Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[Faith the Condition of the Covenant of Grace (Contra Crispe)... by Samuel Rutherford.]
Faith the Condition
of the
Covenant of Grace;
Against the Antinomian Tobias Crispe.

Excerpted from

Christ Dying, & Drawing Sinners to Himself,
By Samuel Rutherford

Assertion 6. The Lord's Working in us the Condition of the Covenant of Grace, such as Faith is, by his efficacious Grace, doth not free us from Sin, when we believe not; nor involve God in the Fault, when he worketh not in us to believe, as Crispe imagineth. Here let me by the Way remove the Arguments of Dr. Crispe (Serm. 6. Pag. 160.) by the which he imagineth that there is no Condition at all in the Covenant of Grace.1

Argument 1. The Covenant should not be everlasting, if it depended on a Condition of Faith to be performed by us; for we fail in our Performances daily, and the Covenant is annulled and broken so soon as the Condition is broken.

Answer 1. We speak not so, that the Covenant of Grace depends on a Condition in us: Dependency includes a Causality in that of which the Thing has Dependency; we know nothing in us, either Faith, or any other Thing, that is the Cause of the Covenant of Grace, or of the Fulfilling of it: A Cause is one Thing, a Condition caused by Grace is another Thing; for the Perpetuity of the Covenant, there is not required a Condition always in Act. {586}

(1.) If at the eleventh or twelfth Hour, you come to Christ, the Nature of this Covenant promiseth you Welcome. (2.) Particular Failings, and Acts of Unbelief, do well consist with the Habit and Stock of Faith that remaineth in him that is born of God; nor is the Act so tied to a Time. But, (3.) There is, by Tenure of the Covenant a Privilege two-fold here. [1.] If by the Law a Man step a Hair-breadth wide of the Way, the Door of Paradise is bolted on him, and in again can he never enter, he must seek another Entry, the Man has done with Heaven that Way, the Law knoweth not such a Thing as Repentance; but the Covenant of Grace being made with a Sinner, a Slip, an Act of Unbelief doth not forfeit the Mercy of this Covenant: But Christ saith, If you fall, there is a Place to rise again; if you sin, there is an Advocate, there is a Blood of an eternal Covenant; the Covenant stands still to make up Room for repeated Grace, for a Thread and continued Tract of Free-grace and Mercy, all along that your Foot never go out of the Traces of renewed Pardon while [until] you be in Heaven: Though the Child of God ought not to sin, yet can he not out-sin the Eternity of the new Covenant, nor can he sin an eternal Priest out of Heaven. [2.] The Law requireth a stinted Measure of Obedience, even to the Superlative, with all the Soul and the whole Strength; any less is the forfeiting of Salvation: But the Covenant of Grace stinteth no weak Soul, Christ racketh not, nor doth he (as it were) play the Extortioner, and say, Either the strongest Faith, or none at all; he maketh not Abraham's Foot a Measure to every poor Sinner: Many smoking Flaxes, and broken Reeds of Earth, are now up before the Throne; mighty Cedars, high, tall, green, planted on the Banks of the River of Life. If Adam be the first in Heaven, what though I be the last that enter in, though I close the Door in the lowest Room, so I see the Throne, and him that sits on it, it is enough to me.

Dr. Crispe's 2nd Argument. All the Tie of the Covenant lieth on God, not any on Man, as Bond or Obligation for the Fulfilling of the Covenant, or partaking of the {587} Benefits thereof, Heb. 8.10; Ezek. 36.25,26; Jer. 31. The Lord promiseth to do all, and the new Heart is but a Consequent of the Covenant; where is there in all this Covenant, one Word that God says to Man, Thou must do this? If God had put Man on these Conditions, then they were Conditions indeed: But when God takes all upon himself, where are then the Conditions on Man's Part? Give me Leave, suppose there should be a Fault of performing in this Covenant, whose were the Fault? Must not the Fault or Failing be in him who is tied and bound to every Thing in the Covenant, and saith, He will do it? If there be a Condition, and there should be a Failing in the Condition, he that undertaketh all Things in the Covenant must needs be in the Fault,——God saith not, Make yourselves clean, get you the Law of God in your Mind, get you Power to walk in my Statutes; and when you do this, then I will be your God, and enter in Covenant with you.

Answer 1. We never teach that the making to ourselves a new Heart is an antecedent Condition required before the Lord can make the new Covenant with us, as this Man would charge Protestant Divines;2 but that it is a Condition required in the Party covenanting, which is conditio fœderatorum, non fœderis, and such a Condition without which 'tis impossible they can fulfill the other Condition, which is to believe, and so lay hold on the Covenant: But it is clear, Antinomians think the new Heart no inherent Grace in us, but that Christ is Grace working immediately in us as in Stones, and the new Heart is Justification, without us, in Christ only. Let Crispe shew where the making of a new Heart is commanded to us, as a Consequent and an Effect of the Covenant; surely the new Heart, the Washing of us with clean Water, be it an Antecedent, or be it a Consequent of the Covenant of Grace, it is a Promise that God doth freely and of mere Grace undertake to perform in us, Ezek. 36.26, A new Heart will I give you: So, Jer. 32.39,40; Jer. 31.33; Ezek. 11.19,20; Isa. 54.13; John 6.45; {588} Ezek. 36.32, Not for your Sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you; be ashamed and confounded for your own Ways, O House of Israel, verse 22, I do not this for your Sakes, O House of Israel, but for mine holy Name's Sake, which ye have profaned amongst the Heathen, whither ye went. And Crispe saith, "The Covenant in the Old Testament had annexed to it divers Conditions, of legal Washing and Sacrifices, whereas the New Covenant under the New Testament is every Way of free Grace." He is far wide [of the mark]; Conditions wrought in us by Grace, such as we assert, take not one Jot or Tittle of the Freedom of Grace away: And though there be major gratia, a larger Measure of Grace under the New Testament, yet there is not magis gratia, there is no more of the Essence of free Grace in the one, than in the other; for all was free Grace to them, as to us. Why did the Lord enter in Covenant with the Jews more than with other Nations? Deut. 7.7, The Lord loved you, because he loved you. Was Jerusalem, Ezek. 16, holier than the Ephesians, Eph. 2? No, their Nativity was of the Land of Canaan, their Father an Amorite, their Mother an Hittite, Ezek. 16.5, Thou wast cast out in the open Field, to the Loathing of thy Person, in the Day that thou wast born, verse 6, And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own Blood, I said to thee in thy Blood, Live: And, to cause Grace have a deeper Impression and Sinking down into the Heart's Bottom, he repeateth it again, I said unto thee in thy Blood, Live. And will Crispe say that this is not a History of free Grace, as far from Bribe or Hire of Merit as in the World? or, will he say, it was God's Meaning, First, Wash you with holy Water, and sacrifice to me, and perform all these legal Conditions to me, while you are Amorites and Hittites by Kind; and that being done, I'll enter in Covenant with you; when ye have done your Work, I'll pay your Wages, and be your God.

2. This Argument militateth strongly against every Gospel-duty, and the whole Course of Sanctification; God must so be the Cause, and only Cause of all our sinful {589} Omissions, and Sins under the Covenant of Grace, in that he promiseth to work in us to will and to do, and to give us Grace to abstain from Sin, but does not stand to his Word, as Antinomians teach; Which is an Argument unanswerable to me, that 'tis the Mind of Antinomians, that no justified Person can sin, but in that they omit Good, or commit Ill, God is in the Fault, not they; and that the Justified are mere Blocks in all the Course of their Sanctification; in all the Sins they do, they are Patients; God should more carefully see to his own Honour, and not suffer them to sin: So they and the old Libertines go on together. For say, that the new Heart, that to will and to do, to persevere steadfastly in the Grace of God, were no Conditions of the Covenant (sure, Believing in the Lord Jesus is clearly a Condition of the Righteousness of Faith, as Doing is of the Righteousness which is of the Law, Rom. 10.3-8; Gal. 4.22-28,) say that to repent, pray, love God, and serve him, were not from God through the Tie of the new Covenant; yet God's Promise, his single Word, when he saith, He will do such and such Things, is as strong a Tie as his Covenant and Oath when he knoweth 'tis impossible these Things that he saith he will do, can be done, except he, of his mere Grace, work them in us. Now, the Lord clearly promiseth, that he will give Repentance, Acts 5.31, Sorrow for Sin, the Spirit of Grace and Supplication, Zech. 12.10, a circumcised Heart to love and serve the Lord, Deut. 30.6; Ezek 36.26, Perseverance in Grace, Jer. 32.40,41; Isaiah 54.10; 59.20,21; Psalm 1.3; John 4.14; 10.28; Phil 1.6; Eph. 5.26,27; 1 John 2.1. Then let D. Crispe or any Libertine say, when the Saints sin, in not praying, in not sorrowing for Sin, in not willing and doing, in their Sins and Falls in their Christian Race to Heaven, let me speak in the Words of Crispe: Whose fault is it, or Failing, not to perform the Word or Promise of God? God undertaketh by Promise, yea by his simple Word, to fulfill what he promiseth, and saith, He will work all these in us, yea to will and to do; Ergo, if it be not done, the Fault {590} cannot be Man's, but must be (which I abhor to write or speak) the Lord's.

3. God takes all upon himself, in genere causa gratiosæ Liberrimæ, independentis, primæ, non obligatæ ad agendum exulla lege; in the Kind of a Cause that worketh by mere Grace, freely, independently, without any Law above him to oblige him to do otherwise with his own, than he freely willeth, decreeth, promiseth; for Men carnally divide God's Decree, which is most free, from his Promise, which is as free as his Decree: But it followeth in no Sort, (as Arminians and Jesuits object to us) therefore Men, who do not believe, pray, walk holily, are not in the Fault, being under a Law to obey; for sinful Inability to obey, can ransom no Man from the Obligation of Obedience: And most blasphemous it is, that because God undertaketh in the Covenant, that we shall walk in his Commandments, as he doth promise, Ezek. 36.27, and that we shall fear him, Jer. 32.39,40, that God should therefore be in the Fault, and we free of all Fault, when in many Particulars we offend all, Jam. 3.2, and we fear not God, in this or this Sin; as is possible, and may be gathered from Joseph's Speech to his Brethren, who says he would not wrong them, for he feared God; and Job's Word, that he durst not despise the Cause of his Servant, because he was afraid of God. Yet God promiseth, that he will keep Joseph, Job and all the Elect, in the Way of God's Commandments, that they shall not fully fall away from him: God never, by Promise, Covenant, Oath, or Word, undertaketh to keep his Elect from this or this particular Breach and Act of Unbelief, against the Covenant of Grace.

4. The Fault against the Gospel, or any Sin in a Believer, must justly be imputed to him, because he is tied by the Evangelic Law not to sin in any Thing; the Gospel granteth Pardons, but not Dispensations in any Sins: And it can in no Sort be imputed to God, because if any Believer fall in a particular Sin or Act of Unbelief against the Covenant of Grace, the Lord neither decreed {591} nor did ever undertake by Covenant or Promise to keep him by his effectual Grace from falling in that Sin; for the Lord would then certainly have kept him, as he did Peter, and doth all the Elect that are effectually called, that in mighty Temptations their Faith fail them not. Nor is the Act of Believing, that is wanting in that particular Fall, such a Condition of the Covenant, as Christ either promised to work, or the necessary Condition of the Covenant of Grace, or such a Condition, the Want whereof doth annul and make void the eternal Covenant of Grace.

5. I here smell in Antinomians, that God must be in Fault, as the Author of our Unbelief, our stony Hearts, our Walking in our fleshly Ways, because God hath promised to give us Faith, and a Heart of Flesh, to walk in his Ways; as the old Libertines said, God was the principal and chief Cause of Sin, and that God did all Things, both Good and Ill, and the Creatures did nothing. So Calvin, in institut. adversus Libertinos, Cap. 14. in opus. p 446. Mr. Archer down-right saith, God is the Author of Sin. What End is there of erring, if God leave us? It is true, the Tie, and all the Tie of giving a new Heart, and the Spirit of Grace and Supplication, lieth on the Lord, who promised so to do, Deut. 30.6; Ezek. 11.19,20; 36.26,27; Jer. 31.33-36. But yet so that we are under the Obligation of divine Precepts to do our Part, Ezek. 18.31, Make a new Heart, and a new Spirit; for why will ye die, O House of Israel? Jer. 4.4, Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the Fore-skin of your Heart. Eph. 4.23, Be renewed in the Spirit of your Mind, Rom. 12.2; Rom. 13.14; and 1 Thess. 5.17, Pray without Ceasing. Psalm 50.15, Call upon me. Matt. 26.41, Watch and pray: Therefore all the Tie and Obligation of whatever Kind cannot so free us from sinful Omissions, nor can the Tie lie on God; evangelic Commandments are accompanied with Grace to obey, and Grace layeth a Tie on us also to yield Obedience.

6. 'Tis a foul and ignorant Mistake in Crispe, to make the Covenant nothing but that Love of God to Man, {592} which he cast on Man before the Children had done Good or Evil, Rom. 9. (1.) That Love is eternal, and hath no Respect to Faith as to a Condition; but 'tis not the Covenant itself, because it is the Cause of the Covenant. (2.) To the Love of Election, there is no Love, no Work, no Act of Believing required on our Part; Yea, no Mediator, no Shedding of Blood; we are loved with an everlasting Love, before all these: But the Covenant, though, as decreed of God, it be everlasting, (as all the Works of Creation and divine Providence, which fall out in Time, and have Beginning and End, are so everlasting; for God decreed from Eternity that they should be) yet it is not in Being formally, while [until] it be preached to Adam after his Fall; and there is required Faith on all the Saints' Part, to lay Hold on the Covenant, Isa. 56.4, and to make it a Covenant of Peace to the Saints in Particular. (2.) Faith is the Condition of the Covenant. (3.) Christ the Mediator of it. (4.) Christ's Blood the Seal of it. (5.) The Spirit must write it in our Heart: But the Love of Election is a complete, free, full Love, before our Faith, or Shedding of Blood, or a Mediator be at all.

Objection. We are not saved, nor justified, nor taken in Covenant by Faith, as a Work, (saith Crispe) for then we should not be saved by Grace, and Grace should not be Grace: But we are justified by Faith, that is, by that Christ which Faith knoweth, according to that, By his Knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many; therefore Faith is no Condition of this Covenant.

Answer. The contrary rather followeth: (1.) Seeing Crispe doth say, None under Heaven can be saved till they have believed; We are not taken in Covenant by Faith; neither we nor Scripture speak so: Taking us in Covenant, is before we can believe; but we lay Hold on Christ and Righteousness by Faith, not as a Work, but a necessary Condition required of us. (2.) I leave it to the Consideration of the Godly, if Believing in him who justifieth the Ungodly be no Condition; (a Work justifying, I do not think it) but only [as Antinomians foolishly say] I believe and {593} know that Christ justified me before I believed, from Eternity, as some say, when I was conceived in the Womb, as Crispe saith; and that the Threatening, He that believeth not, is condemned already, carries this Sense, He that believeth not that he is not condemned, he is already condemned; Who can believe such Toys?

2. Believing is a Receiving of Christ, John 1.12; Christ's Dwelling in the Heart, Eph. 3.17. Then to believe, must be [according to Antinomian reasoning,] to know that Christ was in me before I believed, and that I received him from Eternity, or from my Conception.

3. To believe, maketh me a Son born, not of Flesh and Blood, John 1.12,13, and Gal. 3.26, and by Faith we receive the Spirit: This then must [according to Antinomian reasoning] be nothing else but I know by the Light of Faith, I was a Son before, and had received the Spirit, before I believed. What more absurd?

4. And by Faith I live not, Christ liveth in me, and I am crucified and mortified; that is [according to Antinomian reasoning], by Faith I know that I did live the Life of God, and was crucified to the World: Whereas I was [according to Scripture] dead in Sins, before I believed.

5. And, because Believing is somewhat more than a naked Act of the Mind, it being a fiducial Adherence unto, and an Affiance, Acquiescence, and Heart-reliance, and Staying on Christ, or a Rolling of ourselves on God for Salvation, as is clear in the original Languages of holy Scripture, Psalm 18.18; Isa. 26.3; Psalm 112.8; Isaiah 10.21; Mic. 3.11; Psalm 22.8; Psalm 55.22; 1 Pet. 5.7; Cant. 8.5; John 1.12. 'Tis too hungry a Notion of Faith, to make it nothing but Knowing of that which really was before; for Heart-adherence is not an Act of the Mind, and so not an Act of Knowledge, but of the Will and Affection, in which there is no Act of Knowledge formally, though it presuppose an Act of Knowledge.

6. Then [according to Antinomian reasoning,] wicked Men must be in their Sins, not justified in his Blood, because they will not know that Christ died for them in particular, and that Christ bore their Sins on the Cross, and justified and pardoned them long {594} ago; all which to believe, is to hold a Lie in the Right-hand. But to return…


1. These arguments are found in volume 1, sermon 6, of Crispe's "Christ Alone Exalted," accompanied, in later editions of the work, by some comments inserted by the Antinomian Anabaptist John Gill. Mr. Gill, blinded by his own Antinomianism, as well as his prejudice for a fellow dissenter from strict Reformed orthodoxy, attempts to vindicate Crispe on these points, as though he held to the orthodox protestant doctrine. It is true, Mr. Daniel Williams, author of the particular treatise referred to by Gill, which condemns Crispe in this point, was by no means sound in the doctrine of Grace, and yet, let the reader understand, there were authors sound in the doctrine of Grace who found much fault with these sentiments of Crispe long before Mr. Williams, as demonstrated by this very passage from Rutherford. And these authors were by no means at variance with the great Dutch Reformed theologian, Herman Witsius, quoted by Gill in an attempt to paint out Crispe as adhering to the doctrine of the Reformed Church. For, what if Witsius assert that "the covenant of grace has no conditions on our part, properly so called"? Our present author, who so strongly condemns Crispe's doctrine, differs nothing in this point from Witsius, for, in his Trial & Triumph of Faith, sermon 8, where also he puts forth his labours in casting down these heresies of Crispe, he speaks of the various senses in which one might take faith for a condition of the covenant, denying both that of the Arminians, and that of the Romanists, and then affirming that there may yet be some things promised in the Covenant of Grace, said to be promised upon a condition, which condition itself is wrought by the grace of God, so that, in the end, while we must acknowledge that it is a condition, yet Rutherford himself acknowledges, just as Witsius, "and the truth is, it is an improper condition." But, had Mr. Gill been an honest man (which is more than is to be expected from an Anabaptist,) and an honest student of Witsius, (which, again, is more than is to be expected from one who must look upon all Reformed divines as still caught-up in vestiges of "Romish idolatry," such as infant baptism,) he might have seen only a few pages later, that Witsius maintains the very point which Rutherford and others pressed in their writings against Crispe, that God has "in a very wise and holy manner, so ordered it, that none should come to salvation but in a way of faith and holiness, and so ranged his promises, that none should attain to the more principal, or more perfect happiness, but they who should first be made partakers of the preceding promises. Whence we gather, that none can take comfort in the infallible hope of happiness, who has not sincerely applied himself to the practice of faith and godliness. And the scriptures now and then assures us, that it is impossible for any to please God without faith, or see him without holiness… if we will insist upon it, to call these things conditions: they are not so much conditions of the covenant, as of the assurance that we shall continue in God's covenant, and that he shall be our God. And I make no doubt, but this was exactly the meaning of those very learned divines, though all of them have not so happily expressed themselves," which last words we may also agree to, seeing as some of the Reformers spoke of not only faith, but also repentance as a condition of the covenant of grace. But the subject might have been attended to by Gill in a much simpler manner, if he had noticed these two things: (1.) That, whatever the case be with Daniel Williams, those orthodox divines who formerly condemned Crispe at the time of our second reformation were as sound as any (and among them Witsius, Economy of the Covenants, book 3, chapter 8, section 37,) as to their understanding of the matter of justification, that it was the perfect righteousness of Christ alone, and so this cannot be the subject in controversy with Crispe. (2.) That whatever writings Gill may be able to glean from Reformed authors, containing words used and terms defined, that sound at first like support for Crispe's denial that faith is the condition of the Covenant of Grace, yet, if one attend to the doctrine itself, he will find Crispe's purposes to have been a direct overturning of the protestant doctrine respecting the nature of Gospel Promises, the Covenant of Grace, and the relationship between Faith and Justification. And in these things, Rutherford, Burgess, Flavel, and the many others who condemned Crispe's inventions, differed nothing from what Gill might have found in Witsius, Economy of the Covenants, 3.8.47-66, in all which, Witsius, while rejecting the opinions maintained by Daniel Williams, is also as far as Rutherford from asserting the things maintained here by Crispe: (1) concerning the meaning of Justification by Faith, (2) Eternal Justification (which Gill deceitfully ascribes to several Reformed authors,) (3) that the Covenant of Grace is every way absolute and no promise thereof to be called in any sense conditional, etc.

2. The reader should note, that the debate here, is not concerning a matter merely controverted amongst Protestants, or fellow adherents of the Gospel of God's Sovereign Grace; nor concerning any position maintained by Crispe whereby he could claim to have been more faithful to the Reformers of the 1500's. Rather, the Antinomians, and amongst them Crispe as much as any other, had plainly set themselves against the doctrine of all the Protestant Church when in her purity. The two branches of the Protestant Church, Lutheran and Reformed, were united in these great points of Justification, Faith, and the relationship of the two. Sectarian heretics such as the Arminians, Anabaptists, and Antinomians, all stood outside of the doctrinal boundaries of Protestantism and of Presbyterianism in particular, and thus found themselves condemned by zealous advocates of the Biblical Gospel of Free Grace, whether they strayed to the right-hand extremes of Legalism, or left-hand extremes of Libertinism.