Having considered five clusters--viz, Satisfaction, Remission, Reconciliation, Redemption, and Merit, we will now endeavor, God willing to consider a sixth, namely,
The confirmation of the Covenant. The death or blood of Christ is the confirmation of it. We read of a two-fold confirmation of this covenant.
1st. God the Father confirmed the Covenant with an oath, "For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath." (Heb. 6:17) My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips; once have I sworn, by my holiness that I will not lie unto David." (Ps. 89:34,35)
The second confirmation was the blood of Christ. Hence it is called the blood of the everlasting Covenant. "Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant." (Heb. 13:20) It is also called the blood of the New Testament--"For this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28) It is the death of Christ which gives force unto it. "And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which were called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Heb. 9:15-17) In this place the Covenant is called a testament, or a last will, wherein estates and legacies are bequeathed, and cannot be enjoyed till the testator dies; but after that, the will or testament is of force; all those who are concerned in it, may come and demand the legacies bequeathed to them.
The apostle calls it the blood of the everlasting Covenant. I will first prove from the Scriptures that the Covenant is everlasting, and second that all the blessings in it are everlasting, or eternal.
I. The word of God is very plain; "Incline your ear and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." (Isa. 55:3) This chapter begins with a Gospel invitation. The characters described are those who hunger and thirst after the bread and water of life, the poor and needy, who have no money, or money's worth, who are taught by the Spirit of God their worthlessness and emptiness. To these the Lord said, He would make an everlasting Covenant with them; that is, that He will manifest the Covenant to them which He has made in Christ for them. Therefore He draws their attention--Hearken, Come, and Hear, "For I, the Lord, love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt-offering, and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting Covenant with them." (Isa. 61:8) "And I will make an everlasting Covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jer. 32:40) "And I will betroth thee unto me forever." (Hosea 2:19) "Which Covenant He made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and unto Israel for an everlasting Covenant." (Ps. 105:9,10) "This God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our Guide unto death." (Ps. 48:14)
II. All the things in the Covenant are styled everlasting.
1st. God is an everlasting God, "But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God." (Rom. 16:26)
2nd. "Christ is the everlasting Father," (Isa. 9:6) and a Priest for ever. "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus made an High Priest for ever." (Heb. 6:20)
3rd. The Holy Ghost is the eternal Spirit, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God;" (Heb. 9:14) and the promise is, that He should abide with us for ever. "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you for ever." (John 14:16)
4th. The mercy of God is everlasting. Read the 132nd Psalm and here you will find the everlastingness of God's mercy, "O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and his mercy endureth for ever. For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting and his truth endureth to all generations."
5th. "The goodness of God is everlasting, it endureth continually." (Ps. 52:1)
6th. The kindness of God is everlasting. "With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer." (Isa. 54:8)
7th. The righteousness of the Covenant is an everlasting righteousness." (Dan. 9:24)
8th. Pardon of sin in the Covenant, is everlasting. "I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sins no more." (Jer. 31:34; Micah 7:9)
9th. The grace of God in a sinner's heart is everlasting. It is called an abiding seed, "For his seed remaineth in Him." (1 John 3:9) And incorruptible. (1 Peter 1:23) "A spring of living water." (John 4:10-14)
10th. The joy is everlasting. "Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads," and none shall take it from them." (Isa. 51:11; John 16:22)
11th. So is the consolation, of the Covenant. "Who hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace." (2 Thess. 2:16)
12th. So is the life of the Covenant. "He that believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This is the promise which He hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John 2:25)
The perpetuity of the Covenant, may be considered in a two-fold respect.
1st. In respect of God, who will never break it with His people but is their God, and will be so for ever and ever.
2nd. With respect to His people, who are taken into the Covenant, and shall remain in it for ever, "I will make an everlasting Covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jer. 32:40) In this verse, we have two things on God's part, that He will not turn away from them, to do them good, that is, He will never cease from doing them good. 2nd. On the part of His people. God has promised to put His fear in their hearts, that they should not turn away from Him.
The perpetuity of the Covenant is the only consolation which a recipient of Divine grace has in a dying hour. This was David's only comfort in his latter days,--"Although my house be not so with God, yet He hath made with me an everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure." (2 Sam. 23:5) The sweet singer of Israel speaks three things here concerning the Covenant. 1st. Perpetuity. 2nd. Order. 3rd. Certainty. And these I will endeavor to prove, God willing.
The perpetuity may be gathered from the relation God the Father stands in the Covenant to His people.
1st. In choosing them from eternity, which was a gracious and sovereign act, not depending on anything out of Himself. It was an unalterable act, not founded on mutable causes, and effectually communicating all things to His people, which will infallibly bring them to glory. "Whom He did predestinate, them He also called," and glorifies. (Rom. 8:30) In this verse we have electing grace, regenerating grace, justifying and glorifying grace. Grace is the seed of glory, and glory is the harvest of grace.
2nd. From the love of God to His people. The manner of His love towards them. He loves them with the same love that He loves His Son, Christ. "That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:23,26) This love is inseparable,--"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35-37) "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This love is a gracious love. "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers." (Deut. 7:7,8) "I will love them freely." (Hosea 14:4) This love is a tender love; for this reason it is said, that He hath betrothed them unto Himself in loving-kindness and in mercy. His love is more tender to His people than the mother's to the sucking child; He delights in them, and rejoices over them, and rests in His love.
3rd. From the power of God engaged on the behalf of His people. It is a securing power; it secures their union and relation unto Christ, and that for ever, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:27-29)
In these words we have the characters described as the sheep of Christ. As such He knows, and owns them, and they hear His voice, and obey Him in following Him. And here is also described their security. They shall never perish, and Christ will not part with them, and the reason is the greatness of God's power--"My Father who gave them me is greater than all." As if Christ should say, if these sheep should not get to heaven, it must be for want of power, but the power of my Father is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of His hands; therefore they cannot perish, but they shall have eternal life.
4th. God's power is a preserving power. That God preserves his people is evident from the word of God. "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." (1 Pet. 1:5) The persons who are kept by this power are described in the second verse, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, and begotten again to a lively hope," verse 3; and "to an inheritance incorruptible, reserved for them in heaven," verse 4; and these characters are kept by the power of God that they might enjoy the inheritance reserved for them. "The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me to the heavenly kingdom. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." (1 Thess. 5:24) They are kept by the power of God unto salvation, reserved unto the heavenly kingdom, and unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The faithfulness of God is engaged to do these things for them.
The presence of God with His people is also promised. It is said that He will be nigh them to be with them; that He will hold them in His hand; that He will bear them up; and that He will dwell and walk in them, and watch over them. "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it; I will keep it night and day." (Isa. 27:3) The presence of God is enough for us, we need no more; if He is with us, who can be against us? His presence is enough to comfort, to strengthen, uphold, protect, and save body and soul. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
5th. The perpetuity of the Covenant may be gathered from the promises of God to bring His people to heaven. He has promised to give His people those things which shall enable them to persevere.
1st. A real work of grace on their hearts. When the heart of a sinner is changed, it will remain so for ever. "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." A counterfeit grace will perish, but not true grace.
2nd. A sincere heart. Though hypocrisy will vanish away, yet true sincerity will hold on. "I will give them one heart and one way." (Jer. 32:39) A single heart, a single eye, love and affection to their Covenant God--not a divided heart, half for the world, and half for God; not a divided love, three parts for the world, and one for Christ: "Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth." (Zech. 8:3)
3rd. Love unfeigned. The love of God in a sinner's heart is an invincible grace. Many waters cannot quench it, nor floods drown it; water of adversity, and floods of Satan's temptations, the contrary walking of professors, the wickedness of the world, and the corruptions of our own hearts, may, and do cool our love for awhile: because "iniquity abounds the love of many waxes cold," (Matt. 24:12) yet it shall never be destroyed. A visit from Christ--the influence of God the Holy Ghost strengthens our love, and thus it remains unconquerable. It is the love of Christ in our hearts that constrains us to love Him with body, soul, and spirit.
4th. The fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom. It is a fountain of life, it is a deliverance from sin; they that fear God depart from sin, and hate it. "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." (Jer. 32:40)
5th. True faith, which depends upon God for all things. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion," (Ps. 125:1) and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. "The just shall live by faith." (Rom. 1:17)
God hath promised to keep His people from falling away from Him, that He will not forsake them for His name's sake; though they fall, they shall not be utterly cast down. They are preserved for ever; they shall increase in grace. The righteous shall hold on his way. The path of the just shall be as a shining light, that shineth more and more. He will make all grace to abound. He will work in them to will and to do; and in old age they shall bring forth fruit. He will confirm them unto the end, that they may be blameless in the day of the Lord, and finish the work which He that begun in them, "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it, or perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)
God hath promised to break down all oppositions, and remove all obstacles that lie in His people's way, in order in order to bring them to their eternal rest.
1st. The power of sin. God hath promised to subdue our iniquities, and sin shall not have dominion over us.
2nd. The power of Satan. But He will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able. He hath promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us, and that He will bruise Satan under our feet.
3rd. The power of the world. But He that is born of God overcometh the world, "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) He will enable them to walk in His statutes, and keep his laws. "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my statutes and do them." (Ezek. 36:27)
The perpetuity of the Covenant will be demonstrated by consideration of the relationship in which Christ stands to His people.
1st. From the suretyship of Christ. He is said to be made a Surety of a better Covenant. A surety is one who is engaged, and stands bound for another, and is responsible for him, as Judah for Benjamin, "I will be surety for him, at my hands shalt thou require him, if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever." (Gen. 43:9) Christ has engaged to God on our behalf, as our Surety to see us supplied with spiritual blessings and strength, to enable us to believe in God, and love Him, to walk before Him in truth, and to serve Him in holiness all our days.
2nd. From Christ's Mediatorship of a better Covenant. "And to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." (Heb. 12:24) The Covenant of works made with Adam had no Mediator, but this hath. God dealt with Adam as a righteous person, and He had no other foundation for his standing but his own created righteousness; as long as he kept that, the Covenant remained, and when he lost that, the Covenant was broken, for there was no Mediator to make up the breach. But in the Covenant of grace there is one, and as the Mediator lasts, which is for ever, so long the Covenant of grace shall last. This Mediator is Jesus Christ, who confirmed the Covenant by satisfying for sin, and making peace and reconciliation. As Priest He made peace with God; as King, He established the hearts of his children; as Mediator, He unites God and His people, and preserves that union for ever. If at any time we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.
3rd. From the union between Christ and his people. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved in mine." (Song 6:3) Christ, and true believers are styled the Head and body, a Foundation and a building, a Vine and the branches, a Husband and wife; Christ dwells in them, and they live in Him. (Song 6:3; Eph 1:22; 1 Pet. 2:4; John 15:5; 2 Cor. 2:2; Eph. 5:32; John 6:54; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3) This union is a near union, so near that we are said to die with Christ--to suffer with Him, and to sit down in heavenly places. And if we suffer, it is said that He suffers. "In all their afflictions, He was afflicted." (Isa. 63:9) If we are persecuted, it is said that He is. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4) "He that toucheth thee, toucheth the apple of mine eye." (Zech. 2:8) And it is a firm and everlasting union, "He that liveth and believeth shall never die; (John 11:26) because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19) The love of Christ to his people is a God-like love. "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you, continue ye in my love." (John 15:9) Christ loved them, and gave Himself for them, an offering and a sacrifice to God. His love is a fruitful love; it is a watchful love--an infinite and perfect love--a faithful, preserving, and upholding love, and a saving love.
4th. From the intercession of Christ, which is everlasting. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." (Heb. 7:25) He is our Advocate who appears for us, and our Intercessor who speaks for us; and He always prevails with his Father. "Thou hearest me always." We read of four petitions which Christ has offered up for his people's perseverance: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." (Luke 22:32) "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." (John 14:16) "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." (John 17:20) "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." (John 17:24)
5th. From the work of Christ by his Spirit on the hearts of believers, in destroying the work of Satan, in crucifying their lusts, in healing their diseases, in quickening their graces, in conquering their temptations, and drawing out their love to Himself.
6th. From the titles of Christ. He is our Rock--our Life--our Peace--our Hope--Shepherd--Friend--Brother--Husband--King and Saviour.
The perpetuity of the covenant may furthermore be proved by considering the part which the Holy Spirit takes in it. The Spirit of God as engaged on the behalf of God's covenant people. His work is most glorious; it is an internal work. My dear reader, if you should ask what is the work of the Spirit, my reply is:
1st. He changes our hearts, "We all, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18) He mortifies our sinful lusts. "If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Rom. 8:13)
2nd. He makes known the things of God unto His people, and teacheth them all things. "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." (1 Cor. 2:10) He makes them willing to obey God, and prepares them a fit habitation for God.
3rd. He guides and leads them: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. 8:14)
4th. He sustains and upholds them. "Uphold me with thy free Spirit," (Ps. 51:12) and helps them in their infirmities.
5th. He bears witness that they are the children of God, and heirs of God. (Rom. 8:16) He seals them unto the day of redemption, (Eph. 4:30) and abides in their hearts; "He is the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." (Eph. 4:30) No man is a true Christian without the Spirit of God in his heart. "Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His." "For, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us His Spirit." (1 John 4:13) As the Holy Ghost is essential to our salvation, and without His teaching we cannot have a saving knowledge of the Gospel, therefore we will speak more particularly of Him.
1st. Of His titles. 2nd. Of His gifts and fruits. 3rd. Of His work and operations. 4th. Of His help. 5th. Of His comforts.
I. He is sometimes called the Spirit of God; "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11) Sometimes He is called the Spirit of Christ, and sometimes the Spirit of glory. (See Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 4:14) He is also called the Holy Spirit--Holy Spirit of promise, and the Holy Ghost. He is styled the free Spirit; "Uphold me with thy free Spirit." He is a free Spirit because He works where, and on whom, and when, and how He himself pleaseth. (He blows where He lists.) And because all our spiritual freedom and liberty comes from Him; "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17) He is also called the good Spirit, "Thou givest them thy good Spirit. (Neh. 9:20) Thy Spirit is good." (Ps. 143:10) He is essentially good. All good thoughts, good desires, and all the good we have, or shall receive from God in Christ, comes to us through the Spirit. The holy views we have of God, the sweet tastes of Christ, the holy joys and contentment in our souls, all come through Him. We could not be partakers of the spiritual blessings which are in Christ, without the blessed Spirit. He is also styled the Spirit of Power, or Mercy. (Isa. 11:2) The power of the Holy Ghost--the power of the Spirit of God--the power of the Highest. It is by the Spirit's power that we are convinced of sin, He breaks the hard heart, and delivers from the power of darkness.
II. Of His gifts and fruits. They are for edification and profit. We read of the first fruits of the Spirit, and of the gifts of the Spirit. As to these gifts and fruits He is called the Spirit of grace, of wisdom, of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. The Spirit of faith, of love, and of supplication. His fruits are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. The graces of the Spirit are the only ornaments, and the excellencies of a Christian, "The king's daughter is glorious within." (Ps. 45:13) The internal glory consists only in the graces of the Spirit: without it men are dead, loathsome, polluted; herein is the image of God. It is essential to salvation, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" (Heb. 12:14) and where these graces are, there is holiness. They are the pledges and earnests of salvation. Therefore they are called the first fruits, the beginning of the full harvest. They are only given to those, who eternally shall be saved. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48) Those who are the children of God receive the graces of the Spirit. They receive the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of knowledge, of wisdom, of faith, and love, of godly sorrow and repentance.
III. Of His works and operations. All our happiness depends upon the Spirit of God. Christ comes to us by his Spirit; and we are drawn by Him to Christ. It is by Him Christ speaks to us; and He enables us to speak to Christ. He brings us to the mercy-seat, and puts arguments into our mouths; and He conforms us unto His image, and unto His death. It is the Spirit who reveals unto us those things which are hid from the wise and prudent; hence He is called the Spirit of revelation. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." (Eph. 1:17) He reveals unto us the mystery of life, even Jesus Christ, who cannot be known or acknowledged otherwise. Flesh and blood cannot reveal Him. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. 12:3) He sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. He makes known the greatness of his love, and our right to it. He reveals the presence of Christ in us. "Hereby we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us," (1 John 3:24) and the glory that is prepared for us--"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:9,10) He makes us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; and He does it by purifying our hearts, by beautifying our souls with the righteousness of Christ, and leading and upholding us in the ways of God.
IV. Let me speak of the Spirit's help. "He helpeth our infirmities.
1st. In communion with God--in meditation on God, in hearing His word, and in prayer unto Him. In prayer we discover much of our ignorance; sometimes as to matter, we are shut up; we know not what to say; as to manner we know not how to address Him, we feel ourselves as a beast before Him. Sometimes we feel dead and dull, lifeless and powerless; it is true that the mouth and the lips move, but the heart is hard, the thoughts wandering, and sin bubbling up, and we cannot pray with that collectedness and fervency that we ought. Now, the Spirit helps our infirmities, teaching us how and what to pray for in quickening and enabling us to pray in liberty and largeness of heart, so that by his influence our narrow and barren hearts are opened, and filled with such an ardency and earnestness, that the soul receives power to wrestle with God. Such a help is the Spirit in prayer to God.
2nd. The Spirit helps us in the weakness of our graces. He enlarges our dim knowledge, by adding light, and light opens more the eyes of our understanding to know the things of God in Christ. He strengthens our weak and staggering faith, answers our doubts, enables us to see our standing and interest in Christ.
3rd. The Spirit helps us in the actings of every grace. Without His influence and assistance we cannot exercise grace. "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. 15:10) Can we trust, mourn, and fear when we will? Can we command our thoughts, wait patiently, and bear the hand of God, when we will? No more than the moon can give light without the sun. Therefore when we believe, hope, repent, and bear up against suffering, it is through the assistance of the Spirit.
4th. The Spirit strengthens us in our spiritual warfare. When temptations rise within, and outward temptations from Satan meet those within, alas! Creature strength is insufficient to conquer, nay, to maintain the conflict for us! Unless the Spirit of God puts forth His Almighty power, and takes our part, we cannot withstand the least temptation, whether from within or from without, no more than a child can stand against a giant. Satan is too strong for us; the least touch of his endangers our lives. But here is our comfort, that in all our spiritual conflicts, we have the Spirit's promise to be with us, to defend and secure us; and His presence is enough; He makes manifest His power in our weakness; He enables us to resist, and to conquer. "We are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." (Eph. 6:10)
5th. When God withdraws the light of his countenance, when the soul has sad apprehensions of its spiritual state and condition; when it thinks that God has become an enemy, and that it is forgotten by God, and cast off by Him, then the Spirit condescends to come, works in the soul, stirs up faith, and enables against hope, to believe in hope, to pray, to trust, to wait, and look for God. "My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning," (Ps. 130:6)--I say, more than they that watch for the morning. "Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption." (Ps. 130:7)
6th. The Spirit helps the soul when it is led captive by sin and Satan, when these enemies have proved too strong, and have prevailed, so that the sinner is fallen, and not able to rise, or has backslidden from God, and strayed from His flock. Even in this condition, the Spirit of God by His wonderful grace helps fallen saints up again. He makes them to see their sins, enables them to mourn and repent, and renews and strengthens their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus He dealt with David and Peter. As the finding us in our lost state, so the raising us from our fallen state is done by the help of the Spirit.
V. I would speak of the Spirit of God as the Author of our joys and comforts. We read of the joy of the Holy Ghost. (Rom. 14:17) And the comforts of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 9:31; John 16:7) The Spirit is given unto us, not only to make manifest our union to Christ, but also to conform us unto Him, and to lead us in the ways of Christ, not only to assist in His services, but also to comfort us. The comfort of the Holy Ghost consists:
1st. In opening the spiritual springs of comfort. It is He who opens the fountain of mercy, of love, the grace of God, and the fountain of the blood of Christ. He opens our eyes to behold the fountains of joy, and the wells of comfort as set open for the good of our souls.
2nd. In His application of these things to our souls. He makes it evident that God loves us, that Christ died for us, and that we are justified by faith in Him, reconciled, pardoned, and accepted in the Beloved, fills our souls with joy in believing, even with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. The comforts of the Holy Ghost are the best comforts; they are like the peace Christ speaks of, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you;" (John 14:27) not worldly, short, and transient. They flow from the river of God, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. He can comfort us under all our discomfitures. "Who comforteth us in all our tribulations," (2 Cor. 1:4) yea, under the deepest and saddest disconsolations. "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul." (Ps. 94:19) "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Ps. 147:3) He can comfort us when there is none else, when we have neither father nor mother, sister nor brother, companion nor friend, when in prison, in exile, homeless, and penniless, when alone. The Spirit of God alone can comfort our souls. He can show unto us the salvation of the Lord. He can speak peace, assure us of mercy, and cause our hearts to rejoice; when He comforts, none can hinder, men nor devils, nor doubts, nor fears. When he works none shall let, when He gives peace who can give trouble?
Lastly. The offices of the Holy Ghost, I would speak of.
1st. He makes all the ordinances of Christ effectual and powerful to our souls; or else they would prove empty vessels. By His power He applies the everlasting Gospel to poor sinners, or else they receive no benefit from it. He applies the precepts, the invitations, and the promises of the Gospel; and He enables us to love and obey the whole, not a part. He opens the mysteries of the Gospel, and applies them unto us, so that the Gospel comes not in word only, but in power, in the demonstration of God the Holy Ghost. (1 Thess. 1:5)
2nd. He is the Witness to our spirits that we are the children of God. A witness is one that gives a testimony against, or for a man; and he is of use in all doubtful and litigious cases, in all suits and trials. Satan often debates and disputes our rights to the things of eternity. Sometimes he tells the believer that he is not a child of God, that he is presuming, and that he is only deceiving himself, while the living soul makes his appeal to the Lord to keep him from presumption and deception. In this state the Spirit of God comes, and declares to the soul, "I know that thou art born of God, for I have" regenerated thee, and the soul replies, I know it is so; I have been blind but now I see; I was dead but now I live. And He also seals it with the broad seal of heaven. The sealing of the Spirit is that assuring confirmation unto the hearts of believers, that God and heaven are theirs.
3rd. The Spirit of God dwells in a believers, heart. "The Spirit of truth dwelleth with you, and shall be in you;" (John 14:17) "by the Holy Ghost, that dwelleth in us." "The Father dwells in us." (2 Cor. 6:16) Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, and likewise the Holy Ghost. Thrice happy is that man who has been made a temple for a blessed Trinity in Unity. What can such a sinner want, or enjoy, more than this? I can say to such, how great is thy excellency, how perfect is thy beauty, and how full is thy glory!
Dwelling denotes especial presence, a constant and permanent one; and such is the dwelling of the Spirit of God in a believer's heart. He is a gracious and abiding Resident, and never leaves them, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever." (John 14:16)
Having proved the perpetuity of the Covenant of grace from the relationship which exists between the Father, Son and Spirit, and believers, I will now endeavor to prove the certainty of the Covenant of grace. The word of God is equally plain on the certainty of the Covenant, as upon its perpetuity. It is called the "sure mercies of David,"--"And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." (Isa. 55:3) The mercy here means Covenant mercy; and this mercy comes through Christ, David's Antitype. The reason why it is called the mercy of David is because it is only obtained through Him whom David represented, Christ, the Store-house of God's mercy. Without Christ there is no mercy, but condemnation.
It is also called "the sure mercies" because Christ is the Surety, Messenger, and Mediator of the Covenant, and because this mercy comes to a sinner through the blood of Christ, and is only given to the members of Christ. This mercy must be sure, it being treasured up in Him. The Lord declares that He will not suffer His faithfulness to fail, "nevertheless, my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him." (Ps. 89:33) "Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come." (Hab. 2:3) "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land, in truth, with my whole heart, and with my whole soul; I will bring upon them all the good that I have promised them." (Jer. 32:41,42) There hath not failed one word of all His good promises, which He promised, by the hand of Moses, His servant. (1 Kings 8:56) Nor will He alter His covenant, "My covenant shall stand fast with Him. My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. (Ps. 89:34) The mountains shall remove, and the hills depart, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the Covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:10)
"All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen unto the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20) "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure." (2 Tim. 2:19) This foundation is the election of God, and our eternal blessings are built upon it. The certainty of this Covenant may be gathered;
1st. From the power of God. 2nd. From the will of God. If God is able and willing to perform, then the covenant must be sure.
1st. The power of God is necessary to give a being to all his undertakings. A creature may promise a thing, and be willing to perform it, but finding it above his ability, he cannot fulfill his promise. But it is not so with God. All that God has promised and engaged Himself to perform, whether temporal or spiritual, He has power to fulfill. "The Lord will give you flesh, and you shall eat." (Num. 11:18) Here is a promise for a temporal blessing, the fulfillment thereof is in verse 23, "And the Lord said unto Moses, is the Lord's hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my words shall come to pass unto thee or not." These words were a reply to Moses' objection, "And Moses said, the people among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen: Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them, or shall the fish of the sea be gathered together for them?"
It appears that Moses almost doubted God's ability. But the Lord told him that His ability can surmount all difficulties, "My hand has not waxed short." (Num. 11:23) God's power is the same with regard to spiritual things. "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?" (Micah 7:18) He is able to pardon the greatest sinner, and greatest sin. He is able to quicken the dead, and change the heart, and preserve to his heavenly glory. It is a power which cannot be hindered. "If he will bless who can curse? If He is with us, who can be against us?" All the power of Pharaoh with his army, could not hinder God from delivering His people according to his promise, nor all the kings hinder them from possessing the land of promise.
God's power is an independent power. His own arm is sufficient for all His works and purposes. The power of God is enough to create, to convert, and bless. It is an everlasting power; it remains the same to all eternity, "Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save." (Isa. 59:1)
2nd. The certainty of the covenant may be demonstrated from the will of God. "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham." (Micah 7:20) "I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel." (Jer. 33:14) "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." (1 Thess. 5:24) "He that hath begun a good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6) None could compel God to make any promise, or to adopt any of the sons of men for His children, but of His own accord He was willing that it should be so; it arose from His own love to them. This will was resolved by Himself, and according to His purpose. It was not, maybe I will, or maybe I will not. I wish it to be so; but, THIS IS MY PURPOSE; I AM RESOLVED ON IT, and that for His own sake. "Not for your sakes, O house of Israel but for my holy Name's sake: even for my own sake will I do it." (Ezek. 36:22) God's will is an unalterable will. "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." And this willingness He has expressed in His promises, and ratified by his oath. (see Jer. 32:42; Jer. 33:14; Micah 7:20; Ps. 89:35; Heb. 6:17)
Having already seen the certainty of the covenant, we will now enquire the reason of the certainty.
1st. Certainty is a ground of faith. The word of God commands us to believe, and to be persuaded, to stand fast, rest, and rejoice in believing. But if there were an uncertainty in God, there could be no assurance of faith, and we are encouraged to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. (Heb. 10:23) How could we be persuaded of the enjoyment of God's promises, unless they were certain to be fulfilled? There can be no peace in uncertainty; peace is that which settles the mind, establishes the heart, and removes fears. The ground of this peace, is the certainty of the covenant. Hence it is styled, the covenant of peace, and being so, we have strong consolation. In order to establish peace in the soul, there must be either present fruition, or certainty of expectation; a maybe, or, a peradventure will not do. If a man could only say, "maybe God will pardon my sins, and save my soul; or may be, He will not," there would be no peace in the soul. We find this in our experience, till we are assured of our interest in Christ we have no settled peace; but when we are blessed with this holy assurance, we have a solid peace, although not constant joy. And the reason of this peace is the certainty of the covenant.
2nd. Certainty is a ground of hope and patience. God has encouraged us in his word to hope and wait patiently for Him, "Let Israel hope in the Lord." (Ps. 130:7; Ps. 131:3) It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end." (1 Pet. 1:13) "Thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me." (Isa. 49:23) The reason why they shall not be ashamed is, the certainty of the covenant, otherwise we might be ashamed of our hope, and wait in vain.
3rd. The reason why God made the covenant sure was because He would draw the hearts of His people unto Himself. There are things that will draw, and fix the heart, where it can discover them; goodness, fullness, freeness, and certainty. These will draw the heart to God. Where shall I go, says the living soul? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and on whom shall I rely, but on Thyself alone? "O Lord, Thou art full of goodness, merciful and gracious." Here will no living soul have cause to complain. David, in a fit of unbelief, said, "Is His mercy clean gone for ever, doth His promise fail for evermore?" (Psalm 77:8) But he corrected himself "I said, this is my infirmity." But, if God did not fulfill His covenant promises, His children might complain. Blessed be God, there will be no cause for that, for He is truth and faithfulness itself. The certainty of the covenant then, is great encouragement to the people of God.
God assures them that they shall not be disappointed in coming to Him,--"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) "He will not despise the day of small things." (Zech. 4:10) "He will love them freely, and receive them graciously." "He will be their God, and they shall be His people." Every thing short of this is uncertain, transient, and not to be depended on. What is the promise of a man whose breath is in his nostrils? He may make a promise and not live to fulfill it. But not so with God, He is an eternal, infinite, and all-sufficient Being. Here also is sweet encouragement to pray. "I said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain." (Isa. 45:19) We may seek Him a long time, but in the end He will be found. "I will cry unto God Most High, unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me." (Ps. 57:2,3) David is determined to cry to His God, and call upon Him for help. Why did he do so? Because He is the Most High God, who is able to help, and has promised so to do.
We have said that there are three things in the covenant, Perpetuity, Certainty and Order. Having considered the former two, we will now endeavor to open the third. Each of these affords great comfort and consolation to the people of God. What an infinite mercy it is that the blessings are of an eternal nature, and the enjoyment of them certain, and they are all in order!
The covenant is an ordered work; it was made by Him who is infinite in wisdom, wonderful in counsel, and full of love. We shall now see wherein this order consists.
1st. There is that which is adequate to all the demands, needs, and straits of the people of God. Let their trouble be ever so great, their needs many, their misery deep, whether spiritual or temporal--above the power of men's or angel's help--yet in this covenant there is a sufficiency for all requirements.
Is the sinner longing for a reconciled God? Is he in want of a precious Christ, panting after atoning blood, praying for salvation, craving for pardon, hungering and thirsting for the bread and water of life, seeking after holiness, faith, patience, hope, love, meekness and resignation? Here are all these things in order, to be communicated to him. Is the living soul in want of peace, rest, ease, joy, and comfort for a troubled conscience? From hence he shall be supplied. Is he in want of any temporal thing that pertaineth to this life? This is also ordered,--"Bread shall be given, and water sure." (Isa. 33:16) Here is nothing wanting, but all things superabounding.
2nd. Things are well ordered when they are well placed; a thing out of place is out of order. In the covenant of grace all things are in their right place. Christ keeps His place as Mediator, the Father as a Donor, and the believer as a receiver. Here it is revealed what Christ is to do, what the Father will do, and what His Spirit is to reveal, and the believer is to do. Here is no confusion. God is a God of order: every one has his portion ordered. Here is hope for despair, ease for one that is heavy laden, peace for a broken heart, mercy for the penitent, a precious Christ for one that has faith, redemption for one in bondage, righteousness for one that feels himself naked, grace for the unworthy, riches for the spiritually poor, help for the needy, strength for the weak, a balm for the wounded, rest for the weary, bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty, and a refuge for the criminal.
3rd. Things that move and work to a right end are rightly ordered, and in this covenant every thing works right which is to the praise and glory of God's grace. The Father made the covenant for his own glory; redemption by Christ is for the glory of both; and regeneration by the Spirit is to glorify the blessed Trinity; every good thing given and received, all work to this end, that is, to the glory of God. Christ, as the Surety, as sent by the Father, dying and triumphing on the cross to make satisfaction and peace, all aim at the same thing. The grace which a sinner receives, and the works which he does by grace, and the things which he hopes for, all tend to the glory of God.
4th. Every thing in season is beautiful. "He hath made every thing beautiful in His time." If any thing is out of time, it is out of order--frost in summer is out of order. If physic comes when a person is dead, this would be disorderly; things are in order, when they are neither too soon, nor too late, but at the time of need. And so are the dispensations of the covenant; they are sent, and come in time of need, when a sensible sinner is ready to give up all for lost, cries "My God why hast thou forsaken me?" All doors shut--that very time Christ appears, mercy and help comes. "When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I, the Lord will hear them, and not forsake them. (Isa. 41:17) I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee." (2 Cor. 6:2) When the heart of David was overwhelmed, then God comforted him. When the church was like a woman forsaken, then said God, "With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:6-8) When Ephraim was ashamed, even confounded, then said God, "My bowels are troubled, I will surely have mercy upon him." (Jer. 31:20) When Paul was pressed with temptations above measure, then Christ told him that his grace was sufficient, and that his strength would be made perfect in weakness, and so it is now with the people of God. They receive mercy in the fittest time. God is gracious and wise, therefore He knows the best time, and as a faithful God He will lose no time.
5th. This covenant being well ordered, there is a firm foundation for our hope and confidence, that a sensible sinner will be received by God the Father. Christ says, I will satisfy for his sins, and make peace for him; I will forgive, and abundantly pardon, says the merciful God. I will love Him freely and receive Him graciously, says the God of love and grace. Here we have Christ who merited all, and God, who promised to give all, who hath bound Himself by oath to perform all for them, and who rejoices over His people to do them good, and accounts it His praise and honor, in loving them encouraging them to call upon Him, to trust in Him, and to receive from Him. Hence the children of God must persevere. The covenant is everlasting, or ordered in all things and sure; God engaged to maintain an everlasting union and communion between Himself and His people, and gave charge to Christ to keep them in His name, and He willingly undertook this charge, and executed it faithfully. He conquered His people's enemies, supplies them with sufficient grace, and as the Lion of Judah guides them through this wilderness safe to glory.
"With David's Lord and ours,
A Covenant once was made,
Whose bonds are firm and sure,
Whose glories ne'er shall fade.
Signed by the sacred Three-in-One,
In mutual love ere time began.
Firm as the lasting hills,
This covenant shall endure,
Whose potent shalls and wills
Make every blessing sure;
When ruin shakes all nature's frame,
Its jots and tittles stand the same.
Here the vast seas of grace,
Love, peace, and mercy flow,
That all the blood bought race
Of men or angels know.
O, sacred deep, without a shore,
Who shall thy limits e'er explore?
Here when thy feet shall fall,
Believer, thou shalt see,
Grace to restore thy soul,
And pardon full and free;
Thee with delight shall God behold,
A chosen sheep in Zion's fold.
And when through Jordan's flood,
Thy God shall bid thee go;
His arm shall thee defend,
And vanquish every foe:
And in this covenant thou shalt view,
Sufficient strength to bear thee through."