Paradise Opened, or the Secrets, Mysteries, and Rarities of Divine Love, of Infinite Wisdom, and of Wonderful Counsel—Laid Open to Public View
The Covenant of Grace Proved and Opened
Beloved in our Lord,
In the first part of my book, The Golden Key, I have showed you seven different pleas, which all sincere Christians may form up, as to those ten scriptures, which refer either to the great day of account, or to their particular days of account. In this second part, I shall go on where I left, and show you several other choice pleas, that all believers may make in the present case.
VIII. The eighth plea that a believer may form up as to these ten scriptures, [Eccles. 11:9, and 12:14; Mat. 12:14, and 18:23; Luke 16:2; Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27, and 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5.] that refer to the great day of account, or to a man's particular account, may be drawn up from the consideration of the covenant of grace, or the new covenant which all believers are under. It is of high concernment to understand the nature of the covenant of grace, or the new covenant, which is the law you must judge of your estates by, for if you mistake in that—you will err in the conclusion. That person is very unfit to make a judge, who is ignorant of the law, by which himself and others must be tried. For the clearing of my way, let me premise these six things—
1. First, Premise this with me—that God has commonly dealt with man in the way of a covenant; that being a way which is most suitable to man, and most honorable for man, and the most amicable and friendly way of dealing with man. No sooner was man made, but God entered into covenant with him, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall die the death," Gen. 2:17; and after this, he made a covenant with the world, by Noah, Gen. 9:11-15, and 6:18; and after this, he made a covenant with Abraham, Gen. 17:1-2; and after this, he made a covenant with the Jews at Mount Sinai, Exod. 19. Thus you see that God has commonly dealt with man in the way of a covenant. But,
2. Secondly, Premise this with me—All men are under some covenant or other; they are either under a covenant of works—or they are under a covenant of grace. All people who live and die without a saving interest in Christ—they live and die under a covenant of works. Such as live and die with a saving interest in Christ—they live and die under a covenant of grace. There is but a twofold standing taken notice of in the blessed Scriptures; the one is under the law, the other is under grace. Now he who is not under grace, is under the law, Rom 6:14. It is true, in the Scripture you do not read, of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace; but that of the apostle comes near it: Romans 3:27, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith." [The apostle expressly tells us that there are two covenants, and no more, in Gal. 4:24.]
Here you have the law of works, opposed to the law of faith; which essentially means the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The apostle sets forth this twofold condition of men, by a very pertinent resemblance, namely, by that of marriage, Romans 7:1-3. All Adam's seed are married to one of these two husbands; either to the law, or to Christ. He who is not spiritually married to Christ, and so brought under his covenant—is still under the law as a covenant of works; even as a wife is under the law of her husband while he is yet alive. Certainly there were never any but two covenants made with man, the one legal, the other evangelical; the one of works, the other of grace; the first in innocency, the other after the fall. Ponder upon Romans 4:13. But,
3. Thirdly, Let me premise this—that the covenant of grace was so legally dispensed to the Jews, that it seems to be nothing else but the repetition of the covenant of works; in respect of which legal dispensations of it, the same covenant, under the law, is called a covenant of works. Under the gospel, in regard of the clearer manifestation of it, it is called a covenant of grace: but these were not two distinct covenants, but one and the same covenant diversely dispensed. The covenant of grace is the same for substance now to us since Christ was exhibited, as it was to the Jews before he was exhibited; but the manner of administration of it is different, because it is:
(1.) Now clearer. Things were then declared, in types and shadows. Heaven was then typed out by the land of Canaan. But now we have things more plainly manifested, 2 Cor. 3:12; Heb. 7:22. In this respect it is called "a better covenant," Heb. 8:6; not in substance, but in the manner of revealing it; and the promises are said to be "better promises" upon the same account, Acts 10:35.
(2.) The covenant of grace, is now more largely extended. Then it extended only to the Jews; but now it extends to all who know the Lord, and who choose him, fear him, love him, and serve him in all nations, Col. 3:11; Neh. 7:2; Job 1:1, 8; Acts 13:22, seq.; Romans 4:18-20.
(3.) There is more abundance of the Spirit, of grace, of light, of knowledge, of holiness, poured out generally upon the people of God now—than there was in those times. Though then some few eminent saints had much of the Spirit, and much of grace and holiness, both in their hearts and lives; but now the generality of the saints have more of the Spirit, and more grace and holiness, than the generality of the saints had in those times. But,
4. Fourthly, Premise this with me—that a right notion of the covenant, according to the originals of the Old and New Testament—will conduce much to a right understanding of God's covenant.[The word covenant in our English tongue, signifies, as we all know, a mutual promise, agreement, and obligation, between two people. A covenant is a solemn compact or agreement between two chosen parties; whereby, with mutual, free, and full consent, they bind and oblige themselves one to another. A covenant is "A friendly state between allies." Martin Luther. The derivation of the Hebrew word, and of the Greek, may give us great light, and is of special use to show the nature of the covenant which they principally signify, and what special things are therein required.
(1.) The Hebrew word, Berith, a covenant, is by learned men derived from several roots:
[1.] First, Some derive it from Barar—to purify, make clear, and to purge out dross, chaff, and all uncleanness; and to select, and choose out, and separate the pure from the impure, the gold and silver from the dross, and the pure wheat from the chaff. The reasons of this derivation are these:
(1.) Because by covenants, open and clear amity is confirmed, and faithfulness is plainly and clearly declared and ratified, without deceit or fraud, between covenanters; and things are made plain and clear between them in every point and article.
(2.) Because God, in the covenant of works, did choose out man especially, with whom he made the covenant; and because in the covenant of grace, he chooses out of the multitude his elect, even his church and faithful people, whom he did separate by predestination and election from all eternity, to be a holy people to himself in Christ, Eph. 1:4.
(3.) Some derive it from Barah, and truly, the Lord, when he makes a covenant with any, he does separate them from others, he looks on them, and takes them, and owns them for his "peculiar people," 1 Pet. 2:9, for his "peculiar treasure," Exod. 19:5, and agrees with them as the chosen and choicest of all others. The first staff in Zech. 11:10, is called "Beauty," and this was the covenant; and certainly it must be a high honor for a people to be in covenant with God; for by this means God becomes ours, and we are made near unto him, Jer. 31:38, 40-41. He is ours, and we are his, in a very peculiar way of relation; and by this means God opens his love and all his treasures of grace unto us. In his covenant he tells us of his special care, love, kindness, and great intentions of good to us; and by this means his faithfulness comes to be obliged to make good all his covenant relations and engagements to us, Deut. 7:9. Now in all this God puts a great favor and honor upon his people. Hence, when the Lord told Abraham that he would make a covenant with him, Abraham fell upon his face; he was amazed at so great a love and honor, Gen. 17:2-3.
[2.] Secondly, Some derive the word from Barah—to eat, because usually they had a feast at the making of covenants. In the Eastern countries they commonly established their covenants by eating and drinking together. Herodotus tells us that the Persians were accustomed to contract leagues and friendship in a full feast, whereat their wives, children, and friends, were present. The like custom, Tacitus reports of the Germans. Among the Greeks and other nations, the covenanters ate bread and salt together. The Emperor of Russia, at this day, when he would show extraordinary grace and favor unto any, sends him bread and salt from his table. When he invited Baron Sigismund, he did it in this form: "Sigismund, you shall eat our bread and salt with us." Hence that symbol of Pythagoras, "break no bread," is interpreted by Erasmus and others to mean, "break no friendship."
Moreover, the Egyptians, Thracians, and Lybians in special, are said to have used to make leagues, and contract friendships—by presenting a cup of wine one to another; which custom we find still in use among our western nations. It has been the universal custom of mankind, and still remains in use, to contract covenants, and make leagues and friendship—by eating and drinking together.
When Isaac made a covenant with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, the text says, "He made him, and those that were with him, a feast; and they did eat and drink, and rose up early in the morning, and swore one to another," Gen. 26:30-31. When Jacob made a covenant with Laban, after they had sworn together, he made him a feast, "and called his brethren to eat bread," says the text, Gen. 31:54. When David made a covenant with Abner, upon his promise of bringing all Israel unto him, David made "Abner and the men who were with him a feast," says the text, 2 Sam. 3:20. Hence, in the Hebrew tongue a covenant is called Berith, of Barak to eat, as if they should say an eating; which derivation is so natural, that it deserves, say some, to be preferred before the other signification of the same verb, which is to choose.
Now they that derive Berith from Barah, which signifies to eat and refresh one's self with a meal, they give this reason for that derivation, namely, because the old covenant of God, made with man in the creation, was a covenant wherein the condition or law was about eating; that man should eat of all the trees and fruits, except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Gen. 2:16-17; and in the solemn making and sealing of the covenant of grace in Christ, the blessed seed, the public ceremony was slaying and sacrificing of animals, and eating some part of them, after the fat and the choice parts were offered up and burned on the altar. For God, by virtue of that covenant, gave man leave to eat the flesh of animals, Deut. 12:27, which he might not do in the state of innocency, Gen. 1:29, being limited to fruits of trees, and herbs bearing seed, for his meat. So, also, in solemn covenants between men, the parties were accustomed to eat together, Gen. 31:46.
[3.] Thirdly, Others derive the word Berith from Bara, or Barah, to smite, strike, cut, or divide, as both these words signify. The word also signifies to elect or choose; and the reasons they give for this derivation, are these two:
First, Because covenants are not made, but by choice persons, chosen out one by another, and about choice matters, and upon choice conditions; chosen out, and agreed upon by both parties.
Secondly, Because, in making of covenants, commonly sacrifices were stricken and slain, for confirmation and solemnity. Of old, God sealed his covenants by sacrifices of animals slain, divided, and cut asunder, and the choice fat, and other parts, offered upon the altar. And in making of great and solemn covenants, men, in old time, were accustomed to kill and cut asunder sacrificed animals; and to pass between the parts divided, for a solemn testimony, or for the confirmation of the covenants that they had made, Gen. 15:9-10, 17. [Jer. 34:18-20, and Lev. 26:25. Weigh well these two scriptures. Covenant breakers may well look upon them as flaming swords, as terrible thunderbolts.]
And as learned men have long since observed, that the very heathen, in their covenanting, used sacrifices, and divided them, passing between the parts; and this they did, as some conjecture, in imitation of God's people.
This third opinion, is the common opinion, about the original of this name; and therefore preferred before all others. So this word Berith, covenant, seems to sound as much as Kerith, a smiting or striking, because of sacrifices slain in covenanting. Hence the word covenant is often joined with Karath, which signifies striking of covenant. An example of this beyond all exception, says my author, is in that sacrifice, wherein God by Moses, made a covenant with all the people of Israel, and bound them to obey his law: the description of it is in Exodus 24:4-8, "Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord's instructions. Early the next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He also set up twelve pillars around the altar, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent some of the young men to sacrifice young bulls as burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. Moses took half the blood from these animals and drew it off into basins. The other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They all responded again, "We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey." Then Moses sprinkled the blood from the basins over the people and said, "This blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these laws."
[Ancient covenants were made with blood, to betoken constancy in the covenant, even to the shedding of blood, and loss of life.] I shall not trouble my reader with that mystical and too curious a sense, that some of the ancients put upon these words. The historical sense is here more fit: for in this ceremony of dividing the blood in two parts, and so besprinkling the altar with the one half, which represented God; and the people with the other, between whom the covenant was confirmed, the old use in striking of covenants is observed. For the ancient custom was, that they which made a league or covenant, divided some animals, and put the parts asunder, walking in the midst; signifying that as the animal was divided, so they should be, who broke the covenant. So when Saul went against the Ammonites, coming out of the field, he hewed two oxen, and sent them into all the coasts of Israel, 1 Sam. 11:7; expressing the like signification, that so should his oxen be served, which came not forth after Saul and Samuel. After the same manner, when God made a covenant with Abraham, Gen. 15:12-19, and he had divided certain animals, as God had commanded him, and laid one part against another, a smoking firebrand went between, representing God, signifying, that so he who violated the covenant should be divided. So in this place, not much unlike; the blood is parted in twain, showing that so should his blood be shed, who kept not the covenant.
[4.] Fourthly, Some derive the word Berith from Bara, to create; and the reason they give for this derivation is this—because the first state of creation was confirmed by the covenant which God made with man, and all creatures were to be upheld by means of observing of the law and condition of the covenant. And that covenant being broken by man, the world, made subject to ruin, is upheld, yes, and as it were created anew, by the covenant of grace in Christ.
[5.] Fifthly, Some derive the word Berith from Berath, which signifies firmness, sureness, because covenants are firm and sure, and all things agreed on are confirmed and made sure by them. God's covenant is a sure covenant: Deut. 7:9, "The Lord your God, he is the faithful God," or the God of truth, "who keeps covenant with those who love him." Psalm 89:34, "My covenant will I not break"—Hebrew, "I will not profane" "nor alter the thing which have gone out of my lips." [Jer. 31:31, 33, 35-37; Psalm 19:7; Rev. 3:14; Isaiah 54:10.] All God's precepts, all God's predictions, all God's threatenings, and all God's promises—are the expression of a most just, faithful, and righteous will. There are three things that God cannot do:
(1.) He cannot die.
(2.) He cannot lie: Titus 1:2, "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began."
(3.) He cannot deny himself.
Now the derivation of Berith, from the several roots specified, and not from one only, does give much light to the point under consideration; and does reconcile in one, all the several opinions of the learned, and justifies their several derivations, without rejecting or offering any wrong or disgrace to any.
(2.) Secondly, The Greek name Diatheke, a covenant or a testament. By this Greek word the Septuagint, does commonly express the Hebrew word Berith; and it is observable that this is the only word by which the Hebrew word Berith is rendered in the New Testament. This Greek word, diatheke, is translated covenant in the New Testament about twenty times; and the same word is translated testament in the New Testament about twelve times. [Heb. 8:6-10, and 1:4; Luke 1:72; Romans 9:4, etc.; Mat. 26:28; Luke 22:20, etc.] Wherever you find the word covenant in the New Testament, there you shall find Diatheke; and wherever you find the word testament in the New Testament, there you shall find Diatheke; so that it is of importance for us to understand this word aright.
Now this Greek word is derived from Diatithemi, which has several of the significations of the Hebrew words of which Berith is derived; for it signifies to set things in order and frame, to appoint orders, and make laws, to pacify and make satisfaction, and to dispose things by one's last will and testament. Now to compose and set things in order is to uphold the creation; to walk by orders and laws made and appointed is to walk by rule, and to live, to deal plainly and faithfully without deceit. To pacify and make satisfaction includes sacrifices and sin-offerings. To dispose by will and testament implies choice of persons and gifts; for men do commonly by will give their best and most choice things to their most dear and most choice friends. Thus the Greek which the apostles use in the New Testament to signify a covenant, to express the Hebrew word Berith, which is used in the law and the prophets, does confirm our derivation of it from all the words before named.
And this derivation of the Hebrew and Greek names of a covenant being thus laid down, and confirmed by the reasons formerly cited, is of great USE. The various acceptance and use of these two names in the Old and New Testament is very considerable for the opening of the covenant:
First, To show unto us the full signification of the word covenant, and what the nature of a covenant is in general.
Second, To justify the several acceptations of the word, and to show the nature of every word in particular, and so to make way for the knowledge of the agreement, and difference between the old and new covenant. Here, as in a crystal glass, you may see that this word Berith, and this word Diatheke, signify all covenants in general, whether they are religious or civil; for there is nothing in any true covenant which is not comprised in the signification of these words, being expounded according to the former derivations. Here also we may see what is the nature of a covenant in general, and what things are thereunto required; as, first, every true covenant presupposes a division or separation; secondly, it comprehends in it a mutual promising and binding between two distinct parties.
Thirdly, there must be faithful dealing, without fraud, or dissembling on both sides.
Fourthly, this must be between choice persons.
Fifthly, it must be about choice matters and upon choice conditions, agreed upon by both.
Sixthly and lastly, it must tend to the well-ordering and composing of things between them.
Now all these are manifest by the several significations of the words from which Berith and Diatheke are derived. And thus much for the word covenant according to the originals of the Old and New Testament.
5. Fifthly, Premise this with me, that there was a covenant of WORKS, or a reciprocal covenant, between God and Adam, together with all his posterity.Before Adam fell from his primitive holiness, beauty, glory, and excellency—God made a covenant with Adam as a public person, in which he represented all mankind. The covenant of works was made with all men in Adam, who was made and stood as a public person, head and root, in a common and comprehensive capacity. I say, it was made with him as such, and we all in him; he and all stood and fell together.
(1.) Witness the imputation of Adam's sin to all mankind. Romans 5:12, "In whom," or forasmuch as, "all have sinned;" they sinned not all in themselves, therefore they sinned in Adam; see ver. 14, "In him all died."
(2.) Witness the curse of the covenant that all mankind are directly under. Consult these scriptures. [1 Cor, 15:47; Deut. 29:21; Romans 8:20,21; Gal. 3:10, 13.] Those on whom the curse of the covenant comes, those are under the bond and precept of the covenant. But all mankind are under the curse of the covenant, and therefore all mankind are under the bond and precept of the covenant. Adam did understand the terms of the covenant, and did consent to the terms of the covenant; for God dealt with him in a rational way, and expected from him a reasonable service. The end of this covenant was the upholding of the creation, and of all the creatures in their pure natural estate, for the comfort of man continually, and for the special manifestation of God's free grace; and that he might put the greater obligation upon Adam to obey his Creator and to sweeten his authority to man; and that he might draw out Adam to an exercise of his faith, love, and hope in his Creator; and that he might leave Adam the more inexcusable in case he should sin; and that so a clear way might be made for God's justification and man's conviction. Upon these grounds God dealt with Adam, not only in a way of sovereignty, but in a way of covenant.
QUESTION. But how may it be evidenced that God entered into a covenant of works with the first Adam before his fall, there being no mention of such a covenant in the Scripture that we read of?
ANSWER. Though the name is not in the Scripture, yet the principal and thing itself are in the Scripture, as will evidently appear by comparing scripture with scripture. [Socinians call for the word "Satisfaction," others call for the word "Sacrament," others call for the word "Trinity," and others call for the word "Sabbath," for Lord's day, etc.; and thence conclude against any Satisfaction, Sacraments, Trinity, Sabbath, for lack of express words, when the things themselves are plainly and lively set down, in other words, in the blessed Scriptures. So it is in this case of God's covenant with Adam. The vanity and folly of such ways of reasoning is sufficiently demonstrated by all writers upon those subjects, who are sound in the faith, etc.]
Though it be not positively and plainly said in the blessed Scripture that God made a covenant of works with Adam before his fall, yet, upon sundry scripture grounds and considerations, it may be sufficiently evidenced that God did make such a covenant with Adam before his fall. Therefore it is a fancy cavil, and a foolish vanity, for any to make such a noise about the word covenant—for lack of the word covenant, boldly to conclude that there was no such covenant made with Adam, when the thing is lively set down in other words, though the word covenant be not expressed. This I shall make evident by an induction of particulars, thus—
[1.]First, God, to declare his sovereignty and man's subjection, gave Adam, though innocent, a law. God's express prescription of a positive law unto Adam in his innocent state, is clearly and fully laid down in Gen. 2:16-17, "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!" Hebrew, "dying you shall die." Mark how God bounds man's obedience with a double fence:
First, He fenced him with a free indulgence to eat of every tree in the garden but one, which gave him less cause to be desiring after the one forbidden fruit. But "stolen waters are sweet."
Secondly, By an explanatory prohibition, upon pain of death. By the first, the Lord woos him by love; by the second, he frightens him by the terror of his justice, and bids him touch and taste—if he dared.
The two PARTIES were God and Adam; God the Creator, and man, the creature, made "after God's image and likeness." At this time, Adam was not contrary to God, nor at enmity with him; but he was in some measure like unto God, though far different and inferior to God in nature and substance.
Here are also TERMS agreed on, and matters covenanted reciprocally, by these parties.
Adam, on his part, was to be obedient to God, in forbearing to eat of the tree of knowledge only. God's charge to our first parents was only negative—not to eat of the tree of knowledge; the other, to eat of the trees, was left unto their choice. Eve confesses that God spoke unto them both, and said, "You shall not eat of it," Gen. 3:2; and God speaks unto both of them together in these words, "Behold, I have given unto you every herb, and every tree," etc., Gen. 1:19. At which time also it is very likely that he gave them the other prohibition of not eating of that one tree; for if God had made that exception before, he would not have given a general permission after; or if this general grant had gone before, the exception coming should seem to abrogate the former grant. The Septuagint seems to be of this mind, that this precept was given both to Adam and Eve, reading thus in the plural number, "In what day you both shall eat thereof you both shall die." And though, in the original, the precept be given in the name of Adam only, that is only:
(1.) Because Adam was the more principal, and he had the charge of the woman; and
(2.) Because that the greatest danger was in his transgression, which was the cause of the ruin of his posterity;
(3.) Because, as Mercerus well observes, Adam was the common name both of the man and woman, Gen. 5:2, and so is taken, ver. 15. And God, on his part, for the present, permits Adam to eat of all other trees of the garden; and for the future, in his explicit threatening of death in case of disobedience; implicitly promises life in case of obedience herein.
[2.]Secondly, The promises of this covenant on God's part were very glorious—
First, That heaven, and earth, and all creatures should continue in their natural course and order wherein God had created and placed them, serving always for man's use, and that man should have the benefit and lordship of them all.
Secondly, As for natural life, in respect of the body, Adam should have had perfection without defect, beauty without deformity, labor without weariness.
Thirdly, As for spiritual life, Adam would never have known what it was to be under terrors and horrors of conscience, nor what a wounded spirit means, Proverbs 18:14. He would never have found "the arrows of the Almighty sticking fast in him, nor the poison thereof drinking up his spirits, nor the terrors of God to set themselves in array against him," Job 6:4. Nor would he ever have tasted of death. Death is a fall that came in by a fall. Had Adam never sinned, Adam would have never died; had Adam stood fast in innocency, he would have been translated to glory without dissolution. Death came in by sin, and sin goes out by death. As the worm kills the worm that bred it, so death kills sin that bred it.
Now where there are parties covenanting, promising, and agreeing upon terms, and terms mutually agreed upon by those parties, as here, there is the substance of an express covenant, though it be not formally and in express words called a covenant. This was the first covenant which God made with man, and this is called by the name Berith, Jer. 33:20, where God says, "If you can break my covenant of the day and night, and that there shall not be day and night in their season," ver. 21, "then may also my covenant with David be broken." In these words he speaks plainly of the promise in the creation, that day and night should keep their course, and the sun, moon, and stars, and all creatures, should serve for man's use, Gen. 1:14-16. Now though man did break the covenant on his part, yet God, being immutable, could not break covenant on his part, neither did he allow his promise to fail; but, by virtue of Christ promised to man in the new covenant, he will keep touch with man so long as mankind has a being on the earth.
In this first covenant, God promised unto man life and happiness, lordship over all the creatures, liberty to use them, and all other blessings which his heart could desire, to keep him in that happy estate wherein he was created. And man was bound to God to walk in perfect righteousness, to observe and keep God's commandments, and to obey his will in all things which were within the reach of his nature, and so far as was revealed to him. In the first covenant, God revealed himself to man as one God, Creator, and Governor of all things, infinite in power, wisdom, goodness, nature, and substance. God was man's good Lord, and man was God's good servant; God dearly loved man, and man greatly loved God with all his heart. There was not the least shadow or occasion of hatred or enmity between them; there was nothing but mutual love, mutual delight, mutual contentment, and mutual satisfaction between God and man. Man, in his primitive glory, needed no mediator to come between God and him. Man was perfect, pure, upright, and good, created after God's own image; and the nearer he came to God, the greater was his joy and comfort. God's presence now was man's great delight, and it was man's heaven on earth to walk with God. But,
[3.]Thirdly, Consider the intention and use of the two eminent trees in the garden, which are mentioned in a more peculiar manner—namely, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The intended use of these two trees in paradise was sacramental. Hence they are called symbolical trees, and sacramental trees, by learned writers, both ancient and modern. By these the Lord did signify and seal to our first parents that they should always enjoy that happy state of life in which they were made, upon condition of obedience to his commandments; that is, in eating of the tree of life, and not eating of the tree of knowledge. [The tree of life was the sign and seal which God gave to man for confirmation of this first covenant; and it was to man a sacrament and pledge of eternal life on earth and of all blessings needful to keep man in life.]
The tree of life is so called, not because of any native property and peculiar virtue it had in itself to convey life, but symbolically, morally, and sacramentally. It was a sign and obligation to them of life, natural and spiritual, to be continued to them as long as they continued in obedience to God. The seal of the first covenant was the tree of life, which if Adam had received by taking and eating of it, while he stood in the state of innocency before his fall, he had certainly been established in that estate forever; and the covenant being sealed and confirmed between God and him on both parts, he could not have been seduced and supplanted by Satan, as some learned men do think, and as God's own words seem to imply, Gen. 3:22, "And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever."
"The tree of knowledge of good and evil" was spoken from the sad event and experience they had of it, as Samson had of God's departing from him when he lost his Nazaritish hair by Delilah. "The tree of life" was a sacrament of life; the "tree of knowledge" a sacrament of death. "The tree of life" was for confirmation of man's obedience, and "the tree of knowledge" was for caution against disobedience. Now if those two trees were two sacraments, the one assuring of life in case of obedience, the other assuring of death in case of disobedience, then hence we may collect that God not only entered into a covenant of works with the first Adam, but also gave him this covenant under sacramental signs and seals. But,
[4.]Fourthly, Seriously consider that a covenant of works lay clear, in that commandment, Gen. 2:16-17, which may thus be made evident:
(1.) Because that was the condition of man's standing and life, as it was expressly declared;
(2.) Because, in the breach of that commandment given him, he lost all, and we in him. God made the covenant of works primarily with Adam, and with us in him, as our head, inclusively; so that when he did fall—we did fall; when he lost all—we lost all. There are five things we lost in our fall:
1. Our holy image—and so became vile;
2. Our divine sonship—and so became children of Satan;
3. Our friendship with God—and so became His enemies;
4. Our communion with God—and so became strangers;
5. Our happiness—and so became miserable.
Sin and death came into the world by Adam's fall. In Adam's sinning—we all sinned; and in Adam's dying—we all died; as you may see, by comparing these scriptures together. [1 Cor. 15:22; Romans 5:12 to the end, etc.] In Adam's first sin, we all became sinners by imputation: Adam being a universal person, and all mankind one in him, by God's covenant of works with him. All were that one man, (Augustine,) namely, by federal association. God covenanted with Adam, and in him with all his posterity; and therefore Adam's breach of covenant fell not only upon him, but upon all his posterity. But,
[5.]Fifthly and lastly, We read of a second covenant, Heb. 10:9; Romans 9:4; Gal. 4:24; Eph. 2:12, and we read of a "new covenant:" Jer. 31:31, "Behold the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." So Heb. 8:8, "I will make a new covenant," etc.; ver. 13, "In that he says a new covenant, he has made the first old," etc.; chapter 12:24, "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant," etc. Now if there is a "second covenant," then we may safely conclude there was a "first;" and if there be a "new covenant," then we may boldly conclude that there was an "old covenant." A covenant of grace always supposes a covenant of works, Heb. 8:7-9. I know there is a repetition of the covenant of works with Adam, in the law of Moses; as in that of the apostle to the Galatians, "The law is not of faith, but the man that does these things shall live in them," Gal. 3:10-12. The law requires works. In the first covenant, three things are observable:
(1.) The precept, "continues not in all things." The precept requires perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience;
(2.) The promise, "live;" "the man that does them shall live;" live happily, blessedly, cheerfully, everlastingly;
(3.) The curse in case of transgression, "Cursed is everyone who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." One sin, and that but in thought, broke the angels' covenant, and has brought them into everlasting chains, Jude 6. So the same apostle to the Romans further tells us, that "Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man who does those things, shall live by them," Romans 10:5. Thus it was with Adam, principally and properly, therefore he was under a covenant of works, when God gave him that command, Gen. 2:16-17.
This first covenant is called a covenant of works, because this covenant required working on our part as the condition of it, for justification and happiness, "The man who does these things, shall live." Under this covenant God left man to stand upon his own foundation, and to live upon his own stock, and by his own industry. God made him perfect and upright, and gave him power and ability to stand, and laid no necessity at all upon him to fall. In this first covenant of works, man had no need of a mediator, God did then stipulate with Adam immediately; for seeing he had not made God his enemy by sin, he needed no mediator to make friendly intercession for him, Job 9:33.
Adam was invested and endowed with righteousness and holiness in his first glorious estate; with righteousness, that he might behave fairly, justly, evenly, and righteously towards man; and with holiness, that he might behave wisely, lovingly, reverentially, and holily towards God, and that he might take up in God as his chief good, as in his great all. [Eph. 4:22-24. In this scripture, the apostle speaks plainly of the renovation of that knowledge, holiness, and righteousness that Adam once had, but lost it by his fall, Psalm 8:4-6; Gen. 2:20.] I shall not now stand upon the discovery of Adam's beauty, authority, dominion, dignity, honor, and glory, with which he was adorned, invested, and crowned in innocency. Let this satisfy, that Adam's first estate was a state of perfect knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; it was a perfect state of holiness, righteousness, and happiness. There was nothing within him but what was desirable and delectable; there was nothing without him but what was amiable and commendable; nor was there anything around him but what was serviceable and comfortable. Adam, in his innocent estate, was the wonder of all understanding, the mirror of wisdom and knowledge, the image of God, the delight of heaven, the glory of the creation, the world's great master, and the Lord's great darling. Upon all these accounts, he had no need of a mediator. And let thus much suffice to have spoken concerning the first covenant of works, that was between God and Adam in innocency. But,
6. Sixthly, Premise this with me—namely, that there is a NEW covenant, a second covenant, or a covenant of GRACE between God and his people,Heb. 8:6-13. Express scriptures prove this: Deut. 7:9, "Know therefore, that the Lord your God, he is God; the faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him, and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." 2 Sam. 23:5, "Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire." Neh. 1:5, "I beseech you, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God; who keeps covenant and mercy for those who love him, and keep his commandments." Isaiah 54:10, "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord, that has mercy on you." Jer. 32:40, "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Ezek. 20:37, "And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." Deut. 29:12, "That you should enter into covenant with the Lord your God; and into his oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today." Consult these scriptures also, [Deut. 4:23; Isaiah 55:1-3; Jer. 24:7, 30:22, 31:31, 33, and 32:38; Heb. 8:8-10.] Now that there is a covenant between God and his people, may be further evinced by unanswerable arguments—let me point at some among many.
[1.] First, Christ is said to be "the mediator of this covenant."Heb. 9:15, "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Certainly that covenant, of which Christ is the mediator, must needs be a covenant made with us. The office of mediator, you know, is to stand between two at variance. The two at variance were God and man. Man had offended and incensed God against him. God's wrath was an insupportable burden, and a consuming fire; no creature was able to stand under it, or before it. Therefore Christ, to rescue and redeem man, becomes a mediator. Christ, undertaking to be a mediator, both procured a covenant to pass between God and man, and also engaged himself for the performance thereof on both parts. And to assure man of partaking of the benefit of God's covenant, Christ turns the covenant into a testament, that the conditions of the covenant, on God's part, might be as so many legacies, which, being confirmed by the death of the testator, none might disannul: Heb. 8:6, "He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." The promises of the new covenant are said to be better, in these six respects:
(1.) All the promises of the law were conditional; "Do this, and you shall live." The promises of the new covenant are absolute, of grace, as well as to grace.
(2.) In this better covenant God promises higher things. Here God promises Himself, his Son, his Spirit, a higher righteousness and a higher sonship.
(3.) Because of their stability; those of the old covenant were "swallowed up in the curse." These are "the sure mercies of David."
(4.) They are all founded upon faith, they all depend upon faith. [Romans 4:15-16; Gal. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 1:20; Cant. 5:16; Col. 1:19, and 2:3; Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-17; Gal. 3:2.]
(5.) They are all promised upon our saving interest in Christ. This makes the promises sweet—they lead us to Christ, the fountain of them, whose mouth is most sweet, and in whose person all the sweets of all created beings do center.
(6.) Because God has promised to pour out a greater measure of his Spirit under the new covenant, than he did under the old covenant: Heb. 12:24, "And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant." Thus you see that Christ is called "the mediator of the covenant" three different times. Now he could not be the mediator of that covenant that is between God and himself, of which more shortly, but of that covenant that is between God and his people. But,
[2.] Secondly, The people of God have pleaded the covenant that is between God and them."Remember your covenant." Now how could they plead the covenant between God and them if there were no such covenant? See the scriptures in the margin. [Jer. 14:21; Luke 1:72; Psalm 25:6.] But,
[3.] Thirdly, God is often said to remember his covenant.[Ponder upon these scriptures, Psalm 105:8, 106:45, and 111:5.] Gen. 9:15, "I will remember my covenant, which is between you and me;" Exod. 6:5, "I have remembered my covenant;" Lev. 26:42, "I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember;" Ezek. 16:60, "I will remember my covenant with you, and I will establish unto you an everlasting covenant." Now how can God be said to remember his covenant with his people, if there were no covenant between God and them? But,
[4.] Fourthly, The temporal and spiritual deliverances that you have by the covenant, do clearly evidence that there is a covenant between God and you.Zech. 9:11, "As for you also, by the blood of your covenant, I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit, wherein there was no water." [Gen. 9:11; Isaiah 54:9; Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 59:21.] These words include both temporal and spiritual deliverances. So that now, if there is not a covenant between God and you, what deliverances can you expect, seeing they all flow in upon the creature by virtue of the covenant, and according to the covenant? By the blood of the covenant believers are delivered from the infernal pit, where there is not so much water as might cool Dives his tongue, Luke 16:24-25; and by the blood of the covenant they are delivered from those deaths and dangers which surround them, 2 Cor. 1:8-10. When sincere Christians fall into desperate distresses and most deadly dangers, yet they are prisoners of hope, and may look for deliverance by the blood of the covenant. This does sufficiently evince a covenant between God and his people. But,
[5.] Fifthly, God has threatened severely to avenge and punish the breaking of his covenant.Lev. 26:25, "And I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant." Consult these scriptures. [Deut. 29:20-21, 24-25, and 31:20-21; Josh. 7:11-12, 15, and 18:15-16 Judges 2:20; 2 Kings 18:9-12.] Breach of covenant between God and man, breaks the peace, and breeds a quarrel between them; in which he will take vengeance of man's revolt, except there be repentance on man's side, and pardoning grace on his. For breach of covenant, Jerusalem is long since laid waste, and the seven golden candlesticks broken in pieces; and many others, this day, lie a-bleeding in the nations which have made no more of breaking covenant with the great God, than if therein they had to do with poor mortals, with dust and ashes like themselves. Now how can there be such a sin as breach of covenant, for which God will be avenged, if there were no covenant between God and his people? But,
[6.] Sixthly, The seals of the covenant are given to God's people.Now to those to whom the seals of the covenant are given, with them is the covenant made; for the seals of the covenant, and the covenant, go to the same persons. The seals of the covenant are given to believers. "Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith," Romans 4:11, consequently, the covenant is made with believers. Circumcision is a sign, in regard of the thing signified, and a seal, in regard of the covenant made between God and man. Seal is a borrowed word, taken from kings and princes, who add their broad seal, or privy-seal, to ratify and confirm the leagues, edicts, grants, covenants, charters, which are made with their subjects or confederates. God had made a covenant with Abraham, and by circumcision signs and seals up that covenant. [In reason, the covenant and the seals must go together. Would it not be a foolish thing in any man, to make a covenant with one, and to give the seals to another? In equity and justice, the covenant and the seals must go to the same persons.] But,
[7.] Seventhly, The people of God are said sometimes to keep covenant with God.Psalm 25:10, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." Mercies flowing in upon us, through the covenant, are of all mercies the most soul-satisfying, soul-refreshing, soul-cheering mercies; yes, they are the very cream of mercy. Oh, how well is it with that saint that can look upon every mercy—as a present sent him from God, by virtue of the covenant! Oh, this sweetens every drop, and sip, and crust, and crumb of mercy, which a Christian enjoys—that all flows in upon him through the covenant! The promise last cited is a very sweet, choice, precious promise, a promise more worth than all the riches of the Indies. Mark, "all the paths of the Lord" to his people, they are not only "mercy," but they are "mercy and truth;" that is, they are sure mercies which stream in upon them, through the covenant. Solomon's dinner of green herbs, Proverbs 15:17; Daniel's vegetables, Dan. 1:12; barley loaves and a few fish, John 6:9; swimming in upon a Christian, through the new covenant, are far better, greater and sweeter mercies, than all those great things are, which flow in upon the great men of the world, through that general providence, which feeds the birds of the air, and the animals of the field.
Psalm 44:17, "We have not forgotten you or been false to your covenant," that is, we have kept covenant with you, by endeavoring to the uttermost of our power to keep off from the breach of your covenant, and to live up to the duties of your covenant, suitable to that of the prophet Micah, "We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever," Micah 4:5. People in covenant with God will not only take a turn or two in his ways, as temporaries and hypocrites do, who are hot at hand, but soon tire and give in. No, but they will hold on in a course of holiness, and not fail to follow the Lamb, wherever he goes: Rev. 14:4, and 17:14; Psalm 103:17, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting:" ver. 18, "To such as keep his covenant," etc. All sincere Christians keep covenant with God:
(1.) In respect of their sincere and cordial desires to keep covenant with God.
(2.) In respect of their habitual purposes and resolutions to keep covenant with God.
(3.) In respect of their habitual and constant endeavors to keep covenant with God, Neh. 1:11; Psalm 119:133, and 39:1-2.
This is an evangelical and incomplete keeping covenant with God, which in Christ God owns and accepts, and is as well pleased with it as he was with Adam's keeping of covenant with him before his fall. From what has been said, we may thus argue: Those who keep covenant with God, those are in covenant with God, those have made a covenant with God; but all sincere Christians they do keep covenant with God. But,
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, The Lord has, by many choice, precious and sweet promises, engaged himself to make good that blessed covenant which he has made with his people, yes, with his choice and chosen ones.2 Pet. 1:4. Take a few instances, "If you hearken to these judgments," [Under the name judgments, the commandments and statutes of God are contained.] says God to Israel, "and keep and do them, the Lord your God shall keep unto you the covenant and the mercy which he swore unto your fathers," Deut. 7:12. This blessed covenant is grounded upon God's free grace; and therefore in recompensing their obedience God has a respect to his own mercy—and not to their merits. So Judges 2:1, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said—I will never break my covenant with you." God is a God of mercy, and his covenant with his people is a covenant of mercy; and therefore he will be sure to keep touch with them.
Psalm 89:34, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth;" as if he should have said, Though they break my statutes, yet will I not break my covenant; for this seems to have reference to the 31st verse, "If they break my statutes," etc. Though they had profaned God's statutes, yet God would not profane his covenant, as the Hebrew runs, "My covenant will I not break;" that is, I will stand steadfastly to the performance of it, and to every part and branch of it, I will never be changeful, I will never be off and on with my people, I will never change my purpose, nor take back my words, nor unsay what I have said.
Jer. 33:20, "This is what the Lord says—If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant, can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne," etc. It is impossible for any created power to break off the covenant with the day and the night so that they do not come on their usual schedule; so it is impossible for God to break the covenant that he has made with David.
Isaiah 54:10, "For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of blessing will never be broken—says the Lord, who has mercy on you." "Even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea," Psalm 46:2, yet the covenant of God with his people shall stand unmovable. The covenant of God, the mercy of God, and the loving-kindness of God to his people, shall last forever, and remain constant and immutable, though all things in the world should be turned upside down.
Psalm 111:4, "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion;" ver. 5, "He will ever be mindful of his covenant." God looks not at his people's sins, but at his own promise; he will pass by their infirmities, and supply all their necessities. God will never break his covenant, he will never alter his covenant, he will still keep it, he will forever be mindful of it. The covenant of God with his people shall be as inviolable as the course and revolution of day and night, and more immovable than the very hills and mountains.
From what has been said, we may thus argue: If God has, by many choice, precious, and sweet promises, engaged himself to make good that blessed covenant which he has made with his people, then certainly there is a covenant between God and his people; but God has, by many choice, precious, and sweet promises, engaged himself to make good his covenant to his people. I might have laid down several other unanswerable arguments to have evinced this blessed truth, that there is a covenant between God and his people; but let these eight suffice for the present.
7. Seventhly and lastly, Premise this with me—namely, that it is a matter of high importance and of great concernment, for all mortals to have a clear and a right understanding of that covenant under which they are,2 Sam. 23:3-4. God deals with all men according to the covenant under which they stand. We shall never come to understand our spiritual estate and condition, until we come to know what covenant we are under, Psalm 105:8, 111:5; 1 Cor. 11:28; Gal. 4:23-25. If we are under a covenant of works, our state is miserable; if we are under a covenant of grace, our state is happy. If we die under a covenant of works, we shall be certainly damned; if we die under a covenant of grace, we shall be certainly saved.
Until we come to understand what covenant we are under, we shall never be able to put a right construction, a right interpretation, upon any of God's actions, dealings, or dispensations towards us. When we come to understand that we are under the covenant of grace, then we shall be able to put a sweet, a loving, and a favorable construction upon the most sharp, distressing, severe, and dreadful dispensations of God, knowing that all flows from love, and shall work for our external, internal, and eternal good, and for the advancement of God's honor and glory in the world. [Rev. 3:19; Job 1:21; Jer. 24:4-5; Romans 8:28; Heb. 12:10-11; 2 Cor. 4:15-18.] When we come to understand that we are under a covenant of works, then we shall know that there are wrath, and curses, and woes wrapped up in the most favorable dispensations, and in the greatest outward mercies and blessings which Christ confers upon us. [Proverbs 1:32; Mal. 2:2; Deut. 28:15-20; Lev. 26:14-24; 2 Cor. 2:14; Heb. 12:1.]
If a man is under a covenant of grace—and does not know it, how can he rejoice in the Lord? How can he sing out the high praises of God? How can he delight himself in the Almighty? How can he triumph in Christ Jesus? How can he cheerfully run the race which is before him? How can he bear up bravely and resolutely in his sufferings for the cause of Christ? How can he besiege the throne of grace with boldness? How can he be temptation-proof? How can he be dead to this world? How can he long to be with Christ in that other world?
And if a man be under a covenant of works—and does not know it, how can he lament and bewail his sad condition? How can he be earnest with God to bring him under the bond of the new covenant? How can he desire after Christ? How can he choose the things that please God? How can he cease from doing evil, and learn to do well? How can he lay hold on eternal life? How can he be saved from wrath to come? etc.
If we are under a covenant of grace—and do not know it, how can we manage our duties and services with that life, love, seriousness, holiness, spiritualness, and uprightness, as becomes us? [Psalm 16:4; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13; Hosea 6:4, and 4:10; Psalm 36:3.] etc. If we are under a covenant of grace, and do not know it, how rare shall we be in pious duties! How weary shall we be of pious duties, and how ready shall we be to cast off pious duties!
By these few things I have been hinting at, you may easily discern how greatly it concerns all people to know what covenant they are under; whether they are under the first or second covenant; whether they are under a covenant of works or a covenant of grace. Now having premised these seven things, my way is clear to that I would be at, which is this—namely,
1. That there are but two covenants.In one of them, all men and women in the world must of necessity be found—either in the covenant of grace or in the covenant of works. The covenant of works is a witness of God's holiness and perfection; the covenant of grace is a witness of God's goodness and mercy. The covenant of works is a standing evidence of man's guiltiness; the covenant of grace is the standing evidence of God's righteousness. The covenant of works is the lasting monument of man's impotency and changeableness; the covenant of grace is the everlasting monument of God's omnipotency and immutability.
No man can be under both these covenants at once. If he is under a covenant of works, he is not under a covenant of grace; and if he be under a covenant of grace, he cannot be under a covenant of works. Such as are under a covenant of works, they have the breach of that covenant to account for, they being the serpentine brood of a transgressing stock. But such as are under a covenant of grace shall never be tried by the law of works, because Christ, their surety, has fulfilled it for them, Acts 13:38-39; Romans 8:2-4; Gal. 4:4-6. But let me open myself more fully thus—
That all unbelievers, all Christless, graceless people, are under a covenant of works, which they are never able safely to live under. Should they live and die under a covenant of works, they were surely lost and destroyed forever; for the covenant of works condemns and curses the sinner: Gal. 3:10, "Cursed is everyone who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Neither has the sinner any way to escape that curse of the law, nor the wrath of God revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness, but in the covenant of grace, Romans 1:18. This covenant of works the apostle calls "the law of works," Romans 3:27. This is the covenant which God made with man in the state of innocency before the fall, Gen. 2:16-17. In this covenant God promised to Adam, for himself and his posterity, life and happiness, upon the condition of perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience; and it is summed up by the apostle, "Do this and live," Gal. 3:12. God having created man upright, after his own image, Eccles. 7:29; Gen. 1:26-27, and so having furnished him with all abilities sufficient for obedience, thereupon he made a covenant with him for life upon the condition of obedience; I say, he made such a covenant with Adam, as a public person, as the head of the covenant; and as he promised life to him and his posterity in case of obedience, so he threatened death and a curse unto him and his posterity in case of disobedience: "In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die;" or, "dying you shall die," Gen. 2:17. [Gal. 3:10. Not only the covenant of grace, but the covenant of works also, is an eternal covenant; and therefore the curse of the covenant remains upon men unto eternity. There is an eternal obligation upon the creature, he being bound to God by an eternal law; and the transgression of that law carries with it an eternal guilt, which eternal guilt brings sinners under an eternal curse.]
God, in this covenant of works, dealt with Adam and his posterity in a way of supremacy and righteousness, and therefore there is mention made only of the threatenings: "In the day you eat thereof, you shall die!" And it is further observable, that in this covenant which God made with Adam and his posterity, he did promise unto them eternal life and happiness in heaven, and not eternal life in this world only, as some would have it; for hell was threatened in these words, "In the day you eat thereof you shall die;" and therefore heaven and happiness, salvation and glory, was promised on the contrary. We must necessarily conclude that the promise was as ample, large, and full as the threatening was; yet this must be remembered, that when God did at first enter into covenant with us, and did promise us heaven and salvation, it was upon condition of our personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, and therefore called a covenant of works. "Do this and live" was not only a command, but a covenant, with a promise of eternal happiness upon perfect and perpetual obedience. All who are under a covenant of works, are under the curse of the covenant, and they are all bound over unto eternal wrath. But the Lord Christ has put an end to this covenant, and abolished it unto all that are in him, being himself made under it; and satisfying the precept and the curse of it, and so he did cancel it, "as a handwriting against us, nailing it unto his cross," Col. 2:14. So that all those who are in Christ ,are freed from the law as a covenant. But unto all other men it remains a covenant still, and they remain under the curse of it forever, and the wrath of God abides upon them, John 3:36. Though the covenant of works, as it is a covenant for life, ceases unto believers, yet it stands in force against all unbelievers.
Now, oh how sad is it for a man to be under a covenant of works! For,
First, The covenant of works, in the nature of it, requires perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience, under pain of the curse and death, according to the apostle, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse," Gal. 3:10—presupposing man's fall, and, consequently, his inability to keep it—"For it is written, Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them," Deut. 27:26. The covenant of works, therefore, affords no mercy to the transgressors of it, but inflicts death and curse for the least delinquency: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all," James 2:10. The whole law is but one whole; he who breaks one commandment habitually, breaks all. A dispensatory conscience keeps not any commandment. When the disposition of the heart is qualified to break every command, then a man breaks every command in the account of God. Everyone sin contains virtually all sin in it. He who dares despise the lawgiver in any one command, he dares despise the lawgiver in every command. He who allows himself in any one known sin, in any course, way, or trade of sin, he lays himself under that curse which is threatened against the transgressors of the law.
Those who are under this covenant of works must of necessity perish. The case stands thus: Adam did break this covenant, and so brought the curse of it both upon himself and all his seed to the end of the world; in his sin all men sinned, Romans 5:12. Now if we consider all men as involved in the first transgression of the covenant, they must all needs perish without a Savior. This is the miserable condition that all mortals are in, who are under a covenant of works. But,
Secondly, Such as are under a covenant of works, their best and choicest duties are rejected and abhorred—for the least miscarriages or blemishes which attend them or cleave to them. Observe the dreadful language of that covenant of works, "Cursed is he who continues not in all things that are written in the law of God to do them," Gal. 3:10. Hence it is that the best duties of all unregenerate persons are loathed and abhorred by God; as you may clearly see by comparing these scriptures together. [Isaiah 1:11-15; Jer. 6:20; Isaiah 66:3; Amos 5:21; Micah 6:6; Mal. 1:10.] The most glorious duties and the most splendid performances of those who are under a covenant of works, are loathsome to God, for the least mistake that does accompany them. The covenant of works deals with men according to the most exact terms of strict justice. It does not make nor allow any favorable or gracious interpretation, as the covenant of grace does; the very least failure exposes the soul to wrath, to great wrath, to everlasting wrath. This covenant is not a covenant of mercy, but of pure justice. But,
Thirdly, This covenant admits of no mediator. There was no arbitrator between God and man, none to stand between them, neither was there any need of a mediator; for God and man were at no distance, at no variance. [Hence this covenant is called by some, a covenant of friendship.] Man was then righteous, perfectly righteous. Now the proper work of a mediator is to make peace and reconciliation between God and us. At the first, in the state of innocency, there was peace and friendship between God and man, there was no enmity in God's heart towards man, nor any enmity in man's heart towards God; but upon the fall a breach and separation was made between God and man; so that man flies from God, and hides from God, and trembles at the voice of God, Gen. 3:8-10. Fallen man is now turned rebel, and has become a desperate enemy to God; yes, his heart is full of enmity against God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God," Romans 8:7; not an "enemy," but "enmity," in the abstract; noting an excess of enmity. [The word signifies the act of a carnal mind, comprehending thoughts, desire, discourse, etc.] Nothing can be said more; for an "enemy" may be reconciled, but "enmity" can never; a wicked man may become virtuous, but vice cannot.
There are natural antipathies between some creatures, as between the lion and the rooster, the elephant and the boar, the camel and the horse, the eagle and the dragon, etc. But what are all these antipathies to that antipathy and enmity that is in the hearts of all carnal men against God?
Now while men stand under a covenant of works, there is none to interpose by way of mediation, but fallen man lies open to the wrath of God, and to all the curses which are written in this book. When breaches are made between God and man, under the covenant of grace, there is a mediator to interpose and to make up all such breaches; but under the covenant of works there is no mediator to interpose between God and fallen man. These three things I have hinted a little at, on purpose to work my reader, if under a covenant of works, to be restless until he be got from under that covenant, into the covenant of grace, where alone lies man's safety, felicity, happiness, and comfort. Now this consideration leads me by the hand to tell you,
2. Secondly, That there is a covenant of GRACE, that all believers, all sincere Christians, all real saints are under; for under these two covenants all mankind fall. The apostle calls this covenant of grace, "the law of faith," Romans 3:17.
Now, first, this covenant of grace is sometimes styled an "EVERLASTING covenant." Isaiah 55:3, "And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." You need not question my security, in respect of the great things that I have propounded and promised in my word, for the encouragement of your faith and hope; for I will give you my bond for all I have spoken, which shall be as surely made good to you as the mercies that I have performed to my servant David, 2 Sam. 23:5. The word everlasting has two acceptations; it does denote,
(1.) Sometimes a long duration; in which respect the old covenant, clothed with figures and ceremonies, is called everlasting, because it was to endure, and did endure, a long time, Psalm 105:9-10;
(2.) Sometimes it denotes a perpetual duration, a duration which shall last forever, Heb. 13:20, etc. In this respect the covenant of grace is everlasting; it shall never cease, never be broken, nor never be altered.
Now the covenant of grace is an everlasting covenant in a twofold respect.
First, In respect of God, who will never break covenant with his people; but is their God, and will be their God, forever and ever, Titus 1:2; Psalm 90:2, and 48:14, "For this God is our God, forever and ever; he will be our God even unto death." Yes, and after death too! For this is not to be taken exclusively. Oh no! for "he will never, never leave them, nor forsake them," Heb. 13:5. There are five negatives in the Greek, to assure God's people that he will never forsake them. According to the Greek it may be rendered thus, "I will not, not leave you, neither will I not, not forsake you." [Five times in Scripture is this precious promise renewed: Josh. 1:5; Deut. 31:8; 1 Kings 8:57; Gen. 28:15, that we may be still a-pressing of it until we have pressed all the sweetness out of it, Isaiah 66:11.] Leave us! God may, to our thinking, leave us; but forsake us he will not.
Psalm 89:34, "My covenant will I not break; nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth." Though God's people should profane his statutes, ver. 31, yet God will not profane his covenant; though his people often break with him, yet he will never break with them; though they may be inconstant, yet God will be constant to his covenant.
Isaiah 54:10, "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you." Though huge mountains should depart, which is not probable, yet his covenant shall stand immovable; and his mercy and kindness to his people shall be immutable. This new covenant of grace is like the new heavens and new earth, which will never wax old or vanish away, Isaiah 66:22. But,
Secondly, The covenant of grace is called an everlasting covenant, in respect to the people of God, who are brought into covenant, and shall continue in covenant forever and ever, Mal. 3:6; Hosea 2:19; Gen. 17:7. You have both these expressed in that excellent scripture, Jer. 32:40, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them; that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Seriously dwell upon the place; it shows that the covenant is everlasting on God's part, and also on our part. [God will never cease to pursue and follow his covenant-people with favors and blessings incessantly.] On God's part, "I will never turn away from them to do them good;" and on our part, "they shall never depart from me." How so? "I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." That they may continue constant with me, and not constrain me, by their apostasy, to break again with them: I will so deeply rivet a reverent dread of myself in their souls, as shall cause them to cling, and cleave, and keep close to me forever.
In the covenant of grace, God undertakes for both parts; for his own, "that he will be their God"—that is, that all he is, and all he has, shall be employed for their external, internal, and eternal good; and for ours, that we "shall be his people"—that is, that we shall believe, love, fear, repent, obey, serve him, and walk with him, as he requires, Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 36:26-27; and thus the covenant of grace becomes an "everlasting covenant;" yes, such a covenant as has the sure or unfailable mercies of David wrapped up in it.
The covenant of grace is a new compact or agreement, which God has made with sinful man, out of his mere mercy and grace, wherein he undertakes, both for himself and for fallen man, and wherein he engages himself to make fallen man everlastingly happy. "And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Jeremiah 32:38-40. In the covenant of grace there are two things considerable:
First, the covenant that God makes for himself to us, which consists mainly of these branches:
(1.) That he will be our God; that is, as if he said, "You shall have as true an interest in all my attributes for your good, as they are mine for my own glory, Jer. 31:38; Psalm 144:15; 2 Cor. 6:16-18. My grace, says God, shall be yours to pardon you, and my power shall be yours to protect you, and my wisdom shall be yours to direct you, and my goodness shall be yours to relieve you, and my mercy shall be yours to supply you, and my glory shall be yours to crown you. This is a comprehensive promise, for God to be our God: it includes all.
(2.) That he "will give us his Spirit." Hence the Spirit is called "the Holy Spirit of promise." The giving of the Holy Spirit is the great promise which Christ, from the Father, has made unto us. It is the Spirit who reveals the promises, who applies the promises, and who helps the soul to live upon the promises, and to draw marrow and fatness out of the promises. The great promise of the Old Testament was the promise of Christ, Gen. 3:16, and the great promise of the New Testament is the promise of the Spirit, as you may see by these scriptures. [Isaiah 44:3; Jer. 31:33; Joel 2:28; John 14:16, 20; Acts 2:23; Luke 24:49; John 15:26, and 16:7.] That in this last age of the world there may be a more clear and full discovery of Christ, of the great things of the gospel, of Antichrist, and of the glorious conquests that are in the last days to be made upon him, the giving of the Spirit is promised as the most excellent gift.
(3.) That he "will take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh," that is, a soft and tender heart, "I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances." Ezekiel 36:25-27.
(4.) That he "will not turn away his face from us, from doing of us good;" and that "he will put his fear into our hearts," Jer. 32:40.
(5.) That he "will cleanse us from all our filthiness, and from all our idols," Ezek. 36:25.
(6.) That he "will rejoice over us, to do us good," Jer. 33:9-10, and 32:41.
The second thing considerable in the covenant of grace, is the covenant which God does make for us to himself, which consists mainly in these things:
(1.) That we "shall be his people."
(2.) That we "shall fear him forever."
(3.) That we "shall walk in his statutes, keep his judgments, and do them."
(4.) That we "shall never depart from him."
(5.) That we "shall persevere, and hold out to the end."
(6.) That we "shall grow, and flourish in grace."
(7.) A true right to the creatures.
(8.) That all providences, changes, and conditions shall work for our good.
(9.) Union and communion with Christ.
(10.) That we shall have a kingdom, a crown, and glory at last. And what would we have more? [Jer. 32:38, 40; Ezek. 36:27; Job 17:9; Proverbs 4:18; Psalm 1:3; Hosea 14:6-7; Zech. 12:18; Mal. 4:2; Jer. 24:5; Romans 8:28; Luke 12:32; Rev. 2:10; Psalm 84:11; John 10:28.]
By these short hints it is most evident that the covenant of grace is an entire covenant, an everlasting covenant, made by God both for himself and for us. O sirs! this is the glory of the covenant of grace, that whatever God requires of us, that he stands engaged to give unto us. Whatever in the covenant of grace God requires on man's part, that he undertakes to perform for man.
That this covenant of grace is an "everlasting covenant" may be made further clear,
[1.] First, From God's designation, who has often styled it an EVERLASTING covenant. In the Old Testament he frequently calls it, in Heb., a covenant of eternity. In the New Testament he calls it, in Greek, the eternal covenant, or the everlasting covenant. And those whom God has taken into covenant with himself, they have frequently acknowledged it to be an everlasting covenant, as is evident up and down the Scripture.
The covenant of works was not everlasting, it was soon overthrown by Adam's sin; but the covenant of grace is everlasting. The joy that is wrapped up in the covenant, is an everlasting joy, Isaiah 35:10; and the righteousness that is wrapped up in the covenant, is an everlasting righteousness, Dan. 9:24; and the life that is wrapped up in the covenant, is an everlasting life, John 3:16; and all the happiness, and glory, and salvation which are wrapped up in the covenant is everlasting, John 12:2; Mat. 19:29; 1 Pet. 5:4; Isaiah 45:17. The covenant-relation which is between God and his people is everlasting; and the mediator of the covenant is everlasting—namely, "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today, and the same forever," Heb. 13:8. Though the covenant, in respect of our own personal entering into it, is made with us now in time, and has a beginning; yet for continuance it is everlasting and without end; it shall remain forever and ever. But,
[2.] Secondly, This covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is sometimes styled a covenant of LIFE: Mal. 2:5, "My covenant was with him of life and peace." Life is restored, and life is promised, and life is settled by the covenant. There is no safe life, no comfortable life, no easy life, no happy life, no honorable life, no glorious life—for any sinner who is not under the bond of this covenant. [Philosophers say that a fly is more excellent than the skies, because the fly has life, which the skies have not.] All mankind would have been eternally lost, and God had lost all the glory of his mercy forever, had he not, of his own free grace and mercy, made a covenant of life with poor sinners.
A man, in the covenant of grace, has three degrees of life:
the first in this life, when Christ lives in him;
the second, when his "body returns to the earth, and his soul to God that gave it;"
the third, at the end of the world, when body and soul reunited shall enjoy heaven.
[3.] Thirdly, This covenant of grace, under which the saints or faithful people of Christ stand, is sometimes styled a HOLY covenant. Daniel, describing the wickedness of Antiochus Epiphanies, says, "His heart shall be against the holy covenant," Dan. 11:28, 30. So the psalmist, "For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant," Psalm 105:42-43; [Heb., The word of his holiness, that is, his sacred and gracious covenant that he had made with Abraham and his posterity.] Promise is here put for covenant by a synecdoche. Luke 1:72, "To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant."
The parties interested in this covenant are holy. Here you have a holy God and a holy people in covenant together. Holiness is one of the principal things that is promised in the covenant. The covenant commands holiness, and encourages to holiness, and works souls up to a higher degree of holiness, and fences and arms gracious souls against all external and internal unholiness. The author of this covenant is holy; the mediator of this covenant is holy; the great blessings contained in this covenant are holy blessings; and the people taken into this covenant are sometimes styled holy brethren, holy men, holy women. "A holy temple, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a holy people," as you may see by comparing these scriptures together. [Psalm 50: 5; Heb. 3:1; 1 Thes. 5:27; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 3:5; 1 Cor. 3:17; 1 Peter 2:9, etc.] Whenever God brings a poor soul under the bond of the covenant, he makes him holy, and he makes him love holiness, and prize holiness, and delight in holiness, and press and follow hard after holiness. A holy God will not take an unholy person by the hand, as Job speaks, chapter 8; neither will he allow of such to take his covenant into their mouths, as the psalmist speaks, Psalm 20:6.
[4.] Fourthly, This covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is sometimes styled a covenant of PEACE: Num. 25:12, "Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace." Peace is the comprehension of all blessings and prosperity. All sorts of peace, namely, peace with God, and peace with conscience, and peace with the creatures—flows from the covenant of grace, Mal. 2:5. There is—
(1.) An external peace, and that is with men;
(2.) There is a supernatural peace, and that is with God;
(3.) There is an internal peace, and that is with conscience;
(4.) There is an eternal peace, and that is in heaven.
Now all these kinds of peace flow in upon us through the covenant of grace. The Hebrew word for peace comes from a root which denotes perfection. The end of the upright man is perfection of happiness, Psalm 37:37. [This covenant is styled a covenant of peace, because it breeds, settles, quiets, and establishes our hearts in perfect peace, it stills all fears and doubts and thoughts of heart.] Peace is a very comprehensive word. It carries in its womb, all outward blessings. It was the common greeting of the Jews, "Peace be unto you:" and thus David, by his proxy, salutes Nabal, "Peace be to you, and your house." The ancients were accustomed to paint peace in the form of a woman, with a horn of plenty in her hand. The covenant of grace is that hand, by which God gives out all sorts of peace unto us: Isaiah 54:10, "Neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you." The covenant is here called the covenant of peace, because the Lord therein offers us all those things that may make us completely happy; for under this word peace the Hebrews comprehend all happiness and felicity.
Ezek. 34:25, "And I will make with them a covenant of peace;" the Hebrew is, "I will cut with them a covenant of peace." This expression of cutting a covenant is taken from the custom of the Jews in their making of covenants. The manner of this ceremony or solemnity, Jeremiah declares, saying, "I will give the men who have transgressed my covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they had struck before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof," Jer. 34:18. Their manner was to kill sacrifices, to cut these sacrifices in twain, to lay the two parts thus divided in the midst, piece against piece, exactly one over against another, to answer each other: then the covenanting parties passed between the parts of the sacrifices so slit in twain. The meaning of which ceremonies and solemnities is conceived to be this—namely, as part answered to part, so there was a harmonious correspondency and answerableness of their minds and hearts, who struck the covenant: and as part was severed from part, so the covenanters implied, if not expressed, an imprecation or curse; wishing the like dissection and destruction to the parties covenanting, as most deserved, if they should break the covenant, or deal falsely therein. [This ceremony or solemnity of covenanting, the Romans and other nations used. Some judge the heathens borrowed this custom from the Jews. I have spoken of this before.]
To this custom God alludes, when he says, "I will cut with them a covenant of peace," Isaiah 42:6; and this he did by making Christ a sacrifice, by shedding his blood, and dividing his soul and body, who is said to be given for a covenant of the people, that is, to be the mediator of the covenant between God and his people. So Ezek. 37:26, "Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them," etc. The word for peace is Shalom, by which the Hebrews understand not only outward quietness, but all kind of outward happiness. Others, by the covenant of peace here, do understand the gospel, wherein we see Christ has pacified all things by the blood of his cross. And Lavater says, "it is called a covenant of peace, Not only outward, but inward peace, between God and us, is merited by our Lord Jesus Christ," Col. 1:20. But,
[5.] Fifthly, This covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is sometimes styled a NEW covenant: Jer. 31:31, "Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." Heb. 12:24, "And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant," etc., Heb. 8:8, 13, and 9:15. Now the covenant of grace is styled a new covenant in several respects.
(1.) In opposition to the former covenant, which was old, and being old, vanished away, Heb. 8:13. It is called a new covenant, in opposition to the covenant that was made with Adam in the state of innocency, and in opposition to the covenant that was made with the Jews in the time of the Old Testament.
(2.) To show the excellency of the covenant of grace. New things are rare and excellent things. In the blessed Scriptures excellent things are frequently called "new;" as a "new testament," a "new Jerusalem," "new heavens," and "new earth;" a "new name," that is, an excellent name; a "new commandment," that is, an excellent commandment; "a new way," that is, an excellent way; "a new heart," is an excellent heart; "a new spirit," is an excellent spirit; and "a new song," is an excellent song. [Mat. 26:28; Rev. 21:2; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 2:17; John 13:34; Ezek. 36:26, 27; Psalm 40:3.]
(3.) In regard of the succession of it in the place of the former.
(4.) In regard of the dilation and enlargement of it, it being in the days of old confined to the Jewish nation and state, and some few proselytes who adjoined themselves thereunto; whereas now it is propounded and extended, without respect of persons or places, unto all indiscriminently, of all people and nations who shall embrace the faith of Christ.
(5.) Sometimes that is styled new, which is different from what it was before: 2 Cor. 5:17, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature," that is, he is not such a man as he was before; a man must be either a new man—or no man in Christ. [A new creature has a new light, a new judgment, a new will, new affections, new thoughts, new company, new choice, new Lord, new law, new way, new work, etc. A new creature is a changed creature throughout, 1 Thes. 5:23.]
The substance of the soul is not changed, but the qualities and operations of it are altered; in regeneration our natures are changed, not destroyed. This word "new," in Scripture, signifies as much as "another;" not that it is essentially new, but new only in regard of qualities. A new creature is a changed creature: 2 Cor. 3:18, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory," that is, from grace to grace. In this respect also, is the covenant styled new, not only because it is diverse from the covenant of works, but also because it is diverse from itself in respect of the administration of it, after that Christ was manifested in the flesh, and died and rose again.
From the different administration, it is called old and new. This new covenant has not those seals of circumcision and the Passover; nor those manifold sacrifices, ceremonies, types, and shadows, etc., to the observation whereof the Jews were strictly obliged; but now all these things are taken away upon the coming of Christ, and a service of God, much more spiritual, substituted in the place of them; upon which accounts the covenant of grace is called a "new covenant."
(6.) It is styled new, because it is fresh, and green, and flourishing. It is like unto Aaron's rod, which continued new, fresh, and flourishing, Num. 17:8. [Austin, and others, think that the commandment of love is called a new commandment, because it is always fresh, and green, and flourishing; and why may not the covenant of grace be called a new covenant upon the same account?] All the choice blessings, all the great blessings, all the internal and all the eternal blessings of the new covenant, are as new, fresh, and flourishing, as they were when God brought your souls first under the bond of the new covenant. But,
(7.) Such things are sometimes styled new, which are strange, rare, wonderful, marvelous, and unusual—the like not heard of before. So Jer. 31:22, "The Lord has created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man;" as the nut encloses the kernel, not receiving anything from without, but conceiving and breeding of herself, by the power of the Almighty, from within. That a virgin should conceive and bring forth a man-child, this was indeed a new thing, a strange thing, a wonderful thing—a thing that was never thought of, never heard of, never read of, from the creation of the world to that very day.
Just so, Isaiah 43:19, "Behold, I will do a new thing, I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." [The word "new" does intimate some more excellent mercies than God had formerly conferred upon his people.] This was a new work, that is, a wonderful and unusual work; for God to make a plain or free way in the wilderness, where the ways are accustomed to be uneven, with hills and dales, and obstructed with thickets, and overgrown with brambles and briars—is a strange and marvelous work indeed.
In this respect also, the covenant of grace is styled new, that is, it is a wonderful covenant. O sirs! what a wonder is this, that the great God, who was so transcendently dishonored, despised, provoked, incensed, and injured by poor base sinners, should yet so freely, so readily, so graciously, condescend to vile forlorn sinners, as to treat with them, as to own them, as to love them, and as to enter into a covenant of grace and mercy with them! This may well be the wonder of angels, and the astonishment of men.
(8.) and lastly, It is called a new covenant, because it is never to be antiquated, as the apostle explains himself, Heb. 8:13. But,
[6.] Sixthly, This covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is sometimes styled a covenant of SALT: Lev. 2:13, "Neither shall you allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from the meat-offering," etc. [Salt they were bound as by a covenant, to use in all sacrifices, or it means a sure and pure covenant. Some, by the salt of the covenant—do mystically understand the grace of the New Testament.] The salt of the covenant signifies that covenant that God has made with us in Christ, who seasons us, and makes all our services savory. The meaning of the words, say some, is this—"The salt shall put you in mind of my covenant, whereby you stand engaged to endeavor always for an untainted and uncorrupted life and conversation."
"By this salting," say others, "was signified the covenant of grace in Christ, which we by faith apprehend unto incorruption, wherefore our unregenerate estate is likened to a child new born and not salted," Ezek. 16:4. Others say it signifies the eternal and perpetual holiness of the covenant between God and man; and some there are, who say that this salt of the covenant signifies the grace of God, whereby they are guided and sanctified that belong unto the covenant of grace. So Num. 18:19, "It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring." A covenant of salt is used for an inviolable, incorruptible, and perpetual covenant. This covenant which the Lord made with the priests is called a covenant of salt, because, as salt keeps from corruption, so that covenant was perpetual, authentic, and inviolable ["Of old, amity and friendship was symbolized by salt, for its consolidating and conserving property," says Pierius.]—as anciently the most solemn ceremony that was used in covenants was to take and eat of the same salt, and it was esteemed more sacred and firm than to eat at the same table and drink of the same cup.
This covenant, in regard of its perpetuity, is here called a "covenant of salt," that is, a sure and stable, a firm and incorruptible covenant. So 2 Chron. 13:5, "Don't you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?" That is—perpetual and inviolable, solemn and sure. By this metaphor of salt, a perpetuity is set forth, for salt makes things last. The covenant therefore here intended is by this metaphor declared to be a perpetual covenant, that was not to be abrogated or nullified. In this respect these two phrases, "a covenant of salt," and "forever," are joined together.
Some take this metaphor of salt to be used in relation to their manner of making their covenant with a sacrifice, on which salt was always sprinkled, and thereby is implied that it was a most solemn covenant not to be violated. [Num. 18:19, but now opened, Lev. 2:13.] But,
[7.] Seventhly, The covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is sometimes styled a SURE covenant, a FIRM covenant—a covenant that God will punctually and accurately perform. In this regard, the covenant of grace is in the Old Testament Shemurah—that is, kept, observed, performed. The word imports care, diligence, and solicitude lest anything be let go, let slip, etc. God is ever mindful of his covenant, and will have that singular care and that constant and due regard to it, that not the least branch of it shall ever fail, as you may clearly see by consulting these special scriptures. [2 Sam. 23:5; Deut. 7:9; 2 Chron. 6:14; Psalm 19:7, and 89:28; Titus 1:2; Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 54:10.]
Hence it is called the mercy and the truth: Mic. 7:20, "You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago." The covenant is called mercy, because mercy alone, drew this covenant; it was free mercy, it was mere mercy, it was only mercy which moved God to enter into covenant with us. And it is called truth, because the great God who has made this covenant will assuredly make good all that mercy and all that grace, and all that favor which is wrapped up in it. God having made himself a voluntary debtor to his people, he will come off fairly with them, and not be worse than his word. Hence Christ is said to have a rainbow upon his head, to show that he is faithful and constant in his covenant, Rev. 10:1. God has hitherto kept promise with nights and days, that one shall follow the other, Isaiah 54:9-10; therefore much more will he keep promise with his people, Jer. 33:20, 25. [The stability of God's covenant is compared to the unvariable course of the day and the night, and to the firmness and unmovableness of the mighty mountains, Isaiah 54:9-10.]
Hence also the covenant is called the oath: Luke 1:73, "The oath which he swore unto our father Abraham." You never read of God's oath in a covenant of works. In that first covenant you read not of a mediator nor of an oath; but in the covenant of grace you read both of a mediator and of an oath, the more effectually to confirm us as touching the immutability of his will and purpose, for the accomplishment of all the good and the great things which are promised in the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is incomparably more firm, sure, immutable, and irrevocable than all other covenants in the world. Therefore it is said, Heb. 6:17-18, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged." That is, a valiant, strong, prevailing consolation, such as swallows up all worldly griefs, as Moses his serpent did, the sorcerers' serpents; or as the fire does, the fuel. God's word, his promise, his covenant, is sufficient to assure us of all the good that he has engaged to bestow upon us; yet God, considering of our infirmity, has bound his word with an oath. [Who shall doubt when God does swear? He cannot possibly deny himself or to recant?]
His word cannot be made more true, but yet it may be made more credible. Now two things make a thing more credible:
(1.) The quality of the person speaking;
(2.) The manner of the speech.
If God does not simply speak, but solemnly swear—we have the highest cause imaginable to rest assured and abundantly satisfied in the word and oath of God. An oath among men is the strongest, surest, most sacred, and inviolable bond; "Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument," Heb. 6:16. The end of an oath among men is to help the truth in necessity, and to clear men's innocency, Exod. 22:11. O sirs! God does not only make his covenant, but swears his covenant; "I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness--and I will not lie," Psalm 89:34-35. This is as great and deep an oath as God could take; for his holiness is himself, who is most holy, and the foundation of all holiness. God is—essentially holy, unmixedly holy, universally holy, transcendently holy, originally holy, independently holy, constantly holy, and exemplarily holy. Now for so holy a God to swear once for all by his holiness that he will keep covenant, that he will keep touch with his people, how abundantly should it settle and satisfy them!
Ah! my friends, has God said it, and will he not do it? Yes, has he sworn it, and will he not bring it to pass? Dare we trust an honest man upon his bare word, much more upon his oath; and shall we not much more trust a holy, wise, and faithful God upon his word, upon his covenant, when confirmed by an oath? The covenant of grace is sure in itself; it is a firm covenant, an unalterable covenant, an everlasting covenant, a ratified covenant; so that heaven and earth may sooner pass away, than the least branch or word of his covenant should pass away unfulfilled, Mat. 5:18.