Page images
PDF
EPUB

the Lord of Hosts." So in Jer. xxiii. 5....8, it seems to be plainly foretold, that after Christ is come, and has wrought out his great redemption, the same way of publicly professing faith in the allsufficient and immutable God, by swearing, the Lord liveth, should be continued, which was instituted of old; but only with this difference, that whereas formerly they covenanted with God as their Redeemer out of Egypt, now they shall as it were forget that work, and have a special respect to a much greater redemption. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a rightcous Branch. Therefore they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, the Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country,” &c. Another remarkable place wherein it is plainly foretold, that the like method of professing religion should be continued in the days of the gospel, which was instituted in Israel, by swearing or public covenanting, is that, Isa. xlv. 22....25. “ Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth ; for I am God, and there is none else : I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear : Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength : Even to him shall men come : In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

This prophecy will have its last fulfilment at the day of judg. ment ; but it is plain, that the thing most directly intended is the conversion of the Gentile world to the Christian religion, What is here called swearing, the apostle, in citing this place, once and again calls confessing ; Rom. xiv. 11.... Every tongue shall confess to God.” Philip. ii. 10.... That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Which is the word commonly used in the New Testament, to signify making a public profession of religion. So Rom. x. 9, 10, “ 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 : For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto

in rishi bowv, everye I right in the

salvation,” Where a public profession of religion with the mouth is evidently spoken of as a great duty of all Christ's people, as well as believing in him ; and ordinarily requisite to salvation ; not that it is necessary in the same manner that faith is, but in like manner as baptism is. Faith and verbal profession are jointly spoken of here as necessary to salvation, in the same manner as faith and baptism are, in Mark xvi. 16. “ He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” And I know no good reason why we should not look on oral profession and covenanting with Christ, 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 much as baptism.

And if it be so that explicit open coverianting 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 take 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 be, or have an 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 Isa. xlviii. 1,2. “Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, 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, and was done again on occasion of a repetition or renewed promulgation of it on the plains of Moab, and was done on occasion of the public reading of the law in Josiah's time (2 Kings xxiii. 3.) and was done after the return from

the captivity, on occasion of 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 done then by all who then heard the law read the first time, and who never had heard, nor 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. until they had done it : It is plainly implied in Psal. 1. 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 Ver. 16, taken with the preceding part of the Psalm, from Ver. 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 intend, I now come,

Secondly, To that which I think must be the consequence, viz. That none ought to be admitted to the privileges of adult persons in the church of Christ, but such as make a profession of real piety. For 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 ob

jects of his eternal favor ; which is no other than the coves nant 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 a professing the assent of our un, derstandings, 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 con. sent 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, de: clares 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 cover nant of grace is so often compared to in scripture, as the mar. riage covenant ; and the visible transaction, or mutual profession there is between Christ and the visible church, is an bundantly compared to the mutual profession there is in marriage. In marriage the bride professes to yield to the bride. groom's suit, and to take him for her husband, renouncing all others, and to give up herself to him to be entirely and forever possessed by him as his wife. But he that professes this 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 Isa. Ivi. it is called a “ joining themselves to the Lord.” . But the union, cleaving, or joining of that covenant is saying

faith, the grand condition of the covenant of Christ, by which we are in Christ : This is what 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 the covenant, 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 than this is the condition of the covenant of grace.

I know the distinction that is 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. This distinction takes place also concerning the covenant of grace ; the one only covenant of grace 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; the unscripturalness of which latter hypothesis I .. observed before.

« PreviousContinue »