My dear Berith,
The conspicuous change which has been effected in you, by the grace of God, affords me peculiar satisfaction, and begets in my mind, an anxiety for the increase and permanency of those pleasures of which you have already tasted; and with this object in view, allow me to lead your attention to the inexhaustible treasure, whence all spiritual blessings are derived; even the COVENANT OF GRACE.
“Be ye always mindful of his covenant” is the express command of Jehovah to his people, by his servant David; and if my dear young friend were fully aware of the advantage arising from habitual appropriation of the covenant plentitude, and holy communion with the covenant head, the constant cry of his heart would be “Lord show me thy covenant.”
The covenant of grace is that grand stipulation between the persons of the adorable Trinity, in which all that relates to the great work of redemption, was planned and provided by the infinite wisdom and sovereign love: each person in the Godhead engaging in its distinct parts, aud uniting in its grand and glorious scheme.
God the Father having determined to pardon and save millions of Adam’s rebel race, fixed upon their persons in his eternal fore-knowledge, wrote their names in the book of life, and gave them into the hand of a divine Surety, making him responsible for their salvation; and securing to him all the glory and satisfaction of the everlasting triumph over sin, death, and hell.
God, the Son, voluntarily entered upon his mediatorial office; took all the guilt, and all the vast concerns of his church upon his own person: engaged to cancel all her debt; atone for all her guilt; assume her nature; impart to her his nature; and become all for her, and to her, which is requisite for her present happiness and eternal glory.
God, the Holy Ghost, also engaged in covenant to distinguish the elect and redeemed family from the world by special grace; to bring to Christ, yea, into vital union with Christ, reveal Christ to them, and lead them into sweet fellowship with the Father; to renew them, comfort them, and conduct them home to glory, as the purchase of Jesus’ blood, and the objects of the Father’s love.
The infinite wisdom displayed in this covenant transaction, is such as eclipse all the contrivances of mortals, and I trust will lead my dear Berith to exclaim, “O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.”
Let it never be forgotten, that this covenant is “ordered in all things and sure.” Such is the infinite wisdom and love of our covenant God, that he omitted nothing in his covenant provision, which could be conducive to your present and eternal happiness, and productive of glory to his divine perfections; so that you may take a retrospective view of all the blessings which you have received at the hand of God, with the high satisfaction arising from the knowledge of their having been provided, “ordered,” for you in covenant love; and then take a prospective view of all your future necessities, with the sweet assurance, that they shall be supplied from the same covenant fullness: for my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:19.
There is no part of this delightful covenant scheme left doubtful or contingent: it is altogether worthy of its divine author, whose infinite understanding saw the end from the beginning, and condescended to confirm what he had purposed with an oath, that in the secret purpose of his love, and the public promise of his word, as “by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Heb. 6:18. The covenant of grace is the invariable rule by which all the great events of time are controlled, and from the creation of the world to the consummation of all things, Jehovah carries on his grand designs according to the fixed order, and divine purpose of this covenant. He employs both his friends and his foes as he will, in the accomplishment of his objects, but allows no power or artifice to derange his plan or hinder his work.
The stipulations of this covenant are between the persons of the Godhead, and are therefore sure—the gifts of this covenant are all free, and therefore suited to the condition of ruined man—all it required has been performed by the covenant head, and admits of no addition— all it contains is the inheritance of every child of God; and, being secured by the Father’s oath, and received for them by Christ in his mediatorial character, shall assuredly be communicated to them by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How delightful, my dear brother, is the view of Deity in this blessed covenant character, wherein all the perfections of Jehovah are seen going forth in the most interesting acts and endearing relations, for the salvation of guilty man; yea, actually pledging the divine honor of all the persons and perfections of Deity in a grand covenant compact, to bring about and effect that salvation, against which earth and hell are combined, and against which the sinner himself is decidedly hostile by nature.
Behold, my dear young friend, in this precious covenant, all that pertains to your salvation provided and secured, and you will be disposed to sing with David, “he hath made with ME an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; this is all MY salvation, and all MY desire,” Think of the endearing relation it forms between the God of heaven and hie beloved people. You are at liberty to consider yourself one of the royal family of heaven: adopted by God the Father; betrothed to Jesus In faithfulness; and a disciple of Christ; training up for the court of heaven, by the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
The very corrections with which the children of God are visited, proceed from covenant love, and whatever may be the rod, it is held in a father’s hand to accomplish his own designs in their experience; nor can one stripe be dispensed with, because infinite wisdom has numbered them, and covenant faithfulness demands the blessed effect to be produced by them, hence we have often seen the saints of the MOST HIGH visited with trial after trial and sorrow upon sorrow, until they come forth from the furnace like gold, according to the decree of covenant love. Think of this my dear brother whenever you are called to pass through deep waters, or to suffer fiery, persecutions.
Should a doubt arise in your mind respecting your personal interest in this unalterable covenant, have recourse to self-examination, and I trust you will ascertain that you have had personal intercourse with the covenant head, in which you have acknowledged yourself a guilty sinner; cast yourself at his feet, trusted his merits and cried most feelingly “Lord save me.”
Moreover, I will venture to take it for granted that you have participated in covenant blessings, such as, genuine repentance; holy desires; spiritual enjoyments and a new bias to your affections, or at least that you have been made willing to consent to covenant terms, which may be briefly summed up in renouncing self and receiving Christ. Permit me my dear Berith, to assure you, that these are evidences of an interest in covenant love, because they are all the gifts of your covenant God, and whatever may be the fluctuation of your frames and feelings, if your covenant security is revealed to your mind by the divine Preceptor, you will find it a never failing source of consolation, which neither tribulation nor temptation can take away.
I do not wonder that many Christians are destitute of that holy peace which the gospel of Christ is calculated to impart, while they neglect the fountain head of comfort, and even allow themselves to be alarmed at the sweetest and most expressive declarations of covenant love; such as, “my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth,” Psalm 89:34. and again, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me, Jer. 32:40. The very mention of such declarations as these, warm my heart as I write, because in them I see my present and eternal welfare linked with the veracity of God; who has thus sworn that he will not depart from me, and that I shall not depart from him: so that I have only to plead as David did, “hold thou me up and I shall be safe; and, instead of trusting my own faithless deceitful heart, to repose unlimited confidence in my covenant God, exulting again with the King of Israel, in the delightful consideration that he hath made with ME an everlasting covenant.
I am aware this is considered presumption, by those who have not yet learned to live near to God, and who are not rooted and grounded in the truth; but if it be presumption, the Lord make me more presumptuous.
What is the whole bible but the history of a covenant people, and the record of covenant transactions? — What are all its doctrines but the charter of covenant love? — What are all its promises but the assurances of covenant blessings? —And what are all its precepts but the revealed will of a covenant God to his covenant people? Is not Jesus the covenant head?—Is not his blood “the blood of the covenant?”— Is he not emphatically the “ messenger of the covenant ?”— And, shall not his people delight in his covenant?
Whence can you obtain peace of mind, when the depravity of your nature stares you in the face? When all your resolutions fail ? When your heart backslidings are discovered? When your weakness in the hour of trial is felt? And when your sensible comforts are suspended? no-where, but in the covenant love of him who has said, “my grace is sufficient for thee,” here you will find firm ground to rest upon; this is solid rock, all beside is sand.
Go then my dear brother, take your standing on this solid basis; take hold of Jehovah’s covenant, and you shall stand unmoved amidst all the convulsions of time, safe when the fabric of creation falls, and triumphant to all eternity.
You have felt the sensations which covenant grace alone could produce; you hate the evil which covenant precepts forbid; you thirst for the blessings which covenant promises present, and you can trust the finished salvation which the covenant charter provides; yea, you can trust your all with the covenant head; and, can you now dispute your interest in covenant love? O! yield no longer to unbelief and slavish fear, but look up for grace to live on the covenant fulness of Jesus, and you shall never want a fountain of peace, a refuge in distress, or an incentive to holiness and activity.
What can so effectually call forth the gratitude of a child of God, as the assurance that Jehovah in the trinity of persons, has engaged in an unalterable covenant to pardon and save his soul, making provision for all his necessities on his way to glory? The love, wisdom, and condescension herein displayed, are the most powerful incentives that can exist in the human mind, and while they impart joy unspeakable and full of glory, the graces of the Spirit are called into exercise, and the whole life must of course be influenced thereby to the silencing of gainsayers, and to the glory of FATHER, SON, and SPIRIT, Israel’s covenant God.
That your acquaintance with covenant blessings— your confidence in covenant love— and your participation of covenant pleasure may daily increase, is the prayer of Yours, &c. affectionately
In covenant bonds,
Contingency, I leave for infidels:
A term degrading to redemption’s scheme,
Lord let thy secret be reveal’d to me.—
Shew me the cov’nant heavenly wisdom plann’d—
Order’d in every part,—confirm’d with oaths,—
And like thyself IMMUTABLE—
Mindful of that grand cov’nant scheme,
Engaging all the attributes of God,
In one firm compact to redeem my soul,
I cast away my doubts, abhor my sins,
And feel myself In Christ secure for heaven.
Yes, all is well, tho’ foes and friends wage war,
The pledge of cov’nant love is life divine,
Which lives on Christ the cov’nant head,
And pants for nearness to a COVENANT GOD.
Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was an Independent sovereign grace preacher, author and hymn writer. In 1819, he was appointed the minister of Grove Chapel, Camberwell, a position he held until his death thirty-three years later. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“Joseph Irons (1785-1852) was one of the ablest preachers of his day, and a powerful and prolific writer. His doctrinal teaching was pellucidly clear and consistent; he was a profound student and sound expositor of the Word of God, and many were influenced by his sermons, spoken and printed, and confirmed in the faith of God's elect. He was a determined foe of Romanism and Ritualism, deeply interested in the welfare of the young, and ready to aid any effort that commended itself to him on the basis of the faith for which he so earnestly contended. Many of his hymns have secured a permanent place in our hymnology, and his sermons are doctrinal, experimental, and practical in the best sense of the words. He never ceased to preach Christ, making Him the Alpha and Omega of all his discourses. He was born at Ware, in Hertfordshire, and brought up under the care and counsel of a godly father, who was a builder, and who trained his son in that trade. When he left his father's roof, he tells us the parting words were, "There's poor Joseph going to that wicked London. My heart bleeds while I bid him goodbye. I fear it will end in his ruin. You will be far away from a father's eye and a father's counsel, but never will I cease to pray for you that God may preserve and prosper you, although surrounded with so much that is evil." The youth was but eighteen when, in 1803, God led him to the Church of St. Mary Somerset, Thames Street, to hear W. Alphonsus Gunn, and there the arrow was directed into his conscience and he was brought to a saving knowledge of Divine truth. In 1808 his first sermon was preached over a smith's shop at Dulwich; he was actively engaged in business, but on most Sundays would walk from ten to twenty miles, preaching in various villages. "My only companions were my pocket Bible and its Divine Author, who often favoured me with the spirit of prayer on the way and shed many a ray of Divine light on the inspired page, so that I was furnished with a 'Thus saith the Lord.'"
After six years' service in Hertfordshire, he became pastor of the Church at Sawston, near Cambridge, and in January, 1818, he preached his first sermon in Camberwell. Ultimately, Grove Chapel was erected and opened on July 20th, 1819, and within its walls until the time of his death he continued proclaiming the Gospel; his mortal remains rest in a vault under the pulpit. In his last sermon, about ten days before his decease, he spoke of heaven in joyful terms: "I confess that my soul longs for it, and I anticipate meeting with prophets and apostles and patriarchs, and above all, with Jesus Himself, to behold Him face to face in glory, to be like Him, and to see Him as He is."
His published writings were numerous, some running into many editions. "Jazer," letters on Gospel doctrine; "Nathaniel," letters on Christian experience; "Nymphas," an exposition of the Song of Solomon; 611 original hymns; and a paraphrase of the Book of Psalms, are among the number. He established a Home Mission and other Societies for visiting and assisting the sick poor, and to the end of his life he was one of the best friends and helpers of the Aged Pilgrims' Friend Society. This great man was no idler in the Lord's vineyard. He talked not about "working for Christ," but delighted to magnify his glorious Lord. His sermons should be models for our preachers to-day in their perspicuity, plainness and power. He could not cut and trim to the times. His faithfulness gave offence to many whose creed and conduct could not bear the blaze of truth and the pointed appeals he made to conscience. Many hard speeches were made against him, but he remained unmoved as an iron pillar. As a man he had very tender feeling and often smarted under the unkind treatment of those of whom better things might have been hoped; but neither the fawning of one party nor the frowns of the other could shake his firmness. When at home in his "Shepherd's Tent," Grove Lane, he used very frequently to visit his chapel; to him it was a peaceful, private promenade, after the close confinement of his study, in which he spent many hours every day. Covenant love, covenant blood and covenant grace were his constant theme. His dying desire, so graciously fulfilled, was that Grove Chapel "might never be desecrated with another gospel." Someone told him that he put too much in his sermons and should reserve ideas for future use. He replied, "Thank God I obtain my materials from heaven; my Master knows what things I have need of, and having called me, He will not allow me to work alone. I get my sermons on my knees with the Word of God before my eyes and if I empty my seed-basket to-day, I know He will fill it to-morrow; therefore I will, God helping me, tell it all out, or it would be like a fire in my bones, burning its way out." Grove Chapel recalls many memories of those who have gone before; in its schoolroom is a unique collection of portraits of free grace ministers of various sections of the one Church. In No. 5 pew in the Chapel is the spot where the Lord first met with the "Wayside Notes" writer, broke him down in contrition of heart and revealed Christ to him as all his salvation, and there are friends still with us who can testify to the power of Mr. Irons' ministry, when in their early years they sat under it.”