For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.…
The text tells us plainly that "the law made nothing perfect." Now what are we to understand by this? It is not said that the law did not perfect everything, but that "the law made nothing perfect." Are we, then to say that it was useless? The law in this passage means the dispensation of Moses, and are we at liberty to say that, since it "made nothing perfect," that dispensation was in every point of view utterly useless? But of what is the apostle speaking when he says that "the law made nothing perfect"? Does he mean that it did no good to the Jews? Does he mean that it made no perfect, consistent, definite discoveries to them? This were to make it useless indeed. But the apostle means no such thing; he is speaking of the salvation of the world, and when he speaks of the law as "making nothing perfect," he means to say that, with regard to the spiritual salvation of the world, it made nothing perfect. It did not touch that salvation at all; it did nothing for the spiritual salvation of the Jews; it did nothing for the spiritual salvation of the Gentiles; it could do nothing, it was intended to do nothing, for either. When we speak of the law as making nothing perfect with regard to spiritual salvation, it may be asked whether the Jews then had no salvation revealed to them. We answer that they had, but not in the law of Moses. You are not to take the whole of the Old Testament as belonging to the dispensation of Moses because it was delivered under that dispensation. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many of the prophets often discourse about the spiritual condition and character of the people, but there is nothing of that kind in the law of Moses. Here are discoveries made while the Jewish dispensation yet continued, but they are no part of the ancient economy. We must not receive any portion of the Old Testament which does not belong to the law of Moses as a part of that law. Looking at the subject, then, as leading us to a division between the parts of the Old Testament — the one part including the economy of Moses, the other the instructions of the prophets, of John the Baptist, and of the Saviour Himself — we shall find that the Jews had spiritual discoveries made to them beyond and irrespective of the disco-reties of the law of Moses. The law of Moses was not intended to teach them this spiritual department; it made nothing perfect there, though it made everything perfect within its own province. It provided a perfect division of the tribes; it provided a perfect appropriation of the land; it provided a perfect arrangement for rites and ceremonies; it provided a perfect arrangement for distinguishing between the Jews and Gentiles; it provided a perfect provision for the prevention of idolatry and of the practice of idolatrous rites; it provided, moreover, a perfect system of civil legislation for the management of affairs between man and man among-t the Jewish people. All these arrangements were perfect, and in all these respects instead of making nothing, the law made everything perfect. If its perfect commandment were not obeyed, that did not make them the less perfect in themselves. The imperfection rested in that case with the disobedient. So far as the provisions of the law of Moses were concerned, they came from a perfect God, and they were perfect provisions.
1. In the first place, the Jewish dispensation was temporal, while the Christian is spiritual. Look through the whole of the law of Moses, examine every precept which it contains, and you will not find one enactment connected with spiritual and eternal salvation. Hence with regard to this you see at once that it "made nothing perfect." It was intended to form a nation; it was intended to preserve that nation from mixing with the idolatrous nations of the earth; and hence you will find that all its rites and sacrifices were meant and adapted to remind the people of their transgressions, and to prevent them from going after other lords and other gods; whilst other peculiar provisions of their economy were intended to keep up the middle wall of partition between them and the Gentiles, lest the idolatry of the one should overwhelm the worship of the true God offered by the other. The altar, however, was a national altar; the sacrifices were national sacrifices; they all had reference to present things, to the present world, to the state of the Jewish people in the present world; and there is not, within the whole range of them, one single allusion to the world to come. Hence you will find that the priests and the Levites were instructors of the people, not instructors of the people in their eternal salvation. Prophets were raised up from time to time for this purpose, sometimes from the priesthood and sometimes from the sheepfold; not official characters described by the law of Moses, but characters raised up by Divine Providence to treat of the spiritual and eternal salvation of the people. You see, therefore, how the Jews might receive knowledge of the way of salvation, though they did not receive it through the law of Moses, and yet the law of Moses was necessary to prevent them from being lost amidst the idolatrous nations around them. We have said that the New Testament dispensation is spiritual as contrasted with the old economy, which we have shown you was temporal and worldly. Now, when we come to look at the New Testament dispensation, we not only find that it was spiritual, but we find that it was nothing else. As the economy of Moses was temporal, and temporal only, so the economy of Christ is spiritual, and spiritual only. It sets up no class of men clothed with worldly authority; it gives to no kingdom on earth worldly power. It deals with its disciples as persons having immortal souls that are to be trained by holy consistency in time into meetness for the glory of immortality.
2. The Jewish economy was limited m its extent, while the Christian economy is universal. The Jewish economy, as you are aware, was to be confine! to the Jewish nation. They were to have only one place of sacrifice, and that a place which God should choose. To this place they were to go up three times a year, at least all the males in Israel, to celebrate the feasts; and as there was a prohibition against carrying out the law in any place except Judaea, the one place appointed for that purpose, it is quite clear that the Jewish economy was to be an economy of limited range with regard to territorial extent. It is very true that there might be Gentile proselytes, proselyted to the Jewish economy, and acknowledging the one living and true God, and if they were in Palestine they might, in that part of it which was appointed for that purpose, present their offerings; but it was only in Palestine, and in that one spot which God had chosen, that the Jewish economy could be fully acted upon. Thus it is evident that the Jewish economy was to be of limited extent as to territory. Bat this was not the case with the Christian dispensation. The Christian economy, a, you arc aware, was intended to spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and from the rising to the setting of the sun.
3. The Jewish dispensation was temporary and intended to be temporary, while the Christian is intended to be perpetual. That a dispensation should be confined to one country, and yet be intended to be perpetual, would imply that God had doomed all other countries to everlasting darkness and everlasting alienation. This was far from being His intention. It was His intention to enlarge the range of territory over which His religion should spread; it was His intention to remove and abolish the temporary system by which the territory of true religion had long been limited. The whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews proceeds upon this principle; it shows that the Jewish dispensation was temporary, and the Christian perpetual, in duration; and it contrasts the one with the other. It shows that Aaron and his descendants were priests only for a tithe, but that Christ is a Priest for ever. Looking, then, at the Jewish dispensation as thus contrasted with the Christian economy, the perpetuity of which we need not dwell upon because it is admitted by all, I think we may clearly see the characteristic distinctions between the two. And if we look at one as worldly and the other as spiritual; if we look at one as limited in the range of its observances and the other as universal; if we look at one as temporary in its duration and the other as perpetual, we must see that we have no right at any time to blend the two dispensations of the Word of God; the distinction between them is clear if we will but keep it; and if we lose sight of it, away with ever, thing like sound principles of interpretation in reference to the New Testament. We defy any one to make a correct interpretation of the New Testament if there is to be a blending of the two dispensations.
4. But, finally, to show you that it is of great importance to distinguish between the Old Testament dispensation and the new, and that a serious evil is likely to result from blending them, we have now to notice two steps in the abolition of the ancient economy. The first step is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Saviour expired, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom. This was heaven's own intimation — that heaven's own economy had now passed away. It had done its work; it was required no more; and henceforth any person that would blend it with the new dispensation would be acting against the intimation which God had given of its abolition when He rent the vail of the temple. But there was another step in the abolition of the law of Moses. The Jews did not attend to this intimation. They maintained the perpetuity of the law; they refused to yield. The sacrifices at Jerusalem were still continued. The rites and ceremonies of Moses were still observed. But did this perseverance in keeping up the Jewish dispensation succeed? It was under the hands of God destined for the powerful arms of Titus to do what the Jews refused to do, and those arms scattered their temple, and their altar, and their city, and themselves to the winds of heaven. There was the abolition of ,he Jewish dispensation by an event of Divine providence. The people refused to abolish it themselves, but henceforth it was impossible to observe the law of Moses, because the place which God had chosen was taken by the arms of Rome, and belonged no more to the ancient people of God. How strikingly does this bring the abolition of the Old Testament dispensation before us!
Parallel VersesKJV: For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.