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January 7, 1890
“LESSON 15.—-6” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 67, 1.
At first glance it might seem that the reasoning is not good, which decides that Christ could have no priesthood on earth; for, if the law which confined the priesthood to the family of Aaron were abolished, what would hinder one serving though he were of another tribe? But it must be remembered that the priesthood and the law ordaining the priesthood stood and fell together. The only law for an earthly priesthood was that law which gave the office exclusively to the family of Aaron, and if any would act as priest on earth he must conform to the law of the earthly priesthood. It was impossible for one of another tribe to act as priest on earth. Further, it must be borne in mind that the service in the temple was still kept up by the Jews at the time when this letter was written, so that the words in this verse were conformable to the facts as they existed, as well as to the facts concerning the change of dispensations. For no one could possibly have then officiated as priest unless he were of the family of Aaron.ARSH January 7, 1890, page 14.23
Webster gives two principal definitions to the word “covenant.” The first is, “A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties, in writing and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing.” The second is, “A writing containing the terms of agreement between parties. But neither of these definitions is extensive enough to cover all the uses of the word in the Bible. For instance, in the word “covenant” is used with reference to a promise of God, given without any condition expressed or implies. The common idea of a covenant more nearly fits the transaction recorded in ; yet even here we shall find that the thing called a covenant, which God made with the people, does not in every particular correspond to a contract made between two men. It is only another instance of the impossibility of a perfect comparison between divine and human things. In other places in the Bible the word “testament” or “will” is used with reference to the same transaction, although a contract and a will are greatly different. The transaction between God and Israel partakes of the nature of both. But it is of little consequence that a human covenant does not perfectly represent the affair, or that the Bible uses the word “covenant” in so widely varying senses. The main point is to understand just what is meant in each instance, and this the Scriptures themselves enable us readily to do.ARSH January 7, 1890, page 14.24
Still another sense in which the word “covenant” is used in the Bible, is found in the text under consideration. . The condition of the covenant which the Lord made with Israel, was that they should keep his covenant. Here was something already existing, which God calls “my covenant,” concerning which he was about to make a covenant with the people. What God’s covenant is, may be found from . It is the ten commandments. God’s law-called his covenant-was the basis of the covenant between him and Israel. The matter is so plain that there is no necessity for confusion. It makes no difference that the same term is applied to both; it is sufficient to know that God’s covenant-the ten commandments-antedated and is entirely distinct from the transaction at Horeb-also called a covenant. That to which the apostle refers as the first covenant, was, therefore, simply this: A promise on the part of the people to keep his holy law, and a statement on the part of God, of the result to them if they should obey him.ARSH January 7, 1890, page 14.25
“LESSON 16.—” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 67, 1.
Let the student note that the promises in the old covenant were really all on the part of the people. God said, “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant [the ten commandments], then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.... and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” God did not say that he would make them such, but that they would be such a people if they obeyed his commandments. It could not be otherwise. The keeping of God’s holy law would constitute them a holy people; and as such they would indeed be a peculiar treasure, even as are all who are zealous of good works. All that was set before them was simply what would result from obedience to the law, and that covenant contained no promises of help in doing that. Therefore the first covenant was a promise on the part of the people that they would make themselves holy. But this they could not do. The promise was a good one; with it alone there could be no fault; the fault lay with the people. The promise was faulty, through the weakness of the people who made it; just as we read in that the law was weak through the flesh.ARSH January 7, 1890, page 14.42
The first thought in the minds of many, on learning that in the first covenant the people made a promise which they could not possibly fulfill, is that God was unjust to require such a promise. And since they know that God is not unjust, they conclude that the first covenant must have contained pardon and promise of divine assistance, although it contained no hint of it. If the student will wait until the subject of the covenants is concluded, he will see the justice and the mercy of God’s plan. But right here let us fasten these two thoughts: First, if the first covenant had contained pardon, and promise of divine assistance, there would have been no necessity of any other covenant. Pardon and divine aid are all that any soul can get, and if the first covenant had had these, it would not have been faulty. But, second, let it not be forgotten that the fact that there was no pardon, and no Holy Spirit’s aid, in that covenant does not imply that there was no salvation for the people who lived under it. There was ample provision for them, but not in the first covenant. What the provision was, and why the first covenant was given, will be learned later.ARSH January 7, 1890, page 14.43