the church. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by νενομοθέτηται , the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. Hereon the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship whereby it was administered. This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was superinduced into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent therewith. When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it. Wherefore it was consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, and those composed into a yoke of bondage which belonged not unto it. And as these, being added after its giving, did not overthrow its nature as a promise, so they were inconsistent with it when it was completed as a covenant; for then all the worship of the church was to proceed from it, and to be conformed unto it. Then it was established. Hence it follows, in answer unto the second difficulty, that as a promise, it was opposed unto the covenant of works; as a covenant, it was opposed unto that of Sinai. This legalizing or authoritative establishment of the new covenant, and the worship thereunto belonging, did effect this alteration.
3. In the last place, the apostle tells us whereon this establishment was made; and that is ἐπι κρείττοσιν ἐπαγγελίαις , ”on better promises.” For the better understanding hereof we must consider somewhat of the original and use of divine promises in our relation unto God. And we may observe,
(1.) That every covenant between God and man must be founded on and resolved into “ promises. ” Hence essentially a promise and a covenant are all one; and God calls an absolute promise, founded on an absolute decree, his covenant, Genesis 9:11. And his purpose for the continuation of the course of nature unto the end of the world, he calls his covenant with day and night, Jeremiah 33:20. The being and essence of a divine covenant lies in the promise. Hence are they called “the covenants of promise,”
Ephesians 2:12; such as are founded on and consist in promises. And it is necessary that so it should be. For,
[1.] The nature of God who maketh these covenants requireth that so it should be. It becometh his greatness and goodness, in all his voluntary transactions with his creatures, to propose that unto them wherein their advantage, their happiness and blessedness, doth consist. We inquire not how God may deal with his creatures as such; what he may absolutely require of them, on the account of his own being, his absolute essential excellencies, with their universal dependence on him. Who can express or limit the sovereignty of God over his creatures? All the disputes about it are fond. We have no measures of what is infinite. May he not do with his own what he pleaseth? Are we not in his hands, as clay in the hands of the potter? And whether he make or mar a vessel, who shall say unto him, What doest thou? He giveth no account of his matters. But upon supposition that he will condescend to enter into covenant with his creatures, and to come to agreement with them according unto the terms of it, it becometh his greatness and goodness to give them promises as the foundation of it, wherein he proposeth unto them the things wherein their blessedness and reward do consist. For,
1 st . Herein he proposeth himself unto them as the eternal spring and fountain of all power and goodness. Had he treated with us merely by a law, he had therein only revealed his sovereign authority and holiness; the one in giving of the law, the other in the nature of it. But in promises he revealeth himself as the eternal spring of goodness and power; for the matter of all promises is somewhat that is good; and the communication of it depends on sovereign power. That God should so declare himself in his covenant, was absolutely necessary to direct and encourage the obedience of the covenanters; and he did so accordingly, Genesis 15:1; Genesis 17:1-1.17.2.
2 dly . Hereby he reserves the glory of the whole unto himself. For although the terms of agreement which he proposeth between himself and us be in their own nature “holy, just, and good,” which sets forth his praise and glory, yet if there were not something on his part which hath no antecedent respect unto any goodness, obedience, or desert in us, we should have wherein to glory in ourselves; which is inconsistent with the glory of God. But the matter of those promises wherein the covenant is founded is free, undeserved, and without respect unto any thing in us whereby it may in any sense be procured. And so in the first covenant, which was given in a form of law, attended with a penal sanction, yet the foundation of it was in a promise of a free and undeserved reward, even of the eternal enjoyment of God: which no goodness or obedience in the creature could possibly merit the attainment of. So that if a man should by virtue of any covenant be justified by works, though he might have whereof to glory before men, yet could he not glory before God, as the apostle declares, Romans 4:2; and that because the reward proposed in the promise doth infinitely exceed the obedience performed.
[2.] It was also necessary on our part that every divine covenant should be founded and established on promises; for there is no state wherein we may be taken into covenant with God, but it is supposed we are not yet arrived at that perfection and blessedness whereof our nature is capable, and which we cannot but desire. And therefore when we come to heaven, and the full enjoyment of God, there shall be no use of any covenant any more, seeing we shall be in eternal rest, in the enjoyment of all the blessedness whereof our nature is capable, and shall immutably adhere unto God without any further expectation. But whilst we are in the way, we have still somewhat, yea principal parts of our blessedness, to desire, expect, and believe. So in the state of innocency, though it had all the perfection which a state of obedience according unto a law was capable of, yet did not the blessedness of eternal rest, for which we were made, consist therein. Now, whilst it is thus with us, we cannot but be desiring and looking out after that full and complete happiness, which our nature cannot come to rest without. This, therefore, renders it necessary that there should be a promise of it given as the foundation of the covenant; without which we should want our principal encouragement unto obedience. And much more must it be so in the state of sin and apostasy from God; for we are now not only most remote from our utmost happiness, but involved in a condition of misery, without a deliverance from which we cannot be any ways induced to give ourselves up unto covenant obedience. Wherefore, unless we are prevented in the covenant with promises of deliverance from our present state, and the enjoyment of future blessedness, no covenant could be of use or advantage unto us.
[3.] It is necessary from the nature of a covenant. For every covenant that is proposed unto men, and accepted by them, requires somewhat to be performed on their part, otherwise it is no covenant; but where any thing is required of them that accept of the covenant, or to whom it is proposed, it doth suppose that somewhat be promised on the behalf of them by whom the covenant is proposed, as the foundation of its acceptance, and the reason of the duties required in it.
All this appears most evidently in the covenant of grace, which is here said to be “established on promises;” and that on two accounts. For,
[1.] At the same time that much is required of us in the way of duty and obedience, we are told in the Scripture, and find it by experience, that of ourselves we can do nothing. Wherefore, unless the precept of the covenant be founded in a promise of giving grace and spiritual strength unto us, whereby we may be enabled to perform those duties, the covenant can be of no benefit or advantage unto us. And the want of this one consideration, that every covenant is founded in promises, and that the promises give life unto the precepts of it, hath perverted the minds of many to suppose an ability in ourselves of yielding obedience unto those precepts, without grace antecedently received to enable us thereunto; which overthrows the nature of the new covenant.
[2.] As was observed, we are all actually guilty of sin before this covenant was made with us. Wherefore unless there be a promise given of the pardon of sin, it is to no purpose to propose any new covenant terms unto us. For “the wages of sin is death;” and we having sinned must die, whatever we do afterwards, unless our sins be pardoned. This, therefore, must be proposed unto us as the foundation of the covenant, or it will be of none effect. And herein lies the great difference between the promises of the covenant of works and those of the covenant of grace. The first were only concerning things future; eternal life and blessedness upon the accomplishment of perfect obedience. Promises of present mercy and pardon it stood in need of none, it was not capable of. Nor had it any promises of giving more grace, or supplies of it; but man was wholly left unto what he had at first received. Hence the covenant was broken. But in the covenant of grace all things are founded in promises of present mercy, and continual supplies of grace, as well as of future blessedness. Hence it comes to be “ordered in all things, and sure.”
And this is the first thing that was to be declared, namely, that every divine covenant is established on promises.
(2.) These promises are said to be “ better promises. ” The other covenant had its promises peculiar unto it, with respect whereunto this is said to be “established on better promises.” It was, indeed, principally represented under a system of precepts, and those almost innumerable; but it had its promises also, into the nature whereof we shall immediately inquire. With respect, therefore, unto them is the new covenant, whereof the Lord Christ is the mediator, said to be “established on better promises.” That it should be founded in promises, was necessary from its general nature as a covenant, and more necessary from its especial nature as a covenant of grace. That these promises are said to be “better promises,” respects those of the old covenant. But this is so said as to include all other degrees of comparison. They are not only better than they, but they are positively good in themselves, and absolutely the best that God ever gave, or will give unto the church. And what they are we must consider in our progress. And sundry things may be observed from these words:
Obs. 8. There is infinite grace in every divine covenant, inasmuch as it is established on promises. Infinite condescension it is in God, that he will enter into covenant with dust and ashes, with poor worms of the earth. And herein lies the spring of all grace, from whence all the streams of it do flow. And the first expression of it is in laying the foundation of it in some undeserved promises. And this was that which became the goodness and greatness of his nature, the means whereby we are brought to adhere unto him in faith, hope, trust, and obedience, until we come unto the enjoyment of him; for that is the use of promises, to keep us in adherence unto God, as the first original and spring of all goodness, and the ultimate satisfactory reward of our souls, 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Obs. 9. The promises of the covenant of grace are better than those of any other covenant, as for many other reasons, so especially because the grace of them prevents any condition or qualification on our part. I do not say the covenant of grace is absolutely without conditions, if by conditions we intend the duties of obedience which God requireth of us in and by virtue of that covenant; but this I say, the principal promises thereof are not in the first place remunerative of our obedience in the covenant, but efficaciously assumptive of us into covenant, and establishing or confirming in the covenant. The covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative, respecting an antecedent obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar unto the covenant of Sinai). They were, indeed, also of grace, in that the reward did infinitely exceed the merit of our obedience; but yet they all supposed it, and the subject of them was formally reward only. In the covenant of grace it is not so; for sundry of the promises thereof are the means of our being taken into covenant, of our entering into covenant with God. The first covenant absolutely was established on promises, in that when men were actually taken into it, they were encouraged unto obedience by the promises of a future reward. But those promises, namely, of the pardon of sin and writing of the law in our hearts, which the apostle expressly insisteth upon as the peculiar promises of this covenant, do take place and are effectual antecedently unto our covenant obedience. For although faith be required in order of nature antecedently unto our actual receiving of the pardon of sin, yet is that faith itself wrought in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedency unto pardon respects only the order that God had appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.
This entrance hath the apostle made into his discourse of the two covenants, which he continues unto the end of the chapter. But the whole is not without its difficulties. Many things in particular will occur unto us in our progress, which may be considered in their proper places. In the meantime there are some things in general which may be here discoursed, by whose determination much light will be communicated unto what doth ensue.
First, therefore, the apostle doth evidently in this place dispute concerning two covenants, or two testaments, comparing the one with the other, and declaring the disannulling of the one by the introduction and establishment of the other. What are these two covenants in general we have declared, namely, that made with the church of Israel at mount Sinai, and that made with us in the gospel; not as absolutely the covenant of grace, but as actually established in the death of Christ, with all the worship that belongs unto it.
Here then ariseth a difference of no small importance, namely, whether these are indeed two distinct covenants, as to the essence and substance of them, or only different ways of the dispensation and administration of the same covenant. And the reason of the difficulty lieth herein: We must grant one of these three things:
1. That either the covenant of grace was in force under the old testament; or,
2. That the church was saved without it, or any benefit by Jesus Christ, who is the mediator of it alone; or,
3. That they all perished everlastingly. And neither of the two latter can be admitted.
Some, indeed, in these latter days, have revived the old Pelagian imagination, that before the law men were saved by the conduct of natural light and reason; and under the law by the directive doctrines, precepts, and sacrifices thereof, without any respect unto the Lord Christ or his mediation in another covenant. But I shall not here contend with them, as having elsewhere sufficiently refuted these imaginations. Wherefore I shall take it here for granted, that no man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant, and the mediation of Christ therein.
Suppose, then, that this new covenant of grace was extant and effectual under the old testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof, and the mediation of Christ therein, how could it be that there should at the same time be another covenant between God and them, of a different nature from this, accompanied with other promises, and other effects? On this consideration it is said, that the two covenants mentioned, the new and the old, were not indeed two distinct covenants, as unto their essence and substance, but only different administrations of the same covenant, called two covenants from some different outward solemnities and duties of worship attending of them. To clear this it must be observed,
1. That by the old covenant, the original covenant of works, made with Adam and all mankind in him, is not intended; for this is undoubtedly a covenant different in the essence and substance of it from the new.
2. By the new covenant, not the new covenant absolutely and originally, as given in the first promise, is intended; but in its complete gospel administration, when it was actually established by the death of Christ, as administered in and by the ordinances of the new testament. This, with the covenant of Sinai, were, as most say, but different administrations of the same covenant.
But on the other hand, there is such express mention made, not only in this, but in sundry other places of the Scripture also, of two distinct covenants, or testaments, and such different natures, properties, and effects, ascribed unto them, as seem to constitute two distinct covenants. This, therefore, we must inquire into; and shall first declare what is agreed unto by those who are sober in this matter, though they differ in their judgments about this question, whether two distinct covenants, or only a twofold administration of the same covenant, be intended. And indeed there is so much agreed on, as that what remains seems rather to be a difference about the expression of the same truth, than any real contradiction about the things themselves. For,
1. It is agreed that the way of reconciliation with God, of justification and salvation, was always one and the same; and that from the giving of the first promise none was ever justified or saved but by the new covenant, and Jesus Christ, the mediator thereof. The foolish imagination before mentioned, that men were saved before the giving of the law by following the guidance of the light of nature, and after the giving of the law by obedience unto the directions thereof, is rejected by all that are sober, as destructive of the Old Testament and the New.
2. That the writings of the Old Testament, namely, the Law, Psalms, and Prophets, do contain and declare the doctrine of justification and salvation by Christ. This the church of old believed, and walked with God in the faith thereof. This is undeniably proved, in that the doctrine mentioned is frequently confirmed in the New Testament by testimonies taken out of the Old.
3. That by the covenant of Sinai, as properly so called, separated from its figurative relation unto the covenant of grace, none was ever eternally saved.
4. That the use of all the institutions whereby the old covenant was administered, was to represent and direct unto Jesus Christ, and his mediation.
These things being granted, the only way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ, under the old testament and the new, is secured; which is the substance of the truth wherein we are now concerned. On these grounds we may proceed with our inquiry.
The judgment of most reformed divines is, that the church under the old testament had the same promise of Christ, the same interest in him by faith, remission of sins, reconciliation with God, justification and salvation by the same way and means, that believers have under the new. And whereas the essence and the substance of the covenant consists in these things, they are not to be said to be under another covenant, but only a different administration of it. But this was so different from that which is established in the gospel after the coming of Christ, that it hath the appearance and name of another covenant. And the difference between these two administrations may be reduced unto the ensuing heads:
1. It consisted in the way and manner of the declaration of the mystery of the love and will of God in Christ; of the work of reconciliation and redemption, with our justification by faith. For herein the gospel, wherein “life and immortality are brought to light,” doth in plainness, clearness, and evidence, much excel the administration and declaration of the same truths under the law. And the greatness of the privilege of the church herein is not easily expressed. For hereby” with open face we behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” and Lord changed into the same image,” 2 Corinthians 3:18. The man whose eyes the Lord Christ opened, Mark 8:23-41.8.25, represents these two states. When he first touched him, his eyes were opened, and he saw, but he saw nothing clearly; whence, when he looked, he said, “I see men as trees, walking,” Mark 8:24: but upon his second touch, he Lord every man clearly,” Mark 8:25. They had their sight under the old testament, and the object was proposed unto them, but at a great distance, with such an interposition of mists, clouds, and shadows, as that they saw men like trees, walking,” nothing clearly and perfectly: but now under the gospel, the object, which is Christ, being brought near unto us, and all clouds and shadows being departed, we do or may see all things clearly. When a traveler in his way on downs or hills is encompassed with a thick mist and fog, though he be in his way yet he is uncertain, and nothing is presented unto him in its proper shape and distance; things near seem to be afar off, and things afar off to be near, and every thing hath, though not a false, yet an uncertain appearance. Let the sun break forth and scatter the mists and fogs that are about him, and immediately every thing appears quite in another shape unto him, so as indeed he is ready to think he is not where he was. His way is plain, he is certain of it, and all the region about lies evident under his eye; yet is there no alteration made but in the removal of the mists and clouds that interrupted his sight. So was it with them under the law. The types and shadows that they were enclosed in, and which were the only medium they had to view spiritual things in, represented them not unto them clearly and in their proper shape. But they being now removed, by the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings, in the dispensation of the gospel, the whole mystery of God in Christ is clearly manifested unto them that do believe. And the greatness of this privilege of the gospel above the law is inexpressible; whereof, as I suppose, we must speak somewhat afterwards.
2. In the plentiful communication of grace unto the community of the church; for now it is that we receive “grace for grace,” or a plentiful effusion of it, by Jesus Christ. There was grace given in an eminent manner unto many holy persons under the old testament, and all true believers had true, real, saving grace communicated unto them; but the measures of grace in the true church under the new testament do exceed those of the community of the church under the old. And therefore, as God winked at some things under the old testament, as polygamy, and the like, which are expressly and severely interdicted under the new, nor are consistent with the present administrations of it; so are sundry duties, as those of self- denial, readiness to bear the cross, to forsake houses, lands, and habitations, more expressly enjoined unto us than unto them. And the obedience which God requireth in any covenant, or administration of it, is proportionable unto the strength which the administration of that covenant doth exhibit. And if those who profess the gospel do content themselves without any interest in this privilege of it, if they endeavor not for a share in that plentiful effusion of grace which doth accompany its present administration, the gospel itself will be of no other use unto them, but to increase and aggravate their condemnation.
3. In the manner of our access unto God. Herein much of all that is called religion doth consist; for hereon doth all our outward worship of God depend. And in this the advantages of the gospel-administration of the covenant above that of the law is in all things very eminent. Our access now to God is immediate, by Jesus Christ, with liberty and boldness, as we shall afterwards declare. Those under the law were immediately conversant, in their whole worship, about outward, typical things, the tabernacle, the altar, the ark, the mercy-seat, and the like obscure representations of the presence of God. Besides, the manner of the making of the covenant with them at mount Sinai filled them with fear, and brought them into bondage, so as they had comparatively a servile frame of spirit in all their holy worship.
4. In the way of worship required under each administration. For under that which was legal, it seemed good unto God to appoint a great number of outward rites, ceremonies, and observances; and these, as they were dark in their signification, as also in their use and ends, so were they, by reason of their nature, number, and the severe penalties under which they were enjoined, grievous and burdensome to be observed. But the way of worship under the gospel is spiritual, rational, and plainly subservient unto the ends of the covenant itself; so as that the use, ends, benefits, and advantages of it are evident unto all.
5. In the extent of the dispensation of the grace of God; for this is greatly enlarged under the gospel. For under the old testament it was upon the matter confined unto the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh; but under the new testament it extends itself unto all nations under heaven.
Sundry other things are usually added by our divines unto the same purpose. See Calvin. Institut. lib. 2:cap. xi.; Martyr. Loc. Com. loc. 16, sect. 2; Bucan. loc. 22, etc.
The Lutherans, on the other side, insist on two arguments to prove, that not a twofold administration of the same covenant, but that two covenants substantially distinct, are intended in this discourse of the apostle.
1. Because in the Scripture they are often so called, and compared with one another, and sometimes opposed unto one another; the first and the last, the new and the old.
2. Because the covenant of grace in Christ is eternal, immutable, always the same, obnoxious unto no alteration, no change or abrogation; neither can these things be spoken of it with respect unto any administration of it. as they are spoken of the old covenant.
To state our thoughts aright in this matter, and to give what light we can unto the truth, the things ensuing may be observed:
1. When we speak of the “old covenant,” we intend not the covenant of works made with Adam, and his whole posterity in him; concerning which there is no difference or difficulty, whether it be a distinct covenant from the new or no.
2. When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though that were not before in being and efficacy, before the introduction of that which is promised in this place. For it was always the same, as to the substance of it, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and efficacy, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, do grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, was the only way and means of salvation unto the church, from the first entrance of sin. But for two reasons it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect unto any other things, nor was it so under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture, Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-58.6.16. The apostle indeed says, that the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ, before the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. And so it was, not absolutely in itself, but in the promise and benefits of it. The νομοθεσία , or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament; for it wanted two things thereunto:
(1.) It wanted its solemn confirmation and establishment, by the blood of the only sacrifice which belonged unto it. Before this was done in the death of Christ, it had not the formal nature of a cove nant or a testament, as our apostle proves, Hebrews 9:15-58.9.23. For neither, as he shows in that place, would the law given at Sinai have been a covenant, had it not been confirmed with the blood of sacrifices. Wherefore the promise was not before a formal and solemn covenant.
(2.) This was wanting, that it was not the spring, rule, and measure of all the worship of the church. This doth belong unto every covenant, properly so called, that God makes with the church, that it be the entire rule of all the worship that God requires of it; which is that which they are to restipulate in their entrance into covenant with God. But so the covenant of grace was not under the old testament; for God did require of the church many duties of worship that did not belong thereunto. But now, under the new testament, this covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship. Wherefore the new covenant promised in the Scripture, and here opposed unto the old, is not the promise of grace, mercy, life, and salvation by Christ, absolutely considered, but as it had the formal nature of a covenant given unto it, in its establishment by the death of Christ, the procuring cause of all its benefits, and the declaring of it to be the only rule of worship and obedience unto the church. So that although by “the covenant of grace,” we ofttimes understand no more but the way of life, grace, mercy, and salvation by Christ; yet by “the new covenant,” we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ, with that blessed way of worship which by it is settled in the church.
3. Whilst the church enjoyed all the spiritual benefits of the promise, wherein the substance of the covenant of grace was contained, before it was confirmed and made the sole rule of worship unto the church, it was not inconsistent with the holiness and wisdom of God to bring it under any other covenant, or prescribe unto it what forms of worship he pleased. It was not so, I say, upon these three suppositions:
(1.) That this covenant did not disannul or make ineffectual the promise that was given before, but that that doth still continue the only means of life and salvation. And that this was so, our apostle proves at large, Galatians 3:17-48.3.19.
(2.) That this other covenant, with all the worship contained in it or required by it, did not divert from, but direct and lead unto, the future establishment of the promise in the solemnity of a covenant, by the ways mentioned. And that the covenant made in Sinai, with all its ordinances, did so, the apostle proves likewise in the place before mentioned, as also in this whole epistle.
(3.) That it be of present use and advantage unto the church in its present condition. This the apostle acknowledgeth to be a great objection against the use and efficacy of the promise under the old testament, as unto life and salvation; namely, ‘To what end then serveth the giving of the law?’ whereunto he answers, by showing the necessity and use of the law unto the church in its then present condition, Galatians 3:17-48.3.19.
4. These things being observed, we may consider that the Scripture doth plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way, as what is spoken can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant. The one is mentioned and described, Exodus 24:3-2.24.8, Deuteronomy 5:2-5.5.5, namely, the covenant that God made with the people of Israel in Sinai; and which is commonly called “the covenant,” where the people under the old testament are said to keep or break God’s covenant; which for the most part is spoken with respect unto that worship which was peculiar thereunto. The other is promised, Jeremiah 31:31-24.31.34; Jeremiah 32:40; which is the new or gospel covenant, as before explained, mentioned Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24. And these two covenants, or testaments, are compared one with the other, and opposed one unto another, 2 Corinthians 3:6-47.3.9; Galatians 4:24-48.4.26; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 9:15-58.9.20.
These two we call “the old and the new testament.” Only it must be observed, that in this argument, by the “old testament,” we do not understand the books of the Old Testament, or the writings of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, or the oracles of God committed then unto the church, (I confess they are once so called, 2 Corinthians 3:14, “The veil remaineth untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament,” that is, the books of it; unless we shall say, that the apostle intendeth only the reading of the things which concern the old testament in the Scripture;) for this old covenant, or testament, whatever it be, is abrogated and taken away, as the apostle expressly proves, but the word of God in the books of the Old Testament abideth for ever. And those writings are called the Old Testament, or the books of the Old Testament, not as though they contained in them nothing but what belongeth unto the old covenant, for they contain the doctrine of the New Testament also; but they are so termed because they were committed unto the church whilst the old covenant was in force, as the rule and law of its worship and obedience.
5. Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended. We must, I say, do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, and with great pretense of reason, for it is that which is the sole foundation they all build upon who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, ‘That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation be the same under both, then indeed are they for the substance of them but one.’And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the covenant.
As therefore I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition, so I shall propose sundry things which relate unto the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace:
1. This covenant, called “the old covenant,” was never intended to be of itself the absolute rule and law of life and salvation unto the church, but was made with a particular design, and with respect unto particular ends. This the apostle proves undeniably in this epistle, especially in the chapter foregoing, and those two that follow. Hence it follows that it could abrogate or disannul nothing which God at any time before had given as a general rule unto the church. For that which is particular cannot abrogate any thing that was general, and before it; as that which is general doth abrogate all antecedent particulars, as the new covenant doth abrogate the old. And this we must consider in both the instances belonging hereunto. For,
(1.) God had before given the covenant of works, or perfect obedience, unto all mankind, in the law of creation. But this covenant at Sinai did not abrogate or disannul that covenant, nor any way fulfill it. And the reason is, because it was never intended to come in the place or room thereof, as a covenant, containing an entire rule of all the faith and obedience of the whole church. God did not intend in it to abrogate the covenant of works, and to substitute this in the place thereof; yea, in sundry things it reenforced, established, and confirmed that covenant. For,
[1.] It revived, declared, and expressed all the commands of that covenant in the decalogue; for that is nothing but a divine summary of the law written in the heart of man at his creation. And herein the dreadful manner of its delivery or promulgation, with its writing in tables of stone, is also to be considered; for in them the nature of that first covenant, with its inexorableness as unto perfect obedience, was represented. And because none could answer its demands, or comply with it therein, it was called “ the ministration of death,” causing fear and bondage, 2 Corinthians 3:7.
[2.] It revived the sanction of the first covenant, in the curse or sentence of death which it denounced against all transgressors. Death was the penalty of the transgression of the first covenant: “In the day that thou eatest, thou shalt die the death.” And this sentence was revived and represented anew in the curse wherewith this covenant was ratified, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them,” Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10. For the design of God in it was to bind a sense of that curse on the consciences of men, until He came by whom it was taken away, as the apostle declares, Galatians 3:19.
[3.] It revived the promise of that covenant, that of eternal life upon perfect obedience. So the apostle tells us that Moses thus describeth the righteousness of the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5; as he doth, Leviticus 18:5.
Now this is no other but the covenant of works revived. Nor had this covenant of Sinai any promise of eternal life annexed unto it, as such, but only the promise inseparable from the covenant of works which it revived, saying, “Do this, and live.” Hence it is, that when our apostle disputeth against justification by the law, or by the works of the law, he doth not intend the works peculiar unto the covenant of Sinai, such as were the rites and ceremonies of the worship then instituted; but he intends also the works of the first covenant, which alone had the promise of life annexed unto them.
And hence it follows also, that it was not a new covenant of works established in the place of the old, for the absolute rule of faith and obedience unto the whole church; for then would it have abrogated and taken away that covenant, and all the force of it, which it did not.
(2.) The other instance is in the promise. This also went before it; neither was it abrogated or disannulled by the introduction of this covenant. This promise was given unto our first parents immediately after the entrance of sin, and was established as containing the only way and means of the salvation of sinners. Now, this promise could not be abrogated by the introduction of this covenant, and a new way of justification and salvation be thereby established. For the promise being given out in general for the whole church, as containing the way appointed by God for righteousness, life, and salvation, it could not be disannulled or changed, without a change and alteration in the counsels of Him “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Much less could this be effected by a particular covenant, such as that was, when it was given as a general and eternal rule.
2. But whereas there was an especial promise given unto Abraham, in the faith whereof he became “the father of the faithful,” he being their progenitor, it should seem that this covenant did wholly disannul or supersede that promise, and take off the church of his posterity from building on that foundation, and so fix them wholly on this new covenant now made with them. So saith Moses,
“The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day,” Deuteronomy 5:3.
God made not this covenant on mount Sinai with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but with the people then present, and their posterity, as he declares, Deuteronomy 29:14-5.29.15; Deuteronomy 29:14-5.29.15. This, therefore, should seem to take them off wholly from that promise made to Abraham, and so to disannul it. But that this it did not, nor could do, the apostle strictly proves, Galatians 3:17-48.3.22; Galatians 3:17-48.3.22; yea, it did divers ways establish that promise, both as first given and as afterwards confirmed with the oath of God unto Abraham, two ways especially:
(1.) It declared the impossibility of obtaining reconciliation and peace with God any other way but by the promise. For representing the commands of the covenant of works, requiring perfect, sinless obedience, under the penalty of the curse, it convinced men that this was no way for sinners to seek for life and salvation by. And herewith it so urged the consciences of men, that they could have no rest nor peace in themselves but what the promise would afford them, whereunto they saw a necessity of betaking themselves.
(2.) By representing the ways and means of the accomplishment of the promise, and of that whereon all the efficacy of it unto the justification and salvation of sinners doth depend. This was the death, blood-shedding, oblation, or sacrifice of Christ, the promised seed. This all its offerings and ordinances of worship directed unto; as his incarnation, with the inhabitation of God in his human nature, was typed by the tabernacle and temple. Wherefore it was so far from disannulling the promise, or diverting the minds of the people of God from it, that by all means it established it and led unto it. But,
3. It will be said, as was before observed, ‘That if it did neither abrogate the first covenant of works, and come in the room thereof, nor disannul the promise made unto Abraham, then unto what end did it serve, or what benefit did the church receive thereby?’I answer,
(1.) There hath been, with respect unto God’s dealing with the church, οἰκονομία τῶν καιρῶν , a “certain dispensation” and disposition of times and seasons, reserved unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God. Hence from the beginning he revealed himself πολυτρόπως and πολυμερῶς , as seemed good unto him, Hebrews 1:1. And thisdispensation of times had a πλήρωμα , a “fullness” assigned unto it, wherein all things, namely, that belong unto the revelation and communication of God unto the church, should come to their height, and have as it were the last hand given unto them. This was in the sending of Christ, as the apostle declares, Ephesians 1:10, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might bring all unto a head in Christ.” Until this season came, God dealt variously with the church, ἐν ποικίλῃ σοφίᾳ , “in manifold” or “various wisdom,” according as he saw it needful and useful for it, in that season which it was to pass through, before the fullness of times came. Of this nature was his entrance into the covenant with the church at Sinai; the reasons whereof we shall immediately inquire into. In the meantime, if we had no other answer to this inquiry but only this, that in the order of the disposal or dispensation of the seasons of the church, before the fullness of times came, God in his manifold wisdom saw it necessary for the then present state of the church in that season, we may well acquiesce therein. But,
(2.) The apostle acquaints us in general with the ends of this dispensation of God, Galatians 3:19-48.3.24:
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Much light might be given unto the mind of the Holy Ghost in these words, and that in things not commonly discerned by expositors, if we should divert unto the opening of them. I will at present only mark from them what is unto our present purpose.
There is a double inquiry made by the apostle with respect unto the law, or the covenant of Sinai:
[1.] Unto what end in general it served.
[2.] Whether it was not contrary to the promise of God.
Unto both these the apostle answereth from the nature, office, and work of that covenant. For there were, as hath been declared, two things in it:
[1.] A revival and representation of the covenant of works, with its sanction and curse.
[2.] A direction of the church unto the accomplishment of the promise.
From these two doth the apostle frame his answer unto the double inquiry laid down.
And unto the first inquiry, “unto what end it served,” he answers, “It was added because of transgressions.” The promise being given, there seems to have been no need of it, why then was it added to it at that season? “It was added because of transgressions.” The fullness of time was not yet come, wherein the promise was to be fulfilled, accomplished and established as the only covenant wherein the church was to walk with God; or, “the seed” was not yet come, as the apostle here speaks, to whom the promise was made. In the meantime some order must be taken about sin and transgression, that all the order of things appointed of God might not be overflowed by them And this was done two ways by the law:
[1.] By reviving the commands of the covenant of works, with the sanction of death, it put an awe on the minds of men, and set bounds unto their lusts, that they should not dare to run forth into that excess which they were naturally inclined unto. It was therefore “added because of transgressions;” that, in the declaration of God’s severity against them, some bounds might be fixed unto them; for “by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
[2.] To shut up unbelievers, and such as would not seek for righteousness, life, and salvation by the promise, under the power of the covenant of works, and curse attending it. “It concluded” or “shut up all under sin,” saith the apostle, Galatians 3:22. This was the end of the law, for this end was it added, as it gave a revival unto the covenant of works.
Unto the second inquiry, which ariseth out of this supposition, namely, that the law did convince of sin, and condemn for sin, which is, “whether it be not then contrary to the grace of God,” the apostle in like manner returns a double answer, taken from the second use of the law, before insisted on, with respect unto the promise. And,
[1.] He says, ‘That although the law doth thus rebuke sin, convince of sin, and condemn for sin, so setting bounds unto transgressions and transgressors, yet did God never intend it as a means to give life and righteousness, nor was it able so to do.’The end of the promise was to give righteousness, justification, and salvation, all by Christ, to whom and concerning whom it was made. But this was not the end for which the law was revived in the covenant of Sinai. For although in itself it requires a perfect righteousness, and gives a promise of life thereon, (“He that doeth these things, he shall live in them,”) yet it could give neither righteousness nor life unto any in the state of sin. See Romans 8:3; Romans 10:4. Wherefore the promise and the law, having diverse ends, they are not contrary to one another.
[2.] Saith he, ‘ The law hath a great respect unto the promise; and was given of God for this very end, that it might lead and direct men unto Christ;’ which is sufficient to answer the question proposed at the beginning of this discourse, about the end of this covenant, and the advantage which the church received thereby.
What hath been spoken may suffice to declare the nature of this covenant in general; and two things do here evidently follow, wherein the substance of the whole truth contended for by the apostle doth consist:
(1.) That whilst the covenant of grace was contained and proposed only in the promise, before it was solemnly confirmed in the blood and sacrifice of Christ, and so legalized or established as the only rule of the worship of the church, the introduction of this other covenant on Sinai did not constitute a new way or means of righteousness, life, and salvation; but believers sought for them alone by the covenant of grace as declared in the promise. This follows evidently upon what we have discoursed; and it secures absolutely that great fundamental truth, which the apostle in this and all his other epistles so earnestly contendeth for, namely, that there neither is, nor ever was, either righteousness, justification, life, or salvation, to be attained by any law, or the works of it, (for this covenant at mount Sinai comprehended every law that God ever gave unto the church,) but by Christ alone, and faith in him.
(2.) That whereas this covenant being introduced in the pleasure of God, there was prescribed with it a form of outward worship suited unto that dispensation of times and present state of the church; upon the introduction of the new covenant in the fullness of times, to be the rule of all intercourse between God and the church, both that covenant and all its worship must be disannulled. This is that which the apostle proves with all sorts of arguments, manifesting the great advantage of the church thereby.
These things, I say, do evidently follow on the preceding discourses, and are the main truths contended for by the apostle.
4. There remaineth one thing more only to be considered, before we enter on the comparison between the two covenants here directed unto by the apostle. And this is, how this first covenant came to be an especial covenant unto that people: wherein we shall manifest the reason of its introduction at that season. And unto this end sundry things are to be considered concerning that people and the church of God in them, with whom this covenant was made; which will further evidence both the nature, use, and necessity of it:
(1.) This people were the posterity of Abraham, unto whom the promise was made that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Wherefore from among them was the promised Seed to be raised up in the fullness of time, or its proper season, from among them was the Son of God to take on him the seed of Abraham. To this end sundry things were necessary:
[1.] That they should have a certain abiding place or country, which they might freely inhabit, distinct from other nations, and under a rule or scepter of their own. So it is said of them, that
“the people should dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations,” Numbers 23:9; and “the scepter was not to depart from them until Shiloh came,” Genesis 49:10.
For God had regard unto his own glory in his faithfulness as unto his word and oath given unto Abraham, not only that they should be accomplished, but that their accomplishment should be evident and conspicuous. But if this posterity of Abraham, from among whom the promised Seed was to rise, had been, as it is at this day with them, scattered abroad on the face of the earth, mixed with all nations, and under their power, although God might have accomplished his promise really in raising up Christ from among some of his posterity, yet could it not be proved or evidenced that he had so done, by reason of the confusion and mixture of the people with others. Wherefore God provided a land and country for them which they might inhabit by themselves, and as their own, even the land of Canaan. And this was so suited unto all the ends of God towards that people, as might be declared in sundry instances, that God is said to have “espied this land out for them,” Ezekiel 20:6. He chose it out, as most meet for his purpose towards that people of all lands under heaven.
[2.] That there should be always kept among them an open confession and visible representation of the end for which they were so separated from all the nations of the world. They were not to dwell in the land of Canaan merely for secular ends, and to make as it were a dumb show; but as they were there maintained and preserved to evidence the faithfulness of God in bringing forth the promised Seed in the fullness of time, so there was to be a testimony kept up among them unto that end of God whereunto they were preserved. This was the end of all their ordinances of worship, of the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices and ordinances; which were all appointed by Moses, on the command of God, “for a testimony of those things which should be spoken afterwards,” Hebrews 3:5.
These things were necessary in the first place, with respect unto the ends of God towards that people.
(2.) It becomes not the wisdom, holiness, and sovereignty of God, to call any people into an especial relation unto himself, to do them good in an eminent and peculiar manner, and then to suffer them to live at their pleasure, without any regard unto what he hath done for them. Wherefore, having granted unto this people those great privileges of the land of Canaan, and the ordinances of worship relating unto the great end mentioned, he moreover prescribed unto them laws, rules, and terms of obedience, whereon they should hold and enjoy that land, with all the privileges annexed unto the possession thereof. And these are both expressed and frequently inculcated, in the repetition and promises of the law. But yet in the prescription of these terms, God reserved the sovereignty of dealing with them unto himself. For had he left them to stand or fall absolutely by the terms prescribed unto them, they might and would have utterly forfeited both the land and all the privileges they enjoyed therein. And had it so fallen out, then the great end of God in preserving them a separate people until the Seed should come, and a representation thereof among them, had been frustrated. Wherefore, although he punished them for their transgressions, according to the threatenings of the law, yet would he not bring the חֵרֶם , or “curse of the law,” upon them, and utterly cast them off, until his great end was accomplished, Malachi 4:4-39.4.6.
(3.) God would not take this people off from the promise, because his church was among them, and they could neither please God nor be accepted with him but by faith therein. But yet they were to be dealt withal according as it was meet. For they were generally a people of a hard heart, and stiff-necked, lifted up with an opinion of their own righteousness and worth above others. This Moses endeavoreth, by all manner of reasons and instances unto the contrary, to take them off from, in the book of Deuteronomy. Yet was it not effected among the generality of them, nor is to this day; for in the midst of all their wickedness and misery, they still trust to and boast of their own righteousness, and will have it that God hath an especial obligation unto them on that account. For this cause God saw it necessary, and it pleased him to put a grievous and heavy yoke upon them, to subdue the pride of their spirits, and to cause them to breathe after deliverance. This the apostle Peter calls “a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear,” Acts 15:10; that is, with peace, ease, and rest: which therefore the Lord Christ invited them to seek for in himself alone, Matthew 11:29-40.11.30. And this yoke that God put on them consisted in these three things:
[1.] In a multitude of precepts, hard to be understood, and difficult to be observed. The present Jews reckon up six hundred and thirteen of them; about the sense of most of which they dispute endlessly among themselves. But the truth is, since the days of the Pharisees they have increased their own yoke, and made obedience unto their law in any tolerable manner altogether impracticable. It were easy to manifest, for instance, that no man under heaven ever did, or ever can, keep the Sabbath according to the rules they give about it in their Talmuds. And they generally scarce observe one of them themselves. But in the law, as given by God himself, it is certain that there are a multitude of arbitrary precepts, and those in themselves not accompanied with any spiritual advantages, as our apostle shows, Hebrews 9:9-58.9.10; only they were obliged to perform them by a mere sovereign act of power and authority.
[2.] In the severity wherewith the observance of all those precepts was enjoined them. And this was the threatening of death; for “he that despised Moses’law died without mercy,” and “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward.” Hence was their complaint of old,
“Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?” Numbers 17:12-4.17.13.
And the curse solemnly denounced against every one that confirmed not all things written in the law was continually before them.
[3.] In a spirit of bondage unto fear. This was administered in the giving and dispensation of the law, even as a spirit of liberty and power is administered in and by the gospel. And as this respected their present obedience, and manner of its performance, so in particular it regarded death not yet conquered by Christ. Hence our apostle affirms, that “through fear of death they were all their lifetime subject unto bondage.”
This state God brought them into, partly to subdue the pride of their hearts, trusting in their own righteousness, and partly to cause them to look out earnestly after the promised deliverer.
(4.) Into this estate and condition God brought them by a solemn covenant, confirmed by mutual consent between him and them. The tenor, force, and solemn ratification of this covenant, are expressed, Exodus 24:3-2.24.8. Unto the terms and conditions of this covenant was the whole church obliged indispensably, on pain of extermination, until all was accomplished, Malachi 4:4-39.4.6. Unto this covenant belonged the decalogue, with all precepts of moral obedience thence educed. So also did the laws of political rule established among them, and the whole system of religious worship given unto them. All these laws were brought within the verge of this covenant, and were the matter of it. And it had especial promises and threatenings annexed unto it as such; whereof none did exceed the bounds of the land of Canaan. For even many of the laws of it were such as obliged nowhere else. Such was the law of the sabbatical year, and all their sacrifices . There was sin and obedience in them or about them in the land of Canaan, none elsewhere. Hence,
(5.) This covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and therein, as the apostle speaks, was “the ministry of condemnation,” 2 Corinthians 3:9; for “by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.” And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works. And,
(6.) Hereon occasionally fell out the ruin of that people; “their table became a snare unto them, and that which should have been for their welfare became a trap,” according to the prediction of our Savior, Psalms 69:22. It was this covenant that raised and ruined them. It raised them to glory and honor when given of God; it ruined them when abused by themselves to ends contrary to express declarations of his mind and will. For although the generality of them were wicked and rebellious, always breaking the terms of the covenant which God made with them, so far as it was possible they should, whilst God determined to reign over them unto the appointed season, and repining under the burden of it; yet they would have this covenant to be the only rule and means of righteousness, life, and salvation, as the apostle declares, Romans 9:31-45.9.33; Romans 10:3. For, as we have often said, there were two things in it, both which they abused unto other ends than what God designed them:
[1.] There was the renovation of the rule of the covenant of works for righteousness and life. And this they would have to be given unto them for those ends, and so sought for righteousness by the works of the law.
[2.] There was ordained in it a typical representation of the way and means whereby the promise was to be made effectual, namely, in the mediation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; which was the end of all their ordinances of worship. And the outward law thereof, with the observance of its institution, they looked on as their only relief when they came short of exact and perfect righteousness.
Against both these pernicious errors the apostle disputes expressly in his epistles unto the Romans and the Galatians, to save them, if it were possible, from that ruin they were casting themselves into. Hereon “the elect obtained,” but “the rest were hardened.” For hereby they made an absolute renunciation of the promise, wherein alone God had inwrapped the way of life and salvation. This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.
That which remains for the declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in this whole matter, is to declare the differences that are between those two covenants, whence the one is said to be “better” than the other, and to be “built upon better promises.”
Those of the church of Rome do commonly place this difference in three things:
1. In the promises of them: which in the old covenant were temporal only; in the new, spiritual and heavenly.
2. In the precepts of them: which under the old, required only external obedience, designing the righteousness of the outward man; under the new, they are internal, respecting principally the inner man of the heart.
3. In their sacraments: for those under the old testament were only outwardly figurative; but those of the new are operative of grace.
But these things do not express much, if any thing at all, of what the Scripture placeth this difference in. And besides, as by some of them explained, they are not true, especially the two latter of them. For I cannot but somewhat admire how it came into the heart or mind of any man to think or say, that God ever gave a law or laws, precept or precepts, that should “respect the outward man only, and the regulation of external duties.” A thought of it is contrary unto all the essential properties of the nature of God, and meet only to ingenerate apprehensions of him unsuited unto all his glorious excellencies. The life and foundation of all the laws under the old testament was, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy soul;” without which no outward obedience was ever accepted with him. And for the third of the supposed differences, neither were the sacraments of the law so barely “figurative,” but that they did exhibit Christ unto believers: for “they all drank of the spiritual rock; which rock was Christ.” Nor are those of the gospel so operative of grace, but that without faith they are useless unto them that do receive them.
The things wherein this difference doth consist, as expressed in the Scripture, are partly circumstantial, and partly substantial, and may be reduced unto the heads ensuing: 1. These two covenants differ in the circumstance of time as to their promulgation, declaration, and establishment. This difference the apostle expresseth from the prophet Jeremiah, in the ninth verse of this chapter, where it must be more fully spoken unto. In brief, the first covenant was made at the time that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and took its date from the third month after their coming up from thence, Exodus 19:24. From the time of what is reported in the latter place, wherein the people give their actual consent unto the terms of it, it began its formal obligation as a covenant. And we must afterwards inquire when it was abrogated and ceased to oblige the church. The new covenant was declared and made known “in the latter days,” Hebrews 1:1-58.1.2; “in the dispensation of the fullness of times,” Ephesians 1:10. And it took date, as a covenant formally obliging the whole church, from the death, resurrection, ascension of Christ, and sending of the Holy Ghost. I bring them all into the epocha of this covenant, because though principally it was established by the first, yet was it not absolutely obligatory as a covenant until after the last of them.
2. They differ in the circumstance of place as to their promulgation; which the Scripture also taketh notice of. The first was declared on mount Sinai; the manner whereof, and the station of the people in receiving the law, I have in my Exercitations unto the first part of this Exposition at large declared, and thither the reader is referred,  Exodus 19:18. The other was declared on mount Zion, and the law of it went forth from Jerusalem, Isaiah 2:3. This difference, with many remarkable instances from it, our apostle insists on, Galatians 4:24-48.4.26: “These are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” That is, Agar, the bondwoman whom Abraham took before the heir of promise was born, was a type of the old covenant given on Sinai, before the introduction of the new, or the covenant of promise; for so he adds: “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth unto Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” This mount Sinai, where the old covenant was given, and which was represented by Agar, is in Arabia, cast quite out of the verge and confines of the church. And it “answereth,” or “is placed in the same series, rank, and order with Jerusalem,” namely, in the opposition of the two covenants. For as the new covenant, the covenant of promise, giving freedom and liberty, was given at Jerusalem, in the death and resurrection of Christ, with the preaching of the gospel which ensued thereon; so the old covenant, that brought the people into bondage, was given at mount Sinai in Arabia.
 See vol. 1. of this Exposition, p. 446. ED.
3. They differ in the manner of their promulgation and establishment. There were two things remarkable that accompanied the solemn declaration of the first covenant:
(1.) The dread and terror of the outward appearance on mount Sinai, which filled all the people, yea, Moses himself, with fear and trembling, Hebrews 12:18-58.12.21; Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:18-2.20.19. Together herewith was a spirit of fear and bondage administered unto all the people, so as that they chose to keep at a distance, and not draw nigh unto God, Deuteronomy 5:23-5.5.27.
(2.) That it was given by the ministry and “ disposition of angels, ” Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19. Hence the people were in a sense “put in subjection unto angels,” and they had an authoritative ministry in that covenant. The church that then was, was put into some kind of subjection unto angels, as the apostle plainly intimates, Hebrews 2:5. Hence the worshipping or adoration of angels began among that people, Colossians 2:18; which some, with an addition unto their folly and superstition, would introduce into the Christian church, wherein they have no such authoritative ministry as they had under the old covenant.
Things are quite otherwise in the promulgation of the new covenant. The Son of God in his own person did declare it. This he “ spake from heaven, ” as the apostle observes; in opposition unto the giving of the law “on the earth,” Hebrews 12:25. Yet did he speak on the earth also; the mystery whereof himself declares, John 3:13. And he did all things that belonged unto the establishment of this covenant in a spirit of meekness and condescension, with the highest evidence of love, grace, and compassion, encouraging and inviting the weary, the burdened, the heavy and laden to come unto him. And by his Spirit he makes his disciples to carry on the same work until the covenant was fully declared, Hebrews 2:3. See John 1:17-43.1.18.
And the whole ministry of angels, in the giving of this covenant, was merely in a way of service and obedience unto Christ; and they owned themselves the “fellow-servants” only of them that have “the testimony of Jesus,” Revelation 19:10. So that this “world to come,” as it was called of old, was no way put in subjection unto them.
4. They differ in their mediators. The mediator of the first covenant was Moses. “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator,” Galatians 3:19. And this was no other but Moses, who was a servant in the house of God, Hebrews 3:5. And he was a mediator, as designed of God, so chosen of the people, in that dread and consternation which befell them upon the terrible promulgation of the law For they saw that they could no way bear the immediate presence of God, nor treat with him in their own persons. Wherefore they desired that there might be an internuncius, a mediator between God and them, and that Moses might be the person, Deuteronomy 5:24-5.5.27. But the mediator of the new covenant is the Son of God himself. For “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all,” 1 Timothy 2:5. He who is the Son, and the Lord over his own house, graciously undertook in his own person to be the mediator of this covenant; and herein it is unspeakably preferred before the old covenant.
5. They differ in their subject-matter, both as unto precepts and promises, the advantage being still on the part of the new covenant. For,
(1.) The old covenant, in the preceptive part of it, renewed the commands of the covenant of works, and that on their original terms. Sin it forbade, that is, all and every sin, in matter and manner, on the pain of death; and gave the promise of life unto perfect, sinless obedience only: whence the decalogue itself, which is a transcript of the law of works, is called “the covenant,” Exodus 34:28. And besides this, as we observed before, it had other precepts innumerable, accommodated unto the present condition of the people, and imposed on them with rigor. But in the new covenant, the very first thing that is proposed, is the accomplishment and establishment of the covenant of works, both as unto its commands and sanction, in the obedience and suffering of the mediator. Hereon the commands of it, as unto the obedience of the covenanters, are not grievous; the yoke of Christ being easy, and his burden light.
(2.) The old testament, absolutely considered, had,
[1.] No promise of grace, to communicate spiritual strength, or to assist us in obedience; nor,
[2.] Any of eternal life, no otherwise but as it was contained in the promise of the covenant of works, “The man that doeth these things shall live in them;” and,
[3.] Had promises of temporal things in the land of Canaan inseparable from it. In the new covenant all things are otherwise, as will be declared in the exposition of the ensuing verses.
6. They differ, and that principally, in the manner of their dedication and sanction. This is that which gives any thing the formal nature of a covenant or testament. There may be a promise, there may be an agreement in general, which hath not the formal nature of a covenant, or testament, and such was the covenant of grace before the death of Christ, but it is the solemnity and manner of the confirmation, dedication, and sanction of any promise or agreement, that give it the formal nature of a covenant or testament. And this is by a sacrifice, wherein there is both bloodshed-ding and death ensuing thereon. Now this, in the confirmation of the old covenant, was only the sacrifice of beasts, whose blood was sprinkled on all the people, Exodus 24:5-2.24.8. But the new testament was solemnly confirmed by the sacrifice and blood of Christ himself, Zechariah 9:11; Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:20. And the Lord Christ dying as the mediator and surety of the covenant, he purchased all good things for the church; and as a testator bequeathed them unto it. Hence he says of the sacramental cup, that it is “the new testament in his blood,” or the pledge of his bequeathing unto the church all the promises and mercies of the covenant; which is the new testament, or the disposition of his goods unto his children. But because the Hebrews 9:18-58.9.23, we must thither refer the full consideration of it.
7. They differ in the priests that were to officiate before God in the behalf of the people. In the old covenant, Aaron and his posterity alone were to discharge that office; in the new, the Son of God himself is the only priest of the church. This difference, with the advantage of the gospel-state thereon, we have handled at large in the exposition of the chapter foregoing.
8. They differ in the sacrifices whereon the peace and reconciliation with God which is tendered in them doth depend. And this also must be spoken unto in the ensuing chapter, if God permit.
9. They differ in the way and manner of their solemn writing or enrolment. All covenants were of old solemnly written in tables of brass or stone, where they might be faithfully preserved for the use of the parties concerned. So the old covenant, as to the principal, fundamental part of it, was “engraven in tables of stone,” which were kept in the ark, Exodus 31:18; Deu 9:10 ; 2 Corinthians 3:7. And God did so order it in his providence, that the first draught of them should be broken, to intimate that the covenant contained in them was not everlasting nor unalterable. But the new covenant is written in the “fleshy tables of the hearts” of them that do believe 2 Corinthians 3:3; Jeremiah 31:33.
10. They differ in their ends. The principal end of the first covenant was to discover sin, to condemn it, and to set bounds unto it. So saith the apostle, “It was added because of transgressions.” And this it did several ways:
(1.) By conviction: for “by the law is the knowledge of sin;” it convinced sinners, and caused every mouth to be stopped before God.
(2.) By condemning the sinner, in an application of the sanction of the law unto his conscience.
(3.) By the judgments and punishments wherewith on all occasions it was accompanied. In all it manifested and represented the justice and severity of God.
The end of the new covenant is, to declare the love, grace, and mercy of God; and therewith to give repentance, remission of sin, and life eternal.
11. They differed in their effects. For the first covenant being the “ministration of death” and “condemnation,” it brought the minds and spirits of them that were under it into servitude and bondage; whereas spiritual liberty is the immediate effect of the new testament. And there is no one thing wherein the Spirit of God doth more frequently give us an account of the difference between these two covenants, than in this of the liberty of the one and the bondage of the other. See Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 4:1-48.4.7; Galatians 4:24; Galatians 4:26; Galatians 4:30-48.4.31; Hebrews 2:14-58.2.15. This, therefore, we must a little explain. Wherefore the bondage which was the effect of the old covenant arose from several causes concurring unto the effecting of it:
(1.) The renovation of the terms and sanction of the covenant of works contributed much thereunto. For the people saw not how the commands of that covenant could be observed, nor how its curse could be avoided. They saw it not, I say, by any thing in the covenant of Sinai; which therefore “gendered unto bondage.” All the prospect they had of deliverance was from the promise.
(2.) It arose from the manner of the delivery of the law, and God’s entering thereon into covenant with them. This was ordered on purpose to fill them with dread and fear. And it could not but do so, whenever they called it to remembrance.
(3.) From the severity of the penalties annexed unto the transgression of the law. And God had taken upon himself, that where punishment was not exacted according to the law, he himself would “cut them off.” This kept them always anxious and solicitous, not knowing when they were safe or secure.
(4.) From the nature of the whole ministry of the law, which was the “ministration of death” and “condemnation,” 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9; which declared the desert of every sin to be death, and denounced death unto every sinner, administering by itself no relief unto the minds and consciences of men. So was it the “letter that killed” them that were under its power.
(5.) From the darkness of their own minds, in the means, ways, and causes of deliverance from all these things. It is true, they had a promise before of life and salvation, which was not abolished by this covenant, even the promise made unto Abraham; but this belonged not unto this covenant, and the way of its accomplishment, by the incarnation and mediation of the Son of God, was much hidden from them, yea, from the prophets themselves who yet foretold them. This left them under much bondage. For the principal cause and means of the liberty of believers under the gospel, ariseth from the clear light they have into the mystery of the love and grace of God in Christ. This knowledge and faith of his incarnation, humiliation, sufferings, and sacrifice, whereby he made atonement for sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness, is that which gives them liberty and boldness in their obedience, 2 Corinthians 3:17-47.3.18. Whilst they of old were in the dark as unto these things, they must needs have been kept under much bondage.
(6.) It was increased by the yoke of a multitude of laws, rites, and ceremonies, imposed on them; which made the whole of their worship a burden unto them, and insupportable, Acts 15:10.
In and by all these ways and means there was a spirit of bondage and fear administered unto them. And this God did, thus he dealt with them, to the end that they might not rest in that state, but continually look out after deliverance.
On the other hand, the new covenant gives liberty and boldness, the liberty and boldness of children, unto all believers. It is the Spirit of the Son in it that makes us free, or gives us universally all that liberty which is any way needful for us or useful unto us. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” namely, to serve God, “not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the spirit.” And it is declared that this was the great end of bringing in the new covenant, in the accomplishment of the promise made unto Abraham, namely, “that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve God without fear ...... all the days of our life,” Luke 1:72-42.1.75. And we may briefly consider wherein this deliverance and liberty by the new covenant doth consist, which it doth in the things ensuing:
(1.) In our freedom from the commanding power of the law, as to sinless, perfect obedience, in order unto righteousness and justification before God. Its commands we are still subject unto, but not in order unto life and salvation; for unto these ends it is fulfilled in and by the mediator of the new covenant, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4.
(2.) In our freedom from the condemning power of the law, and the sanction of it in the curse. This being undergone and answered by him who was “made a curse for us,” we are freed from it, Romans 7:6; Galatians 3:13-48.3.14. And therein also are we “delivered from the fear of death,” Hebrews 2:15, as it was penal and an entrance into judgment or condemnation, John 5:24.
(3.) In our freedom from conscience of sin, Hebrews 10:2, that is, conscience disquieting, perplexing, and condemning our persons; the hearts of all that believe being “sprinkled from an evil conscience” by the blood of Christ.
(4.) In our freedom from the whole system of Mosaical worship, in all the rites, and ceremonies, and ordinances of it; which what a burden it was the apostles do declare, Acts 15:0, and our apostle at large in his epistle to the Galatians.
(5.) From all the laws of men in things appertaining unto the worship of God, 1 Corinthians 7:23.
And by all these, and the like instances of spiritual liberty, doth the gospel free believers from that “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which was administered under the old covenant.
It remains only that we point out the heads of those ways whereby this liberty is communicated unto us under the new covenant. And it is done,
(1.) Principally by the grant and communication of the Spirit of the Son as a Spirit of adoption, giving the freedom, boldness, and liberty of children, John 1:12; Romans 8:15-45.8.17; Galatians 4:6-48.4.7. From hence the apostle lays it down as a certain rule, that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Corinthians 3:17. Let men pretend what they will, let them boast of the freedom of their outward condition in this world, and of the inward liberty or freedom of their wills, there is indeed no true liberty where the Spirit of God is not. The ways whereby he giveth freedom, power, a sound mind, spiritual boldness, courage, contempt of the cross, holy confidence before God, a readiness for obedience, and enlargedness of heart in duties, with all other things wherein true liberty doth consist, or which any way belong unto it, I must not here divert to declare. The world judges that there is no bondage but where the Spirit of God is; for that gives that conscientious fear of sin, that awe of God in all our thoughts, actions, and ways, that careful and circumspect walking, that temperance in things lawful, that abstinence from all appearance of evil, wherein they judge the greatest bondage on the earth to consist. But those who have received him, do know that the whole world doth lie in evil, and that all those unto whom spiritual liberty is a bondage are the servants and slaves of Satan.
(2.) It is obtained by the evidence of our justification before God, and the causes of it. This men were greatly in the dark unto under the first covenant, although all stable peace with God doth depend thereon; for it is in the gospel that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,” Romans 1:17. Indeed “the righteousness of God without the law is witnessed by the law and the prophets,” Romans 3:21; that is, testimony is given to it in legal institutions and the promises recorded in the prophets. But these things were obscure unto them, who were to seek for what was intended under the veils and shadows of priests and sacrifices, atonements and expiations. But our justification before God, in all the causes of it, being now fully revealed and made manifest, it hath a great influence into spiritual liberty and boldness.
(3.) By the spiritual light which is given to believers into the mystery of God in Christ. This the apostle affirms to have been “hid in God from the beginning of the world,” Ephesians 3:9. It was contrived and prepared in the counsel and wisdom of God from all eternity. Some intimation was given of it in the first promise, and it was afterwards shadowed out by sundry legal institutions; but the depth, the glory, the beauty and fullness of it, were “hid in God,” in his mind and will, until it was fully revealed in the gospel The saints under the old testament believed that they should be delivered by the promised Seed, that they should be saved for the Lord’s sake, that the Angel of the covenant would save them, yea, that the Lord himself would come to his temple; and they diligently inquired into what was foresignified concerning “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” But all this while their thoughts and conceptions were exceedingly in the dark as to those glorious things which are made so plain in the new covenant, concerning the incarnation, mediation, sufferings, and sacrifice of the Son of God, concerning the way of God’s being in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. Now as darkness gives fear, so light gives liberty.
(4.) We obtain this liberty by the opening of the way into the holiest, and the entrance we have thereby with boldness unto the throne of grace. This also the apostle insists upon peculiarly in sundry places of his ensuing discourses, as Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-58.10.22: where it must be spoken to, if God permit, at large; for a great part of the liberty of the new testament doth consist herein.
(5.) By all the ordinances of gospel-worship, How the ordinances of worship under the old testament did lead the people into bondage hath been declared; but those of the new testament, through their plainness in signification, their immediate respect unto the Lord Christ, with their use and efficacy to guide believers in their communion with God, do all conduce unto our evangelical liberty. And of such importance is our liberty in this instance of it, that when the apostles saw it necessary, for the avoiding of offense and scandal, to continue the observance of one or two legal institutions, in abstinence from some things in themselves indifferent, they did it only for a season, and declared that it was only in case of scandal that they would allow this temporary abridgment of the liberty given us by the gospel.
12. They differ greatly with respect unto the dispensation and grant of the Holy Ghost. It is certain that God did grant the gift of the Holy Spirit under the old testament, and his operations during that season, as I have at large elsewhere declared;  but it is no less certain, that there was always a promise of his more signal effusion upon the confirmation and establishment of the new covenant. See in particular that great promise to this purpose, Joel 2:28-29.2.29, as applied and expounded by the apostle Peter, Acts 2:16-44.2.18. Yea, so sparing was the communication of the Holy Ghost under the old testament, compared with his effusion under the new, as that the evangelist affirms that “the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified,” John 7:39; that is, he was not yet given in that manner as he was to be given upon the confirmation of the new covenant. And those of the church of the Hebrews who had received the doctrine of John, yet affirmed that “they had not so much as heard whether there were any Holy Ghost” or no, Acts 19:2; that is, any such gift and communication of him as was then proposed as the chief privilege of the gospel. Neither doth this concern only the plentiful effusion of him with respect unto those miraculous gifts and operations wherewith the doctrine and establishment of the new covenant was testified unto and confirmed: however, that also gave a signal difference between the two covenants; for the first covenant was confirmed by dreadful appearances and operations, effected by the ministry of angels, but the new by the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost himself. But this difference principally consists herein, that under the new testament the Holy Ghost hath graciously condescended to bear the office of the comforter of the church. That this unspeakable privilege is peculiar unto the new testament, is evident from all the promises of his being sent as a comforter made by our Savior, John 14-16.; especially by that wherein he assures his disciples that “unless he went away” (in which going away he confirmed the new covenant)
“the Comforter would not come; but if he so went away, he would send him from the Father,” John 16:7.
And the difference between the two covenants which ensued hereon is inexpressible.
 See vol. 3: p. 125, of his miscellaneous works. ED.
13. They differ in the declaration made in them of the kingdom of God. It is the observation of Augustine, that the very name of “the kingdom of heaven” is peculiar unto the new testament. It is true, God reigned in and over the church under the old testament; but his rule was such, and had such a relation unto secular things, especially with respect unto the land of Canaan, and the flourishing condition of the people therein, as that it had an appearance of a kingdom of this world. And that it was so, and was so to be, consisting in empire, power, victory, wealth, and peace, was so deeply fixed on the minds of the generality of the people, that the disciples of Christ themselves could not free themselves of that apprehension, until the new testament was fully established. But now in the gospel, the nature of the kingdom of God, where it is, and wherein it consists, is plainly and evidently declared, unto the unspeakable consolation of believers. For whereas it is now known and experienced to be internal, spiritual, and heavenly, they have no less assured interest in it and advantage by it, in all the troubles which they may undergo in this world, than they could have in the fullest possession of all earthly enjoyments.
14. They differ in their substance and end. The old covenant was typical, shadowy, and removable, Hebrews 10:1. The new covenant is substantial and permanent, as containing the body, which is Christ. Now, consider the old covenant comparatively with the new, and this part of its nature, that it was typical and shadowy, is a great debasement of it. But consider it absolutely, and the things wherein it was so were its greatest glory and excellency; for in these things alone was it a token and pledge of the love and grace of God. For those things in the old covenant which had most of bondage in their use and practice, had most of light and grace in their signification. This was the design of God in all the ordinances of worship belonging unto that covenant, namely, to typify, shadow, and represent the heaven]y, substantial things of the new covenant, or the Lord Christ and the work of his mediation. This the tabernacle, ark, altar, priests, and sacrifices did do; and it was their glory that so they did. However, compared with the substance in the new covenant, they have no glory.
15. They differ in the extent of their administration, according unto the will of God. The first was confined unto the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh, and unto them especially in the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 5:3, with some few proselytes that were joined unto them, excluding all others from the participation of the benefits of it. And hence it was, that whereas the personal ministry of our Savior himself, in preaching of the gospel, was to precede the introduction of the new covenant, it was confined unto the people of Israel, Matthew 15:24. And he was the “minister of the circumcision,” Romans 15:8. Such narrow bounds and limits had the administration of this covenant affixed unto it by the will and pleasure of God, Psalms 147:19-19.147.20. But the administration of the new covenant is extended unto all nations under heaven; none being excluded, on the account of tongue, language, family, nation, or place of habitation. All have an equal interest in the rising Sun. The partition wall is broken down, and the gates of the new Jerusalem are set open unto all comers upon the gospel invitation. This is frequently taken notice of in the Scripture. See Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; John 11:51-43.11.52; John 12:32; Acts 17:30; Acts 11:18, Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 2:11-49.2.16; Ephesians 3:8-49.3.10; Colossians 3:10-51.3.11; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 5:9. This is the grand charter of the poor wandering Gentiles. Having wilfully fallen off from God, he was pleased, in his holiness and severity, to leave all our ancestors for many generations to serve and worship the devil. And the mystery of our recovery was “hid in God from the beginning of the world,” Ephesians 3:8-49.3.10. And although it was so foretold, so prophesied of, so promised under the old testament, yet, such was the pride, blindness, and obstinacy, of the greatest part of the church of the Jews, that its accomplishment was one great part of that stumbling-block whereat they fell; yea, the greatness and glory of this mystery was such, that the disciples of Christ themselves comprehended it not, until it was testified unto them by the pouring out of the Holy Ghost, the great promise of the new covenant, upon some of those poor Gentiles, Acts 11:18.
16. They differ in their efficacy; for the old covenant “made nothing perfect,” it could effect none of the things it did represent, nor introduce that perfect or complete state which God had designed for the church. But this we have at large insisted on in our exposition of the foregoing chapter.
Lastly, They differ in their duration: for the one was to be removed, and the other to abide for ever; which must be declared on the ensuing verses.
It may be other things of an alike nature may be added unto these that we have mentioned, wherein the difference between the two covenants doth consist; but these instances are sufficient unto our purpose. For some, when they hear that the covenant of grace was always one and the same, of the same nature and efficacy under both testaments, that the way of salvation by Christ was always one and the same, are ready to think that there was no such great difference between their state and ours as is pretended. But we see that on this supposition, that covenant which God brought the people into at Sinai, and under the yoke whereof they were to abide until the new covenant was established, had all the disadvantages attending it which we have insisted on. And those who understand not how excellent and glorious those privileges are which are added unto the covenant of grace, as to the administration of it, by the introduction and establishment of the new covenant, are utterly unacquainted with the nature of spiritual and heavenly things.
There remaineth yet one thing more, which the Socinians give us occasion to speak unto from these words of the apostle, that the new covenant is “established on better promises.” For from hence they do conclude that there were no promises of life under the old testament; which, in the latitude of it, is a senseless and brutish opinion. And,
1. The apostle in this place intends only those promises whereon the new testament was legally ratified, and reduced into the form of a covenant; which were, as he declares, the promises of especial pardoning mercy, and of the efficacy of grace in the renovation of our natures, But it is granted that the other covenant was legally established on promises which respected the land of Canaan. Wherefore it is granted, that as to the promises whereby the covenants were actually established, those of the new covenant were better than the other.
2. The old covenant had express promise of eternal life: “He that doeth these things shall live in them.” It was, indeed, with respect unto perfect obedience that it gave that promise; however that promise it had, which is all that at present we inquire after.
3. The institutions of worship which belonged unto that covenant, the whole ministry of the tabernacle, as representing heavenly things, had the nature of a promise in them; for they all directed the church to seek for life and salvation in and by Jesus Christ alone.
4. The question is not, What promises are given in the law itself, or the old covenant formally considered as such? but, What promises had they who lived under that covenant, and which were not disannulled by it? for we have proved sufficiently, that the addition of this covenant did not abolish or supersede the efficacy of any promise that God had before given unto the church. And to say that the first promise, and that given unto Abraham, confirmed with the oath of God, were not promises of eternal life, is to overthrow the whole Bible, both Old Testament and New. And we may observe from the foregoing discourses,
Obs. 10. That although one state of the church hath had great advantages and privileges above another, yet no state hath had whereof to complain, whilst they observed the terms prescribed unto them. We have seen in how many things, and those most of them of the highest importance, the state of the church under the new covenant excels that under the old; yet was that in itself a state of unspeakable grace and privilege. For,
1. It was a state of near relation unto God, by virtue of a covenant. And when all mankind had absolutely broken covenant with God by sin, to call any of them into a new covenant relation with himself, was an act of sovereign grace and mercy. Herein were they distinguished from the residue of mankind, whom God suffered to walk in their own ways, and winked at their ignorance, whilst they all perished in the pursuit of their foolish imaginations. This a great part of the Book of Deuteronomy is designed to impress a sense of upon the minds of the people. And it is summarily expressed by the psalmist, Psalms 147:19-19.147.20; and by the prophet,
“We are thine: thou never barest rule over them: thy name was not called upon by them,” Isaiah 63:19.
2. This covenant of God was in itself holy, just, and equal. For although there was in it an imposition of sundry things burdensome, they were such as God in his infinite wisdom saw necessary for that people, and such as they could not have been without. Hence on all occasions God refers it even unto themselves to judge whether his ways towards them were not equal, and their own unequal. And it was not only just, but attended with promises of unspeakable advantages above all other people whatever.
3. God dealing with them in the way of a covenant, whereunto the mutual consent of all parties covenanting is required, it was proposed unto them for their acceptance, and they did accordingly willingly receive it, Exodus 24:0, Deuteronomy 5:0; so as that they had not whereof to complain. 4. In that state of discipline wherein God was pleased to told them, they enjoyed the way of life and salvation in the promise; for, as we have showed at large, the promise was not disannulled by the introduction of this covenant. Wherefore, although God reserved a better and more complete state for the church under the new testament, having “ordained better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect;” yet was that other state in itself good and holy, and sufficient to bring all believers unto the enjoyment of God.
Obs. 11. The state of the gospel, or of the church under the new testament, being accompanied with the highest spiritual privileges and advantages that it is capable of in this world, two things do thence follow:
1. The great obligation that is on all believers unto holiness and fruitfulness in obedience, unto the glory of God. We have herein the utmost condescension of divine grace, and the greatest effects of it that God will communicate on this side glory. That which all these things tend unto, that which God requireth and expecteth upon them, is the thankful and fruitful obedience of them that are made partakers of them. And they who are not sensible of this obligation are strangers unto the things themselves, and are not able to discern spiritual things, because they are to be spiritually discerned.
2. The heinousness of their sin by whom this covenant is neglected or despised is hence abundantly manifest. This the apostle particularly asserts and insists upon, Hebrews 2:2-58.2.3; Hebrews 10:28-58.10.29.
Εἰ γὰρ ἡ πρώτη ἐκείνη η῏ν ἄμεμπτος , οὐκ ἄν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος .
For if that first [ covenant ] had been blameless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
In this verse, and so also in those that follow unto the end of this chapter, the apostle designeth a confirmation of what he had before asserted and undertaken to prove. And this was, that there is a necessity of a new and better covenant, accompanied with better promises and more excellent ordinances of worship than the former. Hereon it follows that the first was to be disannulled and abolished: which was the main thesis he had to prove. And there are two parts of his argument to this purpose. For first he proveth, that on the supposition of another and better covenant to be introduced, it did unavoidably follow that the first was to be abolished, as that which was not perfect, complete, or sufficient unto its end; which he doth in this verse. Secondly, he proves that such a new, better covenant was to be introduced, in the verses following.
What he had before confirmed in sundry particular instances, he summarily concludes in one general argument in this verse, and that built on a principle generally acknowledged. And it is this, ‘All the privileges, all the benefits and advantages of the Aaronical priesthood and sacrifices, do all belong unto the covenant whereunto they were annexed, a chief part of whose outward administrations consisted in them.’This the Hebrews neither could nor did question. The whole of what they pleaded for, the only charter and tenure of all their privileges, was the covenant that God made with their fathers at Sinai. Wherefore that priesthood, those sacrifices, with all the worship belonging unto the tabernacle or temple, were necessarily commensurate unto that covenant. Whilst that covenant continued, they were to continue; and if that covenant ceased, they were to cease also. These things were agreed between the apostle and them.
Hereon he subsumes, ‘But there is mention of another covenant to be made with the whole church, and to be introduced long after the making of that at Sinai.’Neither could this be denied by them. However, to put it out of controversy, the apostle proves it by an express testimony of the prophet Jeremiah. In that testimony it is peculiarly declared, that this new covenant, that was promised to be introduced “in the latter days,” should be better and more excellent than the former, as is manifest from the promises whereon it is established; yet in this verse the apostle proceeds no further but unto the general consideration of God’s promising to make another covenant with the church, and what would follow thereon.
From this supposition the apostle proves that the first covenant is imperfect, blamable, and removable. And the force of his inference depends on a common notion or presumption, that is clear and evident in its own light, And it is this, when once a covenant is made and established, if it will serve unto and effect all that he who makes it doth design, and exhibit all the good which he intends to communicate, there is no reason why another covenant should be made. The making of a new for no other ends or purposes but what the old was every way sufficient for, argues lightness and mutability in him that made it. Unto this purpose doth he argue, Galatians 3:21,
“If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”
Could the first covenant have perfected and consecrated the church, could it have communicated all the grace and mercy that God intended to indulge unto the children of men, the wise and holy author of it would have had no thought about the introduction and establishment of another. It would have been no way agreeable unto his infinite wisdom and faithfulness so to do. Wherefore the promise hereof doth irrefragably prove, that both the first covenant and all the services of it were imperfect, and therefore to be removed and taken away.
Indeed this promise of a new covenant, diverse from that made at Sinai, or not like unto it, as the prophet speaks, is sufficient of itself to overthrow the vain pretences of the Jews wherein they are hardened to this day. The absolute perpetuity of the law and its worship, that is, of the covenant at Sinai, is the principal, fundamental article of their present faith, or rather unbelief. But this is framed by them in direct opposition unto the promises of God. For let it be demanded of them, whether they believe that God will make another covenant with the church, not according to the covenant which he made with their fathers at Sinai. If they shall say they do not believe it, then do they plainly renounce the prophets, and the promises of God given by them. If they do grant it, I desire to know of them with what sacrifices this new covenant shall be established; by what priest, with what worship, it shall be administered. If they say that they shall be done by the sacrifices, priests, and worship of the law, they deny what they granted before, namely, that it is a new and another covenant; for the sacrifices and priests of the law cannot confirm or administer any other covenant, but that which they belong and are confined unto. If it be granted that this new covenant must have a new mediator, a new priest, a new sacrifice, as it is undeniable it must, or it cannot be a new covenant, then must the old cease and be removed, that this may come into its place. Nothing but obstinacy and blindness can resist the force of this argument of the apostle.
The general design of the apostle in this verse being cleared, we may consider the words more particularly. And there are two things in them:
1. A positive assertion, included in a supposition, “If the first covenant had been blameless,” had not been defective; that is, it was so.
2. The proof of this assertion: “If it had not been so, place would not have been sought for the second;” which that there was, he proves in the following verses:
1. In the first part of the words there is,
(1.) A causal conjunction, rendering a reason; “for.”
(2.) The subject spoken of: “That first covenant.”
(3.) What is affirmed of it, as the affirmation is included in a negative supposition: It was not blameless, it is not blameless:
(1.) The conjunction, γάρ , “for,” showeth that the apostle intends the confirmation of what he had before discoursed. But he seems not to refer only unto what he had immediately before affirmed concerning the better promises of the new testament, but unto the whole argument that he hath in hand. For the general reason which here he insists upon, proves all that he had before delivered concerning the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, and the whole worship of the first covenant depending thereon.
(2.) The subject spoken of is ἡ πρώτη ἐκείνη , ”that first;” that is, προτέρα διαθήκη , that “ former covenant:” the covenant made with the fathers at Sinai, with all the ordinances of worship thereunto belonging, whose nature and use we have before declared.
(3.) Hereof it is said, εἰ ἄμεμπτος η῏ν . Vulg. Lat., “si culpa vacasset.” And so we, “if it had been faultless.” I am sure the expression is a little too harsh in our translation, and such as the original word will not bear, at least doth not require. For it seems to intimate, that absolutely there was something faulty or blameworthy in the covenant of God. But this must not be admitted. For besides that the author of it, which was God himself, doth free it from any such charge or imputation, it is in the Scripture everywhere declared to be “holy, just, and good.” There is, indeed, an intimation of a defect in it; but this was not with respect to its own particular end, but with respect to another general end, whereunto it was not designed. That which is defective with respect unto its own particular end whereunto it is ordained, or which it is designed to accomplish, is really faulty; but that which is or may be so with respect unto some other general end, which it was never designed to accomplish, is not so in itself. This the apostle discourseth concerning, Galatians 3:19-48.3.22. We must therefore state the signification of the word from the subject-matter that he treats about in this place; and this is the perfection and consummation, or the sanctification and salvation of the church. With respect hereunto alone it is that he asserts the insufficiency and imperfection of the first covenant. And the inquiry between him and the Hebrews was, not whether the first covenant was not in itself holy, just, good, and blameless, every way perfect with respect unto its own especial ends; but whether it was perfect and effectual unto the general ends mentioned. This it was not, saith the apostle; and proves it undeniably, from the promise of the introduction of another general covenant for the effecting of them. Whereas, therefore, to be not ἄμεμπτος , is either to have some fault or vice accompanying any thing and adhering unto it, whereby it is unsuited unto or insufficient for its own proper end; or it is that whereunto somewhat is wanting with respect unto another general end which is much to be desired, but such as it was never designed to accomplish; as the art of arithmetic, if it be perfectly taught, is sufficient to instruct a man in the whole science of numeration; if it be not, it is faulty as unto its particular end; but it is no way sufficient unto the general end of making a man wise in the whole compass of wisdom, a thing far to be preferred before its particular end, be it never so perfect in its own kind; it is in the latter sense only that the apostle affirms that the first covenant was not ἄμεμπτος , ” or “blameless.” If it had been such as unto which nothing more was required or needful perfectly to complete and sanctify the church, which was the general end God aimed at, it had been absolutely perfect. But this it was not, in that it never was designed for the means of it. To the same purpose he argues, Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:19. And with respect unto this end it is said that “the law was weak,” Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:21; Acts 13:38-44.13.39.
In brief, that which the apostle designeth to prove is, that the first covenant was of that constitution, that it could not accomplish the perfect administration of the grace of God unto the church, nor was ever designed unto that end; as the Jews then falsely, and their posterity still foolishly also imagine it to have done.
2. The ensuing words in this verse include the general proof of his assertion concerning the insufficiency of the first covenant unto the ends of God towards the church: Οὐκ ἃν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος .
His argument is plainly this: ‘The promise of a new covenant doth unavoidably prove the insufficiency of the former, at least unto the ends for which the new one is promised. For otherwise unto what end serves the promise, and covenant promised?’But there is some difficulty in the manner of the expression: “The place of the second had not been sought;” so the words lie in the original. But “the place of the second” is no more but “the second taking place;” the bringing in, the introduction and establishment of it. And this is said to be “sought;” but improperly, and after the manner of men. When men have entered into a covenant which proves insufficient for some end they do intend, they take counsel and seek out after other ways and means, or an agreement and covenant on such other terms as may be effectual unto their purpose. Wherefore this signifies no alteration, no defect in the wisdom and counsel of God, as unto what is now to be done, but only the outward change which he would now effect in the introduction of the new covenant. For as such changes among men are the issue of the alteration of their minds, and the effect of new counsels for the seeking out of new means for their end, so is this outward change, in the taking away of the old covenant and introduction of the new, represented in God; being only the second part of his counsel or purpose “which he had purposed in himself before the foundation of the world.” And we may hence observe,
Obs. 1. That whatever God had done before for the church, yet he ceased not, in his wisdom and grace, until he had made it partaker of the best and most blessed condition whereof in this world it is capable. He found out place for this better covenant.
Obs. 2. Let those unto whom the terms of the new covenant are proposed in the gospel take heed to themselves that they sincerely embrace and improve them; for there is neither promise nor hope of any further or fuller administration of grace.
Μεμρόμενος γὰρ αὐτοῖς λέγει , ᾿Ιδοὺ , ἡμέραι ἔρχονται , λέγει Κύριος , καὶ συντελέσω ἐπὶ τὸν οι῏κον ᾿Ισραὴλ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν οι῏κον ᾿Ιούδα διαθήκην καινήν . 
 TRANSLATION. Stuart and Conybeare and Howson connect the αὐτοῖς with λέγει : “But finding fault [with the first covenant], he says to them;” i.e., the Jews. Μεμφόμενος , according to the first of these critics, appears to reduplicate upon the ἄμεμπτὸς of the preceding verse. ED.
For finding fault with them, [ complaining of them,] he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the LORD , and I will make [ when I will make ] a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
In this verse the apostle entereth upon the proof of his argument laid down in that foregoing. And this was, that the first covenant was not ἄμεμπτος , “ unblamable, ” or every way sufficient for God’s general end; because there was room left for the introduction of another, which was done accordingly.
Of this covenant, so to be introduced, he declareth, in the testimony of the prophet afterwards, two things:
1. The qualification of it, or its especial adjunct; it was “new,” Hebrews 8:8.
2. A description of it:
(1.) Negative, with respect unto the old, Hebrews 8:9.
(2.) Positive, in its nature and effectual properties, Hebrews 8:10-58.8.12.
From all which he inferreth the conclusion which he was contending for, enforced with a new consideration confirming it, Hebrews 8:13: which is the sum of the last part of this chapter.
There are two general parts of this verse:
1. The introduction of the testimony, to be improved from the occasion of it, as expressed by the apostle.
2. The testimony itself which he insists on.
The FIRST is in these words: “For finding fault with them, he saith.” Wherein we have,
1. The note of connection;
2. The ground whereon the testimony is built;
3. The true reading of the words is to be considered:
1. There is the causal conjunction, γάρ , “for,” which gives them connection unto the foregoing verse. That which is designed, is the confirmation of the foregoing argument. This is the proof of the assertion, that place was sought for another covenant, which evinced the insufficiency of the former; “for.” And the reason it intimates doth not consist in the words wherewith it is joined, “finding fault with them;” but respects those following, “he saith,” ”For... he saith, Behold, the days come:” which directly prove what he had affirmed.
2. There is the ground intimated of what is affirmed in the ensuing testimony. For the new covenant was not to be introduced absolutely, without the consideration of anything foregoing, but because the first was not ἄμεμπτος , or “unblamable.” Therefore the apostle shows that God brought it in a way of blame. He did it “finding fault with them.”
3. These words may be diversely distinguished and read. For,
(1.) Placing the note of distinction thus, Μεμφόμενος γὰρ , αὐτοῖς λέγει , the sense is, “For finding fault,” complaining, blaming, “he saith unto them;” so that expression, μεμφόμενος , “finding fault,” respects the covenant itself. Piscator was the first, that I know of, who thus distinguished the words; who is followed by Schlichtingius and others. But
(2.) Place the note of distinction at αὐτοῖς , as it is by most interpreters and expositors, and then the sense of the words is rightly expressed in our English translation, “For finding fault with them,” (that is, with the people,)” he saith.” And αὐτοῖς may be regulated either by μεμφόμενος or λέγει .
The reasons for fixing the distinction in the first place are,
(1.) Because μεμφόμενος , “finding fault,” answers directly unto οὐκ ἄμεμπτος , “was not without fault. And this contains the true reason why the new covenant was brought in. And,
(2.) It was not God’s complaint of the people that was any cause of the introduction of the new covenant, but of the old covenant itself, which was insufficient to sanctify and save the church.
But these seem not of force to change the usual interpretation of the words, For,
(1.) Although the first covenant was not every way perfect with respect unto God’s general end towards his church, yet it may be it is not so safe to say that God complained of it. When things or persons change the state and condition wherein they were made or appointed of God, he may complain of them, and that justly. So when man filled the world with wickedness, it is said that “it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth.” But when they abide unaltered in the state wherein they were made by him, he hath no reason to complain of them. And so it was with the first covenant. So our apostle disputes about the law, that all the weakness and imperfection of it arose from sin; where there was no reason to complain of the law, which in itself was holy, just, and good.
(2.) God doth in this testimony actually complain of the people, namely, that they “brake his covenant;” and expresseth his indignation thereon, “he regarded them not.” But there is not in this testimony, nor in the whole context or prophecy whence it is taken, nor in any other place of Scripture, any word of complaint against the covenant itself, though its imperfection as unto the general end of perfecting the church-state, be here intimated.
(3.) There is an especial remedy expressed in the testimony against the evil which God complains of, or finds fault with in the people. This was, that “they continued not in his covenant.” This is expressly provided against in the promise of this new covenant, verse 10. Wherefore,
(4.) God gives this promise of a new covenant together with a complaint against the people, that it might be known to be an effect of free and sovereign grace. There was nothing in the people to procure it, or to qualify them for it, unless it were that they had wickedly broken the former. And we may hence observe,
Obs. 1. God hath ofttimes just cause to complain of his people, when yet he will not utterly cast them off. It is mere mercy and grace that the church at all seasons lives upon; but in some seasons, when it falls under great provocations, they are signalized.
Obs. 2. It is the duty of the church to take deep notice of God’s complaints of them. This, indeed, is not in the text, but ought not to be passed by on this occasion of the mention of God’s complaining, or “finding fault with them.” And God doth not thus find fault only when he speaks immediately by new revelations, as our Lord Jesus Christ found fault with and rebuked his churches in the revelation made unto the apostle John; but he doth it continually, by the rule of the word. And it is the especial duty of all churches, and of all believers, to search diligently into what God finds fault withal in his word, and to be deeply affected therewith, so far as they find themselves guilty. Want hereof is that which hath laid most churches in the world under a fatal security. Hence they say, or think, or carry themselves, as though they were “rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing,” when indeed “they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” To consider what God blames, and to affect our souls with a sense of guilt, is that “trembling at his word” which he so approves of. And every church that intends to walk with God unto his glory ought to be diligent in this duty. And to guide them herein, they ought carefully to consider,
1. The times and seasons that are passing over them. God brings his church under variety of seasons; and in them all requires especial duties from them, as those wherein he will be glorified in each of them. If they miss it herein, it is that which God greatly blames and complains of. Faithfulness with God in their generation, that is, in the especial duties of the times and seasons wherein they lived, is that which Noah, and Daniel, and other holy men, are commended for. Thus there are seasons of the great abounding of wickedness in the world; seasons of great apostasy from truth and holiness; seasons of judgment and of mercy, of persecution and tranquillity. In all these, and the like, God requireth especial duties of the church; whereon his glory in them doth much depend. If they fail here, if they are not faithful as unto their especial duty, God in his word finds fault with them, and lays them under blame. And as much wisdom is required hereunto, so I do not judge that any church can discharge its duty in any competent measure without a due consideration of it. For in a due observation of the times and seasons, and an application of ourselves unto the duties of them, consists that testimony which we are to give unto God and the gospel in our generation. That church which considers not its especial duty in the days wherein we live, is fast asleep; and it may be doubted whether, when it is awaked, it will find oil in its vessel or no.
2. The temptations which are prevalent, and which unavoidably we are exposed unto. Every age and time hath its especial temptations; and it is the will of God that the church should be exercised with them and by them. And it were easy to manifest, that the darkness and ignorance of men, in not discerning the especial temptations of the age wherein they have lived, or neglecting of them, have been always the great causes and means of the apostasy of the church. Hereby hath superstition prevailed in one age, and profaneness in another; as false and noxious opinions in a third. Now, there is nothing that God requires more strictly of us, than that we should be wakeful against present prevalent temptations; and he chargeth us with guilt where we are not so. And those which are not awake with respect unto those temptations which are at this day prevalent in the world, are far enough from walking before God unto all well-pleasing. And sundry other things of the like nature might be mentioned unto the same purpose.
Obs. 3. God often surpriseth the church with promises of grace and mercy. In this place, where God complaineth of the people, findeth fault with them, chargeth them for not continuing in his covenant, and declares, that, as unto any thing in themselves, he “regarded them not,” it might be easily expected that he would proceed unto their utter casting off and rejection. But instead hereof, God surpriseth them, as it were, with the most eminent promise of grace and mercy that ever was made, or could be made unto them. So he doth in like manner, Isaiah 7:13-23.7.14; Isaiah 57:17-23.57.19. And this he will do,
1. That he may glorify the riches and freedom of his grace. This is his principal end in all his dispensations towards his church. And how can they be made more conspicuous than in the exercise of them then, when a people are so far from all appearance of any desert of them, as that God declares his judgment that they deserve his utmost displeasure?
2. That none who have the least remainder of sincerity, and desire to fear the name of God, may utterly faint and despond at any time, under the greatest confluence of discouragements . God can come in, and will ofttimes, in a way of sovereign grace, for the relief of the most dejected sinners. But we must proceed with our exposition.
The SECOND thing contained in this verse, is the testimony itself insisted on. And there is in the testimony,
1. The author of the promise declared in it, “He saith;” as afterwards, “Saith the Lord .”
2. The note of its introduction, signalizing the thing intended, “Behold.”
3. The time of the accomplishment of what is here foretold and here promised, “The days come wherein.”
4. The thing promised is “a covenant:” concerning which is expressed,’
(1.) He that makes it, “I,” ”I will make;”
(2.) Those with whom it is made, “the house of Israel, and the house of Judah;”
(3.) The manner of its making, συντελέσω ;
(4.) The property of it, it is “a new covenant.”
1. He who gives this testimony is included in the word λέγει , “he saith,” “For finding fault with them, he saith.” He who complains of the people for breaking the old covenant, promiseth to make the new. So in the next verse it is expressed, “Saith the Lord .” The ministry of the prophet was made use of in the declaration of these words and things, but they are properly his words from whom they are by immediate inspiration.
Obs. 4. “He saith,” that is, נְאֻם יְהָֹוה , “saith the LORD ,” is the formal object of our faith and obedience. Hereinto are they to be referred, herein do they acquiesce, and in nothing else will they so do. All other foundations of faith, as, ‘Thus saith the pope,’or ‘Thus saith the church,’or ‘Thus said our ancestors,’are all but, delusions. “Thus saith the LORD ,” gives rest and peace.
2. There is the note of introduction, calling, unto attendance, הִנֵּה , ᾿Ιδού , ”Behold.” It is always found eminent, either in itself or in some of its circumstances, that is thus prefaced. For the word calls for a more than ordinary diligence in the consideration of and attention unto what is proposed. And it was needful to signalize this promise; for the people unto whom it was given were very difficultly drawn from their adherence unto the old covenant, which was inconsistent with that now promised. And there seems to be somewhat more intimated in this word than a call unto special attention; and that is, that the thing spoken of is plainly proposed unto them concerned, so as that they may look upon it, and behold it clearly and speedily. And so is this new covenant here proposed so evidently and plainly, both in the entire nature and properties of it, that unless men wilfully turn away their eyes, they cannot but see it.
Obs. 5. Where God placeth a note of observation and attention, we should carefully fix our faith and consideration. God sets not any of his marks in vain. And if, upon the first view of any place or thing so signalized, the evidence of it doth not appear unto us, we have a sufficient call unto further diligence in our inquiry. And if we are not wanting unto our duty, we shall discover some especial impression of divine excellency or another upon every such thing or place.
Obs. 6. The things and concernments of the new covenant are all of them objects of the best of our consideration. As such are they here proposed; and what is spoken of the declaration of the nature of this covenant in the next verse is sufficient to confirm this observation.
3. The time is prefixed for the accomplishment of this promise: מִים בָּאִים ἡμέραι ἔρχονται , the days come.” “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world;” and he hath determined the times of their accomplishment. As to the particular precise times or seasons of them, whilst they are future, he hath reserved them unto himself, unless where he hath seen good to make some especial revelation of them. So he did of the time of the sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt, Genesis 15:13; of the Babylonish captivity, and of the coming of the Messiah after the return of the people, Daniel 9:0. But from the giving of the first promise, wherein the foundation of the church was laid, the accomplishment of it is frequently referred unto “the latter days.” See our exposition on Hebrews 1:1-58.1.2. Hence under the old testament the days of the Messiah were called “the world to come,” as we have showed, Hebrews 2:5. And it was a periphrasis of him, that he was ὁ ἐρχόμενος , Matthew 11:3, “He that was to come.” And the faith of the church was principally exercised in the expectation of his coming. And this time is here intended. And the expression in the original is in the present tense, ἡμέραι ἔρχονται , from the Hebrew, יָמִים בָּאִים , “the days coming;” not the days that come, but “the days come.” And two things are denoted thereby:
(1.) The near approach of the days intended. The time was now hastening apace, and the church was to be awakened unto the expectation of it: and this accompanied with their earnest desires and prayers for it; which were the most acceptable part of the worship of God under the old testament.
(2.) A certainty of the thing itself was hereby fixed in their minds. Long expectation they had of it, and now stood in need of new security, especially considering the trial they were falling into in the Babylonish captivity; for this seemed to threaten a defeat of the promise, in the casting away of the whole nation. The manner of the expression is suited to confirm the faith of them that were real believers among them against such fears. Yet we must observe, that from the giving of this promise unto the accomplishment of it was near six hundred years. And yet about ninety years after, the prophet Malachi, speaking of the same season, affirms, “that the Lord , whom they sought, should suddenly come to his temple,” Malachi 3:1.
Obs. 7. There is a time limited and fixed for the accomplishment of all the promises of God, and all the purposes of his grace towards the church. See Habakkuk 2:3-35.2.4. And the consideration hereof is very necessary unto believers in all ages:
(1.) To keep up their hearts from desponding, when difficulties against their accomplishment do arise, and seem to render it impossible. Want hereof hath turned aside many from God, and caused them to cast their lot and portion into the world.
(2.) To preserve them from putting themselves on any irregular ways for their accomplishment.
(3.) To teach them to search diligently into the wisdom of God, who hath disposed times and seasons, as unto his own glory, so unto the trial and real benefit of the church.
4. The subject-matter of the promise given is a “covenant,” בְּרִית . The LXX. render it by διαθήκη , ”a testament.” And that is more proper in this place than “a covenant.” For if we take “covenant” in a strict and proper sense, it hath indeed no place between God and man. For a covenant, strictly taken, ought to proceed on equal terms, and a proportionate consideration of things on both sides; but the covenant of God is founded on grace, and consists essentially in a free, undeserved promise. And therefore בְּרִית , “a covenant,” is never spoken of between God and man, but on the part of God it consists in a free promise, or a testament. And “a testament,” which is the proper signification of the word here used by the apostle, is suited unto this place, and nothing else. For,
(1.) Such a covenant is intended as is ratified and confirmed by the death of him that makes it. And this is properly a testament: for this covenant was confirmed by the death of Christ, and that both as it was the death of the testator, and as it was accompanied with the blood of a sacrifice; whereof we must treat afterwards at large, if God will.
(2.) It is such a covenant, as wherein the covenanter, he that makes it, bequeatheth his goods unto others in the way of a legacy; for this is done by Christ herein, as we must also declare afterwards. Wherefore our Savior calls this covenant “the new testament in his blood.” This the word used by the apostle doth properly signify; and it is evident that he intends not a covenant absolutely and strictly so taken. With respect hereunto the first covenant is usually called the “old testament.” For we intend not thereby the books of Scripture, or oracles of God committed unto the church of the Jews, (which yet, as we have observed, are once called “the Old Testament,” 2 Corinthians 3:14,) but the covenant that God made with the church of Israel at Sinai, whereof we have spoken at large. And this was called a “testament” for three reasons:
[1.] Because it was confirmed by death; that is, the death of the sacrifices that were slain and offered at its solemn establishment. So saith our apostle, “The first testament was not dedicated without blood,” Hebrews 9:18. But there is more required hereunto; for even a covenant properly and strictly so called may be confirmed with sacrifices. Wherefore,
[2.] God did therein make over and grant unto the church of Israel the good things of the land of Canaan, with the privileges of his worship.
[3.] The principal reason of this denomination, “the old testament,” is taken from its being typically significative of the death and legacy of the great testator, as we have showed.
We have treated somewhat before concerning the nature of the new testament, as considered in distinction from and opposition unto the old. I shall here only briefly consider what concurreth unto the constitution of it, as it was then future, when this promise was given, and as it is here promised. And three things do concur hereunto:
(1.) A recapitulation, collection, and confirmation of all the promises of grace that had been given unto the church from the beginning, even all that was spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets that had been since the world began, Luke 1:70. The first promise contained in it the whole essence and substance of the covenant, of grace. All those afterwards given unto the church, on various occasions, were but explications and confirmations of it. In the whole of them there was a full declaration of the wisdom and love of God in sending his Son, and of his grace unto mankind thereby. And God solemnly confirmed them with his oath, namely, that they should be all accomplished in their appointed season. Whereas, therefore, the covenant here promised included the sending of Christ for the accomplishment of those promises, they are all gathered into one head therein. It is a constellation of all the promises of grace.
(2.) All these promises were to be reduced into an actual covenant or testament two ways:
[1.] In that, as unto the accomplishment of the grace principally intended in them, they received it in the sending of Christ; and as to the confirmation and establishment of them for the communication of grace unto the church, they received it in the death of Christ, as a sacrifice of agreement or atonement.
[2.] They are established as the rule and law of reconciliation and peace between God and man. This gives them the nature of a covenant; for a covenant is the solemn expression of the terms of peace between various parties, with the confirmation of them.
(3.) They are reduced unto such form of law, as to become the only rule of the ordinances of worship and divine service required of the church. Nothing unto these ends is now presented unto us, or required of us, but what belongeth immediately unto the administration of this covenant, and the grace thereof. But the reader must consult what hath been discoursed at large unto this purpose on the 6th verse.
And we may see from hence what it is that God here promiseth and foretelleth, as that which he would do in the “days that were coming.” For whereas they had the promise before, and so virtually the grace and mercy of the new covenant, it may be inquired: ‘What is yet wanting, that should be promised solemnly under the name of a covenant?’For the flail resolution of this question, I must, as before, refer the reader unto what hath been discoursed at large about the two covenants, and the difference between them, on verse 6. Here we may briefly name some few things, sufficient unto the exposition of this place; as,
(1.) All those promises which had before been given out unto the church from the beginning of the world, were now reduced into the form of a covenant, or rather of a testament. The name of “a covenant” is indeed sometimes applied unto the promises of grace before or under the old testament; but בְּרִית , the word used in all those places, denoteth only “a free, gratuitous promise,” Genesis 9:9; Genesis 17:4. But they were none of them, nor all of them together, reduced into the form of a testament; which they could not be but by the death of the testator. And what blessed privileges and benefits were included herein hath been showed before, and must yet further be insisted on in the exposition of the ninth chapter, if God permit.
(2.) There was another covenant superadded unto the promises, which was to be the immediate rule of the obedience and worship of the church. And according unto their observance of this superadded covenant, they were esteemed to have kept or broken covenant with God. This was the old covenant on Sinai, as hath been declared. Wherefore the promises could not be in the form of a covenant unto the people, inasmuch as they could not be under the power of two covenants at once, and those, as it afterwards appeared, absolutely inconsistent. For this is that which our apostle proves in this place, namely, that when the promises were brought into the form and had the use of a covenant unto the church, the former covenant must needs disappear, or be disannulled. Only, they had their place and efficacy to convey the benefits of the grace of God in Christ unto them that did believe; but God here foretelleth that he will give them such an order and efficacy in the administration of his grace, as that all the fruits of it by Jesus Christ shall be bequeathed and made over unto the church in the way of a solemn covenant.
(3.) Notwithstanding the promises which they had received, yet the whole system of their worship sprang from, and related unto the covenant made at Sinai. But now God promiseth a new state of spiritual worship, relating only unto the promises of grace as brought into the form of a covenant.
Obs. 8. The new covenant, as re-collecting into one all the promises of grace given from the foundation of the world, accomplished in the actual exhibition of Christ, and confirmed in his death, and by the sacrifice of his blood, thereby becoming the sole rule of new spiritual ordinances of worship suited thereunto, was the great object of the faith of the saints of the old testament, and is the great foundation of all our present mercies.
All these things were contained in that new covenant, as such, which God here promiseth to make. For,
(1.) There was in it a recapitulation of all the promises of grace. God had not made any promise, any intimation of his love or grace unto the church in general, nor unto any particular believer, but he brought it all into this covenant, so as that they should be esteemed, all and every one of them, to be given and spoken unto every individual person that hath an interest in this covenant. Hence all the promises made unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the other patriarchs, and the oath of God whereby they were confirmed, are all of them made unto us, and do belong unto us no less than they did unto them to whom they were first given, if we are made partakers of this covenant. Hereof the apostle gives an instance in the singular promise made unto Joshua, which he applies unto believers, Hebrews 13:5. There was nothing of love or grace in any of them but was gathered up into this covenant.
(2.) The actual exhibition of Christ in the flesh belonged unto this promise of making a new covenant; for without it, it could not have been made. This was the desire of all the faithful from the foundation of the world; this they longed after, and fervently prayed for continually. And the prospect of it was the sole ground of their joy and consolation. “Abraham saw his day, and rejoiced.” This was the great privilege which God granted unto them that walked uprightly before him; such an one, saith he,
“shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munition of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off,” Isaiah 33:16-23.33.17.
That prospect they had by faith of the King of saints in his beauty and glory, though yet at a great distance, was their relief and their reward in their sincere obedience. And those who understand not the glory of this privilege of the new covenant, in the incarnation of the Son of God, or his exhibition in the flesh, wherein the depths of the counsels and wisdom of God, in the way of grace, mercy, and love, opened themselves unto the church, are strangers unto the things of God.
(3.) It was confirmed and ratified by the death and bloodshedding of Christ, and therefore included in it the whole work of his mediation. This is the spring of the life of the church; and until it was opened, great darkness was upon the minds of believers themselves. What peace, what assurance, what light, what joy, depend hereon, and proceed from it, no tongue can express.
(4.) All ordinances of worship do belong hereunto. What is the benefit of them, what are the advantages which believers receive by them, we must declare when we come to consider that comparison that the apostle makes between them and the carnal ordinances of the law, Hebrews 9:0.
Whereas, therefore, all these things were contained in the new covenant, as here promised of God, it is evident how great was the concernment of the saints under the old testament to have it introduced; and how great also ours is in it, now it is established.
5. The author or maker of this covenant is expressed in the words, as also those with whom it was made:
(1.) The first is included in the person of the verb, “I will make;” “I will make, saith the Lord .” It is God himself that makes this covenant, and he takes it upon himself so to do. He is the principal party covenanting: “I will make a covenant.” God hath made a covenant: “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant.” And sundry things are we taught therein:
[1.] The freedom of this covenant, without respect unto any merit, worth, or condignity in them with whom it is made. What God doth, he doth freely, “ex mera gratia et voluntate.” There was no cause without himself for which he should make this covenant, or which should move him so to do. And this we are eminently taught in this place, where he expresseth no other occasion of his making this covenant but the sins of the people in breaking that which he formerly made with them. And it is expressed on purpose to declare the free and sovereign grace, the goodness, love, and mercy, which alone were the absolute springs of this covenant.
[2.] The wisdom of its contrivance. The making of any covenant to be good and useful, depends solely on the wisdom and foresight of them by whom it is made. Hence men do often make covenants, which they design for their good and advantage, but they are so ordered, for want of wisdom and foresight, that they turn unto their hurt and ruin. But there was infinite wisdom in the constitution of this covenant; whence it is, and shall be, infinitely effective of all the blessed ends of it. And they are utterly unacquainted with it, who are not affected with a holy admiration of divine wisdom in its contrivance. A man might comfortably spend his life in the contemplation of it, and yet be far enough from finding out the Almighty in it unto perfection. Hence is it that it is so divine a mystery in all the parts of it, which the wisdom of the flesh cannot comprehend. Nor, without a due consideration of the infinite wisdom of God in the contrivance of it, can we have any true or real conceptions about it: ῾Εκὰς ἑκὰς ἔστε βέβηλοι . Profane, unsanctified minds can have no insight into this effect of divine wisdom.
[3.] It was God alone who could prepare and provide a surety for this covenant. Considering the necessity there was of a surety in this covenant, seeing no covenant between God and man could be firm and stable without one, by reason of our weakness and mutability; and considering of what a nature this surety must be, even God and man in one person; it is evident that God himself must make this covenant. And the provision of this surety doth contain in it the glorious manifestation of all the divine excellencies, beyond any act or work of God whatever.
[4.] There is in this covenant a sovereign law of divine worship, wherein the church is consummated, or brought into the most perfect estate whereof in this world it is capable, and established for ever. This law could be given by God alone.
[5.] There is ascribed unto this covenant such an efficacy of grace, as nothing but almighty power can make good and accomplish. The grace here mentioned in the promises of it, directs us immediately unto its author. For who else but God can write the divine law in our hearts, and pardon all our sins? The sanctification or renovation of our natures, and the justification of our persons, being pro-raised herein, seeing infinite power and grace are required unto them, he alone must make this covenant with whom all power and grace do dwell.
“God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy,” Psalms 62:1 l, 12.
[6.] The reward promised in this covenant is God himself: “I am thy reward.” And who but God can ordain himself to be our reward?
Obs. 9. All the efficacy and glory of the new covenant do originally arise from, and are resolved into, the author and supreme cause of it, which is God himself. And we might consider, unto the encouragement of our faith, and the strengthening of our consolation,
[1.] His infinite condescension, to make and enter into covenant with poor, lost, fallen, sinful man. This no heart can fully conceive, no tongue can express; only we live in hope to have yet a more clear prospect of it, and to have a holy admiration of it unto eternity.
[2.] His wisdom, goodness, and grace, in the nature of that covenant which he hath condescended to make and enter into. The first covenant he made with us in Adam, which we brake, was in itself good, holy, righteous, and just; it must be so, because it was also made by him. But there was no provision made in it absolutely to preserve us from that woeful disobedience and transgression which would make it void, and frustrate all the holy and blessed ends of it. Nor was God obliged so to preserve us, having furnished us with a sufficiency of ability for our own preservation, so as we could no way fall but by a wilful apostasy from him. But this covenant is of that nature, as that the grace administered in it shall effectually preserve all the covenanters unto the end, and secure unto them all the benefits of it. For,
[3.] His power and faithfulness are engaged unto the accomplishment of all the promises of it. And these promises do contain every thing that is spiritually and eternally good or desirable unto us. “O LORD, our Lord , how excellent is thy name in all the earth’.” How glorious art thou in the ways of thy grace towards poor sinful creatures, who had destroyed themselves! And,
[4.] He hath made no created good, but himself only to be our reward.
(2.) The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.” Long before the giving of this promise, that people were divided into two parts. The one of them, in way of distinction from the other, retained the name of Israel. These were the ten tribes, which fell off from the house of David, under the conduct of Ephraim; whence they are often also in the Prophets called by that name. The other, consisting of the tribe properly so called, with that of Benjamin and the greatest part of Levi, took the name of Judah; and with them both the promise and the church remained in a peculiar manner. But whereas they all originally sprang from Abraham, who received the promise and sign of circumcision for them all, and because they were all equally in their forefather brought into the bond of the old covenant, they are here mentioned distinctly, that none of the seed of Abraham might be excluded from the tender of this covenant. Unto the whole seed of Abraham according to the flesh it was that the terms and grace of this covenant were first to be offered. So Peter tells them, in his first sermon, that “the promise was unto them and their children” who were then present, that is, the house of Judah; and “to all that were afar off,” that is, the house of Israel in their dispersions, Acts 2:39. So again he expresseth the order of the dispensation of this covenant with respect to the promise made to Abraham, Acts 3:25-44.3.26,
“Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first, God having raised his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you;”
namely, in the preaching of the gospel. So our apostle, in his sermon unto them, affirmed that “it was necessary that the word should be first spoken unto them,” Acts 13:46. And this was all the privilege that was now left unto them; for the partition-wall was now broken down, and all obstacles against the Gentiles taken out of the way. Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.
[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.
Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them.
[1.] In the first sense, God made this covenant with them, and this on sundry accounts:
1st . Because He in and through whom alone it was to be established and made effectual was to be brought forth amongst them of the seed of Abraham, as the apostle Peter plainly declares, Acts 3:25.
2 dly . Because all things that belonged unto the ratification of it were to be transacted amongst them.
3 dly . Because, in the outward dispensation of it, the terms and grace of it were first in the counsel of God to be tendered unto them.
4thly . Because by them, by the ministry of men of their posterity, the dispensation of it was to be carried unto all nations, as they were to be blessed in the seed of Abraham; which was done by the apostles and other disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. So the law of the Redeemer went forth from Zion. By this means “the covenant was confirmed with many” of them “for one week,” before the calling of the Gentiles, Daniel 9:27.And because these things belonged equally unto them all, mention is made distinctly of “the house of Israel, and the house of Judah.” For the house of Judah was, at the time of the giving of this promise, in the sole possession of all the privileges of the old covenant; Israel having cut off themselves, by their revolt from the house of David; being cast out also, for their sins, amongst the heathen. But God, to declare that the covenant he designed had no respect unto those carnal privileges which were then in the possession of Judah alone, but only unto the promise made unto Abraham, he equals all his seed with respect unto the mercy of this covenant.
[2.] In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the Mace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.
Obs. 10. The covenant of grace in Christ is made only with the Israel of God, the church of the elect. For by the making of this covenant with any, the effectual communication of the grace of it unto them is principally intended. Nor can that covenant be said to be made absolutely with any but those whose sins are pardoned by virtue thereof, and in whose hearts the law of God is written; which are the express promises of it. And it was with respect unto those of this sort among that people that the covenant was promised to be made with them. See Romans 9:27-45.9.33; Romans 11:7. But in respect of the outward dispensation of the covenant, it is extended beyond the effectual communication of the grace of it. And in respect thereunto did the privilege of the carnal seed of Abraham lie.
Obs. 11. Those who are first and most advanced as unto outward privileges, are oftentimes last and least advantaged by the grace and mercy of them. Thus was it with these two houses of Israel and Judah. They had the privilege and pre-eminence, above all nations of the world, as unto the first tender, and all the benefits of the outward dispensation of the covenant; yet, “though the number of them was as the sand of the sea, a remnant only was saved.” They came behind the nations of the world as unto the grace of it; and this by reason of their unbelief, and the abuse of the privileges granted unto them. Let not those, therefore, who now enjoy the greatest privileges be high-minded, but fear.
(3.) The manner of making this covenant is expressed by συντελέσω “perficiam,” “consummabo,” “I will perfect” or “consummate.” In the Hebrew it is only אֶכְרֹת , “pangam,” “feriam,” ”I will make; but the apostle renders it by this word, to denote that this covenant was at once perfected and consummated, to the exclusion of all additions and alterations. Perfection and unalterable establishment are the properties of this covenant: “An everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.”
(4.) As unto its distinguishing character, it is called “a new covenant.” So it is with respect unto the old covenant made at Sinai. Wherefore by this covenant, as here considered, is not understood the promise of grace given unto Adam absolutely; nor that unto Abraham, which contained the substance and matter of it, the grace exhibited in it, but not the complete form of it as a covenant. For if it were only the promise, it could not be called “a new covenant,” with respect unto that made at Sinai; for so it was before it absolutely two thousand five hundred years, and in the person of Abraham four hundred years at the least. But it must be considered as before described, in the establishment of it, and its law of spiritual worship. And so it was called “new” in time after that on Sinai eight hundred years. Howbeit it may be called “a new covenant” in other respects also. As, first, because of its eminency; so it is said of an eminent work of God, “Behold, I work a new thing in the earth:” and its duration and continuance, as that which shall never wax old, is denoted thereby.
Οὐ κατὰ τὴν διαθήκης ἥν ἐποίηασ τοῖς πατράσιν αὐτῶν , ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ὲπιλαβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν , ὲξαγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγὑπτου· ὅτι αὐτοὶ οὐκ ἐνέμειναν ἐν τῇ διαθήκῃ μου , κἀγὼ ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν , λέγει Κύριος .
For the quotation and translation of these words out of the prophet Jeremiah, the reader may consult the Exereitations in the first volume, Exerc. 5. [p. 111.] כָּרַתִּי the apostle in this place renders by ἐποίησα , and in this place only; the reason whereof we shall see afterwards. אֲשָׁראּהֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶתאּבְּרִיתִיּ , ”which my covenant they brake,” “rescinded,” “dissipated;” the apostle renders αὐτοὶ οὐκ ἐνέμειναν ἐν διαθήκῃ μου , ”and they continued not in my covenant:” for not to abide faithful in covenant is to break it. וְאָגכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם , ””and I was an husband unto them,” or rather, “a lord over them;” in the apostle, κἀγὼ ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν , ”and I regarded them not.” On what reason and grounds the seeming alteration is made, we shall inquire in the exposition.
Οὐ κατὰ τὴν διαθήκην , “non secundum testamentum;” “secundum illud testamentum;” and so the Syriac, לָא אֵיךְ הָי דִּיתִּיקֵא , ”not according unto that testament;” others, “foedus,” and “illud foedus.” Of the different translation of this word by a “testament” and a “covenant,” we have spoken before.
῝Ην ἐποίησα . Syr., דְּיַהֲבֵת , “which I gave;” “quod feci,” “which I made.” Τοῖς πατράσιν , for σὺν τοῖς πατράσιν , “with the fathers;” for that is required to be joined to the verb ἐποίησα . And therefore the Syriac, omitting the preposition, turns the verb into “gave” ”gave to the fathers;” which is properly אֶתאּאֲבוֹתָם , “cum patribus eorum.”
Οὐκ ἐνέμειναν . Vulg., “non permanserunt;” others, “perstiterunt.” So the Syriac, לָא קַיְיוּ , “they stood not,” “they continued not.” “Maneo” is used to express stability in promises and covenants: “At tu dictis, Albane, maneres,” Virg. A En. 8:643; and, “Tu modo promissis maneas,” A En. 2:160. So is “permaneo in officio, in armis, in amicitia,” to continue steadfast unto the end. Wherefore it is as well so rendered as by “persisto.” ᾿Εμμένω is so used by Thucydides: ᾿Εμμένειν , ”to abide firm and constant in covenants.” And ἐμμενής is he who is “firm,” “stable,” “constant” in promises and engagements.
Κἀγὼ ἠμέλησα , “ego neglexi,” “despexi,” “neglectui habui.” Syr., בְּסִית , “I despised,” “I neglected,” “I rejected them.” ᾿Αμελέω , is “curae non habeo,” “negligo,” “contemno;” a word denoting a casting out of care with contempt. 
 EXPOSITION. Κἀγὼ ἠμέλησα . This is the Septuagint rendering. The Hebrew, according to A. V., ms, though I was an husband to them.” Some explain the discrepancy by conjecturing that the Greek translators had the guttural cheth instead of ayin in their copies. As the Arabic cognate word signifies to despise or reject, Kimchi and Pococke adopt this translation of the Hebrew word in this passage. Hengstenberg in his Christology denies that the word can bear this sense. ED.
Hebrews 8:9 . Not according to that covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto the church, and to bless it withal, were enclosed in the new covenant. Nor doth the efficacy of the mediation of Christ extend itself beyond the verge and compass thereof; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant. But now God had before made a covenant with his people. A good and holy covenant it was; such as was meet for God to prescribe, and for them thankfully to accept of. Yet notwithstanding all the privileges and advantages of it, it proved not so effectual, but that multitudes of them with whom God made that covenant were so far from obtaining the blessedness of grace and glory thereby, as that they came short, and were deprived of the temporal benefits that were included therein. Wherefore, as God hereon promiseth to make a “new covenant” with them, seeing they had forfeited and lost the advantage of the former, yet if it should be of the same kind therewith, it might also in like manner prove ineffectual. So must God give, and the church receive, one covenant after another, and yet the ends of them never be obtained.
To obviate this objection, and the fear that thence might arise, God, who provideth not only for the safety of his church, but also for their comfort and assurance, declares beforehand unto them that it shall not be of the same kind with the former, nor liable to be so frustrated, as to the ends of it, as that was.
And there are some things remarkable herein:
1. That the preface unto the promise of this new covenant is a blame charged on the people, ”finding fault with them,” blaming them, charging them with sin against the covenant that he had made with them.
2. That yet this was not the whole ground and reason of making this new covenant. It was not so, I say, that the people were not steadfast in it and unto the terms of it. For had it been so, there would have no more been needful to reinstate them in a good condition, but only that God should pardon their former sins, and renew the same covenant unto them again, and give them another venture or trial thereon. But inasmuch as he would do so no more, but would make another covenant of another nature with them, it is evident that there was some defect in the covenant itself, it was not able to communicate those good things which God designed to bless the church withal.
3. These two things being the only reason that God gives why he will make this new covenant, namely, the sins of the people, and the insufficiency of the first covenant to bring the church into that blessed estate which he designed them; it is manifest that all his dealings with them for their spiritual and eternal good are of mere sovereign grace, and such as he hath no motive unto but in and from himself alone. There are sundry things contained in these words:
First, An intimation that God had made a former covenant with his people: Τὴν διαθήκην . There is in these verses a repetition three times of making covenant,; and in every place in the Hebrew the same words are used, כָּרִתִּי בְּרִית . But the apostle changeth the verb in every place. First, he expresseth it by συντελέσω , Hebrews 8:8; and in the last place by διαθήσομαι , which is most proper, Hebrews 8:10, ( ζεῖναι and διατιθέναι διαθήκην are usual in other authors;) here he useth ἐποίησα , in reference unto that covenant which the people brake and God disannulled. And it may be he did so, to distinguish their alterable covenant from that which was to be unalterable, and was confirmed with greater solemnity. God made this covenant as others of his outward works, which he resolved to alter, change, or abolish, at the appointed season. It was a work whose effects might be shaken, and itself afterwards be removed; so he speaks, Hebrews 12:27. The change of the things that are shaken is ὡς πεποιημένων , ”as of things that are made,” made for a season; so made as to abide and endure for an appointed time only: such were all the things of this covenant, and such was the covenant itself. It had no “criteria aeternitatis” upon it, no evidences of an eternal duration. Nothing hath so but what is founded in the blood of Christ. He is אֲבִיאּעַד , “the everlasting Father,” or the immediate author and cause of every thing that is or shall be everlasting in the church. Let men labor and contend about other things whilst they please; they are all shaken, and must be removed.
Obs. 1. The grace and glory of the new covenant are much set off and manifested by the comparing of it with the old. This is done here by God, on purpose for the illustration of it. And it is greatly made use of in this epistle; partly to prevail with us to accept of the terms thereof, and to abide faithful therein; and partly to declare how great is their sin, and how sore will be the destruction of them by whom it is neglected or despised. As these things are insisted on in other places, so are they the subject of the apostle’s discourse, Hebrews 12:0 from verse 15 unto the end.
Obs. 2. All God’s works are equally good and holy in themselves; but as unto the use and advantage of the church, he is pleased to make some of them means of communicating more grace than others. Even this covenant, which the new was not to be like unto, was in itself good and holy; which those with whom it was made had no reason to complain of. Howbeit God had ordained that by another covenant he would communicate the fullness of his grace and love unto the church. And if every thing that God doth be improved in its season, and for its proper ends, we shall have benefit and advantage by it, though he hath yet other ways of doing us more good, whose seasons he hath reserved unto himself. But this is an act of mere sovereign goodness and grace, that whereas any have neglected or abused mercies and kindnesses that they have received, instead of casting them off on that account, God takes this other course, of giving them such mercies as shall not be so abused. This he did by the introduction of the new covenant in the room of the old; and this he doth every day. So Isaiah 57:16-23.57.18. We live in days wherein men variously endeavor to obscure the grace of God, and to render it inglorious in the eyes of men; but he will for ever be “admired in them that believe.”
Obs. 3. Though God makes an alteration in any of his works, ordinances of worship, or institutions, yet he never changeth his intention, or the purpose of his will In all outward changes there is with him “no variableness nor shadow of turning.” “Known unto him are all his works from the foundation of the world;” and whatever change there seems to be in them, it is all effected in pursuance of the unchangeable purpose of his will concerning them all. It argued not the least change or shadow of turning in God, that he appointed the old covenant for a season, and for some certain ends, and then took it away, by making of another that should excel it both in grace and efficacy.
Secondly, It is declared with whom this former covenant was made: πατράσιν αὐτῶν , ”with their fathers.” Some Latin copies read, “cure patribus vestris,” “with your fathers;” but having spoken before of “the house of Israel and of the house of Judah” in the third person, he continueth to speak still in the same. So likewise is it in the prophet, אַבוֹתָם , ”their fathers.”
1. “Their fathers,” their progenitors, were those that this people always boasted of. For the most part, I confess, they rose higher in their claim from them than those here principally intended, namely, unto Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs. But in general their fathers it was whereof they made their boast; and they desired no more but only what might descend unto them in the right of these fathers. And unto these God here sends them, and that for two ends:
(1.) To let them know that he had more grace and mercy to communicate unto the church than ever those fathers of theirs were made partakers of. So would he take them off from boasting of them, or trusting in them.
(2.) To give warning by them to take heed how they behaved themselves under the tender of this new and greater mercy. For the fathers here intended were those that God made the covenant withal at Sinai; but it is known, and the apostle hath declared at large in the third chapter of this epistle, how they brake and rejected this covenant of God, through their unbelief and disobedience, so perishing in the wilderness. These were those fathers of the people with whom the first covenant was made; and so they perished in their unbelief. A great warning this was unto those that should live when God would enter into the new covenant with his church, lest they should perish after the same example. But yet was it not effectual towards them; for the greatest part of them rejected this new covenant, as their fathers did the old, and perished in the indignation of God.
Obs. 4. The disposal of mercies and privileges, as unto times, persons, seasons, is wholly in the hand and power of God. Some he granted unto the fathers, some to their posterity, and not the same to both. Our wisdom it is to improve what we enjoy, not to repine at what God hath done for others, or will do for them that shall come after us. Our present mercies are sufficient for us, if we know how to use them. He that wanteth not a believing heart shall want nothing else.
2. Who those fathers were with whom God made this covenant, is further evident from the time, season, and circumstances of the making of it:
(1.) For the time of it, it was done ἐν ἡμέρα , that is, ἐκεῖνῃ , ”in that day.” That a “day” is taken in the Scripture for an especial time and season wherein any work or duty is to be performed, is obvious unto all. The reader may see what we have discoursed concerning such a day on the third chapter. And the time here intended is often called the day of it: Ezekiel 20:6, “In the day I lifted up mine hand unto them to bring them forth of the land of Egypt;” at that time or season. A certain, determinate, limited time, suited with means unto any work, occasion, or duty, is so called a “day.” And it answereth unto the description of the time of making the new covenant given in the verse foregoing, “Behold, the days are coming,” the time or season approacheth. It is also used in a way of eminency; a day, or a signal eminent season: Malachi 3:2, “Who may abide the day of his coming?” the illustrious glory and power that shall appear and be exerted at his coming. “In the day,” is, at that great, eminent season, so famous throughout all their generations.
(2.) This day or season is described from the work of it: ἐπιλαβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν , ‘ הֶחֳזִיקִי , ”that I firmly laid hold.” And ἐπιλαμβάνω , is “ to take hold of” with a design of helping or delivering; and sundry things are intimated as well as the way and manner of the deliverance of that people at that time:
[1.] The woful, helpless condition that they were in then in Egypt. So far were they from being able to deliver themselves out of their captivity and bondage, that, like children, they were not able to stand or go, unless God took them and led them by the hand. So he speaks, Hosea 11:3, “I taught them to go, taking them by their arms.” And certainly never were weakly, froward children, so awkward to stand and go of themselves, as that people were to comply with God in the work of their deliverance. Sometimes they refused to stand, or to make a trial of it; sometimes they cast themselves down after they were set on their feet; and sometimes with all their strength went backwards as to what God directed them unto. He that can read the story of their deliverance with any understanding, will easily discern what pains God was at with that people to teach them to go when he thus took them by the hand. It is therefore no new thing, that the church of God should be in a condition of itself able neither to stand nor go. But yet if God will take them by the hand for their help, deliverance shall ensue.
[2.] It expresseth the infinite condescension of God towards this people in that condition, that he would bow down to take them by the hand. In most other places the work which he then accomplished is ascribed unto the lifting up or stretching out of his hand, Ezekiel 20:6. See the description of it, Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 26:8. It was towards their enemies a work of mighty power, of the lifting up of his hand; but towards them it was a work of infinite condescension and patience, a bowing down to take them by the hand. And this was the greatest work of God. For such were the frowardness and unbelief, so multiplied were the provocations and temptations of that people, that if God had not held them fast by the hand, with infinite grace, patience, forbearance, and condescension, they had inevitably ruined themselves. And we know in how many instances they endeavored frowardly and obstinately to wrest themselves out of the hand of God, and to cast themselves into utter destruction. Wherefore this word, “When I took them by the hand,” for the end mentioned, compriseth all the grace, mercy, and patience, which God exercised towards that people, whilst he wrought out their deliverance by lifting up his hand amongst and against their adversaries.
And indeed no heart can conceive, no tongue can express, that infinite condescension and patience which God exerciseth towards every one of us, whilst he holds us by the hand to lead us unto rest with himself. Our own hearts, in some measure, know with what waywardness and frowardness, with what wanderings from him and withdrawing from his holy conduct, we exercise and are ready to weary his patience continually; yet do not mercy and grace let go that hold which they have taken on us. O that our souls might live in a constant admiration of that divine grace and patience which they live upon; that the remembrance of the times and seasons wherein, if God had not strengthened his hand upon us, we had utterly destroyed ourselves, might increase that admiration daily, and enliven it with thankful obedience!
[3.] The power of this work intended is also included herein; not directly, but by consequence. For, as was said, when God took them by the hand by his grace and patience, he lifted up the hand of his power, by the mighty works which he wrought among their adversaries. What he did in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, is all included herein. These things made the day mentioned eminent and glorious. It was a great day, wherein God so magnified his name and power in the sight of all the world.
[4.] All these things had respect unto and issued in that actual deliverance which God then wrought for that people. And this was the greatest mercy which that people ever were or ever could be made partakers of, in that condition wherein they were under the old testament. As unto the outward part of it, consider what they were delivered from, and what they were led into, and it will evidently appear to be as great an outward mercy as human nature is capable of. But besides, it was gloriously typical, and representative of their own and the whole church’s spiritual deliverance from sin and hell, from our bondage to Satan, and a glorious traduction into the liberty of the sons of God. And therefore did God engrave the memorial of it on the tables of stone, “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” For what was typified and signified thereby is the principal motive unto obedience throughout all generations; nor is any moral obedience acceptable unto God that doth not proceed from a sense of spiritual deliverance.
And these things are here called over in this promise of giving a new covenant, partly to mind the people of the mercies which they had sinned against, and partly to mind them that no concurrence of outward mercies and privileges can secure our covenant-relation unto God, without the special mercy which is administered in the new covenant, whereof Jesus Christ is the mediator and surety.
Thus great on all accounts was the day, and the glory of it, wherein God made the old covenant with the people of Israel; yet had it no glory in comparison of that which doth excel. The light of the sun of glory was on this day “seven-fold, as the light of seven days,” Isaiah 30:26. A perfection of light and glory was to accompany that day, and all the glory of God’s work and his rest therein, the light of seven days, was to issue in it. From the things we have observed, it is fully evident both what was the “covenant” that God made, and who were “the fathers” with whom it was made. The covenant intended is none other but that made at Sinai, in the third month after the coming of the people out of Egypt, Exodus 19:1; which covenant, in the nature, use, and end of it, we have before described. And the fathers were those of that generation, those who came out of Egypt, and solemnly in their own persons, they and their children, entered into the covenant, and took upon them to do all that was required therein; whereon they were sprinkled with the blood of it, Exodus 24:3-2.24.8, Deuteronomy 5:27. It is true, all the posterity of the people unto whom the promise was now given were bound and obliged by that covenant, no less than those who first received it; but those only are intended in this place who actually in their own persons entered into covenant with God. Which consideration will give light unto what is affirmed, that “they brake his covenant,” or” continued not in it.”
A comparison being intended between the two covenants, this is the first general part of the foundation of it with respect unto the old.
The second part of it is in the event of making this covenant; and this is expressed both on the part of man and God, or in what the people did towards God, and how he carried it towards them thereon.
First, The event on the part of the people is in these words, “Because they continued not in my covenant,” Οτι αὐτοὶ οὐκ ἐνέμειναν ἐν τῆ διαθήκῃ μου .
אֲשֶׁרּ , “ which,” in the original, is expressed by ὅτι , which we render “because;” ὅτι , as it is sometimes a relative, sometimes a redditive, “which,” or “because.” If we follow our translation, “because,” it seems to give a reason why God made a covenant with them not like the former; namely, because they continued not in the former, or brake it. But this indeed was not the reason of it. The reason, I say, why God made this new covenant not according unto the former, was not because they abode not in the first. This could be no reason of it, nor any motive unto it. It is therefore mentioned only to illustrate the grace of God, that he would make this new covenant notwithstanding the sin of those who brake the former; as also the excellency of the covenant itself, whereby those who are taken into it shall be preserved from breaking it, by the grace which it doth administer. Wherefore I had rather render ὅτι here by “which,” as we render אֲשֶׁר in the prophet, ”which my covenant;” or “for,” ”for they abode not.” And if we render it “because,” it respects not God’s making a new covenant, but his rejecting them for breaking the old.
That which is charged on them is, that they “continued not,” they “abode not” in the covenant made with them. This God calls his covenant, “They continued not in my covenant;” because he was the author of it, the sole contriver and proposer of its terms and promises, הֵפֵרוּ , they “brake,” they rescinded, removed it, made it void. The Hebrew word expresseth the matter of fact, what they did; they “brake” or made void the covenant: the word used by the apostle expresseth the manner how they did it; namely, by not continuing faithful in it, not abiding by the terms of it. The use of the word μένω , and ἐμμένω , unto this purpose, hath been before declared. And what is intended hereby we must inquire:
1. God made this covenant with the people on Sinai, in the authoritative proposition of it unto them; and thereon the people solemnly accepted of it, and took it upon themselves to observe, do, and fulfill the terms and conditions of it, Exodus 19:8, especially Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7,
“The people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said, will we do.”
And, “All that the LORD hath said, will we do, and be obedient.” So Deuteronomy 5:27. Hereupon the covenant was ratified and confirmed between God and them, and thereon the blood of the covenant was sprinkled on them, Exodus 24:8. This gave that covenant its solemn ratification.
2. Having thus accepted of God’s covenant, and the terms of it, Moses ascending again into the mount, the people made the golden calf. And this fell out so suddenly after the making of the covenant, that the apostle expresseth it by, “They continued not in it,” ’they made haste to break it.’He expresseth the sense of the words of God hereon, Exodus 32:7-2.32.8,
“Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”
For therein they brake the covenant wherein God had in a peculiar manner assumed the glory of that deliverance unto himself.
3. Wherefore the breaking of the covenant, or their not continuing in it, was firstly and principally the making of the molten calf. After this, indeed, that generation added many other sins and provocations, before all things proceeded so far that “God sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest.” This fell out on their professed unbelief and murmuring on the return of the spies, Numbers 14:0, whereof we have treated at large on Hebrews 3:0. Wherefore this expression is not to be extended unto the sins of the following generations, neither in the kingdom of Israel nor in that of Judah, although they variously transgressed against the covenant, disannulling it so far as lay in them. But it is their sin who personally first entered into covenant with God that is reflected on. That generation with whom God made that first covenant immediately brake it, continued not in it. And therefore let that generation look well to themselves unto whom this new covenant shall be first proposed. And it so fell out, that the unbelief of that first generation who lived in the first days of the promulgation of the new covenant, hath proved an occasion of the ruin of their posterity unto this day. And we may observe,
Obs. 5. That sins have their aggravations from mercies received. This was that which rendered this first sin of that people of such a flagitious nature in itself, and so provoking unto God, namely, that they who contracted personally the guilt of it had newly received the honor, mercy and privilege, of being taken into covenant with God. Hence is that threatening of God with respect hereunto, “Nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them,” Exodus 32:34. He would have aremembrance of this provoking sin in all their following visitations. Let us therefore take heed how we sin against received mercies, especially spiritual privileges, such as we enjoy by the gospel.
Obs. 6. Nothing but effectual grace will secure our covenant obedience one moment. Greater motives unto obedience, or stronger outward obligation thereunto, no people under heaven could have than this people had newly received; and they had publicly and solemnly engaged themselves thereunto. But they “quickly turned out of the way.” And therefore in the new covenant is this grace promised in a peculiar manner, as we shall see on the next verse.
Secondly, The acting of God towards them hereon is also expressed: “And I regarded them not.” There seems to be a great difference between the translation of the words of the prophet and these of the apostle taken from them. In the former place we read, “Although I was an husband unto them;” in this, “I regarded them not.” And hereby the utmost difference that can be objected against the rendering of these words by the apostle is represented. But there was no need of rendering the words in the prophet, וְאָנכִי בְּעַלְתִּי בָם , “Although I was an husband unto them,” as we shall see. Howbeit many learned men have exceedingly perplexed themselves and others in attempting a reconciliation between these passages or expressions, because they seem to be of a direct contrary sense and importance. I shall therefore premise some things which abate and take off from the weight of this difficulty, and then give the true solution of it. And unto the first end we may observe,
1. That nothing of the main controversy, nothing of the substance of the truth which the apostle proves and confirms by this testimony, doth any way depend on the precise signification of these words. They are but occasional, as to the principal design of the whole promise; and therefore the sense of it doth not depend on their signification. And in such cases liberty in the variety of expositions may be safely used.
2. Take the two different senses which the words, as commonly translated, do present, and there is nothing of contradiction, or indeed the least disagreement between them. For the words, as we have translated them in the prophet, express an aggravation of the sin of the people: “They brake my covenant, although I was” (that is, therein) “an husband unto them,” exercising singular kindness and care towards them. And as they are rendered by the apostle, they express the effect of that sin so aggravated, He “regarded them not;” that is, with the same tenderness as formerly: for he denied to go with them as before, and exercised severity towards them in the wilderness until they were consumed. Each way, the design is to show that the covenant was broken by them, and that they were dealt withal accordingly. But expositors do find or make great difficulties herein. It is generally supposed that the apostle followed the translation of the LXX., in the present copy whereof the words are so expressed. But how they came to render בָּעַלתּי by ἠμέλησα , they are not agreed. Some say the original copies might differ in some letters from those we now enjoy. Therefore it is thought: they might read, as some think, בָּחַלְתּי , neglexi,” or גַָּעַלְתִי , “fastidivi,” “I neglected” or “loathed them.” And those who speak most modestly, suppose that the copy. which the LXX. made use of had one of these words instead of בָּעַלְתִּי , which yet is the truer reading; but because this did not belong unto the substance of the argument which he had in hand, the apostle would not depart from that translation which was then in use amongst the Hellenistical Jews.
But the best of these conjectures is uncertain, and some of them by no means to be admitted. Uncertain it is that the apostle made any of his quotations out of the translation of the LXX.; yea, the contrary is certain enough, and easy to be demonstrated. Neither did he write this epistle unto the Hellenistical Jews, or those who lived in or belonged unto their dispersions, wherein they made use of the Greek tongue; but unto the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea principally and in the first place, who made no use of that translation. He expressed the mind of the Scripture as he was directed by the Holy Ghost, in words of his own. And the coincidence of them with those in the present copies of the LXX. hath been accounted for in our Exercitations.
Dangerous it is, as well as untrue, to allow of alterations in the original text, and then upon our conjectures to supply other words into it than what are contained in it. This is not to explain, but to corrupt the Scripture. Wherefore one learned man (Pococke in Miscellan.) hath endeavored to prove that בָּעַלְתּי , by all rules of interpretation, in this place must signify to “despise and neglect,” and ought to have been so translated. And this he confirms from the use of it in the Arabic language. The reader may find it in the place referred unto, with great satisfaction.
My apprehensions are grounded on what I have before observed and proved. The apostle neither in this nor in any other place doth bind up himself precisely unto the translation of the words, but infallibly gives us the sense and meaning; and so he hath done in this place. For whereas בַּעַל signifies a “husband,” or to be a husband or a lord, ב being added unto it in construction, as it is here, בָם בָּעַלְתִּי , it is as much as “jure usus sum maritali,” ’I exercised the right, power, and authority of a husband towards them; I dealt with them as a husband with a wife that breaketh covenant:’that is, saith the apostle, ‘ “ I regarded them not” with the love, tenderness, and affection of a husband.’So he dealt indeed with that generation which so suddenly brake covenant with him. He provided no more for them as unto the enjoyment of the inheritance, he took them not home unto him in his habitation, his resting-place in the land of promise; but he suffered them all to wander, and bear their whoredoms in the wilderness, until they were consumed. So did God exercise the right, and power, and authority of a husband towards a wife that had broken covenant. And herein, as in many other things in that dispensation, did God give a representation of the nature of the covenant of works, and the issue of it.
Thirdly, There is a confirmation of the truth of these things in that expression, “Saith the Lord.” This assertion is not to be extended unto the whole matter, or the promise of the introduction of the new covenant; for that is secured with the same expression, verse 8, Λέγει Κύριος , “Saith the Lord.” But it hath a peculiar πάθος in it, being added in the close of the words, נְאֻםאּיְהוָה , and respects only the sin of the people, and God’s dealing with them thereon. And this manifests the meaning of the preceding words to be God’s severity towards them: ‘I used the authority of a husband, I regarded them not as a wife any more, saith the Lord.”
Now, God thus uttered his severity towards them, that they might consider how he will deal with all those who despise, break, or neglect his covenant.
‘So,’saith he, ‘I dealt with them; and so shall I deal with others who offend in an alike manner.’
This was the issue of things with them with whom the first covenant was made. They received it, entered solemnly into the bonds of it, took upon themselves expressly the performance of its terms and conditions, were sprinkled with the blood of it; but they “continued not in it,” and were dealt withal accordingly. God used the right and authority of a husband with whom a wife breaketh covenant; he “neglected them,” shut them out of his house, deprived them of their dowry or inheritance, and slew them in the wilderness. On this declaration, God promiseth to make another covenant with them, wherein all these evils should be prevented. This is the covenant which the apostle designs to prove better and more excellent than the former. And this he doth principally from the mediator and surety of it, compared with the Aaronical priests, whose office and service belonged wholly unto the administration of that first covenant. And he confirms it also from the nature of this covenant itself, especially with respect unto its efficacy and duration. And hereunto this testimony is express, evidencing how this covenant is everlastingly, by the grace administered in it, preventive of that evil success which the former had by the sin of the people.
Hence he says of it, Οὐ κατὰ τήν , “Not according unto it;” a covenant agreeing with the former neither in promises, efficacy, nor duration. For what is principally promised here, namely, the giving of a new heart, Moses expressly affirms that it was not done in the administration of the first covenant. It is neither a renovation of that covenant nor a reformation of it, but utterly of another nature, by whose introduction and establishment that other was to be abolished, abrogated, and taken away, with all the divine worship and service which was peculiar thereunto. And this was that which the apostle principally designed to prove and convince the Hebrews of. And from the whole we may observe sundry things.
Obs. 7. No covenant between God and man ever was, or ever could be stable and effectual, as unto the ends of it, that was not made and confirmed in Christ. God first made a covenant with us in Adam. There was nothing therein but the mere defectibility of our natures as we were creatures that could render it ineffectual. And from thence did it proceed. In him we all sinned, by breach of covenant. The Son of God had not then interposed himself, nor undertaken on our behalf. The apostle tells us that “in him all things consist;” without him they have no consistency, no stability, no duration. So was this first covenant immediately broken. It was not confirmed by the blood of Christ. And those who suppose that the efficacy and stability of the present covenant do depend solely on our own will and diligence, had need not only to assert our nature free from that depravation which it was under when this covenant was broken, but also from that defectibility that was in it before we fell in Adam. And such as, neglecting the interposition of Christ, do betake themselves unto imaginations of this kind, surely know little of themselves, and less of God. Obs. 8. No external administration of a covenant of God’s own making, no obligation of mercy on the minds of men, can enable them unto steadfastness in covenant obedience, without an effectual influence of grace from and by Jesus Christ. For we shall see in the next verses that this is the only provision which is made in the wisdom of God to render us steadfast in obedience, and his covenant effectual unto us.
Obs. 9. God, in making a covenant with any, in proposing the terms of it, retains his right and authority to deal with persons according to their deportment in and towards that covenant: “They brake my covenant, and I regarded them not.”
Obs. 10. God’s casting men out of his especial care, upon the breach of his covenant, is the highest judgment that in this world can fall on any persons.
And we are concerned in all these things. For although the covenant of grace be stable and effectual unto all who are really partakers of it, yet as unto its external administration, and our entering into it by a visible profession, it may be broken, unto the temporal and eternal ruin of persons and whole churches. Take heed of the golden calf.
Ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραὴλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας , λέγει Κύριος , διδοὺς νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν , καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς · καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς Θεὸν , καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν · καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν πλησίον αὑτοῦ , καὶ ἕκαστος τὸν ἄδελφον αὑτοῦ , λέγων , Γνῶθι τὸν Κύριον · ὅτι πάντες εἰδήσουσί με , ἀπὸ μικροῦ αὐτῶν ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν · ὄτι ἵλεως ἔσομαι ταῖς ἀδικίαις αὐτῶν , καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν καὶ τῶν ἀνομιῶν αὐτῶν οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ ἔτι 
 VARIOUS READING. Τὸν πλησίον has been rejected, and τὸν πολίτην substituted as the proper reading, by Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. All the uncial MSS., with most of the versions, vindicate the propriety of the change. ED.
The design of the apostle, or what is the general argument which he is in pursuit of, must still be borne in mind throughout the consideration of the testimonies he produceth in the confirmation of it. And this is, to prove that the Lord Christ is the mediator and surety of a better covenant than that wherein the service of God was managed by the high priests according unto the law. For hence it follows that his priesthood is greater and far more excellent than theirs. To this end he doth not only prove that God promised to make such a covenant, but also declares the nature and properties of it, in the words of the prophet. And so, by comparing it with the former covenant, he manifests its excellency above it. In particular, in this testimony the imperfection of that covenant is demonstrated from its issue. For it did not effectually continue peace and mutual love between God and the people; but being broken by them, they were thereon rejected of God. This rendered all the other benefits and advantages of it useless. Wherefore the apostle insists from the prophet on those properties of this other covenant which infallibly prevent the like issue, securing the people’s obedience for ever, and so the love and relation of God unto them as their God.
Wherefore these three verses give us a description of that covenant whereof the Lord Christ is the mediator and surety, not absolutely and entirely, but as unto those properties and effects of it wherein it differs from the former, so as infallibly to secure the covenant relation between God and the people. That covenant was broken, but this shall never be so, because provision is made in the covenant itself against any such event.
And we may consider in the words,
1. The particle of introduction, ὅτι , answering the Hebrew כִּי .
2. The subject spoken of, which is διαθήκη ; with the way of making it, ἥν διαθήσομαι , “which I will make.”
3. The author of it, the Lord Jehovah; “I will ...... saith the Lord.”
4. Those with whom it was to be made, “the house of Israel.”
5. The time of making it, “after those days.”
6. The properties, privileges, and benefits of this covenant, which are of two sorts:
(1.) Of sanctifying, inherent grace; described by a double consequent:
[1.] Of God’s relation unto them, and theirs to him; “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people,” Hebrews 10:10.
[2.] Of their advantage thereby, without the use of such other aids as formerly they stood in need of, Hebrews 10:11.
(2.) Of relative grace, in the pardon of their sins, Hebrews 10:12. And sundry things of great. weight will fall into consideration under these several heads.
Hebrews 8:10 . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will give my laws into their mind, and write them upon their hearts: and I will be unto them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
1. The introduction of the declaration of the new covenant is by the particle ὅτι . The Hebrew כִּי , which is rendered by it, is variously used, and is sometimes redundant. In the prophet, some translate it by an exceptive, “sed ; ” some by an illative, “quoniam.” And in this place ὅτι , is rendered by some quamobrem, “wherefore; and by others “nam,” or enim, as we do it by “for.” And it doth intimate a reason of what was spoken before, namely, that the covenant which God would now make should not be according unto that, like unto it, which was before made and broken.
2. The thing promised is a “covenant:” in the prophet בְּרִית , here διαθήκη . And the way of making it, in the prophet אֶכְרֹת ; which is the usual word whereby the making of a covenant is expressed. For signifying to “cut,” to “strike,” to “divide,” respect is had in it unto the sacrifices wherewith covenants were confirmed. Thence also were “foedus percutere,” and “foedus ferire.” See Genesis 15:9-1.15.10; Genesis 15:18. אֶתּ , or עַם , that is, “cure,” which is joined in construction with it, Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 5:2. The apostle renders it by διαθήσομαι , and that with a dative case without a preposition, τῷ οἴκῳ , “I will make” or “confirm unto.” He had used before συντελέσω to the same purpose.
We render the words בְּרִית and διαθήκη in this place by a “covenant,” though afterward the same word is translated by a “testament.” A covenant properly is a compact or agreement on certain terms mutually stipulated by two or more parties. As promises are the foundation and rise of it, as it is between God and man, so it compriseth also precepts, or laws of obedience, which are prescribed unto man on his part to be observed. But in the description of the covenant here annexed, there is no mention of any condition on the part of man, of any terms of obedience prescribed unto him, but the whole consists in free, gratuitous promises, as we shall see in the explication of it. Some hence conclude that it is only one part of the covenant that is here described. Others observe from hence that the whole covenant of grace as a covenant is absolute, without any conditions on our part; which sense Estius on this place contends for. But these things must be further inquired into:
(1.) The word בְּרִית , used by the prophet, doth not only signify a “covenant” or compact properly so called, but a free, gratuitous promise also. Yea, sometimes it is used for such a free purpose of God with respect unto other things, which in their own nature are incapable of being obliged by any moral condition. Such is God’s covenant with day and night, Jeremiah 33:20; Jeremiah 33:25. And so he says that he “made his covenant,” not to destroy the world by water any more, “with every living creature,” Genesis 9:10-1.9.11. Nothing, therefore, can be argued for the necessity of conditions to belong unto this covenant from the name or term whereby it is expressed in the prophet. A covenant properly is συνθήκη , but there is no word in the whole Hebrew language of that precise signification.
The making of this covenant is declared by כָּרַתִּי . But yet neither doth this require a mutual stipulation, upon terms and conditions prescribed, unto an entrance into covenant. For it refers unto the sacrifices wherewith covenants were confirmed; and it is applied unto a mere gratuitous promise, Genesis 15:18, “In that day did the LORD make a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land.”
As unto the word διαθήκη , it signifies a “covenant” improperly; properly it is a “testamentary disposition.” And this may be without any conditions on the part of them unto whom any thing is bequeathed.
(2.) The whole of the covenant intended is expressed in the ensuing description of it. For if it were otherwise, it could not be proved from thence that this covenant was more excellent than the former, especially as to security that the covenant relation between God and the people should not be broken or disannulled. For this is the principal thing which the apostle designs to prove in this place; and the want of an observation thereof hath led many out of the way in their exposition of it. If, therefore, this be not an entire description of the covenant, there might yet be something reserved essentially belonging thereunto which might frustrate this end. For some such conditions might yet be required in it as we are not able to observe, or could have no security that we should abide in the observation of them: and thereon this covenant might be frustrated of its end, as well as the former; which is directly contrary unto God’s declaration of his design in it.
(3.) It is evident that there can be no condition previously required, unto our entering into or participation of the benefits of this covenant, antecedent unto the making of it with us. For none think there are any such with respect unto its original constitution; nor can there be so in respect of its making with us, or our entering into it. For,
[1.] This would render the covenant inferior in a way of grace unto that which God made with the people at Horeb. For he declares that there was not any thing in them that moved him either to make that covenant, or to take them into it with himself. Everywhere he asserts this to be an act of his mere grace and favor. Yea, he frequently declares, that he took them into covenant, not only without respect unto any thing of good in them, but although they were evil and stubborn. See Deuteronomy 7:7-5.7.8; Deuteronomy 9:4-5.9.5.
[2.] It is contrary unto the nature, ends, and express properties of this covenant. For there is nothing that can be thought or supposed to be such a condition, but it is comprehended in the promise of the covenant itself; for all that God requireth in us is proposed as that which himself will effect by virtue of this covenant.
(4.) It is certain, that in the outward dispensation of the covenant, wherein the grace, mercy, and terms of it are proposed unto us, many things are required of us in order unto a participation of the benefits of it; for God hath ordained, that all the mercy and grace that is prepared in it shall be communicated unto us ordinarily in the use of outward means, wherewith a compliance is required of us in a way of duty. To this end hath he appointed all the ordinances of the gospel, the word and sacraments, with all those duties, public and private, which are needful to render them effectual unto us. For he will take us ordinarily into this covenant in and by the rational faculties of our natures, that he may be glorified in them and by them. Wherefore these things are required of us in order unto the participation of the benefits of this covenant. And if, therefore, any one will call our attendance unto such duties the condition of the covenant, it is not to be contended about, though properly it is not so. For,
[1.] God doth work the grace of the covenant, and communicate the mercy of it, antecedently unto all ability for the performance of any such duty; as it is with elect infants.
[2.] Amongst those who are equally diligent in the performance of the duties intended he makes a discrimination, preferring one before another. “Many are called, but few are chosen;” and what hath any one that he hath not received?
[3.] He actually takes some into the grace of the covenant whilst they are engaged in an opposition unto the outward dispensation of it. An example of this grace he gave in Paul.
(5.) It is evident that the first grace of the covenant, or God’s putting his law in our hearts, can depend on no condition on our part. For whatever is antecedent thereunto, being only a work or act of corrupted nature, can be no condition whereon the dispensation of spiritual grace is superadded. And this is the great ground of them who absolutely deny the covenant of grace to be conditional; namely, that the first grace is absolutely promised, whereon and its exercise the whole of it doth depend.
(6.) Unto a full and complete interest in all the promises of the covenant, faith on our part, from which evangelical repentance is inseparable, is required. But whereas these also are wrought in us by virtue of that promise and grace of the covenant which are absolute, it is a mere strife about words to contend whether they may be called conditions or no. Let it be granted on the one hand, that we cannot have an actual participation of the relative grace of this covenant in adoption and justification, without faith or believing; and on the other, that this faith is wrought in us, given unto us, bestowed upon us, by that grace of the covenant which depends on no condition in us as unto its discriminating administration, and I shall not concern myself what men will call it.
(7.) Though there are no conditions properly so called of the whole grace of the covenant, yet there are conditions in the covenant, taking that term, in a large sense, for that which by the order of divine constitution precedeth some other things, and hath an influence into their existence; for God requireth many things of them whom he actually takes into covenant, and makes partakers of the promises and benefits of it. Of this nature is that whole obedience which is prescribed unto us in the gospel, in our walking before God in uprightness; and there being an order in the things that belong hereunto, some acts, duties, and parts of our gracious obedience, being appointed to be means of the further additional supplies of the grace and mercies of the covenant, they may be called conditions required of us in the covenant, as well as duties prescribed unto us.
(8.) The benefits of the covenant are of two sorts:
[1.] The grace and mercy which it doth collate.
 The future reward of glory which it doth promise.
Those of the former sort are all of them means appointed of God, which we are to use and improve unto the obtaining of the latter, and so may be called conditions required on our part. They are only collated on us, but conditions as used and improved by us.
(9.) Although διαθήκη , the word here used, may signify and be rightly rendered a “covenant,” in the same manner as בְּרִית doth, yet that which is intended is properly a “testament,” or a “testamentary disposition” of good things. It is the will of God in and by Jesus Christ, his death and bloodshedding, to give freely unto us the whole inheritance of grace and glory. And under this notion the covenant hath no condition, nor are any such either expressed or intimated in this place.
Obs. 1. The covenant of grace, as reduced into the form of a testament, confirmed by the blood of Christ, doth not depend on any condition or qualification in our persons, but on a free grant and donation of God; and so do all the good things prepared in it.
Obs. 2. The precepts of the old covenant are turned all of them into promises under the new. Their preceptive, commanding power is not taken away, but grace is promised for the performance of them. So the apostle having declared that the people brake the old covenant, adds that grace shall be supplied in the new for all the duties of obedience that are required of us.
Obs. 3. All things in the new covenant being proposed unto us by the way of promise, it is faith alone whereby we may attain a participation of them. For faith only is the grace we ought to exercise, the duty we ought to perform, to render the promises of God effectual to us, Hebrews 4:1-58.4.2.
Obs. 4. Sense of the loss of an interest in and participation of the benefits of the old covenant, is the best preparation for receiving the mercies of the new.
3. The author of this covenant is God himself: “I will make it, saith the LORD .” This is the third time that this expression, “Saith the Lord,” is repeated in this testimony. The work expressed, in both the parts of it, the disannulling of the old covenant and the establishment of the new, is such as calls for this solemn interposition of the authority, veracity, and grace of God. “I will do it, saith the Lord.” And the mention hereof is thus frequently inculcated, to beget a reverence in us of the work which he so emphatically assumes unto himself. And it teacheth us that,
Obs. 5. God himself, in and by his own sovereign wisdom, grace, goodness, all-sufficiency, and power, is to be considered as the only cause and author of the new covenant; or, the abolishing of the old covenant, with the introduction and establishment of the new, is an act of the mere sovereign wisdom, grace, and authority of God. It is his gracious disposal of us, and of his own grace; that whereof we had no contrivance, nor indeed the least desire.
4. It is declared whom this new covenant is made withal: “With the house of Israel.” Hebrews 8:8, they are called distinctly “the house of Israel, and the house of Judah.” The distribution of the posterity of Abraham into Israel and Judah ensued upon the division that fell out among the people in the days of Rehoboam. Before, they were called Israel only. And as in Hebrews 8:8 they were mentioned distinctly, to testify that none of the seed of Abraham should be absolutely excluded from the grace of the covenant, however they were divided among themselves; so here they are all jointly expressed by their ancient name of Israel, to manifest that all distinctions on the account of precedent privileges should be now taken away, that “all Israel might be saved.” But we have showed before, that the whole Israel of God, or the church of the elect, are principally intended hereby.
5. The time of the accomplishment of this promise, or making of this covenant, is expressed, “After those days.” There are various conjectures about the sense of these words, or the determination of the time limited in them.
Some suppose respect is had unto the time of giving the law on mount Sinai. Then was the old covenant made with the fathers; but after those days another should be made. But whereas that time, “those days,” were so long past before this prophecy was given out by Jeremiah, namely, about eight hundred years, it was impossible but that the new covenant, which was not yet given, must be “after those days;” wherefore it was to no purpose so to express it that it should be after those days, seeing it was impossible that otherwise it should be.
Some think that respect is had unto the captivity of Babylon and the return of the people from thence; for God then showed them great kindness, to win them unto obedience. But neither can this time be intended; for God then made no new covenant with the people, but strictly obliged them unto the terms of the old, Malachi 4:4-39.4.6. But when this new covenant was to be made, the old was to be abolished and removed, as the apostle expressly affirmeth, Hebrews 8:13. The promise is not of new obligation, or new assistance unto the observance of the old covenant, but of making a new one quite of another nature, which then was not done.
Some judge that these words, “after those days,” refer unto what went immediately before, “And I regarded them not:” which words include the total rejection of the Jews. ‘After those days wherein both the house of Judah and the house of Israel shall be rejected, I will make a new covenant with the whole Israel of God.’But neither will this hold the trial; for,
(1.) Supposing that expression, “And I regarded them not,” to intend the rejection of the Jews, yet it is manifest that their excision and cutting off absolutely was not in nor for their non-continuance in the old covenant, or not being faithful therein, but for the rejection of the new when proposed unto them. Then they fell by unbelief, as the apostle fully manifests, Hebrews 3:0 of this epistle, and Romans 11:0. Wherefore the making of the new covenant cannot be said to be after their rejection, seeing they were rejected for their refusal and contempt of it.
(2.) By this interpretation the whole house of Israel, or all the natural posterity of Abraham, would be utterly excluded from any interest in this promise. But this cannot be allowed: for it was not so “de facto,” a remnant being taken into covenant; which though but a remnant in comparison of the whole, yet in themselves so great a multitude, as that in them the promises made unto the fathers were confirmed. Nor on this supposition would this prediction of a new covenant have been any promise unto them, or any of them, but rather a severe denunciation of judgment. But it is said expressly, that God would make this covenant with them, as he did the former with their fathers; which is a promise of grace and mercy.
Wherefore “after those days,” is as much as in those days, an indeterminate season for a certain. So, “in that day,” is frequently used in the prophets, Isaiah 24:21-23.24.22; Zechariah 12:11. A time, therefore, certainly future, but not determined, is all that is intended in this expression, “after those days.” And herewith most expositors are satisfied. Yet is there, as I judge, more in the words.
“Those days,” seem to me to comprise the whole time allotted unto the economy of the old testament, or dispensation of the old covenant. Such a time there was appointed unto it; in the counsel of God. During this season things fell out as described, verse 9. The certain period fixed unto these days is called by our apostle “the time of reformation,” Hebrews 9:10. “After those days,” that is, in or at their expiration, when they were coming unto their end, whereby the first covenant waxed old and decayed, God would make this covenant with them. And although much was done towards it before those days came absolutely unto an end and did actually expire, yet is the making of it said to be “after those days,” because being made in the wane and declension of them, it did by its making put a full and final end unto them.
This in general was the time here designed for the making and establishing of the new covenant. But we must yet further inquire into the precise time of the accomplishment of this promise. And I say, the whole of it cannot be limited unto any one season absolutely, as though all that was intended in God’s making of this covenant did consist in any one individual act. The making of the old covenant with the fathers is said to be “in the day wherein God took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” During the season intended there were many things that were preparatory to the making of that covenant, or to the solemn establishment of it. So was it also in the making of the new covenant. It was gradually made and established, and that by sundry acts preparatory for it or confirmatory of it. And there are six degrees observable in it,
(1.) The first peculiar entrance into it was made by the ministry of John the Baptist. Him had God raised to send under the name and in the spirit and power of Elijah, to prepare the way of the Lord, Malachi 4:0. Hence is his ministry called “the beginning of the gospel,” Mark 1:1-41.1.2. Until his coming, the people were bound absolutely and universally unto the covenant in Horeb, without alteration or addition in any ordinance of worship. But his ministry was designed to prepare them, and to cause them to look out after the accomplishment of this promise of making the new covenant, Malachi 4:4-39.4.6. And these by whom his ministry was despised, did “reject the counsel of God against themselves,” that is, unto their ruin; and made themselves liable to that utter excision with the threatening whereof the writings of the Old Testament are closed, Malachi 4:6. He therefore called the people off from resting in or trusting unto the privileges of the first covenant, Matthew 3:8-40.3.10; preached unto them a doctrine of repentance; and instituted a new ordinance of worship, whereby they might be initiated into a new state or condition, a new relation unto God. And in his whole ministry he pointed at, and directed and gave testimony unto Him who was then to come to establish this new covenant. This was the beginning of the accomplishment of this promise.
(2.) The coming in the flesh and personal ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, was an eminent advance and degree therein. The dispensation of the old covenant did yet continue; for he himself, as “made of a woman,” was “made under the law,” yielding obedience unto it, observing all its precepts and institutions. But his coming in the flesh laid an axe unto the root of that whole dispensation; for therein the main end that God designed thereby towards that people was accomplished. The interposition of the law was now to be taken away, and the promise to become all unto the church. Hence upon his nativity this covenant was proclaimed from heaven, as that which was immediately to take place, Luke 2:13-42.2.14. But it was more fully and evidently carried on in and by his personal ministry. The whole doctrine thereof was preparatory unto the immediate introduction of this covenant. But especially there was therein and thereby, by the truth which he taught, by the manner of his teaching, by the miracles which he wrought, in conjunction with an open accomplishment of the prophecies concerning him, evidence given that he was the Messiah, the mediator of the new covenant. Herein was a declaration made of the person in and by whom it was to be established: and therefore he told them, that unless they believed it was he who was so promised, they should die in their sins.
(3.) The way for the introduction of this covenant being thus prepared, it was solemnly enacted and confirmed in and by his death; for herein he offered that sacrifice to God whereby it was established. And hereby the promise properly became διαθήκη , a “testament,” as our apostle proves at large, Hebrews 9:14-58.9.16. And he declares in the same place, that it answered those sacrifices whose blood was sprinkled on the people and the book of the law, in the confirmation of the first covenant; which things must be treated of afterwards. This was the center wherein all the promises of grace did meet, and from whence they derived their efficacy. From henceforward the old covenant, and all its administrations, having received their full accomplishment, did abide only in the patience of God, to be taken down and removed out of the way in his own time and manner; for really and in themselves their force and authority did then cease, and was taken away. See Ephesians 2:14-49.2.16; Colossians 2:14-51.2.15. But our obligation unto obedience and the observance of commands, though formally and ultimately it be resolved into the will of God, yet immediately it respects the revelation of it, by which we are directly obliged. Wherefore, although the causes of the removal of the old covenant had already been applied thereunto, yet the law and its institutions were still continued not only lawful but useful unto the worshippers, until the will of God concerning their abrogation was fully declared.
(4.) This new covenant had the complement of its making and establishment in the resurrection of Christ. For in order hereunto the old was to have its perfect end. God did not make the first covenant, and therein revive, represent, and confirm the covenant of works, with the promise annexed unto it, merely that it should continue for such a season, and then die of itself, and be arbitrarily removed; but that whole dispensation had an end which was to be accomplished, and without which it was not consistent with the wisdom or righteousness of God to remove it or take it away. Yea, nothing of it could be removed, until all was fulfilled. It was easier to remove heaven and earth than to remove the law, as unto its right and title to rule the souls and consciences of men, before all was fulfilled. And this end had two parts:
[1.] The perfect fulfilling of the righteousness which it required. This was done in the obedience of Christ, the surety of the new covenant, in the stead of them with whom the covenant was made.
[2.] That the curse of it should be undergone. Until this was done, the law could not quit its claim unto power over sinners. And as this curse was undergone in the suffering, so it was absolutely discharged in the resurrection of Christ. For the pains of death being loosed, and he delivered from the state of the dead, the sanction of the law was declared to be void, and its curse answered. Hereby did the old covenant so expire, as that the worship which belonged unto it was only for a while continued, in the patience and forbearance of God towards that people.
(5.) The first solemn promulgation of this new covenant, so made, ratified, and established, was on the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Christ. And it answered the promulgation of the law on mount Sinai, the same space of time after the delivery of the people out of Egypt. From this day forward the ordinances of worship, and all the institutions of the new covenant, became obligatory unto all believers. Then was the whole church absolved from any duty with respect unto the old covenant, and the worship of it, though it was not manifest as yet in their consciences.
(6.) The question being stated about the continuance of the obligatory force of the old covenant, the contrary was solemnly promulged by the apostles, under the infallible conduct of the Holy Ghost, Acts 15:0.
These were the articles, or the degrees of the time intended in that expression, “after those days;” all of them answering the several degrees whereby the old vanished and disappeared.
The circumstances of the making of this covenant being thus cleared, the nature of it in its promises is next proposed unto us. And in the exposition of the words we must do these two things:
1. Inquire into the general nature of these promises.
2. Particularly and distinctly explain them:
FIRST, The general nature both of the covenant and of the promises whereby it is here expressed must briefly be inquired into, because there are various apprehensions about them. For some suppose that there is an especial efficacy towards the things mentioned intended in these promises, and no more; some judge that the things themselves, the event and end, are so promised.
In the first way Schlichtingius expresseth himself on this place:
“Non ‘ut olim curabo leges meas in lapideis tantum tabulis inscribi, sed tale foedus cum illis feriam ut meae leges ipsis eorum mentibus et cordibus insculpantur:’ apparet haec verba intra vim et efficaciam accipienda esse, non veto ad ipsum inscriptionis effectum necessario porrigenda, qui semper in libera hominis potestate positus est; quod ipsum docent et sequentia Dei verba, Hebrews 8:12. Quibus ipse Deus causam seu modum ac rationem hujus rei aperit, quae ingenti illius gratia ac misericordia populo exhibenda continetur. Hac futurum dicit ut populus tanto ardore sibi serviat, suasque leges observet. Sensus ergo est, ‘tale percutiam foedus quod maximas et suficientissimas vires habebit populum meum in officio continendi.’”
“I will, instead of these external, carnal ordinances and observations, give them spiritual commands for the regulating of their affections, precepts most agreeable unto all men, [made] by the exceeding greatness of that grace and mercy. In this and many other particulars I shall incline their affections willingly to receive my law.”
The sense of both is, that all which is here promised consisteth in the nature of the means, and their efficacy from thence, to incline, dispose, and engage men unto the things here spoken of, but not to effect them certainly and infallibly in them to whom the promise is given. And it is supposed that the efficacy granted ariseth from the nature of the precepts of the gospel, which are rational, and suited unto the principles of our intellectual natures. For these precepts, enlivened by the promises made unto the observance of them, with the other mercies wherewith they are accompanied in God’s dealing with us, are meet to prevail on our minds and wills unto obedience; but yet, when all is done, the whole issue depends on our own wills, and their determination of themselves one way or other.
But these things are not only liable unto many just exceptions, but do indeed overthrow the whole nature of the new covenant, and the text is not expounded but corrupted by them; wherefore they must be removed out of the way. And,
1. The exposition given can no way be accommodated unto the words, so as to grant a truth in their plain literal sense. For whereas God says, “He will put his laws in their mind, and write them in their heart, and they shall all know him,” which declares what he will effectually do; the sense of their exposition is, that indeed he will not do so, only he will do that which shall move them and persuade them to do that themselves which he hath promised to do himself, and that whether they ever do so or no! But if any one concerning whom God says that he will write his law in his heart, have it not so written, be it on what account it will, suppose it be that the man will not have it so written, how can the promise be true, that God will write his law in his heart? It is a sorry apology, to say that God in making that promise did not foresee the obstruction that would arise, or could not remove it when it did so.
2. It is the event, or the effect itself, that is directly promised, and not any such efficacy of means as might be frustrated. For the weakness and imperfection of the first covenant was evidenced hereby, that those with whom it was made continued not in it. Hereon God neglected them, and the covenant became unprofitable, or at least unsuccessful as unto the general end of continuing the relation between God and them, of his being their God, and they being his people. To redress this evil, and prevent the like for the future, that is, effectually to provide that God and his people may always abide in that blessed covenant relation, he promiseth the things themselves whereby it might be secured. That which the first covenant could not effect, God promised to work in and by the new.
3. It is nowhere said nor intimated in the Scripture, that the efficacy of the new covenant, and the accomplishment of the promises of it, should depend on and arise from the suitableness of its precepts unto our reason, or natural principles; but it is universally and constantly ascribed unto the efficacy of the Spirit and grace of God, not only enabling us unto obedience, but enduing us with a spiritual, supernatural, vital principle, from which it may proceed.
4. It is true, that our own wills, or the free actings of them, are required in our faith and obedience; whence it is promised that we shall be “willing in the day of his power.” But that our wills are left absolutely herein unto our own liberty and power, without being inclined and determined by the grace of God, is that Pelagianism which hath long attempted the church, but which shall never absolutely prevail.
5. The putting the laws of God in our minds, and the writing of them in our hearts, that we may know him, and fear him always, is promised in the same way and manner as is the forgiveness of sin, verse 12; and it is hard to affix such a sense unto that promise, as that God will use such and such means that our sins may be pardoned, which yet may all of them fail.
6. As this exposition is no way suited unto the words of the text, nor of the context, or scope of the place, so indeed it overthrows the nature of the new covenant, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which comes thereby. For,
(1.) If the effect itself, or the things mentioned are not promised, but only the use of means, left unto the liberty of men’s wills whether they will comply with them or no, then the very being of the covenant, whether it ever shall have any existence or no, depends absolutely on the wills of men, and so may not be. For it is not the proposal of the terms of the covenant, and the means whereby we may enter into it, that is called the making of this covenant with us; but our real participation of the grace and mercy promised in it. This alone gives a real existence unto the covenant itself, without which it is not a covenant; nor without it is it properly made with any.
(2.) The Lord Christ would be made hereby the mediator of an uncertain covenant. For if it depend absolutely on the wills of men whether they will accept of the terms of it and comply with it or no, it is uncertain what will be the event, and whether ever any one will do so or no; for the will being not determined by grace, what its actings will be is altogether uncertain.
(3.) The covenant can hereon in no sense be a testament; which our apostle afterwards proves that it is, and that irrevocably ratified by the death of the testator. For there can, on this supposition, be no certain heir unto whom Christ did bequeath his goods, and the inheritance of mercy, grace, and glory. This would make this testament inferior to that of a wise man, who determines in particular unto whom his goods shall come.
(4.) It takes away that difference between this and the former covenant which it is the main scope of the apostle to prove; at least it leaves the difference to consist only in the gradual efficacy of outboard means; which is most remote from his purpose. For there were by the old covenant means supplied to induce the people unto constant obedience, and those in their kind powerful. This is pleaded by Moses, in the whole book almost of Deuteronomy. For the scope of all his exhortations unto obedience is to show that God had so instructed them in the knowledge of his will by giving of the law, and had accompanied his teachings with so many signal mercies, such effects of his mighty power, goodness, and grace; that the covenant was accompanied with such promises and threatenings, that therein life and death temporal and eternal were set before them; all which made their obedience so reasonable and necessary, that nothing but profligacy in wickedness could turn them from it. To this purpose are discourses multiplied in that book. And yet notwithstanding all this, it is added, “that God had not circumcised their hearts to fear him and obey him always,” as it is here promised. The communication of grace effectual, producing infallibly the good things proposed and promised in the minds and hearts of men, belonged not unto that covenant. If, therefore, there be no more in the making of the new covenant but only the adding of more forcible outward means and motives, more suitable unto our reasons, and meet to work on our affections, it differs only in some unassignable degrees from the former. But this is directly contrary unto the promise in the prophet, that it shall not be according unto it, or of the same kind; no more than Christ, the high priest of it, should be a priest after the order of Aaron.
(5.) It would on this supposition follow, that God might fulfill his promise of “putting his laws in the minds of men, and writing them in their hearts,” and yet none have the laws put into their minds, nor written in their hearts; which things are not reconcilable by any distinction unto the ordinary reason of mankind.
Wherefore we must grant that it is the effect, the event in the communication of the things promised, that is ascribed unto this covenant, and not only the use and application of means unto their production. And this will yet further appear in the particular exposition of the several parts of it. But yet, before we enter thereon, two objections must be removed, which may in general be laid against our interpretation.
First, ‘ This covenant is promised as that which is future, to be brought in at a certain time, “after those days,” as hath been declared. But it is certain that the things here mentioned, the grace and mercy expressed, were really communicated unto many both before and after the giving of the law, long ere this covenant was made; for all who truly believed and feared God had these things effected in them by grace: wherefore their effectual communication cannot be esteemed a property of this covenant which was to be made afterwards.’
Ans. This objection was sufficiently prevented in what we have already discoursed concerning the efficacy of the grace of this covenant before itself was solemnly consummated. For all things of this nature that belong unto it do arise and spring from the mediation of Christ, or his interposition on the behalf of sinners. Wherefore this took place from the giving of the first promise; the administration of the grace of this covenant did therein and then take its date. Howbeit the Lord Christ had not yet done that whereby it was solemnly to be confirmed, and that whereon all the virtue of it did depend. Wherefore this covenant is promised now to be made, not in opposition unto what grace and mercy was derived from it both before and under the law, nor as unto the first administration of grace from the mediator of it; but in opposition unto the covenant of Sinai, and with respect unto its outward solemn confirmation.
Secondly, ‘ If the things themselves are promised in the covenant, then all those with whom this covenant is made must be really and effectually made partakers of them. But this is not so; they are not all actually sanctified, pardoned, and saved, which are the things here promised.’
Ans. The making of this covenant may be considered two ways:
1. As unto the preparation and proposition of its terms and conditions.
2. As unto the internal stipulation between God and the souls of men.
In this sense alone God is properly said to make this covenant with any. The preparation and proposition of laws are not the making of the covenant. And therefore all with whom this covenant is made are effectually sanctified, justified, and saved.
SECONDLY, These things being premised, as it was necessary they should be, unto the right understanding of the mind of the Holy Ghost, I shall proceed unto the particular parts of the covenant as here expressed, namely, in the blessed properties and effects of it, whereby it is distinguished from the former.
The first two expressions are of the same nature and tendency, “I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts.” In general it is the reparation of our nature by the restoration of the image of God in us, that is, our sanctification, which is promised in these words. And there are two things in the words both doubly expressed:
1. The subject wrought upon; which is the “mind” and the “heart.”
2. The manner of producing the effect mentioned in them; and that is by “putting” and “writing.” And,
3. The things by these means so communicated; which are the “laws” of God.
1. The subject spoken of is the mind and heart. When the apostle treats of the depravation and corruption of our nature, he placeth them τῇ διανοίᾳ and ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ , Ephesians 4:18; that is, “the mind and the heart.” These are, in the Scripture, the seat of natural corruption, the residence of the principle of alienation from the life of God which is in us. Wherefore the renovation of our natures consists in the rectifying and curing of them, in the furnishing them with contrary principles of faith, love, and adherence unto God. And we may observe, that,
Obs. 6. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the new covenant, in its being and existence, in its healing, repairing efficacy, is as large and extensive as sin is in its residence and power to deprave our natures. This is the difference about the extent of the new covenant, and the grace of it: Some would have it to extend unto all persons, in its tender and conditional proposition; but not unto all things, as unto its efficacy in the reparation of our natures. Others assert it to extend unto all the effects of sin, in the removal of them, and the cure of our natures thereby; but as unto persons, it is really extended unto none but those in whom these effects are produced, whatever be its outward administration, which was also always limited: unto whom I do subscribe.
The first thing mentioned is the “mind.” קֶרֶבּ the apostle renders by διάνοια , “the inward part.” The mind is the most secret, inward part or power of the soul. And the prophet expresseth it by the “inward part,” because it is the only safe and useful repository of the laws of God. When they are there laid up, we shall not lose them; neither men nor devils can take them from us. And he also declares wherein the excellency of covenant obedience doth consist. It is not in the conformity of our outward actions unto the law, although that be required therein also; but it principally lieth in the inward parts, where God searcheth for and regardeth truth in sincerity, Psalms 51:6. Wherefore διάνοια is the “mind and understanding,” whose natural depravation is the spring and principle of all disobedience; the cure whereof is here promised in the first place. In the outward administration of the means of grace, the affections, or, if I may so speak, the more outward part of the soul, are usually first affected and wrought upon: but the first real effect of the internal promised grace of the covenant is on the mind, the most spiritual and inward part of the soul. This in the New Testament is expressed by the renovation of the mind, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23; and the opening of the eyes of our understandings, Ephesians 1:17-49.1.18; Ephesians 1:17-49.1.18; God shining into our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6. Hereby the enmity against God, the vanity, darkness, and alienation from the life of God, which the mind naturally is possessed and filled withal, are taken away and removed, of the nature of which work I have treated at large elsewhere;  for the law of God in the mind, is the saving knowledge of the mind and will of God, whereof the law is the revelation, communicated unto it and implanted in it.
 See his treatise on the Holy Spirit, vol. 3 of his miscellaneous works. ED.
2. The way whereby God in the covenant of grace thus works on the mind is expressed by διδούς : so the apostle tenders נָתַתִּי , “I will give.” Διδούς , “giving,” may by an enallage be put for δώσα , “I will give.” So is it expressed in the next clause, ἐπιγράψω , in the future tense, “I will write.” The word in the prophet is, “I will give;” we render it, “I will put.” But there are two things intimated in the word:
(1.) The freedom of the grace promised; it is a mere grant, gift, or donation of grace.
(2.) The efficacy of it. That which is given of God unto any is received by them, otherwise it is no gift. And this latter is well expressed by the word used by us, “I will put;” which expresseth an actual communication, and not a fruitless tender. This the apostle renders emphatically, διδούς ; that is, εἰμί , ‘ This is that which I do, am doing in this covenant; namely, freely giving that grace whereby my laws shall be implanted on the minds of men.’
3. To show in general, before we proceed to the nature of this work, so far as is necessary unto the exposition of the words, we may here consider what was observed in the third place, namely, what it is that is thus promised to be communicated, and so carry it on with us unto the other clause of this promise.
That which is to be put into this spiritual receptacle is in these words, Τοὺς νόμους μου , “My laws;” in the plural number. Expositors inquire what laws are here intended, whether the moral law only, or others also. But there is no need of such inquiry. There is a metonymy of the subject and effect in the words. It is that knowledge of the mind and will of God which is revealed in the law, and taught by it, which is promised. The “laws of God,” therefore, are here taken largely, for the whole revelation of the mind and will of God. So doth תּוֹרָה originally signify “doctrine” or “instruction.” By what way or revelation soever God makes known himself and his will unto us, requiring our obedience therein, it is all comprised in that expression of “his laws.”
From these things we may easily discern the nature of that grace which is contained in this first branch of the first promise of the covenant. And this is, the effectual operation of his Spirit in the renovation and saving illumination of our minds, whereby they are habitually made conformable unto the whole law of God, that is, the rule and the law of our obedience in the new covenant, and enabled unto all acts and duties that are required of us. And this is the first grace promised and communicated unto us by virtue of this covenant, as it was necessary that so it should be. For,
1. The mind is the principal seat of all spiritual obedience.
2. The proper and peculiar actings of the mind, in discerning, knowing, judging, must go before the actings of the will and affections, much more all outward practices.
3. The depravation of the mind is such, by blindness, darkness, vanity, and enmity, that nothing can inflame our souls, or make an entrance towards the reparation of our natures, but an internal, spiritual, saving operation of grace upon the mind.
4. Faith itself is principally ingenerated by an infusion of saving light into the mind, 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6. So,
Obs. 7. All the beginnings and entrances into the saving knowledge of God, and thereon of obedience unto him, are effects of the grace of the covenant.
The second part of this first promise of the covenant is expressed in these words, “And will write them upon their hearts;” which is that which renders the former part actually effectual.
Expositors generally observe, that respect is had herein unto the giving of the law on mount Sinai, that is, in the first covenant; for then the law (that is, “the ten words”) was written in tables of stone. And although the original tables were broken by Moses, when the people had broken the covenant, yet would not God alter that dispensation, nor write his laws any other way, but commanded new tables of stone to be made, and wrote them therein. And this was done, not so much to secure the outward letter of them, as to represent the hardness of the hearts of the people unto whom they were given. God did not, God would not by virtue of that covenant otherwise dispose of his law. And the event that ensued hereon was, that they brake these laws, and abode not in obedience . This event God promiseth to obviate and prevent under the new covenant, and that by writing these laws now in our hearts, which he wrote before only in tables of stone; that is, he will effectually work that obedience in us which the law doth require, for he “worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” The heart, as distinguished from the mind, compriseth the will and the affections; and they are compared unto the tables wherein the letter of the law was engraven. For as by that writing and engraving, the tables received the impression of the letters and words wherein the law was contained, which they did firmly retain and represent, so as that although they were stones still in their nature, yet were they nothing but the law in their use; so by the grace of the new covenant there is a durable impression of the law of God on the wills and affections of men, whereby they answer it, represent it, comply with it, and have a living principle of it abiding in them. Wherefore, as this work must necessarily consist of two parts, namely, the removal out of the heart of whatever is contrary unto the law of God, and the implanting of principles of obedience thereinto; so it comes under a double description or denomination in the Scripture. For sometimes it is called a “taking away of the heart of stone,” or” circumcising of the heart;” and sometimes the “giving of an heart of flesh,” the “writing of the law in our hearts;” which is the renovation of our natures into the image of God in righteousness and the holiness of truth. Wherefore in this promise the whole of our sanctification, in its beginning and progress, in its work upon our whole souls and all their faculties, is comprised. And we may observe,
Obs. 8. The work of grace in the new covenant passeth on the whole soul, in all its faculties, powers, and affections, unto their change and renovation. The whole was corrupted, and the whole must be renewed. The image of God was originally in and upon the whole, and on the loss of it the whole was depraved. See 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Obs. 9. To take away the necessity and efficacy of renewing, changing, sanctifying grace, consisting in an internal, efficacious operation of the principles, habits, and acts of internal grace and obedience, is plainly to overthrow and reject the new covenant.
Obs. 10. We bring nothing to the new covenant but our hearts, as tables to be written in, with the sense of the insufficiency of the precepts and promises of the law, with respect unto our own ability to comply with them.
The last thing in the words, is the relation that ensues hereon between God and his people: “I will be unto them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” This is indeed a distinct promise by itself, summarily comprising all the blessings and privileges of the covenant. And it is placed in the center of the account given of the whole, as that from whence all the grace of it doth spring, wherein all the blessings of it do consist, and whereby they are secured. Howbeit in this place it is peculiarly mentioned, as that which hath its foundation in the foregoing promise. For this relation, which implies mutual acquiescency in each other, could not be, nor ever had been, if the minds and hearts of them who are to be taken into it were not changed and renewed. For neither could God approve of and rest in his love towards them, whilst they were enemies unto him in the depravation of their natures; nor could they find rest or satisfaction in God, whom they neither knew, nor liked, nor loved.
This is the general expression of any covenant relation between God and men, “He will be unto them a God, and they shall be to him a people.” And it is frequently made use of with respect unto the first covenant, which yet was disannulled. God owned the people therein for his peculiar portion, and they avouched him to be their God alone.
Nor can this be spoken of God and any people, but on the ground of an especial covenant. It is true, God is the God of all the world, and all people are his; yea, he is a God unto them all. For as he made them, so he sustains, rules, and governeth them in all things, by his power and providence. But with respect hereunto God doth not freely promise that he will be a God unto any, nor can so do; for his power over all, and his rule of all things, is essential and natural unto him, so as it cannot otherwise be. Wherefore, as thus declared , it is a peculiar expression of an especial covenant relation. And the nature of it is to be expounded by the nature and properties of that covenant which it doth respect .
Two things we must therefore consider, to discover the nature of this relation:
1. The foundation of it.
2. The mutual actings in it by virtue of this relation.
1. Unto the manifestation of the foundation of it, some things must be premised:
(1.) Upon the entrance of sin there continued no such covenant relation between God and man, as that by virtue thereof he should be their God, and they should be his people. God continued still in the full enjoyment of his sovereignty over men; which no sin, nor rebellion, nor apostasy of man could in the least impeach. And man continued under an obligation unto dependence on God and subjection unto his will in all things. For these cannot be separated from his nature and being until final judgment be executed; after which God rules over them only by power, without any respect unto their wills or obedience. But that especial relation of mutual interest by virtue of the first covenant ceased between them.
(2.) God would not enter into any other covenant with sinful, fallen man, to be “a God unto them,” and to take them to be a “peculiar people” unto him, immediately in their own persons. Nor was it consistent with his wisdom and goodness so to do; for if man was not steadfast in God’s covenant, but brake and disannulled it when he was sinless and upright, only created with a possibility of defection, what expectations could there be that now he was fallen, and his nature wholly depraved, any new covenant should be of use unto the glory of God or advantage of man? To enter into a new covenant that must necessarily be broken, unto the aggravation of the misery of man, became not the wisdom and goodness of God. If it be said, ‘God might have so made a new covenant immediately with men as to secure their future obedience, and to have made it firm and stable,’I answer, It would not have become the divine wisdom and goodness to have dealt better with men after their rebellion and apostasy than before, namely, on their own account. He did in our first creation communicate unto our nature all that grace and all those privileges which in his wisdom he thought meet to endow it withal, and all that was necessary to make them who were partakers of it everlastingly blessed. To suppose that, on his own account alone, he would immediately collate more grace upon it, is to suppose him singularly well pleased with our sin and rebellion. This, then, God would not do. Wherefore,
(3.) God provided in the first place that there should be a mediator, a sponsor, an undertaker, with whom alone he would treat about a new covenant, and so establish it. For there were, in the contrivance of his grace and wisdom concerning it, many things necessary unto it that could no otherwise be enacted and accomplished. Nay, there was not any one thing in all the good which he designed unto mankind in this covenant, in a way of love, grace, and mercy, that could be communicated unto them, so as that his honor and glory might be advanced thereby, without the consideration of this mediator, and what he undertook to do. Nor could mankind have yielded any of that obedience unto God which he would require of them, without the interposition of this mediator on their behalf. It was therefore with him that God firstly made this covenant.
How it was needful that this mediator should be God and man in one person; how he became so to undertake for us, and in our stead; what was the especial covenant between God and him as unto the work which he undertook personally to perform; have, according unto our poor weak measure and dark apprehension of these heavenly things, been declared at large in our Exercitations on this epistle, and yet more fully in our discourse of the mystery and glory of the person of Christ.  Wherefore, as unto this new covenant, it was firstly made with Jesus Christ, the surety of it and undertaker in it. For,
 See Exerc. xxv.-xxxiv.; and vol. 1 of the author’s miscellaneous works.
(1.) God neither would nor, “salva justitia, sapientia, et honore,” could, treat immediately with sinful, rebellious men on terms of grace for the future, until satisfaction was undertaken to be made for sins past, or such as should afterwards fall out. This was done by Christ alone; who was therefore the πρῶτον δεκτικόν of this covenant and all the grace of it. 2 Corinthians 5:19-47.5.20; Galatians 3:13-48.3.14; Romans 3:25.
(2.) No restipulation of obedience unto God could be made by man, that might be a ground of entering into a covenant intended to be firm and stable. For whereas we had broken our first covenant engagement with God in our best condition, we were not likely of ourselves to make good a new engagement of a higher nature than the former. Who will take the word or the security of a bankrupt for thousands, who is known not to be worth one farthing; especially if he have wasted a former estate in luxury and riot, continuing an open slave to the same lusts? Wherefore it was absolutely necessary that in this covenant there should be a surety, to undertake for our answering and firm standing unto the terms of it. Without this, the event of this new covenant, which God would make as a singular effect of his wisdom and grace, would neither have been glory to him nor advantage unto us.
(3.) That grace which was to be the spring of all the blessings of this covenant, unto the glory of God and salvation of the church, was to be deposited in some safe hand, for the accomplishment of these ends. In the first covenant, God at once committed unto man that whole stock of grace which was necessary to enable him unto the obedience of it. And the grace of reward which he was to receive upon the performance of it, God reserved absolutely in his own hand; yea, so as that perhaps man did not fully understand what it was. But all was lost at once that was committed unto our keeping, so as that nothing at all was left to give us the least relief as unto any new endeavors. Wherefore God will now secure all the good things of this covenant, both as to grace and glory, in a third hand, in the hand of a mediator. Hereon the promises are made unto him, and the fullness of grace is laid up in him, John 1:14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:3; Eph 3:8 ; 2 Corinthians 1:20.
(4.) As he was the mediator of this covenant, God became his God, and he became the servant of God in a peculiar manner. For he stood before God in this covenant as a public representative of all the elect. See our comment on Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:8-58.1.9; Hebrews 2:13. God is a God unto him in all the promises he received on the behalf of his mystical body; and he was his servant in the accomplishment of them, as the pleasure of the Lord was to prosper in his hand.
(5.) God being in this covenant a God and Father unto Christ, he came by virtue thereof to be our God and Father, John 20:17; Hebrews 2:12-58.2.13. And we became “heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ;” and his people, to yield him all sincere obedience.
And these things may suffice briefly to declare the foundation of that covenant relation which is here expressed. Wherefore,
Obs. 11. The Lord Christ, God and man, undertaking to be the mediator between God and man, and a surety on our behalf, is the spring and head of the new covenant, which is made and established with us in him.
2. The nature of this covenant relation is expressed on the one side and the other: “I will be unto them a God, and they shall be to me a people:”
(1.) On the part of God it is, “I will be unto them a God;” or, as it is elsewhere expressed, “I will be their God.”
And we must make a little inquiry into this unspeakable privilege, which eternity only will fully unfold:
[1.] The person speaking is included in the verb, καὶ ἕσομαι , “I will be;”
‘I, Jehovah, who make this promise.’And herein God proposeth unto our faith all the glorious properties of his nature: ‘I, who am that I am, Jehovah, goodness and being itself, and the cause of all being and goodness to others; infinitely wise, powerful, righteous, etc. I, that am all this, and in all that I am will be so.’Here lies the eternal spring of the infinite treasures of the supplies of the church, here and for ever. Whatever God is in himself, whatever these properties of his nature extend to, in it all God hath promised to be our God: Genesis 17:1, “I am God Almighty; walk before me.” Hence, to give establishment and security to our faith, he hath in his word revealed himself by so many names, titles, properties, and that so frequently; it is that we may know him who is our God, what he is, and what he will be unto us. And the knowledge of him, as so revealing himself, is that which secures our confidence, faith, hope, fear, and trust. “The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble; and they that know thy name will put their trust in thee,” Psalms 9:9-19.9.10.
[2.] ‘What he promiseth is, that “he will be a God unto us.” Now, although this compriseth absolutely every thing that is good, yet may the notion of being a God unto any be referred unto two general heads:
1 st . An all-sufficient preserver; and,
2 dly . An all-sufficient rewarder: so himself declares the meaning of this expression, Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 15:1. ‘I will be all this unto them that I am a God unto in the way of preservation and recompence,’ Hebrews 11:6.
[3.] The declared rule and measure of God’s actings towards us as our God, are the promises of the covenant, both of mercy, grace, pardon, holiness, perseverance, protection, success, and spiritual victory in this world, and of eternal glory in the world to come. In and by all these things will he, in all that he is in himself, be a God unto those whom he takes into this covenant.
[4.] It is included in this part of the promise, that they that take him to be their God, they shall say, “Thou art my God,” Hosea 2:23; and carry it towards him according unto what infinite goodness, grace, mercy, power, and faithfulness, do require.
And we may observe,
Obs. 12. As nothing less than God becoming our God could relieve, help, and save us, so nothing more can be required thereunto.
Obs. 13. The efficacy, security, and glory of this covenant, depend originally on the nature of God, immediately and actually on the mediation of Christ. It is the covenant that God makes with us in him as the surety thereof.
Obs. 14. It is from the engagement of the properties of the divine nature that this covenant is “ordered in all things and sure.” Infinite wisdom hath provided it, and infinite power will make it effectual.
Obs. 15. As the grace of this covenant is inexpressible, so are the obligations it puts upon us unto obedience.
(2.) The relation of man unto God is expressed in these words, “And they shall be unto. me a people;” or, “They shall be my people.” And two things are contained herein:
[1.] God’s owning of them to be his in a peculiar manner, according to the tenor and promise of this covenant, and dealing with them accordingly. Λαὸς περιούσιος , Titus 2:14, “A peculiar people.” Let others take heed how they meddle with them, lest they intrench on God’s propriety, Jeremiah 2:3.
[2.] There is included in it that which is essentially required unto their being his people, namely, the profession of all subjection or obedience unto him, and all dependence upon him. Wherefore this also belongs unto it, namely, their avouching this God to be their God, and their free engagement unto all that obedience which in the covenant he requireth. For although this expression, “And they shall be unto me a people,” seems only to denote an act of God’s grace, assuming of them into that relation unto himself, yet it includes their avouching him to be their God, and their voluntary engagement Of obedience unto him as their God. When he says, “Ye are my people;” they also say, “Thou art my God,” Hosea 2:23.Yet is it to be observed,
Obs. 16. That God doth as well undertake for our being his people as he doth for his being our God. And the promises contained in this verse do principally aim at that end, namely, the making of us to be a people unto him.
Obs. 17. Those whom God makes a covenant withal, are his in a peculiar manner. And the profession hereof is that which the world principally maligneth in them, and ever did so from the beginning.
Hebrews 8:11 . And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
The second general promise, declaring the nature of the new covenant, is expressed in this verse. And the matter of it is set down,
1. Negatively, in opposition unto what was in use and necessary under the first covenant.
2. Positively, in what should take place in the room of it, and be enjoyed under this new covenant, and by virtue of it.
First, In the former part we may observe,
1. The vehemency of the negation, in the redoubling of the negative particle, οὐ μή : ‘They shall by no means do so; that shall not be the way and manner with them whom God makes this covenant withal.’And this is designed to fix our minds on the consideration of the privilege which is enjoyed under the new covenant, and the greatness of it.
2. The thing thus denied is teaching, not absolutely, but as unto a certain way and manner of it. The negation is not universal as unto teaching, but restrained unto a certain kind of it, which was in use and necessary under the old covenant. And this necessity was either from God’s institution, or from practice taken up among themselves, which must be inquired into.
3. The subject-matter of this teaching, or the matter to be taught, was the knowledge of God, “Know the Lord.” The whole knowledge of God prescribed in the law is here intended. And this may be reduced unto two heads:
(1.) The knowing of him, and the taking him thereon to be God, to be God alone; which is the first command.
(2.) Of his mind and will, as unto the obedience which the law required in all the institutions and precepts thereof; all the things which God revealed for their good: Deuteronomy 29:29; Deuteronomy 29:29,
“Revealed things belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
4. The manner of the teaching whose continuation is denied, is exemplified in a distribution into teachers and them that are taught: “Every man his neighbor, and every man his brother.” And herein,
(1.) The universality of the duty, “every one,” is expressed; and therefore it was reciprocal. Every one was to teach, and every one was to be taught; wherein yet respect was to be had unto their several capacities.
(2.) The opportunity for the discharging of the duty is also declared, from the mutual relation of the teachers and them that are taught: “Every one his neighbor and his brother.” Secondly, The positive part of the promise consists of two parts:
1. The thing promised, which is the knowledge of God: “They shall all know me.” And this is placed in opposition unto what is denied: “They shall not teach one another, saying, Know the Lord.” But this opposition is not as unto the act or duty of teaching, but as unto the effect, or saving knowledge itself. The principal efficient cause of our learning the knowledge of God under the new covenant is included in this part of the promise. This is expressed in another prophet and promise, “They shall be all taught of God.” And the observation hereof will be of use unto us in the exposition of this text.
2. There is added the universality of the promise with respect unto them with whom this covenant is made: “All of them, from the least unto the greatest;” a proverbial speech, signifying the generality intended without exception: Jeremiah 8:10,
“Every one, from the least even unto the greatest, is given unto covetousness.”
This text hath been looked on as attended with great difficulty and much obscurity; which expositors generally rather conceal than remove. For from the vehement denial of the use of that sort or kind of teaching which was in use under the old testament, some have apprehended and contended that all outward stated ways of instruction under the new testament are useless and forbidden. Hereon by some all the ordinances of the church, the whole ministry and .guidance of it, hath been rejected; which is, in sum, that there is no such thing as a professing church in the world. But yet those who are thus minded are no way able to advance their opinion, but by a direct contradiction unto this promise in their own sense of it. For they endeavor in what they do to teach others their opinion, and that not in the way of a public ordinance, but every one his neighbor; which, if any thing, is here denied in an especial manner. And the truth is, that if all outward teaching be absolutely and universally forbidden, as it would quickly fill the world with darkness and brutish ignorance, so, if any one should come to the knowledge of the sense of this or any other text of Scripture, it would be absolutely unlawful for him to communicate it unto others; for to say,
‘Know the Lord, or the mind of God in this text,’either to neighbor or brother, would be forbidden. And of all kinds of teaching, that by a public ministry, in the administration of the ordinances of the church, which alone is contended against from these words, seems least to be intended; for it is private, neighborly, brotherly instruction only, that is expressed. Wherefore, if, on a supposition of the prohibition of such outward instruction, any one shall go about to teach another that the public ordinances of the church are not to be allowed as a means of teaching under the new testament, he directly falls under the prohibition here given in his own sense, and is guilty of the violation of it. Wherefore these words must necessarily have another sense, as we shall see they have in the exposition of them, and that plain and obvious.
Howbeit some learned men have been so moved with this objection, as to affirm that the accomplishment of this promise of the covenant belongs unto heaven, and the state of glory; for therein alone, they say, we shall have no more need of teaching in any kind. But as this exposition is directly contrary unto the design of the apostle, as respecting the teaching of the new covenant and the testator thereof; when he intends only that of the old, and exalts the new above it; so there is no such difficulty in the words as to force us to carry the interpretation of them into another world. Unto the right understanding of them sundry things are to be observed:
1. That sundry things seem in the Scripture ofttimes to be denied absolutely as unto their nature and being, when indeed they are so only comparatively with respect unto somewhat else which is preferred before them. Many instances might be given hereof. I shall direct only unto one that is liable to no exception: Jeremiah 7:22-24.7.23,
“I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt- offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, swing, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”
The Jews of that time preferred the ceremonial worship by burnt-offerings and sacrifices above all moral obedience , above the great duties of faith, love, righteousness, and holiness. And not only so, but in a pretended diligent observation thereof, they countenanced themselves in an open neglect and contempt of moral obedience, placing all their confidence for acceptance with God in these other duties. To take them off from this vain, ruining presumption, as God by sundry other prophets declared the utter insufficiency of these sacrifices and burnt-offerings by themselves to render them acceptable unto him, and then prefers moral obedience above them; so here he affirms that he commanded them not. And the instance is given in that time wherein it is known that all the ordinances of worship by burnt- offerings and sacrifices were solemnly instituted. But a comparison is made between ceremonial worship and spiritual obedience; in respect whereof God says he commanded not the former, namely, so as to stand in competition with the latter, or to be trusted unto in the neglect of it, wherein the evils and miscarriages reproved did consist. So our blessed Savior expounds this and the like passages in the prophets, in a comparison between the lowest instances of the ceremonial law, such as tithing of mint and cummin, and the great duties of love and righteousness. “These things,” saith he, speaking of the latter, “ye ought to have done;” that is, principally and in the first place have attended unto, as those which the law chiefly designed. But what then shall become of the former? Why, saith he, “Them also ye ought not to leave undone’” in their proper place obedience was to be yielded unto God in them also. So is it in this present case. There was an outward teaching of “every man his neighbor, and every man his brother,” enjoined under the old testament. This the people trusted unto and rested in, without any regard unto God’s teaching by the inward circumcision of the heart. But in the new covenant, there being an express promise of an internal, effectual teaching by the Spirit of God, by writing his law in our hearts, without which all outward teaching is useless and ineffectual, it is here denied to be of any use; that is, it is not so absolutely, but in comparison of and in competition with this other effectual way of teaching and instruction. Even at this day we have not a few who set these teachings in opposition unto one another, whereas in God’s institution they are subordinate. And hereon, rejecting the internal, efficacious teaching of the Spirit of God, they betake themselves only unto their own endeavors in the outward means of teaching; wherein for the most part there are none more negligent than themselves. But so it is, that the ways of God’s grace are not suited, but always lie contrary unto the corrupt reasonings of men. Hence some reject all the outward means of teaching by the ordinances of the gospel, under a pretense that the inward teaching of the Spirit of God is all that is needful or useful in this kind. Others, on the other hand, adhere only unto the outward means of instruction, despising what is affirmed concerning the inward teaching of the Spirit of God, as a mere imagination. And both sorts run into these pernicious mistakes, by opposing those things which God hath made subordinate.
2. The teaching intended, whose continuance is here denied, is that which was then in use in the church; or rather, was to be so when the new covenant state was solemnly to be introduced. And this was twofold:
(1.) That which was instituted by God himself; and,
(2.) That which the people had superadded in the way of practice:
(1.) The first of these is, as in other places, so particularly expressed, Deuteronomy 6:6-5.6.9, “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house, and on thy gate.” Add hereunto the institution of fringes for a memorial of the commandments; which was one way of saying, “Know the Lord,” Numbers 15:38-4.15.39.
Two things may be considered in these institutions:
[1.] What is natural and moral, included in the common mutual duties of men one towards another; for of this nature is that of seeking the good of others by instructing them in the knowledge of God, wherein their chiefest happiness doth consist.
[2.] That which is ceremonial, as to the manner of this duty, is described in sundry instances, as those of frontlets and fringes, writing on posts and doors. The first of these is to abide for ever. No promise of the gospel doth evacuate any precept of the law of nature; such as that is of seeking the good of others, and that their chiefest good, by means and ways proper thereunto. But as unto the latter, which the Jews did principally attend unto and rely upon, it is by this promise, or the new covenant, quite taken away.
(2.) As unto the practice of the church of the Jews in these institutions, it is not to be expressed what extremities they ran into. It is probable that about the time spoken of in this promise, which is that of the Babylonian captivity, they began that intricate, perplexed way of teaching which afterwards they were wholly addicted unto. For all of them who pretended to be serious, gave up themselves unto the teaching and learning of the law. But herewithal they mixed so many vain curiosities and traditions of their own, that the whole of their endeavor was disapproved of God. Hence, in the very entrance of their practice of this way of teaching, he threatens to destroy all them that attended unto it: Malachi 2:12, “The LORD will cut off the master and the scholar out of the tabernacles of Jacob.” It is true, we have not any monuments or records of their teaching all that time, neither what they taught, nor how; but we may reasonably suppose it was of the same kind with what flourished afterwards in their famous schools derived from these first inventors. And of such reputation were those schools among them, that none was esteemed a wise man, or to have any understanding of the law, who was not brought up in them. The first record we have of the manner of their teaching, or what course they took therein, is in the Mishna. This is their interpretation of the law, or their saying one to another, “Know the LORD.” And he that shall seriously consider but one section or chapter in that whole book, will quickly discern of what kind and nature their teaching was; for such an operose, laborious, curious, fruitless work, there is not another instance to be given of in the whole world. There is not any one head, doctrine, or precept of the law, suppose it be of the Sabbath, of sacrifices, or offerings, but they have filled it with so many needless, foolish, curious, superstitious questions and determinations, as that it is almost impossible that any man in the whole course of his life should understand them, or guide his course according unto them. These were the burdens that the Pharisees bound on the shoulders of their disciples, until they were utterly weary and fainted under them. And this kind of teaching had possessed the whole church then, when the new covenant was solemnly to be introduced, no other being in use. And this is absolutely intended in this promise, as that which was utterly to cease. For God would take away the law, which in itself was “a burden,” as the apostle speaks, “which neither their fathers nor they were able to bear.” And the weight of that burden was unspeakably increased by the expositions and additions whereof this teaching consisted. Wherefore the removal of it is here proposed in the way of a promise, evidencing it to be a matter of grace and kindness unto the church. But the removal of teaching in general is always mentioned as a threatening and punishment.
Wherefore the denial of the continuation of this teaching may be considered two ways:
(1.) As it was external, in opposition unto and comparison of the effectual internal teaching by the grace of the new covenant; so it is laid aside, not absolutely, but comparatively, and as it was solitary. (2.) It may be considered in the manner of it, with especial respect unto the ceremonial law, as it consisted in the observance of sundry rites and ceremonies. And in this sense it was utterly to cease; above all, with respect unto the additions which men had made unto the ceremonial institutions wherein it did consist. Such was their teaching by writing parts of the law on their fringes, frontiers, and doors of their houses; especially as these things were enlarged, and precepts concerning them multiplied in the practice of the Jewish church. It is promised concerning these things, that they shall be absolutely removed, as useless, burdensome, and inconsistent with the spiritual teaching of the new covenant. But as unto that kind of instruction, whether by public, stated preaching of the word, or that which is more private and occasional, which is subservient unto the promised teaching of the Spirit of God, and which he will and doth make use of in and for the communication of the knowledge itself here promised, there is nothing intimated that is derogatory unto its use, continuance, or necessity. A supposition thereof would overthrow the whole ministry of Jesus Christ himself and of his apostles, as well as the ordinary ministry of the church.
And these things are spoken in exposition of this place, taken from the meaning and intention of the word teaching, or the duty itself, whose continuance and further use is denied. But yet, it may be, more clear light into the mind of the Holy Spirit may be attained, from a due consideration of what it is that is so to be taught. And this is, “Know the Lord.” Concerning which two things may be observed:
1. That there was a knowledge of God under the old testament, so revealed as that it was hidden under types, wrapped up in veils, expressed only in parables and dark sayings. For it was the mind of God, that as unto the clear perception and revelation of it, it should lie hid until the Son came from his bosom to declare him, to make his name known, and to “bring life and immortality to light;” yea, some things belonging hereunto, though virtually revealed, yet were so compassed with darkness in the manner of their revelation, as that the angels themselves could not clearly and distinctly look into them. But that there were some such great and excellent things concerning God and his will laid up in the revelation of Moses and the prophets, with their institutions of worship, they did understand. But the best and wisest of them knew also, that notwithstanding their best and utmost inquiry, they could not comprehend the time, nature, and state of the things so revealed; for it was revealed unto them, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister in their revelation of those things, 1 Peter 1:12. And as our apostle informs us, Moses in his ministry and institutions gave “testimony unto the things which were to be spoken” (that is, clearly) “afterwards,” Hebrews 3:5. This secret, hidden knowledge of God, principally concerned the incarnation of Christ, his mediation and suffering for sin, with the call of the Gentiles thereon. These, and such like mysteries of the gospel, they could never attain the comprehension of. But yet they stirred up each other diligently to inquire into them, as to what they were capable of attaining, saying one to another, “Know the Lord.” But it was little that they could attain unto, “God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” And when that church ceased to make this the principal part of their religion, namely, a diligent inquiry into the hidden knowledge of God, in and by the promised seed, with a believing desire and expectation of its full manifestation, contenting themselves with the letter of the word, looking on types and shadows as things present and substances, they not only lost the glory of their profession, but were hardened into an unbelief of the things signified unto them in their real exhibition. Now this kind of teaching, by mutual encouragement to look into the veiled things of the mystery of God in Christ, is now to cease, at the solemn introduction of the new covenant, as being rendered useless by the full, clear revelation and manifestation of them made in the gospel. They shall no more, that is, they shall need no more, to teach, so to teach this knowledge of God; for it shall be made plain to the understanding of all believers. And this is that which I judge to be principally intended by the Holy Ghost in this part of the promise, as that which the positive part of it doth so directly answer unto.
2. The knowledge of the LORD may be here taken, not objectively and doctrinally, but subjectively, for the renovation of the mind in the saving knowledge of God. And this neither is nor can be communicated unto any by external teaching alone, in respect whereunto it may be said comparatively to be laid aside, as was intimated before. We have, I hope, sufficiently freed the words from the difficulties that seem to attend them, so as that we shall not need to refer the accomplishment of this promise unto heaven, with many ancient and modern expositors; nor yet, with others, to restrain it unto the first converts to Christianity, who were miraculously illuminated; much less so to interpret them as to exclude the ministry of the church in teaching, or any other effectual way thereof. Somewhat may be observed of the particular expressions used in them:
1. There is in the original promise the word עוֹד , “amplius,” “no more.” This is omitted by the apostle, yet so as that it is plainly included in what he expresseth. For the word denotes the time and season which was limited unto that kind of teaching which was to cease. This season being to expire at the publication of the gospel, the apostle affirms absolutely then, “They shall not teach,” what the prophet before declared with the limited season now expired, “They shall do so no more.”
2. The prophet expresseth the subject spoken of indefinitely, אֶתאּאָחִיו אִיֹש , “A man his neighbor, a man his brother;” that is, any man: the apostle by the universal ἕκαστος , “every man;” which is also reducible unto any one, every one that is or may be called to this work, or hath occasion or opportunity for it. For of this teaching, the rule is ability and opportunity; he that can do it, and hath an opportunity for it.
3. That which they taught or intended in that expression, “Know the Lord,” is the same with what is promised in the latter part of the verse, where it must be spoken unto.
Some things, according to our method and design, may be observed from the exposition of these words.
Obs. 18. The instructive ministry of the old testament, as it was such only, and with respect unto the carnal rites thereof, was a ministry of the letter, and not of the Spirit, which did not really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught. The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law, or the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only unto outward things, it is here laid aside.
Obs. 19. There is a duty incumbent on every man to instruct others, according to his ability and opportunity, in the knowledge of God; the law whereof, being natural and eternal, is always obligatory on all sorts of persons. This is not here either prohibited or superseded ; but only it is foretold, that as unto a certain manner of the performance of it, it should cease. That it generally ceaseth now in the world, is no effect of the promise of God, but a cursed fruit of the unbelief and wickedness of men. The highest degree in religion which men now aim at, is but to attend unto and learn by the public teaching of the ministry. And, alas, how few are there who do it conscientiously, unto the glory of God and the spiritual benefit of their own souls! The whole business of teaching and learning the knowledge of God is generally turned into a formal spending, if not misspense of so much time. But as for the teaching of others according unto ability and opportunity, to endeavor for abilities, or to seek for opportunities thereof, it is not only for the most part neglected, but despised. How few are there who take any care to instruct their own children and servants! but to carry this duty farther, according unto opportunities of instructing others, is a thing that would be looked on almost as madness, in the days wherein we live. We have far more that mutually teach one another sin, folly, yea, villany of all sorts, than the knowledge of God and the duty we owe unto him. This is not what God here promiseth in a way of grace, but what he hath given up careless, unbelieving professors of the gospel unto, in a way of vengeance.
Obs. 20. It is the Spirit of grace alone, as promised in the new covenant, which frees the church from a laborious but ineffectual way of teaching. Such was that in use among the Jews of old; and it is well if somewhat not much unlike it do not prevail among many at this day. Whoever he be who, in all his teaching, doth not take his encouragement from the internal, effectual teaching of God under the covenant of grace, and bends not all his endeavors to be subservient thereunto, hath but an old testament ministry, which ceaseth as unto any divine approbation.
Obs. 21. There was a hidden treasure of divine wisdom, of the knowledge of God, laid up in the mystical revelations and institutions of the old testament, which the people were not then able to look into, nor to comprehend. The confirmation and explanation of this truth is the principal design of the apostle in this whole epistle. This knowledge, those among them that feared God and believed the promises stirred up themselves and one another to look after and to inquire into, saying unto one another, “Know the Lord;’howbeit their attainments were but small, in comparison of what is contained in the ensuing promise.
Obs. 22. The whole knowledge of God in Christ is both plainly revealed and savingly communicated, by virtue of the new covenant, unto them who do believe, as the next words declare.
The positive part of the promise remaineth unto consideration. And two things must be inquired into:
1. Unto whom it is made.
2. What is the subject-matter of it:
1. Those unto whom it is made are so expressed in the prophet, כוּלָּם לְמִקְּטַנָּם וְעַדאּנְּדוֹלָם . The expression of them absolutely, and then by a distribution, is emphatical. The former the apostle renders in the plural number, as the words are in the original, πάντες αὐτῶν : but the terms of the distribution he rendereth in the singular number, which increaseth the emphasis, ἀπὸ μικροῦ αὐτῶν ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν .
The proposition is universal, as to the modification of the subject, “all;” but in the word αὐτῶν , “of them,” it is restrained unto those alone with whom this covenant is made.
The distribution of them is made in a proverbial speech, “From the least to the greatest,” used in a peculiar manner by this prophet, Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:12. It is only once more used in the Old Testament, and not elsewhere, Jonah 3:5. And it may denote either the universality or the generality of them that are spoken of, so as none be particularly excluded or excepted, though all absolutely be not intended. Besides, several sorts and degrees of persons are intended. So there ever were, and ever will be, naturally, politically, and spiritually, in the church of God. None of them, upon the account of their difference from others on the one hand or the other, be they the least or the greatest, are excepted or excluded from the grace of this promise. And this may be the sense of the words, if only the external administration of the grace of the new covenant be intended: None are excluded from the tender of it, or from the outward means of the communication of it, in the full, plain revelation of the knowledge of God.
But whereas it is the internal, effectual grace of the covenant, and not only the means, but the infallible event thereon, not only that they shall be all taught to know, but that they shall all actually know the Lord, all individuals are intended; that is, that whole church all whose children are to be taught of God, and so to learn as to come unto him by saving faith in Christ. So doth this part of the promise hold proportion with the other, of writing the law in the hearts of the covenanters . As unto all these, it is promised absolutely that they shall know the Lord.
But yet among them there are many distinctions and degrees of persons, as they are variously differenced by internal and external circumstances. There are some that are greatest, and some that are least, and various intermediate degrees between them. So it hath been, and so it ever must be, whilst the natural, acquired, and spiritual abilities of men have great variety of degrees among them; and whilst men’s outward advantages and opportunities do also differ. Whereas, therefore, it is promised that they shall all of them know the Lord, it is not implied that they shall all do so equally, or have the same degree of spiritual wisdom and understanding. There is a measure of saving knowledge due unto, and provided for all in the covenant of grace, such as is necessary unto the participation of all other blessings and privileges of it; but in the degrees hereof some may and do very much excel others, And we may observe,
Obs. 23. There are, and ever were, different degrees of persons in the church, as unto the saving knowledge of God. Hence is that distribution of them into fathers, young men, and children, 1 John 2:13-62.2.14. All have not one measure, all arrive not to the same stature: but yet as to the ends of the covenant, and the duties required of them in their walk before God, they that have most have nothing over, nothing to spare; and they that have least shall have no lack. Every one’s duty it is to be content with what he receives, and to improve it unto the uttermost.
Obs. 24. Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the new covenant can be pretended.
2. The thing promised, is the knowledge of God: “They shall all know me.” No duty is more frequently commanded than this is, nor any grace more frequently promised. See Deuteronomy 29:6; Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:10; Ezekiel 36:23; Ezekiel 36:26-26.36.27: for it is the foundation of all other duties of obedience, and of all communion with God in them. All graces as unto their exercise, as faith, love, and hope, are founded therein. And the woful want of it which is visible in the world is an evidence how little there is of true evangelical obedience among the generality of them that are called Christians. And two things may be considered in this promise:
(1.) The object, or what is to be known.
(2.) The knowledge itself, of what kind and nature it is:
(1.) The first is God himself: “They shall all know me, saith the LORD.” And it is so not absolutely, but as unto some especial revelation of himself. For there is a knowledge of God, as God, by the light of nature.
This is not here intended, nor is it the subject of any gracious promise, but is common unto all men. There was, moreover, a knowledge of God by revelation under the old covenant, but attended with great obscurity in sundry things of the highest importance. Wherefore there is something further intended, as is evident from the antithesis between the two states herein declared. In brief, it is the knowledge of him as revealed in Jesus Christ under the new testament. To show what is contained herein doctrinally, were to go over the principal articles of our faith, as declared in the gospel. The sum is, To “know the Lord,” is to know God as he is in Christ personally, as he will be unto us in Christ graciously, and what he requires of us and accepts in us through the Beloved. In all these things, notwithstanding all their teaching and diligence therein, the church was greatly in the dark under the old testament; but they are all of them more clearly revealed in the gospel.
(2.) The knowledge of these things is that which is promised. For notwithstanding the clear revelation of them, we abide in ourselves unable to discern them and receive them. For such a spiritual knowledge is intended as whereby the mind is renewed, being accompanied with faith and love in the heart. This is that knowledge which is promised in the new covenant, and which shall be wrought in all them who are interested therein. And we may observe,
Obs. 25. The full and clear declaration of God, as he is to be known of us in this life, is a privilege reserved for and belonging unto the days of the new testament. Before, it was not made; and more than is now made is not to be expected in this world. And the reason hereof is, because it was made by Christ. See the exposition on Hebrews 1:1-58.1.2.
Obs. 26. To know God as he is revealed in Christ, is the highest privilege whereof in this life we can be made partakers; for this is life eternal, that we may know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, John 17:3.
Obs. 27. Persons destitute of this saving knowledge are utter strangers unto the covenant of grace; for this is a principal promise and effect of it, wherever it doth take place.
Hebrews 8:12 . For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
This is the great fundamental promise and grace of the new covenant; for though it be last expressed, yet in order of nature it precedeth the other mercies and privileges mentioned, and is the foundation of the collation or communication of them unto us. This the causal ὅτι whereby the apostle rendereth כִּי in the prophet, doth demonstrate. ‘What I have spoken, saith the Lord, shall be accomplished, “for I wilt be merciful,”’etc.; without which there could be no participation of the other things mentioned. Wherefore, not only an addition of new grace and mercy is expressed in these words, but a reason also is rendered why, or on what grounds he would bestow on them those other mercies.
The house of Israel and the house of Judah, with whom this covenant was made in the first place, and who are spoken of as representatives of all others who are taken into it, and who thereon become the Israel of God, were such as had broken and disannulled God’s former covenant by their disobedience; “Which my covenant they brake.” Nor is there any mention of any other qualification whereby they should be prepared for or disposed unto an entrance into this new covenant. Wherefore the first thing in order of nature that is to be done unto this end; is the free pardon of sin. Without a supposition hereof, no other mercy can they be made partakers of; for whilst they continue under the guilt of sin, they are also under the curse. Wherefore a reason is here rendered, and that the only reason, why God will give unto them the other blessings mentioned: “For I will be merciful.”
Obs. 28. Free and sovereign, undeserved grace in the pardon of sin, is the original spring and foundation of all covenant mercies and blessings. Hereby, and hereby alone, is the glory of God and the safety of the church provided for. And those who like not God’s covenant on these terms (as none do by nature) will eternally fall short of the grace of it. Hereby all glorying and all boasting in ourselves is excluded; which was that which God aimed at in the contrivance and establishment of this covenant, Rom 3:27 ; 1 Corinthians 1:29-46.1.31. For this could not be, if the fundamental grace of it did depend on any condition or qualification in ourselves. If we let go the free pardon of sin, without respect unto any thing in those that receive it, we renounce the gospel. Pardon of sin is not merited by antecedent duties, but is the strongest obligation unto future duties. He that will not receive pardon unless he can one way or other deserve it, or make himself meet for it; or pretends to have received it, and finds not himself obliged unto universal obedience by it, neither is nor shall be partaker of it.
In the promise itself we may consider,
1. Whom it is made unto;
2. What it is that is promised:
1. The first is expressed in the pronoun αὐτῶν , “their,” three times repeated. All those absolutely, and only those with whom God makes this covenant, are intended. Those whose sins are not pardoned do in no sense partake of this covenant; it is not made with them. For this is the covenant that God makes with them, that he will be merciful unto their sins; that is, unto them in the pardon of them. Some speak of a universal conditional covenant, made with all mankind. If there be any such thing, it is not that here intended; for they are all actually pardoned with whom this covenant is made. And the indefinite declaration of the nature and terms of the covenant, is not the making of a covenant with any. And what should be the condition of this grace here promised of the pardon of sin? ‘It is,’say they,’that men repent, and believe, and turn to God, and yield obedience unto the gospel.’If so, then men must do all these things before they receive the remission of sins? ‘Yes.’Then must they do them whilst they are under the law, and the curse of it, for so are all men whose sins are not pardoned. This is to make obedience unto the law, and that to be performed by men whilst under the curse of it, to be the condition of gospel-mercy; which is to overthrow both the law and the gospel. ‘But then, on the other hand it will follow,’they say, ‘that men are pardoned before they do believe; which is expressly contrary unto the Scripture.’
(1.) The communication and donation of faith unto us is an effect of the same grace whereby our sins are pardoned; and they are both bestowed on us by virtue of the same covenant.
(2.) The application of pardoning mercy unto our souls is in order of nature consequent unto believing, but in time they go together.
(3.) Faith is not required unto the procuring of the pardon of our sins, but unto the receiving of it: “Whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43.
But that which we shall observe from hence is, that
Obs. 29. The new covenant is made with them alone who effectually and eventually are made partakers of the grace of it. “This is the covenant that I will make with them,..... I will be merciful unto their unrighteousness,” etc. Those with whom the old covenant was made were all of them actual partakers of the benefits of it; and if they are not so with whom the new is made, it comes short of the old in efficacy, and may be utterly frustrated. Neither doth the indefinite proposal of the terms of the covenant prove that the covenant is made with them, or any of them, who enjoy not the benefits of it. Indeed this is the excellency of this covenant, and so it is here declared, that it doth effectually communicate all the grace and mercy contained in it unto all and every one with whom it is made; whomsoever it is made withal, his sins are pardoned.
2. The subject-matter of this promise, is the pardon of sin. And that which we have to consider for the exposition of the words, is.
(1.) What is meant by sins.
(2.) What by the pardon of them.
(3.) What is the reason of the peculiar expression in this place:
(1.) Sin is spoken of with respect unto its guilt especially; so is it the object of mercy and grace. Guilt is the desert of punishment, or the obligation of the sinner unto punishment, by and according unto the sentence of the law. Pardon is the dissolution of that obligation.
Sin is here expressed by three terms, ἀδικία , ἁμαρτία , ἀνομία , “unrighteousness, “sin,” and “transgression, as we render the words. In the prophet there is only חַטָּאת and פֶּשַׁ עַוֹן is wanting. But they are elsewhere all three used, where mention is made of the pardon of sin, or the causes of it; as,
[1.] In the declaration of the name of God with respect thereunto, Exodus 34:7, וָפֶשַׁע וְ חַטָּאָה נֹשֵׂא עָוֹן , “pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin.”
[2.] In the confession of sin, for the removal of it by the expiatory, sacrifice, Leviticus 16:21: “Aaron shall confess over him אֶת־כָּל־עֲוֹנֹת וְאֶת־כָּל־פִּשְׁעֵיהֶם לְכָל־חַטֹּאתָם ,” “all their iniquities, all their transgressions, in all their sins.”
[3.] In the expression of the forgiveness of sin in justification, Psalms 32:1-19.32.2. Wherefore the apostle might justly make up the expression and general enumeration of sins, here defective in the prophet, seeing it is elsewhere so constantly used to the same purpose, and on the like occasion.
Nor are those terms needlessly multiplied, but sundry things we are taught thereby; as,
[1.] That those whom God graciously takes into covenant are many of them antecedently obnoxious unto all sorts of sins.
[2.] That in the grace of the covenant there is mercy provided for the pardon of them all, even of them “from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts 13:39. And that,
[3.] Therefore none should be discouraged from resting on the faithfulness of God in this covenant, who are invited unto a compliance therewith.
But there is yet more intended in the use of these words. For they do distinctly express all those respects of sin in general by which the conscience of a sinner is affected, burdened, and terrified; as also whereon the equity of the curse and punishment for sin doth depend.
The first is ἀδικία , “unrighteousness.” This is usually taken for sins against the second table, or the transgression of that rule of righteousness amongst men which is given by the moral law. But here, as in many other places, it expresseth a general affection of sin with respect unto God. A thing unequal and unrighteous it is, that man should sin against God, his sovereign ruler and benefactor. As God is the supreme lord and governor of all, as he is our only benefactor and rewarder, as all his laws and ways towards us are just and equal, the first notion of righteousness in us is the rendering unto God what is due unto him; that is, universal obedience unto all his commands. Righteousness towards man is but a branch springing from this root; and where this is not, there is no righteousness amongst men, whatever is pretended. If we give not unto God the things that are God’s, it will not avail us to give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, nor unto other men what is their own. And this is the first consideration of sin, that renders the sinner obnoxious unto punishment, and manifests the equity of the sanction of the law; it is an unrighteous thing. Herewith the conscience of the sinner is affected, if he be convinced of sin in a due manner. The original perfection of his nature consisted in this righteousness towards God, by rendering his due unto him in a way of obedience. This is overthrown by sin; which is therefore both shameful and ruinous: which distresseth the conscience, when awakened by conviction.
The second is ἁματία . This is properly a missing of, an erring from that end and scope which it is our duty to aim at. There is a certain end for which we were made, and a certain rule proper unto us whereby we may attain it. And this end being our only blessedness, it is our interest, as it was in the principles of our natures, to be always in a tendency towards it. This is the glory of God, and our eternal salvation in the enjoyment of him. Thereunto the law of God is a perfect guide. To sin, therefore, is to forsake that rule, and to forego therein our aim at that end. It is to place self and the world as our end, in the place of God and his glory, and to take the imaginations of our hearts for our rule. Wherefore the perverse folly that is in sin, in wandering away from the chiefest good as our end, and the best guide as our rule, embracing the greatest evils in their stead, is ἁμαρτία , rendering punishment righteous, and filling the sinner with shame and fear.
There is, thirdly, ἀνομία . We have no one word in our language properly to express the sense hereof; nor is there so in the Latin. We render it “transgression of the law.” ῞Ανομος is a lawless person; whom the Hebrews call “a son of Belial,” one who owns no yoke nor rule; and ἀνομία is a voluntary unconformity unto the law. Herein the formal nature of sin consists, as the apostle tells us, 1 John 3:4. And this is that which in the first place passeth on the conscience of a sinner.
Wherefore, as all sorts of particular sins are included in these multiplied names of sin; so the general nature of sin, in all its causes and respects, terrifying the sinner, and manifesting the righteousness of the curse of the law, is declared and represented by them. And we may learn,
Obs. 30. That the aggravations of sin are great and many, which the consciences of convinced sinners ought to have regard unto.
Obs. 31. There are grace and mercy in the new covenant provided for all sorts of sins, and all aggravations of them, if they be received in a due manner.
Obs. 32. Aggravations of sin do glorify grace in pardon. Therefore doth God here so express them, that he may declare the glory of his grace in their remission.
Obs. 33. We cannot understand aright the glory and excellency of pardoning mercy, unless we are convinced of the greatness and vileness of our sins in all their aggravations.
(2.) That which is promised with respect unto these sins is two ways expressed:
First, ῞Ιλεως ἔσομαι , “I will be merciful.”
Secondly, Οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ ἔτι “I will remember no more.”
It is pardon of sin that is intended in both these expressions; the one respecting the cause of it, the other its perfection and assurance. And two things are considerable in the pardon of sin:
[1.] A respect unto the mediator of the covenant, and the propitiation for sin made by him. Without this there can be no remission, nor is any promised.
[2.] The dissolution of the obligation of the law binding over the guilty sinner unto punishment. These are the essential parts of evangelical pardon, and respect is had in these words unto them both:
1st Ιλεως , which we translate “merciful,” is “propitious,” “gracious” through a propitiation. But the Lord Christ is the only ὶλαστήριον or “propitiation” under the new testament, Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2. And he died εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι , to “propitiate” God for sin; to render him propitious unto sinners, Hebrews 2:17. In him alone God is ἵλεως , “merciful” unto our sins.
2dly . The law, with the sanction of it, was the means appointed of God to bring sin unto a judicial remembrance and trial. Wherefore the dissolution of the obligation of the law unto punishment, which is an act of God, the supreme rector and judge of all, belongeth unto the pardon of sin. This is variously expressed in the Scripture; here by “remembering sin no more.” The assertion whereof is fortified by a double negative. Sin shall never be called legally to remembrance. But the whole doctrine of the pardon of sin I have so largely handled, in the exposition of Psalms 130:0, that I must not here again resume the same argument. 
 See vol. 6 of the author’s miscellaneous words. ED.
᾿Εν τῷ λέγειν , Καινήν , πεπαλαίωκε τὴν πρώτην· τὸ δὲ παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ .
Having in the foregoing verses proved in general the insufficiency of the old covenant, the necessity of the. new, the difference between the one and the other, with the preference of the latter above the former, in all confirming the excellency of the priesthood of Christ above that of Aaron, in this last verse of the chapter he maketh an especial inference from one word in the prophetical testimony, wherein the main truth which he endeavored to confirm with respect unto the Hebrews was asserted. It was their persuasion, that of what sort soever this promised covenant should be, yet the former was still to continue in force, obliging the church unto all the institutions of worship thereunto appertaining. Hereon depended the main controversy that the apostle had with them; for he knew that this persuasion was destructive to the faith of the gospel, and would, if pertinaciously adhered unto, prove ruinous to their own souls Wherefore the contrary hereunto, or the total cessation of the first covenant, he presseth on them with all sorts of arguments; as from the nature, use, and end of it; from its insufficiency to consecrate or make perfect the state of the church; from the various prefigurations and certain predictions of the introduction of another covenant, priesthood, and ordinances of worship, which were better than those that belonged unto it, and inconsistent with them; with many other cogent evidences to the same purpose. Here he fixeth on a new argument in particular, to prove the necessity and certainty of its abolition; and hereby, according unto his wonted manner, he makes a transition unto his following discourse, wherein he proves the same truth from the distinct consideration of the use and end of the institutions, ordinances, and sacrifices belonging unto that covenant. This he pursues unto the 19th verse of the 10th chapter; and so returns unto the parenetical part of the epistle, making due applications of what he had now fully evinced.
Hebrews 8:13 . In that he saith, A new [ covenant ] , he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
A double argument the apostle here maketh use of:
1. From a special word or testimony.
2. From a general maxim of truth in all kinds:
1. In the former we may consider,
(1.) The testimony he makes use of;
(2.) The inference unto his own purpose which he makes from it:
(1.) The first consisteth in the adjunct of this other promised covenant. It is called by God himself new: ᾿Εν τῷ λέγειν , Καινήν , “In that,” or “Whereas it is said, A new;” or, ‘In that he calleth it, nameth it, A new.’So it is expressly in the prophet, “Behold, I will make a new covenant.” Thus every word of the Holy Ghost, though but occasional unto the principal subject spoken of, is sufficient evidence of what may be deduced from it. And by this kind of arguing we are taught, that the word of God is full of holy mysteries, if with humility, and under the conduct of his Holy Spirit, we do, as we ought, diligently inquire into them. This, therefore, he layeth down as the foundation of his present argument, That God himself doth not call this promised covenant another covenant, or a second, nor only declare the excellency of it; but signally calls it “a new covenant.”
(2.) That which he infers from hence is, that πεπαλαίωκε τὴν πρώτην , “he hath made the first old.” The force of the argument doth not lie in this, that he calleth the second new; but that he would not have done so had not he made the first old. For πεπαλαίωκε is of an active signification, and denotes an authoritative act of God upon the old covenant, whereof the calling the other new was a sign and evidence. He would not have done so, but that he made the other old; for with respect thereunto this is called new. But yet it was the designation of the new covenant that was the foundation of making the other old.
The word respecting the time past, we must inquire what time it doth refer unto. And this must be either the time of the prediction and promise of the new covenant, or the time of its introduction and establishment. And it is the first season that is intended. For the introduction of the new covenant did actually take away and abolish the old, making it to disappear; but the act of God here intended, is only his making it old in order thereunto. And he did this upon and by the giving of this promise, and afterwards by various acts, and in various degrees.
[1.] He did it by calling the faith of the church from resting in it, through the expectation of the bringing in of a better in the room of it. This brought it under a decay in their minds, and gave it an undervaluation unto what it had before. They were now assured that something much better would in due time be introduced. Hence, although they abode in the observation of the duties and worship it required, it being the will of God that so they should do, yet this expectation of and longing after the better covenant now promised, made it decay in their minds and affections. So did God make it old.
[2.] He did it by a plain declaration of its infirmity, weakness, and insufficiency for the great ends of a perfect covenant between God and the church. Many things unto this purpose might have been collected out of the nature of its institutions and promises, from the first giving of it, as is done by our apostle in his present discourses. But these things were not clearly understood by any in those days; and as to the most, the veil was on them, so that they could not see at all unto the end of the things that were to be done away. But now, when God himself comes positively to declare by that prophet that it was weak and insufficient, and therefore he would make another, a better, with them; this made it old, or declared it to be in a tendency unto a dissolution.
[3.] From the giving of this promise, God did variously by his providence break in upon and weaken its administration; which by its decaying age was more and more manifested. For,
1st . Immediately after the giving of this promise, the Babylonian captivity gave a total intercision and interruption unto the whole administration of it for seventy years. This, having never before fallen out from the making of it on mount Sinai, was an evident token of its approaching period, and that God would have the church to live without it.
2dly . Upon the return of the people from their captivity, neither the temple, nor the worship of it, nor any of the administrations of the covenant, nor the priesthood, were ever restored unto their pristine beauty and glory. And whereas the people in general were much distressed at the apprehension of its decay, God comforts them, not with any intimation that things under that covenant should ever be brought into a better condition, but only with an expectation of His coming amongst them who would put an utter end unto all the administrations of it, Haggai 2:6-37.2.9. And from that time forward it were easy to trace the whole process of it, and to manifest how it continually declined towards its end.
Thus did God make it old, by variously disposing of it unto its end; and to give an evidence thereof, called the other covenant which he would make, a new one. And it did not decay of itself. For no institution of God will ever wax old of itself; will ever decay, grow infirm, or perish, unless it be disannulled by God himself. Length of time will not consume divine institutions; nor can the sins of men abate their force. He only that sets them up can take them down.
And this is the first argument of the apostle, taken from this testimony, to prove that the first covenant was to be abolished.
2. But whereas it may be questioned whether it directly follows or no, that it must be taken away because it is made old, he confirms the truth of his inference from a general maxim, which hath the nature of a new argument also. “Now,” saith he, “that which decayeth and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away.”
“Old” is significative of that which is to have an end, and which draws towards its end. Every thing that can wax old hath an end; and that which doth so, draws towards that end. So the psalmist affirming that the heavens themselves shall perish, adds, as a proof thereof, “They shall wax old as a garment;” and then none can doubt but they must have an end, as unto their substance or their use. There are in the words,
(1.) The notation of the subject, τὸ δέ , “but that,” or ‘that, whatever it be.’The general rule gives evidence unto the former inference, ‘Whatever it be that waxeth old.’
(2.) The description of it in a double expression, παλαιούμενον and γηράσκον . The words are generally supposed to be synonymous, and to be used for emphasis only. We express the first by decay, “that which decayeth,” to avoid the repetition of the same word, we having no other to express “waxing old,” or “made old,” by. But παλαιούμενον is not properly “that which decayeth;” it is that which hath the effect passively of πεπαλαίωκε , “that which is made old;” and it properly respecteth things. Things are so said to be made old, not persons. But the other word, γηράσκον , respects persons, not things. Men, and not inanimate things, are said γηράσκειν . Wherefore although the apostle might have used a pleonasm to give emphasis unto his assertion, and to aver the certainty of the end of the old covenant, yet nothing hinders but that we may think that he had respect unto the things and persons that belonged unto its administration.
That which is affirmed of this subject of the proposition, is, that it is ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ , “near unto a disappearance;” that is, an abolition and taking out of the way. The proposition is universal, and holds absolutely in all things, as is evident in the light of nature. Whatever brings things unto a decay and age will bring them unto an end; for decay and age are the expressions of a tendency unto an end. Let an angel live never so long, he waxeth not old, because he cannot die. Waxing old is absolutely opposed unto an eternal duration, Psalms 102:26-19.102.27.
It being the removal of the old covenant and all its administrations that is respected, it may be inquired why the apostle expresseth it by ἀφανισμός , “a disappearance,” or “vanishing out of sight.” And respect may be had herein,
(1.) To the glorious outward appearance of the administrations of it. This was that which greatly captivated the minds and affections of those Hebrews unto it. They were carnal themselves, and these things, the fabric of the temple, the ornaments of the priests, the order of their worship, had a glory in them which they could behold with their carnal eyes, and cleave unto with their carnal affections. The ministration of the letter was glorious. ‘All this glory,’saith the apostle, ‘shall shortly disappear, shall vanish out of your sight,’according to the prediction of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:0.
(2.) To the gradual removal of it. It departed as a thing will by its removal out of our sight. We by little and little lose the prospect of it, until it utterly disappears. How it was made so to disappear, at what time, in what degrees, by what acts of divine authority, must be spoken unto distinctly elsewhere. All the glorious institutions of the law were at best but as stars in the firmament of the church, and therefore were all to disappear at the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
Τῷ Θεῷ δόξα .
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Owen, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". "Owen's Exposition of Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent