9. The laws of the covenant are in their hearts, namely, the laws of the Ten Commandments, the eternal rule of righteousness (Heb 8:10). That law, in all its parts, is a copy of the divine nature, which in regeneration is transcribed into the heart of everyone brought into the covenant. The whole of it is written there, though every part is not written alike clear, nor any part perfect. As the image of God is restored in us, so is the law written in our hearts: in sanctification there is a new man created, which speaks a perfection of parts, though there is not a perfection of degrees in these parts (Eph 4:24, 2 Cor 5:17, 1 Cor 13:12). This may be taken up in these four things:
(1) They approve of the whole law, so far as it is known to them: “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right” (Ps 119:128). They love God; and every part of the law is a line of His image. Wherefore, loving the law as expressing the image of His holiness, they must needs love the whole law, since there is nothing in it but what is a transcript of that holiness. And as the Head of the covenant is in their eyes altogether lovely (Song 5:16), the laws of the covenant, being like Him, must be lovely too. Why do unbelievers not love the holy law but because they do not love a holy God? (Rom 8:7). But believers, loving a holy God in Christ, must love the law also, since in it the image of His holiness is expressed. The holy law condemns many things in them – yea, everything of theirs, so far as it is morally imperfect – and so they condemn themselves, consenting unto the law that it is good (Rom 7:16). It condemns every sin, everyone’s most beloved sin, the evil he is most easily led aside into; and for that very cause the unrenewed heart hates the law. But the grace of the covenant makes a man leave his complaint on himself, to approve the law and condemn his own lust contrary thereto: “The law is holy; and the commandment holy, and just, and good. . . . But I am carnal” (Rom 7:12,14).
(2) They have an inclination of heart towards the whole law, so far as they know it: “O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!” (Ps 119:5). There is in them a fixed principle which lies the same way with the holy law, bending away from what the law forbids and towards what the law directs unto. True, there is a contrary principle in them too which fights against it; but they fight against that contrary principle, breathing and longing for the complete victory over it and for full conformity to the holy law (Gal 5:17). Thus the heart is given a new set in the new birth, exerting itself not in lazy wishes for conformity to the law, but in a resolute struggle for it, enduring to the end.
(3) Hence they will habitually endeavour to conform in their practice to the whole law, so far as they know it: “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments” (Ps 119:6). If the law is written in one’s heart, he will write it out again in his conversation; and a sanctified heart will certainly make a holy life: “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt 6:22). Where is the efficacy of the holy covenant, if men may be within the covenant and yet live like those that are outside it? Nay, but to whomsoever the grace of God hath effectually appeared, it will have taught them effectually to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts”, and to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12).
If the grace of the covenant bring you not to duties of piety towards God, you have no saving part in it. If you are brought unto these, but withal left at liberty from the duties of righteousness toward your neighbour, so that you do not loathe, but dare, to be unjust in smaller or greater matters, you are yet “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity”. “If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11). If you are brought forward unto both these, and yet are not sober, but left slaves to your sensual appetites and fleshly affections, you are no better: for “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:24). But whoso have fled to the covenant of grace in Christ for life and salvation, and withal are honestly endeavouring conformity to the whole law in their practice, howbeit in many things they miss their mark, they show themselves to be within the bond of the holy covenant and ought to take the comfort thereof, as the divine allowance to them: “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world” (2 Cor 1:12).
(4) Their souls lie open to what they do not know of the laws of the covenant. They are content to know them, desirous to be taught them, so that they may conform unto them: “Teach me Thy statutes” (Ps 119:26). There are many of our sins hidden from us, because there is much of the laws of the covenant we do not discern. And hypocrites do not desire to know the whole law; they are willingly ignorant of some things thereof, because they have no inclination to entertain them. But those who are sincere, being content to part with every false way and to take upon them the whole yoke of Christ, hating sin as contrary to God’s nature and will, and loving duty as agreeable thereto, do of course lie open to the further discoveries of sin and duty; they come to the light (John 3:21). They say, “That which I see not, teach Thou me” (Job 34:32); “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23,24).
1. Continued from the December 2002 issue, this is the final extract in this series from Boston’s book, A View of the Covenant of Grace. It is slightly edited.