The Covenant: Part Two
What it is
In Part One we compared the ‘Testament’ and the ‘Covenant’ in the Bible. I felt it was necessary to point out the nature of the two clauses in Christ’s Legacy for us before going on to talk about God’s Covenant with His Son. All theories of covenants based on Dispensational grounds are wrong because they teach a discontinuous and not an eternal covenant in Christ. Again, the Covenant is not discontinuous, it is not divided, and it is not Dispensational. As Christ is the Author and Finisher and Keeper of the Covenant and is the same yesterday, today and for ever, His Covenant is permanent and everlasting. It stretches through all eternity, and thus cannot be limited in time. Christ never changes His redemptive mind. Likewise, any idea of splitting up Law and Grace into two separate Covenants is quite false. Unity divided is disunity. The one Covenant declares that ‘the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life.’ ‘All in Adam die but all in Christ are reborn’. Condemnation of sin and justification through Christ’s righteousness go hand in hand in the one Biblical Covenant. Players in the NCT league combine the errors of false Old-Covenant theology with false New-Covenant theology and are thus doubly wrong.
A look at the Covenant in the Continuous Reformation
We should be familiar with the Biblical truth reintroduced by our Reformers, but the Reformers are the most neglected writers in Christendom. Instead, modern pseudo-Puritan teaching refers to the brief Presbyterian era as a Second Reformation, as if it replaced the first. This is a mistranslation of the more Bible-based Dutch Nadere Reformatie and Nadere uitwerking which they claim to promote. The Dutch term refers to the continuation of the 16th century Reformation, not to a new 17th century one. Remember, Witsius came over to sort the Westminster Assembly’s errors out, telling them that their Antinomian covenantal mistakes were caused through their not believing in God’s actions from eternity.
The Covenant of the Father’s dealings with His Son Jesus Christ through the outworking of the Holy Spirit is revealed from Genesis to Revelation. This is the full revelation of God and does not allow for the neglect of one jot or title. This truth is almost lost because we have been drilled since the 1950s to believe that the minority Counter-Reformed party who dominated Britain from 1643 to 1648 have pronounced the first and last word on the subject in their Second Reformation. What they did was empty God’s Covenant of its historical, Scriptural, doctrinal and theological content and introduced the spiritual anarchy which has spawned all our denominations. Christians have become denominational builders and not Church builders. Any Covenant Theology that deals with isolated particulars, periods or people in the Bible and leaves out other Scriptures, periods and people, is an un-Biblical fake. Our Reformers taught us that God’s Covenant is revealed in all the Bible’s pages with no picking and choosing.
Let’s get back to Reformed, Biblical teaching
William Tyndale, when expounding Exodus around 1530, taught that God’s Covenant was with Christ on behalf of man from the beginning, witnessed by both Testaments. The Old Testament Law and the Prophets spoke of Christ just like the New Testament and, though less detailed, was still sufficient to bring in the elect. Of the New Testament, he said, ‘the New Testament was ever, even from the beginning of the world. For there was always promises of Christ to come by faith in which promises the elect were then justified inwardly to God, as outwardly before the world’.
So the Testaments compliment each other backwards and forwards. Henry Bullinger, called the one great pillar of the English Church, also spoke of the one revelation of God’s Covenant with man in both clauses of the Testament. One of his proof texts was the one the NCT so terribly misuses, Hebrews 11:13., ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’ The NCT says, ‘Abraham never received the promises so His generation did not experience the New Covenant.’ Bullinger explains that the Old Testament saints, like New Testament saints died in the same faith, under the same Covenant. Both they and we believe the same promises but none of us will experience them until the Resurrection Morning when we enter into our Heavenly inheritance together. Until then Christ’s Bride, the Church, whether BC or AD, walks by faith not sight. We, like our OT mentors in the faith are pilgrims and strangers in this world. Bullinger tells his congregation: ‘I have, I trust, sufficiently proved that the faithful fathers of the old testament, and we believers of the new covenant, are one church and one people, which are all saved under one congregation, under one only testament, and by one and the same manner of means, to wit, by faith in Christ Jesus.’
This is Reformed Covenant Theology and our sole platform in our witness to those in error either on the Reformed side or on the NCT side. When we study those who rejected Reformed theology in the 17th century through speaking of two covenants, not one, we find that though they presented themselves as mainstream Reformers, they were a short-term mistaken minority. They called themselves ‘Puritans’ merely because they wanted to continue the status quo of the Presbyterian Usurpation of the secular government. From 1640 onwards, there was a great protest amongst Reformed theologians against these new errors from the old Jesuits’ stables. The leader of this movement to restore the true Reformed faith and defragmentise the fragmented Church was John Durie (1659-1680.) His followers included James Usher, John Davenant (died 1641), Joseph Hall, Adoniram Byfield, William Gouge, John Stoughton, John Downam, Henry Burton, George Walker, Nicolas Morton, Sidrach Simpson, Richard Culverwell, Obadiah Sedgwick, George Hughes, Joseph Symonds, John Cotton and Richard Sibbes – all great names in true Reformed theology. I mention these to show that Durie was a leader of a great company, though few acknowledge him today.
The Reintroduction of Practical Divinity
These men decided to compile a Practical Divinity as opposed to the Aristotelian Systematic Divinities of their politically Puritan contemporaries. It was to be a great undertaking, outlining the practical outworkings of God’s covenant with his Son on behalf of man. They had hoped Usher would have written it but his difficulties with the new regime made this impossible so it was left to John Durie to do the work after the Presbyterian downfall.
Durie started where Paul starts, seeing the full revelation of the Bible as God’s written Covenant with His Son regarding man’s salvation. He outlined God’s plan of salvation for Christ’s Bride in all the Scriptures, in the two clauses of the one Testament explaining the one Covenant. Durie starts his Covenant exegesis by demonstrating the reliability and sufficiency of the entire Scriptures before dealing with the Being of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to whom they testify and the sorry state of man for whom they are testified. Then, before outlining the form of the contract for which we usually use the word ‘Covenant’, Durie describes Christ in his office of Mediator in both Testaments.
This was not a one-off notion of a group of religious cranks. I can show you official documents between 1631 and 1680 from all the main European churches and universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Leipzig, Hamburg, Duisburg, Marburg, Heilbron, Uppsala, Rinteln, Sedan etc., signed by John Owen and over a hundred true British Puritans, including Owen, Nye and Goodwin, and large numbers of Continental Europeans, including Calixtus, Bergius and Crocius all affirming that they stood four-square behind John Durie’s initiative and saw in him the person most fitted out by God to restore the Reformation in Europe with his teaching on Practical Divinity. This is ignored by modern Counter Reformation ‘Reformed’ works.
Durie firmly opposed Aristotelian Systematic Theologies which cut up essential doctrines into what they called ‘cases’, claiming that theology and other subjects should be taught by case studies in order to get a general overview. Such bits and pieces cannot be parts of any comprehensive whole, Durie argued, because only, I quote, ‘Practical Divinity containeth properly the determination of the Ends of all our actions, to show how they are subordinate to Godliness and the Rules whereby the actions are to be directed to their own proper ends.’ Systematic Theology never points to the ultimate ends of man and a right knowledge of God.
The whole Body of Scripture must be studied in its practical and utilitarian entirety and not through piece-meal, artificial analysis. No dissection of feathers, sinews, muscle, skin and skeleton can describe a living Bird of Paradise. Put the bird in the mincing machine and it is gone. Nearly all controversies in modern theology are caused by separating what belongs together by Aristotelian Systematics, inherited from Rome.
Thus Durie declares that Systematic Divinity is ‘preposterous’ as by isolating parts, one can never conclude their whole. He thus re-introduced the teaching of his Reformed Fathers that all knowledge was one reflecting the mind of Christ who is Pansophia (Rom. 16:27), all wisdom, and God’s revelation is one in Christ and cannot be cut up and dissected. He saw Christ being revealed in all the Scriptures and that all the Scriptures were the product of God’s Covenant of salvation with His Son. All theology is thus Covenant theology and all theology must be taught as a unity. We do not teach theological ‘subjects’, we teach the wisdom of God as revealed historically in Scripture in its synergetic synthesis and wholeness.
Durie’s Reformed Covenant Theology
Two things must be understood, Durie teaches, in grasping Covenant truth:
1. With whom the contract is made properly and directly, and for whose sakes.
2. What the terms of agreement made with each party are.
First: The parties in the Covenant agreement.
The contract is properly and directly an agreement made between the Father and the Son. Indirectly, however, it is made for those who believe in Christ and profess His Name. Why is this? Because Christ, according to Scripture is the Covenant of God in Person. He is the living contract bringing perfect Divinity and Perfect manhood together. No one else can do this. Here Durie quotes Isaiah 42:6: ‘I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles’. He also quotes Isaiah 49:8: ‘Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped the, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.’ Thus sinners are received into the Covenant for Christ’s sake only and not for anything in themselves. Those who are in Christ are in the Covenant. Those who have Christ, have the Covenant. Christ and He alone IS the Covenant. This is the teaching of the whole Covenant Bible.
Second: The Terms of the Covenant Agreement
The Covenant is thus a contract and an agreement, which is outlined in the two-clause Testament which, as a whole, refers to the inheritance of the saints; how it came about and how they shall enjoy it.
a. The terms are made with Christ not fallen man
Whosoever is redeemed by Him, not having their own righteousness but the righteousness of God through faith, become children of God and heirs of eternal glory (Isaiah 59:21; Rom. 3:24). They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ and found in him (Titus 3:7; Rom. 8:29). They are predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the first born among many brethren. He gave them the power to become the sons of God (Rom. 5 per totum; John 1:12); and Christ should lose nothing of all which He has been given, but raise it up again at the last day (John 6:39).
b. The terms by which the Covenant is made in Christ for Believers
These terms specify that God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and remember their iniquities no more; He will write His laws on their hearts, and give them understanding that He will be to them a God, and they shall be to him a People, and that they shall all be taught of God from the least unto the greatest. Heb. 8:10-12.
c. The terms made in Christ with professors of His Name
Durie distinguished between true believers and professors. The Church knows no theoretical members. Thus all who name the Name of Christ must depart from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19). Such as separate themselves unto the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing shall be received by Him; that He will dwell amongst them, and walk in them and be their God and they shall be His people: that He shall be a Father unto them, and they shall be His sons and daughters (2. Cor. 6:16-18) And that every one who doth suffer with Christ shall also reign with him (2.Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:17).
Durie calls this the tenor, or settled course and direction of the Covenant and now goes on to speak of its confirmation under the title:
The establishment of the contract with men for Christ’s sake.
So that the contract could be ratified and unalterably confirmed and believers receive their due inheritance, Christ had to die and rise again from the dead and is now in Heaven where he administers the Testament for those to whom he bequeathed it.
To this effect the gospel of Christ’s covenanted Testament is to be preached and published throughout the world. This is done through the gifts of the Holy Spirit which is part of the Covenant which the Father has made with those who are in Christ for His benefit, ensuring that Christ’s promises will not depart out of His mouth, nor out of the mouth of His Seed, nor out of the mouth of His Seed’s Seed, from henceforth and for ever’ (Isaiah 59:20-21).
In this Administration of the Testament for the establishment of the Covenant, two things are to be acknowledged:
1. What the general offer of Grace is on God’s part, calling all men to Christ to partake of the Covenant.
2. How the particular terms of the contract are made good with believers and with professors.
Of the general offer of grace
Here we note:
1. The state of those who are called to Christ.
God has appointed the Gospel to be preached to men dead in sins and trespasses who have no ability of themselves at all to will anything which is spiritually good, far less to convert themselves or to prepare themselves for such a new birth. Durie does not talk of an awareness of duty faith in sinners nor even a duty of sinners to prepare themselves for conversion as in modern evangelism.
2. What those in Christ are called to experience.
They are called to receive pardon of their sins, rest and ease to their souls and the light of life. Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest (Matt. 11:28); And it be known unto you, that through this Man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39). Covenant preaching is calling sin-slain men to awake from the dead and approach Christ who draws them into His forgiving arms.
3. What way must they take to come to Him.
By repenting from dead works and exercising faith towards God. ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15) Testifying to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
Durie then goes on to explain:
How the particular Terms of the Covenant are made good to believers
Here, three things must be acknowledged
1. How sinners are made to believe and entertain the offer of the Covenant.
Those who hear the Word of God, answer the call and embrace the promises of the Covenant are moved to do so by the free and special grace of God conferred on them in God’s good pleasure through the gift of faith both to will conversion and perform the same.
2. How God makes good the tenor of his covenant in Christ towards them.
Unto all who are given faith, they are also given justification and adoption and sanctified by the Spirit of regeneration, sealed until the final day of redemption and enabled to walk in obedience of faith and in the enjoyment of grace unto the end. Note that all these points are separated in today’s pseudo-Reformed teaching.
3. How they are made sensible of their happy condition in Grace, to apprehend their right to Glory.
Here you can hear our critics grinding their teeth and pulling out their hair at Durie’s Reformed use of the word ‘sensible’. ‘Hyper-Calvinist’ they shout; ‘Away with the Antinomian!’ This one word sets their whole mock-gospel puppetry dancing and jerking in rage. Triumphantly and passionately in his fervour as a soul-winner, Durie says, ‘We believe that all true believers may have a comfortable assurance of the blessed estate in grace, by the testimony of the Spirit of Adoption unto their conscience, given them in the sincerity of their walking with God in the Covenant, according to that which the Apostle saith (Rom. 8:15,16); The Spirit of Adoption whereby we cry Abba Father, the Spirit it self beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.’ If David Gay, Errol Hulse, the Founders Ministries and the Banner of Truth, who call us Antinomians for agreeing with Durie, have experienced no sensibility of their sins, no sensibility of salvation, then they are still as cold as the grave and need to be awakened by the Sun of Righteousness. Our gospel is to waken the dead and make them sensible to their plight and to their salvation.
Durie’s next point is:
How the Particular Terms of the Covenant are made good to those who profess Christ and wish to serve Him.
Here, two things professors must acknowledge:
1. Such as profess the Lord Jesus Christ are bound to join themselves together in one body as members one of another in Christ.
To affect this, the Lord has given various gifts to His Church. At first Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists to lay the foundation. Now Pastors and Teachers to build on it.
2. The gathered members are to be perfected and built up by the work of the ministry, towards the effecting of the Covenant.
Durie says: We believe also that the gathering together of Protestants into one body, is lawfully performed, when they professedly give up themselves unto God through the ministry of the Testament which Christ has instituted, and by their professed subjecting of themselves to all the Ordinances of God’s House, which make the believers as one in the Covenant with each other before the World in the profession thereof to God’s glory. These spiritual exercises which build up the faithful to the full measure of the stature of Christ in the Covenant are two-fold, relating to both the inward man and outward man.
Gifts relating to the inward man.
These are the duties of public worship, attending to the word of prophesy, prayer and praise.
Gifts relating to the outward man
The exercise of love in the communion of saints, watching over one another, caring for one another and supplying all needs. Particularly Elders are called to supervise and direct these exercises and the deacons to make sure that bodily and health needs are met, distributing the monies which the members have contributed for this cause.
Ridding ourselves of the veil of confusion
Reformer William Whitacker in his Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, taught that God’s Covenant is completely revealed in both Testaments which is the full will of God. He teaches, that whoever adds or rejects any of it or seeks elsewhere for God’s will has still the veil of sin over his eyes. We complain about Islamic women wearing their veils. Are not those Christians who cut up God’s one and only way of salvation until there is little left, as in so much modern Covenant teaching, more guilty than those Moslem women who do not know Christ? Reformer Roger Hutchinson, author of the famous Image of God insisted that both Testaments are one legacy and the Old is valid in the New as the New is in the Old. Condemnation through the Law and acquittal in Christ belong to the Covenant rule of the whole Scriptures. This is why Peter in Acts 15, referring to the Old Testament saints, says, ‘We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they,’ because we are under the same Covenant. Stop, you might say, ‘Old’ means done away with and ‘New’ means it did not exist before. Oh no, this is certainly not the case, ‘Cadash’ in the Old Testament means ‘refreshed’, ‘renovated’, ‘rejuvinated,’ or even ‘re-applied’. It is getting back to the roots and the original intended meaning. In the New Testament ‘Palaios’ (old) means ‘In existence for a long time.’ Neo means ‘ever fresh’ and kainos used in Hebrews for the Covenant has just the same meaning as cadash used in Jeremiah 31 for the same Covenant. Our old-time, eternal Gospel is ever new and fresh and brings renewal with it like the morning dew. It only makes sense, however, to renewed and restored sinners.
When Cromwell was dying, he spoke much of the Covenant, affirming in his last breath that from eternity there is but one Covenant. In his dying prayer, he said, ‘Lord, though I am but a miserable and wretched creature, I am in Covenant with Thee through grace.’ His friends told him to eat and drink and gain strength to live. He refused and answered, ‘My design is to make what haste I can to be gone.’ He trusted in the Covenant-Keeper.
Dear Brethren, the one Covenant is the only Covenant to die happily in. I have not told you half of what Durie taught. There is much good news still to be learnt. Perhaps we have learnt enough to accept God’s gracious Covenant in its entirety and not get bogged down in artificial parts which will give us but a piece-meal faith to quarrel over. However, who will ever learn and know of all God’s covenant mercies this side of enjoying our Heavenly inheritance? May God help us to learn more and more as we grow in grace and the knowledge of our Saviour and find that, in the original sense of the word ‘new’ we can say that ‘His love for us is new every morning,’