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Substance/Accidents = Substance/Shadows?

September 29, 2016 10 comments

Reformed paedobaptists introduced the concept of substance and accidents into the discussion of covenant theology and wound up creating a rather convoluted mess of things.

The substance/accidents distinction goes back to Aristotle. A simple summary:

Aristotle made a distinction between the essential and accidental properties of a thing. For example, a chair can be made of wood or metal, but this is accidental to its being a chair: that is, it is still a chair regardless of the material from which it is made.[2] To put this in technical terms, an accident is a property which has no necessary connection to the essence of the thing being described.[3][4][5]

To take another example, all bachelors are unmarried: this is a necessary or essential property of what it means to be a bachelor. A particular bachelor may have brown hair, but this would be a property particular to that individual, and with respect to his bachelorhood it would be an accidental property.

Accident (philosophy)

The concept is liable to abuse. The Roman Catholic Church has used it to explain transubstantiation.

In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species [accidents] of those sensible things…

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation…

CANON lI.-If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species [accidents] Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

The Council of Trent, The Thirteenth Session

In The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther notes

2.23 The second captivity of this sacrament is less grievous so far as the conscience is concerned, yet the very gravest danger threatens the man who would attack it, to say nothing of condemning it. Here I shall be called a Wycliffite and a heretic a thousand times over. But what of that? Since the Roman bishop has ceased to be a bishop and become a tyrant, I fear none of his decrees, for I know that it is not in his power, nor even in that of a general council, to make new articles of faith. Years ago, when I was delving into scholastic theology, the Cardinal of Cambrai gave me food for thought, in his comments on the fourth Book of the Sentences, where he argues with great acumen that to hold that real bread and real wine, and not their accidents only, are present on the altar, is much more probable and requires fewer unnecessary miracles – if only the Church had not decreed otherwise. When I learned later what church it was that had decreed this – namely, the Church of Thomas, i.e., of Aristotle – I waxed bolder, and after floating in a sea of doubt, at last found rest for my conscience in the above view – namely, that it is real bread and real wine, in which Christ’s real flesh and blood are present, not otherwise and not less really than they assume to be the case under their accidents. I reached this conclusion because I saw that the opinions of the Thomists, though approved by pope and council, remain but opinions and do not become articles of faith, even though an angel from heaven were to decree otherwise. For what is asserted without Scripture or an approved revelation, may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed. But this opinion of Thomas hangs so completely in the air, devoid of Scripture and reason, that he seems here to have forgotten both his philosophy and his logic. For Aristotle writes about subject and accidents so very differently from St. Thomas, that I think this great man is to be pitied, not only for drawing his opinions in matters of faith from Aristotle, but for attempting to base them on him without understanding his meaning – an unfortunate superstructure upon an unfortunate foundation…

2.26 Therefore it is an absurd and unheard-of juggling with words, to understand “bread” to mean “the form, or accidents of bread,” and “wine” to mean “the form, or accidents of wine.” Why do they not also understand all other things to mean their forms, or accidents? Even if this might be done with all other things, it would yet not be right thus to emasculate the words of God and arbitrarily to empty them of their meaning.

Responding to Anabaptists

In an attempt to maintain the Constantinian concept of a state church founded upon infant baptism, reformed theologians stole from the Roman playbook and called upon Aristotle. Arguing that the Old and New Covenants are actually the same covenant, Bullinger says

[T]he nomenclature of the old and new covenant, spirit, and people did not arise from the very essence (substantia) of the covenant but from certain foreign and unessential things (accidentibus) because the diversity of the times recommended that now this, now that be added according to the [difference] of the Jewish people. These additions (accessere) did not exist as perpetual and particularly necessary things for salvation, but they arose as changeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them. [15]

Joshua Moon notes “Bullinger’s reading, and the positing of a unity of substance and contrast of accidents, shows what will emerge as the boundary markers of Reformed thought on the subject. Such language becomes common for the Reformed and will influence the whole of the tradition through the period of orthodoxy and into the contemporary Reformed world.”[16]

R. Scott Clark explains

Olevianus was a trained humanist as well as a theologian. He learned Aristotle at university and particularly the Organon. As part of his education he learned the traditional Christian appropriation of the distinction between the substance of a thing, i.e., its essence, and its accidents or external appearance.We make this distinction all the time. If you have a smart phone you probably have some sort of cover. The cover is not the phone. It is accidental to the phone. The same is true of your computer. The outer shell that houses your computer isn’t actually the computer. Things like the motherboard, those are the computer… The substance of a thing is what makes it what it is, the thing without which it doesn’t exist. The accidents or circumstances are the administration of the covenant of grace.

Calvin followed the same play.

All this leads to the conclusion, that the difference between us and the ancient fathers lies in accidents, not in substance. In all the leading characters of the Testament or Covenant we agree: the ceremonies and form of government, in which we differ, are mere additions.

Commentary on Galatians 4:1

Both covenants [are] truly one, though differently administered… The covenant made with all the fathers is so far from differing from ours in reality and substance, that it is altogether one and the same: still the administration differs.

Institutes, 2.10

J.V. Fesko notes

What changes, therefore, in the transition from the OT to the NT is not the covenant, but rather the form or administration of the covenant (2.11.13). Here then is what one may describe as Aristotelian language in the use of the distinction between substance and form, which was commonplace in the theology of Calvin’s day.

Cornelius Venema summarizes

When Calvin and subsequent Reformed theologians employ the language of “substance” and “form” or “accidents” to refer to the distinct administrations of the one covenant of grace throughout history, they are employing a traditional category distinction from the philosophy of Aristotle. “Substance” refers to “what makes something what it is,” “accidents” refers to what belongs “contingently” to something.

 

Administration = Accidents

The accidents of the covenant of grace were identified with its “administration,” referring to various ordinances and ceremonies. WCF 7.5-6 identify these as “promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come” as well as “the preaching of the Word, and… the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

Substance = Salvation in Christ

The substance, then, refers to what is being administered: salvation in Christ.

[T]he comparison made by the Apostle refers to the form rather than to the substance; for though God promised to them the same salvation which he at this day promises to us, yet neither the manner nor the character of the revelation is the same or equal to what we enjoy.

-Calvin, Commentary Hebrews 8:6

How did the Olevianus and others define the substance or essence of the covenant of grace? “I will put my law in your midst, and I will write my law in your heart and I will be your God and you will be my people.” Embedded in this prophetic articulation of the covenant of grace is essentially or substantially the same promise he had made to Adam, after the fall (Gen 3), to Noah (Gen 6), and to Abraham (Gen 17). Embedded in that re-articulation is the ancient promise to send a redeemer who would turn away the wrath we earned and to earn righteousness for all his people. This, Olevianus would go on to say is the first benefit of the covenant of grace: “free forgiveness of sins in Christ,” i.e., unconditional acceptance with God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…

When our theologians, whether Olevianus in the 16th century or Witsius in the 17th century, wrote about the “substance of the covenant” they were writing about the same way God has always saved and sanctified his people whether under Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David or Christ. There is a unified covenant of grace.

-R. Scott Clark, What Is The Substance Of The Covenant Of Grace? (2)

Accidents = Shadows?

I’m not certain when it was first articulated, but an important twist occurs as the concept is further developed.

WCF 7.6 Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance,[13] was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:[14] which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,[15] to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;[16] and is called the New Testament.[17] There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.[18]

Notice the two uses of the word “substance”. The argument is that because Christ is the substance, there are not two different covenants, but only one. However, note Scripture reference [13]: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV) Thus the first mention of “substance” refers to a shadow/substance distinction, or what we could call a type/anti-type distinction. One thing points forward to something else. However, the second use of “substance” refers to the substance/accidents distinction.

Are these two distinctions the same thing? Was Paul using Aristotelian categories when he spoke of shadows and substance? No. They are two different concepts. Two different distinctions. The shadow/substance distinction refers to a way of teaching or speaking about something by way of analogy or comparison. The substance/accidents distinction refers to defining the essence of something.

The Westminster tradition has conflated these two things and built a labyrinth around themselves that they are now trapped in. It has stunted their typology. The recent OPC Report on Republication addresses this point (in order to show how Kline’s typology is contrary to the WCF).

According to our doctrinal standards the substance of the covenant of grace is Christ. The covenant was fulfilled “under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited” (WCF 7.6). Christ supplies the substance (or blessings) of the covenant of grace due to the dignity of his person and the merit of his work… Whether we are speaking of the types and pictures of Christ in the old covenant or the reality and fullness of Christ in the new, what is applied to God’s elect, in principle, is the same. Although the ceremonies, sacrifices, and ordinances of the Mosaic covenant were types of Christ, the efficacy of what they pictured was communicated through them to the elect of Israel…

However, it is also true that some Reformed theologians have seen the idea of substance in a more technical way; namely, the core condition that governs the covenant. Thus, when the condition is essentially the same, the covenant is also essentially the same; and when the condition differs, so does the essence of the covenant. For example, Zacharias Ursinus argues that the “substance of the covenant” is “the principal conditions” of the covenant… The confession seems to communicate this basic idea when it states that the Old and New Testament are not “two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.”…

The confession addresses these differences [between the Old and New Covenants] by the way in which the covenant itself is administered, and by the way in which the blessings of the covenant are enjoyed. It does this by organizing these two issues through its unified treatment and emphasis on typology… The covenant of grace was administered in the time of the law “by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances.” The phrase, “other types and ordinances” shows that typology functions as a general rubric to summarize the symbols and ordinances of the old covenant. The standards remind us that those types were “sufficient and efficacious” for the time of the law and by them believing Israelites enjoyed the “full remission of sins, and eternal salvation” (WCF 7.5). Yet this is true only because they were more than symbols for that covenant administration. They also functioned as types of the fullness to be unveiled with Christ’s coming. Their ultimate efficacy is dependent upon their functioning as types.

By adding obedience to the ceremonial law to the essential condition of the covenant, the subservient covenant position gives Mosaic typology a fundamentally works-based character, rather than an evangelical one. Proponents did not deny that these various types also signified spiritual benefits, but they insisted that they only did so “secondarily” or indirectly, while their primary reference was to temporal things promised in the covenant.169

[169] Cameron put it this way: “The Sacraments, Sacrifices, and Ceremonies of the Old Testament did set forth Christ, and the Benefits by Christ; not primarily, but secondarily…but the Sacraments of the New Covenant do shew forth Christ primarily, and that clearly” (as translated by Samuel Bolton in his True Boundes, 399). Thus circumcision primarily signified the separation between the seed of Abraham and the rest of the nations and sealed to them the earthly promise. The Passover primarily signified the passing over of the destroying Angel. The sacrifices and washings primarily represented only a carnal holiness. Only secondarily did these benefits signify Christ.

From a confessional viewpoint, the basic weakness here is that it reverses the true biblical priority of Christ as the substance and primary signification of these types and shadows. According to our standards, the purpose of these various types and ordinances was to function as an aspect of the covenant of grace, being means of administering the eternal and salvific blessings procured by Christ (WCF 7.5, 8.6, 17.5). He is the “substance” of the types and ordinances (not merely their secondary referent), even as he is the substance of God’s covenant of grace (WCF 7.6), while all else remains secondary or accidental. The subservient covenant effectively reverses this in insisting that these types primarily signify temporal benefits, and only secondarily signify Christ. As John Cameron stated, the subservient covenant leads to Christ only “indirectly” whereas the covenant of grace leads to him directly. It is difficult to harmonize the idea that Christ was the “substance” of all these types and ordinances and at the same time only their secondary referent

[A]nything that functions as an “administration” of the covenant of grace must, in fact, administer grace to those who are under it. Such it is with the other types, ceremonies, and other ordinances delivered to the Jews. The administrative aspects of the old covenant were to function as the “outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates” to Israel “the benefits of redemption” (SC 88)… [T]ypology is a subset of the broader category of the administration of the covenant… According to our standards, typology is an aspect of the administration of the covenant of grace in the Old Testament, which in turn is described as the outward means of the Old Testament era for communicating grace to the elect of that era. Saving grace was not simply administered merely as a consequence or by-product of these types.275 Rather, saving grace was present by and in these types, and in this way communicated grace to believers.276 In terms of our confessional definitions, to say that something is an administration of grace means that grace is communicated by and in that thing.

[275] This seems to be the distinctive typological construction of the subservient covenant position, discussed above.

For more on this view, listen to an interview on the Reformed Forum with Lane Tipton, one of the co-authors of the Report.

Subservient Covenant Typology

I once had a Presbyterian say to me

I always thought Owen’s claims about the Poverty of Types meant he was on a pretty different page from the rest of the presbyterians

“Such was the poverty of the types that no one of them could so much as shadow out or represent all that advantage which we really enjoy and therefore they were multiplied and the work distributed amongst them which they were to represent. This made them a yoke, and that grievous and burdensome. The way of teaching in them and by them was hard and obscure, as well as their observation was difficult. It was a hard thing for them to learn the love, grace, and mind of God by them. God revealed himself in them πολυμερῶς, by many parts and pieces, according as they were capable to receive impression from and make representation of divine wisdom, goodness, and grace; whence our apostle says, that the law had but σκίαν, “a shadow,” and not αὐτὴν τὴν εἰκόνα πραγμάτων, Hebrews 10:1, — “the image itself of things.” It had some scattered shades, which the great limner had laid the foundation of symmetry in, but so as to be discernible only unto his own infinite wisdom. A perfect image, wherein all the parts should exactly answer unto one another, and so plainly represent the thing intended, that it had not. Now, it was a work beyond their wisdom, out of these scattered pieces and parts of revelation, especially being implanted on carnal things, to gather up the whole of the grace and good-will of God. But in Christ Jesus God hath gathered all into one bead, Ephesians 1:10, wherein both his person and grace are fully and at once represented.”

Hebrews 3 commentary

Owen, like 1689 Federalism, held to a version, or refinement of the subservient covenant view, which recognizes that the Old and New Covenants are two different, distinct covenants – not the same covenant. Thus the Old and New are not one in essence or substance. However, it is important to understand that Owen and 1689 Federalism do affirm that Christ is the substance of the the types and shadows of the Old Covenant and that men in the Old Testament were saved through belief in the gospel revealed by those types. They simply recognize that those two uses of “substance” are two different concepts.

Having noted these things, we may consider that the Scripture does plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way as can hardly be accommodated by a twofold administration of the same covenant…Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than merely a twofold administration of the same covenant, to be intended. We must do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, and with great pretence of reason, for it is the sole foundation of all who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, ’That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation is the same under both, then indeed they are the same for the substance of them is but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue of it, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, while they were under the old covenant.

Having shown in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition to the old covenant, so I shall propose several things which relate to the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace.

That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that [new] covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ

-Owen on Hebrews 8:6

The types and shadows of the Old Covenant revealed the gospel and people were saved by believing that gospel, but the Old Covenant did not therefore save them because it did not establish union with Christ. The New Covenant is our union with Christ. The Old Covenant types were the means that God used to reveal the gospel but it was the New Covenant union established in the effectual call that saved the elect living under the Old Covenant.

[Side Note: Klineans do not properly understand the use of Aristotelian “substance” in WCF 7.6 and the reformed tradition to affirm that the Old and the New are the same covenant. They reject that idea and say the Old and New are two distinct covenants, but they still try to argue that they affirm 7.6. They simply don’t understand what 7.6 is saying – and part of that is because 7.6 conflates two different ideas about substance: one they affirm and one they do not. For more on this point, see Kline on “Administration of the Covenant of Grace” and Episodes 4-6 of the Glory Cloud Podcast. Owen properly understood the meaning of terms and therefore rejected WCF 7.6.] 

Augustine’s Typology

The OPC Report notes “It is difficult to harmonize the idea that Christ was the ‘substance’ of all these types and ordinances and at the same time only their secondary referent.” This difficulty is only created by the mistaken application of substance/accidents. Presbyterians who stumble at this point would do well to listen to Augustine, who addresses what he sees as an error on their part.

City of God
Book XVII: The history of the city of God from the kings and prophets to Christ.
Chapter 3.—Of the Three-Fold Meaning of the Prophecies, Which are to Be Referred Now to the Earthly, Now to the Heavenly Jerusalem, and Now Again to Both.

Wherefore just as that divine oracle to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the other prophetic signs or sayings which are given in the earlier sacred writings, so also the other prophecies from this time of the kings pertain partly to the nation of Abraham’s flesh, and partly to that seed of his in which all nations are blessed as fellow-heirs of Christ by the New Testament, to the possessing of eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens.  Therefore they pertain partly to the bond maid who gendereth to bondage, that is, the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; but partly to the free city of God, that is, the true Jerusalem eternal in the heavens, whose children are all those that live according to God in the earth:  but there are some things among them which are understood to pertain to both,—to the bond maid properly, to the free woman figuratively. (Gal 4:22-31)

Therefore prophetic utterances of three kinds are to be found; forasmuch as there are some relating to the earthly Jerusalem, some to the heavenly, and some to both.  I think it proper to prove what I say by examples.  The prophet Nathan was sent to convict king David of heinous sin, and predict to him what future evils should be consequent on it.  Who can question that this and the like pertain to the terrestrial city, whether publicly, that is, for the safety or help of the people, or privately, when there are given forth for each one’s private good divine utterances whereby something of the future may be known for the use of temporal life?  But where we read, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make for the house of Israel, and for the house of Judah, a new testament:  not according to the testament that I settled for their fathers in the day when I laid hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my testament, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.  For this is the testament that I will make for the house of Israel:  after those days, saith the Lord, I will give my laws in their mind, and will write them upon their hearts, and I will see to them; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people;” (Heb 8:8-10) without doubt this is prophesied to the Jerusalem above, whose reward is God Himself, and whose chief and entire good it is to have Him, and to be His.  But this pertains to both, that the city of God is called Jerusalem, and that it is prophesied the house of God shall be in it; and this prophecy seems to be fulfilled when king Solomon builds that most noble temple.  For these things both happened in the earthly Jerusalem, as history shows, and were types of the heavenly Jerusalem.  And this kind of prophecy, as it were compacted and commingled of both the others in the ancient canonical books, containing historical narratives, is of very great significance, and has exercised and exercises greatly the wits of those who search holy writ.  For example, what we read of historically as predicted and fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, we must also inquire the allegorical meaning of, as it is to be fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to faith.  And so much is this the case, that some have thought there is nothing in these books either foretold and effected, or effected although not foretold, that does not insinuate something else which is to be referred by figurative signification to the city of God on high, and to her children who are pilgrims in this life.  But if this be so, then the utterances of the prophets, or rather the whole of those Scriptures that are reckoned under the title of the Old Testament, will be not of three, but of two different kinds.  For there will be nothing there which pertains to the terrestrial Jerusalem only, if whatever is there said and fulfilled of or concerning her signifies something which also refers by allegorical prefiguration to the celestial Jerusalem; but there will be only two kinds one that pertains to the free Jerusalem, the other to both.  But just as, I think, they err greatly who are of opinion that none of the records of affairs in that kind of writings mean anything more than that they so happened, so I think those very daring who contend that the whole gist of their contents lies in allegorical significations.  Therefore I have said they are threefold, not two-fold.  Yet, in holding this opinion, I do not blame those who may be able to draw out of everything there a spiritual meaning, only saving, first of all, the historical truth.  For the rest, what believer can doubt that those things are spoken vainly which are such that, whether said to have been done or to be yet to come, they do not beseem either human or divine affairs?  Who would not recall these to spiritual understanding if he could, or confess that they should be recalled by him who is able?”

A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.
Chapter 14.—Examination of This Point. The Phrase “Old Testament” Used in Two Senses. The Heir of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament There Were Heirs of the New Testament.

…In that testament, however, which is properly called the Old, and was given on Mount Sinai, only earthly happiness is expressly promised. Accordingly that land, into which the nation, after being led through the wilderness, was conducted, is called the land of promise, wherein peace and royal power, and the gaining of victories over enemies, and an abundance of children and of fruits of the ground, and gifts of a similar kind are the promises of the Old Testament. And these, indeed, are figures of the spiritual blessings which appertain to the New Testament; but yet the man who lives under God’s law with those earthly blessings for his sanction, is precisely the heir of the Old Testament, for just such rewards are promised and given to him, according to the terms of the Old Testament, as are the objects of his desire according to the condition of the old man. But whatever blessings are there figuratively set forth as appertaining to the New Testament require the new man to give them effect. And no doubt the great apostle understood perfectly well what he was saying, when he described the two testaments as capable of the allegorical distinction of the bond-woman and the free,—attributing the children of the flesh to the Old, and to the New the children of the promise: “They,” says he, “which are the children of the flesh, are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Rom 9:8) The children of the flesh, then, belong to the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; whereas the children of the promise belong to the Jerusalem above, the free, the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. (Gal 4:25, 26) Whence we can easily see who they are that appertain to the earthly, and who to the heavenly kingdom. But then the happy persons, who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the distinction now set forth, were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament; although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, because it was divinely appropriated to that people in God’s distribution of the times and seasons.

The Substance of the Old Covenant

If Christ is not the substance, or essence, of the Old Covenant, then what is? Well, substance refers to the essence of something. So, what is essential to any particular covenant – divine or human? Simply put, the parties and the terms.

The OPC Report quotes Thomas Blake explaining that “a covenant entered by the same parties, upon the same terms and propositions on either hand, is the same covenant.” Thus the “substance” of each biblical covenant could be identified as follows:

  • Adamic: between God and Adam, representing all humanity, offering eternal life upon the condition of perfect obedience
  • Noahic: between God and Noah, representing all humanity, promising never to flood the earth again without condition (or alternatively upon condition of Noah building and entering the ark)
  • Abrahamic: between God and Abraham, representing his carnal offspring, promising to give him numerous physical offspring and the land of Canaan for them to dwell in, and also promising that the Messiah will be born from him and will bless all nations
  • Mosaic: between God and Israel, mediated by Moses, promising to bless them in the land of Canaan or to curse them in exile upon condition of their obedience to the law of Moses
  • Davidic: between God and David, representing his offspring, promising to make them king of Israel and to bless Israel upon condition of their obedience to the law of Moses
  • Redemption: between the Father and the Son, promising to grant the Son an kingdom and a redeemed people upon condition of his active and passive obedience
  • New: between God and Christ, representing the elect, promising to pour out his Spirit upon them, granting them faith, justification, sanctification, glorification – all the benefits of union with Christ without any antecedent condition on their part

But I prefer to avoid speaking in terms of “substance” and to just speak about the parties and terms of each covenant. And, when a paedobaptist brother echoes Calvin, saying

[T]he comparison made by the Apostle [in Hebrews 8] refers to the form rather than to the substance… The ceremonies of the law… were merely accidents of the covenant, or at least additions and appendages, and, as they are commonly called, accessories, yet because they were the means of administering it, the name of covenant is applied to them…

I simply echo Luther

Therefore it is an absurd and unheard-of juggling with words, to understand “covenant” to mean “the form, or accidents of the covenant,” and “wine” to mean “the form, or accidents of wine.” Why do they not also understand all other things to mean their forms, or accidents? Even if this might be done with all other things, it would yet not be right thus to emasculate the words of God and arbitrarily to empty them of their meaning.

Roger Williams on Israel as a Type of the Church

March 2, 2016 3 comments

Roger Williams led the 17th century charge for religious liberty (“liberty of conscience”). He wrote to parliament and the Westminster Assembly urging for tolerance and he wrote two books interacting with New England Congregationalist John Cotton’s arguments for intolerance.

One of the arguments Williams appealed to was that Israel was a type of the Church. Therefore we cannot simply take penal sanctions from the Old Covenant and apply them to modern nations today. Of course the Presbyterians disagreed and argued that Israel was itself the church so the penal sanctions do apply today in the same way (because there was a separation between church and state in Israel, so the church is structured after Israel’s ecclesiastical hierarchy and the modern state after Israel’s civil laws).

Williams wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution and the follow-up The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy in the form of a dialogue between Peace and Truth. I modernized the spelling.

The Bloudy Tenent (1644)

I have fully and at large declared the vast differences between the holy nation of typical Israel and all other lands and countries, how unmatchable then and now, and never to be parallel’d, but by the true Israel and particular churches of Christ, residing in all parts (and under the several civil governments) of the world*: In which churches, the Israel of God, the Kingdom of Christ Jesus, such only are to be chosen spiritual officers and governors, to manage his kingly power and authority in the church, as are (according to the Scriptures quoted, not Pope, Bishops, or civil powers, but) from amongst themselves, brethren, fearing God, hating covetousness or filthy lucre, according to those golden rules given by the Lord Jesus, 1 Tim 3 & Tit 1.

The want of discerning this true parallel, between Israel in the type then, and Israel the antitype now, is that rock whereon (through the Lords righteous jealousy, punishing the world, and chastising his people) thousands dash, and make woeful shipwreck.  The second branch, viz. that all freemen elected be only church members, I have before shown to be built on that sandy and dangerous ground of Israel’s pattern: O that it may please the Father of lights to discover this to all that fear his name! then would they not sin to save a kingdom, nor run into the lamentable breach of civil peace and order in the world, nor be guilty of forcing thousands to hypocrisy, in a state worship, nor of prophaning the holy name of God and Christ, by putting their names and ordinances upon unclean and unholy persons: nor of shedding the blood of such heretics, &c. whom Christ would have enjoy longer patience and permission until the harvest: nor of the blood of the Lord Jesus himself, in his faithful witnesses of truth: nor lastly, of the blood of so many hundred thousands slaughtered men, women, and children, by such uncivil and unchristian wars and combustions about the Christian faith and religion.

*Chapters cx.-cxiv

The Bloudy Tenent, p. 417

 

CHAP. CXII

…the state of the people [of Israel] shall appear unmatchable, but only by the true church and Israel of God.

First, the people of Israel were all the seed or offspring of one man Abraham, Ps. 105:6… Only the spiritual Israel and seed of God the newborn are but one: Christ is the seed, Gal 3 and they only that are Christs are only Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

This spiritual seed is the only antitype of the former figurative and typical: a seed which all Christians ought to propagate, yeah even the unmarried men and women (who are not capable of natural offspring) for thus is this called the seed of Christ (who lived and died unmarried) Is 59:21.

p. 323

 

CHAP. CXIII

… I therefore thirdly add, that only such as are Abraham’s seed, circumcised in heart, newborn, Israel (or wrestlers with God) are the antitype of the former Israel, these are only the holy nation (1 Pet 2) wonderfully redeemed from the Egypt of this world (Titus 2:14) brought through the Red Sea of baptism (1 Cor 10) through the wilderness of afflictions and the peoples (Deut 8; Ezek 20) into the kingdom of heaven begun below, even that Christian land of promise, where flow the everflowing streams and rivers of spiritual milk and honey.

This people of Israel in the national state were a type of all the children of God in all ages under the profession of the gospel, who are therefore called the children of Abraham, and the Israel of God, Gal 3 & 6. A kingly priesthood and holy nation (1 Pet 2:9) in a clear and manifest antitype to the former Israel, Exod 19:6.

Hence Christians are now figuratively in this respect called Jews, Rev. 3 where lies a clear distinction of the true and false Christian under the consideration of true and false Jew: Behold I will make them of the Synagogue of Satan that say they are Jews and are not, but do lie, Rev. 3. But such a typical respect we find not now upon any people, nation, or country of the whole world: But out of all nations, tongues and languages is God pleased to call some and redeemed them to himself (Rev 5:9). And hath made no difference between the Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Scithians, Gal 3, who by regeneration or second birth become the Israel of God, Gal 6. the temple of God, 1 Cor 3. and the true Jerusalem, Heb 12.

p. 327

 

CHAP. CXIV.

Peace. It seems (dear Truth) a mighty gulf between that people and nation, and the nations of the world then extant and ever since.

Truth. As sure as the blessed substance to all those shadows, Christ Jesus is come, so unmatchable and never to be paralleled by any national state was that Israel in the figure or shadow.

And yet the Israel of God now, the regenerate or newborn, the circumcised in heart by repentance and mortification, who willingly submit unto the Lord Jesus as their only king and head, may fitly parallel and answer that Israel in the type, without such danger of hypocrisy, of such horrible prophanations, and of firing the civil state in such bloody combustions, as all ages have brought forth upon this compelling a whole nation or kingdom to be the antitype of Israel.

p. 330

Samuel Mather on Israel as a Type of the Church

January 13, 2016 4 comments

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.

Conclusion

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.

Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel

January 31, 2015 12 comments

Following the recent exchange with Gatiss, someone on Facebook commented:

I always thought Owen’s claims about the Poverty of Types meant he was on a pretty different page from the rest of the prebsyterians

“Such was the poverty of the types that no one of them could so much as shadow out or represent all that advantage which we really enjoy and therefore they were multiplied and the work distributed amongst them which they were to represent. This made them a yoke and that grievous and burdensome. The way of teaching in them and by them was hard and obscure as well as their observation was difficult. It was a hard thing for them to learn the love grace and mind of God by them God revealed himself in them by many parts and pieces according as they were capable to receive impression from and make representation of divine wisdom, goodness, and grace; whence our apostle says that the law had but a shadow and not the image itself of things. It had some scattered shades which the great limner had laid the foundation of symmetry in but so as to be discernible only unto his own infinite wisdom. A perfect image wherein all the parts should exactly answer unto one another and so plainly represent the thing intended, that it had not. Now it was a work beyond their wisdom, out of the scattered pieces and parts of revelation, especially being implated upon carnal things, to gather up the whole of the grace and good-will of God “

That said, if the TYPE had kids in it, how could the anti-type NOT have kids in it, which seems to be Owen’s argument.

To which I replied: If the TYPE had goats and bulls in it, how could the anti-type NOT have goats and bulls in it? Because the type is not the thing typified. To which he replied

I’d say that’s out of scope: “everyone” knows the goats are replaced by Jesus own death. The signs the humans used are the type, but the people the signs applied to aren’t the type. If Baptists want to argue that kids used to be included in the old covenant because it prefigures feature X in the new covenant, and identify a plausible feature X that might be worth discussing.

[blood of goats prefigure blood of Jesus :: is to :: children included in the covenant prefigures <blank>]

Of course an additional factor is the similarity/identity of language of inclusion between Old (I am a god to you and your children) and New (promise to you and your children)

I appreciate the question and I’m happy to explain.

Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel

We have a different understanding of the Old Covenant, so it’s important to understand the above analogy in light of our covenant theology. We reject the internal/external construct of the old covenant and believe it was external only. Any salvific benefits received by OT saints were received by virtue of the New Covenant, as Owen argues.

This covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and therein, as the apostle speaks, was “the ministry of condemnation,” 2 Corinthians: 3:9; for “by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.” And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works… This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.

Owen on Hebrews 8:6 (p. 104 here)
Regarding physical Israel as a type of spiritual Israel, Congregationalist Jonathan Edwards explains

That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention… And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such. That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in. Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel…

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant.

Jonathan Edwards on the Nation of Israel as a Type of the Church

17th century Congregationalist minister Samuel Mather said

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.

Samuel Mather on Israel as a type of the Church

Mather’s contemporary, Congregationalist John Owen, commenting about the New Covenant in Heb 8:8 said

The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.

[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.

Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…

In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the Mace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.

18th century Scottish Presbyterian John Erskine held this view as well:

Let it then be observed, that men are said to be sanctified or made holy in very different senses. Sanctification, for the distinction, though an old, is not a bad one, is either real or relative.

…That separation from other nations, in which the holiness of the Jews chiefly consisted (r), was not spiritual, resulting from rectitude of heart and a correspondent behavior; but barely external, resulting from certain sacred rites and ceremonies different from or opposite to those of other nations, and confined to certain places and persons (d). The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, was the ceremonial law (e), which was neither necessary nor fit to make a spiritual separation  In fact, it did not separate between good and bad men among the Jews: but between the house of Israel  and the fearers of God or devout persons in the heathen nations (f). For which reason, though Cornelius was one that feared God, gave much alms, and prayed to God always, Peter was afraid of being polluted by intercourse with him.

(a) Lev. xxi. (b) Exod. xix. 6. (c) Exod. xix. 5, 6. Num. xxiii. 9. Deut. xxvi. 18, 19. (d) Lev. xx. 24,—26. Deut. xiv. 21. (e) Eph. ii. 14, 15. (f) Pial. cxviii. 4. A6ls xiii. 16, 26. xvii. 4, 17.

…as things were termed unclean, which were types or emblems of moral impurity, so the Jews were termed holy, not only because they were separated from other nations, but because they typified real Christians, who are in the fullest and noblest sense a holy nation, and a peculiar people (a). Types are visible things, different in their nature, from the spiritual things which they typify. If then the Jewish dispensation was typical, we may safely conclude, that the holiness of the Jewish nation being intended to typify the holiness of the Christian church, was of a different nature from it. And it is for this reason, that the Jewish dispensation is called the flesh and the letter, because persons and things in that dispensation, typified and represented persons and things under a more spiritual dispensation. (a) 1 Pet. ii. 9.

John Erskine’s “The Nature of the Sinai Covenant” (17-21)

This is echoed by Charles Hodge:

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, visible community. By the other, his spiritual descendants were constituted a Church. 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. of the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law; the condition of the latter was, is, and ever has been, faith in the Messiah as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, 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 remained. There was no external covenant, nor promises of external blessings, on condition of external rites and subjection. There was a spiritual society with spiritual promises, on the condition of faith in Christ. In no part of the New Testament is any other condition of membership in the Church prescribed than that contained in the answer of Philip to the eunuch who desired baptism: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts viii. 37)

Hodge on the Visibility of the Church

Of course, this is found in Owen as well:

Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also. And this cast the Jews into great perplexities, and proved the last trial that God made of them; for whereas both these, — namely, the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham’s covenant, — had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, coming now to be separated, and a trial to be made (Malachi 3) who of the Jews had interest in both, who in one only, those who had only the carnal privilege, of being children of Abraham according to the flesh, contended for a share on that single account in the other also, — that is, in all the promises annexed unto the covenant. But the foundation of their plea was taken away, and the church, unto which the promises belong, remained with them that were heirs of Abraham’s faith only.

The Oneness of the Church

Nehemiah Coxe explained this at length. Briefly:

The typical Respect and Analogy of the Covenant of Peculiarity unto the Covenant of Grace, as after to be more fully revealed, and accomplished in Christ, affords another Occasion of, and Reason for, the interweaving of those Promises which require a distinct Application: some of them belonging immediately to the carnal, and others to the spiritual Seed, as arising from the springs, and ordered towards the Ministration of two distinct Covenants.

Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ

Richard Barcellos:

The church is typified on various levels and in various ways by ancient Israel, as a nation itself, as a kingdom of priests, as the people of God. So I’d say there’s a type/anti-type relationship between ancient Israel and the church, and that the church is actually the eschatological Israel of Old Testament prophecy.

1689 Federalism: An Introduction

We can even throw Meredith Kline into the mix:

the socio-geo-political sector of the Israelite kingdom of God was a part of the total system of kingdom typology established through the covenantal constitution given to Israel in the law of Moses… Israel as a geo-political kingdom is…expressive of the restorative-redemptive principle, it is…a type of the antitypical kingdom of Christ, the Redeemer-King… This kingdom of Israel – not just the temple in its midst, but the kingdom of Israel as such, the kingdom as a national geo-political entity – was a redemptive product of God, a work of divine restoration, given as a prototype version of the kingdom of God in the perfect form it was to attain under the new covenant in the messianic antitype of that Israelite kingdom.

Comments on an Old-New Error

References to the two-level nature of the promises have been unavoidable in various connections in our analysis of the Abrahamic Covenant up to this point but now it is time to focus on this more particularly. In doing so we will sum up the promises under the concept of kingdom, tracing the two-level structure with respect to the kingdom components of king, people, and land…

We have found that in the course of biblical revelation two distinct levels of fulfillment, one provisional and prototypal, the other messianic and eternal, are clearly distinguishable in the king promise given to Abraham. What is true of the promise of the king must inevitably also be true of the promise of the kingdom, both kingdom-people and kingdom-land…  the promised seed in this corporate sense is interpreted by the Scriptures as being realized on two levels.

God’s blessing on Abraham was such that he would multiply to become a great nation (Gen 12:2). The promise of a kingdom people implicit in that original statement of the promises subsequently became explicit…

Confirming the distinction made in the promise of the seed between literal and spiritual Israelites and pointing particularly to the second, spiritual level of meaning was the inclusion of the nations of the Gentiles among Abraham’s promised seed (Gen 17:4,6,16; Rom 4:11,12,16,17). Manifestly the Gentile seed were not Abraham’s physical posterity. Moreover, the promise of the many nations as seed is equivalent to the gospel-promise that Abraham through his messianic seed would mediate blessing to all nations. That is, the promise of the seed is thereby lifted into the messianic, or new covenant, level where Gentile and Jewish believers are gathered together in the united assembly of the heavenly altar…

Further, in this gospel mystery of the union of the promised kingdom people in the Spirit, the corporate seed (Jewish and Gentile believers) and the individual messianic seed become one, Christ the head and all in him the body (Gal 3:16,29).

Typology, Two-Level Fulfillment, and Kline’s Critique of Dispensationalism

The Body of Christ a Type of Christ?

Note particularly that last line from Kline. Riddlebarger quotes Robert Strimple to the same effect:

We [amillennarians] say: `Yes, the nation of Israel was the people of God in the old covenant.  Now in the new covenant the believing church is the people of God.’  And thus we quickly run past (or we miss the blessed point entirely) the fact that we Christians are the Israel of God, Abraham’s seed, and the heirs to the promises, only because by faith, we are united to him who alone is the true Israel, Abraham’s one seed.

Riddlebarger’s point in the post is to demonstrate that Israel is a type of Christ.

“By now it should be clear that according to many New Testament writers, Jesus is the true servant, the true son and the true Israel of God”

Recall above we saw Samuel Mather say the same thing.

The whole nation of the Jewsdid adumbrate and shadow forth… 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.

Now, if physical Israel is a type of Christ, the true Israel, then Abraham’s physical seed was not the body of Christ. For the body of Christ cannot be a type of Christ.

P1. Israel (Abraham’s physical seed) was a type of Christ, the true Israel of God.
P2. The church is the true Israel of God (Abraham’s spiritual seed) through union with Christ.
C. Israel (Abraham’s physical seed) was a type of the church (Abraham’s spiritual seed).

Two-Edged Sword

As we saw above in Kline’s critique of dispensationalism, paedobaptists are often unaware of how sharp their hermeneutic against dispensationalism is. It’s a sword that cuts both ways. In an interview on Christ the Center, Kim Riddlebarger argues:

…the problem with that is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 12 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the land promise in Genesis 12 – and it’s repeated throughout 15, 18, 22, on and on and on – when that land promise is repeated, dispenationalists say “See, that must mean Israel means Israel and that God is going to save Israel again to fulfill the land promise at the end of the age.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the land promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.

If I may paraphrase:

…the problem with paedobaptism is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 17 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the offspring promise in Genesis 17 – and it’s repeated throughout 12, 15, 22, on and on and on – when that offspring promise is repeated, paedobaptists say “See, that must mean offspring means offspring and that God included physical offspring in the church and never took them out.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the offspring promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.

To be a God to you and your offspring

This then has rather obvious implications for understanding the phrase “to be a God to you and your offspring after you.” As Edwards noted already:
That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention… And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints…
Abraham Booth unpacks this well:

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…

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…

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…

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 Kingdom of Christ

Acts 2:39

As for Acts 2:39, make sure you read the whole sentence.

[A]s we observed earlier, Calvin, Turretin, Bavinck, and others have left off the last half of Acts 2:39… Combined with what appears to be loyalty to Calvin, there is, then, a repetitious pattern of errors in interpreting Acts 2:39 throughout much of history…

As a result, the Abrahamic Covenant and its features such as the recipients of circumcision are imported entirely into Acts 2:39 without any consideration as to what promise is being talked about in Acts 2:39, what the fulfillment of that promise looks like in the New Covenant, and what argument is being made in Acts 2 and how that argument is not altogether the same as Acts 3, and so on and so forth. In short, “The Paedobaptist ear is so attuned to the Old Testament echo in this text that it is deaf to its New Testament crescendo.”77 The attitude is “promise of the Spirit, Abrahamic Covenant, covenant of grace, it is all the same thing,” and “children, seed, same idea” when it comes to interpreting Acts 2:39…

An interpreter’s interest in hearing Old Testament overtones should not overthrow exegesis of the actual text.

-Chapter 13: Acts 2:39 in its Context (Part 1): An Exegetical Summary of Acts 2:39 and Paedobaptism ~ Jamin Hübner, Th.D.
-Chapter 14: Acts 2:39 in its Context (Part 2): Case Studies in Paedobaptist Interpretations of Acts 2:39 ~ Jamin Hübner, Th.D.
Recovering a Covenantal Heritage

Conclusion

Hopefully this is enough to make the typology of offspring worth discussing.

Objection to Israel as a type of the Church

January 27, 2011 3 comments

On my post about Riddlebarger’s double-edged sword, I mentioned in passing that Israel was a type of the church. Someone named Joshua took objection to that, arguing that I had taken typology “too far.”

Now, I greatly appreciate that Joshua took the time to read my post and took the time to comment. That is the reason that I post my thoughts on a public blog. I’m not writing on here because I have everything figured out. I’m writing on here because a) it helps me organize my thoughts, and b) it allows for me to be sharpened by iron. So I appreciate Joshua’s comments, and I hope more people continue to comment on things they object to (or maybe even agree with!).

Joshua then made a post over at his own blog:

I’ve been commenting on a blog post as to whether or not the church is the antitype to Israel. I think one runs into an issue when looking at Israel as the type and the church as the antitype because it distracts people from the fact that Jesus is the true Israel. One of my favorite authors is Dr. Kim Riddlebarger who wrote the book A Case for Amillennialism. He also wrote an excellent blog post entitled, “Amillennialism 101 — Jesus Christ: The True Israel“, which explains the position so well.

http://foedustheologus.com/reformed-theology/jesus_the_true_israel.html

This is a very interesting comment, because it undermines his earlier objections in my comment thread. Let me explain: My comment was in opposition to classic paedobaptist covenant theology which argues that the nation of Israel is the church of the OT. It is the same body as the church in the NT. This is Joshua’s position (correct me if I’m wrong Joshua).

P1. The nation of Israel was the church in the OT
P2. The NT church is the church in the NT
C: The nation of Israel and the NT church are essentially the same thing

Now, Joshua objects to my statement that the nation of Israel was a type of the church by arguing that the nation of Israel was a type of Christ. But, let’s see where we end up if we combine these two views:

P1. The nation of Israel was a type of Christ
P2. The nation of Israel is essentially the NT church
C: The NT church is a type of Christ

Hmmm. Looks like we goofed somewhere along the line. I think the first syllogism/view is the goof. I agree with what Riddlebarger says in the post Joshua linked to. But the thing is, Riddlebarger’s argument proves my case, not Joshua’s 😉

P1: The nation of Israel was a type of Christ, the true Israel of God
P2: The believing church, through union with Christ, is the true Israel of God (see Riddlebarger’s quote of Strimple in his post)
C: The nation of Israel was a type of the believing church

And so, by implication, Riddlebarger agrees with Jonathan Edwards (and myself) that the nation of Israel was a type of the church. But it is not only by implication. Note what Riddlebarger’s teacher Meredith Kline says:

the socio-geo-political sector of the Israelite kingdom of God was a part of the total system of kingdom typology established through the covenantal constitution given to Israel in the law of Moses… Israel as a geo-political kingdom is…expressive of the restorative-redemptive principle, it is…a type of the antitypical kingdom of Christ, the Redeemer-King… This kingdom of Israel – not just the temple in its midst, but the kingdom of Israel as such, the kingdom as a national geo-political entity – was a redemptive product of God, a work of divine restoration, given as a prototype version of the kingdom of God in the perfect form it was to attain under the new covenant in the messianic antitype of that Israelite kingdom.

Comments on an Old-New Error

Jonathan Edwards on the Nation of Israel as a Type of the Church

January 21, 2011 7 comments

Gary Crampton included a quote from Jonathan Edwards in his book “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism” regarding the status of the nation of Israel as a type of the church, the Israel of God (rather than equivalent to it). Crampton quoted the following:

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant. God, agreeably to the nature of that dispensation, showed a great regard to external and carnal things in those days, as types of spiritual things. What a great regard God did show then to external qualifications for privileges and services, appears in this, that there is ten times so much said in the books of Moses about such qualifications in the institutions of the passover and tabernacle services, as about any moral qualifications whatsoever. And so much were such typical qualifications insisted on, that even by the law of Moses, the congregation of the Lord, or church of visible worshippers of God, and the number of public professors of the true religion who were visible saints, were not the same. Some were of the latter, that were not of the former; as the eunuchs, who were excluded the congregation, though never so externally religious, yea truly pious; and so also bastards, &c.

In looking up the quote in its context, I found an extended argument from Edwards on this subject. He was responding to the Halfway Covenant, specifically over the issue of the Lord’s Supper. The Halfway Covenant argued that people could be members of the church and participate in the Lord’s Supper even if they did not profess saving faith, so long as they are moral people. Edwards considers several arguments made by proponents of the Halfway Covenant. Their second argument is as follows:

Visible saintship in the scripture sense cannot be the same with that which has been supposed and insisted on [those who profess saving faith], because Israel of old were called God’s people, when it is certain the greater part of them were far from having any such visible holiness as this. Thus the ten tribes were called God’s people, Hos. iv. 6.. after they had revolted from the true worship of God, and had obstinately continued in their idolatrous worship at Bethel and Dan for about two hundred and fifty years, and were at that time, a little before their captivity especially, in the height of their wickedness. So the Jews are called God’s people, in Ezek. xxxvi. 20.. and other places, at the time of their captivity in Babylon, a time when most of them were abandoned to all kinds of the most horrid and open impieties, as the prophets frequently represent. Now it is certain, that the people at that time were not called God’s people because of any visibility of true piety to the eye of reason or of a rational charity, because most of them were grossly wicked, and declared their sin as Sodom. And in the same manner wherein the Jews of old were God’s people, are the members of the visible christian Gentile church God’s people; for they are spoken of as graffed into the same olive-tree, from whence the former were broken off by unbelief.

It is very interesting how Edwards responds to this objection, because it is exactly how Charles Hodge responded to the same problem (see here), and because his answer strikes against classic reformed covenant theology (ie Berkhof: “After the exodus the people of Israel were not only organized into a nation, but were also constituted the Church of God… the whole nation constituted the Church…In essence Israel constituted the Church of God in the Old Testament, though its external institution differed vastly from that of the Church in the New Testament” ST, 570-72, BoT). Edwards reasons:

  1. The argument proves too much, because if the nation of Israel was equivalent to the church, then we should admit any and all people into the church, even if they are completely immoral.
  2. “God’s people” and “Israel” are words that have a diversity of meaning.
    1. The nation of Israel were “God’s people” because they were adopted according to their bloodline; while Christians are “God’s people” because of their faith and spiritual adoption, etc.
    2. The nation became God’s outward covenant people in distinction from other nations because of God’s covenant with Abraham. That covenant was in essence the covenant of grace, “but yet that covenant with the patriarchs contained other things that were appendages to that everlasting covenant of grace; promises of lesser matters, subservient to the grand promise of the future seed, and typical of things appertaining to him.”
    3. Why did God set apart a particular bloodline as His people?
      1. To prepare for the coming of the Messiah from their bloodline by walling them off in separation.
      2. God used a typical nation with many types and shadows to teach us about his spiritual kingdom (to be later revealed).
      3. To have a purpose for them even to the end of time: “God’s covenant with Abraham is in some sense in force with respect to that people, and reaches them even to this day; and yet surely they are not God’s Covenant people, in the sense that visible Christians are.”

Answ. 1. The argument proves too much, and therefore nothing at all. Those whom I oppose in this controversy, will in effect as much oppose themselves in it, as me. The objection, if it has any force, equally militates against their and my notion of visible saintship. For those Jews, which it is alleged were called God’s people, and yet were so notoriously, openly, and obstinately wicked, had neither any visibility of true piety, nor yet of that moral sincerity in the profession and duties of the true religion, which the opponents themselves suppose to be requisite in order to a proper visible holiness, and a due admission to the privileges and ordinances of the church of God. None will pretend, that these obstinate idolaters and impious wretches had those qualifications which are now requisite in order to an admission to the christian sacraments. And therefore to what purpose can they bring this objection? which, if it proves any thing, overthrows my scheme and their own both together, and both in an equally effectual manner. And not only so, but will thoroughly destroy the schemes of all protestants through the world, concerning the qualifications of the subjects of christian ordinances. And therefore the support of what I have laid down against those whom I oppose in this controversy, requires no further answer to this objection. Nevertheless, for greater satisfaction, I would here observe further:

2. That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention. Thus, we have a plain distinction between the house of Israel and the house of Israel, in Ezek. xx. 38-40.. By the house of Israel in the 39th verse is meant literally the nation or family of Israel; but by the house of Israel in the 40th verse seems to be intended the spiritual house, the body of God’s visible saints, that should attend the ordinances of his public worship in gospel—times. So likewise there is a distinction made between the house of Israel, and God’s disciples who should profess and visibly adhere to his law and testimony, in Isa. viii. 14-17.. And though the whole nation of the Jews are often called God’s people in those degenerate times wherein the prophets were sent to reprove them, yet at the same time they are charged as falsely calling themselves of the holy city, Isa. xlviii. 2.. And God often tells them, they are rather to be reckoned among aliens, and as children of the Ethiopians, or posterity of the ancient Canaanites, on account of their grossly wicked and scandalous behaviour. See Amos ix. 7, &c.. Ezek. xvi. 2, 3, &c. verse 45, &c.. Isa. i. 10..

It is evident that God sometimes, according to the methods of his marvellous mercy and long-suffering towards mankind, has a merciful respect to a degenerate church, become exceeding corrupt, and constituted of members who have not those qualifications which ought to be insisted on. God continues still to have respect to them so far as not utterly to forsake them, or wholly to deny his confirmation of and blessing on their administrations. And not being utterly renounced of God, their administrations are to be looked upon as in some respect valid, and the society as in some sort a people or church of God. This was the case with the church of Rome, at least till the Reformation and council of Trent; for till then we must own their baptisms and ordinations to be valid.—The church that the pope sits in, is called, The temple of God, 2 Thess. ii. 4..

And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such. That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people. This is not only evident by what has been already observed, but also indisputably manifest from Rom. ix. 3, 4, 5. “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart; for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to the flesh, 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.” It is to be noted, that the privileges here mentioned are spoken of as belonging to the Jews, not now as visible saints, not as professors of the true religion, not as members of the visible church of Christ; but only as people of such a nation, such a blood, such an external and carnal relation to the patriarchs their ancestors, Israelites according to the flesh. For the apostle is speaking here of the unbelieving Jews, professed unbelievers, that were out of the christian church, and open visible enemies to it, and such as had no right to the external privileges of Christ’s people. So, in Rom. xi. 28, 29.. this apostle speaks of the same unbelieving Jews, as in some respect an elect people, and interested in the calling, promises, and covenants God formerly gave to their forefathers, and as still beloved for their sakes. Rom. xi. 28, 29.“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes: for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” These things are not privileges belonging to the Jews now as a people of the right religion, or in the true church of visible worshippers of God; but as a people of such a pedigree or blood; and that even after the ceasing of the Mosaic administration. But there were privileges more especially belonging to them under the Old Testament: they were a family that God had chosen in distinction from all others, to show special favour to above all other nations. It was manifestly agreeable to God’s design to constitute things so under the Old Testament, that the means of grace and spiritual privileges and blessings should be—though not wholly, yet in a great measure—confined to a particular family, much more than those privileges and blessings are confined to any posterity or blood now under the gospel. God purposely by these favours distinguished that nation not only from those who were not professed worshippers of the true God, but also in a great measure from other nations, by a constituted wall of separation. This was not merely a wall between professors and non-professors, but between nation and nations. God, if he pleases, may by his sovereignty annex his blessing, and in some measure fix it, for his own reasons, to a particular blood, as well as to a particular place or spot of ground, to a certain building, to a particular heap of stones, or altar of brass, to particular garments, and other external things. And it is evident, that he actually did affix his blessing to that particular external family of Jacob, very much as he did to the city Jerusalem, where he chose to place his name, and to mount Zion where he commanded the blessing. God did not so affix his blessing to Jerusalem or mount Zion, as to limit himself, either by confining the blessing wholly to that place, never to bestow it elsewhere; nor by obliging himself always to bestow it on those that sought him there; nor yet obliging himself never to withdraw his blessing from thence, by forsaking his dwelling-place there, and leaving it to be a common or profane place. But he was pleased to make it the seat of his blessing in a peculiar manner, in great distinction from other places. In like manner did he fix his blessing to the progeny of Jacob. It was a family which he delighted in, and which he blessed in a peculiar manner, and to which in a great measure he confined the blessing; but not so as to limit himself, or so as to oblige himself to bestow it on all of that blood, or not to bestow it on others that were not of that blood. He affixed his blessing both to the place and nation, by sovereign election, Psal. cxxxii. 13-15.. He annexed and fixed his blessing to both by covenant.

To that nation he fixed his blessing by his covenant with the patriarchs. Indeed the main thing, the substance and marrow of that covenant which God made with Abraham and the other patriarchs, was the covenant of grace, which is continued in these days of the gospel, and extends to all his spiritual seed, of the Gentiles as well as Jews: but yet that covenant with the patriarchs contained other things that were appendages to that everlasting covenant of grace; promises of lesser matters, subservient to the grand promise of the future seed, and typical of things appertaining to him. Such were those that annexed the blessing to the land of Canaan, and the progeny of Isaac and Jacob. Just so it was also as to the covenant God made with David. 2 Sam. vii.. and Psal. cxxxii.. If we consider that covenant with regard to its marrow and soul, it was the covenant of grace: but there were other subservient promises which were typical of its benefits; such were promises of blessings to the nation of Israel, of continuing the temporal crown to David’s posterity, and of fixing the blessing to Jerusalem or mount Zion, as the place which he chose to set his name there. And in this sense it was that the very family of Jacob were God’s people by covenant, and his chosen people; even when they were no visible saints, when they lived in idolatry, and made no profession of the true religion.

On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in.

Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel. Perhaps we may not be able to give all the reasons of such a constitution; but some of them seem to be pretty manifest; as,

1. The great and main end of separating one particular nation from all others, as God did the nation of Israel, was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. God’s covenant with Abraham and the other patriarchs implied that the Messiah should be of their blood, or their seed according to the flesh. And therefore it was requisite that their progeny according to the flesh should be fenced in by a wall of separation, and made God’s people. If the Messiah had been born of some of the professors of Abraham’s religion, but of some other nation, that religion being propagated from nation to nation, as it is now under the gospel, it would not have answered the covenant with Abraham, for the Messiah to have been born of Abraham’s seed only in this sense. The Messiah being by covenant so related to Jacob’s progeny according to the flesh, God was pleased, agreeable to the nature of such a covenant, to show great respect to that people on account of that external relation. Therefore the apostle mentions it as one great privilege, that of them according to the flesh Christ came, Rom. ix. 5.. As the introducing of the Messiah and his salvation and kingdom was the special design of all God’s dealings and peculiar dispensations towards that people, the natural result of this was, that great account should be made of their being of that nation, in God’s covenant dealings with them.

2. That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant. God, agreeably to the nature of that dispensation, showed a great regard to external and carnal things in those days, as types of spiritual things. What a great regard God did show then to external qualifications for privileges and services, appears in this, that there is ten times so much said in the books of Moses about such qualifications in the institutions of the passover and tabernacle services, as about any moral qualifications whatsoever. And so much were such typical qualifications insisted on, that even by the law of Moses, the congregation of the Lord, or church of visible worshippers of God, and the number of public professors of the true religion who were visible saints, were not the same. Some were of the latter, that were not of the former; as the eunuchs, who were excluded the congregation, though never so externally religious, yea truly pious; and so also bastards, &c.

3. It was the sovereign pleasure of God to choose the posterity of Jacob according to the flesh, to reserve them for special favours to the end of time. And therefore they are still kept a distinct nation, being still reserved for distinguishing mercy in the latter day, when they shall be restored to the church of God. God is pleased in this way to testify his regard to their holy ancestors, and his regard to their external relation to Christ. Therefore the apostle still speaks of them as an elect nation, and beloved for the fathers’ sakes, even after they were broken off from the good olive by unbelief. God’s covenant with Abraham is in some sense in force with respect to that people, and reaches them even to this day; and yet surely they are not God’s Covenant people, in the sense that visible Christians are. See Lev. xxvi. 42..

If it be said, It was often foretold by the prophets, that in gospel-days other nations should be the people of God, as well as the nation of the Jews: and when Christ sent forth his apostles, he bid them go and disciple all nations.

I answer; By a common figure of speech the prevailing part of a nation are called the nation, and what is done to them is said to be done to the nation, and what is done by them is said to be done by that nation. And it is to be hoped, that the time is coming when the prevailing part of many nations, yea of every nation under heaven, will be regularly brought into the visible church of Christ. If by nations in these prophecies we understand any other than the prevailing part, and it be insisted on that we must understand it of all the people belonging to those nations; there never yet has been any nation in this sense regularly brought into the visible church of Christ, even according to the scheme of those whom I oppose. For there never yet has been a whole nation outwardly moral. And besides, what Mr. Blake says in his Treatise of the Covenant, page 238. may be applied here, and serve as an answer to this objection: “The prophecies of the Old Testament (says he) of the glory of the New-Testament times, are in Old-Testament phrases, by way of allusion to the worship of those times, set forth to us.” In Rev. xxi. 24.. nations are spoken of, as having an interest in the New Jerusalem, which yet is represented as perfectly pure, without the least degree of pollution and defilement, verse 27.. And as for the command to the apostles, to disciple all nations, it was a direction to them as to what they should attempt, not a prediction of what they should bring to pass in their day. For they never brought one-half of any one nation into the visible christian church, nor any at all in one-half of the nations in the world, it is very probable.

If it should be further objected, that it is an evidence that Gentile Christians are visible saints, according to the New-Testament notion of visible saintship, in the very same manner as the whole Jewish nation were till they were broken off by their obstinate rejection of the Messiah; that the Gentile Christians are represented as being grafted into the same olive, from whence the Jews were broken off by unbelief, Rom. xi. 17, &c.

I would inquire, What any one can intend by this objection? Whether it be this, viz. That we ought to insist on no higher or better qualifications, in admitting persons as members of the christian church, and to all its privileges, than the whole Jewish nation in Christ’s time possessed, till they had obstinately persisted in their rejection of him? If this is not intended, the objection is nothing to the purpose: or, if this be intended, neither then is it to the purpose of those with whom I have especially to do in this controversy, who hold orthodoxy, knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of religion, moral sincerity, and a good conversation, to be qualifications, which ought to be insisted on, in order to a visible church-state. For a very great part of those Jews were destitute of these qualifications; many of them were Sadducees, who denied a future state; others of them Herodians, who were occasional conformists with the Romans in their idolatries; the prevailing sect among them were Pharisees, who openly professed the false doctrine of justification by the works of the law and external privileges, that leaven of the Pharisees, which Christ warns his disciples to beware of. Many of them were scandalously ignorant, for their teachers had taken away the key of knowledge. Multitudes were grossly vicious, for it was a generation in which all manner of sin and wickedness prevailed.

I think that text in Rom. xi.. can be understood no otherwise, in any consistence with plain fact, than that the Gentile Christians succeeded the Jews, who had been, either in themselves or ancestors, the children of Abraham, with respect to a visible interest in the covenant of grace, until they were broken off from the church, and ceased to be visible saints by their open and obstinate unbelief. Indeed their ancestors had all been thus broken off from the church of visible saints; for every branch or family of the stock of Jacob had been in the church of visible saints, and each branch withered and failed through unbelief. This was the highest and most important sense, in which any of the Jews were externally the children of Abraham, and implied the greatest privileges. But there was another sense, in which the whole nation, including even those of them who were no visible saints, were his children, which (as has been shown) implied great privileges, wherein christian Gentiles do not succeed them, though they have additional ecclesiastical privileges, vastly beyond the Jews.

Whether I have succeeded, in rightly explaining these matters, or no, yet my failing in it is of no great importance with regard to the strength of the objection, that occasioned my attempting it; which was, that scandalously wicked men among the Jews are called God’s people, &c. The objection, as I observed, is as much against the scheme of those whom I oppose, as against my scheme; and therefore it as much concerns them, to find out some explanation of the matter, that shall show something else is intended by it, than their having the qualifications of visible saints, as it does me; and a failing in such an attempt as much affects and hurts their cause, as it does mine.

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