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        Inferences from the conditionary part of the Covenant [1]


          From “A View of the Covenant of Grace” by Thomas Boston.


Thomas Boston (1676-1732) was a pastor of God's flock in Ettrick, Scotland, whose preaching God abundantly blessed in the saving of many souls. The son of a Presbyterian who knew the Lord and was imprisoned for non-conformity, Boston was raised in times of murderous persecution. Nevertheless, he lived to see God’s people flourish and multiply, as “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). He is perhaps best known for his part in the reprinting of “The Marrow of Modern Divinity”, a book which distinguishes the Covenant of Works from the Covenant of Grace.



Thus, as we have shown, stood the important condition of the covenant of grace; and from thence the following inferences are fairly deducible.

Inf. 1. The redemption of the soul is precious. Is it not? Look to the price of the purchase, the ransom of souls, as stated in the covenant; the holy birth, righteous life, and satisfactory death of the Son of God; and ye must conclude it to be a costly redemption. Turn hither your eyes, (1.) Ye who value not your own souls. See here the worth of those souls ye sell for a thing of nought, for satisfying a corrupt passion, a pang of lust of one sort or another. Costly was the gathering of what ye thus throw away. Ye let them go at a very low price; but Christ could not have one of them at the hand of justice, but at the price of his precious blood. Ye cannot forego the vanities of a present world for them, nor spend a serious day or hour about them; but he, after a life-time of sorrows underwent a most bitter death for them. What think ye? Was he inconsiderate and too liberal in his making such a bargain for the redemption of souls? He was infinitely just, who proposed the condition; and he was infinitely wise, who went in to it. He was a Father that exacted this ransom for souls; and he was his own Son that paid. Be ashamed and blush, to make so low an estimate of those souls, which Heaven set such a high price on. (2.) Ye who have cheap thoughts of the pardon of sin, and of salvation, correct your mistake here. You fearlessly run on in sin, thinking all may soon be set to rights again, with a God forgive me, have mercy on my soul; so as you may leap out of Delilah's lap into Abraham's bosom. O fearful infatuation! Is the mean and low birth, the sorrowful life, and the bitter death of Jesus the Son of God, not sufficient to give men a just and honourable notion of the pardon of sin? Look into the condition of the covenant for pardon, written in the blood of the Lamb of God, and learn the value a just God puts upon his pardons and salvation. See, O sinner, that it is not words, but deeds; not promises and resolves to do better, but perfection of holiness and obedience; not drawing of sighs and shedding of tears, but shedding of blood; and not thy blood neither, but blood of infinite value, that could procure the pardon of sin, and salvation. And if thou have not upon thee by faith all that righteousness Christ fulfilled, to be presented unto God for a pardon, thou shalt never obtain it. Particularly, ye are apt to think light of the sin ye were born in, and the corruption cleaving to your nature; but know, that God does not think light of these. It behoved to be an article of the covenant, that Christ should be born holy, and retain the holiness of human nature in him to the end; else the unholy birth and corrupt nature we derived from Adam, would have staked us all down eternally under the curse. (3.) Ye that have mean thoughts of the holy law, rectify your dangerous mistake by the help of this glass. Ye make no bones of transgressing its commands; ye neglect and despise its curse: as it is a law, ye shew not so much regard to it as to the laws of men; and as it is a covenant, ye look upon it as out of date, being in no concern how it may be satisfied for you. And shall the honour of the holy law lie in the dust, in your case? Rather than it should so lie in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God would have them laid in ashes with fire and brimstone. Yea, for vindicating the honour of the law, this whole world shall be burnt to ashes, and all the unholy cast out from the presence of the Lord for ever. And in the case of them that are saved, God would have the curse of the law executed upon his own Son as their Surety, and the commands of it perfectly obeyed in all points by him in their name. Sure, if you are possessed of any share herein, it will be great and honourable in your sight, as it is in the sight of God.

Inf. 2. The law is no loser, in that life and salvation are bestowed on believers in Christ. It is so far from being made void through faith, that it is established thereby, as the apostle witnesseth, Rom. iii. 31. God would never dispense his pardons at the expence of the honour of his law; nor declare one righteous, without the righteousness of the law being fulfilled, either by him, or in him by another, Rom. viii. 4. Wherefore, life and salvation being designed for the elect, the law's whole accounts of all it had to charge on them for life, were taken in; and an infallible method was laid down for clearing them, the burden of the payment being transferred on Christ their surety. By this exchange of persons the law had no loss. Nay, it was more for the honour of the law, that he was made under it, and satisfied it, in virtue of the claim it had upon him by the second covenant, than if they, being mere creatures, had satisfied it in all points. But the truth is, they being sinners, could never by any means have fully satisfied it; though it had eternally pursued them and exacted of them, it would never have had enough from them; whereas now, by Christ's taking of their debt on him, it was paid to the utmost farthing.

Inf. 3. Faith hath a broad and firm bottom to stand on before the Lord. The believer hath a strong plea for life and salvation, which cannot miscarry; namely, the condition of the covenant fulfilled by Jesus Christ, even all righteousness: Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus – let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," Heb. x. 19–22. The broken boards of uncovenanted mercy, and men's own works, which presumption fixeth upon, cannot but fail, since the law admits no life for a sinner on these grounds. But forasmuch as there a gift of Christ and his righteousness proclaimed in the gospel is by the authority of heaven, he who by faith receiveth that gift, and makes the same his only plea before the Lord, cannot miss of salvation: Rom. v. 17, "They which receive (Gr. the) abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ;" where the abundance mentioned, relates not to different degrees of the grace or gift, but to the offence, as appears from ver. 20: As if he had said, "Who receive the grace and gift of righteousness which abound beyond Adam's offences saving them out of the gulf of ruin it plunged them into." Faith uniting a sinner to Christ the head of the second covenant, makes him partaker of Christ's righteousness, as really as ever his covenant-relation to Adam made him partaker of his guilt. So having all that Christ was, did, or suffered, for fulfilling the condition of the second covenant, to plead for life and salvation; it is not possible the claim can miscarry, justice as well as mercy befriending the plea of faith, as a righteous thing with God, 2 Thess. i. 6, 7.

Inf. 4. lastly, All who are in Christ the head of the covenant of grace, and so brought into it personally, are inherently righteous, or holy. For like as though Adam did personally break the first covenant by the all-ruining offence, yet they to whom his guilt is imputed, do thereupon become inherently sinful, through the corruption of nature conveyed to them from him; so, howbeit, Christ alone did perform the condition of the second covenant, yet those to whom his righteousness is imputed, do thereupon become inherently righteous, through inherent grace communicated to them from him by the Spirit. So teacheth the apostle in the forecited passage, Rom. v. 17, "For if by one man's offence, death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." How did death reign by Adam's offence? Not only in point of guilt, whereby his posterity were bound over to destruction; but also in point of their being dead to all good, dead in trespasses and sins: therefore the receivers of the gift of righteousness must thereby be brought to reign in life, not only legally in justification, but also morally in sanctification, begun here, and perfected hereafter.

Accordingly, answerable to the three parts of the condition of the covenant of grace, undertaken and performed by the second Adam, to wit, holiness of nature, righteousness of life, and satisfaction for sin; there are three characters to be found in all capable subjects, who being personally brought into the covenant, have the righteousness of Christ upon them, and imputed to them.

Char. 1. They are all born again, and so made partakers of a new and holy nature: 2 Cor. v. 1, "Therefore," (namely, since he died for all, ver. 15) "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Christ's being born holy, secured a holy new birth to them in him: so they are all new creatures, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works," Eph. ii. 10; new made in Christ, as sure as they were married in Adam. And how can it be otherwise? Can a man be ingrafted in the true vine, and not partake of the sap and juice of the stock, that is, the Spirit and grace of Christ? No, surely: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," Rom. viii. 9. Or, can the Spirit and grace of Christ be in any, and yet no change made on their nature, but it still remained unrenewed? No, indeed: "If Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness," ver. 10. Consider this, ye who pretend to rely on the righteousness of Christ, but are very easy in this point, whether ye are born again, or not; whether there is a holy nature derived from Christ to you, or not. Believe it, sirs, if it be not so, ye have no saving interest, part, nor lot in Christ's righteousness. Ye may on as good grounds pretend, that howbeit the guilt of Adam's sin was imputed to you, yet there was no corrupt nature derived from him to you; as pretend, that Christ's righteousness is imputed to you, while yet ye are not born again, your nature is not changed, by the communication of sanctifying grace from Christ, else you will perish: for "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," 1 John iii. 3.

Char. 2. They are all righteous and holy in their lives; Isa. lx. 21, "Thy people also shall be all righteous." Chap. lxii. 12, "And they shall call them the holy people." How did ungodliness, unrighteousness, and profanity, enter into the world, the which are now overflowing all banks? Was it not by one man, by Adam's sin, which is imputed to all mankind? Rom. v. 12. Then be sure, if the second Adam's righteousness be imputed to you, holiness of life will come along with it: 1 Cor. vi. 11, "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified." Does sanctification then go before justification? No: but it hath a necessary dependence on justification, and evidenceth it to the world, and to one's own conscience. Unjustified, unsanctified; and unsanctified, unjustified. Did our blessed Saviour come into the world, and in our nature lead a holy righteous life, that men might live as they list? Nay, quite the contrary; even that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life," Luke i. 74, 75. If then Christ lived for you, assuredly ye shall live for him. Consider this, ye who are far from righteousness of life, living in the neglect of the duties either of the first or second table, or both. Your ungodly and unrighteous life declares you to be yet in your sins, under the curse, and far from righteousness imputed. There is indeed a righteousness of Christ; but alas! it is not upon you: ye are naked for all it, and stand exposed to revenging wrath.

Char. 3. The old man is crucified in them all: Gal. v. 24, "They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts." Therefore I say to you in the words of the apostle, Rom. viii. 3, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." When our Saviour hung on the cross, he hung there as representative of all that are his, with all their sins on him by imputation, that the body of sin might be destroyed in his sufferings for it, Rom. vi. 6. He hung there as the efficient meritorious cause of their mortification, that by his death they might destroy the power of death in them; which appears not in any thing more, than in living lusts preying on their souls: Hos. xiii. 14, "I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues." See Tit. ii. 14; Rom. vi. 6, 7; Eph. v. 25, 26. And he hung there as the exemplary cause of their mortification; so that all who are his, and have sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, are likewise crucified and die to sin, after the similitude of his crucifixion and death; being crucified with him, Gal. ii. 20; planted together (with him in the likeness of his death, Rom. vi. 5; the fellowship of his sufferings making them conformable unto his death, Phil. iii. 10. Will ye then live after the flesh, not wrestling against, but fulfilling the lusts thereof; living in sin and to sin, instead of being mortified to it; and yet pretend that the satisfaction of Christ is imputed to you for righteousness? Truly you may on as good grounds say, that the blood of Christ shed for you, hath proven ineffectual; and that he hath so far missed of his aim and design in suffering for you; or that he died for you, that you might live in your sin without danger. These would make a blasphemous profession. Accordingly, your presumptuous sinful life and practice, is a course of practical blasphemy against the Son of God, making him the minister of sin; and evidenceth your pretensions to the imputation of his satisfaction to be altogether vain. Nay, of a truth, if ye have any saving interest in the death of Christ, your old man is crucified with him, Rom. vi. 6; and ye are dead with him, ver, 8; dead with him to sin, to the world, and to the law.

(1.) If ye have a saving interest in Christ's death, ye are dead with him to sin: Rom. vi. 10, "In that he died, he died unto sin once." Ver. 11, "Likewise also reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin." While our Lord Jesus lived in the world, the sins of all the elect, as to the guilt of them, hung about him, and made him a "man of sorrows" all along; when he was upon the cross, they wrought upon him most furiously, stinging him to the very soul, till they killed him, and got him laid in the grave. Then they had done their utmost against him, they could do no more. So dying for sin, he died unto it, he was delivered from it: and in his resurrection he shook them all off, as Paul shook the viper off his hand into the fire, and felt no harm; rising out of the grave, even as he will appear a second time, without sin. Wherefore, if ye do indeed know the fellowship of his sufferings, if you really have fellowship with him in them, death will have made its way from Christ the head unto you as his members; his death unto sin cannot miss to work your death unto it also. If you are dead indeed with Christ, as ingrafted into him, sin hath got its death's wounds in you; the bond that knit your hearts and your lusts together, is loosed; and ye will be shaking off the viperous brood of them into the fire, in the daily practice of mortification. But if ye are not dead, but still living unto sin, it is an infallible evidence ye are none of the members of Christ: Rom. vi. 2, "How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Ver. 3, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death?"

(2.) If ye have a saving interest in Christ's death, ye are dead with him to the world: Col. iii. 1, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." Ver. 3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." The world hated him, and used him very unkindly while he was in it; and when he died he parted with it for good and all, John xvii. 11, "Now I am no more in the world – I come to thee." The quietest lodging that ever the world allowed him in it, was a grave: and coming out from thence, he never slept another night in it. He tarried indeed forty days in it after that; as many days as the Israelites' years in the wilderness; the former an exemplar, the latter a type of the Christian life, from conversion till the removal into the other world; nevertheless he was dead to the world still; he conversed now and then with his own, but no more with the world. Now, if ye are his, ye are dead with him unto the world too, in virtue of his death; being crucified unto it, Gal. vi. 14. Union with Christ by faith lays sinners down in death, in Christ's grave; and so separates between them and the world for ever: and withal, it raiseth them up again with Christ into a quite new manner of life; no more that manner of life which they lived before their union with him, than that which Christ lived after his resurrection, was the manner of life he lived before his death: Rom. vi. 4, "We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." If your title to heaven is indeed settled, by your receiving the atonement, now is your forty days before your ascension into it; now are ye no more of the world, although you be in it: your treasure and heart are no more there. Ye are no more indwellers in it, as natives: but travelling through it, as "strangers, coming up from the wilderness, leaning on the beloved," Cant. iii. 5.

(3.) Lastly, If ye have a saving interest in Christ's death, ye are dead with him to the law also: Gal. ii. 19, "I through the law am dead to the law." Ver. 20, "I am crucified with Christ." Our Lord Jesus took on our nature to satisfy the law therein: the whole course of his life was a course of obedience to it, for life and salvation to us; and he suffered to satisfy it in what of that kind it had to demand, for that effect: in a word, he was born to the law, he lived to the law, and he died to the law; namely, to clear accounts with it, to satisfy it fully, and get life and salvation for us with its good leave. He was "made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law," Gal. iv. 4, 5. And when once it fell upon him, it never left exacting of him, till it had got the utmost farthing, and he was quite free with it, as dead to it, Rom. vii. 4. In token whereof he got up the bond, blotted it out, yea, rent it in pieces, nailing it to his cross, Col. ii. 14. Now, Christ became dead to it, dying to it in his death on the cross: so that the holiness and righteousness of the man Christ did thereafter no more run in the channel in which it had run before, namely, from the womb to his grave; that is to say, it was no more, and shall be no more for ever, obedience performed to the law for life and salvation; these having been completely gained and secured by the obedience he gave from the womb to the grave. "Wherefore, my brethren," if ye be his, "ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ," which became dead to it on the cross, Rom. vii. 4. As ye will not be libertines in your life and practice, being dead to sin and the world with Christ; so ye will not be legalists in your life and practice neither, being also dead with him to the law as a covenant of works. Your obedience will run in another channel than it did before your union with Christ, even in the channel of the gospel. Ye will serve in newness of spirit, in faith and love. The frowns of a merciful Father will be a terror to you to frighten you from sin; love and gratitude will prompt you to obedience. The grieving of the Spirit of a Saviour will be a spring of sorrow to you; and his atoning blood and perfect righteousness will be the spring-head of all your comfort before the Lord; your good works but streams thereof, as they evidence your saving interest in these, are accepted through them, and glorify God your Saviour. Ye will not continue to serve in the oldness of the letter, as before; at what time the law was the spring of all the obedience ye performed; fear of the punishment of hell for your sins, and hope of the reward of heaven's happiness for your duties, being the weights that made you go, though for all them you often stopped; your sorrows springing from your ill works, under the influence of the law allenarly; and your comforts from your good works, under the same influence; ye being alive to the law and dead to Christ. Rom. vii. 6, "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." If by faith you wholly rely on Christ's righteousness, the holiness of his nature, the righteousness of his life, and his satisfaction for sin, how is it possible but ye must be dead to the law? for the law is not of faith, Gal. iii. 12. But if you perform your obedience for life and salvation, looking for acceptance with God on the account of your works, you go in a way directly opposite to the way of faith, and either altogether reject Christ's satisfying of the law, or else impute imperfection unto his payment of the bond. And "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace," Gal. v. 4.

Thus far of the first part of the covenant, namely the conditionary part.

[1][The first part of the covenant of grace is the conditionary part. The conditions of this covenant are fulfilled in Christ the Second Adam. 

The second part of the covenant is the promissory part. The promises are for sinners of mankind to apprehend by faith in Christ.]




“A View of the Covenant of Grace” by Thomas Boston. Focus Christian Ministries Trust, 1990. pp 80-87.