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II. Wherein the gospel differs from the law. And then,
III. He obviates the great Jewish prejudice against the gospel, by the consideration of Christ's superior ex: cellency. After the discussion of these points, we shall,
IV. Make some doctrinal and practical observations on the whole.
$3. (I.) That wherein the law and gospel, as to their promulgation, do both agree, is, that: (8 040s) God was the author of each. About this there was no difference, as to most of them to whom the apostle im, mediately wrote, which, therefore, he takes for granted. For the professing Jews did not adhere to Mosaical institutions, because God was the author of these, and not of the gospel; but because, as they apprehended, they were given from God by Moses as unalterable. Now God being here spoken of in distinction from the Son, expressly, and from the Holy Ghost, by evident implication; that term, be it observed, is not taken to denote primarily the essence or being of the Deity, but one certain person, and the divine nature only as subsisting in that person, which is, the Father; so that he, by way of eminency, was the peculiar author of the law and gospel. Besides, he immediately assigns divine properties and excellencies unto another person, evidently distinguished from him whom he denotes by the name God in this place; which he could not do, did that name absolutely express the divine nature. From this head of their agreement, the apostle proceeds,
94. (II.) To the instances of difference that was between the law and the gospel, as to their revelation; and these refer to the times, the manners, and persons employed. Let us,
1. Consider that which concerns the times of their promulgation, several of the other instances being regylated thereby
With reference to the law it is said that God spake (ráhe) formerly, or of old. Some space of time is de noted in this word, which had then received both its beginning and end. Take the word absolutely, and it comprises the whole space of time from the giving out of the first promise, to the end of the Old Testament revelations. Take it as relating to the Jews (which the apostle hath respect to) and the date is the giving of the law by Moses in the wilderness. So that this dispensation of God's “speaking in the Prophets,” continued for the space of twenty one jubilees, or near eleven hundred years. After the death of the latter prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, as the Jews freely confess, the Holy Spirit was taken from Israel. The fathers, therefore, to whom God spake in the Prophets, were all the faithful of the Jewish church from the giving of the law until the ceasing of prophecy.
$5. The revelation of the gospel is affirmed to be made (ex’ec xatwy twy jjlepay TOUTWV) in these last days.
Most expositors suppose this phrase, “the last days,” is a periphrasis of the times of the gospel. But it doth not appear that these are any where so called; nor where they ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whose principles the apostle proceeds. Some seasons, indeed, under the gospel, in reference to some churches, are called “the last days,” but the whole time of the gospel, absolutely, is no where so termed. It is therefore, the last days of the Jewish church and state which were then drawing to their final abolition, that are here intended. The apostle takes it for granted, that the Jewish church state did yet continue; and proves that it was drawing to its period, chap. viii, ult. having its present standing in the forbearance of God. Again, the personal ministry of the Son of God, whilst
on earth, is here eminently, though not solely intended.
$6. This makes it evident who were the persons spoken to in these last days. Tous; that is, the members of the Jewish church, who lived in the days of our Lord's personal ministry, and afterwards under the preaching of the gospel to that day, chap. ii, 3. The Jews of those times were very apt to think, that if they had lived in the days of the former prophets, and had heard them deliver their message from God, they would have received it with a cheerful obedience; their only unhappiness, as they thought, was, that they were “born out of due time,” as to the prophetical revelations, Matt. xxiii, 30., New the apostle, aware
of this prejudice, informs them, that God, in the revelation of the gospel, had spoken to themselves what they so much desired. If then they attend not to this word, they must needs be self-condemned. Besides, that care and love which God manifested towards them, in speaking to them in this immediate manner, required the most indisputable obedience, especially considering how far this mode excelled what he had before used towards the fathers. This leads to
$7. 2. The next difference, which respects the manner of these several revelations of the will of God, and that in two particulars; for,
$1. The former was made (tonupepes) by many and divers parts, one after the other, and consequently at úsundry times.” The branch of the antithesis answering hereunto is not expressed, but is evidently implied to be (net or tat) at once. The expression intends the gradual discovery of the mind and will of God, by the additions of one thing after another at several seasons, as the church could bear the light of them, and as it was subservient to his main design of preserving all pre-eminence to the Messiah. How all this is argumentative to the apostle's purpose will instantly appear. Take the expression absolutely, to denote the whole progress of divine revelation from the beginning of the world, and it compriseth four principal parts or degrees, with those that were subservient to them. The first of these was made to Adam, which was the principle of faith and obedience to the antediluvian fathers, and to this were subservient all the consequent particular revelations before the flood. The second to Noah, after the flood, in the renewal of the covenant and establishment of the church in his family, Gen. viii, 21; ix, 9, 10; whereunto where subser: vient the revelations made to Melchisedech, Gen. xiv. 18, and others, before the calling of Abraham. The third to Abraham, with a peculiar restriction of the promise to his seed, and a fuller illustration of the nature of it, Gen. xii, 1-4; xv, 11, 12, and xvii, 1, 2, confirmed in the revelations made to Isaac, Gen. xxvi, 2, 4. Jacob, Gen. xlix, and others of their posterity. The fourth to Moses, in the giving of the law, and
erection of the Jewish church in the wilderness; to · which was principally subservient the revelation made
to David, which was peculiarly designed to perfect the Old Testament worship, 1 Chron. xxiii, 25–28; xxviii, 2-9. To which we may add Solomon, with the rest of the prophets in their respective days; particularly those who before and during the captivity pleaded with the people about their defection by scandalous sins and false worship; and Ezra, with the prophets that assisted in the reformation of the church after its return from Babylon, who, in an eminent manner, excited the people to expect the coming of the Messiah.
$8. These were the principal parts and degrees of divine revelation from the foundation of the world to the coming of Christ, at least until his forerunner, John
the Baptist. And this the apostle reminds the Hebrews • of; that the will of God concerning his worship, was not formerly all at once revealed to his church by Moses or any other; but by several parts and degrees, by new additions of light, as in his infinite wisdom and care he saw meet: and hereby he clearly convinces them of their mistake in their obstinate adherence to the Mosaical institutions. It is as if he had said, Consider the way whereby God revealed his will to the church hitherto, hath it not been by parts and degrees? Hath he at any time shut up the progress of revelation? Hath he not always kept the church in