Jonathan Edwards’ Miscellanies on the Covenant
By Jonathan Edwards
#2. Covenant of Grace. Many difficulties used to arise in my mind about our being saved upon the account of faith, as being the condition upon which God has promised salvation, as being that particular grace and virtue for which men are saved. According to which there is no difference between the condition of the first covenant and the second, but this: before the fall, man was to be saved upon the account of all the virtues, and since, upon the account only of one virtue and grace, even this of faith: for where is the difference?…
But it seems to me that all this confusion arises from the wrong distinction men make between the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption. It seems to me to be true, that as this first covenant was made with the first Adam, so the second covenant was made with the second Adam. As the first covenant was made with the seed of the first Adam no otherwise than as it was with them in him, so the second covenant is not made with the seed of the second Adam any otherwise than as it was made with them in him…. As the condition of the first covenant was Adam’s standing, so the condition of the second covenant is Christ’s standing. Christ has performed the condition of the new covenant…. We can do nothing but only receive Christ and what he has done already. Salvation is not offered to us upon any condition, but freely and for nothing. We are to do nothing for it; we are only to take it. This taking and receiving is faith. It is not said, “If you will do so, you may have salvation; you may have the water of life;” but, “Come and take it; whosoever will, let him come.” It is very improper to say that a covenant is made with men, any otherwise than in Christ; for there is a vast difference between a free offer and a covenant. The covenant was made with Christ, and in him with his mystical body; and the condition of the covenant is Christ’s perfect obedience and sufferings. And that, that is made to men, is a free offer. That, which is commonly called the covenant of grace, is only Christ’s open and free offer of life, whereby he holds it out in his hand to sinners, and offers it without any condition. Faith cannot be called the condition of receiving, for it is the receiving itself: Christ holds out, and believers receive. There was no covenant made or agreement, upon something that must be done before they might receive. It is true, those that do not believe are not saved, and all that do believe are saved, that is, all that do receive Christ and salvation, they receive it, and all that will not receive salvation never do receive it, and never have it. But faith, or the reception of it, is not the condition of receiving it. It is not proper when a man holds out his gift to a beggar, that he may take it without any manner of preliminary conditions, to say that he makes a covenant with the beggar. No more proper is it to say that Christ’s holding forth life in his hand to us, that we may receive it, is making a covenant with us. But, I must confess, after all, that if men will call this free offer and exhibition a covenant, they may, and if they will call the receiving of life the condition of the receiving of life, they are at liberty so to do, but I believe it is much the more hard for them to think right, for speaking so wrong.
This making faith a condition of life fills the mind with innumerable difficulties about faith and works, and how to distinguish them. It tends to make us apt to depend on our own righteousness. It tends to lead men into Neonomianism, and gives the principal force to their arguments. Whereas, if we would leave off distinguishing the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption, we should have all those matters plain and unperplexed.
#367. Covenant of Works. ….The angels had eternal life by a covenant of works, upon condition of perfect obedience. They all of them performed the same condition, and they all thereby obtained complete blessedness, that everyone should be filled, but yet we are made acquainted that there are degrees amongst the angels, because God gave them their capabilities as he pleased. Their perfect obedience did no way meddle with that matter…
#617 Covenants. It seems to me, there arises considerable confusion from not rightly distinguishing between the covenant that God made with Christ and with his church or believers in him, and the covenant between Christ and his church, or between Christ and men. There is doubtless a difference between the covenant that God makes with Christ and his people, considered as one, and the covenant of Christ and his people between themselves. The covenant that a father makes with his son and his son’s wife, considered as one, must be looked upon as different from the marriage covenant, or the covenant which the son and the wife make between themselves. The father is concerned in this covenant only as a parent in a child’s marriage, directing, consenting, and ratifying. These covenants are often confounded, and the promises of each are called the promises of the covenant of grace, without due distinction. Which has perhaps been the occasion of many difficulties, and considerable confusion in discourses and controversies about the covenant of grace….
These covenants differ in their conditions. The condition of the covenant that God has made with Jesus Christ, as a public person, is all that Christ has done and suffered to procure redemption. The condition of Christ’s covenant with his people, or of the marriage covenant between him and men, is that they should close with him and adhere to him. They also differ in their promises. The sum of what is promised by the Father, in the former of these covenants, is Christ’s reward for what he has done in the work of redemption, and success therein. And the sum of what is promised in Christ’s marriage covenant with his people, is the enjoyment of himself, and communion with him in the benefits he himself has obtained of the Father by what he has done and suffered: as in marriage the persons covenanting give themselves and all that they have to each other.
#825. Covenants. There are two covenants that are made, that are by no means to be confounded one with another: 1. The covenant of God the Father with the Son, and with all the elect in him, whereby things are said to be given in Christ before the world began, and to be promised before the world began…. 2. There is another covenant, that is the marriage covenant between Christ and the soul: the covenant of union, or whereby the soul becomes united to Christ. This covenant before marriage is only an offer or invitation: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock,’ etc. In marriage, or in the soul’s conversion, it becomes a proper covenant. This is what is called the covenant of grace, in distinction from the covenant of redemption.
#1091. Covenants. The due consideration of these things may perhaps reconcile the difference between those divines that think the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace the same, and those that think them different. The covenant that God the Father makes with believers is indeed the very same with the covenant of redemption made with Christ before the foundation of the world, or at least is entirely included in it. And this covenant has a Mediator, or is ordained in the hand of a Mediator. But the covenant, by which Christ himself and believers are united one with another, is properly a different covenant from that, and is not made by a Mediator. There is a Mediator between sinners and the Father, to bring about a covenant union between them but there is no Mediator between Christ and sinners, to bring about a marriage union between Christ and their souls.
These things may also tend to reconcile the difference between those divines that think the covenant of grace is not conditional as to us, or that the promises of it are without any proper conditions to be performed by us; and those that think that faith is the proper condition of the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace, if hereby we understand the covenant between God the Father and believers in Christ…. is indeed without any proper conditions to be performed by us. Faith is not properly the condition of this covenant, but the righteousness of Christ…. But the covenant of grace, if thereby we understand the covenant between Christ himself and his church as his members, is conditional as to us. The proper condition of it, which is a yielding to Christ’s invitations, and accepting his offers, and closing with him as a Redeemer and spiritual husband, is to be performed by us.