« AnteriorContinuar »
grace with Christ, or into the relation of that covenant to Christ. All they do at present, is to say, they will do it hereafter; they profess, that they will hereafter obey that command of God, to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. But what is such a profession good for, and what credit is to be given to such promises of future obedience ; when at the same
; time they pretend no other at present, than to live and continue in rebellion against those great commands which give no allowance or licence for delay? They who do thus, instead of properly owning the covenant, do rather for the present visibly reject it. It is not unusual, in some churches, where the doctrine I oppose has been established, for persons at the same time that they come into the church, and pretend to own the covenant, freely to declare to their neighbours, they have no imagination that they have any true faith in Christ, or love to him. Such persons, instead of being professedly united to Christ, in the union of the covenant of grace, are rather visibly destitute of the love of Christ, and so, instead of being qualified for admission to the Lord's supper, are rather exposed to that denunciation of the apostle, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ ; let him be Anathema Maranatha."
That outward covenanting which is agreeable to Scripture institution, is not only a promising which is future (though that is not excluded,) but a professing what is present, as it is in the marriage covenant. For a woman to promise that she will hereafter renounce all other men for the sake of him who makes suit to her, and will in some future time accept of him for her husband, is not for her now to enter into the marriage covenant with him. She that does this with a man, professes now to accept of him, renouncing all others; though promises of hereafter behaving towards him as a wife, are also included in the transaction. It seems the primitive converts to Christianity, in the profession they made of religion, in order to their admission into the Christian church, and in their visibly entering into covenant, in order to the initiating seal of the covenant in baptism, did not explicitly make any promises of any thing future. They only professed the present sentiments and habit of their minds, they professed that they believed in Christ, and so were admitted into the church by baptism ; and yet undoubtedly they were, according to forementioned prophecies, admitted in the way of public covenanting. As the covenant-people of God, they owned the covenant before the seal of the covenant was applied. Their professing faith in Christ was visibly owning the covenant of grace, because faith in Christ was the grand
condition of that covenant. Indeed, if the faith which they professed in order to baptism, was only an historical or doctrinal faith (as some suppose,) or any common faith, it would not have been any visible entering into the covenant of grace ; for a common faith is not the condition of that covenant ; nor would there properly have been any covenanting in the case. If we suppose, the faith they professed was the grace by which the soul is united to Christ, their profession was a covenanting in this respect also, that it implied an engagement of future obedience ; for true faith in Christ includes in its nature an acceptance of him as our Lord and King, and devoting ourselves to his service. But a profession of historical faith implies no profession of accepting Christ as our king, nor engagement to submit to him as such.
When the Israelites publicly covenanted with God, according to the institution in Deuteronomy, they did not only promise something future, but professed something present ; they avouched Jehovah to be their God, and also promised to keep his commands. Thus it was in that solemn covenant transaction between God and the people on the plains of Moab; which is summarily described, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. “ Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways,
, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his command
The people, in avouching God for their God, professed a compliance with the terms of the covenant of grace, as summarily expressed in those words, “ I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people.” They that avouch the Lord to be their God, profess to accept of Jehovah as their God; and that is to accept him as the object of their supreme respect and trust. For that which we choose as the object of our highest regard, that, and that only, do we take as our God. None, therefore, that value and love the world more than Jehovah, can, without lying, or being deceived, avouch Jehovah to be their God. And none that do not trust in Christ, but trust more in their own strength or righteousness, can avouch Christ to be their Saviour. Îo avouch God to be our God, is to profess that be is our God by our own act ; i. e. that we choose him to be our chief good and last end, the supreme object of our esteem and regard, to whom we devote ourselves. And if we are sensible that we do not do this sincerely, we cannot profess that we actually do it: for he that does not do it sincerely, does not do it at all. There is no room for the distinction of a moral sincerity and gracious sincerity in this case. A supreme respect of heart to God, or a supreme love to him, which is real, is but of one sort. Whoever does with any reality at all make God the object of the supreme regard of his heart, is certainly a
gracious person. And whoever does not make God the supreme object of his respect with a gracious sincerity, certainly does not do it with any sincerity. I fear, while leading people in many of our congregations, who have no thought of their having the least spark of true love to God in their hearts, to say, publicly and solemnly, that they avouch God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be their God, and that they give themselves up to him, we have led them to say they know not what. To be sure, they are very obscure expressions, if they mean any thing that a carnal man does, under the reigning power of sin and enmity against God.
Here possibly it may be objccted, that it is unreasonable to suppose any such thing should be intended, in the profession of the congregation in the wilderness, as a gracious respect to God, that which is the condition of God's covenant, when we have reason to think that so few of them were truly gracious. But I suppose, upon mature consideration, this will not appear at all unreasonable. It is no more unreasonable to suppose this people to make a profession of that respect to God, which they had not in their hearts now, than at other times when we are informed they did so, as in Ezek. xxxiii. 31. “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people:" [i. e, as though they were my saints, as they profess to be, [" For with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. So in the apostle's tiine, people professed that to be in their hearts towards God which was not there. The apostle is speaking of them, when he says, Tit. i. 16. " they profess that they know God, but in works they deny him." This was common among that people; God declares them to be an hypocritical nation, Isaiah x. 6. And it is certain, this was the case with them in the wilderness; they there professed that respect to God which they had not; as is evident by Psal. Ixxviii. 36, 37. “ They did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant." In owning the covenant with God, they professed their heart was right with him, because it is mentioned as an evidence of their having lied or dealt falsely in their profession, that their heart was not right with him, and so proved not steadfast in God's covenant, which they had owned. If their heart had been right with God, they would have been truly pious persons; which is a demonstration, that what they professed was true piety. It also appears that if they had had such a heart in them, as they pretended to have, they would have been truly pious persons, Deut. v. ; where we have a rehearsal of their covenanting at Mount Sinai: Concerning this it is said, verse 28, 29. “And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto
me; and the Lord said unto me, They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever." The people were mistaken about their disposition and preparation of heart to go through the business of God's service, as the man in the parable, who undertook to build a tower without counting the cost. Nor need it seem at all incredible, that the generation who covenanted at Mount Sinai, should, the greater part of them, be deceived, and think their hearts thoroughly disposed to give up themselves for ever to God, if we consider how much they had strongly to move their
affections. They saw the wonders wrought in Egypt and at the Red Sea, where they were led through on dry ground, and the Egyptians miraculously destroyed; whereby their affections were greatly raised, and they sang God's praises. And particularly they now saw at Mount Sinai, the astonishing manifestations of God's majesty. Probably the greater part of the sinners among them were deceived with false affections; and if there were others less affected and not deceived, it is not incredible that they, in those circumstances, should wilfully dissemble in their profession, and so in a more gross sense flatter God with their lips, and lie to him with their tongues. And these things are more credible concern ing a generation peculiarly left to hardness and blindness of mind in divine matters, and peculiarly noted in the Book of Psalms for hypocrisy. And the generation of their children, who owned the covenant on the plains of Moab, had much to move their affections; they saw the awful judgments of God on their fathers. God had brought them through the wilderness, and subdued Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan before them. They had heard Moses' affecting rehearsal of the whole series of God's wonderful dealings with them, together with his most pathetic exhortations. But it was also a time of great revival of religion and powerful influence of the Spirit of God, and that generation was probably the most excellent that ever was in Israel. There is more good and less hurt spoken of them, than of any other generation that we have any account of in Scripture.* Å very great part of them swore in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. And no wonder that others at such a time fell in, either deceiving, or being deceived, with common affections; as is usual in times of great works of God for his church, and of the flourishing of religion. In succeeding generations, as the people grew more corrupt, I suppose, their covenanting, or swearing into the name of the Lord degenerated into a matter of mere form and ceremony; even as subscribing religious articles seems to have done with the church of England ; and as, it is to be feared, owning the covenant, as it is called, has too much done in New England; it being visibly a prevailing custom for persons to neglect this, till they come to be married, and then to do it for their credit's sake, and that their children may be baptized. And I suppose there was commonly a great laxness in Israel among the priests who had the conduct of this affair. There were many things in the nature of that comparatively carnal dispensation, which negatively gave occasion for such things : that is, whereby it had by no means so great a tendency to prevent such irregularities, as the more excellent dispensation introduced by Christ and his apostles. And though these things were testified against by the prophets, before the Babylonish captivity; yet God, who is only wise, did designedly in a great measure wink at these, and many other great irregularities in the church, till the time of reformation should come, which the Messiah was to have the honour of introducing. But of these things I may perhaps have occasion to say something more, when I come to answer the objection concerning the passover.
* See Numb. xiv. 31. Deut. i. 39. and viii. 15, 16. Josh. xxii. 2. and verse 11 to the end; and xxi. 8. Deut. iv. 4. Josh. xxiv. 31. Jude ii. 17, 22. Psal. Ixvii. 14. Jer. ü, 2, 3, 21, and xxxi. 2, 3. Hos. ix. 10.
Now to return to the argument from the nature of covenanting with God, or owning God's covenant. As to the promises which are herein either explicitly or implicitly made, these imply a profession of true piety. For in the covenant of grace universal obedience is engaged, obedience to all the commands of God; and the performance of inward spiritual duties is as much engaged, as external duties; and in some respects much more. Therefore he that visibly makes the covenant of grace his own, promises to perform those internal duties, and to perform all duties with a gracious sincerity. We have no warrant, in our profession of God's covenant, to divide the duties of it, to take some, and leave out others : especially to leave out those great commands, of believing with the heart, of loving the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. He that leaves out these, in effect leaves out all; for these are the sum of our whole duty, and of all God's commands. If we leave these out of our profession, surely it is not the covenant of grace which we profess. The Israelites, when they covenanted with God at Mount Sinai, and said, when God had declared to them the ten commandments, “ All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient." promised, that as they professed to know God, they would in works not deny, but own and honour him, and would conform to those two great commandments, which are the sum of all the ten, and concerning which God said, “ These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart," Deut. vi. 6.