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The ten commandments, including the fourth, are intimately connected with the covenant.' But our opponents have endeavoured to connect them indissolubly with some supposed temporary Jewish covenant, which is abolished, and the commandments with it. I am, therefore, obliged to consider with what covenant they are connected, and the nature and duration of that covenant. This discussion is necessary for our argument; and even if it were not, it involves questions of so much interest, and is likely to prove so fruitful of information, that I hope my readers will not think that I have wasted their time and my own.
Some of my readers may, perhaps, be surprised to find that no distinct and peculiar covenant was ever made with the Israelites. They were merely introduced to, and made partakers of, a more extensive covenant. There was only ONE covenant from the time of Abraham to the present hour. It is true that covenants are said to have been made from time to time; and the Scriptures speak of the old and the new; but they will all be found to be either renewals of the original covenant, or parts of it, which parts are, in popular language, called the old and the new. I hope to establish these positions, and then to show that the decalogue is not part of the limited and restricted covenant permitted to the Israelites under their law, but part and parcel of the extensive Abrahamic covenant, which embraces the Christian dispensation, and that the decalogue, including all the ten commandments, was to last as long as that covenant: and I hope thence to deduce a variety of arguments to establish the permanent obligation of all the ten commandments.
The Covenant was made with Abraham. The temporal part was first given (Gen. xv.) with the solemnities usual in those times on making an agreement between two persons. A sacrifice was offered, a victim slain and divided
into two parts, and the contracting parties, by walking between, ratified the agreement. This ceremony was common to all nations : hence the Latin expression ferire foedus. In the instance before us, “ a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp,” (the shekinah or symbol of the Divine presence,) passed through and ratified the covenant on the part of God. But the full covenant, containing its spiritual and general blessings, was entered into and confirmed by an oath, on a subsequent occasion, on Mount Moriah, on the virtual offering up of a much nobler victim, when Abraham, so far as his will was concerned, offered up his own son, which was a figure and representation of the offering up of the Son of the high contracting party to this covenant, in the very same place. Gen. xxii. 16, &c. “ By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord : for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies : and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice.” This is the true and genuine covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the everlasting covenant, the one and only covenant.
To Abraham was vouchsafed a large share of light, and a clear view of the Messiah's kingdom : “ he rejoiced to see his day.” And if his descendants had trodden in his steps, and been heirs of his faith, we confidently believe that the same light would have been granted to them,—that there would have been a gradual preparation of the gospel of peace. But they did not follow his steps; they were rebellious, disobedient, carnal, and worldly. Eternal rewards, for which they had no taste nor feeling, were removed from their view; and temporal rewards and punishments were
substituted. The clear light of revelation which Abraham enjoyed, was obscured by veils, and types, and shadows.
From many parts of Scripture, we learn that the revelation to Abrabam, the covenant, and the promises were intended as the commencement of a gradual developement of the gospel, and of the salvation which was to be by faith. The service of the Israelites was intended to have been a spiritual service, a gradual exercise of faith. The Epistle to the Hebrews, (iv. 2,) speaking of the Israelites who perished in the wilderness, says, “ For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them ; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Now, whenever we wish to found any argument on the intentions of God, with regard to the Israelites, we must keep an eye on the true and original intention, and not adopt the erroneous plan of interpreting the intentions of Providence, by the subsequent facts and circumstances of their history, which grew out of their disobedience, and frustrated the good intentions of God. Many authors have fallen into this error : therefore we must keep the corrective given above steadily in view. The law of Moses, so much talked of, made no part of the original design or dispensation. On the contrary, it was a withdrawal, a suspension, and a limitation of it, on account of their rebellions and transgressions, and may aptly be compared with the forty years in the wilderness, and the suspension, during that period, of the entrance into the promised land, as a punishment justly due to their transgressions.
In many places, God is said to make a covenant with the Israelites, when he merely renewed a part of the original covenant; or when, after transgression and forfeiture, he re-admitted them. In many cases this is obvious; in others, not so apparent.
The Israelites, by their rebellion in making and worshipping molten images, the golden calf at Horeb, while Moses was in the Mount, forfeited the whole of the covenant and promises, and were condemned to death, (Exod. xxxii. 10,) but spared, on the intercession of Moses And (Exod. xxxiv.) after a proclamation of his mercy, goodness, and forgiveness, (verses 6, 7,) he re-grants a part of the original covenant, viz. the temporal part,—the possession of the land of Canaan. And this re-grant of a part is called “ making a covenant.” But it appears clearly, from verses 10, 11, 12, that nothing was granted on that occasion but the temporal possession of the land, which made part of the original covenant.
The conditions of the re-grant and of their re-admission, were that, as they had forfeited the promises and his favour by idolatry, so were they to show their reformation and hatred of idolatry, (12, 13,) by not making a covenant or connexion with the idolatrous nations; but, on the contrary, that they “ should destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves. That they should worship no other God, (14,) and that they should make no molten gods.” (17). And, as a protection for the worship of the true God, and avoiding of idolatry, they are enjoined to keep the sabbaths and feasts. (21, 22.) And shortly after, (27, 28,) when the new tables of the commandments are delivered, they are made a part of the renewed covenant. 6 Write thou these words ; for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee, and with Israel; and he wrote upon the tables the words of the ten commandments.” Let it be kept in remembrance that the commandments had been given before this renewal of the covenant, or new covenant, (call it which you please,) and therefore, although added as a condition, could not be considered as coeval with it.
The true view of the case is, that they were at first delivered as a part of the original covenant of faith : but now, re-added to the re-grant of part of the covenant, but on a different principle,—their rigid observance, and strict obedience, making a condition of a covenant of works. This distinction between the full covenant of Abraham, as a covenant of faith, and the renewal of part of it, as a
covenant of works, appears clearly from many parts of · Scripture. Gal. iii. 19. 6 Wherefore, then, serveth the
law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come, to whom the promise (the Abrahamic covenant) was made,* *** ordained by angels in the hands of a Mediator.” The distinction appears strongly in the following verses. Gal. iii. 8. 66 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham.” This is a description of the Abrahamic covenant, and shows what would have continued to be its nature, if the Israelites had continued faithful. But now read the description of the partial renewal of the covenant after their transgressions and idolatry. Ib. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. “ For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident; for the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith : but the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham
* I omit the words " and it was,” inserted by the translators, but not in the original, as confusing the sense, and making the latter sentence seem to refer to the law instead of the promise.