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Now we ask, if we are to abide by the great Hooker's axiom, that, “where a literal interpretation will stand, the furthest from the literal is generally the worst,”— Where is the natural impossibility, or even improbability, in the thing here expressed, that the literal sense should not stand ? that we must violently alter the terms, and make Jews to mean, here, believing Gentiles?
Had the expression, here, been, simply, “ Zion,” or, “my people," or even “ Israel,” without any addition or limitation, such an explanation of the term might have been more pardonable ; although, even then, unjustifiable, if given, as if it had no special application to the literal people named. But we have, here, no such general term; but Israel (the ten tribes) distinguished from, and named along with Judah (the two tribes.) Further, the covenant is said to be made with “ the HOUSE," that is, with the family, the nation, of Israel and Judah. When, and where, was ever the Gospel Church called the “ HOUSE of Israel,” the “HOUSE of Judah ?” Further, (as I have already noticed,) this “house of Israel and house of Judah," is described as the descendants of that people, with whom God covenanted before, in the wilderness.
Nothing, then, can well be conceived more definite, more explicit, more incapable of misapplication to any other subject, than the terms
which are here employed. The descendants, after the flesh, of the sons of Jacob, are, unquestionably, the parties here named, who form the subject of the promise; and these, not as individuals, but as an united nation.
We are told, in the Commentary referred to, that this new covenant is not ratified with a nation, as such.” But, surely, this is an assertion which stands directly opposed to the express words of my text. It is perfectly true, indeed, that, hitherto, the new covenant has not been made with nations, as such. It was proposed, however, even at the first, by Messiah and his apostles, to the nation of Israel; but they rejected it, and they are, now, no longer in covenant with God. It was made, after that, with individual believers of the Jewish and other nations, and it is still made with Gentile sinners; but with neither Jew nor Gentile, nationally. The covenant has an intermediate, spiritual fulfilment, to a spiritual people. But, “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the HOUSE of Israel, and with the HOUSE of Judah:” a covenant to be established with them, as the former covenant was with their fathers : the one, national, and with solemn promulgation and sanctions: the other, no less so.
The mere terms, then, of the passage, clearly
testify the national character of the covenant under consideration. But there are not wanting other considerations, in abundance, which all go to establish this important point.
Look, now, at the context, both preceding and following. You will find it wholly occupied, from the thirtieth chapter to the end of the thirty-third, (my text occurring in the thirty-first,) with the marvellous mercies and goodness which God has in store for his people Israel and Judah, “after that the fierce anger of the Lord shall have fallen with pain (as we see it has fallen) a continuing whirlwind, upon the head of the wicked:” respecting which judgment God says, (xxx. 24,) “ In the LATTER DAYS ye shall consider it:" and then he adds, (xxxi. 1,) “ AT THE SAME TIME, saith the Lord, will I be the God of ALL THE FAMILIES of Israel, and they shall be my people:” or, as St. Paul expresses the same thing, (Rom. xi. 26,) “ ALL Israel shall be saved.”
Along with this, you have assurance heaped upon assurance, of their restoration to their own land: of their singing in the height of Zion, and never sorrowing any more at all: of God sowing the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast: of his never turning away from them to do them good: of his rejoicing over them to plant them in
their land, assuredly, with his whole heart, and with his whole soul: of his building Israel and Judah, AS AT THE FIRST: of all the nations of the earth being even stricken with fear and trembling, for all the goodness, and for all the prosperity, which God will procure unto them: of his giving them a king, whose name is to be, “ Jehovah our Righteousness :” of the impossibility of God casting them away, or of their ceasing to be a Nation before him FOR EVER: an impossibility as great, saith God, as of the ordinances of day and night departing from before me: and, lastly, of the city being built to the Lord, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner; with an exact specification of its boundaries, in its circuit; including places which have never yet been included within its walls; and, to conclude all, “ It shall not BE PLUCKED UP,” God says, “NOR THROWN DOWN, ANY MORE, FOR EVER.” Then, in the midst of all these “ great and mighty things," as God himself, here, entitles them, (chap. xxxiii. 3,) comes in this, as ONE of them, “Behold, I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.”
The evidence thus furnished, by the context alone, as to the national character of this covenant, seems to be altogether irresistible.
I pass, now, to another consideration, to show
that this covenant,-instead of being only a spiritual covenant, as at present, made with men, as believing men, whether Jew or Gentile, and belonging as much to one as to the other, and of no national bearing whatsoever,—is specially intended of God to be established with the nation of Israel, as such.
Look at the use which the Spirit of God makes of this prophecy, in the New Testament. To whom does he speak of it? To Gentiles ? No, but to HEBREW believers; and to them, to show them, that, whereas their nation was obstinately clinging to the Mosaic covenant, as if that were to be perpetual, God, ever since the days of Jeremiah, had found fault with that covenant, and had promised to make, with the same people with whom he had made it, another, a “new," a "better covenant, established upon better promises.” The argument of the apostle, observe, is with Jews, about the duty of their nation to abandon their old covenant, on the ground that God had foretold another covenant, which he meant to establish with them; which other covenant, the apostle has been showing, was brought in, was ripe for their reception, by the death of the Mediator, Christ. Say now (as we find it said) “The new covenant is not made with a nation, as such :” that “the old covenant with Israel typified the new covenant