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Of Christ’s prophetical office.
The eighth chapter in Mr Biddle is of Christ’s prophetical office, or his entrance into a dealing with Christ in respect of his offices, as he hath done with him in respect of his person already.
His first question is, —
Ques. Is not Christ dignified, as with the title of mediator, so also with that of prophet?
Ans. Acts iii. 20, 22.
1. Mr B. tells us, chap. iv., that Christ is dignified with the title of God, though he be not so; and here that he is dignified with the title of a prophet, but leaves it at large whether he were so indeed or no. We are resolved in the case. The first promise made of him by God to Adam was of him generally as a mediator, particularly as a priest, as he was to break the head of Satan by the bruising of his own heel; the next solemn renovation of it to Abraham was of him as king, taking all nations to be his inheritance; and the third by Moses, after the giving of the law, as a prophet to teach and instruct his redeemed people, Gen. iii. 15, xii. 2, 3, Deut. xviii. 18. And a prophet he is, the great prophet of his church; not only dignified with that title, but so he is indeed.
2. But says Mr B., “He is dignified with the title of a prophet as well as of mediator,” — as though his being a prophet were contradistinguished from his being a mediator. Christ’s teaching of his people is part of the mediation he hath undertaken. All that he doth on their part in offering gifts and sacrifices to God for them, all that he doth on the part of God towards them by instructing and ruling of them, he doth as he is the mediator between God and man, the surety of the covenant. He is not, then, a mediator and a prophet, but he who is the mediator is the high priest and prophet of his church. Nor are there any acts that he exerciseth on the one or other of these accounts but they are all acts of his mediation, and of him as a mediator. Mr B., indeed, tells us not what he understands by the mediation of Christ. His masters so describe it as to make it all one with his prophetical office, and nothing else; which makes me somewhat to wonder why this man seems to distinguish between them.
3. Many more notions of Mr B.’s masters are here omitted; as, that Christ was not the prophet of his people under the old testament, though by his Spirit he preached even to those that were disobedient in the days of Noah, and it was the Spirit of Christ that was in all the prophets of old, whereby God instructed his church, 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, i. 11; — that he is a prophet only because he hath given unto us a new law, though he promise effectually to open blind eyes, and to send his Spirit to teach us and to lead us into all truth, giving us understanding that we may know him that is true, Isa. lxi. 1; Luke iv. 18; John xvi. 7–13; 1 John v. 20. But he lays dirt enough in our way, so that we shall not need farther to rake into the dunghill.
4. I should not have thought that Mr B. could have taken advantage for his end and purpose from the place of Scripture he mentions, Acts iii. 20, 22, “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me,” but that I find him in his next query repeating that expression, “Like unto me,” and wresting of it to be the foundation of a conceit plainly jocular. Christ was like to Moses as he was a prophet, and like to Aaron as he was a priest, and like to David as he was a king; that is, he was represented and typified by all these, and had that likeness to them which the antitype (as the thing typified is usually but improperly called) hath to the type: but that therefore he must not only be like them in the general office wherein the correspondency doth Consist, but also in all the particular concernments of the office as by them administered, is to confound the type and the antitype (or rather thing typified.) Nor do the words used, either by Moses, Deut. xviii. 18, or by Peter, Acts iii. 22, intimate any such similitude or likeness between Christ and Moses as should extend to such particulars as are afterward intimated. The words of Peter are, “God shall raise you up a prophet, ὡς ἐμέ,” rather “as he raised up me,” than “like unto me,” not the least similitude being intimated between them but in this, that they were both prophets, and were both to be hearkened unto. And so the word used by God to Moses, כָּמוֹךָ, “sicut te” (“a prophet as thou art”), doth import, “I will raise up one that shall be a prophet as thou art a prophet.” The likeness is only in the office. For such a similitude as should give the least occasion to Mr B.’s following figments there is no colour. And so the whole foundation being rooted up, the tottering superstruction will easily fall to the ground. But then to proceed:—
Q. Forasmuch as Christ was to be a prophet like unto Moses, and Moses had the privilege above other prophets that God made not himself known to him in a vision, nor spake to him in a dream, but face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend, and showed to him the similitude of the Lord, Exod. xxxiii. 11, Num. xii. 6–8, can you tell any passage of Scripture which intimateth that Christ did see God before the discharge of his prophetical office?
A. John vi. 45, 46, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is from God, he hath seen the Father.”
1. This passage is indeed very pretty, whether the principles or the inferences of it are considered.
The principles of it are sundry:— (1.) That God hath a bodily shape and similitude, face and hands, and the like corporeal properties;380380 See chap. iii. (2.) That Moses saw the face of God as the face of a man;381381 Ἀπὸ εἰκόνος οὐ γνωωρίζεται ὀφθαλμοῖς οὐκ ὁρᾶρται οὐδενὶ ἔοικε. — Antiphanes. de Deo. (3.) That Christ was in all things like Moses, so that what Moses did he must do also. Therefore, (1.) Christ did see the face of God as a man; (2.) He did it before he entered on his prophetical office; whereunto add, (3.) The.proof of all, “No man hath seen the Father, save he which is from God.” That is, Christ only saw the face of God, and no man else, when the ground of the whole fiction is that Moses saw it before him!
2. Of the bodily shape of God, and of Moses seeing his face, I have already spoken that which Mr B. will not take out of his way. Of Christ’s being like Moses something also hath now been delivered.
That which, Exod. xxxiii. 11, in the Hebrew is פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים, panim el panim, the LXX. have rendered ἐνώπιος ἐνωπίῳ, — that is, “præsens præsenti,” “as one present with him;” and the Chaldee paraphrast, “verbum ad verbum,” — that is, God dealt with him kindly and familiarly, not with astonishing terror, and gave him an intimate acquaintance with his mind and will. And the same expression is used concerning God’s speaking to all the people, Deut. v. 4; of whom yet it is expressly said that they saw no likeness at all, chap. iv. 12.382382 “Facie in faciem, ita ut homines cum hominibus colloquentes solent: quod refer ad vocum perceptionem distinctam; non ad conspicuum aliquod, Nihil enim viderunt.” — Grot. Annot. in loc.
If from the likeness mentioned there must be a sameness asserted unto the particular attendancies of the discharge of that office, then Christ must divide the sea, lift up a brazen serpent, and die in a mountain, and be buried by God where no man could ever know. Moses, indeed, enjoyed an eminency of revelation above other prophets, which is called his conversing with God as a friend, and beholding him face to face, but even in that wherein he is exalted above all others, he is infinitely short of the great Prophet of his church: for Moses, indeed, as a servant was faithful in all the house of God, but this man is over his own house; whose house we are, Heb. iii. 5, 6.
3. This figment is for ever and utterly everted by the Holy Ghost, John i. 17, 18, where he expressly urges a dissimilitude between Moses and the only-begotten Son in that particular wherein this gentleman would have the likeness to consist “Herein,” says Mr B., “is Christ like to Moses, that as Moses saw God face to face, so he saw God face to face.” “No,” saith the Holy Ghost; “the law, indeed, was given by Moses, but no man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” It is true that it is said of Moses that “God spake to him face to face,” — that is, in a more clear and familiar manner than he did to other prophets, — though he told him plainly that he should not, or could not, see his face, Exod. xxxiii. 18–23, though he gave him some lower manifestations of his glory: so that notwithstanding the revelations made to him, “no man hath seen God at any time, but the only-begotten Son.” He who is of the same nature and essence with the Father, and is in his bosom love, he hath seen him, John vi. 46; and in this doth Moses, being a man only, come infinitely short of the only-begotten Son, in that he could never see God, which He did: which is also asserted in the place of Scripture cited by Mr B.
4. To lay this axe, then, also to the root of Mr B.’s tree, to cut it down for the fire: The foundation of Christ’s prophetical office, as to his knowledge of the will of his Father, which he was to reveal, doth not consist in his being “taken up into heaven,” and there being taught the will of God in his human nature, but in that he was the “only-begotten Son of the Father,” who eternally knew him and his whole will and mind, and, in the dispensation which he undertook, revealed him and his mind, according as it was appointed to him. In respect, indeed, of his human nature, wherein he declared and preached the will of God, he was taught of God, being filled with wisdom and understanding by the Spirit, whereby he was anointed for that purpose; but as the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, he always saw him, knew him, and revealed him, Luke iv. 18; Isa. lxi. 1; Heb. i. 9.
I shall only add, that this fancy of Mr B. and the rest of the Socinians (Socinianism being, indeed, a kind of modest and subtile Mohammedanism383383 “Socinismus est verecundior aut subtilior Mahumetismus. Censemus scripta Socinianorum ad Turcismum proxime accedere.” — Censu. Facult. Theol. Leyd., anno 1598.), of Christ’s seeing God, as did Moses, seems to be taken from, or taken up to comply with, the Alcoran, where the same is affirmed of Mohammed. So Beidavi on these words of, the Alcoran, “Et sunt ex iis quibuscum locutus est ipse Deus.” Saith he, “Est hic Moses; aut juxta alios Moses et Mahumed, super quibus Pax; Mosi Deus locutus est ea nocte, qua in exstasi quasi fuit in monte Sinai. Mahumedi vero locutus est illa nocte, qua scalis cœlo admotis, angelos vidit ascendere, tunc enim vix jactum duarum sagittarum ab eo fuit.” How near Moses came is not expressed, but Mohammed came within two bow-shots of him! How near the Socinian Christ came I know not, nor doth Mr B. inform us.
But yet as Mr B. eats his word as to Moses, and after he had affirmed that he saw the face of God, says he only saw the face of an angel, so do the Mohammedans also as to the vision of their prophet, who tell us that indeed he was not able to see an angel in his own proper shape, as Socinus says we cannot see a spiritual body, though Mr B. thinks that we may see God’s right hand and his left. But of this you have a notable story in Kessæus. Saith he, “They report of the prophet that on a certain day, or once upon a time, he said to Gabriel, O Gabriel, I desire to see thee in the form of thy great shape or figure, wherein God created thee. Gabriel said to him, O beloved of God, my shape is very terrible; no man can see it, and so not thou, but he will fall into a swoon. Mohammed answered, Although it be so, yet I would see thee in a bigger shape. Gabriel therefore answered, O beloved of God, where dost thou desire to see me? Mohammed answered, Without the city of Mecca, in the stony village. Says Gabriel, That village will not hold me. Therefore answered Mohammed, Let it be in mount Orphath. That is a larger and fitter place, says Gabriel. Away, therefore, went Mohammed to mount Orphath, and, behold, Gabriel with a great noise covered the whole horizon with his shape; which when the prophet saw, he fell upon the earth in a swoon. When, therefore, Gabriel, on whom be peace, had returned to his former shape, he came to the prophet, and embracing and kissing him, said to him, Fear not, O beloved of God, I am thy brother Gabriel. The prophet answers, Thou speakest truly, O my brother Gabriel; I could never have thought that any creature of God had had such a figure or shape. Gabriel answered, O beloved of God, what wouldst thou say if thou sawest the shape of the angel Europhil?”384384 “Tradunt de prophets quod die quodam dixerit Gabrieli, O Gabriel, optem to in specie figurnæ turn magnæ videre, secundum quam Deus creavit te. Dixit Gabriel, O dilecte Deo, est figura mea valde terribilis; nemo eam poterit videre, et sic neque tu, quin animi deliquium passus concidat. Reponit Mahumed, Etsi maxime ita sit, velim tamen to videre in figura majori. Respondit ergo Gabriel, O dilecte Deo, ubi me videre desideras? Extra urbem Meccam, respondit Mahumed, in villa lapidosa. Dixit Gabriel, Villa ista me non capiet. Ergo respondit Mahumed, In monte Orphath. Hic, inquit Gabriel, locus aptior erit et capacior. Abiit ergo Mahumed in montem Orphath, et ecce Gabriel, cum magno fragore et strepitu, totum figura sua operiens horizontem; quod cum propheta vidisset, concidit, deliquium passus, in terram. Ubi vero Gabriel, super quo pax, ad priorem rediisset figuram, accessit ad prophetam, eumque amplexus et osculatus, ita compellavit, Ne timeas, O dilecte Deo, sum enim frater tuus Gabriel. Dixit propheta, Vera dixisti, O frater mi Gabriel: nunquam existimassem ullum esse Dei creaturam tanta præditam figura. Respondit Gabriel, O dilecte Deo, quid si igitur videres figuram Europhil angeli?” — Kessæus Vit. Patr. p. 12, Interpret. Hotting.
They who know any thing of the Mohammedan forgeries and abominations, in applying things spoken of in the Scripture to their great impostor, will quickly perceive the composition of this fiction from what is spoken of Moses and Daniel. This lying knave, it seems, was of Mr B.’s mind, that it was not God indeed, but an angel, that appeared to Moses on mount Sinai; and thence is this tale, which came to pass “once upon a time.” He proceeds:—
Q. From whence doth it appear that Christ, like Moses, heard from God the things that he spake?
All the difficulty of this question ariseth from these words, “Like Moses;” and the sense by Mr B. put upon them, — how falsely, holy inconsistently with himself, with what perverting of the Scripture, — hath been declared. The scriptures in the answer affirm only that Christ “heard and was taught of the Father;” which is not at all denied, but only the modus that Mr B. would impose upon the words is rejected. Christ “heard of the Father,”385385 Isa. xlii. 1, 19; Phil. ii. 7; Isa. lii. 13, lxi. 1. who taught him, as his servant in the work of mediation, by his Spirit, wherewith he was anointed; but it is his “going into heaven” to hear a lesson with his bodily ears which Mr B. aims at, and labours under the next query to prove, — how unsuccessfully shall briefly be demonstrated. Saith he, —
Q. Can you farther cite any passage to prove that Christ as a man ascended into heaven, and was there, and came from God out of heaven, before he showed himself to the world and discharged his prophetical office, so that the talking of Moses with God, in the person of an angel bearing the name of God, was but a shadow of Christ’s talking with God?
We are come now to the head of this affair, to that which has been aimed at all along in the former queries The sum is: “Christ until the time of his baptism was ignorant of the mind and will of God, and knew not what he was to do or to declare to the world, nor what he came into the world for, at least only in general; but then when he was led into the wilderness to be tempted, he was rapt up into heaven,386386 Smalc. de Divin. Christi, cap. iv. and there God instructed him in his mind and will, made him to know the message that he came to deliver, gave him the law that he was to promulge, and so sent him down again to the earth to preach it.” Though the Scripture says that he knew the will of God, by being his “only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth,” and that he was “full of the Holy Ghost” when he went to the wilderness, being by him “anointed to preach the gospel;” though at his solemn entrance so to do “the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended on him in the form of a dove,” God giving solemn testimony to him and charge to “hear him;”387387 John i. 18; Luke iv. 1; Isa. lxi. 1; Matt. iii. 15–17. yet, because Mr B.’s masters are not able to answer the testimonies of Scripture for the divine nature of Christ, which affirm that he was in heaven before his incarnation, and came down to his work by incarnation, this figment is set on foot, to the unspeakable dishonour of the Son of God. Before I proceed farther in the examination of this invention and detection of its falsehood, that it may appear that Mr B. made not this discovery himself by his impartial study of the Scripture (as he reports), it may not be amiss to inquire after the mind of them in this business whose assistance Mr B. has in some measure made use of.
The Racovian Catechism gives us almost the very same question and answer:—
Q. Whence is it manifest that Christ revealed the will of God perfectly unto us?
A. Hence, because Jesus himself was in a most perfect manner taught it of God in heaven, and was sent from heaven magnificently for the publishing of it to men, and did perfectly declare it to them.
Q. But where is it written that Christ was in heaven, and was sent from heaven?
A. John vi.
38, —388388 “Unde apparet Christum
nobis Dei voluntatem perfecte manifestasse? — Hinc, quod ipse Jesus
perfectissima ratione eam a Deo in cœlis sit edoctus, et ad eam hominibus
publicandam e cœlo magnifice sit missus, et eam perfecte iisdem
“Ubi vero scriptum est Christum fuisse in cœlo, etc.cœlo missum? — Johan. vi. 38, iii. 13.” — Cat. Rac. de offic. Christi prophetico, q. 4, 5.
— and so do they proceed with the places of Scripture here cited by Mr B. The same Smalcius spends one whole chapter in his book of the Divinity of Christ, whose title is, “De Initiatione Christi ad Munus Propheticum,” to declare and prove this thing, that Christ was so taken up into heaven, and there taught the mind of God, Smalc. de Divin. Jes. Christ. cap. iv.; only in this he seems to be at variance with Mr B., that he denies that Moses saw the face of God, which this man makes the ground of affirming that Christ did so. But here Mr B. is at variance also with himself in the end of the last question, intimating that Moses saw only the face of an angel that bare the name of God; which now serves his turn as the other did before. Ostorodius, in his Institutions, cap. xvi., pursues the same business with vehemency, as the manner of the man was: but Smalcius is the man who boasts himself to have first made the discovery; and so he did, as far as I can find, or at least he was the first that fixed the time of this rapture to be when he was in the wilderness. And saith he, “Hoc mysterium nobis a Deo per sacras literas revelatum esse plurimum gaudemus,” Idem ibid. And, of all his companions, this man lays most weight on this invention. His eighth chapter, in the refutation of Martinus Smiglecius, de Verbi Incarnationis Natura, is spent in the pursuit of it; so also is a good part of his book against Ravenspergerus. Socinus himself ventures at this business, but so faintly and slightly as I suppose in all his writings there is not any thing to be found wherein he is less dogmatical; his discourse of it is in his first answer to the Parænesis of Volanus, pp. 38–40. One while he says the words are to be taken metaphorically; then, that Christ was in heaven in his mind and meditation; and at last, it may be, “was taken into heaven,” as Paul was.389389 “Aut verba Christi sine ullo prorsus tropo interpretanda sunt, et proinde ex ipsis ducta argumentatio vestra, penitus dissolvetur: aut si tropus aliquis in Christi verbis, admittendus eat, non videmus cur non potius dicamus, ideo dixisse Christum filium hominis fuisse in cœlo antequam post resurrectionem eo ascenderet, quia jam ante iliad tempus, non modo in cœlo mente, et cogitatione perpetuo versabatur, verum etiam omnia cœlestia, id est arcana quæque divinissima, et ipsa omnia quæ in cœlo sunt, et fiunt, adeo cognita et perspecta habebat, ut ea tanquam præsentia intueretur: et ita quamvis in terris degens, in ipso tamen cœlo commorari dici possit, Nam in cœlo antequara moreretur revera esse potuit, postquam ex Maria natus est: nec solum potuit, sed (ut ita dicamus) debuit; si enim homo ille Paulus Christi servus, ad tertium usque cœlum ante mortem raptus est, nullo pacto nobis verisimile sit, Christum ipsum ants mortem in cœlo non fuisse.” — Socin. Resp. prior. ad Par. Vol. pp. 38–40.
To return to our catechists and to the thing itself, the reader may take of it this brief account:—
1. There is, indeed, in the New Testament abundant mention of our Saviour’s coming down from heaven, of his coming forth from God, which in what sense it is spoken hath been fully before declared; but of his being taken up into heaven after his incarnation before his death, and being there taught the mind of God and the gospel which he was to preach, there is not one word nor syllable. Can it be supposed that, whereas so many lesser things are not only taken notice of, but also to the full expressed, with all their circumstances, this, which, according to the hypothesis of them with whom we have to do, is of such importance to the confirmation of his doctrine, and, upon a supposition of his being a mere man, eminently suited to the honour of his ministry above all the miracles that he wrought, [should not have been mentioned,] — that he and all his followers should be utterly silent therein; that when his doctrine was decried for novelty and folly, and whatever is evil and contemptible, that none of the apostles in its vindication, none of the ancients against the Pagans, should once make use of this defensative, that Christ was taken up into heaven, and there instructed in the mind of God? Let one word, testimony, or expression, be produced to this purpose, that Christ was taken up into heaven to be instructed in the mind of God before his entrance upon his office, and let our adversaries take the cause. If not, let this story be kept in the old golden legend, as a match for any it contains.
2. There was no cause of this rapture or taking of Christ into heaven. That which is assigned, that there he might be taught the gospel, helps not in any measure; for the Scripture not only assigns other causes of his acquaintance with the mind and will of God, — namely, his oneness with the Father, being his only-begotten Son, his Word and Wisdom, as also (in respect of his condescension to the office of mediation) his being anointed with the fulness of the Spirit, as was promised and prophesied of him, — but also affirms that this was accomplished both on him and towards him before such time as this fiction is pretended to fall out, John i. 1, 18; Prov. viii. 14–16; Col. ii. 3; Heb. i. 9; John iii. 34.
Instantly upon his baptism Luke tells you that he was πλήρης Πνεύματος ἁγίου, “full of the Holy Ghost,” chap. iv. 1; which was all that was required to give him a full furnishment for his office, and all that was promised on that account. This answers what he expresses to be necessary for the discharge of his prophetical office: Πλήρης Πνεύματος ἀγίου is as much as רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי יְהֶוִֹה עָלָי, Isa. lxi. 1; and upon that he says, “He hath sent me to preach.” God also solemnly bare witness to him from heaven to the same purpose, Matt. iii. 17. And before this John affirmed that he was “the Light of the world, the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” John i. 9; which how he should be, and yet himself be in darkness, not knowing the will of God, is not easily to be apprehended.
3. To what purpose served all that glory at his baptism, that solemn inauguration, when he took upon him the immediate administration of his prophetical office in his own person, if after this he was to be taken up into heaven to be taught the mind of God? To what end were the heavens opened over him? to what end did the Holy Ghost descend upon him in a visible shape, which God had appointed as a sign whereby he should be known to be the great prophet, John i. 32–34? to what end was that voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?” — I say, to what end were all these, if after all this he was ignorant of the gospel and of the will of God, and was to be taken up into heaven to be instructed?
4. If this must be supposed to be without any mention, yet why is it said always, that Christ came from heaven to the earth? If he was first on the earth, and was taken into heaven, and came again to the earth, he had spoken to the understanding of men if he had said, “I am returned from heaven;” and not, as he doth, “I am come from heaven.”. This in lesser matters is observed. Having gone out of Galilee to Jordan, and come again, it is said he “returned from Jordan,” Luke iv. 1;390390 Ὑπέστρεψεν. and having been with the Gadarenes, upon his coming to the other side, from whence he went, it is said he returned from the Gadarenes back again, Luke viii. 40.391391 Ἐν τῷ ὑποστρέψαι. But where is it said that he returned from heaven, which, on the supposition that is made, had alone in this ease been proper? which propriety of speech is in all other cases everywhere observed by the holy writers.
5. It is said that Christ “entered once into the holy place,” and that “having obtained eternal redemption,” Heb. ix. 12; yea, and expressly that he ought to suffer before he so entered, Luke xxiv. 26. But, according to these men, he went twice into heaven, — once before he suffered and had obtained eternal redemption, and once afterward. It may also be observed, that when they are pressed to tell us some of the circumstances of this great matter, being silent to all others, they only tell us that they conjecture the time to be in the space of that forty days wherein he was in the wilderness;392392 Smalc. de Divin. Christ. cap. iv. — on purpose, through the righteous judgment of God, to entangle themselves in their own imaginations, the Holy Ghost affirming expressly that he was the whole “forty days in the wilderness, with the wild beasts,” Mark i. 13.393393 Καὶ ἧν ἐκεῖ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, ἡμέρας τεσσαράκοντα.
Enough being said to the disprovement of this fiction, I shall very briefly touch upon the sense of the places that are produced to give countenance thereunto.
1. In most of the places insisted on there is this expression, “He that came down from heaven,” or, “I came down from heaven:” so John vi. 32, 33, 38, 41, 42, 51, 57, 58, iii. 30–32. Hence this is the conclusion, “If our Saviour came down from heaven, then, after he had lived some time in the world, he was taken up into heaven, there to be taught the mind of God.” He that hath a mind to grant this consequence is willing to be these men’s disciple. The Scripture gives us another account of the intendment of this phrase, — namely, “That the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and his glory was seen, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father,” John i. 1, 2, 14; so that it is not a local descension, but a gracious condescension, that is intimated, with his voluntary humiliation, when he who was “in the form of God humbled himself to take upon him the form of a servant,” therein to learn obedience. So that these expressions yield very little relief to our adversary.
2. The second sort are those wherein he is said to “come forth from God,” or “from the Father,” — this is expressed, John viii. 42, xiii. 1, 3, xvi. 27–30, xvii. 8, — from whence an argument of the same importance with the former doth arise: “If Christ came from God, from the Father, then, after he had been many years in the world, he was taken into heaven, and there taught the gospel, and sent again into the world.” With such invincible demonstrations do these men contend! That Christ came from God, from the Father, — that is, had his mission and commission from God, as he was mediator, the great prophet, priest, and king of his church, — none denies, and this is all that in these places is expressed; of which afterward.
3. Some particular places are yet remaining. The first is John iii. 13, “No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, the Son of man, which is in heaven.” That “which is” Mr B. renders rather “which was,” whether with greater prejudice to his cause or conscience I know not; — to his cause, in that he manifests that it cannot be defended without corrupting the word of God; to his conscience, by corrupting it to serve his own end and turn accordingly. The words are, ὁ ὢ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, which will by no means admit of his corrupting gloss.
I say, then, let the words speak [for] themselves, and you need no other [sword] to cut the throat of the whole cause that this man hath undertaken to manage. He that speaks is the Son of man, and all the time of his speaking he was in heaven. “He,” saith he, “is in heaven.” In his human nature he was then on the earth, not in heaven; therefore he had another nature, wherein at that time he was in heaven also, he who was so being the Son of man. And what, then, becomes of Mr B.’s Christ? and what need of the rapture whereof he speaks?
[As] for the “ascending into heaven,” mentioned in the beginning of the verse, that it cannot be meant of a local ascent of Christ in his human nature antecedent to his resurrection is evident, in that he had not yet “descended into the lower parts of the earth,” which he was to do before his local ascent, Eph. iv. 9, 10. The ascent there mentioned answers the discourse that our Saviour was then upon; which was to inform Nicodemus in heavenly things. To this end he tells him (verse 12) that they were so slow of believing that they could not receive the plainest doctrine, nor understand even the visible things of the earth, as the blowing of the wind, nor the causes and issue of it; much less did they understand the heavenly things of the gospel, which none (saith he, verse 13) hath pierced into, is acquainted withal, hath ascended, into heaven, in the knowledge of, but he who is in heaven, and is sent of God into the world to instruct you. He who is in heaven in his divine nature, who is come down from heaven, being sent of God, having taken flesh, that he might reveal and do the will of God, he, and none but he, hath so ascended into heaven as to have the full knowledge of the heavenly things whereof I speak. Of a local ascent, to the end and purpose mentioned, there is not the least syllable.
Thus, I say, the context of the discourse seems to exact a metaphorical interpretation of the words, our Saviour in them informing Nicodemus of his acquaintance with heavenly things, whereof he was ignorant. But yet the propriety of the words may be observed without the least advantage to our adversaries, for it is evident that the words are elliptical: Οὐδεῖς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱός. “Ascend” must be repeated again to make the sense complete; and why may not μέλλει ἀναβῆναι be inserted as well as ἀναβέβηκε? So are the words rendered by Theophylact;394394 Οὐδεὶς τῶν προφητῶν ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν, εἰ μὴ ἐηὼ μέλλω ἀναβῆναι, καὶ κατῆλθον. Theoph. in loc. and in that sense [they] relate not to what was before, but what was to be. And an instance of the necessity of an alike supplement is given in Matt. xi. 27. Moreover, some suppose that ἀναβέβηκεν, affirming the want of a potential conjunction, as ἄν, or the like (which the following exceptive εἰ μή require), in the place, is not to be taken for the act done, but for the power of doing it, of which examples may be given: so that the propriety of the words may also be preserved without the least countenance afforded to the figment under consideration.
The remaining place is John vi. 62, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” Ὅπου ἦν τὸ πρότερον That Christ was in heaven before his local ascent thither in his human nature is part of our plea to prove his divine nature, and what will thence be obtained I know not.
And this is the first attempt that these gentlemen make upon the prophetical office of Christ: “He did not know the will of God as the only-begotten Son of the Father in his bosom; he was not furnished for the declaring of it in his own immediate ministry by the unction of the Holy Ghost, and his being filled therewith; he was not solemnly inaugurated thereinto by the glorious presence of the Father and the Holy Ghost with him, one in a voice, and the other in a bodily shape, bearing witness to him to be the prophet sent from God; but being for many years ignorant of the gospel and the will of God, or what he came into the world to do, he was, no man knows where, when, nor how, rapt into heaven, and there taught and instructed in the mind of God (as Mohammed pretended he was also), and so sent into the world, after he had been sent into the world many a year.”
Here the Racovians add:—
Q. What is that will of God which by Christ is revealed?
A. It is the new covenant, which Christ, in the name of God, made with human kind; whence also he is called “the mediator of the new covenant.”395395 “Quæ vero est illa voluntas Dei per Jesum nobis patefacta? — Est illud fœdus novum, quod cum genere humano Christus nomine Dei pepigit, unde etiam mediator novi fœderis vocatur, Heb. viii. 6, 1 Tim. ii. 5.” — Cat. Rac. de prophet. mun. Christi.
1. It seems, then, that Christ was taken into heaven to be taught the new covenant, of which before he was ignorant; though the very name that was given him before he was born contained the substance of it, Matt. i. 21. 2. Christ did not make the covenant with us as mediator, but confirmed and ratified it, Heb. ix. 15–17. God gave him in the covenant which he made, and therefore is said to “give him for a covenant,” Isa. xlii. 6. 3. The covenant of grace is not made with all mankind, but with the seed of the woman, Gen. iii. 15; Gal. iii. 16; Rom. ix. 7, 8. 4. Christ is not called the mediator of the new covenant because he declared the will of God concerning it, but because he gave his life a ransom for those with whom it is made, 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6; and the promises of it were confirmed in his blood, Heb. ix. 15, x. 16–20. 5. This covenant was not first made and revealed when Christ taught in his own person It was not only made but confirmed to Abraham in Christ four hundred and thirty years before the law, Gal. iii. 17; yea, ever since the entrance of sin, no man hath walked with God but in the same covenant of grace, as elsewhere is declared.
Let us see what follows in Mr B. Says he, —
Q. You have already showed that Christ was like unto Moses in seeing God, and hearing from him the things which he spake: but Moses exceeded all other prophets likewise in that he only was a lawgiver; was Christ therefore like unto Moses in giving of a law also, and is there any mention of this law?
1. That Moses did not see the face of God hath been showed, and Mr B. confesseth the same. That Christ was not rapt into heaven for any such end or purpose as is pretended, that he is not compared to Moses as to his initiation into his prophetical office, that there is not one word in the Scripture giving countenance to any of these figments, hath been evinced; nor hath Mr B. showed any such thing to them who have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, what apprehensions soever his catechumens may have of his skill and proofs.
2. What is added to this question will be of an easy despatch. The word “law’ may be considered generally, as to the nature of it, in the sense of Scripture, for a revelation of the mind of God; and so we say Christ did give a law, in that he revealed fully and clearly the whole mind of God as to our salvation and the obedience he requireth of us. And so there is a law of faith, that is, a doctrine of faith, opposite to the law as to its covenant ends, simply so called. And he also instituted some peculiarly significant ceremonies to be used in the worship of God; pressing, in particular, in his teaching and by his example, the duty of love; which thence is peculiarly called “a new commandment,” John xiii. 34, and “the law of Christ,” Gal. vi. 2, even that which he did so eminently practice. As he was a teacher, a prophet come out from God, he taught the mind, and will, and worship of God, from his own bosom, John i. 18, Heb. i. 1, 2. And as he was and is the king of his church, he hath given precepts, and laws, and ordinances, for the rule and government thereof, to which none can add, nor from them any detract. But take the word “law” strictly in reference to a covenant end, so that he which performs it shall be justified by his performance thereof, so we may say he gave the law originally as God, but as mediator he gave no such law, or no law in that sense, but revealed fully and clearly our justification with God upon another account, and gave no new precepts of obedience but what were before given in the law, written originally in the heart of man by nature, and delivered to the church of the Jews by Moses in the wilderness; of which in the chapter of justification.
For the places quoted by Mr B., that of Gal. vi. 2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,” speaks only of that one command of brotherly love and forbearance which is called peculiarly, as I said, “a new commandment,” though the Jews had it from the beginning, and the “law of Christ,” because of the eminent accomplishment of it by “him who loved us, and gave himself for us,” transmitting it anew to us with such new motives and inducements as it had not received before, nor ever shall again. The “law of faith,” mentioned Rom. iii. 27, is no more but the doctrine of the gospel, and justification without the works of the law, — that is, all works commanded, by what law soever; as the whole doctrine of the word of God is called “the law” near an hundred times in the Psalms. The “law of faith” is that which is opposed to the “law of works,” as a means of obtaining righteousness, which is not by obedience to new commands.
3. But Mr B.’s masters have a farther reach in the asserting Christ to have given a new law, — namely, whereas they place justification as a consequent of our own obedience, and observing how impossible it is to do it on the obedience yielded to the moral law, the apostle having so frequently and expressly decried all possibility of justification thereby, they have therefore feigned to themselves that Christ Jesus hath given a new law, in obedience whereunto we may be justified; which when they attempt to prove, it will be needful for them to produce other manner of evidences than that here by Mr B. insisted on, which speaks not one word to the purpose in hand. But that this is the intendment of the man is evident from his ensuing discourse.
Having reckoned up the expositions of the law, and its vindication given by our Saviour, Matt. v., in the next query he calls them, very ignorantly, “the law of faith, or the new covenant.” If Mr B. knows no more of the new covenant but that it is a new law given by our Saviour, Matt. v.–vii.. (as upon other accounts), I pity the man. He proceeds, —
Q. Doth not Christ, then, partly perfect, partly correct the law of Moses? What is the determination of Christ concerning this matter?
A. Matt. v. 21–45.
1. The reason of this query I acquainted the reader with before. These men, seeking for a righteousness, as it were, by the works of the law,396396 Ὡς ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, Rom. ix. 32 and not daring to lay it upon that which the apostle doth so often expressly reject, they strive to relieve themselves with this, that our Saviour hath so dealt with the law as here is expressed; so that to yield obedience to it now, as mended, perfected, and reformed, must needs be sufficient to our justification.
2. Two things are here affirmed to be done by the Lord Christ in reference to the “law of Moses,” as it is called, — that is, the moral law, as is evident by the following instances given to make good the assertion, — first, That he perfects it; secondly, That he corrects it: and so a double imputation is laid on the law of God, (1.) Of imperfection; (2.) Of corruption, that needed amendment or correction.
Before I proceed to examine the particular instances whereby the man attempts to make good his insinuation, the honour of God and his law requires of us that it be vindicated from this double calumny, and demonstrated to be neither imperfect nor to stand in need of correction:—
1. For its perfection, we have the testimony of God himself expressly given thereunto: Ps. xix. 7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;” it is the “perfect law of liberty,” James i. 25; yea, so perfect as that God hath forbidden any thing to be added to it or to be taken from it, Deut. xii. 32.
2. If the law wants perfection, it is in respect of its essential parts, or its integral parts, or in respect of degrees. But for its essential parts, it is perfect, being, in matter and form, in sense and sentence, divine, holy, just, good, Rom. vii. 12. For its integrals, it compriseth “the whole duty of man,” Eccles. xii. 13; which doing he was to live. And for the degrees of its commands, it requireth that we love the Lord our God with all our hearts and all our souls, and our neighbours as ourselves; which our Saviour confirms as a rule of perfection, Matt. xxii. 36–40.
3. If the law of God was not perfect, but needed correction, it is either because God could not or would not give a perfect and complete law. To say the first is blasphemy; for the latter, there is no pretence for it. God giving a law for his service, proclaiming his wisdom and holiness to be therein, and that if any man did perform it, he should live therein, certainly would not give such a law as, by its imperfection, should come short of any of the ends and purposes for which it was appointed.
4. The perfection of the law is hence also evinced, that the precepts of Christ, wherein our obedience requires us to be perfect, are the same and no other than the precepts of the law. His new commandment of love is also an old one, 1 John ii. 7, 8, which Christ calls his new commandment, John xiii. 34; and the like instances might be multiplied. Neither will the instance of Mr B. evince the contrary, which he argues from Matt. v.; for that Christ doth not in that chapter correct the law, nor add any new precept thereunto, but expounds and vindicates it from the corrupt glosses of the scribes and Pharisees, appears, —
(1.) From the occasion of the discourse, and the proposition which our Saviour makes good, establisheth, and confirmeth therein, which is laid down, verse 20, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In pursuit of this proposition, he manifesteth what their righteousness was, by examining their catechism upon the commandments, and the exposition they made therein of them. It is not the righteousness of the law that our Saviour rejects, and requires more in his disciples, but that of the Pharisees, whom he everywhere called hypocrites. But for the law, he tells them a tittle of it shall not pass away, and he that keeps it shall be called great, or be of great esteem, in the kingdom of God; and the good works that our Saviour then required in his disciples are no other but those that were commanded in the law.
(2.) The very phraseology and manner of speech here used by our Saviour manifests of whom and concerning what he speaks: “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time;” — “Ye have heard,” not. “Ye have read.” “Ye have heard it of the scribes and Pharisees out of Moses’ chair; they have told you that it was thus said.” And, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old;” not “that it was written, that it was written in the law,” the expression whereby he citeth what was written. And, “It was said to them of old,” — the common pretence of the Pharisees, in the imposing their traditions and expositions of the law. “It is the tradition of the elders; it was said to them by such and such blessed masters of old.”
(3.) Things are instanced in that are nowhere written in the law, nor ever were; as that, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy;” which is so remote from the law as that the contrary is directly commanded, Lev. xix. 18; Exod. xxiii. 4, 5; Prov. xx. 22. To them who gave this rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,” doth Christ oppose himself. But those were the scribes and Pharisees in their corrupt glosses, from which God’s law is vindicated, not in itself before corrupted.
(4.) Whose sayings Christ rejects, their sayings he did not come to fulfil; but he came to fulfil and accomplish the law: and therefore it is not the law and the sentence thereof that he rejects in that form of speech, “But I say unto you.”
Before I come to the consideration of the particular instances given by Mr B., a brief consideration of what is offered to this purpose by Smalcius, in his Racovian Catechism, may be premised. His first chapter, about the prophetical office of Christ, is “De præceptis Christi, quæ legi addidit;” — “Of the precepts of Christ, which he added to the law.” And therein this is his first question and answer:—
Q. What are the perfect commands of God revealed by Christ?
A. Part of them is contained in the precepts given by Moses, with those which are added thereunto in the new covenant; part is contained in those things which Christ himself prescribed.397397 “Quænam sunt perfecta mandata Dei per Christum patefacta? — Pars eorum continetur in præceptis a Mose traditis, una cum iis quæ sunt eis in novo fœdere addita; pars veto continetur in iis quæ peculiariter ipse Christus præscripsit.”
The commands of God revealed by Jesus Christ are here referred to three heads:— 1. The ten commandments given by Moses; for so that part is explained in the next question, where they are said to be the decalogue. 2. The additions made by Christ thereunto. 3. His own peculiar institutions.
1. As to the first, I desire only to know how the ten commandments were revealed by Jesus Christ. The catechist confesseth that they were given to Moses, and revealed by that means; how are they, then, said to be revealed by Christ? If they shall say that he may be said to reveal them because he promulged them anew, with new motives, reasons, and encouragements, I hope he will give us leave to say also that what he calls “a new commandment” is not so termed in respect of the matter of it, but its new enforcement by Christ. We grant Christ revealed that law of Moses, with its new covenant ends, as he was the great prophet of his church, by his Spirit, from the foundation of the world; but this Smalcius denies.
2. That Christ made no new additions to the moral law hath been partly evidenced from what hath been spoken concerning the perfection thereof, with the intention of our Saviour in that place, and those things wherein they say these additions are found and do consist, and shall yet farther be evinced from the consideration of the particulars by them instanced in.
3. It is granted that our blessed Saviour did, for the times of the new testament, institute the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper, in the room of them which, together with their representation of the benefits which believers receive by him, did also prefigure him as to come. But, — (1.) These are no new law, nor part of a new law, with a law design in them. (2.) Though there is an obedience in their performance yielded to God and Christ, yet they belong rather to the promises than the precepts of Christ; to our privilege, — before, unto our duty.
In the progress of that catechist, after some discourse about the ceremonial and judicial law, with their abolition, and his allowance of magistrates among Christians notwithstanding (which they do upon condition they shed no blood, for any cause whatever), he attempts in particular to show what Christ added to the moral law in the several precepts of it. And to the first he says that Christ added two things:— 1. In that he prescribed us a certain form of prayer; of which afterward, in the chapter designed to the consideration of what Mr B. speaks to the same purpose. 2. That we acknowledge himself for God, and worship him; of which also in our discourse of the kingly office of Christ. To the second, he says, is added in the New Testament, not only that we should not worship images, but avoid them also; which is so notoriously false, the avoiding of images of our own making being no less commanded in the Old Testament than in the New, that I shall not insist thereon. The residue of his plea is the same with Mr B.’s from Matt. v., where what they pretend shall be considered in order.
To consider, then, briefly the particular instances. 1. The first is in reference to the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” This the Pharisees so interpreted as that if a man kept himself from blood and from causing the death of another, he was righteous as to the keeping of this commandment. Our Saviour lets his disciples know that there is a closer and nearer sense of this law: “I say unto you, in the exposition of this commandment, that any rash anger, anger without a cause, all offence given proceeding from thence, in light, vilifying expressions, such as ‘Raca,’ much more all provoking taunts and reproaches, as ‘Thou fool,’ are forbidden therein, so as to render a man obnoxious to the judgment of God, and condemnation in their several degrees of sinfulness;”398398 See a full and clear exposition of this place by Dr Lightfoot, in his preface to the “Harmony of the Gospels.” as there were amongst themselves several councils, according to several offences, — the judgment, the council, and utter cutting off as a child of hell. Hence, then, having manifested the least breach of love or charity towards our brother to be a breach of the sixth commandment, and so to render a man obnoxious to the judgment of God in several degrees of sin, according as the eruptions of it are, he proceeds in the following verses to exhort his disciples to patience, forbearance, and brotherly love, with readiness to agreement and forgiveness, verses 23–26.
2. In the next place, he proceeds to the vindication and exposition of the seventh commandment, verse 27, “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” which the Pharisees had so expounded as that if a man kept himself from actual uncleanness, however loosely he lived, and put away his wife at his pleasure, he was free from the breach thereof. To give them the true meaning and sense of this commandment, and farther to discover the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he lets them know, —
(1.) That the concupiscence of the heart or inordinate desire of any person is the adultery here no less forbidden than that of actual uncleanness, which the law made death. And certainly he must needs be as blind as a Pharisee who sees not that the uncleanness of the heart and lust after woman was forbidden by the law and under the old testament.
(2.) As to their living with their wives, he mentions, indeed, the words of Moses, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorcement,” but opposeth not himself thereunto at all, but only shows that that permission of divorce is to be interpreted according to the rule and instruction given in the first institution of marriage (as afterward, on another occasion, he explains himself, Matt. xix.), and not that men might therefore, for every cause that they would or could pretend, instantly put away their wives, as the Pharisees taught men to do, and as Josephus, one of them, testifies of himself that he did: “I put away my wife,” saith he, “because she did not please me.” “No,” saith our Saviour; “that permission of Moses is not to be extended beyond the just cause of divorce, as it is by the Pharisees, but made use of only in the case of fornication,” verses 31, 32; and he thereupon descends to caution his disciples to be careful and circumspect in their walking in this particular, and not be led by an offending eye or hand (the beginning of evil) to greater abominations, verses 28–30.
3. In like manner doth he proceed in the vindication of the third commandment. The scribes and Pharisees had invented or approved of swearing by creatures, the temple, altar, Jerusalem, the head, and the like; and thereupon they raised many wicked and cursed distinctions, on purpose to make a cloak for hypocrisy and lying, as you may see, Matt. xxiii. 16–19. “If a man swear by the temple, it is nothing, he is not bound by his oath; but if he swear by the gold of the temple, he is obliged.” In like manner did they distinguish of the altar and the gift. And having mixed these swearings and distinctions in their ordinary conversation, there was nothing sincere or open and plain left amongst them. This wicked gloss of theirs (being such as their successors abound withal to this day) our blessed Saviour decries, and commands his disciples to use plainness and simplicity in their conversation, in plain affirmations and negations, without the mixture of such profane and cursed distinctions, verses 34–37, which that it was no new duty, nor unknown to the saints of the old testament, is known to all that have but read it.
4. In matter of judgment between man and man, he proceeds in the same manner. Because the law had appointed the magistrate to exercise talionem in some cases, and to take an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, the blind Pharisees wrested this to countenance private men in revenging themselves, and pursuing them who had injured them with a hostile mind, at least until the sentence of the law was executed on them. To root the rancour and malice out of the minds of men which by this means were nourished and fomented in them, our Saviour lets them know that notwithstanding that procedure of the magistrate by the law, yet indeed all private revenges were forbidden and all readiness to contend with others, which he amplifieth in the proposal of some particular cases; and all this by virtue of a rule which himself affirms to be contained in the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” verses 38–42, pressing also lending and giving, as works of charity, whereunto a blessing is so often pronounced in the Old Testament.
5. His last instance is in the matter of love, concerning which the Pharisees had given out this note, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy;” for whereas there were certain nations whom God had appointed to utter destruction at his people’s first coming into Canaan, he commanded them to show them no mercy, but utterly to destroy them, Deut. vii. 2. This the wretched hypocrites laid hold of to make up a rule and law for private men to walk by in reference to them whom they accounted their enemies, in express contradiction to the command of God, Exod. xxiii. 4, 5, Lev. xix. 18. Wherefore our blessed Saviour vindicates the sense of the law from this cursed tradition also, and renews the precept of loving and doing good to our enemies, verses 43–47. So that in none of the instances mentioned is there the least evidence of what was proposed to be confirmed by them, — namely, that our Saviour gave a new law, in that he did partly perfect, partly correct the law of Moses, — seeing he did only vindicate the sense and meaning of the law, in sundry precepts thereof, from the false glosses and traditions of the scribes and Pharisees, invented and imposed on their disciples to be a cloak to their hypocrisy and wickedness. And this also may fully suffice to remove what on this account is delivered by the Racovian Catechism. But on this foundation Mr B. proceeds:—
Q. You have made it appear plainly that the law of faith or the new covenant, whereof Christ was the mediator, is better than the law of works or the old covenant, whereof Moses was the mediator, in respect of precepts; is it also better in respect of promises?
This is indeed a comfortable passage! for the better understanding whereof I shall single out the several noble propositions that are insinuated therein, and evidently contained in the words of it; as, —
1. Christ was the mediator of the law of faith, the new law, in the same sense as Moses was mediator of the old law, the law of works.
2. Christ’s addition of precepts and promises to the law of Moses is the law of faith, or the new covenant.
3. The people or church of the Jews lived under the old covenant, or the law of works, whereof Moses, not Christ, was the mediator.
4. The difference between the old and the new covenant lies in this, that the new hath more precepts of obedience and more promises than the old.
And now, truly, he that thinks that this man understands either the old covenant or the new, either Moses or Christ, either faith or works, shall have liberty from me to enjoy his opinion, for I have not more to add to convince him of his mistake than what the man himself hath here delivered.
For my part, I have much other work to do, occasioned by Mr B., and therefore I shall not here divert to the consideration of the two covenants and their difference, with the twofold administration of the covenant of grace, both before and after Christ’s coming in the flesh; but I shall content myself with some brief animadversions upon the forementioned propositions and proceed:—
1. In what sense Christ is the mediator of the new covenant, I shall, God assisting, at large declare, when I come to treat of his death and satisfaction, and shall not here prevent myself in any thing of what must then and there be delivered.
2. That there are precepts and promises attending the new covenant is granted; but that it consists in any addition of precepts to the Mosaical law, carried on in the same tenor with it, with other promises, is a figment directly destructive of the whole gospel and the mediation of the Son of God. By this means, the whole undertaking of Jesus Christ to lay down his life a ransom for us, — our justification by his blood, his being of God made righteousness to us, the free pardon of our sins and acceptation with God by and for him, as he is the end of the law for righteousness; all communication of effectual grace to work in us new obedience, the giving of a new, clean heart, with the law of God written in it by the Spirit; in a word, the whole promise made to Abraham, the whole new covenant, is excluded from the covenant, and men left yet in their sins. The covenant of works was, “Do this, and live;” and the tenor of the law, “If a man do the things thereof, he shall live thereby,” — that is, if a man by his own strength perform and fulfil the righteousness that the law requires, he shall have eternal life thereby. “This covenant,” saith the apostle, “God hath disannulled, because no man could be saved by it,” Heb. vii. 18. “The law thereof, through sin, was become weak and insufficient as to any such end and purpose,” Rom. viii. 3. What, then, doth God substitute in room thereof? Why, a new covenant, that hath more precepts added to the old, with all those of the old continued that respected moral obedience! But is this a remedy? is not this rather a new burden? If the law could not save us before, because it was impossible, through sin, that we should perfectly accomplish it, and therefore “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified,” is it a likely way to relieve us by making an addition of more precepts to them which before we could not observe? But that, through the righteous hand of God, the interest of men’s immortal souls is come to be concerned therein, I should think the time exceedingly lavished that is spent in this discourse. “Let him that is ignorant be ignorant still,” were a sufficient answer. And this that hath been said may suffice to the fourth particular also.
3. That Moses was a mediator of a covenant of works, properly and formally so called, and that the church of the Jews lived under a covenant of works, is a no less pernicious figment than the former. The covenant of works was, “Do this, and live;” — “On perfect obedience you shall have life.” Mercy and pardon of sins were utter strangers to that covenant; and therefore by it the Holy Ghost tells us that no man could be saved. The church of old had the promises of Christ, Rom. ix. 4, Gen. iii. 15, xii. 3; were justified by faith, Gen. xv. 6, Rom. iv., Gal. iii.; obtained mercy for their sins, and were justified in the Lord, Isa. xlv. 24, 25; had the Spirit for conversion, regeneration, and sanctification, Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26; expected and obtained salvation by Jesus Christ; — things as remote from the covenant of works as the east is from the west.
It is true, the administration of the covenant of grace which they lived under was dark, legal, and low, in comparison of that which we now are admitted unto since the coming of Christ in the flesh; but the covenant wherein they walked with God and that wherein we find acceptance is the same, and the justification of Abraham their father the pattern of ours, Rom. iv. 4, 5.
Let us now see what answer Mr B. applies to his query. The first text he mentions is Heb. viii. 6, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” That which the Holy Ghost here affirms is, that the new covenant, whereof Christ is the mediator, is better than the old, and that it hath better promises; which, I suppose, none ever doubted. The covenant is better, seeing that could by no means save us, while by this Christ doth to the uttermost. The promises are better, for it hath innumerable promises of conversion, pardon, and perseverance, which that had not at all; and the promise of eternal life, which that had, is given upon infinitely better and surer terms. But all this is nothing at all to Mr B.’s purpose.
No more is the second place which he mentioneth, Heb. vii. 19, “The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.”
Not that by “the law” in that place the covenant of works is intended, but the legal administration of the covenant of grace. “This,” saith the apostle, “made nothing perfect.” Men were kept under types and shadows; and though they were children of God by adoption, yet in comparison they were kept as servants, being under age, until the fulness of time came, when the bringing in of Jesus Christ, that “better hope,” made the administration of grace perfect and complete, Gal. iv. 1–6. Mr B. all along obscures himself under the ambiguous term of “the law,” confounding its covenant and subsequent use. As for the covenant use of the law, or as it was the tenor of the covenant of works, the saints of the old testament were no more concerned in it than are we. The subsequent use of it may be considered two ways, — 1. As it is purely moral, exacting perfect obedience, and so the use of it is common to them and us; 2. As attended with ceremonial and judicial institutions in the administration of it, and so it was peculiar to them. And this one observation will lead the reader through much of the sophistry of this chapter, whose next question is, —
Q. Were those better promises of God touching eternal life and immortality hidden in the dark and not brought to light under the law?
A. “Jesus Christ hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2 Tim. i. 10.
The whole ambiguity of this question lies in these expressions, “Hidden in the dark and not brought to light.” If he intend comparatively, in respect of the clear revelation made of the mind and will of God by Jesus Christ, we grant it. If he mean it absolutely, that there were no promises of life and immortality given under the law, it is absolutely false; for, —
1. There are innumerable promises of life and immortality in the Old Testament given to the church under the law. See Heb. xi. 14; Deut. xii. 1, xxx. 6; Ps. xvi. 10, 11; Deut. xxxii. 29; Ps. cxxx. 8; Isa. xxv. 8, 9, xlv. 17, xxvi. 19; Jer. xxiii. 6; Ps. ii. 12, xxxii. 1, 2, xxxiii. 12.
2. They believed in eternal life, and therefore they had the promise of it; for faith relieth always on the word of promise. Thus did Job xix. 25–27; and David, Ps. xvii. 15; so did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Heb. xi. 10, 13, 14; yea, and some of them, as a pattern and example, without dying obtained it, as Enoch and Elijah.
3. The covenant of Abraham was that which they lived in and under. But this covenant of Abraham had promises of eternal life, even that God would be his God, dead and alive, Gen. xvii. 1, 7. And that the promises thereof were promises of eternal life, Paul manifests, Rom. iv. 3, Gal. iii. 14. But this hath been so abundantly manifested by others that I shall not longer insist upon it. We are come to the last query of this chapter, which is:—
Q. Though the promises of the gospel be better than those of the law, pet are they not, as well as those of the law, proposed under conditions of faith and perseverance therein, of holiness and obedience, of repentance, and suffering for Christ? how speak the Scriptures?
Neither will this query long detain us. In the new testament, there being means designed for the attainment of an end, — faith, obedience, and perseverance, for the attainment of salvation and enjoyment of God through Christ, — the promises of it are of two sorts. Some respect the end, or our whole acceptation with God; some the means, or way whereby we come to be accepted in Christ. The first sort are those insisted on by Mr B., and they are so far conditional as that they declare the firm connection and concatenation of the end and means proposed, so that without them it is not to be attained; but the other, of working faith, and new obedience, and perseverance, are all absolute to the children of the covenant, as I have so fully and largely elsewhere declared that I shall not here repeat any thing there written, nor do I know any necessity of adding any thing thereunto.399399 Perseverance of the Saints, vol. xi. I thought to have proceeded with the Racovian Catechism also, as in the former part of the discourse; but having made this process, I had notice of an answer to the whole by Arnoldus, the professor of divinity at Franeker; and therefore, that I may not actum agere, nor seem to enter another’s labour, I shall not directly and κατὰ πόδα carry on a confutation thereof hereafter, but only divert thereunto as I shall have occasion, yet not omitting any thing of weight therein, as in this chapter I have not, as to the matter under consideration.
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