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In book iii. ch. iii. sect. 3 and 4, he says : “ The promise of the common salvation which is in Christ, whether formerly made to the fathers, or to us at this day, does not belong to the Old and New Testament, as such; but absolutely to the testament or covenant of grace.
Witsius also, in common with all who treat it in this way, uses testament” and “ covenant”
as synonymous; but in so doing, he is guilty of the sophism of interchanging the words testament and covenant as the argument requires, and thereby making the alone covenant the new covenant, because it is the NewTestament administration of the only covenant revealed. What follows, is precisely the view I take of the covenants and testaments, if I may be allowed to preserve the distinction between the two words :
“ The difference of the testaments consists in the different manner of proposing and dispensing the same saving grace, and in some different adjuncts and circumstances. Whatever was typical in that dispensation, and denoted imperfection, and an acknowledgment that the RANSOM was not yet paid, belongs to the Old Testament: whatever shews that the redemption is actually wrought out, is peculiar to the New Testament." Without adverting to this, it is not possible we can have a distinct knowledge of the nature of both testaments.
“ But let us insist a little further on this point, if possibly we may advance what may set the truth in a clear light. Three things are to be distinguished: The TESTAMENT of grace (or rather, as I should say, the covenant], the old, and new testaments. To each its own inheritance is to be assigned : that of the testament (covenant] of grace is eternal salvation, with every thing belonging to it, through Jesus Christ; which is equally common to believers in all ages. The old and new testaments, being different economies of this one testament (covenant] of grace, which they comprise, suppose also, and include the same heavenly inheritance."- Witsius on the Covenants.
“'The Old Testament was pure Gospel promising Christ, as the New Testament is pure Gospel performing and exhibiting Christ. The time of the Old Testament, was a time of signifying Christ; the time of the New, was a time of manifesting Christ.”- Roberts, p. 987.
Roberts quotes from Clemens Alexandrinus, as follows: “The saving testament or covenant is but one, from the beginning of the world ; although in the manner of giving it may seem diverse. For substance, the Old and New Testaments are but one, confirmed by the death of one and the same Testator : for manner of administration, they are two; the Old promising the Testator in the types, the other performing him in the truth. In the Old Testament the New is veiled : in the New Testament
the Old is revealed. And Lactantius saith, they are not diverse, because the New is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both is the same Testator Christ.”— Roberts, Mystery, &c.
This sufficiently establishes our now being under the covenant of imputed righteousness, as confirmed in the New-Testament dispensation.
The other ordinary method of treating the covenants is more dangerous and reprehensible; as, in consequence of universally rendering diatheké by covenant, great violence is done to that passage of Scripture, Heb. ix. 15–17, where the Holy Ghost defines most exactly the nature of a testament.
I will, in the first place, instance Dr. Doddridge on Heb. ix. 16:“"For where a covenant (is),' answerable to that which typified this of which I now speak, 'it necessarily imports the death of that by which the covenant is confirmed.' For you know that sacrificial rites have ever attended the most celebrated covenants which God hath made with men: so that I may say, ' a covenant (is) confirmed over the dead;' so that it does not avail, nor has any force at all, while he by whom it is confirmed liveth.” Doddridge adds this note :
"• By which the covenant is confirmed.' Mr. Pierce would render it, of that sacrifice which is appointed by God to pacify. And he brings a remarkable instance from Appian, where diathemenon signifies a pacifier. He saith, The scope of the writer requires that it should be so translated here; and accordingly in the next verse he renders it, “the pacifier can do nothing as long as he liveth.' But I think if it be rendered, He by whom it is confirmed,' the argument will be clearer. Yet I confess considerable difficulties attend both these interpretations; though the connection with what follows appears easier upon that which I have given. The reader will do well if he consult Dr. Whitby upon this passage ; who assigns and vindicates an interpretation much the same with that which is proposed in this version and paraphrase. The phrase which I have rendered ' necessarily imports,' is very strong. The death must be produced ; it must not only be effected, but also made apparent. Elsner hath shewn (Observ. vol. i. p. 361) that the word is used in a forensic sense for what is produced and proved, or made apparent in a court of judicature.”-Doddridge's Expos. vol. vi. 65.
Dr. Whitby quotes from Mr. Le Clerc as follows:
“ This discourse is to be looked upon merely as the play of an Hellenistic writer, who, because he saw that diatheké was used for that covenant whereof Christ is the Mediator, and signified also a testament, and Christ was dead, thence deduced consectaries, which are true indeed considered in themselves, but here rely upon weak principles; rather to set off his discourse
according to the custom of that age, than to convert the Jews to the faith by the power of reasoning."
After most justly reprehending these pernicious sentiments, which Dr. Whitby does at considerable length, he renders the 16th and 17th verses by what appear to me the veriest truisms :
“ For where there is a covenant made by death, or ratified by the blood of him that makes it, there of necessity must intervene the death of him that makes the covenant or promise. For a covenant (of this nature) is only firm in the death of them who make it: as other covenants were ratified by the death of the sacrifices used at the making of them, it is of no force while the maker of the covenant lives.”—Dr. Whitby, in loco.
Nearly the same rendering is followed in Bagster's Polyglott: “ For where a covenant is, there must necessarily be the death of that by which it is confirmed; for a covenant is confirmed over dead (victims), and does not avail while that by which it is confirmed liveth."--Bagster's Polyglott.
Scott gives two glosses, which I will insert, because they shew the difficulty there is attached to either of the common methods, and also because they display a lowliness of mind so desirable to imitate.
He says, on Heb. ix. 15–17: “ Christ was appointed to be mediator of the new covenant'.... in order by means of his death to atone.....for the transgressions committed by believers under the old covenant, or legal dispensation.....who were made partakers of the spiritual and eternal blessings, through the anticipated efficacy of Christ's redemption. Yet that grace was finally confirmed to them by his death ; so, in this respect, the covenant he mediated might also be considered as a testament..... Thus the passage has generally been interpreted. But this is the only place in which the original word (diatheké) is expressly used in Scripture for a testament, or the will of a dying person. The change of the meaning, also, from covenant to testament, seems unprecedented. The mediator of a testament, the blood of a testament, are expressions to which it is difficult to annex any precise ideas; and the Sinai covenant can hardly in any sense be called a testament. Several modern expositors have therefore endeavoured to establish another interpretation.
“For this reason, of the new covenant he is the Mediator or High Priest *, by whom its blessings are dispensed ; and also the sacrifice, by which it is procured and ratified; that, his death being accomplished for obtaining the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant, believers of all ages and nations, as the called seed of Abraham, may receive the promised eternal in
The opposition of Mediator is between Moses and Christ, and therefore it cannot be as High Priest.