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Written by Wilson Thompson   

A Sermon on the two Covenants designed as an  appendix to the foregoing work

Galatians 4.24. “For these are the two covenants.”

In this chapter the apostle showeth that we are under the law until Christ came, as the heir is under his guardian till he be of age; but when Christ came he freed us from under the law, therefore we are servants no longer to it. Then he mentions their great love to him when he first came amongst them as a minister of the gospel; reproves them for their hankering after the law again; saying, tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? for it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid and the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bond-woman, was born after the flesh; but he of the free-woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; here the apostle shews us, Agar as a figure of the law given on Sinai, and Sarah as a figure of the gospel; for this Agar is mount Sinai, in Arabia and answereth to (or is in the same rank with) Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is from above is free, which is the mother of us all.

In treating on this subject, we shall attempt to shew, first, wherein Agar and her son was a figure of the law and those under it. – Secondly, wherein Sarah and her son was a figure of the gospel and those under it. Thirdly, shew why these are called the two covenants, and Fourthly, contrast those covenants in their design, their ministration, their guarantees &c.

1. We are to shew wherein Agar and her son was a figure of the law and those under it. First the name Agar signifieth a roof, floor, and agrees with Hagar a stranger or that fears. Thus the name denotes the roof or covering of the law, to the Jews in their political and national character; and a floor or platform of government on which they were built; and the stranger that fears, may denote the fear that the giving of the law brought on Israel at Sinai, when they were travelling in a strange land. And again Agar was an Egyptian woman, but bore her son to Abraham in that land that Abraham’s seed was to inherit according to promise, which may denote the law given to Israel after they came up from Egypt to inherit the land of promise. Again Agar was a bond-maid, to shew that the law could not set any of its subjects free. Again Agar was given to Abraham by Sarah after the promise was made concerning his seed through Sarah but could not prevent the fulfilment of the promise, to denote that the law which was given four hundred and thirty years after the gospel was preached to Abraham, could not make the promise (or gospel) of none effect. Again, Agar with her son was cast out, when Sarah had brought forth her son according to promise, and as Agar was a figure of the law or its dispensation, so her son was a figure of those under it, or of the natural seed of Abraham. First in his name Ishmael with signifies God that hears and denotes the attention God paid to the Jews under the law dispensation. – Again, Ishmael was born after the flesh, and not by promise, to shew that those under the law are born by natural or fleshly birth. – Again, Ishmael was Abraham’s son, born after the flesh, and may denote the natural offspring of Abraham, which was under the law. Ishmael was not Abraham’s heir, to shew that it is not those that are born under the law, but those that are born by promise, that are heirs to the blessings found in the gospel. Ishmael persecuted Isaac, to denote that those under the law will persecute those under the gospel. – Again, Ishmael being cast out with his mother soon after Isaac’s birth, may denote those that are under the law, viz, the Jews being cast out and dispersed soon after the gospel dispensation had its birth; and as Ishmael was cast out because he laughed at and persecuted Isaac, so the Jews were cast out because they mocked and persecuted those under the gospel; so Agar and her son is a figure of the law and those under it, or the law dispensation and the Jewish nation under that dispensation: so we proceed to shew.

2. Wherein Sarah and her son were a figures of the gospel and those under it, first she was a figure of the gospel in her name Sarah, which signifies lady, princess, princess of the multitude; and this name was given to her because the blessing of God was upon her, and nations of people should of her, to denote that the gospel was to go amongst all nations, with the blessing of God attending it, and bring forth children in different nations, who are to be born again of an incorruptable seed by the word of God, which by the gospel is preached unto you. – Again, Sarah was Abraham’s companion and ruler in his house, to shew that the gospel was a companion of God, and a rule in his house, whose house ye are. – Again, Sarah lived in Abraham’s affections, long before she brought forth any children; so the gospel is the good will of God towards his people; which lived in his affections long before it was manifest in bringing forth children to him. – Again there was a set time for Sarah to bring forth Isaac, so there was a set time for the gospel dispensation to take place. Sarah brought forth a promised seed, to denote that the gospel brings forth a seed of promise, or the heirs according to promise. - Again, Sarah's son was born after Agar's to denote that the gospel dispensation should be after the law, and as Sarah was a figure of the gospel, or its dispensation, so her son was a figure of those under it; or the spiritual seed of Abraham, first in his name Isaac, which signifies laughter, and may denote the joy and gladness experienced by all those born under the ministration of the gospel. Isaac was not born after the flesh, but after the spirit, to denote that those burn under the gospel, are born not of the flesh but of the spirit. Isaac was Abraham’s heir to denote that those born under the influence of the gospel, are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Isaac was born by promise, to denote that those born under the gospel, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. And as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael, so it is now: but as then Agar and her son were cast out, and Ishmael could not be hear with Isaac; so the glory of the law disappears, and those under it are cast out, when the superior glory of the gospel breaks forth amongst the Gentiles, and brings forth its heaven born children; and so we see that these things are an allegory, for these are the two covenants. And having thus far traced those figures we proceed to the third thing proposed, which is the shew,

3. Why these are called the two covenants, the margin instead of covenants, renders it testaments, which answers to the definition of the word covenant, as given in the fourth discourse of this work: and in shewing why they are called the two covenants we shall divide them and shew, first, why the law is called a covenant, and secondly, why the gospel is so called.

1. The law is called a covenant, because it was an appointment to Israel for their government as a nation until the gospel took place and was to govern the people through a dispensation of time, and again because, it was delivered in the form of a testament, bequeathing certain blessings on its subjects. This covenant has been very differently handled by writers; but I shall also shew you my opinion. – I believe it to be a constitution, for the nation of Israel, forming them into a distinct nation. But in order to treat more fully on this covenant, we shall shew the manner in which it was introduced. In attending to this we shall begin with the covenant of circumcision, which was established immediately after the birth of Isaac, and was designed to distinguish the natural seed of Abraham, from all the rest of the world, until the promise made to Abraham thirty years before, should be fulfilled. It was called the covenant in their flesh, and was to be placed on them at eight days old in order to prevent them from mingling with the other nations; that thereby, the seed of Abraham might be traced with ease. This covenant was respecting temporal things, such as a mark in the flesh on all the males at eight days old, a numerous offspring, a temporal country for their possession, and an abundance of good things, as the productions of that fruitful land. God would rule over them, and they should enjoy the blessings of a bountiful providence, and victory over their enemies. But all those promises were conditional “If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land, but the uncircumcised man child hath broken my covenant,” thus the covenant of circumcision was conditional, for it could be broken, and its blessings depended on the willingness and obedience of its subjects. Under this covenant, the descendants of Abraham were distinguished for about four hundred years, while they lived among the other nations of the earth; and sometimes in sore oppression; but they multiplied greatly, so that in the term of four hundred years, they had increased to the number of six hundred thousand men of war, besides women, children, &c. And now the set time being come for them to go to possess their land, Moses being providentially preserved and qualified for that purpose, is sent to them with a rod of wonders, confirms his mission by working miracles, leads the family of Abraham out of the house of bondage, and through the red sea, and “in the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For the were departed from Rephidim, and were come the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.”

This being the spot appointed of God, to constitute the circumcised family into a nation, or place them under a national form of government, he separated them from all others, and brought them into this wilderness, and camped them before the mount, and called Moses their leader, and gave him directions, how to place them in order, to receive their rules of government, or national constitution; and after every necessary preparation was made, the law, the national law, or constitutional law, was delivered to Moses, and by him brought to the people on two tables of stone.

These ten commandments, or two tables are their constitution, which they are to live under, and by which they are distinguished from all others, in the land which the Lord their God was leading them to possess according to promise in the covenant of circumcision. Now these ten commandments or two tables is the covenant; for although there were many other laws given at the same time, yet the two tables and they only are called the covenant, see Exodus 34. 38. – And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. These tables the apostle Heb. 9. 4. calls the tables of the covenant; then for the safe keeping of the covenant, the tables were deposited in the ark; and on this account it was called the ark of the covenant. This covenant was designed for the same use that the covenant of circumcision was to distinguish Abraham’s family, as a family; and the covenant from Sinai was to distinguish them as a nation; and the latter may be understood as a larger edition of the former. The covenant of all Israel or the Sinai covenant, was also conditional, beginning with a if, Exod. 19. 5. “Now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar people unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine.” This covenant was given on mount Sinai; in a display of the awful majesty of God, to impress the minds of Israel with a sense of the greatness of the authority of its author, and the danger of transgressing it. It taught the duty of its subjects, and guaranteed temporal blessings to them on conditions of their performing those duties. Under this covenant or constitution, there were many laws given for their observation, to rule them in the form of their worship, and at length the law respecting the mitre in the house of Aaron, and that respecting the scepter in the house of David. These were each called covenants, because the one constituted the family of Aaron to the priestly office, and the other the house of David to the kingly office, with respect to the first of these covenants, see Exod. 40. 14. 15. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons and cloath them with coats; and thou shalt anoint them as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office, for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood, throughout their generations; compare with Numb. 25. 12. 13. Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron is thus addressed, “behold saith God, I gave unto him my covenant of peace, and he shall have it and his seed after him; even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.” – This priesthood is called everlasting, because it continued parallel with the Jewish nation or the national constitution, and as many laws were given under the national constitution or covenant for the nation to observe, so many laws were given under the family constitution or covenant, for the family or priests in their sacred office to observe. – So with respect to the covenant concerning the kingly office in the house of David, see 2d. Samuel 7. 12. 17. And they thy (David’s) days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy Fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father and he shall be my son; - if he commit iniquity I will chastise him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him; as I took it from Saul whom I took away from before thee. And thy house, and thy kingdom shall be established before thee forever, thy throne shall be established before thee forever. David has this covenant in mind, when it is said, I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish and build up thy throne from generation to generation; and the same is referred to, in Jer. 33. 20. 21. If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season, then shall also my covenant with David, my servant be broken.

The throne of David being established forever in this covenant, is like the Aaronic priesthood; it is to last while the nation of Israel remains a nation under the Sinai form of government. These covenants were both absolute and unconditional and of course could not be broken by any act of either Aaron’s family or David’s; neither could they fail so long as the Jewish state continued. But when the kingdom of Israel ceased, and the Jewish form of worship came to an end, and that dispensation was no more, the everlasting priesthood of Aaron and the kingly authority of David, both came to an end with the national constitution out of which they first grew, and the words forever and everlasting as used in these covenants are to denote their lasting as long as the Jewish state and their form of worship lasted. But as we are more particularly concerned with the original covenant or Jewish state constitution, it may be thought that I have made two great a digression; my present business is to shew why the law was called a covenant: and I think from what we have seen it cannot be doubted, but that the word covenant signifies an appointment, a constitution or dispensation. And so the law given at Sinai, being a constitution for the Jewish nation through that dispensation is properly called a covenant. Thus we have shewed why the Sinai law or the two tables are called a covenant; and shall proceed,

Secondly, to shew why the gospel is so called. The gospel is called a covenant for the very same reason that the law is so called, for as the law was a constitution for the natural seed of Abraham their national state under the former dispensation, so the gospel is a constitution for the spiritual seed of Abraham under the present dispensation; and each of those covenants can be traced back to Abraham and no further under the name covenant. The Sinai covenant is a larger edition of the law of circumcision, given to Abraham constituting him the head of the natural Israel or Jewish nation. This covenant was given to Abraham when he was an hundred years old; and enlarged and delivered to his natural posterity as their national constitution at Sinai, four hundred years afterwards, in the fourth generation according to promise; and they lived under it until the coming of Christ, which was about fourteen hundred and ninety-one years. So the gospel is called a covenant, confirmed before of God in Christ, (or with respect to Christ) and the apostle saith, that the law which was four hundred and thirty years afterwards cannot make the promise of none effect. Thus from the giving of the law on Sinai, back to the law of circumcision was four hundred years; and from this back to the promise made to Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, was thirty years, which make the length of time that the apostle mentions, which is four hundred and thirty years between the covenant confirmed of God in (respect to) Christ, and the giving of the law. This promise made to Abraham is called a covenant because it constitutes Abraham the father of all the faithful, or head of his spiritual seed; and so the apostle saith, if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

This promise or covenant was confirmed to Abraham in the year of the world two thousand and eighty three, after the flood four hundred and twenty seven years, and four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law on Sinai, and thirty years before the law of circumcision, and is called the gospel preached unto Abraham. This covenant being thirty years before circumcision and four hundred and thirty before the giving of the law and respecting blessings of a spiritual nature, both the other covenants were made after it, and designed to distinguish the natural seed of Abraham, from all others, until this promise should be fulfilled. – Or in other words the covenant of circumcision was designed to distinguish the natural seed of Abraham as his family, and the Sinai covenant as their constitution was designed to distinguish them as a nation, until the promise concerning his spiritual seed should be accomplished, or until the gospel covenant should be published as a constitution for his spiritual seed; and as the law was delivered first, constituting the natural seed into a nation, it is called the first covenant; and as the gospel comes after, it (the law) has become old and ready to vanish away; and the gospel is called new; new, because God hath made the first old; new, because its subjects are spiritual; new, because its blessings are spiritual and will never be exhausted; new because of its dispensation; and as the first covenant was delivered by its mediator Moses who was faithful as a servant in his house, Agar and Ishmael who were Abraham’s servants, were a figure of it: and Christ the mediator of the new covenant, who was faithful in his house as a son delivered the new covenant to the heirs of promise, so Sarah and her promised son is a figure of it; for these are the two covenants. So we shall proceed to the fourth thing proposed, which his to contrast those covenants, in their design, their ministration, their guarantees, &c.

Fourth, as we have seen already, the design of the first covenant, was to distinguish the natural seed of Abraham from the rest of the world until Christ should be born, but the new covenant was designed to distinguish the spiritual seed of Abraham, from Christ’s first to his second coming. The first covenant is designed to teach what are the duties of man to man, and of all men to God. But the new covenant is designed to shew the medium through which any of our duties can be acceptable to God. So in the ministration of these covenants, the first is called the ministration of condemnation and death, but the new covenant is the ministration of righteousness and peace. – The first covenant was ministered from the mount Sinai, that might be touched, and burned with fire amidst blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more (for they could not endure that which was commended. And if so much as a beast touched the mountain it should be stoned or thrust through with a dart: so terrible was the sight, that Moses said I exceedingly fear and quake.) and the affrighted Israelites, repulsed with horror fled back from the thundering mount, while the law reveals the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, without one hint of mercy.

But the new covenant was ministered at mount Calvary or Mount Zion; and falls with gentle strains and soothing accents of love and mercy on the ears of its subjects, proclaiming peace to them that are afar off and to them that are nigh; while the spiritual seed of Abraham allured with its grace and glory, and drawn by loving kindness, with gladened hearts and heavenly prospects, repair to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God; to the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven; and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

The first covenant was conditional, see Exod. 19. 5. now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar people, unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine. Thus the first covenant was conditional, and the natural seed of Abraham continuing to be a peculiar people to God, was upon condition of their obedience in keeping the covenant; but being conditional it was broken; or the Jews continued not in it (Heb. 8. 9. Jer. 31. 32.) and therefore were cast forth a as a branch that is withered; and henceforth is good for nothing but to be trodden under foot of men. But the new covenant is unconditional and absolute and therefore cannot be broken; & in this the new covenant is far better than the old; for finding fault with them God saith, behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be my people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother saying know the Lord; for all shall know me from the least to the greatest; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 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. Here the apostle sheweth that the first covenant on account of its conditions not being kept by its subjects; they were disregarded of God; and the covenant was decaying and ready to vanish away. For all its promises, guarantees and blessings, were temporal; and attached to its subjects on conditions; and when they failed to perform those conditions, it ceased to promise or bless them, and so of course became old, and useless, (in these respects;) all its blessings were decaying, for want of the fulfilment of its conditions and was ready to vanish away; so the first covenant was not faultless; or else there should have been no place sought for the second; but finding fault with them, he makes a new covenant; not according to the old, faulty, conditional, decaying one; but one that is established on better promises; without a condition; promises that depend on the veracity of God; and not on the obedience of its subjects; promises of eternal life, and a heavenly country; not of a temporal life and the land of Canaan. Great and precious promises which were given them in Christ the mediator of the new covenant before the world began, not these weak, conditional, temporal promises, given to the Israilites in Moses, the mediator of the old covenant at Sinai. The old conditional covenant, with all its temporal blessings vanishes away, when the new one with its unconditional or spiritual blessings, is published by its august mediator. The first is cast out at the appearing of the second; like Agar and her son was at the appearing of Isaac the son of Sarah, which things are an allegory, for these are the two covenants. In the worship or services under the first covenant, all was temporal, see Heb. 9. 1. 10. Then verily the first covenant, had also ordinances of divine services and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shew-bread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the table, which is called the holiest of all; which had the golden censor, and the ark of the covenant, overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot speak particularly. Now, when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God; but into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people; the Holy Ghost, this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all, was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing; which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, which stood only in meets and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. Thus the apostle teacheth, that all the services under the first covenant were temporal, a worldly sanctuary, a made tabernacle, a golden pot, an imperfect priest, and the blood of beasts, all were temporal which stood in meats and drinks and divers washing more than figures of good things to come, which were imposed on them until the time of reformation and could not make even them who did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; but the new covenant respects spiritual things, its worshippers are born of the spirit, and when they worship, they worship in spirit and in truth; they have boldness at a throne of grace, when they come together, they come with Psalms & Hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord. The first covenant was dedicated to or enjoined on the natural seed of Abraham by blood; for when Moses had spoken every precept to the people according to the laws, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people saying; this is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you: but the new covenant was dedicated by the blood of Jesus Christ as of a lamb without spot; Blood that sprinkles the conscience, and cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God; and thus we have shewed the two covenants; the first from Mount Sinai, which promise nothing but temporal blessings and them only upon conditions of the most implicit obedience, for he that offends in one point is guilty of the whole law; then it follows of course, that whatsoever promise is suspended on conditions, belongs to the first covenant, and those that prefer a conditional plan, are such as Paul accuses of desiring to be under the law, for although the law was never delivered unto the Gentiles as a constitution for them, yet the Gentiles as a constitution for them, yet the Gentiles by reading it may see what are its requisitions, and how men must observe it, and what must be the consequences of not keeping it; but alas, how many hundreds there are, that are trying to get the old conditional, faulty decaying covenant renewed again, and imposed upon the Gentiles, but did they but know, that if they were Jews, to whom pertained the giving of the law, and then should they observe every precept in it and enjoy every promise and blessing it contains, they then could only have temporal blessing; for the law cannot give life; for had there been a law given which could have given life, then verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the law was given that the offence might abound. Sin is a transgression of the law, & the law is the strength of sin, that is, a breach of the conditions of the law is sin, and that sin abounds, and the law is the strength of it, saying cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. Now if the natural seed of Abraham could not retain temporal blessing upon a conditional plan, how can we Gentiles expect to obtain spiritual blessings upon a conditional plan. Well might Paul be surprised at this and say; O, foolish Gallatians who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified amongst you; this only would I learn of you, received ye the spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Thus the law being conditional and all its promises conditional; and respecting temporal blessings; and the gospel being unconditional and all its promises unconditional and respecting spiritual blessings, there is a plain line of distinction drawn between the law and gospel, or old and new covenant; and whatever is conditional is after the model of the law, and they who cleave to the conditional plan, are those that desire to be under the church constitution or new covenant; for this line of distinction has been kept up from first to last, for when the gospel was first preached to Abraham, it was unconditional, Gen. 12. 3. In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed, so when it is spoken in Gen. 18.18. And all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him, see Acts 3. 25. Compare Gal. 3. 8. All these are unconditional promises, and they all belong to the new covenant, which says I will be your God and ye shall be my people. These passages trace the new covenant from the first date of its being, spoken of as a covenant, down to its being published in the beginning of the gospel dispensation, which was about nineteen hundred and twenty-one years, and not one condition in it from the first to the last. Thus we see that all the gospel is absolute; but the old covenant is all conditional.

The first account of it begins with an if, - if ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land, and when delivered to Israel at Sinai, it still begins with the same conditional particle if, if ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, c. So the first covenant began with an if, continued with an if, and vanished away on account of its if’s not being observed. So we have traced the first covenant as far back as it is called a covenant, which is thirty years after the gospel was preached to Abraham, as it respects circumcision, and four hundred and thirty years, as it respects the constitution of the nation of Israel; and it continued as their constitution until the coming of Christ, which was fourteen hundred and ninety-one years: so we see that the first covenant, was conditional from first to last; then it follows that the conditional plan, belongs to the ministration of the old covenant, and the unconditional plan, belongs to the ministration of the new covenant. Conditions in a covenant imply an uncertainty, and so Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham, saying “It may be that I may obtain children by her.” But the promise for Sarah is, at this time will I come, and Sarah shall have her son, and these things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants. And now we may clearly see from the above contrast of the two covenants, that it is an incontrovertable fact, that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified before God. The preaching of a conditional salvation, may please the self-righteous Pharisee, that can boast of his abilities, and vainly imagine that he keeps the law, and will gain heaven as a reward for so doing: or the hell-scarred hypocrite, that wishes to do something to get clear of punishment; or the self-righteous sluggard, that would never trouble himself at all about religion, if he did not think that he would receive double pay for all his services. – But it can never either comfort or encourage the truly awakened sinner, that is made acquainted with his own impotency and vileness, and sees that he can do nothing, and knows that he is without strength. We may preach to such a one that salvation is suspended on certain conditions, but the awakened sinner, from sore and painful experience knows, full well that he cannot fulfill the smallest condition, and as long as an if you do so and so, is preached to, and believed by such a one, so long his chains hang about his neck. But when all hopes of salvation are lost, upon any condition to be performed by the creature, great or small, he is constrained to cry, God be merciful to me a sinner, should you tell this man he can believe, and that believing is a condition of his acceptance, he knows better, for he has done his best, and spent all he had, and has got nothing better, but rather grew worse. Here he is taught to know, that he is as helpless as ever any predestinarian preached him to be, and that if his salvation is depending on one single if to be performed by him, he is gone forever. Every condition ministers condemnation and death to him; for although he consents unto the law that it is good, yet he knows that he is carnal, sold under sin, and is ready to say with Paul, “for that which I do I allow not; for I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death, for sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me.” Wherefore, the law is holy and the commandment holy and just and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinfull! – Now the man is convinced of his lost estate; sin by the commandment becomes exceeding sinful, deceives him, works death in him, and slays him, and so he finds the commandment to be unto death. And this is as far as the old conditional covenant can go; for it never pretended to pardon even the smallest offence, nor to promise spiritual blessings to the most obedient subject under it: much less to the Gentiles, which were not entitled to any of the blessings which it did promise, and so we see that the preaching of a conditional salvation, is using the law unlawfully, perverting the gospel, blending them together, drawing the veil of Moses, over the face of Christ to hid the glory of his grace, and the spiritual blessings of the new, absolute covenant, under the dusky shades of the old conditional one, and thereby making the fulfilment, of the conditions of the old covenant an indispensable prerequisite, enjoined on us, in order to a participation of the promises of the new one: and then attaching the curses of the old one, to the graces of the new, and as its counter part, thunder them against both saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles, who do not fulfil the conditions of the gospel, (for this mixture of the two covenants is all called gospel by its arbiters,) and thus they build up the self-righteous Pharisee and drive, if possible, the saint and the awakened sinner, into dispair; for they know that they cannot fulfill the conditions and of course dispair of enjoying the promise. – But when the old covenant is placed in its own dispensation, it is good to shew the malignity of sin, and the penalty annexed to it. But the new covenant, alone can reveal the pardoning grace of that God, “who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” So the Apostle contrasts the two covenants, and shews that the new far excels in glory, see 2d. Cor. 3d. chapter. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?”

“For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. – For if that which was done away, was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech; and not as Moses. which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old Testament (or old covenant) which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart: Nevertheless when it (the old covenant) shall turn to the lord, the veil shall be taken away.” –

From this contrast of the old and new covenants, it clearly appears that the former disappeared, at the bursting forth of the superior glory of the latter: and Moses the mediator of the first, puts a veil on his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. Now Christ is the end of the law for righteousness; the very thing that fulfils every condition of the old covenant; and when it (the old covenant) shall turn to him the veil shall be taken away, and the end of the glory of the old covenant, shall be clearly seen; and we shall all both Jews and Gentiles look into the new covenant or gospel and the veil is taken away and we see the end of the old one, which has vanished away, and the unspeakable glory of the new, beaming in the face of Christ its mediator. We behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. Thus the new covenant like a glass, reveals the glorious face of its ever living mediator, with eternal life for his sheep, the bread of life for the hungary, the water of life for the thirsty, rest for the weary and heavy laden, a garment of righteousness for the naked, and grace, sovereign, absolute, unconditional, grace for the unworthy. From his lips teems forth the soothing promise, without an if for the disconsolate mourner; and while those blessings are diffusing from his fullness and mourners beholding with joy and gladness, the smiles of his unveiled countenance, his soul is fired with love and filled with peace, while he sees the scepter presented, filled with pardons for rebels, and hears the approbating voice of God, saying; touch and live; while the blood of the new covenant presents his justification, faith lays hold of it and gives evidence to it; and hope anchors the soul both sure and stedfast into that within the veil. Then the fiery Sinai’s thundering and smoke no more affright, conditions no longer discourage the soul, nor can ever the ministers of the old conditional covenant, with all their sophistry and conning craftiness whereby they lay in wait to deceive, make them satisfied to take the galling yoke of the old covenant on their necks again. For they experience, in the new covenant the rest remaining for the people of God; and those that have ceased from their own works have entered into that rest, and all their duties, have become their choicest privileges, and not conditons of their salvation.

But some will say, if the new covenant or gospel is without conditions, we would never do any good works at all; no christian if he understands himself, will say so; for he has the very principles of obedience implanted in him, and he services God of choice, for it is his meat and drink, to do the will of his heavenly Father, and no other services are acceptable to God. Others will say that if there is no condition in the gospel, there is no encouragement for the seeking and mourning sinner, but sure there can no conditional promise be framed, that is as well calculated to encourage such a one, as that unconditional promise in the new covenant, saying, I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities, will I remember no more. Others suppose that if the gospel has no conditions in it, that they would rest more contented in their situation; but this is both contrary to reason and experience. Suppose a man is on the verge of a precipice, and a lake of liquid fire beneath him; but he believes that he can by an exertion of his own, at his pleasure get away, or fulfil such conditions, as will secure his escape: he may stand and look down for his amusement, and feel quite unconcerned about his situation; and if fifty passengers should tell him expressing great concern for his welfare, that he was in eminent danger of falling down the precipice and of perishing in the flames beneath, but still strengthening him in his own opinion, he could come away whenever he was ready: the man would stay there until he had satisfied his curiosity all their warnings notwithstanding.

But should one solitary passenger inform him that he was exposed to unspeakable danger, and that he could do nothing, much or little to get away from the precipice; and should the man be convinced of the fact now declared, how suddenly would his fears be alarmed and his conduct changed; how ardently would he call for help from every quarter; where any prospect should appear: and if no help was afforded, or no deliverer found, with what an aching heart and broken spirit would he bewail and lament his almost hopeless situation. And so we see in experience, the more we are convinced of our helpless condition, the more we are constrained to cry “Lord save or I perish.” So we see the new unconditional covenant is far better than the old conditional one. O that we all could see its excellency, and no more attempt to draw our life and comfort, from the conditional breasts of the bond Hagar and like Ishmael be cast out with her, from the presence of the heirs of promise; but may we like Isaac, suck the unconditional breasts of Sarah, that flow according to promise, or the Gospel which are the breasts of consolation, and like new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby, for these things are an allegory; for these are the two covenants.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.