by Thomas Boston
To clear your way into the covenant, it is necessary to shew, by what means it is that a sinner embraceth and is instated in it, effectually unto salvation. And this, in one word, is by faith, or believing on Jesus Christ: Acts xvi. 31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The covenant of grace is held forth unto you: God saith to every one of you, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David:” and to close the bargain with you, and state you personally in it, to all intents and purposes of salvation, all that is required of you is to hear, that is, to believe; “Hear, and your soul shall live,” Isa. lv. 3. He that believeth, is within the covenant of grace personally and savingly: he that believeth not, is still under the covenant of works, where the first Adam left him. Faith is the hand whereby one taketh hold of the covenant, signs it for himself, and closeth the bargain for his own salvation. It is the mouth whereby sinners consent to the covenant, that God becomes their God, and they his people. Although while ye are without the covenant, the working of perfect obedience under the pain of the curse is required of you; and more than that, suffering also, even to the satisfaction of justice; and both these, in virtue of the broken first covenant: and when ye are once brought within the covenant, obedience to all the ten commandments, and suffering of the discipline of the covenant in case of your failures, are required of you, in virtue of the new covenant ye are entered into: yet to enter you into the covenant, and instate you in it unto salvation, nothing is required of you, but that ye believe on Christ. Only believe, Mark v. 36, is the constant doctrine of the gospel in this point. Do what you will, and believe not, you remain in a state of damnation: whatever is done, or not done by you, believe, and you are in a state of salvation. If you should say it with your lips a thousand times over, that you accept of the covenant; if you should come under the most solemn and awful [i.e., full of awe, awesome] bond and engagement to be the Lord’s, expressly taking the same upon you in prayer, or otherwise; if you should write your covenant, and subscribe it with your hand; and should take the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood upon it, to confirm all: yet if you do not with the heart believe on Jesus Christ, you embrace not the covenant, you miss the saving hold of it, and remain without the saving bond of it. And if you should this moment with the heart believe on Christ, having no access to speak, pray, write, or communicate: yet the moment you believe, you are personally and savingly instated in the covenant, never to fall out of it through the ages of eternity; God is your God, and all the promises of the covenant are yours: though you had missed the gripe of the covenant ten thousand times before: in that case you have it firm and sure: Mark xvi. 16, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: he that believeth not, shall be damned.”
And that believing on Christ should be the appointed means of entering sinners into the covenant of grace, is very agreeable to the nature and end of that great transaction. The which appears by these two considerations following.
1. Hereby the grace of the covenant is preserved entire in the dispensation of the covenant; and by that means the promise is made sure to all the seed, Rom. iv. 16. Faith is contradistinguished to works, as grace is to debt, chap. iv. 4, 5. If any work or doing of ours were that upon which we were instated in the covenant, and got the right in the promises; then the covenant and benefit thereof would be of debt to us, contrary to the declared end and design of that method of salvation, which is to exalt the free grace of God, and to cut off all boasting from us, Eph. ii. 8, 9. But the nature of faith’s efficacy in the business is adapted to that end and design of the covenant; in as much as it is a grace, not giving, but purely receiving; taking all freely from Christ, without money, and without price, laying the stress of the soul’s acceptance with God wholly on what Christ hath done and suffered; and entirely renouncing all doings and sufferings of our own in that point. And thus the promise is sure to us: for whereas the plea of any work of ours would be a very uncertain one; faith’s plea is ever sure and steadfast, as grounded allenarly on what Christ hath wrought.
2. Hereby the sinner’s entering into the covenant is by uniting with Christ the representative, with whom it was made as party-contractor; which is the Scripture account of the matter, John x. 9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved:” and so the unity of the covenant, and the representation in it, are preserved. If men entered into the covenant some other way, as by their accepting properly called terms to them proposed, and promising for themselves the performance of them: in that case the representation of the covenant is marred; and there would be in effect as many covenants of grace as there are persons embracing it at different times; at least, Christ’s covenant would be one, and ours another distinct therefrom; the contrary of which is before evinced from the Scripture. But the covenant of grace being made with Christ as second Adam, in the name of all such as should be his; it plainly follows, that the only way of one’s entering personally into it, must be by becoming his, standing related to the head of the covenant as our head: and it is by faith, and no work, nor consent of ours differing from faith, that we are united to him, and become members of his body, Eph. iii. 17. How do we all enter personally into the covenant of works, so as to partake of the curse in it? Is it not through our becoming, by natural generation, branches of the first Adam, the representative in that covenant? Hereby every one of us is personally entered, and instated in that covenant, before we are capable to approve or disapprove of the same, to consent to it, or dissent from it. Even so we enter personally into the covenant of grace, so as to partake of the benefits in it, by our becoming branches of the second Adam the representative therein: and that is through faith, in subjects capable of actual believing. It is by being ingrafted into Christ we come to partake of the covenant and benefits thereof. And hence it is, that infants, not capable of actual believing, nor of knowing what the covenant is, yet having the Spirit of faith, are personally entered into it, and instated in it; forasmuch as that Spirit of faith is effectual in them, to a real uniting them with Christ. Hereunto agrees God’s giving Christ for a covenant; that in him people may have the covenant, and all the benefits thereof. As God, in making the covenant, took Christ for all, for the condition, and for the parties to receive the promises; he being the second Adam: so sinners, in accepting and embracing of the covenant, are to take him for all; the whole of the covenant, the parties and parts of it too being in him, forasmuch as he is God as well as man, second Adam.
And thus it appears, that uniting with Christ the head of the covenant, is a sinner’s formal entering into the covenant: the which uniting with him being by faith on him, it is evident that it is by believing on Christ a sinner embraceth, enters into, and is instated in the covenant unto salvation. Wherefore reach Christ by faith, and ye reach the covenant: if ye miss him, ye miss the covenant, in point of life and salvation. But here ariseth a weighty question, to wit,
QUEST. What is that believing, by which one unites with Jesus Christ, and so enters into the covenant of grace? ANSW. The clearing of this point being so necessary to direct sinners in their way into the covenant, for their eternal salvation; we shall, for what now remains, address ourselves to the consideration thereof only.
And to begin with the word, by which the Holy Ghost expresseth what we call believing, whether in the Old or New Testament; whosoever shall duly consider the import of it, in the scripture-use thereof, will find, that it is just trusting, trusting a word, person, or thing. And hence the scripture-phrases of believing to, and believing in, that is, trusting to, and trusting in; the former, phrases, however unusual with us in conversation, yet ordinary, both in the Old and New Testament, according to the originals. It is the trusting a word, as to a report, Isa. liii. 1. In his words, Psalm cvi. 12. It is the trusting a person; so, in the style of the Holy Ghost, the Israelites believed in the Lord, and in Moses his servant, Exod. xiv. 31. He believed not in his servants, Job iv. 18, that is, as we read it, he put no trust in them. And it is the trusting a thing too: so, in the same style, Job xxxix. 12, “Wilt thou believe in him,” to wit, the unicorn, “that he will bring home thy seed?” i.e. Wilt thou trust in him, that he will do it? Deut. xxviii. 66, “Thou shalt not believe in thy life;" that is, as we read it, Thou shalt have none assurance of thy life; no trust in it, because no certainty about it. The phraseology is the same in the New Testament, as being brought into it from the Old, only in a different language. And taking the meaning of the Holy Ghost in this matter, from the words which he teacheth, as we are directed, 1 Cor. ii. 13, we conclude, That faith or believing, so expressed by him in the Scripture, is, in the general, trusting, the trusting of a word, and of a person, and thing, held forth in that word.
Now, there is a twofold word to be believed or trusted of all those who would enter into the covenant of grace in a saving manner; namely, the word of the law, and the word of the gospel. The believing of the former is a faith of the law; the believing of the latter, a faith of the gospel: of which in order . . . . . .
“A View of the Covenant of Grace” by Thomas Boston