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The Covenants-Chapter 9h- The Teachings of the Covenant

It may be instructive to mark the precise point of time at which the church of Christ became a visible organization. To do this we must ascertain what it is exactly, which places the church in this visible state. It is as you will at once see, upon reflection, not spirituality, nor orthodoxy, nor both these together, but external form. Without spirituality, and orthodoxy, there can certainly be no true church. They are essential to its very existence. Yet these alone, do not constitute its visibility, since in that case it would have been visible long before the days of Abraham. And there are many men eminently pious, in the present day, who whatever may be their devotion to God, are not literally connected with the visible church; which could not be the case if spiritual qualities only, were necessary to that union. What more is required then, to make these good men members of the church? They must, I answer, be baptised, and receive the Lord’s supper. These ordinances, therefore, mark the line of separation between the church and the world. In the truth of this statement, we have, happily, the concurrence of every denomination of Christians. They all teach that those who are baptised, and received at the Lord’s table, are thus united with the church, and that those who are not so baptised, and received, whatever may be their piety, or excellence in other respect; are out of the visible church. These ordinances, doubtless, do not draw the line of distinction between the church and the world, exactly where God will place it at the last day, because they are administered by fallible men, who are liable to mistake the claims of those who receive them. Many, we have reason to fear, are in the visible church, who will not, at the last day, be found on the right hand of the Judge; and many are probably, not in the visible church, who will have a place then in the church triumphant. It is, nevertheless, true, that the ordinance, usually called sacraments, mark the established boundaries between the world and the visible church.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

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The Covenants-Chapter 9g- The Teachings of the Covenant

4. From these covenants, together with the history of Israel, and instructions of the prophets, you learn, fourthly, that the gospel church was not visible until the coming of Christ. Men eminently pious; deeply imbued with the spirit of true religion, existed in every age; not among the Jews only, but also among the Gentiles. They were all believers in the Messiah promised as yet to come. But they were not visibly organized as the kingdom, or church of the Redeemer. The gospel covenant, which was their guide, and support, has existed, as we have seen, from “before the foundation of the world.” It is, therefore, really the oldest of all the covenants. It is consequently, called the new covenant, not in respect of the date of its origin, but of the period of its visible administration, which did not commence until after the old covenant had served its purposes, was fulfilled, and had passed away. For all that concerned holiness, and salvation, it was, nevertheless, fully as effective immediately after the fall, as it is at this hour. Christ Jesus was “A Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”[13] All who in any age have been saved, have obtained their deliverance through faith in him. Up, however, to the time of his personal appearing upon earth, there was no formal outward organization. The only external administration was legal, and typical. To any one who will maturely examine the subject, these facts must be apparent. Readily may you trace the approach of the church to the period of’ its visibility. Previous to the advent, the covenant, and kingdom of Christ, are ever spoken of, as being in the future. By Ezekiel Jehovah said, “I will establish unto you an everlasting covenant.”[14] And, in another place, “I will bring you into the bonds of the covenant.”[15] By Daniel he said, “In the days of these kings [the Roman Emperors] will the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms; and it shall stand forever”[16] Thus did all the prophets speak of the church, up to that moment when the Old Testament dispensation was closed. The kingdom was not yet formally inaugurated. You open the new Testament, and what do you there find? John the Baptist comes, “preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[17] “Messiah the prince” appears. He is recognized in his baptism, as the “Son of God.”[18] Having entered upon his ministry, he proclaims of the kingdom, “It is nigh thee, even at the doors;” at this moment, “the kingdom of God is within you.”[19] To which an apostle adds, “Now is come the kingdom of our God.”[20]

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 9f- The Teachings of the Covenant

Thus have we seen that there is no reason for the further separate nationality of the Jews, and no scripture in support of the opinion that they will ever be restored literally to Canaan. And, besides, the gospel has long ago, “broken down the middle wall of partition” between the Jews, and the Gentiles. Henceforth “they are one fold,” and have but “one Shepherd.” “God is no respecter of persons.” In his sight there are no distinctions among men; “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free.”[11] The rejection of Christ’s doctrine by the Jews, led to the persecution, and dispersion of the disciples, and thus became “the riches of the world.” What now shall be their conversion, but life from the dead?”[12] When “the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in;” that is, when Christians of all nations, shall become Christians indeed; shall act towards Israelites as they do towards other men ; their prejudices will cease, they too will be converted, and make up their part of the fullness of the riches of Christ. The Jews were the “true olive tree,” of which Christ is the root and fatness. When they rejected him, they as branches, were broken off, and the Gentiles, branches of the wild olive, were grafted in; or took their place in relation to Christ. But when their unbelief shall cease, they shall be restored to the favor of God, as humble followers of him “who died for all, that those who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.”

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 9e- The Teachings of the Covenant

September 27, 2019 Leave a comment

The nation, and kingdom, that will not serve thee, shall perish; yea, they shall be utterly wasted. “Thy people shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.”[10] If these, and similar passage, guaranty the restoration of Judah and Israel to the land of Canaan, literally as a nation, they must of course be interpreted literally. But is such an interpretation reasonable? Will legitimate Biblical criticism tolerate it? Where are the ten tribes of Israel? They do not exist upon the earth. How then can they return literally? Will the restored twelve tribes in their land, where they are to increase, and multiply, be all righteous? If so, they will be what no nation ever has been. Will all other nations be either tributary to them, or refusing such subjection, be utterly destroyed? Is David to rise from the dead, and to reign over united Judah, and Israel, forever? Is this earthly state to continue without end? And that covenant of peace, and that sanctuary, or temple, which they are to enjoy forever, what are they? Something different from the gospel, and its blessings? Will all this occur literally? To believe it is wholly out of the question, not only because it is unreasonable, but also because it directly contradicts many of the most important teachings of the New Testament. How then is it to be interpreted? Plainly, like all other similar portions of the old testament, according to its figurative sense. Having seen thus much, the meaning is at once obvious. All these texts, under the gorgeous figures which enshroud them, of the return to Canaan of all Israel, their prosperity, and their triumphs, predict simply, their ultimate conversion to christianity, their union with the people of God, that Messiah, (the spiritual David, unto whom all nations shall be subdued,) shall reign over them, and that purged from their sins by his blood, they shall rejoice in the covenant of peace, (the gospel of Christ,) and in their king Messiah, and in their glorious sanctuary, (the church of the Redeemer,) forever more.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 9d- The Teachings of the Covenant

September 20, 2019 Leave a comment

3. The covenants, thirdly, clearly teach us that all the peculiar purposes of God in relation to the Jewish nation, are now fully accomplished.

Their separate nationality was, as we have seen, secured, and perpetuated, as an essential part of those means by which the fulfilment was certified, of the “promise of God in Christ to Abraham.” When Christ came, and the proof of his Messiah-ship was established, that end was gained perfectly. They, in the providence of God, were soon afterwards dispersed, and have never since enjoyed a national being. And why should they? What is to be gained by it? Yet it is believed by them, and the opinion prevails very generally among Christians, that they will at some future day, be restored to Canaan, and there yet become a great nation. Are the Jews really to be restored as a nation, to Canaan? If they are restored, by what laws will they there be governed? By those of the old covenant? They are all fulfilled, and superseded. As the laws of God, they no longer exist. Sacrifices, oblations, priesthood, circumcision, are not now even when practised by Jews, obedience to God. Will they be governed by the new covenant. Then they will be Christians, and why should they be separated from other Christians of different races? But do not the prophecies declare that they will be restored? Let us examine them. Among the passages which are considered most conclusive on this subject, are such as these:- “Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they have gone, and gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall reign over them all; and they shall no more be two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions. But I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them. So shall they be my people; and I will be their God; and David my servant, shall be king over them; and they shall all have one Shepherd; and they shall walk in my judgments, and obey my statues, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; and I will place them, and multiply them; and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forever more.”[9]

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 9c- The Teachings of the Covenant

September 13, 2019 Leave a comment

These conclusions, so obviously scriptural, and true, are, I am glad to find, beginning to be acknowledged by the learned, and candid, even in the ranks of our Pedobaptist brethren. I might introduce several authorities, but will satisfy myself with one only. Dr. Hodge, one of the Professors in the Princeton Theological Seminary says:- “It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one his natural descendants through Isaac, were constituted a commonwealth— an external community; by the other his spiritual descendants were constituted into a church, [invisible of course, since, at that time, the only formal organization was that of the law.] The parties to the former covenant, were God, and the nation; to the other, God, and his true people. The promises of the national covenant, were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e. the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, as reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant [the old] were circumcision, and obedience to the law; the conditions of the other were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as ‘the seed of the woman,’ the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, [that is, the old covenant with the new] and the commonwealth founded on the one, with the church founded on the other. When Christ came, the commonwealth was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The church [now made visible] remained. There was no external covenant, nor promise of external ‘blessings, on condition of external rites, and subjection. There was a spiritual society, with spiritual promises, on condition of faith in Christ.” “The church is, therefore, in its essential nature, a company of believers, and not an external society, requiring merely external profession as the condition of membership.[7]” This is the true testimony. It must be so. It cannot be otherwise. The Jewish church which rejected, and cast out the Christian church, could not be substantially that very Christian church which it cast out, and rejected. The Jewish church into which its members were born by natural birth, could not be the same church with the Christian into which none can lawfully enter but such as are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”[8] Was the church which contained the Scribes, and Pharisees, and Sadducees, the most open, determined, and malignant enemies of Christ, the same church with that into which none can enter, but those who love Christ with all their soul, and mind and strength? The church of Israel, was the nation of Israel, and, as a whole, could no more be the church of Christ, in the New Testament sense of that phrase, than the American nation, can be called the church of Christ.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants

The Covenants-Chapter 9b- The Teachings of the Covenant

September 6, 2019 Leave a comment

2. The teachings of the covenants, truly interpreted, give us, secondly, important aid in determining the character, and form of the visible Christian church.

They concur with the New Testament, in establishing the fact, that it is “A congregation of faithful men, in which the true word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered, according to Christ’s ordinances, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.”[2] It is therefore, a purely spiritual body, called out of the world, by the gospel [3] and formally organized for the service of Christ, according to his own laws. In professed agreement with these doctrines, but practically, in direct opposition to them, it has been very generally assumed, that “The Jewish society before Christ, and the Christian society after Christ, are one, and the same church, under different dispensations.” This proposition, you must, from the examination through which we have passed, be convinced cannot be sustained. The covenants themselves, plainly show that the Jewish church, and the Christian church, are organized upon different, and dissimilar covenants; that they are composed of wholly unlike material —the one of the entire Hebrew nation, the other of “faithful men,” believers only; that one was a figure of the other; and that when the gospel church, the reality, was visibly organized, the Jewish church, the figure, ceased to exist. The covenants of the law, were the charter of the Jewish church. They were designed, as we have seen, to bear witness to Christ. When he came, and was acknowledged, their purpose being accomplished, they were superseded, since when the charter expired, then of course, expired with it, all the peculiar privileges it conferred. The Jewish church, therefore, was not continued in any form. The new covenant was now introduced into visible administration. This is the charter of the Christian church. If the apostles teach us truly, these churches were so unlike, that the removal of the Jewish was necessary to the introduction of the Christian:- “He taketh away the first [covenant says Paul,] that he may establish the second.”[4] And David speaking prophetically of Messiah, says:- “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedeck.”[5] In exposition of this passage, Paul remarks:- “If perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should arise, after the order of Melchizedeck, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity, a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of whom no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, [such is the stipulation of the covenant] of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is far more evident,” that “there is a disannulling of the commandment going before [the old covenant] for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law [the Jewish covenant] made nothing perfect; [being figurative merely] but the bringing in of a better hope [the gospel covenant] did; by the which hope we draw nigh unto God.’[6] Can that which is removed, and that which is placed in its stead, be after all, substantially the same thing? Can the law be changed, and still continue to be the same law? If not, then the covenant of the Christian church, is another covenant than that of the Jewish church; having a new Mediator, a new order of priests, new sacrifices, and a new service. It follows, therefore, that “The Jewish society before Christ, and the Christian society after Christ, are not one and the same church under different dispensations.” Consequently all the deductions from this source to which men are wont to resort, in reference to the nature, form, and ordinances of the Christian church, are baseless, and necessarily fall to the ground.

R. B. C. Howell- The Covenants