Patrick Ramsey recently wrote:
One argument for the basic unity of the covenants is that they all share the same redemptive goal of union and communion with God. Although Adam originally had fellowship with God in Eden, he lost it for himself and the rest of humanity when he was cast out of the garden due to his sin. God, however, purposed to repair the broken bond because he still desires that we dwell in his presence and enjoy him forever. To that end, he established the various redemptive covenants in Scripture, which contain this goal: I will be your God and you shall be my people (Gen. 17:7; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3-4, 7). The covenantal goal of union and communion with God, therefore, is the scarlet thread that runs through the various covenants.
Abraham Booth recognized that “I will be your God” has more than one meaning in Scripture:
Very different then, is the kingdom, of Christ from the ancient Israelitish Theocracy. For, of that Theocracy, all Abraham’s natural descendants were true subjects, and properly qualified members of the Jewish church; such only excepted, as had not been circumcised according to the order of God, or were guilty of some capital crime. To be an obedient subject of their civil government, and a complete member in their ecclesiastical state, were manifestly the same thing : because, by treating Jehovah as their political sovereign, they avowed him as the true God, and were entitled to all the emoluments of their National Covenant. Under that Economy, Jehovah acknowledged all those for his people, and himself as their God, who performed an external obedience to his commands, even though in their hearts disaffected to him.* These prerogatives were enjoyed, independent of sanctifying grace, and of any pretension to it, either in themselves, or in their parents.
The state of things, however, under the New Economy, is extremely different. For the great Proprietor and Lord of the Christian church having absolutely disclaimed a kingdom that is “of this world” cannot acknowledge any as the subjects of his government, who do not know and revere him — who do not confide in him, and sincerely love him. Having entirely laid aside those ensigns of political sovereignty, and those marks of external grandeur, which made such a splendid appearance in the Jewish Theocracy ; he disdains to be called the King of the God, of any person who does not obey and “worship him in spirit and in truth.”
…It is of great importance to the right interpretation of many passages in the Old Testament, that this particular be well understood and kept in view. Jehovah is very frequently represented as the Lord and God of all the ancient Israelites ; even where it is manifest that the generality of them were considered as destitute of internal piety, and many of them as enormously wicked. How then could he be called their Lord, and their God, in distinction from his relation to Gentiles, (whose creator, benefactor, and sovereign he was) except on the ground of the Sinai Covenant? He was their Lord as being the sovereign whom, by a federal transaction, they were bound to obey, in opposition to every political monarch, who should at any time presume to govern them by laws of his own. He was their God, as the only object of holy worship ; and whom, by the same National Covenant, they had solemnly engaged to serve according to his own rule, in opposition to every Pagan idol.
But that National relation between Jehovah and Israel being long since dissolved and the Jew having no prerogative above the Gentile ; the nature of the Gospel Economy, and of the Messiah’s kingdom, absolutely forbids our supposing, that either Jews or Gentiles are warranted to call the Universal Sovereign their Lord) or their God, if they do not yield willing obedience to him, and perform spiritual worship. It is, therefore, either for want of understanding, or of considering the nature, aspect, and influence of the Sinai Constitution, that many persons dream of the New Covenant, in great numbers of places where Moses and the Prophets had no thought of it, but had the Convention at Horeb directly in view. It is owing to the same ignorance, or inadvertency, that others argue from various passages in the Old Testament, for justification before God by their own obedience, and against the final perseverance of real saints. Because, to be entitled to national happiness, by performing the conditions of the Sinai Covenant, and to lose that right by backsliding into profligacy of manners, are very different things, from obtaining justification before God, and forfeiting an interest in the great Redeemer — so different, that there is no arguing from the one to the other.
Again : As none but real Christians are the subjects of our Lord’s kingdom, neither adults nor infants can be members of the gospel Church, in virtue of an external covenant, or of a relative holiness. A striking disparity this, between the Jewish and the Christian Church. Of this difference we may be assured by considering, that a barely relative sanctity, supposes its possessors to be the people of God in a merely external sense; that such an external people, supposes an external covenant, or one that relates to exterior conduct and temporal blessings : and an external covenant supposes an external king. Now an external king, is a political sovereign : but such is not our Lord Jesus Christ, nor yet the divine Father. Once, indeed, it was otherwise : for, concerning the Israelitish nation, it is written : ” I,” Jehovah, ” will be thy king. Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: Jehovah shall rule over you. Jehovah your God, was your king.”* It was the peculiar honour and happiness of Israel, to have a sovereign who was the only object of their worship. For thus the Psalmist sings ;
“Blessed is the nation, whose (king) “Jehovah is their God !”‘* Hence Jehovah’s complaint ; ” They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
Yes, Jehovah, as a temporal monarch, stood related to the ancient Israelites, and entered into a federal transaction with them at Sinai, not only as the Object of their worship, but as their King. Their judicial and civil institutes, their laws of war and of peace, various orders respecting the land they occupied, and the annual acknowledgments to the great Proprietor of it, were all from God, as their political sovereign. Hence all the natural posterity of Jacob were Jehovah’s people, on the ground of an external covenant made with the whole nation…
Hence all the natural posterity of Jacob were Jehovah’s people, on the ground of an external covenant made with the whole nation…
By the latter [God’s divine presence among them], they had a kind of local nearness to God, which conferred a relative sanctity; as appears by various instances. When, for example, Moses with astonishment beheld the burning bush, the ground on which he stood was pronounced holy, because of Jehovah’s peculiar presence there.
…And why was part of the ancient sanctuary called “the most holy place,” but because Jehovah, in a singular manner, and under a visible emblem dwelt there. Hence it is manifest, that the Divine Presence, whether under the form of an august personage, as in the cafe of Joshua ; or under the emblem of devouring fire, as in the bush, and upon mount Sinai ; or under the milder appearance of a luminous cloud as over the mercy-seat, and at our Lord’s transfiguration, confers a relative holiness. It is also equally plain, that this miraculous presence of God being withdrawn, from the several places to which we have just adverted, they have now no more holiness than any other part of the earth.
So the Israelites, being separated from all other nations for the worship of Jehovah as their God, to the exclusion of all idolatry ; avowing subjection to him as their King, in contradistinction to all other sovereigns ; and he residing among them in the sanctuary, as in his royal palace ; there was a relative holiness attending their persons, and almost every thing pertaining to them. For not only Jehovah’s royal pavilion, with all its utensils and services ; the ministers of that sanctuary, and their several vestments ; but the people in general, the metropolis of their country, the houses of individuals, the land cultivated by them, and the produce of that land, were all styled holy (see Exod 28: 2,4; 29:1; Lev 19:23, 24; 20:26; 25:2, 4; 27:14, 30; Num 16:3, 38; 35:34; Deut 7:6)
…Thus the holiness of the people, equally as that of places, was derived from the external presence of God.” Now, as the Divine Presence had a local, visible residence over the mercy-seat, which was the throne of Jehovah ; as that Presence among the Israelites had such an extensive operation upon their state, both in respect of privilege and of duty ; as the whole nation was a typical people, and a great part of their worship of a shadowy nature ; we need not wonder, that in such an ecclesiastico-political kingdom almost every thing should be esteemed, in a relative sense, holy. Under the Gospel Dispensation, how ever, these peculiarities have no existence. For Christ has not made an external covenant with any people. He is not the king of any particular nation. He dwells not in a palace made with hands. His throne is in the heavenly sanctuary ; nor does he afford his visible Presence in any place upon earth…
The Covenant made at Horeb having long been obsolete, all its peculiarities are vanished away – among which, relative sanctity made a conspicuous figure. That National Constitution being abolished, Jehovah’s political sovereignty is at an end…
Since, by its commencement, the whole Sinai Constitution became obsolete ; the partition wall was broken down ; the special relation between God and Abraham’s natural seed ceased, and left no difference of a religious kind between Jews and Gentiles — no difference, in respect of nearness to God and communion with him, except that which regeneration and faith in Christ produce. For, under the present Dispensation, “Christ is all and in all.” We may therefore safely conclude, that were the Jews converted and resettled in Palestine, both they and their infant offspring would be as entirely destitute of the ancient relative holiness, as those Mohammedans are who now reside in that country.
But did an external holiness now exist, we should be obliged to consider it as very different from that of the ancient Israelites : for it appears, by what has been said, that the grounds of their exterior sanctity make no part of the Christian Economy. Besides, their holiness extended to the whole nation : but in what Utopia shall we find all the inhabitants possessed of this relative purity? Theirs continued as long as they lived; except they committed some enormous crime, by which they forfeited their lives, or were cast out of the congregation; for it did not wear out by age, nor was it lost merely by continuing in a state of unregeneracy. Whereas, that external holiness for which so many plead, is not generally considered by them as extending beyond the time of infancy. But why should any contend for the relative holiness of infants, who deny a sanctity of that kind to places of worship, to clerical habits, and to various other things? For it is plain that the Jewish external purity, whether of persons, of places, or of things, originated in the same National Covenant, and in the same relation of God to Israel; and, consequently, must have the same duration in one case, as in another. We may therefore justly conclude, that the federal and relative holiness of which so many speak, agrees neither with the laws of Judaism, nor with the nature of Christianity ; and if so, it cannot belong to the kingdom of Christ.
-The Kingdom of Christ, 1788
Question: Was the kingdom of Israel “of this world”?