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The views of the Westminster divines, in relation to the covenant entered into between the Father and the Son for the redemption of sinners from these evils, is expressed in the following words:—“Man, by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant" (the covenant of works made with Adam)" the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit to make them able and willing to believe."
To the same effect, in chapter eighth:-" It pleased God in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest and king, the head and saviour of his church, the heir of all things and the judge of the world, unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed, and to be by him redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified.” As to his accomplishment of this work, they say:-" This office, the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, endured most grievous torments in his soul, and most painful suffer. ings in his body; was crucified and died, was buried and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his father, making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels. Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father, and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.”
To complete this most perspicuous view of the plan of salvation, they thus express themselves:-“To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly
and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them, and revealing to them in and by the word the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his holy spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Holy word and Spirit, overcoming all their enemies, by his almighty power and wisdom in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.—Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them, as their righteousness, but imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ to them, they receiving and resting on his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. God did from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fulness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification: nevertheless they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.”
God has probably intended, by permitting men to introduce errors into the church, that the refutation of them should impart new light to the minds of men, in relation to the truths of his gospel. Though it is utterly impossible to ren. der the doctrines of the divines of the orthodox school, who have employed their pens on the doctrine of the atonement, in composing ecclesiastical standards, consistent with them. selves, on any other ground than that on which the divines at Westminster took their stand; yet it is certain, that we cannot any where find such luminous views of the system of grace as in the Westminster confession of faith. Had it pot been for the errors of Arminius and his followers, which gave occasion for the synod of Dort, and for the discussions which took place in that venerable and illustrious body, we should not probably have had from those British divines so perspicuous a display of divine truth, as that which has been
just laid before the reader. The divines of Britain had taken a deep interest in the Arminian question, before and after the meeting of the synod of Dort, and the transactions of the synod had been published, and were extensively known in England and Scotland, before the meeting of the Westminster assembly. The Arminian errors, too, had travelled into Britain, and were embraced and defended both from the pulpit and the press; many of the British divines had entered the lists of controversy, and, with great force of argument, met and defeated the friends of this grand continental error. They had also an opportunity to avail themselves of all the writings, the confessions and creeds, of preceding reformers; and they had not failed to embrace it: hence it is not surprising that the work of reformation, at this period, should have advanced beyond any point to which it had previously attained. To this superior progress in the developement of the Christian system, Great Britain doubtless, owes her superiority in literature. As Geneva excelled in learning all other parts of the continent, so for the very same reason, Scotland and England, outstripped in their schools, in learned men, and in the general walks of literature, the whole continent. Those who employ their talents in illustrating the Christian system, have the most ample scope
for the exercise of genius, and derive from their enquiries an expansion of thought, and a grandeur of conception, which increase their acumen, in researches even of a literary nature.
It was the intention of the distinguished men who formed the Westminster confession, together with a complete system of ecclesiastical order, to give to the whole as much permanency as possible. Accordingly all these doctrines receiv. ed the sanction of Parliament, whose members as civil rulers, expressed their belief of them, and their resolution to adhere to them; and also that of Charles I. They moreover resolved to bind themselves and the whole nation by solemn national and church covenant to maintain the truths exhibited in the standards which had been formed. In Israel, by the command of God, when any great defection had taken
place, and the king and the people returned to their duty, in order to confirm the reformation, and increase their confidence in each other's sincerity, the whole congregation entered into solemn covenant with God, and with one another, that they would adhere stedfastly to their duty. Such was the object of the covenant, in the days of Hezekiah. The churches and states on the continent, which had embraced the reformation, and had been pressed by enemies, had copied the example of the people of God in the days of old. The example too had been set for the whole British empire, by the kingdom of Scotland, which had entered into a national and church covenant in the preceding century. Upon the adoption of the Scotch confession, by the assembly of the church of Scotland, the king, the royal family, the nobility, and people, all united in a solemn bond, ratified by oath, to abide by the truths which it contained, invoking the divine aid and blessing upon the kingdom, and thus placing the nation under the protection of that Redeemer, through whose atoning sacrifice, they hoped as individuals to be saved. This instrument is known by the name of the National Covenant of Scotland. It was subscribed by the king 1530, and again renewed and solemnly approved in the years, 1638, and 1640.
These examples were imitated by the whole British nation, which bowed before the throne of Emmanuel, and cast down its crown at his feet, at the formation and ratification of an instruinent binding the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, to continue in the profession of the truth as exhibited in their standards, and calling upon Jesus as king to grant his protection, assistance and blessing. All ranks of men, from the king upon the throne to the humblest cottager, subscribed this instrument. The divines of the assembly of Westminster, both houses of Parliament, and the assembly of the church of Scotland, subscribed this covenant, in 1643. It was again renewed with an acknow. ledgment of sins, and engagement to perform all the duties which it enjoined, by all ranks of society in 1648; by king Charles II, at Spey, June 23d, 1650; and again at Scoon,
January 1st, 1651. Here we behold a great empire, in all its departments, in the most solemn manner giving its full approbation to the doctrines of the Genevan school, and binding itself, by solemn oath, to adhere to these truths, and to oppose the contrary errors. All these great effects may be traced, in a good measure, to the instrumentality of the indefatigable of Calvin.
The doctrine of the atonement was the point from which all parts of this splendid reformation radiated, as from a common centre, in which they all inhered, and from which they derived their strength, when combined into a whole. But still there were two reasons, which prevented it from possessing that stability of character that would have been desirable. One was the character of Charles II. and of his courtiers; who were ambitious men, unacquainted with the power of the religion which was placed on the throne, and so hypocritical as to express in a most solemn manner, a belief in those truths which they did not embrace. The other was the state of the people, whose minds had not been sufficiently enlightened, nor their manners sufficiently reformed to induce them, as a body, to adhere to the truth at all hazards, and oppose with firmness the attempts of the throne to demolish the great fabric which had been erected. All had been effected, through the instrumentality and influence of a few choice minds, possessing great illumination and profound sagacity.
Every machine which could be put into operation by the crown, was set in motion to destroy the work which had been accomplished. When deception and duplicity were thought to be most effectual, they were employed, and open violence, injustice and cruelty, when they suited their steady purpose. It was for a short time only, that the king and his friends were permitted to prosecute these plans. In Scotland, there was a minority composed of the friends of popery, prelacy, and arbitrary government, who were hostile to the reformation. Cromwell invaded Scotland, and defeated the king's army under general Leslie at Dunbar, and the king was compelled to seek safety by flight to the continent. After