Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in those who are capable of it, as much of a stated duty in the Christian church, and an institution universally pertaining to the followers of Christ, as baptism.

And if explicit, open covenanting with God be a great duty required of all, as has been represented, then it ought to be expected of persons before they are admitted to the privileges of the adult in the church of Christ. Surely it is proper, if this explicit covenanting takes place at all, that it should take place before persons come to those ordinances wherein they, by their own act, publicly confirm and seal this covenant. This public transaction of covenanting, which God has appointed, ought to have existence, before we publicly confirm and seal this transaction. It was that by which the Israelites of old were introduced into the communion of God's nominal or visible church and holy city; as appears by Isaiah xlviii. 1, 2. “ Hear ve this, O house of Jacob, which are CALLED BY THE NAME OF İSRAEL, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, WHICH SWEAR BY THE NAME OF THE LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth nor in righteousness : FOR THEY CALL THEMSELVES OF THE HOLY CITY," &c. When, and after what manner particularly, the Israelites ordinarily performed this explicit covenanting, I do not know that we can be certain. But, as it was first done on occasion of God's first promulgating his law or covenant at Mount Sinai-on a repetition or renewed promulgation of it on the plains of Moab-on the pub. lic reading of the law in Josiah's time, (2 Kings xxiii. 3.)—on after the return from the captivity--and on the public reading of it at the feast of tabernacles, (Neh. viii. ix. and x.); so it appears to me most likely, that it was done every seventh year, when the law or covenant of God was, by divine appointment, read in the audience of all the people at the feast of tabernacles ; at least by all who then heard the law read a first time, and who never had publicly owned the covenant of God before. There are good evidences that they never had communion in those ordinances which God had appointed as seals of his covenant, wherein they themselves were to be active, such as their sacrifices, &c. till they had done it. It is plainly implied in Psalm I. that it was the manner in Israel vocally to own God's covenant, or to take it into their mouths, before they sealed that covenant in their sacrifices. See verse 16. taken with the preceding part of the psalm, from verse 5. And that they did it before they partook of the passover, (which indeed was one of their sacrifices,) or entered into the sanctuary for communion in the temple-worship, is confirmed by the words of Hezekiah, when he proclaimed a passover, 2 Chron. xxx. 8.“ Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were ; but yield yourselves unto the Lord (in the Hebrew, Give the hand to the Lord,) and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever, and serve the Lord your God.” To give the hand, seems to be a Hebrew phrase for entering into covenant, or obliging themselves by covenant, Ezra x. 19. " And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives.” And, as has been already observed, it was foretold that Christians should in this way be admitted to communion in the privileges of the church of Christ.-Having thus established the premises of the argument, I now come to the consequence.

SECT. III.

That none ought to be admitted to the privileges of adult per

sons in the church of Christ, but such as make a profession of real piety.

The covenant to be owned or professed, is God's covenant, which he has revealed as the method of our spiritual union with him, and our acceptance as the objects of his eternal favour; which is no other than the covenant of grace; at least it is so, without dispute, in these days of the gospel

. To own this covenant, is to profess the consent of our hearts to it; and that is the sum and substance of true piety. It is not only professing the assent of our understandings, that we understand there is such a covenant, or that we understand we are obliged to comply with it; but it is to profess the consent of our wills, it is to manifest that we do comply with it. There is mutual profession in this affair, a profession on Christ's part, and a profession on our part; as it is in marriage. And it is the same sort of profession that is made on both sides, in this respect, that each professes a consent of heart. Christ in his word declares an entire consent of heart as to what he offers; and the visible Christian, in the answer that he makes to it in his Christian profession, declares a consent and compliance of heart to his proposal. Owning the covenant is professing to make the transaction of that covenant our own. The transaction of that covenant is that of espousals to Christ; on our part, it is giving our souls to Christ as his spouse. There is no one thing that the covenant of grace is so often compared to in Scripture, as the marriage covenant; and the visible transaction, or mutual profession there is between Christ and the visible church, is abundantly compared to the mutual profession there is in marriage. In marriage the bride professes to yield to the bridegroom's suit, and to take him for her husband, renouncing all others, and to give up herself to him to be entirely and for ever possessed by him as his wife. But he that professes this

[ocr errors]

towards Christ, professes saving faith. They that openly covenanted with God according to the tenor of the institution, (Deut. x. 20.) visibly united themselves to God in the union of that covenant. They professed on their parts the union of the covenant of God, which was the covenant of grace. It is said in the institution, “ Thou shalt cleave to the Lord, and swear by his name;' or, as the words more literally are, “ Thou shalt unite unto the Lord, and swear into his name.” So in Isaiah lvi. it is called a "joining themselves to the Lord.” But the union, cleaving, or joining of that covenant is saving faith, the grand condition of the covenant of Christ, by which we are in Christ. This is what, on our part, brings us into the Lord. For a person explicitly or professedly to enter into the union or relation of the covenant of grace with Christ, is the same as professedly to do that which on our part is the uniting act, and that is the act of faith. To profess the covenant of grace, is to profess it, not as a spectator, but as one immediately concerned in the affair, as a party in the covenant professed; and this is to profess that in the covenant which belongs to us as a party, or to profess our part in the covenant; and that is the soul's believing acceptance of the Saviour. Christ's part is salvation, our part is a saving faith in him; not a feigned, but unfeigned faith ; not a common, but special and saving faith; no other faith is the condition of the covenant of grace.

I know the distinction made by some, between the internal and external covenant ; but, I hope, the divines that make this distinction, would not be understood, that there are really and properly two covenants of grace: but only that those who profess the one only covenant of grace, are of two sorts.

There are those who comply with it internally and really, and others who do so only externally, -that is, in profession and visibility. But he that externally and visibly complies with the covenant of grace, appears and professes to do so really. There is also this distinction concerning the covenant of grace; it is exhibited two ways, the one externally by the preaching of the word, the other internally and spiritually by enlightening the mind rightly to understand the word. But it is with the covenant, as it is with the call of the gospel : He that really complies with the external call, has the internal call; so he that truly complies with the external proposal of God's covenant, as visible Christians profess to do, does indeed perform the inward condition of it. But the New Testament affords no more foundation for supposing two real and properly distinct covenants of grace, than it does to suppose two sorts of real Christians.

When those persons who were baptized in infancy properly own their baptismal covenant, the meaning is, that they now, being capable to act for themselves, do professedly and exVOL. IV.

41

plicitly make their parents' act, in giving them up to God, their own, by expressly giving themselves up to God. But this no person can do, without either being deceived, or dissembling and professing what he himself supposes to be a falsehood, unless he supposes that in his heart he consents to be God's. A child of Christian parents never does that for himself which his parents did for him in infancy, till he gives himself wholly to God. But surely he does not do it, who not only keeps back a part, but the chief part, his heart and soul. He that keeps back his heart, does in effect keep back all; and therefore, if he be sensible of it, is guilty of solemn wilful mockery, if at the same time he solemnly and publicly professes that he gives himself up to God. If there are any words used by such, which in their proper signification imply that they give themselves up to God, and if these words, as they intend them to be understood, and as they are understood by those that hear them, according to their established use and custom among that people, do not imply, that they do it really, but do truly reserve or keep back the chief part; it ceases to be a profession of giving themselves up to God, and so ceases to be a professed covenanting with God. The thing which they profess belongs to no existing covenant of God; for God has revealed no such covenant, in which our transacting of it is a giving up ourselves to him with reserve, or holding back our souls, our chief part, and in effect our all. And therefore, although such public and solemn professing may be a very unwarrantable and great abuse of words, and taking God's name in vain, it is no professed covenanting with God.

One thing, as observed, that belonged to Israel's swearing into the name of the Lord, was saying, the Lord liveth ; whereby they professed their faith in God's all-sufficiency, immutability, and faithfulness. But if they really had such a faith, it was a saving grace. To them who indeed trust in the all-sufficiency of God, he will surely be an all-sufficient portion; and them who trust in God's immutability and faithfulness, he surely will never leave nor forsake. There were two ways of swearing Jehovah liveth, that we read of in scripture ; one we read of, Jer. ï. 2. “ Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness :" And the other way is swearing falsely, which we read of in the next chapter, verse 2, 3. “And though they say, The Lord liveth, yet surely they swear falsely. And certainly none ought to do this.' It follows, “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth ?" i. e. God desires sincerity of heart in those that profess religion. Here a gracious sincerity is opposed to a false profession; for when it is said, “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth ?" the expression is parallel with Psalm li. 6.' - Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” 1 Sam. xvi, 7. “ Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Psalm xi. 7. “ His countenance doth behold the upright. But these texts speak of a gracious sincerity. Those spoken of, Jer. iv. 2, that “sware, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and righteousness,” were gracious persons, who had a thorough conversion to God, as appears by the preceding verse,

“ If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me;" i. e. Do not do as Judah was charged with doing in the foregoing chapter, verse 10- “ Judah hath not turned unto ine with her whole heart, but feignedly." Do not do thus, * but if thou wilt return, return unto me.” And then it is add. ed in the second verse, “ And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth,” &c.; that is, then your profession of religion will be worth regarding, you will be indeed what you pretend to be, you will be Israelites indeed, in whose profession is no guile. They who said, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness ; said the Lord liveth, as David did, Psalm xviii. 46. “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock.” And as the apostle says he did, 1 Tim. iv. 10. “ We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." And as he would have Timothy exhort rich men to do, chap. vi. 17. " That they trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God.”. When the apostle speaks of a profession of our faith in Christ, as one duty which all Christians ought to perform, as they seek salvation, it is the profession of a saving faith. His words plainly imply it : “ If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." The faith which was to be professed with the mouth, was the same which the apostle speaks of as in the heart, but that is saving faith. The latter is yet plainer in the following words : “ for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Believing unto righteousness is saving faith; but it is evidently the same faith which is spoken of, as professed with the mouth, in the next words in the same sentence. And that the Gentiles, in professing the Christian religion, or swearing to Christ, should profess saving faith, is implied, Isaiah xlv. 23, 24.—“ Every tongue shall swear; surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength :" i. e. should profess entirely to depend on Christ's righteousness and strength.

For persons merely to promise, that they will believe in Christ, or that they will hereafter comply with the conditions and duties of the covenant of grace, is not to own that covenant. Such persons do not profess now to enter into the covenant of

« AnteriorContinuar »