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us unto Christ, as our version hath it, we are to understand it of the law as a covenant of works delivered from mount Sinai. The word law is to be understood in the same sense here, as in the preceding context, verses 10, 23. There we read of its curse, verses 10, 13. which undeniably points it out as a covenant of works. And both in its precept and in its curse, it served as a schoolmaster to bring sinners unto Christ. Before he came, the church was under tutors and governors, chap. iv. 1, 2, 3. And agreeably to her childish state, it was fit it should be so: fit that the children should have a schoolmaster, to put the rudiments into their hands, teach them their duty, and chastise them in case of disobedience. All these did the Sinai covenant. Its moral precepts taught the Israelites what they were to do: its ceremonial ordinances were certain elements, or rudiments, put into their hands, leading them to see their own desert, and the necessity of an expiatory sacrifice. Every bleeding victim cried as from the altar, Man thou hast sinned, and must die the death, or a surety for thee. The curses of the Sinai covenant shewed the Israelites what they were to expect, if they did not give perfect obedience to its every precept, and of consequence the necessity of fleeing to him, who, by bearing the curse, should deliver them from it. Thus the law was a schoolmaster to bring unto Christ. It served as a glass to shew sin, as a bridle to curb it, and as a scourge to furrow the sinner's back *.
It will be readily objected, that if the law was a schoolmaster as a covenant of works, it must follow that the Israelites were under it as a covenant of works, which can by no means be said of such of them as believed. To this we answer in the words of an eminent Divine, "As to believers, they were internally and really, as well as externally, under the covenant of grace; and only externally under the covenant of works, and that, not as a covenant, co-ordinate with, but subordinate and subservient unto, the covenant of grace." Boston on the Marrow, p. 54. Unbelievers among the Israelites, though externally under the covenant of grace, were nevertheless internally under that of works. And on the contrary, true believers though externally under this last, were at the same time internally under the former. Though under both, they were not under them in one and the same respect. Will it be said, they were externally under both the covenant of grace and the covenant of works, and in this sense under them in one and the same respect? The answer is easy; they were externally under the covenant of works, not in
Having thus proved that the covenant of works was repeated at mount Sinai, and that in subserviency to the covenant of grace, let us next improve the subject. And in the
1st. Place, Hence see how the two covenants stand related to one another. The elder, in respect of manifestation is made to serve the younger. The covenant of works is a handmaid to that of grace, as was Hagar to Sara. Soon as grace uttered her voice from the burning mount, I am Jehovah, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; the law also added hers, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thus he who despiseth the one covenant, thereby further violates the other, and exposeth himself to its aggravated curse. For that same law which saith, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, adds, cursed be the man that hath them, Ley. xxvi. 1-39. Deut. xxvii. 15. Such, as rejecting all other gods, take Jehovah for their God, escape the curse of the one covenant, and obtain the blessing of the other. Such as will have none of him must suffer double vengeance, vengeance for revolting from the first covenant, and vengeance for refusing to return, on hearing a gracious indemnity proclaimed in the second. Nor will it follow, that because disobedience is a breach of the covenant of works, therefore holy obedience is a keeping of it. The reason is obvious. Such as are not in Christ, are under that covenant: Such as are in him are not under it, and therefore their obedience is not obedience to it. There is but a step between
opposition to that of grace; but they were under it in the same sense in which their God gave it from Sinai, viz. as a covenant subservient to that of grace. Not so with the ungodly among the Israelites. They were under the covenant of works not as God gave it at Sinai, but as Adam left them in their natural state: under it, not as a subservient covenant, but as opposite to the covenant of grace. If any would rather choose to say, that the godly were only under the dispensation of the covenant of works, and the ungodly under the dispensation of the covenant of grace, it is much the same.
the boundaries of the two covenants, and faith is nothing else but a stepping out of the one covenant into the other. Therefore though the first act of faith may be considered as an act of obedience to the law as a covenant of works, binding sinners on their hearing of that of grace to take hold of it; yet all the subsequent acts of faith, and the holy obedience flowing therefrom, are not obedience to it as a covenant, but as a rule of life, as the law of Christ *.
2dly. See the danger of confounding the two covenants, and of mistaking the end of the Sinaitic. This was that error with which, as with a flood, the churches of Galatia were well nigh carried away. Like Abraham in his unbelief, they turned aside to the handmaid, instead of the mistress: clave to the Sinaitic covenant, in opposition to the free promise: whereas that should have led them to this. And, alas! this error has been the bane of thousands and of ten thousands in every age. Hearing the demands of the law, they have foolishly attempted to satisfy it themselves, instead of being thereby driven to the Surety. And have acted as if they could please it with mites, while millions are its due. Measuring its requisitions by their own abilities, they have taken up with it as a covenant, and gone no further. They have staid as at Sinai, and never gone forward to Sion: and at last in awful judgment, been sent from the burning mount, to the lake of fire and brimstone, fire that is not quenched. Let us shun their error, as we would escape their punishment; and not remain wedded to the law, while we should be married to Christ. Let us not like the infatuated Galatians blend law and promise together, mistaking the Divine intention in both. Let us never forget that it is one thing to renew the covenant of works, another thing to shew that it is violated. One thing to serve in the ministry of the covenant of grace, another thing to be its instrument. One thing to have an evangelical end, an
* Bost. Miscell. Quest. p. 171.
other thing to be the very gospel itself. One thing to oblige to faith, and to command it, another thing to teach it. One thing to be the rule of obedience required even of such as are in the covenant of grace, another thing to be the formula of that covenant itself. The confounding of these things has hurt not a little both in principle and practice.
3dly. Since the covenant of works and grace were both delivered at Sinai, it would seem that no third covenant was delivered there distinct from either. The hypothesis of a third covenant at Sinai, though adopted by some worthy Divines, seems to be without any good foundation. The covenant of grace was confirmed to Abraham and to his seed long before the Sinaitic transaction, and if any other covenant was made with them then, it behoved either to be a better, a worse, or an equal covenant. A better it could not be: for God can promise nothing greater than himself. A worse it could not be: for that had argued a change in God, and would have been prejudicial to the covenant of grace. An equal covenant it could not be: for God can promise nothing equal to himself. To say it was merely a temporal covenant consisting of temporal promises and threatenings only, we cannot admit. We have seen that it had a curse, a curse exposing to everlasting vengeance. A curse from which Christ redeemed us, Gal. iii. 13. and therefore not a curse merely temporal.
Further, If there was a distinct covenant from those of works and of grace, made at Sinai, see the consequences. Believers fulfilling the terms of that cove nant were entitled to its blessings. And here they had blessings of another covenant, and by another tenour, than that of grace: which sounds very harsh. If they did not fulfil the terms of that covenant, of consequence they were exposed to its temporal curse, though at the same time they were entitled to the eternal blessing by virtue of the covenant of grace.
Leydecker Synop. p. 219,
But that believers are for their transgressions exposed to any curse, though to many strokes, is doctrine unknown in holy scripture. Again if such as did not believe in him who was to come, fulfilled the terms of this covenant, they were thereby entitled to its blessings. Meanwhile they themselves were under the curse of the covenant of works. Therefore the temporal good things, though blessings in themselves, were not blessings to them. Their blessings were cursed, Mal. ii. 2. And as temporal strokes to the godly were blessings in disguise, so prosperity to the ungodly was nothing more than a covered curse. To allege the instances of Jehu and Nebuchadrezzer here, will not prove the contrary. It will not be said that they were in Covenant with God, though for their services they had their reward, 2 Kings x. 30. Ezek. xxix. 18, 20. But not to multiply words, let us see the nature of that covenant which was made betwixt God and the Israelites. They avouched the Lord to be their God, and to walk in his ways, and he avouched them to be his peculiar people, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. What was this, but the covenant of grace? And all covenanting whether national or personal is, or ought to be, nothing else but a taking hold of God's covenant of grace, and promising in the strength thereof to keep his commandments: an avouching the Lord to be our God, and to walk in his ways. This was indeed the covenant made with the Israelites, wherein some of them were sincere and some not. The former were really in it before the Lord, the latter were only visibly, or externally in it, in respect of their outward profession. The one had the real, the spiritual blessings of the covenant, as well as its temporal ones. The other had nothing but the external and temporal privileges of the covenant. As they gave a shadow only of obedience, not the substance; so they had the shadow only of the blessing, not the substantial blessing itself. While they were externally in the one covenant, they were really under the other with respect to the state of their soul, and therefore under its awful curse. In one word,