PART I. EVIDENCES OF REVEALED RELIGION.
CHAPTER VIII. INSEPARABLE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Although the great central truth of redemption, that "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," and that we have in the New Testament a true record of this mission, rests, as has been shown, upon an immovable foundation, we have as yet seen the argument in only half its strength. Not until we consider the advent of Christ in connection with the bright train of revelations that preceded and prepared the way for his coming, do we see it in its full glory, or comprehend the amount of divine testimony by which it is certified to us. We have already seen, chap.5.1, how the events recorded in the Acts of the Apostles follow, as a natural sequel, from the truth of the gospel history; how, if we admit the former, we ought, for very consistency, to admit the latter also, since the two cling together as inseparable parts of one great plan. It is now proposed to look backward from the Saviour's advent to the preceding series of revelations, and show how naturally in the plan of God they preceded that great event, and how inseparably they were connected with it as parts of one great whole.
1. The supernatural mission of Christ furnishes, in and of itself, a very strong presumption in favor of previous supernatural revelations. That such a mighty event as this should have burst upon the world abruptly, without any previous preparation, is contrary to the whole order of providence as well as of nature, which is, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." And since the advent of Christ was miraculous in the fullest sense of the term, why should not the way for it have been prepared by miraculous revelations as well as by providential movements? The natural sun does not emerge suddenly from the darkness of night: his approach is preceded by the day-star and the dawn. So were the revelations which God made to men from Adam to Malachi, with the mighty movements of his providence that accompanied them, the day-star and the dawn that ushered in upon the world the glorious sun of righteousness.
2. We have the great fact that the Jewish people, among whom our Lord appeared, and from among whom he chose the primitive preachers of the gospel, possessed a firm and deeply-rooted belief in the unity of God and his infinite perfections. That such a belief was a necessary foundation for the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, all of which are underlaid by that of trinity in unity, is self-evident. Now, this belief was peculiar to the Jews, as contrasted with other nations; and it was held, moreover, not simply by a few philosophers and learned men among them, but by the mass of the people. No other example of a whole nation receiving and holding firmly this fundamental doctrine of religion existed then, or had ever existed; and no adequate explanation of this great fact has ever been given, except that contained in the revelation of God to this people recorded in the Old Testament. It was not by chance, but in accordance with the eternal plan of redemption, that the Messiah appeared where as well as when he did; not in Egypt in the days of Pharaoh, nor in Nineveh, or Babylon, or Greece, or Rome; but among the Jewish people, when now "the fulness of time was come."
3. The impossibility of any attempt to dissever the revelations of the Old Testament from those of the New appears most clearly when we consider the explicit declarations of our Saviour, and after him the apostles, on this point. If we know any thing whatever concerning the doctrines of our Lord Jesus, we know that he constantly taught his disciples that he had come in accordance with the prophecies of the Old Testament. If there were found in his discourses only one or two remote allusions to these prophecies, there would be more show of reason in the favorite hypothesis of rationalists, that the disciples misapprehended their Lord's meaning. But his teachings are so numerous and explicit on this point that, even aside from the inspiration of the writers, such an explanation is not to be thought of for a moment. It was with two of them a matter of personal knowledge that "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself," Luke 24:27; and with all of them that he said, after his resurrection, in reference to his past teachings: "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me." Luke 24:44. That in Christ were fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, appears in every variety of form in the gospel narratives. It constituted, so to speak, the warp into which the Saviour wove his web of daily instruction. Now if a single thread, unlike all the rest in substance and color, had found its way into this warp, we might, perhaps, regard it as foreign and accidental; but to dissever from our Lord's words all his references to the prophecies concerning himself in the Old Testament, would be to take out of the web all the threads of the warp, and then the web itself would be gone. No unbiased reader ever did, or ever could gain from the words of Christ and his apostles any other idea than that Jesus of Nazareth came in accordance with a bright train of supernatural revelations going before and preparing the way for his advent. This idea is so incorporated into the very substance of the New Testament that it must stand or fall with it.
4. Having contemplated the indivisible nature of revelation from the position of the New Testament, we are now prepared to go back and look at it from the platform of the Old Testament. We shall find this thickly sown with those great principles which underlie the plan of redemption, and bind it together as one glorious whole.
First of all, we have in the narrative of Adam's fall and the consequences thence proceeding to the race, the substratum, so to speak, on which the plan of redemption is built. From this we learn that alienation from God and wickedness is not the original condition of the race. Man was made upright and placed in communion with God. From that condition he fell, in the manner recorded in the Old Testament; and to restore him, through Christ, to his primitive state is the work which the gospel proposes to accomplish. The great historic event of redemption is that "the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil;" and these are the very works described in the narrative now under consideration, namely, the seduction of man from his allegiance to God, with the misery and death that followed. The primitive history of man's apostacy contains, then, the very key to the plan of redemption. So it is plainly regarded by the apostle Paul. He builds upon it arguments relating not to the outworks of redemption, but to its inward nature. He makes the universality of man's fallen condition through the sin of Adam the platform on which is built the universality of the provisions of salvation through Christ. "As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Rom.5:18, 19. "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1:Cor.15:21, 22. How could the original transaction of the fall, through the wiles of the devil, and the manifestation of God's Son to destroy the works of the devil, be more indissolubly bound together as parts of one great whole than in these words of an inspired apostle?
Secondly, the Abrahamic covenant connects itself immediately with the mission and work of Christ. It was made with Abraham, not for himself and his posterity alone, but for all mankind: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Gen.22:18. And if the Abrahamic covenant had respect to the whole human family, the same must be true of the Mosaic economy in its ultimate design; since this did not abrogate the covenant made with Abraham, as the apostle Paul expressly shows, Gal.3:17, but rather came in as subordinate to it, and with a view of preparing the way for the accomplishment of its rich provisions of mercy for "all families of the earth." The Mosaic economy was then a partial subservient to a universal dispensation.
The Abrahamic covenant was also purely spiritual in its character, the condition of its blessings being nothing else than faith. The apostle Paul urges the fact that this covenant was made with Abraham before his circumcision, lest any should say that it was conditioned wholly or in part upon a carnal ordinance: "He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised." Rom.4:11. The seal of circumcision, then, did not make the covenant valid, for the covenant existed many years before the rite of circumcision was instituted. Faith was the only condition of Abraham's justification. "He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness." Gen.15:6.
And if we look at the promise contained in the Abrahamic covenant, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed," we find it to be the very substance of the gospel, as the apostle Paul says: "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Gal.3:8. The incarnation and work of Christ are, according to the uniform representation of the New Testament, nothing else but the carrying out of the covenant made with Abraham, for this covenant was made for all mankind, was purely spiritual, being conditioned on faith alone, and its substance is Christ, in whom all nations are blessed.
And while God has thus indissolubly linked to the incarnation of his Son this high transaction with Abraham, we see how he has at the same time connected it with the first promise made in Eden, and thus with the fall of man through the subtilty of Satan. The promise in Eden is that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. The promise to Abraham is that in his seed, which is also the seed of the woman, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Now it is by the bruising of the serpent's head, or, in New Testament language, by destroying the works of the devil, that Abraham's seed blesses all the families of the earth. The two promises, then, are in their inmost nature one and the same, and their fulfilment constitutes the work of Christ.
Thirdly, the end of the Mosaic economy is Christ. Its general scope is thus briefly summed up by Paul: "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Gal.3:25. But not to insist on this, let us contemplate its three great institutions—the prophetic, the kingly, and the priestly order.
The mode of communication which God employed on Sinai the people could not endure, and they besought him, through Moses, that it might be discontinued: "Speak them with us," they said, "and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." Ex.20:19. Of this request God approved, and promised: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee." Deut.18:18. The point of special emphasis is, that the great Prophet here promised, who is Christ, should be one of their brethren, as Moses was. His personal advent was for many ages delayed; but in the meantime his office was foreshadowed by the prophetical order in Israel, consisting of men sent by God to address their brethren. Thus the old dispensation and the new are linked together by the great fundamental principle—that God should address man through man—which runs through both. The whole series of Old Testament prophecies, moreover, point to Christ as their end and fulfilment; "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev.19:10.
The kingly office of the Old Testament connects itself with that of Christ in a special way. Not only did the headship given to David and his successors over the covenant people of God adumbrate the higher headship of Christ, but David had from God the promise: "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever." 2:Sam.7:16. This promise is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, "the seed of David according to the flesh," according to the express declaration of the New Testament: "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:32, 33.
The priestly office, with the blood of the sacrifices connected with it, prefigured Christ, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." By the stream of sacrificial blood that flowed for so many ages was set forth that great fundamental truth of redemption, that "without shedding of blood is no remission." Heb.9:22. The sacrifices of the Mosaic law were continually repeated, because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Heb.10:4. But when Christ had offered his own blood on Calvary for the sins of the world, the typical sacrifices of the law ceased for ever, having been fulfilled in the great Antitype, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." Ephes.1:7.
5. Since the Old Testament and the New are thus inseparably connected as parts of one grand system of revelation, of which the end is Christ, it follows that the later revelations of the New Testament are the true interpreters of the earlier, which are contained in the Old. This is only saying that the Holy Ghost is the true and proper expositor of his own communications to man. From the interpretations of Christ and his apostles, fairly ascertained, there is no appeal. And they are fairly ascertained when we have learned in what sense they must have been understood by their hearers. All expositions of the Old Testament that set aside, either openly or in a covert way, the supreme authority of Christ and his apostles, are false, and only lead men away from the truth as it is in Jesus.