The Old and the New Testament Dispensations Compared with Respect to the Different Ways in Which the Will of God was Revealed in Each
Hebrews 1:1-3
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…

I THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD COMMUNICATED HIS WILL IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES. This He is said in the text to have done "at sundry time., and in divers manners." The sundry times here spoken of may perhaps refer to the three great eras of the Old Testament history — the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the prophetical ages of the Church. But as This view of the subject, however warrantable in itself, would conduce but little to the elucidation of the subject, namely, the manner in which the will of God was revealed, we shall consider the sundry times here spoken of as referring simply to the gradual and sucessive intimations of God's will, which were given to the fathers, or Old Testament saints, from the time of Adam to the time of Christ. During the whole of that period, though the manners in which He spake were divers, yet there is one common property which belonged to the mode of all His communications, namely, that they were made " by the prophets."

1. Let us, then, briefly glance at the means by which, when the prophets had ascertained the will of God for themselves, they communicated it to the people. The two great means by which the prophets communicated God's will to the people were words and representative acts.

2. But before it could be comunicated by the prophets to the people, it required first of all to be announced to the prophets themselves. And this also God accomplished not only at sundry times, but in divers manners. Sometimes it was effected by an impulse or inspiration of the Spirit upon the mind — "holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" — and sometimes by an audible voice, as it was to Elijah when he stood upon the mount before the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-13). But there was yet another mode of communication between God and His prophets more striking and wonderful. We find frequent instances in the Old Testament history of the appearance of a mysterious visitor from heaven, who talks with His servants face to face. This is to be understood of Christ our own Immanuel, the great Prophet of the Church. It was the eternal " Word," though not then "made flesh," whose voice was heard by the first guilty pair in Eden, in the cool of the day, who appeared to Abraham, and wrestled with Jacob. It was our identical Saviour who, having heard the groaning of His people in Egypt, came down to deliver them, and gave Moses his commission from the midst of the bush. In short, it was He by whom the scheme of salvation has been administered from its commencement, and shall continue to be administered till its close. What a glorious consistency is thus stamped upon the whole scheme of grace!

II. THE MODE IN WHICH GOD IS NOW ADDRESSING US UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT DISPENSATION. God "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." The use of the word "spoken" is here striking and peculiar. It is not said that God hath sent us a message, but that He hath spoken to us. by or in His Son. It seems to contain an allusion to one of Christ's titles — "The Word." Just as a wore spoken or written is an audible or visible representation of invisible thought, so is Christ "the visible image of the invisible God." "No man hath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Farther, He hath declared Him." Now, as we have already seen that there were two ways in which the prophets addressed the people, namely, by words and by representative acts, so there are two ways in which the Son of God addresses us. He speaks to us both by His preaching and by His patience, by what He said and by what He suffered. Is there not a speaking power in the humbleness of His birth, and the stedfastness of His obedience — in His fasting, and watching, and temptation — in His tears, and His agonies, and His cries. As He hung upon the Cross, a spectacle to angels and to men, His latest words, "It is finished," tell of His completed obedience, and the full purchase of eternal salvation to as many as believe. And even after tits body has ceased to breathe, and His heart has cease d to beat, what mean those outstretched arms — those bleeding hands? Do they not tell of the efficacy of His Mediatorship for reconciling sinners to the Holy One?


1. Now it is obvious to remark that the revelation contained in t e Old Testament and that contained in the New have the same author. Both are from God. Nor is there any difference in regard to their substance. Christ is set forth as the object of saving faith in both.

2. Let us now consider wherein they differ.

(1) First, then, there is this obvious difference between them, that the way of salvation is more clearly revealed to us than it was to the fathers. The Old and the New Testament revelations thus resemble the lesser and the greater lights which were made, the one " to rule the night," the other "to rule the day."(2) But, again, the will of God is now revealed more extensively than it was under the ancient economy. Under that economy the written revelation of God's will was confined to the Jews.

(3) Once more, the revelation made to us in the gospel is final, and therefore more enduring than that contained in the Old Testament Scriptures. The revelations which those Scriptures contained, and the economy with which they were more immediately connected, were not intended to be final.

(4) But, finally, the most important distinction of all remains to be noticed. In times past, God spake to the fathers by the prophets, hut He hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son. Not that we are to suppose that m former times God spake to the prophets directly and immediately without the intervention or mediatorship of the Son. We have already seen that it has always been the office of Christ to reveal as well as to purchase salvation for His people. But the grand distinctive difference consists in this — that while formerly the Son of God, in His Divine person, revealed the will of God to the prophets; in these last times, Jesus Christ, Incarnate, hath revealed the will of God to the Church. In conclusion, are there any who, while gratefully alive to the importance of all these distinctions, and joyfully appreciating the pre-eminent privileges now possess-d, yet feel as if all these advantages were counterbalanced by the fact that the Jewish people lived under a theocracy, and that prophets were raised up to address them from time to time, according to the ever-varying exigencies of their condition, while Christ is now gone "to His Father and our Father," and we have no farther revelation to expect, however our circumstances may vary? Now it is most true that the Shekinah is no longer visible, resting upon the mercy-seat, and that He whom the Shekinah represented no longer tabernacles among men. "The heavens haw received Him until the time of the restitution of all things." Yet He has not left His people comfortless. Among His latest words we find the promise recorded, "Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." But the objection keeps out of view the important truth that Christ still "walks among the seven golden candlesticks" — that He sends forth His Spirit to enlighten His people's eyes, and to comfort His people's hearts. Indeed, the objection seems to be anticipated and answered by the very form of expression in the text. "God hath spoken to us by His Son"; as if He had said, You are not dependent merely upon a dead book for counsel and consolation; you have a living teacher, an ever-present guide!

(A. Grierson, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

WEB: God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

The Old and New Covenants One in Christ
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