A Sermon at London On The Solemn League & Covenant - by Rev. Edmund CalamyArticles on the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith
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A Sermon given in London.
This Sermon was delivered by Rev. Edmond Calamy, a member of the Westminster Assembly, on January 14, 1645, “before the then Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir Thomas Adams; together with the Sheriffs, Aldermen, and Common Council of the said City, upon the day of their taking the Solemn League and Covenant, at Michael Hasenshaw, London.”
“Truce-breakers (or covenant-breakers).”—2 Tim. iii. 3.
IN the beginning of the chapter, the apostle tells us the condition that the church of God should be in, in the last days. “This know also, that in the last days .perilous times shall come.” In the second verse, he tells us the reason why these times should be such hard and dangerous times; “for men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous,” &c. The reason is not drawn from the miseries and calamities of the last times, but from the sins and iniquities of the last times. It is sin and iniquity that make times truly perilous. Sin, and sin only, takes away God’s love and favor from a nation, and makes God turn an enemy to it. Sin causeth God to take away the purity and power of His ordinances from a nation. Sin makes all the creatures to be armed against us, and makes our own consciences to fight against us. Sin is the cause of all the causes of perilous times. Sin is the cause of our civil wars.
Sin is the cause of our divisions. Sin is the cause why men fall into such dangerous errors. Sin brings such kinds of judgments, which no other thing can bring. Sin brings invisible, spiritual, and eternal judgments. It is sin that makes God give over a nation to a reprobate sense. Sin makes all times dangerous. Let the times be never so prosperous, yet if they be sinful times, they are times truly dangerous. And if they be not sinful, they are not dangerous, though never so miserable. It is sin that makes afflictions to be the fruits of God’s avenging wrath, part of the curse due to sin, and a beginning of hell. It is sin, and sin only, that embitters every affliction. Let us forever look upon sin through these scripture spectacles.
The apostle, in four verses, reckons up nineteen sins, as the causes of the miseries of the last days. I may truly call these nineteen sins, England’s looking-glass, wherein we may see what are the clouds that eclipse God’s countenance from shining upon us; the mountains that lie in the way to hinder the settlement of church-discipline: even these nineteen sins, which are as an iron-whip of nineteen strings, with which God is whipping England at this day; which are as nineteen faggots, with which God is burning and devouring England. My purpose is not to speak of all these sins; only let me propound a divine project, how to make the times happy for soul and body. And that is to strike at the root of all misery, which is sin and iniquity: to repent for and from all these nineteen sins, which are as the oil that feeds and increases the flame that is now consuming of us. For, because men are lovers of themselves, because men drive their own designs, not only to the neglect, but contempt of God and the commonwealth, because men are covetous, lovers of the world, more than lovers of God. Because they are proud in head, heart, looks and apparel. Because they are unthankful, turning the mercies of God into instruments of sin, and making darts with God’s blessings to shoot against God. Because men are unholy and heady, and make many covenants, and keep none. Because they arc (as the Greek word diaboloi signifieth) devils, acting the devil’s part, in accusing the brethren, and in bearing false witness one against another. Because they have a “form of godliness, denying the power thereof.” Hence it is that these times are so sad and bloody. These are thy enemies, O England, that have brought thee into this desolate condition! If ever God lead us back into the wilderness, it will be because of these sins. And therefore, if ever ye would have blessed days, you must make it your great business to remove these nineteen mountains, and repent of these land-devouring and soul-destroying abominations.
At this time, I shall pick out the first and tenth sin to speak on. The first is, Self-lore; which is placed in the forefront, as the cause of all the rest. Self-love is not only a sin that makes the times perilous, but it is the cause of all these sins that make the times perilous; for, because men are lovers of themselves, therefore they are covetous, proud, unholy. The tenth sin is, Truce-breakers, and, for fear lest the time should prevent me, I shall begin with this sin first.
The tenth sin then is truce-breakers; or, as Rom. i. 31., “Covenant-breakers.” The Greek word is aspondoi, which signifieth three things; First, Beza renders it infa derabilis; that is, such as refuse to enter into covenant. Or, Secondly, Such as are sine fide, as Ambrose; that is, such as break faith and covenant. Or, Thirdly, Such as are implacabilis: or, as others, sine pace; that is, such as ate implacable, and haters of peace. According to this threefold sense of the word, 1 shall gather these three observations.
Doctrine 1. That to be a covenant-refuser is a sin that makes the times perilous.
Doctrine 2. That, to be a covenant-breaker is a sin that makes the times perilous.
Doctrine 3. That to be a peace-hater, or a truce-hater, is a sin that makes the times perilous.
Doctrine 1. That to be a covenant refuser is a sin that makes the times perilous; to be fader is nescius, or infaederabilis. For the understanding of this, you must know that there are two sorts of covenants, there are devilish and hellish covenants, and there are godly and religious covenants. First, There are devilish covenants, such as Acts xxiii. 12, and Isa. xxviii. 15, such as the holy league, as it was unjustly called in France, against the Huguenots, and that of our gun-powder traitors in England. Now, to refuse to make such covenants is not to make the times perilous, but the taking of them makes the times perilous. Secondly, There arc godly covenants, as Isa. cxix. 106, and as 2 Chron. xv. 14: and such as this is which you are met to take this day. For you are to swear to such things which you are bound to endeavor after, though you did not swear. Your swearing is not solum vinculum, but novuin vinculum, is not the only, but only a new and another bond to tie you to the obedience of the things you swear unto; which are so excellent and so glorious, that if God gave those that take it a heart to keep it, it will make these three kingdoms the glory of the world. And as one of the reverend commissioners of Scotland said, when it was first taken in a most solemn manner at Westminster, by the parliament and the assembly, “That if the pope should have this covenant written upon a wall over against him sitting in his chair, it would be unto him like the hand-writing to Belshazar, causing his joints to loose, and his knees to smite one against another.” And I may add, that if it be faithfully and fully kept, it will make all the devils in hell to tremble, as fearing lest their kingdom should not stand long. Now then, for a man to be an anti-covenanter, and to be such a covenant-refuser, it must needs be a sin that makes the times perilous.
And the reasons are, I. Because you shall find in scripture, That when any nation did enter into a solemn religious covenant, God did exceedingly bless and prosper that nation after that time, as “That thou shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, that He may establish thee to-day for a people to Himself, and that He may be unto thee a God.” And therefore to be a covenant-refuser, is to make our miseries perpetual. 2. Because it is the highest act of Clod’s love to man, to vouchsafe to engage Himself by oath and covenant to be his God; so it is the highest demonstration of man’s love to God, to bind himself by oath and covenant to be God’s. There is nothing obligeth God more to us, than to see us willing to tie and bind ourselves unto His service: and therefore, they that in this sense are anti-covenanters are sons of Belial, that refuse the yoke of the Lord, that say, “Let us break His bands asunder, and cast away His cords, from us;” such as oderunt vinatla pietatis, which is a soul-destroying, and a land-destroying sin. 3. Because that the union of England, Scotland and Ireland, into one covenant, is the chief, if not the only preservative of them at this time. You find in our English chronicles, that England was never destroyed, but when divided within itself. Our civil divisions brought in the Romans, the Saxons, Danes and Normans; but now the anti-covenanters divide the parliament within itself, and the city within itself, and England against itself; they are as stones separated from the building, which arc of no use to itself, and threaten the ruin of the building, Jesus Christ is called in Scripture, the “Corner-stone,” which is a stone that unites the two ends of the building together. Jesus Christ is a stone of union: and therefore they that sow division, and study unjust separation, have little of Jesus Christ in them. When the ten tribes began to divide from the other two tribes, they presently began to war one against another, and to ruin one another: the anti-covenanter, he divides and separates and disunites. And therefore he makes perilous times.
My chief aim is at the second doctrine,
Doctrine 2. That for a covenant-taker to be a covenant-breaker, is a sin that makes the times perilous. For the opening of this [joint, 1 must distinguish again of covenants. There are civil, and there are religious covenants; a civil covenant is a covenant between man and man; and of this the text is primarily, though not only, to be understood. Now, for a man to break promise and covenant with his brother, is a land-destroying, and a soul-destroying abomination. We read, 2 Sam. xxi., that because Saul had broken the covenant that Joshua made with the Gibeonites, God sent a famine in David’s time, of three years’ continuance, to teach us that, if we falsify our word and oath, God will avenge covenant-breaking, though it be forty years after. Famous is that text in Jeremiah. Because the princes and the people brake the covenant which they had made with their servants, though but their servants, God tells them, “Because ye have not hearkened unto Me, in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother…Behold, I proclaim liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine: and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.” We read also, that God tells Zedekiah, because he brake the covenant he had made with the king of Babylon, that therefore, “He would recompense upon his head the oath that he had despised, and the covenant that he had broken, and would bring him to Babylon, and plead with him there for the trespass which he had trespassed against the Lord.” David tells us, that it is a sin that shuts a man out of heaven. The Turkish history tells us of a covenant made between Amurath, that great Turk, and Ladislaus, king of Hungary, and how the pope absolved Ladislaus from the oath, and provoked him to renew the war: in which war the Turk, being put to the worst, and despairing of victory, pulls out a paper which he had in his bosom, wherein the league was written, and said, ‘• O Thou God of the Christians, if Thou beest a true God, be avenged of those that have, without cause, broken the league made by calling upon Thy name.” And the story says, that after he had spoken these words, he had, as it were, “a new heart, and spirit put into him and his soldiers,” and that they obtained a glorious victory over Ladislaus. Thus God avenged the quarrel of man’s covenant. The like story we read of Rudolphus, duke of Sweden, who, by the pope’s instigation, waged war with Henry IV., emperor of Germany, to whom he had sworn to the contrary. But, in the fight it chanced that Rudolphus lost his right hand, and falling sick upon it, he called for it and said, “Behold this right hand with which I subscribed to the emperor, with which I have violated my oath, and therefore I am rightly punished.” I will not trouble you with relating that gallant, story of Regulus, that chose rather to expose himself to a cruel death, than to falsify his oath to the Carthaginians. The sum of all is, if it be such a crying abomination to break covenant between man and man; and if such persons are accounted as the off-scouring of men, not worthy to live in a Christian, no, not in a heathen common-wealth: if it be a sin that draws down vengeance from heaven; much more for a man to enter into covenant with the great Jehovah, and to break such a religious engagement: this must needs be a destroying and soul-damning sin. And of such religious covenants I am now to speak.
There are two covenants that God made with man, a covenant of nature, and a covenant of grace. The covenant of nature, or of works, was made with Adam, and all mankind in him. This covenant Adam broke, and God presently had a quarrel against him for breaking of it. And, to avenge the quarrel of the covenant, he was thrust out of paradise, and there was a sword also placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, to avenge covenant-breaking. And by nature we are all children of wrath, heirs of hell, because of the breach of that covenant. And therefore we should never think of original sin, or of the sinfulness and cursed-ness of our natural condition, but we should remember what a grievous sin covenant-breaking is.
But, after man was fallen, God was pleased to strike a new covenant, which is usually called a covenant of grace, or of reconciliation. This was first propounded to Adam by way of promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” And then to Abraham by way of covenant, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed.” And then to Moses by way of testament. It is nothing else but the free and gracious tender of Jesus Christ, and all His rich purchases to all the lost and undone sons of Adam, that shall believe in Him: or as the phrase is, “That shall take hold of the covenant.” Now you must know that baptism is a seal of this covenant, and that all that are baptized do, sacramentally at least, engage themselves to walk before God, and to be upright; and God likewise engages Himself to be their God. This covenant is likewise renewed when we come to the Lord’s Supper, wherein we bind ourselves, by a sacramental oath, unto thankfulness to God for Christ. Add further, that besides this general covenant of grace, Whereof the sacraments are seals, there are particular and personal, and family and national covenants. Thus, Job had his covenant; and David. And when he came to be king, he joined in covenant with his people to serve the Lord. Thus Asa, Jehoiada, Josiah, and others. Thus the people of Israel had not only a covenant in circumcision, but renewed a covenant at Horeb and Moab, and did often again and again bind themselves to God by vow and covenant. And thus the churches of Christ. Christians, besides the vows in baptism, have many personal and national engagements unto Cod by covenant, which are nothing else but the renovations and particular applications of that first vow in baptism. Of this nature is that you are to renew this day.
Now give me leave to shew you what a sword-procuring and soul-undoing sin, this sin of covenant-breaking is; and then the reason of it. .Famous is that text, “And I will send My sword, which shall avenge the quarrel of My covenant.” The words in the Hebrew run thus, “I will avenge the avengement,” which importeth this much, that Cod is at open war and at public defiance with those that break His covenant: He is not only angry with them, but He will be revenged of them. “The Lord hath a controversy with all covenant-breakers.” “The Lord will walk contrary to them.” First, God takes His people into covenant, and then He tells them of the happy condition they should be in, if they did keep the covenant; but if they did break covenant, He tells them, “that the Lord will not spare him; but the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven, and the Lord shall separate him. And when the nation shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto the land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then shall men say, because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord Cod of their fathers.’ This was the sin that caused Cod to send His people Israel into captivity, and to remove the candlestick from the Asian churches. It is for this sin, that the sword is now devouring Germany, Ireland, and England. Cod hath sent His sword to avenge the quarrel of His covenant.
The reasons why this sin is a Cod-provoking sin, are,
First, because that, to sin against the covenant is a greater sin than to sin against a commandment of Cod, or to sin against a promise, or to sin against an ordinance of Cod.
1. It is a greater sin than to break a commandment of God; for the more mercy there is in the thing we sin against, the greater is the sin. Now there is more mercy in a covenant than in a bare commandment. The commandment tells us our duty, but gives no power to do it. Hut the covenant of grace, gives power to do what it requires to be done. And therefore, if it be a hell-procuring sin to break the least of God’s commandments, much more to be a covenant breaker.
2. It is a greater sin than to sin against a promise of God; because a covenant is a promise joined with an oath. It is a mutual stipulation between Cod and us: and therefore, if it be a great sin to break promise, much more to break covenant. 3. It is a greater sin than to sin against an ordinance, because the covenant is the root and ground of all the ordinances. It is by virtue of the covenant that we are made partakers of the ordinances: the word is the book of the covenant, and the sacraments are the seals of the covenant. And if it be a sin of an high nature to sin against the book of the covenant, and the seals of the covenant, much more against the covenant itself. To break covenant, is a fundamental sin; it ra/.eth the very foundation of Christianity, because the covenant is the foundation of all the privileges, and prerogatives, and hopes of the saints of God: and therefore we read that a stranger from the covenant is one “without hope.” All hope of heaven is cut off, where the covenant is willingly broken. To break covenant is an universal sin, it includes all other sins. By virtue of tin- covenant, we tie ourselves to the obedience of God’s commandments, we give up ourselves to the guidance of Jesus Christ, we own Him for our Lord and King; all the promises of this life, and that, which is lo come, are contained within the covenant. The ordinances are fruits of the covenant: and therefore they that forsake the covenant, commit many sins in one, and bring not only many but all curses upon their heads. The sum of the first argument is, “If the Lord will avenge the quarrel of his commandments,” if God was avenged upon the stick-gatherer for breaking the Sabbath, much more will he be avenged upon a covenant-breaker. If God will avenge the quarrel of an ordinance; if they that reject the ordinances shall be punished, “of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy, that trample under their feet the blood of the covenant?” If God was avenged of those that abused the ark of the covenant, much more will He punish those that abuse the Angel of the covenant.
The Second reason why covenant-breaking is such a land destroying sin is, because it is a solemn and serious thing to enter into covenant with God; a matter of such great weight and importance, that it is impossible but God should be exceedingly provoked with these that slight it, and disrespect it. The vow in baptism is the first, the most general, and the solemnest that any Christian took, saith Chrysostom; wherein he doth not only promise, but engage himself by covenant in the sight of God, and His holy angels, to be the servant of Jesus Christ; and therefore God will not hold him guiltless, that breaks this vow. The solemnity and weightiness of covenant-taking consisteth in three things. 1. Because it is made with the glorious majesty of heaven and earth, who will not be trifled and baffled withal; and therefore, what Jehoshaphat said to his judges, “Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for men, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you,” the like I may say to every one that enters into covenant this day; “Take heed what ye do; for it is the Lord’s covenant, and there is no iniquity with the Lord: wherefore now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; for our God is a holy God, He is a jealous God, He will not forgive your transgressions, nor your sins.” 2. Because the articles of the covenant are weighty, and of great importance. In the covenant of grace, God engageth Himself to give Christ, and with Him all temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings, and we engage ourselves to be His faithful servants all our days. In this covenant, we oblige ourselves to do great matters, that nearly concern the glory of God, the good of our souls, and the happiness of the three kingdoms. And in such holy and heavenly things, which so nearly concern our everlasting estate, to dally and trifle must needs incense the anger of the great Jehovah. 3. The manner used both by Jews, heathens and Christians in entering into covenant, doth clearly set out the weightiness of it, and what a horrible sin it is to break it. The custom among the Jews, will appear by divers texts of scripture. It is said, “And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof.” The words they used when the)’ passed between the parts, were “So God divide me, if I keep not covenant.” Nehemiah took an oath of the priests, and shook his lap, and said, “So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that performeth not this promise; even thus be he shaken out and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen.” Abraham divided the heifer, and she-goat, and a ram. “And when the sun was down, a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp, passed between these pieces.” This did represent God’s presence, saith Clemens Alexandrinus, and as if God should say, “Behold, this day I enter into covenant with thee, and if thou keepest covenant, I will be as a burning lamp to enlighten, and to comfort thee: but if thou breakest covenant, I will be like a smoking furnace to consume thee.” Thus also Moses makes a covenant with Israel, and offers sacrifices, and takes the blood of the sacrifices and divides it, and half of it he sprinkles upon the altar, (which represents God’s part) and the other half he sprinkles upon the people, as if he should say, “As this blood is divided, so will God divide you, if ye break covenant.” This was the custom among the Jews, amongst the Romans. Sometimes they make covenants by taking a stone in their hands, and saying, “If I make this covenant seriously and faithfully, then let the great Jupiter bless me; if not so, let me be cast away from the face of the gods, as I cast away this stone.” This was called jurare per govern lapidem. All these things are not empty notions and metaphorical shadows, but real and substantial practices; signifying unto us, that God will and must (for it stands with His honour to do il) divide and break them in pieces that break covenant with Him. This day you are to take a covenant by the lifting up of your hands unto the most high God, which is a most emphatical ceremony, whereby we do as it were call God to be a witness and a judge of what we do, and a rewarder or revenger, according as we keep or break this covenant. If we keep it, the lifting up of our hands will be as an evening sacrifice.1.; if we break it, the lifting up our hands will be as the lilting up of the hands of n malefactor at the bar, and will procure woe and misery, and wringing of hands at the great day of appearing.
The Third reason why God will be avenged of those that are covenant-breakers, is; Because that a covenant is the greatest obligation and the most forcible claim that can be invented to tie us to obedience and service. God may justly challenge obedience without covenanting, by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption: He hath made us, and, when lost, He hath purchased us with His blood. But being willing more abundantly to manifest His love, that we be the more fastened lo Him, he hath lied to himself to us, and us to Him, by the strong bond of a covenant: as if God should say, Oh ye sons of men! I see you are rebellious and sons of Belial, and therefore, if it be possible, I will make sure. I will engage you unto Me, not only by creation, preservation and redemption, but also by the right of covenant and association. I will make you Mine by promise and oath. And surely he that will break these bonds is as bad as the man possessed with the devil in the gospel, whom no chains could keep fast. When we enter into covenant with God, we take the oath of supremacy, and swear unto Him, that He should be our chief lord and governor, and that we will admit of no sovereign power or jurisdiction, but that God shall be all in all. We likewise take the oath of allegiance, to be His servants and vassals, and that He shall be our supreme in spirituals and temporals. Now, for a Christian that believes there is a God, to break both these oaths of allegiance and supremacy, it is cursed treason against the God of heaven, which surely God will be avenged of. Amongst the Romans, when any soldier was pressed, he took an oath lo serve the captain faithfully, and not to forsake him, and he was called miles per sacramentum. Sometimes one took an oath for all the rest, and the others only said, the same oath that A. B. took, the same do I. And when any soldier forsook his captain, he had the martial law executed upon him. Thus it is with every Christian: he is a professed soldier of Christ, he hath taken press-money, he hath sworn and taken the sacrament upon it to become the Lord’s, he is miles per sacramentum, and miles per conjurationem: and if he forsake his captain and break covenant, the great Lord of Hosts will be avenged of him, as it is written, “Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of the covenant.” To break covenant is a sin of perjury, which is a sin of an high nature; and if for oaths the land mourneth, much more for breach of oaths. To break covenant is a sin of spiritual adultery; for by covenanting with God, we do as it were, “join ourselves in marriage to Clod,” as the Hebrew word signifieth. Now, to break the marriage knot is a sin for which Clod may justly give a bill of divorce to a nation. To break covenant is a sin of injustice: for by our covenant we do enter, as it were, into bond to God, and engage ourselves as a creditor to his debtor; now the sin of injustice is a land-destroying sin.
The Fourth reason why God must needs he avenged on those that are covenant-breakers, is, It is an act of the highest sacrilege that can be committed. For, by virtue of the covenant, the Lord lays claim to us as His peculiar inheritance. “I sware unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee, and them becamest Mine.” “I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” It is a worthy observation, that in the covenant there is a double surrender, one on God’s part, and another on our part. God Almighty makes a surrender of Himself, and of his Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, saith God, 1 am wholly thy God; all My power, and mercy, and goodness, all is thine; My Son is thine, and all His rich purchases; My Spirit is thine, and all His graces: this is God’s surrender. On our part, when we take hold of the covenant, we make a delivery of our bodies and souls into the hands of God; we choose Him to be our Lord and Governor, we resign up ourselves into His hands. Lord, we are Thine at Thy disposing: we alienate ourselves, and make a deed of gift of ourselves, and give Thee lock and key of head, heart, and affections. This is the nature of every religious covenant, but especially of the covenant of grace. But now, for a Christian to call in, as it were, his surrender, to disclaim his resignation, to steal away himself from God, and lay claim to himself after his alienation; to fulfill his own lusts, to walk after his own ways, to do what he lists, and not what he hath covenanted to do, and so to rob God of what is His: this is the highest degree of sacrilege, which God will never suffer to go unpunished. And surely if the stick-gatherer, that did but alienate a little of God’s time; and Ananias and Sapphira, that withheld but some part of their estate: and if Belshazar for abusing the consecrated vessels of the temple, were so grievously punished; how much more will God punish those that alienate themselves from the service of that God to whom they have sworn to be obedient? It is observed by a learned author, of the famous commanders of the Romans, that they never prospered after they had defiled and robbed the temple of Jerusalem. First, Pompey the Great, went into the sanctum sanctorum, a place never before entered by any but the high-priest, and the Lord blasted him in all his proceedings, “that he that before that time wanted earth to overcome, had not at last earth enough to bury him withal.” The next was Crassus, who took away 10,000 talents of gold from the temple, and afterward died, by having gold poured down his throat. The third was Cassitis, who afterwards killed himself. If then God did thus avenge Himself of those that polluted His consecrated temple; much more will He not leave them unpunished, that are the living temples of the Holy Ghost, consecrated to God by covenant, and afterwards proving sacrilegious, robbing God of that worship and service, which they have sworn to give Him.
The Fifth reason why this sin makes the times perilous, is; Because covenant-breakers are reckoned amongst the number of those that have the mark of reprobation upon them. I do not say that they are all reprobates, yet I say, that the apostle makes it to be one of those sins which are committed by those that are given up “to a reprobate mind.” The words are spoken of the heathen, and are to be understood of covenants made between man and man; and then the argument will hold a fortiori. If it be the brand of a reprobate to break covenant with man, much more a covenant made with the great Jehovah by the lifting up of our hands to heaven.
The Last reason is, because it is a sin against such infinite mercy. It is said, “Which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them;” that is, although I had chosen them for my spouse, and married myself unto them with an everlasting covenant of mercy, and entailed heaven unto them, yet they have broken my covenant. This was a great provocation. Thus, “When thou wast in thy blood, and no eye pitied thee, to have compassion upon thee, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live: Yea, I said unto thee, Live.” It is twice repeated. As if God should say, “Mark it, O Israel, when no eye regarded thee, then I said unto thee, Live.” Behold, saith God, “Thy time was the time of love.” Behold, and wonder at it. “And I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into cove nant with thee, saith the Lord, and thou becamest Mine.” And yet for all this, thou has sinned grievously against Me. “Woe, woe unto thee, saith the Lord God.”
There is a fivefold mercy in the covenant, especially in the covenant of grace, that makes the sin of covenant-breaking to be so odious.
1. It is a mercy that the great God will vouchsafe to enter into covenant with dust and ashes. As David saith in another case, “Is it a light thing to be the son-in-law of a king?” So may I say, “Is it a light matter for the Lord of heaven and earth to condescend so far as to covenant with His poor creatures, and thereby to become their debtors, and to make them, as it were, His equals?” When Jonathan and David entered into a covenant of friendship, though one was a king’s son, the other a poor shepherd, yet there was a kind of equality between them. But this must be understood warily, according to the text. “Blessed be God, who hath called us unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” lie is still our Lord, though in fellowship with us. It is a covenant of infinite condescension on God’s part, whereby He enters into a league of friendship with His people.
2. The mercy is the greater, because this covenant was made after the fall of Adam. After we had broken the first covenant, that the Lord should try us the second time, is not only an act of infinite goodness of God, but of infinite mercy. There is a difference between the goodness and the mercy of God. Goodness may be shewed to those that are not in misery: but mercy supposeth misery. And this was our condition after the breach of the first covenant.
3. That Cod should make this covenant with man, and not with devils.
4. This sets out the mercy of the covenant, because it contains such rare and glorious benefits, and therefore it is called a covenant of life and peace. “An everlasting covenant even the sure mercies of David.” It is compared to the waters of Noah, Isa. liv. 6. .Famous are those two texts; Exod. xix. 5, 6; Jer. xxxii. 40, 41—texts that hold forth strong consolation. By virtue of the covenant, heaven is not only made possible, but certain to all believers, and certain by way of oath. It is by virtue of the covenant that we call Him Father, and may lay claim to all the power, wisdom, goodness and mercy, that are in God. As Jehoshaphat told the king of Israel, to whom he was joined in covenant, “I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses:” so doth God say to all that are in covenant with Him, “My power is thine, My holiness is thine.” By virtue of this covenant, whatsoever thou wantest, God cannot deny it thee, if it be good for thee. Say unto God, Lord, Thou hast sworn to take away my heart of stone, and to give me a heart of flesh, Thou hast sworn to write Thy law in my heart, Thou hast sworn to circumcise my heart, Thou hast sworn to give me Christ, to be my king, priest and prophet. And God cannot but be a covenant-keeper. By virtue of this covenant, God cannot but accept of a poor penitent sinner, laying hold upon Christ for pardon. In a word, we may challenge pardon and heaven by our covenant. God is not only merciful but just to forgive us; we may challenge heaven through Christ, out of justice. And
5. That the condition of the covenant on our part should be upon such easy terms, therefore it is called a covenant of free grace, and all that God requires of us is to take hold of this covenant; to receive this gift of righteousness; to take all Christ, as He is tendered in the covenant; and, that which is the greatest consolation of all, God hath promised in His covenant to do our part for us. Therefore it is called a testament, rather than a covenant. In the New Testament, the word diatheke, is always used by the apostle, and not syntheke. Heaven is conveyed into the elect by way of legacy. It is part of God’s testament, to write His law in our hearts, and to cause us to walk in His ways. Put these together, seeing there is such infinite mercy in the covenant. A mercy, for God to enter into covenant with us, to do it with us, and not the angels; with us fallen, with us upon, such easy terms, and to make such a covenant that contains so many, and not only so but all blessings here and hereafter, in the womb of it. It must needs be a land-destroying, and soul-destroying sin, to be a covenant-breaker.
The use and application of this doctrine is fourfold. 1. Of information. If it be such a land-destroying sin to be a covenant-breaker, let us from hence learn the true cause of all the miseries that have happened unto England in these late years. The womb out of which all our calamities are come—England hath broken covenant with God, and now God is breaking England in pieces, even as a potter breaks a vessel in pieces. “God hath sent His sword to avenge tin; quarrel of His covenant,” as Christ whipped the buyers and sellers out of the temple, with whips made of the cords which they had brought to tie their oxen and sheep withal. A covenant is a cord to tie us to God: and now God hath made an iron whip of that covenant which we have broken asunder, to whip us withal.
We are a nation in covenant with God, we have the books of the covenant, the Old and New Testament; we have the seals of the covenant, baptism, and the Lord’s supper; we have the messengers of the covenant, the ministers of the Gospel; we have the angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, fully, freely, and clearly set out before us in the ministry of the word: but alas! are not these blessings amongst us, as the ark was amongst the Philistines, rather as prisoners, than as privileges; rather for our ruin, than for our happiness? May it not be said of us, as reverend Mulin said of the French protestants, “While they burned us (saith he) for reading the scriptures, we burned with zeal to be reading of them; now with our liberty is bred also negligence and disesteem of God’s word.” So is it with us, while we were under the tyranny of bishops; Oh! how sweet was a fasting day? How beautiful were the feet of them that brought the gospel of peace unto you? How dear and precious were God’s people one to another? Hut now, how are our fasting days slighted and vilified? How are the people of God divided one from another, railing upon (instead of loving) one another? And is not the godly ministry as much persecuted by the tongues of some that would be accounted godly, as heretofore by the bishop’s hands? Is not the Holy Bible by some rather wrested than read? Wrested, I say, by ignorant and unstable souls, to their own destruction? And as for the seals of the covenant, 1. For the Lord’s Supper, how oft have we spilt the blood of Christ by our unworthy approaches to His table? And hence it is, that Me is now spilling our blood; how hard a matter is it, to obtain power to keep the blood of Christ from being profaned by ignorant and scandalous communicants? And can we think, that Clod will be easily entreated to sheath up His bloody sword, and to cease shedding our blood? 2. For the sacrament of baptism; how cruel are men grown to their little infants, by keeping of them from the seal to entrance into the kingdom of heaven, and making their children to be just in the same condition with the children of Turks and Infidels? I remember, at the beginning of these wars there was a great fear fell upon godly people about their little children, and all their care was for their preservation and their safety; and for the continuance of the gospel to them. But now, our little children are likely to be in a worse condition than ever. And all this is come upon us as a just punishment of our baptismal covenant-breaking. And as for Jesus Christ, who is the angel of the covenant: are there not some amongst us that ungod Jesus Christ? And is it not fit and equal that Cod should unchurch us and unpeople us? Are there not thousands that have sworn to be Christ’s servants, and yet are in their lives the vassals of sin and Satan? And shall not God be avenged of such a nation as this? These things considered, it is no wonder our miseries are so great, but the wonder is that they are not greater.
2. An use of examination. Days of humiliation ought to be days of self-examination. Let us therefore upon such a day as this, examine, whether we be not amongst the number of those that make the times perilous, whether we be not covenant-breakers? Here I will speak of three covenants; 1. Of the covenant we have made with God in our baptism. 2. Of the covenant we have made with God in our distresses. 3. And especially of this covenant you are to renew this day.
1. Of the covenant which we made in baptism, and renew every lime we come to the Lord’s supper, and upon our solemn days of lasting. There are none here, but I may
say of them, “the vows of God are upon you.” You are the born, bought, and sworn servants of God, you have made a surrender of yourselves unto God and Christ. The question T put to you is this: How often have you broken covenant with God? It is said, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; who shall dwell with everlasting torments? Who shall dwell with devouring fire?” When God comes to a church-sinner, to a sinner under the Old Testament, much more to a Christian sinner, a sinner under the New Testament, and layeth to his charge his often covenant-breaking, fearfulness shall possess him, and he will cry out, “Oh! woe is me, who can dwell with everlasting burnings? Our (.rod is a consuming fire, and we are as stubble before Him; who can stand before His indignation? Who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? When His fury is poured forth like fire, and the rocks are thrown down before Him. Who can stand?” Of all sorts of creatures, a sinful Christian shall not be able to stand before the Lord, when He comes to visit the world for their sins. For when a Christian sins against God, he sins not only against the commandment but against the covenant. And in every sin he is a commandment-breaker, and a covenant-breaker. And therefore, whereas the apostle saith, “tribulation and anguish upon every soul that sinneth: but first upon the Jews,” I may add, first, upon the Christian, then upon the Jew, and then upon the Grecian, because the covenant made with the Christian is called a better covenant: and therefore his sins have a higher aggravation in them. There is a notable passage in Austin, in which he brings in the devil thus pleading with God, against a wicked Christian at the Day of Judgment. Oh! Thou righteous Judge, give righteous judgment; judge him to be mine who refused to be Thine, even after he had renounced me in his baptism; what had he to do to wear my livery? What had he to do with gluttony, drunkenness, pride, wantonness, incontinency, and the rest of my ware? All these things he hath practiced, since he renounced the devil and all his works. Mine he is, judge righteous judgment; for he whom Thou hast not disdained to die for, hath obliged himself to me by his sins.
Now, what can God say to this charge of the devil’s, but take him, devil, seeing he would be thine; take him, torment him with everlasting torments. Cyprian brings in the devil thus speaking to Christ in the great Day of Judgment. I have not (saith the devil) been whipped, and scourged, and crucified, neither have I shed my blood for those whom Thou seest with me; I do not promise them a kingdom of heaven, and yet these men have wholly consecrated themselves to me and my service. Indeed, if the devil could make such gainful covenants with us, and bestow such glorious mercies upon us as are contained within the covenant, our serving of Satan and sin might have some excuse. But, whereas his covenant is a covenant of bondage, death, hell, and damnation; and Cod’s covenant is a covenant of liberty, grace, and eternal happiness, it must needs be a sin inexcusable to be willingly and willfully such a covenant-breaker.
2. Let us examine concerning the vows which we have made to God in our distresses; in our personal distresses, and our national distresses. Are we not like the children of Israel, of whom it is said, “When He slew them, then they sought Him, and they returned and inquired early after Cod. Nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth. For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant.” Are we not like little children that, while they are being whipped, will promise any thing; but, when the whipping is over, will perform nothing? Or like unto iron that is very soft and malleable while it is in the fire, but, when it is taken out of the fire, returns presently to its former hardness? This was Jacob’s fault: he made a vow when he was in distress, but he forgot his covenant, and Cod was angry with him, and chastised him in his daughter, Dinah, and in his two sons, Simeon and Levi; and at last God Himself was fain to call him from heaven to keep covenant; and after that time God blessed Jacob exceedingly. We read of David, that he professes of himself, “That he would go to God’s house, and pay the vows which his lips uttered, and his mouth had spoken, when he was in trouble.” but, how few are there that imitate David in this thing.
3. Let us examine ourselves concerning this Solemn League and Covenant which we are to renew this day. And here I demand an answer to this question. Quest. Are we not covenant-breakers? Do we not make the times perilous by our falsifying of our oath and covenant with God? In our covenant we swear to six things.
1. “That we will endeavor to be humbled for our own sins, and for the sins of the kingdom:” But where shall we find a mourner in England for his own abominations, and for the abominations that are committed in the midst of us? It is easy to find a censurer of the sins of the land, but hard to find a true mourner for the sins of the land.
2. We swear “that we will endeavor to go before one. another in the example of a real reformation.” But who makes conscience of this part of the oath? What sin hast thou left, or in what one thing hast thou reformed since thou didst take this covenant? We read, “That they entered into a covenant to put away their wives and children by them,” which was a very difficult and hard duty, and yet they did it. But what bosom-sin, what beloved sin, as dear to thee as thy dear wife and children, hast thou left for God’s sake, since thou tookest this oath? I read, That the people took an oath to make restitution, which was a costly duty, and yet they performed it. But alas! where is the man that hath made restitution of his ill-gotten goods since he took this covenant? I read, that king Asa deposed his mother Maachah, her even, from being queen, after he had entered into covenant: and that the people, after they had sworn a covenant, brake in pieces all the altars of Baal thoroughly. But where is this thorough reformation. We say, we fight for a reformation, but I fear lest in a little time, we fight away our reformation. Or, if we fight it not away, yet we should dispute it away. For all our religion is turned into questions, in so much that there are some that call all religion into question, and in a little while will lose all religion in the crowd of questions. There was a time not many years ago, when God did bless our ministry in the city, to the conversion of many people unto Cod; but now there are many that study more to gain parties to themselves, than to gain souls to God. The great work of conversion is little thought on, and never so few, if any at all, converted as in these days wherein we talk so much of reformation. And is this to keep covenant with God? 3. We swear “to endeavor to amend our lives, and reform not only ourselves, but also those that are under our charge.” But where is that family reformation? Indeed f read of Jacob that when he went to perform his vow and covenant, he first reformed his family. And that Joshua resolved, and performed it, “for himself and his family to serve the Lord.” And so did Josiah. And oh 1 that I could add, And so do we. But the wickedness committed in our families proclaims the contrary to all the world. What noblemen, what aldermen, what merchants, families, are more reformed since the covenant than before? We speak and contend much for a church-reformation, but how can there be a church-reformation, unless there be a family-reformation? What though the church-worship be pure, yet if the worshippers be impure, God will not accept of the- worship? And if families be not reformed, how will your worshippers be pure?
4. We swear to endeavor “to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest uniformity in religion confession of faith, form of church government, directory for worship, and catechizing.” But are there not some that write against an uniformity in religion, and call it an idol? Are there not many that walk professedly contrary to this clause of the covenant? There are three texts of scripture that people keep quite the contrary way. The first is; “Take no thought what ye shall eat; take no thought for to-morrow.” And most people take thought for nothing else. The second is, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;” and most people seek this last of all. The third text is, “Labor not for the meat that perisheth, hut for the meat that endureth for ever” and most people labor not for the meat that endureth for ever, but for the meat that perisheth. As these three texts are kept, so do many people keep this part of the oath; for there were never more divisions and differences in the church, never more deformity, and pleading against uniformity, than now there is.
5. We swear “to endeavor the extirpation of popery, prelacy, superstition, heresy, and schism.” And yet, notwithstanding, there are some that have taken the oath that contend earnestly for a toleration of all religions.
6. We swear “against a detestable indifference and neutrality in this cause, which so much concerned! the glory of God.” And yet how many are there amongst us like unto Gallic, that care not what becomes of the cause of God, so they may have peace and quiet? That will not be the backwardest of all, and yet will be sure not to be too forward; for fear lest, if the times turn, they should be noted amongst the chief of the faction? That are very indifferent which side prevail, so they may have their trading again? That say as the politicians say, That they would be careful not to come too near the heels of religion, lest it should dash out their brains: and as the king of Arragon told Beza, That he would wade no further into the sea of religion, than he could safely return to shore. In all these six particulars, let us seriously search and try our hearts, whether we be not among the number of those that make the times perilous.
The third use is for humiliation. Let the consideration of our covenant-breaking be a heart-breaking consideration to every one of us this day: let this be a mighty and powerful argument to humble us upon this day of humiliation. There are five considerations that are exceedingly soul-humbling, if God bless them to us.
1. The consideration of the many commandments of God, that we have often and often broken. 2. The consideration of the breaking of Jesus Christ for our sins, how He was rent and torn for our iniquities. 3. The consideration of the breaking of the bread, and pouring out of the wine in the sacrament, which is a heart-breaking motive and help. 4. The broken condition that the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, are in at this time. 5. The many vows and covenants that we have broken; our sacrament-covenants, our fasting-covenants, our sick-bed covenants: and especially the consideration of our often breaking our national covenant, which you come this day to renew. This is a sin in folio, a sin of a high nature: and if ever God awaken our conscience in this life, a sin that will lie like a heavy incubus upon it. A greater sin than to sin against a commandment, or against an ordinance. A sin not only of disobedience, but of perjury; a sin of injustice, of spiritual adultery, a sin of sacrilege, a sin of great unkindness, a sin that not only makes us disobedient, but dishonest; for we account him a dishonest man, that keeps not his word. A sin that not only every good Christian, but every good heathen doth abhor; a sin that not only brings damnation upon us, but casteth such an horrible disgrace and reproach upon God, that it cannot stand with God’s honor not to he avenged of a covenant-breaker. Tertullian saith, “That when a Christian forsakes his covenant, and the colors of Christ, and turns to serve as the devil’s soldier, he puts an unspeakable discredit upon God and Christ.” For it is as much as if he should say, “I like the service of the devil better than the service of God.” And it is just as if a soldier that hath waged war under a captain, and afterwards forsakes him, and turns to another; and after that, leaves this other captain, and turns to his former captain. This is to prefer the first captain before the second. This makes (iod complain, “What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me?” And, “Hath any nation changed their god, which yet are no gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” Basil brings in the devil insulting over Christ, and saying, “I never created nor redeemed these men, and yet they have obeyed me and contemned Thee, O Christ, even after they have covenanted to be Thine.” And then he adds, “I esteem this honoring of the devil over Jesus Christ at the great day, to be more grievous to a true saint than all the torments in hell.” A saying worthy to be written in letters of gold. Seeing then that covenant-breaking is so great an abomination, the Lord give us hearts to be humbled for this great abomination this day. And this will be a notable preparation to fit you for the renewing of your covenant. For we read, that Nehemiah first called his people to fast before he drew them unto a covenant: according to which pattern, you are here met to pray and humble your souls for your former covenant-breaking; and then to bind yourselves anew unto the Lord our God. As wax, when it is melted, will receive the impression of a seal, which it will not do before: so will your hearts, when melted into godly sorrow for our sins, receive the seal of God abidingly upon them which they will not do when hardened in sin.
Is every man that sins against the covenant to be accounted a covenant-breaker, and a perjured sacrilegious person? By no means. For, as every failing of a wife doth not break covenant between her and her husband, but she is to be accounted a wife, till she, by committing adultery, break the covenant: so, every miscarriage against the covenant of grace, or against this national covenant doth not denominate us, in a gospel account, covenant-breakers: but then God accounts us, according to His gospel, to break covenant when we do not only sin, but commit sin against the covenant; when we do not only sin out of weakness, but out of wickedness; when we do not only fail, but fall into sin; when we forsake and renounce the covenant; when we deal treacherously in the covenant, and enter into league and covenant with those sins which we have sworn against; when we walk into anti-covenant paths, and willingly do contrary to what we swear; then are we perjured, and unjust, and sacrilegious, and guilty of all those things formerly mentioned.
The fourth use presents unto you a divine, and therefore a sure project to make the times happy; and that is, let all covenant-takers labor to be covenant-keepers. It hath pleased God, to put it in your hearts to renew your covenant, the same God enabled you to keep covenant. It is said, “The king made a covenant before the Lord. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord. And all the people stood to the covenant.” This is your duty, not only to take the covenant, but to stand to the covenant; and to stand to it against all opposition to the contrary, as we read, “And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers. That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” For it is not the taking,
but the keeping of the covenant, that will make you happy. God is styled, “A God keeping covenant.” O that this might be the honor of this city! That we may say of it, London is a city keeping covenant with God. Great and many are the blessings entailed upon covenant-keepers. “Now, therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me, above all people: for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant.” There are three covenants, I shall persuade you in a special manner to stand to.
1. The covenant you made with God in baptism. A Christian (saith Chrysostom) should never step out of doors, or lie down in his bed, or go into his closet, but he should remember the time when he did renounce the devil and all his works. Oh, let us not forget that which we ought always to remember! Let us remember to keep that covenant, as we ever desire God should remember us in mercy at the great day.
2. The covenant we make with God in our afflictions. Famous is that passage of Pliny in one of his epistles, to one that desired rules from him how to order his life aright; I will (saith he) give you one rule, which shall be instead of a thousand: That we should persevere to be such, when we are well, as we promise to be when we are sick. A sentence never to be forgotten: the Lord help us to live accordingly.
3. The covenant which you are to take this day. The happiness or misery of England cloth much depend upon the keeping or breaking of this covenant. If England keep it, England by keeping covenant shall stand sure. If England break it, God will break England in pieces. If England slight it, God will slight England. If England forsake it, God will forsake England, and this shall be written upon the tomb of perishing England, “Here lieth a nation that hath broken the covenant of their God.” Remember what you have heard this day, that it is the brand of a reprobate to be a covenant-breaker, and it is the part of a fool to vow and not to pay his vows. And God hath no delight in the sacrifice of fools. “Better not to vow, than to vow and not to pay.” It is such a high profanation of God’s name, as that God cannot hold a covenant-breaker guiltless; it is perjury, injustice, spiritual adultery, sacrilege. And the very lifting up of our hands this day, (if you do not set heart and hand on work to keep covenant) will be a sufficient witness against you at the great day. We read “that Jacob and Laban entered in covenant, and took a heap of stones, and they called the place Mizpah, the Lord watch between me and thee,” and made them a witness, and said “this heap is a witness.” “The God of Abraham judge betwixt us.” Such is your condition this day. You enter into covenant to become the Lord’s, and to be valiant for His truth, and against His enemies, and the very stones of this church shall be witness against you, if you break covenant; the name of this place may be called Mizpah. The Lord will watch over you for good, if you keep it, and for evil if you break it; and all the curses contained in the book of the covenant shall light upon a willing covenant-breaker. The Lord fasten these meditations and soul-awakening considerations upon your hearts. The Lord give you grace to keep close to the covenant and a good conscience, which are both lost by breaking covenant.
There are four things I shall persuade you unto in pursuance of your covenant, 1. To be humbled for your own sins, and for the sins of the kingdom; and more especially, because we have not, as we ought, valued the inestimable benefit of the gospel, that we have not labored to receive Christ in our hearts, nor to walk worthy of Him in our lives, which are the causes of other sins and transgressions so much abounding amongst us. Gospel sins are greater than legal sins, and will bring gospel curses, which are greater than legal curses. And therefore let us be humbled according to our covenant, for all our gospel abominations. 2. You must be ambitious to go before one another in an example of real reformation. You must swear vainly no more, be drunk no more, break the Sabbath no more. You must remember what David says. “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to take My covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and easiest My words behind thee.” To sin willingly, after we have sworn not to sin, is not only to sin against a commandment, but to sin against an oath, which is a double iniquity, and will procure a double damnation. And he that takes a covenant to reform, and yet continueth unreformed, his covenant will be unto him as the bitter water of jealousy was to the woman guilty of adultery, which made her belly to swell, and thigh to rot. 3. You must be careful to reform your families, according to your covenant, and the example of Jacob and Joshua, and the godly kings fore-mentioned. 4. You must endeavor, according to your places and callings, to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction, and uniformity in religion. O blessed unity! how comes it to pass, that thou art so much slighted and contemned? Was not unity one of the chief parts of Christ’s prayer unto His Father, when He was here upon the earth? Is not unity amongst Christians one of the strongest arguments to persuade the world to believe in Christ? Is it not the chief desire of the holy apostles, that we “should all speak the same things, and that there should be no division amongst us? “Is not unity the happiness of heaven? Is it not the happiness of a city, to be at unity with itself? “Is it not a good and pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity?” How comes it to pass then that this part of the covenant is so much forgotten? The Lord mind you of it this day; and the
Lord make this great and famous city, a city of holiness, and a city of unity within itself: for if unity be destroyed, purity will quickly also be destroyed. The church of God is Una, as well as Sancta; it is but one church, as well as it is a holy church. And “Jesus Christ gave some to be apostles, etc. till we all come to the unity of the faith.” The government of Christ is appointed for keeping the church in unity, as well as purity. These things which God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. That government which doth not promote unity as well as purity, is not the government of Christ. Oh, the misery of the kingdom where church divisions are nourished and fomented! A kingdom or church against itself, cannot stand. Would it not be a sad thing, to see twelve in a family, and one of them a Presbyterian, another an Independent, another a Brownist, another an Antinomian, another an Anabaptist, another a Familist, another for Prelatical government, another a Seeker, another a Papist, and the tenth, it may be, an Atheist, and the eleventh a Jew, and the twelfth a Turk? The Lord in His due time heal our divisions, and make you His choice of instruments, according to your places, that the Lord may be one, and His name one in the three kingdoms.
Quest. But some will say, “How shall I do to get up my heart to this high pitch, that I may be a covenant-keeper?” I will propound these three helps, 1. Labor to be always mindful of your covenant, according to that text, “God is always mindful of His covenant.” It was the great sin of the people of Israel, that they were unmindful of the covenant. They first forgot the covenant, and afterwards did quickly forsake it. He that forgets the covenant, must needs be a covenant-breaker. 1. Let us make the covenant a daily argument against all sin and iniquity; and when we are tempted to any sin, let us say, “I have sworn to forsake my old iniquity, and, if I commit this sin, I am not only a commandment-breaker, but an oath-breaker. I am perjured. I have sworn to reform my family, and therefore I will not suffer a wicked person to tarry in my family; I have sworn against neutrality and indifferency, and therefore I will be zealous in God’s cause.” 2. Let us make this covenant a daily monument and armor of defense, to beat back all the fiery darts of the devil: when any one tempts thee by promise of preferment to do contrary to thy covenant, or threatens to ruin thee for the hearty pursuing of thy covenant, here is a ready answer, “I am sworn to do what I do, and, if I do otherwise, I am a perjured wretch.” This is a ‘ wall of brass, to resist any dart that shall be shot against thee for well-doing, according to thy covenant. Famous is the story of Hannibal, which he told king Antiochus, when he required aid of him against the Romans, “When I was nine years old (saith he) my father carried me to the altar, and made me take an oath to be an irreconcilable foe to the Romans. In pursuance of this oath, I have waged war against them thirty – six years. To keep this oath, I have left my country, and am come to seek aid at your hands, which, if you deny, I will travel all over the world, to find out some enemies to the Roman state.” If an oath did so mightily operate in Hannibal; let the oath you are to take this day work as powerfully upon you; and make your oath an argument to oppose personal-sins and family sins, and to oppose heresy, schism, and all profaneness; and to endeavor to bring the church of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity. And let this oath be armor-proof against all temptations to the contrary. And know this one thing, that if the covenant be not a daily argument and monument against sin, it will become, upon your breaking of it, a daily witness against you, as the book of the law was, and an “everlasting shame and reproach “unto you and yours, 2. Let us have high thoughts of the covenant. Actions and affections follow our apprehensions. If thy judgment be belepered with a corrupt opinion about the covenant, thy affections and actions will quickly be belepered also: and therefore you ought to endeavor, according to your places, that nothing be spoken or written that may tend to the prejudice of the covenant. 3. You must take heed of the cursed sin of self-love, which is placed in the forefront, as the cause of all the catalogue of sins here named; “Because men are lovers of themselves, therefore they are covetous,” etc., and therefore they are covenant-breakers. A self-seeker cannot but be a covenant-breaker: this is a sin you must hate as the very gates of hell.
And this is the second sin I promised in the beginning of my sermon to speak on: but the time, and your other occasions will not permit. There is a natural self-love, and a divine self-love, and a sinful self-love. This sinful self-love is, when we make ourselves the last end of all our actions, when we so love ourselves, as to love no man but ourselves, according to the proverb, “Every man for himself.” When we pretend God and His glory, and the common good, but intend ourselves, and our own private gain and interest; when we serve God upon politic designs. Where this sinful self-love dwells, there dwells no love to God, no love to thy brother, no love to church or state. This sinful self-love is the caterpillar that destroyeth church and commonwealth. It is from this sinful self-love that the public affairs drive on so heavily, and that church-government is not settled, and that our covenant is so much neglected. Of this sin, I cannot now speak; but, when God shall offer opportunity, I shall endeavor to uncase it you. In the meantime, the Lord give you grace to hate it as hell itself. AMEN.