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duced. It has, however, been conceived, by some persons, to be a kind of ignorant and profane contracting, or bargaining with God Almighty ; a kind of engaging, that if he will confer upon us certain blessings, we will perform certain acts of duty and obedience; and that of ourselves, and in our own strength.
It may not be amiss, therefore, to examine seriously whether it be unscriptural and wrong to enter into, or renew a covenant with God; and if not, how this may be done, so that good and not harm to ourselves, and all engaged therein, may arise from the transaction. For, no doubt, this, like all other good things, is capable of abuse. I shall endeavour to show,
I. THAT COVENANTING with God, 'AND THAT PUBLICLY, Is NOT AN UNPRECEDENTED THING IN THE CHURCH OF GOD, BUT HAS BEEN USUAL IN FORMER AGES.
That covenanting with God is not unprecedented, we find in the annals of Gov's church from the beginning. The records of God's people before the flood, are few and short. But, as David describes all God's “ saints as making a covenant with him by sacrifice,” and as we find Abel offering sacrifice, and thereby obtaining witness that he was righteous; we may safely conclude that he thereby entered into, or renewed, his covenant with God. Immediately after the flood, we find God covenanting with Noah and his seed in a most solemn manner. For, spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you ;-neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood, neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Gen. ix. 8–11.) We read also, (Gen. xvii. 1, 2,) that, “ when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared, and said, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”-It was a most solemn covenant into which Jacob entered, when having had an extraordinary and divine dream at a place which he named Beth-el, because he found it the “house of God," he “ vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.”
If it be objected that these were only instances of private persons covenanting with God in secret, and, therefore, cannot be pleaded to justify public meetings kept for such a purpose,
I will lead you to observe public acts of this kind between God and a whole people. Such was that, when the law was given from Sinai ; and such is that described in my text. (See ver. 1, &c.) Such was that made before the death of Joshua, (ch. xxiv. 15.) Such was that in the days of Josiah, (2 Kings xxiii. 2, 3,) when " the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people both small and great ; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the LORD, and keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.” And Jeremiah foretold, (ch. I. 4,) “In those days and in that time,-the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping; they shall go and seek the Lord their God;” of which prophecy we read the accomplishment in Ezra, (ch. viii. 21; x. 1-3;) and Nehemiah, (ch. ix. 1-3, 38; x. 29.)
If it be objected, further, that this was under the Old Testament dispensation, and it be asked what this has to do with the Gospel ? I answer, that God by Jeremiah speaks of Gospel-days when he says, (Jer. xxxi. 31,) “ Behold the days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,” &c., (Comp. Heb. viii. 8,) and, in the Epistles to the Galatians and Hebrews, the Gospel is continually represented as a Covenant and Testament, for the original word means both; and penitent and believing souls are entered into it, and entitled to the blessings of it. But,
II. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THAT COVENANT, INTO WHICH THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVE ENTERED, AND INTO WHICH WE ARE CALLED TO ENTER WITH HIM, AND HOW DO WE ENTER INTO IT.
It is not a covenant of justice, or, as it has been improperly termed, a covenant of works, like that made with innocent man in paradise. Adam had not then sinned, and therefore had no guilt 'to be pardoned. He was not then depraved, and had not a nature which had need to be renewed. He was not then weak in
himself, but had power sufficient to do all that was required of him. But man being now fallen, and the reverse of all this,—the reverse of innocent Adam in these particulars,—the covenant, whereby he must be saved, must make provision for pardoning, renewing, and enabling him to do the will of God, which, as a covenant of grace, it really does.
It is not a covenant of works now, in the sense in which the Mosaic covenant was such, being clogged with an endless variety of expensive and burdensome ceremonies, termed by St. Paul the
elements of the world,” (Gal. iv. 3,) which were but typical and shadowy representations of Gospel blessings, and had no inherent excellency in themselves. These were adapted to the church of God in those middle ages, when the whole earth was immersed in idolatry; but they did not abrogate the preceding and more simple covenant of grace, which was in force through the patriarchal ages. (Gal. iii. 17–20.)- The Christian covenant is founded “upon better promises.” (Heb. viii. 6.) Its ceremonies are only two, baptism and the LORD's supper, both most significant. Its conditions or duties are most reasonable, necessary in the nature of things, and easy. Its worship is pure and spiritual, and confined to neither time nor place. Its privileges and blessings are spiritual and eternal.
Now this covenant can only be entered into by a Mediator. (Gal. iii. 19; Heb. vii. 22—28.)—We enter into this covenant, through this Mediator, by profession when we are baptized, and, according to the church of England, promise to 6 renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all the covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh ;” but we only enter into it in reality, when we really, intelligently, and deliberately do these things; that is, when we turn to God in genuine repentance. (Jer. I. 4, 5.) We enter into it by saving faith in the revealed will of God, in the truths of the Gospel, and in Christ, and the promises of the new covenant.—By self-dedication. (Rom. vi. 13; xii. 1.) Thus also by another kind of sacrifice we make a covenant with him. (Psal. 1. 14.) To him we must give ourselves; and to him we must join ourselves. (Jer. 1. 5; Isai. lvi. 6.) This covenant is God's oath. He has drawn
the covenant, and settled it; and he requires our consent to it. He has sworn to us, and to him we must be sworn, which, in fact, we are when we receive the sacrament, a word signifying an oath. We must be sincere and serious, humble and reverent in our covenant
transactions with God, remembering how great a God he is with whom we are covenanting; that he has perfect knowledge of us, and absolute dominion over us. But observe,
III. THE END FOR WHICH WE SHOULD ENTER INTO OR RENEW
“ That he may establish thee for a people to himself.”
A believing people, receiving in faith all his truths and promises.- A loving people, (Deut. xxx. 6, 16, 20,) esteeming, desiring, grateful to, and delighting in him.-An obedient people, (Deut. xxx. 20.) 66 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!” (Deut. v. 29.)—His loyal subjects.—His faithful servants, serving him in the diligent and faithful use of all the talents he has entrusted us with, in the station of life in which he has placed us.-His dutiful children; confiding in him, casting our care on him, and resigning our wills to him. His affectionate and constant spouse, giving him our hearts, in preference to all others in the universe.--His true and spiritual worshippers.
In order to be established as such, we should engage to be steady and constant in all these things. This end, these solemn covenant-transactions are peculiarly calculated to promote, when entered into and performed suitably, as in the immediate presence of God, before so many witnesses, men and angels, so many joining in prayer for the divine blessing, and that blessing given in a peculiar manner.
Thus JEHOVAH, the self-existent and self-sufficient, will be to us a GOD; will do in us and for us all that can be expected from a GoD.-He will fully enlighten our minds by his Spirit of Truth, with the knowledge of the whole truth. He will justify our persons, and give us constant peace with himself, and peace of mind. He will renew our nature, and work in us whatever is well-pleasing in his sight; will sanctify us wholly, and stamp his image completely upon our souls. He will acknowledge us for and treat us as his children, and will guide, and protect, and provide for us as such. He will give us all things needful for body as well as soul. He will constitute us his heirs, and joint heirs with his Son. He will raise us to immortality and glory. Our Lord shows that even this was implied, when God spake to Moses at the bush, and styled himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Luke xx. 37.)
Ye, now present, stand all of you before the LORD your God, your captains of your tribes, &c. As none are too great to come within the bonds of the covenant; so none are too mean to inherit its blessings.
This day ; the first Sabbath of the new year, and the (third) day of it. And has God spared us amidst the sins and failings, the unfaithfulness of the past year, and brought us hitherto ?-How great humility and thankfulness should our sins and mercies beget in us !-How little do we know what trials may await us the ensuing year!-How much do we need God's protection and support!
Ye stand before Jehovah, your God, the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, whose eye is upon you. -
Ye stand here that ye should enter into covenant with JehoVAH, your God, your Creator, from whom you have derived your being, and all your powers of body and mind; your Preserver, Benefactor, Redeemer, Lawgiver, and Judge. Consider the obligations you are under to enter into this covenant, from justice, gratitude, interest, present and eternal.
MAGNITUDE OF THE DIVINE FAVOURS.
Deut. xxxii. 6.
Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people, and unwise?
What an eminent saint! what a faithful servant of God was the author of this book ! What great works did he perform, during the short space of his mortal life! Commissioned and assisted by the Almighty JEHOVAH, he delivered the Israelites from the oppressive power of Egypt, where they had suffered a long and grievous slavery ; led them through the very midst of the Red Sea, which divided hither and thither to give them passage, but returned upon and overwhelmed Pharaoh and all his host and conducted them into a great and terrible wilderness, through