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II. Has The Gospel Always Been Known in the Church, or is it a New Doctrine?
The gospel sometimes signifies the doctrine concerning the promise of grace, and the remission of sins to be granted freely, on account of the sacrifice of the Messiah, who had not as yet come in the flesh; and then, again, it signifies the doctrine of the Messiah as already come. In the latter sense, it has not always been, but commenced with the New Testament. In the former sense, however, it has always been in the Church; for immediately after the fall it was revealed in Paradise to our first parents — afterwards it was published by the Patriarchs, and Prophets, and was at length fully accomplished, and revealed by Christ himself. The proofs of this are the following:
1. The testimony of the Apostles. Peter says, “To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently.” (Acts 10: 43. 1 Pet. 1: 10.) Paul says of the gospel, “Which he had promised afore by his prophets.” (Rom. 1: 2.) Christ himself says, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me.” (John 5: 46.)
2. The promises and prophecies which relate to the Messiah, establish the same thing.
This must, therefore, be carefully noticed, because God will have us know that there was, and is from the beginning to the end of the world, only one doctrine, and way of salvation through Christ, according to what is said, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by me.” “Moses wrote of me.” (Heb. 13: 8. John 14: 6; 5: 46.) Does any one ask, How Moses wrote of Christ? We answer, 1. By enumerating the promises which had respect to the Messiah. “In thy 103seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” “God shall raise up a prophet,” etc. “A star shall rise out of Jacob.” “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come.” (Gen. 12: 3. Deut. 10: 15. Num. 24: 17. Gen. 49: 10.) 2. He restricted these promises to a certain family from which the Messiah was to be born; and to which the promise was afterwards more frequently referred, and spoken of. 3. The whole Levitial priesthood, and ceremonial worship, as sacrifices, oblations, the altar, the temple, and other things which Moses described, all looked forward to Christ. The kings and kingdom of the Jewish nation were types of Christ, and of his kingdom. Hence Moses wrote many things of Christ.
Objection 1. Paul declares the gospel was promised through the prophets; and Peter says that the prophets prophecied of the grace that should come unto us. Therefore the gospel has not always been. Answer: We grant that the gospel has not always been, if we understand by it the doctrine of the promise of grace as fulfilled through the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, and as it respects the clearness and evidence of this doctrine; for in ancient times the gospel was not, but was only promised by the prophets: 1. As concerning the fulfillment of those things which, in the Old Testament, were predicted of the Messiah. 2. In regard to the clearer knowledge of the promise of grace. 3. In respect to the more copious outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; that is, the gospel then was not the announcement of Christ already come, dead, risen again, and seated at the right hand of the Father, as it now is; but it was a preaching of Christ, who would at some future time come, and accomplish all these things. Nevertheless, there was a gospel, that is, there was a joyful announcement of the benefits of the Messiah that was to come, sufficient for the salvation of the ancient fathers, as it is said, “Abraham saw my day, and rejoiced.” “To him gave all the prophets witness.” “Christ is the end of the law.” (John 8: 56. Acts 10: 43. Rom. 10: 4.)
Objection 2. The apostle Paul says, the gospel was the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, and that in other ages it was not made known to the sons of men. (Rom. 16: 25. Eph. 3: 5.) Answer: This objection contains an incorrect division, inasmuch as it disjoins things which ought not to be separated. For the apostle adds, in connection with the .above, as it is now; which ought not to be omitted, because it shows that in former times the gospel was also known, although less clearly, and to fewer persons, than it now is. The objection is also weak, in affirming that to be strictly so, which was only declared such in a certain respect: for it does not follow, that it was then altogether unknown, because it is now more clearly perceived, and that by many more persons. It was known to the fathers, although not so clearly as to us. Hence the importance of the distinction between the words επαγγελια and ευαγγελια as above expressed.
Objection 3. The law came by Moses, grace and truth by Jesus Christ. Therefore the gospel has not always been known. Answer: Grace and truth did indeed come through Christ, viz, in respect to the fulfillment of types, and the full exhibition and copious application of those things which were formerly promised in the Old Testament. But it does not follow from this, that the ancient fathers were entirely destitute of this grace: for unto them also the same grace was applied by, and on account of Christ, who would subsequently appear in the flesh, although it was given in smaller measures 104to them than to us. For, whatever grace and true knowledge of God has ever come to men, has come through Christ, as it is said, “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 1: 18; 14: 6; 15: 5.)
But it is said, the law was by Moses; therefore the gospel was not by him. Answer: This is so declared, because it was the principal part of his, office to publish the law; yet he also taught the gospel, because he wrote and spoke of Christ, although more obscurely, as has been shown. But it was the peculiar office of Christ to publish the gospel, although he at the same time taught the law, but not principally, as did Moses: for he took away from the moral law the corruptions and glosses of false teachers — he fulfilled the ceremonial law, and abrogated it, together with the judicial law.
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