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Written by Wilson Thompson   

DISCOURSE IV.

On the Covenant of Redemption

This subject has long been a bone of contention amongst divines, the Armenian authors have generally been on the negative side and the Calvinists on the affirmative, the former confusing the system of grace, and leaving all to uncertainty to turn upon conditions to be performed by the creature, and the latter confusing the deity into three distinct persons, the one hireing the other do the work of redemption, and promising to reward him for his trouble: so the bargain is made, or the covenant contract, and compact entered into; and the trading parties in the Godhead strike hands and close their bargain. O truth how art thou abused; how hast thy glory been beclouded by the cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. O error, thou art on every side of truth, with thy bewildering craftsmen, to bewitch the people with sorcery on the one side, or to attempt to buy the Holy Ghost with money (or works) on the other; so we may say strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it. O Lord help the writer and the reader, to mark thy steps, and keep the road!

In treating on this covenant we shall attempt; first, to show what we do not believe, and secondly. – To show what we do believe.

1. We do not believe that there ever was a contract made between the Father and the Son, or the first and second persons in the trinity; for as we have clearly shown in the second discourse of this work, there were no such persons in the Godhead; or thirding out in the Deity; but if it must be thought that there was such a covenant or bargain made; and if two of the three persons in the Godhead made the bargain; then if ever the second person fulfilled his part of the contract he must have died, then one third of the Godhead was dead, and the other two-thirds clear of pain; one third is making satisfaction; another third receiving satisfaction; and another third pleased to look at the two bargaining thirds, fulfilling their contract with each other. O shocking tradition, how long will thou exalt thyself, how long ere thou shalt return to the mother of harlots, from whence thou hast sprung, and with all her other base begotten offsprings be destroyed with the spirit of the Lords mouth and consumed with the brightness of his coming. Again the idea of a covenant under the notion of a bargain made between the Father and the Son, or the divine nature of Christ pre-supposes that God did not from eternity know, what would be the terms upon which man should be redeemed; or else if the Father knew, the divine nature of Christ was not knowing to it: or otherwise if it was known to both Father and Son; or if God the first contracting party, knew that God the second contracting party, would bargain with him, and come into this world and die for man; yet this was no way obligatory on the one, or the other before the bargain was made; or else the party or parties already bound could not be at liberty either to propose or object to any part of the covenant; so our expositors of the covenant generally tell us that the Father and the Son was each independent of the other, that they were under no prior obligations to each other; but that after man fell by transgression; the Father proposed to the Son, if he would come into the world and die for rebellious man, that he would reward him well for his trouble: the Son after making his reply, at length agrees to the terms, and the covenant is made; the bargain prosecuted, and the parties strike hands and bind themselves to each other; does this look like having but one God? when there are two so distinct as to bargain with each other, and one die to fulfill his part of the covenant; and the other reward him for his services. But if you will read Boston’s view of the covenant you will see much of this sort of language, and I never have seen any author on the covenant, that holds the divine nature of the Son to be one of the contracting parties; but what have unavoidably fallen into those inconsistencies; some of them, seeing that this was untenable ground, have endeavoured to remedy it, by telling us that it was not the divine nature of Christ that made this bargain; but the pre-existing soul of Christ was the second contracting party, this indeed looks more reasonable, for this could be done without dividing the Godhead, or punishing the divine nature of Christ. But this was not equal to the Father, considered as being distinct from the divine nature, and therefore was not upon equal footing to make such a covenant; for it was God’s servant must do his will, is already bound as the head of his church, and therefore can have no part in making such a covenant. Seeing the difficulties that must inevitably follow in establishing such a contract and finding that there is not one text in the bible to prove, nor favour the idea of such a bargain or contract, as this; I believe that this contract was more likely made between antichrist and the Pope of Rome, than between two distinct persons in the trinity: our writers inform us that this was an eternal contract, that is a contradiction in terms, for it is the same as to say, a contract that never was made; or a contract that never was a contract, but others fix a date to this contract or bargain, and say it was made soon after the fall of man, then it was not eternal but was made in time, that it was invented in time, I believe, but that the persons of the trinity invented it I do not believe, for I believe it to be the invention of man, and no more than human tradition. Although the reformers made a valuable leap from the chaos of error, yet who will say that they brought no errors with them; we are convinced that their errors were not a few, nor could we have expected them to have been less than they were, except they had been infallible men, but we have a more sure word of prophesy, to which we would do well to give heed, again our writers on this bargain tell us that the covenants made with the Father, viz. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Moses and others, were figures of the covenant of grace made between the Father and the Son, then we will briefly notice those covenants, and we shall clearly see that the idea of a bargain is entirely excluded from all those covenants.

1. The covenant (as some call it) made with Adam, we have recorded Gen. 2. 16. 17. – And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Now is there any thing in this, that looks like a bargain between two contracting parties, or is it not a law given to Adam, without asking him one question on the subject, or Adam ever saying one word pro. or con. But God as a sovereign gives this law to Adam as his subject; first tells him what he may do; of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: secondly, what he may not do; but not eat of it. Thirdly, the penalty is annexed; for in the day that thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt sure die. Thus we see that the idea of a bargain is entirely excluded from this covenant, or rather this law, for a law it is in all its features; and if it is a figure of the covenant of grace or redemption; then that covenant was not a bargain between two contracting parties.

2. The covenant with Noah we have recorded Gen. 9th. Chapter, from the first to the eighteenth verse; the first seven verses, inform us that God blessed Noah and his sons, telling them what they might do in multiplying and replenishing the earth, that their fear should be upon the beasts; forbids the shedding of mans blood, and tells them to be fruitful: from the 8th. To the 18th. we learn that God spake unto Noah, and to his sons, saying, I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you of the fowl; of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth: he then tells them that the bow shall be in the cloud for a token of his covenant which he had established between him and all flesh that is upon the earth. – Now Noah, his sons, or any of the beasts, had not one word to say in this covenant; nothing favouring the notion of a contract between two contracting parties, is found in it: but it evidently is nothing more nor less then an exhibition of God’s determination, never to destroy the earth with a flood of water; then if this was a figure of the covenant of redemption, the notion of a contract between two contracting parties is altogether defeated, and not even the shadow of any such bargain to be found in this covenant with Noah.

3. The covenant with Abraham is recorded Gen. 13. 1. 2. 3. Now the Lord had said unto Abram, get the out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will shew thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. Here again Abram is as silent as was Adam and Noah; we hear him say not one word in the case: then the idea of a bargain is lost from this covenant also. – The covenant of circumcision with Abram, was 24 years afterwards, when he was ninety-nine years old; and is recorded, Gen. 17th. Chapter. – First, the Lord declares his sovereignty, saying, I am the Almighty God. – Secondly, commands him how to walk before him. – Thirdly, tells him what the covenant is, how it was to be observed, and what was the token of it. – Fourthly, what the penalties are if he does not keep it; and what the blessings of the covenant were; but, Abraham so far from being a party contracting in this covenant, that, so soon as God spoke to him, and told him, that he would make his covenant between them; Abram fell on his face to hear; not to bargain, and God declared to him what the covenant was; and when Abram found that it respected his seed through Sarah; he speaks, not like a party contracting; but like a humble suppliant, saying; O that Ishmael might live before the Lord. – So we clearly see that if this was a figure of the covenant of redemption the notion of a contract or bargain is not found in it.

4. The covenant made with David is recorded, 2d, Samuel 7th. And David calls it a covenant made with him, see Psalm, 89. 3. 4. I have made a covenant with my chosen; I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations: those two verses comprehend the whole sum of the covenant contained in the 7th. Chapter of 2d. Samuel; and David is so far from being a contracting party in this covenant, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan respecting this covenant, and Nathan told it to David; so this covenant like the others; if a figure of the covenant of redemption, disproves the idea of a bargain made by two contracting parties.

5. We shall now examine the covenant with Moses, recorded in Exod. 19th. & 20th. chapters, and repeated by Moses to all Israel, Deut. 5th. chap. But Moses is no party contractor, but when all was done according to Gods commandments; Moses calls it the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you this day: then it was God’s injunction on Israel, sent to them by the hand of Moses, and not a contract made between two equal parties. So we clearly see that if all, or either of those covenants be figures of the covenant of redemption, the idea of two contracting parties making a bargain is entirely excluded by those figures. Thus we have briefly shewn, what we do not believe respecting this covenant of redemption.

Secondly, we shall now proceed to shew what we do believe respecting this covenant; and in order to be plain on this subject, we shall attempt to get the proper meaning of the word covenant, before we proceed any farther; and for this we refer the reader to Mr. Campbell’s debate, in the appendix page 157., the author tells us, the words berith, in the Hebrew language; diatheke, in the Greek; foedus in the Latin; and covenant in the English, all represent the same idea. Then he proceeds to give us the signification of each of those words and says, berith primarily signifies a purification sacrifice, a choosing, or friendly parting; and is the word uniformly used in the old testament for covenant; diatheke signifies a dispensation, appointment, testament, covenant or dispensation, and is translated into the Latin by foedus testamentum dispositio: covenant signifies from its etymology, to come together to agree; or a coming together, an agreement: because sacrifice and a friendly parting were the circumstances of covenant transactions, berith became metaphorically a suitable name for such transactions. And because there was something appointed, dispensed, guaranteed or established in such interviews. Diatheke became a proper expression of the transaction; and because the parties agreed and parted in a friendly manner, the term covenant became a suitable name for it, because of its being the usual name for the will, disposition, or arrangement of the testators effects, which is rendered valid by his death. The term dispensation, so much in use; is also a very suitable term says Parkhurst; and with him I perfectly agree, for a constitution or dispensation is as expressive of the received sense of the term diatheke, as any word in our language. Mr. Campbell informs us, that Mr. Brown’s diffinition of a covenant is not correctly true as applied to the divine covenants; a covenant saith (Mr. Brown) is an agreement between different parties on certain terms. This is that erroneous opinion saith Mr. Campbell, which Mr. Parkhurst in his Dictionary mentions under the word diatheke; that has built upon, rendering this word covenant so general; as if polluted guilty man could covenant or contract with God, for his salvation, or had any thing else to do in this matter, but humbly to submit and except of God’s dispensation of purification and salvation through the all atoning sacrifice of the real berith or purifier Jesus Christ.

Thus we have seen that the origin and diffinition of the word covenant does not necessarily imply a bargain between two contracting parties, but does properly mean, a choosing, disposition, appointment, testament, &c.

This definition agrees with the manner in which the word covenant is used in the scriptures as we have seen in the first head of this discourse, thus the covenant with Adam was Gods appointment to him, I call this a covenant after the common custom of writers, but I do not think it is called so in the scripture. So the covenant with Noah was a sovereign act of God alone originating in himself and the appointment made known to Noah as the Father of the world. The covenants with Abraham were also the disposition of God, made known to him at different times, and respecting different things. – 1. the covenant confirme of God in Christ, was Gods appointment; with respect to Christs being born of Abrahams line and made known to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law, when Abraham was about seventy-five years old. The covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham about twenty-five or thirty years afterwards, when Abraham was about an hundred years old; and was designed to distinguish Abrahams family; until the first covenant should be fulfilled; that is God having appointed Abrahams family as the one in which Christ should be born; afterwards appoints circumcision as a mark to distinguish that family from all others, until he was born; thus the covenants with Abraham were Gods purposes or appointments made known to him. So also the covenant with Moses was Gods appointment, or the law for the government of Israel made know to Moses; and by him forwarded to the nation of the circumcised in order to organize them still further, and to distinguish them, to them about four hundred and thirty years after the promise, called the covenant confirmed of God in Christ was made known to Abraham, and about four hundred years after the covenant with David was also an appointment of God, with respect to the throne of David being established, and his seed to set on it, and build a house for the Lord: And so are all the covenants in scripture where God is said to have made the covenant, plainly an appointment or dispensation, which he gave to the people. So we see the law: the gospel, and the work of regeneration, &c. are all called covenants because they are all Gods sovereign appointments and purposes, which he purposed in himself and makes known to his creatures as he pleases.

Thus we have seen the meaning of the word covenant, as given by Mr. Campbell and Parkhurst, and that the covenants mentioned in scripture agree with the definition which we have given of the word. So that if we should agree with the great transaction of God respecting the salvation of his people was handed down to us under the word covenant; the idea of a contract between two contracting parties is not necessarily implied in it: or if we should grant to our writers on this contract what they ask for, that is, that the covenant with Noah, Abraham, &c. were figures of the covenant of redemption; even then the idea of a contract is excluded from it: but there is not one text in all the bible; that calls the appointment or counsel of God, respecting the salvation of the church by the same covenant, the dispensation of the gospel is called by this name, but the eternal counsel of God in our election, is never called in scripture a covenant, but is called his determinate counsel and foreknowledge, which he purposed in Christ before the world was, great and precious promises given us in Christ before the foundation of the world, &c. The Baptists have always thought and that justly too; that they had a right to victory over all the pedoe-Baptists, in the case of baptism, because the latter were never able to shew one text to authorize their practice; then we have the same right to victory in this case; for the contenders for a covenant made between the Father and the Son, before the world was, have never been able to shew one text to authorize them to call that act of God a covenant, and never will, until peodoe-Baptists find one to authorize them to call sprinkling baptism. And not wishing to be wise above what is written, we will drop the word covenant and content ourselves with the words of the Holy Ghosts selecting, and attempt to show what we do believe, concerning the redemption of the church; we do not refuse to use or accept of the word covenant, because it does not suit our scheme, for as we have seen already, the word covenant excludes the idea of a contract between two-contracting parties; and when properly understood answers us as well as any other word, but when we read of our standing in Christ before the world, the word covenant is not once used to express it by: but the words chosen us in Christ before the world, according to his eternal purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world, &c. These and similar words, are used by the Holy Ghost, and as we have seen how greatly the truth has been abused by substituting the word covenant, and then construing it under the notion of a contract, we think it for the better to use scripture language on all those occasions and flee from every appearance of evil, which the substitution of the word covenant opened a door for the enemy, to introduce amongst us; but when we come to the Bible as inquirers after truth we do not meet with bewildering accounts of contracting persona in the Godhead, and of a bargain being made between two of them, before the world began, and so have our minds confused worse than before; but we come and receive the simple plain truth concerning the interest we have in the grace of God, and when we read that he hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, that the people of God are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, &c. we are at once (if we give credit to the Bible) convinced of election, and are made to drink into the same spirit with Paul, and say blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.

Thus we have shewn what we do not believe concerning the covenant of redemption, that we do not believe that it was a contract between two persons in the Godhead, nor between the Father and the human soul of Christ, nor any think like a bargain at all, and have also assigned our reasons for not believing so: and secondly, we have shewn that the word covenant means a will or testament, an appointment, disposition or dispensation, and have compared this diffinition with the word as used in scripture which proves our diffinition to be correct, so that if the word covenant is retained, yet the idea of a bargain is entirely excluded from it. Again we have hinted at the evils which have been introduced amongst us by calling the purpose of God in our election a covenant, and then explaining a covenant to mean a contract and then dividing the Godhead into three persons in order to get the contracting parties in the covenant. Those things being very far from innocent, and as far from truth, and only calculated to perplex the mind of the inquirer after thru, we therefore think best to drop the word covenant when we are conversing of things before the world, seeing the Holy Ghost hath never used it in that place, and thus we have hinted at God’s eternal purpose in the election of his church in Christ before all worlds; and as we purpose to treat more particularly on this subject in the next discourse we shall close the present by giving a few words of advise on reading the scripture.

Christian brethren we live in a land of plenty, and under a government that allows us the privilege of free investigation, but have we not cause to mourn when we find that our minds are so powerfully biased by tradition that we so often read the scripture in order to find something to strengthen our prejudices rather than remove them, but could we once lay aside all our prepossessions and come to the scriptures to learn of God what we must believe, and how we should serve him acceptably. May this be the happy lot of the writer and reader of this little book; we should endeavor to come as dependent on the Bible for instruction as we are on God for salvation, and remember that error gets more powerful in old age, but never gets any better, and where it has been long entertained by great and good men, it becomes ingenious enough to hold them up to view, and say see what a train of good men have entertained me; I must be good or they would not have had me with them, for sure they knew much more than you do, thus error imposes upon us and tries to prevent us from believing for ourselves, and persuade us to pin our faith to other mens sleves, and it may have been whispering in your ears some of the those things, since you have been reading this discourse on the covenant, for it does not feel willing to give up the ghost, and have no more of an honorable burying than an unlearned and unpopular phamphlet, while so many learned and popular volumes stand ready to prolong its life and embalm its body: but if we would know the truth; we should know that the word of God is true, and every man a liar, and if they depart from the Bible, we are guilty if we follow them, or if they teach for doctrine the traditions of men we should search the scriptures daily to see whether these things be so. Thus may we all come for instruction to the good word of God, and by it under the influence of the holy spirit be made wise unto salvation, to know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent whom to know is life eternal.

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