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COVENANTS OF WORKS AND GRACE.
GAL. iv. 24.
For these are the two covenants; the one from the mount
Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar,
AFTER having dwelt so long on the second general head of discourse, I come now to the third, which was to show wherein the two covenants differ: a very important point in divinity, and which if happily explain. ed, must tend greatly to the edification of the saints. I shall state that difference in some particulars, with as much accuracy and precision as I can.
1st. In the first place, These two covenants differ in their nature. The covenant of works was a cove. nant of friendship: that of grace is a covenant of reconciliation, and therefore a covenant by sacrifice, Psalm 1. 5. The one was betwixt such as were in a state of friendship, ere it was made: the other supposed enmity, and was intended to remove it, viz. legal-enmity in God, and heart-enmity in man. When God entered into covenant with Adam, he was upright, Eccles. vii. 29. consequently he was the object of his love, and that covenant was to preserve that amity which subsisted from the beginning betwixt God and man.
But the covenant of grace necessarily implies the violation of
that of works, and was made to restore that friendship which was thereby lost. In it the elect behoved to be considered as they really were, viz. as sinners, and therefore as enemies in their minds unto God, being alienated from him, Col. i. 21. Though there was an infinite natural distance between God and Adam, yet not a moral. And therefore God in the highest consistency with his holiness could transact with him without the mediation of a third party. Not so with respect to fallen man.
Here a mediator is absolutely necessary, a day's-man who may lay his hand upon both parties. Hence it is that the covenant of works had no mediator, but the covenant of grace has. There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, i Tim. ii. 5. He is expressly designed the me. diator of the new covenant, Heb. xii. 24. It is through him only that God can draw nigh to sinners, and they to him. By his blood he satisfied the Father's justice, and by his Spirit he sanctifies the sinner's heart, and accordingly brings them together. God does not transact immediately with sinners, nor they with him: but only through the mighty Mediator.
It is in him only that they can meet together. He is the only bond of union, the only medium of communication between the two. He deals immediately with both the parties, not they with one another. It is to be observed, however, that though he be the mediator of the covenant, yet he contracted for, and became the surety of the one party only, viz. the offending. Meanwhile, as he paid the debts of the one, so all the benefits promised by the other are conveyed by his hand. To satisfy divine justice, and to slay the enmity of sinners were the leading ends of his mediation, and thus to restore them to that happiness from which they had so basely fallen. Therefore in holy scripture we read that God hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and the dispensation of the covenant made with him on our behalf, is emphatically called the ministry of reconciliation, Rom. v. 10. 2 Cor. v. 18, 19.
2dly. The two covenants differ as to their antiquity
or date. The covenant of works was made in time: that of grace from eternity. The one a little after the beginning of the world: the other before the world began, Tit. 1. 2.
God from eternity foreseeing man's breach of the covenant of works and his misery thereby, entered into a covenant of grace, as our Shorter Catechism well expresses it, to deliver his elect out of a state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of sal-vation by a Redeemer. The covenant of works was a time-covenant: that of grace was eternal. So early as eternity God saw that misery into which the first Adam would plunge himself and his posterity, and therefore as early did he devise our redemption, and enter into a covenant with his Son, in quality of a second Adam. Had the covenant of grace not been made till that of works was broken, it would have been a time-covenant as to commencement no less than the other. But it is styled an eternal covenant, Heb. xiii. 20. (an epithet never given to that of works), viz. eternal in respect of the past, as well as in relation to the future. God not only purposed before the world began to give eternal life to his elect, for so he purposed also to make a covenant of works, and to do whatsoever he brings to pass in slow-running time; but before all time he promised to give them that life, Tit. i. 2. A promise supposes some second party to whom it is made, therefore a promise before the world began implies a party as ancient, and consequently a covenant of the same date. From eternity the counsel and covenant of peace was between Jehovah and the man whose name is the Branch. From everlasting, ere ever the earth was, the Son was set up, constituted, or anointed as the word signifies, Prov. viii. 2, 3. viz. set up as a new covenant-head to redeem what Adam should destroy.
But here it must be observed, that though the covenant of grace was first as to being, it is last in respect of manifestation. In the case of the two covenants, the order of existence and of exhibition is reversed. What was first in existence was last in manifestation, and what was last in existence was first revealed. As in the
procedure of every wise agent, what is first in the in. tention, is last in execution, so here, the covenant of grace, though first in being, was the last in the order of revelation. The covenant of grace was an absolute secret, as to all created beings, till the covenant of works was broken. It is expressly called the secret of the Lord, Psalm xxv. 14. He promised eternal life before the world began, but in due time manifested his word, Tit. i. 2, 3.
3dly. The two covenants differ as to their parties. The parties in the covenant of works were God and the first Adam; in the covenant of grace, God and the second Adam. The first man, as says the apostle, was of the earth, earthy: the second man, the Lord from heaven, 1 Cor. xv. 47. In the first covenant, there was a great, yea, an infinite disparity betwixt the parties, being God and man. In the second, there was a perfect equality betwixt them as to personal glory and dignity: Though the Son in virtue of his federal engagements, became his Father's servant, yet in himself, he was equal to him, Phil. ii. 6, 8. God and his eternal Son, were originally the only contracting parties in the covenant of grace. Other parties there were none, nor could be before the world began. Then a covenant was made for us, as the word is, Hos. ii. 18. and that covenant was registered as in the books of heaven, not only before we believe, but before we had any personal being. We were not consulted in the making of it: No; the counsel of peace was betwixt God and his Son, together with the eternal Spirit. That covenant hinged not upon our consent, nor did it tarry for it. In that case it could not have been an eternal covenant, but behoved in respect of its very being, to have been posterior to that of works.
4thly. The two covenants differ as to their extent or latitude. The covenant of works was made with all mankind in the first Adam: he was at once their natural root, and their federal head. The covenant of grace was made with all the elect in the second Adam: as he conveys spiritual life to none birt
them, so he was the representative of none other. This must be granted, unless we make his federal re. presentation wider than the communication of life and righteousness: the purchase of redemption more extensive than the application: which, in our apprehension, would be making the work of God crooked. It would be reckoned strange doctrine, to teach that the first Adam represented some persons, to whom he never in fact conveys sin and death; and equally absurd would it be to say, that the second represented any, to whom he never actually conveys life and rightcousness. To what end was that, if not to convey these? According to the holy scripture, the one repre. sentation is as effectual with respect to the represent. ed, as the other is. As by the disobedience of the one, many, even all that he represented, were made sin. ners; so by the obedience of the other, shall many, even all that he represented, be made righteous, Rom. . v. 19. This inequality of the two covenants as to their extent, was strongly intimated, in the very first revela
, tion of the covenant of grace, Gen. iii. 15. There God speaks of two opposite seeds: the seed of the ser. pent, and the seed of the woman. By the former must be meant, all that persevere in their enmity against God, John viii. 44. By the latter must be un. derstood, Christ primarily, and next, all those who come over as to his side. Now from this view of the matter, it is evident, that to aver the covenant of grace is as extensive as that of works, is saying in effect, that the personal seed of the woman, represented the seed of the serpent, which is a glaring absurdity. We see from the following context, Gal. iv. 28, 29. that the children of the promise, or covenant of grace, (Acts iii. 25.) are born after the Spirit, while the children of the covenant of works, are born after the flesh. It is evident therefore, that the two covenants, are just as unequal in their extent, as corrupt nature, and regenerating grace. The one reaches all mankind without exception: the other extends to the elect only. Hence, true faith, which interests us personally in the cover