Our woeful condition by nature, through
breaking the covenant of works. Hos. xiii.9. O Israel, thou hast
I. THE almighty and
eternal God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons
in the one and the same undivided Godhead, equally infinite in all
perfections, did, before time, most wisely decree, for his own glory,
whatsoever cometh to pass in time: and doth most holily and infallibly
execute all his decrees, without being partaker of the sin of any creature.
II. This God, in six
days, made all things of nothing, very good in their own kind: in special,
he made all the angels holy; and he made our first parents, Adam and Eve,
the root of mankind, both upright and able to keep the law written in their
heart. Which law they were naturally bound to obey under pain of death; but
God was not bound to reward their service, till he entered into a covenant
or contract with them, and their posterity in them, to give them eternal
life, upon condition of perfect personal obedience; withal threatening death
in case they should fail. This is the covenant of works.
III. Both angels and
men were subject to the change of their own free will, as experience proved,
(God having reserved to himself the incommunicable property of being
naturally unchangeable:) for many angels of their own accord fell by sin
from their first estate, and became devils. Our first parents, being enticed
by Satan, one of these devils speaking in a serpent, did break the covenant
of works, in eating the forbidden fruit; whereby they, and their posterity,
being in their loins, as branches in the root, and comprehended in the same
covenant with them, became not only liable to eternal death, but also lost
all ability to please God; yea, did become by nature enemies to God, and to
all spiritual good, and inclined only to evil continually. This is our
original sin, the bitter root of all our actual transgressions, in thought,
word, and deed.
The remedy provided in Jesus Christ for
the elect by the covenant of grace. Hos. xiii. 9. O Israel, thou hast
destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
ALBEIT man, having brought himself into this woeful condition, be neither
able to help himself, nor willing to be helped by God out of it, but rather
inclined to lie still, insensible of it, till he perish; yet God, for the
glory of his rich grace, hath revealed in his word a way to save sinners,
viz. by faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, by virtue of, and
according to the tenor of the covenant of redemption, made and agreed upon
between God the Father and God the Son, in the council of the Trinity,
before the world began.
The sum of the covenant of redemption is this: God having freely chosen unto
life a certain number of lost mankind, for the glory of his rich grace, did
give them, before the world began, unto God the Son, appointed Redeemer,
that, upon condition he would humble himself so far as to assume the human
nature, of a soul and a body, unto personal union with his divine nature,
and submit himself to the law, as surety for them, and satisfy justice for
them, by giving obedience in their name, even unto the suffering of the
cursed death of the cross, he should ransom and redeem them all from sin and
death, and purchase unto them righteousness and eternal life, with all
saving graces leading thereunto, to be effectually, by means of his own
appointment, applied in due time to every one of them. This condition the
Son of God (who is Jesus Christ our Lord) did accept before the world began,
and in the fulness of time came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary,
subjected himself to the law, and completely paid the ransom on the cross:
But by virtue of the foresaid bargain, made before the world began, he is in
all ages, since the fall of Adam, still upon the work of applying actually
the purchased benefits unto the elect; and that he doth by way of
entertaining a covenant of free grace and reconciliation with them, through
faith in himself; by which covenant, he makes over to every believer a right
and interest to himself, and to all his blessings.
For the accomplishment of this covenant of redemption, and making the elect
partakers of the benefits thereof in the covenant of grace, Christ Jesus was
clad with the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King: made a Prophet,
to reveal all saving knowledge to his people, and to persuade them to
believe and obey the same; made a Priest, to offer up himself a sacrifice
once for them all, and to intercede continually with the Father, for making
their persons and services acceptable to him; and made a King, to subdue
them to himself, to feed and rule them by his own appointed ordinances, and
to defend them from their enemies.
The outward means appointed to make the
elect partakers of this covenant, and all the rest that are called, to be
inexcusable. Matt. xxii. 14. Many are called.
I. THE outward means and ordinances, for
making men partakers of the covenant of grace, are so wisely dispensed, as
that the elect shall be infallibly converted and saved by them; and the
reprobate, among whom they are, not to be justly stumbled: The means are
especially these four. 1. The word of God. 2. The sacraments. 3.
Kirk-government. 4. Prayer. In the word of God preached by sent messengers,
the Lord makes offer of grace to all sinners, upon condition of faith in
Jesus Christ; and whosoever do confess their sin, accept of Christ offered,
and submit themselves to his ordinances, he will have both them and their
children received into the honour and privileges of the covenant of grace.
By the sacraments, God will have the covenant sealed for confirming the
bargain on the foresaid condition. By kirk-government, he will have them
hedged in, and helped forward unto the keeping of the covenant. And by
prayer, he will have his own glorious grace, promised in the covenant, to be
daily drawn forth, acknowledged, and employed. All which means are followed
either really, or in profession only, according to the quality of the
covenanters, as they are true or counterfeit believers.
II. The covenant of grace, set down in
the Old Testament before Christ came, and in the New since he came, is one
and the same in substance, albeit different in outward administration: For
the covenant in the Old Testament, being sealed with the sacraments of
circumcision and the paschal lamb, did set forth Christ's death to come, and
the benefits purchased thereby, under the shadow of bloody sacrifices, and
sundry ceremonies: but since Christ came, the covenant being sealed by the
sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, doth clearly hold forth Christ
already crucified before our eyes, victorious over death and the grave, and
gloriously ruling heaven and earth, for the good of his own people.
The blessings which are
effectually conveyed by these means to the Lord's elect, or chosen ones.
Matt. xxii. 14. Many are called, but few are chosen.
I. BY these outward ordinances, as our Lord
makes the reprobate inexcusable, so, by the power of his Spirit, he applies
unto the elect, effectually, all saving graces purchased to them in the
covenant of redemption, and maketh a change in their persons. In particular,
1. He doth convert or regenerate them, by giving spiritual life to them, in
opening their understandings, renewing their wills, affections, and
faculties, for giving spiritual obedience to his commands. 2. He gives them
saving faith, by making them, in the sense of deserved condemnation, to give
their consent heartily to the covenant of grace, and to embrace Jesus Christ
unfeignedly. 3. He gives them repentance, by making them, with godly sorrow,
in the hatred of sin, and love of righteousness, turn from all iniquity to
the service of God. And, 4. He sanctifies them, by making them go on and
persevere in faith and spiritual obedience to the law of God, manifested by
fruitfulness in all duties, and doing good works, as God offereth occasion.
II. Together with this inward change of their
persons, God changes also their state: for, so soon as they are brought by
faith into the covenant of grace, 1. He justifies them, by imputing unto
them that perfect obedience which Christ gave to the law, and the
satisfaction also which upon the cross Christ gave unto justice in their
name. 2. He reconciles them, and makes them friends to God, who were before
enemies to God. 3. He adopts them, that they shall be no more children of
Satan, but children of God, enriched with all spiritual privileges of his
sons. And, last of all, after their warfare in this life is ended, he
perfects the holiness and blessedness, first of their souls at their death,
and then both of their souls and their bodies, being joyfully joined
together again in the resurrection, at the day of his glorious coming to
judgment, when all the wicked shall be sent away to hell, with Satan
whom they have served: but Christ's own chosen and redeemed ones, true
believers, students of holiness, shall remain with himself for ever, in the
state of glorification.