Ralph Erskine: Israel Going About to Establish Their Own Covenant

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Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
(Glad to see after coming across this excerpt that @Reformed Covenanter posted an excerpt nearly two years ago of Ebenezer Erskine preaching the same day and in the very same assembly as Ralph Erskine did; interesting history indeed.)

Deuteronomy 26:17-18 — Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;

I know the way wherein some go to work, in commenting upon this, and such like texts, is, as if there were but one mutual covenant between God and them here spoken of; whereof their part was a promise and oath of obedience ; and God’s part, a promise, that upon that condition he would do so and so for them ; and thus turning it to a covenant of works, with stipulation and restipulation. But, we have not so learned Christ, nor the truth as it is in him, as to conceive it in this manner : it was a gross view of it, this way, that made the most part of that Israel of God, so soon to break all their engagements ; they made a covenant of duty with God, without taking hold on God’s covenant of grace, exhibit to them ; and hence they so perfidiously [treacherously] break their covenant : and therefore, when God returned to them, he put them in mind of his covenant which they had forgotten, and put a difference between that covenant of theirs, and his covenant; “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth,” — and” thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed ;” and I will do so and so for thee, “but not by thy covenant,” Ezek. xvi. 60, 61.

Whatever peculiar privileges, and temporal blessings, were promised to Israel of old, yet they being all typical of spiritual blessings, and the heavenly Canaan ; and however dark this legal Old Testament dispensation was, yet it was a covenant of grace they were under : and hence they were under a special obligation to serve and obey him in a covenant of duty. The foundation and ground of this their covenant of duty, and the grand encouragement they had to enter into it, namely, God’s covenant of grace and promise, wherein he avouches them to be his ; and promises to make them a holy and happy people : and happy would they all have been for ever, if they all had taken hold of this covenant of promise. But though a promise was left to them, yet many of them entered not into the earthly Canaan, nor to the heavenly either, “because of their unbelief,” Heb. iii. 19. They were not all Israel that were of Israel. They were all avouched to be God’s people in an external federal way, as they were a visible church in general ; but there was only a small remnant that were his people, in a special, internal, spiritual, and distinguished sense, as being true believers, who laid hold on his covenant of grace, in order to their being capable to stand to their covenant of duty, and so show themselves to be his dutiful and peculiar people : however, the outward dispensation of the covenant of promise respected them all equally, that they might build their engagement to duty, upon this foundation of God’s covenant of grace, wherein alone their furniture for all duty was provided.

Ralph Erskine, Covenanted Grace for Covenanting Work: A sermon preached at Stirling, December 28, 1743. in the evening of that day, on which the ministers of the Associate Presbytery did, with uplifted hands, solemnly renew the National Covenants

I found this to be a very edifying and succinct summary of Israel of old, and also found it to be very alike to Wilhelmus' pointing out that Israel had severed Christ (the reality and substance) from the earthly tokens and signs. Happy and Blessed Lord's Day to all!
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