The New Covenant and the Spread of the Gospel

From Owen, Vol 10 Continued:

2. A second thing to be considered is, the economy or administration of the new covenant in the times of the gospel, with the amplitude and enlargement of the kingdom and dominion of Christ after his appearance in the flesh; whereby, all external differences being taken away, the name of Gentiles removed, the partition-wall broken down, the promise to Abraham that he should be heir of the world, as he was father of the faithful, was now fully to be accomplished.

Now, this administration is so opposite to that dispensation which was restrained to one people and family, who were God’s peculiar, and all the rest of the world excluded, that it gives occasion to many general expressions in the Scripture; which are far enough from comprehending a universality of all individuals, but denote only a removal of all such restraining exceptions as were before in force. So that a consideration of the end whereunto these general expressions are used, and of what is aimed at by them, will clearly manifest their nature, and how they are to be understood, with whom they are that are intended by them and comprehended in them. For it being only this enlargement of the visible kingdom of Christ to all nations in respect of right, and to many in respect of fact (God having elect in all those nations to be brought forth, in the several generations wherein the means of grace are in those places employed), that is intended, it is evident that they import only a distribution of men through all differences whatsoever, and not a universal collection of all and everyone; the thing intended by them requiring the one and not the other. Hence, those objections which are made against the particularity of the ransom of Christ, and the restraining of it only to the elect, from the terms of all, all men, all nations, the world, the whole world, and the like, are all of them exceeding weak and invalid, as wresting the general expressions of the Scripture beyond their aim and intent, they being used by the Holy Ghost only to evidence the removal of all personal and national distinctions, — the breaking up of all the narrow bounds of the Old Testament, the enlarging the kingdom of Christ beyond the bounds of Jewry and Salem, abolishing all old restrictions, and opening a way for the elect amongst all people (called “The fullness of the Gentiles,”) to come in; there being now “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all,” Colossians 3:11. Hence the Lord promiseth to “pour out his Spirit upon all flesh,” Joel 2:28; which Peter interpreteth to be accomplished by the filling of the apostles with the gifts of the Spirit, that they might be enabled to preach to several nations, Acts 2:17, “having received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations” Romans 1:5; — not the Jews only, but some among all nations, “the gospel being the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” Romans 1:16; intending only, as to salvation, the peculiar bought by Christ, which he “redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Revelation 5:9, where ye have an evident distribution of that which in other places is generally set down; the gospel being commanded to be preached to all these nations, Matthew 28:19, that those bought and redeemed ones amongst them all might be brought home to God, John 11:52. And this is that which the apostle so largely sets forth, Ephesians 2:14-17. Now, in this sense, which we have explained, and no other, are those many places to be taken which are usually urged for universal grace and redemption, as shall afterward be declared in particular.