"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 make it not to grow." (2 Samuel 23:5)
The text is taken from the last words of David. We listen attentively to what falls from the lips of dying saints. We may well, then, hearken to what proceeds from one so eminent in the things of God as David. He gives us in his last words a little summary of his history and experience, and begins by referring to his original low estate: "David, the son of Jesse." Jesse seems to have been of but little repute in Israel; David was his eighth son. How would the psalmist's heart catch fire and glow with gratitude as he remembered the low estate, from which the special love of God had raised him. And shall we forget the low estate from which the grace of God has raised us? Shall we not come before the Lord according to the ancient type, and as we praise him for exalting us to true honor in Christ, say, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father?" O, a due remembrance of the past heightens the sense of the blessedness of the present, and increases our gratitude and love to God. Paul, when he writes to Timothy of what God had brought him to, speaks of what grace had saved him from, and thus love and humility combined together; a minister of the gospel, but the chief of sinners.
David goes on, having laid this foundation for humility, "And the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob." He was raised up to the sweet estate of a king over God's heritage, and anointed by God himself, not only at the hand of Samuel with oil, but by the Holy Spirit, so as to be the man as king over Israel after God's own heart. O sweet, sweet exaltation! O excellent glory! Well might the psalmist's heart glow as touched with a live coal from the altar, and break forth into the praises of God. But there is something even higher and sweeter still. "And the sweet psalmist of Israel." David was, indeed, highly honored of God. To all ages his sweet songs were to be the joy and edification of the Church of God. He reigned over the Israel of God when upon earth. He still sways, as it were, ministerially, a scepter over the hearts of God's people, and will do so to the end of time. But whence had David this marvelous poetic capability? Was it merely something natural to him? O no! David takes care to give the glory in his last words to God: "The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." There was the secret of these marvelous compositions; the Holy Spirit was the real penman, hence the sweetness and superhuman excellency of them, and the adaptation to the hearts of God's children to the end of time.
There is something more. God put a word into Balaam's mouth, and then, as we know, though his heart remained sealed up in iniquity, his tongue broke forth into the most wonderful prophetic expressions concerning God's Israel. Those words which touched not his own heart have warmed and strengthened the hearts of many of God's people. As it is with preachers who speak the truths of God which they yet have not experienced in their own hearts, their words may give some refreshment to others; their own hearts lie in the wicked one. They are potsherds of earth covered with silver dross, with their burning words and wicked hearts. So it was with Balaam. It was not so with David. No. "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me." David was himself taught of God. Taught Christ, the true sweet morning without clouds; the true ruler over men, ruling as Mediator in the fear of the Lord; the Man who, being as to his eternal Godhead in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh, in order that he might be to distressed and broken hearts, as the clear shining after rain. But David learnt Christ practically, and so he was taught what he, as a king, ought himself to be. Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord of grace, he was changed, both in desire and also in practice, into the image of that which the eye of faith beheld, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Having thus spoken of Christ in these his last words, here his heart fixes; here he, as it were, stands still. He is again placed upon the Rock higher than himself, and thence takes a survey of things around him, and of things future also. Many, many things in the present and future might be full of gloom and distress; but then here his heart exulted, here it bounded with delight. God's covenant in Christ remained fast and firm; hence he breaks forth in the words of my text: "Although my house be not so with God" (though my posterity may not continue to walk thus in the way of true royalty, and the fear of God), "yet hath he made with me" (concerning and in Christ), "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." Here I fix, here I take comfort, "For this is all my salvation, and all my desire;" yea, in darkest circumstances, and gloomiest prospects, "although he make it not to grow."
These are truly noble, and sweet, and triumphant last words, and our design is to speak of them not merely in their application to David, but, considering him as one of the representative men of Scripture, as applicable to all the Israel of God.
We find, in this consideration of them, three things to notice, or three classes of observations:
I. We may observe that the children of God will find many things with them in this life as they would not wish them to be.
II. But then there remains one thing which never alters, and is always abundantly full of consolation for them—God's everlasting covenant.
III. And, taught by the Spirit, in this everlasting covenant they find all their salvation, and its sweet blessings become all their desire, and this even at such times as God may appear to keep them short as to the enjoyment of those blessings.
I. God's children will find many things with them in this life as they would not wish them to be. The Psalmist David tells us "many are the afflictions of the righteous." "Through much tribulation," Paul assures us, "we must enter the kingdom of God." Christ was crowned with thorns and crucified upon earth, and his brethren are predestined to be conformed to his suffering image. Moreover, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, and those who rejoice, because of Christ, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, are said by the apostle who writes this to be in heaviness for a season through manifold temptations. Now, one thing that often intensifies the afflictions of God's people is the idea that some strange thing has happened to them; that God would not thus deal with them if they were dear children. Therefore, to remove this, we shall notice some of the things in which a child of God's house, so to speak, may not be so with God as he would wish, pointing out that the same afflictions have been found in others of his brethren whilst in the world.
1. A dear child of God may be grievously afflicted as to his poor mortal body with sickness and agonizing pain. He may become, through disease, a sort of spectacle to others, and may be tempted to think, "Surely if this body was redeemed and I was the Lord's He never would thus lay His hand in loathsome sickness and agonizing pain upon me." But dear children of God should, under these temptations, look to the Lord and His word. Job was a choice man of God; one of the three specially mentioned by God with approbation to Ezekiel; one of the men who by their eminent godliness turn away evil from a family, or a people, until God's longsuffering is to give place to the fury of His just judgment. But Job is smitten, by God's permission and the hand of Satan, from head to foot with sore boils, so that as he writes his own clothes abhorred him. What more piteous spectacle than Job sitting in the dust and taking a potsherd to scrape himself withal? Yet this was all in love from God. We see the end of the Lord at length when we find Job repenting of his pride and weeping tears of godly sorrow at the feet of loveliest Jesus, and abhorring himself in dust and ashes. Does not the poor Lazarus at the rich man's gate, covered over with sores, represent to us a dear child of God? And who would not willingly be full of sores, neglected too, in the calamity by men of less feeling than the brute creation, so as to be at the same time a lazar at the gates of a precious Christ Jesus? Why, the poor Lazarus was in one sense a thousand times healthier than the rich man; for Lazarus was Christ's beggar, and Christ always had, according to the covenant, as much health for him as he needed, whilst the rich healthy man who despised him had a soul separated from God, and a body and soul, too, ripening for damnation. Look, too, at a bleeding, agonizing Christ upon the cross of Calvary, and then go away, poor soul, and say, "Ah, I see it all now; this sickness is not unto pain, or misery, or death, but for the glory of God, who has made with me an everlasting covenant".
2. A poor child of God may find that not only as to his earthly tabernacle, but as to his family, his children, his friends, his house is not so with God as he could have desired. This is a great and sore trial. Children or dear relatives visited with sore afflictions or, worse still, "not so" with God in religion, or even in morality as we could desire. Here is a cause of intensest anguish to a feeling heart, and some persons of tender hearts are more to be reached in the persons of others than in their own. But then Scripture comes in with its examples and consolations. The man whose last words we are considering walked in these sad paths. God, as he says, had given him many children, and with them doubtless many pleasures, but also many many sorrows. One child dies in infancy, and weeping cannot bring him back again. Amnon grows up to be murdered by a brother in revenge for his own dreadful act of cruel defilement of a sister. Absalom rebels against his too tenderly loving father, and loses his life in his most wicked rebellion and impiety; and whose hearts cannot perceive a little of the anguish expressed by the father? O, Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee, my son, my son. Moreover, David, according to God's words by Nathan and in the spirit of prophecy, would foresee future family adversities. And when we consider all this, and see Job's children all cut off in a day, we may, in the midst of the sorest family afflictions, feel it is no strange thing happening to us, and still though the house is not with God as we could desire, the everlasting covenant stands fast for ever.
3. A child of God may be exceedingly distressed in temporal things. Poverty may most grievously afflict him. He may be as honest and upright as any man upon the face of the earth, yet may be involved in debts, unable to pay his way and fulfill the injunction, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." He may be industrious and willing to work, and yet unable to get employment. He has those as dear to him as himself dependent upon him, and he sees them perhaps, from want of sufficient and good nourishment, falling a prey to disease. How hard to believe that God cares for such an one. Is not the promise, "Bread shall be given him; his water shall be sure"? Is this the fulfillment of it? No good thing will God withhold from those who walk uprightly. Must I not be deceived, for is not even needed support denied to me and mine? Thus Satan tempts and the heart argues. "O," says the poor creature, "surely I am no child of God, for does not David say, 'Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread'?" Now, what can we do here unless we consult with God in His Scripture? We turn, then, to the unerring oracles, and at the very first glance we see that many words must be understood in a modified sense, and therefore that the true bearing and meaning of the promise must be carefully studied, and hasty views and speeches renounced. Why Abraham was righteous, and yet Judas descended from him as well as Peter; and does not God's word consign, in one of the Psalms, numbers of the seed of Abraham to being vagabonds and begging their bread? We merely notice this to show how carefully Scripture must be interpreted. But now to the case in hand.
Do we not read in the Second Book of Kings of a son of the prophet who was so impoverished that he left his wife in debt, and his sons in danger of being taken as bondsmen? Does not such an account as this speak volumes concerning God's ways with his people? Had riches been good for this man. God could have made him as wealthy as Solomon; but the really good thing for him was the hard struggle of poverty, and his loving God withheld it not, through a mistaking unwise fondness, from him. Look, too, again at Lazarus begging at the rich man's door and denied the crumbs. Was he not the representative of the saints? Was he not in want? Was he not a beggar? Was he not a despised, neglected, rejected one also? But then he was God's beggar, not as one to whom poverty was given as a curse, but out of the ordered covenant, for his own greatest good, and the rich man's trial and condemnation. Again we read of the choicest saints of God as wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins, in dens and caves of the earth, being destitute. And after considering all these things must we not see and say, "O the cross of Christ has made a complete alteration in everything; sorrow, poverty, tears, afflictions, death, these are turned into riches, laughter, health, and life in Jesus?" And now faith cries, "Better suffer afflictions with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;" and though the circumstances may not be so as nature would desire, still the covenant remains ordered in all things and sure.
4. But not to be tedious, we will omit various things which each exercised heart may supply out of its own experiences, and mention one more thing in which the house may be considered not so with God as we should desire. Every child of God is made, under divine light and teaching, to learn, in a feeling, experimental way, the plague of his own heart. He would be holy. The new principle of grace implanted in his heart is called the seed of God, and is a perfect, pure, and holy principle. It is the image of God; for the believer is said to be renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. And he is created anew in Christ Jesus in righteousness and true holiness, and unto good works which God has before appointed he should walk in. Now from this new principle he becomes an earnest desirer after purity; seeking to purify himself, as Christ is pure. It cannot be otherwise. A holy principle—the seed of God, the image of Christ—must produce in the true believer's heart a panting and breathing after the image of God in holiness and love. But then how does the believer find it with him? Can he be or walk with God as he would through this new nature desire? Is the heart, the house, so with God as he would wish? No, far from it. Too often he feels his heart more like a den of thieves than a place of prayer.
He groans day by day oppressed, burdened with sinful, wretched self.
Now, this would be overpowering did not here again Scripture come in by word and example to his help. But it does come in; it does support him. He finds the apostle Paul afflicted just in the same way. In that holy, excellent apostle there was a law of the members warring against the law of the mind; he could not do the things which he would. When he would do good—love and believe, repent and pray—evil was present with him. It warred against the law of his mind to the extent of bringing him into captivity; it pressed out of measure at times so as to make him despair even of life. The flesh lusted against the spirit so constantly, so universally, so powerfully, that he could not do the things which he would, and sometimes his best desires to serve and please God were reduced to a groan of anguish: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Other apostles felt the same, though not so fully unfolding in their writings the state of the case. Peter exhorts saints against fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and John speaks of sin being in the children of God who, yet as after the Spirit and through the workings of the new nature, are said not as others to commit sin. Here, then, again the Scripture, like the good Samaritan, comes where we are, and not only sees us lying bleeding with our wounds, but pours in the oil and wine of sweet explanations and consolations suited to the case. So that still we may say with the Psalmist, although my house be not so with God as I could wish, though my heart be full of evil and prone to wander, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.
5. But there is one thing connected in some cases with the house not being so with God as we could desire, which will often aggravate the affliction and produce many questionings as to an interest in the grace and covenant of God. Sometimes there is such an evident reaping as we have sown, that the misery is greatly increased; so that this point must be a little dwelt upon. We are supposing the case of a child of God, who is now seeking to walk humbly with God, and who nevertheless is made to eat the bitter fruit of past sins, whether committed whilst in a state of unregeneracy, or of a backsliding nature.
There are some persons who are for ever complaining, not because they are made to reap in tears the fruit of past folly, but they may trace their troubles to their present way of conducting themselves. They have sickly bodies; but then they act in various ways contrary to the very laws that God has given to nature. They are careless or intemperate; and then would have God work a succession of miracles to avert the consequences of their absurdity. They are poor; but then they are utterly improvident. In debt; but then they are extravagant, will not humble themselves to their present condition under the mighty hand of God, but must keep up appearances at the expense of honesty and conscience. They lack food, but won't labor for it; and prefer living idly upon others and an imaginary providence, to honest employment with prayer for daily bread. Their children are disorderly and a burden, but then they are treated with a foolish fondness, left uncorrected, set a bad example, perhaps, and not brought up in the nurture or admonition of the Lord. They complain of their bad hearts and masterful corruptions. But instead of diligently, in attendance upon means of grace, private and public, seeking to keep the thorns and briars under, they live careless, slothful, self-indulgent lives. They sow amongst thorns, and scatter their plot of ground with thistle seeds, and then wonder that grace is choked, and thistles grow instead of barley. Now it is not such persons so evidently living at the present time in folly and inconsistency we would comfort; but those who, though now seeking to walk carefully before God, and to serve Him in all humility of mind, nevertheless, find the fruits of past sins and follies a present grief and distress to them.
Now these persons, for their encouragement, may remember that this was David's experience. In one Psalm he begs God not to remember the sins of his youth, or his transgressions. He was afraid of God's visiting him with some severity for youthful follies, and the riper transgressions of more advanced years. Indeed, he evidently felt some of the effects of these past evils then present with him; though the flame was at that time subdued by grace, there was the smoldering fire of youthful sins in his bosom. David, too, was forgiven the sin of his older years in the matter of Uriah. But then, though God said by Nathan, "The LORD hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die," He also said by the same prophet, the child shall die, and the sword shall not depart from thy house. He then that uttered for his last words, "My house is not so with God," would add to it in his thoughts, "and Lord, in this very thing I see the chastening of a holy Father's hand, a Father too who has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure."
We see, then, that God's pardoned children, may not only have the house not so with God, but may have to trace the disorder back to sins and follies perhaps long ago committed, and now bemoaned. The truth is, God deals with His children in a way of sovereignty, but then it is a sovereignty exercised in infinite wisdom as well as love. When the sins of His people have caused outward scandal, as with David, God may mark His displeasure against the sin by years of after affliction. Besides, God sees the needs-be of reminding his people, that thus they may be preserved from fresh offences, and may walk tenderly before Him. Therefore, for their own sakes as well as those of others, God, who forgives the sin, may yet make His people for many a long year eat of the fruits of their transgression. We see then though, in this view of things, of the house not being so with God, there is much to humble, there is nothing to unduly cast down. Still the child of God may hold his own against Satan, and boast of the everlasting covenant. One word of counsel here, before we proceed to notice that covenant, to ourselves and others. There seems to be a great deal of spiritual wisdom required in knowing how to walk with God; especially as it respects so dealing with God after sins committed as shall best avert fatherly chastisements. Now, these rules we believe are good ones. To pray and strive for a deep, adequate sense of the evil of our sin, with brokenness and contrition of spirit on account of it. To seek to get a full, free, sweet pardon through the blood of Christ well applied to the conscience by the Holy Ghost. To keep up day by day a humbling sense of our folly, baseness, and ingratitude, even though forgiven; for a sinner may thus
"Repent and sing,
Rejoice and be ashamed."
Some even of God's people walk with Him in a very unwise and improper way; they are for ever talking about sovereignty, and, alas, too much presuming upon mercy, they do not carefully and wisely consider the Scripture accounts of God's ways of dealing with His own people. They forget such words as these: As a man sows, so shall he reap. They neglect such examples as those of David, who sets himself before us with his bones broken as a proof that our God is righteous as well as merciful. May then the good Lord open our eyes and give us tender trembling hearts to walk before God wisely in the land of the living. And if for our admonition and to assist us in such self-humbling walk with God He still sees it right for us to eat in some degree of the bitter fruits of past follies, may we have this cheering reflection in our hearts,—Although my house be not so with God as I could wish, and although I must trace a great deal of this to my own past folly and sin; yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. We must now speak a little about that sweet covenant, or the second class of observations to be made upon the words of our text.
II. There remains one thing which never alters, and is always abundantly full of consolation for the saints—God's everlasting covenant.
No doubt this everlasting covenant spoken of by David in his last words must primarily signify the covenant God had made with him concerning raising up Christ of his seed according to the flesh to sit upon his throne; but then this, as well as similar promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was but an extract from the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, made on behalf of the elect in Christ before the world began. Thus we read of the covenants of promise; but then all these particular givings forth of the promises were but unfoldings and establishings of the everlasting covenant with particular children of God. The everlasting covenant then, in the fullness of the expression, is that blessed covenant made between the three persons of the Eternal Trinity on behalf of God's elect before the foundation of the world. One of our poets sweetly and correctly sings of it thus:
"Before all worlds, the glorious plan,
The bless'd eternal deed,
Was settled by the eternal Three,
That Christ for man should bleed."
Here we have the three blessed, coequal, coeternal persons in the Godhead settling the plan of salvation, and entering upon a covenant concerning the execution of it, ratifying a deed of agreement concerning redemption in the blood of Jesus, before the beginning of time. Christ speaking in the character of wisdom in the eighth of Proverbs, represents Himself as set up to be a mediator according to this covenant from of old, from everlasting, so that not only was He Himself the Father's pleasure but His own delights were with the sons of men.
Moreover, because of this eternal settlement there was a promise of life in Christ before the world was, and grace given to the elect according to the purpose of God before the world began. That which was thus from the beginning John wrote about, and these ancient things, and sweet settlements of eternity, are represented by him as the ever unfolding and refreshing subject of the meditations of the fathers in Jesus. (See 1 John 2:13) David's last words were about God's first words of mercy, love and grace. As one sings:
"Whose gracious eye surveyed us,
Ere stars were seen above,
In wisdom he hath made us,
And died for us in love."
To this everlasting covenant the three blessed persons in the glorious Trinity were necessarily parties. Of the Father covenanting with the Son we have a particular and full account in Psa. 89. And the blessed Spirit, who seals all covenant mercies home upon the hearts of the elect, as a coequal, coeternal person in the Godhead, must necessarily have been a signing party to this everlasting settlement. If we glance a little more here at this covenant, we find that it was distinctly made on behalf of the elect: "The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." Those whom God predestinated to eternal glory, those He covenanted for respecting the glory itself, and the means and mode of bringing them to that glory. Thus Paul tells us, putting all in the past tense as referring to everlasting settlements, "Whom he did foreknow," or fix His electing love upon, "he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son," to these He gave, in the eternal purpose of His mind, effectual calling, eternal justification, and then that final glory to which they were predestinated. Thus, as Scripture shows, the elect were the persons specifically covenanted for.
The way, too, was planned, each person in the covenant sustaining a distinct part in this sweet matter of salvation. The Father standing upon the rights of justice, the majesty of the Godhead, and the inflexibility of the law, demands a full satisfaction for the sins of the elect, and a complete righteousness to cover them; that thus the law should be magnified and made honorable in their glorification. Upon these terms they were to be justified, glorified, and eternally accepted, and put into possession of the sweet heaven eternally in love ordained for them. Thus God would be just, and a justifier, the glory of God receive no clouding, and yet the vessel of mercy be filled with felicity.
The blessed Son of the Father in truth and love agreed to do and suffer on the behalf of the elect all that was required. To come as his Father's messenger and servant; to fulfill in human nature all righteousness; to be made under the law, that thus, in human nature. He might, as His people's Surety, fulfill the law as to obedience; and then, bearing the sins of the people, die the accursed penal death of the cross to atone for those sins which were laid upon Him. Thus having obeyed for them in life, and suffered for them in death. He undertook to present them faultless in Himself before the throne of God, having made for them an end of sin and brought in an everlasting righteousness; so that of Him risen from the dead they should be able to say: "In the Lord have I righteousness," and that to eternity.
The Holy Spirit undertook, in the everlasting covenant, what according to it He fulfills continually. He breathes upon the dead elect, and they are quickened into life. He convinces them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He brings them to Christ, betroths them to Him, acquaints them with the Saviour's grace, and the Father's love, and His own almighty covenanted power, and thus puts them into possession of those blessings covenanted for them before the world was made.
Such is a very, very brief sketch of the covenant David triumphed in—an everlasting covenant; for here God is all and in all. The covenant of works, depending upon man's obedience, was soon broken, and utterly impotent to bless. The covenant of grace, depending entirely upon God, cannot really be broken. It is like its author. It is called a new covenant, because though first in the making in heaven, it is the last in respect of revealing upon earth; thus the songs of this covenant are new as to the singers, though written for them, and prepared from eternity. It is a covenant of grace, wherein nothing but free, sovereign grace appears reigning over the vile, the worthless, and the lost. Gentiles, publicans, and sinners, go into this kingdom of God. It is a covenant of absolute promises; not like the law of promises hampered with creature conditions, and therefore turning into threatenings and curses. It is a covenant of peace; for here God is the peace maker, peace sender, and peace ratifier, and is the very God of peace—all peace, perfect peace—to the elect in Jesus. It is, to say no more, a covenant of life, eternal life. Not of life such as, Adam had—conditional life, and therefore not eternal, only continued—but eternal life, life that cannot possibly be forfeited, for the righteousness of the covenant is eternal; nor can it be lost, for the power that fulfils the covenant is almighty.
Well might the psalmist, in his last words, triumph in such a covenant! But if it was thus made with Christ before David, or even man, had an actual being, why does he say, "made with me?" In what sense can God be said to make with us an everlasting covenant? In the first place, believers may sweetly remember their oneness with Christ. Paul shows us that in the mind of God this union existed from eternity. The head and the members were all considered as one body, and thus we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Therefore, what was transacted with Christ as our Head, was transacted really with His members as united to Him. And in a reverential way we might even venture to answer the Lord's own question to Job: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Job might, with his head drooping into the dust of self-abasement, have said: "Lord, in Thy own blessed Self."
"Zion still dwells upon the heart
Of everlasting love."
But, again, there is a ratifying of the covenant in a child of God's own experience; a bringing him into the bonds of that covenant; and thus an experimental way of making with him an everlasting covenant, a sealing home upon his own heart the sweet covenant made for him in Christ before the world was.
But the Psalmist in these words of rejoicing sets forth certain things in that covenant, which made it so excellent and desirable to him. He calls it "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." Let us consider, then, the ordering of the covenant.
1. It is ordered in respect to all its provisions. Many things had to be provided for: God's glory on the one hand, the advantage of the child of God on the other. All was taken into consideration and arranged. Great things and, as we call them, little things were alike taken into account. God, who in the works of nature becomes more and more to be wondered at, as the finish of His workmanship is seen in the minutest details, the smallest parts of creation, cannot be less glorious in that everlasting covenant and new creation, which is to take the place of the other. All then is provided for; the Mediator of the covenant; His sweet and glorious person; God-man; the time when He should be manifested in the flesh; His birth; His parents; the estate in which He was to appear as a carpenter's son; what He should do; what He should suffer; all was ordered. A fountain was to be opened in His blood; a righteousness provided in His obedience. His sweet intercession perfumes the prayers of His people. He sympathizes with them in sufferings as one who has suffered. Are they poor? So was He. Are they afflicted? He was a man of sorrows. Are they despised? He was a worm and no man. Are they deserted by men? He was forsaken of all. Do they appear forsaken even of God? He was also; for a small moment the church in His person suffered the wrath and hidings of God's face. Thus for a tried, covenant people is provided in the ordered covenant a tried and afflicted Saviour. In Him they find a throne of grace, a mercy-seat; in Him they have an eternal sanctuary, and sweet hiding-place; they get under His shadow as a plant of renown, and His fruit is sweet to their taste. He is a Friend loving at all times, a brother born for adversity, and the everlasting Bridegroom of their souls. In Him His Father is their Father. He gives them His Holy Spirit; they are joined to Him; share in His love, His house, His honors, and His glory. He is their everything upon earth, and their heaven to eternity. But where and when should we stop, if we attempted to even enumerate all the provisions for the needy people in the ordered covenant?
2. It is ordered as to all the comforts of the covenant. There is a set time to favor Zion, though never a set time for Zion to begin to come into favor. Manifestations of mercy are one thing, the mercy of the Lord from everlasting to everlasting is another. God at times sweetly puts the left hand of support under Zion's head, and the right hand of love embraces; these are the child of God's sweet seasons; the mountains drop down with sweet wine, the heavens distil their dew, love is felt, Jesus is enjoyed, and the soul on Mount Tabor says, "it is good to be here; let us make one tabernacle for Jesus only." The means of communicating comfort and sweetness are also ordered. Christ draws His children away from the world; "Let us go forth into the field," to the places apart from the great Babel of this world, "there I will give thee my loves." He comes sometimes in a word, sometimes by His Spirit, with a sweet gale of grace, as the poor child of God seeks the Lord's sweet face in prayer. Sometimes the appointed public means of grace are blessed to communicate comforts and sweetness; and sometimes it is as with the spouse (Song 3): "It was but a little that I had passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth." All the comforts during life, temporal or spiritual, all the cheering supports in death, every enjoyed blessing, is ordered as to time and means, as to degree and continuance, in the everlasting covenant.
3. It is ordered as to all afflictive dispensations, all crosses, losses, trials, rods and sufferings. The four winds of the earth cannot blow until loosed in accordance with the everlasting covenant. The time for a trial is fixed: "Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness"; and of every affliction may be said what was affirmed of Jesus, until the proper moment, "His hour was not yet come"; but when the time ordained arrived, "This is your hour." The duration of a trial is fixed; heaviness may endure for a night—a long night, if God will, a short one if best for the child of God; but long or short, an appointed, ordered one; so joy cometh in the morning. No trial or sorrow comes a moment before the time, or lasts a moment beyond it. The degree of the trial, as well as the help under it, is fixed. Satan can go just as far as God has ordered and permits; hither may his proud waves come, and at the fixed limit they shall stop. There is no temptation which can exceed God's limit by a hair's-breadth—all is ordered. Man's wrath turns to His praise, the rest He restrains. David could lie down and sleep as sweetly when pursued by thousands of foes as at another time, for God had them all in His hands, and the ordered covenant could keep them from hurting a hair of his head; and so God gave His beloved sleep.
4. The covenant is ordered as to all the events of the life of a child of God. Nothing takes place of any sort or kind, but what was ordered, permissively or immediately, in the covenant. Thus we read of the times which went over David; meaning the series of events which passed over his head during his sojourn here below, and David says of them all, "My times are in thy hand"; all ordered by Thee, and all managed by Thee likewise. What a sweet royalty this gives a child of God over all the events that take place concerning him! Painful or pleasant, all bow down, as it were, to him; all pay him a sweet tribute of advantage. Nothing takes place concerning him by chance, or merely as of the will of the creature; all is ordered by the love and the wisdom of a covenant-keeping God.
5. Yea, to conclude this part, all events throughout the vast bounds of God's creation, and throughout all ages—all in heaven, all in hell, all on earth, all in time, all to eternity—are ordered, and for the child of God's advantage, in the everlasting covenant. Thus our Lord Himself says, to encourage His poor and trembling people: Fear not; for not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father. Observe, the Lord does not say, "without God": does not merely affirm a truism, but "without your Father"; that is, the Father as your Father, and with a fatherly eye to His children's interests in the minutest as well as greatest events, governs the very fall of a sparrow. Well may a child of God, seeing these things, step upon this earth with a kingly step, and reign in spirit over the creatures, yea, over losses, crosses, and all events, when he thus sees all things governed by his Father. All things ordered for his advantage in the covenant, and therefore all things working harmoniously together for his good in Christ Jesus.
But, further, the covenant is sure, and this security is twofold. The covenant itself is a perfectly firm and stable one; not only sure as to its stipulations being performed to those under it, which is the case even with law as it respects those remaining under the law, but an abiding covenant in itself. The first covenant, in respect of the external final purpose of God towards the elect, was to wax old and vanish away. Not so the eternal covenant of grace. It has a perpetual youth and a perpetual duration. Its stipulations, also, must every one have a fulfillment. Not a single thing agreed about therein can fail; and in this respect we may behold the covenant having the following seven seals, making all certain to eternity: 1. There is the unchangeable mind of God. "He is in one mind, and who can turn him?" In the law He is said to repent as to a course of action because of man's failure. He acts therein from invariable principles of justice, and therefore changes as to His dealings with changing men. But in the new covenant all is of God, and all is of grace; so therein His gifts and callings are without repentance. 2. There is the promise of God, which is of an absolute nature, yea and amen in Christ. 3. There is the oath of God, who has sworn by Himself as to the fulfillment of His covenant promise. 4. There is the blood of Christ, the blood of the everlasting covenant. 5. There is the righteousness of Christ, which is everlasting. 6. There is Christ's eternal intercession, who ever liveth to plead on behalf of the elect; and, 7. There is the glory of Father, Son and Spirit involved in this matter. The glory of the Father's love, grace, and truth, the glory of the Son's finished work and advocacy, the glory of the Holy Spirit's power to accomplish what He undertakes and begins—all this is at stake, if we may use the expression, or, rather, all this ensures the fulfillment of the everlasting covenant.
III. We now come to the third and last part of our observations, and have to point out that all the children of God, as taught by the Holy Spirit, find all their salvation in this covenant, and its sweet blessings become all their desire, even at such times as God may appear to keep them short in respect of the fulfillment. In the first place, David says, "For this is all my salvation," meaning that all his salvation had its rise and spring from the everlasting covenant. Salvation may be divided into two parts—deliverance from all evils, and a putting into possession of all blessings; both these things come from the everlasting covenant. There is not really a deliverance a child of God experiences as he passes through this world, but comes to him from this special new covenant source. What may be common to others is special to him. God's providence is a special covenant providence, as well as his grace special covenant grace. His temporal deliverances from wants, enemies, and miseries, come from God in this covenant. His spiritual deliverances from sin and Satan, from guilt, corruption, a seducing and evil world, and a wicked, worthless heart, come from the same source. He has to sing of judgment and mercy, and to a covenant God must he sing. But not only deliverances, but positive blessings, come to him from the same "everlasting hills". His bread is given him, his water is sure. His spiritual and new life, his gracious convictions of sin, his godly sorrow, and compunction for sin, his repentance towards God, his faith towards Jesus, his hope, humility, and love, his upholding in God's ways, and restorations when fallen, his fight against sin, and obedience to God, his prayers, praises, gracious sighs and singings, all come to him from the everlasting covenant. This the psalmist realized. He traced all his mercies and blessings, his being, new being, and well being, to the eternal covenant, ordered in all things and sure.
The covenant is summed up in Christ; He is the treasure-house of all its blessings; He is the Mediator of the covenant who dispenses them, so that He is Himself called the covenant of the people; the sweet, fulfilled, eternal covenant of the needy, naked, helpless children of God. Again the psalmist says, "This is all my desire." He wanted nothing now but covenant mercies. His desire was now for covenant providences, covenant pardons, covenant righteousness, covenant grace. He wanted every blessing, temporal, and spiritual, and eternal, to be a covenant blessing proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and here we may see the true nature of growth in grace, and how God's people still bring forth fruit in old age, and are fat and flourishing. They grow downward in themselves, and away as it were from the earth and mere creatures, and upwards towards a covenant God in Christ. They grow more consciously and prevailingly dependent upon God and covenant mercies. And as they grow more dependent upon God in the everlasting covenant for everything, so they grow more in the desire to have everything in accordance with the covenant, and to see a covenant God's gracious hand in everything. As one of our poets writes:
"In every mercy, full and free,
A sovereign God I wish to see;
To see how grace, free grace has reigned,
In every blessing he ordained.
Yes, dearest Lord, 'tis my desire,
Thy wise appointments to admire."
This puts a sweetness into everything, "It comes from the everlasting covenant—my Father's covenant love and hand are in it." Life itself, breath itself, food, raiment, grace, glory, all become sweeter and sweeter in this sweet view of them, "My God in Christ gives them; my God is in them all." But then the psalmist supposes that a dear child of God may apparently be kept at a distance from the fulfillment of such desires, things may not appear to grow or to go well with him. The tree of his desires may, instead of flourishing, appear to be bound up in a winter season, and not even bud. Still the dependence and the desire do not alter, says the psalmist. "Here I am at a point. These are the things I must have or perish; these are the things I want:
"Less than thyself will not suffice,
My comfort to restore;
More than thyself I cannot crave,
And thou canst give no more."
Thus, come winter, come summer, the covenant remains the same, and the renewed mind the same towards that covenant. Nothing may seem to grow, the winter season may be long—hope itself almost decay; still Christ and the covenant in Him are what the mind fixes upon, and the heart desires. Jesus, the sum of the covenant, is the one thing needful. One more case, and we have done. A poor child of God may say, "Alas! things not only seem not to grow, but, far worse, to decay, to go back, to go to ruin, with me; my prayers seem lost prayers, my hopes buried hopes, with a heavy stone of guilt and misery upon the sepulchre." Well, still the covenant remains the same, and is ordered as to resurrection power in respect of these poor dear, buried hopes, desires, and prayers. Covenant grace will raise them all up again, and, till then, true hope cannot quite give it up; the desire granted shall be a tree of life, and in the meantime here the heart fixes: "Although my house be not so with God (as nature might desire) yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure, and I find this amongst my best evidences of an interest in the covenant, that the covenant itself is all my salvation and all my desire; yea, even now, in this cold, dark, dreary night season, wherein he seems not to make it grow."