Thomas Boston on “merit” and the covenant of works

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
... The right that Adam could have pled to eternal life in heaven, by virtue of his obedience, was entirely founded on the covenant. If God had not revealed to him the promise of it, he could not have known that he should have had it, nor could he have demanded it. The natural law had no such promise. And here was more grace in the covenant of works. And therefore it is no wonder, that though men overturn the gospel-doctrine of free grace, yet they will not take with it. The Pharisees of old, Luke xviii. 11, and the Papists to this day, own free grace in their profession; and what wonder, since innocent Adam, pleading life upon his works, could not have denied but he was debtor to free grace? But here lies the matter; they pat in their own works, their repentance, holiness, and obedience, (turning faith into a work, that it may go in with the rest), between free grace and them, making themselves but debtors to it at second hand for life and salvation.

And if one shall tell sinners, Here you are to do or work nothing for life and salvation, but only receive the free grace gift of life and salvation from Christ by faith, and be debtors at first hand; though withal we tell them, that repentance, holiness, obedience, and good works, are the inseparable attendants of faith; they cry out, Error, Antinomianism, Licentious doctrine! Yet it is the doctrine of the gospel, Tit. iii. 5; Eph. ii. 8. And it is not the doctrine of the gospel, nor does the apostle say, “By grace ye are saved, through works;” for so would Adam have been saved according to the covenant of works, being debtor to free grace at the second hand, which the proud Pharisee was content to be. It is true, Adam’s obedience was perfect, ours is not; but buying is buying still, though one buy ten times below the worth, as well as when he buys at the full value. ...

For more, see Thomas Boston on “merit” and the covenant of works.
 
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