Page images

we have shewn, book I. chap. i. sect. 3. is of various significations, and often denotes the same as pr, a constitution, or signifies a certain promise, though not mutual.

XVII. Moreover, God, by a certain wonderful act of con. descension, publishes the promises of his grace to his cove. nant people, in this manner ;' to shew that it was his will, that they seek for, and expect from him, what he promises, just as if it was a promise of reward, and proceeded from covenant and agreement, and was irrevocable on the account of the right of him who sues for the performance of it. Which is indeed, an astonishing degree of the Lord's goodness ; nevertheless, we are not to use it as an argument for conditions of the covenant of grace, properly so called. .

XVIII. But, which is the principal thing, we imagine, the best way to conceive of this constitution of the covenant, is as follows : since the covenant of grace, or the Gospel, strictly so called, which is the model of that covenant, consists in mere promises, prescribes nothing properly as duty, requires nothing, commands nothing: not even this, believe, trust, hope in the Lord, and the like. But declares, sets forth, and signifies to us, what God promises in Christ, what he would have done, and what he is about to do. All prescription of duty belongs to the law, as, after others, the venerable Voetius has very well inculcated, Disput. Tom. 4. p. 24. seq. And we are, by all means, to maintain this, if, with the whole body of the reformed, we would constantly defend the perfection of the law, which comprehends all virtues, and all the duties of holiness. But the law, adapted to the covenant of grace, and according to it, inscribed on the heart of the elect, enjoins to receive all those things which are proposed in the Gospel, with an unfeigned faith, and frame our lives suitably to that grace and glory which are promised. When God, therefore in the covenant of grace, promises faith, repentance, and consequently eternal life, to an elect sinner, then the law, whose obligation can never be dissolved, and which extends to every duty, binds the man to assent to that truth, highly prize, ardently desire, seek, and lay hold on those promised blessings. Moreover, since the admirable providence of God has ranged the promises in such order, as that faith and repentance go before, and saivation follows after, man is bound, by the same law, to approve of, and be in love with this divine appointment, and assure himself of salvation only according to it. But when a man accepts the promises, of the covenant, in the order they are proposed, he dues, by that acceptance, bind himself to the duties contained

in the foregoing promises, before he can assure himself
of the fulfilment of the latter. And in this manner
the covenant becomes mutual. God proposes his pro-
mises in the Gospel in a certain order. The man, in conse-
quence of the law, as subservient to the covenant of grace,
is bound to receive the promises in that arder. . While faith
does this, the believer at the same time, binds himself to the
'exercise of a new life, before ever he can presume to entertain
a hope of life ternal. And in this manner it becomes a mu.
tual agreement. .. .

XIX. But let none here object, that life is promised in the new covenant to him that believes and repents, no less than it was in the old covenant to him that worketh; in order thence, to conclude, that faith and repentance are now, in the same manner, conditions of the covenant of grace, that per. fect obedience was the condition of the covenant of works. For when life is promised to him that doeth any thing, we are not directly to understand a condition, properly so called, as the cause of claiming the reward. God is pleased only to point out the way we are to take, not to the right, but to the possession of life. He proposes faith, as the instrument, by which we lay hold on the Lord Jesus and on his grace and glory: good works, as the evidences of our faith, and. of our union with Christ, and as the way to the possession of life.

XX. But we niust not forget to observe, that faith has quite a different relation with respect to the blessings of the covenant of grace, from what the other works of the new life have. In this indeed they agree, that both conjointly are the way, to the promised bliss; but faith has something peculiar. For, as faith is an astipulation, or assent given to the divine truth, it includes in it the acceptance of the benefit offered by the covenant, and makes this promise firm and irrevocable. Here is my Son, says God, and salvation, in him. I offer him to whoever desires him, and believes that he shall find his salvation in him, Who desires him? Who believes this? I do, says the believer, I greatly long for him. I believe my salvation to be laid up in him. I take him as thus offered to me. . Be it so, saith the Lord. And in this manner the promise is accepted, the truth of God sealed, the donation of Christ, and of salvation in him, becomes irrevocable. From all which it is evident, that faith has quite different relation in the new covenant, from what works formerly had in the ... old. What the difference is between giving and receiving in Yor. I.



such seems to be the difference between a condition of works and of faith: which the celebrated Hoornbeck has not unhappily explained in Socin. Confut. Tom. 2. p. 280. ..

XXI. Let us now lastly consider the threatenings, whether there be any such in this covenant. It cannot indeed be de nied, but that, in the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles, we frequently meet with very many comminations, which have their peculiar respect to the covenant of grace, and which could not have thus been set before us, if there had been no such covenant. For instance, “ whoever shall not believe in Christ, whoever shall despise the counsel of God against his own soul, whoever shall not obey the Gospel, shall be condemned.” And these threatenings seem to be distinguished from those, which are evidently legal, such as the following: “ cursed is he that continueth not in all things,” &c. Yet, if we would weigh the matter narrowly, the covenant of grace has no threatenings so peculiar to itself, but what may well be referred to the law, from which every curse proceeds.

XXII. Which I would explain thus : we no where bear of any threatenings, which may, and ought not to be deduced from that threatening, which doubtless is purely legal, “ cur- . sed is every one that continueth not in all things,” &c. In this most general threatening are included the other more particular ones. Moreover, when salvation by Christ alone is proposed, in the covenant of grace, as the principal truth, the law, which enjoins man to embrace every truth, made known to him by God, with a firm faith, obliges him to receive this truth in particular, and be delighted with the glory of God, shining forth in it, and that his own salvation is connected with the glory of God. Should we deny, that the law lays us under this obligation, we should then affirm, that the law does not enjoin us, to acknowledge God as true, and that there is a holy love of God, and of ourselves, which the law does not command : all which are most absurd. I go further : when man, as the law prescribes, receives the truth of the Gospel with a lively faith, then not the law, but the Gospel, promises salvation to him. For the law knows of no other promise than what depends on the condition of perfect obedience. But should man slight, and obstinately reject that truth proposed to him, he sins against the law, and so incurs its curse, according to the general rule so often inculcated. And since we have supposed the Gospel declaring, that salvation flows from the faith of Christ alone, the law enjoins, that all, who desire salvation, should seek it by the faith of Christ alone, and consequently it cannot but thunder the curse against those who;


rejecting the Gospel, believe not on Christ. . As therefore, unbelief, or the rejecting the Gospel, is a sin against the law which is the only perfect rule of all virtue (it can be called a sin against the Gospel, only objectively) so every threataning of the curse rnd of wrath against unbelievers, and the despisers of the Gospel, must come from, and be reduced to the law, but then it is to the law as now subservient to the covenant of grace.

XXIII. In the discourses of the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, there is a certain mixture of various doctrines, which, indeed, are closely connected, and mutually subservient; each of which ought to be reduced to their proper heads ; so that the promises of grace be referred to the Gospel all injunctions of duty, and all threatenings against transgressors, to the law.

: CHA P. II. Of the Oneness of the Covenant of Grace, as to its Sub


1. IT is a matter of the greatest moment, that we learn dis

tinctly to consider the covenant of grace, either as it is in its substance or essence, as they call it, or as it is in divers ways proposed by God, with respect to circumstantials, under different economies. If we view the substance of the covenant, it is but only one, nor is it possible it should be otherwise. There is no other way worthy of God, in which salvation can be bestowed on sinners, but that discovered in the Gospel. Whence the apostle, Gal. i. 7. has beautifully said, which is not another. And that Testament, which was consecrated by the blood of Christ, he calls everlasting, Heb. xiii. 20. because it was settled froin eternity, published immediately upon the fall of the first man, constantly handed by the ancients, more fully explained by Christ himself and his apostles, and is to continue throughout all ages, and, in virtue of which, believers shall inherit eternal happiness. But if we attend to the circumstances of the covenant, it was dispensed at sundry times and in divers manners, under various economies, for the manifestation of the manifold wisdom of God. In considering this, we are first to discourse on those general things, which appertain to the substance of the covenant, and have continued in every age: and then explain the different economies, or dispensations, and the new accessions made to each, which we will first do in a general and concise


manner, in this and the following chapter ; then gradually descend to the more special considerations. :: :

II. We therefore maintain, agreeable to the sacred writings, that to all the Elect, living in any period of time, ist, One and the same eternal life was promised. 2dly, That Jesus Christ was held forth as the one and the same author and bestower of salvation. 3dly, That they could not become partakers of it any other way, but by a true and lively faith in him. If we demonstrate these three things, none can any longer doubt, but that the covenant of grace must be, as to its substance, only one from the beginning. For, if the salva, tion be the same, and the author of it the same, the manner of communion with him the same, it is certain the covenant it. self cannot be more than one. . . '

III. The Scriptures so plainly declare, that eternal life was promised to the elect from the beginning, that it is astonishing any Christians could venture to deny it; who indecd are much blinder than the Jews themselves, of whom our Lord testifies, John v. 39. Ye do search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and that they were neither rash nor erroneous, in thinking that the promises of eternal life, and the manner of enjoying them, were contained in the Scriptures they had, we prove by the most cogent arguments. ist, Because, not only the Lord Jesus, does not charge them, in this respect, with the least error, but makes use of that as a reason to recommend to them the search of the Scriptures. But it is very inconsistent with the great sincerity of the Lord Jesus, and the divine 'dignity of the Scriptures, to recommend them by arguments not genuine, or to recommend their value and usefulness from Jewish forgeries. Nay had the Jews falsely persuaded themselves, that the promises of eternal life were contained in the Old Testament records, our Lord ought not, by any concession, to have cherished that mistake, which would have hindered them from acknowledging the excellence of his doctrine, and consequently the divinity of his person : but rather to have exclaimed against them; " in vain do you search the Scriptures, in hopes of finding eternal life in them ; attend rather to me and my doctrine, who am the first who came into the world as a preacher of eternal life.” But every one may see, how inconsistent this was from the design of the Lord Jesus. '2dly, To this we add, that Paul's hope was founded on the law and the Prophets, as well as the expectation' of the Jews, Acts xxiv. 14, 15.“ believing all things, which are written in the law and the Prophets.: and have hope towards God, which they themselves 'also allow,

; .. that

« PreviousContinue »