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antecedent. 4. When I say that it is repenting and believing sinners that are the party, I mean, (1.) That taking the covenant in its first act, it is repentance and faith themselves that are that act, and are our very covenanting. (2.) But taking the covenant in its external expression, so it is a repenting, believing sinner that must take it, it being but the expression of his repentance and faith, by an explicit contract with God. 5. Note, that though God's covenant be by one universal act, (of which more anon,) yet man's is to be made by the several acts of the individual persons each one for himself, and not by the acts of societies only.
II. The matter of the covenant on God's part is in general, that He will be our God: more particularly, that God the Father will be our Reconciled God and Father in Jesus Christ; that God the Son will be our Saviour; and God the Holy Ghost will be our Sanctifier. And the relation of a God to us essentially containeth these three parts : 1. That as on the title of Creation and Redemption he is our Owner, so he doth take us as his own peculiar people. 2. That as he hath title to be our absolute King or Governor, so he doth take us as his subjects. 3. That he will be our grand Benefactor and felicity, or our most loving Father (which compriseth all the rest). And as he will be thus related to us, so he will do for us all that these relations do import As, 1. He will do all that belongeth to a Creator for his creature, in our preservation and supplies. 2. He will save us from our sins, and from his wrath and hell. 3. And he will sanctify us to a perfect conformity to our Head. Also, 1. He will use us and defend us as his own peculiar ones. 2. He will govern us by a law of grace and righteousness. 3. He will make us fully happy in his love for ever.
III. The matter on man's part of the covenant is, l. In respect of the “Terminus à quo,' that we will forsake the flesh, the world, and the devil as they are adverse to our relations and duties to God. 2. In regard of the Terminus ad quem,' that we will take the Lord for our God: and more particularly, 1. That we do take God the Father for our Reconciled Father in Jesus Christ, and do give up ourselves to him, as creatures to their Maker. 2. That we do take Jesus Christ for our Redeemer, Saviour, and Mediator, as our High Priest, and Prophet, and King, and do give up ourselves to him as his redeemed ones to be reconciled to God, and saved by him. 3. That we do take the Holy Ghost for our Regenerator and Sanctifier, and do give up ourselves to be perfectly renewed and sanctified by him, and by his operations carried on to God in his holy service. Also, 1. That we do take God for our absolute Lord or Owner, and do give up ourselves to him as his own. 2. That we take him for our universal, sovereign Governor, and do give up ourselves unto him as his subjects. 3. That we do take him for our most bountiful Benefactor, and loving Father, and felicity, and do give up ourselves to him as his children, to seek him, and please him, and perfectly to love him, delight in him, and enjoy him for ever in heaven as our ultimate end. And in consenting to these relations, we covenant to do the duties of them in sincerity.
IV. The terms or conditions which God requireth of man in his covenant are, consent, and fidelity or performance : he first consenteth conditionally, if we will consent: and he consenteth to be actually our God, when we consent to be his people : so that as bare consent, without any performance doth found the relation between husband and wife, master and servant, prince and people; but the sincere performance of the duties of the relation which we consent to, are needful afterward to continue the relation, and attain the benefits and ends; so is it also between God and man. We are his children in covenant as soon as we consent; but we shall not be glorified but on condition of sincere performance and obedience.
V. God's covenant with man is nothing else but the universal promise in the Gospel ; and (to the solemnization,) the declaration, and application, and solemn investiture or delivery by his authorized ministers. 1. The Gospel as it relateth the matters of fact in and about the work of our redemption, is a sacred history. 2. As it containeth the terms on which God will be served, and commandeth us to obey them for our salvation, it is called the law of Christ or grace. 3. As it containeth the promise of life and salva tion conditionally offered, it is called God's promise, and covenant, (viz. on his part, as it is proposed only). 4. When by our consent the condition is so far perform
ed, or the covenant accepted, then God's conditional, universal promise or covenant, becometh actual and particular as to the effect; and so the covenant becometh mutual between God and man: as if a king made an act or law of pardon and oblivion to a nation of rebels, saying, “Whoever cometh in by such a day, and confesseth his fault, and sueth out his pardon, and promiseth fidelity for the future shall be pardoned.' This act is a law in one respect, and it is an universal, conditional pardon of all those rebels; or a promise of pardon; and an offer of pardon to all that it is revealed to: but it is an actual pardon to those that come in, and conferreth on them the benefits of the act as if they were named in it, and is their very title to their pardon, of which their consent is the condition; and the condition being performed, the pardon or collation of the benefit becometh particular and actual, without any new act; it being the sense of the law itself, or conditional grant, that so it should do. So as to the reality of the internal covenant-interest and benefits, justification and adoption, it is ours by virtue of this universal conditional covenant, when we perform the condition. But as to our title “in foro Ecclesiæ,' and the due solemnization and investiture, it is made ours when God's minister applieth it to us in baptism by his commission. As the rebel that was fundamentally pardoned by the act of oblivion, must yet have his personal pardon delivered him by the Lord Chancellor under the Great Seal. In this sense ministers are the instruments of God, not only in declaring us to be pardoned, but in delivering to us the pardon of our sins, and solemnly investing us therein : as an attorney delivereth possession to one that before had his fundamental title. Thus God entereth into covenant with man.
VI. The qualifications of absolute necessity to the validity of our covenant with God in foro interiori' are these, 1. That we understand what we do as to all the essentials of the covenant: for 'ignorantis non est consensus.' 2. That it be our own act, performed by our natural, or legal selves, that is, some one that hath power so far to dispose of us (as parents have of their children). 3. That it be deliberate, sober, and rational, done by one that is compos mentis,' in his wits, and not in drunkenness, madness, or incogitancya. 4. That it be seriously done with a real intention of doing the thing, and not histrionically, ludicrously, or in jest. 5. That it be done entirely as to all essential parts ; for if we leave out any essential part of the covenant, it is no sufficient consent: (as to consent that Christ shall be our Justifier, but not the Holy Ghost our Sanctifier). 6. That it be a present consent to be presently in covenant with God : for to consent that you will be his servants to morrow or hereafter, but not yet, is but to purpose to be in covenant with him hereafter, and is no present covenanting with him. 7. Lastly, it must be a resolved and absolute consent without any open or secret exceptions or reserves.
VII. The fruits of the covenant which God reapeth (though he need nothing) is the pleasing of his good and gracious will, in the exercise of his love and mercy; and the praise and glory of his grace, in his people's love and happiness for ever. The fruits or benefits which accrue to man are unspeakable, and would require a volume competently to open them : especially that God is our God, and Christ our Saviour, Head, Intercessor, and Teacher, and the Holy Ghost is our Sanctifier; and that God will regard us as his own, and will protect us, preserve us, and provide for us, and will govern us, and be our God and joy for ever : that he will pardon us, justify, and adopt us, and glorify us with his Son in heaven.
Direct. II. · When you thus understand well the nature of the covenant, labour to understand the special reasons of it.' The reasons of the matter of the covenant you may see in the fruits and benefits now mentioned. But I now speak of the reason of it as a covenant 'in genere,' and such a covenant . in specie. 1. In general, God will have man to receive life or death as an accepter and keeper, or a refuser or breaker of his covenant, because he will do it not only as a Benefactor, or absolute Lord, but also as a Governor, and will make his covenant to be also his law, and his promise and benefits to promote obedience. And because he will deal with man as with a free agent, and not as with a brute that hath no choosing and refusing power conducted by reason: man's life and death shall be in his own hands, and still depend upon his own will; though God will secure his own dominion, interest, and ends, and put nothing out of his own power by putting it into man's; nor have ever the less his own will, by leaving man to his own will. God will at last as a righteous Judge, determine all the world to their final joy or punishment, according to their own choice while they were in the flesh, and according to what they have done in the body whether it be good or evil b. Therefore he will deal with us on covenant terms.
a Quis vero non doleat baptismo plerosque adultos initio passim et nostro tempore non raro ante perfundi quam Christianam catechesin vel mediocriter teneant, neque an flagitiosæ et superstitiosæ vitæ pænitentia tangantur, neque vero id ipsum quod accipiunt, an velint accipere, satis constet. Acosta lib. vi. c. 2. p. 520. Nisi petant et instent, Christianæ vitæ professione donandi non sunt. Idem p. 521. And again, While ignorant or wicked men do hasten any how, by right or wrong, by guile or force, to make the barbarous people Christians, they do nothing else but make the Gospel a scorn, and certainly destroy the deserters of a rashly undertaken faith. Id. ibid. p. 522.
2. And he hath chosen to rule and judge men according to a covenant of grace, by a Redeemer, and not according to a rigorous law of works, that his goodness and mercy may be the more fully manifested to the sons of men; and that it may be easier for men to love him, when they have so wonderful demonstrations of his love: and so that their service here, and their work and happiness hereafter, may consist of love, to the glory of his goodness, and the pleasure of his love for ever.
Direct. 111. “Next understand rightly the nature, use, and end of baptism. Baptism is to the mutual covenant between God and man, what the solemnization of marriage is to them that do before consent; or what the listing a soldier by giving him colours, and writing his name, is to one that consented before to be a soldier C. In my “Universal Concord,” pp. 29, 30., I have thus described it: 'Baptism is a holy sacrament instituted by Christ, in which a person professing the Christian faith (or the infant of such) is baptized in water into the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, in signification and solemnization of the holy covenant, in which as a penitent believer (or the seed of such) he giveth up himself (or is by the parent given up) to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, forsaking the devil, the world, and the flesh, and is solemnly entered Matt. xxv.
c See the “Reformed Liturgy," p. 68.