Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Believers and the Law as a Covenant of Works: Fisher and Boston

Unpacking the believer's relationship to the Law:
Evan. For the true and clear understanding of this point, you are to consider, that when Jesus Christ, the second Adam, had, in the behalf of his chosen, perfectly fulfilled the law as it is the covenant of works; 10 divine justice delivered that bond in to Christ, who utterly cancelled that hand-writing, (Col 2:14); so that none of his chosen were to have any more to do with it, nor it with them. And now, you, by your believing in Christ, having manifested that you are one, who was chosen in him "before the foundation of the world," (Eph 1:4), his fulfilling of that covenant, and cancelling that hand-writing, is imputed unto you; and so you are acquitted and absolved from all your transgressions against that covenant, either past, present or to come; 11 and so you are justified, as the apostle says, "freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ," (Rom 3:24).
[Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity]
Notes [1] Concerning the deliverance from the law, which, according to the Scripture, is the privilege of believers purchased unto them by Jesus Christ, there are two opinions equally contrary to the word of God, and to one another. The one of the Legalist, That believers are under the law, even as it is the covenant of works; the other of the Antinomian, That believers are not at all under the law, no, not as it is a rule of life. Betwixt these extremes, both of them destructive of true holiness and gospel-obedience, our author, with other orthodox divines, holds the middle path; asserting [and in the proper place proving] that believers are under the law, as a rule of life, but free from it as it is the covenant of works. To be delivered from the law as it is the covenant of works, is no more but to be delivered from the covenant of works. And the asserting, that believers are delivered from the law as it is the covenant of works, doth necessarily import, that they are under the law, in some other respects thereto contra- distinguished. And forasmuch as the author teaches, that believers are under the law, as it is the law of Christ, and a rule of life to them, it is reasonable to conclude that to be it. He must needs, under the term, "the covenant of works," understand and comprehend the law of the ten commandments; because no man, understanding what the covenant of works is, can speak of it, but he must, under that term, understand and comprehend the ten commandments, even as none can speak of a man, with knowledge of a sense of that word, but under that term must understand and comprehend an organic body, as well as a soul. But it is manifest, that the law of the ten commandments, without the form of the covenant of works upon it, is not the thing he understands by that term, "the covenant of works." Neither is the form of the covenant of works [which is no more the covenant itself, than the soul without the body is the man] essential to the ten commandments, so that they cannot be without it. If it be said, that the author, by the covenant of works, understands the moral law, as it is defined, [Larg. Cat. q. 92,] it is granted; but then it amounts to no more, but that, by the covenant of works, he understands the covenant of works; for by the moral law there, is understood the covenant of works, as has been already evinced.  
The doctrine of believers' freedom from the covenant of works, or from the law as that covenant, is of the greatest importance, and is expressly taught. [Larg. Cat. q. 97.] "they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law, as a covenant of works," (Rom 6:14, 7:4,6, Gal 4:4,5) West. confess. chap. 19, art. 6."True believers be not under the law as a covenant of works." To these I subjoin one testimony, from the Prac. Use of Saving Knowledge, tit. "For Strengthening the Man's Faith," etc. Romans 7, fig. 3, "Albeit the apostle himself [brought in here for example's cause] and all other true believers in Christ, be by nature under the law of sin and death, or under the covenant of works; [called the law of sin and death, because it bindeth sin and death upon us, till Christ set us free;] yet the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, or the covenant of grace, [so called because it doth enable and quicken a man to a spiritual life through Christ,] doth set the apostle, and all true believers, free from the covenant of works, or the law of sin and death." See more, ibid. fig. 4. As also tit. "For convincing a man of Judgment by the Law," par. 2, and last. And tit. "Evidences of true Faith." And tit. "For the First," etc. fig. 4.  
Now, delivering from a covenant being the dissolution of a relation which admits not of degrees, believers being delivered from the covenant of works, must be wholly and altogether set free from it. 
This appears also from the believers' being dead to it, and it dead to him, of which before at large.  
There is a twofold death competent to a believer with respect to the law, as it is the covenant of works; and so to the law as such, with respect to the believer. (1.) The believer is dead to it really, and in point of duty, while he carries himself as one who is dead to it. And this I take to be comprehended in that saying of the apostle, (Gal 2:19), "I through the law am dead to the law." In the best of the children of God here, there are such remains of the legal disposition and inclination of heart to the way of the covenant of works, that as they are never quite free of it in their best duties, so at sometimes their services smell so rank of it, as if they were alive to the law, and still dead to Christ. And sometimes the Lord for their correction, trial, and exercise of faith, suffers the ghost of the dead husband, the law, as a covenant of works, to come in upon their souls and make demands on them, command, threaten, and affright them, as if they were alive to it, and it to them. And it is one of the hardest pieces of practical religion, to be dead to the law in such cases. This death to it admits of degrees, is not alike in all believers, and is perfect in none till the death of the body. But of this kind of death to the law, the question proceeds not here. (2.) The believer is dead to it relatively, and in point of privilege; the relation betwixt him and it is dissolved, even as the relation between a husband and wife is dissolved by death; (Rom 7:4), "Wherefore, my brethren ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another." This can admit of no degrees, but it is perfect in all believers; so that they are wholly and altogether set free from it, in point of privilege, upon which the question here proceeds, and in this respect they can expect neither good nor hurt from it. 
[Thomas Boston notes on The Marrow of Modern Divinity]

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