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relationship of COG to Social Covenants

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  • ghowm
    Hi Friends, I am researching the relationship between social covenants and the Covenant of Grace. I have some material on the subject but would like to find
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 1, 2007
      Hi Friends,

      I am researching the relationship between social covenants and the
      Covenant of Grace. I have some material on the subject but would like
      to find more discussions. Can any one help/advise with references

      Garnet Milne
    • gmw
      Hello Gary! Good to see you here! Our family enjoyed listening to another one of your sermons this morning... thank you! I don t know if it is one of the
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 1, 2007
        Hello Gary!

        Good to see you here!  Our family enjoyed listening to another one of your sermons this morning... thank you!

        I don't know if it is one of the resources you've looked at in this study, but the Auchensaugh Renovation of the Covenants , in the historical introduction, mentions the following:

        "It is the ineffable product of eternal love, and infinite condescension in God toward his rational creatures, that ever he was pleased to make a covenant with them, and not to command and require obedience to his holy and just will, by virtue of his most absolute supremacy and rightful dominion only; but even to superadd sweet and precious promises, as a reward of that obedience, which he might of right have required, without giving any such incitements or pursuasives to it. And as no tongue of men or angels is sufficient to express, no strength of imagination to conceive, no sublimity of intellectual faculties to comprehend the depth of that spring, and breadth of that ocean of unbounded love, which hath exerted itself in God's covenanting with man; yea, with sinful man, by means of a Mediator: so shall it always afford matter of wonder and admiration to all finite and intelligent beings, to the ages of eternity, and shall never be comprehended by any, but by him whose understanding is infinite; wherefore He, who is all-sufficient and self-sufficient, should invite, yea, press and entreat unworthy indigent nothings, the sinful children of men to such an incomparable degree of honor, dignity and advancement, as that is, to enter into a covenant relation, and come into a solemn treaty of peace and conjunction with Him, who is infinitely removed beyond all blessing and all praise. To have this invitation, is indeed the honor and privilege of all within the visible church, to whose ears the joyful sound of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ hath come; but few are so wise as to accept and approve it. Many, too many, account themselves unworthy of this honor, and by despising this privilege, and rejecting this dignity, deprive themselves of the greatest happiness; but as all nations, upon whom the day-star of the gospel hath arisen, have had the invitation to this duty, and all sound and real believers have actually participated of this honor, to have God making a covenant with them, and they striking hands with Him through a Mediator (which covenant is commonly termed the Covenant of Grace,) so these three kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland conjunctly, and Scotland by itself, as an independent nation, had in an eminent way and manner the honor, above most nations in the world, to dedicate and surrender themselves to the Lord, by a most voluntary, free and deliberate choice, and to come under the bond of a most solemn oath, in a most religious manner, devoting their all to Christ, his interest and honor, the flourishing and thriving of his kingdom, the success of his gospel, and reformation of his churches; and openly avouching him for their Lord and Master, to the honor of his name, and confusion of his enemies; which Covenants National and Solemn League, though we look not upon them to be the same with the covenant of grace, yet we conceive of them as a solemn superadded and new obligation, tying us to all the duties, as well of a particular Christian conversation, as these which tend to the public and national advancement of reformation in religion, whereof the covenant of grace is the spring and foundation."

        And later,  describing points made in Mr. MacMillan's sermon, we read that true Covenanters must be partakers of the Covenant of Grace:

        "Such as would make a covenant with God aright, so as the same may never be broken nor yet forgotten, must labor to know if they be in good terms with the God of the covenant, and with the Mediator of the covenant; if they sincerely closed with the terms, and acquiesced to the proposals of the covenant of grace; this personal and particular acceptance of Christ in the new covenant being the only fountain of acceptable entering into national covenants. Hence it concerns all that would be right Covenanters, to search and see how it may be betwixt God and them, because 'tis but a profanation of the covenant to have the hand and tongue at it, and the heart from it: a well informed head without a reformed heart is not sufficient: a good opinion and liking of the covenant without a heart and affection to the covenant avails nothing in God's sight."

        Also, in James R. Willson's The Written Law -- The Rule of Duty to Christian Nations , quoted on the Covenanted Reformation Club's homepage, Willson writes,

        Christ as her King is called the church's husband. 'ThyMaker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name.' Isai. 54:5. 'As ayoung man marrieth a virgin so shall thy sons marry thee.' By enteringinto the marriage relation the husband becomes endowed with authority asthe head of his wife. 'For the husband is the head of the wife, even asChrist is the Head of the church.' Eph. 5:23. In the covenant of graceChrist engaged, before the world began, to espouse the church to himself;and in the gospel he offers himself to the sinner for acceptance in thischaracter. In faith the offer is accepted, and a solemn covenant—a marriagecovenant, is consummated between the Lord Jesus and the believer. "Saiththe Lord, I am married to you." Jeremiah 3:14. The church on the footingof the covenant of grace enters, as often the church did in Israel, andas did the churches of Macedonia in the apostolic age, into solemn publiccovenant with Christ, to whom she swears allegiance as her King, Lord andHusband. This is public, ecclesiastical covenanting. On account of thisentering into covenant with God, in the National  of Scotland, and in the Solemn League and Covenant, and for adhering to them down to our own times,Reformed Presbyterians have been called Covenanters."

        Is this the sort of thing you're looking for?  Or is there something else in particular you're looking for?

        One of your friends in Penn's Woods,


        --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "ghowm" <garnetmilne@...> wrote:
        > Hi Friends,
        > I am researching the relationship between social covenants and the
        > Covenant of Grace. I have some material on the subject but would like
        > to find more discussions. Can any one help/advise with references
        > please?
        > Garnet Milne
        > www.covenantedreformation.org.nz
        > www.reformationtestimony.org.nz
      • humbled.learner
        Dear Garnet, since you have not mentioned your references, I will provide a few quotes that you likely already have, but might be helpful to others who find
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 1, 2007
          Dear Garnet, since you have not mentioned your references, I will
          provide a few quotes that you likely already have, but might be
          helpful to others who find your question interesting:

          "The distance between God and the creatures is so great, that although
          reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet
          they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and
          reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He
          hath been pleased to express by way of covenant." (Isa.40:13-17;
          Job9:32-33; 1Sam.2:25; Ps.113:5-6; Ps.100:2-3; Job22:2-3, 35:7-8;
          Lk.17:10; Acts17:24-25) The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), Ch.7:1

          A Short Vindication of our Covenanted Reformation, a committee of the
          Reformed Presbytery in North America wrote:

          "It is competent to collective bodies of people as well as individuals
          to "take hold of God's covenant," Is.56:4. A family, church or nation,
          being a moral person, has a warrant from God to enter into his
          covenant. Deut.29:12. And all individuals, families, churches or
          nations that refuse to do so, he expressly disowns. They are Lo-ammi,
          "not my people." Hos.1:9. They are "aliens from the commonwealth of
          Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise." Eph.2:12. And
          since this is true of all who reject the offer of the gospel, "They
          are not my people;" how great is the guilt of those who violate the
          covenant! By the infidelity of a wife to her husband, our gracious God
          often teaches us how to estimate breach of covenant with him.

          Moreover, God has endowed man with power to "bind his soul with a
          bond." Num.30:2; and more, to bind others. Deut.5:2,3; and he commands
          us to exercise this power; for the first precept of the moral law
          "requires us to know and acknowledge the Lord (Jehovah) to be the true
          God and our God." Provision has been made in our social and moral
          nature for the use of this divine ordinance. All nations, barbarous or
          civilized, for confirmation, resort to oaths, vows, lots, and
          covenants. "Men verily swear," not Jews and Christians only; and we
          read of "a man's covenant." Heb.6:16, Gal.3:15. Indeed the formation,
          as well as the continuance of human society, depends upon the right
          use of these securities. They are the cords and bands which the one
          Lawgiver has ordained to secure his own glory and the welfare of mankind."

          "Again, they testify and declare, that the work of solemn covenanting
          with a God in Christ, is a duly warranted in the scriptures of the Old
          and New Testament, and by the examples of the godly, agreeable
          thereto; and that not only to individuals in particular, but to
          churches, and nations in general. Which covenants once entered into,
          and being for the matter of them lawful, are most sacred, and
          therefore inviolably binding; and what cannot be broken or
          transgressed, without manifest guilt, and incurring the dreadful
          resentment of a holy and jealous God, who has severely threatened to
          punish covenant-breakers. And hence they assert, that the National
          Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant entered into
          by the three nations, for reformation and defense of religion, and for
          the maintenance and preservation of the truths and ordinances of God
          in purity, and sworn by our honored ancestors, not only for
          themselves, but including also their posterity, are of divine
          authority, as having their foundation upon the word of God; therefore
          moral, and so perpetually binding upon the nations, and every
          individual of them to the latest posterity. Wherefore, the presbytery
          testify against the principle of refusing the lawfulness of national
          covenanting, particularly, under the New Testament dispensation, and
          all principles and practices that strike against the moral obligation
          of these covenants; see Deut. 6:13; Isa. 9:18, and 44: 5; Jer. 1:5;
          Deut, 29:12 to 16, 24,25; Lev. 26:25,26; Josh. 9:14,15,18,19; 2 Sam.
          21:1; Ezek. 16:59, and 17:15,16,18,19; Hos. 10:4; Gal. 3:15; 2 Cor.
          8:5. See also acts and ordinances both of church and state in times of
          reformation, respecting the taking, and binding obligation, of the
          covenants." Act, Declaration, And Testimony, For The Whole Of Our
          Covenanted Reformation, As Attained To, And Established In, Britain
          And Ireland; Particularly Betwixt The Years 1638 And 1649, Inclusive.
          As, Also, Against All The Steps Of Defection From Said Reformation,
          Whether In Former Or Later Times, Since The Overthrow Of That Glorious
          Work, Down To This Present Day.

          The following reference is not necessarily a direct correlation
          between social covenanting and the covenant of Grace, however, it does
          provide some helpful references in regard to how a "moral person" has
          been viewed by several theological authors, as well as the implication
          of covenanting with those outside the covenant of Grace.

          This is part of a Session Response from my Elders completed in 1999
          and is only part of the response to my questions I posed. I can say
          that nearly 8 years after this decision was rendered for me, it was
          very helpful in my own personal and business endeavors.

          "Walt Question: 1a. What is a moral person as defined by man's law
          (e.g. Christian common law, common law, canon law, law of nations,
          international law, civil law, criminal law, military law, etc.) and
          God's law (e.g. Scripture)?

          This question depends upon a multitude of particular circumstances
          which are too numerous to be presently described. A "moral person," as
          regarded by man's law, may change radically over the circumstances of
          time, place and national religion. For example Compare the following
          questions: What did heathen Rome, at the time of Christ, consider a
          moral person to be, versus, what did the heathen United States of
          America in 1999, consider a moral person to be, versus, what does
          heathen world international law (at least those nations who subscribe)
          in 1999 consider a moral person to be? The answer to this question
          goes beyond the ability and time of your elders. To answer this
          question properly, it ought to be referred to a legal historian, and
          we very much question whether even a council of legal historians could
          give anything more than a mere doubtful opinion upon this matter.
          Please let us know more specifically why you think this is relevant to
          your present business dealings. Presently, we do not see this question
          being crucial enough to spend hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of
          hours to determine a mere conjecture about what heathen think of the
          definition of a moral person. We, of course, remain quick to listen,
          easy to be entreated, and humbly willing to be convinced otherwise.

          The question we can determine from Scripture is What will the faithful
          governments of the future millennium determine a moral person to be
          and upon which principle "ought" they to act?

          To this we submit the following citations for your inspection:

          It may tend to cast some light on this matter, to state a few of the
          differences betwixt the obligation to duty by the moral law, and that
          of the church's covenants. ***The obligation of the church's covenants
          is distinct from the obligation of the law. It is not independent of
          the law, nor separate from it; but the obligation of the one may be
          distinguished from that of the other.*** Christians are under an
          obligation to perform duties, by the authority of God in his law; and
          they are, at the same time, under an obligation to perform the same
          duties, by their own act, whereby they have bound themselves to
          practice them. ***The obligation of the law is primary and supreme;
          that of the church's covenants is secondary and subordinate
          thereunto.*** The obligation of vows and covenants, both as to the
          matter and manner thereof, may always be examined by the rule of the
          law; but that which we know to be the law of God is not, as to its
          rectitude and obligation, the subject of any such examination. ***The
          obligation of the law is necessary unto the very being of the rational
          creature; that of our covenants is not so.*** It is impossible for
          them to exist, without being under the obligation of the divine law;
          but the greater part of them are not under the obligation of religious
          covenants. An act of the creature is necessary to bring us under
          obligation of vows and covenants; but no such act is requisite to
          subject us to the obligation of the moral law. The obligation of our
          covenants with God reaches to time only; but that of the law of God
          extends to eternity. By the former, we bind ourselves to sincere,
          though but imperfect obedience, but by the latter, we are divinely
          bound to perfection. In the law, God, who is its glorious author,
          binds us to obedience, by his own authority; but, by our promises,
          vows and covenants, we bind ourselves to be the Lord's people, and to
          serve him.

          The moral law is the directing standard, by which these solemn
          transactions of the church are to be regulated. The regulations of the
          law, concerning these acts of the creatures, respect both the matter
          of them, and the manner of their performance. As the directions of the
          law respect the matter of our vows and covenants, they indispensably
          require, that the things we bind ourselves to perform be agreeable to
          the law, and in nothing contrary to the precepts of the word. If they
          are otherwise, our vows and covenants are null and void in their
          obligation; and it is sinful to fulfill them (Archibald Mason,
          Observations on the Public Covenants, see www.covenanter.org, emphasis

          Thus, we note that all rational beings are under the law of God, and
          thereby have a duty and corresponding moral obligation to covenant
          publicly and socially. Generally, even heathen civil governments
          recognize this fact although, as is common to tyrants, they abuse that
          which is intended for their good.

          The obligation of our covenants with God is also evident, from the
          binding force of human contracts between man and man. It is a natural
          dictate of reason, which is confirmed by the word of God, that the
          promises, oaths and covenants of men with one another, oblige the
          parties to fulfill them; and that their failing therein, or acting
          contrary thereto, is a great evil. If our promises, oaths and
          covenants with our fellow creatures, bring us under a moral
          obligation, and bind us to fulfill them; must not our promises, oaths
          and covenants with the most high God, contain in them a moral
          obligation to perform duty to him? (Archibald Mason, Observations on
          the Public Covenants, see www.covenanter.org, emphasis added).

          Add to this the testimony of Thomas Sproul:

          Covenanting with God is the swearing of an oath of fidelity to him. It
          is the act of subjects engaging in the most solemn manner to be true
          to their king. This was the import of the covenant entered into by the
          kingdom of Judah at the inauguration of Joash: "And Jehoiada made a
          covenant between the Lord, and the king and the people, that they
          should be the Lord's people." 2 Kings, 11:17. God's right to men is
          not based on any conventional arrangement between him and them. It is
          original and absolute. "All souls are mine." "It is he that made us,
          and not we ourselves, we are his people." It is however their
          indispensable duty, as rational and moral creatures, to recognize that
          relation which by a divine constitution they sustain to their Creator;
          and to give all the security which he requires, that they will be his
          true and faithful subjects. It is perfectly reasonable that
          intelligent beings governed by moral laws, should give their consent
          to that constitution under which Infinite Wisdom has placed them, and
          swear allegiance to the "Lord of the whole earth," by whom it is
          administered. There is something analogous to this in the constitution
          of human governments. Nations usually require an oath of allegiance in
          order to citizenship. And though the principle has been wickedly
          misapplied, by requiring of men oaths of fidelity to governments that
          are not in a state of voluntary subjection to the Lord and his
          Anointed, yet the fact that they do so, demonstrates that men have
          naturally, some sense of the duty of covenanting (Thomas Sproul, The
          Duty of Social Covenanting Illustrated and Enforced, www.covenanter.org).

          Though heathen nations, by the light of nature, understand that they
          have an obligation to fulfill God's law, and to act responsibly, as
          both individuals and societies, they, nevertheless, pervert this
          precious truth into a means whereby they might attain to their own
          selfish ends. Thankfully God, in His omnipotent power will change all

          Sproul continues:

          In support of this position we adduce the very remarkable prophecy in
          Isaiah 19:18 21, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt
          speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts In that
          day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of
          Egypt and the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall
          know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea
          they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and perform it." Without examining
          minutely into the precise time and circumstances of the fulfillment of
          this prophecy, it is sufficient for our present purpose to show, that
          it refers to a time yet future, and of course under the New Testament
          dispensation. No "altar has yet been erected to the Lord in the land
          of Egypt" "the Egyptians have not yet known the Lord nor done
          sacrifice and oblation." As the prophecy is yet to be fulfilled; so
          the promise connected with it remains to be performed. When "the great
          city which spiritually is called Egypt," Rev. 11:8, shall have "an
          altar to the Lord" in its midst and a "pillar to the Lord at its
          border" the worship of God established in its purity in the church and
          the law of the Lord made the main "pillar" of the political
          superstructure when the inhabitants of the city shall do sacrifice and
          oblation then five cities "the cities of the nations," Rev. 16:19,
          "shall swear to the Lord of hosts." These predictions containing
          promises of good to the subjects of them are preceptive. What God has
          said they shall do, he commands them to perform. It is the duty of not
          only five cities of mystical Egypt, but of all its cities of all the
          cities and kingdoms on the face of the earth to swear to the Lord of
          hosts to vow a vow and perform it. And in this way will "the kingdoms
          of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and
          he shall reign for ever and ever (Thomas Sproul, The Duty of Social
          Covenanting Illustrated and Enforced, www.covenanter.org).

          Thus, Egypt and most other political corporations (cities, provinces,
          nations etc.) of this world will eventually repent, covenant, and bow
          the knee to our Lord and King. Those who refuse will be destroyed. One
          way or the other these moral persons will be brought to do what they
          ought to have been doing all along subjecting themselves, for
          conscience sake, to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

          Next, Pastor David Scott explains the Biblical concept of a moral person:

          1. Ecclesiastical and national societies are moral persons.***By a
          moral person I mean that each of these kinds of society has an
          understanding and a will of its own, by which it perceives,
          deliberates, determines and acts.*** An individual person, is one that
          has the power of understanding and willing; ***the name moral person
          is therefore applied to a society, having an understanding and a will
          common to the whole body, by which, though made up of a vast number of
          individuals, it possesses the power of knowing, deliberating,
          determining, and acting. A moral person may enter into contracts and
          covenant obligations; and these are as valid when entered into, as the
          covenant obligations of individual persons.*** [Walter, this would
          include corporations PRCE] Being moral persons, churches and nations
          are capable of entering into covenant with God; and that it is their
          duty to do so, I have demonstrated in the preceding section. Such
          obligation, when constituted agreeably to the will of God, are
          necessarily perpetual; for it is not the individuals merely of which
          the society consists, but the society itself, as a moral person, that
          covenants. In the case of personal covenanting, no one will question
          that the covenant obligation extends throughout the whole life of the
          individual; the same principle prevails in relation to social
          covenanting: the obligation extends throughout the duration of the
          moral person.

          2. The church is a permanently existing body. It has undergone,
          indeed, several changes in its external administration, but it is the
          same now that it was when first constituted. The church in the
          wilderness of Sinai is identical with the church in the days of Adam
          and Eve, and continues still the same moral person in the nineteenth
          century. The removal by death of individual members, does not destroy
          the identity of the moral person, which remains unaffected by the
          removal of a thousand generations. Covenant obligation entered into by
          the church, in any given period, continues of perpetual obligation
          throughout all succeeding generations, and that too, on the recognized
          principle that the church continues the same moral person.

          3. National society does not possess an undying constitution like that
          of the church, it may be dissolved; and history presents a vast number
          of instances of the entire dissolution of nations. But the obligation
          created by national covenanting, extends throughout the duration of
          the society, because it is a moral person; and if the perpetuity of
          the obligation may be limited, it is limited only by the moral person
          ceasing to exist (David Scott, Distinctive Principles of the Reformed
          Presbyterian Church, pp. 61 63, 1841, emphases added).

          Add to this the teaching of Thomas Houston where he further explains
          the nature of federal obligations:

          The principle of continued or transmissible federal obligation is not
          liable to the objections that have been urged against it, and is no
          novelty. We do not make our ancestors a sort of federal head as Adam
          was to the human family, when we allege that our posterity are bound
          by their engagements. This is altogether a misrepresentation of the
          argument on the subject. The descending obligation of the public
          covenants rests upon the essential character of organised society. It
          is the same party in different stages of its existence that is bound
          to moral obedience; and the obligation rests in all its plenitude upon
          the community as the same moral agent, until the whole matter of the
          engagement be fulfilled (Thomas Houston, A Memorial of Covenanting,
          1857, p. 35, emphases added).

          Finally, for a complete Scriptural defence of the necessity and duty
          of social covenanting, we refer you to John Cunningham's book
          entitled, "The Ordinance of Covenanting." Therein you may more
          accurately learn the Scriptural justification necessary for making the
          proper distinctions regarding personal and social covenanting, along
          with the doctrine of the moral person, and the associated binding
          obligations associated with such engagements. We deem it needless to
          enter into Scriptural proof of propositions already admirably and
          faithfully delivered to the church in writing. You will find
          Cunningham's work replete with Scripture proof and accurate logic."

          Hopefully some of this is helpful for you in your research.

          May the Lord be with you,

          --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "ghowm"
          <garnetmilne@...> wrote:
          > Hi Friends,
          > I am researching the relationship between social covenants and the
          > Covenant of Grace. I have some material on the subject but would like
          > to find more discussions. Can any one help/advise with references
          > please?
          > Garnet Milne
          > www.covenantedreformation.org.nz
          > www.reformationtestimony.org.nz
        • Tom
          Hi Gary, Welcome! Tom
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 3, 2007
            Hi Gary,



            --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "ghowm"
            <garnetmilne@...> wrote:
            > Hi Friends,
            > I am researching the relationship between social covenants and the
            > Covenant of Grace. I have some material on the subject but would like
            > to find more discussions. Can any one help/advise with references
            > please?
            > Garnet Milne
            > www.covenantedreformation.org.nz
            > www.reformationtestimony.org.nz
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