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as second Adam, in which all the promises are indefinitely proposed to all that hear it, and as it were a blank left in the body of it, in which every one that will, may fill up his own name. So in this gospel, the covenant is held out to you all, as heaven's blank bond for grace and glory, that whosoever will, may fill his own name in it, by applying the same to himself in the way of believing.
2. The manner of the conveyance. It is by way of grant or gift, for so the word is. But observe the gift is to us, and so it is to be understood in respect of us, to be a free gift. In respect of the Lord Jesus, it is not so. All the benefits of the covenant, to be bestowed on his spiritual seed, are made over to him on a valuable consideration. The covenant to him is a covenant of sale, in which he obtains such and such things, for his, because he hath paid the price of them. "We were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from our vain conversation, received by tradition from our fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." To the Lord Jesus it is a covenant of service, in which the benefits of it are made over to him, because he worked for them, Gen. xxii. 16. God gives us to serve our Redeemer, because Christ served him perfectly in our room and stead. The covenant is to him a disposition of these things for us, upon a most onerous cause, namely, "because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
But in respect of us, these things stand quite otherwise. The grant to us is of mere free gift, absolutely of free grace. All the blessings of grace are so, and glory is so likewise. From the foundation stone of our salvation, to the copestone of it, we must cry grace, grace, unto it. For the whole building, and every stone of the building, is of grace. And the putting the crown of glory on the heads of the saints, after all their wrestling and fighting against their spiritual enemies, after all their holy obedience, and life spent in the practice of good works, is as purely of free grace, as the giving them the first grace, as the quickening of them when dead in sins is. “For I have said, mercy shall be built up for ever." "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
What then should hinder any poor soul that has a mind for God's covenant of free grace, to embrace it this day? Should it hinder you to embrace it, because you cannot get any tolerable management of the corruptions of your base heart, because you cannot work, nor do any thing right in the service of God? No,
no. We may tell you with confidence, here you are to work nothing, to do nothing; but only by believing, to receive the full treasure of the covenant, held out to you in the gospel, to be received freely. And more than that, that day shall never dawn on you, in which you shall be able to work, or do the least work to purpose, until you have embraced the covenant for grace, with which to work and do. It would be a promising token among our communicants and others, if they were all coming to Christ and his covenant, to get their broken arms set, and strengthened for work, by the grace of the covenant. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Let us now attend,
II. To the benefits secured to us in this conveyance, even the sum of the benefits of the covenant of grace.
These are of two sorts: First, the principal benefit, serving the Lord. Second, The subordinate benefit, deliverance from our enemies.
First, The principal benefit, which stands here under the notion of the end, namely, serving the Lord. "That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him." This is the great thing promised in the covenant of grace, even as it was the great thing required in the covenant of works, as the condition of it. This is it that was purchased by Christ, and is promised to poor sinners who believe in him, for his sake, namely, that God will give them to serve him. And thus our serving God is the great benefit of the covenant, bestowed on believers, for Christ's sake.
O that men would learn this lesson, that any service we do to God, if right service, it is a benefit of the covenant, bestowed on us, for Christ's sake. Then would they learn that God is not debtor unto them for it, but they are debtors to free grace on that very account. And the more they do for God, and the better that they do it, they are always the deeper in debt to free grace. Ephes. ii. 8, 9, 10.
Then would they also learn, that the only way for a sinner to be brought to serve the Lord, is to embrace the covenant for that very end; and that they are not to embrace it because they have served the Lord, as ignorant and unhumbled sinners are apt to do: but to embrace the covenant, that they may be made to serve the Lord. "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to him shall men come."
This benefit of the covenant, that we might serve him, imports three things:
1. The privilege of God's service. God is a master of infinite glory and power, so that to be admitted into his service is the greatest privilege. How do men value themselves, in that they are of an earthly king's household, servants to one who wears a crown? But what a small thing is that, in comparison of this, to be the fellows of angels, in being taken into the service of Jehovah the Lord of heaven and earth. It is a great part of heaven's happiness. "For there his servants shall serve him." Man lost this service by his fall, but God, for Christ's sake, has granted to sinners to be taken into it again, and that in a more honourable station than innocent Adam had, that is, no more as hired, but as honorary ser
2. Strength and ability for his service. And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord." Man, by his breach of the first covenant, lost his strength for serving the Lord, so that whosoever of you are without the covenant, you cannot serve the Lord. "And Joshua said unto the people, ye cannot serve the Lord; for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God: he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." "He that abideth in me, and I in him," saith Jesus, "the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." Thus in the new covenant, there is a promise of strength for this service, which is bestowed on all that believe, of mere free grace for the sake of Christ. "For his grace is sufficient for us, and his strength is made perfect in weakness."
3. Acceptance of the service. "Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." Whatever they do in God's service, who are without the covenant, it is, in point of acceptance, as if it were not done at all. God rejects them and their services too. For they can do nothing right nor pleasing in the sight of God. For without faith it is impossible to please God. But the new covenant is the ministration of the spirit, fitting the soul for service, and has a promise of acceptance of our service, though it be imperfect, for Christ's sake.
Well then, would ye be admitted into God's service, have strength for it, and acceptance of your services, look to the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus, for these things. Embrace and rely on the promise of the covenant for all these things by faith, which promise
is held forth to you in the gospel. And they shall be sealed to you in the sacrament, and made forthcoming to you, in virtue of the faithfulness of God.
Concerning this covenant service, two things are further to be remarked. First, the kind. Secondly, the qualities of it.
1. The kind of service to God, in which sinners are instated by the covenant of grace; for there is a great difference of services. Now,
1. This is not bond service, the service of slaves, who work their work for fear of their master's whip. The Spirit of God hath purposely abstained here from using the very word that signifies that kind of service. It is not serving God for fear of hell and revenging wrath. That is the first covenant service, indeed, being broken; but not the second covenant service, which is to serve God without fear, namely slavish fear. The covenant of grace finds all men in the state of bond service, and was contrived to bring us out of it, through Christ's being a bondman in our stead. "He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, in our stead. Wherefore we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.”
2. It is not hired service, so much work for so much wages. The text tells us, that the service is so far from being hired, that it is a free grace gift made to sinners for Christ's sake. "That he would grant unto us, that we might serve him." It is true there is an ample reward follows the service of the saints. But both the service and reward are of grace; and the reward, properly and strictly speaking, is rather the reward of the service of their head Christ, than of the service of their bands. But,
3. It is an honorary service. So the word used by the Holy Ghost, in the text, signifies to minister, which is an honorary kind of service, such as kings and priests had when put into their office. Thus Christ hath made his people kings and priests unto God. They are an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ. So that this service, bestowed on sinners through Jesus Christ, according to the covenant, is their unspeakable advancement, their real happiness, to which they could never have been preferred, but by means of the blood of the covenant. It is a post of the greatest honour of which the sinner is capable. And this also is imported in the phrase, before him, which is an Old Testament phrase used of those in the courts of kings who waited on the king's person; Rev. xxii. 3, 4.
This may direct you in your approach to the Lord's table, to lay
hold on the covenant; not to go about to turn that solemn action into the making of a bargain with God, that if he will save you, and give you heaven, you will serve him all your life. Alas! poor creature, what have you to serve him with, that you will pretend to make such a bargain with him? But here is a covenant of honorary service to God, bearing a promise also of strength for the service, freely offered and exhibited to you in the word of the gospel, under the great seal of Heaven. Believe it cordially; accept of it; lay the weight of your desired and designed service to God upon it; and it is a bargain, and shall be sealed by the sacrament. Let us now attend,
2dly, To the qualities of the service. They are these:
1. It is universal, which the service of these remaining under the first covenant never is. "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments." We are to serve him in holiness and righteousness. These answer to the whole holy law as a rule of life. In holiness, serving him iu first table duties; in righteousness, serving him in second table duties. Both of them relating to the inward, as well as the outward man, bearing a holy and righteous frame of heart, as well as holy and righteons actions, as serving before him, that is, as under his eye, sincerely and uprightly. Here then is the true way to get heart and life purified; to get an irregular life, in a profession of religion, made uniform. That grace is held forth in the covenant, which you are to embrace for sanctification, as well as justification. And it is a full covenant for that purpose, as for all other purposes of salvation.
2. It is a perpetual and lasting service. The first covenant required a lasting service, but secured not man from breaking the service. But the second covenant secures the perpetuity of the service, that however fickle the believer is, yet he shall serve the Lord all the days of his life. This imports two things: 1. That he shall serve the Lord as long as he lives in this world, and shall never be either put away, nor break away from the blessed service. The covenant shall keep him, if he cannot keep it. "I will," says God, "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." By this covenant, God takes home sinners to his service, never to part for the term of life. Oh! is not this a blessed bargain, for one who is groaning under the weight of a vain, fickle, inconstant heart. Come into it then, joyfully and confidently. Here is heaven's security for the keeping of it. Then look to the Lord in his covenant this day, and