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Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1
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DISPUTATION 13

ON THE COMPARISON OF THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

RESPONDENT: PETER CUNÆUS

I. Since the law ought to be considered in two respects, not only as it was originally delivered to men constituted in primitive innocence, but also as it was given to Moses and imposed on sinners, (on which account it has in the Scriptures obtained the name of "the Old Testament," or "the Old Covenant,") it may very properly, according to this two-fold respect, be compared with the Gospel, which has received the appellation of "the New Testament" as it is opposed to the Old. This may be done in reference both to their agreement and their difference; indeed, it would-be inconvenient for us to take their agreement generally into consideration without their difference, lest we should be compelled twice to repeat the same thing.

II. The law, therefore, both as it was first delivered to Adam and as it was given by Moses, agrees with the Gospel, (1.) In the general consideration of having one Author. For one and the same God is the author of both, who delivered the law as a legislator; (Gen. ii. 17; Exod. xx. 2;) but he promulgated the Gospel as the Father of mercies and the God of all grace: whence the former is frequently denominated "the law of God," and the latter "the Gospel of God." (Rom. i, 1.) (2.) In the general relation of their matter. For the doctrine of each consists of a command to obedience, and of the promise of a reward. On this account each of them has the name of hrwt "the law," which is also commonly ascribed to both in the Scriptures. (Isa. ii. 3.) (3.) In the general consideration of their end, which is the glory of the wisdom, goodness and justice of God. (4.) In their common subject, as not being distinguished by special respects. For the law was imposed on men, and to men also was the gospel manifested.

III. There is, besides, a certain proper agreement of the law, as it was delivered to Adam, with the Gospel; from which agreement the law, as given through Moses, is excluded: it is placed in the possibility of its performance. For Adam was able, with the aid of God, to fulfill the law by those powers which he had received in creation: otherwise, transgression could not have been imputed to him for a crime. The gospel also is inscribed in the hearts of those who are in covenant with God, that they may be able to fulfill the condition which it prescribes.

IV. But the difference between the law, as it was first delivered, and the gospel, consists principally in the following particulars. (1.) In the special respect of the Author. For, in the exercise of benevolence to his innocent creature, God delivered the law without regard to Christ, yet of strict justice requiring obedience, with the promise of a reward and the denunciation of a punishment. But in the exercise of grace and mercy, and having respect to Christ his anointed one, God revealed the Gospel; and, through justice attempered with mercy, promulgated his demands and his promises. (2.) In the particular relation of its matter. For the law says, "Do this, and thou shalt live." (Rom. x. 5.) But the Gospel says, "If thou wilt BELIEVE, thou shalt be saved." And this difference lies not only in the postulate, from which the former is called "the law of works," but the Gospel "the law of faith," (Rom. iii. 27,) but also in the promise: for though in each of them eternal life was promised, yet by the Gospel it was to be conferred as from death and ignominy, but by the law as from natural felicity. (2 Tim. i. 10.) Besides, in the Gospel is announced remission of sins, as preparatory to life eternal; of which no mention is made in the [Adamic] law; because neither was this remission necessary to one who was not a sinner, nor would its announcement have [then] been useful to him, although he might afterwards have become a sinner.

V. (3.) They likewise differ in the mode of remuneration. For according to the [primeval] law, "To him that WORKED, the reward would be of debt;" (Rom. iv. 4;) and to him that transgressed, the punishment inflicted would be of the severity of strict justice. But to him that BELIEVETH, the reward is bestowed of grace; and to him that believeth not, condemnation is due according to justice tempered with clemency in Christ Jesus. (John iii. 16, 19; xi, 41.) They are discriminated in the special consideration of their subject. For the law was delivered to man while innocent, and already constituted in the favour of God. (Gen. ii. 17.) But the Gospel was bestowed upon man as a sinner, and one who was to be brought back into the favour of God, because it is "the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. v. 19.) (5.) They differ in the peculiar respect of their end. For by the law are illustrated the wisdom, goodness, and strict justice of God: but by the Gospel is manifested a far more illustrious display of the wisdom of God, of his goodness united with gracious mercy, and of justice mildly attempered in Christ Jesus. (1 Cor. i. 20-24; Ephes. i. 8; Rom. iii. 24-26.)

THE LAW OF MOSES

VI. But the difference between the law, as it was given by Moses, and is styled "the Old Testament," and the gospel as it comes under the appellation of "the New Testament," lies according to the Scriptures in the following particulars. (1.) In the distinct property of God who instituted them. For He made the old covenant, as one who was angry at the sins which remained without expiation under the preceding [Adamic] covenant. (Heb. ix. 5, 15.) But He instituted the new, as being reconciled, or, at least as about to accomplish reconciliation by that covenant, in the Son of his love, and by the word of his grace. (2 Cor. v. 17-21; Ephes. ii. 16, 17.) (2.) In the mode of institution, which corresponds in each of them to the condition of the things to be instituted. For the law of Moses was delivered with the most obvious signs of the Divine displeasure and of God’s dreadful judgment against sins and sinners. But the gospel was given with assured tokens of benevolence, good pleasure and love in Christ. Hence the Apostle says: "For ye are not come unto the mount which might be touched and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness, and tempest," &c. "But ye are come unto Mount Sion," &c. (Heb. xii. 18-24.) (3.) In the substance of the commands and promises. For the commands of the law were chiefly carnal, (Heb. vii. 16,) and contained "the handwriting of ordinances which was contrary to us:" (Col. ii. 14.) Most of the promises were likewise corporal, and stipulated engagements for an earthly inheritance, which suited "the old man." (Heb. x. 1.) But the gospel is spiritual, (John iv. 21, 23,) containing spiritual commands and the promise of a heavenly inheritance agreeing with "the new man;" (Heb. viii. 6; Ephes. i. 3,) though it promises earthly blessings, as additions, to those who "seek first the kingdom God and his righteousness." (Matt. vi. 33.)

VII. (4.) We place the fourth difference in the Mediator or Intercessor. For Moses is the mediator of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ of the, New. (Gal. iii. 19; Heb. ix. 15.) The law was given by a servant, but the gospel was given by the Lord himself revealed. (Heb. iii. 5, 6.) "The law was given by Moses; Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1, 17.) The law was given by the hands of a mediator, (Gal. iii. 19,) agreeably to what is mentioned in other passages; (Lev. xxvi. 46; Deut. v. 26-31;) and Christ is styled "the Mediator of the New Testament." (Heb. ix. 16.) (5.) They also differ in the blood employed for the confirmation of each Testament. The old covenant was ratified by the blood of animals; (Exod. xxiv. 5, 6; Heb. ix. 18-20;) but the new one was confirmed by the precious blood of the Son of God, (Heb. ix. 14,) which is likewise on this account called "the blood of the New Testament." (Matt. xxvi. 28.) (6.) They differ in the place of their promulgation. For the Old Covenant was promulgated from Mount Sinai; (Exod. xix. 18;) But the New one "went forth out of Zion and from Jerusalem." (Isa. ii. 3; Micah iv. 2.) This difference is likewise pointed out in the plainest manner by the Apostle Paul. (Gal. iv. 24-31; Heb. xii. 18-21.)

VIII. (7.) The seventh difference shall be taken from the subject, both those to whom each was given, and on whom each was inscribed. The old law was given to the "old man." The New Testament was instituted for "the new man." From this circumstance, St. Augustine supposes that these two Testaments have obtained the appellation of "the Old" and of "the New Testament." The old law was inscribed on "tables of stone" (Exod. xxx. 1, 18.) But the gospel is "written in fleshly tables" (Jer. xxxi. 33; 2 Cor. iii. 3.) (8.) The eighth difference is in their adjuncts: and this in two ways:

(i.) The old law was "weak and beggarly," and incapable of giving life. (Gal. iv. 9; iii, 21.) But the gospel contains the unsearchable riches of Christ," (Ephes. iii. 8,) and "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom. i. 16.) (ii.) The old law was an insupportable burden, which "neither the Jews nor their fathers were able to bear." (Acts xv. 10.) But the gospel contains "the yoke" of Jesus Christ, which is "easy," and "his burden," which is "light" (Matt. xi. 29, 30.)

IX. (9.) The ninth difference shall be taken from the versity of their effects. For the Old Testament is "the letter which killeth," "the administration of death and of condemnation." But the New Testament is "the Spirit that giveth life," "the ministration of the Spirit of righteousness, and of life" (2 Cor. iii. 6-11.) The Old Covenant resembled Agar, and "gendered to bondage;" the New like Sarah, begets unto liberty. (Gal. iv. 23, 24.) "The law entered, that the offense might abound," (Rom. v. 20,) and it "worketh wrath" (iv, 15.) But "the blood of the New Testament," exhibited in the gospel, (Matt. xxvi. 28,) expiates sin, (Heb. ix. 14, 15,) and "speaketh better things than that of Abel" (12, 24.)

The Old Testament is the bond on which sins are written:

(Col. ii. 14) but the gospel is the proclamation of liberty, and the doctrine of the cross, to which was nailed the bond, or "hand-writing against us," and was by this very act, "taken out of the way." (10.) The tenth difference shall be placed in the time, both of the promulgation of each, and of their duration. The Old Testament was promulgated when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Jer. xxxi. 32.) But the New, at a later age, and in these last times. (Heb. viii. 8, 9.) It was designed that the Old Testament should endure down to the advent of Christ, and afterwards be abolished. (Gal. iii. 19; Heb. vii. 18; 2 Cor. iii. 10.) But the New Testament continueth forever, being confirmed by the blood of the great High Priest, "who was made a priest after the power of an endless life" by the word of an oath, (Heb. vii. 16-20,) and "through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God." (ix, 14.) From this last difference, it is probable, the appellations of "the Old Testament" and "the New," derived their origin.

THE SAINTS UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT

X. But, lest any one should suppose that the Fathers who lived under the law and the Old Testament, were entirely destitute of grace, faith and eternal life; it is to be recollected that even at that period, the promise was in existence which had been made to Adam concerning "the Seed of the woman," (Gen. iii. 15,) which also concerned the seed of Abraham, to whom "the promises were made," (Gal. iii. 16,) and in whom "all the kindreds of the earth were to be blessed;" (Acts iii. 25;) and that these promises were received in faith by the holy fathers. As this promise is comprehended by divines under the name of "the Old Testament," taken in a wide acceptation, and is called by the apostle, diaqhkh "the covenant," (Gal. iii. 17,) as well as, in the plural, "the covenants of promise;" (Ephes. ii. 12;) let us also consider how far "this covenant of promise," and the New Testament, and the gospel so called, by way of excellence, as being the completion of the promises, (Gal. iii. 16, 17,) and as being the promise," (Heb. ix. 15,) agree with and differ from each other.

XI. We place the Agreement in those things which concern the substance of each. For, (1.) With regard to the Efficient Cause, both of them were confirmed through the mere grace and mercy of God who had respect unto Christ. (2.) The matter of each was one and the same: that is, "the obedience of faith" was required in both, (Gen. xv. 6; Rom. 4; Heb. 11,) and the inheritance of eternal life was promised through the imputation of the righteousness of faith, and through gracious adoption in Christ. (Rom. ix. 4; Heb. xi. 8.) (3.) One object, that is Christ, who was promised to the fathers in the prophetical scriptures, and whom God has exhibited in the Gospel. (Acts iii. 19, 20; xiii, 32.) (4.) One end, the praise of the glorious Grace of God in Christ. (Rom. iv. 2, 3.) (5.) Both these covenants were entered into with men invested in the same formal relation, that is, with men as sinners, and to those "who work not, but who believe on Him that justifies the ungodly." (Rom. ix. 8, xi, 30-33.) (6.) Both of them have the same Spirit witnessing, or sealing the truth of each in the minds of those who are parties to the covenant. (2 Cor. iv. 13.) For since "the adoption" and "the inheritance" pertain likewise to the fathers in the Old Testament, (Rom. ix. 4; Gal. iii. 18,) "the Spirit of adoption," who is "the earnest of the inheritance," cannot be denied to them. (Rom. viii. 15; Ephes. i. 14) (7.) They agree in their effects. For both the covenants beget children to liberty: "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Rom. ix. 7.) "So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free; and are, as Isaac was, the children of promise." (Gal. iv. 31, 28.) Both of them administer the righteousness of faith, and the inheritance through it. (Rom. iv. 13.) Both excite spiritual joy in the hearts of believers. (John viii. 56; Luke ii. 10.) (8.) Lastly, they agree in this particular—that both of them were confirmed by the oath of God. Neither of them, therefore, was to be abolished, but the former was to be fulfilled by the latter. (Heb. vi. 13, 14, 17; vii, 20, 21.)

XII. But there is a Difference in some accidental circumstances which derogate nothing from their substantial unity. (1.) Respecting the accident of their object: For when the advent of Christ drew near, He was offered by promise. (Mal. iii. 1.) But He is now manifested in the Gospel. (1 John i. 1, 2; iv, 14) (2.) Hence also arises the second difference, respecting the accident of the faith required on their object. For as present and past things are more clearly known than future things, so the faith in Christ to come was more obscure, than the faith which beholds a present Christ. (Heb. xi. 13; Num. xiv. 17.) (3.) To these let the third difference be added—that Christ with his benefits was formerly proposed to the Israelites under types and shadows:

(Heb. 12; Gal. iii. 16) But He is now offered in the Gospel "to be beheld with open face," and the reality of the things themselves and "the body" are exhibited. (2 Cor. iii. 18; John i. 17; Col. ii. 17; Gal. iii. 13, 25.) (4.) This diversity of administrations displays the fourth difference in the heir himself. For the apostle compares the children of Israel to the heir, who is "a child," and who required the superintendance of "tutors and governors:" but he compares believers under the New Testament to an adult heir. (Gal. iv. 1-5.) (5.) Hence is deduced a fifth difference-that the infant heir, as "differing nothing from a servant" was held in bondage under the economy of the ceremonial law; from which servitude are liberated those persons who have believed in Christ after the expiration of "the time of tutelage before appointed of the Father." (6.) To this condition the Spirit of the infant heir is also accommodated, and will afford us the sixth difference that the heir was in truth under the influence of "the Spirit of adoption," but, because he was then only an infant, this Spirit was intermixed with that of fear; but the adult heir is under the complete influence of "the Spirit of adoption," to the entire exclusion of that of fear. (Rom. viii. 15; Gal. iv. 6.) (7.) The seventh difference consists in the number of those who are called to the communion of each of these covenants. The promise was confined within the boundaries of "the commonwealth of Israel," from which the Gentiles were "aliens," being also "strangers from the covenants of promise." (Ephes. ii. 11-13, 17.) But the Gospel is announced to every creature that is under heaven, and the mound of separation is completely removed. (Matt. xxviii. 19; Mark xvi. 15; Col. i. 13.)

XIII. But these three, the Law, the Promise, and the Gospel, may become subjects of consideration in another order, either as opposed among themselves, or as subordinate to each other. The condition of the law, therefore, as it was delivered to Adam, excludes the necessity of making the promise and announcing the Gospel; and, on the other hand, the necessity of making the promise and announcing the Gospel, declares, that man has not obeyed the law which was given to him. For justification cannot be at once both "of grace" and "of debt;" nor can it, at the same time, admit and exclude "boasting." (Gal. ii. 17; Rom. iv. 4, 5; iii, 27.) It was also proper that the promise should precede the Gospel, and should in return be fulfilled by the Gospel: for, as it was not befitting that such a great blessing should be bestowed unless it were ardently desired, so it was improper that the desire of the earnest expectants should be frustrated. (1 Pet. i. 10-12; Hag. ii. 7; Mal. iii. 1.) Nor was it less equitable, that, after the promise had been made, the law should be economically repeated, by which might be rendered apparent the necessity of the grace of the promise, (Gal. iii. 19-24; Acts xiii. 38, 39,) and that, being convinced of this necessity, they might be compelled to flee to its shelter. (Gal. ii. 15, 16.) The use of the law was also serviceable to the Gospel which was to be received by faith. (Col. ii. 14, 17.) While the promise was in existence, it was also the will of God to add other precepts, and especially such as were ceremonial, by which sin might be ["sealed home,"] or testified against, and a previous intimation might be given of the completion of the promise. And when the promise was fulfilled, it was the will of God that these additional precepts should be abrogated, as having completed their functions. (Heb. x. 9, 10.) Lastly, the moral law ought to serve both to the promise and to the Gospel, which have now been received by faith, as a rule according to which believers ought to conform their lives. (Psalm cxix. 105; Tit. iii. 8.) But may God grant, that from his word we may be enabled still more clearly to understand this glorious economy of his, to his glory, and for gathering together in Christ!"

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