Sermon 2: On The Solemn League & Covenant - by Rev. Thomas CaseArticles on the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
Watch the Video on the Complete 1647 Westminster Confession with all Subordinate Documents proved by the KJV (3rd Edition):
UPDATED 1647 Westminster Confession with KJV Bible Proofs
In the first place, we must inquire how this duty may be so managed, that God may accept of us in the doing of it? How to acceptation?
Now, in the general, we must know that this service, being an ordinance of God, must be undertaken and managed with an ordinance frame of heart, /’. e. according to the laws and rules of divine worship; and by how much the more sacred and solemn this ordinance is, by so much the more ought we to call up and provoke the choicest, and heavenliest of those affections and dispositions of spirit, wherewith we make our addressments to the holy things of God.
In particular, First, We are to come to this service, with the most ponderous advisedness, and most serious deliberation of judgment, that may be. It is one of those grand qualifications which God Himself calls for to an oath. “Thou shall swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.” In truth for the matter, and that we have already examined in the former sermon in righteousness, in reference to the keeping of the oath (of which hereafter) and in judgment, in respect of the taking or making of the oath, the thing which we are now about, that we should well consider what we do. And indeed, if at any time, and in any undertaking, that advice be useful, “Ponder the path of thy feet,” “And keep thy foot when thou enterest into the house of God;” then certainly it is most seasonable, when a people or person draw near to make or renew their, covenant with the most high God. And it seems, in the latter of those two Scriptures now quoted, the Holy Ghost doth principally refer to this duty of making vows and covenants with God; the second verse doth intimate such a business, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God.” To utter what? The fourth verse is express, “when thou makest a vow unto God.” So that it is clear, the purpose of the Holy Ghost in that place is, as in all our holy services, so especially in this of vows, to caution all the people of God, when they draw near to utter their vows unto the Lord, to manage it with the greatest deliberation, and solidness of judgment that is possible; to sit down and consider with ourselves before hand, with whom we have to deal? What we have to do? Upon what warrant? By what rule? To what end? “The lame and the blind,” God’s soul hates for a sacrifice, The lame affections, and the blind ignorant judgment. And well He may; for certainly, they that do not swear in judgment, will not, cannot swear in righteousness; they that do not make their vows in judgment, will not, cannot pay, or perform them in righteousness. He that swears he knows not what, will observe he cares not how. Incogitant making, will end in unconscionable breaking of covenant; and, if need be, in a cursed abjuration of it; for rash swearing is a precipice to forswearing. And therefore, if any of you have not well weighed this service, or be any ways unsatisfied, in whole, or in parts, I advise you to forbear, till your judgments be better informed. “Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.” Provided, that this be not clone merely in a pretence to evade and elude this service, to which God and the two nations call you, as here in the text. “Come, let us join.” Take heed of casting a mist of willing prejudice and affected ignorance, before your own eyes; such the apostle speaks of, to no other purpose, but that your own malignity may steal away in that mist undiscovered; for be sure, your sin will find you out. An ingenious ignorance and truly conscientious tenderness, is accompanied with an ingenuous and conscientious use of all means, for information and satisfaction; and to such, I make no question, the ministers of Christ will be ready to communicate what light they have, for resolving doubts, removing scruples, and satisfying conscience, whensoever you shall make your addresses for that purpose. In the mean time, if there be any that, under pretence of unsatisfiedness, do shun the duty and information too; they will be found, but to mock God and authority; to whose justice and wisdom therefore I must leave them. God tells His people, when He joins Himself to them, “I will marry thee to Myself, in righteousness, and judgment.” How in judgment? Because God considers what He does, when He takes a people or person to Himself; not that God chuseth for any wealth or worth in the creature, faith foreseen, or works foreseen; but that finding it (on the contrary) poor and beggarly, and undone, and foreseeing what it is like to prove, crooked and froward, unteachable and untractable; He sits down to speak after the manner of men, and considers, what course to take, and what it is like to cost Him, to make them such a people, as He may delight in, and then consulting with His treasures, and finding He hath wherewithal to bear their charges, and to bring about His own ends; He resolves to take them, and marry them to Himself, whatsoever it cost Him. The result of such a consultation you may read, dropped from Cod’s own pen, “And I said, how shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations?” Here is God’s wise deliberation on the matter; “how shall I put thee? “That is, how shall I do this? But I must do it to Mine own dishonor; for I see before-hand what thou wilt prove.; thou wilt be the same that ever thou wast; as idolatrous, as adulterous, as unstable, as backsliding as ever. It is not a pleasant land, a goodly heritage, that will make thee better. Well, after some pause, God was resolved what to do: and I said, hear His resolution, “Thou shall call Me, my Father, and shall not turn away from Me; “that is, as if He had said, I will take this course with thee, I will first give thee the heart of a child, “thou shall call Me, Father; “and then I will give thee the inheritance of a child, “a goodly heritage.” And when I have done; I will not leave thee to thyself, but I will knit thee to Myself, by an indissoluble union. “I will put My Spirit into thee.” “And thou shall not turn away from Me.” There is God’s wise resolution; He resolves to do all Himself, and then He is sure it will not fail His expectation; He undertakes it. “Thou shall call Me, my Father, and shall not turn away from Me.” Thus God, when He marrieth His people to Himself, doeth it in judgment. Now therefore, “be ye followers of God, as clear children.” And since you come now about the counter-part of the same work; namely, to join or marry yourselves to God, do it in judgment. Consider well what you do; and, among other things, since you are so poor, and nothing in yourselves, as you have seen in the opening of this precious Scripture; bethink yourselves where you will have strength and sufficiency, to make good this great and solemn engagement with your God. But of this more hereafter.
Secondly, See that you come to this service with a reverential frame of spirit, with thai holy fear and awe, upon your hearts, as becomes the greatness and holiness of that God, and that ordinance, with whom you have to do; remembering that you are this day to swear before God. by God, lo God; either of which, singly considered, might justly make us fear and tremble; how much more may this threefold cord bow and bind our hearts down in an humble, and holy prosternalion? It is said of Jacob, “He sware by the fear of his father Isaac.” Jacob in his oath chooseth this title of fear, to give unto God, to shew with what fear he came; but to swear by this God, what should we do; when, as I say, we come lo swear by Him, and to Him? Surely, when He is so especially the object of our oath, He should then especially be the object of our fear. The consideration of that infinite distance between God and us, may wonderfully advantage us towards the gelling of our hearts into this holy posture. Great is that distance that is between a king and a beggar; and yet, there is but creature and creature: greater is that distance between heaven and earth; and yet these, but creature and creature; and yet, greater is the distance between an angel and a worm; and yet still, there is but creature and creature. But now, the distance that is between God and us, is infinitely wider; for behold, there is the “Mighty, Almighty Creator, before whom all the nations are but as a drop of a bucket, and the small dust of the balance.” And the poor nothing creature, “vanity, and altogether lighter than vanity.” And yet, this is not all; yea, this is the shortest measure of that distance, whereof we speak; the distance of Creator and the creature; lo, it is found between God and the angels in heaven, and the “spirits of just men made perfect;” in respect whereof, the Psalmist saith of God, “He humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven.” It is a condescension for that infinitely glorious being, who dwells in Himself, and is abundantly satisfied in the beholding of His own incomprehensible excellencies, to vouchsafe to look out of Himself, and behold the things that are in heaven; the best of those glorious inhabitants that stand round about His throne; who therefore, conscious of that infinite distance wherein they stand, make their addresses with the greatest self-abasements, “covering their faces, and casting’ themselves down “upon those heavenly pavements. But, behold! upon us, poor wretches, that dwell here below, in these houses of clay, there is found that which widens this distance beyond all expression or apprehension; sin sets us farther beneath a worm, than a worm is beneath an angel. I had almost said (bear with the expression, I use it, because no other expression can reach it) sin sets us as much beneath our creatureship, as our creatureship sets us beneath the Creator. Surely there is more of God to be seen in the worst of a creature, than there is of a creature to be seen in the best of sin; there is nothing vile and base enough under heaven, to make a simile of sin.
And now, therefore, if it be such a condescension for the great God to behold the things that are in heaven, how infinite condescension is it, to behold the sinful things that are on earth! and if sinless saints, and spotless angels do tender their services, which yet are as spotless as their persons, with such reverential deportment; what abhorrence and self-annihilation can be sufficient to accompany our approaches to this God of holiness, in such high and holy engagements, in whom, when God looks out of Himself, He can behold nothing besides our creatureship, of our own, but that which His soul hates! “Let us therefore have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably,” in this so excellent an ordinance, “with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.” The acceptable serving of God, is with reverence and godly fear. The Lord teach us to bring fear, that so we may find acceptation.
Again, Thirdly, to that end, labor to approve yourselves to God in this service, in the uprightness and sincerity of your hearts. The want of this, God lays oft to the charge of the Israelites, as in other duties, so especially in this, which is now before us, “They lied to Him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with Him; neither were they steadfast in His covenant.” And this stood between them and their acceptance: God tells the prophet Ezekiel as much; “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face; should I be inquired of at all by them?” They come with their hearts full of their lusts; so many lusts, so many idols; and for this God refuseth to be inquired of by them; “should I be inquired of?” is as much as, “I will not be inquired of.” It is a denial with disdain; “should I?” Or, if they be so impudent to inquire, He will not answer; or if He give them an answer, it shall be a cold one; He will give them their answer at the door; better none; “I will answer them according to the multitude of their idols,” i.e. according to the merit of their idolatry; they bring the matter of their own damnation with them, and they shall carry away nothing else from Me, but the answer or obsignation of that damnation. Oh! it is a dangerous thing, to bring the love of any sin with us to the ordinances of God, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer.” And so may we say to our own souls; if I regard iniquity, the Lord will not accept my person, He will not regard my covenant. If God see anything lie nearer our hearts than Himself, He will scorn us, and our services. If, therefore, you would be accepted, “out with your idols;” cast out the love of sin, out of your hearts; and be upright with your God in this holy undertaking. It is the main qualification in the text, “they shall inquire the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward,” i.e., in sincerity, with uprightness of spirit, with the full set and bent of their souls; as it is said of Christ, when He went to His passion; “He steadfastly set His face to go up to Jerusalem.” He went with all His heart to be crucified; with a strong bent of spirit. Beloved, we are not going to “crucifying work,” (unless it be to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts) but to marriage work; “to join ourselves to the Lord, in an everlasting covenant.” Let us do it “with our faces Zion-ward;” yea, let us steadfastly set our faces reformation-ward and heaven-ward, and God-ward, and Christ-ward, with whom we enter covenant this day. A man may inquire the way to Zion, with his face towards Babylon; a people or person may enter covenant with God, with their hearts Rome-ward, and earth-ward, and sin-ward, and hell-ward. Friends, look to your hearts. “Peradventure, said Jacob, my father will feel me, and I shall seem to him as one that mocks, and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.” Without all peradventure, may we say, our Father will feel us; for He searcheth all hearts, and under-standeth the imagination of the thoughts. If we be found as they that mock, shewing much love with our mouths, while our hearts are far from Him, we shall bring a curse upon ourselves; yea, and upon the kingdoms also, and not a blessing. It is reported to the honor of Judah, in the day of their covenanting with their God; “they had sworn with all their heart, and with their whole desire.” And their success was answerable to their sincerity; for so it follows, “And the Lord was found of them, and gave them rest round about.” Oh! that this might be our honor and happiness in this day, of our lifting up our hands to the most high God, that God might not see in us a double heart, an heart and an heart, as the Hebrew expresses it, i.e. one heart for God, and another for our idols; one heart for Christ, and another for Antichrist,; but He might see us a single, upright hearted people, without base mixtures and composition; for He loves truth, i.e. sincerity, in the inward parts; that He finding such sincerity as He looks for, we also might find such success as we look for; safety and deliverance to both the nations; yea, that both in respect of our sincerity and success, that might be made good upon us that is spoken to the eternal honour of that good king Hezekiah, “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” Universal sincerity is accompanied with universal prosperity; in all he did, he was upright, and in all he did, he prospered. Brethren, whatever you want, be sure you want not sincerity; let God see you fully set in your hearts to take all from sin, and to give all to Jesus Christ; me-thinks I hear God saying unto us, “according to your uprightness, so be it unto you.”
In the Fourth place, if you would be accepted by God in this holy service, labor to make God your end. It is your pattern in the text, “they shall go and seek the Lord;” it was not now “howling upon their beds for corn and wine,” as formerly; of which God says, “they cried not unto Me,” i.e., they did not make God the end of their prayers; as elsewhere God tells them; “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye fast to Me, even unto Me?” In seventy years, they kept seven score fasts in Babylon; and yet, amongst them all, they kept not one day unto God; for though the duty looked upon God, they that did the duty did not look upon God; that is, they did not set up God, as their chief end, in fasting and praying; they mourned not so much for their sin, as for their captivity; or, if for their sin, they mourned for it not so much as God’s dishonor, as the cause of their captivity; they were not troubled so much, that they had by their sins walked contrary to God, as that God, by His judgments, had “walked contrary to them.” They fasted and prayed, rather to get off their chains than to get off their sins; to get rid of the bondage of the Babylonians, than to get rid of the servitude of their own base lusts. But now, blessed be God, it was otherwise: “the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together” to what end? “They shall seek the Lord,” i.e. they shall seek God for Himself, and not only for themselves; “going and weeping;” why? Not so much that He hath offended them, as that they have offended Him; for their sins, more than for their punishments; so it is more distinctly reported, “A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; because they have perverted their way, and have forsaken the Lord their God.” They had forgotten God before, not only in their sins, but in their duties; “they cried not to Me; they fasted not to Me; not at all unto Me.” But now they remember the Lord their God; they seek His face; they labor to atone Him; yea, they seek Him to be their Lord, as well as their Saviour; to govern them, as well as to deliver them; “they ask the way to Zion;” they require as well, and more, how they should serve Him, as that He should save them. “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our law-giver, the Lord is our king, He will save us.” Beloved Christians, let us write after this copy, and in this great business we have in hand, let us seek God, and seek Him as a fountain of holiness, as well as a fountain of happiness. Take we heed of those base, low, dung-hill ends, which prevailed upon the Shechemites to enter into covenant with the God of the Hebrews, “shall not their cattle and substance be ours?” Let the two nations, and every soul in both the nations, that lift up the hand to the most high God, in this holy league and covenant, take heed of, and abhor such unworthy thoughts, if they should be crowding in upon this service, and say unto them, as once Christ to Peter, “get thee behind me, Satan; thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” You may remember how it fared with Hamor, and his son Shechem, and their people, to whom they propounded these base ends. God did not only disappoint them of their •ends, but destroy them for them; their aims were to get the Hebrews’ substance and cattle; but they lost their own, with lives to boot; “For it came to pass on the third day when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, came ‘upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And the sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city; they •took their sheep, and their oxen, and all their wealth.” A most horrid and bloody treachery and cruelty in them, which stands as a brand of infamy upon their foreheads to this day; but a most just and righteous censure from God, and a caution to all succeeding generations, of prostituting heavenly and holy ordinances to earthly and sensual ends. Oh! let it be our “admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come, to the end, that we may not tempt God, as they also tempted.” For, if God so much abhorred, and so severely punished these worldly respects in the men of the world; if God was so angry with poor purblind heathen, who had no other light for their guide, but the glimmering light of nature; how will His anger not only kindle, but flame in the avenging of such baseness upon Christians, a people of His own, who have the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to discover to them higher and heavenly ends and references? So that such a kingdom, people, or person, that should dare to bring such base carnal ends, to so spiritual and divine a contract, should be made a monument of the wrath and vengeance of divine justice; and while they propound to themselves safety, or riches, or greatness, from such an excellent ordinance, God makes it by a strange but a righteous hand, an occasion of misery and ruin to them and their posterity, to many generations. ‘
Christians, labor to set up God in this day and duty, wherein you engage yourselves so nigh unto Him; and if you would have heavenly blessings, see that you propound and pursue heavenly ends and aims; lest, while you come to make a covenant with God, you commit idolatry against Him. Whatsoever we make our ultimate and highest end, we make our God. If therefore you cannot make God your sole, your only end, yet be sure you make Him your choicest, your chiefest end; keep God in His own place; and let all self-respects whatsoever veil to His glory, according to that great rule, “whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Fifthly, To do this business to acceptation, we must do it cheerfully: as God loves a cheerful giver, so He loves a cheerful hearer, a cheerful petitioner, and a cheerful covenanter; and you have it in the text too, “come let us;” there is their readiness and cheerfulness to the work; as it was that for which the apostle doth commend his Macedonians in another service. “This they did, not as we hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord.” So these, they give themselves to God of their own accord, “come let us.” Oh! that the ministers of the Gospel might have occasion to make the same boast of you, concerning this solemn ordinance before you, that they might say and rejoice, that you were a people, “that gave yourselves to the Lord,” and unto the work of reformation, not by a Parliamentary fear, or by our ministerial compulsions; but, above our hopes, and beyond our expectations; of your own accord. See what a wonder, not only of cheerfulness, but of joy and triumph, is recorded of the Jews in king Asa’s time, in their taking of the covenant. “They sware unto the Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting; and with trumpets, and with cornets. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath; for they had sworn with all their hearts.” There was indeed a severe mulct, a capital censure enacted, against those that should refuse, and reject this ordinance. “They should be put to death, whether great or small, whether man or woman.” A very grievous censure; but it seems there was neither need, nor use for it; “for all Judah rejoiced at the oath;” the people looked upon this service, not as their pressure, but as their privilege; and therefore came to it, not with contentedness only, but an holy triumph, and so saved the magistrate and themselves the labor and charges of executing that sentence on delinquents. Oh! that this may be your wisdom and honor; that whatever penalty the honorable Parliaments of either nation, shall in their wisdom think fit to proportion to the grievous sin of rebelling against this covenant of the Lord; (and it seems by the instance before, that whatsoever penalty they shall ordain less than death, will not be justice only but moderation) I say, whatever it shall be, it may be rendered useless and invalid by the forwardness and rejoicings of an obedient people; that all England, as well as Scotland, would rejoice at the oath, and swear with all their hearts. For certainly it will not be so much our duty as our prerogative, as I have shewed you before, to enter into covenant with God and His people. It is the day of God’s power; the Lord make you a “willing people.” And, as a testimony of this willingness and joy, imitate the people here in the text, and stir up one another, and provoke one another to this holy service. “Let us join ourselves to the Lord.” They express their charity, as well as their joy; they would not go to Zion alone; they call as many as they meet with them; “come let us join ourselves to the Lord.” Oh, that this might be your temper! It is the very character of the evangelical church; as both Isaiah and Micah have described it; their words be the same. “Many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” Oh! that while neutrals and malignants do discourage one another, and set off one another, and embitter one another’s spirits; God and His ministers might find you encouraging each other, and provoking one another, and laboring to oil one another’s spirits, to this (as other) Gospel duty and prerogative; God could not choose, but be much pleased with such a sight. I might have made this a distinct qualification, but for brevity’s sake, I couch it under this head. I come to the last. If you would be accepted, bring faith with you to this service: and that in. a fourfold reference; 1. God. 2. The ordinance. 3. Ourselves. 4. Jesus Christ.
First, In reference unto God; “for he that will come to God,” in any ordinance, “must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” There is nothing God takes better at His people’s hand, than when they come with their hearts as full of good thoughts of God as ever they can hold; such as, “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us; we have waited for Him, we will be glad, and rejoice in His salvation.” “He will save,” “we will be glad,” 1.t., God will undoubtedly give us occasion of gladness and triumph in His praises. Oh, sweet and blessed confidence of divine goodness! how well doth this become the children of such a father, who hath styled Himself the Father of mercies? Good thoughts of God do mightily please, and even engage God to shew mercy to His people. “Let us therefore come with boldness to the throne of grace;” even in this ordinance also, “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in this time of our need.”
Secondly, Let us bring faith in reference to the duty; as we are to believe well of God, so we are to believe well of the duty, that it is an ordinance wherein God will be sanctified, and found of them that seek Him. It is not enough, that we seek Him in His ordinance, but that we believe it to be His ordinance. “Whatever is not of faith, is sin;” He speaks not of a faith that doth justify the person; but of a faith that doth justify the performance; that is, a thorough conviction of conscience, that the work, whatsoever it is, is such that the word will bear me out in it, such as God Himself doth approve. To do doubtfully, is to do sinfully; an ignorant person cannot please God.
Thirdly, Bring faith in reference to your own persons; believe that God will accept of them in this ordinance; whatever your success shall be in regard of the kingdom, yet you shall find acceptance in regard of your persons; so the church. “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness, those that remember Thee in Thy ways.” When a people or person can say, as the church in another place, “In the way of Thy judgments, have we waited for Thee, O Lord; the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee,” God will not stay till they come unto Him, but He will meet them half-way; “thou meetest him,” like the father of the prodigal, while they are yet half-way, He will see, and run, and meet, and fall upon their neck; and while they weep at His feet, tears of contrition; He will weep over their necks, the tears of compassion: Oh! stir up yourselves, and engage your faith to believe, and expect a gracious entertainment. If God see you coming in the integrity and uprightness of your hearts, to enter into covenant with God, to take Him as your God, and to give up yourselves to be Flis people, to take away all from sin, and to give all to Jesus Christ; He will certainly take it well at your hands, and say unto you, “come, my people, and welcome; I will be your God, and you shall be my people;” which that you may not miss of,
In the fourth place, come believingly, in reference to Jesus Christ; be sure you bring a Christ with you; for “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Come without a Christ, and go without acceptance. The day of atonement among the Jews was called the day j of expiation; and the word kippurim is derived from an Hebrew root, that signifies to cover; and so the day of j. atonement was as much as to say, “the day of covering; the covering of nakedness: and the covering of sin.” “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.” In which very name of the day, the ground or reason is held forth, why it was called a day of atonement, because it was a day of covering; wherein Christ was typified, Who is the “the covering of the saints; the long white robes of His righteousness” covering both their persons and performances; so that the nakedness of neither doth appear in the eyes of His Father; “He hath beheld no iniquity in Jacob, neither hath seen perverseness in Israel.” Why? Not because there was no “iniquity in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel,” for there was hardly any thing else; but because their iniquity and perverseness were hid from His eyes, being covered with the mantle of His Son’s righteousness, the Messiah, which He had promised, and they so much looked for. Let us therefore in this service, as in all, “put on the Lord Jesus.” That as Jacob in the garments of his elder brother Esau, so we in the garments of our elder brother Jesus, may find acceptance and obtain the blessing. And thus much be spoken concerning the first branch of this third query, how to acceptation?
I come now to the Second branch of it, and that is, How to perpetuity? Or, how may we perform this service so that it may be “an everlasting covenant, that may never be forgotten? To that end, take these few brief directions, and I have done.
First, Labour to come to this service with much soul-affliction for former violation of the covenant, either in refusing, or profaning, or breaking thereof: the foundations must be laid low, where we would build for many generations. In what deep sorrows had you need to lay the foundations of this covenant, which you would have stand to eternity, that it may be “an everlasting covenant.” This you have in the text; “they shall seek the Lord, going and weeping;” weeping in the sense of their former rebellions and apostasies, whereby they forfeited their faith, and brake their covenant with the Lord their God; and it was no ordinary slight business they made of it. “A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplication.” They were not a few silent tears; no, they “lift up their voices and wept,” as was said of Esau. They cried so loud, that they were heard a great way off. “A voice was heard upon the mountains;” and it was as bitter, as it was loud; “a great mourning, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon,” when all Judah, Jerusalem, Jeremiah the prophet, and all the singers, bewailed the death of their good king Josiah, with a grievous lamentation, “and made it an ordinance forever.” Oh! that as we have their service in hand, so we had their heads and their hearts, to manage it with rivers of tears, for our former vileness; that we could weep this day together, and afterward apart, as it is prophesied, “Every family apart, arid our wives apart;” yea, and every soul apart, that we have dealt so evilly with so good a God, so unfaithfully with so faithful a God; that we could put our mouths in the dust, and smite upon our thigh, and be ashamed and confounded, for all the wickedness we have committed against God and His covenant, in any, or all these ways. Such a posture God will see us in, before He will shew us “the way to Zion;” before He will reveal to us the model and platform of reformation; for so was His charge to Ezekiel, “If they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the forms of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof, and write it in their sight.”
Surely, this blessed prophecy hath an eye upon our times, for this is one of those days, as I told you before, wherein God will make good these gracious words unto His people; and God hath called together His Ezekiels, His ministers, to “shew the house,” i.e., the form and pattern of the evangelical house or church, unto the house of England and Scotland. “Shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed.” That is, shew them the outside thereof, shew them “that there is such a house,” which they never yet beheld with their eyes, that they may be humbled and ashamed of their former, idolatries. And thus do our Ezekiels tell us, there is a way of gospel government, of such beauty and excellency, as our eyes never yet beheld, nor the eyes of our forefathers; to the end, that we may be ashamed of all our former idolatries and superstitions, our monstrous mixtures of popery and will-worship in the ordinances of Christ; and that we have not sooner inquired after the mind of Christ, how He will be worshipped in His house; but now, unless we be ashamed, i.e., deeply and thoroughly humbled, for all that we have done unworthy of Christ and His worship, and the covenant of our God, we shall never see the inside, that is, the laws and the ordinances, and the forms of this house, which are both various and curious; for so the variety and repetition of the words imply. The prophets are not to reveal these unto us, unless we be ashamed; God will either withdraw them from us, or, which is worse, withdraw Himself from them; so that our eyes shall never behold the Lord in the beauty of holiness; we shall not be admitted to see the beauty and glory of such a reformation, as our souls long for. And as God will see us in this posture, before He reveal to us the model and platform of reformation; so also, till we be in such a posture of deep humiliation, for our former abominations, we shall never be steadfast and faithful in the covenant of God. Till our hearts be thoroughly broken for covenant-breach, we will not pass much for breaking covenant, upon every fresh temptation. Yea, till that time we be humbled, not for a day only, and so forth; but unless we labor to maintain an habitual frame of godly sorrow upon our hearts for our covenant-violations, shall we ever be to purpose conscientious of our covenant? A sad remembrance of old sins is a special means to prevent new. When every solemn remembrance of-former vileness, can fetch tears from our eyes, and blood from our hearts, and fill our faces with an holy shame, the soul will be holily shy of the like abominations, and of all occasions and tendencies thereunto; “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled within me.” When old sins cost dear, new sins will not find an easy entertainment. When old sins are new afflictions, when the remembrance of them is as wormwood and gall, the soul will not easily be bewitched to drink a new draught of that poisoned cup any more. Christian, believe me, or thou mayest find it by experience too true, when thou hast forgot old sins, or canst remember them without new affliction of soul, thou art near a fall; look to thyself, and cry to God for preventing grace. There will be great hopes we shall be faithful in our new covenant, when we come with a godly sense and sorrow for our abuse of old, and labor to maintain it upon our spirits.
Secondly, If you would have this covenant to be a perpetual covenant, labor to see old scores crossed; do not only mourn for thy covenant-unfaithfulness; but labor to get thy pardon written and sealed to thee in the blood of the covenant. There is virtue enough in the blood of the covenant, to expiate the guilt of thy sins against the covenant. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” Their sins of idolatry, were sins especially against their covenant; idolatry being the violation of the marriage-knot, between God and a people; yet even from them doth God promise to cleanse them, upon their repentance and conversion. The blood of the covenant, compared to water for the cleansing virtue thereof, should cleanse them from their covenant defilements. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” “Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet, return again to me, saith the Lord.” It is a mighty encouragement to renew our covenants with God, that He is so ready to pardon the breach of old; and the sense of this pardon is a mighty engagement and strengthening, to keep our new covenants. Oh! for God to say to a poor soul, “be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” “And I have blotted out thy sins as a cloud, and thy transgressions as a thick cloud.” All thy unkindnesses and unfaithfulnesses, thy treacherous dealings against the covenant, shall be forgotten; they shall do thee no harm. This will mightily strengthen the hands, and fortify the heart, and even make it impenetrable and impregnable against all the solicitations and importunities of old temptations: see a notable instance of this, “I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him.” “I will be as the dew to Israel.” “His branches shall spread.” “They that dwell under His shadow shall return.” What follows these gracious promises? Why, Ephraim shall say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” He that before was so inseparably joined to idols, that he could not be divorced from them; “Ephraim is joined to idols.” All the blows that God gave him, tho” God should have beaten him to pieces, as he himself afterward confessed, could not beat him off from his idols; insomuch, that God at length gave him over, as an hopeless child. “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him lone.” Yet, no sooner doth this Ephraim hear of a pardon, and of the love of God to him, but the bonds between him and his idols are dissolved, and away he thrusts them with indignation. Ephraim shall say, “What have I to do with idols?” Or as the prophet Isaiah expresseth it, “Ye shall defile the covering of the graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold; thou shall cast them away as a menstruous cloth, thou shalt say unto it, get thee hence.” And thus it is with a people, or a person, when once “God sheds abroad His Spirit in their hearts,” and makes them “hear joy and gladness.” in speaking, or sealing, a pardon upon their souls; they that before were joined to their idols, drunkenness, uncleanness, covetous-ness, pride, ways of false worship, old superstitious customs, and ceremonies, and the like; so that there was no parting of them; or those who had long been grappling and conflicting with their strong corruptions and old temptations, and in those conflicts had received many a foil, and got many a fall to the wounding of their consciences, and cutting deep gashes upon their souls; now they stand up with a kind of omnipotence among them, no temptation is able to stand before them; they say to their idols, whether sinful company, or sinful customs, “get ye hence, and what have I to do any more with idols?” What have I to do with such and such base company? What have I to do with such base filthy lusts? “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Christ is mine, and I am His. The reason of it is, because pardon begets love; “she loved much, because much was forgiven her.” And love begets strength; “for love is as strong as death “; yea, stronger than sin or death; “They loved not their lives to the death,” and “I count not my life dear,” says Paul, when once the man had tasted of the free grace of God in the pardon of his sins, “who before was a blasphemer, and a persecuter, and injurious.” He could find in his heart, not only to lay down a lust, but to lay down his life too for Jesus Christ; “for whose sake, (saith he), I have suffered the loss of all things; and I count not my life dear, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
My beloved Christians, if you would be faithful in the covenant of God, into which you are now entering, sue out your pardon for what is past; yea, entreat the Lord, not only to give a pardon, but to speak a pardon, and seal a pardon upon your hearts; and never give the Lord rest, till the Lord have given rest to your souls. “’The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Thirdly, If you would make an unchangeable covenant, with an unchangeable God, come furnished with and maintain upon your hearts, an abundant measure of self-distrust; labor to be thoroughly convinced of your own nothingness and disability. “By his own strength shall no man prevail.” Surely, thine own treachery may inform thee, and thine own backslidings may convince thee, to confess with Jeremiah, “O Lord, I know (I know it by sad experience) the way of man is not in himself: It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Staupitius confessed to Luther, that he thought in his very conscience he had above a thousand times renewed his covenant with God, and as many times broken it: a sad confession, and yet how many among us may take up the. like lamentation! Be convinced of it, I beseech you, and maintain the sense of this conviction upon your spirits. Say oft within yourself, I am nothing, worse than nothing. This treacherous heart of mine will betray me into the breach of my covenant, if the Lord leave me to myself, I shall one day fall by the hand of my corruptions. He that walks tremblingly, walks safely.
In the Fourth place, be often renewing your resolutions. It was the exhortation of that good man to the new converts at Antioch, where they were first called Christians, “that they should cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” This covenant, I have shewed you, is the ordinance whereby you cleave unto the Lord, the joining ordinance. Oh! do it with full purpose of heart, and be often putting on fresh and frequent resolutions, not to suffer every ba.se temptation of Satan, every deceitful, or malignant solicitation of the world, every foolish and carnal suggestion of the flesh, to bribe and seduce you from that fidelity which you swear this day to Jesus Christ and the kingdoms. A well grounded resolution is half the work, and the better half too; for he that hath well resolved, hath conquered his will; and he that hath conquered his will, hath overcome the greatest difficulty; no such difficulty in spiritual things, as to prevail with one’s own heart. With these cords, therefore, of well bottomed resolutions, be oft binding yourselves to your covenant, as once Ulysses did himself to his mast, that you may not be bewitched by any Syrenian song of the flesh, world, or the devil, to violate your holy covenant, and drown yourselves in a sea of perdition. And to that end, it would not be altogether useless, to fix your covenant in some place of your houses, or bed-chamber, where it may be oftenest in your eyes, to admonish you of your religious and solemn engagements, under which you have brought your own souls. The Jews had their “phylacteries, or borders upon their garments,” which they did wear also upon their heads, and upon their arms; which, though they abused afterward, not only to pride, making them broader than their first size or pattern, in ostentation and boasting of their holiness, our Saviour condemns in the scribes and Pharisees. And to superstition, for they used them as superstitious helps in prayer, which they colored under a false derivation of the word in the Hebrew, yet God indulged them in this ceremony, as an help for their memories, to put them in remembrance to keep the law of the Lord. And God Himself seems to use this art of memory, as it were, when, comforting His people, He tells them, “behold I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands, thy walls are continually before Me.”
I must confess, the nature of man is very prone to abuse and pervert such natural helps to idolatry and superstition. This instance of the Jews, wretchedly improving their phylacteries to superstitious purposes, their idolizing of the brazen serpent; and thereby of a cure, turning it into a plague, snare, with the like, are sufficient testimonies. And we see how the papists have abused and adulterated the lawful use of natural mediums, to the unlawful use of artificial mediums of their own inventions; images and crucifixes, first to help their memories, and stir up their devotions in their prayers, and then to pray unto them, as mediums of divine worship. The more cautious had Christians need be in the use of those mediums, which either God hath ordained by special command for the help of our memories, and stirring up of our graces, as the visible elements in the sacraments; or such natural advantages, which moral equity allows us for the help of our understandings and memories in spiritual concernments; such is this, we are now speaking of; it being the same with the use of books and tables. Tertullian tells us of a superstitious custom among the ancient Christians, that they were wont to set up images over their doors and chimneys, to keep witches when they came into their houses from bewitching their children; and so by a little kind of witchcraft, prevented witchcraft. But surely, to set up this covenant, where we might often see and read what engagements we have laid upon our souls, (and I could heartily wish Christians would do it at least once a week) it will be an innocent and warrantable spell, to render the witchery of the flesh, world, and devil, fruitless and ineffectual upon our spirits, while the soul may say with David, “Thy vows are upon me, O God; I will render praise unto Thee.”
But Fifthly, consider often and seriously, who it is that must uphold your resolutions; even He that upholds heaven and earth; no less power will do it; “for you “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” It is God that first gives the resolution, and then must uphold, and bring it into act; “It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” and therefore labor, I beseech you, to do these two things, first, Put all your resolutions into the hands of prayer: David was a man of an excellent spirit, full of holy resolves. “I will walk in mine integrity,” “And I will keep Thy testimonies.” And again, “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Thy righteous judgments.” And yet again, “do notIhale them, O Lord, that hate Thee?” “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” A thousand such sweet resolutions doth that precious servant of God breathe out all along the Psalms; and yet so jealous the holy man is of himself, that he: never trusts himself with his own resolutions; and therefore shall you find him always clapping n petition upon a resolution, as in the ([noted places. “1 will walk in mine integrity. Redeem me, and be merciful unto me. I will keep Thy testimonies, oh! forsake me not utterly.” Though Thou hast let me fall fearfully, suffer me not to fall finally. And so when he had said, “I have sworn, and will not repent,” he presently adds (within a word or two), “quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy word.” And again, “accept, I beseech Thee, the free-will offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Thy judgments.” God must teach him, as to make, so to make good the free-will offerings of his mouth, i.e., his promises and vows. And so, when he had made that appeal to God, “do not I hate them that hate Thee, Lord?” he presently betakes himself to his prayers, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Mark, I pray, “search me, try me, know my heart, know my thoughts, see whether there be any wicked way, lead me.” He will neither trust himself for what he is, nor for what he shall he; “try me,” he dares not trust his own trial; “lead me,” he dares not trust his own resolutions; such a sweet holy jealousy of himself doth he breathe forth, with all his heavenly purposes and resolutions. Oh! all you that would make an everlasting covenant with God, imitate holy David, upon every holy resolution, clap an earnest petition, say, I will reform my life; oh! redeem me, and be merciful unto me. I will set up Christ in my heart, I will labor to walk worthy of Him in my life: oh! forsake me not utterly, Lord; leave me not to myself,Ihave sworn, and am utterly purposed in all my duties I owe to God and man, to amend my life, and to go before others in the example of a real reformation. O Lord, teach me Thy judgments; quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy word.
Thy vows upon me, that I will, according to my place and calling, endeavor to preserve reformation in Scotland, to procure reformation in England; that I will in like manner endeavor the extirpation of popery and prelacy; to preserve the rights and liberties of parliaments; discover incendiaries; endeavor the preservation of peace between the two kingdoms; defend all those that enter into this league and covenant, that I will never make defection to the contrary part, or to give myself to a detestable indifference or neutrality. And this covenant I have made in the presence of Almighty (loci, the searcher of all hearts, with a true intention to perform the same, as I shall answer at that great clay. But now, add with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” In a word, put your covenant into frequently renewed resolutions; resolutions into prayer, and prayer, and all into the hands of God. It is God that must gird thee with strength, to perform all thy vows. This, the close of this blessed covenant, into which we enter this days doth teach us. “Humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Spirit; for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings.” And the covenant in the text, was surely inlaid with prayer, while they engage themselves to seek the Lord, not only to shew them the way to Zion, but to give them strength to walk in that way.
Let it be your wisdom and piety, my brethren, to imitate both; oh pray, and be much in prayer, and be often in prayer; pray daily over the covenant; as you this day lift up your hands to swear to the most high God in this covenant, so lift up your hands every day to pray to that God for grace to keep this covenant. Let sense of sell insufficiency keep open the sluice of prayer, that that may let fresh streams of strength every day into your souls, to make good your vows; when you be careless to pray over the covenant, you will be careless to keep the covenant; when you cease to pray, you will cease to pay. If you will be watchful in praying over your vows, prayer will make you watchful in paying your vows. If you will be faithful in crying to God, God will be faithful in hearing and helping. Pray therefore, pray over every good purpose and resolution of heart towards the covenant of God which conscience shall suggest, or the Spirit of God shall breathe into your bosoms, at this present or any time hereafter; as David once prayed over that good frame of spirit, which he observed in his people; what time they offered so willingly and liberally to the preparing for the house of God; “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob, our fathers, keep this for ever, in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart, and prepare their heart unto Thee.” To every command, God is pleased to add a promise; so that what is a command in one place, is a promise in another. “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.” It is a promise, “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed to love the Lord.” Again, “make .you a new heart.” So saith the word of command; “a new heart will I give you;” so speaks the word of promise. Once more, “little children abide in Him,” that is the command. Which in the immediate verse before is a gracious promise, “you shall abide in Him.” Divers more such instances I could give you; and why thus? Surely, the command teacheth us our duty, the promise our weakness and insufficiency to perform that duty. The command finds us work; the promise finds us strength; the command is to keep us from being idle; the promise to keep us from being discouraged. Well, let us imitate God, and, as He couples a command and a promise, so let us couple a resolution and a petition. As God seconds and backs His command with His promise, so let us second and back our promises with our prayers; the one in sense of our duty, the other in sense of our weakness; by the one, to bring our hearts up to God; by the other, to bring God down to our hearts: resolve and petition, promise and pray, and the Lord “prepare your heart to pray, and cause His ear to hear.”
Secondly, Since God only must uphold your desires, walk continually as in His presence; stability is only to be found in the presence of God; so far we live an unchangeable life, as we walk and live in the presence of an unchangeable God. The saints in Heaven know no vicissitudes, or changes in their holy frame and temper of spirit, because they are perfected in the beholding of His face; “with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of changing;” and so far as the saints on earth can keep God in their presence so far the presence of God will keep them. “I have set the Lord always before me; and because He is at my right hand, therefore I shall not be moved,” sang David of himself literally, and in the person of Christ typically: the privilege was made good to both, so far as either made good the duty. David, according to his degree, and proportion of grace, set God before him, placed Him on his right hand; and so long as he could keep God’s presence, the presence of God kept him; it kept him from sin, “I have kept myself from mine iniquity.” How so? Why, “I was upright before Him,” in the former part of the same verse. So long as he walked before God, in God’s presence; so long he walked upright, and kept himself from his iniquity; or rather God’s presence kept him; and, as it kept him from sin, so it kept him from fear also; “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear.” Mark what he saith, though he walk, not step; and walk through, not step across; and through, not a dark entry, or a church-yard in the nighttime, but a valley, a large, long, vast place; how many miles long I know not; and this not a valley of darkness only, but of death, where he should see nothing but visions of death, and not bare death, but the shadow of death; the shadow is the dark part of the thing; so that the shadow of death, is the darkest side of death; death in its most hideous and horrid representations; and yet behold, when he comes out at the farther end, and a man would have thought to have found him all in a cold sweat, his hair standing upright, his eyes set in his head, and the man beside himself. Behold, I say, he doth not so much as change color, his hand shakes not, his heart fails not; as he went in, he comes out; and though he should go back again the same way, he tells you, “I will not fear.” How comes this to pass? How conies the man to be so undaunted? Why, he will tell you in the very same verse, speaking to God, “For Thou art with me.” God’s presence kept him from fear, in the midst of death and horror. Thus it was, I say, with David, while he could keep God in his presence, he was immoveable, impregnable; you might as soon have stirred a rock, as stirred him, “I shall not be moved.” Indeed, so long as he was upon the rock, he was as immoveable as the rock itself; but alas! Sometime he lost the sight of his (iod, and then he was like other men; “Thou didst hide Thy face from me, and I was troubled.” When God hid His face from him, or he hid his eyes from God; then how easily is he moved? Fear breaks in, “I shall one day fall by the hand of Saul.” Sin breaks in, yea, one sin upon the heels of another; the adulterous act, upon the adulterous look, and murder upon adultery, as you know in that sad business of Uriah the Hittite; once off from his Rock, and he is as weak as dust, not able to stand before the least temptation of sin or fear; and therefore as soon as he comes to himself again, he cries, “Oh! lead me to the Rock that is higher than I;” to my Rock, Lord, to my Rock. But now, the Lord Jesus, the antitype of David here in this Psalm, because He made good this, (duty shall I call it?) “For in Mini dwelt the fullness of the God-head bodily.” To Him therefore was this privilege made good perfectly in the highest degree; for though He had temptations that never man had, and Avas to do that which never man did; and to suffer that which never man suffered; the contradiction of sinners; the rage of hell; and the wrath of God; yet, because He set tin: Lord always at His right hand; yea. indeed was always at the right hand of God; therefore He was not moved, but overcame even by suffering.
Beloved, you see where stability in covenant is to be had; even in the presence of God. Labor, I beseech you, to walk in His presence, and to set Him always at your right hand; behold, it shall keep you, so that you shall not be moved; or, if you be moved, you shall not be removed; if you stumble you shall not fall; or, if you fall, you shall not fall away; you shall rise again. There is a double advantage in it. First, It will keep your hearts in awe; he that sets God in his presence, dares not sin in His presence: “God sees,” will make the heart say, “How shallIdo this great evil, and sin against God?” Secondly, There is joy in it; “In Thy presence is fullness of joy.” It is true, in its proportion of grace, as well as of glory; and joy will strengthen and stablish, as I shewed you before, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” As long as the child is in its father’s eye, and the father in its eye, it is secure. “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee.” It will hold as well in the evils of sin, as in the evils of punishment: well, the Lord make you know these precious truths in an experimental manner. I have held you too long; but the business requires it. Remember, I beseech you, it is God that must uphold your desires and resolutions; and therefore, t. Be much in prayer. And, 2. Set yourselves in the presence of God. He lives unchangeably that lives in the unchangeable God.
In the Sixth, and last place, if thou wouldst make an everlasting covenant with God, that shall never be forgotten, look up to Jesus Christ, go to Jesus Christ. He must help, and He must strengthen, and He must keep thee, or else thou wilt never be able to “keep thy covenant;” hear Him, else, “without me ye can do nothing.” And as Christ speaks thus in the negative; so you may hear the apostle speaking by blessed experience in the affirmative; “I can do all things through Jesus Christ, Who strengthened me.” Observe, I pray, “Without Me ye can do nothing. Through Christ I can do all things.” Nothing, all things. There is a good deal of difference between two men; take one without Christ, and, be his parts never so excellent, his resolutions never so strong, his engagements never so sacred, “he can do nothing;” unless it be to “break his covenant and vows,” as Samson brake his cords like threads scorched with the lire; and, take the other with a Christ standing by him, and be he in himself never so weak and mean, unlearned and ungifted, lo, as if he were clothed with omnipotency, “lie can do all things,” he can subdue such corruption, conquer such temptations, perform such duties, and in such a manner, do such things, suffer such things, (and in all these keep his covenant with God) as to other men, and to himself before, were so many impossibilities; he could not before, now he can. Nothing before, all things now. All things fit for an unglorified saint to do; all things God expects from him; all things in a gospel sense; all things comparatively to other men, and to himself, when he was another man. See, I beseech you, how without a Christ, and thro’ a Christ, makes one man differ from another; yea, and from himself, as much as can and cannot; all things and nothing; impotency and omnipotency, “Without me ye can do nothing.” “Through Christ I can do all things.” If therefore you would make a covenant with Eternity to eternity, study Christ more than ever, labor to “know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” And therein these two things,
First, Labor to get interest in Christ. Interest is the ground of influence; union the fountain or spring of communion; so Christ, “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.” There you have the truth and the simile of it; no fruit from Christ, without being and abiding in Christ; there is truth; illustrated and proved by the vine and the branch; there the simile, which is prosecuted and enlarged by our Saviour.
And, as all communion ariseth from union, so look what the union is, such is the communion; Christ was filled with the fullness of God because united to God; the saints receive of the fullness of Christ, because united to Christ. “I in them, and Thou in Me.” Only here is the difference. Christ’s union with His Father was personal, infinite, and substantial, and therefore the communications were answerable, “For God gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” But the saints’ union with Christ, being of an inferior nature; their communications also are proportional; yet such as serve poor creatures to all blessed saving purposes. And therefore with Paul, labor to “be found in Christ,” that so you may know experimentally the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. All the power and virtue that are in Jesus Christ, are only for them that are in Him, as the branch in the root, as the members in the body.
Christ is called the covenant of God. “I will give thee for a covenant of the people.” As Calvin well expounds it, sponsor foederis, the surety or undertaker of the covenant, of that second new covenant, between God and His people, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also. A surety on both sides; the surety of God’s covenant to them; “For all the promises of God are in Him, yea, and in Him, Amen.” He sees them all made good to the heirs of promise. And Christ again is the surety of their covenant unto God; for He undertakes to make good all their covenants, and vows, and promises unto God. “Those that Thou gavest Me, I have kept,” saith Christ. “And I live (saith Paul), yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” So that it is Christ who makes the covenant good on both sides, as God’s to His people, so His people’s to God; and so it follows in that place of Isaiah, “I have given thee for a covenant to the people, to establish the earth;” establishment must come from Christ, the undertaker, the surety of the covenant; as He paid the debt for the time past, so He must see the articles of the covenant kept for the time to come. For want of such an undertaker or surety, the first covenant miscarried; It was between God and the creature, without a mediator; and so the creature changing, the covenant was dissolved; but the second, God meant should not miscarry, and therefore puts it into sure hands; “I have laid help upon One that is mighty,” speaking of Christ, and “I will give Thee for a covenant to the people.” God hath furnished Christ wherewithal to be a surety; to make good His covenant to His people, and their covenant to Him.
But now, He hath this stock of all-sufficiency for none but these that are His members, He actually undertakes for none but those that are actually in Him; “These that Thou hast given Me I have kept.” He keeps none but them whom the Father hath given Him; given Him so as to be in them, and they in Him. “I in them, they in Me.” Well, if thou wouldst be unchangeable in thy covenant, get interest in Christ who is the covenant; the unchangeable covenant; “The Amen, the faithful and true witness.” “Yesterday and to-day, and the same for ever.” Get interest. “count all things loss and dung, that thou mayst win Christ, and be found in Christ.” Yea, do not only labor to get interest, but prove thy interest. Take not up a matter of so infinite concernment upon trust; all that thou
Second, study influence when in Christ, then hast thou right to draw virtue from Christ, for behold, all the fullness that dwells in Christ is thine; all that life, and strength, and grace, and redemption, that is held forth in the promise, it is all laid up in Christ, as in a magazine; and by virtue of thy interest in, and union with the Lord Jesus, it is all become thine. Hence you hear the believing soul making her boast of Christ, as before, for righteousness so also for strength. “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” As righteousness for acceptance, so strength also for performance of such duties, as God in His covenant doth require and expect at the believer’s hands; I have no strength of mine own, but in Christ I have enough; “In the Lord I have righteousness and strength.” Christ is the lord-keeper, or lord high steward, or lord treasurer; to receive in and lay out, for and to all that are in covenant with the Father. And this is one main branch of God’s covenant with the Redeemer, that He gives out to the heirs of promise, wherewithal to “keep their covenant with God;” so that they never depart from Him. “As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith the Lord, My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” These be the words of God the Father to the Redeemer, concerning all His spiritual seed; “the Redeemer shall come to Zion.” And that Spirit, and these words of life and grace which were upon the Redeemer, must be propagated to all Misbelieving seed; by virtue whereof, their covenant with God, shall in its proportion be like God’s covenant with them (for indeed the one is but the counterpart of the other) unchangeable, everlasting. “1 will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart away from Me.”
Now therefore, my brethren, since there is enough in Christ, study how to draw it out: indeed it will require a great deal of holy skill to do it; it requires wisdom to draw out the excellencies of a man; “Counsel in the heart of a man is deep, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” It is a fine art to be able to pierce a man, that is like a vessel full of wine, and set him a running; but to draw out influence and virtue from the Lord Jesus is one of the most secret hidden mysteries in the mind of a Christian; indeed we may complain, “the well is deep, and we have nothing to draw withal.” But labor to get your bucket of faith, that you may be able to “draw water out of this well of salvation.” Labor by vital acts of a powerful faith; set to work in meditation and prayer, to draw virtue and influence from Jesus Christ; the mouth of prayer, and the breathings of faith from an heart soakt and steept in holy meditations, applied to Jesus Christ, will certainly (though perhaps insensibly) draw virtue from Him. Behold, faith drew virtue from Christ by a touch of His garments; shall it not much more draw out that rich and precious influence, by applying of Him in the promises, and in His offices unto our souls? Consider, O Christian, whoever thou art, even thou that art in Christ, consider, Cod hath not trusted thee with grace enough before hand, for one month, no, not for a week, a day; nay, thou hast not grace enough before hand for the performance of the next duty, or the conquering of the next temptation; nor for the expediting thyself out of the next difficulty; and why so? Hut that thou mayest learn to live by continual dependence upon Jesus Christ, as Paul did, “The life that I now live in the flesh, I live it by the faith of the Son of God/’ Paul lived by fresh influence drawn from Christ by faith, every day and hour; study that life, it is very mysterious, but exceeding precious. Had we our stock before hand, we should quickly spend all, and prove bankrupts: God hath laid up all our treasure of “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption in Jesus Christ,” and will have us live from hand to mouth, that so we might be safe, and God’s free grace be exalted; “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end your promise might be sure to all the seed.” Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of this heavenly calling, look up to Jesus Christ, who is the covenant of His Father, and your covenant; lo, He calls you. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth.” Surely they are worthy to perish, who will not bestow a look upon salvation; oh, look humbly, and look believingly, and look continually; look for interest, look for influence, look for righteousness, look for strength; and let Jesus Christ be all in all to thy soul: thou wilt never be any thing, nor do any thing in Christianity, till thou comest to live in and upon Jesus Christ, and Him only; humbly entreat the Lord, and give Him no rest, that He will make a covenant with thee in Christ, which shall keep thee, and then thou wilt be able to keep thy covenant: look up to Christ for covenant grace, to keep covenant-engagement, and so shalt thou do this service in a gospel sense, to acceptation, to perpetuity.
I have now done with these three queries; What? Why? How? How to (i) Acceptation? and (2) Perpetuity? I know much more might be added, but the work to which we are to address ourselves, will take up much time; the Lord set home what hath been spoken.
Only give me leave to tell you thus much in a word, for the close of all; as this covenant prospers with us, so we are like to prosper under it; the welfare of the kingdom and of thy soul, is bound up now in this covenant: for I remember what God speaks of the kingdom of Israel, brought into covenant now with the king of Babylon, to serve him, and to be his vassals; that “by keeping covenant it should stand.” And the breaking of that covenant was the breaking of Zedekiah and his whole family and kingdom. Now was covenant-breach, or fidelity the foundation of stability or ruin to that kingdom, which was struck, but with a dying man; how much more is the rise and fall of this kingdom; yea, of these two kingdoms, bound up in the observation or forfeiture of this covenant, which we make this day with the living God? You that wish well to the kingdoms, that would not see the downfall and ruin thereof; be from henceforth more conscientious of your covenant, than ever heretofore; for surely, upon the success of this covenant we stand or call; as we deal with the covenant, God will deal with us; if we slight the covenant, God will slight us; if we have mean thoughts of the covenant, God will have mean thoughts of us; if we forget the covenant, God will forget us; if we break the covenant, we may look that God shall break these two nations, and break us all to pieces; if we reject it, God will reject us; if we regard our covenant, God will regard His covenant, and regard us too; if we remember the covenant, God will remember His, and remember us; if we keep the covenant, the covenant will keep us, and our posterity for ever.
There are a people of whom I hear God speaking gracious words. “Surely they are My people, children that will not lie.” My people, Mine by covenant; I have brought them into the bond of the covenant; I have made My covenant with them, and they have made their covenant with Me; and they be children that will not lie; I know they will deal no more as a lying and treacherous generation with Me, but will be a faithful people in their covenant; and I will be a faithful God unto them; “1 will be their Saviour, they will serve Me, and I will save them.”
Now the Lord make us such a people unto Him, children that will not lie, and He be such a God to us; He be our Saviour, a Saviour to both kingdoms, and ever}’ soul that makes this covenant; to save us from sin, and to save us from destruction; to save us from our enemies without, and to save us from our enemies within; to save us from the devil, and to save us from the world, and to save us from ourselves; to save us from the lusts of men, and to save us from our own lusts; to save us, and to save our posterity; to save us from Rome, and save us from hell; to save us from wrath present, and from wrath to come; to save us here, and to save us hereafter; to save us to Himself in grace, and to save us with Himself in glory, to all eternity, for Christ’s sake, Amen, and Amen.