William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 4 – The Covenant Of Grace

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

IV. The Covenant of Grace.

We believe that, before the world began, a Divine and gracious arrangement was made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to determine and secure the salvation of sinners, which is scripturally designated the Covenant of Grace.[1] We believe that, from eternity, the Father loved a multitude whom no man can number, whom He chose, sanctified, and predestinated to eternal salvation, and to “the adoption of children” in and by the Son.[2]

We believe that the Son, by Covenant, gave Himself up into His Father’s hands, to be the Surety of the people, “with whom were His delights.” and engaged in the fulness of time, to assume their nature, to work out an everlasting righteousness for them, to endure all the penal wrath and hot displeasure due to their sin, and to obtain eternal redemption for them, so that they might be blessed in Him with all the blessings of grace and glory.[3]

We believe that these blessings are conveyed and communicated to those who were elected by the Father and redeemed by the Son, by the Holy Ghost, who as a Person in the Covenant of grace, engaged before time to quicken and regenerate them, to invest them with spiritual capacities and powers, and to work in them “those things which are well-pleasing to the Lord.”[4]

[1] 2 Sam 23:5; Zech 6:13; 1 Cor 11:25; (“new testament” or “covenant”) Heb 10:16, 29; 13:20
[2] Deut 33:3; Jer 31:3; Jn 17:23,24; 2 Thess 2:16; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 1:27,28; Eph 1:4; 1 Thess 1:4 ; 1 Pet 1:2; Jude 1; Acts 13:48; 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 5:9; Ps 84:11: Eph 1:5; Gal 5:6; 1 Tim 1:1
[3] Prov 8:22; Is 13:1; Jn 17:4,6,12; Heb 7:22; Prov 8:31; Ps 40:6-8; Heb 10:6,7; Is 7:14; Matt 1:23; Is 32:2,17; 13:21; 14:17,24; 54:17; Jer 23:6; Dan 9:24; Is 53:4,11; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13; Col 2:14; Heb 9:9,12; Gal 3:8-16; Eph 1,3,6
[4] Is 44:3; 54:13; Jer 31:33; 32:40; Heb 8:10; 10:16; Joel 2:28; Eph 4:20; Heb 13:21; 2 Pet 1:3



Note 1. —The expression, “the Covenant of Grace” is not in the Bible; but, like the phrases, the “Trinity in Unity,” the “Personality of the Spirit,” or the “Sovereignty of God,” it embodies a scriptural idea.

Note 2.—Copious as are the references to the Covenant of Grace in the Bible, little is said of it in modern Divinity, and it would appear to be generally overlooked by Christians in the present day. It is, however, an essential department of the Gospel. The number of the saved; the method of Redemption, the time when chosen and blood-bought sinners are regenerated and called by grace; the character of their experience; the measure of their gifts; the severity and duration of their trials; and the period of their death, were all determined before the foundation of the world.[1]

Note 3.—The great doctrine that the salvation of sinners is, in all its departments, regulated by the everlasting and immutable Covenant of Grace, is often assailed, as if it were derogatory to Divine equity.

Men limit their conceptions of the Sovereignty of God (if they think of it at all) to His right to act as He pleases in time; whereas it equally includes His right to will to act before time. None question his rectitude when He now, by an act of gracious power, saves a sinner, yet many cavil at the assertion that He purposed to perform that act before the foundation of the world. Election and Predestination are, however, as much the exercise of a Divine right, as Regeneration and Effectual Calling. Happily, the gainsaying of man does not make void the purpose of Him who hath said, “My counsel (or Covenant determinations) shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,” (Isa. 46:11.)

Note 4.—This Article scripturally assigns equal prominence and importance to the Covenant Engagements of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. All alike demand prayerful and prolonged study from the earnest student of the truth of God.

The Covenant Engagements of the Father.

Note 5. —These are, perhaps, more obvious and plain than those of Christ and the Spirit, arid as they have engaged the attention of the authors of many standard and accessible works, wo do not here dwell on them.

Note, however, that the Covenant Engagements of the Father are of necessity involved in those of the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The Covenant Engagements of Christ.

Note 6.—The texts cited amply prove that the advent of Christ, and what He accomplished on earth, were matters of compact or contract between Himself and the Father, and the Holy Ghost, “before the foundation of the world.” He opened His hand to receive His elect people as His Father’s gift, (Deut. 33:3.) He surveyed the lines which separated them from the rest of mankind withholy acquiescence and satisfaction, (Psa. 16:6, and Jude 1.) He beheld them, when as yet they had only a decretive existence, with delight, (Prov. 8:31;) and He undertook with loving alacrity to assume their nature, take their legal place, and bear their sins in the pure body which the Holy Spirit should prepare for Him, (Psa. 40:6,8; Matt. 1:23; Heb. 10:6,7; 1 Pet. 2:24.)

Jesus when on earth frequently spoke with joy of these ancient Covenant arrangements—recognising the Divine love of which they were the expression, (Matt. 11:27, where read, “all things have been delivered unto Me”, John 3:35, 5:20-27, and 17:24;) and cheerfully responding to the obligations which they imposed on Him, (Luke 2:49; John 6:27; 9:4; 16 and 36, where read, “sanctified,” not “hath sanctified,” and understand the ancient setting apart of Christ by Covenant arrangement to the unique position of Mediator)—while He willingly accepted the sufferings they involved, (John 12:27;) —and contemplated with joy the vindication and glory which had been promised Him of old as the result and reward of His obedience unto death, (Isa. 49:8,9, and 50:7-9 ; John 17:4-8; Heb. 12:2.)

Hence He was given “for a Covenant of the people,” (Isa. 42:6;) “the blood wherewith He was sanctified,” (or set apart for His present priesthood,) was the ratification “of the Covenant,” (Heb. 10:29;) as the cup at the Lord’s Supper testifies, for it symbolises “the New Covenant” in (or confirmed by) His blood,” (1 Cor. 11:25.) Heb. 13:20[2] teaches the same truth.

In Rev. 13:8 and 21:27, the names of God’s elect are said to have been written in “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” This, according to John Stevens, was the person of the Lord Himself; and the figure of the enrolling of the names “of the First-born ones,” (Heb. 12:23,) with indelible ink in a permanent volume, beautifully sets forth the act of sovereign grace, by which Christ and His church were constituted one “before the foundation of the world.”

The Covenant Engagements of the Holy Spirit

Note 7—Are, perhaps, too often overlooked, even by those to whom the truths of this book are dear.

“The love of the Spirit” must, however, be coequal with the love of the Father and the Son, and must respect the same persons, or the Trinity in Unity would be divided in purpose and affection.

The Holy Ghost is asserted to have a perfect acquaintance with the Divine secrets of salvation. “For who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, the things of God (the secrets of the Covenant love of the Father and the Son) knoweth no one (be no man, angel, or devil) save the Spirit of God,” who searcheth (has a perfect knowledge of) these “deep things of God,” (l Cor. 2:10,11;) and this knowledge He must, as God, have had from the beginning.

Moreover, He Himself, as “the Spirit of Christ” (the phrase involving His covenant relations to the Redeemer) inspired the prophetical writings, in which the share He should Himself take in the work of the salvation of the elect was predicted. (1 Pet. 1:11.) These involve His own personal undertakings in connection with the Covenant of Grace.

In Isa. 48:16, Christ prophetically asserts that when He should come into the world, He would be sent by the Lord (the Father) and His Spirit (the Holy Ghost.)

The Covenant Engagements of Christ a Clue to His Ministry.

Note 8.—Much grave misconception of the conduct of Christ when on earth might be avoided by observing the correspondence of His actions with the relations that existed between Himself, and those with whom He had to deal.

As “the Minister of the circumcision” (Rom. 15:8.) He came on a special mission to the Jews as such. To them “He was sent first (in the order of time), to bless them (not by saving them spiritually and eternally, but) in turning every one of them from their iniquities.” (Acts 3:26.) Their national reformation was thus His object, and He commenced this branch of His work on earth on the imprisonment of John the Baptist, by “preaching the Gospel of God, (Rev. Version,) and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel,’”—in the veracity of the glad assurance that He had come to fulfil the promises made to their fathers, (Mark 1:15.)[3]

It was of old foretold that this department of His ministry would not prove a success; that the guilty and infatuated nation would not give heed to His words; and that their gainsaying. And refusal would cause Him solicitude and sorrow, (Isa. 49:4,6.)

With this, the historical accounts of His reception by the Jews, as a people, accord. “His own (nation) received Him not.” (John 1:12.) He would have gathered the children of Jerusalem, but the Scribes and Pharisees impeded Him, (Matt. 23:37.) His sorrow is recorded. He was grieved when they repudiated His claims, (Mark 3:5,) and wept over their doomed city, (Luke 19:41.)

This was in perfect accordance with the national and con­ ditional Covenant (which it was in their power to observe or violate) under which they as Jews possessed all their favours.

Jesus, again, had a second and higher mission—the eternal salvation of the people who were given Him in the Covenant of eternal Redemption. Some of these were constrained by sovereign grace to come to Him in the days of His flesh, and when such came, He received and saved them.

He expressed neither concern nor grief that others did not come to Him for salvation; nor did He once make an offer or proffer of grace to anyone.[4] He did not beg the rich young man not to go away, (Matt. 19:22,) or intreat those who left Him to continue with Him, (John 6:66.) When men repudiated His saving claims, He uttered no words of surprise or sorrow. He knew that they wore not the chosen of God, that eternal election had passed them by, and that as “the Surety of the better Covenant,” (Heb. 7:22,) He had nothing to do with them, or they with Him. “No man can come unto Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him,” (John 6:44.) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27.) “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep,” (John 10:26.) He thus traced the unbelief of those that did not come to Him for salvation to their exclusion from the Covenant of grace. He left them where He found them.[5] They did not belong to His chosen flock, and He expressed no desire that they should, and made no overtures to them.

Arminians and Duty-faith preachers confuse texts which refer to Jewish national faith in Christ, and those which refer to receiving Him by the faith of the operation of God—which none but regenerated and Divinely-drawn sinners ever do.

Christ desired the temporal salvation of His own nation: He does not, and never did desire the eternal salvation of any but those whom the Father gave Him. He was grieved when His own nation rejected Him. He is nowhere said to be grieved that natural men continue to live as such He wept over Jerusalem—as the time of His ministry to the Jews drew nigh to a close; but that He ever weeps now over impenitent men who grieve Him by refusing to accept His offered mercy is a false­ hood to be earnestly contradicted.[6]

The Importance of Understanding the Covenant of Grace and Correlative Truths.

Note 9.—The reception of this truth will deliver the minds of God-taught persons from many popular and flesh-pleasing errors.

Men, for example, assert with awful arrogance, that the number of the saved and the numerical increase of the Church, depend on the efforts of preachers of the Gospel, whose earnestness or apathy accelerate or retard the progress of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Bible, on the contrary, represents that the number of the saved is determined solely by the pleasure of God. Covenant interest in the grace of the Gospel ensures a sinner’s reception of the Gospel of grace, (Acts 13:48.) For example:

2 Sam. 14:14.—“God doth devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him.” The whole human race are outlawed, banished from God on account of Adam’s sin. Some, however, are His by eternal choice. He has devised efficient means whereby these shall not be finally expelled from Him, and consigned to eternal punishment. The means of grace, which here include the mediation of Christ, the work of the Spirit, and the power of the Gospel, efficiently co-operate to secure the rescue and salvation of all to whom the pro­ visions of the Covenant of grace extend.

Psa. 110:3.—“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” The people of the Redeemer are His by the Covenant donation of the Father, and they will all joyfully receive Him as their Saviour and Lord when He draws them to Himself, (John 12:32.)

Isa. 43:6.—”I will say to the North, Give up, and to the South, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth.”

God’s people are His children by Covenant relationship established in Christ before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1:5 ) In due time He puts them among the children, (Jer. 3:19.) Regeneration and effectual calling do not make them His, but simply manifest His ancient purposes of grace on their behalf. Hence He calls them “My sons and daughters” prior to the command for their experimental salvation.

John 10:16. “And other sheep I have (not ‘shall have,’ for they were already His by Divine donation) which are not of this (the Jewish) fold; them also I must (in faith­ fulness to my covenant engagements) bring; and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.” R V.

Acts 18:10.—“I have muoh people in this city.” The sinners in Corinth who became the fruit of Paul’s ministry were the Lord’s by covenant choice. He owned and claimed them before the Apostle preached to them, as these words assert.

The Covenant of Grace explains other Difficulties.

Note 10.—Young Christians should give prayerful consideration to the well-considered texts cited in support of the above Article, for the Covenant of Grace is the clue to the entire Gospel, considered as a Divine and harmonious arrangement and scheme.

When duly apprehended, it brings all the statements of the Bible into consistency. The attitude and actions of the Persons in the Trinity, toward each other, and toward men, are seen to correspond with a plan—once a Divine secret—but now, in measure at least, disclosed to those “that fear God,” (Psa. 25:14.) Contradictions, which are sometimes asserted to exist in the scheme of revealed truth, appear as the vain imaginations of ignorant or corrupt men who cannot or will not accept the testimony of God.

When this truth is grasped, other revealed truths assume their place, order and proportion; and free-will, offered grace, human responsibility, universal invitations, Duty-faith and kindred errors, are not only seen to have no place in the Scripture, but to be utterly inconsistent with essential and paramount truth.[7]

Error concerning the Covenant of Grace to be Resisted.

Note 11.—Any so-called Gospel which expressly or implicitly denies these truths—which represents the regeneration and conversion of sinners to be contingent on the earnestness and activity of “Gospel workers or the progress of God’s salvation to be hindered by Christian apathy or infirmity—is not true, and no lover of truth should countenance it.

Young Christian, be not deceived by the plausibility, eloquence or urgency of preachers, if error on these vital points enters into their ministry.

Anxious enquirer, avoid such teachers. They will only mislead you, and increase your sorrow.

Strict and Particular Baptists, remember that such men do not belong to our section of the church. Stevens, Wells, Foreman, Palmer, Hazelton, and Atkinson would not have received them as such—nor should we, their unworthy successors.[8]

[1] The above truths form the substance of a sublime sermon by John Stevens, entitled “The Pleasure of God in the Salvation of His People,” the text being Psa. 115:3.
[2] Since the publication of his “Manual of Faith and Practice,’’ the Author has been led to regard this verse as an instance of the use of the figure Hyperbaton, explained on page 126 of the above work. Here are four clauses. 1. “The God of Peace.” 2. He “brought our Lord Jesus again from the dead.” 3. Jesus is “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” 4. (Something was effected) “In or by the blood of the everlasting Covenant.”
The first and fourth, and the second and third clauses, correspond. God is the God of peace in (the sphere of) the blood of the everlasting Covenant. Jesus, whom He hath raised from the dead is the great Shepherd of the sheep. This is submitted as a preferable exposition to those given in the “Manual of Faith and Practice,” page 342.
[3] It is to the writer inexplicable how Christian men can regard the word “believe.” in Mark 1:16, as identical in meaning with the same word in (say) Acts 16:31, or 1 John 3:23. Yet it is common to assume that the repentance and faith commanded by the Lord in Mark 1:15 were in all respects the same as the repentance and faith with which the eternal salvation of the soul is connected.—Spurgeon’s Sermons, No. 460.
[4] Matt. 11:28 is an invitation to certain characters; not to a particular individual.
[5] Preterition or Rejection does not make men sinners. It simply leaves them w the sin which the Fall entailed, and to which their personal transgressions have brought them. Election—from its very nature—debars none from salvation, while it secures the eternal happiness of all the chosen.
[6] John Howe’s “Redeemer’s Tears,” a treatise on Luke 19:41, is a work of such high genius, so eloquent and pathetic, aud so evidently inspired by evangelical earnestness, that it requires boldness to warn young theologians against it. It is, however, utterly erroneous.
[7] 1 John 2:21,“No lie is of the truth,” not, “no lie is true which would be a platitude: but “of the truth.” There is no harmony or coherence between specious religious lies (like those enumerated above) and “the truth.” This, as John asserts, oven God’s “little children” know, through “the anointing which teacheth them of all things,” (verse 27.) We often find simple Christians distressed at erroneous testimony, and confident, through their spiritual perceptions, that what has been advanced is a lie, although they cannot quote “chapter and verse” to refute it. Such the Apostle may have had in his mind.
[8] It is not contended that it is wrong to associate with such persons on common ground and for appropriate objects—but that they should not be owned as “pastors and teachers” by those who profess to love the truth. See the Author’s “With thy Might,” page 75.

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)