(Part 2: See Sermon 11a. for Part 1)
THE STABILITY OF
THE COVENANT OF GRACE,
THE SUPPORT OF A BELIEVER
OUTWARD AND INWARD TROUBLES.
2 SAMUEL 23:5.
Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation and all my desire, although he maketh it not to grow.
In our last discourse of this text, Three things were proposed for consideration.
I. David's concession, that things were not so with him, as he desired and wished.
II. The strong expression of his faith in God notwithstanding; as having made a covenant with him.
III. The nature of this covenant described as everlasting; ordered in alt things, and sure.
The two former have been enlarged upon: what remains to be considered, is,
III. The nature of this covenant. It is said to be an everlasting one. That is, from everlasting to everlasting. It bears date from all eternity, and will continue so for evermore. It springs from the everlasting love of God to his people: that is the source of it. God hath loved his people with an everlasting love; not only with a love, which shall abide for ever; but with a love which was from all eternity; for, our Lord says to his Divine Father, Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me; and thou lovest me before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24). Now this covenant of grace, springs from this love of God; and is as early as that. Jehovah said, in his eternal mind, mercy, love and grace shall be built up for ever; and in order to it, makes this covenant (Ps. 89:2, 3). The basis and foundation of this covenant are, the purposes, decrees, and counsels of the most High; for he does all things after the counsel of his own will; and it may be depended upon, as a most sure and certain thing, that an affair, of so much importance as the covenant of grace is, could not be made any otherwise than after the counsel of his will, and depends upon that counsel; and his counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
Jesus Christ is the Mediator of this covenant; so he is more than once called, in the epistle to the Hebrews. As such, he was set up from everlasting; from the beginning, or ever the earth was: and therefore the covenant of grace, of which he is Mediator, must be as early. He could not be the Mediator of a covenant, without the covenant itself. Add to this, that the sum and substance of this covenant was from everlasting. David considers the promises of it, and especially that grand promise in it, everlasting life by Christ, that was made before the world was; as it is expressly said, Titus 1:2, In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. Now, there could be no such a promise as this, unless there was a covenant so early. All the blessings of this covenant are of as ancient date. They are styled the grace (or blessings of grace) given us in Christ before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9).
And as this covenant is from everlasting, so it is to everlasting, for God hath commanded his covenant for ever; Holy and Reverend is his name (Ps. 111:9): that is, he hath ordained and established this covenant of grace, so as to continue for ever; nothing shall ever be able to subvert it, or make it null and void. Notwithstanding all that is done by, or done unto, these covenant ones, God will not break his covenant, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips. Though they sin, and he chastises them for their sins; yet his loving-kindness he will not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness, in keeping the covenant, to fail. Though they may so provoke him, by their carriage and behavior, as to cause him to remove his face from them; yet his loving kindness shall not depart, neither shall the covenant of his peace be removed. This is a covenant that will never wax old, wi1l never give way to another, or be succeeded by another; as the old covenant did, and was: no, it is an everlasting one, upon all accounts.
In the next place, it is ordered in all things. Ordered in all things to advance the glory of all the Three Divine Persons; who are jointly concerned therein. To advance and secure the glory of God the Father, and his eternal choice of persons to everlasting life and happiness, in all his purposes and decrees concerning them; which, through this covenant taking place, have their full and complete accomplishment. As also to advance the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; who is the Mediator, surety, and messenger of this covenant: the federal head and representative of the body the church, and the Saviour thereof; that in all things he may have the preeminence. And to advance the glory of the blessed Spirit; whose office it is to be the applier of the grace of this covenant to take of the things of God and of Christ, and shew them unto those who are interested in them; and to convey and apply all grace, needful for them in time, till they come into an eternal world. This covenant is ordered in all things, for the security of all the covenant ones; who are all, for their safety, put into the hands of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, who is able to keep them from falling, and to present them, faultless, before the throne of his Father. In whose hands they being put, are safe; for, as he will never suffer them to fall from thence, so none are able to pluck them out of his hands. This covenant is ordered in all things; all provision is made in it, for the good of the covenant ones, in time and in eternity. In this covenant are contained all spiritual blessings, all grace, all things pertaining to life and godliness: provision is made for the sanctification of the hearts of God's chosen, the justification of their persons, and the pardon of their sins. In short it contains all things needful for them here, and eternal glory and happiness hereafter.
And then it is a covenant that is sure. Sure to Christ, the Covenant Head; and sure to all the seed. Sure to Christ. All the promises made to him are sure as, that he shall see his seed; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. And that he should be exalted on high; therefore, when he fulfilled the work, he said, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do; and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee, before the world was (John 17:4,5). It is sure to all the seed, and spiritual offspring: all the promises of it made to them, in him, are yea, and amen. All the blessings and mercies of it, are the sure mercies of David; and the more sure, as they are put into the hands of Christ, their covenant head and representative: so their spiritual and eternal life is hid with Christ in God: safe and secure: and because he lives, they shall live also.
But I go on to consider the latter part of the text, in which,
I. David expresses his raised expectations upon this covenant; his great regard unto it, and affection for it: This is all my salvation, and all my desire.
II. All this is maintained, notwithstanding the circumstances in which he then was: Although he maketh it not to grow. Though it was not a growing time and season with him and his; yet this his covenant was all his salvation, and all his desire.
I. We shall consider his raised expectations upon this covenant; his great regard unto it, and affection for it, or to Christ, the covenant head, with whom this covenant was made for the words may as well regard the one, as the other. The supplement may as well be, for he is my salvation, and all my desire; as well as it may be supplied, as we do, this is all my salvation, &c. And, in as much as these two agree together, and fall in with each other, and indeed are not separated one from the other, we shall consider the words in both senses; as they may respect both the covenant which our version directs to, and as they may respect the Covenant Head, or he that is the Ruler over the people, before described.
1. As it may respect the everlasting covenant ordered in all things, and Sure: "for this is all my salvation, and all my desire." All my salvation (as if David should say), is provided for in it, and secured by it; flows from it, and depends upon it. "This is all my salvation;" or, "All my salvation is here;" a very comprehensive phrase, which includes temporal, spiritual, and eternal salvation. All salvation is of the Lord. Salvation, (says the Psalmist) belongs unto the Lord (Ps. 3:8): temporal as well as spiritual and eternal salvation, belongs to him: he is the author thereof, and to him the glory should be given; and particularly, the salvation of his people: the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; and he is their strength in the time of trouble (Ps. 37:39). Even temporal salvation is of the Lord, as their covenant God and Father too; for he is their King and their God, working salvation in the midst of the earth: and every temporal deliverance is wrought for them by their covenant God, and in virtue of this covenant made with them. Covenant ones are saved in this covenant, in a temporal way, in order to be called. Saved they are from many evils in a providential way, while in an unconverted state, in order to be effectually called by the grace of God: and, indeed, all their temporal mercies are covenant mercies, as they come from a covenant God, and in a covenant way; when the mercies of the wicked, though the same for substance as theirs, are not covenant mercies. They are sometimes curses unto them; for the Lord curses their very blessings (Mal. 2:2). Hence it is, that the people of God have what they have, in a temporal way, with the favour of the Lord: hence it is, that a little that a righteous man hath, it is better than. the treasures of many wicked: they are blessed, and they are loaded day by day, comparatively speaking, with benefits; for God is the God of salvation, in a temporal sense, and to God the Lord belong the issues from death (Ps. 68:20). But more especially, spiritual and eternal salvation is here meant, Spiritual salvation; by which is meant, the salvation of the spirit or soul: that salvation, which concerns the spiritual and everlasting good of God's people, called the salvation of the soul (1 Pet. 1:9): and everlasting salvation, because it always continues. The fruits, effects, benefits and blessings thereof always remain; and therefore called an everlasting salvation. Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation (Isa.45:17). Now this began in the thoughts of God's heart; which were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give them an expected end. In the purposes, resolutions, and determinations of his mind, who appointed his people, not unto wrath, which they deserved: but to obtain salvation, by the death of his Son. He, from the beginning, even from all eternity, chose them, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, as the means, unto salvation, the end, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. In virtue of those thoughts, which were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, this salvation becomes secured unto them for whom he predestined to everlasting life, them he also glorifies; that is, they are everlastingly saved. The scheme of this salvation was framed in the council of grace and peace, said to be between them both; that is, between the Father and the Son. Jesus Christ acted as the wonderful counselor. He is the angel and messenger of the great council; as in the Greek version (Isa. 9:6). God was in him, reconciling, or drawing the model and scheme, the means of reconciliation and salvation.
In the covenant of grace it was eternally settled who should be the saved ones, or partake of this great salvation; namely, those the Lord had a design of grace and mercy towards: and a love for; whom he determined to shew mercy unto, even the vessels of mercy, afore appointed unto glory. All that he hath given unto his Son, put into his hands, and made his care and charge; concerning whom he declares, that it is his will, that of all that he gave him, he should lose none, but raise it up at the last day. Even the whole Israel of God shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation; consisting of Jews and Gentiles, the whole election of grace throughout the whole world; who are the all men God would have to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.
It was also settled who should be the author of this salvation unto them: not angels, for Jehovah puts no trust in his servants, for he charges them with folly: nor men themselves, who are not equal to such a work as this, but the Son of God; of whom the Lord says, I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them; not in this, that, and the other way, but by the Lord their God. This was proposed to the Son of God, and he became our surety and Saviour. Jehovah said to him, Thou art my servant, O Israel: or, it is my will and pleasure it should be so; in whom I will be glorified; and, if it is a light thing for thee to raise up the tribe of Jacob, and restore the presence of Israel, I will enlarge thy commission; thou shalt be a light to the Gentiles, and the salvation of my people, to the ends of the earth, or of all my chosen ones throughout the whole world. This was the proposal that was made to him; to which he agreed. When the question was put, Who shall go for the salvation of those chosen ones? he made answer, and said, "Here am I, send me:—lo I come, to do thy will, O my God." A covenant, a compact, and agreement was made immediately between the Father and the Son, upon this affair of so great importance and in consequence of this, he was sent in the fulness of time. Herein is love, the love of God the Father, in that be sent his Son to be the Savior of the world; and he sent him in the fulness of time agreed upon in this covenant. Christ came to seek and save them that were lost. This is the sum of the everlasting gospel, which is no other than a transcript of this covenant. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Moreover, all the blessings of salvation were provided and secured in this covenant; and therefore it may with great propriety be said, "this is all my salvation." It was not only settled who should be the saved ones; but what blessings they should be partakers of, and should enjoy to all eternity. Now these are all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), which were given us in Christ before the world began, and upon which account this covenant is said to be, in the text, ordered in all things. For instance, one of these blessings is peace; from which this covenant, as before observed, is called the covenant of peace. It was foreseen there would be a breach between God and his creature man: that peace and reconciliation would be necessary. This was provided for; Christ was proposed to be the Peace-maker. He shall make peace with me (Isa. 27:5); and accordingly he became their peace, and made peace by the blood of his cross. Pardon of sin is another blessing of this covenant, not to be had by the covenant of works; such who sinned against Moses' law died without mercy. Through the blood of this everlasting covenant is the remission of sins: one promise of it runs thus, I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more; and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Justification is another blessing of salvation, provided for in this covenant, Jehovah the Father appointed this work unto his Son, which he agreed to, even to bring in everlasting righteousness; and God promised that he should justify many upon the foot of that righteousness, and as a covenant God he does do it. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is be not also of the Gentiles (Rom. 3:29)? He is; that is, the covenant God of the one, as well as of the other. Now how does this appear? Why in this instance, in as much as he justifies the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith; so that the justification of men, by the righteousness of Christ, received by faith, is a blessing of grace, which God, as a covenant God, bestows upon his people. Provision is also made in this covenant for the sanctification of the Lord's people. Another promise of it is, I will put my laws in their minds and write them in their hearts. 1 will sprinkle clean water upon them, and they shall be clean. I will give them a new heart and a new spirit. I will take away the stony heart, and give a heart of flesh. What an ample provision is here made for the sanctification of the covenant ones! Faith, repentance, and every grace are laid up in this covenant. Adoption is another blessing of salvation, and is secured in the covenant of grace. When God puts any among the children; it is a putting them into the covenant of grace; as he says, I will be their Father, and they shall be my sons and daughters. Upon this follows heir-ship; for, if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. Heirs together of the grace of life. Heirs of an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Heirs of salvation, as they are called (Heb. 1:14).
Well then, this being the case, that in this covenant it is provided who shall be saved, the Saviour, and the blessings to be enjoyed; with great propriety may it be said, all our salvation is in this covenant. It is secured by it, flows from it, and depends upon it. Then adds David, this is all my desire: and it is no wonder that it should be his desire, when all his salvation was in it; and it is every gracious soul's desire, to see more clearly his interest in it. David saw his interest in it no doubt; but still he desired to see it more clearly, as every good man does, that he may more strongly take hold on the covenant, as it is expressed in Isaiah 56:4. Take hold on a covenant God, on Christ the Mediator of the covenant, and of the blessings and promises of it, and claim them as his. Every good man desires to be led more and more into this covenant, into the nature, fulness, and glory of it. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant. Those to whom any thing of this covenant has been shewn, cannot but be desirous of being shewn more of it; and especially their full interest in it. They desire also to have a fresh application of covenant grace, and covenant blessings to them, which God hath promised. He says, hear and your souls shall live, and I will make with you an everlasting covenant: the meaning is, that he would manifest and apply unto them, the blessings of this covenant. It is the desire of every good man, that knows any thing of the covenant of grace, and the scheme of salvation by it, to be saved in this way; by and through the covenant of grace, and not of works. It is natural for men, until they are better enlightened, to desire to be saved by a covenant of works; first-convictions generally lead this
way, as in the three thousand persons: say they, what shalt we do? They talked of nothing but doing: so the apostle Paul, when first enlightened, said, Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do? And the jailor, what shall I do to be saved? And it is natural for every man to think and say, he must do something to be saved. But one that is better enlightened into the covenant of grace and the scheme of salvation, desires to be saved by this covenant of grace, and no other; saved by grace, and not by works. This is all my desire; or, my delight and pleasure; so the word here used signifies. And O! the delight a good, a spiritual man, has in the covenant of grace, and in the promises of it particularly, which are exceeding great and precious; and which being opened and applied to him, are like apples of gold in pictures of silver: he rejoices in them, when they are brought and applied unto him, more than one that finds great spoil. This is all his desire, comfort, and solace, in the most trying circumstances. When he beholds his interest in this covenant, he can glory even in tribulation; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, and experience hope. Covenant love is shed abroad in his heart, by the Spirit. Let it be as it will with him, whatever changes he passes through, this covenant, the blessings and promises of it, are the same; therefore he is not moved.
2. These words are applicable to the Ruler over men, before described; or the federal head with whom this covenant is made, and with his people in him; that is, our Lord Jesus Christ: so the supplement may as well be, He is all my salvation, and all my desire: i.e. Christ is so. "He is all my salvation:" He is styled "God's salvation." I have waited for thy salvation (Gen. 49:18): so called, because he is the salvation or Saviour of God's providing and appointing: and at other times he is called the salvation of his people, because they are the subjects of salvation; and they, under the influence of divine grace, choose him as their salvation or Savior, and will have no other, as Job said, He also shall be my salvation; and David, He is all my salvation; that is, he is the author of it. He was appointed to this work: he came, having salvation. He came with power and authority, as Mediator, to effect it; and he came (which was his end in coming), to seek and to save them that were lost; and is become the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. He is the only author of salvation. There is salvation in him and no other. Saints are not to expect it from any other: nor will a truly sensible sinner, look to any other for salvation. All their salvation is in him; not a part of it only, but the whole of it. A sensible sinner looks to Christ for his whole salvation. He is the author of complete salvation. The redemption which he has wrought out, is a plenteous one; for he saves his people from all iniquity: saves them out of the hands of all that hate them; saves them to the uttermost. It is a complete salvation; and they that are saved are complete in him; and under the influence and witnessing of the blessed Spirit, they can claim their interest in him, and say, "He is all my salvation:" and in this the sensible sinner glories. What would it have been to David if that little word my were left out? if he could only have said, "He is all salvation?" But this was his peculiar support and happiness, that he could add, "He is all my "salvation, and all my desire." The most desirable one or, all desirable. He is said to be the desire of all nations (Hag. 2:7); that is, he ought to be so; of right, he should be so. In him all the nations of the earth are blessed, he is the desire of all sensible souls: these, with the church, will say, with my soul have I desired thee; and the desire of my soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. He is desirable, on various accounts; on account of the glory of his person, the transcendent excellencies which are in him; he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. His glory is as the only begotten of the Father; he is possessed of all divine perfections; he is fairer than the children of men: white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousands; or, as in our text, all desire. And he is the desire of his people, on account of that fulness of grace there is in him: not only because the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in him: but because it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness of grace dwell, for the supply of his people; and out of which they are supplied. They may say, as the Psalmist did, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He is all their desire, as a Saviour, or on account of that salvation he is the author of: whom have I in heaven but thee (says the Psalmist) and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee. None among the angels in heaven, none among all the men upon earth, to be desired with Jesus Christ. There is such an efficacy in his blood for cleansing from sin; such an excellency in his righteousness, that a sensible sinner desires to be found in him, not having on his own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, by faith. There is such a virtue in his sacrifice, for the expiation of sin, that he has put away sin for ever; and they are perfected that are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). There is so great salvation wrought out by him; so full, free, complete, perfect, lasting, and durable; so suitable to the circumstances of the sinner, that makes him all desire. He is all my desire. Truly gracious souls, that know any thing of him, they desire to know more of him: know more of his person, offices, and grace; to know more of him, and the power of his resurrection. And no wonder they should, since, this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent: hence they make use of all the means of grace, for the improvement of their knowledge; that they may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and arrive, at last, to the perfect knowledge of him; to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Here all their desire is, not only to know him, but to have more communion with him: they know the sweetness of communion with Christ, and God in Christ; and when they have it, they can say with the apostle, truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. They pant after him, as the hart pants after the water-brooks: saying, when shall we come and appear before God in Sion? His tabernacles are amiable and lovely; they long for his courts; their souls even faint for the living God, a day in his courts being better to them than a thousand elsewhere. Whenever they enjoy fellowship with Christ, it is so desirable to them, that they could wish it always continued: They say, with the disciples on the mount, it is good for us to be here; or to be absent from the body, that they may be present with the Lord. At certain seasons, their hearts are so drawn out after communion with him, that they desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better.—Thus, He is all their salvation, and all their desire.
II. All this is maintained, notwithstanding the circumstances in which David was, when he said these words, "All my salvation, and all my desire; although he maketh it not to grow." Although I am in such circumstances, am not in so flourishing a state as I could wish, yet this covenant is all my salvation: or, this Ruler over men (who is said to be as time tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain), is all my salvation, and all my desire.
This may be understood both literally, and figuratively. Literally, of the natural produce of the earth and so the Psalmist may he considered in the like circumstances, and uttering the same expressions of faith as Habakkuk, when he says, Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation: I will rejoice in my covenant God, in what he is unto me, and hath provided for me. So says David here, "He is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he makes it not to grow:" though there might be a drought and famine in the land as lately had been.
Or this may be understood figuratively of a spiritual growth in grace; for there is such a thing as growing in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Faith sometimes glows exceedingly, love increases, hope abounds; and every grace is in lively exercise. At other times it is not so. Now, a/though he make it not to grow: although I am not in so flourishing a condition with respect to the exercise of my graces, yet he is all my salvation, and all my desire: or, this covenant of grace made with me, is all my salvation, and all my desire; things are all safe there, though I am uncomfortable, with respect to my frames. Salvation does not depend upon our frames, nor upon the lively exercise of grace in us; it depends upon the unalterable covenant.
Or this may have respect to David's family, particularly, although he make it not to grow: although my family are not in growing, increasing and flourishing circumstances; though one breach after another is made in it: first, Ammon cut off, then Absalom, and though so many uncomfortable things are there; yet this is all my salvation, and all my desire. Though the horn of David is not made to bud, as is promised; yet. this is all my salvation.
Or, rather this may have respect to the Messiah, the righteous One that should spring forth. "Although that branch does not spring forth as yet:" or thus, "Shall not this branch spring forth? Verily it shall; for a rod shall grow out of Jesse." Now David knew, that though things were not so well as he could wish, yet this was his comfort, that there was an everlasting covenant made, in which his salvation was secured; though, as yet, the Messiah, the branch had not sprung forth, which he believed would, and which the Lord promised by Jeremiah, (23:5). So by one of the latter prophets, "Behold, I bring forth my servant the ‘Branch.'" Now this is all my salvation, and all my desire; although this branch, as yet, does not grow up out of its place, which he firmly believed, in virtue of this covenant, it would do.
But I shall now come to a close. Let us be led hereby to adore and admire the wonderful and distinguishing grace of God; that he should make such a provision in an everlasting covenant for any of the sons of men, in Christ Jesus. God was under no obligation so to do: it all flows from his free and unmerited love, that here are such promises made in it, and such blessings of grace provided. And notwithstanding those disorders we may be under at times, let not this weaken our faith in covenant interest; for notwithstanding them, as David observes, covenant interest abides. Although my house, my family, heart, life, and every thing else, is not as I could wish; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant. Such who are interested in this covenant, need not fear wanting any good thing: it is ordered in all things. There is nothing that they need, but what is in this covenant; nor can they be in any condition of life whatever, but here is a promise made in this covenant, suited to their case and circumstances. I may say, they need not fear wanting any good thing; for here grace and glory are provided. Blessed are they that put their trust in him. And let us earnestly desire that we may be more and more led into the nature and fulness of this covenant: may the desire of our souls be more and more towards it; may we see our interest in the blessings and promises of it; and find them to be the support of our souls in all the circumstances of life, and in the views of death and eternity.