THE COVENANT"I will establish My Covenant between Me and you, and your seed after you, in their generations, for an everlasting Covenant." Genesis 17:7
Reader! does your conscience certify that you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you cast a helpless soul into His helpful arms? Have you buried all your guilt and all your fears in the grave of His wounds? By death unto sin, do you prove that you are crucified with Him? By life unto righteousness, do you manifest the power of resurrection with Him? If so, what cause have you to bless God that He breathed the breath of life into your nostrils, and the Spirit of life into your soul! For great are your privileges, rich is your portion, bright are your prospects, sure is your inheritance. Your blessedness is summed up in the word, the great God is your Covenant-Father. Search your Bible. Study the charter of your heavenly freedom. Read the title-deeds of your high estate. This world's miser counts his gold, his jewels, and his fields. Shall not the heir of two worlds know his imperishable wealth? Clasp especially to your heart the roll of blessings. They are sanctification of spirit—adoption into God's family—divine light—and eternal pardon. The believer may claim them all by covenant pledge. "But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day," says the Lord. "I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, 'You should know the Lord.' For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me," says the Lord. "And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins." Jeremiah 31:33-34
Few are the eyes, which are not dazzled, when such treasures shine, as fields of light, before them. Wondering thought will question, How can God—the high, the holy One—whose being is perfection—whose home is eternity, have fellowship with man, the low—the vile—the loathsome, the offspring of the dust—the fluttering insect of a moment? No monarch would make league with the base rebel in the dungeon. How then can the height of heaven thus descend to misery, disease, and filth? When nature looks down to the pit, in which human nature grovels, impossibilities seem many. But still the fact is sure, God is in Covenant with every child of grace. Let witnesses be called!
First, let Abraham appear. He was born in sin, prone to evil—the child of wrath, laden with iniquity, just as we are. But his evidence asserts, that God thus communed with him. "As for Me, Behold My Covenant is with you." "I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and your seed after you." Let David next be heard. By natural descent, he was as we are. But his truthful gratitude exclaims, "He has made with me an everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." Thus far the point is clear. God covenants with man. But, perhaps some trembling believer may doubt whether such grace extends beyond the favored elders in the household of faith. Mercy speeds to give the reply, The Covenant is established with Abraham and his seed after him. And "if you are Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Reader! this truth is now resplendent as the sun in its brightness. It cannot be denied, that if you are Christ's, you are a covenant-child of God. We are thus prepared to examine the nature of God's Covenant, in its conditions and confirmation. The first step is to settle deeply in your mind, that this Covenant is no covenant of works. Once, indeed, such compact was proposed. "Do this," was the requirement. "Live," was the recompense. But it saw the light only to perish. Man placed it not in his heart, but beneath his feet. He touched it only to scatter it to the winds. The privilege was instantly forfeited. The voice which began in promise, ended in wrath. The beauteous column fell, never to rise again. The gracious page was torn, never to be re-written. I fear that there are many, who in the dark night of nature dream the idle dream, that this Covenant still lives, and that they shall live through it.
But a broken reed is no support. The sinking sand is no foundation. A violated treaty is no sound plea. It is a pitiable argument, I claim, because I have no claim. As well might the prodigal demand, Receive me again, because I am undutiful: or the rebel, Restore me, because I am a traitor: or the criminal, Acquit me, because I am guilty: or the debtor, Release me, because I am fraudulent. Such are the delusions of those who trust in a vanished Covenant. It began and ended in Adam. The strength of innocence could not hold it. How then can the weakness of guilt recover it, or the tongue of transgression plead it?
But far different is the Covenant of grace, which is the believer's safeguard. It is written in unfading letters of eternal love. It is based on the rock of changeless purpose. It is such, because "God has commanded it forever." But where do its birth, its vigor, its undying freshness come from? It exists, it is strong, it is everlasting, because it is made with Jesus. He stands before God as the second Adam; the head of a Spirit-born progeny. God commits to Him terms and promises for them. He binds Himself to terms and promises for them. Thus God pledges to them, Christ pledges for them. God stipulates; Christ undertakes.
But what are the conditions? God requires that they be all cleansed from all sin—all clothed in all righteousness—all renewed in every faculty of soul and spirit. Christ is responsible for the full performance. God promises that He will be their God. Christ promises that they shall be His people. Such is the new Covenant—made and ratified in Christ. Let us now sit down beneath the tree of Scripture, and catch some precious fruit, which falls into the lap of faith.
What rich supplies come from Isaiah 42:6, and 49:8! Here Jehovah communes with His co-equal Son. We are brought into the council-chamber of eternity. God, in His majesty, says, "I, the Lord, have called You in Righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a Covenant of the people." And again, "I will preserve You, and give You for a Covenant of the people." We are here bade to gaze on Jesus, as Himself the Covenant. And such He is: for it has no being, no continuance, no power but in Him. He is its essence, its reality, its fullness, its all. It is founded, erected, concluded in Him. No Christ, no Covenant. Receive Him, and it is yours in all its truth and riches. Reject Him, and you perish, because you have not the shadow of a plea. He is the Covenant, because, as Jehovah's fellow, He designs it, and wills it, and orders it, and frames it, and accepts it. He is the Covenant, because, as God-man, He takes it into His own hand, and works out its every condition.
Receive next the evidence of Mal. 3:1, "The Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom you delight in." Here Christ is the Messenger of this Covenant. But what is the office of a messenger? He conveys tidings from party to party. Just so, Jesus comes traveling in the greatness of His strength, flying on the wings of His love, hastening in the zeal of His heart to proclaim, that a Covenant is made, and to tell what the Covenant contains. In the Word, through His ministers, by sealing ordinances, He reads to us, line by line, the provisions of this charter. He shows us, as in a glorious mirror, God reconciled, peace established, all grace purchased, and heaven's portals opened. O my soul! has Jesus caused the sweet notes of this message to be the music of your holiest delights?
But the messenger flies back to the courts above, and gives report to His heavenly Father, These poor sinners have heard of Your Covenant-grace; they have hidden their faces in the dust of penitential shame; they have clasped the records with the eager hand of adoring faith; old things are passed away from them, all things are become new; out of darkness they are light: from hatred they are love: they are no more aliens, but children. O my soul! are you thus brought within the bonds of the Covenant?
Again, glean the tidings of Heb. 7:22, "By so much was Jesus made a Surety of a better testament," or Covenant. Here Christ is the Surety of this Covenant. But what is the work of a Surety? He engages, that each party shall fulfill the contract. There was no surety in the Covenant of works, and it quickly failed. But here the God-man Jesus is the Surety. He is Surety for the Father. He is Surety for His people.
I need not repeat what boundless blessedness the Father promises. All shall be given. Not one drop shall be withheld. The cup shall overflow. It must be, for Jesus is Surety. The conditions of believers are alike secure. They shall kneel in penitence; and live by faith; and cling to the refuge; and be fruitful trees of righteousness. In due time Jesus will call them all, and work in them to will and to do, and at last present them cleansed, and washed, and beautified, and sanctified, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The truth, the love, the power of the Surety will accomplish this.
What delights, too, flow from Heb. 12:24, "To Jesus the Mediator of the new Covenant." As Mediator, He stands between God and man. He is one with God, and one with man. He places His hands on each. Thus they become one in Him. Separation vanishes: union is effected. Thus Covenant-blessings never fail to wing their way from heaven. Thus the Covenant-incense of holy love, and filial fear, and willing service never ceases to ascend.
Feast, moreover, on the truth of Heb. 9:15, "He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions which were under the first Testament, they which are called, might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Covenants of old were rendered valid by a victim's blood. When God showed Abraham the Covenant of grace, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the slaughtered limbs. Hence the everlasting Covenant must be sealed with blood. An atoning, a peace-making sacrifice dies. It is none other than the Mediator Himself. The Father is well-pleased, and cries, "My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." The believer responds with overflowing praise, God is my Covenant-Father forever and ever. His Covenant is sure with me; by the Spirit's help, my covenant shall be inviolate with Him.
Reader! is such the language of your thanks-giving and thanks-living heart? Many, alas! prefer to enter into treaty with the world. Its easy terms are easily proposed. It demands compliance with its fashions—adoption of its principles—putting on its habits—neglect of the Bible—worship in mere forms. It offers in return a full-frothed cup of carnal and mental joy. The deluded victims sign. They take the tinsel-goblet. They drink nothing but the dregs of disappointment and of shame. Then comes the end. An eternity of woe puts a seal to the truth, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Flee from this deceiving truce-breaker! Come out. Stand apart. Be separate. Lost souls discover too late that a league with the world binds them over to hell.
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