Nine Articles of the Covenant of Grace. Joseph Alleine
The Lord's Supper is appointed as a sealing ordinance between Christ and you. The covenants are made, the terms agreed to on both sides; God is willing to be yours to all intents and purposes; your shield and exceeding great reward, your refuge and your rest, your God, and your guide. While Christ has it you shall never want; and what God is to him, that he (in your order) will be to you. You again (through grace) are willing to be his: his in his own way, and on his own terms: willing to serve him; willing to fashion yourselves after him, willing to be betrothed to him and to be commanded by him; to use his remedies, to follow his counsels, and to acquiesce in him as your blessedness. Thus all are agreed; the Articles are drawn; the Covenants both on God’s part and yours are ready written: And here you are come to put all past controversy, and mutually to seal and subscribe: Oh happy and blessed meeting!
Christians, do not forget your errand, remember where you are, and what you are come for, and know that you are upon the solemnest transaction that ever passed between the Creator and the creature: It is God’s admirable condescension that he will be tied to us, and enter into bonds to us, to bless us, and reward us.
And because our faith is weak he hath brought his surety with him, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a surety on his part, as well as ours, to undertake for the fulfilling of the promises. And he has brought the visible signs and pledges by which all shall be firmly past and ratified before your eyes. This is the New Testament in my blood, Luke 22. 20. Written in my blood: Ratified in my blood. Oh sirs, this is that which God does here reach forth unto you with his own hand this day; The New Testament in Christ’s blood. Christians, prepare your ears and rouse up your faith, and now believe and hear some of the blessed Articles of that Covenant that God does here sign and seal to you: I shall mention only nine, which I advise you to lay next your hearts while you have a day to live. And you shall find the virtue of these cordials strong and operative in all conditions.
That He will fulfil to you the place of all relations, 2 Cor. 6. 18.
I will be a father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters. Whatever children may expect from a father, that you may look for from me: I will find you meat, be not thoughtful, I know that you have need of all these things, Matt. 26. 31, 32. You shall be clothed out of my wardrobe, Matt. 6. 28, 29, 30 and wear my livery: And when you have need of correction, I will remember to do it in mercy, and you shall find, that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord your God chasteneth you, Deut. 8. 5. I will be a husband to you and will betroth you unto me for ever, Hosea. 2. 19. You shall not need to fear, your Maker is your husband: I will give you my choice love: I will give you my heart.
I will be a Lord and Sovereign to you: The Lord is your Judge: The Lord is your Lawgiver: The Lord is your King: Fear not the unrighteousness of men; I will judge your cause, I will defend your rights, you shall not stand or fall at man’s bar; you shall not be cast at their votes: Let them curse, I will bless: Let them condemn, I will justify: Who shall accuse, when I shall acquit you? Who shall lay anything to your charge, when I do discharge you? When you come upon trial for your life to have your eternal state decided, you shall see your friend, your father on the bench: And you shall surely stand in judgment, and be found at the right hand among the sheep and hear the King say, Come ye blessed.
I will be a Shepherd to you, fear no evil, for I am with you, you shall not want for I will feed you: you shall not wander to be lost, for I will restore you: I will cause you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside the still waters: if my officers be careless, I will do it myself: As for you O my flock, thus saith the Lord God, I will judge between cattle and cattle, I will feed my flock, saith the Lord God, and cause them to lie down. I will seek that which is lost, and bring again that which is driven away, and bind up that which is broken, and strengthen that which is sick; but I will destroy the fat, and the strong, and will feed them with judgment.
I will be a Physician to you. I will heal your backslidings, and cure all your diseases, fear not, never did soul miscarry that left itself in my hands and would but follow my prescriptions.
Well this is one of the Articles that God here seals too, that he will be to you in the place of all relations. Silence thou quarrelling unbelief, methinks I hear thy whispers, that this is too good to be true, that it were presumption in us to count upon all this. What shall they that must say to corruption, thou art my father, be able to say to the incorruptible God, thou art my father; Shall they that must say to the worm thou art my mother, and my sister, be able to say to the angels of light, ye are my fellow servants? And to the King of Glory, thou art my brother, and my kinsman? Shall Majesty espouse himself to misery, and the worms meat be married to immortality and life, how can these things be? Nay but O heart of infidelity, who art thou that repliest against God? Dost thou, under a sly pretence of humility, question with thy Maker and call his veracity into doubt? Is not this his word, his promise, his covenant? and is not here his seal? why then dost thou doubt O thou of little faith?
That He will entitle you to all the Divine Persons and Perfections, Gen. 17. 7.
I will be a God unto thee; mark, God gives away himself; and he gives his Son to you, Isa. 42. 6. I will give thee for a covenant of the people. This is the Church’s triumph, Isa. 9. 6 unto us a son is given. And he gives his Spirit to you, John 14. 16. He shall give you another Comforter. And believers acknowledge the receipt, 1 Cor. 2. 12. We have received the Spirit which is of God. Thus you see all the Persons of the God-head are made over to you; and so are all the perfections of the God-head; for so the covenant runs, Gen. 17. 1. I am the Almighty God, or the all-sufficient God, walk before me and be upright: these are the terms between God and a believer, Be thou upright before me, and I will be all sufficient to thee: The all sufficiency of God is the comprehension of all his perfections. Truth without power, or power without wisdom, or both without goodness, would not be all-sufficiency: All-sufficiency takes in all that is in God (we may speak of God’s most simple essence according to the shallow reach of our present capacity) yea it comprehends infinitely more then can be said or thought. Why now this is the Covenant of Grace which God establishes with you this day, that he will be a God all-sufficient to you.
Christians rouse up your faith: now appropriate and apply the promises: now believe strongly, and steadfastly, and believing will fill you with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. I do not wonder if your faith be put to it in so high and great a mystery; to draw nigh to the infinite Majesty, and considerately, and without hesitancy to say, thou art mine and all that thou hast, this is no easy thing. But thou mayst not dare to doubt it. Canst thou question him who is the truth? Can the strength of Israel lie, or his word deceive thee? But the soul is ready to reply, oh the thing is too high, and too great for me to presume to believe, and is ready with Peter, astonied to cry out, Depart Lord, for I am a sinful man. But why doth thine hand tremble, and thy heart fail thee, and thy feet (with Peter’s when walking on the waters) begin to sink? What doest thou stick at? Is it at the truth of the promise? No saith the trembling soul, but sure so much can never belong to me so sinful, I am afraid it is not mine, why, what saith the promise? only be upright. What though thou hast an hundred failings, yet thy heart is upright: the bent of thy heart is mainly for God and holiness; thou makest conscience of all sin, little as well as great, secret as well as open, and doest not deliberately allow thy self in any: thou doest in the settled frame of thy heart prefer the pleasing of God, and value his favour, and fellowship above all worldly good, therefore thou art upright, these marks are infallible. What, doest thou object thy failings? Art thou under a covenant of works? Do you think God now stands upon perfection? The Covenant is plain: God conditions but for uprightness, and God hath wrought in thee the condition that he requires of thee. What can be plainer? wilt thou suffer the Devil and unbelief to catch the bread out of thy hand, when God tells thee it is thine? wilt thou be against thyself, and refuse thine own peace, when God is come to seal thee up to the day of redemption: This is that which the Lord here seals to thee, that he will be God all-sufficient to thee. O believe, and be thankful, and rejoice in thine own blessedness: O happy, thrice happy souls, whom the living God thus signs and seals to, and assigns over all his infinite perfections as its everlasting possession.
That He will discharge you from all your debts. Heb. 8. 10, 12.
This is the covenant, I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more, Isa. 1. 18. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.
Believest thou this? Come near beloved Christian, approach believingly, and here thou shalt see the Lord crossing out our all thy debts, taking away the hand writing that is against thee, declaring that he hath received a ransom and is satisfied, content, and paid. Oh happy man that shall leave all thy sins behind thee, why this is the very thing that the faithful God does here seal unto thee. Thy pardon is written in this sacred blood, which is here shed for the remission of sins. So that thou mayest triumph with the Apostle, Who is he that condemneth, it is Christ that died, Rom. 8. 34.
That He will save you from all your enemies, not from the combat, but from the conquest.
The victory shall be sure, so far God is engaged. So the covenant runs in its first discovery, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, though he should bruise his heel, Gen. 3. 15. By the seed of the woman, understand not Christ only, but all believers: by the serpent understand not Satan only, but all his party, the ungodly persecuting world, which are his children; and all our tyrannous lusts which are his brood, his works. By his bruising our heel, understand his molesting, and wounding of us, but not mortally. By our breaking his head, understand the total and final victory which we shall most certainly obtain over him and all his party at last. Christians, what should you fear! Death? The Covenant here sealed makes over death as a legacy to you, and behold it brings you the head of your conquered enemy in a charger. 1 Cor. 3. 22. Death is yours: O blessed and most grateful present. Satan? The Covenant assures you God will bruise him under your feet shortly, Rom. 16. 20. The World? Be of good cheer, Christ hath overcome the world, John. 16. 33. Hell? There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, Rom. 8. 1. Sin? This indeed is to be dreaded, but with a watchful and cautious fear: not with a fainting discouraging fear: sin shall not have dominion over you, Rom. 6. 13, 14.
Christians, here now is meat for your faith, what do all these holy promises nothing move you? or carry little savour, or relish with them? What, shall the Almighty God give it to thee under his own hands that thou art a freeman, and thou make little account of it? Shall he give thee thy protection, and thou lay it by as a useless paper that signifies little? O sirs, when your hearts are ready to faint because of the sons of Anak that be in the way, when you see the black guard gaping upon you, and the King of Terrors levelling at you, and a wicked world armed with rage against you, and full of malice, and the thieves and conspirators in the bosom watching their opportunity to betray all to them, yet let not this discourage you: These were enough indeed to make a considering man's heart to melt, and die within him, but that the Covenant of Grace yields such ample relief against all. Oh be ever mindful of the Covenant: Remember what has past this day between the living God and your souls: Watch O Christian, and stand fast, quit thee like a man. The conquest is sure: Who would not fight with courage that hath assurance of the victory.
That He will befriend you in all conditions.
He will be a fast friend to you in every change, and turn all things to your good, even when you are ready to say unbelievingly with Jacob, All these things are against me, Rom. 8. 28 & Gen. 42. 36. If he brings you into the wilderness, there he will speak comfortably to you, Hosea 2. 14. In the fire, And in the water he will be with you, Isaiah 43. 2. He will be a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall, Isa. 25. 4.
Beloved, here the Lord is come to seal all these promises to you: Oh go home and bless yourselves in the sweet security of your estate. God has promised you that what ever condition you be in, you shall have succour, and support from him, and enjoy his presence with you; and see his finger in all your troubles, sweetly turning all to the best: Go away and live like believers. Be not afraid of suffering, but show that you believe what God has promised, that afflictions shall not hurt you. The next time any trouble comes upon you, remember what a promise God has passed unto you this day, and wait on him believingly for the happy issue and and event of every trial that shall befall you.
That He will take upon him the care of all your concernments.
You must be careful in nothing, Phil. 4. 6. He careth for you, 1 Pet. 5. 7. Take no thought what you shall eat or drink, neither be of doubtful mind, but rather seek you the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you, Luke 12. 29, 31. Come you to this holy ordinance in any distress or trouble? Methinks you should go from it as Hannah, and your countenance be no more sad. God will number your hairs, and will take care that nothing be lost, John 6. 39 & Luke 12. 7. He will take care of your names, and bring forth your righteousness as the light, Psalm 37. 5, 6 of your subsistence, He will give meat to them that fear him, and be ever mindful of his Covenant, Psalm 111. 5 of your seed, for he will be a God unto them, and will entail the blessing upon them, Gen. 17. 7. He commands that your widows and fatherless children should be left on him. He is by covenant to look after their concerns, you need not be solicitous. He is tender of you when he seems most to neglect you, as Moses sister that was secretly watching behind the bush, and wistly looking on, to see what was done to the child, though to the finders it seemed exposed to famine, and death in the flags.
That He will give you, or be himself to you instead of all comforts.
He will be a sun and a shield, and will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly, Psalm 84. 11. Oh the treasure in these words. I am thy shield and exceeding great reward! I will undertake both for thy protection and provision: When any evil assails thee I will be a shield to thee: When any good is wanting I will be a supply. Thou shalt have children, or I will be better to thee then ten children. Thou shalt have riches, or I will be thy store. Thou shalt have friends if best for thee, or else I will be thy Comforter in thy solitude, thy Counsellor in thy distress. My secrets, my ear, and my door shall be ever open to thee, Mark 10. 30. He shall receive an hundred fold now in this time: Though he have not the things themselves, yet he shall have all these, and more then all in me: I will be House, and Friend, and Father to him all in one. If you should have an hundred candles burning in a room, and should put out every one, and open the window and let in the sun, this would be better then the hundred lights that were put out: So here, though thou shouldest be called to forsake all, 'twill be but as the letting the cistern run and open to thee the fountain.
That He will maintain you all your days in his service.
He will be your guide even unto death, Psalm 48. 14. Christians, whilst you have a day to live, God will stand by you: He will never leave you nor forsake you, Heb. 13. 5. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your lives, Psalm 23. 6. And the Lord will never turn away from you to do you good, Jer. 32. 40. Oh happy Covenant that the Lord seals to you.
That when you come to age He will give the kingdom to you.
God saith to the believer here: Thine is the kingdom: What ever is promised in the Covenant, is sealed in the sacrament, Luke 12. 32. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, Luke 22. 29. I appoint unto you a kingdom, mark the promise is pregnant with a kingdom. 'Tis no less then a crown, a kingdom, that is here delivered to you, Luke 19. 12. A certain noble man went into a far country to receive to himself a kingdom and to return: This is the business you are come for here, to receive to yourselves a kingdom and so to return. Oh methinks you should forget what ground you go upon, as you are going home, to think what you have received here: methinks you should go forth as Haman from the banquet joyful and with a glad heart. Sirs, do you know what you are doing? why the Lord doth by these signs give you the kingdom as a man by the delivering to you a key gives possession of an house. Brethren, have you ever read of the kingdom of joy, of the crown of life, of the robes of righteousness, of the thrones of glory? Why all this God here makes over to you: I tell you sirs, these are not big words, nor cunningly devised fables. God Almighty is here come to certify you of the reality of his promises. As sure as you do now sit on your seats, you shall shortly sit on your thrones. As sure as you are now clothed with flesh, so surely shall you be clothed with glory. Are you sure that you are now on Earth? so surely shall you be shortly in Heaven. The Lord intends you but for a very little while in this lower region, you must dwell above; where Christ is, there you must be also. As sure as you now see a crucified Christ, so sure shall you shortly see a glorified Christ. The Lord Jesus does anticipate his sentence here, and calls to you, guests, Come ye blessed, inherit the kingdom. Take the writing, behold the seals, here are the conveyances of the kingdom: The donation is sure and full, unalterable, irrevocable.
Christians, do you believe? If you do, methinks you should be ravished: methinks you should be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory! But do you stagger at the promise through unbelief? Do you say, oh it is too much, and too great? why how can that be? What! too great for God to make good? thou darest not think so: But it is too great for me to count upon. Why but man, dost thou not bear upon thee the marks of the Lord Jesus; Whose image and superscription is this? Does not your very heart prize Christ above all the world? Hast thou not made a deliberate choice of him, for thy head and husband? Hast not thou entered into a solemn contract with him, to be his for all times and conditions, and to love, honour and obey him, before all others to the death? And doth not thy heart stand to this choice? Hast not thou taken him with his yoke, and with his cross? And dost not thou in thy practice first seek the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof? And hast not thou chosen the way of the kingdom? Art not thou in with holiness, and desire grace more then gold? Dost not thou prefer a holy and spiritual life, before all the grandeur of the world, and pleasure of the flesh? And all this not only for a fit or a flash, but in the settled frame and disposition of thy heart? surely thou must wrong God and thyself, if thou deny it to be thus with thee. Why these are the marks of the Lord Jesus upon thee, the sure marks: fear not, these can not deceive thee, they evidence that thou art born of God, that thou art a Son, and so an Heir; and therefore mayest lay claim to the inheritance.
Come then beloved Christians be of good comfort, why should you doubt? Thou hast the mark of the sheep, and therefore thy portion shall be at the right hand, and thy sentence among the blessed. Well then, receive this holy Sacrament as the pledge of all this. Go home and look over all these blessed promises, and count them thine: Do not read them (as too often heretofore) as if they did not concern thee: Remember what God has here promised under hand and seal to thee, and let not all be left behind thee, when thou goest hence; but let the remembrance, the fruit and sweet of this, abide upon thee whilst thou hast a day to live, never forget what the Lord hath here spoken to thy soul: make more of the promises than ever in thy life before: Bless thyself in them: remember how the Lord delivered thee the promises: how he sealed to the several Articles: how he sprinkled the blood upon the Book of the Covenant and gave it to thee, and said, This is the New Testament in my blood: Oh live henceforth a life of joy, and faith, as a man that is elevated above the world. Do not live at thy old, dull, and slothful rate, carry it like a believer, and in a word, walk as one that does indeed take all for truth that the Lord hath spoken to thee this day. Let that of the Apostle be a close to all, 2 Cor. 7. 1. Having therefore these promises dearly beloved, let us cleanse our selves from all filthiness of flesh, and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The above is a revised and edited version of the counsels for the converted taken from Divers Practical Cases of Conscience by Alleine, Joseph, 1634-1668