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Appendix F - Qualification: God did not intend the reprobate or secret hypocrites to have the internal right to the Covenant seals.

Samuel Rutherford comments.

...now the orthodox and reformed church holdeth, that the covenant and promises are preached to the whole visible church, but for the Elects sake, and that however externally, the covenant of grace and promises be promulgated to everyone, and all within the lists of the visible church; yet they belong in God's intention and gracious purpose only to the Elect of God (Samuel Rutherford, The Due Right of Presbyteries, p. 248).

Here we must understand two things.

1. The sacraments are an effectual means of grace to the elect only. We must understand that only the invisible church has an internal right to the Covenant of Grace. Any reprobate who receives baptism or partakes of the Lord's Table will receive judgment and not grace for their acts of hypocrisy. While it is possible for the external sign of the covenant to be applied to the unregenerate, it is impossible for the internal seal to be applied apart from faith.

2. The frailty of elders will only allow for judgment based upon what is visible and consequently the external right to these covenant seals is based upon outward profession and practice. In admitting or demitting professors from the sacraments, elders are never to attempt to "read the hearts and intentions" of God's people.

Therefore, we must understand that, strictly speaking, not every member of the visible church has an internal right to signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace. These were intended for the elect alone and ordained to be administered to them through the visible church of Christ. The only sense in which I may say that the visible church has a right to the signs and seals of the covenant is by making this qualification.

Again Rutherford explains,

The invisible church; and not the visible church as it is such hath right to the sacraments, because these who have right to the covenant have right to the seals of the covenant; and this is Peter's argument to prove the baptising of infants to be lawful (Acts 2:3839). But only the invisible church hath right to the covenant. For God saith only of, and to the invisible church, and not to the visible church in his gracious purpose, Jer. 32:38, "And I will be their God and they shall be my people, Jer. 31:33, I will put my law in their inward parts and Jer. 31:34, They shall all know me (all within the covenant) I will forgive their iniquity. Now the visible church, as the visible church, is not within the covenant. Therefore the visible church, as the visible church, and being no more but the visible church, hath not right to the seals of the covenant, but insofar as God is their God, and they his pardoned and sanctified people, as it is, [in GB] Jer. 31:3334 (Samuel Rutherford, The Due Right of Presbyteries, 1644, SWRB reprint, 1995, p. 249).


Why was it necessary to make this distinction?

Because we must understand that God intended to send his covenant blessings only to his elect. When I say that all who profess faith, possess a right to both Baptism and the Lord's Table I mean that only the elect truly have that right. But since we, as mere men, cannot tell the elect from the reprobate we must rely on a visible profession only. This observable profession forms the basis from which we as mere men may judge who may receive the Sacraments and who may not.


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