The duty of Covenanting is founded on the law of nature; but it also stands among the arrangements of Divine mercy made from everlasting. The promulgation of the law, enjoining it on man in innocence as a duty, was due to God's necessary dominion over the creatures of his power. The revelation of it as a service obligatory on men in a state of sin, arose from his unmerited grace. In the one display, we contemplate the authority of the righteous moral Governor of the universe; in the other, we see the claims of that law which cannot be abrogated, put forth along with manifestations of sovereign good-will to men. Had God dealt with men according to their iniquities, that law which, in the first of men, they had violated, would have demanded their final punishment; and they, unable, because unwilling to give obedience, and unprovided with the means of deliverance, had fallen to ruin. In order that his mercy might be manifested, the Lord, from the days of eternity, secured to sinners a fitness for duty, to stand as a substitute for that spiritual strength which they should lose by transgression, and acceptance through a great Mediator, which else had not been enjoyed. On man, in a state of innocence, and also in a state of sin, the duty of Covenanting was enjoined. By reason of sin, strength given to him at first to perform it, was for ever forfeited. But to many, by a wondrous scheme of Divine love, it is given to enjoy, from engaging in it, benefits which cannot be lost.
In regard to sinners, the exercise was provided for in the Covenant of Redemption.
This was made from the days of eternity. It is described as the |Everlasting Covenant.| The phrase cannot mean less than that it extends from eternity to eternity. In adoration of the Lord, made known as a covenant God, it is said, |from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.| The Mediator |was set up from everlasting:| -- necessarily by entering into covenant. Thus, his |goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.| The covenant is a reality. |I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant. -- My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.| When was the Father's servant covenanted to him, if he stood not engaged to him from eternity? The conditions and promise of the covenant are recorded. |Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.| And the mutual satisfaction of the Father and Son with the conditions and fulfilment of the covenant, is also revealed. |The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.| |He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.|
First. In the Covenant of Redemption, Christ, represented all the elect. Even as the faithful descendants of Abraham were comprehended in the covenant which God established with him, but in a far higher sense, the elect were included in that which was made with the Redeemer. And as Adam was the representative of the human family, so Christ became the Head of all who should be saved. It was on account of the people who were given to Him that the covenant was made. By an electing decree they were chosen in Him. And the covenant was entered into with him as their legal representative. From eternity, therefore, by a legal, though not an actual union to Christ, they are a covenant people. And even then the blessings of the covenant were provided for them. Till they be joined to Christ, the elect are not entitled to the blessings provided for them. But still they were contemplated in the covenant. That gave them the privilege of being joined to the Redeemer. God, the Father, made with Christ, for each of his people, an everlasting covenant. They are therefore bound to Covenant. Do the deeds of our ancestors bind us to enter into covenant? That high deed in this takes precedence. The law of nature imposes the obligation; the forbearance of God affords opportunities for fulfilling it; the Covenant of Redemption, from which even the forbearance of God proceeds, leads to the duty by a claim infinitely strong. The elect were all taken into covenant; in their name, the Surety engaged that they would enter into covenant; on their behalf He promised an obedience which none other than himself could give; but he promised also the obedience that they should render -- not necessary nor required for fulfilling the conditions of the covenant, but requisite, to show, to the glory of God, the certainty of the fulfilment of these; and the Father accepted the offer. Covenanting, according to God's immutable law, is included in the obedience. It is therefore provided for in the covenant. How high then are the motives to the observation of this? It was Covenanted, not by the chosen of God themselves; not by Abraham, or the Church, or any mere man; yea, not by any creature. Rising above all such transactions engaged in by men, though in accordance with them, the covenant in which it was secured was entered into by the Three-One God, and ratified by Christ. They who will not perform the duty are none of his. He represented each of his people. Each is therefore called individually to Covenant. He represented his people in their associate capacity as his Church. In that they are called to enter into covenant with God. He represented them in all their approved social relations. In all these they are bound by his engagement to take hold on God's covenant.
Secondly. All the promises accepted in Covenanting were made to the Surety in the Covenant of Redemption. In a promise including that of every benefit which those should enjoy through him, a seed was presented to him. The promise of the Spirit, and all His glorious effects through the word, was made not merely to the Church but to Christ himself, and therefore to him in the everlasting covenant. |As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.| To Noah, to Abraham, to Israel under Moses, and to the Church in succeeding ages, the Lord gave the promise that he would establish his covenant with his people. And a promise equivalent to this he made when he engaged to establish his called and chosen, as a holy people to himself. But a promise including each of these was given to Christ. In a passage where the very same verb ([Hebrew: kom], to establish,) that occurs in the portions quoted, is employed, it is found. |I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.| And in another, where a verb ([Hebrew: kon]) of a kindred import, but from a different origin, is used, it is recorded. It is the promise of God that is laid hold on in Covenanting. He commands to draw near to him in the exercise. He has prescribed the matter of vows which he will accept. But in order to give encouragement to perform the duty and fulfil its engagements, he has also made promises of good. To the sinner these could not otherwise come than through Christ. To Him at first they were made, and that for men. When the saints accept them, they cleave to what comes to them as not standing alone, but interested in the work of the great Surety; and accordingly, as the children of a covenant appointed to sanction, among other practices glorifying to God, a service by which the once-rebellious should, from age to age, testify, against the sin of refusing the offers of Divine favour, and to the justice of the claims which the Giver of all good has upon the most solemn resolutions to serve him, which men can present as a tribute to his honour.
Thirdly. It is on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, by which he fulfilled the obligations of the everlasting covenant contracted by him, that his people Covenant with God. From among many passages in which this is taught, that may be familiar to every careful reader of the Scriptures, the following may be selected for illustration: -- |Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles (NOBLE ONE) shall be of themselves, and their GOVERNOR shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord. And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.| The NOBLE ONE here mentioned is Christ. He is also the Governor who should proceed from the midst of Israel. The description given of him is not applicable to any earthly ruler of the house of Jacob. It corresponds to Him alone, who, in other prophecies, is denominated |My servant David,| and in the Psalms is celebrated as |the Governor among the nations.| In fulfilling all righteousness, obeying the law of God, and suffering and dying for his people, and in making intercession for them, he approached unto God. To that, he was engaged when the prophecy was uttered; he had been so from eternity. To his drawing near and making an approach unto God, the establishment of the congregation of the Lord before him, His recognition of them as his people, and their acknowledgment of Him as their God, are manifestly attributed in the passage. It was by faith in him, that the saints, in early times, while they offered sacrifice by Covenanting, acknowledged the Lord to be their God. It was by faith in him, that all to succeed them should in this manner avouch the Lord. He is the way unto the Father. By Him his people have access unto the grace wherein they stand. He drew near to present an acceptable sacrifice; and as a priest, he makes intercession. It is by Him that his people draw near. While they profess their faith in him, it is by Him that they draw nigh in the full assurance of faith. It was by his sufferings and death that the everlasting covenant was ratified. And when he died, the way to all duty and privilege was opened to all who should believe upon him; and the title of the saints who had gone before to the enjoyment of the eternal inheritance, and who had Covenanted to accept its blessings, was shown to be secure.
Fourthly. Believers, as a people who would Covenant and fulfil their obligations, were given to the Mediator in the everlasting covenant. As a covenant people, the heathen were given to Him for an inheritance. According to an interpretation of an apostle, He himself says, |Behold, I, and the children whom God hath given me -- .| And that such were promised as a people who should discharge the duty of Covenanting, and the other engagements of the covenant, appears from the words, |How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? And I said, thou shalt call me, my Father; and shalt not turn away from me.| He received also the promise -- implying, that a people in serving Him should habitually take hold on him in Covenanting, -- |A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.| These, and corresponding declarations, teach how intimately connected with the gift of a people to the Redeemer was the provision made for the obedience to be claimed and accepted at their hands. They mercifully intimate that one of the reasons for which they were given to him, was that they should obey God in taking hold of his covenant. It was in the everlasting Covenant that they were promised by the Father, and accepted by the Son. On the condition here specified, they were received. They are, therefore, urged to the duty, in consequence of that infinitely glorious compact; and, by the offer of the Father, the acceptance of the Son, the Covenanted aid of the Spirit, by the bowels of Divine love, to this, and consequently to all its engagements, they are bound.
Finally. The elect were chosen in Christ that, in union to him, they might perform this duty. To all that is included in holiness, these were chosen in him. |According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.| It is in that spiritual union to him, which was secured by their election and the gift of them in the everlasting Covenant, that they discharge every duty. It was because of the sovereign love of God that his Church was chosen, and united to Christ in the character of his Covenanted Spouse. In consequence of that love, which is manifested even by the infliction of chastisement, being branches of Him -- the true vine -- they are purged that they may bring forth more abundantly those fruits of righteousness, among which stands the act of taking hold on God's covenant. These fruits include not merely the obedience of the life, but the homage of the heart expressed by the lip. And by the lip, fruit is brought forth when God's name is called upon in vowing and swearing to him. |By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks (confessing) to his name.| The elect are chosen |to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;| and consequently to Covenanting, as well as every other act in which faith is exercised. By faith they vow and swear; and that is connected with union to Christ. Whatever view of the Spirit's procedure in the day of regeneration may be entertained, union to Christ is then effected, faith is given, and the believer proceeds to endeavour after obedience. Some have maintained that faith precedes union to the Redeemer; others, that union to Him anticipates that grace. And, accordingly, though both classes maintain that these occur simultaneously, yet they entertain opposite opinions regarding the relative order in which they take place, or what is denominated |the order of nature,| in reference to this. If it were necessary to admit that an order of nature is observed here, the latter supposition would seem to have the better claim. But though in many things connected with the believer's progress there is unquestionably an order of nature, perhaps there is no necessity for introducing that idea in reference to this particular case. By maintaining that such an order obtains here, there is manifested a tendency, as if to represent the two things as proceeding like two points in a straight line, which moves in the direction of its length, and so to conceive that one of them must necessarily be first; while, by abandoning the notion of such an order, we might compare the two to two points, both of which are carried by the line moving only in a direction perpendicular to itself, and so conceive that at any instant both would be first. And the latter supposition, indeed, seems to correspond with the circumstances of the facts. At the same moment that Divine power is put forth in order to conversion, both union to Christ, and the faith which recognises that union, are at once vouchsafed. Then indeed a new life is begun, and the manifestations of life necessarily begin to appear. Lastly, the faith of the believer is exercised by him in resting on Christ as the one foundation laid in Zion; and reposing on him, he habitually takes hold on the Covenant of God, instead of a refuge of lies -- the covenant with death and hell, which shall be swept away. It is to the glory of God that Christ is confessed. It is in union to Christ as the true foundation that this is done. The glory of God as a strength is spoken of as being founded. |Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength (founded glory).| Where there is Divine power and Majesty, there is glory. |Strength and beauty (glory) are in his sanctuary.| Resting on the one foundation, as a temple to the glory of God, the Church engaging in the act of confessing Him in Covenanting, and otherwise keeping his Covenant, will therefore realize the promise, |I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.|
Covenanting, under every dispensation of Divine Grace, was provided for.
In the scheme of Redemption, all the means by which it should be carried into effect were provided. From that proceeded the means of grace adapted to the circumstances of the Church in every period of history. From that followed those arrangements that were suited to the Patriarchal, Levitical, and later times; and from that arose all the various dispensations themselves. Exhibitions of Christ, the chief blessing of the Covenant, were common to all of them. Nay, to make these exhibitions, all of them were devised. The world was adapted to man, whether in a state of innocence, or in a state in which he should be invited to return to God. According to the wondrous plans of Him who foresaw and arranged all things, the world, after trangression, behoved not to be lost, but to be made the scene of events glorifying to God. To suppose that the earth was formed for the purpose of carrying into effect the plan of salvation is allowable. To imagine that that plan was being carried into effect in Eden, even before the sin of man, is in opposition to the spirit of the declaration that Christ came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance -- to the truth that the salvation of man, was a salvation from sin, and that the God of salvation is He who pardoneth iniquity, nay, to the whole tenor of Scripture. To admit, however, that the world was a scene on which man in innocence, throughout whatever period God might have willed, might have enjoyed good, the wisdom of Him who arranges not, nor commands what may not be fulfilled, requires. But the sentiment that the Covenant of Works secured the continuance of man upon the earth, even after the fall, is not merely gratuitous, but in direct opposition to the consideration that the world was destroyed by the flood on account of the sin of man, and that God's covenant with Noah secured those outward advantages of which not merely the righteous but the wicked were to partake. It seems inconsistent with the sentiments which we should entertain of the wisdom and other attributes of God, to suppose that the world was created either for man in a state of innocence exclusively, or for him exclusively in a state of sin. Even facts show that the world was adapted to both. That the facts of providence upon our world, however, which have occurred in consequence of a system of forbearance, which depends on the arrangements of the Covenant of Redemption, and others that show his grace, flow directly from these, is most manifest. The erection and continuance of the Church in the world, directly flow from that covenant. Faith in God in every age, interests in Christ the surety, and through him in all the blessings of the covenant. Even before some of its signs were given, those to whom it was given to believe upon Him, were taken into covenant. |We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.| And in every age, they who believe are the children of the covenant. In the first ages of the world, we find a righteous Abel, an Enoch who walked with God, men who had the name of God called upon them, the sons of God, and Noah, a preacher of righteousness. And we find that all who, like Abraham, believe in God, have their faith counted to them for righteousness: |And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.| It was in the acceptance of God's promise to him of a seed of whom Christ should come, that Abraham believed God. It was, therefore, in the exercise of Covenanting. It was as the representative of a Covenant seed that Abraham was the father of all them that believe. The Covenant made with Abraham, as the father of the faithful, endures. |That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though, it be but a man's covenant, yet, if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.| The covenant which God made with Noah, even as that which he made with Abraham, he designates |My Covenant.| All, therefore, who believe, in whatever time, are interested in one covenant with God. That was confirmed of God in Christ. Its ratification by the death of Christ, the testator, was the ratification of the Covenant of Redemption. The blessings of it are the blessings of the Covenant of Redemption. That covenant -- the Covenant of Grace -- is, therefore, the Covenant of Redemption revealed and dispensed to man. The latter flows from and was provided by the other; and this appears also from the fact, that the true Church in the world is characterized by her adherence to God's covenant. True religion, and all its institutions, are represented in Scripture as a covenant with God. The different dispensations of Divine grace are each denominated a covenant -- the first dispensation, the |Old Covenant| -- the last dispensation, the |New Covenant.| Promises made, duties inculcated, and signs given for the direction of the faith of God's people, are each exhibited as a covenant. These facts can be explained only on the principle that all of these things so presented, proceed from the covenant of God -- which was from eternity, but was made known to man -- and take their common designation from their connection with that Everlasting Covenant. The adoption of this obvious rule of interpretation would have saved the many vain attempts that have been made to deny the existence of the Everlasting Covenant, and to misrepresent the true nature of those different dispensations of Divine grace, which have been denominated from it. It would have prevented from absurdly maintaining that what is represented as God's covenant with his people, is not, in reality, a covenant, but merely a law. By tracing all the dispensations of grace to one great source, it would have acknowledged them, as they are presented in the sacred record, to be consistent with one another, and would have prevented all the spiritual poverty that arises from refusing to accept of the flood of light which the Old Testament record casts forth towards the illustration of that of the New; and would have shown, that while some services of a former period, having served their purpose, have indeed passed, others, and, among the rest, that of Covenanting with God, which have, along with those, been by many consigned to abolition, are indeed among those institutes which, till heaven and earth pass, shall not pass away. But to proceed. The revelation of the will of God is in Scripture represented as a covenant. A term, ([Hebrew: chazuth]), meaning literally a vision, and consequently a revelation, is put also to denote a Covenant or agreement. In various passages it occurs in the first acceptation. In the last, it is employed in the original of the following: -- |And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand.| Now, though this passage does not refer to a covenant with God, yet it alludes to a transaction of a covenant character; and, consequently, may be understood as containing, in reference to what is evil, a form of expression that might be employed regarding a covenant with God. Indeed, from various representations of Scripture, made in different terms, the act of Covenanting would seem to be compared to a seeing of God; and, also, to what corresponds with that -- a seeking of his face. It therefore follows, that the revelation of Divine truth is the revelation of the Everlasting Covenant; that men, in holding communion with him, learn concerning that Covenant; and that, in Covenanting with him, they take hold upon it as dispensed to men, and on it alone. By keeping the Sabbath, by receiving circumcision, by performing, besides, the other duties of the law of God, by recognising the obligations of the Church imposed in former times, and by entering into solemn engagements on their own behalf, and on behalf of their children, believers at every time, under former dispensations, acknowledged the Church's federal character; while, by recognising the Lord as their God, and acting faith in a Saviour then yet to come, they acknowledged that the Covenant into which they were taken, was that revealed and dispensed by him, and which was a manifestation of that to which He had acceded, who said, |Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.| And after the work of Him who came |to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,| was accomplished, the people of God, by observing the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, by vowing and swearing to him, and by attending to the other institutions of his grace, continue to acknowledge their faith in him, as |the Mediator of the New Testament,| and as the |one Mediator,| in whom the Covenant was confirmed with Abraham, and who was present with his people in Sinai; and to manifest their decided conviction, that the appointment of all the means of grace, flowed from that glorious transaction concerning which it is said, |As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.|
First. In the Everlasting Covenant, provision was made for Covenanting under the Patriarchal and Levitical dispensations.
The acknowledgments and conduct of believers in those times illustrate this. These showed an acquaintance with the subject peculiarly striking. Where the engagements into which Noah and his family were brought are spoken of, no hint is dropped that the nature or design of the duty was new to them. The terms in which the covenant of God was made known to him, would appear to have been quite familiar to him; and the alacrity with which he engaged in performing the rite of sacrifice, would seem to indicate that neither he nor his family were strangers to that, as an accompaniment of Covenanting. The manner in which certain distinguished individuals, who lived anterior to the Mosaic economy, employed and desired the oath, showed that the information concerning it, which must have been communicated by Noah and his family, had been, by some at least, carefully preserved. Not merely Abraham, who may have received special information from above concerning the exercise, but some of his contemporaries in the region of Canaan would appear to have known well the character and tendency of covenant obligation. At the death of Joseph, his brethren manifested a complete acquaintance with the subject; nor were their descendants, two hundred years after, when emerging from bondage, unwilling to acknowledge the debt of duty which, by the oath of their fathers, was imposed upon them. At the solemnities of Sinai, Israel would appear to have recognised the obligation of vowing and swearing to God, as well as that of any other requirement of his law. It does not appear that any one of the Hebrews of those ages ever thought of calling in question the duty of attending to, and acquiescing in, every declaration made to them through an appointed channel from heaven. That they were a rebellious people is beyond a doubt; but that fact is not inconsistent with the conclusion that, in consequence of the force of habit or example, they might give a verbal acquiescence to requirements, the importance and necessity of obeying which they might not feel. As others are, they were assailed from without and within with temptations to fail in their duty; and before those they fell. Most of them were under unbelief, and they would not obey; but when addressed by Moses, or any other servant of the Lord, while a wonder or miracle was wrought and duty was enjoined, testifying to the duty of giving obedience when God commands, however soon they might forget, they said, |All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.| There is only one principle on which this intimate acquaintance with the claims of the service can be accounted for. The obligation of the duty must have been taught to man from the beginning. That is implied in the law which was written on his heart in innocence. The duty incumbent on him as a sinner must have been revealed to him immediately after the fall. There is no reason to suppose that, seeing that sacrifice and covenanting for a vast length of time, were observed together, they were not coeval. But however that may be, equally with the one, the other, in the first ages, was known; and to one fact both are to be traced. The duties co-ordinate in their bearings -- the one pointing to the great propitiation, the other rocognising the claims of the Author of that salvation which the |One Sacrifice| was to secure, both have their origin in that one glorious Covenant, by which the method in which it should be bestowed was arranged.
Provision was made through promises. Some of these were that the duty would be engaged in; others of them, that the keeping of engagements made would be followed with good; others, that all the blessings of the covenant would be bestowed. The passages belonging to each of these classes are numerous. Containing a proposal of conditions on God's part, they lead directly to the duty. What is wanting, is the acceptance of them on the part of man. So often as they are read or meditated on, or pressed on sinners in the preaching of the gospel, the sinner is invited to take hold in God's covenant. The invitations addressed through them are made by the Redeemer as the Prophet of his Church, and as the Lord of all. They exhibit the will of the Father, that his people should acknowledge him as the God of grace. They testify to the love of the Spirit, whose work it is to lead to accept of them. They unfold the purposes which were of old. They are the echo of the promises of the Everlasting Covenant, made to the great Mediator between God and man.
Through types. Covenanting itself is not a type or shadow, but a substantial reality. With many other things, however, which in some aspects of their character were types of good things to come, under other of their features it may be associated in presenting an emblem of what is spiritual. Thus, every institution of Divine grace may be understood as testifying to the excellence and necessity of every other, and to the reality of the exercises of the heart which ought to accompany their outward observance. Many things connected with the former dispensations, accordingly, vouch for the high origin, and nature, and claims of Covenanting. We contemplate them doing so, not as types of good things which had no existence when they occurred, but as emblems of good connected with vowing and swearing to God, which was common to every era of the history of the Church. By these, not less explicitly than by the voice of speech, instruction is addressed; and not less than the most explicit tender of good or obligation are their dictates to be received. Enoch, who clave to God; Noah and Abraham, each a covenant head; Aaron and Phinehas, each the representative of a Covenanted priesthood; and David, the federal head of a royal posterity; as individuals, were emblems of many devoted personally and socially by Covenant to the Lord. The Israelites, servants of God: the first-born among these, dedicated to the Lord: the Goel, or, Kinsman-redeemer, under a descending obligation to interpose in behalf of a relative: the voluntary bondservant, who, from love to his master and family, explicitly engaged himself to his service through life: sojourning strangers, not Canaanites, allowed and encouraged by the Israelites to wait on all the ordinances of religion: the Hebrew kings of David's family vested with rule according to a perpetual covenant: the Nazarites, peculiarly set apart to the service of God: the Aaronic priesthood, under the bond of an enduring covenant: and the Nethinims, a people employed about the sanctuary, descendants of the Gibeonites, who, though like Jacob they did not do well in the choice of means to obtain the blessing, were taken into covenant with God: -- these were classes of persons who symbolized many explicitly engaged by covenant to the service of the Lord. The cities of refuge -- Kedesh, a holy place: Hebron, society, friendship, the end of a covenant: Shechem, a part or portion, as the lot of a covenant inheritance: Bezer, cut off and broken, as the sinner is from all vain confidences: Golan, exile, as separation from every visitation of vengeance: and Ramoth, eminences, or high places, as the stronghold provided in the covenant to prisoners of hope; true to their designations, as emblems point out the facts of a covenant made on behalf of many, who by sin are exposed to ruin. Canaan, a land of inheritance promised in covenant: Jerusalem, the vision of peace, and city of God: the tabernacle, the temple, and Mount Zion, -- places where manifestations were made of the presence of God in covenant: -- all denoted scenes, where his people, in every age, in giving themselves to the Lord, cleave unto him. The Ark prepared by Noah was entered by him and his house, betokening the accession of men, in all ages, to the covenant of God by faith in the Redeemer. The Ark of the Covenant, containing the book of the law: the table of shew-bread, representing the means of exhibiting Christ, the bread of life: the altar of incense, from which arose offerings, as of the praises and supplications of God's people, perfumed with the sweet incense of Christ's intercession: the golden candlestick, shedding forth light, as of the influences of God's Spirit: the laver, for washing, representing the means of purification from all defilement: the altar of burnt-offering, from which arose the flame of sacrifice, that betokened the offering of Him who made his soul a propitiation for sin; were sacred utensils, all of which referred to the ratification of God's covenant, and the dispensation of its blessings to those who are enabled to lay hold upon it. The Sabbath, returning every seventh day: the periodic feast of unleavened bread for seven days, following upon the Passover: the Sabbatic year, completing an interval reckoned by seven: the year of jubilee, occurring always after seven times seven years were completed; were all seasons that pointed out times of waiting upon the ordinances of that Covenant which was ratified by the oath -- represented by the number of perfection that should be waited on in ages most remote. Typical purifications; the ordeal for freeing from the imputation of murder, conducted by slaying the heifer, and washing the hands over it, while there was made a protestation of innocence, that embodied an oath: the means of removing ceremonial defilement of various kinds: and the bitter water which, according to the innocence or guilt of the party to whom it was administered, acted innocuously, so as to denote the effects of a lawful oath, or as the oath which, by being sworn falsely, is converted into a curse; were all of the nature of an appeal to God. Oblations in general; the sin and trespass offerings, which were never merely voluntary: the burnt-offering: the peace-offerings, that were wont to be presented when vows were paid: in particular, the offering of salt, the symbol at once of communion and friendship, of durability and incorruption, and of sincerity of mind, and which was commanded to be presented with every offering -- the emblem of an enduring covenant: the pascal lamb, which represented Christ slain, the blood of which was sprinkled, as his blood was, for defence from wrath, and the flesh of which was eaten, so as to afford a vigour symbolizing that of those who, having eaten of his flesh, like the hosts of Israel from Egypt, go forth from bondage to liberty and peace; the Covenant sacrifice of Abraham, consisting of the red heifer, whose ashes were for purification; the she-goat of three years, for a sin-offering; the ram for a burnt-offering; the turtle-dove and the young pigeon, for a purification sacrifice and for a sin-offering, intimating that not merely did he, as a covenant-head, represent the rich who should present of their flocks and herds to the Lord, but of the poor, who of their poverty should present offerings absolutely less valuable, but not the less acceptable; -- these offerings pointed out that the Covenant of God should be laid hold upon when the shadows which preceded the glorious reality of the |One Sacrifice| that had been foreordained would have come to an end, and there should succeed sacrifices spiritual in their stead, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And circumcision, prefiguring Christ given for a covenant of the people, who, in the nature of man shedding his blood, should ratify God's covenant; and marking the people of God, sealing to them the Covenant of Grace, and pointing out their newness of life, regeneration, and deliverance from the vileness of sin, testified to the claims of obedience to the mandate of God in Covenant, which none could, but at the greatest peril, disregard. These types and others all pointed to the Redeemer. To the work which he had, from the days of eternity, Covenanted to perform, they gave prospective testimony. But of the effects of his mighty working upon the hearts of men, in leading them to keep his Covenant, they were not the less appointed symbols, nor were they less designed to teach that, but for the arrangements of that Covenant which had been made with him, there had not been made such manifestations of the power of his grace.
Through miracles. These were wrought in order to declare how near the chosen of God, as a people, were brought unto him, and how great was the covenant provision that had been made for them. The flame of fire which appeared on many solemn occasions, held a signal place among these. The |flaming sword,| or the flame that dries up, or that which burns, displayed between the cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden; the flame of fire in which the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Moses out of the midst of a bush, when He made himself known to him as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; the flame of fire which appeared on the top of Mount Sinai when the Lord made a covenant with Israel; the pillar of fire by night, which accompanied Israel during their journeyings in the wilderness; the fire which was wont to descend and consume, in token of the acceptance of them, the sacrifices laid on God's altar -- all testified to the gracious nearness of God to his covenant people. The cherubim, emblems of the ministry of reconciliation, first displayed immediately after the sin of man, represented afterwards in the act of looking upon the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and temple, presented in vision before Ezekiel about to be sent to the rebellious house of Israel, and which, though denominated seraphim, were in like manner seen by Isaiah, when about to go forth to proclaim messages to the same people; through many ages pointed out that the servants of God in his house, by his appointment were set apart to unfold the truths of his Covenant. The dividing of the waters of the Red Sea, and the passage of Israel through the midst of it; and the presence of the cloud, in which, as well as in the sea, they were baptised; and the cutting off of the waters, and the passing over of Jordan on dry ground, after the feet of the priests that bare the ark rested in its stream -- manifested the almighty power of Him who had Covenanted to bring his people to a land of inheritance. The provision of bread from heaven, and water from the rock in the wilderness, showed in part how great were the resources of Him who had promised to his people, but not in vain. And the miracles wrought by the Redeemer in our world, from the over-ruling of external nature, to the feeding of the hungry with food, the healing of diseases, the casting out of devils, the raising of the dead, and his own resurrection, taught that He had come to manifest his power, to give that eternal life that was promised in the Everlasting Covenant to all who were ordained to it. The subject of the import of the miracles that were wrought by Him and by the Holy Spirit, is exhaustless. Yet all of them are to be viewed as having been performed in order to the accomplishment of the Covenant's design.
Through the teaching of the prophets. That was addressed in the name of the Lord as God in Covenant: to Israel as a covenant people, it was extended: and it embodied only the revelations of the Covenant. It included sketches of the history of the Covenant alone; under imagery, the most varied and expressive, as well as by direct explicit statements, it unfolded the relations subsisting between God and his privileged people; and, in like manner, presented the future history of the Church, incorporated by solemn confederation.
Through the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures. The scope of these in general, and of many representations of them in particular, illustrates the bearing of every fact in the history of the Church upon the Covenant. As illustrations, some designations both of Christ and his people, may be adverted to. He is introduced as a Husband, and, consequently, as the Head of his people, engaged to him by vow. He is exhibited as the Captain of the Lord's host, and as a Leader and Commander to the people. That he might be presented as at once of the lineage of David according to the flesh, as the author of everlasting righteousness, as allied in the capacity of the First-born among many brethren to the Church redeemed by his blood, and as the Builder and the Head thereof, and Head over all things to it, he is denominated the Branch. As the Covenant of the people he is revealed, to denote that he is the Mediator of the Covenant, and that in that capacity he received the gift of the people of the Covenant, fulfilled its conditions by obeying the law and presenting himself as a covenant sacrifice, appeared as a sign of the Covenant, and was to carry into final effect the whole scheme of it. As the Days-Man, he is made known, to intimate that, by Him alone, and only in a covenant relation, men chargeable with sin can hold communion with God. As the Ladder, he is spoken of, to point him out as, in the natures of God and man, the only means of communication between earth and heaven. As a Witness to the people, he is described to be given by the Father, and consequently according to his own voluntary engagement. And as Shiloh, he was promised, and his people thus received him as their Peace -- provided in the Covenant. And his Church is denominated his portion, and the lot of his inheritance. In various passages she is described as peaceable or perfect, and is thus presented as in Covenant. And as Israel, the loved of the Lord, she appears under his promised protection. And, to give and conclude with one illustration more belonging to this place, reference may be made to two terms. First, atonement ([Hebrew: kaper] -- [Greek: chatallage].) |The idea that seems to be expressed by this word, is that of averting some dreaded consequence by means of a substitutionary interposition. It thus fitly denotes the doctrine of salvation from sin and wrath, by a ransom of infinite worth.| Secondly, reconciliation. |This term occurs in both the Old and New Testaments several times. But it is generally, if not always, used as a translation of the original words above explained. Indeed, as has already been remarked, it is quite synonymous with the term atonement, involving the same ideas and serving the same purposes. It supposes bringing into a state of good agreement parties who have had cause to be at variance, as is the case with God and his sinful creature man.| The two terms, therefore, manifestly stand connected with the representations given of a covenant state. The Hebrew term of which each of them is a translation, accordingly means both the ground of covenant privilege, and also that privilege enjoyed by men. The term cannot be interpreted independently of a reference to the Covenant of God. But for that Covenant, there had been no atonement. With the forgiveness of sin, atonement is indissolubly connected. The latter is never presented in Scripture without reference to the former. It was not alone the slaying and offering of sacrifice, but also the sprinkling of blood that made atonement. Where the blood was not sprinkled, sin was not put away, and no atonement was made. Where the blood was sprinkled, and accordingly sin was representatively put away, atonement was always effected. Only the following passage will be referred to here in corroboration of this. |If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness; then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom (an atonement).| The reason for giving deliverance therefore was, that an atonement was found. Had the atonement been found for two, accordingly two would have been delivered. Had it been found for all, all would in like manner have been delivered. But all will not be delivered. An atonement, therefore, was not made for all. Indeed, the atonement was devised and effected in order to the deliverance of the elect alone. Had it not been for them, there would have been no atonement. But for them, there had been no Everlasting Covenant. And only for the ratification of that Covenant, the atonement was designed. The atonement cannot exceed the comprehension of the covenant for the ratification of which it was effected. As no soul will be saved that was not given to Christ in covenant, so no soul that was not thus given to him has an interest in the great atonement. |The Scriptures represent the divine persons as entering into a federal agreement for the salvation of men. In this covenant of peace, the Father is the representative of the Godhead, and the Son representative of those who are to be redeemed. He is, on this account, called the Mediator and the Surety of the covenant. Whatever he did as Mediator or Surety, must, therefore, have been done in connection with the covenant. His death was the condition of the covenant. It was stipulated, as the condition of his having a seed to serve him, that he should make his soul an offering for sin; that he should bear their iniquities; that he should pour out his soul unto death. In reference to this, the blood of the ancient sacrifices was called the blood of the covenant, while of his own, the Saviour testifies, this cup is the new testament in my blood. The blood of Christ was not shed by accident, it was not poured out at random or on a venture. No: he laid down his life by covenant. The terms of the covenant must, therefore, define the designed extent of the objects of his death. If all mankind are included in the covenant, -- if the Surety of the covenant represented, in this eternal transaction, the whole human race, then the atonement of Christ must have been indefinite. But if the children of the covenant, as is admitted, are only a given specified number of the human family, then must the atonement of the Mediator be restricted to them. There seems no evading this inference. To give the designed objects of the Saviour's atonement a greater extension than the covenant of grace, is to nullify its character as the stipulated condition of the covenant, and to render nugatory and unavailing the consolatory address by which the heart of many an awakened sinner has been soothed. 'Behold the blood of the covenant.'|
Secondly, and lastly. In the Everlasting Covenant, provision was made for Covenanting under the last or present dispensation.
This was practically acknowledged by believers in the apostolic age. The common fund that was raised from the contributions of the Church assembled and addressed by Peter on the day of Pentecost, was devoted by solemn vows. From what was said by that Apostle to Ananias and Sapphira his wife, this appears. |Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.| |How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?| If a promise or vow to God to give up their substance had not been made, the language of reproof addressed to them would have been inapplicable. It is true, that when one lies to men, he disobeys God. But the language, |thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God,| must intimate that the possession of the two individuals had been, either publicly before their brethren, or secretly, or in both ways, vowed to God. The conclusion is corroborated by the obvious consideration, that the practice of acting in this manner, although not to such an extent, was quite in accordance with that of vowing things to God under the dispensation that had then been brought to a close; and especially by the very language of Peter, |Whilst it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?| precisely agreeing with the words of the Old Testament record, |But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.| Again, the practices of making confession, and of professing, which we have found to be in reality the making of Covenant engagements, would appear from the references made to them by the inspired writers, to have been ordinary occurrences of their times. And, lastly, the conduct of the Macedonian Churches, in giving themselves to the Lord, to which we have had occasion to refer, is worthy of being remembered as an authenticated source of Covenanting in those times, that had been performed by many, in one of the spheres where the truth had most manifestly taken effect.
The practice was provided for through the direct injunctions of the last inspired writers. These, dissuading from idolatry, taught the necessity of the practice, the reverse of that, of recognising God and acknowledging him by vowing and swearing to him as a covenant God. Teaching the necessity of faith and other graces, they showed that it is dutiful to engage in that and those other exercises in which these are requisite. They explicitly enjoin the exercise of Covenanting. Inculcating the holding fast of the Christian profession, an apostle teaches that such a profession should not merely be adhered to, but also made. And delivering the express words of the Redeemer, the last of the apostles, teaching the duty of entering into covenant engagements, and keeping them till Christ should come, tendered the command, |But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.|
The practice was provided for through the whole of the New Testament writings.
The New Testament contains the same kinds of expression in reference to the Covenant of God as the Old, and employs them for the same purpose as that for which those statements of that Testament are used. It makes use of figurative and other language of the same origin as that of the Old Testament, for the purpose of inculcating nothing else than the keeping of the Covenant.
By an apostle, there is strikingly brought into view the truth taught in the prophets, -- that the Lord created, or formed, or fore-ordained, a people, to enter into Covenant with him, and by obedience also, otherwise to keep it.
The imagery of the foundation employed in prophecy to point out Christ, and the sureness and continuance of the Covenant, is also used by two apostles for the same purpose. Their references to it illustrate the doctrine, that, in the New Testament, types, though realized in Christ, and also partly illustrated in the blessings at any time bestowed by Him, are not to be disregarded but studied, that the good things prefigured by them, but as yet unattained, may be enjoyed.
The designation of the Holy Spirit, as the |Spirit of promise,| teaches that He was given in consequence of the arrangements of the Covenant of God; and consequently, that all the benefits bestowed on believers, not merely in Old but also in New Testament times, were to come to them in connection with the acceptance of the gift of the Spirit, as included in the promise of the Covenant.
The idea of reconciliation, dwelt on by the apostles, necessarily implies the notion of a covenant agreement, as being not merely made but maintained, between God and men -- once exposed to his curse, but afterwards put in possession of an interest in the atonement of Christ.
References made by the apostles to purification cannot be explained independently of the principle of, a covenant ratified by the blood of Christ being the channel of the communication of faith and the other graces, and of sanctification -- that results from the implantation, support, and direction of these by the Holy Ghost.
The sprinkling, whether of blood or of water, referring to the operation of the Spirit, is introduced by an apostle as enjoyed by those who take hold on God's covenant.
Even as circumcision was, baptism is, a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace.
In the Lord's Supper, the bread is a symbol of the body of Christ -- broken in the sufferings endured by him on behalf of his people; and the wine is a symbol of his blood -- shed for the remission of their sins. Commemorating the Redeemer's dying love, and receiving a seal of all the benefits of his death, by partaking of these elements according to his command, they signify the actings of their faith on him in an act of Covenanting.
Preaching peace, Christ, and after him his apostles and other servants in the ministry of the gospel, proclaimed the Covenant of Peace, and urged the duty of acceding to it; and speaking peace to his disciples, He declared it to be his prerogative to bestow on all his people the blessings of that Covenant.
The Redeemer, foretelling his address to be delivered at the day of judgment to his enemies of all ages of the world, -- |I never knew you: depart from me,| intimated that he would not recognise them as covenant children; and declaring of his people, -- |I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine,| he taught that they know him, as they alone do who take hold on God's covenant.
Allusions to the seal imply the doctrine of Covenanting. The declaration, -- |He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true,| refers to a solemn covenant attestation to the truth.
The people of God designating the Redeemer, as the |High Priest of our profession,| recognise him as bestowing grace upon them, to take hold on God's covenant, and to continue to cleave to it.
In the Epistles, there is distinctly brought into view an inheritance which is not else than the blessings provided in God's covenant, and appropriated in adhering to it.
The designations, -- |Children of the kingdom,| |Followers of God as dear children,| |Friends (of Christ),| |Heirs of God,| |God's heritage,| |the bride, the Lamb's wife,| |Perfect,| or possessed of integrity, healthful, safe, willing, complete, |sanctified,| are all calculated to point out the covenant relation and privileges, and duties, of the people of God; and, accordingly, to show that by special explicit engagements they should devote themselves to him; and the representation of the Church as the |Pillar and ground (stay) of the truth,| teaches that her duty is to make an unequivocal and steadfast public profession of Divine truth.
The Covenant of God, from the last dispensation being introduced as the |New Covenant,| and as one of the covenants of promise, is represented by the last inspired writers as extended, both in regard to its blessings and its duties, to the latest times.
And, by some of the evangelists and apostles, the Covenant of God is exhibited as a testament. By them the dispensations of Divine mercy to men, are represented as being each both a covenant and a testament. By them are applied such representations to each of the dispensations -- both to the former dispensations, and to the last of them. The conclusion, therefore, to which we are brought by them is, that each, as a testament, is essentially an exhibition of a corresponding covenant, or a given dispensation of one covenant. The truth is, that the Covenant of God, under each dispensation, includes in it a testament, or that every dispensation of grace, whether in former times, or in the last times, viewed as a testament, is a covenant. Every testament is a covenant, and each of those dispensations is at once a testament and the Covenant of God. Take first the present dispensation. A testament, like every covenant, has a stipulation, or promise and demand; in both, good is offered, and duty required. In this dispensation, the blessings of God's favour are offered, and obedience to the law of Christ is required; it has, therefore, one character, both of a covenant and of a testament. A testament, like every covenant, when acceded to, has a re-stipulation, or engagement corresponding to the stipulation. In the present dispensation, when the overtures of Divine grace are acceded to, there is tendered an acceptance of Christ and all his benefits, and the promise of obedience in dependence on his strength. It has, therefore, another mark common to both a testament and a covenant. A testament and a covenant have alike a seal or ratification. The seal of the testament is not valid till the death of the testator; the overtures of Divine mercy were ratified or sealed by the death of Christ. The present dispensation has, therefore, the third and last mark both of a testament and of a covenant. It has, consequently, all the characteristics of a testament, and of a dispensation of the Covenant of Grace. It must, therefore, now appear how the idea of the present dispensation being a covenant is contemplated in the New Testament, even while it is described as a testament. The coincidence between a covenant, and a testament as a particular case of it, explains how the Greek term [Greek: dichtheche] capable of being rendered sometimes by the word testament, and, at others, by the word covenant; and shews the error of the insinuation, so derogatory of the inspiration of the Scriptures, that the Apostle Paul, finding that this Greek term, which is used for covenant, meant, in some connections, a testament, therefore proceeded to unfold the covenant of God as a testament. The reason why the apostle, guided by inspiration, exhibited the Covenant of God as a testament, was, that it is in reality a testament. Yea, the fact that that covenant is a testament, must have been the reason why, even before the days of the apostle, even that Greek word had, from direct or indirect communication between the Greeks and the Israelites, acquired the twofold import. Hence, besides, it is doing no service to the interpretation of the Scriptures, to attempt to shew that in the passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the covenant is represented as a testament, either that the term [Greek: diatheche] there, must have only the meaning testament, or that it must be rendered covenant exclusively throughout. In some parts of the passage it means the one, in others the other, in others both. It means both in the original of the passage, |And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.| It means a testament in that of the following, |For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.| In the original of the words, |Whereupon neither the first (testament understood) was dedicated without blood,| it means properly a covenant ratified by the blood of sacrifice, and, consequently, a testament. And it means both in the original of the words that follow, |This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.| The parallelism between the death of the testator and the shedding of the blood of the covenant, is beautiful, and it cannot be destroyed. In the case of the death of Christ, it becomes an identity. The death of the testator is there the shedding of the blood of the covenant!
We have seen that the last dispensation is both a covenant and a testament; but so was the former. The blood of sacrifice was typical at once of the blood of the Mediator, and of his death as the great Testator. The blessings of his purchase in the first ages were, even as in the last, testamentary. They were not reversionary, but no less by bequest and no less sure than they had been had he, whose death by sacrifice was continually pointed out antecedently, really died.
In conclusion, from the whole,
It is manifest, that to represent Covenanting as a mere Jewish thing, is an error. It was engaged in before the father of the Hebrew race was called. It was practised when the Levitical economy was on the verge of dissolution, and attended to in the apostolic age by churches that were not subjected to its peculiar institutes. It was provided for the Church, whether existing in Old or New Testament times. It was independent of the peculiarities of the former dispensations, though it attracted to itself the performance of their characteristic observances. It was by Covenanting that the Church was incorporated; by it the Church has been hitherto kept distinct from the world; and by it, throughout all time, she will prove herself to be the heir of the Covenant promise of God, made from eternity, and to be bestowed in time and eternity to come.
Ps. lxxxix.3, 28.
Rom. v.15-19.1 Cor. xv.47-49.
Gen. vi.18; xvii.7; Lev. xxvi.9; Ezek. xvi.62.
Deut. xxviii.9; xxix.13.
Ezek. xxxiv.24; xxxvii.24, 25.
Compare Ps. ii.8, and Deut. xxxii.9.
Is. viii.18, and Heb. ii.13.
2 Thess. ii.13.
Is. xxviii.15-18, and 1 Pet. ii.6-10.
Col. ii.6, 7.
Ps. viii.2, and Matt. xxi.16.
Rom. iv.9, 10, 11.
Gal. iii.14, 15.
Gal. iii 17.
Compare Heb. xiii.20, and Is. liii.10-12.
See Is. xxi.2; xxix.11. In the latter of these passages it may mean both a revelation and a covenant.
Ps. xl.7, 8.
Compare Ps. lxiii.17, 18, with Eph. iv.8.
Ezek. xvi.60, 62.
Job xx.7, 8.
2 Chron. xiii.5.
1 Cor. x.1, 2.
Josh. v.15; Is. lv.4.
Zech. iii.8; vi.12, 13; Jer. xxiii.5, 6.
Is. xxxii.18; Is. xlii.19.
|The Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ.| By the Rev. Dr. William Symington.2d Ed., pp.9, 10, 11.
Job xxxiii.23, 24.
|Atonement and Intercession,| pp.257, 258.
Acts v.3, 4, 9.
1 Cor. x.14; 1 John v.21.
Rom. xii.1; Rom. vi.13.
Heb. iv.14; x.23.
Compare Eph. ii.10, with Is. xliv.2.
Eph. ii.20, 21; 1 Pet. ii.5-10.
Rom. iv.11, and Col. ii.11, 12.
1 Cor. xi.24, 25.
Eph. ii.17, and Rom. x.15.
Col. iii.24, and 1 Pet. i.4, 5.
1 Pet. v.3.
1 Tim. iii.15.
Heb. viii.13; Eph. ii.12