John Brown of Haddington On Conditions In The Covenant Of Grace

When condition is improperly taken, and signifies no more than what particular duties as performed must, in the order of nature, precede the enjoyment of particular promised benefits, many things may be called conditions; for holiness must precede eternal happiness…. True repentance of sin must precede God’s fatherly pardon of it… And as faith is particularly required in the public dispensation of this covenant by the gospel…and is the appointed instrument by which God communicates, and we receive the blessings of it… it is more frequently called the condition of it, by divines: and indeed might be called a condition of connection in it. But when condition is taken properly for that which, when fulfilled, give gives the covenanters for right to claim the promised reward, nothing but the finished righteousness of Jesus Christ, by which all the demands of the broken covenant of works are fully satisfied, can be allowed as the condition of this covenant. 1. Christ took upon himself the whole death of his elect world,—all that of which the payment secures them from eternal death…and entitles them to eternal life…—nothing can remain there for to be fulfilled by them, as the proper condition of this covenant….

… 6. As our faith, repentance, and new obedience, by no means, answer the demands of the broken law, so, instead of being proper conditions of this covenant of grace, they are all in estimable benefits promised in it, upon the footing of its fulfilled condition…

—John Brown of Haddington, Systematic Theology: A Compendious View of Natural And Revealed Religion (repr. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 235, 235. Note: The ellipses signal the omission of Bible references. Emphasis original.

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  1. Great quote, thanks. Here are a couple from Owen in agreement.

    on Heb 8:6

    “The old covenant, in the preceptive part of it, renewed the commands of the covenant of works, and that on their original terms. Sin it forbade, — that is, all and every sin, in matter and manner, — on the pain of death; and gave the promise of life unto perfect, sinless obedience only: whence the decalogue itself, which is a transcript of the law of works, is called “the covenant,” Exodus 34:28. And besides this, as we observed before, it had other precepts innumerable, accommodated unto the present condition of the people, and imposed on them with rigor. But in the new covenant, the very first thing that is proposed, is the accomplishment and establishment of the covenant of works, both as unto its commands and sanction, in the obedience and suffering of the mediator. Hereon the commands of it, as unto the obedience of the covenanters, are not grievous; the yoke of Christ being easy, and his burden light.”

    On Heb 8:10-12

    “A covenant properly is a compact or agreement on certain terms mutually stipulated by two or more parties. As promises are the foundation and rise of it, as it is between God and man, so it compriseth also precepts, or laws of obedience, which are prescribed unto man on his part to be observed. But in the description of the covenant here annexed, there is no mention of any condition on the part of man, of any terms of obedience prescribed unto him, but the whole consists in free, gratuitous promises, as we shall see in the explication of it…

    It is evident that there can be no condition previously required, unto our entering into or participation of the benefits of this covenant, antecedent unto the making of it with us… It is contrary unto the nature, ends, and express properties of this covenant. For there is nothing that can be thought or supposed to be such a condition, but it is comprehended in the promise of the covenant itself; for all that God requireth in us is proposed as that which himself will effect by virtue of this covenant…

    God doth work the grace of the covenant, and communicate the mercy of it, antecedently unto all ability for the performance of any such duty…

    5. It is evident that the first grace of the covenant, or God’s putting his law in our hearts, can depend on no condition on our part. For whatever is antecedent thereunto, being only a work or act of corrupted nature, can be no condition whereon the dispensation of spiritual grace is superadded. And this is the great ground of them who absolutely deny the covenant of grace to be conditional; namely, that the first grace is absolutely promised, whereon and its exercise the whole of it doth depend.

    6. Unto a full and complete interest in all the promises of the covenant, faith on our part, from which evangelical repentance is inseparable, is required. But whereas these also are wrought in us by virtue of that promise and grace of the covenant which are absolute, it is a mere strife about words to contend whether they may be called conditions or no. Let it be granted on the one hand, that we cannot have an actual participation of the relative grace of this covenant in adoption and justification, without faith or believing; and on the other, that this faith is wrought in us, given unto us, bestowed upon us, by that grace of the covenant which depends on no condition in us as unto its discriminating administration, and I shall not concern myself what men will call it.”

  2. Kline. God, Heaven and Har Magedon (Wipf & Stock, 2006, p 102 )—-Abraham’s obedience had typological import. The Lord constituted it a prophetic sign of that obedience of Christ, which merits the heavenly kingdom for his people. Abraham’s obedience functioned not only as the authentication of his faith for his personal justification but as a meritorious performance that earned a reward for others . . .” .

    “Abraham’s faithful performance of his covenantal duty is here clearly declared to sustain a causal relationship to the blessing of Isaac and Israel. It had a meritorious character that procured a reward enjoyed by others… Because of Abraham’s obedience redemptive history would take the shape of an Abrahamite kingdom of God from which salvation’s blessings would rise up and flow out to the nations. God was pleased to constitute Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come… The obedient Abraham, the faithful covenant servant, was a type of the Servant of the Lord in his obedience.”

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