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ally comprehended in the promise of regeneration, which we have already considered; for “ the writing of the law upon their hearts” signifies, at least, the communication of the first principles of holiness. The seed thus sown by the hand of God, he waters and cherishes, that it may bring forth fruit in abundance : “I will spinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”* When Paul prayed that the Thessalonians might be “ sanctified wholly,'* and that their
whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” † he rested his hope of an answer upon the faithfulness of God in the performance of his promises": " Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” | Holiness is an essential ingredient in the eternal life, which is the great blessing of the covenant, and it is necessary to prepare us for the pure enjoyment of the heavenly state.
Fourthly, The Father promised to preserve the elect in a state of grace, from which they would fall if they were left to themselves : “ I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away form them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”'This promise consists of two parts. First, God engages not to forsake them, for his affection is not mutable and transitory, like that of men, but he rests in his love. Hence he says in another place, “ The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." | Secondly, he puts his fear in their hearts, that they may not forsake him. Their faith may be feeble, but it shall not utterly fail; their holiness may lose its lustre, but it shall not be extinguished ; sin may occasionally prevail against them, but it shall not recover the dominion. There is a spark under the ashes, which the breath of heaven will kindle into a flame; there is a living principle which, protected from danger, and cherished by secret communications from heaven, will acquire full vigour and activity in a better world, “ The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up to everlasting life."
Lastly, The Father promised to glorify the elect. “ The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." ** This promise includes many particulars; a happy death, a blessed resurrection, a public justification at the tribunal of Christ, admission into heaven, and the fruition of unbounded and never-ending felicity. When the promise is performed to all whom Christ has redeemed, the design of the covenant will be fully accomplished ; and the Mediator having delivered up the kingdom to the Father, or brought to a close the administration over which he presides, “ God will be all in all.”+
There are several other points relative to the covenant, upon which your time will not permit me to enter at present, and I shall therefore reserve them for another Lecture. . Ezek. xxxvi. 25. † 1 Thess. v. 23. # Ib. 24,
Jer. xxxii. 40. | Isa. liv, 10. | John iv. 14.
** Isa, xxxv. 10. Hi Cor. xv. 28. 2 s2
ON THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
Farther Observations on the Promises of the Covenant-The Covenant of Grace admitted of no Penalty—The Administration or Dispensation of it committed to Christ-View of it as a Testament-Dispensation of the Covenant before and subsequent to the coming of Christ.
Having pointed out, in the preceding Lecture, some of the promises which were made to Jesus Christ, as the Representative and Surety of his people, I proceed to make a few general observations upon them.
The first observation is, That they originated in the love of God. They are varied expressions of it; diversified aspects which it bears towards man, considered as guilty, polluted, and miserable ; and the ultimate design of them is his restoration to purity and happiness. In them, God is manifested to be love. They are the overflowings of his heart towards his fallen offspring, and awaken a more impressive sense of his infinite benevolence, when we view them in connexion with the wonderful expedient which has been adopted that his goodness might have access to us, all the promised blessings being conveyed by the substitution and sufferings of his Son." How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light.”
The second observation is, That the promises bear a relation to Christ, not only because they were made primarily to him, but because the performance of them was suspended upon his fulfilling the condition of the covenant. A question has been agitated among Theologians, whether, as they express it, the promises were founded on the offices of Christ; that is, in more intelligible language, whether it was owing to his mediation that the promises were made? This may be considered as one of those subtle questions which have been brought forward to exercise ingenuity, and furnish a subject of debate, without being of much practical utility. In the usual manner, Divines have arranged themselves on opposite sides, some affirming and others denying. By those who are accounted orthodox, it has been judged agreeable to truth to maintain, that they were not founded on the offices of Christ, but were perfectly free and voluntary on the part of God, proceeding from his infinite goodness. This is undoubtedly true; but one thing is certain, that when they were made to Christ, he was considered as the representative of his people, who was to fulfil the righteousness of the law in their name, and that not one of them would have been made, if he had not condescended to assume this character. It is also certain that all the blessings contained in the promises were purchased with his blood, which was the price of our salvation. For all the blessings of grace and glory we are indebted to his mediation. Hence God is said “ to bless us with all spiritual blessings in Christ,"'t or for his sake. As the life which was promised in the first covenant, would have come to us through the obedience of Adam, so the eternal life promised in the second covenant is the gift of God, through the obedience of his Son.
The third observation is, That the promises of the new covenant are free. In explaining this particular, it is necessary to attend to the distinction of absolute and conditional. By an absolute promise, is meant a promise which will • Ps. xxxvi. 7-9.
† Eph. i. 3.
be performed without respect to any qualification possessed, or any work done by the person to whom it is made. The performance of it depends exclusively upon the faithfulness of the promiser. In this sense, some of the promises are absolute; and I may quote as an example the first promise, formerly mentioned, which stands at the head of all the rest, in the list given by an Apostle, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.". It is evident that nothing in the sinner, prior to regeneration, can be a reason for imparting to him a principle of spiritual life; for while he is in the flesh, or a state of natural depravity, he cannot please God. To grace he is indebted for the communication of the Spirit, and not to the earnestness of his prayers, and his diligence in the use of the means. I request you to observe, that on this subject there is a want of correctness in the language which is frequently employed. There is a way of talking of absolute promises, as addressed to sinners in the Gospel, which, although it recommends itself to the inattentive, by seeming to exalt the grace of God, is not agreeable to truth. As an absolute promise must without fail be performed, it would follow, that, if the promise of regeneration, which is suspended upon no condition, was made to sinners without distinction, they should all, at one time or another, be brought into a state of salvation. The conclusion is unavoidable ; but as none of us would choose to acquiesce in it, we must reject the premises, and hold that this absolute promise is not addressed to sinners in general, but to the elect alone, or rather, is a sort of promissory prediction of what God purposes to do in reference to those who were redeemed by his Son. If there are any other absolute promises—and in this class may be reckoned the promises of the unchangeable love of God to his people, and of the constant inhabitation of the Holy Ghost in their souls—they are made to persons who are in covenant with God by faith. No absolute promise can be made to a sinner, simply considered as such. Other promises suppose some qualification of the person to whom they are made, or some work to be done by him before these are performed. Such promises some call conditional; but if condition is understood to mean that which gives a just title to the promise, we must say, that all the promises of the covenant of grace are unconditional, there being no such thing as merit of any kind, even in the saints. If, however, the term merely signifies something which precedes the enjoyment of particular blessings, it must be acknowledged that many of them are conditional, although the use of this term ought to be avoided. The remission of sins is not promised to every man, but solely to him who believes ; nor eternal life to persons of every description, but to those alone who are pure in heart, and persevere to the end. Yet even those promises are free; because, if faith and holiness are previously required, these qualifications are the subject of other promises, which absolutely depend upon the faithfulness of God. They are resolvable into the promise of regeneration, which we have seen is absolute, with respect to the elect. God, therefore, when he demands certain qualifications in men, as necessary to the performance of particular promises, must be considered merely as settling the order in which the blessings of salvation shall be communicated. The enjoyment of some must precede the enjoyment of others. “ Whom he did predestinate, them he also calls; and whom he calls, them he also justifies; and whom he justifies, them he also glorifies.”+ In short, however dear it cost our blessed Saviour to accomplish our salvation, upon us it is bestowed “without money and without price.” The whole building is of mercy; the hand of God is displayed in its commencement and its completion ; and here, as in the second temple of the Jews, “the head-stone thereof shall be brought forth with shoutings, Grace, grace unto it." • Heb. viii. 10. † Rom. viii. 30.
# Zech. iv. 7.
When I stated the parts of which a covenant consists, I remarked that a penalty is frequently added, to be inflicted if one of the parties shall fail. Thus, when the covenant of works was made with our progenitor, and abstinence from the fruit of the tree of knowledge was enjoined as the condition, God said to him, “ In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." There was no penalty in the covenant of grace, because Jesus Christ, our Representative could not fail ; and his indefectibility arose from the mysterious constitution of his person. He was a man, but not a mere man, for he was at the same time the Son of God. As all creatures are capable of change and the highest have changed, as we know from the conduct of those angels who kept not their first estate--in a covenant made with a mere creature, however pre-eminent in nature and endowments, a penalty is introduced with propriety. But our blessed Saviour being immutable in his Divine person, and the human nature being established in a state of holiness by its union to him, a penalty could have no place in a federal transaction in which he was concerned. Let it not be imagined that this statement is contradicted by the fact that sufferings were inflicted upon Christ. In these, I acknowledge, a penalty was executed; but it was the penalty of the covenant of works, to which he submitted as an essential part of the condition of the covenant of grace. If it were the condition of a covenant which one man made with another, that the latter should engage in laborjous services, or expose himself to danger, or endure pain, it would be absurd to call his cost and trouble a penalty, which is totally distinct from the condition, and can have no place till the covenant is violated. Christ suffered penal evil; it was not, however, inflicted for any failure on his part, but submitied to as the means of establishing the covenant, and obtaining for his people the promised reward.
As there was no penalty in relation to the Surety, so there is none in relation to his people, for this obvious reason, that he fulfilled the covenant for them, and completely established their right to the promises. “ There is no condemnation to them that are în Christ Jesus.”* It is aeknowledged that there are threatenings addressed to those who have entered into the covenant by faith, to deter them from disobedience, and that these are executed when they transgress. “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments ; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." These visitations may indeed be called penalties or punishments, but usually receive the milder character of chastisements, because they are inflicted by the hand of God, not as an avenging Judge, but as a merciful Father; and are not intended for the destruction, but for the good of the sufferer. They are not penalties, in the common acceptation of the term, for a penalty is the evil of pain, to which a person is subjected for a crime, and is designed to satisfy the law by a just retribution. But it is not satisfaction to justice which is the object of the afflictions of believers: the intention of them is, both to testify that sin is displeasing to God, and to lead them to repentance and amendment. Severity is mingled with love: “Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth ; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”# Their afflictions may, therefore, be considered in the light of blessings, and as connected with the promises of the covenant, because they are subservient to their sanctification and final happiness. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Having given you a view, at considerable length, of the covenant of grace, I now proceed to speak of what has been called the administration of it, but might be more correctly called the dispensation of grace, which is founded upon it.
. Rom. vii. !, Ps. lxxxix, 30–32. Heb. xii. 6. $ 2 Cor. iv. 17.
I begin by observing, That the blessings of the covenant are committed to our Saviour, that he may distribute them according to his own will, and the will of his Father, which in this as in every other matter perfectly harmonize. This honour has been conferred upon him, that the blessings which were purchased with the infinitely valuable price of his blood should be at his disposal, and that sinners should be reminded of their unspeakable obligations to him, by receiving every good thing immediately from his hands. This constitution is agreeable to our notions of fitness and justice ; for the fulfilment of the condition of the covenant gave him a right to the promises, and put him in full possession of their inestimable treasures. Accordingly, after his resurrection he told his disciples, that “all power was given to him in heaven and in earth ;" * evidently meaning, that it was given to him in consequence of his sufferings and death. Long before, the holy Psalmist, looking forward in the Spirit of prophecy, had said, “ Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive : thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” † His words are explained by those of Peter to the Jews, who were filled with astonishment at the miracle of Pentecost : “ This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”! Three things are observable in these words; that the gift of the Holy Ghost to our Saviour was the performance of a promise made to him by his Father; that the promise was performed after his ascension; and that the Spirit was given to him, that he might pour him out upon men like the rain which falls upon our fields. Our Lord himself has assured us, that he has received “power over all flesh” from his Father, “ that he may give eternal life” to his peculiar people; and in the following words he teaches us, that upon this donation is founded the dispensation of grace, which was established by his authority, and will be carried on to the end of the world. “ All things are delivered unto me of my Father."|| Hence follow the gracious invitations and promises of the Gospel : “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”'/ This important truth is more distinctly expressed in the following passage. “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended upon high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of the body in love."
In explaining the administration of the covenant of grace, it is remarked by Theological writers, that, in relation to men, it assumes the form of a testament, or a deed by which a person bequeathes his property to his heirs, to be enjoyed by them after his decease; or that its blessings are conveyed to us in a testamentary form. By some of them, much importance is attached to this view of the subject, and they illustrate it at great length, and with a minuteness of detail, tracing the metaphor and similitude in this, as in other instan
Matt. xxviii, 18. † Ps. lxvii. 18. Acts üi, 32, 33. § John xvü, 2. ! Matt. xi. 27.
| Matt. xi. 28. ** Eph. iv. 8, 11-16. Vol. 1.-65