The New Covenant
by William Nicholson, 1862
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people!" Jeremiah 31:33
The context contains important predictions respecting the people of God in Gospel times.
Great prosperity, verse 27. They shall multiply like a field sown with corn.
God will build them and plant them, verse 28.
God will renew his covenant with them. Its glorious properties and holy effects are here foretold, in contradistinction from the law of Moses. God had made a covenant with Israel, of which Moses was the Mediator; but that did not secure the obedience of the people. Hence he promised a new and better covenant, verse 31, 32; Hebrews 8:8, 9, etc.
I. Explain the Terms Used in the Text.
1. The Gospel is called a covenant, a new covenant, in distinction from all preceding covenants made with Israel through the instrumentality of Moses.
A covenant is a mutual agreement between two or more people, in which something is required to be done in order to partake of some benefit.
God made a covenant with Adam at his creation, the condition of which was obedience — and the reward, the Divine favor. The penalty for the breach of the command was condemnation, terminating in death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. This covenant was renewed with Israel, through Moses, when they came out of Egypt.
The text refers to the Gospel covenant, including all the blessings of present and everlasting salvation. It is called a covenant, to denote the certainty of the things promised; for covenants are confirmed by an oath. Hebrews 6:17,18; 8:6,7.
2. The subjects of tins covenant. It is said to be made with the house of Israel; that is, the Church of God, of which Israel was a type. It was for the benefit of those who would believe on his name.
3. This covenant was executed by Christ, the "Mediator of a better covenant." It was effected by his incarnation — by his perfect obedience to the law — by his enduring the penalty due to transgression. He performed all the conditions of it, and sealed it with his blood. Making a covenant with anyone is a sign of peace between the parties, and this new covenant is a sign of good-will towards the house of Israel.
Affecting thought! the infinitely rich and varied blessings of this covenant were purchased at an infinite expense — "through the blood of the everlasting covenant," Hebrews 12:20.
4. The period of its execution is referred to. "After those days;" that is, after the abolition of the ceremonial law, and so rendering the former covenant void. As soon as the Redeemer came, he introduced the new covenant, and confirmed it by his death. The authority of the ceremonial law ceased immediately after this event, and both Jews and Gentiles were placed under a new dispensation. "It is finished!"
Jewish altars need bleed no more. All former types and shadows are consummated in Christ the Antitype, and the substance of all spiritual blessedness. Hebrews 10:6-10.
II. The Blessings of the New Covenant.
1. Forgiveness of sin, and complete justification, verse 34, "I will forgive their iniquity," etc. What an invaluable blessing is pardon of sin — that sin which separates from God — which defiles — which gives conscience its stings, etc. etc.
And from all condemnation there is perfect justification; "I will remember their sin no more." Those who believe shall be regarded and treated as innocent as if they had never sinned at all! Romans 5:1; 8:33; Acts 13:38, 39.
2. Divine renovation. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts." God had before written the law on tables of stone, and that did not succeed; now he will write it on the heart.
This placing of the law in the heart, this inscribing it there, cannot be done by any human power. It is Divine power that must effect it. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts!" Observe:
(1.) A new law is not here intended, but the same as was at first impressed on the soul of man, and afterwards engraved on tables of stone.
Man was created after the likeness of God, in righteousness and true holiness, and was therefore perfectly conformed to the law in all its parts. That law was defaced by sin, and the soul became impure and deformed, Romans 8:7. Regeneration, therefore, consists in taking away the heart of stone, and substituting the heart of flesh, and re-impressing the Divine image on the soul of man.
(2.) The expressions, "put my law in their minds; write it on their hearts" imply inward knowledge and approbation of it. See Isaiah 51:7. "Your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8. Through the new creating power of the Spirit, the law becomes naturalized there.
The heart is like the ark of the covenant, in which the tables of the law were kept. Where the law is thus written, there is a knowledge of its purity, extent, and spirituality, an approbation of what God requires, a love of and devotedness to his service. Romans 7:22.
(3.) It implies conformity to this law. The moral law is of eternal obligation, and can never be made void. Romans 3:31. Writing it in the heart, indicates an inward conformity to the Divine law. And if this exist in the heart, the external conduct will also be influenced by it.
(4.) It implies not merely approbation, but supreme love for the Divine law, and a delight in all its requirements. The object of our affections is in our hearts, and there it is that God has fixed his law. Before this inscription on the heart is made, there is nothing but enmity to God and his government; afterwards the soul delights to run in the way of God's commandments. The eternal law commands — and the law within inclines to obedience. The obedience rendered is not merely founded on the authority of the Lawgiver; it is also excited by the excellency and goodness of the law itself.
(5.) The existence of the law in the heart produces hatred to sin. When temptations solicit — when sin insinuates, it causes the soul to exclaim, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God!" The conscience is now tender, and the soul "abhors that which is evil," etc.
Such a transformation must become very influential. "We are "living epistles," written by the hand of God, "known and read of all men."
3. Adoption. " I will be their God, and they will be my people!" Here is separation from sin and the world — and alliance with God. God is the portion of his people. What a portion! Think of . . .
all his attributes,
all his purposes of grace and mercy,
all his promises and spiritual privileges and blessings,
of his Heaven,
of his eternal glory.
O what a portion!
"They shall be my people," whom I will bless, and honor, and save, and crown. A relationship of which thousands of the rich, the honorable, and the noble — will find themselves destitute at the last day.
1. How deep was human depravity, that required the hand of Omnipotent grace to write the Divine law in the heart!
2. It is the nature of true religion to cherish the highest esteem for the authority of the Divine law.
3. All our salvation is of grace. "It is the Lord's doing," etc. We could do nothing of ourselves to cause him to become our God, and to make us his people.