Samuel Mather on Israel as a Type of the Church

Yesterday it was announced that J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized to Be Read Online for Free. One of the books is Mather, Samuel. The figures or types of the Old Testament: by which Christ and the heavenly things of the Gospel were preached and shadowed to . . . 1705. 2nd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Samuel Mather was the eldest son of Richard Mather. He was born at Much Woolton, near Liverpool, Lancashire, on 13 May 1626. His father took him in 1635 to New England, where he was educated at Harvard College and graduated M.A. in 1643, becoming a fellow of the College. He was the first fellow of Harvard who had graduated there.[1]

Having already become a preacher, Mather returned to England, and in 1650 was made one of the chaplains of Magdalen College, Oxford, under the presidency of Thomas Goodwin, the Independent… (Wikipedia)

Samuel’s youngest brother was Increase Mather, a prominent figure in congregational New England and son-in-law of John Cotton, the preeminant New England congregationalist (see my post The Half-way Covenant). Their other brother Nathaniel was also a pastor in England. All three were strongly Independent/Congregational. Even Increase was heavily involved in Presbyterian/Independent disputes in England when he traveled to England for several years representing his colony to the king (see his autobiography). After the Great Ejection when Puritans were forced out of the Church of England, Samuel went back to Dublin and gathered a congregation, which met at his house till a meeting-house was erected in New Row – for which he was arrested and imprisoned. When he died (1671), his brother Nathaniel took over as pastor of the congregation in Dublin. Nathaniel joined the “happy union” of 1691 between Presbyterians and Independents, but was a leader in its disruption, owing to the heresies of Daniel Williams (1643?–1716), D.D. (see my post Neonomian Presbyterians vs Antinomian Congregationalists?).

The Mathers were thoroughly Independent, and as such, they were willing to acknowledge certain truths in Scripture that Presbyterians would not. As I noted in my post Neonomian Presbyterians vs Antinomian Congregationalists?:

During the Assembly debate, the Dissenting Brethren (Independents) argued that we cannot look to Israel and the Old Covenant as a foundation for church government because in the Old Covenant there was a mixture of church and state. If we follow the New Testament pattern, we see churches organized by voluntary congregations of visible saints called out of the world. The Presbyterians pointed out that if the Jewish model of the church is given up, paedobaptism goes with it. But the Congregationalists did not budge.

The Congregationalists were willing to see the biblical discontinuity between Israel and the Church while Presbyterians were not. Samuel Mather’s book on typology is a great demonstration of this fact. In the Preface, Nathaniel (who published his brothers’ book post-humously) notes:

It is not expected that every one, much less critical and captious Heads, will subscribe to everything which they may here meet with. In so diffuse and vast and withal so obscure a subject, and so untrodden a path, it is no wonder if every one will not tread in just the same steps with him; for there are some things wherein he departs from the sentiments of some other learned and judicious persons. His making some of the old legal ordinances types of the instituted church, and ordinances under the New Testament and our ordinances the antitypes of theirs, it may be some may not assent unto, following therein Ames Prol. in Ps. 2. and Mr. Jeans, who (Exam. Exam. p. 241) cites CHamier tom. 4. 1. 9. c.II. Sect. 13. 15. pag. 515. Tilenus Syntag. Part. ult. Disp. 63. Sect. 12. Ames. Bellarm. Enerv. tom. 3.1.4.c.7 to which he might have added those words of this tom. 3. lib.1 cap.4. Thes. 13. and lib.2.cap.4.Thes.4. But others there are who go with this our author. See Beza on 1 Cor 10.6. and on 1 Pet. 3.21. and Mr. Cotten, Holiness of Church-Members, cap.2 sect. 12 and 13. Not to mention any of the Schoolmen, or the elder Writers among Christians, who are very frequent and very express to this purpose. Nor can it be denied that there is a common nature wherein their institutions and ours agree, the one being a shadow or darker adumbration, the other a more lightsome and lievely image of the same things. And it is beyond all contradiction, that the Holy Ghost himself doth frequently intrust us in our duty, with reference to our institutions, from theirs under the Old Testament, with relation to their typical ordinances. As for his calling our institutions the antitypes to theirs, tho there should be a truth in that observation, Theologi Graeci Typum & Antitypum promiscue usurpant pro iisdem, pro re significat nunquam. Jodoc.Laren. apud Twiss. Animadv. in Corv. Def. Armin. cont. Tilen. pag. 280. yet there is a strict and proper acceptation of the Word, wherein it may be said that our institutions are the antitypes of theris: vid. Jun. Animadv. in Bell. Contr. 3. lib. 1. cap. 9. not. 25. and in that sense the Holy Ghost useth it, 1 Pet. 3. 21. Nor needs any one stumble at our author’s using it in somewhat a different signification; for usage is the master and rule of language; Loquendum cum vulgo, sentiendum cum Doctis.

Nathaniel notes that Samuel did not necessarily work out all the details and implications of these points because he delivered these writings as sermons and died (1671) before he could refine and edit them for publication.

With that long introduction out of the way, here is some of what Samuel Mather had to say about Israel and the Church.

Definition of a Type

First, he defined a type:

… a type is a shadow of good things to come, Hebr 10.1. The law having a shadow of good things to come, Col 2.17. Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.

There be three thing included in this Description.

  1. There is some outward or sensible thing, that represents some other higher thing.
  2. There is the thing represented thereby, which is good things to come, which we call the Antitype.
  3. There is the work of the Type, which is to shadow forth or represent these future good things.

…A type is some outward or sensible thing ordained of God under the Old Testament, to represent and hold forth something of Christ in the New.

Then answered how we may know something is a type:

Here ariseth a Question. How may we know when a thing is a type, and that the Lord did ordain and design it to that end and use?

The Answer is. We cannot safely judge of this but by the Scripture.

  1. When there is express Scripture for it…
  2. When there is a permutation of names between the type and the antitype, this is a clear indication of the mind of God. As for instance, Christ is called David, Ezek 34.23 and 37.24, Hos. 3.5. this shews that David was a type of him and Christ was the true David.

    So Christ is called Adam, the second Adam, Cor 15.45.So he is called Israel, Isai. 49.3.He is called that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1.29 and our Passover that is sacrificed for us, 1 Cor 5.7. this shews that the Paschal Lamb was a type of him.He is called the Bread of Life, and the true Bread from Heaven, Joh. 6. 32, 35. this shews that the manna did relate to him.

    So the Church of the New Testament is called Jerusalem, Gal 4.26. but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the Mother of us all – Rev 21.2. I saw the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven. We may hence conclude that Jerusalem was a type of the Church.

    So it is said, that the odours or incense are prayers of the saints. Rev. 5. 8. Incense therefore was a type of prayer.

    The Gospel-Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16. Peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. Therefore that people were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament.

    Gospel-Ministers are called the Sons of Levi, Mal. 3. 3. the Prophet there speaking of the coming of Christ, he saith, He shall purifie the sons of Levi, that is, raise up a purer Ministry.

    There is nothing more frequent in the Scriptures, than for the Antitype to be called by the name of the Type. And sometimes on the other side, the Type bears the names and the titles belonging indeed and more properly to the Antitype.

…Sometimes the types are not so explicitly taught, but implied; and then a thing may be known to be a type by diligent observing and comparing the phrase of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and of the Apostles in the New.

Men must not indulge their own fancies, as the Popish writers use to do, with the allegorical senses, as they call them; except we have some Scripture ground for it. It is not safe to make any thing a type meerly upon our own fancies and imaginations; it is God’s prerogative to make types.

p. 51-55

Israel as a Type

The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.

  1. Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
  2. They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4.The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.

p. 118


Moreover, not only the temple, and the priests there,but the whole land of Canaan and the people of Israel, were a typical land and a typical people; (as hath been formerly and shall be further shewed) all the fruits of the land had a typical holiness; the first fruits being virtually the whole, they were a typical dedication of the whole.

p. 276


The use of these precious stones [on the priest’s garments] was for the writing of the names of the twelve children of Israel in them, that the High Priest might bear them upon his shoulders for a memorial before the Lord: See Exod 28. 9, 10, 11, 12. Now the Priest being a type of Christ, and the people of Israel a type of the whole church of God; their being born thus upon the shoulders of the High Priest clothed with this sacred Ephod intimated three things.

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ his supporting of this church and people, and bearing them up, as upon the shoulders of his power and grace and government, Isa. 9.6. the Government shall be upon his shoulders: So he is said to do with the lost sheep Luke 15.5 Isa. 46. 3, 4. hearken unto me, O House of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are born by me form the belly, which are carried from the womb, and even to your old age, I am he, and even to boary hairs I will carry you, I have made you, and I will bear, even I will carry, and will deliver you…

To unfold the mystery of these things a little more particularly.

  1. The precious stones, with the names of the Children of Israel, signifie all the saints, the whole church and people of God. Israel was a typical people; therefore the whole church of God is called Israel, Gal 6.16. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon (or even upon) the Israel of God. Hence the same Apostle distinguisheth of outward Jews and inward Jews, Rom 2. two last. And Christ calls Nathaniel an Israelite indeed, John 1. 47…

p. 505-8

Mosaic Covenant

Samuel does not fully work out the implications of these statements for things like the Mosaic Covenant. However, he perhaps takes a step towards the progress and development of later congregationalists (like Petto and Owen) who argue the Mosaic covenant operated on a works principle when he says the Mosaic Covenant or dispensation was a type of the Covenant of Works. See pages 92-93.

Abrahamic Covenant

In his discussion of circumcision, Mather does identify the covenant of circumcision as the covenant of grace. However, he also makes statements such as

If we consider Abraham as the head of the covenant to that church and people: So he is a type of Christ, the head of the second Covenant. You know God covenanted with Abraham for his seed: So he doth with Christ for all his elect. God’s promise to Abraham was to give a seed to him, and an inheritance to his seed, viz. the land of Canaan, the land of Promise: So God did promise to Jesus Christ, that he should see his seed, Isai. 53. 10, 11. and to bring them to Heaven, Heb 2. 10 – Jesus Christ is the true head of the second covenant, he engageth and undertakes for all his seed: Abraham was but a typical head thereof.

p. 82

Mather runs into some trouble here because in his discussion of the covenant of circumcision (pg 176) he argues there are only two covenants: the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. It wasn’t the Covenant of Works, so it must be the Covenant of Grace. But here he distinguishes between the Covenant of Grace, of which Christ is the head with the church the members, and the covenant of which Abraham was a head with the nation of Jews the members (which were a type of the church). The solution that Owen later expounded upon is that there are more than two covenants in Scripture. The Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace, but typical covenants related to typical people and blessings.

Noahic Covenant

Noah’s Covenant and the rainbow the sign thereof, was a type of the covenant of grace, Gen 9.12, 13. It is a question whether there was any rainbow before? It may seem not: Because it had been small comfort and assurance to the new world, to see that which they had seen before, and to have such a sign of the covenant. Therefore some think that the rainbow was not from the beginning: But as the Lord gave a new promise; so he created a new thing for a sign thereof.

But how may it appear that the Covenant of Grace was here held forth? See Isa. 54. 9, 10. This is unto me as the Waters of Noah, etc. Ezek 1. ult. As the appearance of the Bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain: so was the appearance of the brightness round about – Rev 10. 1 and 4. 3.

Well, if the Noahic Covenant was a type of the covenant of grace, then it was not the covenant of grace. It was also not the covenant of works. Therefore it must be a separate covenant and there must be more than two covenants in Scripture. If that is the case, then Mather’s argument that the covenant of circumcision is the covenant of grace fails.


In sum, as a Congregationalist, Mather was willing to note Scripture’s clear teaching that Israel and the Church are not one and the same but are instead related by way of type and antitype. The baptists grasped the implications of this most clearly.

See my post Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel for more.

7 thoughts on “Samuel Mather on Israel as a Type of the Church

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