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The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 8

By Samuel Rutherford

      THE condition of the covenant is faith; holiness and sanctification is the condition of covenanters, (Gal. 4:21-24; Rom. 10:4-7). This do, was the condition of the covenant of works. This believe, is the condition of this covenant; because faith sendeth a person out of himself, and taketh him off his own bottom, that in Christ he may have his righteousness; works is a more selfish condition, and giveth therefore less glory to God. Faith holdeth forth God in Christ, in the most lively and lovely properties of free grace, mercy, love transcendent; hence a believer, as such, cannot possibly glory in himself; all that faith hath, is by way of receiving and begging-wise.

      Objection 1. But some teach, that this covenant hath no condition at all; so Dr. Crispe and other libertines: For this is an everlasting covenant; man is not now so confirmed in grace, but he may fail in believing; and so soon as the condition faileth, the covenant faileth, as we see in the first covenant. Answer (1.) That we have no confirming grace to establish us to the day of Christ, is to teach with some Familists, that there is no grace in sound believers, different in kind and nature from that grace which is in many hypocrites. Yea, but the pure in spirit are blessed and shall see God; hypocrites are not so. And what else is this but the king's roadway to the apostacy of the saints, if believers have not Christ for their undertaker, to bring them to glory,--to intercede for them? (Heb. 2:10; Luke 22:32, 33.) (2.) And though they believe not at the first hour, yet this gospel-covenant is not frustrated, even if poor souls believe at the eleventh hour. The former covenant leaveth sinners for the first breach without remedy, or hope of life, by the tenor of the law; not so this covenant. Christ knocketh till his locks be wet with night rain.

      Objection 2. "I will put my law in your inward parts," is no condition to be performed by us, but by God only; and so all the tie lieth upon God: if God do not this as he promiseth, (Jer. 31,) must not the fault or failing be his, who is tied in a covenant to perform his part, and doth it not? Now, this God promiseth, (Jer. 31; Heb. 8:10; Ezek. 36:26, 27.) Answer. Either doth God promise to give us faith, and to cause us to walk in his ways, (Ezek. 36:26, 27,) and to "circumcise our hearts to love the Lord," (Deut. 30:6,) which Arminians deny, contrary to the clear day-light of Scripture; or then, whenever we sin, who are under the covenant of grace, by committing and acting works of the flesh, and omitting to believe, pray, praise, humble our souls for sin, God is to be blamed, who worketh not in us by his efficacious grace to will and to do, as he hath promised; (Phil. 2:13; Ezek. 36:26, 27;) and the regenerate cannot sin at all, because it is the Lord's fault (God avert blasphemy) that we sin; for without his giving of a new heart, and his efficacious moving us to walk in his way, to which God is tied by covenant, (Ezek. 36:27; Deut. 30:6,) we cannot choose but sin. Hence they teach, we are not obliged to pray, nor do we sin in not believing, in not praying, when the breath of the wind of the Holy Ghost doth not blow, and stir us to those holy duties. Hence also it is taught, that none are exhorted to believe, but such whom we know to be the elect of God, or to have his Spirit in them effectually working.

      Objection 3. To do anything in conscience to a commandment, is to be under the law, and contrary to the covenant of grace. Answer. The law of grace or gospel hath commandments, as "Let not sin reign therefore in your mortal bodies." (Rom. 6:12.) And this is backed with a reason taken from the promise of grace, "For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace;" (verse 14,) so "Work out," etc., (Phil. 2:12.) for, "It is God who worketh in you." (verse 13.) Though we have no physical dominion over the assisting grace of God, so as I can forcibly command the wind of the Spirit to blow when I please; yet have we a certain moral dominion, by virtue of an evangelic promise. So, as faith is to have influence in all acts of sanctification, and to look to the promise of assistance, which He who cannot lie hath promised, though he be not tied to my time and manner of working; yet do I sin in not praying, and in not believing, even when his wind bloweth not: God's liberty and freedom of grace, doth not destroy the law of either works or grace, and free me from my duty.

      Objection 4. Believing and obedience of faith is but a consequent of the covenant, not an antecedent; so I must believe upon other grounds, but not in way of the condition of the covenant, for in that tenor, I am to do nothing. Answer. The apostle, (Rom. 10,) expressly distinguisheth between the righteousness of the law, (verse 5,) which requireth Doing as a condition, and the righteousness of faith, (verse 6,) which requireth Believing, (verse 10.) And "We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness through faith." (Gal. 5:5.) Nor can any have claim to the covenant but such as believe.

      Objection 5. The covenant is God's love to man, to take him to himself, and that before the children do good or ill; and to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. Answer. The covenant is a fruit and effect of God's love, but it is not formally God's love; for because God loved Israel, therefore did he enter into covenant with them, (Deut. 7:7, 8; Ezek. 16:8,) and Arminians expound that of Jacob's embracing of the covenant by faith, and of Esau's rejecting it through unbelief; whereas Paul speaketh of Jacob and Esau, as they lay stated in the eye and view of God from eternity, ere they were born, and had as yet neither done good nor ill. Now, the covenant of grace, or gospel manifested to Jacob and Esau, is not eternal, but proposed to them after they are born, and when the offer of Christ in the gospel is made; and how could Esau, before he was born, refuse the gospel, except you say, he did evil before he did evil?--which is nonsense. (2.) Paul saith plainly, "To him that believeth is the reward reckoned."

      Objection 6. Our act of believing is a work, and no work can be a condition of the covenant of grace; yea, Christ alone justifieth. Faith is not Christ, nor any partner with him in the work; yea, we are justified before we believe, and faith only serveth for the manifestation of justification to our conscience; for we believe no lie, when we believe we are justified, but a truth. Then it must be true, that we are justified before we believe.

      Answer. 1. Christ alone, as the meritorious cause, justifieth, and his imputed righteousness as the formal cause; and this way Christ alone justifieth the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and all believers ere they be born; but this is but the fountain, ready to wash. But believe it, Christ washeth not till we be foul, he clotheth us not till we be naked, he giveth not eye-salve till we be blind, nor gold till we be poor, nor is his name our righteousness till we be sinners. (1.) Men not born cannot be the object of actual righteousness: the unborn child needeth no actual application of Christ's eye-salve, of his gold and righteousness. Now, justification is a real favour applied to us in time, just as sanctification in the new birth: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified;" (1 Cor. 6:11). Then they were sometimes not washed. (2.) Poverty putteth beauty, worth, and a high price on Christ; sense of sin saith, "Oh, what can I give for precious Jesus Christ?" But his Father cannot sell him.

      2. Yet is faith a palsy-hand under Christ to receive him, (John 1:11). It is an evangelical act, and not a mere passion, but of grace deputed to be a receiver--a certain inn-keeper to lodge Christ; and so, Christ alone doth not justify us, being mere patients; this is not to put faith in the chair and throne of estate with Christ: faith giveth glory to Christ, and taketh grace as an alms, but taketh no glory from him: "But he was strong in the faith, giving glory to God," (Rom. 4:20). We cannot be justified before we believe.

      (1.) We are damned before we believe; "He that believeth not is condemned already," (John 3).

      (2.) "He that is justified is glorified," (Rom. 8:30,) "and saved," (Mark 16:16).

      (3.) We are born, and by nature the sons of wrath, (Eph. 2:3). We ourselves were sometime disobedient, etc., but he hath saved us, that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Paul maketh clearly two different times and states of the saints; "When we were in the flesh, and the motions of sins which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death," then our first husband, the law, was living, and we under a mother and father that begat children to death, and so we were unjustified; but now, we are delivered from the law;" (Rom. 7:5, 6). "Ye are not under the law, but under grace;" (Rom. 6:14;) when Christ, our second husband, marrieth the widow freed from her first husband, the law. Then are we under grace, and justified; and then, new Lord, new law.

      (4.) By faith we are only united to Christ, possessed of him, Christ dwelling in us, (Eph. 3:17). Living in him by faith, (John 9:26; Gal. 2:20). Receiving Christ, (John 1:11.) Having Christ, (1 John 5:12). Married to Christ, (Eph. 5:32). Eating and drinking Christ by faith, (John 6:35, 47, 45). Coming to him as to a living stone, (1 Pet. 2:4). Abiding in him, as branches in the tree, (John 15:4, 5). Now, if we were justified before we believe, we should have an union by the vital act of faith before we be justified; and so we should live before we live, and be new creatures, while we are yet in the state of sin, and heirs of wrath.

      (5.) This justification without faith, casteth loose the covenant, "I will be your God." But here a condition--God is not bound and we free; therefore this is the other part, "and ye shall be my people." Now, it is taught by libertines, that there can be no closing with Christ, in a promise that hath a qualification or condition expressed; and that conditional promises are legal. It is true, if the word "condition" be taken in a wrong sense, the promises are not conditional. For, 1st, Arminians take a condition for a free act, which we absolutely may perform or not perform by free will, not acted by the predeterminating grace of Christ; so jurists take the word: but this maketh men lords of heaven and hell, and putteth the keys of life and death over to absolute contingency. 2nd. Conditions have a Popish sense, for doing that which, by some merit, moveth God to give to men wages for work, and so, promises are not conditional: but libertines deny all conditions. But taking condition, for any qualification wrought in us by the power of the saving grace of God; Christ promiseth soul-ease, but upon a condition, which, I grant, his grace worketh, that the soul be sin-sick for Christ; and he offereth "wine and milk," (Isa. 55:1;) "And the water of life freely," (Rev. 22:17,) upon condition that you buy without money: no purse is Christ's grace-market, no hire and sense of wretchedness is a hire for Christ. And the truth is, it is an improper condition, if a father promise lands to a son, so he will pay him a thousand crowns for the lands; and if the Father of free grace can only, and doth give him the thousand crowns also: the payment is most improperly a hire or a condition, and we may well say, the whole bargain is pure grace; for both wages and work is free grace. But the ground of libertines is fleshly laziness, and to sin, because grace aboundeth; for they print it, that all the activity of a believer is to sin. So, to believe must be sin; to run the ways of God's commandments with a heart enlarged by grace, must be no action of grace, but an action of the flesh.

      (6.) Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, to the Galatians, taketh for granted, that justification is a work done in time, transient on us, not an immanent and eternal action remaining, either in God from eternity, or performed by Christ on the cross, before we believe; and so, never taketh on him to prove, that we are justified before we either do the works of the law, or believe in Jesus Christ; but that we are justified by faith, which certainly is an act performed by a regenerate person; for a new creature only can perform the works of the new creature, and faith is not the naked manifestation of our justification, so as we are justified before we have faith. Satisfaction is indeed given to justice, by Christ on the cross, for all our sins, before we believe, and before any justified person who lived these fifteen hundred years was born: but, alas! that is not justification, but only the meritorious cause of it--that is, as if one should say, This wall is white since the creation of the world, though this very day only it was whitened, because whiteness was in the world since the creation. Justification is a forensical sentence in time pronounced in the gospel, and applied to me now, and never till the instant now that I believe. It is not formally an act of the understanding, to know a truth concerning myself; but it is an heart-adherence of the affections to Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, at the presence of which, a sentence of free absolution is pronounced. Suppose the prince have it in his mind to pardon twenty malefactors: his grace is the cause why they are pardoned; yet are they never in law pardoned, so as they can in law plead immunity, till they can produce their prince's royal sealed pardon.

      5. The properties of the covenant I call, 1st. The freedom of it, consisting in persons. 2nd. Causes. 3rd. Time. 4th. Manner of dispensation. (1.) Men, and not condemned angels, are capable of this covenant. [2.] Amongst men, some nations, not others, (Psalm 147:19, 20.) [3.] So many, not any other. [4.] The father, not the son; the poor, not always kings; the fool, not the wise man; the husband, not the wife; not these who were bidden to the supper, but beggars, halt, withered, lame. (2.) Causes in the first covenant: there was grace, not deserving, and therefore, now, as the law is propounded, it is a pursuivant of grace, and the gospel's servant, to stand at Christ's and the believer's back, as an attending servant. [2.] Yea, "Mercy unto thousands," towards those who have but evangelic love to Christ, cometh into the law, Christ having (in a sort) married the two covenants. [3.] "I am the Lord thy God," (Exod. 20,) is grace standing at the entry of the door, to those that are under the law, to bring them out; but in the gospel, all is unmixed grace: {1.} Not personal obedience is my heaven; but I stand still, and another doth all that may merit glory. Christ saith, "Do ye but stand still; behold me, and see, friends, my garments rolled in blood: I bind for you, only consent; put your hand to the pen, but I am the only undertaker to fight it out for you." (3.) For time: the first breach of the law is wrath, and no place by law for repentance; but here come to Christ who will, and when you will, after thou hast played the harlot with many lovers. Bring hell, and sins red as scarlet and crimson; come and be washen: come at the eleventh hour, and welcome; fall, and rise again in Christ; run away, and come home again, and repent. (4.) The manner is, [1.] That so much as would have bought ten thousand worlds of men and devils, was given for so many only; an infinite overplus of love, so as (I may say) Christ did, more than love us. Egypt and Ethiopia were not given for our ransom. [2.] A sure and eternal covenant, bottomed upon infinite love. Why may not the link be broken, and the sheep plucked out of his hand? Why, the Father that gave them to me, is greater than all. Where dwelleth he? In what heaven? Who is stronger than the Father? The covenant with night and day is natural, and cannot fail; confirming grace in the second Adam is more con-natural. [3.] Well ordered: Christ keeping his place, the Father his place, faith its place, the sinner his place.

      USE 1. All without this covenant are miserable; Christ undertaketh not for them: the Lord dealeth with them by law: read Deut. 28, Lev. 26, Job 20, and 18:27. They have bread, but it is not sure; not so the believer: "His bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure." (Isa. 33:16.) The believer has all by the free holding of grace; his bread by covenant, his sleep by promise, safety from the sword to lie down, and no man shall make him afraid by covenant; his land is tilled by the covenant of grace, (Ezek. 36:34). The man not in this covenant hath all by tenor of the condemning law; the weapon of steel shall go through bones and liver, by virtue of the curses of the law.

      USE 2. Men never try their standing, whether they be under the first husband, the law, or if they be married to the better husband, Christ, and under grace. Where art thou, O sinner? in Christ or no? They live at random, and by chance, not knowing that the two covenants have influence on eternity: a man is judged according to his state, rather than his actions.

      USE 3. No state so stable and sure as the covenant of grace. Christ is surety for the believer, that he fall not away. Christ's honour is engaged, he shall not have shame of his tutory: "I know I shall not be ashamed," saith Christ; (Isa. 50:7). It is his honour to raise me when I fall.

      USE 4. We may use arguments of faith, challenging God, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned." (Jer. 31:18.) Why? "For thou art the Lord my God." The covenant is faith's Magna Charta, the grand mother-promise; all prayers must be bottomed on this, "Do not abhor us," (Jer. 14:21). Why? "Art not thou he, the Lord God?" (verse 22). "Remember not our iniquity for ever; behold, see, we beseech thee," (Isa. 64:9). Why? "We are all thy people." Every one doth for its own; the prince for his own people, the father for his own children; yea, the dam for her own young ones, the shepherd for his own sheep; and God for his own in covenant with him. An offensive and defensive covenant of peace and war taketh in the believer, and all that serveth him: the stones of the field; (Job 5:23;) and in covenant with the horse thou ridest on, that it shall not cast thee, and crush thee; in covenant with the sword, with the cannon and musket, with the spear and bow; yea, with death, as a boat to carry thee over the water to thy Father's land. So the covenant, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; I have created the waster to destroy," (Isa. 54:16). Creation is a work of omnipotency only, no creature can do it. Then fire cannot consume, water cannot drown the saints, except by a dispensation of the Lord.

      USE 5. Christ is not fastened as a loose nail, or as a broken or rotten wedge in the covenant. He is there as a nail in a sure place, (Zach. 10:4, Isa. 22:23). Hang all the vessels of the Father's house on Christ, He cannot break. O sweet! we are given to the surety of the covenant, (John 17:3). Son, answer for him; thy life for his life, thy glory for his glory; and render account of him, when the kingdom shall be given up to the Father. Adam was surety in the first covenant, and so it fell out. Free-will holdeth all sure in the Arminian covenant.

      USE 6. In desertion, to swim upon the covenant, keepeth from sinking; so Christ, in his sad and black hour, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

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See Also:
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Introduction to Sermons
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 1
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 2
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 3
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 4
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 5
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 6
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 7
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 8
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 9
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 10
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 11
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 12
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 13
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 14
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 15
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 16
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 17
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 18
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 19
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 20
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 21
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 22
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 23
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 24
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 25
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 26
   The Trial & Triumph of Faith: Sermon 27


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