I am finished with my blog series responding to Merit and Moses and am now working on compiling all of the posts into a single document, which will be made public soon.
As I was doing some research for that series, I came across an obscure book on typology whose author is listed as “Thomas Worden, Minister.” I had never heard of him. The Internet seems to have only the tiniest snippets of information on him. He appears to have been a 17th century Puritan pastor, possibly a non-conformist, judging by one obscure note that he “was cast into prison for the truth’s sake.” The book was originally published in London in 1664.
Worden sees special typological significance in the fact that the tablets of the law were placed within the ark of the covenant under the mercy seat. He sees it as a picture of the fact that the moral law does not come to us directly but from the hands of Christ. But it still comes to us. He says:
The moral law, as it is a law or rule of life to a Christian, is not ceased, as some would have. It was not thrown away, but only hid under the mercy-seat.
[Christ] takes up the matter of the old covenant, which is the ten commandments, and makes it the law of his kingdom, and so imposes it on his people as a rule to walk by for ever.
But as it is become, for the matter of it, the law of a Mediator, and a law in Christ’s hand, and so a law which comes forth to us from under the mercy-seat, it speaks otherwise than it did before, not for life, but from life.
The moral law remains the rule of life for believers. Worden seems to be following in the Marrow tradition of “the law in the hands of Christ.” This was the same position held by notable Reformed ministers like Samuel Bolton, Edward Fisher (author of The Marrow of Modern Divinity), Thomas Boston, John Colquhoun, and others.
Here is the extended passage from Worden, where he uses the typology of the tablets of the law being place within the ark of the covenant to support the Marrow view of the law in the hands of Christ:
The place appointed for the ark to stand while in the tabernacle was under the mercy-seat; for we read in Exodus, that when Moses had put the tables wherein the ten commandments were written into the ark, then did he take the ark, and carry it into the tabernacle, and put the mercy-seat above upon the ark (Exod 40:20). Then he took a veil, and spread over it for a covering, that it might not be seen.
Now, the great mystery of this type, or figure, I conceive to be this:—
By the ten commandments written in the tables of the ark, I understand is meant the covenant of works, which God made with all men in their representative Adam, in Paradise; which covenant we have all broken, and so are under the penalties of the breach of this covenant in ourselves for ever (John 3:36; Rom 5:12). Which covenant Jesus Christ came to fulfil in the greatest exaltation of it; for all that Christ did or suffered in the flesh was to give this covenant its full satisfaction in our behalf, if we prove to be true believers: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4).
Now, by Moses putting the fiery law in the ark under the mercy-seat, I understand,
1. That the moral law, as it is a law or rule of life to a Christian, is not ceased, as some would have. It was not thrown away, but only hid under the mercy-seat.
2. It was to show us, that the condemning, accusing, and destroying power of the law, as it was the law of the old covenant, and so a law not satisfied for, was taken away by the satisfaction which was given by Christ; that as the law made the creature before to be subject to its terrors, now Christ has made the law to be subject to its merits, for you see the law is forced to lie under the mercy-seat. And besides, it shows us thus much, for the great comfort of all believers, that God cannot look upon any believers any more as in or under the old covenant, because the covenant lies hid under the mercy-seat.
Now, if it did stand upon the mercy-seat, then in deed, when at any time God had cast his eyes about the mercy-seat, it would have been the first thing that God would have had in his eyes. But to prevent that, it is a law hid out of sight; a law that must not appear before God; a law that must lie under the mercy-seat; a law veiled up in the mantle of rich and free grace, that if God will at any time cast his eyes about that way where the covenant lieth, God must look through a whole heap of satisfaction before he can espy this old covenant. Therefore saith St. Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh” (Rom 8:1). So Jer 1:20: “In that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”
But the question will be, If the moral law is a law hid out of sight, and veiled up, then are believers to take any notice of it at all?
I answer, It is true indeed, as the moral law, for the matter of it, was the old covenant of works, so it is a covenant or law hid from believers; and in this a believer hath nothing to do with the law, nor the law with a believer. But, when Jesus Christ, on the believer’s part, had fulfilled and satisfied the law as it was formerly the old covenant, he takes up the matter of the old covenant, which is the ten commandments, and makes it the law of his kingdom, and so imposes it on his people as a rule to walk by for ever in their several generations; but with differing respects in comparison to what the law was to be subjected unto before, for when the ten commandments, as it was for matter of it the covenant of works, called for obedience from the creature, it was for life, saying, “Do this, and thou shalt live; if not, thou shalt die the death.” But as it is become, for the matter of it, the law of a Mediator, and a law in Christ’s hand, and so a law which comes forth to us from under the mercy-seat, it speaks otherwise than it did before, not for life, but from life; not that you might live, but because you do live; not that you might get heaven, but because heaven is freely given unto you, and bestowed upon you.
The law in Christ’s hand does not say, “You must repent and mourn for sin, and get it mortified, and be humbled and holy, that God might love you, and pardon sin in you, and that he might give you an inheritance amongst them which are sanctified,” but because all this is freely procured by Jesus Christ for you already, and is freely by the grace of God made over to the soul as his, through sound believing, “That we being delivered” (mark that it be not that we might be delivered) “of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75).
So Heb 12:28: “Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved” (mark that, a kingdom already received), “let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” So Titus 2:11-12: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (mark that, which hath already appeared) “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” So that a believer is so far from being set free by Christ from the law, or ten commandments, as that he is the more obliged to the strict observation of it. Therefore saith St. Paul, Rom 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom 7:12).
The form of the old covenant is taken away by Christ from a believer; but the matter still remains. It ceaseth to be a law, commanding for life to a believer; but it still requires obedience in all manner of conversation at a believer’s hands, because he does live; and so it is a rule to walk by as binding as ever.
Thus you may see, if you will but consider, the place where the tables of the law were placed; they were placed in the ark, which ark typified Christ, as you have heard before; so that by Moses placing the tables of the moral law in the ark under the mercy-seat, both which places being types of Christ, it is very clear, that the moral law, or ten commandments, are become the law of Christ’s mediatorial kingdom.
Thomas Worden, The Types Unveiled, or The Gospel Picked out of the Legal Ceremonies (abridged and reprinted in London, 1840; originally, 1664), 96-100.