« PreviousContinue »
of those as being in covenant in some fense, who are by the gorpel rule utterly cut off and uncovenanted, is such a departure from the received acceptation of the phrase as is not to be admitted. At this rate we might say that the damned in hell are in covenant, and belong to the kingdom of heaven. Nor is it to be doubted but that Korah, and those who lived in open idolatry, were, so long as they had an interest in the covenant, entitled to some of its special privileges.
Upon the whole, merely a conditional grant of covenant blessings gives no one an interest in the covenant, as the phrase is always understood. Such a conditional grant is made to all men; and it is a matter of great concernment to all ; and is an expresfion of the mercy of God to the world. In consequence of this, all may
be considered as in a salveable state. And we are to love them, to hope and pray, and use means that they may come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved. And many blessings are daily bestowed on them; yet we are not to imagine that all are in covenant: Nor does a proposal or offer of this conditional grant, enforced with a divine command, requiring men to consent to and comply with it, give men an interest in the covenant. This indeed brings the blessings of the kingdom of heaven near to them, and even puts them in actual poffeffion of some valuable external privileges granted to the church, viz. the word of God, and the outward means of faith. The preceptive part of the covenant then reaches, and takes hold of, and binds them to obe, dience; yet all the hearers of the gospel, are not in the covenant. This is the peculiar privilege of the church and its members. And though all of these have not a title to all covenant blessings, yet they have a present and absolute title granted to them, in and by the covenant to some of its privileges, even such as none but the church can have a regular access to.
The Connexion between Covenant Duties and Privileges.
I SHALL now offer some obfervations on the connexion, relation, and dependance which the duties and privileges of the covenant have the one on the other. The right understanding of this seems to be neeeffary to our having a juft view of the gospel conftitution.
Indeed the duties and privileges of the covenant cannot be pero fectly distinguished from each other. For though there are many blessings which are not duties, yet all duties are blessings. They are beitowed upon and wrought in us, as well as done by us. Moral acts or qualifications are effects which may be referred to the supreme and subordinate agent; and fo may at the same time be instances and expressions of special divine favour, and also of obedience in the subject to the will of God. It is the doctrine of scripture that the first and second cause co-operate in and towards the fame effects. Every good gift is from God, who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. There is nothing good in us which we have not received from him. By his grace we are what we are. Faith is his gift. And yet it is his commandment that we believe in the name of his Son. Christ is exalted to give repentance. At the same time he commands all men every where to repent. All covenant duties, as effects of divine grace according to the promise, are also covenant blessings.
But with respect to these duties and privileges it is observable that there is a connection between them. Covenant duties have special blessings annexed to them; and special blessings lay bonds of duty on those who receive them. Thus, that qualification, whatever it be, by which we are savingly united to Christ
, has a chain of privileges connected with it, issuing in eternal salvation. These privileges are also connected with the essential and fundamental virtues and graces required in the gospel. The habit and principle of these is connected with the
proper acts and expressions of them in the life. And these expressions and evidences of inward fanctification are connected with a right to peculiar external privileges : Whence arise special obligations, a compliance with which has further blessings annexed. Duties qualify for, and entitle to privileges ; and privileges qualify for and give a right or warrant to perform duties. But the relation, reference or respect which the duties and blessings of the covenant have to each other in this their connection requires to be further considered.
And in the first place the order in which they are connected is to be noted. Some are prior, or before others in the order of nature, or of time.
Thus in the order of nature the call of the gospel, accompanied with the influence of the spirit, is a divine favour going before faving faith. Faith, whether we consider it as a duty, or a gift of God, precedes a fave ing union to, and interest in Christ, and justification through his redemption and righteousness, with all those benefits which accompany or flow from it. The belief of the heart is presupposed in the profession of the mouth. And profession of faith which is
a duty, goes before a right of admission to the special ordinances and privileges of external communion in an instituted church. If we confound the proper order in which gospel duties and blesfings are connected, we shall intirely change the form and structure of the covenant.
It is also to be observed concerning the duties and benefits of the covenant which are thus connected in their proper order, that those which are before others are considered as having some kind of caufality with respect to those which are consequent to them. In other words, the following parts in the series or chain of covenant duties and blessings thus linked together, have a necessary dependance on the foregoing, and could not be without them. Thus there are special privileges which are suspended on saving faith, viz. a saving interest in Christ, justification, the inhabitation of the fanctifying spirit, &c. There are also special external privileges annexed to, and depending upon our having and holding forth credible evidences of faith, such as a right of access and admission to the ordinances of instituted churches. But Chrifti. ans seem not fully agreed what term best expresses this relation between the antecedent duty or qualification, and the consequent privilege annexed to it; or how the latter depends on the former. Some chuse to represent the qualifications to which the privileges of the covenant are annexed, as means by which these blessings are obtained. But the meaning, as it is explained, is so general and indeterminate, that it seems to amount to no more than this, that the mean is something without which the end is not obtainable. And indeed Dr. WATTs, says expressly-"Every fore
going blessing may be reckoned in some sense as a means with “ regard to that which follows."-Others maintain that the gospel covenant is a conditional grant or promise : And that a compliance with covenant duties is the condition or term on which the grant of covenant blessing is suspended. This indeed is a word which some think not so fit to express the qualifications to which blessings are annexed in a covenant of rich and free grace ; especially as the qualifications themselves are as free gifts as any others. And besides, the word itself seems to adınit of as great a latitude in its meaning as the other, in the opinion of the forecited author, who says--" Every blessing of salvation that in the “necessary order of nature follows another, may be said to be suf
pended on that other as a condition without which it shall not “ be bestowed.”-However, while we disclaim all pretence to merit in any qualifications wrought in us, or done by us, and acknowledge ourselves entirely beholden to the free grace of God, and the righteousness of Christ for our whole salvation, with all the means and qualifications whereby we are made meet for the
inheritance of the saints, I see not why our afferting the condi tionality of the gospel covenant should be suspected of detracting from the honour due to the grace of God, and the merit, the power and love of our divine Redeemer. And however vague the meaning of the word condition may seem, in itself, yet the sense is fixed and determined by the explanation given of it, namely, That act or qualification of the party with whom the covenant is made, by which, according to the tenor of the covenant, the party has a title to, or is interested in the benefits therein granted or promised. In this sense we conceive the new covenant may be termed conditional.
When any one to whom a blessing is conditionally promised has, or cornplies with, the condition ; then, and not till then, the promise becomes absolute. The blessing is no longer suspended on a future contingency. There is however something absolute in favour of mankind granted and secured to them in the covenant of grace, antecedent to their complying with its condition. For it absolutely connects the benefits of divine favour with most cious conditions, and so puts men into a salvable state, and is a ground of hope concerning them. The grace of the covenant to far extends to all, that favourable terms of salvation are granted to them ; which are also accompanied with various blessings, means and encouragements to repentance. But an interest in the covenant so as to have access to the grace and blessings therein promised, none can obtain till they obtain the conditions or qualifications to which the promises are annexed.
Of the Condition of the Covenant.
AS the blessings granted or promised in the covenant are manifold and different, of which some have no inseparable or conftant connection with others; fo the conditions or qualifications inferring a title thereto are no less different, distinct and separable. It is therefore impossible to determine and state particularly, what is the condition of the covenant, till it be first known, to what particular
blessing or privilege the condition enquired for has relation. For one blessing is annexed to one condition, another is fufpended on another. Nor can we find, I think, any one act or qualification whatever which has a promise of all covenant blesfings; nor do I find any act of compliance with the requirements of the covenant so indispensably necessary, but that a person may
without it have an interest in the covenant, so as to have a right according to the gospel rule to some of its special bleffings. If we should lay, for inftance, that saving faith is the condition;
1 yet it is not to be denied that many who have not faith have an interest in the covenant, and right to fome covenant privileges. And there are also some covenant privileges to which many who have faith have not a regular gospel right.
Before we can give a particular anfwer to the question? What is the condition of the new covenant, we must first understand whether what is enquired for be the condition of entrance or admisfion into covenant. Or the condition of continuance therein. Or the condition on which a right to some particular covenant blessing is suspended. Or finally the condition of all the promises.
As to the condition of entering, being received into, and having an interest in the covenant ; it is to be noted that many, even all children of regular church members, are born in and under the covenant, and so have an absolute unconditional grant of some special privileges. Their relation to parents who are entitled to God's gracious promise to them and their children, gives them an interest in the covenant without any act of theirs, as the condition.
Adult persons who are not in covenant can no otherwise be regularly admitted into it, than by their compliance with conditions, or obtaining the special qualifications to which fome covenant blessing or privilege is annexed. Whoever is entitled to any cov. enant promise or grant whatever has an interest in the covenant. And the first act or qualification in any one, which has fuch a promise or grant annexed, is the condition of entrance into covenant to such a person.
Now as the blessings pertaining to the external and internal administration of the covenant are of a different kind, fo the qualifications required in order to our having a right to each of them respectively are no less different.
The first act or qualification which has a promise of the faving grace and blessings of the covenant is, I think, generally held to be a true and living faith, whereby we are united to Christ in whom all the proinises are yea and amen. Faith therefore, with a sincere confent, or restipulation agreeable to the covenant propa fal, seems to be most properly the condition of access to thofe
blessings which belong to its invisible administration. But faith · alone gives no right of adınission to the external privileges granted to the members of a visible instituted church.
What then is the condition or qualification required in order to a regular admission and access to these external privileges ? This I think is a credible profession or evidence of faith, and consent to the covenant, exhibited without known hypocrisy. Whoever