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PSALM L. 5. ·
Gather my saints together unto me: those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
As all nations acknowledge a deity, or object of divine worship, so by a necessary consequence, they observe some sacred rites and solemnities which are by a general name called religion; which hath its name from a Latin word signifying to bind, and is in our old Saxon language called enfastness. Nothing within the compass of religion can so properly challenge that title, as the covenant, and therefore scripture mentions "The bond of the covenant," Ezek. xx. 37. Now religion, and particularly this sacred bond or tie of the covenant, connects and unites together things and persons. The things that religion or the covenant joins, are these two:-first, graces; secondly, conditions and privileges. 1. The covenant of God connects all the graces together in one subject or soul. Graces are not solitary but social; where one is in truth, all the rest are radically and in habit, though as to act and exercise, they make their appearance in different seasons and degrees.
The heart of a Christian is a receptacle of divine graces, as the sea is of waters, conveyed by the Holy Spirit from the fountain of grace in Christ: however the souls of the best have their ebbings and flowings, both as to graces and comforts, yet "of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace,"* that is, not a drop, but grace upon grace-not in infinite degrees, as in Christ, (to whom "God giveth not his Spirit by measure,"†) but in such a proportion as God thinks fit, and as is suitable to our capacities or necessities. But this is certain, that the divine nature or new creature, ushers in a whole troop or cluster of divine graces into the heart of a believer who is united to Christ. A sound union to Christ by faith, which is the covenant bond on our parts, doth entitle the sincere soul to all in Christ, that is communicable; only it is required, that faith be sincere and unfeigned, for truth or sincerity is denominated the girdle of truth, Eph. vi. 14; because upon it hang all the graces, like a string of pearls; for without truth, no grace is of the right stamp, acceptable to God, or available to us; but God" desireth truth in the inward parts," and truth is of so catholic a nature, that it runs through all a Christian's graces and actings to give a genuine character to them. It is true, sincere faith is the first pearl on this string of sincerity, but they are all within the heavenly circle of truth, as virgins in a round,|| and such as are not in this circle, are cast out as counterfeits. The covenant links these together; for all graces are contained in it, and there is no grace without covenant relation.
2. Religion by the covenant binds conditions and privileges together, so that none can expect the saving
* John i. 16.
+ John iii. 34.
Psal. li. 6.
|| 2 Peter i. 5. 'Erixognyúσɑte i. e. chorum ducite,—allusio ad virginum saltationes.
* Acts xvi. 31.
Heb. xii. 14.
advantages of religion, but he that performs the conditions required. Divine wisdom hath contrived this blessed method of shewing mercy and saving souls; faith and justification, repentance and remission, doing the commandments, and eating of the tree of life," are linked together as with chains of adamant, and what God hath joined together no man can put asunder; "He is become the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him,"† and to none else. As sin and hell, so grace and glory‡ are inseparably conjoined. "How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the host of nations?" saith God; as if he had said, "how shall I order that the seed of Abraham shall again be propagated, and enjoy the portion and possession of children?" He answers, "thou shalt call me, my father, and shalt not turn away from me, Jer. iii. 19; as I adopt them to be my children, so I will endow them with the spirit of adoption, and qualify them with a filial disposition; then, and never till then will they be capable of enjoying my promised inheritance: for bastards are not suitable heirs, and a slavish spirit is not fit for a child's work and patrimony. I will change their nature with their state, their disposition as well as relation." Thus there is an instituted connexion betwixt graces and privileges, duties and mercies, "without holiness no man shall see God:" spiritual life is the prologue to eternal life, "it is the pure in heart only that shall see God." It is true, the promise and mercy promised, the grace of the condition, and mercy annexed are both from God in a covenant way, and both freely given, God absolutely promiseth,
Christ freely purchased, the Spirit graciously worketh the qualifications, which he requireth, Ezek. xxxvi. 25 -27. Though God be a free agent, yet by his promise he makes himself a debtor,* and by working the antecedent disposition, he engageth himself to bestow the mercy promised, though he owes us nothing. It is grace to Abraham to make a covenant with him, but truth to perform it to Jacob; hence God is faithful both in pardoning sin, and giving a crown of life to all that penitently confess sin, and sincerely love him ;"† so God crowns his own graces in his saints.
Thus there is a connexion of things effected by the covenant.
As things, so persons are united and knit together in this bond of the covenant.
First, It binds men and men.
Secondly, God and man.
1. It binds men and men; it joins Christians' hearts one to another; "they that believe are of one heart, and one soul;" it is "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." O sacred bond! O blessed unity, ‡ the ligaments are faith and love, by faith all the members are joined to the head, by love to each other, and this love or charity is the bond of perfectness; the staff in Zechariah xi. 14, called bonds or binders, signified the brotherhood between Judah and Israel; the covenant promotes this, therefore it is called, the brotherly covenant.§ O happy conjunction! O sweet communion! Stronger is the boud of grace than nature. ¶ Natural consanguinity or contracted affinity reaches not so high as this heavenly harmony; it is like that
* Reddis debita, nulli debens.-Aug.
+ Mic. vii. 20. 1 John i. 9. 2 Tim. iv. 8.
§ Amos i. 9.