The Covenant of Grace in Gospel-times admits Christians, in a state of unregeneration, and is not limited in the bounds of it to the Elect regenerate.
THe two former supposed differences did lay the first cove∣nant too low, not vouchsafing it the honour of a Gospel-co∣venant, or at the best, a mixt Gospel; Two others follow, which will hold us longer, that put too great a limit to the se∣cond covenant,* in respect of the latitude and extent of it. A third difference therefore assigned by some, is, that the first covenant took in all the seed of Abraham, by Isaac and Jacob, as many as professed themselves to be of the Faith, and that were willing to joyne in the worship of the God of Abraham. The New Covenant, they affirm, admits no more than Elect Regenerate persons. The Gospel strips us of all relative Covenant holinesse, of all holi∣nesse that is not real, and intrinsecal, and God ownes none, as his Covenant-people, but Elect regenerate persons. In the first place we shall take what is yielded, or at least not gain-sayed, and after proceed to the examination of what is affirmed.
In Old Testament-times the covenant was made with Israel in the uttermost latitude and extent,* with all that bore the name of Israel, as we may see, Deut. 29. at large held forth. There is a covenant entred, and the words of it exprest, 1. With Israel, verse 1. 2. With all Israel, verse 2. 3. With them to whom God had not given an heart to perceive, eyes to see, and eares to hear, ver. 4. viz. with unregenerate persons. 4. It is made with Captaines of Tribes, Elders, Officers, little Ones, Wives, Strangers, Hewers of wood, Drawers of water, vers. 10, 11. 5. With them that were present, and with them that were absent, verse 14, 15. All this clearly shews in how great a latitude this covenant is entred; No Israelite of any Sex, Age, Rank, nor any that joyned themselves to that body are exempted▪ Which also farther appears in those innumerable places of Scripture, where God owns that people generally, promiscuously as his people, professing himself to be their God, and he is the God of none, but a covenant-people, of his own covenant-people, others are without God, Eph. 2. 12. He was the God of all that came out of Egypt, Exod. 20. 2. Page 232 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of Bondage; Of all that whole family, Amos 3. 1. Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against thee, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I have brought up from the land of Egypt. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, Deut. 6. 4. Yea, Isreal at the very worst is thus owned as Gods in covenant; Hear, O my people, and I will testifie unto thee, O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me: but my people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would have none of me, Psal. 8 8, 11. The Oxe knows his Owner, the Asse his Masters crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider, Isa. 1. 3. Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge, Isa. 5. 13. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, Hos. 4. 6. And when they entred into the Heathen, whither they went, they prophaned my holy Name; when they said unto them, These are the people of the Lord, Ezek. 36. 20. This is brought as a motive to withhold Israel from sin; Ye are the children of the Lord your God, ye shall not cut your selves, nor make any baldnesse between your eyes for the dead, for thou art an holy people to the Lord thy God, Deut. 14. 1, 2. This is plead∣ed as an aggravation of sin; You have I known of all the Nations of the earth, and therfore you will I punish for all your iniquities, Amos 3. 2. This is brought as a motive to prevail with God under mi∣sery for mercy; Behold we bese•ch thee, we are all thy people; Isa. 64. 9. Yea, this covenant takes with God for national mercies: The whole of the Nation then is in covenant. Then will I remem∣ber my covenant with Jacob, and my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, and will remember the land, Levit. 26. 42. The Apostles authority puts it out of question, Reckoning up the priviledges of Israel according to the flesh, nine in number, Rom. 9. 4. This is one, The covenants, Israel then after the flesh was in covenant; All Israel were the covenant-people of God. There were many not Elect, not Regenerate; but there was not a man not in covenant, not owned of God as visibly his; Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God.—And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his people, Deut. 26. 17, 18. This was the state of the Church of old. But now, as is affirmed, it is far otherwise. God is not so large in his priviledges, nor so ample in his munificence, none have honour to be in covenant in Gospel-times, but real beleevers, men truly Page 233 sanctified and regenerate.* And here it cannot be denied, but there are many expressions, ordinarily found in many Orthodox Wri∣ters, and like passages frequently heard in Sermons from godly Ministers, seemingly implying, if not asserting it, and restraining the covenant onely to the elect and regenerate. As when they give Marks and signes of mens being in covenant with God, this must needs imply that some professing Christians are in covenant with God, and some without, which is yet farther evidenced, when they conclude, that in case a man be in covenant with God, then happinesse and salvation follows; But when these men fully explain themselves, they yeeld up again to us, that which seemingly they had taken from us, and ordinarily do distinguish of an outward, and inward covenant, acknowledging the outward covenant to be made with every member of the Church and the Parents, with that hear and professedly accept the promises, and their children, But the inward covenant as they say, belongs to them onely, that receive the benefits of it, and are upright in it. An eminent Divine putting the Question, and returning answer, How a man may know himself to be in covenant with God; presently foresees an Objection against any such Quaere. As Saul and all the people of Israel were in covenant with God, so all professing Chri∣stians are covenanters likewise; and hereby all distinguish∣ing notes of Professors, some in covenant, and some without must needs fall to the ground, one member then of the distincti∣on, having no being for solution of the doubt, he layes down a distinction.*There is (saith he) a twofold covenant. 1. A sin∣gle Covenant which God makes with his children when they are bap∣tized, which is this; if ye will believe, repent, and walk in my ways, ye shall be saved, now if they break this condition, God is freed. 2. A double covenant to performe both parts, which is this, if you will repent and beleeve, ye shall be saved, and I will give you an heart, and you shall repent, believe, and be saved: So Preston on Attri∣butes, part 2. page 85. 86. These distinctions, plainly yeeld that there is a covenant between God and man, in this lati∣tude, of which we speak, and which here is exprest, and that all professed Christians so called, are in an outward and single covenant, which puts them into a capacity of Sacraments, and their children, which is a covenant properly so called, and which Scripture holds out for the covenant of God with his Page 234 people. These Divines yeelding so much, and their meaning be∣ing so Orthodox, there is no reason of contraversie with them, or contention about words; Yet I should choose rather to ex∣presse my self in Pareus his words against Stapleton the Jesuite, on 1 Cor. 7. 14. objecting against this doctrine,* for it is a do∣ctrine which Antipaedobaptists, and Independents have bor∣rowed from Jesuites, and we have them all in this, as in many other things our Adversaries, To be in covenant, saith he, is taken two ways, either according to tiole to the covenant, or to the benefits of the covenant. He is said to be in covenant, that either obtaines the benefits of the covenant, which are remission of sinnes, adoption, &c. Or else that hath onely the title, and outward badge of the cove∣nant, so that he is repute to have interest in it, and is not an alien from it. The right of covenant belongs to all that externally make profession. These engage themselves upon Gods termes. The benefit of the covenant, remission of sinnes, justification, adopti∣on, &c. belongs only to the Elect regenerate. Or farther we may distinguish of the covenant of grace, and the grace fol∣lowing the covenant, The covenant of grace is in the lati∣tude before mentioned, the grace following the covenant in that restriction that some contend for, or else we may distin∣guish of entring covenant, and stedfastnesse and faithfulnesse in the covenant; All enter that are visible professors, onely the elect and faithful are steady in it. This distinction is evidently ground∣ed on Psal. 78. 34. They remembred that God was their rock, the high God their Redeemer, nevertheless their heart was not right in them, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. All covenant-enterers, are not covenant-keepers. To take off this restricti∣on, and for overthrow of this imaginary difference, it were e∣nough to require of these Asserters of this covenant-restriction, and limit, where God hath put any such restraint, for affirmanti incumbit probatio, and to require some reason, why men in na∣ture, in Old Testament-times, should be honoured with that neare relation to God, as to be of the Common-wealth of this people, enjoying not barely civil and domestick Priviledges, but saving Ordinances, and under the Gospel, must stand shut out of all such visible relations, why unregenerate men in order to regene∣ration, may not come under the discipline of God under the Gospel, as well as under Old Testament-dispensations? Why Page 235 poore sinners that confesse with their mouth with the Eunuch, that Jesus Christ is the Sonne of God, Acts 8. 37. may not be indulged those proviledges (now Christ is come in the flesh to save sinners) whereby they may be brought to be beleeve with the heart that they may be saved? To those that would make such a distance between the covenants, as to throw out of the cove∣nant of God, and visible communion, all that are unregene∣rate, we may speak in Christs words, From the beginning it was not so, and either we must see some good ground, that in this there is by the will of God, this great change, or else we shall be∣leeve, as it was then, so it now. But I shall deale more liberal¦ly, and make it appear, that the Gospel doth not only not quit us of it, but establishes it; doth not only not abolish it (as it doth the Types of the Law) but holds it forth, and gives testi∣mony of the continuance of it.