The Covenant of Grace is a “law of the spirit.” The Spirit of God has instituted this covenant and applies it to the lives of men and women who believe. Manton said that Christ himself speaks of covenant in terms of spirit and truth. He says, “Not only because of its spiritual nature, as it cometh nearer and closer to the soul than the law of outward and beggarly rudiments; and therefore Christ called the ordinances of the gospel, spirit and truth (Works of Manton, 11.395).”
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2
In our circles today, it is not popular to speak about the Gospel as Law or the Law of the Gospel. The Gospel message is one that is received by faith and the division between Law and Gospel is often driven so sharply that there is no room for Law in Gospel or Gospel in Law.
The Puritans, including Thomas Manton, saw grace in law and law in grace, all while maintaining a rigorously Christ-centered Gospel of free grace. There was no hint of the errors of Federal Vision, and yet speaking in terms of law was common parlance for the time. Manton demonstrated in his treatment of the greatest chapter that law is able to be opposed to law—with the Gospel’s law triumphing.
Where does Manton get the idea of the Gospel’s law? Citing several verses which use the language of the law of the Gospel, Manton finds law used positively in the Scriptures. Speaking of the coming Gospel age, Isaiah looked forward to the time when “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Matthew 28:20 also uses language of law as Jesus sends his ministers into the nations preaching the Gospel. Jesus says, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The Apostle would speak of believing the Gospel in terms of obedience when he condemned those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul also reminded the Christians in Galatia to press on in the Christian life: “ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7).
The language of law in reference to the Gospel age is much more connected than we are comfortable with today.
Manton helped his readers to see their connectedness to law as well as their disconnectedness in his exposition of Romans 8:2 as he divided the law opposed to the law.
The two laws that are described in the second verse of Romans 8 are the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life. Manton does not imagine these laws as the 10 Commandments versus the Gospel, but clearly articulates that the laws are the two covenants that we find in the Scriptures: the law of “sin and death” is the Covenant of Works and the law of the “Spirit of life in Christ” is the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Works became a law of sin and death when Adam sinned and brought the curse on himself and “for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation…(Westminster Shorter Catechism, 16).”