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Re: relationship of COG to Social Covenants

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  • 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 1 of 4 , Jul 1, 2007
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      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 2 of 4 , Jul 3, 2007
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        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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