We know that saving grace brings us into a relationship with God. But what is the nature of that relationship? We don’t understand that properly until we grasp the significance of covenant, a word and idea that carries forward the progress of God’s purposes of grace in the gospel and salvation. Covenant is the way that God relates to His people and makes promises to them. It helps us understand the full depth and riches of what God has planned and provided for His people.
David Dickson explains more of the rich blessing of the Covenant of Grace in this updated extract.
1. The Covenant of Grace Runs Through Scripture
Immediately after the breaking of the covenant of works by Adam, it pleased the Lord to lay that new ground of a new covenant of grace in His Son, in that promise in the garden. The seed of the woman shall tread down the serpent (Genesis 3:15). And God renews the promise in form of a formal covenant to Abraham and his seed which is Christ, and all the faithful through Him (Genesis 17:7). The same covenant is repeated in the person of David and his seed (2 Samuel 7:14-15).
This is more fully explained Psalm 89:3-4. Where the Lord swears to the throne and kingdom of Christ who was to come from David unto all generations, and under the type of David and his successors, and his children, that is, all those that believe in Christ:
- protection and defence against all evil;
- provision of strength for every good employment;
- freedom from the voluntary slavery of sin;
- turning of everything to our good;
- fighting for us, against our foes;
- giving us all the good things that He promises to us;
- to forgive us our sins;
- to make us partakers of His eternal kingdom:
- faith itself and the spirit of adoption, whereby we may call God, “Abba Father”. And
- last of all, which of all is most wonderful, although the devil had so far prevailed as to make them forsake the law of God, and neglect the commandments, and transgress the statutes and ordinances; yet if you return to the Lord your God, and lay hold on the covenant, you may well be plagued with worldly judgments for your correction, but you shall not be excluded from the mercy of God, and His loving kindness. “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” (Psalm 89:30-32). But observe that which follows: “Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (Psalm 89:33-34), etc. O the wonderful love and goodness of our God in His Son Christ towards poor sinners! who, although we change every moment, He never changes.
This is the new covenant which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did preach, and sealed with His blood, and left in legacy to us, under the broad seal of His own sacrament. For the last cup that ever He drank, He took the cup and giving thanks, He gave it to His disciples, saying, “Drink ye all of it: For this is my blood of the new covenant, or new testament which is shed for many, for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). This is the covenant in which all the promises of grace are contained both in the Old and New Testament; for this cause it is called, the New Covenant of promises.
2. The Blessings of the covenant of grace
The excellence of it shall appear in considering its properties.
(a) It is a new covenant, for that it makes us free from the covenant of works; yea now under the gospel twice, because it makes us free from the ceremonies of Moses’ law, with which the children of God were burdened before the coming of Christ (Hebrews 7:22).
(b) It is a complete covenant of all mercies and graces in abundance (Isaiah 55:1 and Isaiah 44:3). For what spiritual graces you stand in need of, you shall find it promised here. Faith, repentance, remission of sins, sanctification, the spirit of prayer, knowledge, the fear of God; and in a word, all is promised here.
(c) It is a free covenant, wherein (i) all is freely gifted, without money or price on our part; (ii) The most miserable and unworthy sinner that desires to be reconciled to God, is not excluded from it; but the poorest and most needy, hungry, thirsty and beggarly souls are most welcome to have it. (iii) Whatsoever it craves of you who lay hold on His covenant (Isaiah 56:1-2), it also promises to you e.g. faith, repentance, sanctification, etc. . “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4).
(d) It is a sure covenant and firm, because it is not grounded upon anything that is in us, or can be in us, but upon the free love of the unchangeable God, and the truth of God’s Word and the oath of God, who has sworn to keep it “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” (Psalm 89:34-35 and Genesis 17:7). It has Christ Jesus for the Mediator of 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 are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15). And likewise, He is the preacher of it. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1). The witness of it, “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, etc.” (Isaiah 55:4). The surety and guarantor of it (Hebrews 7:22). And the sealer of it by His blood unto His Father (Hebrews 9:14), and His sacrament, and Holy Spirit to us (1 Corinthians 11:25).
(e) It is an everlasting covenant enduring forever in the Lord’s part, which of all the rest is most comforting: For howsoever our part of the covenant be broken from time to time by our manifold transgressions. Yet the Lord keeps His part whole, and does not take away His loving kindness from us, but gives us liberty to renew our part of the covenant by daily repentance; and to come to that fountain that is opened up in the house of David for sin and uncleanness, that we may wash and be made clean (Zechariah 13:1). “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.” (Isaiah 55:3). “I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Genesis 17:19). “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.” (Jeremiah 32:40 and Ezekiel 16:60).
If this covenant pleases you well and your heart receives it, both to be saved and sanctified by it, and you are content to enter into this covenant with the Lord, of purpose to pursue the promises of sanctification no less than the promises of justification and salvation: In a word, if you say with your heart to the Lord, “Lord, I embrace the offer of Christ Jesus and all His graces, Lord I embrace this gracious covenant offered unto us all in the gospel, that I may be sanctified and saved by it,” and will follow unto it by the Lord’s grace, believing in His goodness and truth; then blessed are you, and more and more blessed will you be daily.
The Lord Himself called them blessed that lay hold on the covenant (Isaiah 56:2, 4-7), whether you be rich, poor, man, woman, were you never so great a stranger from God, and has no grace in your own estimation, were you like a dry tree empty of all sap, that is void of all goodness and grace in yourself, you shall get a place within God’s house, and an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56:3-4, 9). You shall be joyful in the Lord’s house of prayer, and your sacrifice and service shall be accepted of the Lord (Isaiah 56:7).
3. Make Use of the covenant of Grace
It remains only to make use of the covenant in all your life, that you may live the life of faith, and Christ may live in you: and out of Christ, by virtue of his promises, you may draw every grace which your soul desires.
And to this end, look what necessary grace you would have. Search to see if there is a promise for it in the Scriptures, in which the main parts of this covenant are written. Labour to believe humbly the promise when you has found it, and in that measure of faith which the Lord bestows upon you, present your supplication in the name of Jesus for that necessary promised grace which you would have, patiently pursuing your request from day to day, till God satisfy you, which He will not fail to do in His own time. Only believe, and you shall see the glory of God; for faithful is He who has said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9-10) For if men who are evil, can give gifts to their children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13). He that has given his Son to death for us, will He not with Him us all things also? (Romans 8:32).
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