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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 42

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 42 [XXV.]—Difference Between the Old and the New Testaments.

I beg of you, however, carefully to observe, as far as you can, what I am endeavouring to prove with so much effort. When the prophet promised a new covenant, not according to the covenant which had been formerly made with the people of Israel when liberated from Egypt, he said nothing about a change in the sacrifices or any sacred ordinances, although such change, too, was without doubt to follow, as we see in fact that it did follow, even as the same prophetic scripture testifies in many other passages; but he simply called attention to this difference, that God would impress His laws on the mind of those who belonged to this covenant, and would write them in their hearts, 908 whence the apostle drew his conclusion,—“not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart;” 909 and that the eternal recompense of this righteousness was not the land out of which were driven the Amorites and Hittites, and other nations who dwelt there, 910 but God Himself, “to whom it is good to hold fast,” 911 in order that God’s good that they love, may be the God Himself whom they love, between whom and men nothing but sin produces separation; and this is remitted only by grace. Accordingly, after saying, “For all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them,” He instantly added, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 912 By the law of works, then, the Lord says, “Thou shalt not covet:” 913 but by the law of faith He says, “Without me ye can do nothing;” 914 for He was treating of good works, even the fruit of the vine-branches. It is therefore apparent what difp. 101 ference there is between the old covenant and the new,—that in the former the law is written on tables, while in the latter on hearts; so that what in the one alarms from without, in the other delights from within; and in the former man becomes a transgressor through the letter that kills, in the other a lover through the life-giving spirit. We must therefore avoid saying, that the way in which God assists us to work righteousness, and “works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” 915 is by externally addressing to our faculties precepts of holiness; for He gives His increase internally, 916 by shedding love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.” 917



Jer. 31:32, 33.


2 Cor. iii. 3.


Josh. xii.


Ps. lxxiii. 28.


Jer. xxxi. 34.


Ex. xx. 17.


John xv. 5.


Phil. ii. 13.


1 Cor. iii. 7.


Rom. v. 5.

Next: Chapter 43

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