With Whom was the Covenant of Grace Made?

Here is Samuel Rutherford:

…the Reprobate in the Visible Church, be so under the Covenant of Grace, as some promises are made to them, and some mercies promised to them conditionally, and some reserved speciall promises of a new heart, and of perseverance belong not to them. For all the promises belong not in the same way, to the parties visibly and externally, and to the parties internally and personally in Covenant with God. So the Lord promiseth life and forgiveness shall be given to these who are externally in the covenant, providing they believe, but the Lord promiseth not a new heart and grace to believe, to these that are only externally in the covenant. And yet he promiseth both to the elect.

Hence the Covenant must be considered two ways, in abstracto and formally, in the letter as a simple way of saving sinners, so they believe, so all within the Visible Church are in the Covenant of Grace, and so it contains only the will of precept. 2. In the concrete, as the Lord carries on the Covenant in such and such a way, commensurably with the decrees of Election and Reprobation; As the Lord not only promises, but acts and ingraves … so the Elect only are under the Covenant of Grace.

There are a number of interesting points here. First this sheds light on how Rutherford would have understood Larger Catechism Q&A 31, namely, that it is speaking of the covenant “in the concrete”. There is also an outward administration of the covenant of grace where it is appropriate to say that “all within the Visible Church are in the Covenant of Grace.” Second, note Rutherford’s insistence that the gospel “promises” (albeit conditional promises) are made to the reprobate. This is in contrast to modern reformed critics of the free offer, who deny this. I’ve got a rather large section in the dissertation on this 🙂

Things are progressing well on the dissertation, although it always take longer to tidy up a chapter than anticipated!

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