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awful our condition then! Truly we should have been for ever like the fallen angels, destitute of all help or hope, if God had not marvellously interposed to rescue us from death and hell by the sacrifice of his only dear Son. With what emphasis then may every one of us say, "A Syrian ready to perish was our father!" Here all the wonders of redeeming love unfold themselves to our view and he who has no heart to adore God for them, has no evidence, no hope, of any interest in them
2. A reasonable duty—
[If we have conferred favours on any person for years together, do we not expect our kindness to be acknowledged and requited as opportunities shall occur? Do we not look with abhorrence upon a man that is insensible to all the obligations that can be heaped upon him? But what are the kindnesses which we can shew to a fellow-creature in comparison of those which we have received from God? Shall we then ex
pect a tribute of gratitude from him, and think ourselves at liberty to withhold it from our Heavenly Benefactor? Let the world ridicule devotion, if they will, and call the love of God enthusiasm: but we will maintain it, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and that an entire surrender of ourselves to him is "a reasonable service" Do we inquire, whence it is that ungodly men regard the sublimer exercises of religion as unnecessary and absurd? We answer, They have never considered what obligations they owe to God. Only let them once become acquainted with "the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ," and they will see, that reason, no less than revelation, demands of us this tribute; and that every enlightened mind must of necessity accord with that of the Psalmist, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?" "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!"]
3. A delightful duty
[In the passage before us it is associated with joy: and indeed, what is such a service but a foretaste of heaven itself?
Did any one ever engage in it, and not find his soul elevated by it to a joy which nothing else could afford? Let any one ruminate on earthly things, and his meditations will only augment his cares, or at best inspire him with a very transient joy. Let him dwell upon his own corruptions, and, though they are a proper subject of occasional meditation, they will only weigh down his spirits, and perhaps lead him to desponding fears. But let the goodness of God, and the wonders of redeeming love, b ver. 11.
be contemplated by him, and he will soon have his mind raised bove earthly things, and fired with a holy ambition to honour and to resemble God. See how the Psalmist expresses his thoughts on such occasions: what glorious language! how sublime must have been the feelings of his soul, when uttering it before God! Know ye then that this is the state to which we would invite you, and that the daily experience of it is the best preparative for the joys above.]
c Ps. cxlv. 1–7.
COVENANTING WITH GOD EXPLAINED.
Deut. xxvi. 17—19. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.
THE covenant which was made with the Jews at Mount Horeb, though materially different from that which exists under the Christian dispensation, was yet intended to shadow forth that which all of us are called upon to enter into with our God. The Jewish covenant had respect in a great measure to temporal blessings, the bestowment of which was suspended entirely on their performance of certain conditions: whereas ours relates altogether to spiritual blessings; and though it has conditions as well as theirs, it provides strength for the performance of them, and thereby secures from failure all those who cordially embrace it. We may take occasion therefore from the words before us to consider,
I. Our covenant engagements
The Jews were required to "avouch," or profess openly, their acceptance of God as their God, and their determination to obey his will in all things; and such are the engagements which we also are
called to take upon ourselves under the Christian dispensation:
1. To accept God as our God
[The Jews had most satisfactory evidence that Jehovah was the only true God, and that he alone was worthy to be worshipped and adored. But, great as were the evidences of his kindness towards them, they are nothing in comparison of the demonstrations of his love to us. The gift of his only dear Son to die for us must for ever eclipse every other expression of his love: and this peculiarly distinguishes the view in which we are to accept him: we must regard him as our incarnate God, as "God IN Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them." Think a moment what is implied in such an acceptance of God: it supposes, that we feel our guilty, helpless, and hopeless state by nature; that we see the suitableness and sufficiency of the provision which God has made for us in the Son of his love; and that we are determined to have no dependence on any thing but on the meritorious death and the all-sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus-
But it is not merely a secret determination which God requires: that determination must be avowed; we must "avouch" him to be the Lord our God. We must not be ashamed of Christ, but must "confess him before men," and be as bold in acknowledging him, as the ungodly are in their allegiance to the god of this world———]
2. To act towards him as becomes us in that relation
[Universal obedience to his commands was promised by the Jews of old; and the same must be promised by us also. We need not attempt to discriminate between the various terms here used: this we are sure is intended by them, that we are to yield obedience to the whole of his will as far as we know it, neither regarding any thing as unworthy of our notice, nor any thing as too difficult for us to perform: we must "hearken to his voice," as the angels in heaven do, with an unwearied solicitude to know more of his will, and an incessant readiness to comply with the first intimations of it. We must be searching and meditating continually to find out what he speaks to us in his written word; and be listening also attentively to the still small voice of his Spirit, speaking to us in our consciences: and, whatever we ascertain to be his mind and will, that we are to do without hesitation, and without reserve. Now this we must determine through grace to do. We must b Ps. ciii. 20.
a Rom. v. 8.
not come to God only as a Saviour to deliver us, but also as a Lord to govern us: and we must resolve that henceforth "no other Lord shall have dominion over us." Nor must this determination be kept secret: this also must be avowed: we must let it be seen "whose we are, and whom we serve;" and must evince a firmness in his service which neither the terrors nor allurements of the world can ever shake —
Precisely corresponding with our engagements are, II. Our covenant advantages
God affords us ample encouragement to "lay hold on his covenant;" for he avows his determination, 1. To own us as his people
[The very moment that we look to Christ as "all our salvation and all our desire," God will set his seal upon us as "his peculiar treasure." Just as a person who has bought any thing of great value, regards it from that moment as his own property, and uses all proper methods for the securing the full possession of it, so does God: "he sets apart him that is godly for himself:" he gives "his angels charge over him," and "avouches" him from that day to be "his purchased possession." He "avouches" it, I say, and makes it manifest both to the man himself and to the world around him. To the man himself he gives "a Spirit of adoption, enabling him to cry, Abba, Father," and to ascertain, by "the witness of that Spirit, that he is a child of God." To the world around him also he makes it manifest, by enabling him to "walk as Christ walked," and "to shine as a light in the midst of a dark benighted world." Instantly does the change in him become apparent, so that his friends and neighbours cannot but confess that he is a new creature: and, though some will ascribe the change to one thing, and some to another, they are constrained to acknowledge, that his new mode of life is such as they cannot attain to, and such as approves itself to be the very work of God himself.]
2. To bestow on us blessings worthy of that relation
[The first thing which the child of God desires, is holiness: and behold, as soon as ever he embraces the Christian covenant, God engages to make him holy, and to enable him "to keep all his commandments." This is a peculiar point of difference between the Jewish covenant and ours, as we have already observed; and it is that which is our greatest encouragement under the consciousness we feel of our own weakness. God
c Rom. viii. 15, 16.
"will put his Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes, &c.d" This is actually a part of HIS covenant engagements; and must be esteemed by us as our security for the enjoyment of all our other advantages.
Together with this does God undertake to give us the most exalted honour and happiness: "he will make us high above all people in praise, and in name, and in honour." "Behold," says the Apostle, "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called THE SONS OF GOD!" Yes, he❝calls us not servants, but friends," yea, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." For us has he prepared crowns and kingdoms, that we may "sit with him on his throne," and be partakers of his glory for ever and ever. This, and infinitely more than language can express, has " God prepared for them that love him," and that embrace" his covenant of life and peace:" and he pledges his truth and faithfulness for the performance of his word.
O Christian, what advantages are these! what tongue can ever utter them; what imagination can ever conceive of them aright! Know however, that, unspeakable as they are, they are all thy rightful portion, thine everlasting inheritance.] APPLICATION
Twice is the expression used, "this day;" "this day thou hast avouched;" and "this day God has avouched, &c." Permit me then to ask, Have you ever known such a day as this, a day wherein you have solemnly surrendered yourselves to God as his redeemed people, with a full determination to serve him with your whole hearts; and a day wherein he has "manifested himself to you as he does not unto the world," and "sealed you with the Holy Spirit of promise, as the earnest of your inheritance?"
To those who have known such a day:
[Perhaps you were brought to it through many and severe afflictions; but have you ever regretted for a moment the means by which such a blessed end has been accomplished? We say then, Let not the remembrance of that day escape from your minds. You cannot but recollect what a solemn transaction it was between God and your own souls; what shame you felt that ever you had alienated yourselves from him, what gratitude to him for his gracious acceptance of you, what a determination to live entirely to his glory, and what a persuasion that you could never be base enough to forget the
d Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27.
e Zech. xiii. 9. Ezek. xx. 37.