Covenant of Grace
Coming nowto the last stage of the old dispensation, the Covenant of Sinai, we findseveral marked and impressive additions to the former revelations. Butthey will all be found rather developments of existing features of thegospel, than new elements. These traits were, chiefly the republicationof the moral Law with every adjunct of majesty and authority, the establishmentof a Theocratic State-Church, in place of simpler patriarchal forms, withfully detailed civic institutions, the Passover, a new sacrament; andthe great development of the sacrificial ritual.
The Covenantof Sinai has seemed to many to wear such an aspect of legality, that theyhave supposed themselves constrained to regard it as a species of Covenantof Works; and, therefore a recession from the Abrahamic Covenant, which,we are expressly told, (John viii: 56; Gal. iii: 8,) contained the gospel.Now, it is one objection, that this view, making two distinct dispensationsbetween Adam and Christ, and the first a dispensation of the Covenantof Grace, and the one which came after, of the Covenant of Works, is apriori, unreasonable. For, it is unreasonable in this: that it is a recession,instead of a progress; whereas every consistent idea of the plan of Revelationmakes it progressive. It is unreasonable; because both the Old and NewTestaments represent the Sinai Covenant as a signal honor and privilegeto Israel. But they also represent the Covenant of Works as inevitablya covenant of death to man after the Fall; so that had the transactionsof Sinai been a regression from the "Gospel preached before unto Abraham,"to a Covenant of Works, it would have been a most signal curse pouredout on the chosen people. The attempt is made to evade this, by sayingthat, while eternal life to the Hebrews was now suspended on a covenantof works, they were ritual works only, in which an exact formal compliancewas all that was required. This is untenable; because it is inconsistentwith God's spiritual and unchangeable character, and with His honor; andbecause the Mosaic Scriptures are as plain as the New Testament in disclaimingthe sufficiency of an exact ritual righteousness, as the term of eternallife, and in requiring a perfect, spiritual obedience. If a ritual obediencewas accepted instead of a spiritual one, that was an act of grace -- aremission of the claims of laws -- so that the Mosaic turns out a dispensationof grace, after all. But grace was preached to Abel, Noah, Abraham, ina prior dispensation, through a Mediator to come. Now, through what mediumwas this gracious remission of law given to Israel, at Sinai? The answerwe give is so consistent, that it appears self-evident, almost: That itwas through the same Christ to come, already preached to the Patriarchs,and now typified in the Levitical sacrifices. So that the theory I combatresolves itself, in spite of itself, as it were, into the correct theory,viz: That the promise contained in the Covenant of Sinai was through theMediator, typified in the Levitical sacrifices; and that the term forenjoying that promise was not legal, not an exact ritual obedience, butgospel faith in the antitype.
The Frenchdivines, Camero and Amgraut, proposed an ingenious modification of thelegal theory of Moses' covenant: That in it a certain kind of life wasproposed (as in the Covenant of Works,) as a reward for an exact obedience:But that the life was temporal, in a prosperous Canaan, and the obediencewas ritual. This is true, so far as a visible church-standing turned ona ritual obedience. But to the Hebrew, that temporal life in happy Canaanwas a type of heaven; which was not promised to an exact moral obedience,but to faith. Were this theory modified, so as to represent this dependenceof the Hebrew's church-standing on his ritual obedience, as a mere typeand emblem of the law's spiritual work as a " schoolmaster to lead usto Christ," it might stand.
But let usproceed to a more exact examination. We find that the transactions atSinai included the following: (a) A republication of the Moral Law, withgreatest majesty and authority. (b) An expansion of the Ritual of thetypical service, with the addition of a second sacrament, the passover.(c) The change of the visible Church instituted in Gen. 17th, into a theocraticCommonwealth- Church -- both in one. (d) The legal conditions of outwardgood-standing were made more burdensome and exacting than they had beenbefore. This last feature was not a novelty, (See Gen. xvii: 14,) butit was made more stringent.
Can the designsof these modifications be explained consistently with our view? Yes. Asto the theocratic state, this was necessitated by the numbers of the Church,which had outgrown the family state -- and needed temporal institutionscapable of still larger growth, even into a grand nation. The amplifiedritual was designed to foreshadow the approaching Christ, and the promisesof the Covenant more fully. Next: The legal conditions for retaining outwardecclesiastical privileges were made more stringent, in order to enablethe Law to fulfill more energetically the purpose for which St. Paul saysit was added, to be a paedagogue to lead to Christ. (See Gal. iii; 19,22). For this stringency was designed to be, to the Israelite, a perpetualreminder of the law which was to Adam, the condition of life, now broken,and its wrath already incurred, thus to hedge up the awakened conscienceto Christ. This greater urgency was made necessary by the sinfulness ofthe Church and its tendencies to apostasy, with the seductions of Paganismnow general in the rest of mankind.
The passover,a peculiarly gospel sacrament, was added, to illustrate the way of salvationby faith, upon occasion of the exodus and deliverance of the first-born.The captivity in Egypt was an emblem of man's bondage under the curse;and the dreadful death of the first-born, of the infliction of the sentence.The Hebrews escape that doom, by substituting a sacrifice; which is atype of Christ. (See Jno. i: 36; 1 Cor. v: 7). But the saved family theneat that victim, thus signifying the appropriating act of faith, verymuch as is done in the commemorative sacrament of the Supper now.
The followersof Cocceius and his school have texts which, we admit, bear plausiblyagainst our identification of the Mosaic and Abrahamic dispensations.They point us, not only to the numerous places in the Pentateuch whichseem to say, like Levit. xviii: 5, "Do, and live;" but to such passagesas Jer. xxxi: 32, which seems to say that the Covenant of Grace is "notaccording to the covenant made the fathers in the day God took them bythe hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." So, they urge Jno. i:17: Gal. iii: 12; Rom. x: 5; Gal. iv: 25; Heb. viii: 7 -- 13; ix: 8; ii:3. (The new covenant "began to be spoken by the Lord," and so, must notantedate the Christian era), vii: 18, and such like passages.
But, notwithstandingthis array, there are preponderating, even irresistible arguments forthe other side. And first, we urge the general consideration that theBible never speaks of more than two Covenants: that of the Law, or Works,and that of Grace. The dispensations also are but two, "the first andthe second;" the "new and the old." But if Moses' dispensation was a legalone in essence, then we must have three; for Abraham's was doubtless agracious one. We add, that there are but two imaginable ways; and buttwo known to Scripture; "grace" and "works," by which a soul can win adoptionof life. The latter, the Scriptures declare to be utterly impracticableafter man's fall. Since the Israelites were fallen men, if their covenantwas not gracious, it was only a condemning one. Its result was only theirdestruction. But, second, the latter conclusion is utterly inconsistentwith the fact that God covenanted with them at Sinai, in mercy, and notin judicial wrath: as their redeemer and deliverer, and not as their destroyer.This transaction, whatever it was, was proposed and accepted as a privilege,not a curse. Exod. xix: 5; xx: 2; xxxiv: 6, 7; Ps. 1xxviii: 35. For, third,the compact of Sinai included all the essential parties and features,and adopted the very formula, which we have seen were characteristic ofthe Covenant of Grace. On the one side was God, transacting with them,not as Proprietor and Judge, but, as beneficent Father. On the other sidewas the people, a mass chosen in their sin and unworthiness. See Ezek.xvi: 3 -- 6; Ps. cix: 21; Is. xxxvii: 35. Between these parties was Moses,as a Mediator, the most eminent type of Christ in the whole history. Andthe compact is ratified in the very terms of the covenant of Grace. "I will be your God, and ye shall be my people." (See Levit. xxvi: 12;Jer. xi: 4; xxx: 22). Fourth: I borrow the argument of the Apostle fromGal. iii: 17; fidelity to the bond already contracted with Abraham andhis seed, forbade the after formation of a different compact with them.The last testament is valid in law against the previous ones, but thefirst bond excludes subsequent contracts of an inconsistent tenour. Thisis powerfully confirmed by the fact, that Moses, in confirming the Sinai-Covenantwith Israel, tells them more than once, that they enter it as Abraham'sseed. Deut. vii: 8, 9, 12; Exod. iii: 6, 7. Compare Ps. cv: 6; Isaiahxli: 8. This shows that, whatever the covenant with Abraham was, thatwith Israel was a renewal of it. Fifth: The very "book of the testimony,"and all the utensils of the sanctuary were purified with blood; as weare taught in Heb. ix: 18-23. Why all this? The Apostle says it was toforeshadow the truth, that Christ's blood must be the real propitiationcarried, for sinners, into the upper sanctuary. Our opponents would agreewith us, that the sacrifices of the altar were the most notable featuresof the Levitical dispensation. But we are taught that these all pointedto Christ, the true priest and victim. Heb. ix: 23, etc., tells us thatthis great feature, that "without the shedding of blood was no remission,"was to hold up the grand truth of the necessity of satisfaction for guiltby Christ's blood. Thus, the more Levitical sacrifices we find, the moreGospel do we find. Sixth: Men feel driven to the conclusion we combat,they say, by the re-enactment of the law. But the law, both moral andritual, was in force under Abraham. See Rom. v: 13, 14; Gen. xvii: 14.
Seventh: Boththe moral, and a (less burdensome) ritual law are still binding, in thesame sense, under the New Testament dispensation, (See Matt. v: i7; Jno.iii: 5; Mark xvi: 16.) Surely the New Testament is not therefore a Covenantof Works! Last, Christ expressly says, that Moses taught of Him. Lukexxiv: 27; Jno. v: 46. Moses must then, have taught the Gospel. And inRom. x: 6, the inspired expositor, when he would state the plan of salvationby grace through faith, in express contrast to the Covenant of Works (asstated in Levit. xviii: 5, for instance) borrows the very words of Moses'Covenant with Israel from Deut. xxx: 11. Does he abuse the sense?
To removethe cavil founded on each text quoted against us, by a detailed exposition,would consume too much space. It is not necessary. By discussing one ofthe strongest of them, we shall sufficiently suggest the clue to all.The most plausible objection is that drawn from Jer. xxxi: 32, where theprophet seems to assert an express opposition between the new covenant,which Heb, vii, indisputably explains as the Covenant of Grace, and thatmade with Israel at the Exodus. There is unquestionably, a differenceasserted here; and it is the difference between law and grace. But itis the Covenant of Sinai viewed in one of its limited aspects only, whichis here set in antithesis to the Covenant of Grace: It is the seculartheocratic covenant, in which political and temporal prosperity in Canaanwas promised, and calamity threatened, on the conditions of theocraticobedience or rebellion. The justice and relevancy of the prophet Jeremiah's,and of the apostle's logic, in selecting this aspect of the Sinai Covenantto display, by contrast, the grace of the new covenant, are seen in this:that self-righteous Jews, throwing away all the gracious features of theirnational compact, and thus perverting its real nature, were founding alltheir pride and hopes on this secular feature. The prophet points outto them that the fate of the nation, under that theocratic bond, had beendisaster and ruin; and this, because the people had ever been too perverseto comply with its legal terms, especially, inasmuch as God had left themto their own strength. But the spiritual covenant was to differ (as italways had), in this vital respect: that God, while covenanting with Hispeople for their obedience, would make it His part to write His law intheir hearts. Thus He would Himself graciously ensure their continuancein faith and obedience. Witsius happily confirms this view, by remarkingthat, in all the places where the secular, theocratic compact is stated,as a Covenant of Works, we see no pledge on God's part, that He "willcircumcise their hearts," as in Deut. xxx: 6. There, the ensuing compactis interpreted by St. Paul (Rom. x: 6,) as the Covenant of Grace. So,in Jer. xxxi: 33, 34. God engages graciously to work in His elect peoplethe holy affections and principles, which will embrace, and cleave tothe promise. But in all such places as Levit. xviii: 5; Jer. xxxi: 29;Ezek. xviii, the duties required are secular, and the good gained or forfeitedis national. In truth, the transaction of God with Israel was two-fold:it had its shell, and its kernel; its body, and its spirit; its type,and its antitype. The corporate, theocratic, political nation was theshell: the elect seed were the kernel. See Rom. chaps. x and xi. The secularpromise was the type: the spiritual promise of redemption through Christwas the antitype. The law was added as "a schoolmaster," to bring God'strue people, the spiritual seed mixed in the outward body, to Christ.This law the carnal abused, as they do now, by the attempt to establishtheir own righteousness under it.
A correctview of the nature of that display made of the Covenant of Grace in theOld Dispensation, will be gained by comparing it with the New. All orthodoxwriters agree that there is both law and gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures.If, by the Old Testament Covenant, is understood only that legal covenantof moral and ceremonial works, then there will indeed be ground for allthe strong contrast, when it is compared with the Gospel in the New Testament,which some writers draw between the severity and terror of the one, andthe grace of the other. But in our comparison, we shall be understoodas comparing the Old Dispensation with the New, taken with all their features,as two wholes. We find Turrettin (Ques. 8, section 18, 25), makes themdiffer in their date or time, in their clearness, in their facility ofobservance, in their mildness, in their perfection, in their liberty,in their amplitude, and in their perpetuity. Calvin (B. 2, ch. 11,) findsfive differences: that the Old Testament promises eternal life typicallyunder figures of Canaan, that the Old Testament is mainly typical, thatit is literal (while the New Testament is spiritual) that it genderedto bondage, and that it limited its benefits to one nation.
I am persuadedthat the strong representations which these writers (and most others followingthem,) and, yet more, the Cocceian school, give of the bondage, terror,literalness, and intolerable weight of the institutions under which OldTestament saints lived, will strike the attentive reader as incorrect.The experience, as recorded of those saints, does not answer to this theory;but shows them in the enjoyment of a dispensation free, spiritual, gracious,consoling. I ask emphatically: does not the New Testament Christian ofall ages, go to the recorded experiences of those very Old Testament saints,for the most happy and glowing expressions in which to utter his hope,gratitude, spiritual joy? Is it said that these are the experiences ofeminent saints, who had this full joy (even as compared to New Testamentsaints) not because the published truth was equal to that now given: butbecause they had higher spiritual discernment? I reply: By nature theywere just like "us, sinners of the gentiles;" so that if they had morespiritual discernment, it must be because there was a freer and fullerdispensation of the Holy Ghost to them than to us. (Much fuller! to repairall defect of means, and more than bring them to a level.) But this overthrowsCalvin's idea of the dispensation as a less liberal one. Or, is it pleadedthat these are only the inspired, and therefore exceptional cases of theOld Testament Church? I answer: Did not God give the inspired experiencesas appropriate models for those of their brethren? These distorted representationshave been produced by the seeming force of such passages as Jno. i: 17;2 Cor. iii: 6, 7; Gal. iii: 19, 23; iv: 1, 4 and 24-26; Heb. viii: 8;Acts xv: 10. But the scope and circumstances of the Apostles, in makingsuch statements, are greatly overlooked. They were arguing, for the gospelplan, against self-righteous Jews, who had perversely cast away the gospelsignificance out of the Mosaic institutions to which they clung, and whoretained only the condemning features of those institutions; vainly hopingto make a righteousness out of compliance with a law, whose very intentwas to remind men that they could make no righteousness for themselves.Hence we must always remember that the Apostles are using, to a certainextent, an argumentum ad hominem: they are speaking of the Mosaicinstitutions under the Jewish view of them. They are treating of thatside or aspect, which alone the perverse Jew retained of them. Here isthe key.
The truthis, both dispensations are precisely alike, in having two sides to them:a law which condemns those who will persist in self-righteous plans; anda gospel which rescues the humble believer from that condemnation. Theobligation of Works, (which was reenacted in the Decalogue,) is perpetual,being founded on the very relations between man and God, on all exceptthose who are exempted from it by the substitutionary righteousness ofthe Mediator. It is of force now, on all others. It thunders just as itdid in Eden and on Sinai. Nor, I beg you to note, is the Old Testamentsingular, in enjoining a ritual law, which is also "the letter that killeth,"a "carnal ordinance," a "ministration of death," to those who perverselyrefuse to be pointed by it to the Messiah, and who try to make a self-righteousnessout of it. The New Testament also has its sacraments; all are commandedto partake, yet he that eateth and drinketh, not discerning the Lord'sbody, "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself;" and he that takes thewater of Baptism self-righteously, only sees therein a terrible symbolof his need of a cleansing which he does not receive. Let an evangelicalChristian imagine himself instructing and refuting a modern Ritualistof the school of Rome or the Tractarians. He would find himself necessarilyemploying an argumentum ad hominem precisely like that of Paulagainst the Pharisees. The evangelical believer would be forced to distinguishbetween the legal or condemning, and the gospel side of our own sacraments;and he would proceed to show, that by attempting to make a self-righteousnessout of those sacraments, the modern Pharisee was going back under a dispensationof condemnation and bondage; that he was throwing away 'the spirit whichgiveth life,' and retaining only the 'letter that killeth.'
The New Testamenthas also its sacrifice; the one sacrifice of Christ; and to him who rejectsthe pardon which it purchased, it is a ministry of damnation, more emphaticthan all the blood of beasts could utter. Both dispensations have their"letter that killeth," as well as their "spirit that giveth life," theirSinai as well as their Zion. And in the very place alluded to, it is thekilling letter of the New Testament of which Paul speaks, 2 Cor iii: 6.Resides in the Old Testament no part of the ritual could be more crushingthan the moral commandment "exceeding broad," is to the unrenewed. Butsee Matt. V: I7-20.
Again, theOld Testament distinguished both as to its word, and its ordinances, betweenthis letter that killeth and this spirit that giveth life. Deut. x: 12;Ps. L: 16, 17, 22 and 23; Prov. xxi: 3; i Samuel xv: 22; Ps. li: 16, 17;Isa. i: 13-20 etc.
Now just asthe Christian minister would argue with a nominal Christian who persistedin making a righteousness out of the sacraments, so the Apostles arguedwith the Jews, who persisted in making a righteousness out of their ritual.Thus abused, the ritual of the Old Testament and of the New loses itsgracious side, and only retains its condemning. Peter says, Acts xv: 10,the ritual was a yoke which neither Jews nor their fathers were able tobear. Did God signalize His favor to His chosen people by imposing anintolerable ritual? Is it true that well disposed Jews could not bearit? See Luke i: 6; Phil. iii: 6. No: Peter has in view the ritual usedin that self-righteous sense, in which the Judaizing Christians regardedit while desiring to impose it on Gentiles. As a rule of justificationit would be intolerable. The decalogue (2 Cor. iii: 7) would be a ministrationof death to him who persisted to use it as these Jews did. But Moses gaveit as only one side, one member of his dispensation, "to be a schoolmasterto lead us to Christ." Gal. iii: 16 speaks of a law given 430 years afterthe Covenant of Grace, and seeming to be contrasted. But it "could notdisannul it." Did not Abraham's Covenant of Grace survive this law, asmuch in the ante-Christian, as in the post-Christian times?
Calvin says,as I conceive, perverting the sense of Gal. 4th, that the time of bondage,in which "the heir " differed nothing from the slave," was the time ofthe Jewish dispensation, while the time of liberation was the time ofthe Christian dispensation. Not so. As to the visible Church collectively,and its outward or ecclesiastical privilege, this was true; but not asto individual believers in the Church. And this distinction satisfiesthe Apostle's scope in Gal. 3d and 4th, and Heb. viii: 7, 8, and reconcileswith passages about to be quoted. [cf. Turrettin on Heb. ix: 8, Que. 11,section 14.] Was David still in bondage, " differing nothing from thatof a slave," when he sung Ps. xxxii: i, 2, cxvi: 16? The time of tutelagewas, to each soul, the time of his self-righteous, unbelieving, convicted,but unhumbled struggles. The time of the liberty is, when he has flownto Christ. This, whether he was Israelite or Christian. Isaac, says another,symbolized the gospel believer, Ishmael, the Hebrew. Were not Isaac andIshmael contemporary? Interpret the allegory consistently. And was itnot Isaac, who was, not allegorically, but literally and actually, theHebrew, the subject of an Old Testament dispensation, a ritual dispensation,a typical one, only differing from the Mosaic in details? This would beto represent the Apostle as making a bungling allegory, indeed, to choosethe man who was actually under the dispensation of bondage, as the typeof the liberty, had St. Paul intended to prove that the Old Dispensationwas a bondage. And it would be bungling logic, again, to represent thespiritual liberty to which he wished to lead his hearers, by sonship toAbraham, if Abraham were the very head, with whom the dispensation ofbondage was formed! St. Paul warns the foolish Galatians who "desiredto be under the law." " Do ye not hear the law?" (Gal. iv: 21.) The thingwhich the law says to such self-righteous fools, is read in, Gal. iii:10. "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse," etc.St. Paul's allegory says that Ishmael's mother (the type of the soul inbondage) represents Sinai, and Sinai again, " The Jerusalem which nowis." Sarah, then, represents what? "The Jerusalem which is above, andis free." Which of these answereth to King David's Zion' "the city ofthe great King, in whose palaces God is known as a Refuge"? (Ps. xlviii:3, 4.) Obviously, Sarah and her children. But the Pharisees of the Apostle'sday claimed to be the heirs of that very Zion, and did literally and geographicallyinhabit it! How is this? They inhere in form the free-woman's heirs --in fact, bastards. And they had disinherited themselves, by casting awaythe gospel, and selecting the legal significance of the transactions ofSinai. The Sinai which now anwsereth to the bond-woman is not the Sinaiof Moses, of Jehovah, and of Abraham; but the Sinai of the legalist, theSinai which the Pharisee insisted on having.
You will notunderstand me as asserting that the Old Testament dispensation was aswell adapted to the purposes of redemption as the New. This would be inthe teeth of Heb. viii: 7, ff. The inferior clearness, fullness, and liberalityresult necessarily from the fact that it preceded Christ's coming in theflesh. The visible Church, in its collective capacity, was as to its outwardmeans and privileges, in a state of minority and pupilage. But every truebeliever in it looked forward by faith, through that very condition ofinferiority, to the blessings covenanted to him in the coming Messiah;so that his soul, individually, was not in a state of minority or bondage;but in a state of full adoption and freedom. This state of the visibleChurch, however, as contrasted with that which the Church now enjoys,is illustrative of the contrast between the spiritual state of the electsoul, before conversion, while convicted and self-righteous, and afterconversion while rejoicing in hope. This remark may serve to explain thelanguage of Galatians 3d and 4th.
I would discard,then, those representations of the intolerable harshness, bondage, literalness,absence of spiritual blessing, in the old dispensation, and give the followingmodified statement.
(a.) The olddispensation preceded the actual transacting of Christ's vicarious work.The new dispensation succeeds it.
(b.) Hence,the ritual teachings, (not all the teachings) of the old dispensationwere typical; those of the New Testament are commemorative symbols. Atype is a symbolic prediction; and for the same reason that prophecy isless intelligible before the event, than history of it afterwards, therewas less clearness and fullness of disclosure. (See i Pet. i: 12.) Again,because under the Old Testament the Divine sacrifice by which guilt wasto be removed, was still to be made; the sacrificial types, (those verytypes which foreshadowed the pardoning grace as well as the condemningjustice,) presented a more prominent and repeated exhibition of guiltthan now, under the gospel; when the sacrifice is completed; (Heb. x:because it was harder to look to the true propitiation in the future,than it is now in the past; the voice of the law, the paedagogue who directedmen's eyes to Christ, was graciously rendered louder and more frequentthan it is now.
(c) Perspicuityin commemorating being easier than in predicting, the ritual teachingsof the previous dispensation were more numerous, varied and laborious.
(d) God, inHis inscrutable wisdom, saw fit to limit the old dispensation to one nation,so far at least, as to require that any sinner embracing it should becomean Israelite; and to make the necessary ritual territorial and local.Under the New Testament all nations are received alike.
(e) The previousdispensation was temporary, the New Testament will last till the consummationof all things. With reference to the state of the Old Testament saintsin the other world, we discard the whole fable of the Papists concerninga limbus patrum, and the postponement of the application of redemptionto them till Christ's death. Christ's suretyship is such that His undertakingthe believer's work, releases the believer as soon as the condition isfulfilled. He is not merely Fide jussor, but ex promissor(Turrettin), Christ being an immutable, almighty and faithful surety,when He undertook to make satisfaction to the law, it was, in the eyeof that God to whom a thousand years are but as one day, as good as done.(Here, by the way, is some evidence that the chief necessity of atonementwas not to make a governmental display, but to satisfy God's own attributes).See Rom. iii: 25; Heb. ix: 15; Ps. xxxii: I, z; li: 2; I o -- I g; ciii:I 2; Is. xliv: 22; Luke xvi: 22, 23; with Matt. viii: 11; Luke ix: 31;Ps. 1xxiii: 24; I Pet. iii: 19; Heb. xi: 16; xii: 23.
These textsseems to me to prove, beyond all doubt, that Christ's sacrifice was forthe guilt of Old Testament believers, as well as those under the New Testament;that the anticipative satisfaction was imputed to the ancient saints whenthey believed, and that at their death, they went to the place of gloryin God's presence. What else can we make of the translations of Enochand Elijah, and the appearance of Moses in glory, before Christ's death?
The strengthof the Papists' scriptural argument is in the last two of the texts citedby me. I may add, also, Rev. xiv: 13, which the Papists would have usunderstand, as though the terminus a quo of the blessedness ofthe believing dead were from the date of that oracle; implying that hithertothose dying in the Lord had not been immediately blessed. It is a flagrantobjection to this exposition, that the Apocalypse was a whole generationafter Christ's resurrection, when, according to Papists, the dying saintsbegan to go to heaven. The terminus is, evidently, the date of each saint'sdeath. The testimony from Heb. ix: 8, you have seen answered, by yourtext-book, Turrettin. The Apostle's scope here shows that his words arenot to be wrested to prove that there was no application of redemptionuntil after Christ died. The author is attempting to show that the Leviticaltemple and ritual were designed to be superseded. This he argues, withadmirable address, from the nature of the services themselves: The priestsoffered continually, and the High Priest every year, by the directionof the Holy Ghost; by which God showed that that ritual was not to bepermanent; for if it had been adequate, it would have done its work andceased. Its repetition showed that the work of redemption was not done;and never would be, until another dispensation came, more efficaciousthan it. Such is the scope. Now, the words, "the way into the sanctuarywas not yet manifested," in such a connection, are far short of an assertion,that no believing soul could, at death, be admitted to heaven. Is notthe meaning rather, that until Christ finished His sacrifice, the humanpriest still stood between men and the mercy-seat?
But the locuspalmarius of the Papists for a Limbus Patrum, is 1 Pet. iii:19, ff. On this obscure text you may consult, besides commentaries, (amongwhom see Calvin in loco,) Knapp, Chr. Theol section 96; Turrettin, Loc.xii, Que. 11, section 15; Loc. xiii, Que. 15, section 12. Here, again,our safest guide is the Apostle's scope, which is this: Christ is ourExemplar in submitting patiently to undeserved suffering. For Him hisown people slew: the very Saviour who, so far from deserving ill at theirhands, had in all ages been offering gospel mercy to them and their fathers,even to those most reprobate of all, the Antediluvians. But the same DivineNature in which Christ had been so mercifully carrying a slighted gospelto that ancient generation, (now, for their unbelief, shut up in the prisonof hell,) gloriously raised Him from the dead, after their equally reprobateposterity had unjustly slain Him. Here is our encouragement while we sufferinnocently after the example of our Head. For this resurrection, whichglorified Him over all His ancient and recent enemies, will save us. Thenwe, redeemed by that grace which was symbolized to the ancient believersby the type of the ark, and to modern, by the sacrament of baptism, willemerge triumphantly from an opposing and persecuting world; as Christ'slittle Church. (consisting then of a number contemptible in unbelievers'eyes,) in Noah's day, came out from the world of unbelievers.
With thissimple and consistent view of the Apostle's drift, the whole dream ofa descent into Hades, and a release of the souls of the patriarchs fromtheir limbus, is superfiuous, and therefore unreasonable.