Book 4 - Chapter 14: Of the Abrogation of the Old Testament - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter XIV: Of the Abrogation of the Old Testament
I. IT now remains that we speak of the abrogation of the Old Testament, or of those things which were formerly superadded to the covenant of grace, as shadows, types, and symbols of the Messiah to come. For the more exact prosecution of this subject we shall proceed in the following order. 1st, Show that the ancient ceremonies were of such a nature, that, in a way consisent with the honour of God they might be abrogated. 2dly, Prove that they were really and actually to be abrogated. 3dly, Make it appear that they ought, one time or other, to be abrogated, and that it was not possible the case should be otherwise. 4thly, Explain the progress itself and the various degrees of their abrogation.
II. To begin with the first. The foundation of the moral law, whose perpetuity and unchangeableness is an unquestionable truth, is of a quite different nature from that of the ceremonial institutions, as appears from the following considerations. 1st, Because the former are founded on the natural and immutable holiness of God, which cannot but be the exemplar to rational creatures, and therefore cannot be abolished, without abolishing the image of God; but the latter are founded on the free and arbitrary will of the lawgiver, and therefore, only good because commanded; and consequently, according to the different nature of times, may be either prescribed, or otherwise prescribed, or not at all prescribed. This distinction was not unknown to the Jewish doctors, and hence was framed that of Maimonides, in præfat. Abbot. c. vi. fol. 23. col. 3. into intellectual precepts, whose equity was self-evident to the human understanding; and into those apprehended by the hearing of the law, whose entire ground is resolved into the faculty of hearing, which receives them from the mouth of God. Concerning the former, the wise men have said, that “if they were not written it was just they should;” concerning the latter, Maimonides affirms, that “if the law had not been declared, those things which are contrary to them, would not have on any account been evil.
III. 2dly, Because God himself frequently, on many accounts, prefers the moral to the ceremonial precepts; and as the same Maimonides, More Nevoc. p. 3. c. xxxii. has wisely observed, God very often by the prophets, rebukes men for their too great fondness and excessive diligence in bringing offerings, inculcating upon them, that they are not intended principally, and for themselves, and that himself has no need of them. Thus Samuel speaks, 1 Sam. 15:22: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” In like manner, Isa. 1:11: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord.” And, Jer. 7:22: “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” On this place Maimonides observes: “It seems strange how Jeremiah should introduce God speaking in this manner, since the greatest part of the precepts is taken up about sacrifices and burnt-offerings.” But he answers, the scope of these words is thus: “The first intention certainly is, that ye cleave to me, and not serve another, that I may be your God, and you my people. But this precept concerning offerings and my house, is given you to the end you might learn it hence for your advantage.” The parallel places are many, Psa. 50:9–11; Jer. 6:2; Hos. 6:6: Am. 5:22. If God, therefore, when these precepts were still in full force, rebukes men for their too great attachment to them, we speak nothing unworthy of God, when we affirm, that for very weighty reasons, it was possible he should entirely abrogate them.
IV. 3dly, We add, that the church, without any prejudice to religion, was, for many ages, destitute of the greatest part of the ceremonies; as the Jews themselves reckon two thousand years before the giving of the law. Why then should she not, without detriment to religion, afterwards want the same ceremonies; in the practice of which, there was no intrinsic holiness, nor any part of the image of God? This at least is evident, that they are not of the essence of religion, and that it was entirely in God’s power to have made them either fewer or more in number, with even a stricter obligation, or again entirely to abolish them.
V. Nor ought this to stand in the way as any prejudice, that it was indeed convenient, that God should sometimes institute new ceremonies, to render religion more neat, graceful, and pompous, but not so proper to abrogate what he had once instituted; because both the institution of rites, which are afterwards wisely abrogated, and the abrogation of rites, which were wisely instituted, equally argue some defect of wisdom. But we are to have quite different conceptions of those things. God, indeed, in this matter, has displayed his manifold and even his unchangeable wisdom, which is ever most consistent with itself, in suiting himself to every age of his church; a more plain and easy kind of worship became her first and most tender infancy, but a stricter and pedagogical discipline was better suited to her more advanced childhood, but yet childhood very unruly and headstrong. An adult and manly age required an ingenuous and decent liberty. Our heavenly Father therefore does nothing inconsistent with his wisdom, when he removes the pedagogue, whom yet he had wisely given his son during his nonage, and treats him when he is grown up in a more tree and generous manner.
VI. Moreover, as the ceremonies were not instituted for themselves, but for something else, as we have just head Maimonides confessing, the same wisdom wherewith they were instituted, requires that when the reason of the institution ceases they should cease also. But when the Messiah is once manifested, we shall in its proper place make it appear by invincible arguments, that those reasons ceased for which the ceremonies were instituted. I am only now showing, that the ceremonies may be abrogated without any, even the least blemish on the wisdom and unchangeableness of God.
VII. But let us now proceed to the second head; namely, that God really intended they should cease in their appointed time. This is evident from the following arguments: 1st, The very institution of the ceremonies leads us to this; for since they were given to one people, with a limitation to their particular state, country, city, and temple, the legislator never intended that they should be binding on all whom he favours with saving communion with himself, “and at all times and in all place.” But this was really the case. And the Jews have always boasted in this, that the body of the Mosaic law was only given to their nation, “even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob,” Deut. 33:4. And God confined it “to their generations,” Gen. 17:7; Lev. 7:36; and 24:3. But as these generations are now confounded, and the Levites by no certain marks can be distinguished from the other tribes, or the descendants of Aaron from the other Levites; it follows, that the law ceases which was confined to the distinction of generations, which almost all depended on the tribe of Levi, and the family of the priests. God also appointed a certain country for the observation of the ceremonies, Deut. 4:14; 6:1; and 11:31, 32: a certain city and house, Deut. 12:5, 13, 14, 16. Since therefore the prophets all along foretold, that the church should afterwards be enlarged, by having many nations added to it, who, as they belong not to the generations of Israel, so neither could they inhabit the same country with them, nor meet in the same city, much less house; it is evident, that the lawgiver never intended that his people should at that time be bound to the practice of the ceremonies. For, as we shall more fully prove in the sequel, the condition of the Israelites could not then be different from the other nations, since all were to be united in one body with Israel.
VIII. This argument will have further strength when we shall have observed, that the reasons of most of the ceremonies were altogether peculiar, and taken from the special consideration of those times, and of the countries bordering on that of the descendants of Abraham, from whose errors and worship, God would have his own people to keep at the greatest distance. Abraham, the patriarch of the nation of Israel, came forth from among the Sabians. God therefore generally so framed his ceremonies, as to be directly opposite to the rites of the Sabians. Maimonides has frequently insisted upon this, and acknowledges that he came to know the reason of many laws, from the alone knowledge of the faith, rites, and worship of the Sabians. For instance, these idolaters offered only leavened bread, made choice of sweet things for their offerings, which they used to anoint with honey, but made no use of salt. God therefore prohibited to offer either leavened bread or honey, but expressly commanded, that salt should be used in all sacrifices, Lev. 2:13. Again, when these worshippers of the sun were to pray, they turned themselves to the east, and hence the Holy of Holies was placed in the west. Again, the Sabians did eat blood, though they looked upon it as a most impure thing; for they imagined it was the food of devils, and by eating it, one might attain to some familiarity with them; God therefore, under a severe threatening, prohibited the eating of blood, Lev. 17:10. Nor did God prescribe rites contrary to the Sabians alone, but also to the other neighbouring nations. The Egyptians worshipped the sign of the ram, and therefore were forbid to kill sheep. But in the sacrifices of the Israelites, no beasts were more acceptable and more frequent than sheep. Plutarch assures us, that rabbits and hares, on account of their swiftness and the perfection of their natural senses, were sacred to the Egyptians. But God would have his people to account all these unclean and profane. The worshippers of Baal-peor adored their idol by uncovering their nakedness, and hence the priests of God are commanded to make to themselves breeches to cover their nakedness, Exod. 28:42, with many other things to the same purpose, which Maimonides has collected in More p. 3. c. xlv. xlvi. And after his example, Hottinger in Hist. Oriental. lib. i. c. viii. and Selden de Jure nat. &c. lib. ii. c. vii. And we now quote them, to make it appear that these and the like commandments were given to one nation only, for reasons peculiar to them, and appropriated to those times, without affecting other nations in such a manner, or having now that weight as formerly, the madness of the ancient superstitions being now long since abolished.
IX. Secondly, we argue from the prophecies, by which the abrogation of the ceremonies is very clearly foretold; but these are either more general, or more special. In general Moses himself has prophesied concerning this thing, Deut. 18:15, 18. Where God, and Moses in God’s name, promise to Israel a prophet from among their brethren, like unto Moses himself; into whose mouth, God says, he would put his words, and threatens to take vengeance on the person, who should not hearken to the words of that prophet.
IX. Secondly, we argue from the prophecies, by which the abrogation of the ceremonies is very clearly foretold; but these are either more general, or more special. In general Moses himself has prophesied concerning this thing, Deut. 18:15, 18. Where God, and Moses in God’s name, promise to Israel a prophet from among their brthren, like unto Moses himself; into whose mouth, God says, he would put his words, and threatens to take vengeance on the person, who should not hearken to the words of that prophet.
X. For understanding that place, and the force of our argument taken from it, we must observe the following things. 1st. Moses forbids Israel to have any communion with soothsayers and diviners, holding forth himself and recommending the law given by his ministry, which contained every thing necessary to be known for that time. At least they should pretend, that upon his removal, something more would be granted them in this matter, he intimates, that his law would be sufficient till God should raise up another prophet, like unto himself, to whose words they were afterwards to give diligent attention. 2dly. That prophet was to be like unto Moses; but it is without all dispute, that there was never any in Israel equal to him, except this, of whom we are now speaking. Deut. 34:10. Moreover that likeness and equality were not to consist in some minute circumstances, or such qualities, as the following prophets had in common with Moses; but principally in the authority and exercise of the prophetical office. As Moses by the authority of God had polished the more gross worship of the ancients, and reduced it to a more perfect form: so himself was to change that carnal worship of Moses into another more spiritual. 3dly. God promises, that he would put his words into the mouth of that prophet, not only in that sense, in which all the true prophets spoke the words of God, as his faithful ministers; but those words, which God had reserved to be spoken by himself in the last days, and which none but God can speak, see John 3:35. Hence it follows, that prophet was not to be a bare interpreter of the law of Moses, but the true Lord of the law, and to speak those words of God, which were not hitherto spoken in that manner. 4thly, That prophet can be none but the Messiah, whose prophecy, according to Abarbanel in Prophet. fol. 27. col. 1, was in the highest pitch of prophetic degrees; and who, according to the saying of the Rabbins, which he subjoins, is more exalted than Abraham, higher than Moses, and more sublime than the ministering angels. Compare Acts 3:22. 5thly. The scripture all along insists upon it, see Isa. 42:4, and the Hebrew doctors do not deny it, that the Messiah was to bring in a new form of doctrine. See Isa. 42:4, Jonathan thus paraphrases on Isa. 12:3, “and you shall receive a new doctrine with joy from the chosen from among the just. Kimchi gives a remarkable reason why the paraphrast called this doctrine new; because really that doctrine will be new; and then they shall learn the knowledge of the Lord in such a manner, as none ever learned before that time. 6thly. God commands them to hearken to that prophet, and to subdue and captivate every thought, which exalts itself against him. Baal Hatturim has observed, that ver. 15 contains ten words, to set forth that he is to be obeyed equally with the decalogue. Though this observation be a specimen of Jewish fancy, yet the thing is certain: for, the words of that prophet are as much the words of God as the decalogue. 7thly. God threatens to take vengeance on every one who should disobey him. The stubborn rebellious Jews have experienced this; for they obstinately contended for the discarded ceremonies of Moses against Jesus and his disciples. All this tended to recommend to Israel another prophet, who was to institute a new form of worship, just as Moses had done before.
XI. Let us now take a view of the principal exceptions of the Jews. 1st. This promise contains God’s gracious answer to the prayers of the Israelites at Horeb, when they entreated that God would speak to them by a Mediator, lest perhaps the glory of his majesty should overwhelm them. But it is certain that at Horeb they did not ask for a prophet, to substitute another law, when that of Moses was abrogated. Thus Lipmannus Sepher Nitzachon, No. 137. 2dly. By the prophet is here understood the whole order of prophets in every age, and who may be said to be like unto Moses in point of authority and faithfulness, as they declared the words of the living God, as Moses had done: and the Israelites had such a number of them, that they had no occasion, in doubtful cases, to consult soothsayers or diviners. The same author. 3dly. If any one is pointed out in particular, he was either Joshua, of whom it is said, Deut. 34:9, “and the children of Israel hearkened unto him,” as seems to be the opinion of Aben Ezra and Bechai; or Jeremiah, because the words, נביא אקים להם “I will raise up a prophet to them,” are by the Gematria, equal in number to these ידמהו והו this is Jeremiah, according to Baal Hatturim. And Abarbanel de præfat. ad Perenniam, least it should be thought he had nothing to say, runs the parallel between Moses and Jeremiah, in fourteen particulars. 4thly. Our Jesus cannot be here intended, because neither according to us, nor according to the Jews, was he like unto Moses. Not according to us, because we believe him to be God, but Moses was a mere man; not according to the Jews, who firmly maintain, that there never afterwards was a prophet equal to Moses. But it is absurd, a less should abrogate the ordinances of a greater.—Lipmannus. 5thly. The same author likewise says, that our explication contradicts the words of Christ, who protested, that he came not to destroy the law, Matt. 5:17.
XII. To the first of these we answer, 1st. God indeed by this prophecy, answers the petition of the Israelites; for though they did not did not directly pray for the abrogation of the Mosaic manner of worship; yet that was no reason why God might not promise a prophet, who was to do and teach, what they had not once thought of in their petition. For God frequently hears the prayers of his people, so as to grant them more than they had either asked or thought of. The Israelites had prayed, that for the future God would speak to them by a mediator; he promises that he would not only do this, but also, by giving the character instead of the proper name, he promises them a certain prophet equal to Moses, who would perform as great, nay greater things for the true Israel. We are to consider well, what was transacted when the Israelites presented this their petition to God; they certainly expected, after hearing the decalogue, that God would publish more laws and statutes which they were as yet ignorant of, and in a word, give them a model of a new and complete formulary of religion, Deut. 5:33. They prayed, that these might be declared to them, not as the decalogue was, by an awful and immediate manifestations of the divine majesty, but by the intervening ministry of Moses. God complies with their request, ver. 37; but does not stop there, for he promises to deal with them in a like manner, when a like case should fall out. As in forming the old economy be made use of the ministry of Moses; so at the time, when the new should succeed the old, and be much more glorious than the former, he promises to make use of an interpreter who should veil the awful majesty of the Deity, and deal with them in a way of grace and mercy. As God therefore constituted Moses a mediator, when he was resolved, in the place of the ancient plain way of religion, to institute a more burdensome kind of worship; so when he promises another prophet, equal to Moses, he intimates that by him he would do something like what he had done by Moses, in reforming the Mosaic economy; which remarkable goodness of God Moses here inculcates.
XIII. To the second I answer, That indeed for ordinary, Israel was not without prophets, whom they might more piously and safely consult than either soothsayers or diviners, or the like impostors; nevertheless this was not absolutely perpetual, 1 Sam. 3:1; 2 Chron. 15:3. But there is nothing said here of a mutual succession of prophets; but concerning some prophet eminently so called, and distinguished by his character; since it is allowed, that in the whole series of prophets, none came up to Moses. But it is unpleasant to pursue minutely the feigned similitudes of a person, who puts not a due value on the greatness of God’s promise; or which is still worse, knowingly depreciates it. But I would have the mutual coherence of the context well observed, which represents the matter thus. Moses dissuades the people from giving ear to astrologers and diviners by this argument, because God was to raise up a prophet, equal to himself, to whom they were to hearken in all things. But you will say, that was not to be till after many ages. What then? They had a written law, which was abundantly sufficient for them, till the time of that prophet. This, upon any doubt arising, was to be consulted, Isa. 8:19, 20. For ordinarily they were to have prophets, to interpret that law, who were familiar with God. And when the common prophets ceased, and the period of the law was drawing towards its final conclusion, that great prophet was to arise, at whose mouth they were to inquire, and in whose ordinances they were to acquiesce. What probable reason then could make them have recourse to astrologers or diviners?
XIV. I answer to the third. The sacred text evidently shows, that the prophet here pointed out is not Joshua, Deut. 34:9, 10; for after he had told, that Joshua succeeded upon the death of Moses, it is immediately and expressly subjoined, and there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto (as) Moses: as if God would purposely take care, that none should imagine Joshua to be the prophet, he had promised to give them, Deut. 18. What is added, “and the children of Israel hearkened unto him,” cannot confirm such a considerable point without farther proof. Aberbanel being to prove, that Jeremiah is here meant, contends for it by argument of a quite contrary nature, and makes the similitude to consist in this, that as his countrymen opposed and resisted Moses, so they also did Jeremiah. But both are absurd. It was the common lot of all the prophets, to be sometimes listened to, but more frequently to be rejected; to have sometimes pious hearers, who trembled at the words of the living God; sometimes profane despisers and scoffers, who made a jest of them. You will nowhere find a more perfect fulfilment of this word than in the Lord Jesus himself, of whom the Father proclaimed from heaven, “Hear ye him,” Matt. 17:5.
XV. Much less are we to explain these things of Jeremiah, to whom the things that have been said before are no more applicable than to any other of the prophets. For 1st, The Cabalistical Gematria, which is the entertainment only of idle minds, has perhaps now and then, something ingenious, but nothing solid. We may justly say of it, what, in a similar case, Aben Ezra says on Isa. 7:6, רזה התק, “this is vanity.” For the master of the Cabala expressly contradicts himself; since he had a little before declared, that the prophet here promised would open all the fifty gates of intelligence, because the fifteenth verse begins and ends with the letter nun, which is the numeral character of fifty. But to say this of Jeremiah is altogether contrary to the hypothesis: for in that case he would be preferred to Moses, to whom, as they foolishly talk, forty-nine gates of intelligence were set open. The similitudes assigned by Abarbanel are trifling; for either they are common to Jeremiah with the other prophets, or only taken from external circumstances, or even some of them false. And then among the prophets there were others, whom he himself greatly prefers to Jeremiah. In his preface to Isaiah he at large contends, that he is the next to Moses in the excellence of his prophetic qualifications; nay, he even prefers Ezekiel in many respects to Jeremiah. It is therefore astonishing that he should select him from the rest of the prophets rather than some other.
XVI. To the fourth I answer: This prophecy is on all accounts to be applied to the Lord Jesus, who was like to Moses in the exact Knowledge of divine things, in familiarity with God, in miracles, in fine, in every pre-eminence by which Moses excelled the other prophets. He was of their brethren, who spoke such words as God had reserved to be declared in the last times: to whom the Father bore testimony from heaven, with an express charge to hear him in all things. Nor is it any objection that we affirm him to be greater than Moses. For he who is greater has every thing that is in the less, and thus far is like and equal unto the less. Besides, Moses did not intend an absolute equality between himself and that prophet, who was promised to be given them; but that at least he was not to be less than himself. But the greater he is, the stronger is the argument, and the stricter restraint is put upon idle curiosity. The general assertion, that a prophet did not arise like unto Moses, is improperly objected; for what is said of the time past is not to be understood in prejudice of the future; and it is self-evident that this saying puts no bar to the excellence of that prophet, whom Moses himself affirms was in all respects to be equal to himself. It is also improperly urged, that the less cannot abrogate the ordinances of the greater; for besides that, the doctrine of the prophets has not its authority from them, but from God. Christ was so much greater than Moses, by how much the son is greater than the servant, and the builder than the house, Heb. 3:3, 5, 6.
XVII. I answer to the fifth, 1st, When Christ says, he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, he principally means the moral law, for this is what he there explains, vindicates, and inculcates; and he subjoins to the sum of it, which he elsewhere publishes, “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Matt. 22:30. Whence we learn what our Lord means by the law and the prophets. 2dly, Καταλὺσαι τὸν νόμον, does not signify to abrogate the law when it had performed its part, but to overturn, and destroy it, loosen its frame, either by perverting its true meaning, or abolishing its scope, or in fine by falsifying and rendering it ineffectual. In which sense our Lord says, John 10:35, “the scripture cannot be broken.” That is, what the Scripture says cannot but be true. Briefly, to destroy the law and the prophets is to contradict them, either in doctrine or practice. And it is certain our Lord came not in this manner to destroy the law and the prophets, not even the ceremonial; since, on the contrary, he accomplished, in the most exact manner, whatever the law commanded, most faithfully explained its genuine sense, and most exactly fulfilled whatever either the ceremonies presignified, or the prophets predicted. 3dly, That abrogation of the ceremonies, which we say was made by Christ, is their glorious consummation and accomplishment, all their signification being fulfilled; not an ignominious destruction, which our Lord justly disclaims.
XVIII. The prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the abrogation of the Old Testament, Jer. 31:31–34, is no less remarkable than illustrious. Where observe, 1st, That by the Old Covenant is meant that which God made with the Israelites on their departure out of Egypt, the tenure of which Moses has fully set forth, Exod. 24:3, and following verses. Thus Moses rehearsed by the command of God to the people, not only the Decalogue, but also many judicial and ceremonial precepts, which are declared in chap. 20 and the following, and stipulated obedience from the people; which stipulation being performed, he proceeded to the solemnity of the covenant, and on the day following crected an altar, representing Christ and twelve pillars, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel. And then, as God’s ambassador, he read out of a book in their hearing, all those precepts, moral, judicial, and ceremonial. The people answered, that they would perform all that was read before them. Then Moses sprinkled both the altar of the Lord and the twelve pillars of the people with the blood of the sacrifices. This blood he called the blood of the covenant. Where we are to observe, that all the solemnities of that covenant were entirely ceremonial; the altar, the sacrifices, the blood, the sprinkling. And therefore that covenant itself which consisted in rites, was ceremonial too, Heb. 9:1. For though these were only the accidents of the covenant, or at least appendages thereto, yet because they were the instruments of its administration they are called the Covenant. And therefore, in sum, the solemn manner of ratifying this Covenant consisting in ceremonies and sacrifices, is, in this place, called the Old Covenant.
XIX. 2dly, To that Old Covenant is contradistinguished the New, which can be no other but God’s agreement with Israel, without the veil of ceremonies, in which there can be nothing typical or shadowy, but all things real and substantial; the sacrifice not brutal, but rational; the blood, not of beasts, but of the Messiah; the sprinkling, not of an altar of earth on one hand, and of pillars representing the people on the other, but of heavenly things, which are represented by earthly on the one, and of the consciences on the other hand. As the apostle sets the one over against the other, Heb. 9 and 10.
XX. The Old Covenant is here found fault with, accused, and charged with defects: not only because the New is promised, for which there would have been no place, had nothing been deficient in the former, Heb. 8:7, but also because the former is said to have been made void by Israel. It had not, therefore, at least as old and shadowy, and as explained by Moses in the said place, the promise of sanctifying grace. It had the decalogue engraven on tables of stone, the rest of the laws written down in a book; but in the whole solemnity of the covenant there is not the least mention of writing the law on the heart. The Old Covenant was, therefore, of such a nature, as to leave room for a new and a better.
XXI. 4thly, The New Covenant that was promised to succeed the Old, has the following superior privileges: 1st, It shall be sure and stable, because it was not to be external but spiritual; engraven, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart. 2dly, Clearly proposed and made known by a more plentiful unction of the Spirit, so that there would be no necessity for one to be taught by another, 1 John. 2:27, as formerly, when the mysteries of salvation were exhibited to be guessed at rather than contemplated. 3dly, It shall have a true expiation and remission of sins, which the Old Economy, as legal excluded, and as typical could not give. Whence it appears that the New Covenant, which is here promised, consists in mere promises of an irrevocable grace, is held forth to us without the veil of ceremonies, and has the reality of those things, of which the types were only the shadows.
XXII. 5thly, From these things, moreover, it is now easy to conclude, that the New Covenant was not promised to stand, together with the Old, and be superadded to supply its defects; but to come in the place of the former, when that, as obscure and typical, should be entirely removed; as is plain from those words: “Not according to the Covenant that I made with their fathers, &c. In that he saith a new Covenant he hath made the first old; now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away,” Heb. 8:13.
XXIII. The exceptions of the Jews against this strong argument are very weak. 1st, That the establishment and not the renewal of that Covenant is here promised: thus Kimchi. 2dly, That it does not necessarily follow from the mention of the New Covenant that the Lord will give a new law, only renew the former on their hearts. For whatsoever was not sufficiently manifest at first, when afterwards more fully declared, is said in Scripture to be New. Thus Samuel says to Saul, 1 Sam. 11:14, “come and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” Where it is plain there was no new kingdom given, but only the old one confirmed: thus Menasse Ben Israel, quæst. 7, in Levit
XXIV. I answer, to the first, 1st, That it is begging the question. 2dly, A direct contradiction of God’s word. God says, I will make a New Covenant, not like the former, which was made void; man ventures to answer, it is not an establishment of a New, but a repetition of the Old; and so far the New Covenant confirmed the Old; yet at the same time this was its abrogation, because the presence of the truth and of the body is the removal of the figure, and the shadow. But these things the Jew did not understand.
XXV. To the other: we say, that here is no promise of a new law, because none can be better and more perfect than that of the ten commandments: however, we have a promise of a New Covenant, not a Covenant of works, or of the law but of grace, promising to write the same law on the heart, which before was written on stone. 2dly, That the renewal of the Covenant does not consist only in a clearer repetition of the law, or inscription on the heart. For the New Covenant is opposed to the Old, and substituted in its place, and completes it, so as likewise to put an end to it, as we have just now shown. 3dly, That the two cases are not parallel; for Samuel says not to Saul, Let us go to Gilgal, and I will give thee a new kingdom, unlike to the former; as God speaks here to Israel. These are things very different, I will renew the Covenant which I made, and I will make a new Covenant, not like unto the former.
XXVI. Let us now descend to particulars: where the first thing that offers is the prophecy concerning the removal of the Ark of the Covenant, not only out of the world, but also out of the memory and heart of believers; expressed Jer. 3:16, 17, in the following words: “And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land; in those days, saith Jehovah, they shall say no more, the ark of the Covenant of Jehovah; neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it, neither shall they visit it, neither shall that be done any more; at that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah, and all the nations shall be gathered into it.”
XXVII. On this prophecy we observe, 1st, That the ark of the Lord was the centre and compendium of all the ceremonies. It was the holiest of all sacred places, to which they looked in all their ceremonial worship, and before which they were also to adore, 2 Sam. 6:2, and to sacrifice; the throne of God erecting a priestly kingdom; in fine, it was the principal symbol of the whole typical covenant; whence it is also called the ark of the covenant, both here and in many other places; because in it, at least in its side, was kept the book of the covenant, Deut. 31:26, 27; and “the ark of the testimony,” Exod. 26:33; or also the testimony itself, Lev. 16:13, because it testified concerning the covenant of God with Israel, of which it was a pledge. 2dly, That the entire removal of the ark is here foretold, not only out of the world, but also from the memory, love, and desire of believers; all opinion of typical holiness, which formerly the ark was eminently possessed of, being erased out of the minds of God’s people. To this purpose is that repetition, by way of climax or gradation, “they shall say no more, neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it, neither shall they visit it or seek it, neither shall that be done any more.” They shall not make a new one when the old shall be lost, or have it in any esteem. Poor Aberbanel looks on this repetition with a kind of astonishment. 3dly, That it is not here foretold in the form of a threatening of misery, such as was the loss of the ark, while the ceremonies were in force, but as a promise of the most happy times, in which the church shall have that in reality, which formerly she had typically in the ark; and while she enjoys the substance will bear the loss of the shadow, not only with equanimity and composure of mind, but also with gladness of heart. 4thly, It is added, that all Jerusalem, and not the cover of the ark only, as formerly, should be the throne of glory. “For all Jerusalem shall obtain a degree of the ark in holiness and glory,” says Aberbanel. That is, God will manifest himself by much more glorious indications of his grace in the whole church of believing Jews, and converted Gentiles united together into one holy city, than he did formerly within the inclosure of the sanctuary; words which overturn the typical holiness of places. 5thly, That all those benefits accompany the coming of the Messiah, whose distinguishing characters are the multiplying and the increasing of the people in the land; see Deut. 30:5, even above their ancestors, after having subdued and incorporated Edom with themselves; the giving of pastors according to God’s heart, who, as Kimchi interprets, are “the rulers of Israel, who shall be the attendants on the king Messiah.” We call these the apostles of the Lamb, and their faithful assistants and successors, and in fine, the gathering together the Gentiles into the church, who could neither be burdened with ceremonies, as we shall presently show; nor, while the religion of ceremonies continued, live peaceably in the same holy city with the Jews without them. The sum of the whole comes to this, that when the Messiah should discover those things which were signified by the ark and the other ceremonies, he would then abolish all the holiness of the ark and the like types, as well in reality, as out of the minds of believers.
XXVIII. It is excepted, 1st, That the ark which was wanting in the second temple, is to be restored by God under the Messiah. Thus Sephar Afkat Rochel refuted by Hulsius on the tenth sign of the Messiah’s coming. 2dly, That the meaning of this prophecy is, that, during these prosperous circumstances, Israel would have no reason to fear the envy of the other nations; for they should not make war so as to be obliged to go out, and take the ark of the covenant with them, as they usually did in the days of Eli, and as often as war happened to break out. And therefore there was no prediction of the removal of the ark simply, but in some respect, namely, as to its special use in time of war. Thus Jonathan, Kimchi, and Menasse, Quæst. 2 in Levit. and others. 3dly, That the abrogation of the ceremonies cannot be inferred from the absence of the ark, since it is without controversy that these remained in force, though the ark has been wanting ever since the Babylonish captivity. 4thly, That the ten commandments, formerly inclosed in the ark, are even at this day accounted and regarded by all as eternal, Menasse, ibid.
XXIX. I answer to the first, that it is a mere Jewish tradition, without any foundation in Scripture, and directly contrary to this prophecy of Jeremiah.
XXX. To the second, 1st, That it is supposed without proof, that the principal use of the ark was in time of war. They took it with them to the field of battle in the time of Eli, but with bad success, being found “to have in vain put their confidence in the ark,” Joseph. Antiq. Lib. 5. c. 11. 2dly, That, after the dedication of the temple, and the solemn introduction of the ark into it, it was never any more moved from its place, and carried out to the field of battle, 1 Kings 8:8, 2 Chron. 5:9. Therefore the temple is called, “the resting place of Jehovah, and of the ark of his strength,” 2 Chron. 6:41; “and an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of Jehovah,” 1 Chron. 28:2, so that the Levites were relieved from the burden of carrying it, 2 Chron. 35:3. What new thing then could Jeremiah foretell here, should he prophesy, that, in the time of the Messiah, the ark was not to be carried out to battle, as all knew that was prohibited so many ages before? 3dly, That reiterated repetition of phrases plainly indicates an entire removal of the ark. And justly said Abarbanel of this exposition: “All these things are foreign to the purpose, there is not a single word in the text concerning war and the other things of which they speak, and therefore I cannot be satisfied with this explication.”
XXXI. To the third, the absence of the ark in the second temple, which was to be honoured with the presence of him who was prefigured by it, did even then signify the future abrogation of the types in due time. 2dly, We do not argue from the bare absence of the ark, but from its being foretold that it was neither to be in the world, nor so much as have a place in the mind, love, and desire of believers; and this was promised as a great blessing, as a token and evidence of the liberty purchased by the Messiah; which was not the case before the coming of the Messiah, when the memory of the ark was still dear to the godly among them. 3dly, We likewise argue from this; namely, that the holiness and glory of the ark may be said to be imparted to all Jerusalem inhabited by Jews as well as Gentiles, in the sense we have just explained. Whence the abrogation of that typical holiness, which the ark formerly had above all is most evidently concluded.
XXXII. To the fourth 1st, The laws of the covenant, of which the ark was the symbol, were not only the ten commandments, but all the laws of Moses. Accordingly the book which contained them was placed in the side of the ark. That symbol therefore of the covenant being thus abolished, both the covenant itself, and the laws, so far as they comprised the conditions of that covenant, are abrogated. The case of the laws of the decalogue is different from the rest; for they were engraven on tables of stone, and laid up in the ark, to represent that they were to be the perpetual rule of holiness, and continually to be kept in the heart both of the Messiah and of his mystical body; while the others were only written on paper or parchment, and placed in the side of the ark. Their abrogation, therefore, would be ill concluded from the removal of the typical ark; seeing their being engraven on stone, and kept in the ark signified their indelible inscription on, and continual preservation in the hearts of believers.
XXXIII. David prophesied concerning the abrogation of the priesthood, Psa. 110:4, “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” From which place the apostle long ago argued, thus, Heb. 7:11–13: “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law; for he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.” The following observations will show that this reasoning is solid and conclusive.
XXXIV. 1st, The inscription proves, that the author of this psalm was David, a psalm of David, which is nowhere found in the titles of psalms composed by another. 2dly, The person, to whom both the kingdom and priesthood are promised, is not David himself, but the Lord of David, as appears from the connexion of ver. 4 with ver. 1. 3dly, The Lord of David is not Abraham, but the Messiah. Because the things asserted and declared in this psalm, as the sitting at God’s right hand, the sending the rod of his strength out of Zion, the making all his enemies his footstool, his eternal priesthood, &c., do not agree to the former, but to the latter. 4thly, All are agreed, that the Messiah is not of the tribe of Levi, to which, by the law of Moses, the priesthood was limited; but of Judah and of the family of David. But by the Mosaic law that family was not allowed to exercise the priesthood, 2 Chron. 26:18. 5thly, A priesthood, even an eternal priesthood, is promised to the Messiah, and that by an oath, see Zech. 6:13. Which cannot be, while the Mosaic law concerning the priesthood remains in force. 6thly, That priesthood is of another than that of Aaron, namely, of Melchisedec; which cannot subsist at the time with the Levitical both for other reasons, which it is not to the purpose now to unfold, and especially on account of the diversity of descent. 7thly, If the Aaronical priesthood had been perfect, and could have perfected the consciences, there neither had been nor ought there to be a place for this change. But the weakness and unprofitableness thereof made way for an amendment. 8thly, With the change of the priesthood is conjoined the change of the law. Because the priesthood is not only a great part but also the foundation of all the ceremonies.
XXXV. The Jewish interpreters wonderfully perplex themselves in darkening this illustrious passage; but it is not worth our while to discuss all their misinterpretations here; they are both so many and so impertinent. We shall only run over such exceptions as are more plausible, and directly contrary to what we maintain. It is therefore objected, 1st, That this is not a psalm of David’s, but composed by some inspired finger in commendation, and on the account of David; and that the inscription is no objection; ל sometimes, even in the inscription of psalms, is the sign of the dative case, and signifies the same thing as בעבור for, as Psal. 72:1, לשלמח, to, for, or concerning Solomon; nay, that we have the same inscription לרוד prefixed to some psalms, of which he does not seem to be the author, as Psa. 20 and 21. Where the singer prays for the preservation of the king; under which name it is not very likely that David should pray for himself. 2dly, That therefore the singer means David by his Lord; whom he calls not Adonai, a sacred name, but Adoni, a human and common appellation. 3dly, That the term כהו, Cohen, does not here signify a priest but a king and prince, as 2 Sam. 8:18, where the sons of David are called כהנים, that is, princes of the court; and 2 Sam. 20:26. where Ira the Jairite is called a prince of David. Accordingly even the Chaldee has translated it, “thou art constituted a prince.” 4thly, That על דברתי מלכי עדק signifies, “because thou art the king of righteousness, as if the meaning was, thou shalt be a prince for ever, shalt reign by a long succession of descendants, not as Saul, whose government was execrable, and of short continuance, “because of righteousness, for thou art a righteous king,” as the Chaldee paraphrases. If this be a true explication nothing is here said about the change of the priesthood.
XXXVI. I answer to the first. 1st, If you say, that this is not a psalm of David, you cannot prove him to be the author of any psalm that has the same inscription. 2dly, The ancients all acknowledge that if is David’s. If it had not been so, Christ would not have asserted it as a thing of undoubted truth, Mat. 22:45. and the Pharisees might easily have eluded that argument, by which they were constrained to hold their peace. The Chaldee also has it, a hymn by the hand of David. 3dly, We allow, that the letter ל is sometimes the sign of the dative; but we deny, that here or elsewhere, when the title runs מזמור לשלמה, ל signifies the same with בעבור nor, by any other description are those psalms distinguished which we all believe to be David’s, in consequence of that inscription. 5thly, The instances mentioned do not prove any thing to the contrary, for in Psa. 72 we read not מזמור לשלמה, a psalm for Solomon, but לשלמה absolutely for Solomon, and then there is no reason why it may not be a psalm of Solomon’s, which he received, as it were from David’s mouth, since he likewise wrote several proverbs from the mouth of his mother, Prov. 31:1. And there is as little reason why Psams 20 and 21 may not be accounted David’s. For, as God had appointed him to the office of a prophet, he justly also dictated to the people those forms of prayer, with which they were to intercede for their king. And that he might sing this in one spirit with them, it is not without reason, that he speaks of himself as king in the third person. And thus he might properly name himself; but he could not call himself, his Lord, whether singing by himself or with others. Besides the appellation king, even in those psalms, may look further and be applied to the Messiah. For, how could the church in after times by singing, pray for David and his posterity, when they were extinct? And in what sense should she sing these things of an earthly king, when there was no such king in Israel?
XXXVII. To the second we reply. 1st, It is affirmed without proof, that these things were foretold concerning David, when David speaks them concerning his Lord. 2dly, David’s Lord is the Messiah, for David was his servant. He sits at God’s right hand, having the next degree of honour to God; all the other things which are declared in the psalm emphatically belong to him. 3dly, As he could be called Adonai by David on account of the excellency of the divine essence; so he is also justly called Adoni on account of the eminence of his power and dominion. 6thly, The more ancient Jews themselves explained this psalm of the Messiah, from whom we have testimonies in Munsterus on this psalm, and in Cocceius on Heb. 7. §. 12.
XXXVIII. To the third we say: 1st, Though the term בהן, Cohen, may sometimes denote a political dignity, yet royal majesty is never expressed by that word. Cohen, as Aben Ezra has well observed, signifies משרת, a minister, who is next to the king. But there is a king, who has power over conscience, and God only is such a king; and there is a king who has power over the body, and such are the supreme rulers of this world. Therefore there is a twofold cohen, namely, with respect either to God or to kings. With respect to God, such are called cohanim, who were over the people in performing divine service, because they appear to be next to God. With respect to kings, these are cohanim, who are next to them. In that sense, Ira the Jairite, is called David’s cohen, and David’s sons cohanim. That is as it is explained, 1 Chron. 11:15: captains, or principal men next to the king. And if we may believe the Jews, because Absalom was not admitted to partake of this dignity, he therefore took occasion to form his unnatural conspiracy. But in none of these senses could David be called cohen; not in the former, because the priesthood was confined to the descendants of Aaron alone; nor in the latter, for thus he himself had his cohanim. But the Messiah is in such a manner a king, as at the same time to be priest; just like Melchisedec, who distinctly discharged both offices, for the Holy Spirit directs us to this.
XXXIX. To the fourth we answer, that there is a mistake through the misinterpretation of these words, על רבדתי מלבי־צרק. For, 1st, מלכי־צרק, Melchi-zedeck, is always in the sacred writings a proper name. The Hebrews should appellatively call the king of righteousness, מלך צדק. על דבדת 2dly, never signifies because but when it is placed as here, according to the order or manner, Eccl. 3:18, and 8:2, if ש follows in Hebrew, or רי in Chaldee, it signifies with that intention or design, as Eccl. 7:14. Dan. 2:30, and Dan. 4:14. Seeing then neither כחונה, nor מלכי־צדק, nor על דברתי, signify what the Jews would have, our argument remains in its full force.
XL. And indeed, the event has confirmed this prophecy: for about the time when our true Melchizedeck began his priestly office, the Levitical had lost its dignity, till it was at last entirety abolished, without any hopes of a restoration, all the distinction of tribes being confounded. And the Jews themselves have taken notice of this, whose opinion we have in the Mishna, tit. Sota, c. ix.: “From the death of Rabbi Ismael, the son of Phabi, the splendor of the priesthood has ceased.” But this man was made High Priest by Valerius Gratus, president of Judea under Tiberius Cæsar. About that time, this most sacred office was tossed about and sported with, like a ball, and any of the most profligate, as he favoured and made presents to the Roman president, grasped at it by the foulest ambition and the basest arts. And matters at length came to such a pitch of profaneness and wickedness, that the high-priests were not only chosen by lot, but even the high-priesthood fell by lot to one Phannias, who not only was a “worthless High-priest, but also, through his gross ignorance, incapable to distinguish what was the nature of the high-priesthood,” Josephus de Bel. Jud. lib. iv. c. xii. Yet from the utmost contempt and derision they constrained this man, whom they forced even against his will from the country, and brought him on the stage like a kind of actor, and clothed in the sacred vestments, to act the part of High-Priest, who like a child had prompters always at hand to remind him how to behave and maintain his character. Which impiety, as Josephus justly calls it, sufficiently shows, that God no longer regarded that office, after the true priest according to the order of Melchizedeck had once appeared.
XLI. From the priesthood let us proceed to the sacrifices. Daniel speaks of the ceasing of these, chap. 9 last verse: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week, he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”
XLII. We are here to observe: 1st, That the prophet speaks concerning the times of the Messiah, who, ver. 25, is called “the Messiah the prince,” by way of eminence and with respect to his character and office: compare Isa. 55:4. His office was to “finish (restrain) the transgression, and make an end of (seal) sins, and to make reconciliation for (expiate) iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” ver. 24. These are the offices and benefits of the true Messiah alone.
XLIII. 2dly, That the abolishing of the sacrifice and oblation is foretold to be done by the Messiah; for, he “who confirmed the covenant with many, (whom Paul calls) the surety of a better covenant,” Heb. 7:22, even he shall cause the sacrifices to cease. But whatever the Messiah does is undoubtedly right; since at least he is a prophet, and faithful in the house of God.
XLIV. 3dly, That this abolishing was both just and actually took place. It was just by reason of the introduction of a new covenant, which was confirmed, not by sacrifice and the blood of brute beasts, but by the offering of the Messiah himself, that lamb without blemish, whose blood is the blood of the New Testament, shed in order to procure or obtain true remission for many. Accordingly the future abolishing of the sacrifices was foretold to be in the middle of that week in which the Messiah was to be cut off, when he was to “make his soul an offering for sin,” Isa. 53:10. His sacrifice put an end to typical sacrifices. And the abrogation of the sacrifices is joined with the confirmation of the new covenant; for that being sealed by the sacrifice of Christ, and preached by the apostles, and confirmed by the effusion of the Holy Ghost, and by very many miracles; the sacrifices of beasts, which constituted a great part of the Old Covenant, immediately lost all their efficacy and dignity, and so were justly abrogated. It actually took place not long after, on the destruction of the city and temple; for, all the sacrifices ceased upon that. Josephus relates, that Titus answered the priests who begged for their lives after the burning of the Temple, that “that was destroyed, on account of which he would have justly saved them; but that it was proper for the priests to perish with the Temple.” And what Chrysostom relates, Orat. 3. contra Judæos, agrees with this, that the Jews should have said to Julian, when he exhorted them to sacrifice in the ancient manner, “If you would see us sacrifice, restore our city, rebuild our Temple, and we will sacrifice even now as before.” As the profane emperor, from the hatred he bore to Christianity attempted this, and furnished the expense out of the public treasury, God prevented it by his Almighty hand, thereby showing, that he had no pleasure in new sacrifices. Not only our own writers have this history, but also Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxiii., among the Gentiles, and Zemach David, P. ii. p. 36, among the Jews. Both these kinds of the abrogation of sacrifices may be ascribed to the Messiah. He had a right to do it, as a priest who had offered a better sacrifice; and as a king who appoints religious ceremonies for his church. He actually did it, as the asserter of his own majesty and grace, which the rebellious Jews trampled under foot; for which end, he made use of Titus and his armies as his ministers.
XLV. 4thly, That the removal of sacrifices and offerings infers the abrogation of the whole ceremonial worship. Not only because sacrifices constitute a principal part of the ceremonies, and we may say the same of things of a like nature; but also because the whole external worship is sometimes expressed by the name sacrifice, as Hos. 6:6. “כי חסד חפצתי ולא זבח, for I desired mercy and not sacrifice; חסד, which the Septuagint here translate by ἔλεος, as also Matt. 12:7, signifies ὁσεὅτης, (a word very plainly derived from the Hebrew חסדותא, or the Chaldee חסידותא), or a diligent love of God. But ὁσεότης is that internal purity and holiness of heart, which comprehends all those virtues or graces wherein the image of God consists. And therefore זבח, in order to a just opposition, will signify the whole external and ceremonial worship. Which Kimchi himself seems to have observed, who explains sacrifice by “the worship of the Lord in the house of his sanctuary.” The interpretations which the blind and foolish Jews give of this prophecy of Daniel, are so foreign to the words of the text, to the designation of the time, and to the history of the events, that they confute and overthrow themselves. Whoever desires to see them exploded, may consult Const. l’Empereur on Daniel, and the celebrated Cocceius, Hornbeck, and Hulsius, in their writings against the Jews.
XLVI. The Spirit, which spoke by the prophets, not thinking it sufficient to foretel the ceasing of the ceremonies, foretold also, that in the days of the Messiah, such rites should be instituted, as are entirely repugnant to the ancient institutions: that he would take for himself Priests and Levites out of all nations without distinction. Isa. 46:20, 21. That in all places incense and a pure offering should be offered to his name, Mal. 1:11: that there should be an altar, acceptable to himself in the midst of the land of Egypt, Isa. 19:19: that on the bells of the horses should be engraven HOLINESS TO JEHOVAH; which was formerly engraven only on the golden plate fastened to the mitre of the high-priest; and God has graciously promised, that all the pots in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, should be holiness unto him. Zech 14:20, 21. These things cannot be reconciled with the ancient privileges of the priests and Levites, and with the earthly sanctuary, and the prerogatives of the land of Canaan, and with the special holiness of the pontifical pomp. God intimates that he would be worshipped in the use of other sacred ordinances, which should not be confined to any forms of the ancient ceremonies, but be duly performed in spirit and in truth, by every believer, in all places whatever.
XLVII. Let us now come to the third thing proposed, and show that the ceremonies ought to be abrogated in the time of the Messiah, and that it was not possible the case should be otherwise. This may be shown two ways: First, if we consider the material, or matter of the ceremonies, as they are acts of the obedience, prescribed by the law of ordinances: secondly their formal, or essence, as they were types and shadows: but in neither of these ways can they have place in the kingdom of the Messiah. I make the first of these appear thus.
XLVIII. It is evident from the prophecies, that a great multitude of the Gentiles would be called by the Messiah to communion with God and Israel. That God would allure Japheth to dwell in the tents of Shem, Gen. 9:27: that in the seed of Abraham all nations of the earth should be blessed, Gen. 22:18; that unto the Messiah should the obedience of the people be, Gen. 49:10; that the Egyptians and Babylonians should be mentioned among those, who know Jehovah; and that it should be said of the Philistine, the Tyrian, and the Ethiopian, they were born in Zion. Psa. 87:4. And that all nations should flow to the mountain of the house of Jehovah, Is. 2:2. and that Israel should be the third of Egypt and Assyria; and that the Lord shall say, blessed be my people the Egyptians, and the work of my hands, the Assyrians, and Israel mine inheritance, Is. 19:24, 25, and numberless other passages, which frequently occur in Scripture to the same purpose.
XLIX. Moreover, Isaiah declares, that both Israel and the converted Gentiles should obey the same laws, and be bound together by the same religious ties, chap. 42:4, “and the isles shall wait for his (the Messiah’s) laws. Again, Isa. 2:3. “And many people shall go and say, come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” And he adds, no stranger who hath joined himself to Jerusalem shall say, Jehovah hath utterly separated me from his people: but on the contrary, even unto the eunuchs shall be given, in the house of God and within his walls, a place and a name better than that of sons and of daughters, Isa. 56:3, 5; that is, that the converted Gentiles should, in matters of religion, be on an equal footing with the Israelites. To this purpose is that of Zephan. 3:9, 10, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent: from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, my suppliants, even the daughters of my dispersed shall bring mine offering:” and Zechar. 14:9. “And Jehovah shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Jehovah, and his name one:” one shall be the worship, and one the veneration of the one God. The Jews themselves also frequently declare, that in the time of the Messiah, many nations shall be converted to the God of Israel, and that then they shall walk in the doctrine of that law, as the Chaldee speaks on Is. 2:3, and “shall embrace one common law with the Israelites,” as Menasse speaks, de Resur. lib. 2. c. 3, and so shall be incorporated into one people with Israel, and be partakers of the same privileges, as being proselytes of righteousness.
L. Whenever this shall come to pass, it is plain that the ancient ceremonies cannot possibly be observed by all the subjects of the Messiah. For how is it possible the paying of vows and tithes, the presenting the first-born, the observation of the passover, pentecost and feast of tabernacles, which were confined to the place, which God had chosen, should be binding on those who are to be at a great distance from Judea? And how can men, who dwell in the outermost parts of the earth, come to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice for every sin, and every pollution, in order to avoid the curse? How could women, newly delivered, undertake so long a journey, and present themselves in the place chosen by God, to perform the offerings commanded? Where could so many beasts, so many priests, so many altars be found, sufficient for all the sacrifices? What extent of country, much less town, could be large enough to hold such numbers? Menasse, if I rightly remember, idly says, that then the gates of Jerusalem should be extended to Damascus; but had he extended them, which he might with equal ease, beyond the Portæ Caspiæ, or pass of Teflis, he would have more commodiously provided for so prodigious a conflux of people, flocking from all parts to the sacrifices. Put the case of the leprosy, and of a house infected with that plague, of which Lev. 13; must the priests make incursions to the Scythians, the Sarmatians and the Indians; to the Britons separated from the rest of the world, and to the outmost Thule, to form a judgment of the scab or scall? To omit many other considerations, which might with equal propriety be urged; and which Eusebius among the ancients, Demonstr. Evangel. lib. 1, and among the moderns, Spahemius Dubior Evang. p. 3, Dub. 112, have fully and learnedly done.
LI. You may possibly allege, that God will grant a kind of dispensation of, and relax these impossible laws. But where is there any promise to that purpose? Have not these laws been made by the same authority with the others? Is not their duration in like manner extended לעולם, for ever, which in other respects is so much objected to us? Do not these and the like laws constitute the principal part of the ceremonial? And if the conscience can be set free from the obligation of these, why not also from that to the others, which are of the same nature?
LII. But shall they not cease to bind because the observation of them is impossible, in the same manner as the moral law which we teach is binding, though we allow the perfect performance thereof to be a thing impossible? But who does not see a very wide difference here? That the moral law cannot now be perfectly performed, is a thing accidental, owing to our corruption. That these other laws cannot be observed under the kingdom of the Messiah, arises from the nature of the laws themselves, without any default of man. And thus we have demonstrated, that the ceremonies, in so far as they are acts of the obedience, prescribed by the old law, cannot be observed in the universal church, gathered together from among Jews and Gentiles, under the king Messiah.
LIII. This will be more manifest, if we moreover consider the formal of the ceremonies: thus there was a yoke in them that must be broken off; a pedagogy, and an accusation of childhood, which cannot take place in a more advanced age. There was a partition-wall to be broken down, when, on removing all distinction of nations, the Messiah is to be all in all; an enmity to be abolished at the time, in which the Messiah is to publish to the Gentiles, that they should have peace both with Israel and with God. There was, in fine, a hand-writing, bearing testimony concerning guilt not yet expiated, and payment not yet made. This, when all things are fulfilled by the Messiah, is to be taken out of the way, left any institution of God should be found to testify against the truth and Son of God. Such are either ignorant of, or overturn all the signification of the ceremonies and their true efficacy, who bind the obligation of them on the consciences, after the Messiah had perfected all things.
LIV. There now remains the fourth head, namely, to explain the progress and the various degrees of this abrogation, which we digest in the following order: 1st. When Christ came and was manifested to Israel, the ceremonies lost much of their splendour, as when the sun in the heavens extinguisheth the stars. Nevertheless they were binding while Christ was not yet made perfect by sufferings, but yet their abrogation was drawing near: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21, 23. To this purpose is that proclamation, which John several times published, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 2dly. They were abrogated in point of right by the death of Christ; for all their typical presignification being fulfilled in Christ, and the blood of the New Testament being shed, and the guilt expiated which they were appointed to be a charge of, with what right could ceremonies lately discarded claim any longer to keep their former station? Hence Christ is said “to have taken the hand-writing out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” Col. 2:14, and to “have abolished in his flesh (on his flesh being broken by death) the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” Eph. 2:15. Certainly the flesh of Christ was the veil; and while that was still entire, a new and living way was not opened to the heavenly sanctuary. Heb. 10:20. For while Christ was not yet made perfect by sufferings, the ceremonies which required that perfection or consummation, were in full force. But when the utmost farthing was paid by the death of Christ, the veil and inclosure of the ceremonies being taken down, there was a free access to God; which was signified and confirmed by the rending the veil of the temple upon the death of Christ. 3dly. God declared, confirmed, and sealed this abrogation by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, and the plentiful effusion of the Holy Spirit. For the hand-writing was then discharged. He who hitherto was in bondage to the elements of the world, equally with the other worshippers of God, was placed with his people in heavenly places, where no such bondage takes place; and the spirit was given, as the seal of a more delightful dispensation of the Covenant. 4thly. But this liberty was for sometime not sufficiently known even to the apostles themselves, till Peter was instructed therein by a heavenly vision. Acts 10:11. 5thly. Then, by a solemn decree of a synod of the apostles, under the presidence of the Holy Spirit, it was ordained that a yoke was not to be put on the neck of the disciples, besides those few things necessary for that time; namely, “to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled;” to which was subjoined, though of a different kind, fornication, Acts 15:10, 28, 29. 6thly. Afterwards Paul preached freedom from these things also, excepting fornication, that being contrary to the moral law. 1 Cor. 8:4, 8, and 1 Cor. 10:25–29. 7thly. Yet because the Jews, who were converted to Christ, having been accustomed to the ceremonies, were with very great difficulty drawn from them, the apostles, and other believers with them, that they might not offend the weak, according to the rules of Christian charity and prudence, freely used those ceremonies, not with any opinion of holiness; but in order not to wound tender consciences, accommodating themselves to all, to gain some to Christ. See Acts 21:22. 8thly. But after that the church seemed now to be sufficiently instructed in her liberty, and the fondness for the ceremonies was no longer a degree of weakness but of obstinacy, Paul would not give place by subjection, no not for an hour, and sharply rebuked Peter, whose conduct was rather too remiss, Gal. 2:5, 14, and exhorted every one in particular to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage, nor to make Christ of no effect to themselves. Gal. 5:1, 2. 9thly and lastly. All the ceremonies were actually taken away at the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and buried as it were in their ruins, never to be revived any more. See what we have said concerning circumcision. Chap. ii. §. 21, &c.