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in it the appearance of an objection, to what was before observed, that there was, in reality, but two covenants, and that whenever we read of any covenant in scripture, it is reducible to one of them.
This may, without much difficulty, be accounted for, consistently therewith, if we consider the sense of those scriptures above mentioned.
First, As to those scriptures, that seem to speak of two distinct covenants, made with fallen man, to wit, one with the Israelites, the other, that which we are under, they really intend nothing more than two different dispensations of the covenant of grace; in which sense we are to understand the apostle, when he speaks of the two covenants, the Old and the New, the First and the Second: the covenant is the same, though the dispensation of the grace of God therein, or the way of revealing it to men, differs. But this will be more particularly insisted on in those following answers, which respect the various administrations of grace, under the Old and New Testament; therefore we proceed,
Secondly, To enquire into the meaning of those other scriptures, before-mentioned, which seem to speak of more covenants than one, which the Jewish nation was under. By the covenants there mentioned, the apostle seems to refer to some different times, or periods of the church, before our Saviour's incarnation, of which some divines take notice of four; in each of which, there was something new and distinct from the rest, in the dispensation of divine providence towards the church. The first of these took its rise from the promise which God gave to man, as soon as he fell, relating to that salvation, which was to be brought about, in its proper time, by the seed of the woman. The second period of the church began after the flood, when God is said to have revealed his covenant to Noah, which he established between him and all flesh upon the earth, Gen. ix. 17. A third remarkable period, or change of affairs in the church, was, when God called Abraham out of an idolatrous country, to sojourn in the land of promise, as in a strange country, at which time he established his covenant with him, promising to be a God to him, and his seed, and instituting circumcision as a token thereof, Gen. xvii. 7-11. upon which occasion, this particular dispensation thereof is called, The covenant of circumcision, Acts vii. 8. The fourth and last dispensation, or period, which more especially respected the seed of Abraham, as increased to a great nation, is what we read of, soon after they were delivered from the Egyptian bondage, when God was pleased to separate that nation, as a peculiar people to himself, and sent Moses from mount Sinai, where he appeared to them, to demand their explicit consent
so be his people; upon which occasion, when they had promised, that all that the Lord had said, they would do and be obedient, and a public and solemn sacrifice was offered, and the people sprinkled with the blood thereof, it is said, They saw God, and did eat and drink, as a farther sign and ratification of this dispensation of the covenant, Exod. xxiv. 1-11. and afterwards many statytes and ordinances were given them, con taining those laws, which God required of them, as a covenant people ; and this continued till the gospel-dispensation, which succeeded it, was erected. This seems to be the meaning of what the apostle speaks, in the scriptures before cited, when he says, that the church of the Jews had the covenants, as intending nothing else thereby, but the dispensation of the covenant of grace, as subdivided into several periods, during the various
ages of the church, from the fall of Adam to our recovery by Christ. Therefore, though those dispensations were various, yet whatever God has transacted with man, in a federal way, may be considered under two general heads; the first called the covenant of works; the other, the covenant of grace; the latter of which is to be farther considered, under the following answers.
Quest. XXXI. With whom was the covenant of grace made ?
with Adam, as the head of mankind, so it is considered in this answer, as made with the second Adam, and, in him, with all his elect, who are described, by the Psalmist, as a seed that should serve him, which should be accounted to the Lord for a generation, Psal. xxii. 30. and the prophet Isaiah, speaking of them, says, He shall see his seed, Isa. liii. 10. In explaining this answer, we shall consider,
1. What we are to understand by a covenant in general, and more particularly how it is to be understood, as used in scripture. The word commonly used in the Old Testament,* to signify a covenant, being taken in several senses, may be better understood, by the application thereof, in those places, where we find it, than by enquiring into the sense of the root, from whence it is derived. Sometimes, indeed, it signifies such a compact between two parties, as agrees with our common acceptation of the word, especially when applied to transactions between man and man; as in the covenant between Abraham, and those neighbouring princes, that were confede
rate with him, where the same word is used, in Gen. xiv. 18. and in the covenant between Isaac and Abimelech, mentioned in Gen. xxvi. 28, 29. and in that between Jonathan and David, in 1 Sam. xx. 16, 17. in all which instances there was mutual stipulation, and re-stipulation, as there is in human covenants ; and, for this reason, some apply those ideas to the word, when it is used to signify God's entering into covenant with man.
But there is another acceptation thereof when God is represented as making a covenant with man which is more agreeble to the divine perfections; and that infinite distance there is between him and us; therefore we find in several places of scripture, that when God is said to make a covenant there is an intimation of some blessings which he would bestow upon his people, without any idea of stipulation, or re-stipulation, annexed to it: thus we read, in Jer. xxxiii. 20. of God's coveriant of the day and night, or that there should be day and night in their season; and, in Gen. xi. 9, 10, 11, of God's establishing his covenant with Noah, and his seed, and every living creature, that all flesh should not be cut off any more, by the waters of a food. And, in Ezek. xxxiv.
25. when God promises to cause evil beasts to cease out of the land, and that his people should dwell safely in the wilderness, and that he would confer several other blessings upon them, mentioned in the following verses; this is called, his making with them a covenant of peace. And, when God promises spiritual blessings to his people, in Isa. lix. 21. he says, This is my covenant with them; my Spirit thut is upon thee, and the words that I have put into thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth, and for ever.
Moreover, sometimes the Hebrew word, which we translate covenant, is used to signify a statute, or ordinance, which God has established, or appointed, in his church: thus, in Numb. xviii. 19. when God ordained, that Aaron and his sons should have the heave-offerings of the holy things, he says, These have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, to be a statute for ever, and adds, in the words immediately following, It is a covenant of salt for ever, before the Lord.
And as for the word used in the New Testament, * by which the LXX generally translate the Hebrew word, before-mentioned, in the Old Testament, this signifies the same thing; so that both the words imply little more than a divine estabYishment or ordinance, in which God gives his people ground to expect promised blessings, in such a way, as redounds most to his own glory; and at the saine time, they, who are expec
tarts thereof, are not exempted from an obligation to perform those duties, which this grace obliges them to, and which will be an evidence of their right to them.
And I cannot but farther observe, that among other acceptations of the word, especially as used by the apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, in chap. ix. 15–18. it signifies a Testament; which word some who treat on this subject, rather choose to make use of, than to call it a covenant, being warranted so to do, by the sense given of it in this scripture; and their reason for it is, not only because, as the apostle says, it was confirmed by the death of the Testator; but because they conclude, that this more conduces to the advancing the grace of God, in this dispensation, than to style it a covenant, in that sense, in which the word is commonly used, when applied to other matters : but I would rather acquiesce in that medium, betwixt both extremes, which some have given into, who join both the ideas of a covenant and a testament together*, and style it, in some respects, a covenant, and, in others a testament. If it be called a covenant, they abstract from the ideas thereof, some things, that are contained in the sense of the word, as applied to human contracts, and add to it other things, contained in a testament; such as the giving or bequeathing certain legacies, as an act of favour, to those who are denominated, from thence, legatees, interested in those gifts that are thus disposed of by the will of the testator. Or if, on the other hand, we call it a testament it seems very agrecable, to this dispensation, to join with it the idea of a covenant, more especially as to what contains the concern of Christ herein, as the Head thereof, or the Person in whom all the benefits, contained in this testament, are first reposed, as they are purchased by his blood, and, as the consequence thereof, applied by his Spirit. And this agrees very well with the subject-matter of this answer, in which the covenant is said to be made with him, and with the elect in him, as well as with what is contained in that answer immediately following, in which the covenant of
grace is described in such a way, as they describe it, who say
that it was made with believers. This is necessary to be premised, that we may not, in our explication of this doctrine, advance any thing which is inconsistent with its being a covenant of grace : and, that we may farther consider this matter, we shall proceed to shew,
II. What there is in the idea of a covenant, as we generally understand the word, when applied to signify a contract be
* These style it, Testamento Foedus, or Foedus Testamentarium, or Testamentum Foederale,
(«) Rather, " ratified over a dead body," an ancient mode of covenanting.
tween man and man. In this case, there are two parties, ofre of which is said to stipulate, or enter into a covenant with the other, in which he makes a proposal, that he will confer some favours on him, upon certain conditions, provided he will oblige himself to fulfil them; and the other party contplies with the proposal made, and, in expectation of those advantages, consents to fulfil the conditions enjoined, and accordingly is said to re-stipulate; as when a person engages another to be his servant, and to give him a reward for his service; and the other consents to serve him, in expectation of the wages which he engages to give him : in this case, each party is supposed to be possessed of something, which the other has no right to, but by virtue of this contract made between them: thus the servant has no right to the rewards, which his master promises, nor has the master any right to his service, but by mutual consent. Each party also proposes some advantage to himself, and therefore, when they enter into this agreement, they are supposed, in some respects, to stand on a level with each other, No one will enter into a covenant with another, for the performing that which he had an antecedent right to; nor will any one engage to perform any service, as a condition of his receiving those benefits, which he had a right to, without any such condition enjoined on him. Moreover, when two parties are said to enter into covenant with one another, they are supposed, in some respects, to stand in need of some things, which they had before no right to; one party needs the reward proposed; the other, the service which he enjoins, as a condition of his bestowing it. These things are generally supposed, and contained in contracts between man and man.
III. When God is said to enter into covenant with man, what method soever we take to explain this federal transaction, we must take heed that we do not include in it any thing that is inconsistent with his infinite sovereignty, or argues him to be dependent on his creatures, as though he had not an ante. cedent right to their obedience, which he demands in this covenant, or it were left to man's arbitrary will whether he would perform it or no. Though men may be said to have some things in their own power, so that one has a right to that, which another has no right to, but by his own consent, and are entirely left to their liberty, whither they will consign over that right, which they had to it, to another, who could not otherwise lay claim to it; yet this is by no means to be applied to man when considered as having to do with the great God. The best of creatures have no right to any thing, separate from his arbitrary will; and therefore though stipulation and re-stipulation are proper words, when applied to a man's covenant, they ought not to be made use of, when we explain this covenant between God and man.