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
(Part 2)

(1.) Let us but cast our eyes upon the several springs from whence the covenant of grace flows, and then we cannot but strongly conclude that the covenant of grace is a sure covenant. Now if you cast your eye aright, you shall see that the covenant of grace flows from these three springs.

First, From the free grace and favor of God. There was nothing in fallen man to invite God to enter into covenant with him; yes, there was everything in fallen man that might justly provoke God to abandon man, to abhor man, to revenge himself upon man. It was mere grace that made the covenant, and it is mere grace that makes good the covenant. Now, that which springs from mere grace must needs be unexceptionably sure. The love of God is unchangeable; "whom he loves he loves to the end," John 13:3; whom God loves once he loves forever. He is not as man, soon on—and soon off again, Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; soon in—and as soon out, as Joab's dagger was. Oh no! his love is like himself—lasting, yes, everlasting: "I have loved you with an everlasting love," Jer. 31:3. Though we break off with him, yet he abides faithful, 2 Tim. 2:13. Now what can be more sure, than that which springs from free love, from everlasting love? Romans 4:16. Hence the covenant must be sure. The former covenant was not sure, because it was of works; but this covenant is sure, because it is of grace, and rests not on any sufficiency in us, but only on grace.

Secondly, The covenant of grace springs from the immutable counsel of God. Heb. 6:17, "God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath." Times are mutable, and all men are mutable, and the love and favor of the creature is mutable. But the counsel of God, from which the covenant of grace flows—is immutable, and therefore it must needs be sure, Isaiah 40:6; Psalm 146:3, 4; Jer. 33:14. The manifestation of the immutability of God's counsel is here brought in, as one end of God's oath. God swears, that it might evidently appear that what he had purposed, counseled, determined, and promised to Abraham and his seed—would assuredly be accomplished; there would be, there could be, no alteration thereof. His counsel was more firm than the laws of the Medea and Persians, which alters not, Dan. 6:13.

Certainly God's counsel is inviolable: "My counsel shall stand." Isaiah 46:10; Psalm 33:11, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Proverbs 19:21, "Nevertheless the counsel of the Lord—that shall stand." The immutability of God's counsel springs from the unchangeableness of his essence, the perfection of his wisdom, the infiniteness of his goodness, the absoluteness of his sovereignty, the omnipotency of his power. God in his essence being unchangeable, his counsel also must needs be so. Can darkness flow out of light, or fullness out of emptiness, or heaven out of hell? No! no more can changeable counsels flow from an immutable nature. Now the covenant of grace flows from the immutable counsel of God, which is most firm and inviolable, and therefore it must needs be a sure covenant. But,

Thirdly, The covenant of grace springs from the purpose of God, resolving and intending everlasting good unto us. Now this purpose of God is sure; so the apostle, 2 Tim. 2:19, "The foundation of God stands sure." [Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and flow; but God's foundation stands sure.] That foundation of God is his election, which is compared to a foundation; because it is that upon which all our good and happiness is built, and because as a foundation it abides firm and sure. The gracious purpose of God is the fountain-head of all our spiritual blessings. It is the foundational cause of our effectual calling, justification, glorification; it is the highest link in the golden chain of salvation. What is the reason that God has entered into a covenant with fallen man? it is from his eternal purpose. What is the reason that one man is everlastingly saved—and not another? It is from the eternal purpose of God, Ezek. 20:37.

In all the great concerns of the covenant of grace, the purpose of God gives the casting voice. The purpose of God is the sovereign cause of all that good that is in man, and of all that external, internal, and eternal good that comes to man. Not works past, for men are chosen from everlasting; not present works, for Jacob was loved and chosen before he was born; nor foreseen works, for men were all corrupt in Adam. All a believer's present happiness, and all his future happiness, springs from the eternal purpose of God; as you may see, by comparing these scriptures together. [Romans 8:28, and 9:11; Eph. 1:11, and 3:11.] "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." Romans 9:15-16. "God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

This purpose of God speaks our stability and certainty of salvation by Christ, God's eternal purpose never changes, never alters; "Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed," says God, "so shall it stand." God's purposes are immutable, so is his covenant. God's purposes are sure, very sure, so is his covenant. The covenant of grace that flows from the eternal purpose of God, is as sure as God is sure; for God can neither deceive nor be deceived. That covenant that is built upon this rock of God's eternal purpose, must needs be sure; and therefore all that are in covenant with God need never fear falling away. There is no man, no power, no devil, no violent temptation—which shall ever be able to overturn those that God has brought under the bond of the covenant, 1 Pet. 1:5. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." John 10:27-29. But,

(2.) Secondly, Consider that the covenant of grace is confirmed and made sure by the blood of Jesus Christ, which is called "the blood of the everlasting covenant," Heb. 13:20. Christ, by his irrevocable death, has made sure the covenant to us, Heb. 9:16-17. The covenant of grace is to be considered under the notion of a testament; and Christ, as the testator of this will and testament. [The main point which the apostle intended, by setting down the inviolableness of men's last wills after their death, is to prove that Christ's death was very requisite for ratifying of the New Testament: consult these scriptures; Mat. 16:21; Luke 24:26; Heb. 9:16, 17.]

Now look, as a man's will and testament is irrevocably confirmed by the testator's death—"For where a testament is, there must also, of necessity, be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force, after men are dead; otherwise, it is of no strength at all while the testator lives." Heb. 9:16, 17. These two verses are added as a proof of the necessity of Christ's manner of confirming the new testament as he did, namely, by his death. The argument is taken from the common use and equity of confirming testaments, which is by the death of the testator. A testament is only and wholly at his pleasure of the person who makes it. He may alter it, or disannul it while he live, as he sees good; but when he is dead, he not remaining to alter it, no one else can alter it. In the seventeenth verse, the apostle declares the inviolableness of a man's last will, being ratified as before by the testator's death. This he shows two ways:

(1.) Affirmatively; in these words, "A testament is of force after men are dead."

(2.) Negatively, in these words, "Otherwise it is of no strength."

Now from the affirmative and the negative, it plainly appears that a testament is made inviolable by the testator's death; so Jesus Christ has unalterably confirmed this will and testament—namely, the new covenant, by his blood and death, "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." Heb. 9:15. Christ died to purchase an eternal inheritance; and on this ground eternal life is called an eternal inheritance; for we come to it as heirs, through the goodwill, grace, and favor of this purchaser thereof, manifested by the last will and testament.

Hence you read, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins," Mat. 26:28. Again, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you," Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25. The covenant is called both a covenant and a testament, because his covenant and testament is founded, established, ratified, and immutably sealed up—in and by his blood.

Christ is the faithful and true witness, yes, truth itself; his word shall not pass away, Rev. 3:14; John 14:6; Mark 13:31. If the word of Christ is sure, if his promise be sure, if his covenant be sure—then surely his last will and testament, which is ratified and confirmed by his death, must needs be very sure. Christ's blood is too precious a thing to be spilt in vain; but in vain is it spilt if his testament, his covenant, ratified thereby, be altered. If the covenant of grace is not a sure covenant, 1 Cor. 15:14, then Christ died in vain, and our preaching is in vain, and your hearing, and receiving, and believing is all in vain. Christ's death is a declaration and evidence of the eternal counsel of his Father, which is most stable and immutable in itself. But how much more it is so, when it is ratified by the death of his dearest Son, "In whom all the promises are yes and amen," 2 Cor. 1:20; that is, in Christ they are made, performed, and ratified.

By all this we may safely conclude that the covenant of grace is a most sure covenant. There can be no addition to it, detraction from it, or alteration of it—unless the death of Jesus Christ, whereby it is confirmed—is frustrated and overthrown. Certainly the covenant is as sure as Christ's death is sure. The sureness and certainty of the covenant is the ground and bottom of bottoms for our faith, hope, joy, patience, peace, etc. Take this corner, this foundation-stone away—and all will tumble. Were the covenant uncertain, a Christian could never have a good day all his days; his whole life would be filled up with tears, doubts, disputes, distractions, etc.; and he would be still a-crying out, "Oh, I can never be sure that God will be mine, or that Christ will be mine, or that mercy will be mine, or that pardon of sin will be mine, or that heaven will be mine! Oh, I can never be sure that I shall escape the great damnation, the worm which never dies, the fire that never goes out, or an eternal separation from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power!" 2 Thes. 1:9. The great glory of the covenant is the certainty of the covenant; and this is the top of God's glory, and of a Christian's comfort, that all the mercies that are in the covenant of grace are "the sure mercies of David," and that all the grace that is in the covenant is sure grace, and that all the glory that is in the covenant is sure glory, and that all the external, internal, and eternal blessings of the covenant are sure blessings.

I might further argue the sureness of the covenant of grace, from all the attributes of God, which are deeply engaged to make it good, as his wisdom, love, power, justice, holiness, faithfulness, righteousness, etc. And I might further argue the certainty of the covenant of grace, from the seals which God has annexed to it. You know what was sealed by the king's ring could not be altered, Esther 8:8. God has set his seals to this covenant: his broad seal in the sacraments, and his privy seal in the witness of his Spirit; and therefore the covenant of grace is sure, and can never be reversed. But upon several accounts I may not now insist on these things. And therefore,

[8.] Eighthly and lastly, The covenant of grace is styled a WELL-ORDERED covenant. 2 Samuel 23:5, "He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?" Oh, the admirable counsel, wisdom, love, care, and tenderness of the blessed God, which sparkles and shines in the well-ordering of the covenant of grace! [Romans 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:8, and 3:10; Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:28; Rev. 7:12.] Oh, how lovely and beautiful, with what symmetry and proportion, are all things in this covenant ordered and prepared! Oh, what head can conceive, or what tongue can express—that infinite wisdom which God has manifested in ordering the covenant of grace, so as it may most and best suit to all the wants, and straits, and necessities, and miseries, and desires, and longings of poor sinners' souls! Here are fit and full supplies for all our spiritual needs—so excellently and orderly has God composed and constituted the covenant of grace. In the covenant of grace every poor sinner may find a suitable help, a suitable remedy, a suitable support, a suitable supply, Jer. 33:8; Ezek. 36:25; Psalm 94:19.

The covenant of grace, is so well ordered by the unsearchable wisdom of God, that you may find in it remedies to cure all your spiritual diseases, and cordials to comfort you under all your soul-faintings, and a spiritual armory to arm you against all sorts of sins, and all sorts of snares, and all sorts of temptations, and all sorts of oppositions, and all sorts of enemies, whether inward or outward, open or secret, subtle or silly, Eph. 6:10-18. Do you, O distressed sinner—need a loving God, a compassionate God, a reconciled God, a sin-pardoning God, a tender-hearted God? Here you may find him in the covenant of grace, Exod. 34:5-7. Do you, O sinner—need a Christ, to counsel you by his wisdom, and to clothe you with his righteousness, and to enrich you with his grace, and to enlighten you with his eye salve, and to justify you from your sins, and to reconcile you to God, and to secure you from wrath to come, and after all, to bring you to heaven? Rev. 3:17-18; Acts 13:39; 1 Thes. 1:10; John 10:28-31. Here you may find him in a covenant of grace. Do you, O sinner! want the Holy Spirit to awaken you, and to convince you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment? or to enlighten you, and teach you, and lead you, and guide you in the way everlasting? or to cleanse you, or comfort you, or to seal you up to the day of redemption? Ezek. 36:25-27; Luke 11:13; Eph. 1:13. Here you may find him in the covenant of grace.

O sinner! Do you need grace, all grace, great grace, abundance of grace, multiplied grace? Here you may find it in the covenant of grace! O sinner! Do you need peace, or ease, or rest, or quiet in your conscience? Here you may find it in the covenant of grace! O sinner! Do you need joy, or comfort, or content, or satisfaction? Here you may have it in a covenant of grace. O sinner, sinner! whatever your soul needs are—they may all be supplied out of the covenant of grace! God, in his infinite wisdom and love, has laid into the covenant of grace, as into a common storehouse, all those good things, and all those great things, and all those suitable things—that either sinners or saints can either desire or need! Now the adequate suitableness of the covenant of grace to all a sinner's wants, straits, necessities, miseries, and desires—does sufficiently demonstrate the covenant of grace to be a well-ordered covenant.

Look, in a well-ordered commonwealth—there are wholesome laws to govern the people; and wholesome remedies to relieve the people; and strong defences to secure the people. Just so, that must needs be a well-ordered covenant, where there is nothing lacking to govern poor souls, or to secure poor souls, or to save poor souls. And such a covenant, is the covenant of grace. I might easily lay down other arguments to evince the covenant of grace to be a well-ordered covenant.

As for the right placing of all persons and things in the covenant of grace, and from the outward dispensation of it—God revealed it but gradually. First, he revealed it more darkly, remotely, and imperfectly—as we see things a great way off. But afterwards the Lord did more clearly, fully, immediately, frequently, and completely reveal it—as we discern things close at hand. God did not at once open all the riches and rarities of the covenant to his people, but in the opening of those treasures that were there laid up, God had a respect to the childhood and full-age of his people. And from God's dispensing and giving out all the good and all the great things of the covenant in their fittest time, in a right and proper season, when his people most need them, and when they can live no longer without them. But I must hasten to a closing up of this particular.

Thus you see in these eight particulars, how gloriously the covenant of grace, under which the saints stand, is set out in the blessed Scriptures.

Concerning the covenant of grace, or the new covenant, that all sincere Christians are under, and by which at last they shall be judged, let me further say—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 new covenant with sinful man.

The fountain from whence this new covenant flows, is the grace of God: Gen. 17:22, "I will make my covenant." This covenant is called a covenant of grace, because it flows from the mere grace and mercy of God. There was nothing outside of God, nor anything in God, but his mere mercy and grace, which moved him to enter into covenant with poor sinners, who were miserable, who were loathsome, and polluted in their blood, and who had broken the covenant of their God, and were actually in arms against him! [Isaiah 41:1-2; Eph. 1:5-7, and 2:5, 7-8; 2 Sam. 7:21; Romans 9:18, 23; Jer. 32:38-41; Ezek. 36:25-27, and 16:1-10. Surely if a woman commit adultery, it is a mere act of favor if her husband accept of her again, Jer. 3:7. The application is easy.] This must needs be of mere favor and love, for God to enter into covenant with man, when he lay wallowing in his blood, and no eye pitied him, no, not even his own. As there was nothing in fallen man to draw God's favor or affection towards him; just so—there was everything in fallen man which might justly provoke God's wrath and indignation against him; and therefore it must be a very high act of favor and grace, for the great, the glorious, the holy, the wise, and the all-sufficient God, to enter into covenant with such a forlorn creature as fallen man was. Nothing but free grace was the foundation of the covenant of grace with poor sinners. Now let us seriously mind how this covenant of grace, or this new covenant, runs both in the Old and in the New Testament:

"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34

Now let us see how Paul explains this new covenant. "But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." Hebrews 8:6-13.

This is the substance of the new covenant; and thus the Lord did fore-promise it by Jeremiah, and afterwards expounded it by Paul. Some small difference there is in their words, but the sense is one and the same. Now this covenant is styled the new covenant, because it is to continue new, and never to wax old or wear away, so long as this world shall continue. Neither do the Holy Scriptures anywhere reveal another covenant, which shall follow this covenant. [Where then is the fire of purgatory, and that popish distinction of the fault and the punishment? As for the fiction of purgatory, it deserves rather to be hissed at, than by arguments refuted. And to punish sin in purgatory, as popish doctors teach, what is this, but to call sin to mind and memory, to view and sight, to reckoning and account? which is contrary to the doctrine of the new covenant.]

If any covenant should follow this, it must be either a covenant of works, or a covenant of grace. It cannot be a covenant of works, for that would bring us all under a curse, and make our condition utterly desperate. Nor can it be a covenant of grace, because more grace cannot be shown in any other covenant than in this. Here is all grace and all mercy, here is Jesus Christ with all his righteousness, mediatorship, merits, purchase. This covenant is so full, so ample, so large, so perfect, so complete, and is every way so accommodated to the condition of lost sinners—that nothing can be altered, nor added, nor mended. Therefore it must needs be the last covenant, that ever God will make with man. "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." Hebrews 10:16-17.

Romans 11:26, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." The person delivering is Christ, described here by his office and by his original; his office, the deliverer; the original word which Paul uses, signifies delivering by a strong hand, to rescue by force, as David delivered the lamb out of the lion's paw; ver. 27, "For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sin." This covenant concerning the pardon of believers' sins, and their deliverance by Christ, God will certainly make good to his people.

Now from the covenant of grace, or the new covenant that God has made with sincere Christians, a believer may form up this eighth plea 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.] which refer to the great day of account, or to a man's particular account, namely, O blessed God, you have, in the covenant of grace, by which I must be tried, freely and fully engaged yourself that you will pardon my iniquities, and remember my sins no more; so runs the new covenant: Jer. 31:34, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Heb. 8:12, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Heb. 10:17, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins." Ezek. 18:22, "All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him." Jer. 50:20, "In those days, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve."

Now, O holy God, I cannot but observe that in the new covenant you have made such necessary, choice, absolute, and blessed provision for your poor people, that no sin can disannul the covenant, or make a final separation between you and your covenant-people. [The new covenant can never be broken. 2 Chron. 13:5; Psalm 89:34; Isaiah 50:7; 2 Sam. 23:5; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2; Isaiah 54:10.] Breaches made in the first covenant were irreparable, but breaches made in the new covenant are not so, because this new covenant is established in Christ. Christ lies at the bottom of the covenant. The new covenant is an everlasting covenant; and all the breaches that we make upon that covenant are repaired and made up by the blood and intercession of dear Jesus. Every jar does not break the marriage covenant between husband and wife; no more does every sin break the new covenant that is between God and our souls. Every breach of peace with God, is not a breach of covenant with God. That free, that rich, that infinite, that sovereign, and that glorious grace of God, which shines in the covenant of grace, tells us that our eternal estates shall never be judged by a covenant of works; and that the lack of an absolute perfection shall never damn a believing soul; and that the obedience that God requires at our hands is not a legal obedience, but an evangelical obedience.

So long as a Christian does not renounce his covenant with God, so long as he does not willfully, wickedly, and habitually break the bond of the covenant; the main, the substance, of the covenant is not yet broken, though some articles of the covenant may be violated. Just as among men, there be some trespasses against some particular clauses in covenants, which, though they be violated, yet the whole covenant is not forfeited; it is so here between God and his people.

And, O blessed God, I cannot but observe that in the new covenant you have engaged yourself to pardon all my sins: "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more," Heb. 8:12; Jer. 31:34. [He is a forgiving God, Neh. 9:31. None like him for that, Micah 7:18. He forgives naturally, Exod. 2:2; abundantly, Isaiah 55:7, 3; constantly, Psalm 130:4; Mal. 3:6.]

Here are two things worthy of our notice:

(1.) The reconciliation of God with his people, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness;" he will be merciful or propitious, appeased and pacified towards them; which has respect to the ransom and satisfaction of Christ.

(2.) That God will pardon the sins of his people fully, completely, perfectly. Here are three words, "unrighteousness," "sins," and "iniquities," to show that he will forgive all sorts, kinds, and degrees of sins. The three original words here expressed are all in the plural number:

1. Unrighteousnesses. This word is by some appropriated to the wrongs and injuries that are done against men.

2. Sins. This is a general word, and according to the notation of the Greek, may imply a not following of that which is set before us; for he sins, who follows not the rule that is set before him by God.

3. The third word, iniquities, according to the notation of the Greek, signifies in general, transgressions of the law. This word is by some appropriated to sins against God. The Greek word that is frequently translated "iniquity," is a general word, which signifies a transgression of the law, and so it is translated, 1 John 3:4. The word iniquity is of as large an extent as the word unrighteousness, and implies an unequal dealing, which is contrary to the rule or law of God.

All this heap of words is to plainly teach us, that it is neither the many kinds of sins, nor degrees of sin, nor aggravations of sin, nor even the multitude of sins—which shall ever harm those souls who are in covenant with God. God has mercy enough, and pardons enough, for all his covenant-people's sins, whether original or actual, whether against the law or against the gospel, whether against the light of nature or the rule of grace, whether against mercies or judgments, whether against great means of grace or small means of grace. The covenant remedy against all sorts and degrees of sin—infinitely transcends and surpasses all our infirmities and enormities, our weaknesses and wickednesses, our follies and unworthinesses, etc. What is our unrighteousness—compared to Christ's righteousness; our debts—compared to Christ's pardons; our unholiness—compared to Christ's holiness; our emptiness—compared to Christ's fullness; our weakness—compared to Christ's strength; our poverty—compared to Christ's riches; our wounds—compared to that healing which is under the wings of the Sun of Righteousness! 1 Cor. 1:30; Psalm 1:3, 9-10; Mal. 4:2.

Parallel to Hebrews 8:12, is that noble description that Moses gives of God in that Book of Exodus: chapter 34, 6-7, "The Lord, the Lord merciful and gracious; forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." Some, by these three words, do understand such sins as are committed against our neighbor, against God, or against ourselves. A merciful God, a gracious God will pardon all kinds of sinners, and all kinds and degrees of sin, by whatever names or titles they may be styled or distinguished.

Some by iniquity do understand sins of infirmity; and by transgression they understand sins of malice; and by sin they understand sins of ignorance. God is said to keep mercy, and to forgive all sorts of sins, as if his mercy were kept on purpose for pardoning all sorts of sinners and all sorts of sins. The Hebrew word that is here translated iniquity, signifies that which is unright, unequal, crooked or perverse; it notes the vitiosity or crookedness of nature; it notes crooked offences, such as flow from malice, hatred, and are committed on purpose.

Secondly, the Hebrew word which is here translated transgression, signifies to deal unfaithfully; it notes such sins as are treacherously committed against God, such sins as flow from pride and contempt of God.

Thirdly, the Hebrew word Chataah, generally signifies sin, but is more especially here taken for sins of ignorance and infirmity. Oh, what astounding mercy, what rich grace is here: that God will not only pardon our light, our small offences, but our great and mighty sins! etc.

And I cannot, O dear Father, but further observe that in the new covenant you have frequently and deeply engaged yourself, that you will remember the sins of your people no more! O my God, you have told me six different times in your word, that you will remember my sins no more. In the new covenant you have engaged yourself not only to forgive but also to forget, and that you will cross off your debt-book, and never question or call me to an account for my sins; that you will pass an eternal act of oblivion upon them, and utterly bury them in the grave of oblivion, as if they had never been.

The sins that are forgiven by God are forgotten by God; the sins that God remits he removes from his remembrance, Heb. 10:13-19, and 1-15. Christ has so fully satisfied the justice of God for the sins of all his seed, by the price of his own blood and death, that there needs no more expiatory sacrifices to be offered for their sins forever. Christ has, by the sacrifice of himself, blotted out the remembrance of his people's sins with God forever. The new covenant runs thus, "And their sinful error I will not remember any more," Jer. 31:34; but the Greek runs thus, "And their sinful errors and their unrighteousnesses, I will not remember again, or any more," Heb. 8:12. Here are two negatives, which do more vehemently deny, according to the propriety of the Greek language; that is, I will never remember them again, I will in no case remember them any more, I will so forgive as to forget: not that in propriety of phrase, God either remembers or forgets, for all things are present to him; he knows all things, he beholds, he sees, he observes all things, by one eternal and simple act of his knowledge, which is no way capable of change, as now knowing, and at another time forgetting. But it is an allusion to the manner of men, who, when they forgive injuries fully and heartily, do also forget them, blot them out of mind; or rather, as some think, it is an allusion to the manner of the old covenant's administration in the sacrifices, where there was a remembrance again of sins every year, there was a fresh indictment and arraignment of the people for sin continually, Heb. 10:1-3, etc.

But under this new covenant our Lord Jesus Christ has, "by one offering, perfected forever those who are sanctified," (see from ver. 5 to ver. 20;) Christ has, forever, taken away the sins of the elect; there needs no more expiatory sacrifice for them; they that are sprinkled with the blood of this sacrifice shall never have their sins remembered any more against them. God's not remembering or forgetting a thing is not simply to be taken of his essential knowledge, but respectively of his judicial knowledge, to bring the same into judgment. Not to remember a thing that was once known, and was in mind and memory, is to forget it; but this properly is not incident to God, it is an infirmity. To him all things past and future are as present. What he once knows he always knows. His memory is his very essence, neither can anything that has once been in, it slip out of it. For God to remit sin is not to remember it; and not to remember it is to remit it. These are two reciprocal propositions, therefore they are thus joined together. "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins," Jer. 31:34; Isaiah 43:25.

To remember implies a fourfold act;

(1.) To lay up in the mind what is conceived thereby;

(2.) To hold it fast;

(3.) To call it to mind again;

(4.) Oft to think of it. Now in that God says, "I will remember their iniquities no more;" he implies that he will neither lay them up in his mind, nor there hold them, nor call them again to mind, nor think on them, but that they shall be to him as if they had never been committed.

God's discharge of their sins shall be a full discharge. Such sinners shall never be called to account for them. Both the guilt and the punishment of them shall be fully and everlastingly removed. Let the sins of a believer be what they will for nature, and be ever so many for number, they shall all be blotted out, they shall more never be mentioned; [Mat. 12:31; Isaiah 55:7; Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 18:22; Psalm 32:2; Romans 4:8. Now if God will not remember nor mention his people's sins, then we may safely and soundly infer that either there is no purgatory, or else that God severely punishes those sins in purgatory which he remembers not.]

(1.) God will never remember, he will never mention their sins, so as to impute them or charge them upon his people.

(2.) God will never remember, he will never mention their sins any more, so as to upbraid his people with their follies or miscarriages. He will never hit them in the teeth with their sins, he will never hold their weaknesses against them. When persons are justified, their sins shall be as if they had not been; God will bid them welcome into his presence, and embrace them in his arms, and will never object to them their former unkindness, unfruitfulness, unthankfulness, vileness, stubbornness, wickedness, as you may plainly see in the return of the prodigal, and his father's deportment towards him.

Luke 15:20-23, "When he was a great way off." The prodigal was but conceiving a purpose to return, and God met him. The very intention, and secret motions, and close purposes of our hearts, are known to God. The old father sees a great way off. Dim eyes can see a great way, when the son is the object.

"His father saw him, and had compassion." His affections roll within him. The father not only sees, but commiserates and compassionates the returning prodigal, as he did Ephraim of old, "My affections are troubled for him, I will surely have mercy on him;" or, as the Hebrew runs, "I will, having mercy, have mercy, have mercy on him, or I will abundantly have mercy on him," Jer. 31:20. "Look," says God, "here is a poor prodigal returning to me, the poor child has come back, he has smarted enough, he has suffered enough. I will bid him welcome, I will forgive him all his high offences, and will never hit him in the teeth with his former vanities."

"And ran." The feet of mercy are swift to meet a returning sinner. It had been sufficient for him to have stood, being old, and a father; but the father runs to the son.

"And fell on his neck." He does not take him by the hand; but he falls upon him, and incorporates himself into him. How open are the arms of mercy to embrace the returning sinner, and lay him in the bosom of love!

"And kissed him." Free, rich, and sovereign mercy has not only feet to meet us, and arms to clasp us, but also lips to kiss us. One would have thought that he should rather have kicked him or killed him, than have kissed him. But God is Pater miserationum, he is all affections. All this while the father speaks not one word. His joy was too great to be uttered. He ran, he fell on his neck, and kissed him, and so sealed up to him mercy and peace, love and reconciliation, with the kisses of his lips.

And the son said unto him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight." Sincerely confess, and the amends is made; acknowledge but the debt, and he will cross the book.

"I am no more worthy to be called your son." "Lord," said that blessed martyr, "I am hell, but you are heaven; I am soil and a sink of sin, but you are a gracious God," etc.

"But the father said to his servants—Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hands, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry." Here you have,

(1.) The best robe;

(2.) The precious ring; [Among the Romans the ring was an ensign of virtue, honor, and especially nobility, whereby they were distinguished from the common people.]

(3.) The lovely shoes; and

(4.) The fatted calf.

The returning prodigal has garments, and ornaments, and necessaries, and luxuries. Some understand by the robe, as the royalty which Adam lost; and by the ring, they understand the seal of God's Holy Spirit; and by the shoes, the preparation of the gospel of peace; and by the fatted calf, they understand Christ, who was slain from the beginning. "Christ is that fatted calf," says Mr. Tyndale the martyr, "and his righteousness is the goodly raiment to cover the naked deformities of their sins."

The great things intended in this parable is to set forth the riches of grace, and God's infinite goodness, and the returning sinner's happiness. When once the sinner returns in good earnest to God, God will supply all his needs, and bestow upon him more than ever he lost, and set him in a safer and happier estate than that from which he fell in Adam; and will never hit him in the teeth with his former enormities, nor ever hold his old wickednesses against him. You see plainly in this parable that the father of the prodigal does not so much as mention or object the former pleasures, lusts, or vanities wherein his prodigal son had formerly lived. All old scores are forgiven, and the returning prodigal embraced and welcomed, as if he had never offended.

"And now, O Lord, I must humbly take leave to tell you further that you have confirmed the new covenant by your word, and by your oath, and by the seals that you have annexed to it, and by the death of your Son, and therefore you can not but make good every tittle, word, branch, and article of it. Now this new covenant is my plea, O holy God, and by this plea I shall stand." Hereupon God declares, "this plea, I accept as holy, just, and good. I have nothing to say against you—enter you into the joy of your Lord."

IX. The ninth 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.] which refer to the great day of account, or to a man's particular account, may be drawn up from the consideration of that evangelical obedience which God requires, and that the believer yields to God.

There is a legal account, and there is an evangelical account. Now the saints, in the great day, shall not be put to give up a legal account; the account they shall have to give up, is an evangelical account. In the covenant of works, God required perfect obedience in our own persons; but in the covenant of grace God will be content if there be but uprightness in us, if there be but sincere desires to obey, if there be faithful endeavors to obey, if there be a hearty willingness to obey. "Well," says God, "though I stood upon perfect obedience in the covenant of works, 2 Cor. 8:12; yet now I will be satisfied with the will for the deed; if there be but uprightness of heart, though that be attended with many weaknesses and infirmities, yet I will be satisfied and contented with that."

God, under the covenant of grace, will for Christ's sake accept of less than he requires in the covenant of works. He requires us to live without sin, but he will accept of our sincere endeavors to do it. Though a believer, in his own person, cannot perform all that God commands, yet Jesus Christ, as his surety and in his stead, has fulfilled the law for him. So that Christ's perfect righteousness is a complete cover for a believer's imperfect righteousness. Hence the believer flies from the covenant of works—to the covenant of grace; from his own unrighteousness—to the righteousness of Christ. [Luke 1:5-6; Mat. 28:20; Acts 24:16; 1 Pet. 1:14-15; Heb. 13:18.]

If we consider the law in a high and rigid notion—no believer can fulfill it; but if we consider the law in a soft and mild notion—every believer does fulfill it: Acts 13:22, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will;" that is, "All my wills," to note the universality and sincerity of his obedience. David had many slips and falls, he often transgressed the royal law; but being sincere in the main bent and frame of his heart, and in the course of his life, God looked upon his sincere obedience as perfect obedience.

A sincere Christian's obedience is an entire obedience to all the commands of God, though not in respect of practice, which is impossible, but in disposition and affection. [Psalm 119:6. "When my eye is to all your commandments."] A sincere obedience is a universal obedience. It is universal in respect of the subject, the whole man; it is universal in respect of the object, the whole law; and it is universal in respect of durance, the whole life; he who obeys sincerely obeys universally. There is no man who serves God truly, who does not endeavor to serve God fully; sincerity turns upon the hinges of universality; he who obeys sincerely endeavors to obey thoroughly, Num. 14:24. A sincere Christian does not only love the law, and like the law, and approve of the law, and delight in the law, and consent to the law, that it is holy, just, and good, but he obeys it in part, Romans 7:12, 16, 22; which, though it be but in part, yet he being sincere therein, pressing towards the mark, and desiring and endeavoring to arrive at what is perfect, Phil. 3:13-14, God accepts of such a soul, and is as well pleased with such a soul, as if he had perfectly fulfilled the law.

Where the heart is sincerely resolved to obey, there it does obey. A heart to obey, is our obeying; a heart to do, is our doing; a heart to believe, is our believing; a heart to repent, is our repenting; a heart to wait, is our waiting; a heart to suffer, is our suffering; a heart to pray, is our praying; a heart to hear, is our hearing; a heart to give, feed, clothe, visit, is our giving, feeding, clothing, visiting; a heart to walk holily, is our walking holily; a heart to work righteousness, is our working righteousness; a heart to show mercy, is our showing mercy; a heart to sympathize with others, is our sympathizing with others. He who sincerely desires and resolves to keep the commandments of God—he does keep the commandments of God; and he who truly desires and resolves to walk in the statutes of God—he does walk in the statutes of God.

In God's account and God's acceptance, every believer, every sincere Christian, is as wise, holy, humble, heavenly, spiritual, watchful, faithful, fruitful, useful, thankful, joyful, etc., as he desires to be, as he resolves to be, and as he endeavors to be; and this is the glory of the new covenant, and the happiness that we gain by dear Jesus. And, my friends, it is remarkable that our feeble, partial and very imperfect obedience is frequently set forth in the blessed Scriptures, as our fulfilling of the law, Luke 10:25-27. Take a few places for a taste: Romans 2:27, "uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God's law." Romans 13:8, "He who loves another, has fulfilled the law;" ver. 10, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Not to love is to do ill and to break the law, but love is the fulfilling of it; we cannot do ill by that which is the perfection and the fulfilling of the law. Love is the sum of the law, love is the perfection of the law; and were love perfect in us, it would make us perfect keepers of the law. Love works the saints to keep the law in desires and endeavors, with care and study to observe it in perfection of parts, though not in perfection of degrees: Gal. 5:14, "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself;" Gal. 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Now in this sense that is under consideration, the saints in themselves, even in this life, do keep the royal law.

Now, from what has been said, a believer may form up this plea—"O blessed God, in Christ my head I have perfectly and completely kept your royal law; and in my own person I have evangelically kept your royal law, in respect of my sincere desires, purposes, resolutions, and endeavors to keep it. And this evangelical keeping in Christ, and in the new covenant, you are pleased to accept of, and are well satisfied with it. I know that breaches made in the first covenant were irreparable, but breaches made in the covenant of grace are not so; because this covenant is established in Christ; who is still a-making up all breaches. Now this is my plea, O holy God, and by this plea I shall stand." "Well," says God, "I cannot in honor or justice but accept of this plea, and therefore enter into the joy of your Lord!"