New and Old

At the commencement of the year, when so many are occupied with the times and seasons, it seems fitting to call attention to the true character of Christianity. It is a totally new thing, which entirely displaces and supersedes all that has gone before, and which is itself ever new and unchanging. Unless this is perceived, it cannot be understood; and it is because so many are ignorant of this that the effort is constantly made to blend it with that which is old. The consequence is that it is perverted, if not destroyed. This was the Galatian snare, and so many were entangled in it, including even the apostle Peter, who was wrought upon by the fear of man, that Paul had to withstand him to the face in defence of the truth of the gospel. The full issue of the same tendency, though in another direction, is seen in Laodicea, where the first man had been revived and Christ totally displaced. The same conflict is ever going on; and those who maintain the truth as it is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21) are becoming, and will become, fewer and fewer, for we are in the last days, and the perilous times have come. We need, therefore, to have our eyes opened to the prevailing danger, and to seek grace constantly from the Lord to enable us to watch, to stand fast in the faith, to quit ourselves like men, and to be strong.

In support of the statement that Christianity is wholly a new thing, it is only necessary to refer to a scripture or two. Even our blessed Lord reminded the scribes and Pharisees that it was useless to attempt to put a piece of new cloth upon an old garment, or new wine into old bottles. The new wine of grace He emphatically declared must be put into new bottles; while at the same time He revealed the secret of the corrupting tendency to combine the new with the old in pointing out that the old wine was better suited to the natural taste of man. One statement by the apostle Paul declares the whole truth upon the subject; "If any man be in Christ [he is], a new creature [better, "there is a new creation"]: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." It is quite true that this is only made good for faith, but it is all the more real on that account; and when we come to the consummation of God's purposes in the aspect presented in Revelation 21, we find that the former things have then actually passed away, and that the announcement is made thereupon by Him that sat upon the throne, "Behold, I make all things new." This scene is undoubtedly future, but to faith it is already present (Hebrews 11:1), and it is in this new world, into which he is introduced by resurrection, that the Christian finds his home, because Christ, as risen out of death, is there, and because, as risen with Christ, he seeks those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. If indeed it were only seen that everything now for God has commenced with resurrection - the resurrection of Christ, who ,is the Second Man out of heaven - all would readily apprehend that in Christianity new things have come.

We propose to illustrate our subject from the Epistle to the Hebrews, only cautioning the reader that we must not expect to find new creation in it. No epistle, however, more strikingly proclaims the fact that everything is new in Christianity. In the very first chapter, where the effulgence of the glory of the Person of the Son shines forth with such radiance, we are reminded that both the heavens and the earth will perish, in contrast with Himself who abides for ever, the One ever the same, and whose. years fail not. Peter brings in another contrast when describing the doom which awaits the present heavens and earth, as he says, "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This creation, in fact, brought into existence for the first man, shares his doom, because it is not suited to that risen and glorified Man in whom God has found all His pleasure - the Lord Jesus Christ. For Him there must be new heavens and a new earth - new in kind and character, "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Every chapter of the Hebrews testifies to the passing away of the old through the introduction of. the new, as for example in the new Priest after the order of Melchizedek setting aside for ever Aaron's priesthood. We thus read as the foundation of the change: "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (for the law made nothing perfect), and the introduction of a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God." (See New Translation.) But we propose only to take up a few distinct points.

First, then, we will adduce the new covenant as superseding the old. In chapter 8 the apostle says that the Lord has "obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises"; and then, after pointing out that this better covenant with its better promises has for ever set aside the former one, he sums it all up in the words, "In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." This new covenant, equally with the old, is doubtless made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (see v. 8), and contains the terms upon which God, according to His own grace, will maintain His relationships with them in a future day; but as we are reminded every week when partaking of the Lord's supper, we have already come into the possession of its blessings. And how we should rejoice that it is a new covenant! for the old was a ministry of death and condemnation, and the new a ministry of righteousness and the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3.) In a word, the former was law, requirement; the latter is grace and gift. And yet such is the perversity of the flesh, that even professed Christians are ever going back to the ground of that old covenant which has been superseded  -  to their own condemnation. According to the words already referred to, "No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better."

But the first covenant "had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary." If, therefore, that covenant has been set aside, its services and sanctuary have also disappeared. And so it is, for in the same chapter, before the apostle speaks of the new covenant, he says, "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." (vv. 1, 2.) It is not our purpose on this occasion to offer any explanation of this true tabernacle, as our only object is to show that everything connected with the Jewish system has been for ever set aside, and that everything in Christianity is new. We may, however, add that a new tabernacle must have new worshippers, for "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing," for the simple reason that the gifts and sacrifices which were offered in connection with it "could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." But now by one offering Christ, "being come an High Priest of good things to come," "hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." And these, the sanctified, having their consciences purged through the efficacy of the one sacrifice of Christ, are the new worshippers, who worship God in spirit and in truth, suited to the new sanctuary; and hence they are reminded that they have boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which Christ hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. (Heb. 10:19-20.) And surely it is not too much to say that it is as necessary to press these things upon Christians today as it was when this epistle was written. All the great religious systems indeed are founded upon that which God has for ever set aside: the old covenant, the old tabernacle, and the old kind of worshippers mark them all. Let us then seek grace to have our backs for ever turned upon that which is "old," and our faces towards that which is new, waiting for Him who will appear the second time unto them that look for Him without sin unto salvation.

One more word may be said upon the abiding character of the new. The proof of that is seen in the fact that everything which Christ has secured by His death and resurrection is eternal. Himself the Eternal One (chap. 1), the same yesterday, and today, and for ever (chap. 13), all that He has obtained for His people, in virtue of redemption, partakes of His own nature in this respect. He is thus the author of eternal salvation. He has obtained eternal redemption, we receive the promise of eternal, inheritance, and the God of peace has brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting (eternal) covenant. How blessed then to be built up upon these eternal realities! And how independent we are made, when we walk by faith, of the changes of the season, the revolution of the years, and the instability of the whole system of things with which we are connected in this world! Having passed out of death into life, we are already, as associated with Christ before the Father, in eternity, where times and seasons are unknown, where Christ is everything, and where God is all in all.

"Our God the centre is,
His presence fills that land,
And countless myriads owned as His
Round Him adoring stand."