Two Covenants; Or, The Law Of Faith And Works Distinguished
"Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"— Gal. iii.
It is not my intention to justify or vindicate the person, character, life, preaching, or writings of every one who is called an Antinomian. h will defend no sort of Antinomians but such as are born again of the Holy Ghost, who live under the dominion of grace, and whose conduct and conversation are agreeable to the measure of faith received.
Those who allow of no prayer for temporal things, who allow of any salvation in popery, who deny a second application of the blood of sprinkling, who speak lightly of prayer, and talk of the fatherly severity of God being no punishment to his children, I have nothing to do with, for these notions are as false as the Bible is true. The point I insist upon is, that the nature of the law, which is holy, just, and good, together with its requirements, love to God and our neighbour, are secured to us in the purpose of God, the covenant of grace, the fullness of Christ, and the hand of the Spirit, and are produced in the souls of all God's elect by the operations of the Holy Ghost.
And although the rod out of Zion includes both the nature and demands of the inferior rod of Moses, yet these two ministrations must not be jumbled together. God has two covenants, one of works and the other of grace; these are called the law of works and the law of faith. The one is a ministration of condemnation, the other of salvation. One is a ministry of the letter, the other of the Spirit. One is a voice of words, the other the word of life. They must be kept apart. The law is not of faith, but of works; nor is faith of the law, but of grace. The one was graven on tables of stone and written on parchment, the other is put in the mind and written on the heart. The former was a law of the hand, and might be put in the pocket; the latter is put in the mind and kept in the heart. The former is the strength of sin, (1 Cor. xv. 56,) the ministration of death, (2 Cor. iii. 7,) and of condemnation; (2 Cor. iii. 9;) the latter is the ministration of pardon, reconciliation, righteousness, life, and salvation. To him that expects life, sanctification, or perfection by the works of the law, the reward is reckoned of debt. The law is the labourer's rule: "This do, and thou shalt live;" his reward is of works, and if by works, then it is no more of grace. "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, his reward is reckoned of grace, (or free bounty,) and if by grace, then it is no more of works." In the law, God's will of commandments is made known to the servant what he will have done, and what he will have left undone, and what may be expected by the servant if tile Master's will be obeyed. God's will of purpose and of promise is made known by the Spirit in the law of faith to the pre-adopted sons: " Having made known to us the mystery of his will." This good will of purpose reveals what is to be believed, received, and expected by the heirs of promise, and all of grace. To the sons it is given to know these mysteries of the kingdom, but not to the servants: " The servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth;" to him it is spoken in parables, and the preaching of it is to him foolishness. These two covenants, these two rules, these two laws, together with the bond women and the free women, the child of the flesh and the child of the Spirit, the servant and the son, must be kept asunder, by an "earnest contention for the faith once delivered to the saints;" for there are certain men crept in unawares, who are ever blending these two covenants together, by vain jangling, knowing neither what they say nor whereof they affirm. One gospelizes the ministration of the killing letter, while another legalizes the dispensation of the Spirit. One ridicules the sovereignty, impeaches the justice, and contemns the counsel of his Maker, and debases him to a level with the sinner, while another exalts the free-agency and perfection of the rebel above him. One strips the bond-child of his rule, and makes it the only rule of the son's life; another applies God's good-will to the briers and thorns, which are nigh unto cursing, and debases the heir of promise. Thus, one dresses up the law and robs the gospel, the other strips the heir to adorn the slave. One sets up Moses (whose office it is to accuse the legalist) on the throne of Zion's King, and renders the Lord's government so imperfect, that his subjects have no rule but what is fetched from the servant, who was no more than a witness of the grace and truth which were to come by his Master; another enforces a perfect obedience to the servant's rule, before we can obtain favour of the King, degrading the merit of the Sovereign, to exalt the servant and the letter. But as it. was in the beginning, so it is now, and ever shall be; for Moses had in old time, hath now, and will have, in every city, them that preach him.
Every chosen vessel, when the commandment comes with power to revive sin and slay the sinner, turns his feet to the legal testimonies, makes haste and delays not to keep the commandments, as the only way that seems right to a man; hut ancient experience, as well as modern, teaches us that all would have fainted unless they had believed.
A believing view of Christ, submission to the sovereign will of God revealed in him, and a cordial reception of him as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, are the first acts of obedience that stand for anything in God's account; and he gives the believing soul a sensibility of his approbation by the pardon of his sins, the powerful operations of his Spirit, a sense of divine love, the enjoyment of peace and reconciliation, enlargement of heart, deliverance from the fear of death, wrath, and bondage, and by all the joys of a rising, lively, and glorious hope. While the believer's will lies straight or runs parallel with the sovereign will of the Father in Christ Jesus, he walks with God and takes heaven with him; he heareth not rebuke, nor is there any dreadful sound. in his cars, nor is he afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. But if lie neglects the means of grace, omits prayer, and aims not at keeping communion with God, though the commandments say no- thing about these things, yet he is summoned by his conscience to another hearing, and at another bar, where inquisition is made strictly, and the cry of the humble attended to. Here the believer finds that with a froward man the Lord will show himself froward, with a perverse child he will show himself perverse, with a perfect one he will show himself perfect, and with an upright man he will show himself upright. At this bar humbling grace attends both the inquisition and the chastening rod, which cannot be the case in the court of judicature; nor can humbling grace be obtained by a rule that worketh wrath, where justice will by no means clear the guilty. No man, either saint or sinner, was humbled, softened, or sweetened at that bar. Devils charged with folly, and desperate rebels, are both witnesses of this truth, who are obliged to stand the fiery test when they would fain fly out of God's hand. Every awakened sinner (as before observed) flies to the law as his only rule of life, walk, conduct, and conversation, and he finds by experience that there is nothing but destruction and misery in all his ways till he bows to the better yoke, and submits to another rule, which is attended with saving health, and directs his steps to the way of life and path of peace.
Under that galling, unbearable yoke, reader, by which thou couldst neither live, walk, nor conduct thyself, these legal gentlemen wish to bring thy neck again; for inexperienced men know nothing savingly of the gospel rule, therefore they can form no just idea of the immortal ties of love, the dominion of grace, the powerful operations of the Spirit, and a heartfelt union with Christ. They know of no bonds or cords but the slavish fear of death and hell, and therefore enforce personal holiness and good works from the law, which was the word of the ancient spies, who came in to spy out the liberty of the saints, and then sent the justified Galatians, who had begun in the Spirit, to the law, to be made perfect by the flesh; whereas, he who is subjected to the will of the Father of spirits "is chastened for his profit, and made a partaker of God's holiness;" (Heb. xii. 10;) and, being joined to the Lord, he is one spirit, and by virtue of this union he receives grace, strength, and a fresh supply of the Spirit, to prepare and qualify him for every good word and work. And this soul-satisfying union is felt and enjoyed as long as a saint walks with God in humble submission and resignation to his sovereign will; but if he resist the will of his God, by disputing against or opposing his decrees, by murmuring at the daily cross, or fretting at different changes of heart, or at trying and intricate providences, he makes to himself crooked paths, and he that goes therein shall not enjoy peace. He acts like Jonah; runs counter to his rule; the storm pursues him, and in time sinks him, till out of the belly of hell he cries, conscious that he has observed lying vanities, and forsaken his own mercies; the thoughts of which and his base ingratitude constrain him once more to fix his longing eyes, not on Sinai, but on the mercy seat in the holy temple; after which, in answer to a few confessions and supplications put up, he comes forth again, crying, "Salvation is of the Lord." But if he will again dispute the point, and resist the will of his Father, after a few expostulations, a violent heat shall wither all his joys and comforts, and an cast wind shall beat upon his head till he faints, and when he comes to himself he will say, " Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," which seems by those words to be the only rule both of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; for what else can be the only rule of the family of heaven and earth but the good will of God in Christ Jesus, seeing angels themselves stand not on the tottering basis of free-will, but are elected and confirmed by sovereign grace in Christ Jesus, who is the Head of all principality and power?
And whether this good will of God in Christ be revealed in a commandment or a promise, the glorious blessing is life in both, and is a free gift: " I know that his commandment is life everlasting." (John xii. 50.) "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John ii. 25.) While the Master's will of commandments, respecting the desolate woman and her children, keeps the bond fraternity all their lifetime subject to bondage, the Master, standing not on the disposition of the servant's heart, but on the goodness of the work, and declaring the offender in one point to be guilty of all,—under this dispensation he lives, which makes him hate coming to a reckoning; under this he dies, which makes him wish for a covenant with death and an agreement with hell. Convinced that the bed which he hath made is too short for a resting place, and his legal covering too narrow to hide his guilt, a consciousness of this will force him to call on the rocks to fall upon him, and to the hills to cover him; for if he hath been inflamed with rage at the green tree, what but the work of fiery indignation can be done in the dry?
By the preaching of the gospel, the law may be considered as established in the following manner:
It is established in the hand of a sin-avenging God, against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of wicked men, as a fiery law: " A fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell." (Dent. xxxii. 22.)
It is established in the heart of every enemy to the Saviour, as a witness for God against them, for such are under the curse; and " the curse of God is in the tabernacle of the wicked, and the wrath of God (revealed in the law) abideth on them."
It is a witness for God against all the heathen; the accusing and excusing of their thoughts and conscience show the works of the law written in their hearts.
It is established as magnified and made honourable in the heart of the Mediator, who is both our ark and mercy-seat, which is the law's appointed place, where it is kept so close as never to arrest nor curse any poor penitent sinner who seeks the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, who " is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
By the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer, and by the love of God shed abroad in his heart, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him, and is established in his mind and conscience, and, as thus fulfilled in him, after the inner man he loves it.
It is established in the hand of God the Father as a most severe rod: "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law, that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity;" and every such a one "having heard and learned of the Father," says the Saviour, "cometh unto me."
And lastly, it is established by preaching the gospel, in the hand of the Judge of quick and dead, furnishing him with a flaming sword and an iron rod. This sword shall come down on the people of his curse to judgment, and this rod will dash the wicked in pieces like a potter's vessel, when Christ shall appear as a just God and a Saviour, - a just God to the wicked, and a Saviour to the saints, and to be admired in all that believe.
That my reader may be enlightened to see the things which differ, the difference between the law of faith and that of works, between the spirit of liberty and that of bondage, between a minister of the Spirit, who preaches Christ, and is called an Antinomian, and a minister of the letter, who favours Arminianism, and yet is called orthodox; and after trying all things, be enabled to hold fast that which is good, is the prayer and desire of thy faithful friend and willing servant in Christ Jesus,