The Covenants

by: J N Darby

The covenant is a word common in the language of a large class of Christian professors, and also of many true Christians; but in its development and detail, as to its unfolded principles, much obscurity appears to me to have arisen from a want of simple attention to Scripture.

The giving of the Church to Christ before the worlds, and the consequent giving to us of the blessings therein involved, seem to me indeed to be most clearly declared in Scripture, as in2 Timothy 1:9, 10. But little heed seems to have been given to that which is really contained in this covenant, as administered in dispensation, in its connection with the character and hope of the Church. Without weakening, then, the foundation whereon all rests, or pulling stones out of it to polish or carve for less needful and appropriate uses, while that whereon they should rest is gone, let us see the plain revelation afforded by the blessed word, on what, in their great branches, the covenants are founded.

The mystery of God’s will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself, He hath made known unto us; even that He should gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him. This (however consistent everything was with it, or even typical of it) was hidden from ages and from generations. In fact, however progressive the intimations might be (better hopes sustaining believers in greater darkness, as was the case in prophecy), the limits of the actual dealings of God, as to dispensation, were narrowed, and the terms of them lowered with the falling condition of man and that growing darkness.

The promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, had a wider scope and was a more comprehensive promise, than was any subsequent revelation of resulting details, in the sphere subject to his power; it took the character of the work higher up. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” The call and the promise to Abram again had a wider and a fuller meaning and purpose than any dealings with the Jews, not only at Mount Sinai, but even the previous deliverances which constituted them a nation—a people marked by God as the favoured subjects of His strong hand and mighty arm, however more immediate and manifest the hand of God might be. It had therefore a more immediate and determinate object; not the out-reaching prospect of faith, but the visible actings towards the subjects of present deliverance. The law, given from Mount Sinai, took entirely another ground; and whatever was contained in it (as a figure for the time then present) was based upon the obedience of man, as to its terms of promise and blessing, and not in the supremacy of God, however flowing from it.