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Archive for the ‘Covenant Theology’ Category

The following passage is worth its weight in gold.  We would expect nothing less from Thomas Boston.

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In what sense Christ is Saviour of the world.  A saviour is a name of honour, and a name of business. It is an honourable thing to save and help the miserable; to be destined, appointed, and called to that employment: but the honourable post has business annexed to it; it will not do without activity, which success is expected to attend, as in the case of a teacher, physician, and the like. Now, one may be a saviour, even as a teacher or physician, of a society, two ways. (1.) In respect of office, as being called to and invested with the office of saving, teaching, or curing that society. And thus one is saviour, teacher, or physician of that society, before ever he save, teach, or cure any of them. In this respect one may be called an official saviour, teacher, or physician. (2.) In respect of the event and success, as actually and eventually saving, teaching, and healing. As the former ariseth from an appointment put upon such a one; this ariseth from the work he manageth in virtue of that appointment. In this respect one may be called an actual and eventual saviour. Thus it is said, Neb. ix. 27. ”  And, according to thy manifold mercies, thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. This premised, we say,

1. Our Lord Jesus is the actual and eventual Saviour of the elect only, in whose room and stead only he died upon the cross, according to the eternal compact passed between him and the Father, in the covenant of grace, otherwise called the covenant of redemption; for these are not two, but one and the same covenant. Thus the apostle calls him “the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. that is, of the elect, who make up the body whereof he was appointed the head from eternity, and in whose name he contracted with the Father in the eternal covenant. And he is their Saviour eventually, as actually saving them, Matth. i. 21.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”  None but these will ever truly employ him as a Saviour, or put their case in his hand : and there are none of them but will certainly employ him sooner or later, Acts xiii. 48. ” As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” John vi. 37.  “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Saviour, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely; so our text calls him “Saviour of the world.” Agreeably to which, God in Christ is called “the Saviour of all men,” but with a speciality, “the Saviour of them that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10.  The matter lies here: like as a prince, out of regard to his subjects’ welfare, gives a commission to a qualified person to be physician to such a society, a regiment, or the like; and the prince’s commission constitutes him physician of that society ; so that though many of them should never employ him, but call other physicians, yet still there is a relation betwixt him and them ; he is their physician by office; any of them all may come to him if they will, and be healed: So God, looking on the ruined world of mankind, has constituted and appointed Jesus Christ his Son Saviour of the world: he has Heaven’s patent for this office; and wheresoever the gospel comes, this his patent is intimated. Hereby a relation is constituted betwixt him and the world of mankind; he is their Saviour, and they the objects of his administration: so that any of them all may come to him, without money or price, and be saved by him as their own Saviour appointed them by the Father.

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The architects of the Reformed Churches in the 16th century were trans-generational thinkers. As those who rediscovered Covenant Theology, this should be expected. In reading the First Book of Discipline (1560), one will encounter explicit and repeated concern for future generations as justification for church policy decisions. For “the profite of the posterity to come.” Like good fathers, they wanted what was best for their bairns, and their bairns’ bairns as well!

Does this paternal, trans-generational concern shape the way we ‘do church’?  Is what we do in doctrine, worship, and government really in the best interests of the rising generations, or is it more candy to placate the over-indulged? Are we correcting and cultivating, or just coddling?

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Our hyper-individualized society possesses a very low sense of corporate solidarity. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. Every man isolates himself, tears apart what God has joined together, challenging, “and who is my neighbor?” Or, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Tragically, this thinking bleeds over into the mentality of the Church. We have become conformed to this individualistic world, not transformed by the renewing of our mind. Shame on us!

When, however, we begin thinking corporately – and for that matter, inter-generationally (should I say, consistently covenantal?) – we will find ourselves doing much more than confessing our own individual sins. For starters, we will confess the sin of individualism. But what is more, we will sense the guilt that we bear as members of families, states, and nations. We will sense a shared guilt by our association with the compromised Visible Church. And we will certainly feel, in addition to our own sins, the shared sins of our forbears.

Observe this principle in Leviticus 26:40, 42, “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me . . . then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” When exiled as a punishment for their sins and the sins of their fathers, Israel ought to repent and confess both. And they should do so with the assurance that the God who shows mercy from generation to generation will do precisely that!

See this also with Daniel in his great confession. This holy man, far from isolating himself from the larger body to which he belonged, rather owned it and identified with it. Even if the nation would not confess its sin, he would do it for them. Or, more to the point, as a part of them. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land” (Dan. 9:6; see the reference to “our fathers” also in vv. 8 & 16).

Now we may not like this. We may complain, charging God with injustice. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). But the Potter has power over the clay. And it has pleased Him to make us not bare, atomized individuals – but much more. We are also members of corporate bodies. We are waves in a larger generational stream, branches in a much bigger tree. This is biblical. This is covenantal. This is reality! Let us acknowledge it and confess our sins. Including those we share with our ancestors. And if we do, should we not expect the God of the thousand generations to remember his mercies towards us – and our children (Acts 2:39)?

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