The Covenant of Grace and Baptism

As I work through Durham’s commentary on Revelation I am reminded over and over about the covenant. When I picked up this work I expected to find a fairly standard commentary except for the classic Post Mil Historicist point of view, but I find it is often devotional and always deeply theological. Durham never fails to open up the scriptures with detailed notes and exegesis well before offering any interpretation of prophecy. This has caused me to revisit and think deeply about Baptist covenant theology, what it means to be a Baptist and is it Biblical. While meditating upon this subject I was reminded of the work quoted below and wanted to share.

A selection from the work of Thomas Patient published in 1654 on the subject of the new covenant of grace and its relation to the ordinance of baptism.

The New Covenant Is Not Entailed Upon Any Fleshly Linebaptism

This New Covenant was never entailed upon any fleshly line or generation as the Covenant of Circumcision was, but was confirmed of God in Christ, and to such souls only in Christ. This you find in the promise to Abraham, Gen. 12:3. “In thee shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed.”

Here you may observe that there is no respect of persons in the matter of these blessings to everlasting life. All Nations in Christ, one Nation as well as another, if in Christ, have those blessings promised to them. This much is employed in that promise that all nations out of Him are accursed.

What Is Meant by the Blessedness Promised to Abraham and His Seed

God here directs His speech to Abraham (some may say) it is true, but with respect to Christ now, Who, as touching the flesh, was then in his loins. This blessedness or justification of life which was confirmed in Abraham as a Father of all Nations, is by the Apostle Paul called the Gospel, Gal. 3:8. The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen through Faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham. As it is written, “In thee shall all the Nations of the Earth be blessed:” so this blessedness spoken of in Gen. 12:3 is expounded by Paul, to be justification by faith in Christ, and in Acts 3, this blessedness is there expounded to be a turning of every one of them from their iniquities, Acts 3:26.

The Covenant of Grace in Genesis 15:5

Also, this Gospel promise or covenant is spoken of in Gen. 15:5. Here God bids Abraham look up to the Heavens and if he could number the stars of heaven and the sands upon the seashore, so shall thy seed be. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. This promise is quoted by the apostle Paul as the Gospel Covenant in Rom. 4:3 in opposition to the Covenant of Circumcision entailed upon the flesh or fleshly line of Abraham. Circumcision was a covenant in the flesh as the Apostle calls it, which he also expounds in the 1st and 2nd verses, to be a Covenant of Works. More of that hereafter. Only that which I would observe at present is, that the Apostle confirms that Gospel promise in Gen. 12:3 and Gen. 15:5 to be the New Covenant, wherein was given, through faith, the justification of life, excluding in this point the Covenant of Circumcision, called Works, Rom. 4:1,2.

Both Covenants Were Made With Abraham

Both these covenants are made with Abraham in Gen. 17. Here you find the New Covenant made with him to verse 6. From the 7th verse to the 14th the Covenant of Circumcision in the flesh is revealed to him. The New Covenant is expressed in the third verse. Here He says, “As for Me My covenant shall be with thee, and thou shalt be a Father of many nations, or of a multitude of nations, and thy name shall be no more called Abram but Abraham, for a Father of a multitude of nations have I made thee.” This is, by the Apostle Paul in Rom. 4:17,18, held out to be the Covenant of Life. He does clearly hold the Covenant of Life distinct and different from the Covenant of Circumcision. In that place he denies that Abraham or his spiritual seed, had their justification in the Covenant of Circumcision. He brings in this, that Abraham should be a Father of many nations, “and so shall thy seed be,” as that in which Abraham and his spiritual seed, whether of Jews or Gentiles, were and should be justified.

Genesis 18:18

This promise or Covenant is made with Abraham in Gen. 18:18. “In thee shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed.” So long as Christ was, according to the flesh, in Abraham’s loins, the promise runs thus, “in thee,” meaning that through Christ, which then was in Him, should all nations of the earth be blessed.

The Seed in Isaac

But as soon as Isaac was come out of Abraham’s loins, Gen. 22:18, then He says, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed:” whereby seed, most strictly is to be understood of Christ, as the Apostle Paul intimates in Gal. 3:16 where he expounds this word seed, to be not seeds, as of many, but seed as of one which is Christ. So this blessedness in the Seed, Christ, is here expounded to be God’s confirming His Covenant in Christ. Note that this blessedness which David holds out to be the Covenant confirmed of God in Christ, was not entailed upon the flesh of Abraham and his fleshly seed, but made in Abraham as a Father of all the Spiritual Seed in all nations. It was confirmed in the seed, Christ, to all nations.

Here the Jews, after the flesh, have no more interest than any other nation, except it be by faith. Faith only unites to this seed and gives an in-being in the same.

The Elect Were Blessed and the Rest Were Hardened

This blessedness is expounded by David in Psalm 32, last verse, to lie in remission of sins and purgation of the heart from guile and expounded by the Apostle in Acts 3, last verse, “to be a turning every one from his iniquities.” There Peter expounds this blessedness which was confirmed in Abraham and his seed. Though Christ did fulfill this Covenant to the Elect of the Jews, the rest were hardened. They were never in this sense blessed, either in the point of justification or purgation from sin, because they were never in Christ, the true seed, by faith, nor were they ever the spiritual seed of Abraham, walking in the steps of his faith as all his spiritual seed did, Rom. 4:12 and Gal. 3:29. “If you be in Christ, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Abraham and His Spiritual Seed in Christ Are Those in the Covenant of Grace

I have showed you from the clear light of Scripture that there were two covenants, a Covenant of Grace, and a Covenant of Works. The Covenant of Grace belongs to Abraham and his spiritual seed in Christ. All along from Adam to all the spiritual seed of the Woman, there are those who were born of promise as the Apostle describes the spiritual seed in Rom. 9:8. He says, “such are accounted the seed, that are so born of promise.” So at this day all nations, both Jews and Gentiles who are born again, are the seed and children. They only have an interest in the promise of salvation.

THE Doctrine of Baptism, AND THE Distinction of the COVENANTS; OR A Plain Christian Treatise, explaining the Doctrine of Baptism, and the two Covenants made with Abraham, and his two-fold Seed.

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