PUBLISHING COMMITTEE OF
CHURCHES OF CHRIST,
Retyped 1996 by
1 Kenilworth Avenue
Reading, RG30 3DL
PREPARED FOR USE ON THE INTERNET BY:
ARCHES CHURCH OF CHRIST, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND.
IN accordance with Resolution 42 of the GENERAL ANNUAL MEETING OF CHURCHES OF CHRIST, held at Liverpool in August, 1900, the Publishing Committee invited a number of well known writers to prepare pamphlets on selected topics. On the whole the response has been very encouraging. The writers are all busy workers, who, without fee or reward, have readily undertaken this extra task, in hope of advancing the glorious cause which has for its aim THE COMPLETE RESTORATION OF CHRISTIANITY AS PERFECTED BY CHRIST AND HIS HOLY APOSTLES. It is hoped the Churches and individual members will heartily do their part by purchasing and circulating these booklets. The present is No. 1 of the series. The topic is most important; for it is because the divisions of the Bible are unperceived or ignored that there exists so much confusion as to what is the Lord's will for us today. It will be found that Mr. M'Cartney has furnished a clear simple, and comprehensive statement of the truth in this matter.
May be ordered from
Mr. J. NORTH,
Single Copies, post free, 1d. Per hundred, carriage paid, 7/-.
By John M'Cartney.
"GOD having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds" - or "ages" (Heb. i. 1, 2). (Scripture quotations are from the Revision Version, unless otherwise stated.) In various ways God revealed His will through holy men of old, and in portions suited to the particular period or age, until the climax was reached when he spoke to men in His Son, the heir of the universe and Architect of the ages. Otherwise we should have been in darkness concerning the divine will: "For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. ii. 11). This proves that, although creation attests "His everlasting power and divinity," a knowledge of God's mind must come to us from Himself. And, as He has been pleased to give it in portions suited to the different ages, it is of the highest importance that we should be able to distinguish the periods and the portions which belong to them. Hence Paul's exhortation to Timothy, "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth," or, as in the Common Version, and the margin of the Revised, "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. ii. 15).
Many seem to have no idea of the plan of the Bible, or of the difference in the Dispensations, but appear to regard it as all equally applicable to everybody and all generations. Thus it often happens that inquirers after the way of salvation are sent to different parts of the Old Testament for the direction and assurance sought; and promises given to special individuals or peoples are treated as if intended for all alike. Indeed no more common cause of confused religious ideas exists than failure to distinguish between the different Dispensations and the portions of the Bible which belong to each of them. God's word is all truth, but if we want to find the Law of Moses we need not seek it in the book of Genesis, nor in the New Testament, though the latter contains many a reference thereto and many a quotation from it. Even so it were vain to search for Christianity in the Old Testament, albeit it abounds with pregnant types, luminous promises, glowing predictions, all pointing forward to the Gospel Age, with its New Covenant, its more excellent ministry, its better promises.
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews lays it down as an axiom that, "the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Heb. vii. 12). Taking this as a guiding principle, we may reckon the Dispensations as three:-
I. THE PATRIARCHAL DISPENSATION.
II. THE MOSAIC DISPENSATION.
III. THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION.
Each of these has its Divinely appointed high priest: Melchizedek, Aaron, and Jesus Christ. The earliest is sometimes sub-divided, but that seems to serve no useful purpose, though we can certainly trace the gradual development of the idea of priesthood to its culmination in Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of God Most High (Gen. xiv. 18). At first every man offered his own sacrifice, as in the case of Cain and Abel (Gen. iv. 3, 4); or the head of the family officiated at the altar, as did Noah, Jacob, and Job (Gen. viii. 20, 21; xlvi. 1; Job i. 5).
Under the Mosaic Law there was a marked change in the priesthood. The tribe of Levi was chosen to minister in sacred things, and from it Aaron and his descendants were set apart as a priesthood; Aaron himself being the first high priest of that Dispensation. In consequence of this change, what was lawful before became unlawful, and none but the consecrated priest could acceptably offer sacrifice.
Again, in the Christian Dispensation, the priesthood is changed: "Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. ix. 11, 12). Jesus was "named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek," and not after the order of Aaron. This involved another change of law, with a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness." Hence, under Christ, all Christians are constituted "a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Peter ii. 5-10). Thus we find the Apostle Paul exhorting the Romans to present "their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (xii. 1), and assuring the Philippians that their freewill offerings were "a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God" (Phil. iv. 18). And the writer to the Hebrews, speaking of Jesus, the High Priest of the Christian's Confession, says: "Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (xiii. 15, 16). The most determined sacerdotalist will admit the general application of these exhortations to believers.
It will serve our main object best, it seems, to devote a short chapter to each of these great systems of revealed religion, which have been aptly compared to starlight, moonlight, and sunlight. A chapter will also deal with the Old and New Covenants, and one with the Personal Ministry of Christ on earth in the end of the Jewish Age and preparatory to the setting up of the Christian Dispensation. Readers are earnestly requested to carefully test all the statements by examining the Scriptures referred to. Neither reject rashly nor receive too readily what seems new. On the other hand do not cling to that which is old merely because it is old. Much that is regarded as novel is really ancient, whilst much that the venerated on account of its age is comparatively modern. The views of the Bible herein expounded are honestly believed to be as old as the Bible itself. The writer lays no claim to originality respecting them, but rejoices to know they are the views of a large and increasing number of devout and intelligent believers. He only hopes that the God of Abraham, Moses, and Paul may make this presentation of them the means of helping others to a clearer understanding of the plan of God's revelation and thus enabling them to RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE WORD OF TRUTH. -
"And may His truth in all arise,
With all its light divine,
That they, in all His wisdom wise,
May in His beauty shine."
THE PATRIARCHAL DISPENSATION.
THE word "Dispensation" is formed from the verb "dispense," which means to weigh or deal out in portions; to distribute. The steward dispenses provisions according to directions; the chemist dispenses medicine according to prescription; the judge dispenses justice according to the law. Paul speaks of himself as a steward (1 Cor. iv. 1), and as having a "dispensation" or "stewardship" (R.V.) of the Gospel committed to him (1 Cor. ix. 17). In its religious usage "dispensation" applies to God's distribution of good or evil to His creatures according to their works, whence the word comes to denote a system of precepts, principles, conditions, and ordinances, in accordance with which the Almighty bestows favour or awards punishment - as in the title of this chapter, "The Patriarchal Dispensation," that is, the system of religion in force in the days of the Patriarchs. It should be noted, however, that the idea of time is not really an element in the word "dispensation," and only comes into view when we come to consider the duration of particular Dispensations.
SCRIPTURES OF THE PATRIARCHAL DISPENSATION.
Each Dispensation has its own Scriptures, from which alone we can form an accurate idea of the order of things in force at the time. The Book of Genesis is the principal portion of the Bible belonging to the Patriarchal Dispensation. "Genesis" means origin, source, beginning, and is therefore a most suitable name for the book which tells of the origin of creation of the human race - of sin - of sacrifice for sin - of the Jewish nation - and of the divine covenants.
Part of the Book of Exodus may also be regarded as belonging to that Dispensation, for although some institutions such as the Passover and the Sabbath, afterwards embodied in the Law, were given earlier than the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Dispensation actually began with the latter sublime event. Thus chapters i - xix may be classed with Genesis, though in reality the period they deal with was one of transition.
There seem to be sufficient reasons for classing the Book of Job with the portions already named. Very varied views are held respecting the subject, date, and authorship of this book. Some place it earlier that the time of Abraham, some attribute its composition or editorship to Moses, others make Solomon its author, and some even date it later than the Exile. Without going into details, the following are a few reasons for assigning it to the Patriarchal Dispensation:- (1) Job's great age, which must have been at least 200 years, judging from a comparison of Job. i. 1-5 with xlii. 16. (2) The nature of Job's religion. Like the Patriarchs, he offered sacrifices to God, without priestly intervention, and without regard to any place as more sacred than another, i. 5; xlii. 8. (3) The entire absence of any allusion to the Law of Moses, or any of the wonderful events connected with God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. There are other cogent reasons for this view, but they are more or less abstruse. Some have conjectured that Moses found the book during his forty years sojourn among the Midianites. Of course that is mere surmise, but at any rate, when we remember how jealously the Jews guarded their canonical Scriptures, it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive how such a book could have found a place among them at any period later than the time of Moses. From Ezekiel xiv. 14 and James v. 11, it is clear that both Old and New Testament writers were familiar with it, and accepted it as a true narrative of the experience of a real personage.
THE STORY OF THE FALL.
The father and mother of the human family were created pure and sinless, fitted to hold direct intercourse with their Almighty Maker. God Himself prepared for them a paradise in Eden, in which he placed them as caretakers, their tenancy depending on their fidelity. All the enjoyments of the place were allowed to them with one single restriction. The fruit of one tree was forbidden to them on pain of death in the day of their disobedience. It was a simple positive command, and therefore, notwithstanding the cheap sneers of latter-day scoffers, the best conceivable test of their faithfulness. Seduced by the serpent, they transgressed the Divine will, and fell from their high and holy estate; sin thus entering into the world, and death by sin. But this disaster was not unforeseen by the almighty, for as soon as the poison began its deadly work the antidote was indicated. Even that dark and dreadful day had its rainbow radiant with promise of redemption, stretching across four milleniums to a still darker and more dreadful one, that of Calvary's awful tragedy, whose gloom preceded the drawn of the day of salvation. God said: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; IT SHALL BRUISE THY HEAD, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. iii. 15).
SACRIFICE FOR SIN.
was doubtless of Divine origin. This view alone harmonises what the Scriptures say respecting the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel. Considered apart from Divine precept and the design of sacrifice, Cain's offering of the fruits of the earth was far more pleasant ;than the slaughtered firstling of the flock presented by Abel. But, "the Lord has respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect" (Gen. iv. 4, 5). Why? In many a passage of Holy Writ God disclaims any delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Samuel's words to King Saul are particularly pertinent: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. xv. 22). But what was in itself far from pleasing to God might be an essential element in human education and discipline. Thus it was with the institution of sacrifice for sin.
Sin being the transgression of law, Paul penned a truism when he wrote, "Where there is no law, neither is there transgression." But, expostulating with Cain, the Lord said, "Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door" (Gen. iv. 6, 7). Had there been no law regulating their offerings, there could have been neither well-doing nor ill-doing in the matter. Clearly this is the view of the New Testament writers who refer to the subject. In Hebrews xi. 4, we read: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts; and through it he being dead yet speaketh." As faith is belief, and belief comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, unless there was a knowledge of God's word on this matter of sacrifice, it could not be performed by faith. But there being such a declaration of the Divine will, the one who believed it, and acted accordingly, did well and was pronounced righteous, whilst he who not only ignored the Divine will, but substituted an offering according to his own will, was guilty of a double sin. Hence we read again: "For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 John iii. 11, 12). The implication here is so obvious that comment is needless.
In the Patriarchal Dispensation there was no distinctive priesthood, though we are able to trace the gradual growth of the sacerdotal idea. At first, as we have just seen, each individual offered his own sacrifices. Later we find the head of the family officiating at the altar, as in the cases of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Job. (Gen. viii. 20; xii. 7; xiii. 4; xxxv. 1-7; Job i. 5.) Moreover, in Gen. xiv., we obtain a glimpse of that mysterious and exalted personage, Melchizedek, who is described as King of Salem, and Priest of God Most High; to whom Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils brought back from his punitive expedition against the kings; and from whom Abraham received a blessing, thus acknowledging his own inferiority. "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils. And they indeed of the sons of Levi that receive the priest's office have commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is of their brethren though these have come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath taken tithes of Abraham, and hath blessed him that hath the promises. But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there one, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes; for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him" (Heb vii. 4-10). Remembering what the same writer says respecting the office of High Priest - "No man taketh the honour unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron" - and that Jesus Christ was "named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek," it becomes evident that Melchizedek held his priestly office by Divine appointment. Besides, subsequently we find priests among other peoples and tribes, as the Egyptians and the Midianites, who doubtless derived their ideas of sacrifice and priesthood from the purer faith of an earlier day.
DIVINE LAW BEFORE THE MOSAIC.
There are unmistakeable evidences that the system usually styled the Mosaic Law was by no means the first revelation of the Divine will. In but few instances have we the record of the precepts being given, but we find them in existence, recognized as Divine, and their violation viewed as sinful. Passing over the positive command forbidding the first human pair to eat of the tree of knowledge, with the death penalty attached we find very early traces of:-
(1) A LAW REQUIRING SACRIFICE FOR SIN. Sufficient has been already advanced to demonstrate the existence of such a Law.
(2) DISTINCTION BETWEEN CLEAN AND UNCLEAN ANIMALS. This we find in God's instructions to Noah as to the animals to be taken into the ark (Gen. vii. 2, 8, 9), and in the account of Noah's burnt offerings after he and his family left the ark (viii. 20).
(3) EATING OF BLOOD FORBIDDEN. In connection with the first recorded permission to use the flesh of animals as food, God said: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat" (Gen. ix. 3, 4). This flagrantly disregarded prohibition is common to all three Dispensations. (Cp. Lev. xvi. 10-14 and Acts xv. 19-29).
(4) MURDER FORBIDDEN. In Gen. ix. 5, 6, and taking of human life is clearly forbidden, and what seems like capital punishment for murder implied.
(5) LAWS AGAINST ADULTERY AND UNCLEANNESS are traceable in the following passages: Gen. xii. 10-20; xiii. 13; xviii. 20, 21; xix. 4-7; xx. 1-18; xxvi. 7-11; xxxviii. 24; xxxix. 9.
(6) PRIESTHOOD. Although we find no sacerdotal class in the Patriarchal Dispensation, there are, as already seen, foreshadowings of such an arrangement as obtained under the Mosaic Economy. At first every man offered his own sacrifices. Later on we find the head of the family officiating at the altar, and in the days of Abraham we have Melchizedek described as Priest of God Most High (Gen. xiv. 18-20).
(7) TITHES. The passage just referred to also tells that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of all he brought back from his expedition against the five kings; in doing which and receiving his blessing, he acknowledged his own inferiority to that exalted personage. (Cp. Heb. vii. 4-10).
(8) THE LAW ENJOINING CIRCUMCISION on Abraham and his male posterity throughout their generations is recorded in Gen. xvii. 10-14. Though afterwards embodied in the Mosaic Law (Lev. xii. 3), as Jesus reminded the Jews, it was not "of Moses, but of the Fathers" (John vii. 22).
(9) STEALING is clearly recognised as wrong in Gen. xxxi. 19, 30-32; xliv. 4-9.
(10) IDOLATRY also was known to be sinful, as we learn from Gen. xxxv. 1-4.
Besides the foregoing, there seems to have been a well understood law relating to the birth-right and blessing of the first-born (Gen. xxv. 29-34; xlviii. 14-19), for slighting which Esau was branded as a "profane person" (Heb. xii. 16). And in Exodus xii.-xvi., we find the institution of the Passover, and of the Sabbath, and the law requiring the first-born of man and beast to be sanctified to the Lord; but doubtless these are to be viewed as instalments in advance of the Mosaic System.
This brief survey is sufficient to show (a) That God has never left man in ignorance of His holy will. If he has become ignorant thereof, it has been in consequence of declension. (b) It satisfactorily accounts for universal human depravity. (c) It explains the universal consciousness of guilt and the sense of needed sacrifice for sin. The earth being peopled with the posterity of Adam and Noah, the knowledge of these great truths, though sadly corrupted and perverted, has never been completely lost. (d) It also illustrates the essentially immutable character of the fundamental principles and moral precepts of the Divine government in all ages.
THE MOSAIC ECONOMY.
THE word "Economy," as used in the title of this chapter, is almost identical in meaning with "Dispensation," as found in the first, and denotes a system of rules, regulations, rites, and observances. It is derived from the Greek word oikonomia, which is explained by Liddell and Scott as meaning: "the management of a household or family: generally administration, government of a state." Hence we speak of "domestic economy," a system or method of household management; and "political economy," the science of the laws which regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of the products, necessary, useful, or agreeable to man. "Mosaic" is formed from the name Moses, and commonly applied to that legal system which God gave to the Israelites through His servant Moses, on Mount Sinai, in the third month after they came out of Egypt.
WHERE WE FIND THE MOSAIC LAW.
We have already found numerous traces of divine law in the Book of Genesis, but we do not find there the system of precepts, rites, and ceremonies designated the Law of Moses. Again, it would be vain to seek for the Mosaic Economy in the New Testament, through we find there many quotations from it and allusions to it. Nor would our quest be any more successful if we turned to the later books of the Old Testament, although they belong to that Dispensation. It is remarkable that we rarely read of the Israelitish kings enacting laws. But in those later writings we have references to "The Book of the Law of the Lord" (2 Chron. xvii. 9); "The Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses" (2 Chron. xxxiv. 14); "The Book of the Covenant" (Same Chap. v. 30); "the Book of Moses" (Ezra vii. 6); "the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel" (Neh. viii. 1); Such references go right back to the Book of Joshua, the successor of Moses, to whom the Lord said: "Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the Law, which Moses my servant commanded thee ... This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein" (Josh. i. 7, 8). It seems most natural to conclude that these references are to the Book of the Law mentioned in the Pentateuch itself as written by Moses. (See Exod. xxiv. 4; Deut. xxxi. 9-13; 24-27). So numerous and so exact are the quotations from the Law contained in the later books, that it has been held that its sense could be gathered from them, if the Law itself had perished. Still, if we want to find it as a complete system we must turn to the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, just as we must turn to Genesis to find what obtained in the Patriarchal Age. This is such a very simple but essential principle in rightly dividing the word of truth, that it ought to be self-evident, yet no important rule of interpretation is more commonly violated.
LEADING FEATURES OF THE MOSAIC SYSTEM.
One of the most striking features of Judaism was its national and exclusive character. Though some sought and obtained formal admission as proselytes, it was by no means a proselyting institution, but mainly confined to one people, the fleshly descendants of Abraham. The following are perhaps its principal features as brought into view in Hebrews viii., ix., and x.
(1) THE COVENANT. The Lord made two distinct promises to Abraham: (a) That He would make of him a great nation. (b) That in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Gen. xii. 1-3; xviii. 17, 18; xxii. 15-18.) In connection with the first of these - of which the Jewish nation was the development - the Almighty promised also to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his posterity for an everlasting possession. The New Covenant of which Christ is the Mediator and which brings blessings rich and free to all nations, is the fulfilment of the second.
(2) THE TABERNACLE AND ITS FURNITURE. The Tabernacle was made according to a pattern of things in the heavens, and which was showed by the Lord to Moses in the mount, with a strict injunction to make all things according to the copy. It was divided into two unequal compartments. The first, called the Holy Place, contained the altar of incense, the golden candlestick, and the table and the shew-bread; and the second, called the Holy of Holies, contained the ark of the covenant, covered by the mercy-seat, which was overshadowed by the outspread wings of the cherubim of glory.
(3) THE PRIESTHOOD. The whole tribe of Levi was set apart to the service of the Tabernacle. And of these Aaron and his descendants were specially consecrated to the priesthood, Aaron being the first high priest. These only could perform the services of the Tabernacle; the ordinary priests serving at the altar of burnt offering, and performing the daily services in the first or outer chamber; whilst the high priest alone could enter the Holiest, or inner chamber. The dress, duties, privileges, etc., of the priests were laid down with great minuteness in the Law.
(4) THE SACRIFICES. Priests were taken from among men, and appointed for men in things pertaining to God, to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Very precise instructions were given in the Law respecting the many prescribed sacrifices. Besides the daily sacrifices, and those presented by priests, rulers, congregation, or individuals (Lev. iv.) there was the yearly atonement, when the high priest alone passed within the inner sanctuary, bearing the blood of a victim, with which he sprinkled the mercy-seat, thus making a legal propitiation for his own sins and for the sins of the people (Lev. xvi.). Without shedding of blood there was no remission.
(5) MEATS AND DRINKS AND DIVERS WASHINGS. Very rigid rules were laid down respecting food, which might and might not be eaten. Feasts were also ordained - three in the year - at which all males were required to appear before the Lord. It may be noted that there is not an unmistakeable instance of fasting enjoined by the Law, though it is very probable that was included in the command requiring the Israelites to "afflict their souls" on the day of atonement. Then there were "divers washings" included among the carnal ordinances imposed on the people until a time of reformation (Heb. ix. 10), but of which we cannot here speak particularly.
WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO.
(1) IT COULD NOT JUSTIFY. Paul told his Jewish brethren at Antioch in Pisidia that, "By Him [Christ Jesus] every one that believeth is justified form all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts xiii. 39). Writing to the Romans, he declares, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (iii. 20). He makes a similar declaration in his remonstrances with Cephas (Gal. ii. 16).
(2) IT COULD NOT GIVE LIFE. Paul to the Galatians says, "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily, righteousness would have been of the law" (iii. 21); and goes so far as to say, "If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought" (Gal. ii. 21). Indeed, so far from the law justifying or giving life, the same Apostle declares, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them" (Gal. iii. 10). Hence, he styles it, "the letter that killeth," "the ministration of death," and "the ministration of condemnation" (2 Cor. iii. 6-9).
(3) ITS SACRIFICES WERE UNAVAILING. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, referring to the Tabernacle service, says, "According to which are offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot, as touching this conscience, make the worshipper perfect" (ix. 9). Again, "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, they can never with the same sacrifices, year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh. Else, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more conscience of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance made of sins year by year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (x. 1-4). And again, "And every high priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins" (x. 11).
(4) IT MADE NOTHING PERFECT. "Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it hath the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron?" (Heb. vii. 11). "For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God" (vv. 18, 19). "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. viii. 3). "But now that ye have come to know God, or rather be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?" (Gal. iv. 9).
FOR WHAT PURPOSE THE LAW WAS GIVEN.
Here again Paul is our great guide. Writing to the Galatians he says, "What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made" (Gal. iii. 19). But why added because of transgression? "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world brought under the judgement of sin: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin" (Rom. iii. 19, 20). How it operated to this end is set forth in Romans vii.: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet: but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting: for apart from the law sin is dead. And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment which was [or, which I thought was] unto life, this I found to be unto death: for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me. So the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. Did then that which is good become death unto me? God forbid. But sin that it might be shewn to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; - that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful" (7-13). Why then give a law which could only convict, condemn and exhibit the sinfulness of sin? "God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom. xi. 32). "The Scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe,. But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith, which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal. iii. 22-25). The purpose, then, of the law was not to justify, nor make alive, but to reveal to man the depravity of his own nature, and the wickedness of sin, and his utter inability to obtain justification by works of law - not that he might be condemned eternally, but brought to realize his need of salvation by faith in the one sacrifice, once for all offered by Christ; of which the sacrifices and offerings under the law were but types and shadows, to teach the Jews that, "apart from shedding of blood there is no remission."
THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS.
THE word "Testament" we derive through the French from the Latin noun testamentum, which is about equivalent in meaning to our word "will," denoting an instrument in writing by which a person declares his will as to the disposal of his property after his death.
"Covenant" also comes to us through the French convenio, to come together. Literally it signifies a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds. Hence, a mutual consent, of agreement of two or more persons, to do or forbear some act or thing; a contract; a stipulation; a bond or union. It is applied also to a writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties.
Both the foregoing terms are employed in our English New Testaments to translate the one Greek word diath ek e, which occurs thirty-three times; being in the C.V. rendered thirteen times "testament," and twenty times "covenant." That King James's translators followed no definite rule in the use of these terms appears from a comparison of Heb. vii. 22 with viii. 6, where connection and line of reasoning are alike, and yet "testament" is employed in one, and "covenant in the other. The Revisers, however, have almost dispensed with "testament," retaining it in one passage only (Heb. ix. 16, 17), where it occurs twice. Some excellent critics and commentators maintain that even there it should be rendered "covenant." Those who have access to Macknight on the Epistles should carefully read his exposition of these verses; and those possessing A. Campbell's "Christian Baptism: Its Antecedents and Consequents," will find a helpful discussion of this question in Bk. i. Chap. vi. with the first two paragraphs of Chap. vii. There is also an admirable note on the word "covenant" in the Appendix to Rotherham's "Emphasised New Testament," which will repay careful study. It should be noted that the latter translator consistently renders diath ek e by "covenant" even in Heb. ix. 16, 17. And Dr. Robert Young, in his "Literal Commentary" renders the verses thus: "For where a covenant is, the death of the covenant-victim is necessary to be brought (into court). For a covenant is firm over dead victims, since it has no strength at all while the covenant-victim lives." (Compare Gen. xv. 9-18; Exod. xxiv. 8: Psa. i. 5: Jer. xxxiv. 18; Zech. ix. 11; Matt. xxvi. 28 R.V.) There seems no room to doubt that in classic Greek diath ek e sometimes has the meaning of "will" or "testament"; but there appears very little for thinking it ever has that meaning in Scripture. It is the word used throughout the Septuagint to represent the Hebrew word invariably rendered "covenant" in our Old Testament; which is doubtless the source whence N.T. writers derived it. In Jeremiah xxxi. 31-34 (Sept.) it is the word applied both to the Old Institution given on Sinai, and the New then promised by the Lord through Jeremiah. Clearly, then, if it means "covenant" when applied to the Old - as all admit - it cannot means "testament" when applied to the New in the same passage. This the translators of both the Common and Revised Versions practically admit, when they translate diath ek e by "covenant" throughout the passage when quoted by the writer to the Hebrews (Chap. viii). As a designation of the Old Institution, "testament" is most inappropriate, because its provisions were not of the nature of a will, and there certainly was not the death of the One who made it, nor even of its Mediator, Moses. Then, Mediators have no place in connection with wills, but both the Old and New Institutions have their Mediators. But in each case there was shed the blood of a covenant-victim, as was customary in solemn compacts of ancient times, and without which they were not binding. Parkhurst in defining diath ek e strongly demurs even to covenant, as descriptive of the relation God has entered into with man. But whatever objection can be raised against "covenant," applies with far greater force to "testament." On the whole, then, "covenant" is much to be preferred as the designation of both the arrangement which God, through Moses, entered into with the Israelites, and that into which, through Christ, he graciously enters with all who believe and obey the Gospel. And as, by a figure of speech (metonymy), diath ek e, is by Paul applied to the Jewish Scriptures containing the Old Covenant (2 Cor. iii. 14), and he claims to be a minister of "a New Covenant," the term is appropriately applied to both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. And here, again, the Revisers bear us out by using the word "Covenant" instead of "Testament," as in the Common Version.
PREDICTIONS CONCERNING A NEW COVENANT.
Moses told the Children of Israel that God would raise up to them a Prophet like unto him, that is, a Law-giver and Mediator of a Covenant, for Jehovah said, "I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him" (Deut. xviii. 15-18). Peter applies this prophecy to Christ (Acts iii. 22, 23); and a like use of it is implied in Stephen's address to the Jewish Council (vii. 37).
But the most explicit prediction on this point is to be found in Jeremiah xxxi. 31-34: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that 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 when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days saith the Lord; I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins will I remember no more." When giving the cup to His disciples at the institution of the Memorial Feast, Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you" (Luke xxii. 20: 1 Cor. xi. 25). Paul claims for himself and fellow-labourers that God had made them, "sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit" (2 Cor. iii. 6). Allusion is evidently made in this passage and context to Jeremiah's prediction, for the Apostles not only styles it, "a new covenant," but distinguishes it from the old, which he calls "the letter:" and in verse 3, there is the contrast between the writing in tables of stone, and that in tables that are hearts of flesh. Moreover the writer to the Hebrews expressly quotes the foregoing passage from Jeremiah, and explicitly applies it to the order of things established under Christ Jesus. (Heb. viii. 6-13. See also Isa. xlii. 1-9; lv. 1-5; Ezek. xxxiv. 20-26; Heb. ix. 15-22; xii. 24; xiii. 20.)
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO COVENANTS.
Although the Old and New Covenants resemble each other in each having Mediators, Sanctuaries, Priesthoods, Sacrifices, Good Tidings, Promises, Separated Peoples, and Kingdoms, the differences between them are very marked. The following are perhaps the most striking points of difference:-
(1) THE MEDIATOR of the New Covenant is not a mere man like Moses, but also the Son of God (Heb. iii. 1-6).
(2) ITS SANCTUARY, unlike the Tabernacle (which was but a copy and shadow of heavenly things, Heb. viii. 5) is not made with hands, but is a greater and more perfect Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man (Heb. viii. 2; ix. 11).
(3) ITS PRIESTHOOD. Christ has obtained a more excellent ministry than Aaron and his sons, being made a High Priest for ever after the superior order of Melchizedek. They were constituted priests without an oath; but Christ WITH AN OATH, "by Him that saith of Him, The Lord sware and will not repent Himself, Thou art a Priest for ever." They were made priests many in number, being hindered by death from continuing; but Christ has an unchangeable Priesthood, and is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. vii. 6; vii. 1-17; 20-22; 23-25).
(4) ITS SACRIFICE. Christ offered not the blood of other victims - goats and calves - but His Own blood, "one sacrifice for sins for ever," not to be repeated daily and yearly, as were the ineffectual sacrifices under the Law (Heb. iv. 11-28; x. 10-18).
(5) ITS GOSPEL, not a mere message concerning an earthly inheritance to be enjoyed solely by fleshly descendants of Abraham; but a joyous message for all the world, of present salvation and future inheritance in that better, heavenly country, in the City which hath foundations whose Builder and Maker is God, to be enjoyed by those who are by faith, Abraham's spiritual posterity (Heb. xi. 13-16; Rom. ii. 28; iv. 9-16; ix. 6-8).
(6) ITS PROMISES. It has been "enacted on better promises" than those connected with the Law - "precious and exceeding great promises" (Heb. viii. 6; 2 Pet. i. 4).
(7) ITS KINGDOM is not of this world; is not geographically bounded as was that of Israel. Its Metropolis is the Jerusalem above, where Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father Who has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth. It is not entered by natural birth, but by a new birth. Its Laws are not inscribed on tables of stone, but on hearts of flesh. Its citizens need not to teach every man his neighbour and brother to know the Lord, for personal knowledge of the Lord is possessed by all. They need not to offer sacrifices which cannot touch the conscience, and receive a merely legal respite; but on account of the one sacrifice offered by their King-Priest they are completely accepted, and their sins and iniquities will be remembered no more (John xviii. 36; Gal. iv. 27; Matt. xxviii. 18; John iii. 3-5; 2 Cor. iii. 3: Feb. viii. 10-12).
(8) THE LAW MADE NOTHING PERFECT, being but a shadow of good things then to come; the body (which it shadowed) is CHRIST'S Who by one offering has perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and obtained eternal redemption and inheritance for them (Heb. vii. 18; x. 1; Col. ii. 16, 17; Heb. x. 14).
(9) THOSE WITHIN THE NEW COVENANT are not dependent on priestly intervention, but have boldness to enter through the rent veil of the Saviour's flesh, the new and living way; being an elect race, a holy, royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession (Heb. x. 19-22; 1 Pet. ii. 5-10).
(10) IN SHORT, whilst the Mosaic Law was an unbearable yoke of bondage, Christ's is the perfect Law of Liberty (Acts xv. 10; Gal. v. 1; Jas. i. 25).
THE NEW COVENANT SUPERSEDES THE OLD.
(1) The writer to the Hebrews shows conclusively that in speaking of a new covenant God has made the first old; and that, "That which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away" (viii. 13).
(2) The same writer tells us that, "He [the Lord] taketh away the first that He may establish the second" (x. 9).
(3) Again, in Chap. xii. 18-24, he presents in sharp antithesis the terrors of the law and the blessings of the Gospel, affirming that Christians are not come to the former, but are come to the latter.
(4) The axiom noticed in an earlier chapter is to the same effect: "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Heb. vii. 12).
(5) In Rom. vii. 1-6, Paul employs the marriage relation and the effect of the death of one of the parties on the other, to illustrate the effect of Christ's death on the relation of believers to the Law - "made dead to the Law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead. .. But now we have been discharged from the Law, having died to that wherein we were holden; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter."
(6) In Rom. x. 4, Paul distinctly declares, "Christ is the end of the Law unto righteousness to every one that believeth."
(7) In 1 Cor. ix. 20, 21, the Apostle clearly defines his changed relationship: "And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, not being myself under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law."
(8) In Gal. iii. 23-25, we read: "But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor."
(9) In Gal. iv. 21-31, Paul by a striking allegory contrasts the two covenants. That given on Sinai he compares to Hagar the bondwoman, and those under it to Ishmael her son; whilst the new and better covenant is likened to Sarah, the free woman, and Christians to Isaac, the son of the freewoman.
(10) The teaching of these and other passages, which might be adduced, is so plain, that expositors and theologians have been unable to ignore it; but unhappily, instead of embracing and rejoicing in the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, they have sought to evade its force by inventing a distinction between the moral and ceremonial law, telling us that the latter was abolished by Christ, whilst the former is still binding. But no such distinction is made by inspired writers: they speak of the Law as a whole, a system. And as if to show the futility of this device, Paul penned 2 Cor. iii., in which he specifically styles that part of the Law which was written and engraven on stones, "the ministration of death," "the ministration of condemnation," and expressly speaks of it as "passing away," "done away in Christ." The force of the reasoning is somewhat marred in places by ;the supplementary italics supplied by the translators, which should be disregarded by the student in verses 7 and 14, especially. But, it is argued, we find the moral precepts of the Law embodied in the New Testament, which proves their immutability. We do find in one form or another nine out of the Ten Commandments thus embodied, but they are binding on believers, not because they were in the Law of Moses, but because they are in the Law of Christ. Besides, their position is entirely different, being that of a rule of life for saved people, and not a scheme of salvation, concerning which it was said, "This do, and thou shalt live."
RULE FOR RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.
From what has been advanced it is surely manifest that if we would be workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, we must observe the distinction between the Dispensations, each of which has its own economy of things; and must recognise the fact that the Christian System has superseded Judaism; the very mention of New covenant making the first Old, and ready to vanish away. In other words, we must not mix the precepts, commands, exhortations, conditions, promises, ordinances, or ministries belonging to different Covenants. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Hence, what was lawful in the Patriarchal Administration, ceased to be lawful under the Mosaic, unless incorporated with it; and what was lawful under Judaism ceased to be valid when the New and Better Covenant was established, excepting in so far as found embodied in the Teaching of Christ and His Apostles. The Lawgiver of the Christian Dispensation is not Moses but Christ; not the servant, but the Son over His Own house.
THE PERIOD OF CHRIST'S PERSONAL MINISTRY.
AS already seen, prophecies of a "New Covenant" and its better promises ran like a golden thread throughout the Old Covenant Scriptures, becoming fuller and clearer as the time drew near. But Malachi, the last of the Jewish canonical writers, still pointed forward to the new and brighter age. Through him Jehovah said, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in, behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. iii. 1). And the last recorded charge left Israel still under the Law, but with another foretoken of Messiah's Advent: "Remember ye the Law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and judgements. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. iv. 4-6).
WHERE TO FIND THE CHRISTIAN SYSTEM.
Just as we must turn to the writings of the Patriarchal period to learn the order of things that existed then; and as we must go to the writings of Moses to find the laws and institutions of Judaism, even so we must go to the New Testament writings to find the Christian System. But in dealing with the New Covenant Scriptures there is still the same need for care in rightly dividing the word of truth. The teacher of geography seeks first to impress the pupil with an idea of the world as a whole; then of its two grand divisions, the Old World and the New; and after that leads him to note the different continents, and the countries into which they are divided, with their further sub-divisions into provinces, counties, and so on, down to the details of towns and villages; and thus imparts to him a far more thorough and useful knowledge of the subject than if he kept him learning the details of all parts, without any proper conception of the whole, and the relation of the parts to one another. Similarly the student who would rightly divide the word of truth must begin with the Bible as a whole; then note its two grand divisions, the Old and New Testaments; after that, its further divisions and sub-divisions, down to sections, paragraphs, phrases, and even words. In this way, a believer may, by diligent study, acquire in a year more real, useful knowledge of its contents, than would be gained in ten by the common method of roaming over the whole field of revelation regardless of its divisions and Dispensations. When we examine the New Testament as a whole, we find in it four main divisions, and it is almost as important to understand the design of each of these, and their relations to one another, as to distinguish between the Old and New Covenants. These main divisions are:- 1. The Four Gospels. 2. The Acts of Apostles. 3. The Apostolic Epistles. 4. The Book of Revelation.
RELATION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST'S MISSION TO THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS.
The Angel Gabriel, who foretold the birth of John to his father, Zacharias, said, "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him" (Luke i. 15-17). Zacharias, full of the Holy Spirit, prophesied concerning his infant son: "Yea, and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways." John himself, when 'fulfilling his course,' claimed to be the one Isaiah (xl. 3) described beforehand as: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ye ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matt. iii. 1-3). And Jesus declared him to be the fulfilment of Malachi's predictions concerning a messenger - "Elijah the Prophet" - at the same time bearing this remarkable testimony regarding him: "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (See Matt. xi. 7-19). The full force of this statement appears only as we pass in review such Old Testament worthies, as, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, etc. The last part of the quotation from the Saviour's lips settles John's relation to the New Covenant. 'The kingdom of heaven' there named must mean that kingdom which John himself heralded as at hand, the keys of which the Lord promised to Peter, and which the latter opened on the Day of Pentecost. It cannot mean that John is to have no place in that future glorious kingdom which was before the Master's mind when He said, "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. viii. 11). John was a prophet of the Old Economy, but "more than a prophet." It was his mission to prepare for the Lord a people, who should be sufficiently enlightened to recognise Him as the Messiah. It was his joy, as "the friend of the Bridegroom," to stand and rejoice at hearing His voice. It was his great honour to baptise the Lord, and afterwards point Him out to his disciples as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John i. 29; iii. 26-30). "The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom was preached" (Luke xvi. 16). That the mission of John was only preparatory to the introduction of the New Covenant, is made perfectly plain by the action of Paul in regard to certain disciples whom he found at Ephesus. These were most likely fruits of the labours of Apollos before he learned the way of the Lord more accurately. When Paul ascertained that they had been baptised into John's baptism (then obsolete), he explained to them John's mission, saying: "John baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people [the Jews] that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts xix. 1-7). When the Apostle laid his hands on these twelve men, they received the Holy Spirit in miraculous manifestation, whereas the belated news they had received and obeyed, did not so much as inform them that the Holy Spirit had been given. John had said: I indeed baptise you with [or in] water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with [or in] the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Matt. iii. 11). But in the intervening period Christ had been manifested to Israel, had fulfilled the Old Covenant, been crucified, raised from the dead, exalted to God's right hand, and had poured out the Holy spirit upon Jews and Gentiles, conferring upon His Apostles the power of imparting the gift to others.
THE PURPOSE OF THE EVANGELISTS.
(1) MATTHEW does not definitely state his aim in so many words, but he begins with the genealogy of "Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." This, with the numerous citations of Old Testament prophecy, as fulfilled in Jesus, and the prominence he gives to Peter's Confession of His Christhood (xvi), and the confounding of the Pharisees with the problem of the Messiah being David's Son and David's Lord (xxii.), make it clear that Matthew wrote for Jews, with the definite object of convincing them that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David, Who was to reign over the house of Jacob for ever; the promised seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blest. How fitting that a memoir having this aim, should close with the Lord's claim to universal dominion, and the sending of His ambassadors to all nations.
(2) MARK expressly states his purpose in his opening words: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" - that is, the beginning of the good news concerning Christ, the Son of God.
(3) LUKE is equally explicit as to his design. In his brief preface he says: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed" (i. 1-4).
(4) JOHN states his object with the utmost clearness: "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name" (xx. 31).
PRINCIPAL FACTS IN THE GOSPELS.
In carrying out their great purpose the compilers of the Gospels gave prominence to the following facts and events: The Birth of John the Baptist; The Nativity of Jesus, and remarkable events connected therewith; The visit of Jesus to the Temple when twelve years old; The Ministry of John the Baptist; The Baptism and Anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit; The Temptation in the Wilderness; The Appointment of the Twelve Apostles; Christ's wonderful teaching; The mighty works done by Jesus; Peter's Confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; The Transfiguration of Christ; The Institution of the Lord's Supper; Our Lord's Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane; The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot; The trials of Jesus before Annas, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate; The Crucifixion of the Christ; His Burial; His Resurrection from the dead; Repeated appearances to His disciples after His Rising; Christ Commissioning His Ambassadors; The Lord's Ascension to the Father's right hand.
CHRIST'S WORLD-WIDE MISSION IN THE GOSPELS.
It is remarkable how little is said in the Gospels about the world-wide character of Christ's mission. Beyond a few statements from the Saviour's lips, such as: "They shall come from the east and west, and from, the north and south, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of God" (Luke xiii. 29); "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John iii. 16); "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd" (John x. 16); "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (John xii. 32), there is little to indicate that His mission was to bring blessing to all mankind. Viewed in the light of the Lord's answer to the Canaanitish woman: "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. xv. 24); and His express charge to the Twelve, when he first sent them out, not to go to the Gentiles, nor yet to the Samaritans (Matt. x. 5, 60), it is evident that even these passages would not determine the mission of Christ as universal, apart from the accounts of the Great Commission which he gave to His disciples after he rose from the dead. As Paul tells us in Romans xv. 8, Christ was "made a Minister of the Circumcision;" He lived and died under the Law of Moses; and it was not till that system had been fulfilled by Him and taken out of the way, that the new Dispensation of Grace and Truth embracing all mankind could be introduced. Hence the Great Commission authorizing the preaching of the Gospel to every creature in all the nations, was not given till the facts of that Gospel, viz., "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. xv. 3, 4), were accomplished, and the victorious Christ could say "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth."
(1) MATTHEW'S account of the Great Commission informs us that Jesus said: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (xxviii. 18-20).
(2) MARK tells us that Jesus commanded them to "Go into all the word and preach the Gospel to the whole creation;" and that after the Ascension, "They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that followed" (xvi. 15-20).
(3) LUKE says that Christ opened their minds that they might understand the Scriptures, and said: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (xxiv. 45-47).
Had we no further information than is afforded by these brief statements, our knowledge of the world-wide mission of the Redeemer would be meagre in the extreme. Still, in the absence of anything to the contrary, it would be but fair to credit the Apostles with carrying out their Lord's will. Happily, however, we are not left to guess how they did; nevertheless such a reflection serves to show the value and importance of the remaining parts of the New Testament.
THE CHRISTIAN SYSTEM.
EARLY in His ministry on earth the Lord Jesus chose from among His disciples the Twelve, whom He named apostles, and appointed, "that they might be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils" (Matt. x. 1; Mark iii. 13, 14; Luke vi. 13). These He patiently trained for the great work they were to do after His Own earthly mission was fulfilled, and the inauguration of the Gospel Dispensation required His presence at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Before His crucifixion Jesus assured them that when he went away he would send them the Comforter - the Spirit of Truth - who would abide with them always, teach them all things, bring to their remembrance all that he had already taught them, and thus guide them into all the Truth (John xiv. 16; 25, 26; xv. 26; xvi. 13). After His resurrection, when giving to them the Great Commission, He renewed the promise of the Holy Spirit, and charged them to wait at Jerusalem until clothed with power from on high, as the sign of the authority with which they were invested as His Ambassadors (Luke xxiv. 44-49; Acts i. 4, 5). So important was the work to which they were called, that, although they had enjoyed the inestimable advantage of the Master's Own personal teaching for fully three years before His death, and had from His Own lips received His final commands after He rose from the dead, yet they were not at liberty to begin that work till the Spirit was poured out upon them. Jesus had said respecting them: "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (John xiii. 20); and again: "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John xx. 21). This made it imperative that, whilst, like other followers of Christ, they were responsible for their own personal actions, in all their authoritative teaching and legislative acts, they must be under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit. Hence the parting injunction: "Tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high."
Thus the risen Redeemer, Himself, directs us to His holy Apostles as the inspired and infallible exponents of His will. The Gospels close with narratives of the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ, and His Great Commission authorizing them to preach the Gospel to the whole creation, make and baptise disciples of every nationality, and instruct such to observe all His commands and institutions. Beyond the brief, general statement in Mark's closing words: "And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed," They give no account of how the Apostles understood and carried out their Lord's late injunctions. Therefore, rightly dividing the word of truth requires that for information respecting the new order of things established by them under the Great Commission, or, in other words, the setting up of the Gospel Dispensation, we must turn to the second main division of the New Testament, which tells how they tarried in the city till the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon them; and of how they witnessed for the exalted Christ in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. This book is known as
THE ACTS OF APOSTLES.
With reference to the title of this very important book, there seems no reason to regard it as adopted by its author. In the ancient MSS. and Versions the title varies a good deal. The shortest is that of the Sinaitic MS. which is simply "Acts:" the Vatican MS. has "Acts of Apostles;" and in the Peschito, or literal Syriac Version it is styled: "The Book of the Acts: that is, the Histories of the Blessed Apostles, collected by the holy Man Lukos the Evangelist." The title "Acts" is too indefinite, and on the other hand that given in our C.V. and R.V. is misleading. Instead of being "The Acts of the Apostles," the book contains only some Acts of some Apostles, mainly of Peter and Paul. The title "Acts of Apostles," as given by the Vatican Codex, besides being probably the oldest that has come down to us, best agrees with the contents. The book was written by Luke, the author of the third Gospel, and by him addressed to the same personage, Theophilus. His reference to "the former treatise" shows that it was intended as a second volume of his narrative. He does not here so explicitly state his aims as he does in beginning his Gospel, but his design may be easily inferred from what he has done. Perhaps it would be better to speak of the Holy Spirit's purpose in guiding the writer in the selection and arrangement of his materials. As we have seen, the Gospels tell comparatively little concerning the world-wide mission of Christ. But before closing they tell us of the Lord's Great Commission to His Apostles, after His resurrection, in which he charged them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation, with a view to discipling all the nations. Manifestly the Acts of Apostles in intended to show us how, under the Spirit's direction, they understood and acted on their Lord's last injunctions, because the book is chiefly composed of accounts of conversions, or attempted conversions, with the circumstances leading up thereto, and the consequences following such efforts.
ITS CHIEF CONTENTS.
The book opens with a reference to the author's earlier work - the Gospel according to Luke - and the point at which it closed, adding some further particulars. He then shows how they spent the time of waiting for the Spirit's descent, which took place on the Day of Pentecost; how when filled with the Spirit, Peter proclaimed the Gospel in its fulness for the first time, with the result that 3,000 sought and found the way of salvation; how these formed the first Church of Christ, continuing steadfastly in the Apostles' Teaching, the fellowship, the Breaking of Bread and the Prayers; and how, after a period of triumphant prosperity and multitudes of other conversions in Jerusalem, persecution scattered the disciples, who went everywhere preaching the word. He tells how Philip evangelized the Samaritans, discipled and baptised the Eunuch; of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus; of the conversion of Cornelius and his house - the first-fruits of the Gentiles; and of the remarkable labours of the Apostle Paul resulting in the spread of the Gospel and the establishment of Churches in all the principal cities of the Roman empire. The Acts of Apostles is thus seen to be our earliest and most reliable Church History. From it we learn how and what the Apostles preached; how they directed those who inquired what they were to do to be saved; how they baptised newly-made disciples, and organized them into Churches; and how they set these Churches in order. In short, as Moses was shown in the mount the pattern of the Tabernacle, according to which he was solemnly charged to make all things, so in the Acts of Apostles we see the model of the Church of Christ as set up by the Lord's inspired agents.
THE APOSTOLIC EPISTLES.
form the third main division of the New Testament. In order to rightly divide the word of truth it is essential to recognise (1) That the epistles were all written by inspired men, such as Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude, and therefore the teaching they contain is binding upon those for whom they are intended. There is a disposition on the part of many professed believers to slight the authority of the Apostolic writings. But we have seen that the Saviour commanded the apostles to teach the converts to observe all things whatsoever He had enjoined upon them; that He promised and sent the Spirit to guide them into all the truth, and to bring all things to their remembrance; and said of them when thus endued: "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (2) That in every instance they were addressed to Christians, either individuals, such as Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; or Churches composed of Christians, as the Church of God at Corinth, the saints at Philippi, the Churches of Galatia. They are meant only for people who have heartily accepted the Faith of the Gospel as set forth in the first main divisions of the New Testament (the Gospels) and become united to Christ and His Church as in the Acts of Apostles. If this simple fact were kept in view unsaved people would not appropriate to themselves promises and assurances intended only for the saved. Rebels against the British Government might as well take to themselves promises and assurances of protection meant only for loyal, peaceful citizens, as those who have not submitted themselves in loving obedience to Christ flatter themselves as so many do, that all things work together for their good, which is true only of these who love God (Rom. viii. 28).
PURPOSES FOR WHICH WRITTEN.
No doubt every separate Letter has its own distinct purpose or purposes, which should be sought for by the student and kept steadily in view when reading it. But besides this, the general aim of the Epistles clearly is to teach Christians how they should conduct themselves in all the relations of life; to reprove them for wrong-doing; to correct their erroneous views and improper conduct; and to instruct them in right-doing, so that as the Lord's servants they may be thoroughly equipped for every kind of service. As the Acts of Apostles illustrates in a general way the first part of the Great Commission, viz., preaching the Gospel, making disciples, baptising and organizing them; the Epistles fulfil the second part - "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you."
SCOPE AND AIM OF THE REVELATION.
The last main division of the New Testament is called the Apocalypse or Revelation. Concerning no portion of Holy Writ have expositors held such diverse views. This doubtless arises from its symbolical character. Still, despite the many different interpretations given of this wonderful book it is generally admitted that it contains a series of predictions respecting the struggles of the Church of Christ with the forces of evil, and the final glorious triumph of the Redeemer's cause, and the irretrievable overthrow of all His enemies. When Jesus first announced His intention of building His Church He declared that the gates of Hades should not prevail against it. Whether written as early as Nero's reign or as late as Domitian's, the followers of Christ were being grievously persecuted, John himself being at the very time in banishment for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. It must have been a trial of faith often to Christians to believe that their cause would finally prevail. To assure them and encourage the saints in all generations this prophetic book, with its splendid imagery, was given as the most fitting close to the canon of Scripture: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show unto his servants, the things which must shortly come to pass."
Of the things advanced in preceding chapters this is the sum. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Old Testament Scriptures of both periods contain many valuable lessons. They also serve to illustrate many things in the New Covenant Writings, such as Priesthood, Sacrifice, &c. Indeed many of these things would be almost unintelligible but for the light shed on them by the Old Testament. We are not, however, under the Law, but under Grace and Truth. The New Testament, not the Old, is the Law Book of this the Christian Dispensation. We have no more right to transfer the abrogated laws, institutions, ministries, and ceremonies of the Mosaic Law to the Christian Dispensation than the Jew would have had to incorporate into Judaism things distinctively belonging to the Patriarchal Period. The facts, commands, promises, institutions, and ministries of the Gospel Economy must be learned from the New Testament. The four Gospels prove that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; that He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. The Acts of Apostles show how, under the Spirit's guidance the Gospel was preached to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles; how men and women became Christians by Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance toward God, and Baptism into Christ; and show how such were organized and governed as Churches of Christ. The Epistles teach Christians how to live and act in the various relationships of life. And the Revelation forecasts the fiery trials and final triumph of Christ and His Saints, with the complete overthrow and perdition of all the allied forces of evil.