Thoughts on the Transcendence and Immanence of God and the Appropriateness of our Boldness to Approach Him as We Are.

Taken and adapted from, “A Practical Exposition on the Lord’s Prayer”
Written by, Ezekiel Hopkins

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Let us consider the words for a moment, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”

Here God is described by two of his most eminent attributes, his grace and his glory, his goodness and his greatness: by the one, in that he is styled “our Father” by the other, in that he is said to be “in heaven”:  and both these are most sweetly tempered together, to beget in us a holy mixture of filial boldness and awful reverence, which are so necessary to the sanctifying of God’s name in all our addresses to him. We are commanded to come to the throne of grace with boldness, Heb. 4:16, and yet to serve God acceptably with reverence, and with godly fear, Heb. 12:28. Yes, and indeed the very calling of it a throne of grace intimates both these affections at once. It is a throne, and therefore requires awe and reverence; but itis a throne of grace too, and therefore permits holy freedom and confidence.

And so we find all along in the prayers of the saints, how they mix the consideration of God’s mercy and his majesty together in the very prefaces and preparations to their prayers. So Neh. 1:5, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him.” So Dan. 9:4, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him.” Now this excellent mixture of awful and encouraging attributes will keep us from both the extremes, of despair on the one hand, and of presumption on the other. He is our Father, and this may correct the despairing fear which might otherwise seize us upon the consideration of his majesty and glory; and he is likewise infinitely glorious, a God whose throne is in the highest heavens, and the earth his footstool. And this may correct the presumptuous irreverence, which else the consideration of God as our Father might perhaps embolden us unto.

To begin with, let us examine the relation of God to us, as a Father.

Now God is a Father three ways. 1. God is a Father by eternal generation.  2 By temporal creation and providence.  3.By spiritual regeneration and adoption.

1. God is a Father by eternal generation…

…having by an inconceivable and ineffable way begotten his Son, God co-equal, co-eternal, with himself, and therefore called, “The only-begotten Son of God,” John 3:16. Thus God is a Father only to our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his Divine nature. And whenever this title “Father” is given to God, with relation to the eternal sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, it denotes only the first Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, who is therefore chiefly and especially called the Father.

2. God is the Father by temporal creation, as he gives a being and existence to his creatures…

…creating those whom he made rational after his own image and similitude. And therefore God is said to be a “Father of spirits,” Heb. 12:9. And the angels are called the sons of God, “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord,” Job 1:6. And so Adam upon the account of his creation is called the Son of God, Luke 3:38, where the evangelist runs up the genealogy of mankind till it terminates in God, “Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”

3. God is said to be a Father by spiritual regeneration and adoption…

.and so all true believers are said to be the sons of God, and to be born of God, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:12, 13. So we are said to receive “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” For “the Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God,” Rom, 8:15, 16.

Is God thy Father?

This then may give us abundance of assurance that we shall receive at his hands what we ask, if it be good for us; and if it be not, we have no reason to complain that we are not heard, unless he should turn our prayers into curses. And this very consideration seems to be the reason why our Savior chooses this among all God’s titles and attributes to prefix to this prayer; and, indeed, it is the most proper name by which we can style God in our prayers to him; for this name of Father emboldens faith, and is as a pledge beforehand that our requests shall be heard and granted: and therefore our Savior, for the confirmation of our faith, argues very strongly from this very title of Father, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matt. 7:9-11. Indeed it is a most encouraging argument; for if the bowels of an earthly parent, who yet many times is capricious, and whose tenderest mercies are but cruelties in respect of God; if his compassion will not suffer his children to be defeated in their reasonable and necessary requests, how much less will God, who is love and goodness itself, and who hath inspired all parental affections into other fathers, suffer his children to return ashamed, when they beg of him those things which are most agreeable to his will, and to their wants? What dost thou then, O Christian, complaining of thy wants, and sighing under thy burdens?

Is God thy Father?

Go and boldly lay open thy case unto him; his bowels will certainly yearn towards thee. Do thou want Spiritual blessings? Spread thy requests before him; for as he is thy Father, so he is the God of all grace, and will give unto thee of his fullness; God loves that his children should be like him. Or dost thou want temporal mercies? Why, he is thy Father, and he is the “Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;” and why should thou go so dejected and disconsolate who hast a Father so able and so willing to relieve and supply thee? Only beware that thou ask not stones for bread, nor scorpions for fish, and then ask what thou wilt for thy good, and thou shalt receive it.

Is God thy Father?

This then may encourage us against despair under the sense of our manifold sins against God, and our departures from him; for he will certainly receive us upon our repentance and returning unto him. This very apprehension was that which wrought upon the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father,” Luke 4:18. The consideration of our own guilt and vileness, without the consideration of God’s infinite mercy, tends only to widen the breach between him and us; for those that are altogether hopeless will sin the more implacably and bitterly against God; like those the prophet mentions, who said there was no hope, and therefore they would persist in their wickedness, Jer. 2:25. But, now, to consider that God is our Father, and that though we have cast off the duty and obedience of children, yet upon our submission he will welcome us, and reinstate us in his favor; this to the ingenuous spirit of a Christian is a sweet and powerful motive to reclaim him from his wandering and straying, for it will work both upon his shame and upon his hope: upon his shame, that ever he should offend so gracious a Father; and upon his hope, that those offences shall be forgiven him through that very mercy which he hath abused. Thus we read, “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, you are the Guide of my youth? Will he reserve his anger forever? Will he keep it to the end,” Jer. 3:4, 5.

Showing that when we plead with God under the winning name of Father, his anger cannot long last, but his bowels of mercy will at last overcome the sentiments of his wrath and justice. And thus much concerning the endearing title of Father, which our Savior directs us to use in our prayers unto God.

Understanding the Covenants. Part Two. The Conditions of a Covenant

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the Two Covenants”
Written by, Ezekiel Hopkins

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In a proper covenant…

…there must be mutual consent of the persons covenanting. And this is called a stipulation, whereby each Party freely and voluntarily engages himself to the other for his own particular benefit and advantage. For where both are free and unobligated, it is generally the apprehension of some good that will accrue unto them, that brings them to enter into a federal Engagement.

Now this being plainly the Nature of a Covenant, it clearly follows that there neither is nor can be, a strict and proper covenant between God and Man. For, both Parties covenanting are not naturally free the one from the other.

God is indeed naturally and originally free, and has no obligation to Man antecedent to his own gracious will and promise. But man hath a double bond to duty; in both his natural obligation as a Creature, and his federal obligation, as he is a covenanter; And therefore he is bound to obedience, not only by his stipulation and engagement, but also upon that natural relation wherein he stands to God as his Creator, and which alone would have been a sufficient obligation upon him had he never entered into covenant.

The creature’s consent and agreement is not necessary for the covenant which God makes with it.

And that is because the terms of it being so infinitely to our advantage, as there can be no reason imaginable why we should dissent, so neither is there any reason to expect an explicit consent for the ratification of it. Neither are we Lords of our ourselves; but he that made us may impose on us what Laws he pleases; and if he condescends to encourage us by promises of reward, this voluntary obligation which God is pleased to lay upon himself, lays a further obligation upon us to do what he requires out of love and thankfulness, faith and hope, whereby we cheerfully expect and embrace what he hath promised; which likewise of itself is so vastly transcendent and disproportionate to all our performances, so that it cannot be seen as our due consideration upon a strict and proper covenant (for in every such contract the datum and acceptum, or that which is promised by both parties must be each valuable, at least in the estimation of the covenanters) but rather, that which is bestowed by God is so far above the due consideration, that it must be recognized as a free benefit by an arbitrary promise.

So that between Man and Man a Covenant is a mutual and an equal obligation, but between God and man is only a mutual obligation, on God’s part to a free performance of his promises, and on Man’s part to a cheerful performance of his duty; wherein as there is no equality either in rights or values, so neither is there any necessity that man should give an explicit and formal consent unto it.

And as God’s transactions with us are not strictly and properly a covenant, so neither are they strictly and properly a Law; although they are often called The Law of Works, and the Law of Faith. For God does not deal with us merely out of absolute Sovereignty, but he is graciously pleased to oblige himself to us by promise, which does not belong to a Sovereign acting as such, but carries some resemblance of a covenant.

So that the Agreement which God hath made with Man is not merely a covenant, nor merely a Law, but mixture of both. If God had only said, “Do this, without adding thou shalt live, this would not have been a Covenant, but a Law. And if he had only said Thou shalt live, without commanding “Do this, it would not have been a covenant but a promise. Remove the condition and you make it a simple promise, remove the promise and you make it an absolute Law. But both these being found in it, it is both a law and a covenant, and both are in a large measure

And thus you see what a covenant is, and how the transactions between God and Man may be said to be a covenant, and wherein they differ from the proper notion of it.

End of Part Two.

Understanding the Covenants. Part one. What is a Covenant?

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the Two Covenants”
Written by, Ezekiel Hopkins

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Our English Word “Covenant”…

…seems to be borrowed from the Latin convenire, or conventus, which signifies mutual agreement and accord upon Conditions propounded and accepted by the Parties concerned. And it may be thus described. A Covenant is a mutual consent and agreement entered into between Persons, whereby they bind each to other to perform the Conditions contracted and indented for. And thus a Covenant is the very same thing as a contract.

Now to a strict and proper Covenant there are two things presupposed.

First, that in the persons contracting, there be a natural liberty and freedom, both the one and the other; that is, that the one be not bound to the other as to the things covenanted for, antecedently to the contract or agreement made between them. For where an obligation to a duty is natural, there it cannot be strictly and properly “federal,”* or arising from a Covenant: If children should indent with their parents to yield them obedience upon condition that they on their part will afford them sufficient provision [room and board], this cannot in strict sense be called a covenant, because neither of the Parties were free from the obligation of a natural Law, which obliges them antecedently to this compact in a proper covenant the things promised by each party must be due only upon consent and agreement, so that there must be an equality of the persons covenanting, if not in other respects, yet in respect of that for which they do covenant, that the right of both in what they mutually promise be equal. If one man covenant with another to serve him faithfully upon condition of such a reward and wages, though there may be much disparity in the other accounts between them, yet as to the things covenanted for, there is none; the one having as much right to the wages, as the other to the service; and neither having right to either before the agreement.

Secondly, in a proper covenant there must be mutual consent of the persons covenanting. This is called a stipulation, whereby each Party freely and voluntarily engage himself to the other for his own particular benefit and advantage. For where both are free and disobliged, it is generally the apprehension of some good that will accrue unto them, that brings them to enter into a “Federal Engagement.”**

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*  “Federalism” is theologically defined as one’s acting on behalf or in place of another. It is almost always contractual or covenantal, in that it entails a legal bond between the one acting and those for whom he acts.
** Federal Engagement is where one or more parties are acting on behalf of another. Such as Adam acting on behalf of man, as in sin. Or, Christ working on behalf of man, as in terms of redemption.

The law says, “Do This, and Live”; But to Whom Does it Speak?

Excerpt taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the Two Covenants Wherein the Nature of Original Sin is at Large Explained: St. Paul and St. James Reconciled in the Great Article of Justification.”
Written by Ezekiel Hopkins, published in 1799, London.

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“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”  

–Romans 3:20 (ESV)

Could you perfectly obey, and in your own persons meritoriously suffer, yet still there would be a flaw in your title; for still there would be original sin, which would keep you from obtaining a legal righteousness.

It is true, the law saith, “do this, and live”; but to whom doth it speak?

Not to fallen, but to innocent, upright man. It is not only a “you do this” can save you; but the law requires a “be this”, too.  Now, can you pluck down the old building, and cast out all the ruins and rubbish? Can you, in the very casting and molding of your beings, stamp upon them the image of God’s purity and holiness? If these impossibilities may be achieved, then justification by a covenant of works were not a thing altogether desperate. But, whilst we have original corruption, which will cause defects in our obedience; whilst we have defects in our obedience, which will expose us to divine justice; whilst we are utterly unable to satisfy that justice; so long we may conclude it altogether impossible to be justified by a covenant of works. Instead of finding life by it, we shall meet with nothing but death and the curse.

This, therefore, might endear to us the unspeakable love of God, in the inestimable gift of his Son Jesus Christ; by whom both this covenant is fulfilled, and a better ratified for us.  Either obligation of the law was too much for us, we could neither obey nor suffer, but He hath performed both; fulfilling the precept, and conquering the penalty; and both, by a free and gracious imputation, are reckoned to our justification, and the obtaining of eternal life.

This declares the desperate and remediless estate of those who, by unbelief, refuse Jesus Christ, and the redemption he hath purchased: for they are still under the covenant of works; and shall have sentence pass upon them, according to the tenor of that covenant.

 

Posted on March 6, 2015, by Paul D., Posted in “The Dead Puritan Society”