The Sum of Saving Knowledge is this:
1. Our woeful condition by nature, through breaking the covenant of works.
Hos 13.9 "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself."
1a) In eternity past, God did most wisely decree, for his own glory, whatever comes to pass in time: and in a most holy and infallible manner executes all his decrees, without being author of the sin of any creature.
1b) God originally made everything from nothing, perfect. He made our first parents, Adam and Eve, the root of mankind, both upright and able to keep the law written in their hearts. This law they were naturally bound to obey upon penalty of death. God was not bound to reward their service, till he entered into a covenant or contract with them, and their posterity in them. He promised to give them eternal life, upon condition of perfect personal obedience. If they failed they would die. This is the covenant of works.
1c) Both angels and men were subject to the change of their own free will. God alone is unchangeable. Many angels of their own accord fell by sin from their first estate, and became demons. Our first parents, being enticed by Satan, one of these demons, broke the covenant of works, by eating the forbidden fruit. By this action, they, and their posterity, became not only liable to eternal death, but also lost all ability to please God. They became by nature enemies to God, and to all spiritual good, and were only inclined to do evil continually. This is our original sin, the bitter root of all our actual transgressions, in thought, word, and deed.
2. The remedy provided in Jesus Christ for the elect by the covenant of Grace.
"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." Hos 13.9
2a) Albeit man, having brought himself into this woeful condition, is neither able to help himself, nor willing to be helped by God out of it, but rather inclined to lie still, insensible of it, till he perish; yet God, for the glory of his rich grace, has revealed in his word a way to save sinners, that is, by faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, by virtue of, and according to the tenor of the covenant of redemption, made and agreed upon between God the Father and God the Son, in council of the Trinity, before the world began.
2b) The sum of the covenant of redemption is this: God having freely chosen to life a certain number of lost mankind, for the glory of his rich grace, did give them, before the world began, to God the Son, appointed Redeemer, that, upon condition he would humble himself so far as to assume the human nature, of a soul and a body, to personal union with his divine nature, and submit himself to the law, as surety for them, and satisfy justice for them, by giving obedience in their name, even to the suffering of the cursed death of the cross, he should ransom and redeem them all from sin and death, and purchase to them righteousness and eternal life, with all saving graces leading there to, to be effectually, by means of his own appointment, applied in due time to every one of them. This condition the Son of God (who is Jesus Christ our Lord) did accept before the world began, and in the fulness of time came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary, subjected himself to the law, and completely paid the ransom on the cross: But by virtue of the foresaid bargain, made before the world began, he is in all ages, since the fall of Adam, still upon the work of applying actually the purchased benefits of the elect; and that he does by way of entertaining a covenant of free grace and reconciliation with them, through faith in himself; by which covenant, he makes over to every believer a right and interest to himself, and to all his blessings.
2c) For the accomplishment of this covenant of redemption, and making the elect partakers of the benefits of it in the covenant of grace, Christ Jesus was clad with the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King: made a Prophet, to reveal all saving knowledge to his people, and persuade them to believe and obey the same; made a Priest, to offer up himself a sacrifice once for them all, and to intercede continually with the Father, for making their persons and services acceptable to him; and made a King, to subdue them to himself, to feed and rule them by his own appointed ordinances, and to defend them from their enemies.
3. The outward means appointed to make the elect partakers of this covenant, and all the rest that are called, to be inexcusable.
"Many are called." Matt. 22.14
3a) The outward means and ordinances, for making men partakers of the covenant of grace, are so wisely dispensed, as that the elect shall be infallibly converted and saved by them; and the reprobate, among whom they are, not to be justly damned: The means are especially these four:
3a1) The word of God 3a2) The ordinances 3a3) Church 3a4) Prayer
In the word of God preached by sent messengers, the Lord makes offer of grace to all sinners, upon condition of faith in Jesus Christ; and whoever does confess their sin, accept Christ's offering, and submit themselves to his ordinances, he will have them received into the honour and privileges of the covenant of grace. By the ordinances, God will have the covenant sealed for confirming the bargain on the foresaid condition. By the Church, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward to the keeping of the covenant. And by prayer, he will have his own glorious grace, promised in the covenant, to be daily drawn forth, acknowledged, and employed. All these means are followed either really, or in profession only, according to the quality of the covenanters, as they are true or counterfeit believers.
3b) The covenant of grace, set down in the Old Testament before Christ came, and in the New since he came, is one and the same in substance, albeit different in outward administration: For the covenant in the Old Testament, being sealed with the ordinances of circumcision and the paschal lamb, did set forth Christ's death to come, and the benefits purchased by it, under the shadow of bloody sacrifices, and various ceremonies: but since Christ came, the covenant being sealed by the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, does clearly hold forth Christ already crucified before our eyes, victorious over death and the grave, and gloriously ruling heaven and earth, for the good of his own people. 4. The blessings which are effectually conveyed by these means to the Lord's elect, or chosen ones.
"Many are called, but few are chosen." Matt 12.14.
4a) By those outward ordinances, as our Lord makes the reprobate inexcusable, so, by the power of his Spirit, he applies to the elect, effectually, all saving graces purchased to them in the covenant of redemption, and makes a change in their persons. In particular,
4a1) He does convert or regenerate them, by giving spiritual life to them, in opening their understandings, renewing their wills, affections, and faculties, for giving spiritual obedience to his commands.
4a2) He gives them saving faith, by making them, in the sense of deserved condemnation, to give their consent heartily to the covenant of grace, and to embrace Jesus Christ unfeignedly.
4a3) He gives them repentance, by making them, with godly sorrow, in the hatred of sin, and love of righteousness, turn from all iniquity to the service of God.
4a4) He sanctifies them, by making them go on and persevere in faith and spiritual obedience to the law of God, manifested by fruitfulness in all duties, and doing good works, as God offers occasion.
4b) Together with this inward change of their persons, God changes also their state: for, so soon as they are brought by faith into the covenant of grace,
4b1) He justifies them, by imputing to them that perfect obedience which Christ gave to the law, and the satisfaction also which upon the cross Christ gave to justice in their name.
4b2) He reconciles them, and makes them friends to God, who were before enemies of God.
4b3) He adopts them, that they shall be no more children of Satan, but children of God, enriched with all spiritual privileges of his sons.
4b4) And, last of all, after their warfare in this life is ended, he perfects the holiness and blessedness, first of their souls at their death, and then both of their souls and their bodies, being joyfully joined together again in the resurrection, at the day of his glorious coming to judgment, when all the wicked shall be sent away to hell, with Satan whom they have served: but Christ's own chosen and redeemed ones, true believers, students of holiness, shall remain with himself for ever, in the state of glorification.