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press what he hath laid up for us in the covenant of his grace? With what impressions of mind ought we to commence this research? Is it proper that we begin this examination with prepossessions of mind most favorable to limited and ungenerous principles, or such as better correspond with the divine goodness continually manifested in a boundless, rich, and munificent providence? If simple nature alone had been our instructor, if we had not been educated in a belief which limits the holy One, if we were left to judge of the goodness of the divine Being, respecting the moral and spiritual interests of his creatures from his impartial goodness in his temporal providence, have we the least reason to believe that we should be in possession of notions opposed to the universality of divine mercy y? But unhappily for us, we have early imbibed illiberal views of God and his goodness, and under this embarrassment we stand opposed to rational views of universal goodness; hence in treating the subject proposed, arguments are needed which may tend to do away our prejudices, and to establish in our minds a doctrine which will be seen to harmonize with the wonderful works and universal goodness of God.
The promises of God of which the Apostle spake in the text are those made to Abraham, which we may learn from the following in the context; "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ." These promises made to Abraham in Christ, the apostle calls a covenant, a he expresses in his next words; "And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance of the the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.' By this scripture we learn that the promises made to Abraham are called a covenant which was confirmed in Christ; and that which the promises contain, is called an inheritance.
The promises to Abraham are recorded, Genesis xii
nize of God spake
These are the promises of God, of which mention we is made in our text, and which our text says, the law is not against. It may be well now to inquire something respecting the extensiveness of these promises. What is the most natural sense of such language as this? "All the nations of the earth, all the families of the earth; " and such as St. Peter used, Acts iii. 25, "Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed." Would any person, having the least knowledge of language, make use of such to express something concerning a very small part of mankind? The learned and pious divines who composed the Westminster Catechism did not make use of such language to express the covenant of grace in which they believed. Their words are the following; "God. having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eterni
Now H ade. fone, and ises ma venant.
I say, the of God and thir
make nce of the gave it
Jean ed a co hat whi
2, 3, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will
ty, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation, by a Redeemer." Will any candid person say, that this language which the Westminster divines made use of to express their covenant of grace and the language which God used to express his covenant of grace to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are of the same import? No one will pretend this. If it had been the intention of those divines to state the covenant of which St. Peter spoke in Acts iii. would they not have been likely to make use of such language as he used, and as is used in other parts of the scriptures on the same subject? There can be no doubt of this. But the fact is, their covenant of grace is not mentioned in the whole of the divine oracles. It is a most humiliating thought, that the wisdom of God should have been thus totally neglected, and the wisdom, the partial, sensual wisdom of this world set in its stead. It is a matter of most painful reflection, that while the christian church have made no provision to teach youth the gospel covenant of the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob, unwearied pains and innumerable means have been employed to instruct them, "and that right early," in this covenant of men's invention. But, by attending too much to the vain notions of men, we shall get away from our subject. We will therefore observe, that the language in which the covenant which God made with the fathers is expressed, is as extensive as any language that could have been used, unless more than the whole human family were to be comprehended: All nations of the earth, all the families of the earth, and all the kindreds of the earth, is universal; and all the partial creeds of men acknowledge it to be so by carefully and respectfully neglecting to use it.
Our next inquiry will seek to ascertain the blessing which is promised to all the nations of the earth in the covenant of God.
This question is settled by the testimony of the Apostle in our context; "And the scriptures forese
of A and in uct the men's
in wh ers BE at co e hu ns of t kindre creed
seeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed." This blessing then is justification through faith. Of this justification the Apostle speaks to the Romans in language as extensive as that in which the covenant of grace was expressed to Abraham. His words are as follows; "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Again to the Romans, the Apostle speaking of Christ, says; "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." The same author in a discourse at Antioch said; "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again." The hearer is requested to notice, that according to the passages quoted, the promise to Abraham is called the gospel. This gospel was preached by God himself, and no doubt was preached truly, and as Abraham believed, and as we ought to believe at this day. We also see that the thing promised, which the Apostle calls "the inheritance," is justification through faith, the word faith meaning covenant; and moreover, that all that have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, are thus "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Should the trite objection, that this doctrine justifies men in sin, be moved in this case, we reply in the words of divine truth, which never speaks of justifying men in sin, but "from, all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses." St. Peter applies the blessing which God promised, in his covenant, to Abraham, as follows; "Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." One important object which we have in view, is to show the nature of the gospel salvation, which is salvation from sin and all its evils.
The hearer is now requested to consider the terms
or conditions of the promises, the covenant made with
Corresponding with the unconditionality of the "covenant of promise," we may notice a passage or two from the prophet Isaiah and St. Paul. The evangelical prophet uses language in his 26th Chapter which corresponds in three important points with the language of the divine promises. 1st. It is universal 2d. It contains the testimony of life; and 3d. The language is positive, not conditional. The passage reads as follows; And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it." In his 9th Chapter, speaking of the Messiah, he says, "For unto