Hebrews 8:8
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry's etc. In these words the writer states in brief what he at once proceeds to illustrate and establish at considerable length, from this point on to Hebrews 10:18. We may perhaps with advantage take a general glance at these three better things, leaving their particular examination until summoned to it by the development of the Epistle.

I. THE BETTER MINISTRY. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry" than the high priests of the Jewish Church. The proposition of the text is that our Lord's ministry is as much better than theirs as the new covenant is better than the old, and the new covenant is better than the old because it has been enacted upon better promises. His ministry is that of our great High Priest, or, in the word used in the text, our Mediator. Let us mention a few particulars in which this ministry of his is more excellent than that of the Jewish high priests.

1. Because it is exercised in a higher sphere. They ministered in the material tabernacle and temple, and for a brief season once a year were permitted to enter the holy of holies where God manifested his presence by a symbol; but these were only copies and shadows of the heavenly realities. Our Savior is a Minister of the heavenly" sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." He "appears before the face of God for us."

2. Because it extends to greater numbers. The ministry of the Jewish high priests was exercised for the Jews only. It was limited to their own race, and to the proselytes to their religion. But the ministry of Jesus Christ is for all mankind. He "tasted death for every man." He is the "Mediator between God and men" of every nationality, and every race, and every age, etc.

3. Because it is enduring. The ministry of individual Jewish high priests ended at their death, if not before; and that ministry as an institution waxed old and vanished away. But the ministry of our great High Priest is of perpetual vitality and efficacy. His mediation will never be superseded, never lose its attractiveness and glory, until man is fitted to approach God without a mediator.

4. Because it secures richer results. These results, or some of them at least, are referred to in the "better promises." The results of the ministry of the Aaronic priesthood, like its functions, were to a great extent symbolic and shadowy rather than essential and real. But through the ministry of the Christ we obtain real benefits and essential blessings: e.g. reconciliation with God, forgiveness, etc.

II. THE BETTER COVENANT. "He is the Mediator of a better covenant." But what are we to understand by the word "covenant"? As used in human relations it denotes a compact or agreement between two or more parties, who are equal, each of whom has the right to propose alterations in the terms of the compact, and to accept or reject such terms. In this sense there can be no covenant between God and man; for there is no equality between the parties, and man cannot reject any requirement of God without committing sin. Perhaps it is for this reason that the word which strictly signifies covenant is not used in the New Testament. But as applied to God and man the "covenant denotes his method of revealing himself to men, and his will concerning their salvation, his arrangement of agencies and means and conditions by which they may be saved. The word 'covenant' becomes appropriate in view of the solemn assent and consent with which man accepts God's proposal, involved in his scheme or plan. In this context the 'old covenant' is the scheme revealed to Israel under Moses; the 'new' is the gospel scheme involving the gift and work of both the Son and the Spirit of God." The old covenant was good, as our text implies. It originated in the grace of God. It involved on his part condescension towards man. It was designed and fitted to benefit and bless and save man. It promised life and blessing to those who complied with its terms; and its promises were true. But the new covenant is very much better than the old. This will appear when we come to notice the "better promises." At present we mention only two aspects of its superiority.

1. It presents a more spiritual revelation of the character and will of God. Under the old covenant nearly everything was expressed by means of material forms and symbols - nearly everything appealed to the senses. Its laws, its ritual, its promised blessings, pertained largely to the visible, the sensuous, and the temporal. It was a revelation suited to the childhood and youth of our race. But the new covenant gives us a more spiritual manifestation of the Divine mind and will; it is a revelation for the manhood of our race. It proclaims the spirituality of God and of his worship. It writes the Divine law upon men's hearts. It promises spiritual blessings.

2. It is a fuller expression of the grace of God. (Cf. John 1:14-18; Romans 3:24; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:14.) The next division of our subject will show us that there is more of Divine grace manifested in the new than in the old covenant.

III. THE BETTER PROMISES. "A better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises." The promises which the writer has chiefly in view are those mentioned in vers. 10-12. Let us mention some of these better promises of the new covenant.

1. It proffers strength to comply with its own conditions. The old covenant promised blessings to the obedient; the new promises blessings to enable us to render obedience. The Holy Spirit is promised to incline our hearts to the good, to strengthen us for duty, etc.

2. Justification for the sinner on condition of faith in Jesus Christ. (Cf. Romans 3:20-26; Romans 10:5-10; Galatians 3:10-14.)

3. Sanctification of the believer by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. John 14:16-18, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15; Romans 15:13, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18.) 4. Glorification of his people forever in the future state. (Cf. Romans 8:17, 18, 30; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 5:10.) Verily, these are better promises than those of the old covenant. And the covenant to which they belong is far better than the old one. By so much, also, is our Lord's ministry better than that of the Aaronic high priests. Let us give earnest heed to secure our personal interest in this new and "better covenant." - W.J.







Finding fault with them.
I. GOD HATH OFTTIMES JUST CAUSE TO COMPLAIN OF HIS PEOPLE WHEN YET HE WILL NOT UTTERLY CAST THEM OFF.

II. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH TO TAKE DEEP NOTICE OF GOD'S COMPLAINTS OF THEM. Want hereof is that which hath laid most churches in the world under a fatal security. Hence they carry themselves as though they were "rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing," when indeed "they are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." To consider what God blames, and to affect our souls with a sense of guilt, is that trembling at His word which He so approves of. And to guide them herein they ought carefully to consider —

1. The times and seasons that are passing over them. For in a due observance of the times and seasons, and an application of ourselves to the duties of them, consists that testimony which we are to give to God and the gospel in our generation. That Church which considers not its especial duty in the days wherein we live is fast asleep, and it may be doubted whether, when it is awaked, it will find oil in its vessel or not.

2. The temptations which are prevalent, and which unavoidably we are exposed unto. Every age and time hath its especial temptations. And it is the will of God that the Church should be exercised with them and by them; and it were easy to manifest that the darkness and ignorance of men, in not discerning the especial temptations of the age wherein they have lived, or neglecting of them, have been always the great causes and means of the apostasy the Church.

III. GOD OFTEN SURPRISETH THE CHURCH WITH PROMISES OF GRACE AND MERCY (Isaiah 7:13, 14; Isaiah 43:22-25). And this He will do —

1. That He may glorify the riches and freedom of His grace.

2. That none who have the least remainder of sincerity, and desire to fear the name of God, may utterly faint and despond at any time, under the greatest confluence of discouragements.

(John Owen, D. D.)

I. GOD'S COVENANT WITH MAN INSTRUCTETH US IN TWO ESPECIAL POINTS.

1. In God's condescension to man.

2. In the sure prop that man hath to rest on God for happiness.

1. God's condescension to man is manifested four ways.(1) In that God being the most high supreme Sovereign over all. vouchsageth to enter into covenant with His servants.(2) In that God being a Lord hath power to command what He pleaseth, so as He need not covenant or capitulate with them, saying, Do this and I will do that; yet doth He enter into covenant.(3) In that being mot free, and wholly depending upon Himself, He need not bind Himself to any (Job 9:12; Job 34:19; Daniel 4:35), yet by covenant He binds Himself to man.(4) In that God being the Lord God of truth (Psalm 30:5) He binds Himself to perform His promise, as if there might be some tear of His failing therein (Hebrews 6:17, 18).

2. The sure prop that man hath to rest of God for happiness by reason of His covenant is manifested two ways.(1) In that God who is good and doeth good (Psalm 119:68) doth covenant to make man happy. God is as a deep, full, open, overflowing, everdowing fountain, so as that might seem sufficient to make us go to Him for everything that may tend to blessedness. But the covenant which God maketh to bring us unto happiness doth much more embolden us to go to Him, and make us confident of receiving from Him what He hath covenanted to give.(2) By covenant God hath caused a special relation to pass betwixt Him and us. He and we are confederates. This is a sure prop. As God is faithful in Himself, so His covenant is most sure. It is a covenant of salt for ever (Numbers 18:19). Go ,'s confederates may thereupon have strong consolation and confidence (Deuteronomy 7:9; Hebrews 6:18).

II. THE COVENANT OF GOD WITH MAN DOTH DIRECT US IN FOUR SPECIAL POINTS.

1. To know what God expects of us; namely, whatsoever is in the covenant to be performed on our part, which we must be careful to observe as we do desire to receive any benefit from the covenant.

2. To understand what we may expect from God; namely, whatsoever on God's part is covenanted.

3. To acquaint ourselves with the covenant of God, that thereby we may know what privileges and blessings belong unto us. A wise heir will search after such evidences as give him a right to his lands and goods.

4. To be careful in observing our own undertakings, and as conscionable in performing the covenant on our part, as we are desirous to partake of the benefit of the covenant on God's part. This is laid down as a ground of Levi's blessing, theft they kept God's covenant (Deuteronomy 33:9). This God expressly requireth (Exodus 19:5). We cannot expect that God should keep covenant with us unless we he careful to keep covenant with Him (Psalm 25:10). Great is that loss which followeth upon breach of covenant, yet that is not all, God's wrath and vengeance will also follow thereupon. Sole vengeance hath been executed on breach of covenant with man (2 Kings 17:4, &c.; Ezekiel 17:15). How much sorer vengeance may be feared on breach of covenant with God (Jeremiah 22:6, 9; Jeremiah 34:18-20; Hosea 8:1; 1 Kings 11:11).

(W. Gouge.)

New, as contrasted with old, means in Scripture that which is perfect and abiding. The old vanishes, the new remains. God gives us a new heart that we may love and praise Him for ever. The old covenant was temporary and imperfect. God findeth fault with it; for although the law was holy, just, and good, yet by reason of Israel's sin neither righteousness nor life could come through it. And as the purposes of Divine love could not be attained by the old covenant, so the character of God, as the God of grace, could not be fully revealed therein. Hence the promise of a new covenant, which in itself proves the imperfection and insufficiency of the old; and this new covenant is represented as a contrast, unlike the old; it is new, that is, perfect, everlasting. God is pleased with it because it shows forth the glory of Jehovah as the God of salvation. How great is the contrast between the old and the new covenant! In the one God demands of sinful man: "Thou shalt." In the other God promises: "I will." The one is conditional; the other is the manifestation of God's free grace, and of God's unlimited power. In the one the promise is neutralised by the disobedience of man; in the other all the promises of God are yea in Christ, and amen in Christ. In the new covenant Christ is all; He is the Alpha and Omega: all things are of God, and all things are sure and steadfast. The blessings of the new covenant are all based upon the forgiveness of sin. God promises to put His laws into our minds, and write them in our hearts, and to be to us a God, because He is merciful to our unrighteousness, and will remember our sins and iniquities no more. The forgiveness of sin is not merely the beginning, but it is the foundation, the source; it is, so to say, the mother of all Divine blessings. For so long as sin is upon the conscience, arid man is not able to draw near unto God, he is separated from the only source of life and blessedness. In the forgiveness of sin God gives Himself, and all things that pertain to life and godliness. To know God is the sum and substance of all blessings, both in this life and in that which is to come. Now, although the law manifests to a certain extent the holiness and truth, the justice and unchangeableness, the goodness and bounty of God, the law does not reveal God Himself, the depth of His sovereign and eternal love, the purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world was laid. When in Christ we receive the forgiveness of sin, we behold God. Here is also the source and the commencement, the root and strength of our love to God. "We love Him, because He first loved us." We eve much, because much is forgiven unto us. The new obedience, the spiritual worship, the fight and victory of faith, the knowledge and fear and love of God, have their starting-point in the pardon of sin. And this is the new covenant blessing. True, the servants of God always knew this blessing. Of the Divine righteousness both the law and the prophets testify. David describeth this blessedness. The sacrifices typified, faith looked forward to the great atonement. But now that Christ has come, and that He died once for all, we receive forgiveness in a full and perfect manner: there is no more remembrance of sins; no repetition of sacrifice is needed; no yearly recurrence of the day of atonement; in Christ we have redemption in His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. It is in giving this perfect pardon that God renews the heart, and writes in it His laws. We must needs contrast law and gospel. Yet let us not forget that the law from the very outset showed its temporary and negative character, pointed beyond and away from itself; sighed, as it were, after Him, who by fulfilling would take it away, and by taking it away would fulfil it in us, raise us to the still greater height of the new love! All spiritual life flows from Jesus as our Saviour. When we believe in Jesus we are not in the flesh but in the Sprit. His precious blood is not merely our peace, but our strength; and our strength because it is our peace. Justification and sanctification emanate from this one source. When Israel is brought in repentance and faith to the Lord, then shall be fulfilled the gracious purpose of God, which under the law was frustrated through Israel's sin and disobedience. Although God was a husband unto them, they brake His covenant. But now, forgiven and renewed, Israel will be in actual reality, and not merely in position, God's people, and Jehovah will be their God. And because He is God to them, source of light and life, they are His people. Not merely chosen and appointed; not merely called and treated collectively as God's people; but in reality, according to truth, according to their individual character and experience, the people in whom God's name is revealed, who show forth His praise, who walk m His ways and obey His will. For then each one individually shall know the Lord. "God is known in Judah," said the Psalmist. In their marvelous history, in the Divine messages sent by Moses and the prophets, in the types and ordinances, in the Judges and Kings, God had revealed unto His people His name. His character and will, and His great desire was that they should know Him. How touching is the complaint of Jehovah, that after all the signs which they had seen, and after all His mighty works of redeeming and guiding love, a d after all the words of light and of grace which He had sent them, His people did not know Him f So long had He been with them, and, erring in their hearts, they did not know His ways! What could be more grievous to the fatherly heart of God, yearning to be known, trusted, and loved? But when the Holy Ghost shall be poured out upon them they shall all know Jehovah, from the least to the greatest; though one shall encourage and exhort the other, yet they shall not need to tea h and to say to their neighbour, Know the Lord. In the Church this promise is already fulfilled. From Jesus, the anointed, all Christians receive the Holy Ghost; they have, according to their name, the unction from above. Hence. they possess the teacher who guides into all truth. Knowledge is within them. There is within them a well of living water. They are not dependent on external instruction. There is given unto them the Paraclete, who always reveals the things that are freely given unto us of God. The spiritual man knows all things — all the things of the Spirit, all that pertains to life and godliness. True, he does not know all things actually, or in any given moment; but he knows them potentially. There is within him the light which can see, the mind which can receive all truth.

(A. Saphir.)

The covenants of works and grace do differ in the particulars following.

1. In the different consideration of the Author of the one and the other, which are in the first God's supreme sovereignty, and in the latter His rich mercy.

2. In the procuring cause of them, which was of the former God's mere will and pleasure, of the latter pity and compassion.

3. In the manner of making the one and the other. The former was without a mediator; the latter with one

4. In the time: the former was made before man had sinned; the latter after his transgression.

5. In the occasion of making the one and the other. The occasion of the former was to try man's faithfulness in that integrity wherein God made him. The occasion of the latter was to show the necessity of man's continual dependence on God.

6. In the confederates or parties with whom the one and the other was made. The former was made with all mankind; the latter with the elect only.

7. In the particular good that was promised. In the former a reward was promised upon fulfilling the condition by man himself (Romans 10:15). In the latter was afforded —

(1)A Surety for man (chap. 7:22).

(2)Ability to do what God would accept (Ezekiel 36:27).

(3)A better reward in man's communion with Christ (John 14:3; John 17:23, 24).

8. In the duties required by the one and the other. Perfect obedience was required by the former; faith and repentance by the latter.

9. In the order of God's accepting. In the former God accepted the person for the work; which is thus expressed, "If thou do well, shalt thou not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:7). In the latter the work is accepted in reference to the person.

10. In the ratification. The former was ratified by word, promise, and seals. The letter was further ratified by oath (Hebrews 7:20) and blood (Hebrews 9:16, 171.

11. In the issue of the one and the o her. The former was violable. It might be forfeited, and was forfeited. The latter is inviolable and shall never be broken (Jeremiah 33:20, 21).

12. In the matter of the one and the other. These two covenants do so far differ in the very matter and substance of them as they can no more stand together' than the ark of God and Dagon (1 Samuel 5:3, 4). The apostle doth so far oppose works and grace in the case of justification and salvation as they cannot stand together (Romans 11:6). This difference betwixt the covenant of works and grace giveth evidence of God's wisdom in working by contraries and bringing light out of darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6) and good out of evil, as He brought "meat out of the eater" (Judges 4:14). For man's sin and misery that fell thereupon caused this better covenant. This is an especial instance to prove that "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28).

(W. Gouge.)

The covenant of grace hath continued from Adam's fall, and shall continue to the end of the world. In this respect it is styled an everlasting covenant. But it hath been variously dispensed in the several ages of the world. The greatest difference in the dispensation thereof hath been manifested in the times float passed before and since Christ was exhibited. This difference is so great, as the covenant of grace, though always one and the same in substance, hath been distinguished into an old and new covenant (ver. 13). The latitude of the covenant of grace wilt more clearly be discerned if we duly consider the agreement and difference, as it is called old and new. The agreement is manifested —

1. In their Author, and that considered in the same respect: namely, as He is our Creator and Lord, and as He is our Redeemer and Father, for so was God of old called and acknowledged (Deuteronomy 32:6).

2. In the procuring cause, which was the bee grace and rich mercy of God (Luke 1:54, 55, 72, 78).

3. In the same ground and meritorious cause of both, which is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 13:8).

4. In the same promises, which are remission of sins, reconciliation with God, and everlasting happiness (Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 8:15; Psalm 91:16).

5. In the same duties required, which are faith (Genesis 15:6) and repentance (Ezekiel 33:11).

6. In the same ground of stability, which is the continual abode and operation of the Spirit in God's confederates (Psalm 51:11, 12).

7. In the same general end, which is the praise of the free grace of God (Exodus 33:18, 19; Exodus 34:6).

8. In the same persons with whom the covenants are made, which are sinners by nature but elect of God (Psalm 33:12; Psalm 89:3).

9. In the same word of faith, whereby the one and other covenant is revealed (Galatians 3:8; Hebrews 4:2).

10. In the same substance of sacraments and the same spiritual food (1 Corinthians 10:3, 4).

(W. Gouge.)

: — The difference betwixt the old and new covenant is —

1. In the time. The old was before Christ, the new since (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

2. In the manner of delivering. The old was more obscurely delivered under types and prophecies, the new more clearly (2 Corinthians 3:13, 14).

3. In the extent. The old was restrained to a select people (Psalm 147:19, 20); the new is extended to all nations (Matthew 28:19).

4. In the mediator. Moses, a mere man, was made the mediator of the old (Galatians 3:19); but Jesus Christ, God-man, the Mediator of the new (ver. 6).

5. In the ratification. The old was ratified by the blood of beasts (Exodus 24:8); the new by the blood of the Son of God (Hebrews 9:12).

6. In the efficacy. The old comparatively was a ministration of death, thee new a ministration of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8).

7. In the kind of confederates. Under the old God's confederates were in their non-age, as children under tutors and governors (Galatians 4:5, 7).

8. In the kind of seals or sacraments. Under the old they were more in number, more various in rites, more difficult, more obscure, more earthly. By comparing the sacraments of the one and the other together, this will evidently appear.

9. In the manner of setting forth the promise of God. In the old it was set forth more meanly under temporal blessings (Deuteronomy 28:2); under the new, more directly under spiritual and celestial blessings (Matthew 5:3, &c.).

10. In the yoke that is laid o, the confederates by the one and the other. By the old heavy yoke was laid (Acts 15:10); by the new, an easy and light yoke (Matthew 11:30). So great a difference there is betwixt the new covenant and all other covenants, as it is styled a better covenant.

(W. Gouge.)

The new covenant deals with the same fundamental conceptions which dominated the former one. These are the moral law, knowledge of God, and forgiveness of sin. So far the two dispensations are one. Because these great conceptions lie at the root of all human goodness, religion is essentially the same thing under both covenants. There is a sense in which St. was right in speaking of the saints under the Old Testament as "Christians before Christ." Judaism and Christianity stand shoulder to shoulder over against the religious ideas and practices of all the heathen nations of the world. But in Judaism these sublime conceptions are undeveloped. Nationalism dwarfs their growth. They are like seeds falling on the thorns, and the thorns grow up and choke them. God, therefore, spoke unto the Jews in parables, in types and shadows. Seeing, they saw not; and hearing, they heard not, neither did they understand. Because the former covenant was a national one, the conceptions of the moral law, of God, of sin and its forgiveness, would be narrow and external. The moral law would be embedded in the national code. God would be revealed in the history of the nation. Sin would consist either in faults of ignorance and inadvertence or in national apostasy from the theocratic king. In these three respects the new covenant excels — in respect, that is, of the moral law, knowledge of God, and forgiveness of sin, which y t may be justly regarded as the three sides of the revelation given under the former covenant.

(T. C. Edwards, D. D.)

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