Thomas Boston on the party-contractor in the covenant of grace.

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Puritanboard Amanuensis
If any are inclined to question Thomas Boston's orthodoxy for maintaining what the subordinate standards of the reformed Church of Scotland teach, I recommend that you read what he says on this issue in his View of the Covenant of Grace from the Sacred Records, Works, vol. 8, pp. 388-399, quoted below for your convenience.


We have seen, that upon the one side, in the covenant of grace, is God himself. Now, upon the other side is Jesus Christ the Son of God, with his spiritual seed, Heb. 2:13, "œBehold, I and the children which God hath given me:" the former, as the party-contractor and undertaker; the latter, as the party contracted and undertaken for: a good reason for his name, "œImmanuel, which being interpreted, is, God with us," Matt. 1:23.
The party-contractor, then, with God, in the covenant of grace, is our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone managed the interests of men in this eternal bargain: for at the making of it none of them were in being; nor, if they had been, would they have been capable of affording any help.
Now, Jesus Christ, the party-contractor on man´s side, in the covenant of grace, is, according to our texts, to be considered in that matter as the last or second Adam, head and representative of a seed, lost sinners of mankind, the party contracted for. And thus he sisted himself Mediator between an offended just God, and offending men guilty before him. In which point lay one main difference betwixt the first Adam and the last Adam: for there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom," 1 Tim. 2:5, 6. And so the covenant of grace, which could not be made immediately with sinners, was made with Christ the last Adam, their head and representative, mediating between God and them; therefore called Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, to whom we come by believing, Heb. 12:22, 24.
The term Mediator is not, to my observation, applied in the holy Scripture to any other except Moses, Gal. 3:19, "œThe law "“ was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator." And of him, a typical mediator, it is worth observing, that he was not only an inter-messenger between God and Israel; but in God´s renewing his covenant, in a way of reconciliation, after the breaking of the tables, the covenant was made with him, as their head and representative, Exod. 34:27, "œAnd the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." This refers unto the gracious answer made to Moses´ prayer, ver. 9, "œPardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance." Ver. 10, "œAnd he," namely, the Lord, "œsaid, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels," &c. Ver. 28, "œAnd he wrote upon the tables" to wit, the new ones, "œthe words of the covenant, the ten commandments." Now, Moses was alone on the mount with God during the whole time of this transaction; and in it the Lord speaks of him and the people as one, all along.
For clearing of this purpose anent the party-contractor on man´s side, I shall,
1. Evince, that the covenant of grace was made with Christ as the last Adam, head and representative of a seed; and,
2. Show why it was so made.
First, That the covenant of grace, the second covenant, was made with Christ as the last or second Adam, head and representative of a seed, to wit, his spiritual seed, appears from the following considerations.
1. Covenants typical of the covenant of grace were made or established with persons representing their respective seed. Thus it was in the typical covenant in our text, the covenant of royalty made with David, an undoubted type of the covenant of grace. In it David was God´s servant, having a seed comprehended with him therein, Ps. 89:3, 4. He was an eminent type of Christ; who is therefore called David, Hos. 3:5, "œAfterwards shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king." And the benefits of the covenant of grace are called the sure mercies of David, Isa. 55:3.
Thus was it also in the covenant of the day and night (Jer. 33:20), established with Noah and his sons, representatives of their seed, the new world, Gen. 9:9, "œBehold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you." And that this covenant was a type of the covenant of grace, appears, from its being made upon a sacrifice, chap. 8:20-22; and from the sign and token of it, the rainbow, chap. 9:13, appearing round about the throne, Rev. 4:3; but especially from the nature and import of it, to wit, that there should not be another deluge, Gen. 9:11; the substance of which is plainly declared, Isa. 54:9, "œAs I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee." Ver. 10, "œFor the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee."
And such also was the covenant of the land of Canaan, made with Abraham representing his seed, Gen. 15:18, and afterwards confirmed by oath, chap. 22:16, 17. In all which, he was an eminent type of Christ, the true Abraham, father of the multitude of the faithful, who, upon God´s call, left heaven his native country, and came and sojourned among the cursed race of mankind, and there offered up his own flesh and blood a sacrifice unto God, and so became the true heir of the world, and received the promises for his spiritual seed; the sum whereof is given by Zacharias in his account of the covenant with Abraham, Luke 1:72, "œTo remember his holy covenant:" ver. 73, "œThe oath which he sware to our father Abraham," ver. 74, "œThat he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear," ver. 75, "œin holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life."
And finally, thus it was in the covenant of everlasting priesthood made with Phinehas, another type of the covenant of grace. In it Phinehas stood a representative of his seed, Numb. 25:13, "œAnd he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel." And therein he typified Jesus Christ, representing his spiritual seed in the covenant of grace: for it is evident, that it is in Christ, who made the great atonement for sinners, the everlasting priesthood promised to Phinehas, hath its full accomplishment; his spiritual seed partaking of the same in him, according to Ps. 110:4, "œThou art a priest for ever." Rev. 1:6, "œAnd hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father."
Now, forasmuch as these typical covenants were made or established with parties standing therein as public persons, heads, and representatives of their seed; it natively follows, that the covenant of grace typified by them, was made with Christ as the head and representative of his spiritual seed: for whatsoever is attributed to any person or thing as a type, hath its accomplishment really and chiefly in the person or thing typified.
2. Our Lord Jesus Christ being, in the phraseology of the Holy Ghost, the last Adam, the reason hereof cannot be taken from the nature common to the first Adam and him; for all mankind partake of that: but from their common office of federal headship and representation, in the respective covenants touching man´s eternal happiness; the which is peculiar unto Adam, and the man Christ. Accordingly, Adam is called the first man, and Christ the second man, 1 Cor. 15:47; but Christ is no otherwise the second man, than as he is the second federal head, or the representative in the second covenant; as Adam was the first federal head, or the representative in the first covenant. Agreeable to which, the apostle represents Adam as the head of the earthy men, and Christ as the head of the heavenly men, ver. 48; the former being those who bear Adam´s image, namely, all his natural seed; the latter, those who partake of the image of Christ, namely, his spiritual seed, ver. 49. All this is confirmed from Adam´s being a figure or type of Christ, which the apostle expressly asserts, Rom. 5:14; and from the parallel he draws betwixt them two, namely, that as by Adam´s covenant-breaking, sin and death came on all that were his, so by Christ´s covenant-keeping, righteousness and life come to all that are his, vers. 17-19. Wherefore, as the first covenant was made with Adam, as the head and representative of his natural seed; so the second covenant was made with Christ, as the head and representative of his spiritual seed.
3. As the first man was called Adam, that is to say, man "“ he being the head representative of mankind, the person in whom God treated with all men, his natural seed in the first covenant "“ and, on the other hand, all men therein represented by him, do, in the language of the Holy Ghost, go under the name of Adam, Ps. 39:5, "œSurely every man," in the original it is, all Adam, "œis vanity:" so Christ bears the name of his spiritual seed, and they on the other hand bear his name; a plain evidence of their being one in the eye of the law, and of God´s treating with him as their representative in the second covenant. Israel is the name of the spiritual seed, Rom. 9:6; and our Lord Jesus Christ is called by the same name, Isa. 49:3, "œThou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified;" as several learned and judicious commentators do understand it; and is evident from the whole context, vers. 1, 2, 4-9. The truth is, Christ is here so called with a peculiar solemnity, for the original text stands precisely thus, "œThou art my servant Israel, in whom I will glorify myself:" that is, thou art Israel representative, in whom I will glorify myself, and make all mine attributes illustrious; as I was dishonoured, and they darkened, by Israel the collective body of the spiritual seed. And this leads us to a natural and unstrained interpretation of that passage, Ps. 24:6, "œThis is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob;" that is, in other words, that long for the appearing (Prov. 7:15; Gen. 32:30) of the Messias, the Lord, whom the old testament church did so seek: a pledge of whose coming to his temple (Mal. 3:1) was the bringing in of the ark into the tabernacle that David had erected for it, on which occasion that Psalm was penned. Accordingly, it follows immediately, ver. 7, "œLift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." And in another Psalm penned on the same occasion, and expressly said to have been delivered on that very day into the hand of Asaph, 1 Chron. 16:1, 7, that is the expression found, ver. 11, "œSeek his face continually;" justly to be interpreted, agreeable to the circumstances of the main thing which David through the Spirit had in view that day, namely, the coming of the Messias. Thus, Christ bears the name of his spiritual seed; and they, on the other hand, bear his name too, 1 Cor. 12:12, "œFor as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ."
4. The promises were made to Christ as the second Adam, the head and representative of his seed, Gal. 3:16, "œNow to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." I own, that here, even as in the text immediately before cited, is meant Christ mystical, the head and members. It is to them that the promises are here said to be made; but primarily to the head, secondarily to the members in him; even as the promise of life in the first covenant, was primarily made to Adam as the head, and secondarily to all his natural seed in him. Thus, in the typical covenant with Abraham, the promises of the earthly inheritance were primarily made to Abraham himself, and secondarily to his seed according to the flesh. And even so the promise of the eternal inheritance plainly stands made to Christ, Tit. 1:2, "œIn hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began;" when there was none but Christ to whom that promise could be made personally. Accordingly, the covenant is said to be made with the house of Israel, namely, the spiritual Israel; yet are the promises of it directed, not to them, but to another person, Heb. 8:10, "œI will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." The reason of which plainly appears, in the promises being made to Christ as their head and representative. Now, forasmuch as these promises belong to the covenant of grace, which is therefore called the covenants of promise, Eph. 2:12, it is manifest, that if they were made to Christ as the head and representative of a seed, the covenant of grace was made with him as such; and he to whom they were primarily made, was surely the party-contractor therein.
5. Lastly, This federal headship of Christ, and his representing his spiritual seed in the covenant of grace, appears from his suretyship in that covenant, the better testament, whereof Jesus was made a surety, Heb. 7:22. Now, he became surety for them in the way of satisfaction for their debt of punishment and obedience; and that, taking the whole burden on himself, as for persons utterly unable to answer for themselves. This will afterwards fall in to be cleared. Meanwhile, such a surety is a true representative of the party he is surety for, and one person with them in the eye of the law. Hence, not only is Christ said to have been made sin for us, 2 Cor. 5:21, to have had the iniquity of us all laid on him, Isa. 53:6, and to have died for us, Rom. 5:8; but also we are said to have been crucified with Christ, Gal. 2:20, to be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. 5:21, yea, to be raised up together, and glorified, being made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2:6, and to be made alive in Christ, as we die in Adam, 1 Cor. 15:22. All which necessarily requires this his headship and representation in the covenant.
And thus it appears, that the second covenant was made with Christ as the last or second Adam, head and representative of his spiritual seed.
Secondly, We are to inquire, wherefore the second covenant, the covenant of grace, was so made? And this shall be accounted for in the following particulars.
1. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the last Adam, head and representative of his spiritual seed, that infinite love might have an early vent, even from eternity. The special love of God to the spiritual seed took vent in the covenant of grace. And that love and that covenant are of the same eternal date: as the love was everlasting or eternal, Jer. 31:3, so was the covenant, Heb. 13:20; Tit. 1:2. But since the seed are but of yesterday, the covenant of grace behoved to be like the covenant of works, a yesterday´s covenant, a time-covenant; if it was not made with Christ as their representative, it could not otherwise have been an eternal covenant. The promise of eternal life, which is undoubtedly a promise of the covenant of grace, could not otherwise have been of so ancient a date, as before the world began, as the apostle says it is, Tit. 1:2. How could an eternal covenant be originally made with creatures of time, but in their eternal head and representative? Or how could an eternal covenant be personally made with them, by way of personal application to them, had it not been from eternity made with another as their head and representative? But in this method of infinite wisdom, free love took an early vent; not waiting the slow motion of its objects creeping out of the womb of time, in which many of them lie wrapped up, even to this day. But as princes sometimes do, by proxy, marry young princesses, before they are marriageable, or capable to give their consent; so God, in his infinite love, married to himself all the spiritual seed, in and by Jesus Christ as their representative, not only before they were capable of consenting, but before they were at all. The which they do afterwards, in their effectual calling, approve of by faith, and give their consent personally to; and so they enjoy God as their God, and God hath them as his people, John 20:17, "œI ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."
2. Otherwise it could not have been made at all a conditional covenant answering the design of it. This covenant taking place only upon the breach of the first covenant, the great design of it was, that dead sinners might have life, as was before observed. Now, in order to this, a holy just God stood upon conditions, without performing of which that life was not to be given: and they were high conditions, Ps. 40:6, "œSacrifice and offering thou didst not desire." 1 Thess. 5:9, 10, "œJesus Christ, who died for us, that we should live." But how could an effectual conditional covenant for life be made with dead sinners, otherwise than in a representative? Dead souls cannot perform any condition for life at all which can be pleasing to God. They must needs have life before they can do any thing of that nature, be it never so small a condition: therefore, a conditional covenant for life, could not be made with sinners in their own persons; especially considering, that the conditions for life were so high, that man at his best state was not able to perform them. Wherefore, if such a covenant was made at all, it behoved to be made with Christ as their representative, Rom. 8:3, 4.
3. It was so ordered, to the end it might be unto us poor sinners a covenant of grace indeed. It is evident from the holy Scriptures, that this covenant was designed for exalting the free grace of God; and that it is so framed, as to be a covenant of pure grace, and not of works, in respect of us, whatever it was in respect of Christ. Rom. 4:16, "œTherefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace." Eph. 2:9, "œNot of works, lest any man should boast." And at this rate, indeed, it is a covenant of pure grace; and all ground of boasting is taken away from us: the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as representative, being sole undertaker and performer of the conditions thereof. But it is not so, if it is made with the sinner himself, standing as principal party, contracting with God, and undertaking and performing the conditions of the covenant for life; for how low soever these conditions, undertaken and wrought by the sinner in his own person, are supposed to be, the promise of the covenant is made to them: and so, according to the Scripture-reckoning, it is a covenant of works, Rom. 4:4, "œNow to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt;" and betwixt Adam´s covenant and such a covenant, there is no difference, but in degree, which leaves it still of the same kind.
4. This method was taken, that the communication of righteousness and life might be in as compendious a way, as the communication of sin and death was: "œAs by one man´s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous," Rom. 5:19. The covenant of works having been made with Adam, as a representative of his natural seed, upon the breaking thereof, sin and death are communicated to them all from him as a deadly head. This being so, it was not agreeable to the method of divine procedure with men, to treat with those predestinated unto salvation severally, as principal parties, each contracting for himself in the new covenant for life; but to treat for them all with one public person, who, through his fulfilling the covenant, should be a quickening head to them, from whence life might be derived to them, in as compendious a way, as death was from the first Adam. For his mercies are above all his other works.
5. Lastly, The covenant of grace was so made, that it might be a sure covenant; even to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, Rom. 4:16. The first covenant was made with a mere creature, as a principal party, and contractor: and though he was a holy and righteous man, yet was he so fickle and unstable, that he failed of performing the condition he undertook; and so the benefit of the promise was lost. Wherefore fallen men were not at all fit to be principal parties, or parties-contractors, in the new covenant, wherein the promise was to be sure, and not to miss of an accomplishment. They being then wholly a broken company, not to be trusted in the matter, Jesus Christ the Son of God was constituted head of the new covenant, to act for, and in name of the spiritual seed: and that to the end, the covenant being in this manner sure in point of the fulfilling of the condition, might be also sure in point of the accomplishment of the promise. And this is the very hinge of the stability of the covenant of grace, according to the Scripture; Ps. 89:28, "œMy mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him." Ver. 22, "œThe enemy shall not exact upon him;" or, as others read it, and I think justly, "œThe enemy shall not beguile him," namely, as he did the first Adam. The original phrase is elliptical, q.d., The enemy shall not beguile (his soul, Jer. 37:9) in him.
Before I leave this point, I offer the following inferences from it.
Inference 1. The covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace are not two distinct covenants, but one and the same covenant. I know that many divines do express themselves otherwise in this matter; and that upon very different views, some of which are no ways injurious to the doctrine of free grace. But this I take to be Scripture truth, and a native consequent of the account given of the covenant of grace in our Larger Catechism, to wit, that "œthe covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed;" Gal. 3:16, "œNow to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Rom. 5:15, to the end. Isa. 53:10, 11, "œWhen thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied," &c. So the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace are but two names of one and the same second covenant, under different considerations. By a covenant of redemption is meant a bargain of buying and selling: and such a covenant it was to Christ only; for as much as he alone engaged to pay the price of our redemption, 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. By a covenant of grace, is meant a bargain whereby all is to be had freely: and such a covenant it is to us only, to whom the whole of it is of free grace; God himself having provided the ransom, and thereupon made over life and salvation to us, by free promise, without respect to any work of ours, as the ground of our right thereto.
To confirm this, consider,
(1.) That, in Scripture reckoning, the covenants for life and happiness to man are but two in number, whereof the covenant of works is one; Gal. 4:24, "œThese are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage," namely, generating bond children, excluded from the inheritance, ver. 30. This is a distinguishing character of the covenant of works; for such are indeed the children of that covenant, but not the children of the covenant of grace under any dispensation thereof. These two covenants are called, the old covenant, and the new covenant; and the old is called the first, which speaks the new to be the second. Heb. 8:13, "œIn that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old." This is agreeable to the two ways unto life, revealed in the Scripture; the one by works, the other by grace, Rom. 11:6. The one is called the law, the other grace, chap. 6:14. The former is the law-covenant with the first Adam representing all his natural seed; made first in paradise, and afterward repeated on Mount Sinai, with the covenant of grace: the latter is the covenant of grace, made with the second Adam representing his spiritual seed, 1 Cor. 15:47, 48.
(2.) It is evident, that the salvation of sinners is by the blood of the covenant, which is the blood of Christ, Heb. 10:29; 1 Cor. 11:25. And the Scripture mentions the blood of the covenant four times; but never the blood of the covenants: therefore, the covenant, the blood whereof the Scripture mentions, and our salvation depends upon, is but one covenant, and not two. Now, that covenant is Christ´s covenant, or the covenant of redemption: for it was through the blood of it he was brought again from the dead; namely, in virtue of the promise made therein to be fulfilled to him upon his performing the condition thereof, Heb. 13:20. And it is also his people´s covenant, or the covenant of grace, Exod. 24:8, "œBehold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you." It is expressly called their covenant, Zech. 9:11, "œAs for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water." The words expressing the party here spoken to, being of the feminine gender in the first language, make it evident, that this is not directed to Christ, but to the church: so the covenant is proposed as their covenant. And the spiritual prisoners are delivered, in virtue of this their covenant, which certainly must be the covenant of grace. By all which it appears, that the covenant of grace is the very same covenant that was made with Christ, in respect of whom it is called the covenant of redemption.
Inference 2. Like as all mankind sinned in Adam, so believers obeyed and suffered in Christ the second Adam. For as the covenant of works being made with Adam as a public person and representative, all sinned in him, when he broke that covenant; so the covenant of grace being made with Christ, as a public person and representative, all believers obeyed and suffered in him, when he so fulfilled this covenant. This is the doctrine of the apostle, Rom. 5:19, "œAs by one man´s disobedience many were made sinners: so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Chap. 8:3, "œGod sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh;" ver. 4, "œThat the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." 2 Cor. 5:21, "œThat we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Gal. 2:20, "œI am crucified with Christ." And it affords a solid answer for believers, unto the law´s demand of obedience and suffering for life and salvation.
Inference 3. Believers are justified immediately, by the righteousness of Christ, without any righteousness of their own intervening; even as all men are condemned, upon Adam´s sin, before they have done any good or evil in their own persons. Rom. 5:18, "œAs by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." And thus believers are righteous before God with the self same righteousness which was wrought by Jesus Christ, in his fulfilling the covenant. The which righteousness is not imputed to them in its effects only; so as their faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, are therefore accepted as their evangelical righteousness, on which they are justified: but it is imputed to them in itself, even as Adam´s sin was.
Inference 4. The covenant of grace is absolute, and not conditional to us. For being made with Christ, as representative of his seed, all the conditions of it were laid on him, and fulfilled by him. Wherefore all that remains of it to be accomplished, is, the fulfilling of the promises unto him and his spiritual seed; even as it would have been in the case of the first covenant, if once the first Adam had fulfilled the condition thereof.
Inference 5. The covenant of grace is a contrivance of infinite wisdom and love, worthy to be embraced by poor sinners, as well ordered in all things and sure, 2 Sam. 23:5. O, admirable contrivance of help for a desperate case! Wonderful contrivance of a covenant of God with them who were incapable of standing in the presence of his holiness, or of performing the least condition for life and salvation! A new bargain for the relief of lost sinners made on the highest terms with those who were not able to come up to the lowest terms! Infinite wisdom found out the way, to wit, by a representative. The love of the Father engaged him to propose the representation; and the love of the Son engaged him to accept of it. Thus God had one, with whom he might contract with the safety of his honour; and who was able to fulfil the covenant, to the reparation of the injuries done to his glory: and sinners also had one able to act for them, and to purchase salvation for them at the hand of a holy just God. So a sure covenant was made, and a firm foundation laid, upon which God laid the weight of his honour, and on which sinners may safely lay their whole weight: "œTherefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion a sure foundation: he that believeth, shall not make haste," Isa. 28:16, "œshall not be ashamed," Rom. 9:33.
Inference 6. Lastly, The way to enter personally into the covenant of grace, so as to partake of the benefits thereof, unto salvation, is, to unite with Christ the head of the covenant by faith. Being thus ingrafted into him, ye shall partake of all that happiness which is secured to Christ mystical, in the everlasting covenant: even as through your becoming children of Adam, by natural generation, ye are personally entered into the first covenant, so as to fall under that sin and death which passed upon all men, by the breach thereof, Rom. 5:12.
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