SERMON IV AND V
CHRIST THE PEOPLE’S COVENANT.
This was an Action‑Sermon, preached immediately before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, at Dunfermline, August 19, 1722. To which is annexed the substance of some discourses, after the sacrament, upon the same subject. The after enlargements on this subject, were mostly placed under their respective general heady of method.
“I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” Isaiah 42:6
My dear friends, if your ears be open, there are three things that you may hear this day.
1. You may hear what ministers will say; but that is a matter of small moment; and it is but a poor errand, if you be only come to hear what a poor mortar sinful fellow‑creature will say to you. Little matter what we say, if God himself do not speak into your hearts. Therefore,
2. You may hear what God says to you: this is matter of great moment; for God’s speaking can make us both hear and live, though we were as dead as stocks or stones. He spake the old creation out of nothing, and he can speak a new creation out of us who are worse than nothing. Indeed it will be a wonder, if he does not speak terrible things in righteousness unto us, because of our sins; and really if he speak to us out of Christ, it will be dreadful. Therefore,
3. You may come to hear what God says to Christ, and this is of the greatest moment of all. To hear what ministers say to the congregation, is a little thing; to hear what God says to you is a great thing; but to hear what God says to Christ, is one of the greatest things that can be heard. God in his word speaks to the sons of men, and perhaps you have noticed that. But he speaks also to the Son of God, to his eternal Son; and perhaps that is what you have little noticed to this day. Why, what says he to Christ? Is it anything that we the people are concerned with? Yes, what he says to Christ is of the greatest concern to us, and it is this, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” O, might the great and eternal Father say to his great and eternal Son, who is one God with him and the eternal Spirit, Behold there is a company of people meeting in Dunfermline about a communion‑table, with a view to the sealing of the covenant; but their work will be to little purpose, if they view not thee, my beloved Son, to be the spring, the spirit, the life, the all of the covenant: their covenant will be but a poor bargain without thee; and therefore, “Behold, I will give thee for a covenant of the people!” O, a sweet saying as ever was said in the world! and no wonder, for it is a part of a sermon whereof God himself is the preacher, and Christ is the text, and the Spirit is the voice that conveys it. If we had much of this Spirit with us, we might see how sweetly this glorious preacher handles this wonderful text, from the beginning of the chapter: O how sweetly does he speak of him in the first four verses! and how sweetly does he speak to him from the fifth verse and downward!
1. How sweetly does he speak of him? “Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth,” &c. That Christ is the subject here treated of, you need not question, if you compare this first verse with Matthew 12:18, where Christ expressly applies it to himself; and now, when the Father here speaks of Christ, every word is a word of commendation; he commends him for a good servant in his mediatory work, “Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth:” He commends him for a well qualified Saviour; “I have put my spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles:” He commends him for a meek Saviour: “He shall not cry, nor lift up nor cause his voice to be heard in the street,” (v. 2): He commends him for a tenderhearted Saviour; “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth,” (v. 3): He commends him for an able Saviour, that will go through with his work, mauger [notwithstanding] all impediments; “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth, (v. 4): and the isles shall wait for his law;” the isle of Britain not excepted, and not forgetting Scotland in the north end of it.
2. How sweetly does he speak to him, from (v. 5, 6). And here notice both the divine preface to this part of the sermon, and then the divine discourse.
(1.) The preface, showing the glorious dignity of the preacher, (v. 5), “Thus saith the Lord.” Here the glorious Jehovah is commending himself, as it well becomes him, and none but him to do. Who is it that is speaking? It is the Lord the great Lord of heaven, earth, and mankind: it is the Lord of all the heavens that is speaking: he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; it is the Lord of all mankind that is speaking; he that gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that dwell therein. —Why then he is the God that hath authority to make the following covenant with the Messiah, and give a commission to him. Therefore,
(2) Notice the divine discourse itself, and what he says to Christ. “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people,” (v. 6) &c. He had spoken sweetly of him, and here he speaks as sweetly to him: and in this speech is opened up to us the great mystery of the covenant of redemption betwixt the Father and the Son from eternity; and the opening thereof in time makes it a covenant of grace to us. And here we may see several parts of the indenture he binds and obliges himself unto.
The first piece of the indenture is, “I have called thee in righteousness.” Here is the vocation; he takes not this office of being Mediator upon him, without being called thereto: and God called him thereto in righteousness; he was rightly called; for the right of redemption fell into his hand; he was rightly called for he was able for the work, and fit for it; he was rightly called; for he was willing to the work, and voluntarily offered himself. “Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God:” He was rightly called; for as God did him no wrong, so he did himself right, and provided for the glory of all his perfections in this way.
The second piece of the indenture is, “I will hold thine hand;” that is another thing he says to him: Go, says he, and I will hold thee by the hand all the way; I will bear the expenses of that hard service: Christ goes this warfare on God’s charges; he bears equal burden in the work of our redemption. We misplace our love, if we love not the Father as well as the Son: the three glorious persons of the adorable Trinity had all one will to it, and they go hand in hand about it; “I will hold thine hand.”
The third piece of the indenture, or the other thing he says to Christ, is, “I will keep thee;” I, says the great Jehovah to the God‑man Mediator, I will keep thee, when the sins of an elect world shall all meet upon thee; when the curses of the law, the tenor of justice, the vengeance of heaven, and the fury of earth shall invade and encompass thee, I will keep and preserve thee, and make all these red seas to divide and make way for thee to pass through triumphantly.
The fourth piece of the indenture is in the words of our text, and it is one of the great and glorious things he says to Christ; “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, a light to the Gentiles,” &c. Whatever be their malady, I will give thee to be a suitable remedy. Have they broken covenant? I will give thee to be a better covenant. But what of that, while they are ignorant? Why then, “I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles.” But what though they have light, if they have not sight too; for a blind man hath no benefit of the sun; why then, “I will give thee to open the blind eyes.” But what though they have both light and sight, if they be still in a dark prison, bound and fettered there? Why, I will give thee for this end, “To bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison‑house.” O but these are sweet promises made to Christ, and in him to us; and the leading one, that comprehends the rest, is in these words, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” Where without critical division, you may notice these two things. 1. The gracious designation and title that Christ bears, a covenant of the people. 2. His glorious ordinance and appointment thereto, I will give thee for that end.
1. The glorious designation and title of honor that he bears: he is called, a covenant of the people: and here he is described by his relation to the covenant, and by his relation to us by this means. His relation to the covenant is such, that he is designed, the covenant itself; he is the head and heart of the covenant; he is the foundation and capstone of the covenant; the bottom and top of the covenant; the Alpha and Omega of the covenant; the first and last letter of the covenant; the all in all of the covenant. The first covenant‑head broke and fell; and he falling, all his seed fell. The second covenant‑head stands; and he standing all his seed stand in him; “lily covenant shall stand fast in him.” —Again, his relation to us by this means. To whom is he a covenant? Even a covenant of the people, of the Gentiles. O good news to us poor Gentiles!
2. His glorious ordination and appointment unto this business; “I will give thee:” and here also every word hath some glory in it. Here is the glorious person ordaining him, in the pronoun I; I Jehovah do it: here is the glorious person ordained, in the pronoun thee; “I will give thee:” here is the glorious manner of the ordination, it is by way of free and gratuitous gift; “I will give thee: and here is the glorious reason and moving cause of the whole even the sovereign will of God; “I will give thee.” But the further explication of these particulars, I refer to the prosecution of the doctrine.
Observation: That, by the divine ordination, Christ is the covenant of the people.
The only scripture I name for the confirmation, is Isaiah 19:8 “Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard thee; and in a day of salvation have I helped thee, and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.” Where you see the vision is doubled, because it is true.
The method I would endeavor, through grace, to follow, is,
I. To offer some remarks concerning the covenant in general.
II. Show how Christ is the covenant, and in what respects he bears that name.
III. Enquire for whose benefit he is so; and thus show that he is the covenant of the people.
IV. By whose authority he is so; and here speak of his divine ordination, and being given of God for that end.
V. Offer some reasons of the doctrine, why he is given to be a covenant, and why a covenant of the people.
VI. Draw some inferences for application.
I. The first thing is, To offer some remarks concerning the covenant in general; and I confine them to these four, which are imported in the text and doctrine.
1. The first remarkable thing imported in the text, is, “That the covenant of works is broken, and cannot save us; and we are broken, and cannot save ourselves.” There was a covenant of works made with the first Adam and his seed, before the fall; and therein God was upon these terms with man, do and live; and if you do not, you shall die. In this law of works, there was a precept and a sanction. The precept is, Do this; that is, perform perfect and personal obedience; the sanction is, “If thou do not, thou shalt die;” importing that the reward of obedience was eternal life; “The man that doth these things, shall live in them:” and that the punishment of disobedience was eternal death; “The soul that sinneth shall die,” (Gen. 2:17). Now, as by the fall of mankind, the precept of doing is broken, and the penalty of dying is incurred, and eternal life forfeited; so our salvation is impossible without a perfect righteousness: a righteousness of obedience, performing the precept of the law, and so entitling to live; a righteousness to satisfaction, undergoing the penalty of the law, and so delivering from death. The former is impossible for us; for, we are dead in sins and trespasses, and so can never perform any duty acceptable to God, far less complete and perfect obedience. The latter is impossible: for being both finite and sinful creatures, we can never give infinite and sinless satisfaction; and so we are broken and lost by the breach of this covenant. There are four things upon this particularly, that I presume, you all profess to know; namely, 1. The tenor of the covenant of works, “That, when God created man, he entered into a covenant of life, or works with him, upon condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil upon the pain of death.” 2. The breach of this covenant, “That our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God,” and; particularly, “by eating the forbidden fruit.” 3. Our concern in this original apostasy and fall in Adam, “That the covenant being made with him, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression; “For by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” or, in whom all have sinned.” 4. The fatal, woeful effects of this fall and breach of the covenant of works, namely, “That by this means we have fallen into a state of sin and misery; that our state is a sinful state, we being guilty of Adam’s first sin, wanting original righteousness, and our whole nature being corrupted, whence proceeds all our actual sin; and that our state is a miserable state, having lost communion with God, being under his wrath and curse, liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and the pains of hell for ever. Why? The wages of sin is death, and we are children of wrath; and cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” It may be, it is long since ye knew these things in your catechisms: but, O, how long is it since you believed them? or, do you believe them yet? Have you seen your fall in Adam, and your woeful, sinful, miserable state by nature, through the breach of the covenant of works? If you were convinced of this, surely the news of another covenant would be welcome to you. But then,
2. The second remarkable thing, imported in the text, is, “That there is a covenant of grace provided, for the recovery of some, by Jesus Christ, from a state of sin and death to a state of righteousness and eternal life;” or, you may take it thus, “God having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.” Hence such spiritual expressions as these, “By grace are ye saved; —not by works of righteousness that we have done; —for if there had been a law, [namely, of works] which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law,” (Gal. 3:21). Now this covenant of grace may be considered, either in its original transaction from eternity, or in its actual manifestation in time.
(1.) Consider it in its original transaction from eternity betwixt the Father and the Son. God having, in his eternal decree of permitting the fall, foreseen the ruin of mankind by the breach and violation of the covenant of works, graciously purposed not to proceed against all mankind, according to the demerit of their transgression, in the execution of that death upon them which that covenant threatened; and therefore a council of peace is called from eternity, and the proposal made concerning the showing mercy to an elect number, in a way that should be to the honor and glory of God’s holiness, which says, They must do perfectly; and of God’s justice, which says, They must die eternally. Well, none in all the creation of men and angels were able to satisfy this proposal: then says Christ, “Lo, I come,” (Ps. 40:8). I offer myself to be their surety, to give a perfect obedience to the law, which was the condition of the covenant of works, and to give infinite satisfaction to offended justice, in answer to the penalty incurred through the breach and violation of that covenant, “Lo, I come;” since the law cannot be fulfilled without doing, nor justice satisfied without doing, Lo, I come to do both; and, seeing this undertaking must be accomplished by one, who is both finite, that he may die; and infinite, that he may conquer death and wrath; I offer to do it in their nature, and by an unspeakable mystery to become flesh: “Lo, I come;” let the impaneled criminal go free. The Father, being infinitely well‑pleased with this consent, encourages his eternal Son, enters into covenant with him, calls him, qualifies him, promises to uphold him in the whole work, and to give him for a covenant of the people; and that, for making his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, and see the travail of his soul and be satisfied, (Isa. 53:11). This is called by many “the covenant of redemption;” not that it is another covenant of grace, but I take it as another consideration of the same covenant. It was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed. As it is made with Christ, it is properly conditional to him; the condition being perfect obedience, and complete satisfaction; but as made with the elect in him, it is absolute; consisting of free and absolute promises to them. But,
(2.) Consider it in its actual manifestation in time; and here, omitting what might be said of the legal administration of it under the Old Testament, and the evangelical administration under the New, I shall only say, that as the transaction betwixt the Father and the Son from eternity, is the fountain, so this manifestation of it in time is the opening of the fountain: and the grace of God is manifested in this covenant of grace several ways. 1. In that he freely provides a Savior for lost sinners, showing, by the gospel, that he hath made this provision. 2. In that he freely offers to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation in him. 3. In that he not only calls and commands them to come to him by faith, as the means to interest them in him, and to believe in him for salvation; but, 4. Promises his holy Spirit to work in them that faith, and all other saving graces. And though this, and all the other absolute promises of the covenant shall be certainly accomplished, and actually applied to the elect only; yet, in the eternal dispensation of the gospel, and administration of the covenant, they are revealed and exhibited in a general indefinite way and manner, with an universal offer and command to all and every one that hear this gospel, to plead them, and lay hold upon them; that in this way the hearers of the gospel may be left inexcusable that embrace it not; and that the elect may be gathered in, made to believe, and come under the bond of the covenant.
3. The third remarkable thing, imported in the text is, “That there is an oneness and identity betwixt the covenant of grace, as made with Christ, and is made with us in him; both are one and the same covenant:” for here the Father is contracting with the Son, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people;” therefore, that with the Son and with the people belong to one and the same covenant; with respect to Christ, it had its constitution from eternity: with respect to us, it hath its application in time: on this account, it is called, “The grace given us in Christ before the world began,” (Titus 1:2). As the first Adam was our public federal head, and he and we included in one and the same covenant of works; so Christ, the second Adam, is our public head, and the covenant of grace with him and us, is the same covenant, though he alone is the Head, Surety, and Mediator, to whom some promises and precepts are peculiar: however, he being the covenant of the people, all things promised unto, or to be performed by the people, are secured in the contract with Christ; all the condition of life to be performed is found in him; yea, he undertakes, in that covenant, the removal of all obstructions and impediments from within that would hinder their attainment of covenant‑mercy, being for a light to the Gentiles, to take away the inward blindness that is found in them; so that not only all necessaries for redemption, but also necessaries for the powerful and effectual application of that redemption, are first promised in the covenant to him, and then to us in him, upon his fulfilling the condition of perfect obedience. Is justification promised? It is first to him, and then to us in him,— “By his knowledge, [or, by the knowledge of him], shall my righteous servant justify many,” (Isa. 53:1l). Is sanctification and the spirit promised? It is first to him, and then to us in him; verse first of this chapter,— “I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” Is glorification promised? It is first to him, and then to us in him;— “If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint. heirs with Christ,” (Rom. 8:17). —He and the people are all in one and the same covenant: he, as the glorious head, surety, and representative, having all fulness in him, both of grace and glory, for our use and behoof, [advantage]; and we, as members of that body whereof he is the head, and in a way of union to him by faith; for, “All the promises, not only some, but all the promises of God are in him, Yea; and in him, Amen;” twice in him: importing, That as the covenant of grace, which is the covenant of promise, is made jointly with him and us; so in the constitution of the covenant, the promises are all made to him; and in the application of it, they are made to us in him: primarily, and immediately, they are made to him; secondarily and immediately to us in him.
4. Hence the Fourth thing remarkable, imported in the text is, “Christ is the centre, in whom all the lines of the covenant do meet;” and so by an usual figure, of the part for the whole, he bears the name of the whole covenant; “I will give him for a covenant of the people:” the covenant of grace is said not only to be made with him, but he himself is the covenant. And this leads me to,
II. The Second thing, To show how Christ is the covenant, and in what respects he bears that name?
We reply, 1. Christ is the covenant of the people radically and fundamentally, being the root, basis, and foundation upon which the covenant of grace stands: the alone foundation: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 3:11). He is the sure foundation that God hath laid in Zion, (Isa. 28:16). The covenant of works, being built upon something in man, it was not sure work, and so the fabric tumbled down: but the covenant of grace and mercy is built upon a never‑failing foundation: it is sure work to eternity; and therefore says God, “Mercy shall be built up forever: why? I have made a covenant with my chosen.” Christ is the ancient and eternal foundation of the covenant; no other foundation is laid in Zion in time, but that which was laid in the counsel of peace from eternity; God hath promised nothing to us in time, but what he purposed and promised in Christ from eternity: “He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,” (Eph. 1:4), and promised eternal life in him before the world began. He is the foundation of all the blessings and privileges of the covenant, “Being made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” He is the foundation of all the promises, graces, and comforts of the covenant. This were a large field, but I go on.
2. Christ is the covenant relatively, in respect of the relations he comes under to it: we find in scripture, that he is called the mediator of the covenant, (Heb. 9:15). Why? he brings God and man that were at variance, to meet amicably: by the price of his blood, he brings God to us; and by the power of his spirit, he brings us to God, and makes up the difference. —He is called the testator of the covenant,— “Where a testament is, there is the death of the testator,” (Heb. 9:16). He hath signed all the articles of it with his own blood, and so confirmed it, and made it a testament. —He is called the messenger of the covenant, (Mal. 3:1). When God would communicate his mind to us, it is in Christ; when we would communicate our mind to God, it is in Christ; whatever message God hath to us, or we to him, Christ bears it, and makes the travel, be the journey never so dangerous; “For this is he that came by water and blood,” (1 John 5:6). He came by sea, by a sea of water for our sanctification; “For, if he wash us not, we have no part in him;” and by a sea of blood for our justification; for, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” A dangerous voyage for bearing the message. —He is called the witness of the covenant,— “I will give him for a witness of the people,” (Isa. 55:5). He is the true and faithful witness. As he was an eye and ear‑witness to the whole transaction of the covenant from eternity; so he sets his seal to the articles of it in time, and bears witness by his word, by his blood, by his spirit. This he does effectually, sometimes in the hearts of his people, when he conquers all their unbelieving doubts and jealousies of his word, and suspicions of his love, or of his Father’s kindness.—He is called the surety of the covenant, (Heb. 7:22). He is the surety both for debt and duty: surety for debt; the law demanded of us a debt of infinite suffering, the just demerit of our sins; which, if laid upon us, would sink us forever; for, “The wages of sin is death” And also it demanded a debt of perfect obedience and universal holiness and righteousness. Now, we are insolvent debtors, drowned in debt, and unable to pay a farthing; and unless there be a surety for us, we cannot escape the prison of hell, and the everlasting wrath of the omnipotent God. Behold, the surety steps in, even in this hopeless state we are fallen into, pays the debt to the last farthing, and puts his name in our bond: He was made under the law, to redeem those that were under the law. And then he is surety for duty, promising to put his spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes. He is surety for both sides of the covenant; surety that all that God hath said and promised shall be accomplished; and surety that all that we are obliged to do, shall be done for us, and in us. O sweet and gracious covenant! —In a word, he is the servant of the covenant: “Behold my servant whom I uphold,” (Isa. 42:1). Wist ye not, says he to his parents that were seeking him, that “I must be about my father’s business:?” What business? What service? The hardest service that ever was, even to satisfy justice, to fulfill the law, to conquer Satan, to purchase heaven, to save an elect world, to endure the contradiction of sinners against himself, in accomplishing this service. —He is the performer of the covenant; yea, the performance itself. Christ standing in all these relations to the covenant, may well be called the covenant of the people.
3. Christ is the covenant substantially, in respect of his being the very matter of the covenant; the principal part of it, the principal promise of it. He is the substance of all the promises, the first thing proposed; and whatever is promised else, is for his sake. He is the promised seed spoken of to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David, (Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Luke 1:32,33). He is the substance of the prophecies, “To him gave all the prophets witness,” (Acts 10:43). He is the substance of all the shadows and Old Testament types: he is the true brazen serpent, that heals diseased souls; the true manna and bread of life; the true sacrifice and Pascal lamb, whose blood, being sprinkled on the door‑posts of the soul, saves from the destroying angel: of all the types he is the antitype, the substance of the whole Bible, and of all the scriptures; “These are they that testify of me.” It is a strange text, that a gospel‑minister cannot find Christ in, since the whole scriptures testify of him: as if it said nothing else but Christ, Christ. —Thus he is the covenant substantially. Again,
4. Christ is the covenant eminently: in point of eminency, ornament, and excellency. He is the very ornament of the covenant, the excellency and sweetness of it: he is the blessing of all the blessings of the covenant: the mercy of all the mercies: the soul of all the privileges of the covenant: no blessing of the covenant is a blessing without him, for all the blessings come with him; “How shall he not with him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The covenant is nothing without Christ, the blessings of it are nothing without Christ; he is, the sweetness of all the blessings of the covenant, the marrow of all the mercies of the covenant, and the fullness of all the promises of the covenant; they are all empty without Christ, for he is all in all. And therefore, O empty ordinances, without Christ; O empty sacraments, if Christ be not there; O empty ministers, if Christ be not with them; yea, O empty heaven, if Christ be not there; empty enjoyments, empty comforts without Christ.
5. Christ is the covenant meritoriously, and in point of acquisition and procurement. He does all that is necessary for the procuring the blessings of the covenant: his righteousness is the great condition of the covenant, the alone condition of it, properly so called; it is the cause, the procuring cause of all covenant‑blessings. All that is promised to Christ, or to us, is upon the account of his obedience;— “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” (Isa. 53:10-12): not by the obedience of any man for himself, (Rom. 5:19). He is the procurer of justification, (Rom. 5:18); the procurer of remission of sin, (Rom. 3:24); the procurer of peace, (Isa. 53:4); yea, the sum of it, or, “He is our peace;” the procurer of our access to God, and communion with him; all that are afar off are made nigh, only by the blood of Christ; the procurer of sanctifying grace, (Isa. 53:10; 1 Cor. 1:30), and of eternal salvation: his death is the purchase of the heavenly inheritance; and so he is the covenant meritoriously, in procuring all the blessings thereof.
6. Christ is the covenant efficaciously, or efficiently: as he procures all by the price of his blood, so he applies all by the power of his spirit. By this powerful spirit of his, in the efficiency of his application, by the means of the law, he discovers to men their sad condition, while under a covenant of works; by the means of the gospel he discovers the excellencies of the covenant of grace, and also their claim to it, in and by the indefinite general dispensation of the gospel, and the promise of the covenant; so that whoever will, may come and put in for a share. But this is not all; Christ, in his efficiency, does persuade and enable the poor soul to take hold of this covenant, of Christ himself as the all of the covenant and that with particular application, to itself, for its own relief: and not only to accept, but to trust to it for all grace and life, and that upon the warrant of God’s word of grace, renouncing all other ways of salvation, and resting only upon this, (1 Tim. 1:15; Acts 16:6). Yea, after the person is brought within the covenant, Christ is the great performer of all covenant‑duties: he performs all our works in us, (Isa. 26:12). We are to present no duty of our own to God for acceptance, or in order to obtain life and salvation by it: but to present him with Christ, he being the covenant to perform all for us and in us, which we are obliged to. In a word he is engaged as the covenant of the people, to be all, and do all; to procure all, and to see all made effectual that concerns grace and glory: “I will give him for a covenant of the people,” says the Lord. I will not enter into covenant, or deal with them in an immediate way, as with the first Adam, but I will take a surer course, I will give thee for that end; thou shalt undertake all the matter therein; I will look to thee for the performance thereof. Man hath broken covenant; I will not trust him again; but thou shalt be the covenant: the promise of life shall be made only in thee, and the condition of life shall be found only in thee—Thus he is the covenant.
III. The Third thing was, to show, For whose benefit he is a covenant; and so to show that he is the covenant of the people. Men and women have a way of excluding themselves by unbelief; but I am sure my text will exclude none this day, that are here, from a right to accept of this covenant, unless it be the devil himself. He indeed and all the fallen angels, are excluded; and no doubt he is come here among us this day, to tempt people to exclude themselves, because he himself is excluded. But here is the foundation of faith for all the people that hear this gospel; Christ is the covenant of the people, insomuch that whosoever of all the people will subscribe to this covenant, and go into it by faith, shall have the everlasting benefit of it.
Question: Why, say you, I am, it may be, none of the people here meant, none of the elect whose names are in that covenant and contract, and therefore my subscribing of it may be in vain. Answer: For the clearing of this, That Christ is the covenant of the people, you would know and remember, That there are two copies of this covenant; or rather, if we may express it, two writs of this charter, the one is an original, written in heaven; and the other an extract, written in this Bible. 1. I say, as to the original, it is written in heaven, and hath all the names of the church invisible enrolled in it, (Heb. 12:23); they are called the church of the first‑born that are written in heaven. In this writing are the names of all the elect, of all that ever were, are, or shall be actually taken within the bond of the covenant; and these are they of whom it is said, “They are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,” (Eph. 1:4). And again, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called,” (Rom. 8:30). And again, “All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me;” and, “All that were ordained to eternal life believed.” And of them Christ says, “I lay down my life for my sheep.” This original draught of the covenant is a writ locked up in the cabinet of God’s secret purpose; and secret things belong not to us, but the things that are revealed; therefore, 2. There is an extract of this original write, and this extract is written in the Bible, which is the book of the covenant: this you have among your hands; and this copy of the covenant is sent open to you all to sign and subscribe, by giving faith’s assent and consent to the covenant or closing with Christ, the covenant of the people, as he is offered in the gospel. Now, though this extract be a true copy, answering exactly to the original; yet, for rendering all inexcusable to whom these presents are sent, if they do not subscribe and for gathering in all the elect, this fair extract is directed to all, and every one of you, giving you full and sufficient warrant to sign and subscribe for yourselves; for you cannot possibly see your names in the original, till once you have signed your consent, by subscription, to the copy that is among your hands, which is here let down on the earth, to see how you please it this day. And if you sign the extract as it is sent to you, then you may lay claim to the original, and see your name there, which alone is the privilege of these that make the extract their own by signing it; for, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant.” He shows them sometimes their name in the original writ of the covenant. It is the settled order of heaven, that although some who, by faith, subscribe the extracted copy, are kept in the dark about their names being in the original; yet none shall see their names there, but these who subscribe their names here.
Question: But, for what purpose serves my putting my name to the foot of a bond, if my name be not in the bond itself? Why, then, read the direction of this gospel‑covenant, and see if your names be there, and answer to your names; for I shall endeavor to be as practical, as I go along, as possible, that I may have the less to do in the application. For whose benefit then is he thus the covenant? Why, it is even for the advantage of these whose names are here set down; and though they may not here find their particular names, John, James, Mary, Martha, yet their general names; yea, both their more general and more special names are here.
1. Their more general name is the people; he is the covenant of the people: and here all sinners of mankind, who hear of Christ, have a claim to put in for a share in him, seeing the covenant is directed to them; whosoever they be that hear this gospel, all saving benefits are preached to them by Jesus Christ, according to the ministerial commission, saying, “To you is the word of this salvation sent,” (Acts 13:26). And in this sense the apostle says,— “The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men,” (Titus 2:7): or, as it may be rendered, as you see it in the margin of some of your Bibles, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared.” Let them straiten the gospel‑offer who will, they do it at their peril; our commission is wide and full, insomuch that this covenant is directed to all to whom these presents may come. If this be your general name, that you are one of the people, but what you will otherwise, then you are concerned to answer to your name, and put in for a share of the grace of this covenant by subscribing and saying Amen to it. Why, say you, that is a general name indeed; I dare not deny but that is my general name; then, man, woman, do not put that covenant from you. But, say you, Is there no more special name of the people, whose covenant he is? Yea,
2. Their more special name is here set down in black and white; for, who the people are, what people in a special manner is here meant, is cleared in the following words, “A light to the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, out of the prison‑house.” And here you will find both the name and surname of the people intended; and I believe your names and surnames, that hear me, will be found in it. 1. The name is Gentile. 2. The surname is, Gentile, dark and blind; Gentile, bound and imprisoned.
(1.) I say, the name of the people, whose covenant he is, is Gentiles; and, I suppose, this is the name of all that hear me, if there be not Jews here: if I thought there were any, I would drop some promise of Christ to and concerning them that might draw him to them also, if the Lord would put forth power with it. However it is to you, Gentiles, that I am speaking; and, O may I venture to say with Paul this day, “To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, to preach among you, Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ!” This is a part of the mystery of godliness, Christ preached to the Gentiles, (1 Tim. 3:16). It was a mystery to the Jews and primitive Christians, when Christ was first given by a preached gospel to the Gentiles, (Acts 9:17,18). Why? the Gentiles were called the uncircumcision, (Eph. 2:11); being abominable outcasts, whose entering into the temple, was enough to pollute it: but now the gospel declares, God will justify the uncircumcision by faith. The Gentiles were called aliens without God, without Christ, without hope; aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, (Eph. 2:12). But now the covenant of promise is given and exhibited to the people that were aliens. Gentiles were called dogs; “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs,” says Christ to the woman of Canaan, one of the posterity, it seems, of these accursed nations, that were devoted by that word, “Cursed be Canaan,” (Gen. 9:25): and indeed the Gentiles and Canaanites, as they were contemned by the Jews, and looked upon as dogs; so in comparison of the house of Israel, who were so much blessed, dignified, and privileged of old, Christ seems here to allow it, and assert that they were cursed, that they were dogs. But now the tables are turned, the Gentiles are called; and, in this woman, the Lord gives an instance of what mercy was in reserve for these dogs: and we Gentiles may plead the same privilege, at least, with that woman of Canaan, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crums that fall from their master’s table.” The door of Bethlehem, the house of bread, is open, (Acts 14:27). God hath opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, even to dogs: the door of the covenant is open, and we dare not shut the door upon any dog in all this house; and therefore, as we used to say, At open doors dogs come in: allow me in this homely comparison; for, as all the Gentiles, so all the wicked are called dogs; “Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters,” (Rev. 22:15). But, the door being open to all sinners by this gospel, you may come to Christ for salvation, as freely as a dog will come in at an open door; yea, more freely and boldly; for dogs many times come in uncalled, and therefore we beat them out again; but here is both a call to come, and a promise of welcome; “Whosoever will, let him come; and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out.” Well, I say, the Gentiles are called dogs, and if that be a part of your name, man, woman, answer to your name, and take with your name, and take the blessing that is offered to you by name. If you have no better name than that of a dog, come with that same, and set it down at the foot of the contract, by subscribing your consent to have Christ to be your covenant; and, though it be a base name, he will not refuse to take in your subscription. In a word, the Gentiles are called heathens, “The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed,” (Gal. 3:8). Good news to heathens and pagans, such as we and our forefathers were; and this is the gospel indeed, that was preached to Abraham long ago: “In thee shall all nations be blessed;” in thee, what thee? the same thee that is in our text, which preacheth the same gospel also? “I will give thee for a covenant of the people;” even the people that are called Gentiles, and heathens, uncircumcision, aliens, and dogs. Well, there is the name of the people whose covenant he is, they are Gentiles.
(2.) The surname of the people is Gentiles, dark and blind; Gentiles bound and imprisoned: and see if the surname be not yours, sirs, as well as the name. There are especially two surnames here that the people have. The first surname is dark and blind; this is imported in these words, “A light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes.” Well, is this your surname? Are you darkness itself in the abstract? Are you in the darkness of ignorance, darkness of error, in the darkness of corruption, in the darkness of confusion, in the darkness of desertion, in the darkness of delusion? O! here is a brave covenant for you to sign: It is a covenant of light; he that is the covenant of the people, is the light of the Gentiles. But all the light in the world, without sight, will be uncomfortable; and therefore, is another part of your surname blindness as well as darkness? Have you not only sore eyes, and see ill, but are you blind, and see none at all? Are you blind with respect to sin, and cannot see it in its power and guilt? Blind with respect to duty, and cannot see what to do? Blind with respect to God, and cannot see him in his beauty and excellency? Blind with respect to Christ, and cannot see him in his glory, fullness, and righteousness? Blind with respect to ordinances, and cannot see the power and glory of God in the sanctuary? Blind with respect to providence, and cannot discern the signs of the times? Blind with respect to your interest in Christ, and cannot see whether that be secured or not? Blind with respect to your warrant to intermeddle with Christ and his institutions? Blind with respect to all spiritual and eternal things? Why, this covenant of the people is designed to open the blind eyes: and if darkness and blindness be the surname of the people, for whose benefit Christ is the covenant, and if that be your surname also, why then there is room at the foot of this covenant, to set down your name and surname both. This covenant of the people is a covenant of light to the people that are dark; and a covenant of sight to the people that are blind. Let all them that find this to be their surname, subscribe to this covenant and say, I am one of the dark people, and I come for light; I am one of the blind people, and I come for sight: there is my name Lord; let it be recorded among the dark, blind people of which Christ is the covenant. Again, the second surname of the people, is bound and imprisoned
This is imported in these words, “To bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison‑house.” Now, whatever prison you are in, sirs, if your surname be a bound prisoner, our text speaks to you. Are you in the prison of sin, a bond‑slave and a servant unto lusts? Are you in the prison of Satan, in the devil’s prison, led captive by him at his pleasure? Are you in the prison of the law, a debtor to do the whole law, and a debtor to bear the whole curse of it? Are you in the prison of carnality, clogged with things of this world? Are you in the prison of a black league with death, and covenant with hell? Are you in the prison of a natural state, as a child of disobedience, and a child of wrath? Are you in the prison of temptations, either from without, or within, filled with dreadful suggestions, and blasphemous injections? Are you in the prison of affliction, either upon soul or body, state or family? Are you in the prison of doubts and fears and despondency, with your soul cast down within you? Are you in the prison of unbelief, concluded under it, so as you cannot for your life get an act of faith elicited? Are you in the prison of wretched carelessness, unconcernedness, and indifferency, not caring whether you be loosed and delivered out of prison or not? Are you in the prison of Atheism, and cannot believe a God, a Christ, a heaven, or hell? Are you in the prison of death, and in bondage through fear of death? Or, are you in the prison of security, fearing nothing, but sleeping in the arms of the devil? What prison-house are you in man? Answer to your name; prisoner in such a prison‑house that I have named. Is the door of the prison‑house bolted and barred that you cannot get out, and the heavy chains and fetters of hell about you, so as you cannot loose them anymore than you can unhinge the axle‑tree of the universe? Behold, this covenant of the people is a covenant of liberty for the people that are in prison. If I have not named the prison, of the chamber of the prison‑house you are in, name it yourself, and say, I am a prisoner in such a prison‑house; I have been so long and so long in such a dark prison, and lo, I set down my name, to wit, a bound prisoner, consenting to be liberate by the Son of God, and consenting that he would work the consent himself, and do all that concerns my liberty. Why, man, down with your name that same way; and if you be not set at liberty in God’s own time and way, you will be the first that ever gave in a subscription, and was not received: nay, marked and recorded it shall be; for the covenant speaks to you by name and surname, saying, “Go forth, ye prisoners of hope: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he hath anointed me to preach and proclaim liberty to the captives.” This covenant of the people then is drawn up already, and signed. See who hath signed it, “I am the Lord, that is my name?” (v. 8). He hath signed it by a name, by which he is known in heaven and earth, even Jehovah; I am Jehovah, I am the Lord, that is my name. O glorious name subscribing this bond! That is his name; what is yours? Why, can you say, I am one of the people they call Gentiles? I am a dark, blind, bound prisoner; that is my name and surname both. Yea, be your name as vile and black as hell, yet down with it in capital letters; for the infinitely fair name of the first subscriber will set it off; his name will answer for all the defects and deformities of yours: and if you wait till you be in a better condition, and have a better name to sign with, you will wait to the day of judgment, and in the mean time inevitably perish at death; and all the money of your terms, conditions, and good qualifications, which you will bring as a price in your hands, will perish with you. Nay, you have nothing to do in this covenant, but bless God that brought it to your hand, and sign it with your heart. Christ hath a commission from his Father, and we in his name, to take in the subscriptions of all the people, whose name and surname I have mentioned; and I hope I have not missed any one here. —Thus you see who the people are, for whose benefit he is the covenant: and that he is well designed the covenant of the people, seeing all the people here named have a right of access to the covenant, a warrant to seal and subscribe to it; and all the people, that are subscribers, have a right of possession to the whole good of the covenant, and to the seal thereof, the sacrament of the supper.
IV. The fourth thing proposed, was to show, By whose authority, or by what authority, Christ is the covenant of the people: and so to hint at his divine ordination to this business, in these words, “I will give thee.” Where you have, 1. The glorious person ordaining, “I.” 2. The glorious person ordained, “Thee.” 3. The gracious manner of the ordination, “Give.” 4. The gracious motive and ground, “I Will give thee.” A short word to each of these.
1st. The glorious person ordaining Christ to this work, “I will give thee;” What I? I the Lord, I Jehovah, I the first person of the glorious Trinity. God the Father here is the first grand party of the covenant; yea, here is God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, essentially considered, contracting with the Son, and ordaining him, personally considered, to this work. Now, this glorious person ordaining Christ to this work imports,
1. The will of God and the Father, that Christ, the second person, should come and bear the whole weight of the covenants: Hence Christ tells us, “He had commandment from the Father, and that he came to do his will,” (John 6:37-39). God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by an unanimous council, ordained and appointed the Son to come in his own person upon the errand of man’s redemption; and God the Father being the first in the order of subsistency, and so the first in operation An extra, therefore the giving is primarily ascribed unto him.
2. His being the person ordaining, imports the divine authority of Christ’s commission, in that he is given of the Father, and came from the Father, (John 16:28; 17:8); where Christ commends that faith which believes his divine mission, his divine ordination to this mediatory work.
3. His being ordained of God, imports, God’s confidence in him, as being both able for, and faithful to perform the whole work that he gave him to do. He was confident that he would be a faithful and righteous servant: “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well‑pleased.”
4. His being the person ordaining, imports the Father’s zealous concern for the redemption and salvation of men: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son: I will give thee.” His hand is first at the blessed bargain, subscribing this covenant; showing, that he will do the whole work of the covenant by himself, and by his son Jesus Christ; and will get the whole glory of it; and hence the strain in which he subscribes,— “I am the Lord, that is my name, and my glory I will not give to another,” (v. 8). He will let none share of any of the glory of it but himself, either in the contrivement, commencement, advancement, or the completement thereof.
2dly, The glorious person ordained, in the pronoun thee, namely, Christ the second person of the glorious Trinity, and the other part of the covenant; “I will give thee.” And Christ being the person here ordained, imports,
1. His having cordially assented and agreed to the bargain; God would not have given him, if he had not consented; but as he and his Father are one, so there is but one will betwixt them: and his consent is recorded among the decrees of heaven; “In the volume of thy book it is written of me, Lo, I come.”
2. His being the person ordained, imports, the insufficiency of all others for the work of man’s redemption; “Him hath God the Father sealed: Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, a body hast thou given me.” Though men and angels had put their shoulders to this work, it would never have been done; for the redemption of the soul is precious, and ceaseth forever, as to the creature. He alone is the Messiah, chosen, constituted, promised, typified, to whom all the prophets gave witness, and we are not to look for another: insufficiency is engraven and stamped upon all others.
3. His being the person ordained, imports, the alone sufficiency of this glorious person for this glorious work. O the glorious excellency of this person here given! and O the glorious sufficiency of this person! “I will give thee. I have laid help upon one that is mighty:” this is he that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save: this is he that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah: who trode the winepress of his Father’s wrath alone, and of the people there was none with him.
4. His being the person ordained of the Father, imports, the unparalleled love both of him that gave, and of him that is given; both of the ordainer and ordained: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his son to be a propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:10). And herein is love, that Christ so cheerfully undertook this work; He rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth, and his delights were with the sons of men, (Prov. 8:31). Here are both the parties of the covenant, God and Christ; that glorious I, and that glorious thee: “I will give thee;” two wonderful Covenanters. God foreseeing from eternity that mankind would be ruined, by violating the covenant betwixt God and man, set on foot a better project, even an inviolable covenant betwixt God and Christ: two unchangeable parties, mutually engaging for the relief and recovery of the lost sinner: and Christ bearing such a part of the work, as to get the name of the whole: “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.”
3dly, The glorious manner of this ordination, is imported in the word give: “I will give thee.” “A man’s gift makes room for him,” says Solomon, “and gives him place among great men,” (Prov. 18:16). Men are esteemed and respected for the valuableness of the gifts and benefits they give; how much more should God’s gift make room for him! Christ is God’s gift: “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” And this giving of Christ implies several things which cannot concern the manner of his ordination to be a covenant of the people.
1. In general, and negatively, God’s giving of Christ does not imply, that he was about to alienate his own right to Christ from himself to us; no, he is still his only‑begotten Son: when we give a thing to another, we alienate our own right to it; but it is not so here: what God gives, we may have the benefit and use of it, but God still keeps a right over us and it: hence says the apostle, “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” But,
2. More particularly, and positively, God’s giving of Christ for a covenant to the people, implies,
(1.) His eternal destination by the Father to this end, to be the covenant of the people, before the people had a being: they were not so much as consulted in the matter, when the contract was signed in the counsel of peace betwixt the Father and the Son; and we have no reason to complain of injury done us here, for we have nothing to contract on our part; the breach of the first covenant left us worse than nothing; for the first Adam left us with a burden of debt, a burden of poverty and want; yea, a burden of curses from the fiery law: and all that we can do, is to increase the debt, instead of being able to pay it off. Now, I say, God’s giving him, includes his eternal destination by the Father for this mediatorial work, without our having any hand in it, or knowledge of it, or any obligation lying upon God so to do as he did, in the eternal transaction with his Son concerning the people, whom he designed to save. There was no obligation lying upon Christ, to come in our stead, to be our surety, to take our guilt, and pay our debt, previous to his own consent; nor any obligation upon God to accept of a surety, instead of the principal debtor: therefore, God’s giving of Christ, must imply a transaction, wherein the Son consented to be the covenant, to be the mediator, to take our guilt upon him; and the Father consented to send him, and accept of his suretyship for lost sinners.
(2.) God’s giving of Christ implies his actually qualifying, and sending him to accomplish that which was contrived from eternity. How he called and qualified him, you see in the preceding verse; he called him in righteousness, and qualified him with a super-eminent unction of the Holy Ghost; “I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” Accordingly, he received the spirit above measure. How he sent him you see in several places of Scripture; he gave him a body, a true body, and a reasonable soul; and then he gave him to the death in the fulness of time: for, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him:” justice awakened against him; “Awake, O sword, against the shepherd, —smite the shepherd.” He was put in the winepress of divine vengeance, and bruised there: he was not only bruised in his name, being called a madman and a devil; not only bruised in his estate, while the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had no where to lay his head: neither was he bruised in his body only, while they pierced his hands and his feet; but bruised in his soul, till it was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and till the agonies of his soul pressed the blood out of his body, even great drops of blood: no wonder, for he was plunged in the ocean of God’s wrath, and suffered all the hell that was due to sin; sin being imputed to him as the covenant of the people, justice did not spare him;— “He spared not his own Son, but gave him to the death for us all,” (Rom. 8:32).
(3.) God’s giving of Christ implies that the manner of his ordination to this work, was every way free and gratuitous: what freer than a gift? God gives Christ for a covenant of the people, without regard to any motive, merit, or solicitation of the people; yea, and in opposition thereto. This gift is free, in opposition to merit, either of contiguity or congruity. If we be for merit of our own, we must be for hell, for that is all that we merit; if wretchedness, misery, and a mass of confusion and enmity, be accounted merit, then we may lay claim to it, but no otherwise. This gift is free, in opposition to constraint, force, or necessity: God had nothing from without to constrain him to contrive the redemption of man, or to give Christ for that end; though all mankind should have been for ever drowned in the flood of his wrath, God had remained as he was, as happy as ever; no force was upon him to contrive a remedy for man. This gift is free in opposition to debt: God owed us nothing but wrath; but we owe many millions of talents to his infinite justice. In a word, it is free, in opposition to all motives from without God himself. There was nothing about us, to move him to pity us, ten thousand things to move him to destroy us. Upon what condition in us could God be moved to give his Christ to us; seeing our best condition, before he gave him in possession to us, is a condition of sin and misery, death and thralldom? But then again,
(4.) God’s giving of Christ for a covenant of the people, his giving him thus, I say, implies a right and title that the people have to receive him. God’s giving Christ, is the foundation of our title to receive him: faith, which is the only actual acceptance of the gift, is the mean of putting us in possession; but it would be the height of presumption, thus to take and receive, if there were no giving; “No man receiveth anything, except it be given him from heaven,” (John 3:27). As this receiving then supposes a giving of Christ, prior to the receiving, so this giving of Christ for a covenant of the people, implies the people’s right, and title, and warrant to receive him. There is a twofold giving of Christ:
1. A giving of Christ in point of actual possession; and thus he is given to the elect soul in the day of believing; and this giving is the foundation of his title to all things in and through him: for, “How will he not with him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). And till a man have an interest in Christ thus, he hath no saving‑right to anything, no right to a communion‑table; nay, no covenant‑right to the food of his common table.
2. There is a giving of Christ in point of exhibition and gospel‑offer; and thus he is given to the whole visible church, in the dispensation of the word; and this giving is a foundation of our title to receive Christ, and our claim of right to take this gift out of the hand of the giver. A right of possession none have, till they believe, and take the gift that is offered: but a right of access and warrant to believe, all have, whether they believe or not, or whether they take this gift out of God’s hands or not. That Christ is God’s gift to a whole visible church in this sense, is a great privilege, whatever the world think or say about it, and it is a part of my errand this day, to tell you of it: if it be disgusting doctrine to any, and will not go down, we cannot help it; it is Bible doctrine, and gospel‑doctrine, and therefore we must preach it in his name, who commands us to preach the gospel to every creature. But, I think, it should be welcome doctrine to all that hear me, That Christ is given to all the people in this house, in the same manner that the manna was given to all the people of old; where Christ speaking to all the promiscuous multitude, and making a comparison betwixt himself, and the manna that fell about the tents of Israel in the wilderness, says, “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven,” (John 6:32); where the revelation and offer of Christ is declared to be a giving of him, before ever he be received or believed on. It is such a gift and grant, as warrants a man to believe, and receive the gift; for this end is he given to a perishing world: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish but have everlasting life.” As the brazen serpent was given for a common‑good to the whole camp of Israel, that whosoever in all the camp, being stung with the fiery‑serpents looked thereto, might not die, but live; even so is Christ given as a common good to poor stung sinners, that looking to him they may be saved. Christ is given to all, in the dispensation of the gospel. And, O it should be glad tidings of great joy to all people, That to us a child is born, to us a son is given, whose name is wonderful. This giving, in a general and definite manner, to all, in the gospel offer, may be, and is, for the most part, where there is no receiving: but there can be no receiving of Christ for salvation, where there is not this giving; for, “A man can receive nothing except it be given.” This giving then, implies a right, and title, and warrant to receive: he is also given to you, that all that please the bargain, have warrant to take possession. He is your own already, man, woman, in the former sense, whether you take him or not; as he said to the Jews, “He came to his own, and his own received him not.” But faith’s improvement of this gift and grant, among your hands, would make him your own, in a peculiar sense, by actual possession. —Thus we have the manner of his ordination, to be the covenant of the people; it is even by a free and gracious donation. The next thing here was,
4thly, The gracious motive, ground, and reason of this divine ordination, which is just the divine will: “I will give.” This verb must necessarily be borrowed from the former clause, “I will hold thine hand, and give thee for a covenant of the people.” I will give; O sovereign reason! No gift in the world so free as Christ: when men bestow gifts upon one another, there is some impulsive cause that excites them to it, drawn from their relation to, or interest in one another; drawn from services and favors received, or expected from each other; but no such impulsive cause here: we have no relation to God, but as his enemies; we can do him no service, but sin against him; therefore can merit nothing from him but his curse. His reason of doing, then, must be his own sovereign will. Men may rack their wit, and dispute about the reason of God’s actions: but there would be more calm reasoning in the world, about gospel‑truths, if all our reasonings did strike sail to the sovereignty of free‑grace, and stoop to that: he will, because he will: “I will give thee.” I think this will imports, 1. A consent and agreement: the counsel of peace is concluded, parties are both agreed; I will. 2. A complacency and satisfaction: God is well‑pleased with this device of his own infinite wisdom; well‑pleased with the ransom and ransomer; “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well‑pleased:” I take pleasure in giving him to be a covenant of the people; I will. 3. I think it imports authority: supreme authority of the eternal Godhead, three in one, is interposed in this matter, for ordaining Christ to this work: I will. And, 4. I think it imports an express command, “I will give thee;” and of this command Christ speaks, when he says, “This commandment have I received of my Father, to lay down my life for my sheep:” And when he says, “Lo, I come to do thy will: by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” (Heb. 10:10). In a word, it imports, That the sovereign will of Jehovah is the reason of all. And this may lead us to, and shall make me the more brief upon,
V. The Fifth thing proposed is, namely, the reasons of the doctrine: why is Christ given for a covenant of the people? And here I might show, 1. Why he is given. 2. Why given for a covenant. 3. Why given for a covenant of the people, of the Gentiles.
1. Why he is given or exhibit by way of gift? Why, the grand reason is told already, even his sovereign will. Christ, the great ordinance of God for man’s recovery, is dispensed freely, by a gratuitous gift, that salvation may be by grace, and that free grace may get the whole glory of it, from the foundation to the cope‑stone, with shoutings of grace, grace unto it. The giving of Christ to all, in the gospel offer, is from sovereign grace, and must be absolutely free and unconditional; for what in all the world is the condition of the offer? If men be in a sinful condition, in a miserable condition, in a lost condition, that is all the condition and qualification, that I know necessary for making an offer of Christ as a Saviour to them. If any clog the gospel‑offer with legal terms and conditions, they encroach upon the warrant ministers have to offer Christ to all, and the warrant that all have to receive him; yea, they encroach upon sovereign grace, which hath made this grant and offer of Christ, not to devils, but to men in the most extensive terms: “To you, 0 men, do I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” —Again, the giving of Christ to some, in actual possession, is from sovereign grace also; for, though none can be possessed of Christ and his benefits, till by faith they receive him: yet this faith to receive, is given, as well as the gift received by it: “By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” (Eph. 2:8). It is given, by virtue of an absolute promise of the covenant; such as that, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power;” and so, the hand to take the gift, being itself given out of the covenant, the covenant takes hold of the man before the man takes hold of the covenant. But,
2. Why is Christ given for a covenant? I offer you only one reason of it: he is given for a covenant, that God might have more glory out of the covenant of works, by the second Adam’s fulfilling of it, than he lost by the first Adam’s breach and violation of it. The law of eternal life and death was irreversibly stated only by the covenant of works: and though we be changed, yet the covenant of works is unchangeable. And as by virtue of the stability of it, all the Christless world are condemned, cursed, and die eternally; so, by virtue of its being perfectly fulfilled by Christ, in whom only it is established, all that are in him, are freed from condemnation, and live eternally. What is the covenant of grace? I may say it is Christ’s fulfilling, for us, the covenant of works. We were debtors to the mandatory and minatory part of the law, arraigned at the instance of divine justice, to pay the debt; Christ substituted himself in our room, came under the law to pay the whole debt due thereunto; and now, God gets more glory by his doing so, than he lost by our sins. Herein he glorified his sovereign Majesty, whose authority was so heinously violated by such a base creature as man is, in that he received him not into his favor, without a becoming reparation, made to his honor, by the intervention of a perfect obedience, and full satisfaction. Herein he glorified his infinite wisdom, in finding out a man to reconcile justice and mercy; to punish the sin, and yet to pardon the sinner; to take vengeance on sin, to the very uttermost, and yet, to magnify his mercy, while the sinner is justified, accepted and saved, without his own suffering. This is , “The manifold wisdom of God.” Herein he glorified his free love, goodness, and pity, in subjecting his life to such a death, and his glory to such a shame, and all to purchase such vile and worthless creatures as we are, and to redeem us from eternal woe and misery: as also, his almighty power is here glorified, in supporting the human nature of Christ under the vast load of divine wrath, and law curses. —Herein he glorified his holiness and faithfulness, in fulfilling not only the promise of the law, as a covenant of works, even the promise of eternal life, made to perfect obedience; which, though we forfeited in our own persons, yet we recover in Christ: the condition of life in the covenant of works, being perfect obedience personal, and the condition of life here being perfect obedience and imputed; and so the promise of life, upon the ground of a perfect obedience fulfilled to us in him; but also divine faithfulness is glorified, in fulfilling all the threatenings of the law, while we, who come under the sentence of death in the first Adam, undergo that death in the second Adam. —In a word, herein he glorifies his justice and righteousness, in the remission of sins, through the propitiation of Christ; “Whom God hath set forth to be the propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,” (Rom. 3:25). Herein is vindictive justice displayed, in its greatest severity, in Christ’s being the sacrifice and propitiation: and here is retributive justice illustriously declared, in the sinner’s being rewarded, justified, saved, upon the blood and sacrifice, the obedience and righteousness of Christ; yea, all the perfections of the great God shine gloriously in the face of Christ, as in a beautiful and bright constellation, (2 Cor. 4:6). And for this reason he gave him for a covenant.
3. Why is he given for a covenant of the people, of the Gentiles? Why, not only to show his displeasure at the unbelief of the Jews, as we see, (Acts 3:46,47; Rom. 11:19,20); but also to show his sovereignty, that he will have mercy, on whom he will have mercy; and to show his truth, in fulfilling the ancient prophecy concerning the calling of the Gentiles. It is long since God promised to Noah, saying, “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem,” (Gen. 9:27). Now of Japheth came the Gentiles, (Gen. 12:5); and of Shem came the Jews. By the posterity of Japheth were the isles of the Gentiles divided. The isles were solemnly by lot divided among them, (and probably this isle of Britain among the rest); so that as Japheth’s dwelling in the tents of Shem, is a clear prediction of the conversion of the Gentiles, and their succeeding to the Jews in their church‑privileges; so this directs us to understand the promise in the context, “The isles shall wait for his law.” He is given for a covenant of the people, a light of the Gentiles. In a word, he is given for a covenant of the people, to show the extent and all‑sufficiency of his grace, and the intrinsic value of his blood. Suppose a prince were setting up a sanctuary, or city of refuge, the privileges whereof, are not restricted to any sort of men, but extended to all, Gentiles as well as Jews; would not this declare, that the privileges of the place are full and ample, so as whosoever comes to this sanctuary, might be safe? Here also, in like manner, the sufficiency of the merit of Christ, and the fullness of his righteousness is declared, insomuch that none can, with any shadow of reason, exclude themselves, be what they will, People, Gentiles, Dark, Blind, Imprisoned; seeing all Gentiles, who are called Dogs, Aliens, Heathens, Uncircumcised, are included; and seeing the motto written on the outside of the door of the sanctuary, is, “Whosoever will, let him come:” all comers are welcome and refusers left inexcusable.
VI. The Sixth thing proposed was the application of the whole. This doctrine would admit of a vast improvement, which we must confine to as narrow bounds as possible; and we may improve it,
1st, For Information. If it be so, that Christ, by divine ordination, is thus the covenant of the people; in the glass of this doctrine, we clearly see, many precious gospel‑truths. And,
1. Hence we may see, in what way it is, that the ruin we brought upon ourselves, by the breach and violation of the covenant of works, is reparable. We have brought ourselves into a most lamentable state by sin; and we are irrecoverably lost indeed, as to all that we can do for our own help; “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” Who can repair that ruin? There is a glorious me that says, “In me is thy help,” (Hosea 13:7). Who that me is, is explained in our text, even a God in Christ, the glorious I and thee: “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” There is no help, no justification for them now by a covenant of works; but, “I will give thee for a covenant to them:” which, though it be all works to thee, yet it shall be all grace to them. The world is busy casting the law of works into this and the other handsome shape, and pleasing themselves with a fancy, that in this way of works, they may have righteousness and life, to the disparagement of the way of grace, to the destruction of their own souls, and to the dishonor of Christ, who alone is the covenant of the people.
2. Hence we see the greatness of the love of God towards poor sinners, in giving such a great and glorious person as Christ, and that for such a great and glorious end, as to be a covenant of the people; “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ came not to be a covenant of the people without a commission, call, and ordination from his Father. He had authority from the Father to do all that he did about the covenant; I will give thee for a covenant.” Let not our notions of God be so gross, as to think, that God the Father is of an implacable nature, full of severity; and that the Son only is of a pleasant, meek nature, full of lenity towards sinners. Nay, God the Father was the first in order of nature, that made the motion concerning man’s redemption; Christ was appointed, authorized, and given of him; behold, the love of God hath gone to its utmost height in giving Christ, for he cannot give a greater gift; and the love of Christ hath also gone to its utmost, in consenting hereto, and giving himself, and all this to be no less than a complete covenant of the people. Because the people can do nothing, therefore he leaves them nothing to do of themselves: “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.”
3. Hence we may see a test of the true religion. All schemes that centre not in Christ, are to be rejected; and all schemes of the covenant, that make not Christ to be the all of it, are to be renounced: If I can find nothing in the covenant but Christ, surely I find enough, and I find all that my text makes of it; and if the world make it a new scheme, at their peril be it. But this I say, that every scheme, that leads to self, and takes off from Christ, is a false and ruinous scheme; yea, every doctrine that advances any thing to be a rival with him, and mingles our filthy rags with his excellent robes, is of a soul‑ruining nature, and utterly to be detested. The second Adam came not to patch up and amend old Adam’s coat, as some express it, but to give us a wholly new garment of his own making, and dyed with his own blood: “I will give thee for a covenant.” Our chief business, as ministers of the gospel, is to trumpet forth the transcendent excellency of Christ, and desire to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified, and as the all of the covenant, for making people both happy and holy.
4. Hence we may see the believer’s freedom from the law as a covenant of works; he is not under the law, but under grace; having closed with Christ, Christ is now all the covenant that he is under; he is freed both from the Do and the Die, the command and the threatening of the covenant of works; they are made void to him through Christ, for he is not under it, either to be justified or condemned: he is not under its command, to be justified for his obedience; nor under its threatening and sanction, to be condemned for his disobedience, as it is a covenant; for, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.” It is true, as the law is a rule of obedience, he remains under its as much and more than ever, and stands obliged thereby to study perfection; and his disobedience may bring upon him rods and stripes, and all the terrible effects of God’s fatherly displeasure upon soul and body; but it is a rule of acceptance, a condition of life, or a covenant of works, he hath nothing to do with it, nothing to expect from its nothing to fear by it: he hath nothing to do with it any more than a wife hath to do with a dead husband. “Ye are dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye might be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that ye might bring forth fruit unto God,” (Rom. 7:4). He is not to bring forth fruit anymore to the dead husband, to the law, but to Christ, the living husband. He hath nothing to expect from it; no life, no righteousness, no happiness, no holiness by his own legal obedience, but only by Christ, a better covenant. And he hath nothing to fear by it; no hell, no death, no damnation, no condemnation, no liableness thereto. And hence,
5. We see what place the believer’s obedience hath in the covenant of grace: His obedience hath no place here, in point of causality, or proper federal conditionality; for this were to turn it into the same place it had in the covenant of works, where, though there was no merit of contiguity (I know few will dare to say so), yet, there was a merit by paction; that is to say, there was a promise of life made to works and obedience, “Do, and live.” But, in the covenant of grace, we assert, against all popish doctrine whatsoever, that there is no such reward of work, obedience, or personal holiness, upon compact and promise; because the tenor of this covenant runs upon the condition of Christ’s obedience and righteousness, apprehended by faith. Gospel‑holiness, is of manifold necessity in the new covenant; but the promise of life is not here made to the work, but to the worker; and to the worker, not for his work; but for the merit of Christ: As for instance, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life;” the promise is not made to fidelity, but to the faithful person, whose fidelity is a sign that he is in Christ, “In whom all the promises are yea, and Amen.” If the law had now the promise of life to our obedience, we should not have life and salvation any other way but by the law, and by the works thereof; “If there had been a law given, that could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law,” (Gal. 3:21); therefore our obedience now is not a cause or condition, but a necessary effect of the covenant, and qualification of all that are within the covenant; yea, all whom this covenant takes hold of, it makes them holy: And therefore, “Without holiness no man shall see God;” because without holiness no man hath this effective evidence of his being within this holy covenant.
6. Hence we may see, what are the motives that now should influence the believer in his obedience. If Christ be the all of the covenant, and that he is loosed from all his former relation to the covenant of works, he is not to obey either from a legal hope of heaven, or slavish fear of hell. Not from a legal hope of heaven; for the covenant secures the purchase of that by Christ’s perfect obedience: not from a slavish fear of hell; for the covenant hath secured freedom from that by Christ’s complete satisfaction. The principal motive is the love of Christ constraining; the love of a God in Christ, who is given for a covenant of the people. God deals not with believers now according to the covenant of works, neither ought they to deal with him as if they were under it. They ought to mourn for sin, to repent, to confess, to beg pardon, but not in a legal way, as if they had to do with a wrathful judge, but as having to do with a merciful Father in Christ: they are to yield obedience to the law, not out of a servile fear of hell and wrath, but out of a child‑like love and willing mind; so far as the believer acts otherwise, so far he is under a spirit of bondage. Neither ought the believer to act from a dread and fear of his being disinherited; so far as he does so, it is not an act of faith, but of unbelief; for he cannot view this covenant, and yet see himself left at an uncertainty. There is no liableness to a forfeiture of its privileges; Christ is the covenant of the people.
7. Hence see, if Christ be the covenant of the people, by God’s ordination, why the believer is to take the law only out of the hand of a Mediator, and yet it is not without law to God, when he is under the law to Christ. He is not to view it in the first covenant form, in the hand of an absolute God, but only in Christ, and as it is cast into a new covenant‑form: and the original authority of the law is not here dissolved, nor obligation to obedience diminished, but rather strengthened and sweetened; in regard that this authority does now run only in this sweet and blessed channel, by the Father’s ordination; yea, the Creator’s authority and sovereignty is in Christ, and the whole fatness of the Godhead, and by the voice of God the Father from the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well‑pleased: hear ye him.” We are so much obliged by the Father’s appointment, to obey him, and take the law only out of his hand, that if we do it not we condemn the authority of the Father, and run cross to this divine ordination.
8. Hence see, if Christ be the all of the covenant, then believers have all things in Christ. Christ being the covenant of the people; this covenant is all his salvation, and all his desire. All his salvation is here; and well may the believer say, in the exercise of faith, in Christ I have all things at once; neither need I any more that is necessary to salvation; this covenant is all my salvation. —He may say, in the point of justification, Christ is my righteousness, my treasure, my work, my covenant, my all; yea, my all in all; “For in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily:” and believers are complete in him, who of God is made to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
9. Hence, we may see, if Christ be given for a covenant of the people, that the gospel strictly and properly taken, is a bundle of good news, glad tidings, and gracious promises; our text is a sum of the gospel, and it is a free promise, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people;” there is no preceptor commandment here. The law is properly a word of precept, but not the gospel: the law commands all, and the gospel promises all. It were a disparagement to the divine law, if it were not perfect and exceeding broad, if there were any duty we are called unto not enjoined therein: Why, are there no commands in the gospel, say some? We are ready, sirs, to confound the dispensation of the gospel, with this gospel itself; and this makes much wranglings on this head. The gospel largely taken for the dispensation thereof, hath the whole law in it, subservient thereunto; but strictly taken, it is a quite other thing than the law of commands. Faith and repentance may be called gospel‑commands, if you speak of the dispensation of the gospel; but if you speak of the gospel itself, they come in under consideration. We are to distinguish betwixt duties and graces: Faith and repentance, as they are duties, are commanded in the law: but as they are graces, they are promised in the gospel. We are to distinguish betwixt a new commanded duty, and a new presented object; the gospel presents a new object of faith, a God in Christ but the same law that was from the beginning, obliged us to believe whatever new revelation God makes. If we understand it safely, then we may say, the law obliges us to believe the gospel, and therefore he that believeth not the gospel, is condemned already by the law, (John 3:18). And this condemnation shall be more aggravated, than if this new object of faith had never been presented, or if this light had never come into the world, (v. 19).
10. Hence learn, If Christ be given as the covenant of the people, then we may see the nature of faith, and its appropriating quality. When God says, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people;” faith says something by way of answer, corresponding with the revelation and testimony of God: God says, I give; faith says, I take: God says, “I give him for a covenant;” faith says, I take him for a covenant; God says, “I give him for a covenant of the people;” faith says, I am one of the people; I take him for my covenant, my own all: it is the people’s covenant in the general offer, but my covenant in the particular application of faith; faith breaks the shell, and eats the kernel. The general dispensation of the gospel says, he is given for a covenant of the people; the particular application of faith says, he is given for a covenant to me: God says, I give him; faith says, I take him as a gift, a free gift: God says, I give him, it is I that gives him; faith says, I take him as thy gift, as God’s gift: God says, I will give him, it is my will to do it; faith says, thy will be done, even so I take him according to thy will, Amen, so be it; and all the people should say Amen: and everyone for himself should say Amen to God’s offer, and receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered; and in so doing, believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, they shall be saved, (Acts 5:11).
11. Hence see, if Christ be thus given for a covenant of the people, see the ground of faith that all the hearers of the gospel have: Why, the offer is universal to all that hear the gospel; I give him for a covenant of the people. Let Arminians maintain, at their peril, their universal redemption; but we must maintain, at our peril, the universal offer: necessity is laid upon us, and woe to us, if we preach not this gospel to every creature. Christ is so far given to all the people that hear the gospel, that it is warrantable for them to receive the gift: it is no presumption for them to take what God gives; they shall not be guilty of vicious intromission in so doing; nay, they shall be guilty, they shall be damned, if they believe not, and take not God’s gift. It is true, reprobates will exclude themselves, but this gospel‑offer does not exclude them; they have as fair a revealed warrant to believe, as the elect have. We cannot say, you are an elect man, you are an elect woman, therefore believe: we have no such commission; nay, God, by this gospel, casts the covenant in among all the people, saying, “Whosoever will, let him take;” whosoever pleases, let him take, and in taking, he shall have a proof of his being, an elect vessel. As it is said of the Jews, “To them belong the covenant and promises;” so say I to you, Gentiles, the covenant belongs to you; “The promise is to you, and your children:” you have a right and a warrant to take all; and this right was sealed to you in baptism, and is proclaimed to you in this gospel; and you shall be inexcusable if you improve it not: you will have none to blame for your damnation but yourselves and your own enmity and ill‑will;” “You will not come to me, that ye might have life. I would have gathered you, and you would not.”
12. Hence we see the certainty of the conversion of the elect; whose conversion, in particular, is God’s great end and design in exhibiting Christ as a covenant to the people in general. It is with a design to give Christ to them in possession, that he gives him to a visible church in the gospel offer. It is for the elect’s sake that the reprobate have an offer of Christ: and if once all the elect were gathered, the sound of the silver trumpet of the gospel shall be heard no more. The dispensation of the gospel is the mean which he sanctifies and blesses to that end, for working and begetting faith in all the elect, whose names, as I said before, are all recorded in the original draught of the covenant, which is indeed a sealed writ, that we have nothing to do with, till once we have subscribed the open copy that is before us all. However, this work is not left arbitrary to the will of men, otherwise none would ever be willing; for all are enemies, and the power of enmity is insuperable by men; therefore our text promises, not only the means, the general donation of Christ in the indefinite order, but also the power, the effectual application of the covenant of grace, to the conversion of all whom Christ did undertake for. Why, the covenant here exhibited, is proposed as a covenant of light; light to the Gentiles, and to remove spiritual darkness; a covenant of sight; to open blind eyes, and so to remove spiritual blindness: and a covenant of liberty; to remove spiritual bondage to sin and Satan: all which denote effectual vocation, which is a being brought from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And hence we see, how effectual vocation and saving faith followed upon this very gospel dispensation, (Acts 13:47,48). So that an effectual application of the covenant of grace is here promised to Christ, in behalf of all that were given to him; it is absolutely promised, that he shall see his seed, and see the travail of his soul. The election shall obtain; and, All that the Father hath given him, shall come to him: and yet we see that the accomplishment hereof, is by ways and means of his appointment, in the general invitation and call of the gospel. God, by his will of precept revealed, commands all, wherever the gospel comes, to believe; and he mocks none; for all that do believe shall certainly be saved; and though none have power to make the means effectual, yet the utmost attendance to the general call of the gospel, is of the utmost concernment to your souls for eternity; for who knows that he is not of that number, whom Christ covenanted for, and will make it effectual unto?
But so vastly copious and comprehensive is this doctrine, that I might begin anew to give a bundle of more inferences therefrom.
1. Hence we may see the miserable circumstances of all unbelievers, that hear this gospel, and yet refuse God’s gift of Christ as a covenant. They continue under a covenant of works, both in its commanding and condemning power. That they are under its condemning power is evident; for, says Christ, “He that believeth not is condemned already.” And that they are under its commanding power is evident also: for, says the apostle, “They are debtors to do the whole law,” (Gal. 5:3). In Adam’s covenant, they remain under obligation to duties and punishment, as long as they are not interested in the new covenant. Though by the gospel they are obliged to seek a title to life through Christ’s obedience, and freedom from wrath through his satisfaction; yet while this covenant is slighted, they remain obliged, in their own persons, to yield perfect obedience, upon pain of damnation: if they be not under the command with the promise, Do and live, they are under the command with the threatening, Do and be damned. They are in a miserable state; for the least failure, in obedience to the command, brings them under the whole curse of the threatening, and wrath of the eternal God, while they will not have a better covenant.
2. Hence we may see the folly of all that prefer any ruining covenant to this covenant, which God gives for our relief. The covenant of works is now a ruining covenant; yet many prefer this covenant to Christ the covenant of the people. They prefer their doing to Christ’s doing while they cannot believe they shall have acceptance with God upon Christ’s doing and obedience; and yet they will hope, that if they do their best, then God will accept of them: O proud devil, that thus makes the dung of thy duties of more account than the perfect obedience of the Son of God! The covenant with hell is also a ruining covenant; and yet the world prefers this also to that glorious covenant, while they are in league with their lusts, and prefer their base idols to the Son of God.
3. Hence we may see the difference betwixt the law and the gospel; the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The law promises nothing but upon our doing; the gospel promises nothing but upon Christ’s doing: he is the covenant of the people. The covenant of works promises life, if we obey in our own persons; the covenant of grace promises life if we obey in our surety. The condition of the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace both, is perfect obedience; but here lies the difference, the condition of the covenant of works is perfect obedience personal; the condition of the covenant of grace is perfect obedience imputed, and conveyed to us by a faith of God’s operation. Yet both law and gospel are sweetly subservient, the one to the other, and work to one another’s hand, while the law declares what obedience God requires, and the gospel provides that obedience, and points out Christ as the all of it; so faith doth not make void the law, but establishes it, and makes it honorable, &c. Christ hath fulfilled the condition of the covenant, to the Father’s contentment. “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake, for he hath magnified the law, and made it honorable.”
4. Hence we may see the difference betwixt God’s covenant of grace, and our covenant of duties. Our covenant of duties, is either private and personal, or public and national. If by personal covenanting be either meant believing at first, and laying hold on God’s covenant, or the believer’s engaging through grace, to serve the Lord, in all the duties of religion; it is indeed the duty and honor of every person, to be thus engaged. Public and national covenanting is also the duty and honor of a land: it was the glory of Scotland, that we were solemnly in covenant; wherein our forefathers, for themselves and their posterity, “engaged and swore against popery, prelacy, superstition, and everything contrary to the word of God; and to the doctrine, discipline, worship, and government of the reformed Church of Scotland: —and that as we should answer to Jesus Christ at great the day, and under the pain of God’s everlasting wrath, and of infamy, and loss of all honor and respect in this world.” And, O may not our hearts bleed to think on our defection from old covenanted principles, and violation of engagements; yea, of the burning, and burial of our covenants, and many grave‑stones laid upon the sepulcher; also the prevalency of abjured popery in this land, without being duly lamented, and the open introduction of abjured prelacy, and English popish ceremonies and services, in many places of this land, without being duly testified against; but the zeal of many runs in another channel? Is it any wonder then, that the infamy and loss of honor, and respect in this world, mentioned in that covenant, hath come upon us, while our honor as a nation, and glory as a church, is sunk into the horrible pit and filthy mire of infamy, bondage, slavery, and contempt? However, covenant‑obligation to duty is what we stand still under: though many be ashamed of, and refuse to own these obligations, yet it is the glory of our land, however it be now defaced. And therefore, let us even, in our approaches to a communion‑table, go forward, lamenting our sinful defection from the covenanted reformation, acknowledging our solemn covenant obligation; and hoping, that the Lord will, in due time, revive a covenanted work, and pour out a spirit of reformation. But let us withal remember, there is a vast difference betwixt God’s covenant and our covenant, betwixt his promise, and our promise; we may break and change a thousand times, but the covenant of grace is unchangeable, and stands fast in Christ. Many poor Christians mistake matters sadly, by confounding their covenant and engagement to duty, with God’s covenant of grace. They covenant to serve the Lord, and the next day they break it; O! says the man, the covenant of grace is broken. Gross ignorance! the covenant of grace is quite another thing. Therefore,
5. Hence we may infer, If Christ be given for a covenant of the people, the transcendent excellency of this, above all other covenants, whether of legal works, or gospel‑duties. For here the Father is promising to the Son, that he should be a covenant of the people: and so it imports all the excellent qualities and properties that can be in a covenant.
(1.) If Christ be given of God for a covenant of the people then it is a divine covenant, a covenant of God’s making, and not of ours: it was made when we knew nothing about it; it was made when we were nothing; yea, when we were foreseen to be a company of lost and undone sinners; God made it with his Son, and established all the articles, promises, and blessings of it, before the foundation of the world was laid; yea, it is God that makes the elect, in a day of power, to take up the extract of it, to read it, to love it, to sign it. Again,
(2.) If Christ be given for a covenant of the people, then it is a free covenant, altogether free; absolute, and unconditional to us: It is a covenant given of God; “I will give thee for a covenant.” Our legal hearts are still for giving something to God, and for giving him this and the other service, in hope of pleasing and pacifying him; and doing so and so, in order to acceptance with him. Nay, but says God, your giving me, is vain, unless I give you; your giving is not the way of it, but I will give and you shall take. The legalist is constantly for giving, but the believer is always for taking: you must know, that here you have nothing to give, but to take. There is an order indeed observed in the covenant, and in God’s giving: there is a condition of connection between one blessing and another; first the spirit of faith is given, and then by faith, the man takes other blessings: and receives of Christ’s fulness, grace for grace. Here God gives all, and faith takes all. All that is required, is given, and all that is given, is given freely. Faith itself doth but receive a right: it does not give one; it acts in a way of taking what God gives; it takes the covenant that God gives; it takes the righteousness of Christ, which is the meritorious condition of the covenant, and so is the means of our being accounted righteous. Not one promise of life, or of the eternal reward, can the believer lay claim to, but in Christ; “For all the promises are in him, yea, and in him Amen;” in him, in him; twice over, as I said already: Why, we cannot claim any one promise in our name, upon performing any gospel‑condition, though by the aids of grace; for then, though it were never so small, it were of debt to us: but our only claim is in him; that is, in the right of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ: and thus it is of debt to him, but only of grace to us. And thus God is not a debtor to us, but to himself; to his own goodness and faithfulness, and to his Son Jesus Christ. “If ever faith or obedience were a condition, then there were a suspending the acts of God, upon some actings of the creature; which, says an eminent divine [Dr Owen], cannot be, without subjecting eternity to time, the first cause to the second, the Creator to the creature.” Again,
(3.) If Christ be the covenant of the people, then it is a full covenant, having all things in it: it hath grace and glory in it: happiness and holiness in it: peace and pardon in it; yea, Christ, who is all in all, is in it; for he is the all of it. Who can tell me of a grace or gracious quality that does not spring out of this covenant and the promises of it? It takes in all the promises made to Christ and to us. Some promises are constitutive of the covenant, as these betwixt the Father and the Son, concerning a seed; and here, Christ hath some peculiar promises appropriate to him, which are not afforded to us in the same manner and degree. Others are executive, or referring to the execution and application of it, as (Heb. 10:11,12), some are principal, and concern the end, eternal life: others less principal, and concern the means, whether internal, as the spirit and faith; or external, as ordinances; all is comprised in the covenant. Again,
(4.) If Christ be the covenant, then it is a sure covenant, “The sure mercies of David.” This covenant is secured by the oath of God to his eternal Son; “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David.” He hath sworn, that the bargain shall stand, insomuch, that if all the devils in hell should attack the weakest believer in Christ, or that ever looked towards a covenanted Christ, they cannot ruin him, it is impossible; for the covenant in which he is wrapt up, is established, drawn up, and concluded betwixt two unchangeable persons, in presence of that consenting, unchangeable witness, the Holy Ghost, one God, and of one and the same will essentially with the Father and the Son; “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever.” The parties of the covenant of grace are not God and man, but God and Christ; and the believer is no otherwise a party, but in Christ. And here is a bottom of everlasting consolation, that Christ and he are within one and the same covenant, and it stands as sure to them as it stands fast in him.
In a word, if Christ be the covenant, then it is a glorious covenant, a holy covenant, an everlasting covenant; but I omit a great deal of particulars that I might here mention.
6. Hence we may infer, what is the marrow of the gospel‑feast in the sacrament of the supper: it is even Christ, given of God to be the covenant of the people: for, in the sacrament, “Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” To take the sacrament is nothing but a mock, if people do not in it sacramentally, really, and believingly take Christ as the covenant of the people; yea, the sacrament of the supper is the seal of the covenant, confirming to the believer all the promises thereof; “This is the New Testament in my blood.” The covenant is sure enough in itself; but the believer is never too sure of it, while he hath unbelief in him: and therefore God hath condescended to give us all that we could require of the most faithless and dishonest man upon the face of the earth, that we may believe him: not only his word, and writ, and oath, but his seal too; and all hath enough to do to confirm the believer’s faith: yea, nothing will confirm and strengthen his faith, but the same almighty power of God which wrought it at first, even the power whereby he raised it at first, even the power whereby he raised Christ from the dead. Yet, in these means, he uses to convey his power for that end; and therefore the believer is to use them: I say, the believer, because none, who, by unbelief, refuse the covenant, are to meddle with the seal thereof, to profane it; yea, they that use the seal, and refuse the covenant, they seal their own condemnation; for, being under the covenant of works, they seal no other covenant than that which they are under; and so they seal themselves up under the bondage and curse of the covenant of works, which is the heavy curse of the great God. —But now, passing all other uses, I come to close with a word.
2ndly, For Exhortation. —If God hath given Christ to be the covenant of the people, then the native exhortation is, 1. That all the people take the covenant that God is here giving them. And, 2. That all who take this covenant, take the seal thereof in the sacrament of the supper. But, at the time, I confine myself to the first of these.
The first exhortation is to all the people that hear me, That seeing God makes offer of his Christ to you, and gives him as a covenant of the people, you would take this gift of his hand. I am come to make an offer of Christ, as the all of the covenant, to you, in his name, who is the covenant, and in his Father’s name, who gives him for a covenant of the people. If you go to a communion table, and take the seal of the covenant before you take the covenant itself, you will but mock God, and set a seal to a blank; yea, you will seal your covenant with help and trample under foot the blood of the everlasting covenant. And, therefore, I call you all, beforehand, to come and take the covenant. I know not how the call will be entertained; many will slight it, but yet we must make the offer in God’s name, who commands us to preach the gospel to every creature. I know that you cannot, and will not embrace the offer, without divine almighty power be extended; but he uses to make the gospel‑offer the channel of his power to gain souls to himself. I know, moreover, that as you are unworthy of such an offer; so you would mind, it is not me you have to do with, but the great and eternal God, that is offering his Son to you for a covenant this day: and, as it well becomes such a glorious God to make such a glorious offer, so it becomes no vile sinner here to refuse the offer. And choose or refuse you must: there is no middle: either you must receive or reject Christ this day, for he is offered universally to all the people here for a covenant. I know further, that it is one of the hardest things in the world for men to persuade themselves that God is in earnest in offering Christ to them, and in giving Christ to them in particular: and yet because this is the very porch and avenue of faith, O plead that God would deliver you from such blasphemous thoughts as tend to give the lie to the God of truth, who swears by his life that he will have no pleasure in your death. Men shall find, to their cost, that he called them in earnest to believe, when he damns them in earnest for their unbelief; for, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” I know further, that many deceive themselves with a temporary faith, thinking they take Christ when there is no faith of divine operation, but a counterfeit faith of their own forging: however, the covenant must be opened, and Christ offered, though he should be a stumbling‑block to many, over which they should fall and break their necks; for the covenant will draw some to it powerfully and sweetly, to raise a divine building on a divine testimony. I offer, then, a whole covenant, a whole Christ to you, in his Father’s name, who gives him for a covenant; will not you take, when God gives? It is true, God is not speaking immediately to you in this text; but to Christ, saying, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people;” but still so much the better for you, seeing it is on your behalf that God, who cannot lie, the eternal God, is speaking to his eternal Son in your favors. There is the surer ground, and stronger argument for your faith, that you may say, Lord, I take thee at thy word, and it is not thy word to me only; if it were directed immediately to me at the first hand, I am such a black, filthy monster of hell, that I durst not credit it; but it is thy word to the fair, fair Immanuel, who is thy heart’s darling and delight; in whom thou art well pleased: and I think thy word to him must be a sure word; and it is thy word to him concerning me: whatever I be, I am sure thou wilt not go back of thy word to him, who is the true and faithful witness: I agree to that contract, and put in my name, consenting to have him for a covenant to me. O sure work, if that be the way of it! as sure as God is faithful and true to his eternally beloved Son. Well, man, woman; young and old, do you find in your heart thus to take the covenant in the bulk? Need I say anymore for motives? Consider,
1. What for a state you are in, while you are out of this covenant: you are under a covenant of works, and so under the wrath and vengeance of God, under the bondage and curse of the law; yea, you are in covenant with hell and death by that contract: you have nothing to expect but a terrible death shortly, and a horrible hell eternally.
2. Consider that this covenant is the last bargain that ever God will make with you, or for you: the covenant of works is broken, and you are damned forever, if you be not under another, for that bargain is blown up. This new covenant is a plank after shipwreck; though it was contrived and transacted before the first was broken: yea, from eternity; yet it is a new bargain proposed to us after the old is gone: and, if you refuse this, there is not another covenant to save you; “There remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery wrath, that shall consume the adversaries.”
3. Consider, that this covenant is a bargain made ready to your hand: it is not a covenant of your own making; it was made before the world was made, and drawn up in the counsel of peace: and the all of it presented to you in Christ, who is the great ordinance, institution, and appointment of the Father, for your relief and recovery from sin and misery;” “For him hath God the Father sealed:” sealed and authorized him to be the bread of life to perishing souls; sealed and given him for a covenant of the people: God hath sealed and made ready a covenant for you; and all that is required of you, is only, that you will not discredit God, and make him a liar; but through grace, set to your seal, that God is true; receiving his testimony concerning his Son.
4. Consider, that you have a good claim and right to this covenant; or a warrant to accept of it; you have a warrant, by the call and command of God, to believe; “This is his commandment, that ye believe on the name of his Son.” You have a warrant sealed to you already by your baptismal sacrament; it was a sealed right to believe in Christ, and to take him for a covenant; and you are obliged thereby to take hold of this covenant: and if you will not set your band to it this day, you practically renounce your baptism, and the devil hath a firm hold of you. You have a warrant from the general, indefinite promise and publication of this covenant to you: “The promise is to you, and to your children; and to you is the word of this salvation sent. I will give him for a covenant of the people, a light to the Gentiles.” So that it is published and directed to you, man; to you, woman; you have a claim to take it for your own. It is a covenant for you, for every soul of you within the four corners of this house; even you that are thinking, O it is not me that is intended: yes, it is you. Away with unbelief, and let your heart say, “This is a covenant for me.” This is a believing with application: and wherefore am I sent here, but to tell you that covenant is for you? You are welcome to it, whosoever will.
5. Consider upon what terms you may have this covenant. On what terms? The condition of the covenant is already fulfilled; Christ hath brought in an everlasting righteousness, and God hath accepted it, and is well‑pleased with it; and on this account promises all other things freely: not a farthing have you to pay for this covenant, it is God’s gift; “I will give thee for a covenant.” There are but two words necessary to make up this whole business; the one is a word from God, saying, “I will give him for a covenant;” the other is from you, saying, I take him for a covenant to me. The first word is said already, “I give;” and if you want faith to say, I take, this the covenant hath in the bosom of it; the spirit to work faith is promised in it; for he that says, “I give him for a covenant,” says also, “I have put my spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles:” yea, with the same breath that he is given for a covenant, he is given for a light to open the blind eyes, and for liberty to open prison doors. Now faith to take is covenanted; and this whole covenant, and all salvation in it, is laid to your hand; all is given, when the covenant is given. Why, Sir, I think you leave nothing to do at all. Yea, as much as you can do and that is just nothing. If you can believe by your own power, then I will take back my word; but that I know you cannot do: and I give you as much to do as my text allows, which offers all, when it offers Christ as a covenant to you. But will you tell me, what the worse are you, that you who can do nothing, get nothing to do; and that he who can do all things, gets all the work and all the praise? Are you not pleased with these terms, to have all freely, without money, and without price?
6. Consider, that the most part of the world rejects this covenant, and despises this free gift of God. The legal, unbelieving heart will not have Christ at that easy rate; the hellish proud spirit of man is not for taking a covenant from God, but for making a covenant with him, for as bad as they are at keeping of covenants: they cannot believe that God will give all for nothing; and therefore they will not take, without making some bargain of their own; yea, they think, that this way of taking Christ for all, is an enemy to holiness: and because they thus contemn and reproach this holy covenant of free grace, which only can furnish them with holiness, therefore God hath blasted all their holiness; insomuch that there was never less holiness, nor more wickedness in a Christian world. I say, the most part of the world rejects Christ, the gifted covenant; few, in the world will have him; few in Scotland will have him. And, “Is it nothing to you, all ye, that pass by?” Do you think it a small matter, to see the world crucifying the Lord of glory, and interpretatively renewing the bloody tragedy again, that was acted at Jerusalem really? And will ye have a hand in the murder also? The more they be that reject him, the more should ye receive him. He hath long been set before you in a preached gospel, and you have long refused him; and you know not but this may be the last communion‑offer that ever you will get of him; “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
7. Consider, that you cannot please God, nor glorify him so much any way, as by taking this gifted covenant out of his hand. As Abraham staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in the faith, giving glory to God; so to take this covenant of promise is the way to give glory to God. You will please him better than ever your sins displeased him; yea, it is impossible to please him another way; for, “Without faith it is impossible to please God:” but in this way you will please him, and content his heart; yea, you will give more satisfaction to his justice for all your sins, than your everlasting damnation would do; for, this is a covenant with him by his sacrifice; a sacrifice of a sweet‑smelling savor, giving infinite satisfaction: for he that is given for a covenant, is given for a sacrifice; by which God is pleased, and glorified to the highest.
8. To name no more, consider that this covenant can answer all objections; and the very proposals in the text is such as may obviate all, on whatever ground you state them, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, a light of the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, and to bring out prisoners out of their prison‑house.” There is no room, no place for any objection here; for the tenor of the covenant answers all difficulties. Whatever be the prison‑house you are in, this covenant not only knocks at the prison‑door, but breaks open the door, and comes in, saying, There is my hand of power to help you out; will you take my help? “O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself: but in me is thy help.” Will you have it? Let your heart say, Lord, it is welcome. Are you in the prison of the lowest hell that ever any was in upon earth? This covenant comes so low as to lift you up, if you do not reject the counsel of God against yourselves. Would you wish to be free of all that deadness, hardness, blindness, stupidity, and enmity, which you reckon make you unfit, and unprepared for coming to Christ, and taking this covenant? Why, this covenant is adapted for curing these plagues; and when you take this covenant, you take it as a cure for all the diseases, which never can be cured till you take this remedy: for to cure yourselves, and then come to this covenant, is impossible; but to come to this covenant, and get the cure of all maladies that affect you, is God’s instituted means of salvation. Would you wish to be free of that temptation, that you are no elect? Accept of this blessed bargain, and your election is sure. Who dare say that you are a reprobate? Poor worm of yesterday’s date, will you speak as if you had been upon the privy‑council of heaven from all eternity? Will you rather beguile the devil, by saying, Whatever I be, this covenant constitutes my duty, and therefore I will venture upon the covenant at the call of God? But, if I be not an elect, I will not get grace to venture, or grace to believe. What mean you, man, by grace to believe? Is not grace to believe conveyed by such a call as this? And therefore, if you slight this call, you slight the grace that would make you believe; and therefore, O let not the devil make a fool of you.—Would you wish to be free of that temptation, that you have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that there is no mercy for you? Why, if you embrace this offer this day, you may be sure you was never guilty, nor ever shall. Tell me the clause of the text that secludes you from meddling with this covenant, and why will ye debar yourselves? What is the case that this covenant cannot answer? Are there any here that hath false and inconsistent hearts, that break all bonds? O here is a suitable covenant for you. If you cannot keep the covenant, the covenant will keep you. The bastard-covenants of your own making will not keep you, but this covenant will, (Jer. 32:40). Are there any here that want through-bearing in the world, and are feared from the straits, and even temporal difficulties? Here is a covenant that says, “Bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure; yea verily thou shalt be fed; and in the day of famine shall be satisfied.” Are there any here that cannot get rest among all the creatures? Here is a covenant that says, “Come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Are there any here, that thinks themselves poor, abject creatures, saying, O I am but a burden to myself, and a burden to all that are about me; nobody cares for me, and, I fear God cares not for me either: I am cast out at all hands? O here is a covenant that says, “He will gather together the outcasts of Israel.” Is there any here afraid of death, and knows not how to get through the dark trance! O here is a covenant fit for you, that says, “O death I will be thy plague; and death shall be swallowed up in victory.” Are there any here laboring under desertion? Here is a covenant that says, “I will lead the blind in a way they know not. I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Are ye for this covenant? Is there any laboring under temptations? Here is a covenant that says, “The God of peace will bruise Satan under your feet shortly; and my grace shall be sufficient for thee.” Is there any here laboring under the power of sin and corruption? Here is a covenant that says, “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues; I will subdue your iniquity;” yea, he who is the covenant says, “For your sake I sanctify myself, that you also might be sanctified. And again, The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Is there any here saying, I am a lost creature? The covenant is saying, “I come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Is there any here saying, O I have sinned to the uttermost? This covenant says, “He is able to save to the uttermost.” If you say, you cannot believe; the covenant says, Christ, who is the all of the covenant, is the author of faith; and the Spirit of faith is given when the covenant is given; all grace is given when it is given. Are you content to take this covenant, and all the grace of it? If you say, you cannot repent, the covenant says, “Him hath God exalted with his right-hand, to give repentance.” What is the case that the covenant cannot answer? Why, say you, you are calling us all, both wicked and godly, to accept of this covenant: but does not God say to the wicked, “What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my law behind thy back?” Very true, he says so, (Ps. 1:16): Yea, the voice of God in the law, says, Vengeance upon you; and there is no escaping that vengeance, but by hearing and believing what the voice of God in the gospel-covenant says, and by taking it, not in your mouth to abuse it, but in your heart to love and improve it for your sanctification as well as for your justification, for making you holy as well as happy. God’s covenant is a holy covenant, and it works out sin, and advances holiness in all that are under it. What! Would you have me believe in Christ before my life be reformed? May some say. Yea, I would have you believe in Christ, in order to reformation; and taking him for a covenant, in order to our sanctification. Why then, say you, I will take Christ and my lusts both. I defy you, man: if you take him, and keep your lusts too; for, whenever the covenant of grace is embraced, the covenant with sin and hell is abandoned. And therefore, if any come to this covenant to seek shelter to any one lust under it, it is no coming at all; it is no faith, but fancy: yea, it a mocking of God, and his holy covenant, and will bring a curse upon you instead of a blessing. To come to this covenant is to come to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world; is coming to Jesus to be save from sin. But O, say you, I cannot think that the covenant of grace says a good word to me; I have been making God to serve with my sins, and have wearied him with mine iniquities. Indeed the law and the covenant of works says, You are a dead man; The soul that sinneth shall die: but see what the covenant of grace says, “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgression for my name’s sake,” (Isa. 43:24,25). Take this covenant to one who hath been neglecting prayer, and forgetting God all my days? Why, there is no word in the law for your fury; “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen and on the families that call not on thy name. The wicked shall be turned into help and all the nations that forget God.” But there is a word even for such in the new covenant; “I am found of them that sought me not.” O come and take the treasure you was never seeking after to this day, and it will sweetly determine you to seek his face all the days of your life. O! but what will the covenant say to such whose case you have not touched, and who think their case nameless, and that ministers cannot find out a name for them, because they are just hidden among the mist of the bottomless pit, among the smoke of hell, so as they cannot be found out? Why the covenant hath a word to you; “Thou shalt be called, Sought out, a city not forsaken,” (Isa. 62:12); there is a name for you, thou shalt be called, “Sought out.” This covenant is sent this day to seek you out from the bottom of the dark prison that you are in, whatever it be: will you take the benefit of this covenant? Are you for it, man, woman? Will you have a Christ to be a covenant to you? Young people, will you have him, that you may not live in the devil’s service? Old people will you have him, that you may not die with the devil in your arms? Drunkard, will you have him, that you may get a drink of the new wine of consolation? Unclean person will you have him, to wash you, that you may be fitted to walk with him in white? Swearer will you have him, that your tongue may be shaped for a hallelujah? Man, woman, who hast seven devils in you, will you have him, who hath the seven spirits that are before the throne (that is, the eternal spirit, with his various operations) that he put the devil out of you, and put his spirit within you? Whosoever will, may have a covenant this day, that will make you up forever.
Is there any here who despises all this love, saying, I will keep my lusts and sins say you what you will; it is but a new scheme, perhaps out of your own head; I have no fancy for that covenant? Say you so, man! then, as the Lord lives, you have spoken this against your own life. I protest against you, in the name of God, and shake the dust off my feet, in witness against you, That, on the nineteenth day of August 1722, at a communion at Dunfermline, Christ, and in him all the covenant of grace, was offered to you, and you refused him: and if you live and die in that mind, I summon you to answer for this refusal, before his awful tribunal at the great day.
But, because I am courting a bride for my glorious master, I would gladly speak her fair on her marriage‑day; therefore, O refuser and despiser of Christ, will you bethink yourself yet, and take your word again; many a slight have you put upon this glorious Christ, and yet he is content to take you for all that; he is loath to take a denial; and therefore I would ask, in his name, before you give him a total refusal, will you tell me, Where will you do better? Will a broken covenant of works be a better bargain for you? or will the black covenant with hell, and with your lusts and idols be a better bargain for you? or is the vain perishing world a better bargain? No, no; the devil himself does not think so, whatever he suggests to you.
But again, before you give him a total denial and absolute refusal, will you tell me, how you will do without him? Or, if you make a shift while you live, O how will you die without him? and how will you stand in judgment without him? and death and judgment maybe at hand. There are many dead, and away to eternity since the last communion here; and this may be the last communion invitation that ever you will get: if you refuse Christ now, it may be the last offer that ever you will get of him; he hath taken many refusals off your hand already.
And finally, my dear friends, before you refuse him wholly, think again what you are refusing: Is Christ a despicable person, of no more worth than to be slighted by you, and trampled under your feet? Is he a hateful object, whom yet the tongues of all the glorious seraphims are not worthy to adore? Is the everlasting covenant a matter of moonshine? Is the love of God, the blood of Christ, the eternal interests of your immortal souls, and the divine glory, all matters of indifference to you? Is the great Jehovah, his giving Christ to be a covenant of the people, a contemptible thing? and is this a gift not worth the taking? O no, no, say ye; surely it is a worthy offer. Why then, by the awful authority of the eternal Son, I abjure you to take him and his Father’s blessing; and all the blessings of the everlasting covenant with him. O say you, I think I am gained and overcome by this offer and proposal: but I know not if it be a passing thought that will vanish, or a real faith that will abide the trial; I fear it be but loose work and a temporary flash. Why, man, the covenant can resolve you in that difficulty: and it says, “Fear not for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; I am thy salvation. Are you content to take the covenant for this end, to discover the defects of your faith, and to work in you the faith of God’s elect? Can you say, that it is not in your faith, but in Christ himself, that you are seeking salvation: that you are not building your faith upon your faith, nor your hope upon your hope, but both your faith and hope upon the covenant? Can you say, that whatever be wrong about you and your faith, yet you see there is nothing wrong about Christ and the covenant, but that it is well‑ordered in all things and sure, and such as can right all that is wrong about you? Can you say, however I am in the dark about my faith, yet I have sometimes found out my unbelief; and, that I could no more believe than I could move the earth from its centre; but yet the joyful sound of gospel‑grace hath touched my heart, and made me take up so much glory and excellency in Christ, that I think all the world nothing in comparison of him; and I think my heart’s desire is, O to have him for my Prophet to take away the darkness of my mind; as a Priest to take away the guilt of my sins; and as a King, to take away the power of my lusts! Gladly would I have him, and thus my soul may be blest in him, and his name may be glorified in me. Why then, whatever you think of your faith, and of yourself, as the blackest monster of guilt that ever was out of hell, yet it seems you have the faith of God’s elect.
I would very gladly hope, that some souls in this assembly are taken hold of by the hand of grace, and content to sign this covenant with their heart: and woe’s me that there should be any here that would let all this love and grace, and this good prize go by them, and they never have a heart to it. But yet some that have a heart to sign, may be saying, O I cannot write, I cannot believe, I cannot subscribe, though I think I could do it with a thousand good‑wills. Say you so, man? I will tell you good news, Christ hath the book of the covenant, in the one hand, and the pen in his other hand, ready to set down your name, and to subscribe for you; only declare before witnesses that you cannot write, and do you touch the pen, saying, Lord, set down my name, consenting to every article of the covenant, and pleased with the whole frame of it. Say you so? Well, it is done, for he hath the pen of a ready writer; your name is within the bond already. But if grace will help you to a new act of faith, a stronger act, read over the covenant again, and hear how the great Jehovah is speaking, and not I; and speaking to his only begotten Son that lies in his bosom, saying, “I give thee for a covenant of the people.” Now, let faith say, Lord, I take thee at thy word; I hear thee speaking to thy beloved Son concerning me a poor, dark, blind, and bound Gentile; wilt thou ever go back of thy word to thy Son? No, in despite of the devil, I think that is the surest word that ever was spoken; it is to him then speakest, and to me in him; and therefore, behold, I take thee at thy word; black and ugly as I am, the covenant can make me fair and clean: thy grace hath conquered me, thy love hath drawn me, and I am pleased with the bargain; and I see it is the best bargain that ever was made, for advancing thy eternal glory, and my eternal good; I see it is all my salvation, and all my desire; I see it is well‑ordered in all things, and sure. Why then, the Lord be thanked that it is a done bargain, and that God’s gift is taken off his hand. And therefore, having taken the covenant, never stand to take the seal in the sacrament of his supper.
THE SUBSTANCE OF SOME
THE SACRAMENT, ON THE SAME SUBJECT.
Now, my friends, it were not fit I should detain you, by speaking to the several sorts of people here; I shall only drop a few words in the general. I think, if my heart deceive me not, the great thing I was helped to seek, sometime before this solemnity, was not only assistance to ministers, and to myself, so as to be carried through the work, for I thought that would soon come to little account: but I would have had a day of power among you that are the people, that the glory of the Lord might shine among you. And now, what shall I say? O! “To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Hath the right hand of the Lord done valiantly, even the man of his right hand, whom he hath made strong for himself? Hath the Lord appeared, as yet, for as much of the work as is over? Or, shall we expect that he will appear in the work that is yet to follow? Or, shall our prayer just only turn to our bosom again? I would ask you, What welcome entertainment hath Christ, the Father’s gifted covenant, got among you this day? He hath given him for a covenant of the people: and who of all the people have welcomed the Father’s gift? I fear there are many fools here, that have a price in their hand but no heart to the bargain. But to all the despisers of Christ, and all the refusers of Christ, in Dunfermline this day, in case the Lord may seize you with a word yet before you go, I have a word to say to you, whether you have been at the Lord’s table or not, although the sacrament‑table be drawn, yet the covenant‑table is not drawn, it is covered yet, and Christ is set upon it, and you are all welcome; for all that have eaten there is bread enough and to spare, in his Father’s house: Christ, as the covenant is offered to you, man; to you, woman; to you that are before me, and behind me, and round about me, in every corner of this place, though I do not see you, yet God’s eye is upon you, and his word is directed to you: yea, this covenant is directed and offered to you, he is the people’s covenant, let the people come, be who they will, even the vilest monster of sin out of hell; God’s giving him in this gospel, is your warrant for taking him: and if you will not hearken to this gospel‑offer of Christ for a covenant to you, I charge you, in God’s name, and as you will answer at his tribunal, to declare before him and your own consciences, what ye have to say against him; is it that you are not holy? Nay, you shall not have that to say, for to the unholiest soul here, this covenant is offered, for this end, to make you holy; and never shall you be holy, till you come and accept of it. Is it that you have not grace to come? Why, man, when this covenant is offered, Christ and all the graces in him is offered, and among the rest, grace to draw you: and if you will not put away this grace from you, it will take hold of you.—Is your objection this, I fear my unbelief, enmity, and ill‑will, put away all that grace? Why, that is the thing most to be feared; and yet, if that be indeed your fear, there is the less ground of fear; for this covenant is offered to you, to take away your ill‑will and enmity. Are you contented to have God’s gifted covenant for that end? Really I know not what good thing it is in all the world that you want or need, but what is offered to you in this covenant: for Christ is the all of the covenant; and he who is the all of it, is all in all: and therefore, I charge you again, before you bid him farewell, to declare what you have to say against him, whom God is giving for a covenant: Shall I take your silence for a confession, that you have nothing to say against him? Then, by the glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by the eternal salvation of your immortal souls, by all the joys of the redeemed, and torments of the damned, I charge you all, and every one of you, to welcome the covenant of the people that God is giving, and that by your hearty saying, Even so, I take him, as the Father offers him in the gospel, to be a whole covenant to me, to do all my work in me, and for me. What say you, drunkard, swearer, whoremonger, scarlet‑colored sinner in Dunfermline? What say you, communicant and spectator? It may be, the thing that keeps you back is, O I am unworthy to have him; true but unworthy monster of hell as you are, if you think him worthy to be received, I charge you again, by all the blood that he shed at Jerusalem, and by all the bowels of compassion that move within him, that you do not refuse him, but welcome God’s gift, welcome God’s send, saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If, after all, you are staying, stay a little, Sir, let me take it to advisement for some days: No, no, man, woman; I have no commission, to allow you a day, or an hour’s delay, “Today, if ye will hear his voice harden not your heart:” If you refuse today, I know not but you may be in hell tomorrow. What if the next hour the breath should go out of your body? and if your soul should flit out of your body before it flee into Christ, you are gone, you are undone forever: if God’s omnipotent grace and almighty power, which only can make you willing to accept his offer, be not accompanying this call, he needs not our apology; he is the Sovereign, that is obliged as a debtor to none but himself and his own pleasure, and his Son’s righteousness: yet still you are obliged to obey his call, and your willful rejecting, is inexcusable. And therefore, if, after all, this gift of God for a covenant of the people, be slighted by you, you not being content that God should rent and tear the old contract that was betwixt you and your lusts, but esteeming it above this covenant, betwixt God the giver, and you the refuser, be it; let him and you reckon together, I hope I am free of your blood this day, for there will be blood in the case: if you will not have the blood of the everlasting covenant to wash you, to justify you, to sanctify and save you, nor believe that God gives it to you to be received for that end, then there will be blood for blood; “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Remember what a free offer of Christ you have got this day; you have nothing to pay for this covenant; “I will give thee for a covenant:” you have nothing to pay for a pardon; the condition of the covenant is fulfilled by Christ, and in it is a full payment of all debt; and therefore, so freely is the pardon, and life offered to you, that you cannot have it till you have nothing to pay for it. See how the creditor deals with the debtor in the parable, “When they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both,” (Luke 7:42). Now, the legal old‑covenant heart of many says, with the wicked servant, “Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all;” I will grow a better man, I will fall a repenting and reforming, and then I hope God will pardon me: that man hath something to pay, at least he fancies so, and therefore he hath no forgiveness. But when a poor soul is brought to this, Oh! I have nothing to pay; if I be the payer of my own debt, it will never be paid for me; the debt of satisfaction will never be paid for me; the debt of obedience, the debt of duty; I have nothing to pay my debt, nay, not the least farthing of the debt, were it but a good thought it can never be paid by me: Why then, that man stands fair for a full remission, according to this free covenant; “When they had nothing to pay he frankly forgave them both.” Are you for this new covenant way of it, to come and bring nothing, and get all freely out of the covenant that belongs to grace and glory, debt and duty, happiness and holiness? Now, what shall I say to God, when I go back to my closet, where I was pleading the last week, that he would shew his glory, and draw some of you to himself; shall I go with a complaint upon you, and say, Lord, they will not come; they prefer their base lusts to the glorious Lord Jesus; the drunkard prefers his cups to thee; the whoremonger prefers his whoredom to thee; the covetous man prefers the world to thee; the legalist prefers his own righteousness to thee. Shall we complain to this purpose? Or, will you give occasion to Christ to complain upon you to his Father, saying, Father, thou didst give me to be a covenant of the people, but there is a people in Dunfermline, that care not for me, and despise thy gift: “They will not come to me that they might have life.” O! will not the Father frown upon you, when the Son complains upon you? And, O! if you continue of that mind, he will frown you to hell. But, O may we hope that some at least have subscribed their names to the covenant this day! We would go back to God with a song of praise in our mouths, and glorify his name for the wonders of his grace; yea, if I may so express it, Christ would with a glad heart show his Father the copy of the covenant that you have signed, and that was offered and directed to you, as to the Gentiles; to these that are under darkness, blindness, and bondage, and in the prison of sin, death, and wrath. Will not the Father be pleased when the covenant‑roll is read over, with the names of all the subscribers and assenters to the covenant, and your name among the rest? There is one that subscribed his name thus, I, one of the people, one of the Gentiles: I, one of the blind and bound prisoners, assenting and consenting. Well may God say, was not the covenant directed and offered to the people of that name? Yes, Father, it was. Why then, let the name stand there registered to eternity, it shall never be blotted out for me; “Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out.” Since they had no better name to sign withal, than the name of sinner, apostate, backslider, criminal, leper, blackamoor, slave, and hell’s drudges; yet assenting and consenting to this covenant; this covenant that they have subscribed shall make their names better than that of sons and daughters. They shall have a name among the living in Jerusalem; even a new name, and the white stone, that no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.
Now, as we have a commission from the Lord. to tell you, that you are welcome to him; so, O! shall we have a commission from you, to tell him that he is welcome to you? Since God the Father declares that you are welcome to his Son, saying, “I will give him for a covenant of the people:” shall we go and tell him, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the people at the sacrament at Dunfermline have taken thee at thy word, and are saying in their hearts, thy Son is welcome to them? O if Christ and you welcome one another this day, whether it be the first welcoming to some of you, or a confirming welcome to others; if he and you, I say, be welcoming one another this day, glory, glory to God that ever this day dawned. Eternity will be duration little enough to praise him for this day. Glory, glory to God for the three happy meetings; glory to him for the happy meeting betwixt the divine and human nature in one person, and that is the glorious person given to be a covenant to you; glory to him for the happy meeting betwixt justice and mercy, who have kissed one another, and said, We are both pleased and are honored by him, who is given for a covenant of the people; and glory to him for the happy meeting betwixt the Saviour and the sinner, betwixt the covenant and the people: Is it a meeting indeed! Hath the Lord God of the Hebrews met with you in Dunfermline? hath the covenant taken hold of your hearts? O, glory to him, for it is a meeting never to part; the covenant will never quit its holding again: and, therefore, “As you have received Christ, so walk you in him;” as you have received God’s gifted covenant, so make use of it, and improve it.
When you find you have no righteousness, look to the covenant to furnish you; “For his name shall be called, the Lord our righteousness.” When you find you have no strength, look to the covenant to furnish you; for it says, “My strength shall be perfect in thy weakness.” When you find you have no life nor liveliness, look to the covenant to furnish you; for it says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” When you feel little of the spirit’s influences, look to the covenant to furnish you; for it says, “I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground.” When you find you have much sin and guilt in and about you, look to the covenant for pardon; for it says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my name’s sake.” When you find your lusts and corruptions to be powerful and prevalent, look to the covenant for mortification; for it says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” When you find little or no holiness taking place in your hearts and ways, look to this holy covenant, and it will make you more holy than ever the covenant of works could do; for this covenant of grace does present the law with a perfect holiness, whether you take it as the law of works, or a rule of life in the hand of a Mediator. As the law is a covenant of works, the believer hath, by this covenant, a perfect holiness in his hand, a divine righteousness answering to that: and as the law is a rule of life, in the hand of Christ, the believer hath, by this new covenant, a perfect holiness also, not only by virtue of his union to Christ the fountain of holiness, but in his own person; he hath a perfection of parts here, and a perfection of degrees hereafter. But, as to this perfection of parts in time, it is, indeed, many times so low, that the believer can hardly discern it.
Why, may one say, The thing that frightens me is, lest I be a practical Antinomian, and a gospel hypocrite; because, though I think my heart goes in to the offer of Christ as a covenant, yet I can never find the powerful and sanctifying virtue of this covenant, to destroy my lusts and corruptions, but still iniquity prevails against me; and can I take comfort in the covenant in that case, without abusing free grace to licentiousness? For clearing this, I shall only say to you, that if you can nourish and cherish sin, and yet take comfort in the covenant, that comfort is auspicious like, and flows from a fancy, and not from the faith of God’s operation; for, “He that hath this hope, purifieth himself, even as God is pure.” Faith purifies the heart, wherever it is in exercise; and to take comfort in or from the covenant, and yet take pleasure in sin, at the same time, is a dream, and a delusion that the believer cannot be under, unless he be in a fit of temptation. But as to sin prevailing; sin may prevail against a believer, and yet he may have comfort in the covenant; as David had, when he says, “Iniquities prevail against me;” they are against my will, against my heart, against my prayers, against my inclinations; and he immediately adds, “As for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away,” (Ps. 65:3). But thou, poor soul, that says you never found the sanctifying virtue of the covenant? Why, did you never get grace to wrestle against sin? that is some virtue. Doth prevalence of sin never humble you to the dust? that is some virtue. Do you see and lament your own unholiness? that is some virtue. Doth the sense and feeling of the power of sin never make you long for complete victory and freedom from sin? that is some virtue. Did the power of a body of death never make you look upon yourselves as wretched, saying, O wretched person that I am! who shall deliver me from it? that is some virtue. Did the prevalence of sin never force you to the blood of Christ, the fountain open for sin and for uncleanness? that is some virtue. Are you glad of any victory you got over your corruption? yea, that is some virtue. How do you find it with you, when the light of the covenant is shining on your soul? Do you not find your heart rising against sin? Then that is some virtue. How do you find it with you between hands, when iniquity is prevailing? Do you not find yourself uneasy, and out of your element, aye till the Lord return? That is some virtue, Do not deny the sanctifying virtue of the covenant: and what can be the reason of it, that though you sign the covenant, and go in to it, yet you find so little of its powerful sanctifying virtue? I will tell you one reason of your instability and inconstancy this way: It may be, when you signed the covenant, you put not your name at the foot of the bond, but set your name too far up, as if you were a party covenanting; you are to sign as a party consenting, but not as a party contracting: The covenant was drawn up, and signed by two unchangeable parties from eternity, the Father and the Son; and you, forsooth, would have your name in the midst of the contract, as if you were promising and contracting something for your part conjunctly with him, who is the first and the last, and the all of the covenant. Remember you are but a poor assenter at best; and therefore put your name lower down; for your work is just to do nothing, but to consent to take him, to do all your work in you, and for you: for, says the Lord, in my context here, “My glory will I not give to another.” He accounts it the standing of his glory, to perform all that is within the covenant; and he will not let any black scullion of hell, like you or me, count our doits1 among his gold. The higher place that you take for your name in the covenant, the more inconstant are you; but the lower place, the more stable: Therefore, when you sign the covenant anew, put your name farther down, below his who is the covenant of the people: let him be the all of the covenant to you; the worker of all your work, and you but an on‑waiter; for his glory he will not give to another.
Perhaps some may be saying, O Sir, the thing that fears me at this occasion, is this, I am put all in confusion with the differences that are among you that are ministers.2 What do I know, but the reproach of a new scheme does justly belong to some of you, and that I may be in a delusion? What do I know, but your way of opening the covenant of grace may be such as others may call an enemy to the law, and to holiness? Why, what shall I say to you, poor creature? Let God be true, and every man a liar. The Lord forbid that we should speak wickedly of God, and talk deceitfully for him. If there be any person here, that never found this doctrine of grace have any other tendency than to lead them to licentiousness, I will pledge my life, that he is not a believer, but a person ignorant of the mystery of the gospel. But what say you, believer? cannot your experience bear witness of God, and his gracious covenant, that however vile and unholy you find yourself to be, yet when the new covenant cord of free grace is wrapt about your heart, does it draw you to the love of sin, or to the love of holiness? The more lively faith you have of Christ’s being your treasure, your righteousness, your covenant, your all for debt and duty both, do you not find holiness the more lovely to you, and his love constraining you the more to delight in his service? Let the Word of God and the experience of all the saints, in an agreeableness thereto, decide matters of this sort. But, O poor believer, do not fall out with Christ though even many of his friends should differ with another; be not stumbled in a day of reproaches and offences: “Blessed are they that shall not be offended at Christ.” Let your hearts go in to the offer of Christ as a covenant, to make you both holy and happy.
Now, if you have got little this day, leave the complaint upon yourselves, for God and his ordinances are not to blame; your iniquities do separate betwixt you and your God: and yet, say not you have got nothing, if you have got but a crumb; for a crumb is something that indicates that there is yet more coming in the Lord’s time and way, Why, what is a crumb? If you are made more humble than you was, that is a crumb. Have you got more insight into the covenant? that is a crumb. Have you got more desire after Christ? that is a crumb. Are you longing more to be free of sin, and like unto Christ? that is a crumb. Have you so much as gives you a stomach for another marriage‑supper? that is a crumb. If you have not got so much as a crumb, believer, it may be waiting for you in a closet, or a secret corner; and in the mean time, the Lord may be calling you to reflect upon some old by‑past experience, when you got a more sensible hold of the covenant than now; and to live by faith, and wait at wisdom’s door. And you that have been fed, and feasted this day, O resolve, through grace, henceforth, a stated war against all Christ’s enemies within you and without you: and do all you can, to keep the ground you have gained upon enemies; and sit not down secure, otherwise Satan will soon trip up your heels: lie not down to sleep after meat; for God hath fed you, to run the race that was set before you, and to strive who shall run fastest in the way to heaven, following Christ the forerunner. You are to follow none, but as they follow Christ: the most godly ministers are but limited examples; you are to follow them so far as they follow Christ, but no further; “Be ye followers of me, said Paul, as I am of Christ.” Take the word of God for your rule, and gospel‑truth for your standard, and the rather that there are many in this generation, who would be content that some gospel truths were scratched out of the Bible; but let your prayer be, “Lord, Send forth thy light and thy truth, that they may guide me.”
In a word, your life must be a living by faith upon the covenant, the unchangeable parties, the Father and the Son. Here is a sure ground of faith; whereas the reason of your staggering is, because you put in yourself as the one party, who are but a changeable creature, that alters every moment: but it is concluded betwixt two unchangeable parties, whereof none of them ever repents the bargain. O, says the poor soul, though I have been helped to consent to this covenant, and subscribe it with all my heart, yet I fear I play the devil, and my heart break loose again. Yea, it may be so, but this covenant says, I will draw you to heaven, if you were a devil: I will draw you back again though you were even in the very mouth of hell. And I think, you will find he hath done so heretofore, believer, when you thought you was so far clown in the pit, that the Lord would never return again, to lift you up; he hath returned, and surprised you; and, it may be, hath done so, at this occasion. O bless him, and serve him, and improve his covenant; yea, let me tell you, believer, you having embraced the covenant, it lies upon God’s honour to keep you, because he stands engaged to his Son; his word of honour is past.
Some, it may be, are still questioning their right to believe, their right to take Christ, their right to subscribe to this covenant; they stand, as it were, at the back of the door, saying, What right have I? Indeed, if you were a party and actor in this covenant, you might speak at that rate; but that you are not: you are only to be assenter and consenter. Your legal heart dreams always, that God will not accept of you, unless you do so and so; but know that God and Christ do all here; and they have bound themselves by this covenant to do all: and if you do anything, stay till you be able to do more than God hath done, than Christ hath done: and that will never be. God engaged, in this covenant, to hold Christ’s hand, and to uphold him in the work of redemption: the Father bears equal burden in the work; and all the three persons of the glorious Trinity had an equal will to it; and therefore, seeing a Trinity hath done it, the work is completely done. O what fools are they then, that refuse to join in with this covenant, because of their own short‑coming, and because they cannot do so and so? Why, you can do all that you are bound to do in this covenant, and that is just nothing at all; for Christ is the covenant, and the all in all of it. If ever you do anything in God’s sight acceptable, it is the covenant of grace that does it in you. But now, as to your right to come to this covenant; what right would you have, but mischief and misery to be a right on your part; and the offer, call, and command of heaven to be a right on God’s part? There is all the right to believe that I know. You would have a right founded upon some righteousness of your own: you would have in your clouted cloak with his fair robe; but God will have none of your blackened righteousness. The right is now, welcome a hard heart, to get softening grace out of this covenant: welcome a guilty soul, to get pardoning grace out of this covenant: welcome, filthy sinner, to get sanctifying grace out of this covenant: welcome, chief of sinners, sinner above all sinners, welcome to come and get salvation out of this covenant. Will you then object, and say, O I cannot turn from sin, and I must do that before I come? Why man, will you tell me, who, but the devil taught you to take Christ’s room, and to take his work and employment out of his hand? “His name is Jesus, because he saves from sin.” O let him in, and he will speak for himself; he will speak to the devil, Stand by, for I have broken your head; he will say to sin, Stand by, for I have condemned you by the sacrifice of myself; “He condemned sin in the flesh:” yea, he will say to justice, Let me through to heaven, with all my ransomed at my back; for I have given you full satisfaction. O let him speak for himself. Christ hath got the guiding of all about the covenant; and when we take him, we take holiness with him; we take perfect holiness in him for justification, and we get an imparted holiness from him for sanctification. What is the reason of your want of holiness? Because you do not take Christ; what is the reason that some who take Christ, have little holiness about them? Even because they take him very awkwardly, if I may so call it: they take him backwardly. If we were better at taking what God gives, we would find more holiness springing up; whole taking of him would make whole holiness to you; but your broken taking of him makes broken holiness. O! he is the performer of the covenant, and the performance itself; the doer of all our work in us and for us. And, if our taking him, and believing on him were more perfect, our holiness would be more too; for faith purifies the heart; a poor lean faith makes poor lean obedience and sanctification. O if you could get Christ once in your arms, you get all that the Father hath promised: but poor soul, the best way for you, when you find your own weakness and wickedness, and fear the Father’s wrath, is to take Christ, as it were, and shut him into the Father’s arms, and that will please him: when you get Christ in your arms, you want no more, you have all you need: and when God the Father gets Christ in his arms, he wants no more, he hath all that he seeks: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Know this covenant, as it is enlarged upon, in the text and context.
1. It is a covenant for light; a light to the Gentiles, Christ is the wisdom and light of poor souls, and teaches them all the good lessons that they learn; what lessons does he instruct them in? Why, he tells them what is the way to heaven, saying, “I am the way:” he preaches himself, and it well becomes him to do so. —He shows them how a man is made full by emptying himself; “When I am weak, then am I strong.” If any say, I will do my part of the covenant, he his part: why, that is all wrong, if you make him not the all of the covenant, you make him nothing. —He teaches a man how to discern his voice, “My sheep hear my voice.” He causes them to discern a spiritual preaching, a gospel preaching; a spiritual prayer, a spiritual exercise. Some will tell us, it is the great and learned men of the world that know preaching best: true, some learning may make them know how words are ranged together; but he who is the light of the Gentiles, makes all, whom he savingly enlightens, to know his voice in a preaching; “The spiritual man judgeth all things.” —He teaches them to read God’s will out of a providence; and to see more of God in some providences, than others see in all his ordinances: he teaches them to make use of the enemies weapons against themselves. Why, says Satan, will such a vile thing as thou art, come to Christ? Yea, says the soul, because I am vile, I am the more fit. —He teaches them how to dwell beside the fountain, and how to live near God; and the man that doth this, cannot always live upon two prayers in the day. You that never knew any more about prayer than your morning and evening set‑times of prayer, it seems you was never taught by him that is the light of the Gentiles. O take him, and he will teach you how to cry, abba, Father; and to rejoice and work righteousness. O when Christ comes, and discovers himself to the soul, with his robes royal on him, that soul is filled with joy and peace in believing.
2. It is a covenant for sight; “To open blind eyes: A man that is called Jesus, opened mine eyes,” says the blind man. O there are many sorts of blind people, that need to go to Christ for opening their eyes: some are blind Atheists, who say in their hearts, “There is no God;” they see not the majesty of God, they see not the justice of God, they see not the grace of God, &c. O that they were flocking to him who is the opener of blind eyes. —Some are blind Civilians; they are very civil in their walk, but as far from grace as the former; they do not discern the things of God; know nothing about cases of conscience; there are some men’s prayers and preaching they understand not, if they be spiritual and evangelical: the man knows not himself, but is pure in his own eyes: his neighbors, it may be, will call him a good man, an honest man, and he judges himself to be what people call him: and yet he is a rebel and traitor to God: he hath not much ill that men can challenge; but, O there are many things that God can challenge him for. God can see his vice in the thing that he thinks to be virtue and innocence; he may pray, and is content and conceited to hear himself pray, and he sees no fault in his prayers. O have not such need of Christ to open their eyes? —Some are blind in the matters of religion; they think all their sins are sins of infirmity: no doubt we are sinners, say they, and great sinners; who wants their faults more than we? O blind souls! know that Christ is the opener of blind eyes. There are blind persons that know their bodily case, but not that of their souls; they observe bodily providences, but not soul providences: they know not down‑castings nor uprisings of soul. O! go to Christ, and he will let you see. —Some are blind with respect to any distinct knowledge of the gospel: they see not the ground of faith; they would build their faith on their little piece of holiness, rather than on God’s holy covenant, that only can make them holy; and hence their holiness is always to seek: they see not how a man is justified in a moment, by an inward righteousness complete and full; they see not how justification can be complete, without somewhat of their own, to make it look fair in God’s sight. O seek into Christ, that he may open your eyes: —Again, many are blind with respect to true faith; they cannot give a reason of their faith; they have lost their text, and cannot give a ground upon which they believe: it may be, they will say, they have believed all their days. O stranger to faith! The Son of God is given to be the opener of blind eyes, he is a covenanted eye‑salve for all blind people. But then,
3. It is a covenant for liberty; to bring the prisoners out of the prison‑house. The Son of God is the looser of prisoners, by his covenanted indenture with the Father; “The spirit of the Lord God is upon him: for he hath anointed him:” Why, Christ knows all the prison‑houses, and all the bands; he was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted; “Such an High‑priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” Yea, Christ carries all the keys of the prison‑house: “The keys of hell and death are in his hand; he opens, and none shuts; and shuts, and none opens.” The devil, it may be, hath the poor soul bound hand and foot in the prison; but in comes the king of nations, the gingle of whose keys makes all the devils tremble, and he orders the jailor to remove his chains; then, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee to come out of him,” said Christ to the possessed man in the gospel; so says he, when he comes to loose a prisoner, Thou wicked, unclean spirit, I charge thee to come out; thou covetous and worldly spirit, I charge thee to come out; thou atheistical, unbelieving spirit: thou lying and swearing, thou drunken and debauched spirit, &c. I charge thee to come out, let that soul go free: and, “If the Son make you free, then are you free indeed.” It may be the law hath the man in chains: for by the law is the knowledge and conviction of sin. The law comes and seeks his master’s rent, saying, Pay what thou owest: and the spirit of God comes along with the law, and convicts the man, and he every day hears himself proclaimed over the cross, as it were, and put to the king’s horn, there being many bonds registrate upon him: he is carried to prison, and there he lies, fearing the wrath of God, and the execution of the curse and threatening of the holy law. But, behold, the Son of God comes, saying, “Open to me the gates of righteousness:” his name is, the Lord our righteousness. The law is exceeding broad, but there is a righteousness as broad as it can be. Many are long in this prison, because they take a threatening, and dwell upon that; but believe the gospel‑promise, and take hold of the gospel righteousness, and you shall be loosed. Others dwell long in this prison, because, if they take a promise, they take a conditional promise, and make no right use of it; such as that, “To you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise.” There is a sweet promise, the Sun of righteousness his arising: but then the condition of fearing his name, that cuts off their fingers, and hinders them from applying it, because they think they want the condition: therefore, man, either take an absolute promise, that hath no condition in it at all, promising the condition too; or else, if you apply the conditional promise, take Christ for the condition to make up all to you, and then you will find a loosing of prison‑bands. If you will not be content everyday and every hour of the day, to be in God’s common, in free grace’s common, you will lie and rot in your prison. Many abide long in this prison, because they would willingly live to two husbands, both Christ and the law. We cannot live to Christ, unless we be dead to the law, (Gal. 2:19): but the man would embrace Christ for a husband, and yet stand seeking to answer the demands of the law: but whenever the law demands anything of you, you must send the law to Christ, that he may answer it; and then you will be loosed. Some abide long in prison, because they build the faith of God’s love on the work of God, and not on the truth of God: and hence it is, that when God’s work within them languishes, their faith languishes also; but faith will never be firm and stable, till it build more upon the truth of the covenant. The stable Christian lives by bills of exchange; but the weak, unstable soul counts all by what he hath in his pocket; by what he hath in hand, and not what he hath upon bond. But how does Christ, the covenant of the people, open the prison doors? Why, he even teaches the soul to say, Let Satan, sin, justice, and the law come along with me to Christ; and what I cannot answer, he can; what I want he hath enough to supply. Come, and lay all my sins on my back, that I may away to Christ with them, and get more mercy and grace; for Christ is the all in all of this new covenant: and in this way the prisoner is loosed, to the devil’s shame, and to Christ’s honour. Stand to your liberty, poor soul, and let your sins and wants hasten, and bring you forward to venture upon Christ, that he may loose you. O that the day of the Son of Man were come, when Zion will get a thousand Atheists at a draught, when Christ will get a multitude of prisoners liberate!
4. It is a glorious covenant, contrived wholly for glorifying God, and debasing self; therefore it follows, “I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory will I not give to another, nor my praise to graven images.” God accounts it the standing of his glory, to perform all that is in this covenant, and not to give any creature a share of it; he will not break his credit, having once engaged himself in covenant; and he will not suffer any to gather up the rent and revenue of it but himself: “My glory will I not give to another.” It stands on his glory, his word of honour, his word royal; he himself will do all, and no instrument shall have the glory of it. If you give instruments any of the glory, it is the way to blast the instruments; and blasted may they be, rather than that Christ should want any of the glory due unto his name. Therefore, for the Lord’s sake, if ye get anything this day, do not give the glory to any instrument; for, says God, “I am the Lord, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another.” And, for his glory’s sake, do not think of doing any part of the work yourselves; there shall none get any of his glory but himself. Means belong to you; and, in God’s name, I charge you to make use of them; and the obligation to duties lies upon you; but, if you have any regard for the glory of God, let God have the glory of the whole performance: not I, but grace; either the Lord will bring you to this, or he will bring you to nothing. Let it be your maxim in religion, to make always much room for the free grace of God in Christ.
What shall I make of this you have been telling me! Why, have your hearts gone into the covenant of free grace? Then I call you to a duty, such as you have, “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praises from the ends of the earth,” (v. 19). Whence you may notice, that when God is giving a full and free covenant; and he is the covenant, and the whole of the covenant: why? because Christ walks in the midst of the covenant: and when the covenant comes, he comes; and his very presence warms the heart, and that warmness enlarges it, and then the man is at that with it, “I will run the way of thy commandments, because thou enlargest my heart.” Yea, when the free covenant comes to a man, and gets the throne, then holiness will run of course. The narrowness of your thoughts on free grace hinders all your holiness; for Christ will not sit down where the covenant gets not the throne. When the free covenant comes, it makes self go to the door, and bids pride be gone; for holiness hath a charge never to lodge in the same room with pride. When the covenant comes in, pride goes out; and when pride goes out, holiness comes in; for, He gives grace to the humble; and the most sweetly humbling thing in all the world, is a view of the free covenant, where God gets all the glory, and self nothing of it: nay, when the covenant comes, it makes self think shame of itself, and hide its face with blushes. In a word, when the covenant comes, it contains in its bosom all the furniture that is necessary for making a man holy; and also this covenant shows to a man that much is forgiven him; and when much is forgiven him, he loves much. And where there is much love, there is true holiness, for the love of Christ constrains him; therefore, where this covenant never comes, holiness never grows; but when the covenant of grace in its freedom and fullness takes place with a soul, there holiness flourishes. Would you know wherefore there is so much wickedness, and so little holiness in Scotland, for all the talking of holiness, as if the free dispensation of gospel‑grace would mar it? The very reason is, little of this covenant is known; men keep fast hold of their sins, because they will not take hold of this covenant. Where there is nothing of this covenant, there is no holiness; where little of this covenant, there is little holiness; and where much of this covenant takes place, there is much holiness.
The new covenant brings in the new song, —“Sing unto the Lord a new song,” (v. 10); and the new song is the new obedience; and the new obedience is the obedience of faith and love: and that obedience of faith and love is gospel‑holiness. O, then, let the gospel‑covenant have room, or holiness will never thrive and increase: take in the covenant, and it will make you sing; “Sing to the Lord a new song, and his praises to the ends of the earth; for he that offereth praise glorifieth God:” and the more you glorify God, the more will your holiness be like that of the redeemed above who are singing the new song in the new Jerusalem.
1An ancient piece of small Scots copper‑coin, in value the twelfth part of a penny sterling; at that time current, but not so now.
2 At the time when this Sermon was preached (viz. August 19, 1722,) the contest about the Marrow Doctrine was upon the field: First occasioned by a new impression of a book, entitled the Marrow of Modern Divinity, with a recommendatory preface, by the Reverend Mr. James Hog, minister of Carnock, as a book designed to vindicate the doctrine of Free‑Grace; which book the General Assembly 1720, by their fifth Act, severely animadverted upon, and condemned several precious important truths, through the sides thereof: And though a representation was given in by some ministers (among whom our author was one) to the Assembly 1721, laying open the dangerous consequence of the said Act, yet the Assembly 1722, by their seventh Act, further explained, corroborated, and confirmed the said fifth Act.—As this affair occasioned a very considerable difference, both among ministers and people; so this much may serve as a key to this passage.