33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
33. Quia hoc foedus quod percutiam cum domo Israel post dies illos, dicit Jehova, ponam legem meam in medio ipsorum (id est, in visceribus) et in cordibus ipsorum scribam eam; et ego ero illis in Deum, et ipsi erunt mihi in populum.
He now shews a difference between the Law and the Gospel, for the Gospel brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.
A question may however be here moved, Was the grace of regeneration wanting to the Fathers under the Law? But this is quite preposterous. What, then, is meant when God denies here that the Law was written on the heart before the coming of Christ? To this I answer, that the Fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power then to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the Law, but it was a benefit transferred to the Law from the Gospel. This is one thing. Then we know that this grace of God was rare and little known under the Law; but that under the Gospel the gifts of the Spirit have been more abundantly poured forth, and that God has dealt more bountifully with his Church. But still the main thing is, to consider what the Law of itself is, and what is peculiar to the Gospel, especially when a comparison is made between the Law and the Gospel. For when this comparison ceases, this cannot be properly applied to the Law; but with regard to the Gospel it is said, that the Law is that of the letter, as it is called elsewhere, (Romans 7:6) and this also is the reason why Paul calls it the letter in 2 Corinthians 3:6,
"the letter killeth,"
etc. By "letter" he means not what Origen foolishly explained, for he perverted that passage as he did almost the whole Scripture: Paul does not mean there the simple and plain sense of the Law; for he calls it the letter for another reason, because it only sets before the eyes of men what is right, and sounds it also in their ears. And the word letter refers to what is written, as though he had said, The Law was written on stones, and was therefore a letter. But the Gospel -- what is it? It is spirit, that is, God not only addresses his word to the ears of men and sets it before their eyes, but he also inwardly teaches their hearts and minds. This is then the solution of the question: the Prophet speaks of the Law in itself, as apart from the Gospel, for the Law then is dead and destitute of the Spirit of regeneration.
He afterwards says,
We may further learn from this passage, how foolish the Papists are in their conceit about free-will. They indeed allow that without the help of God's grace we are not capable of fulfilling the Law, and thus they concede something to the aid of grace and of the Spirit: but still they not only imagine a co-operation as to free-will, but ascribe to it the main work. Now the Prophet here testifies that it is the peculiar work of God to write his Law in our hearts. Since God then declares that this favor is justly his, and claims to himself the glory of it, how great must be the arrogance of men to appropriate this to themselves? To write the Law
1 All the nouns in Hebrew are of the singular number, -- "law, inward part, heart," and also "iniquity and sin;" and so are they in the Vulg., except the second, which is rendered "bowels;" but in the other versions and the Targ., they are mostly pluralized. The words as quoted in Hebrews are not exactly according to any of the versions, but for the most part according to that of the Sept.
There is in many copies a
I will even put my law in their inmost part,
And on their heart will I write it.
It is the same as if it was said, "I will put my law in the inmost part of each of them:" the persons are individualized, in order to shew that the act extends to every one alike. -- Ed.
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