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being placed last, which in construction is to be first, they prayed, vowed vows and sacrifices, and it is thought these mariners became proselytes to the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Prayers and vows usually go together in scripture, but more of this hereafter. And with respect to thanksgiving, vows and covenants must be made therein; take one instance, Psal. cxvi. 12, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” he answers himself, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” ver. 13; yea, “I will pay my vows unto the Lord,” ver. 14, 17, 18. But what is that vow? surely nothing less than this personal covenanting, ver. 16, “O Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid, thou hast loosed my bonds.” Because God had loosed his afflictive bonds, he will enter into covenant bonds; he professeth it twice to God, “Thy servant, thy servant;” new obligations bind faster.
[i.] “I am the son of thy handmaid,” born in thy family, devoted by my mother to thee.
[ii.] Thou hast loosed my bonds,” I am thine by an act of special redemption, I am rescued from spiritual and corporeal slavery to be thy beads-man for ever; and when was this? even when he was offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving, then he takes into his hand the cup of salvation; it alludes to the strong wine that was poured out to the Lord for a drink-offering, * and sprinkled upon the sacrifice, in which action those who offered, called on the name of the Lord, and gave thanks; so the Hebrews say, the Levites repeat not the song of oblation, but upon the drinkoffering;t so it siguifies a thank-offering brought to God in Christ. As the master of a family in a gratulatory feast, drank to all his guests in a full cup, which was called the cup of blessing or benediction, (to which our Saviour alludes in his last supper, *) whereby he testified his gratitude to his great benefactor: this is a fit season for making and renewing our solemn covenant with God; but more of this in the sequel.
• Numb. xxvii. 6, 7.
Thus much for covenanting with God by sacrifice.
All these points are but preliminary, and preparatory to what I have in view—which is the character of those persons whom God charges his angels to gather to him at the great day; it is saints, none but saints, sanctified souls, these holy ones shall dwell with the holy God, holy things for holy persons.f But who are these saints? many will pretend saintship, that are not really so. But I tell you, saith God, who they are whom I account and will own for saints, it is they that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. The latter part of the text is explanatory of the former: this, this is the shibboleth, the criterion, the mark on the forehead of God's holy ones; this is the indelible character of a child of God; God will own and crown none but such at the great day; angels, the glorified souls, all the creatures will own such, and none but such as have proved their saintship by covenant relation, disposition, and conversation; and though men know it not, yet it shall be discovered when their inside shall be torned out, and the secrets of all hearts shall be discovered, then his name shall be legible on their foreheads, when Christ shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, on that illustrious day; † this is the brotherhood of travellers, this is the society of noly pilgrims.
Doct. That those, and only those are real saints who Matt. xxvi. 27. + Sancta sanctis. Rev. xxii. 4. 2 Thess. i. 10.
have made a personal covenant with God, or sincere saints, who expect to be received by God, and do enter into covenant with him.
I conceive this may refer to personal covenanting.
1. Because hypocritical and sincere worshippers are distinguished in this Psalm ; the former are described, challenged, convicted, threatened, and severely punished, ver. 7, 16–22; that they are thus ranked and distinguished may appear from ver. 16, “But unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?” this adversative particle but, imports his setting these hypocrites in opposition to sincere covenanting saints, who "offer to God thanksgiving, and pay their vows to the Most High,” ver. 14; who call on God in trouble, and glorify him ver. 15; "who order their conversation aright, and to whom he shews the salvation of God," ver. 23. O what a vast difference and disproportion there is betwixt these!
2. Because God orders that solemn day for their discrimination; gather my saints to me, saith he; graceless souls must be separated from him, with go ye cursed. In this world saints and sinners, sincere and hypocritical worshippers are intermingled, and resemble each other so much, that none can tell with certanity which are God's people, and which not ; but there is a day coming that shall burn as an oven, which shall purge them as gold and silver, and “I will declare them to be mine,” saith God, “when I make up my jewels"“then shall ye return and discern betwixt the righteous and wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not ;"* here they are huddled up in a crowd, then they shall be distinctly known. fessors attending on God's holy ordinances are enlisted
Mal. iv. 1, 3. iii. 17, 18.
as soldiers under his banner, but God's sincere-hearted saints in a peculiar manner. bind themselves unto the Lord in the sacred bond of the gospel covenant.
In speaking on this subject, I shall bring under review these seven general heads :-namely,
I. What is covenanting, and what this personal covenanting is ?
II. Demonstrate the truth of this point, that personal covenanting is essential to saintship.
III. Discover what is essentially necessary in a soul that would enter into covenant personally with God?
IV. What outward circumstances may be convenient for making this engagement ?
V. In what manner, or with what words a person may actually enter into the engagement, with the form of it?
VI. Objections answered.
VII. How a Christian must behave himself after he hath been thus solemnly making a covenant with God?
Then make some short application of all.
WHAT IS COVENANTING IN GENERAL ? AND
WHAT IS THIS PERSONAL COVENANTING ?
I. WHAT is covenanting? It would be lost labour, to spend much time on this subject, which so many have treated on. I shall therefore only transiently make a few observations upon it; with respect to the word d which in Hebrew signifies covenant, it imports,
1. To choose, to elect, or select.
(1.) Because a covenant, (as all elective acts are) is an act of judgment, and deliberation Elections are not rash, but rational; not precipitant passions, but deliberate exercises of the intellectual faculties: thus a covenant must be, and is made on the decision of a well advised judgment, not upon the catch of a sudden fancy, or the hurry of violent passions.
(2.) Because in a covenant there is a choice made; first, of the persons, with whom this covenant is entered into, it is not with all, but with some peculiarly chosen. Secondly, there is a choice of the terms or conditions, upon which a covenant is made, and which must be inviolably maintained; and these terms are usually both possible and equal.
2. The word implies and imports eating and drinking freely, and cheerfully, with the persons with whom men contract and covenant. This distinguishes the nature of covenanting whereby persons are drawn into a friendly communion, and amicable correspondence; this was ordinary in old times when persons entered into league and a covenant together, they ate and drank together; so did Abraham and Abimelech, Gen. xxi. 27–32; Isaac and Abimelech, Gen. xxvi. 2832; Laban and Jacob, Gen. xxxi. 44, 46. Thus doth God with his covenanted saints, they have fellowship together in the Lord's supper, thereby discovering mutual friendship and complacency in each other.
I shall not trouble you with the several sorts of covenant; that of friendship between God and Adam, and this new covenant of reconciliation between God and fallen man, grounded upon the covenant of redemption betwixt Father and Son; nor is ours the former