The Ordinance of Covenanting
by John Cunningham
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The practice was provided for through the direct injunctions of the last inspired writers. These, dissuading from idolatry,[429] taught the necessity of the practice, the reverse of that, of recognising God and acknowledging him by vowing and swearing to him as a covenant God. Teaching the necessity of faith and other graces, they showed that it is dutiful to engage in that and those other exercises in which these are requisite. They explicitly enjoin the exercise of Covenanting.[430] Inculcating the holding fast of the Christian profession,[431] an apostle teaches that such a profession should not merely be adhered to, but also made. And delivering the express words of the Redeemer, the last of the apostles, teaching the duty of entering into covenant engagements, and keeping them till Christ should come, tendered the command, "But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come."[432]

The practice was provided for through the whole of the New Testament writings.

The New Testament contains the same kinds of expression in reference to the Covenant of God as the Old, and employs them for the same purpose as that for which those statements of that Testament are used. It makes use of figurative and other language of the same origin as that of the Old Testament, for the purpose of inculcating nothing else than the keeping of the Covenant.

By an apostle, there is strikingly brought into view the truth taught in the prophets,—that the Lord created, or formed, or fore-ordained, a people, to enter into Covenant with him, and by obedience also, otherwise to keep it.[433]

The imagery of the foundation[434] employed in prophecy to point out Christ, and the sureness and continuance of the Covenant, is also used by two apostles for the same purpose. Their references to it illustrate the doctrine, that, in the New Testament, types, though realized in Christ, and also partly illustrated in the blessings at any time bestowed by Him, are not to be disregarded but studied, that the good things prefigured by them, but as yet unattained, may be enjoyed.

The designation of the Holy Spirit, as the "Spirit of promise,"[435] teaches that He was given in consequence of the arrangements of the Covenant of God; and consequently, that all the benefits bestowed on believers, not merely in Old but also in New Testament times, were to come to them in connection with the acceptance of the gift of the Spirit, as included in the promise of the Covenant.

The idea of reconciliation, dwelt on by the apostles, necessarily implies the notion of a covenant agreement, as being not merely made but maintained, between God and men—once exposed to his curse, but afterwards put in possession of an interest in the atonement of Christ.

References made by the apostles to purification cannot be explained independently of the principle of, a covenant ratified by the blood of Christ being the channel of the communication of faith and the other graces, and of sanctification—that results from the implantation, support, and direction of these by the Holy Ghost.

The sprinkling, whether of blood or of water, referring to the operation of the Spirit, is introduced by an apostle as enjoyed by those who take hold on God's covenant.[436]

Even as circumcision was, baptism is, a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace.[437]

In the Lord's Supper, the bread is a symbol of the body of Christ—broken in the sufferings endured by him on behalf of his people; and the wine is a symbol of his blood—shed for the remission of their sins. Commemorating the Redeemer's dying love, and receiving a seal of all the benefits of his death, by partaking of these elements according to his command, they signify the actings of their faith on him in an act of Covenanting.[438]

Preaching peace, Christ, and after him his apostles and other servants in the ministry of the gospel,[439] proclaimed the Covenant of Peace, and urged the duty of acceding to it; and speaking peace to his disciples,[440] He declared it to be his prerogative to bestow on all his people the blessings of that Covenant.

The Redeemer, foretelling his address to be delivered at the day of judgment to his enemies of all ages of the world,—"I never knew you: depart from me," intimated that he would not recognise them as covenant children; and declaring of his people,—"I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine," he taught that they know him, as they alone do who take hold on God's covenant.[441]

Allusions to the seal imply the doctrine of Covenanting. The declaration,—"He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true,"[442] refers to a solemn covenant attestation to the truth.

The people of God designating the Redeemer, as the "High Priest of our profession,"[443] recognise him as bestowing grace upon them, to take hold on God's covenant, and to continue to cleave to it.

In the Epistles, there is distinctly brought into view an inheritance which is not else than the blessings provided in God's covenant, and appropriated in adhering to it.[444]

The designations,—"Children of the kingdom,"[445] "Followers of God as dear children,"[446] "Friends (of Christ),"[447] "Heirs of God,"[448] "God's heritage,"[449] "the bride, the Lamb's wife,"[450] "Perfect,"[451] or possessed of integrity, healthful, safe, willing, complete, "sanctified," are all calculated to point out the covenant relation and privileges, and duties, of the people of God; and, accordingly, to show that by special explicit engagements they should devote themselves to him; and the representation of the Church as the "Pillar and ground (stay) of the truth,"[452] teaches that her duty is to make an unequivocal and steadfast public profession of Divine truth.

The Covenant of God, from the last dispensation being introduced as the "New Covenant," and as one of the covenants of promise,[453] is represented by the last inspired writers as extended, both in regard to its blessings and its duties, to the latest times.[454]

And, by some of the evangelists and apostles, the Covenant of God is exhibited as a testament. By them the dispensations of Divine mercy to men, are represented as being each both a covenant and a testament. By them are applied such representations to each of the dispensations—both to the former dispensations, and to the last of them. The conclusion, therefore, to which we are brought by them is, that each, as a testament, is essentially an exhibition of a corresponding covenant, or a given dispensation of one covenant. The truth is, that the Covenant of God, under each dispensation, includes in it a testament, or that every dispensation of grace, whether in former times, or in the last times, viewed as a testament, is a covenant. Every testament is a covenant, and each of those dispensations is at once a testament and the Covenant of God. Take first the present dispensation. A testament, like every covenant, has a stipulation, or promise and demand; in both, good is offered, and duty required. In this dispensation, the blessings of God's favour are offered, and obedience to the law of Christ is required; it has, therefore, one character, both of a covenant and of a testament. A testament, like every covenant, when acceded to, has a re-stipulation, or engagement corresponding to the stipulation. In the present dispensation, when the overtures of Divine grace are acceded to, there is tendered an acceptance of Christ and all his benefits, and the promise of obedience in dependence on his strength. It has, therefore, another mark common to both a testament and a covenant. A testament and a covenant have alike a seal or ratification. The seal of the testament is not valid till the death of the testator; the overtures of Divine mercy were ratified or sealed by the death of Christ. The present dispensation has, therefore, the third and last mark both of a testament and of a covenant. It has, consequently, all the characteristics of a testament, and of a dispensation of the Covenant of Grace. It must, therefore, now appear how the idea of the present dispensation being a covenant is contemplated in the New Testament, even while it is described as a testament. The coincidence between a covenant, and a testament as a particular case of it, explains how the Greek term [Greek: dichtheche] capable of being rendered sometimes by the word testament, and, at others, by the word covenant; and shews the error of the insinuation, so derogatory of the inspiration of the Scriptures, that the Apostle Paul, finding that this Greek term, which is used for covenant, meant, in some connections, a testament, therefore proceeded to unfold the covenant of God as a testament. The reason why the apostle, guided by inspiration, exhibited the Covenant of God as a testament, was, that it is in reality a testament. Yea, the fact that that covenant is a testament, must have been the reason why, even before the days of the apostle, even that Greek word had, from direct or indirect communication between the Greeks and the Israelites, acquired the twofold import. Hence, besides, it is doing no service to the interpretation of the Scriptures, to attempt to shew that in the passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews,[455] where the covenant is represented as a testament, either that the term [Greek: diatheche] there, must have only the meaning testament, or that it must be rendered covenant exclusively throughout. In some parts of the passage it means the one, in others the other, in others both. It means both in the original of the passage, "And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." It means a testament in that of the following, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." In the original of the words, "Whereupon neither the first (testament understood) was dedicated without blood," it means properly a covenant ratified by the blood of sacrifice, and, consequently, a testament. And it means both in the original of the words that follow, "This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you." The parallelism between the death of the testator and the shedding of the blood of the covenant, is beautiful, and it cannot be destroyed. In the case of the death of Christ, it becomes an identity. The death of the testator is there the shedding of the blood of the covenant!

We have seen that the last dispensation is both a covenant and a testament; but so was the former. The blood of sacrifice was typical at once of the blood of the Mediator, and of his death as the great Testator. The blessings of his purchase in the first ages were, even as in the last, testamentary. They were not reversionary, but no less by bequest and no less sure than they had been had he, whose death by sacrifice was continually pointed out antecedently, really died.

In conclusion, from the whole,

It is manifest, that to represent Covenanting as a mere Jewish thing, is an error. It was engaged in before the father of the Hebrew race was called. It was practised when the Levitical economy was on the verge of dissolution, and attended to in the apostolic age by churches that were not subjected to its peculiar institutes. It was provided for the Church, whether existing in Old or New Testament times. It was independent of the peculiarities of the former dispensations, though it attracted to itself the performance of their characteristic observances. It was by Covenanting that the Church was incorporated; by it the Church has been hitherto kept distinct from the world; and by it, throughout all time, she will prove herself to be the heir of the Covenant promise of God, made from eternity, and to be bestowed in time and eternity to come.


[365] Heb. xiii. 20.

[366] Ps. xc. 2.

[367] Prov. viii. 23.

[368] Mic. v. 2.

[369] Ps. lxxxix. 3, 28.

[370] Is. liii. 10-12.

[371] Is. xlii. 21.

[372] Rom. v. 15-19. 1 Cor. xv. 47-49.

[373] Is. lix. 21.

[374] Gen. vi. 18; xvii. 7; Lev. xxvi. 9; Ezek. xvi. 62.

[375] Deut. xxviii. 9; xxix. 13.

[376] Is. xlix. 8.

[377] Ps. lxxxix. 4.

[378] Jer. xxx. 20-22.

[379] Ezek. xxxiv. 24; xxxvii. 24, 25.

[380] Ps. xxii. 28.

[381] Heb. x. 19-23.

[382] Compare Ps. ii. 8, and Deut. xxxii. 9.

[383] Is. viii. 18, and Heb. ii. 13.

[384] Jer. iii. 19.

[385] Ps. xxii. 30.

[386] Eph. i. 4.

[387] Jer. xxxi. 3.

[388] John xv. 5.

[389] Heb. xiii. 15.

[390] 2 Thess. ii. 13.

[391] Is. xxviii. 15-18, and 1 Pet. ii. 6-10.

[392] Phil. ii. 11.

[393] Col. ii. 6, 7.

[394] Ps. viii. 2, and Matt. xxi. 16.

[395] Ps. xcvi. 6.

[396] Is. xlvi. 13.

[397] Rom. iv. 9, 10, 11.

[398] Gal. iii. 14, 15.

[399] Gal. iii 17.

[400] Compare Heb. xiii. 20, and Is. liii. 10-12.

[401] See Is. xxi. 2; xxix. 11. In the latter of these passages it may mean both a revelation and a covenant.

[402] Is. xxviii. 18.

[403] Is. xxxiii. 17.

[404] Ps. xxvii. 8.

[405] Ps. xl. 7, 8.

[406] Compare Ps. lxiii. 17, 18, with Eph. iv. 8.

[407] Zech. ix. 11.

[408] Exod. xxiv. 7.

[409] Ezek. xvi. 60, 62.

[410] Ps. xix. 11.

[411] Gal. iii. 18.

[412] Job xx. 7, 8.

[413] Deut. xxi. 4-8.

[414] 2 Chron. xiii. 5.

[415] 1 Cor. x. 1, 2.

[416] Is. liv. 5.

[417] Jer. xxxi. 32.

[418] Josh. v. 15; Is. lv. 4.

[419] Zech. iii. 8; vi. 12, 13; Jer. xxiii. 5, 6.

[420] Job ix. 33.

[421] Gen. xxviii. 12.

[422] Is. lv. 4.

[423] Eph. ii. 14.

[424] Is. xxxii. 18; Is. xlii. 19.

[425] "The Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ." By the Rev. Dr. William Symington. 2d Ed., pp. 9, 10, 11.

[426] Job xxxiii. 23, 24.

[427] "Atonement and Intercession," pp. 257, 258.

[428] Acts v. 3, 4, 9.

[429] 1 Cor. x. 14; 1 John v. 21.

[430] Rom. xii. 1; Rom. vi. 13.

[431] Heb. iv. 14; x. 23.

[432] Rev. ii. 25.

[433] Compare Eph. ii. 10, with Is. xliv. 2.

[434] Eph. ii. 20, 21; 1 Pet. ii. 5-10.

[435] Eph. i. 13.

[436] Heb. x. 22.

[437] Rom. iv. 11, and Col. ii. 11, 12.

[438] 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25.

[439] Eph. ii. 17, and Rom. x. 15.

[440] John xiv. 27.

[441] Is. xix. 21.

[442] John iii. 33.

[443] Heb. iii. 1.

[444] Col. iii. 24, and 1 Pet. i. 4, 5.

[445] Mat. xiii. 38.

[446] Eph. v. 1.

[447] John xv. 14.

[448] Rom. viii. 17.

[449] 1 Pet. v. 3.

[450] Rev. xxi. 9.

[451] Philip, iii. 15.

[452] 1 Tim. iii. 15.

[453] Heb. viii. 13; Eph. ii. 12

[454] Heb. ix. 15.

[455] Heb. ix. 15-20.



The law of God originates in his nature, but the attributes of his creatures are due to his sovereignty. The former is, accordingly, to be viewed as necessarily obligatory on the moral subjects of his government, and the latter—which are all consistent with the holiness of the Divine nature, are to be considered as called into exercise according to his appointment. Hence, also, the law of God is independent of his creatures, though made known on their account; but the operation of their attributes behove to be regulated according to that law. The principles of eternal holiness, embodied in the law, necessarily existed because of the eternity and infinite glory of God; but would not have been made the basis of a law had creatures not been formed. The constitution of creatures who should be called to give obedience, was wholly due to the will of God, but in perfect harmony with the spirit of his commands. Moral creatures having been formed, the law of God speaks one language to all of them. They, possessed of different characteristic attributes, alike recognise its appeals. Angels have a constitution which distinguishes them from man, yet with him they apprehend the authority of the one moral law. Over a range, therefore, of infinite extent, the principles of eternal rectitude are maintained. Man, in innocence, recognised them. Man, redeemed, cleaves to them according to his attainments in grace. Angels, possessed of a nature different from that of man, acknowledge their obligation upon them. And God himself, distant from his highest moral offspring by a difference that is infinite, exhibits them as a manifestation of his holiness, and the principles according to which he acts towards his creatures. Much, therefore, in common belongs to the constitution of the moral natures of angels and men, and necessarily proceeds from and accords with the nature of God. His law, we have seen, inculcates the duty of Covenanting. From what has been said, we would, therefore, conclude that the constitution of man was fitted to that exercise. That it was so appears, moreover, from other considerations now to be adduced.

Covenanting was adapted to the moral constitution of man in innocence.

First. From the Scripture account of that constitution this appears. In this manner he is there represented—"God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him."[456] "God hath made man upright."[457] These declarations imply that man was created at least "in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness," and accordingly, in conformity with the will of God, as to his intellect, his affections, his conscience, and will. When brought into existence, his intellectual and moral powers were full grown, and his knowledge was suited to the state of a creature fitted to hold communion with God. His intellect was fitted completely to survey, according to its capacity, the whole scene of natural and moral existence presented before it, from the lowest stage of dependent being to what it was competent to him to know of God. His affections, in a flame alike pure and ardent, glowed at the prospect of moral excellence which appeared in the works of God, and above all, in Himself. His conscience, tender as the perfection of a delicate spiritual organisation worthy the creative energy of a Being of spotless infinite holiness, was in perfect sympathy with the awards of that perfection of judgment which, from eternity to eternity, is unchanged. And his will, the mighty gift, emblem of the volition of the Giver, approved what He decreed. With such capacities, accompanied with corresponding knowledge of the external world and the internal man, and with a perfect acquaintance with the nature and demands of God's law, the favoured creature man could not but acquiesce in it. To the claims of its glorious Author, put forth by it, he was led by the most sure, and yet most gentle and delightful constraints, to give his acquiescence. What it demanded as duty to God, and duty to man, as if bound, yet free, he joyously proffered and endeavoured to give. What it forbade, he, in the same spirit, desired not to attain to, but resolved to reject. That law required, in its first command, the avouchment of God as a God in Covenant; in its second, it demanded the same, in anticipation of whatever evil—such as the inroads of satan, might tempt to lead from him; in its third, it claimed the fulfilment of the duty of solemn appeal to the I Am by oath; in its ninth, it required the speaking of truth to man, and consequently, the public avouchment of God as a God in Covenant before others; and in entering into Covenant with him, the favoured creature man, to all these and the other statutes of that law, from his holy nature, gave his adherence. In his nature, as a living personification of finite excellence, designed to transact with God, and rendered fit to adhere to his engagements, and true to the constitutional character of his existence, in the presence of his glorious Lord he stood a being in Covenant with him. Had there even not been a representative phase of character provided for Adam, he had, therefore, necessarily, from his very constitution, been in Covenant with God. A law was made known to him by the great Creator and Ruler; a willingness to accept of it as a guide to duty, manifested by receiving it, was given to him. To the formation of a covenant, though any other condition that God should propose might be added, nothing more was necessary. The covenant due to this was embodied in that which, as we shall presently see was, at his creation, in sovereignty made with him.

Secondly. This appears from the fact, that the law of God to man in innocence, was given in a covenant form. From the very origin of his existence, Adam was placed under law to God, both as an individual, and as the representative head of the human family. Under both aspects of his condition he was, accordingly, amenable to that law; nay, more, to that law in a covenant form.

To him, as an individual, it was promulgated, not merely as a law but as a covenant. It could not have been proclaimed to him as the federal head of others, had it not conferred obligation upon him as a moral agent, responsible for his own actions. Now, the law that was given to him in his twofold character was, in reality, a condition of a covenant. Both the positive precept and the statutes of the decalogue unfolded what was designed as a covenant claim. The command to obey, implying the command to agree to obey, is an injunction to enter into covenant, and, therefore, itself the condition of a covenant, to be constituted in the acquiescence of the creature addressed. The giving of any command to man, therefore, in a state of innocence, was a recognition of him as a creature on his constitution designed, and, in the providence of God, to be called, to enter into covenant with him. But this conclusion is corroborated by the very matter of the moral law itself. We have seen that several of the precepts of that law require the observance of entering into covenant. These commands could not have been obeyed as the dictates of God's laws, had the duty of Covenanting not been performed. And that duty could not have been performed otherwise than in the recognition of the commands of the law as the conditions of a Covenant. From other considerations this also appears. We are warranted to maintain that the covenant of God dispensed to men is in reality a covenant. But the positive precept forbidding man to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is inculcated in the very same terms in which the Covenant of God is enjoined. Both are spoken of as commanded. "And the Lord God commanded ([Hebrew: yetzav]) the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it."[458] "He hath commanded ([Hebrew: tzivah]) his covenant for ever."[459] A law, when promulgated, cannot but be commanded. A covenant when revealed, as we here see, is commanded. We should, therefore, take an unwarrantably circumscribed view of the law given to man at first, were we to view it as given as a law, but not as a covenant. Even as the matter of the law revealed at Sinai was an exhibition of the provisions of the Covenant of Grace, so that of the law given to man in innocence was the condition of the Covenant of Works. It was not merely by the promise, but also by the gift of life, that the positive law was converted into the nature of a covenant. By that promise, indeed, the Covenant of Works was distinguished; that showed the unspeakably beneficent design of the great Creator, and formed the most powerful motive to obedience. But the making of that promise was not essential to the existence of a covenant between the parties. By the giving of that promise, God indeed became, by explicit intimation, engaged to man; but by giving to his creature capacities for enjoying good, and desiring it, he virtually engaged to give him what was to be beneficial for him, so long as He should choose. Adam was in the enjoyment of good when God revealed to him his law. God addressed him, not as one who might be doubtful whether or not he should receive good from his hand, but as one in possession of powers and capacities even then appropriating extensive benefits. His delighting himself in God—the highest good that he could enjoy, though no explicit promise of good had been made to him, would have been a token to him that he was in covenant. But the promise in which that good was implied rendered the anticipation of it definite, both as to time and duration.

Again, the law of God was given both as a law and as a covenant to Adam, as the representative of the human race. Though the giving of the positive precept put him into a covenant state as a federal head, and though by breaking it he fell, and in consequence of his sin they fell in him, yet it is unwarrantable to maintain that the duty of abstaining from the tree of life was the only condition of the covenant to be observed by him as the public covenant head of his descendants. What would have been his condition had he neglected any other duty incumbent on him? Would he not have been depraved as an individual personally guilty? and accordingly seeing that he that offends in one point is guilty of all, would he not have been unworthy of representing his posterity, or in consequence of his depravity would he not have resolved to eat of the tree of life, and thus have exposed himself to the stroke of Divine indignation, and have been cut off? As, had he existed alone, he would from the very constitution of his nature have been under covenant obligation to perform whatever duties his Creator might have made known to him, so in his public character, his obedience to the law of God on his own behalf and towards the fulfilment of the peculiar duties connected with his relation to his descendants, was due as required by covenant. As one with his posterity he was bound by requirements that would have brought them under obligation. Feeling himself commanded to obey on behalf of many of whom he himself was one, no less than as if he had acted in an individual capacity, did he or could he recognise his obligations to acquiesce in duty prescribed, nor less was he called and urged solemnly by covenant to engage to them.

Accordingly, man in his original condition, was, from his constitution, engaged in covenant to God by his law. By a twofold bond, the obligation laid upon him was imposed. The authority of God requiring obedience was one of the bonds. The authority of God requiring fulfilment of an engagement made according to his command was the other. The giving of the law implied the disposition of the constitution of man to respond to its appeal, and demonstrated that both were of God. Seeing that He determined to create moral subjects on earth, his arrangements provided that he should make them disposed to acquiesce in that law; and hence, so long as man continued to possess the moral standing in which he was placed at first, he must have had an impression that by the constitution which had been given him, God was engaged to bestow good upon him, which he was brought under obligation by Covenanting to accept.

Covenanting is adapted to the moral constitution of man in a state of grace.

First. Inasmuch as gracious capacities lead to acquiescence in what God requires. All the powers of man, either directly or indirectly, were injured and misdirected by the fall. The range of the intellect was circumscribed, and its power was diminished. The affections were deadened, and subjected to unholy influence; the conscience became callous, and unfit to testify for God as it had formerly done; and the will was exercised to do only evil, and that continually. From the moral nature of man proceeded all the evils that overtook his constitution in consequence of sin. That suffered the taint of a depravity that exposed the sinner to ruin; and the curse of the broken law went out through it, to mar and destroy. Man by nature is degraded, because he is chargeable with original and actual sin, and because he wills not to obey God. Of every characteristic of a creature in covenant with him, he is destitute. Between the tendencies of his nature, and the demands of the Divine law, there is no correspondence. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."[460] But in the day of effectual calling, a complete change is produced upon the moral tendencies of the soul. Before that, there was applicable to it the description, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."[461] Afterwards it uses the language, "It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works."[462] Men in sin have addressed to them the mandate, "Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see."[463] Men renewed, do each say, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people;"[464] "I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."[465] To the wicked is addressed the reproof, "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?"[466] To the righteous belongs the description, "that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord."[467] Of unbelievers, it is declared, "Even their mind and conscience is defiled."[468] But of those who live by faith, it is said, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"[469] Of those who, though professedly the people of God, were but hypocrites, the record is given, "But my people would not hearken to my voice: and Israel would none of me."[470] But concerning those who had submitted to him, an apostle gave the testimony, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."[471] Thus, those who are born again, are rendered fit to lay hold upon the proposals of God's goodness and mercy through Christ. Such are a people made willing in a day of power. Corruption continues within them, but it is subdued. They delight in the law of God after the inward man. To the requirement of a covenant like that of works, their resolutions and endeavours are alike inadequate. Under the dispensations of Divine grace, however, no proposals of any covenant designed to confer life through their own obedience is made to them. It is on a covenant, the conditions of which were fully satisfied by One infinitely qualified for his work, that they are invited to take hold, and the powers conferred upon them correspond to the exercise. Imperfection marks the nature of the Christian, even throughout all his earthly career; but the means to be employed by him in making covenant engagements to the Lord, do not less accord to his new covenant relation to him, than those made by him in innocence, did to his first covenant state; and not less are his gracious powers and faculties suited to the one, than the original gifts conferred upon him, were adapted to the other.

Secondly. Inasmuch as the invitations to accede to the Covenant of Grace are tendered to sinners, and through the operation of the Spirit are accepted by those who are born again.

The offering of free favour to man must imply the possibility of him, aided in some manner, accepting it. Had the rational nature of man been destroyed by the fall, then a re-organization of him must have preceded the reception on his part of the benefits offered. But regeneration, and not re-organization, is experienced by him when he is enabled to lay hold of God's Covenant. The former, not less wondrous, perhaps more wondrous than the latter would have been, brings the sinful creature from the state of one exposed to the curse of the law, as both a covenant and a law, to that of one engaged to the duties of a permanent covenant. By regeneration, the intellectual character of the human mind is not changed, nor thereby are changed the conscience and affections and capacity to will. By that the personal identity of the sinner is not altered; for it is the same being that sinned who is saved. But by that the tendencies of the moral nature are changed, and modifications most important are produced upon the operation of the powers of the whole man;—in one word, the heart in being brought under gracious influence is renewed, and thus is made to possess the character of a new heart. Thus, the understanding that was formerly darkened and misdirected is enlightened; those affections that were sinful are sanctified; the conscience is made tender; and the will which was opposed to God is made to acquiesce in his; the enmity in the heart, like a foreign substance which had not annihilated the nature, but which had assumed dominion over the whole man, and exercised a power for which he was answerable, is displaced; and corruption, though not altogether removed, is gradually bereft of its influence, and doomed to extermination. It is not as if man in sin were altogether ignorant of what God requires, but because he is unwilling to obey, that he does not yield it. His disobedience is not as if that requirement were inconsistent with his natural powers, but as opposed by their tendency. It is not as if obedience were foreign to his nature, but because it is repugnant to his will. But when the sinner is renewed, the requirement of the duty takes effect. The result upon the man proclaims the adaptation of the claim to his state; and the nature of that claim shows that he is prepared for the exercise which it urges. The law of God demands of all what all ought to give, but what man, in consequence of sin, because he is unwilling, is unable to give. That law demands of all what believers are desirous to render, but which of themselves they are unable to implement, and the part of which that is accepted they are enabled by Divine grace alone to perform. Calls to the exercise of Covenanting addressed to men, whether in a state of sin or in a state of grace, though differently apprehended by them, being in a varied manner understood by both, must be in accordance with what is common to the nature of each, and also to that of man in innocence. The wicked show that they know what these calls imply; for they often refuse to attend to them after any manner, and when they attempt to act according to them, they aim at an end that is not elevated above deliverance merely from the effects of sin, not to say comprehensive of the glory of God. And the righteous do in measure understand them. After some manner they obey them. They arrive at their full import progressively. Their feelings are inadequate to them, not in kind, but in measure. As they make progress in holiness they will be more thoroughly conformed to them in fact. When about to enter upon the heavenly inheritance of the promise itself, their conformity with these will be complete. Hence,

First. The reality of the Covenant of Works appears. It was not unworthy of God to enter into covenant with man in innocence. He was the workmanship of his own hands. The constitution given to him admitted of intercourse on his part with his Creator. It was not unbecoming the dignity of God's character to give to man a law. It was becoming his character to give him a moral constitution that would lead him to obey it. It was equally becoming the glory of his nature to accept of obedience to it. His entering into covenant with him was the accepting of Covenanting—a part of that obedience, and was therefore in perfect consistency with the excellency of His being. It is not allowable to suppose that in order to a covenant relation between God and his creatures, these should be able to give something of their own which might be esteemed as a meritorious condition of a covenant; nor is it warrantable to maintain that because man in innocence was unable to make such a communication, therefore he was not in that state taken into covenant. Neither man in innocence, nor man in a state of grace, was required to make such a tender; nay, no creature is able to afford it. If it is admitted, then, that a covenant exists between God and man redeemed on the footing of the merits of the Saviour, how can it be denied that man in innocence could be taken into a covenant with God on account of the merit or worth of Himself as the Creator and righteous moral Governor of all? In the case of the Covenant of Grace, the merit on account of which man is accepted was displayed in a manifestation of the mercy of God in the obedience and sufferings of Christ. In the case of what is rightly held to have been a covenant between God and Adam as the representative of the human family, the merit for which man was accepted was not his own, but the merit or worth of the Divine character exhibited, in giving him a constitution fitting him for acquiescing in what the Divine law required, and in affording him every facility for glorifying God by yielding obedience to all his commands.

And, besides, various are the considerations that tend to show, that from the constitution of man there is reason to conclude that the representative character and state that are attributed to Adam as a covenant head, and therefore also what is called the Covenant of Works,—though in a certain sense a covenant of grace—but not of grace through a mediator, are not inconsistent with the glory of the Divine character.

It would not have been inconsistent with the glory of God to have made any one of the human family its representative head. No one of them would have refused to represent their race. And since therefore Adam would not have refused, it is not warrantable, on the assumption that he would have refused, to deny that he was commanded to undertake the duties of a federal head.

The interests of men were better provided for on the principle of representation than they would have been, had it been given to every member of the human family individually to undergo a trial, on which would have pended their eternal condition. Had the whole human family been together when sin entered into the world, they had all been as liable to seduction by the enemy as the first of men. But the resistance of him by Adam would have been equal to the resistance of the whole human race. Had all the human family at once been present in the very circumstances of temptation in which Adam was placed, would they have acted differently from what he did? They could have done so; but what evidence have we that they would? God did not vouchsafe an extraordinary power in order to keep Adam from falling: such would have interfered with his state as a free moral responsible being. Would he have done so, then, to the whole human race, had they been then present together? But had Adam continued for an appointed period to obey, life to all his posterity would have been the result, and thus benefits through one as a representative would have come to the many with certainty, without all having individually, by being put into a state of probation, in the midst of temptation, to endeavour to secure a title to life for themselves. It is sinful for men to arraign the procedure according to which men come into the world in a state of condemnation, or to deny it. The Scriptures reveal it, and it is a necessary effect of the operation of Divine justice. Had it not been right, God would not have instituted such a relation between Adam and his descendants as would have admitted of the fact; nay, had not that arrangement in itself been preferable to every other, Divine wisdom would not have made it. It therefore has a reason for it the most satisfactory, however little we may be able to apprehend it. Nothing that we know is inconsistent with that arrangement, but it may be but a small part of its reason that we yet observe. Man was not doomed, but permitted to fall. It was not necessary that he should be prevented from sinning, and his fall was the necessary effect of his transgression. Is it urged—Is it not dreadful to think of man being brought into existence in a state of sin and misery?—of a nature being given to him which never had the power to make one endeavour to live for ever? It is answered, God did not create men in a state of condemnation, but sin invaded them, and in one all fell. God is righteous, and his justice finds every one of the family of man guilty. The rectitude of God's character did not require that he should create any one with a title to eternal life; but because of sin, it forbade that any of the children of fallen man represented by him should come into existence in a state of acceptance with him. The case of the sinner coming into the world under condemnation, is not worse than that of him, who, first having had power to stand, was tempted, and sinned, and fell. No less consistent with the excellence of the character of God and the sovereignty of his procedures, is the state of one fallen even at the very origin of his being, than that of one who had had an opportunity to avoid falling, but after a short trial really fell. Adam at first had not a right, independently of the sovereign gift of God, to come into existence in a state of acceptance. He had not a right to continue in it when he sinned. And in like manner, no sinner can say that he had a claim upon the Creator to be brought into being free from the curse. The same argument that would suffice to establish that men should not be implicated in the rebellion of Adam, would go to prove that he should not have been allowed himself to fall. And hence the repugnance of men to the doctrine of original sin is unwarranted, and affords no proper ground on which to deny the Covenant of Works.

Secondly. The wicked, whether individuals or communities, and these alone, are not in covenant. Man in innocence was never under the law of God merely as a law. The will of God, promulgated as the terms both of a covenant and a law, had the sacredness of a law; acceded to by man, it had all the sanctity of a covenant. The will of God was propounded as a law, to be received both as a law and as a covenant; the acceptance of it engaged man to it as possessed of both characters. Because of God's authority dictating it as a law, his will revealed conferred obligation. Because of God's will and providential arrangements as to the constitution of man, he acquiescing in the requirement of the law came besides under a covenant obligation to fulfil it. At the very origin of his being he came under both obligations. Under both he was placed according to the appointment of the Most High, and by his authority. At his fall the whole human family became exposed to the curse at once of a broken law and a violated covenant. Then and thereafter the law was a broken covenant. It had been propounded as a law, and offered as the condition of a covenant. As a law and as a covenant it had been acquiesced in, and thus stood as a covenant; but by reason of apostacy it passed from the rank of a law and a covenant to that of a mere law; and as a law proceeded to put forth on the unregenerate the claims for punishment, of a law that should still continue, but also of a covenant that had been broken, and could never again exist in its original state. To the ungodly still it is a law demanding obedience to it, and punishment for past transgression of it as a law, and requiring also not obedience to it as a covenant, but punishment for the breach of it as a covenant. What was the Covenant of Works is not now a covenant to any; to the wicked it is a law which by reason of their sin tends to their ruin. The work of the law is written upon the hearts of men in sin, but not as if it were now a covenant law; for now the Covenant of Works as a covenant, has no demand of obedience to it on men. The tendency that there is in the unrenewed heart to seek life by the works of the law shows, not that the law is there written as a covenant, but that there is there an attachment inconsistent with the will of God, to the law as a covenant, which, while there is not felt the desire either of good flowing from a covenant relation to God or of willingness conscientiously to obey his commands, leads vainly to seek, merely exemption from punishment, or undefined good. Certainly the blinded heathen have not that law which was broken proposed to them as the terms of a covenant; and so neither have others.

The will of God revealed to men in a state of sin, has the character of a law, but not of a covenant. "The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient."[472] The impenitent transgressor continues under the curse of the law. If not subdued by Divine grace, he will continue to feel here the effects of the wrath of God "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;" and in the future state will experience the effects of the curse in "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." The law of God addressed to corrupt ecclesiastical societies, is not a covenant, but essentially a law. A national compact between rulers and people, when violated, affords an analogy here. The laws, or institutions, or ordinances, of a nation, according to which the sovereign reigns, the other rulers govern, and the people voluntarily give obedience, is a covenant; but against those who violate them, whatever may be their rank, they act not as a covenant but as a law, punishing for breach of covenant. But to proceed. When Israel were holiness to the Lord, his law was to them a covenant. When any of them fell off into idolatry, that covenant was dispensed to those solely as a law taking vengeance for the breach of it as a covenant and as a law. To the true Israel receiving spiritual blessings, it was dispensed as a covenant. But only as a law demanding punishment and obedience, it extended, to many in the mountains of the East, and on the plains of Babylon, and afterwards in every part of the world, to the descendants of the unbelieving Jews. When the Christian Church was pure, the law of God was to her a covenant. When, by the removal of the truth, and opposition to it, she degenerated into Antichrist, it continued not a covenant to her, but acted against her as a law. And before its blighting curse she fell plagued. The judgments poured out on the seat of the Beast were its effects; and to that curse will be due, the accomplishment of the prediction—"I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the Lord;"[473] and the realization of the fearful doom proclaimed by an angel come down from Heaven—"Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen," and of the woe uttered by a mighty angel, that "took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."[474] Even the offers of mercy to the unrenewed are made as the requirements of a mere law. So long as they are unaccepted, they possess the same character. They are tenders of what, when acceded to, would be a covenant; but are not the requirements of a covenant till they be appropriated. When received, they are the duties of both a law and a covenant. For example, the injunction to believe on Jesus, addressed to one in a state of sin, is the command of a law, but not of a covenant, to that individual. If not accepted, it binds to punishment for disregard of it as a law, and the non-acceptance of it is a proposed covenant command. If perfidiously received, it binds to punishment for not obeying it, and for deceitfully professing, by vow or oath, to receive it. Accepted in sincerity and truth, and consequently not by the wicked, but by one born again, it is laid hold on at once as a law and a covenant command;—as a requirement of the immutable law of God, and as a duty of the Everlasting Covenant.

Commands addressed to believers are at once, even while inculcated, a law and a covenant requirement. They have acceded to these. Thereafter, such therefore remain not merely a law, but a covenant duty, and as enforcing covenant obligation, fall to be habitually observed.

Thirdly. Those who are in covenant with God will, as individuals and communities, in some measure make and keep covenant engagements with him. Every believer, that is, every one in covenant with God, will after some manner practise such duties. Covenanting is an exercise of the renewed nature, and is an essential manifestation of it. From gravitation come the movement of the moon in her orbit, that of the planets round the sun, and perhaps a progress of the whole solar system through space; from the living energy of the plant cherished by the moisture and heat of heaven proceed, the expanding of the leaf, and the putting forth of the flower and fruit; from the laws of molecular attraction, come the beautiful forms of the mineral, vegetable, and animal creation; from the principle of love to God comes the habit of delighting in him; from hope come the stimulating anticipations of eternal good; from faith comes the exercise of believing; from the heart, whose energies delivered from the dominion of sin by grace, are, from their native constitution and by the claims of the God of salvation, engaged to him in covenant, proceeds the habitual exercise of Covenanting. Where there is motion, there and there only force prevails; where organic effort is made, there only life exists; where Covenanting is engaged in, there only a covenant relation and title can be found. Every incorporate community that forms a part of the true Church of the living God, with greater or less frequency, or more or less explicitly, recognises its covenant obligations by acknowledging and endeavouring to keep them. Where no attention is paid to covenant obligations, there is no covenant relation. The body that does not attract iron, or possess polarity, is not magnetic. That which does not transmit light or sound, is not elastic. That which does not distribute heat is without life. If a society bind not others to itself by religious Covenanting after some manner, it belongs not to the Church of God. From the law of Covenanting comes all the consistency of the union of believers—the family that is named in heaven. That family, by displaying God's covenant, invites to its communion many who would have perished. The invisible Church cannot have associated to it any thing dissimilar to itself, but it binds to it those who are congenial to it. It is to the fellowship of the Church visible that the members of the Church of the first-born are drawn. God prepares men for the communion of saints. It is by the power of the Spirit accompanying the means of grace dispensed in the assemblies of the faithful, that a transforming effect is produced on the natural man, and that he is drawn. It is the power and glory of God that draws and unites; and the whole body, like the virgin gold or silver in the veins of the rocks, which is composed of what were grains scattered through contiguous strata, and by a galvanic power continues to accumulate, has its affinities for each of the precious family of grace. The law by which these are drawn is not merely moral, but gracious. The communion of saints was confederated, that, by attracting others to it, it might grow. As a covenant society, and in the use of Covenanting, it attracts. It has a tendency to give utterance to its intention, and that by professing the truth, that sinners may be won. "As it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak."[475] "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee."[476] By taking the Covenant of God publicly in their mouth, his people in measure fulfil the Redeemer's mandate,—"Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another;"[477] and the corresponding duty,—"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt."[478] It is a serious mark of a Church's imperfection for it to recognise only implicitly or virtually its covenant obligations. The greater the living energy that inhabits the society, the more regard its obligations receive.

Finally. How dreadful is the condition of those who are not in covenant with God! It is degraded. Man was in covenant with God at first. With all accepted moral beings, and these alone, He deals by way of covenant. Thus, after some manner, he dealt with angels in glory. Thus he dealt with man unfallen. Thus he deals with sinners redeemed. For sustaining the dignity of a covenant relation to him, inanimate and unintelligent creation are not adapted; but for not standing in that, they are not dishonoured. Angels in light, acquiescing in God's law, were at least virtually in covenant with him. Some of them proudly sinned, and fell from their high confederation. They took counsel together thereafter, but it was against the Lord. In hell they appear his foes combined in everlasting league against him, but delivered over forever to the terrors of his wrath. To their case alone, that of the wicked even on earth can be compared. But the case of rebellious sinners here, is, if possible, more revolting. Sinners under condemnation receive outward good here, designed to lead them to repentance. All the good diffused around, comes through the arrangements of a gracious covenant. They receive temporal good themselves indirectly from a covenant on which they will not take hold. They despise the word of him who ordained that good the most extensive should come to sinners through that covenant. Their degradation is extreme. Attempting to go in opposition to all the arrangements of the Most High, and yet kept in the enjoyment of some good, and in the prospect of the greatest, they are an anomaly in the universe. They confederate with one another, but against God. They will not take Him into their counsels. They are, therefore, destitute of his favour, and of all the honour of co-operating with him. The change to which, by sin, they subjected themselves, is more humbling than that produced on any other class of creatures, even on fallen angels themselves; for these resist not offers of mercy. The inanimate creation responds to God's command. He enjoins, and it obeys. There the Divine mandate has the sure counterpart of obedience. In the world of unfallen intelligences, the word of the Lord is fulfilled willingly by all. In the world of perdition, however, it is set at nought. But on earth, where benefits are dispensed, it is spurned by the wicked also. The twofold curse of a broken law and covenant pursues sinners, yet they are invited to escape it; but they will not submit. A covenant of life and peace is made known. Its blessings great and precious are freely offered to them. Yet they cherish the enmity of their hearts against God, and they will not yield. With no sinless creature of God have they communion. They are voluntarily alone in the universe, at war with all God's creatures, and lowest among them. They are most unworthy. Every arrangement of his providence tends to restore them to his favour. Neglecting the duty of Covenanting, they set all these at nought. The beasts that perish are not degraded, but these are. They are worthy to be ranked with apostate angels. In the rage of their rebellion, they are bent on enduring all the terrors of a broken law and covenant in the place of final woe. Let not sinners persevere in their obstinacy. Even yet, there is good largely offered to them, which, if they accept it, they will abundantly receive.


[456] Gen. i. 27.

[457] Eccl. vii. 29.

[458] Gen. ii. 16, 17.

[459] Ps. cxi. 9.

[460] Rom. viii. 7.

[461] John v. 40.

[462] Ps. lxxiii. 28.

[463] Is. xlii. 18.

[464] Ps. lxxxv. 8.

[465] Mic. vii. 7.

[466] Ps. iv. 2.

[467] Is. lvi. 6.

[468] Tit. i. 15.

[469] Heb. ix. 14.

[470] Ps. lxxxi. 11.

[471] Phil. ii. 13.

[472] 1 Tim. i. 9.

[473] Jer. li. 25, 26.

[474] Rev. xviii. 21.

[475] 2 Cor. iv. 13.

[476] Ps. li. 13.

[477] Mark ix. 50.

[478] Col. iv. 6.



Since every revealed purpose of God, implying that obedience to his law will be given, is a demand of that obedience, the announcement of his Covenant, as in his sovereignty decreed, claims, not less effectively than an explicit law, the fulfilment of its duties. A representation of a system of things pre-determined in order that the obligations of the Covenant might be discharged; various exhibitions of the Covenant as ordained; and a description of the children of the Covenant as predestinated to peculiar privileges and services, make that announcement; and consequently, preferring the claim of submission to covenant requirements, urge, not less than to the others of these requisitions, a dutiful regard to the exercise of solemn Covenanting.

Many things in creation and providence were appointed for this, as well as for other ends, that men might make and fulfil solemn vows to God. The work of creation itself is cited to lead men to acts of religious homage. "The Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it; and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."[479] The work of creation was performed, that on earth a people might be sustained to serve the Lord. "They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord, and there is none else."[480] In anticipation of bestowing good on his people, even during their continuance on earth, the Surety of sinners, when the creation of all things was decreed, rejoiced. "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." "When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men."[481] Hence of them as the heirs of a comprehensive Covenant blessing, it is said in language in substance not unfrequently occurring, "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."[482] God's covenant with every living creature, revealed to Noah, was an appointment to confer the means of life on men in order to the attainment of the end of their creation. Other arrangements, conducive to the same object, are thus described,—"He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death; and in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh. At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace."[483] That the land of Canaan was granted to the Israelites, not merely by promise, but by a sovereign decree, is implied in the words, "Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them."[484] Israel, fallen from the service of the Lord, is thus addressed,—"And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (my husband), and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name." Protection, as ordained in connection with their being taken into covenant with God, is thus promised,—"And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle, out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord." Support, too, as in like manner provided for them—crying unto the Lord for the supply of their wants, is promised,—"And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." And not merely reclaimed Israel, but the Gentiles, as by sovereign ordination interested in all their outward and spiritual blessings, are objects of the promise,—"And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."[485]

Secondly. The covenant of God, as ordained by him, manifests that the exercise of vowing unto him was also ordained. That was appointed. In statements regarding the sovereign arrangements of providence is this taught. These were brought into view, and their continuance promised, in the covenant made with Noah. In that covenant it was secured that the waters of another flood should not overflow the earth. In that too it was promised, that summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, should not cease. The covenant, therefore, as well as these ordinances, its results, was ordained. And accordingly was ordained, all connected with its dispensations. From the use of a term employed in prophecy in reference to the waters of the sea, this, moreover, appears. "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it."[486] The term here rendered placed, in this passage means appointed; and in the two following passages is applied to the covenant. The statement, "He appointed a law in Israel,"[487] hence declares the institution of his law as a decree. And the demands of the covenant being those of the law, even as his law, the covenant it intimates as ordained, not merely by his high authority, but according to his sovereign will. And thus too are expounded David's last words,—"He hath made with me," or rather appointed for me, "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,"[488] as intimating not merely his cleaving to God's covenant, but his recognition of that covenant as according to his good pleasure, in all things decreed.

That covenant was established. "God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."[489] In such terms—literally applicable to intelligent and moral beings—but in figure transferable to the lower creation too, God spake of good intended for living creatures of every kind. That all the latter could apprehend his benevolent purposes, the words cannot intimate, but they do declare that by a beneficent ordination he had made provision for all. The beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, in common with man, enjoy the benefits of an animal life. With him they are subjected to the operation of causes acting according to the sovereign purposes of God, and with him, they are employed by the Lord of all in their varied spheres to fulfil his will. But he, by his great Creator, favoured highly above them, is called to obedience in a way to them unknown. Yet not less determinate than the laws and dispositions of the material world are all His arrangements, especially his covenant provisions made with regard to man. The lower creatures of God, though they know him not, obey his word. Moral agents on earth are subject wholly to his control. The decrees of his providence affect his intelligent and moral creatures not less than those that know not to resolve. All things continue according to his ordinances—the material creation and his immortal offspring. His statutes bind the heavens and the earth; and by his appointment, the relations unto him into which men are brought, are constituted and sustained. Whatever may be the character of a solemn covenant with him, to his appointment it is due, and by his will continues.

If to them that fear God will be verified the declaration, "Thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee,"[490] will not all his own holy purposes stand? And was not all that he established—was not the covenant which he established, decreed? His purposes and their fulfilment are alike sure. "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."[491] To some who had disregarded his covenant were directed his words,—"Because ye have said, we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, ... The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." But revealing the Mediator of his covenant, and, consequently, making known that covenant, as to obtain, instead of the covenant with death, which was to be swept away, at the same time he says, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." Regarding both the threatening and the promise, are his words,—"This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working."[492] And may there not also be applied to both his own averment,—"The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand."[493]

The covenant was commanded. When God said, "I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded," He spake of that omnipotent word by which he commanded all their hosts, at least into existence. And, accordingly, we are to understand the testimony, "He hath commanded his covenant for ever,"[494] as implying not merely that it should endure for ever, but that to his almighty mandate are its origin and continuance due. This the Psalmist celebrates when he sings of Zion, "There the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."[495] And this, too, in addressing the children of Zion, and the God of Zion, he records. "Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."[496] In like manner, are the blessings of that covenant thus announced:—"The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." And is thus declared, that obedience to its requirements was ordained, "He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations: which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant." By the Lord of all, obedience to his law is enjoined. But what is requisite that duty be performed, is from him. And all needful aid he ordained. His law exhibits what he demands. The allotments of his providence illustrate the necessity of submission to him; and the pre-determinations of his will secure the services which he accepts. His laws are perfect. With the arrangements of his providence they harmonize. On the absolute perfection of his nature they are founded. All who obey them declare their approval of his purpose. To encourage such, his purposes are revealed. Because his covenant was commanded, it was made known. Its revelation, with its other provisions, leads to the attainment of its end. And it shall continue. Its benefits will be confessed, and its obligations respected and fulfilled. Contemplating its demands as promulgated by the authority of God, these they will endeavour to satisfy in accordance with his sovereign decrees. The wicked disobey his commandments, but cannot alter the determination of his will. The others make not the purposes of God the rule of duty, but endeavouring to fulfil his revealed will, they are employed with honour to execute his counsel. "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."[497]

And the covenant of God stands according to a sovereign decree. In virtue of his high authority the Lord imposed the regulations of his material and intelligent kingdoms, and the laws by which his moral creatures are governed. Hence, terms strictly applicable only to the government of the one, are metaphorically applied to the control of the other. And his dispensations to some are employed as symbols of his operations towards the rest. Thus, in language primarily used in reference to the firmness or security of a building, his word, and, consequently, his covenant, the arrangements of which it embodies, are represented as decreed. "Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them forever."[498] As ordained or decreed, to the appointments of the material universe it is compared. "Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers."—"Thus saith the Lord, If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant."[499] And especially is that true religion through which covenant engagements are made and kept, according to God's decree. "Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?"—"God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof." "When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."[500] Were the rain, and the lightning, and the thunder decreed? Then no less was decreed "the fear of the Lord." To vow unto the Lord was to manifest that fear. "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name."[501] And hence, also, not less than every other effect of that true wisdom which consists in the fear of the Lord, and of that understanding which is to depart from evil, was ordained the service of vowing and swearing to him.

Thirdly. A people were foreordained to make solemn vows unto God. Representations are given of his people as formed for his service. According to some of these, the expression, to form, means to fashion, or to bring into existence. "I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise."[502] "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant."[503] And hence, because whatever is formed, is formed according to God's purpose, his servants, to his service in all its parts, were foreordained by him. But besides, the meaning of the said expression, cannot, even in the foregoing passages, nor in others, be limited to its literal import. It is employed to intimate that God pre-determined what his enemies should accomplish. "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps."[504] In reference to a Covenant people to be continued to discharge their peculiar duties, and to provisions of grace, described in terms most beauteous, it is applied.[505] "Thus saith the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name."[506] And since the purposes of God secure their fulfilment, and so his arrangements concerning his people secure their creation, regeneration, and continued support, does not the expression, kindred to others, "Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; fear not, O Jacob, my servant," explicitly advert to them as predestinated to obedience, and especially the obedience thus described, "One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel"?[507] Reasonings on the sovereignty of God exercised in setting apart a limited number to the benefits of salvation, illustrate and assert the truth. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles."[508] In such terms is God described as not merely having created all things, but as having predestinated some to eternal life, and decreed that others should be left to perish. The mode of expression embodying the image of the potter agrees with the words of the Old Testament Scriptures,—"Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? or shall the thing framed (formed) say of him that framed (formed) it, he had no understanding?"[509] What is taught by the use of such language must therefore be implied in those declarations of the prophets, where corresponding terms are employed. In the language of the Old Testament, the potter is literally, he who forms. According to the Apostle, the potter symbolizes him who predestinates. Hence, since, as in the words,—"Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth (formeth) it, what makest thou? or thy work, he hath no hands,"[510] he is compared to the potter, He is to be recognised as the sovereign Disposer of the final conditions of all. And forasmuch as, at a given period, concerning the existing house of Jacob, framed by him, he says in regard to their descendants, also formed by him, "But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel,"[511] depicting all of them in the character of those who avouch him to be their God, the true Israel he acknowledges as formed for, or set apart to, that high distinction by himself; and that the Apostle had this in view, his quotations from the prophets here given declare. It was of a people who should be objects of this promise, "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi, and shalt call me no more Baali,"[512] and on whom the privileges thereafter described should be conferred, that was predicted the blessedness, "I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God."[513] It is of those, to whom Covenanting[514] with God, refers the promise, "The remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God,"[515] that Esaias also crieth, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved."[516] And it was of those who, heirs of Abraham's faith, which was counted to him for righteousness, were, as he was, taken into covenant with God, and like whom none remained in the cities of the plain when these were overthrown, that "Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha."[517]

The Covenant people of God are an appointed people. Even as a law was appointed in Israel; even as an everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure, was appointed; so were they. "And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them."[518] The same term, denoting to appoint, in each of the three cases is used. It is used in original of the passage, "He gave (appointed) to the sea his decree;" and in this acceptation of it signifies, in sovereignty to ordain. The ancient people included first the people of Israel;[519] and they are the Covenant people of all nations, and of every age, members of that church whose date is of ancient days. By the prophet who speaks of their appointment, their practice as Covenanters vowing to the Lord, in a familiar passage is explicitly described.[520] From others it may be concluded. Many evils overtook apostate Israel. "The earth mourneth, and fadeth away; the world languisheth, and fadeth away; the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the Everlasting Covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate." But to many, good was to follow. And if, for the neglect of making and keeping Covenant engagements, such calamities were poured out, will not a strict regard to these duties be paid when desolations shall cease, and there shall have arrived the time, "when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously."[521] Many were appointed or left to disobedience and condemnation. And were not others appointed to obedience and life? Of the former, the Apostle Peter writes,—"But unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." But to the others, in terms certainly implying, that to every privilege and duty of the Covenant they were no less—yea, assuredly appointed, He says, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." The chief corner stone laid in Sion is presented as aground of trust, instead of the Covenant with death and hell which should not stand. All founded on him are therefore a Covenant people, and hence, in that character, they were appointed. And hence, in terms from the Old Testament, bearing on Covenant relations and duties, he continues his address, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."[522]

The people of God, as a Covenant people, were written in the book of life. Of the holy Jerusalem the Spirit testifies, "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."[523] Whosoever enters therein, therefore, will not rank among those who, refusing to act as the children of the Covenant, are denominated the uncircumcised and the unclean. Concerning the beast, it is said, "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."[524] The sin of those is idolatry. Hence, neither are written in the book of life any others, who impenitently refraining from the obedience of a covenant people, virtually persevere in the service of any idols, till death arrests them. It was to Israel as a people who had voluntarily in covenant dedicated themselves to his service, that was addressed the message, "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord."[525] And applicable to all who, such as they were, being in covenant are sanctified, is the promise, "And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem."[526] The saints of God are come "to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven;" but they are also come to "Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." And according to their distinguished destination they endeavour to reduce to practice the exhortation, "Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."[527]

The Covenant people of God are an elect people. They were chosen to be separated from the wicked and from their works. Thus Israel were separated from the heathen. Thus all who believe are separated from those that know not nor obey the Lord. "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."[528] "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you."[529] The answer of God to the lamentation of Elijah concerning the defection of Israel, is applied to believers of New Testament times, as a people in covenant chosen from the wicked. "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars: and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace."[530] The apostle does not quote the words of the prophet,—"The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant;"[531] but he states the evidence for the fact which these words announce, "They have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars." The seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, were steadfast in God's Covenant. All believers are so. As thus steadfast, all of them in every time are a remnant, according to the election of grace.

The people of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Hence a visible church was erected therein. Hence Israel, as a people, were endowed with peculiar privileges. Hence the ordinances of Divine grace are dispensed in every age. But all are not elect who wait on the institutions of religion. Israel was chosen from among the heathen; but all of them were not chosen in Christ. The members of the visible church, by profession, are separated from the world; but all of them do not enjoy the privileges, and do not discharge the duties of God's elect. All are not Israel who are of Israel. When the Lord entered into covenant with his people Israel, he chose them from among idolaters. He did so because of his choice of them from everlasting. Why the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, is, that he chose them from eternity. And the Lord will have mercy on the Gentiles as a covenant people, set apart from the wicked, according to his eternal sovereign good will. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all the people; but because the Lord loved you.—"[532] "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."[533] When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. These apostles thereupon expressed their resolution to turn to the Gentiles. And their warrant they declare, "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." Nor was he, who, that he might be a light of the Gentiles, was given for a covenant of the people,[534] then preached in vain. "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."[535]

The people of God were elected to covenant obedience. Israel were frequently represented both as his elect and as his servants. "For Jacob, my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name."[536] The elect are spoken of as formed and ordained to good works. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." And those good works include the keeping of the covenant, by Covenanting and fulfilling the engagements made. "Wherefore, remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ."[537] The saints are described as "elect—unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."[538] As the sprinkling of blood, signifying the application of the efficacy of Christ's death by the Spirit of God, was wont to accompany the exercise of Covenanting by sacrifice, so, under the last dispensation, the obedience of the people of God, according to election, is to spring from their acceptance of Christ and his benefits, and dedication to God in the various acts of personal and social Covenanting. Finally, they are introduced at once as his witnesses, his servant, and his chosen. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen."[539] They were therefore chosen to serve him, by vowing and swearing to him in secret, by testifying to his truths by oath before the world, and by adhering faithfully to his testimony.

The people of God were elected to privileges that can be enjoyed only by those in covenant with him. Theirs is the heavenly calling; and this they enjoy, "that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth."[540] All the saints being called, and chosen, and faithful, Abraham had been a partaker of this calling when God delivered to him the command to leave his native land, which the patriarch obeyed. That effectual call led him to obey the special mandate to go forth to Canaan, and to believe the precious promise that had been made to him. When the Covenant of God was established with him by that call, he laid hold upon it, testifying to his acquiescence in it, by believing in the Lord, by sacrificing unto him, and by receiving circumcision as a covenant sign. And that, as the promise of that covenant was to the Jews who were called, so its seasonable duties, and consequently the exercise of engaging to it, were incumbent upon them, appears from the record of the specially momentous day of Pentecost. Manifestly keeping in view the Covenant, by inculcating on the people a regard to baptism—its sign, "Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."[541] Not merely to the Jews was its precious promise of the "seed," Christ, but to the Gentiles also. And faith in him, and the duty of keeping and of entering into covenant with him, under the latter dispensation, are obligatory on all. "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."[542] And the gospel is preached, that men receiving the external call may be called effectually, and thus brought to receive the promise, and fulfil the duties required. Like the Israelites, who, after His manifestation in the flesh, believed in Jesus, all the people of God feel and acknowledge their covenant obligations, that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. To the condition of a people keeping covenant, the seed of Jacob yet to be reclaimed, as chosen of God will be called. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."[543] And all whom he had before prepared unto glory, even those whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, as a people in covenant acting faith on Christ will lay hold on the covenant promise. "For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament (covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament (covenant), they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."[544]

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