Sermon on the Two Covenants

Sermon on the Two Covenants

By eld. J. N. Andrews

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts. Hebrews 8:10.

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“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 in the day that 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 shall be 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 write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, 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 I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34. SOTC 3.1

THE first covenant was made with the people of Israel at the time of their departure out of Egypt. This covenant no longer exists. The new covenant long since took its place. But a very serious error prevails in the minds of many persons respecting the points of difference between these two covenants. The old covenant was made with the Hebrew people. For this reason, whatever entered into it is supposed to be Jewish. Thus the law of God is summarily set aside as Jewish; and thus might the God of Israel himself be discarded as a Jewish God. But the new covenant is held up to our admiration, because it is, as they say, not made with the Jews, but with the Gentiles. The old covenant belonged to the Jews, and with it we have no concern; the new covenant is made with the Gentiles, and we, as Gentiles, are interested in it. SOTC 3.2

How can men thus carelessly read the Scriptures? The language of inspiration is very explicit in stating that the new covenant is made with the same people that were the subjects of the old covenant. Thus Jeremiah, speaking in the name of the Lord, says: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” And he further alludes to the fact that the new covenant is made with the Hebrew people when he adds: “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” And yet again he identifies the Hebrew people when he says: “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.” And Paul quotes at length, in Hebrews 8, this entire statement of Jeremiah respecting the old and new covenants’ being severally made with the Hebrew people. And, as if this were not enough, he makes a statement in Romans 9:4, 5, that exactly meets the case. Thus he says of the Hebrews: “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Thus it appears that everything valuable God has given to the world through the instrumentality, or by the means, of the Hebrew people. Those who choose to do so can venture to despise the law of God because given to the Jews, and to reject Christ because he came of the Jews; but one thing they cannot do. They cannot say, “We accept the new covenant because it pertains to the Gentiles, whereas the first covenant, and the law, etc., pertained to the Jews.” No such distinction can be drawn. Both the covenants pertain to the Hebrew people, according to the explicit statement of Paul; and both are said by Jeremiah and Paul, or rather by the Spirit of inspiration speaking through them, to be made with Judah and Israel. SOTC 4.1

The fact being thus clearly established that the two covenants are both made with the Hebrews, it becomes a matter of interest to inquire into the reason of this thing. Why did God thus honor one nation and pass by all others? Undoubtedly there was a sufficient reason for this action, and that reason we shall find fully laid open to our view in the Bible. The first thing which Paul has enumerated as pertaining to the Hebrews, is “the adoption;” and if we can understand why God adopted this family, we shall readily understand why all the other things which he has named should also pertain to this people. SOTC 5.1

Know, then, that God did not adopt the family of Abraham as his first action in behalf of mankind. He attempted thus to make his own the family of the first man, Adam, the common head and father of the human race. But at the end of the antediluvian age, only eight persons remained upon the earth who feared the God of Heaven. There was no alternative with him but to witness the extinction of piety in the earth, or else, by an awful lesson of judgment, to destroy every wicked man from the earth. And for this reason came the deluge. And now one family alone remains — the family of Noah, who is the second head of the human race. And this family, thus instructed in divine truth, and thus warned by God’s terrible judgments, might all have been, if they would, the heritage of the Almighty. But when men began again to multiply upon the earth, they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. They forgot God. They plunged into sin. They united under Nimrod to build Babel. As they set God at defiance, he placed his curse upon them by confounding their language. Genesis 10 and 11. In the fourth century after the flood, only a handful of godly persons remained. Abraham, in the midst of this dense moral darkness, for even his immediate ancestors were idolators (Joshua 24:2), was so pre-eminent in virtue that he was called the friend of God. James 2:23. God said that he knew Abraham, that he would command his children and his household after him, and that they would keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. Genesis 18:19. God had pledged himself at the time Noah and his family came forth from the ark, never again to drown the world. Genesis 9:15. SOTC 5.2

But he must do something to save this one faithful family from ruin, and, by means of them, to preserve in the earth some degree of true piety, and to retain among men a body of faithful worshipers. To do this, he adopts this family of Abraham, his friend, and separates them by circumcision and the rites of the ceremonial law, from all the rest of mankind. Thus Abraham became the third grand father of mankind. Not the father of the whole race, like Adam and Noah respectively; but the father of the people of God. This was the adoption. He gave up the rest of mankind to idolatry and atheism, not because he was willing that they should perish, but because they would not hearken to his voice. Yet, though he thus adopted this one family, he did not so reject the rest of mankind that he did not make provision for any of them to be received among the Hebrew people if they would become circumcised and unite with the Hebrews in his service and worship. The adoption was just, and right, and necessary. By means of it, God preserved his knowledge and his worship in the earth. SOTC 6.1

The Hebrew people being thus adopted, and by means of circumcision set apart from the rest of the world, found to their great profit that, though they were separated from the world, they were united to Him who made the heaven and the earth. They had the Lord for their God. They had much advantage “every way;” the adoption, the glory, the two covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, the promises, the fathers, and the Messiah. And yet Paul says their chief advantage was that the oracles of God were committed to them. Romans 3:1, 2. It is not best to scorn the law of God because committed to the Hebrews. It is not best to despise the new covenant, as Jewish, because, like the old covenant, it is made with Israel. Nor is it best to reject Jesus as the Messiah because he comes of that despised race; and, finally, it is not best to have some other god besides the God of Israel. Our God, indeed, bears that title; because he was for long ages worshiped by the Hebrews only, and by the Gentiles almost not at all. Yet that is not his fault, but ours. And so of all the sacred things committed to the Israelites. They were not Jewish, or Hebraic, but divine. In fact, we must have a part in these precious treasures which God gave to this people, for their preservation through the long period of Gentile darkness. They are of equal value to us, and we must share in them. “Salvation,” said our Lord to the woman of Samaria, “is of the Jews.” John 4:22. SOTC 7.1

The opening work in the establishment of the new covenant must, at least, be as early as the closing hours of the life of Christ. In the last memorable evening of his life, as he was about to be betrayed into the hands of the Jewish rulers, our Lord gave the cup, representing thereby his own blood, into the hands of his disciples, saying as he did it: “This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:20. Here is the first mention of the new covenant by our Lord. It is evident that the shedding of his blood, and the pouring out of his soul unto death, was that which should give validity to the covenant. Isaiah 53; Hebrews 9. The opening event, therefore, in the ratification of the new testament, or covenant, was on that memorable night in which the Saviour was betrayed, when he, the mediator of the new covenant on the one part, and the eleven apostles on the other part, as the representatives of the people of God, entered into solemn contract with each other. He, by giving them the cup representing his own blood, pledged himself to die for them; they, by accepting it, thus pledged themselves to accept of salvation through his blood, and to fulfill the conditions connected therewith. SOTC 8.1

Indeed, we must date the preliminary acts in the establishment of the new covenant, from the opening of Christ’s ministry. Our Lord began to preach at the close of Daniel’s sixty-ninth week. Compare Daniel 9:25; Mark 1:14, 15. The remaining, or seventieth, week, he was to employ in confirming the covenant with many; and in the midst of the week, he caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease, by being offered himself upon the cross, as their great antitype. Hebrews 10:5-10. We must, therefore, assign the ministry of Christ to the introductory work of establishing the new covenant, or new testament. His preaching was a public announcement of its principles. He assigned to the law of God its just place. He laid down the keeping of the commandments as the condition of eternal life. Matthew 5:17-19; 19:16-19. He revealed the ground of pardon; viz., the sacrifice of his own life. Matthew 20:28. He also stated in distinct terms the conditions on which that sacrifice could benefit men; viz., faith and repentance. John 7:24; Mark 1:15. We cannot, therefore, deny that the ministry of Christ was the opening work in the establishment of the new covenant. SOTC 9.1

And now we again come to the important fact that the establishment of the new covenant was solely with the Hebrew people. Our Lord confined his ministry to the Jewish people, declaring that he was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24. When he sent out the twelve during his own ministry, he “commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10:5, 6. And when he sent the seventy also, it was only into those cities and villages whither he himself would come. Luke 10:1. His apostles were all Jews. And with them was the first solemn act of ratification of the new covenant in the cup out of which all drank, representing the new testament in his blood. Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25. And here comes in the fact that the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy pertain exclusively to the Hebrew people. Daniel 9:24. The last, or seventieth, week was devoted to the confirmation of the covenant. Daniel 9:27. It began with our Lord’s ministry to the Hebrews, and ended when the apostles turned to the Gentiles. It was in the midst of this week of confirming the covenant that our Lord was crucified. And thus we find that, after our Lord’s ascension, the ministers of the word preached the gospel “to none but unto the Jews only.” Acts 11:19. It was unto the Jews first that God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless them in turning them away from their sins. Acts 3:25, 26. The termination of the seventy weeks closed the period in which the work pertained exclusively to the Hebrews. The work for the Gentiles was opened by the conversion of Saul, and by his commission to them as their apostle. Acts 9; 26:17. It was also opened on the part of Peter by his wonderful vision of the sheet let down from Heaven, and the commission given him at that time. Acts 10; 9; 15:7, 14-17. SOTC 9.2

But what was the condition of the Gentiles before “the door of faith” was opened to them? Let the apostle Paul answer this, Ephesians 2:11-13, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” SOTC 10.1

The apostle goes on to speak of the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body as follows, verses 14-20: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.” SOTC 11.1

Those who sneer at everything which God has committed to the Hebrews, and boast themselves of their Gentile descent, would do well to compare this statement of the condition of the Gentiles with Paul’s statement of the “advantages” of the Jews, and his enumeration of the things that pertain to them. Romans 3:1, 2; 9:4, 5. God purposed to make of the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision one people for himself. The first thing was to abolish the enmity; viz., the code which created national distinction, which was circumcision and the ceremonial law. See Acts 11:3; Colossians 2:13-17; Galatians 2:11, 12. Of the Gentiles it is said that they were “in time past Gentiles in the flesh,” and “at that time ... without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Of the Israelites it is said: “To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Certainly the Gentiles have no occasion for boasting. They did not take into the union that which added much to the common stock. They came in as the veriest beggars. They became rich by sharing with the Hebrews the blessings which God had for long ages preserved in their hands. The Gentiles were made partakers of the spiritual things which God had wisely and justly placed in the hands of Israel. Romans 15:27. But being thus brought nigh by the blood of Christ, Paul says of those who were Gentiles “in time past” (but not now) that they were “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” They were no longer Gentiles, but Israelites. They became sharers in the name and in the riches of Israel. And it is by this adoption into the commonwealth of Israel that they became sharers in the blessings of the new covenant. The subject is wonderfully illustrated by the words of Jeremiah 11:16; and Romans 11:17-24. Thus we read:— SOTC 11.2

“The Lord called thy name, a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit; with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.” SOTC 13.1

“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou barest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in; for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and were graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” SOTC 13.2

Here is the good olive tree, representing the family of Abraham, as adopted by the God of the whole earth, when he gave up the rest of mankind to their own chosen idolatry and wickedness. It is a “green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit.” To this olive tree pertain the covenants of promise. The first covenant is made with the people thus represented. The new covenant is made with the same people that the first covenant was made with. The breaking off of many of the branches of the tree, is because that God’s ancient people continued not in his covenant. This is why he regarded them not. Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:9. Indeed, in the chapter in which Jeremiah predicts the breaking off of the branches of the olive tree, he assigns the reason: The violation of the covenant God made with his people when he brought them forth out of Egypt. See Jeremiah 11. By the new covenant, those who were broken off can, if they will, be graffed in again, and not they only, but the Gentiles also with them. We may consider the good olive tree as having twelve larger branches, and a vast number of small branches. The tree will at the close of human probation, stand complete, representing the twelve tribes of “the Israel of God.” SOTC 13.3

There can be, therefore, no dispute that the first covenant, and the new covenant, were each made with the Hebrew people; the first, at the departure out of Egypt; the second, at the time of our Lord’s ministry and death. The Gentiles share in the blessings of the new covenant by becoming members of the commonwealth of Israel. Ephesians 2:12, 19. SOTC 14.1

What is meant by the word covenant? In the books of the New Testament, the words covenant and testament are used as signifying the same thing. They are, indeed, only two different translations of the same Greek word, diatheke. So that when our Lord says, “This cup is the new testament in my blood” (Luke 22:20), it is the same as if he had said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Webster thus defines covenant:— SOTC 14.2

“1. A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. SOTC 14.3

“2. A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties.” SOTC 15.1

He thus defines the word contract:— SOTC 15.2

“1. An agreement or covenant between two or more persons, in which each party binds himself to do or forbear some act, and each acquires a right to what the other promises; a mutual promise, upon lawful consideration or cause, which binds the parties to a performance; a bargain; a compact. SOTC 15.3

“2. The act by which a man and woman are betrothed, each to the other. SOTC 15.4

“3. The writing which contains the agreement of parties, with the terms and conditions, and which serves as a proof of the obligation.” SOTC 15.5

It appears, therefore, that the word covenant has two leading significations: 1. That of agreement, or contract, between parties. 2. That of a writing containing the terms or conditions of such agreement. In the first and fullest sense, a covenant is a contract, or agreement, with the conditions on which that contract is made. In the second and more restricted use of that word, a covenant is the terms or conditions of such contract. SOTC 15.6

Such being the signification of the word covenant, let us now ascertain what it was which constituted the first covenant. We have ascertained who were the contracting or covenanting parties, viz., God and Israel; and when this covenant was made, viz., when God took that people by the hand to bring them forth out of Egypt. But what was the covenant itself into which these two parties entered? SOTC 15.7

1. If we take the first definition then, without doubt, it was the mutual agreement, or contract, made at Sinai between God and Israel respecting the moral law. SOTC 16.1

2. But if we take the second definition, it was the law itself; for that embodied the conditions of the covenant. SOTC 16.2

Which of these views is the right one? Those persons who hold that the law of God still remains in force believe that the truth is stated in the first of these two answers. But those who believe that the law was abolished at the death of Christ, do, with equal assurance, maintain that the law of God alone was the first covenant, and that the second of these two answers is the right and proper answer. One party, therefore, asserts that the law of God, or ten commandments, was the first covenant. The other, that the mutual agreement between God and Israel concerning that law constituted that covenant. SOTC 16.3

Let us now trace the acts by which God and Israel entered into covenant. When we have noted all these, we shall be able to determine the truth in this case. Thus we read, Exodus 19:1: “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.” And the people encamped before the mount. “And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” Verses 3-6. Here is a definite proposition from the God of Heaven: If ye will obey my voice, ... then ye shall be to me a peculiar treasure.” SOTC 16.4

Next we read the action of Moses, the mediator between these parties. Having received this proposition from the Lord, he immediately bore it to the people. Thus we read of his action: “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.”Verse 7. The proposition of the Most High was thus submitted to the people of Israel. And now observe their answer: “And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” Verse 8. SOTC 17.1

Thus the people with one voice accept the conditions offered them, and pledge themselves to their fulfillment. And now it is the business of the mediator to return this answer to him who had made the proposition to them. And thus we read again: “And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.” Verse 8. The preliminary contract was thus closed. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to the preparation of the people to hear, and the descent of the Almighty to speak, the ten commandments. Verses 9-25. And now the voice of God utters the ten words of the moral law. Exodus 20:1-17:— SOTC 17.2

“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. SOTC 17.3

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. SOTC 18.1

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. SOTC 18.2

“Thou shalt take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. SOTC 18.3

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. SOTC 18.4

“Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. SOTC 18.5

“Thou shalt not kill. SOTC 18.6

“Thou shalt not commit adultery. SOTC 18.7

“Thou shalt not steal. SOTC 18.8

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. SOTC 18.9

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” SOTC 19.1

“These words the Lord spake,” says Moses, “unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; And he added no more.” Deuteronomy 5:22. This was the voice of God, which the people had so solemnly covenanted to obey. Exodus 19:5. SOTC 19.2

When the ten words of God’s voice had thus been heard, and the people had witnessed the awful display of the divine majesty, then they removed and stood afar off. And they besought Moses to stand between them and the great God whose voice they had heard, and whose majesty they had witnessed. Exodus 20:18. SOTC 19.3

“And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.”Verse 21. The remainder of the chapter, and all of chapters 21, 22, and 23, are devoted to statutes and judgments, partly defining man’s duty toward God, but principally relating to his duty toward his fellow-man. With these are precepts of a ceremonial character, but the larger part of these chapters is made up of precepts stating the principles of justice among men. These three chapters were spoken to Moses only, who was in the immediate presence of God. SOTC 19.4

Next, the Lord proceeds to the final contract between himself and the people. In the preliminary contract, recorded in Exodus 19, the people had solemnly pledged themselves to obey the voice of God. In Exodus 20, they heard that voice in ten precepts. And now it is worthy of notice how careful was the Most High, in this work of entering into covenant with his people, to take no advantage of them. Before hearing his voice, they had pledged themselves to obey it. But the Lord did not treat the contract as closed yet. With an invitation to a large number of persons to come up to him, he sends Moses again to the people. Exodus 24:1, 2. They had heard the voice of God. Do they still stand to their solemn pledge that they would obey it? Lest they had forgotten something of that which God had spoken, and that they might be informed of all that God had communicated to him in the mount, it is next added:— SOTC 19.5

“And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments.” Exodus 24:3. The people have the chance now to refuse to close this most solemn compact if they see cause for so doing. They might have said, “When we agreed to obey the voice of God, we had not heard it. Now that we have heard it, we cannot abide by our promise.” And Moses, by repeating every word again, gave them the most perfect opportunity for so doing. But, observe the answer of the people:— SOTC 20.1

“And all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do.” Exodus 24:3. We might suppose that this would close the contract between the parties. But not so. Further acts of ratification were to take place. The whole thing must be put in writing. And thus we read:— SOTC 20.2

“And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.” And now the solemnity of a sacrifice to God must take place. So it is added that Moses “rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord.” Verses 4, 5. SOTC 20.3

The sacrifice of these victims having been thus made to God by the people, the blood itself is carefully secured for an important purpose. And so the record adds:— SOTC 21.1

“And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.” Verse 6. One half of the blood was offered upon the altar, a direct offering to God. The other half was reserved for another and most expressive solemnity. SOTC 21.2

We learn from verse 4 that Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. Now verse 7 tells us what he did with what was written. What Moses now reads is called the book of the covenant. For it contained the covenant between God and the people as far as, at that point, it had been consummated. And observe again the care of the Almighty that the people should understand every word of that to which they agree. Moses reads every word of the whole transaction in the audience of the people. Thus verse 7 states the case:— SOTC 21.3

“And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people.” Here is yet another opportunity for them to say that they could not abide by their first promise. But, instead of speaking thus, they give their final and unreserved assent to this solemn compact. And thus the verse continues: “And they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” This closed the contract on the part of the people. But there yet remained a most expressive act on the part of Moses, and a final, solemn announcement to be made by him, which not only proclaimed the accomplishment of the work, but gave a definite idea of what had been done. And so we next read:— SOTC 21.4

“And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people.” Or, as Paul states the case, he “sprinkled both the book and all the people.” Verse 8; Hebrews 9:19. One half of the blood had been already offered to God upon the altar; the remaining half is that which Moses thus uses. And how solemn and expressive is this act! It is what Paul calls the dedication of the covenant. Hebrews 9:18. He sprinkles both the book and all the people. And thus they enter, in the most solemn manner, into the bond of the covenant. And thus the solemn espousal of the people by the Lord of hosts having been consummated, Moses announces the result in words which define the contract with remarkable precision. Having sprinkled the book, and the people, Moses said to them:— SOTC 22.1

“Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you Concerning all these words.” SOTC 22.2

We have now the first covenant, complete and entire. And certainly it is possible for us to determine what constitutes it. We say that the first covenant was this solemn contract, or agreement, between God and the people of Israel concerning the law of God. Our opponents, on the contrary, affirm that the first covenant was simply the law itself. According to the first view, the first covenant was the contract made at Sinai between God and Israel concerning the law of God, or ten commandments, obedience to that law constituting the condition of the covenant. SOTC 22.3

According to the second view, the first covenant was simply the ten commandments. SOTC 23.1

The first view is the more comprehensive, as it presents the two leading definitions of the word covenant, and answers to them both. 1. It presents as the covenant the contract between the parties. 2. It presents the condition to the contract. SOTC 23.2

But the second view presents as the first covenant that which answers to the definition of covenant only in its secondary sense; viz., the condition on which the contract rests. Undoubtedly the word covenant is thus used in the Bible. And for that reason many persons suppose that the ten commandments answer to, and constitute, the first covenant of which Jeremiah and Paul speak. That view of this subject which is really the truth will give to every part of the testimony its proper place, and will then show a divine harmony of the whole. But error must of necessity suppress, or pervert, the truth. Here are the more important passages quoted to prove that the ten commandments constitute the first covenant:— SOTC 23.3

Exodus 34:28: “And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” SOTC 23.4

Deuteronomy 4:13: “And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” SOTC 24.1

Deuteronomy 9:9-11: “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water; and the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the Lord spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.” SOTC 24.2

1 Kings 8:21: “And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” SOTC 24.3

2 Chronicles 6:11: “And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord, that he made with the children of Israel.” SOTC 24.4

These are the texts relied upon by our opponents to disprove our views of the first covenant and to establish their own. We freely admit that the word covenant is applied to the ten commandments; and further, we also admit, or, to speak more properly, we maintain, that the ten commandments do sustain a very important relation to the first covenant. But all parties must agree, SOTC 24.5

1. That the ten commandments are not a covenant in the sense of being a contract or agreement, as they contain no such thing. SOTC 24.6

2. That they are a covenant in the sense of being the conditions of the agreement which God made with Israel. SOTC 25.1

It does not seem that either of these two propositions can be denied by any candid man, as they are, manifestly, the exact truth. Both parties to this controversy must here come together upon common ground. And if they each act with a pure conscience, it will be difficult for them to disagree respecting the following proposition:— SOTC 25.2