8.The Spirit of the covenant is in them. And that is another Spirit (Num 14:24) than what the men of the world are actuated by; “I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek 36:27). The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of the covenant – who is purchased by the blood of the covenant, lodged in His fulness in Christ the head of the covenant, and communicated in some measure to all the covenant people. And that Spirit may be known by these three characters.
(1) The Spirit of the covenant is a Spirit of holiness. The great design of the covenant, next to the glory of God, was the sanctification of sinners (Luke 1:74,75). All the lines of the covenant, from the first to the last, meet in it as their centre. There is a display of exact justice in the condition of the covenant, a display of rich grace and mercy in its promises: and a display of greatest faithfulness and power in the administration of it. But holiness goes through the whole, through every least part of it. Wherefore it is called the holy covenant (Dan 11:30). Who then can reasonably imagine that the unholy are within this covenant – that the servants of sin, whether profane, or formalists, strangers to the power of godliness, whom no bands of holiness will hold, can be within the bond of the holy covenant? No, sure they are not; they have not the Spirit of the covenant.
The Spirit of the covenant makes the covenanted initially holy, and to press toward the mark, to wrestle, long, groan and pant for the perfection of holiness (Phil 3:14). It makes a vein of holiness run through their whole man, their whole life – their thoughts, their words, their actions, their dealings with God and their dealings with men. The covenant was erected on purpose to destroy the works of the devil; it was a confederacy entered into by the Father and the Son for rooting sin out of the hearts and lives of the children of Adam, for restoring the divine image in them and for bringing them again to a perfect conformity to the moral law of the Ten Commandments, from which they fell in Adam. For this end was the condition of it performed, the promises of it made, and the administration of it committed to the holy Jesus: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). Wherefore, whoso partake of the Spirit of the covenant partake also of the Spirit of holiness: “If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (v 16).
(2) The Spirit of the covenant is an ingenuous free Spirit (Ps 51:12). It is the spirit of sons, not of slaves; of free men, not of bond-men (Rom 8:15). Unbelievers, the men of the first covenant, give some obedience to the holy law as well as believers, the men of the second covenant: and the eyes of the world can perceive no difference between the obedience of some of the former sort and of those of the latter sort; howbeit there is a vast difference, which is seen by the all-seeing eye. Are these within the covenant, praying persons? So are many who have no saving part nor lot in it (Is 58:2). Are they men of temperance and sobriety, justice and honesty, candour and faithfulness, men of blameless lives? So are several others besides them, for all that any man can see (Phil 3:6). Thus far they agree.
But there is a vast difference in the spirit they are actuated by, which makes a mighty odds in the manner and kind of their obedience. Unbelievers are actuated by a spirit of bondage, suitable to their state of bondage under the covenant of works (Gal 4:24,25). A slavish fear and a servile hope are the weights hung upon them by that covenant, causing them to go: sin is avoided and duty performed, not out of love to God and holiness, but out of love to themselves. Believers are actuated by the Spirit of adoption, suitable to their state of adoption under the covenant of grace (v26). God is their Father, and they serve Him as sons, not as slaves (Mal 3:17). Christ is their elder brother, who loved them and gave Himself for them, and His love constrains them (2 Cor 5:14). The Holy Spirit dwells in them, hath quickened them, renewed them, making them partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). So sin is avoided as contrary to their new nature, and duty pursued as agreeable to it. Their faith of the love of God in Christ hath begotten in them love to God again because of a new principle of obedience (1 Tim 1:5). By faith they trust on Christ, and on Him alone for life and salvation; and this at once undermines in them the slavish fear of hell and the servile hope of heaven, so that these are so far from being their only motives to obedience that they cannot be their predominant motives; nay, they cannot be at all in them but as enemies to their faith and love (2 Tim 1:7, 1 Jn 4:18).
Yet it is to be remembered that it is not slavish for saints to fear God’s fatherly anger, and thereby to be stirred up to duty (Ps 119:120, Heb 11:7); nor to hold to the way of duty in hope of the enjoyment of God and of the tokens of His favour (John 14:21) while on that way, and in the end perfect happiness in heaven – all through Jesus Christ alone (1 Cor 15:58). Our need of these things for incitements to duty do indeed argue our childish state, for there will be no need of these fears and hopes in heaven, by no means a slavish state. Neither is it at all slavish to have the heart filled with a reverential fear and dread of God upon the consideration of His tremendous justice and wrath in hell against the miserable objects thereof, and to be stirred up to duty thereby (Matt 10:28; Heb 12:28,29). To look thereunto and move away towards God in the way of duty, with fear and trembling, is very agreeable to the state of those who have by faith received a kingdom that cannot be moved but are not yet ascended unto heaven, who are indeed drawn up out of the fearful depth but are not as yet brought up to the top of the rock, though the strong chain of the covenant is so about them that they shall never fall down again. For in heaven the awe and reverence of God will, on that score, be perfect (Is 6:1-3).
But it is slavish for saints to fear their being cast into hell for sin, and it is servile to hope to obtain heaven for their good works. And yet that slavish fear and servile hope may creep in upon the children of the second covenant, and move them to duty, because their faith is weak and much of the old Adam remains in them. It is not easy for them, though dead to the law in point of privilege, to be dead to it in point of practice. But these impure mixtures of selfishness in their duties will be humbling unto them, and they will loath themselves, because they act not, in their obedience, with more of the free spirit and son-like disposition. And their will in that case is accepted through Christ.
(3) The Spirit of the covenant is a Spirit of sympathy regulated by the covenant. There is a commonness of interest, and thence a mutual sympathy, among confederates. And this sympathy among the confederates of Heaven, regards both the Head and the people of the covenant.
(a) They have a native and kindly sympathy with the God and Head of the covenant. It is true that His essential glory can never be liable to diminution; nor can His eternal rest in Himself be in the least disturbed by whatsoever men or angels may do or suffer; and the man Christ is now beyond the reach of suffering. Nevertheless, His declarative glory in the world hath its times of shining clear, and of being under a cloud.
Now, as He hath a sympathy with them in all their concerns, their distresses and their enlargements, their joys and their griefs (Is 63:9, Luke 15:5), which is a very tender sympathy, insomuch as to touch them is to touch of the apple of His eye (Zec 2:8); so they also have a very tender sympathy with Him, in the concerns of His glory. They are glad and rejoice in the prosperity of His kingdom (Acts 23,24). They pray for it continually (Ps 72:15), and contribute their endeavours, in their stations, to advance it: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). They have a feeling of the indignities done to His majesty, as done to themselves, “The reproaches of them that reproached Thee, are fallen upon me” (Ps 69:9). And they mourn for the sins of others, as well as for their own, on account of the dishonour they do to God because they keep not His law (Ps 119:136). The children of the covenant will neither be opposers of the kingdom of Christ, nor will they be neutral, but will put their shoulders to the work of their Lord, to help it forward according to their vocation. And without such a public spirit, in greater or lesser measure, no man shall be able to prove his saving interest in the covenant, for so hath our Lord Himself determined the matter, “He that is not with Me, is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth abroad” (Matt 12:30).
(b) They have a native and kindly sympathy with the people of the covenant, for they are members one of another (Eph 4:25). The grace of the covenant disposeth men to be loving and beneficial to mankind, but in a peculiar manner to holy men, to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 4:10). The common bond of the covenant engageth them in peculiar love one to another; even as in that bond they are the common object of the world’s hatred. They bear the same image with Christ their common Head; and that image will recommend all who bear it unto one that is within the covenant himself, so far as he can discern it. Wherefore their love is a love to all the saints (Eph 1:15). And hence ariseth the sympathy which every true Christian hath with the Church of Christ throughout the world, and with the several members thereof known to them; their joint interest in the covenant challengeth it, for by the covenant there is a near relation among them; and from their union under the same Head results their communion (1 Cor 12:12,26).
Therefore a spirit of selfishness, whereby men’s concern is all swallowed up in their own things, leaving them no sympathy with the Church and people of God, is an ominous sign of a graceless state. How much more, a spirit of reigning enmity against religion, and the professors thereof – where religion, and what concerns it, make men the special objects of their enmity, spite and resentment! A habitual course of this is none of the spots of God’s people, but it declares men to be of the world: “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). The Spirit of the covenant will carry men quite another way, since, taking hold of the covenant, they have embarked in the same bottom with those whose head Christ is and who have declared war against the devil’s kingdom. To them they will say, “We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you” (Zec 8:23).
1. Continued from the September issue, a further extract – giving marks of those who have fled for refuge to Christ – from A View of the Covenant of Grace, available from Free Presbyterian Bookroom.