by Thomas Boston
In A VIEW OF THE COVENANT OF GRACE, FROM THE SACRED RECORDS you will find meticulous consideration given to the parties involved in the covenant of grace, the making of it, its parts, conditionary and promissory, and the administration thereof; together with the trial of a saving personal inbeing in this covenant and the way of instating sinners therein unto their eternal salvation.
PSALM 89:3.—I have made a covenant with my chosen;
1 Cor. 15:45.—The last Adam was made a quickening spirit
Boston's “A View of the Covenant of Grace”, is thoroughly Scriptural, and to read it is a spiritually enriching experience. It is undoubtedly one of the best books on the Covenant of Grace, and it ought to be read more widely than it is. Boston emphasises the importance of the Covenant of Grace, as it underlies the theme of the whole of Scripture. The doctrine is strongly Trinitarian, emphasising the sovereignty of God, preserving the truth of human responsibility, affording the possibility of true experimental religion, guaranteeing the believer's perseverance in grace, and his eternal security.
It is the Covenant of Grace that establishes the unity and the continuity of the true Church. Hebrews 9:15, “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”.
This book is originally from Volume 8 (which also includes "Human Nature in its Fourfold State") of the Works of Thomas Boston.
As man's ruin was originally owing to the breaking of the covenant of works, so his recovery, from the first to the last step thereof, is owing purely to the fulfilling of the covenant of grace; which covenant, being that wherein the whole mystery of our salvation lies, I am to essay the opening of, as the Lord shall be pleased to assist. And there is the more need of humble dependence on the Father of lights, through Jesus Christ his Son, for the manifestation of his Spirit in this matter, that whereas the first covenant is known, in part, by the light of nature, the knowledge of this second is owing entirely to revelation.
It was from this covenant the psalmist, in the verse immediately preceding the first text, took a comfortable view of a glorious building, infallibly going up in the midst of ruins; even a building of mercy: "For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever;" the ground of which confident assertion is, in our text, pointed out to be God's covenant with his chosen. From the type of the covenant of grace, namely, the covenant of royalty made unto David, he saw a building up of mercy for the royal family of Judah, when they were brought exceeding low. From the substance of it, he saw a building of mercy for sinners of mankind, who were laid in ruins by the breach of the first covenant. This is that new building free grace set on foot for us; into which they that believe are instantly thereupon received, and where once received, they shall dwell for ever; a building of mercy, in which every stone, from the bottom to the top, from the foundation stone to the cope-stone, is pure mercy, rich and free mercy to us.
Of this building of mercy I shall drop a few words.
And, 1. The plan of it was drawn from all eternity, in the council of the Trinity: for it is according to the eternal purpose purposed in Jesus Christ, Eph. 3:11. The objects of mercy, the time and place, the way and means, of conferring it on them, were designed particularly, before man was miserable, yea, before he was at all. 2. The builder is God himself, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 3:9, "Ye are God's building." All hands of the glorious Trinity are at work in this building. The Father chose the objects of mercy, and gave them to the Son to be redeemed; the Son purchased redemption for them; and the Holy Ghost applies the purchased redemption unto them. But it is specially attributed to the Son, on the account of his singular agency in the work: Zech. 6:12, "Behold the man whose name is the Branch—He shall build the temple of the Lord:" ver. 13, "Even He shall build the temple of the Lord, and He shall bear the glory." 3. The foundation was laid deep in the eternal counsel; beyond the reach of the eyes of men or angels. Paul considering it, cries out, "O the depth!" Rom. 11:33. "For who hath known the mind of the Lord or who hath been his counsellor?" ver. 34. 4. It is more than five thousand years since this building rose above ground. And the first stone of it that appeared, was a promise, a promise of a Saviour, made in paradise after the fall, Gen. 3:15, namely, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. Here was mercy. And mercy was laid upon mercy. Upon promising mercy was laid quickening mercy, whereby our lost first parents were enabled to believe the promise; and upon quickening mercy was laid pardoning mercy to them; and upon that again sanctifying and establishing mercy; and at length glorifying mercy. 5. The cement is blood; the blood of Jesus Christ the Mediator, which is the blood of God, Acts 20:28. No saving mercy for sinners could consist, nor could one mercy lie firm upon another in the building, without being cemented with that precious blood; but by it the whole building consists, and stands firm for ever, Heb. 9:22, 23, and 7:24, 25. 6. Ever since the time it appeared above ground, it has been going on. And many hands have been employed, to serve in carrying on the work. In the first ages of the world, patriarchs were employed in it, such as Adam, Enoch, and Noah; in the middle ages, prophets, priests, and Levites; in these the last ages, the apostles, and other extraordinary officers, and ordinary ministers of the gospel. Great has been the opposition made to the building from the beginning, by Satan and his agents, both in the way of violence and deceit; yet has it all along been going on still: And now it is come far above mid-height; it is drawing towards the top, and the time when the last stone shall be laid thereon; for it is evident, we are far advanced in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, wherein the mystery of God is to be finished, Rev. 10:7. 7. The cope-stone will be laid on it at the last day: at what time the promise will receive its full accomplishment, in the complete salvation of all the objects of mercy, then to be advanced unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," Eph. 4:13. In that day our Lord Jesus Christ, the great builder, "shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings," even the last and crowning mercy, saying, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And then shall they dwell in the building of mercy perfected, and sing of mercies for ever and ever. 8. Lastly, The foundation on which it stands, is a firm one. It is necessary that it be so: for a building of mercy to sinners, from a holy just God, is a building of huge weight, more weighty than the whole fabric of heaven and earth: and if it should fall, all is ruined a second time, without any more hope of relief. But it is a sure foundation, being God's everlasting covenant: "I have made a covenant with my chosen."
In which words, together with the second text, there are four things to be considered. 1. The foundation on which the building of mercy stands; to wit, A covenant. 2. The parties-contractors in that covenant. 3. The making of it. And, 4, The nature of it.
I. The foundation on which the building of mercy stands, is a covenant, a divine covenant, a sure one. The first building for man's happiness was a building of bounty and goodness, but not of mercy; for man was not in misery when it was a-rearing up. And it was founded on a covenant too; namely, on the covenant of works, made with the first Adam: but he broke the covenant, and the whole building tumbled down in an instant. But this is another covenant, and of another nature. In the type indeed, and shadow, it is the covenant of royalty with David, 2 Sam. 7:11–17; which was a foundation of mercy to his family, securing the continuance of it, and that as a royal family. Howbeit, in the antitype and truth, it is the covenant of grace, the covenant of eternal life and salvation to sinners, the spiritual seed of the head thereof, to be given them in the way of free grace and mercy, Psalm 89:2, 4, 29, 36; and in which they are freed from the curse, so that it cannot reach them, notwithstanding of their failures; but the Lord deals with them as his children still, though offending children, ver. 30–33; and all by the means of Jesus Christ the Saviour, the mighty One, ver. 19. This is the foundation of the whole building of mercy to sinners in their low estate, into which they were brought by Adam's fall. The revelation, promulgation, and offer made unto the sons of men, of this covenant which lay hid in the depths of the eternal counsel, is called the gospel; the glad tidings of a new covenant for life and salvation to sinners.
II. The parties-contractors in this covenant are, God, and his chosen, the last Adam: for it is evident from the nature of the things here spoken of, ver. 3, 4, and from 2 Sam. 7:8, that these words, "I have made a covenant with my chosen," are the Lord's own words. Both heaven and earth were concerned in this covenant; for it was a covenant of peace between them: and accordingly the interests of both are seen to by the parties-contractors. 1. On Heaven's side is God himself, the party-proposer of the covenant, "I have made a covenant with my chosen." He was the offended party, yet the motion for a covenant of peace comes from him; a certain indication of the good-will of the whole glorious Trinity towards the recovery of lost sinners. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, beholding a lost world, his mercy seeks a vent, that it may be shown to the miserable; but justice stands in the way of the egress and building of mercy, without there be a covenant whereby it may be satisfied. Then saith the Father, "The first covenant will not serve the purpose of mercy; there must be a new bargain: but the lost creatures have nothing left, to contract for themselves; unless another take the burden upon him for them, there is no remedy in the case: they cannot choose such an one for themselves; I will make a choice for them, and make the covenant with my chosen." 2. On man's side, then, is God's chosen, or chosen one; for the world is singular. This chosen one, in the type, the covenant of royalty, is David; but in the antytipe, the covenant of grace, it is the Son of God, the last Adam, even Christ the chosen of God, Luke 23:35. The truth is, such great things are said of the party with whom this covenant was made, of his seed, and of the efficacy of this covenant, as can fully agree to none but Christ and his spiritual seed, vers. 4, 27, 29, 36, 37. The royal family of Judah, the house of David, never recovered their ancient splendour, after the Babylonish captivity; with a view to which time, this psalm seems to have been penned. Their kingdom is extinct many ages ago; and the grandeur of that family, according to the flesh, is quite sunk. But the promise made to David in the covenant of royalty, still flourisheth, and will flourish for ever in Jesus Christ, the top-branch of the family of David. How then can it be, but that, in the perpetual building of mercy, mentioned ver. 2, and the establishing of David's seed, and building up his throne to all generations, ver. 4, Christ himself is chiefly aimed at? And indeed he only was the mighty One, fit for the vast undertaking in this covenant, ver. 19: and him the Father points out to us, as his elect, or chosen One, Isa. 42:1.
III. As to the making of this covenant between the contracting parties: the Father made it with his own Son, I have made a covenant with my chosen, and that before the world began, Tit. 1:2. By their mutual agreement thereto, this covenant was completely made from eternity; even as the covenant of works with the first Adam was, before we were in being. The original-text calls it cutting off a covenant; which phrase is taken from that ancient usage of cutting off a beast, by cutting it asunder, at the making of a covenant, Jer. 34:17. It intimates this covenant to be a covenant by sacrifice: wherein the party-contractor on man's side was the sacrifice, and divine justice the sword that cut it asunder, according to Zech. 13:7, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd." And withal it imports the inviolableness and pepetuity of the covenant made; no more for ever to be dissolved, than the parts of the beast cut off one from the other, to be joined again as formerly.
IV. For the nature of this covenant; there are five things belonging thereto which appear from the texts; namely, 1. The being of a representation in it. 2. The design for which it was set on foot. 3. That there are in it a condition; and 4. A promise; and 5. Into whose hands the administration of it is put.
1. There is a representation taking place in this covenant. As it was in the first covenant, so it was likewise in the second; the party-contractor and undertaker on man's side, was a representative, representing and sustaining the persons of others. This appears, in that the chosen One with whom the covenant was made, is called the last Adam: for it is plain, he is so called in relation to the first Adam, who was the figure (or type) of him, Rom. 5:14. namely, in that like as the first Adam representing his seed in the covenant of works, brought sin and death on them; so he representing his, brings righteousness and life to them; as the apostle teacheth at large in that chapter.
2. The design of this covenant was life, the most valuable interest of mankind. "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit," to wit, to give life to his seed. So it is a covenant of life, as the covenant of Levi, a type thereof, is expressly called, Mal. 2:5. The first covenant was a covenant of life too; but there is this difference, to wit, that the first was for life in perfection to upright man having life before; the second, for life in perfection to sinful man legally and morally dead. The parties contracted for in this second covenant, were considered as under the bands of death, absolutely void of life; and therefore utterly incapable to act for helping themselves. They lay like dry bones scattered about the grave's mouth, before the parties-contractors; justice forbidding to give them life, but upon terms consistent with, and becoming its honour.
3. The condition of the covenant, the terms of that life, agreed to by the representative, is implied in that he was the last Adam, namely, to go through with what the first Adam had stuck in. Adam, in the covenant of works, stumbled in the course of his obedience, and fell; and by his fall was quite disabled to begin it anew: he thereby came under the penalty of that covenant also, but was utterly unable to discharge it. So the last Adam comes in the room of the first, not as the first Adam stood in his integrity; for in that case there was no place for a second Adam; but as he lay a broken man under the first bargain. And coming in his room in this case, his business was to satisfy the demands of the first covenant, in behalf of his seed. These demands were now run up high, quite beyond what they were to innocent Adam: the penalty was become payable, as well as the principal sum. Wherefore the first covenant being ingrossed in the second, is declared broken; and the principal and penalty being summed up together, the clearing of the whole is laid upon the last or second Adam, as the condition of the second covenant.
4. The promise of the covenant to be, upon that condition, performed by the party-contractor on Heaven's side, is implied in these words, "I have made a covenant with" (in the original, to) "my chosen;" that is, "I have made a covenant, binding and obliging myself by solemn promise to my chosen One, for such and such benefits, upon the condition therein stated and agreed to." Compare the following clause, "I have sworn unto David my servant." The nature of this promise will be inquired into in the due place.
5. Lastly, The administration of this covenant is put into the hands of the party-contractor on man's side: "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit." Each of the contracting parties being God, it was not possible that either party should fail, or that the last Adam should break, as the first had done. Wherefore the time of Christ's fulfilling of the condition of the covenant being prefixed by the Father, God took Christ's single bond for sufficient security, and thereupon constituted him administrator of the covenant. Those whom he represented, were considered as being under death, which in the language of the covenant, is a very extensive term: the Spirit and life were to be purchased by him, and did belong to the promise of the covenant. So, upon the credit of his fulfilling the condition of the covenant in due time, the fulness of the Spirit, and eternal life, were lodged in him, to be communicated by him: Rev. 3:1, "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God." 1 John 5:11, "God hath given to us eternal life: and this life is in his Son." John 17:2, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life." Thus was he made a quickening spirit.
Now the DOCTRINE of these texts thus compared and explained, is,
That the covenant of grace for life and salvation to lost sinners of mankind, was made with Jesus Christ the last Adam; and he constituted administrator of it.
In handling of this weighty subject, I deem it not necessary to insist to prove that there is a covenant of grace; the being of which is obvious from the texts, and many other Scriptures, such as, Isa. 42:6; 49:8; and 54:10; Heb. 8:6; and 13:20. But the following account of it shall be ranged under these six heads: namely,
1. The parties in the covenant of grace.
2. The making of that covenant.
3. The parts of it.
4. The administration of it.
5. The trial of a saving personal inbeing in it.
6. The way of instating sinners personally and savingly in it.