The Heart's Engagement, A Sermon on the Solemn League & Covenant - by Thomas ColemanArticles on the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith
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A Sermon Preached At St. Margaret’s Westminster
As The Public Entering Into The Covenant,
I. Some of the Nobility, Knighthood and Gentry.
II. Divers Colonels, Officers and Soldier.
III. Those of the Scottish Nation about the City. IV Many Reverend Divines heart rejoicing.
September 29th Anno 1643.
By the Reverend Mr. Thomas Coleman, one of the Members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines.
Preached and published according to the several Orders of the Honorable House of Commons.
Nehemiah x. 28, 29. “The people entered into a curse, and into an oath to walk in God’s ways, &c.”
Glasgow, Printed for George Paton, Bookseller
“For who is this, that engaged his heart to approach unto Me, saith the Lord?”—Jeremiah xxx. 21.
Two things in this clause cause some obscurity:
First, The uncertainty of the subject.
Second, The ambiguity of one phrase.
1. The uncertainty of the subject, or person of whom the prophet speaks here: whether of Christ, by way of prophecy, or of some particular person, by way of story, or indefinitely of every one, by way of duty.
2. The ambiguity of that phrase, engaged; which, according to the variety of its signification, is or may be variously rendered. He adorned His heart; He applied His heart; He directed His heart; He engaged His heart.
Hereupon the sense becomes various.
1. Who is he, viz. Christ, hath appointed his heart? Can there be found a parallel to Christ in the world, that hath so given himself up to God? made Him and His ways his meat and drink, yea more than his ordinary food?
2. Who hath fitted and adorned his heart? Is there any that can adorn and prepare himself to approach unto God, without God?
3. To omit others of like nature: it may be true, that it is chiefly spoken of Christ: the titles in the beginning of the verse look this way; his noble One, his Ruler; but seeing Christ is the head of the body, and one with His body, it may secondarily, and by way of communication, be also affirmed of His members; and to them we extend it.
The clause therefore seems dependent, and as it is applied to man, hath reference to that which is an act of God, and seems to be a reason thereof. “I will cause him,” saith God, “to draw nigh, and he then shall approach; for who is this that hath engaged his heart? “The force of which inference may look two ways.
1. Shewing the impossibility in man to begin the action: “I will cause him to draw nigh; for who is this, that hath engaged his heart?” Where is the man that can direct his heart, approach to Me of himself, by his own power? Not any, not one: “Without Me you can do nothing ”
2. Approving the endeavor to continue; I will cause him to draw near, that he may approach, and stay with Me: he doeth his best, according to his strength; “he engageth his heart,” I will help on with the work; “for who is this?” Oh this is an excellent one; there are not many so; that any, that this is so, is beyond expectation, worthy of commendation. What an one is this? “Who is it that hath engaged,” tied, bound his heart from starting aside like a broken bow, to approach to, and to continue with Me, saith the Lord?
In the words (to proceed methodically and clearly) I offer the sum of my thoughts, to be considered under four general heads, or parts.
I. The opening of the phrases.
II. The propounding of the point.
III. The viewing of the duty.
IV. The encouragement to the practice.
In and through these we shall walk, as travelers, who speed their pace in those fields which yield no novelties, no fruit, no delight, but where they meet with varieties to delight the senses, fruitful places, green pastures to refresh themselves and beasts, they rest themselves and bait: so in some of these we shall only take and offer a taste, on others insist, as God shall direct; wherein an engagement of the attentions in the handling to me, may, through God’s mercy, beget an engagement of the heart to God in the applying of them in order.
I.—The opening of the phrases.
For the fuller understanding of the prophet’s drift, three words or phrases in this short sentence are a little to be cleared; for it containeth three parts: 1. An action of piety. 2. The object of this action. 3. The inquiry into both: and these are expressed in so many several particles.
1. The action of piety, engaging the heart. The heart may prove loose and wandering without an engagement: the engagement may be hypocritical and sinister, if it be not of the heart; but the one implying stability, the other sincerity, both together complete it as an action of piety.
2. The object of this action, “to approach unto Me.” Sin may be the object pursued, and God may be beheld at a distance: in this, we do not approach; in that, we approach not to God; but either is needful. God abhors those that approach to sin: He minds not those that look to Him at their distance: except then thou approach, and approach unto God, thy endeavor is either cold or cursed.
3. The inquiry into both, who is this? into the act of engagement, because it is not usual, into the part engaged, because it is subtle; and what we seldom see, or groundedly suspect, we have cause to inquire after.
Of the first; this engagement is a degree of the heart’s motion towards any object, good and bad; for it was an engagement, though a bad one, when more than forty men bound themselves with an oath from eating and drinking, till they had killed Paul. To this degree of engagement we ascend by these steps, and the heart of man perfects a motion towards God and good things thus gradually.
1. By an inclination or hankering, a propensity in the mind to this or that: this naturally is evil, and to evil; he that follows his’ inclination goes wrong, the whole frame of a man’s disposition being continually ill-disposed. It is called in scripture the speech or saying of the heart, and used indifferently both of good and bad, yet with a notable mark of diversity in the original, though translations mind it not. Eight times in the Old Testament is this phrase, “Said in his heart,” used: four times by the wicked, and as oft by the righteous; but constantly, whensoever a wicked man useth it, as David’s fool, Esau, Haman, Satan, it is in his heart; when a good man, as Hannah, David, it is to his heart; and teacheth: 1. That the heart and courses of a wicked man are subject to his inclinations; they dictate to him; they command, and he obeys. 2. But the inclinations of a good man are subject to him; he dictates to them, commands them as things subdued, and fit to be kept under.
Both these different inclinations, different, I say, in respect of subject and object, are strengthened with nothing more than the often reiteration of suitable acts; an evil inclination with evil acts, a good with good. 1. Sin gathereth strength by frequency of committing, and at last becomes as natural as meat or sleep. “By following vanity, they became vain.” 2. A good inclination is furthered by good actions; frequency in performance turns to a habit: therefore the Jews, to habituate their heart to mourning, do always, for the space of three days before the memorial of the temple’s desolation, in their public meetings, read chapters of mourning; for (say they) three acts make a habit. And hereupon it was: that Israel, above and before other nations, became a blessed people; blessings being even naturalized upon them by the holiness of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, immediately succeeding one the other.
2. By a desire, which is an inclination augmented and actuated, carrying on the party to the thing desired, grounded on, or inclined by some external enforcements. This was in Paul, who by that relation to, and interest that he had in, the Thessalonians, endeavored abundantly with much desire to see their face, which put him to the essay once and again.
3. A purpose, a determination to effect, to accomplish his desire. I have purposed, saith David, “that my mouth shall not transgress,” which purposing, before it be taken up, should be well grounded, and, when taken up, not lightly altered. For see, how a change in such a purpose, put the apostle to a serious apology; he was minded to have visited them, he did not; he foresaw they might, they would tax him of lightness, as either not minding, or not being master of his own determinations, and so consequently his ministry, and therein the gospel flight be blemished: the fear of which struck his heart, the prevention of which moved his spirit, that both they might be satisfied and himself remain without blame.
4. A resolve, a purpose settled; Daniel was fully resolved, he had laid this charge upon his heart, that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat.
5. A tie or obligation, whereby the heart, otherwise shifty, is bound to the work intended, sometime by a single promise, sometime by an oath or vow, and sometime more publicly by a solemn covenant. And this last and highest degree is that which the prophet speaks, at least in this sense I take it. This is that engagement of soul, whereby a man prevents his starting aside: and this is that first phrase that was to be opened.
Of the second; “to approach unto Me.”
This is the object, and this approachment is threefold: 1. In his inward man. 2. In his outward man. 3. In both. 1. In his inward man; in heart, by drawing close to God, enjoying a sensible and blessed communion with Him, which is comfortable in such a degree that, where it is felt, it needs no bidding to make an engagement. 2. In his outward man, in his person approaching to God in the practice of all duties commanded; God in His ordinances is powerfully present, man in their use stands within this presence. 3. In both, in all his abilities approaching to Him in managing His holy cause; and therefore holy, because His. God walks in the midst of His people’s armies: when thy sons, O Zion, “are armed against thy sons,” O Greece, “the Lord God is seen over them.” These are those approachings of the saints to their God: the first is their happiness, the second their duty, the third their honor. It is a happy thing to enjoy God’s comforts in soul; it is our enjoined duty to obey Him in His ways, and it is an honor to be found standing for the way of righteousness.
Of the third. The inquiry, “who is this?”
Scripture questions are of several uses, hold forth several senses; here it seems to be an approbation of the action spoken of. Who is this? What one is this, that so carefully engageth his heart? This is not ordinary among men, nor of an ordinary degree in man; few move, fewer engage themselves to move towards God. This approbation hath, 1. Its foundation in a duty: I approve this engaging, and the man because he engageth. 2. Its direction from the subject, heart. The engagement of the outward man may have wrong principles: that it may be right, let the heart, soul, inward parts, all that is within us be engaged to bless His holy name. 3. Its limitation from the object, to approach unto me: to engage the heart to sin, to the creature, to vanity, is neither commendable, nor approvable; but to close with God, to come to, stay with, and act for Him, this is that which the prophet, and God in the mouth of the prophet ever approves. And this brings us to,
II.— The propounding of the point, and that in these words.
God observes with the eye of approbation, such as engage and tie themselves to Him; He looks with an approving eye upon this carefulness: for such an engagement of soul is, 1. Needful. 2. Helpful; needful for the heart, helpful to our graces.
The needfulness is evident. The heart is slow and subtle, backward and deceitful; except it be drawn with the cords of such an engagement, it puts slowly forward; and when thus drawn, it will fall quickly off. Days of desolation beget resolves, times of terror produce engagements, which the heart (the storm past) will wilily and wickedly seek to evade. David suspected this co/.enage in himself, when he cries out, Oh! I have many good thoughts, but a naughty heart; many holy purposes, but a deceitful spirit: thou hast cause, as a Creator, not to believe the tender of my obedience, nor as a just God, the promise of submission; but I call to Thy mercy to give assistance. “Be surety for Thy servant for good:” for the performance of all good I promise. And Hezekiah in his sickness was not without fear of this deceitfulness: “Oh Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me;” I shall never keep my word, that word which my lips have spoken; and I have none dare pass his word for me: “do thou, O Lord, undertake for me.”
2. The helpfulness is undeniable; a heart from this engagement may fetch renewed strength continually. This engagement is a buckler of defense to arm us against Satan’s enticement, is armor of proof to withstand the world’s inducement; it makes us without fear or failing stand upon our own ground, and renew our courage like the eagle. Job was probably sometimes seduced with such foolish persuasions, to courses not less foolish, but he yielded not: what helped him? even his engagement: “I have made a covenant with mine eyes, how then shall I look on a maid? “Constancy in good is well-pleasing to God; “If any draw back, His soul hath no pleasure in them.” Whatsoever then is needful for it, or helpful to it, He both prescribes and approves. O let us engage our hearts to this approachment, a duty enjoined, a sacrifice accepted.
But there is one scripture that fully showeth the point, and the truth of it in all particulars. Consider then. Three things may seem necessary herein to be noted; the act, the approbation, and the reason; and here we have them all.
1. The act, engaging; or the persons, the engagers of themselves. Thou hast avouched, set up God this day to be thy God, not only in thy conscience by the act of faith, but even by thy mouth thou hast uttered this, probably in some solemn league and covenant. “Thou hast made to say:” so much the Hebrew word imports.
2. The approbation; and God answers thee accordingly, He hath avouched, set up thee to be His people; particularly to two privileges, 1. To be His peculiar people, the people of His own proper possession, joined so high, united so near, that they are admitted to a participation of many heavenly privileges; the actions of the one being communicated to the other; man’s prayer is called God’s, “I will make them glad in the house of My prayer,” God’s people called man’s, Moses’ people, Moses’ law: so in the law of God, and in his law, that is, the righteous man’s law. 2. To keep His commands: this seems rather to be a duty than a prerogative, yet a prerogative it is for a Christian to be holy, obedient, righteous: both directly, and accidentally. 1. Directly; the scripture teacheth so. The fruit of a Christian’s being made free from sin is unto holiness. “If you will fear the Lord and serve Him “(these are Samuel’s words to the people) “and not rebel:” what then? what shall we have? “Then shall you and your king continue to follow the Lord.” Solomon, setting down the recompense of a righteous person, saith, his reward shall be double, in himself, and in his posterity; in himself, “he shall walk on in his integrity,” in his posterity, “they shall be blessed after him.” 2. Accidentally: holiness is a privilege, as well as a duty; it is a reward, a benefit to him who walks therein. It may, and oft doth daunt their persecutors, that otherwise would have taken away their lives. The heathens observe that the majestic presence of a prince hath dashed the boldness, and so prevented the execution of some villainous attempt by a base traitor against their persons: and Christians know that the power of holiness is able to dazzle the proudest spirits. Herod, saith the text, “feared John,” and so a long while did him no hurt. And the emperor Adrian ceased his persecution against the Christians of his time, when he understood of their holiness of life. So true it is both ways, that the punishment of sin is sin, and the reward of the command is the command.
Both these privileges arc again repeated, and further are evidenced in the following verse; “Thou art His peculiar people, therefore will He make thee high above all nations, in praise, name and honor, of more esteem than any; and, thou keepest His commandments, and so He advanceth thee to be a holy people unto the Lord thy God: “all this evidenceth God’s approbation of an engaging heart.
3. The reason and ground of God’s approving this act, they are two. 1. Because the matter or duties, to which by this bond the heart is tied, are such as God directly observes with an approving eye. The particulars are three here specified, and all elsewhere expressly subjected to this eye of God. 1st. Thou obligest thyself to walk in His ways, in the practice of all the duties of the second table; and upon such as depart from evil, and do good, upon such righteous ones, the eyes of the Lord are fastened, not His omniscient eye, but His protecting, blessing eye, that eye the seeing whereof is of the same temper with the open ear following: “His eye is upon the righteous, and His ear open to their cry;” that eye which stands in opposition to His face, which is against the wicked. 2d. And to observe His ordinances and judgments, reverently to practice all the duties of the first table to God, and to such also God casts His eye of respect: “The eye of the Lord is upon those that fear Him, and that hope in His mercy.” 2nd. And to hearken to the means of both, to hear His voice: “When I counsel thee and instruct thee in the way that thou shouldst go, Mine eye is upon thee, both to keep thee to it, and to bless thee in it.” 2. Because this engagement is a means to accomplish His promise: because thou hast avouched God, God hath avouched thee, and will do as He hath said, and again, as He hath said; the repetition whereof seems to argue contentedness in God, in that, by this avouchment, a way was opened for the accomplishment of His promise. “God is well pleased for His righteousness sake,” delights, when He can evidence Himself to be righteous and just, for the law and words of His mouth He will magnify and make honorable in the faithfulness of their accomplishment. Mercy, the acts of mercy please Him. God finds in a righteous man rest of spirit, because by him He sends down a full influence of His favor upon the world. ” If the world knew (say some Hebrew doctors,) of what worth a righteous man was, they would hedge him about with pearls.” His life is beneficial to all, even in some sort to God Himself; for by him mercy is shewn to the world: his death therefore is of great consequence; a greater affliction than those curses mentioned; “I will, make thy plagues wonderful; thy heavens shall be brass,
they shall distil no dew nor rain to water the earth; but I will do a marvelous thing, a marvelous and strange, a good man, a wise man shall be taken away; and I can send no more blessings upon you:” There remains not a heart engaged, to whom I delight to approach; whiles such were, mine eye was satisfied with seeing good, my heart with doing good; now the one is removed, the other stopped. O where is he that engageth his heart to approach to his God!
III.— The examining of the Duty.
This engagement being thus approved, and therefore to be entered on; let us a little examine the duty, and mind two things, 1. What particulars do engage us, by what acts or thoughts doth the heart become engaged? And, 2. What hinders this engagement, and stops our entrance thereupon?
I. Several and many ways doth the heart become engaged to God: no consideration can enter our hearts, no occurrent happen in our lives, but it offers reasons enforcing this duty. We are engaged to God by our being, by our receiving, by our doing: mind either, and acknowledge thyself engaged.
1. Our being what we are, engageth us: 1st. That we are creatures, and so not forgotten in the everlasting night of a not-being: that we are men, and not beasts; that we are Christians, and not heathens; all are engagements. 2nd. But our being thus and thus; men of gifts and parts: placed in such callings; qualified with such endowments: interested in such privileges: these are engagements indeed.
2. What we have. 1st. Every thing we have received binds us; all the acts of God’s providence over us; all the effects of God’s goodness to us: health, food, callings, trades, friends, families, clothes, the service of the creatures; sun, rain, fruits of the earth: all, all these are bonds. 2nd. But especially, our more peculiar favors; inward experience of His love, and fruition of soul-communion with Him: Oh, who would not be engaged for this!
3. What we do, even our own actions become our obligations; and that which comes from us binds us. 1st. Our feeling prayers. Who dare practice what he prays against? A prayer against the power of sin, obliges to walk in the power of that prayer; neither will any lightly omit what but late as an evil he hath confessed to God. 2nd. But especially (which is our present work) our solemn and serious vows, protestations, promises; our covenant in baptism, our particular covenants entered into, upon the apprehension of some approaching calamity, upon a day of humiliation, at a piercing sermon, or soul-searching prayer before a sacrament, or the like. If we have spoken with our lips, we cannot go back, we are engaged.
II. As for such things that may hinder, we should both note and avoid, 1. Ignorance: “If thou knewest the gift of God,” saith Christ to the Samaritan woman: want of praying comes from want of knowing. “Have you received the Holy Ghost?” was Paul’s question, but the reply was, that could not be; we “have not so much as heard, whether there be a Holy Ghost, or no.” Have you engaged your souls in a solemn league? Let this be our querry, and the answer will be, We have not so much as heard, whether there be such a duty, or no. Ignorance hinders this bond. 2. Wretched profaneness, which slights and sets at nought all duties, ordinary, extraordinary; such mind sin, and the fulfilling thereof; and bind themselves to mischief with cords of vanity; whilst in the mean time they are contented to sit loose from God. 3. Wicked policy, both to avoid the taking, and to evade the keeping: scruples of conscience shall be pretended by such as know not what conscience means. Scripture shall be alleged, by such as are little versed therein; this sentence shall be thus explained: this releasement shall be thus pretended: all is but seemingly to stop the mouth of conscience, that saith, they must both make and pay vows unto God. Yet the willfully ignorant will neglect it; the wretchedly profane will contemn it; the wickedly politic will avoid it; so the heart shall be left to its own swing, open to all corruption that breaks in like a flood. For the prevention whereof, let us come on to
IV.—Encouragements to the practice..
The point thus propounded, and in several particulars described, wherein and whereby the soul may be engaged; there is nothing remaining, but the practice of it, and that is yours. Up then, and be doing; disoblige yourselves, and he no longer servants to the world, to sin, to obey either in the lusts thereof; but be ye bound to serve righteousness, and the God of righteousness; for His service is perfect freedom. In this encouragement to this work, that 1 might do as much as I can, in this little time granted, and gained for preparation and delivery; I would advise, exhort, resolve, and so prevent irreverence, backwardness, and doubting; that neither the ignorant may profane, nor the refractory contemn, nor the scrupulous question this holy ordinance of God, as unholy needless, ambiguous. Let this encouragement then be received in words: 1. Cautionary. 2. Hortatory. 3. Satisfactory.
I. Cautionary.—Let this great work be done judiciously, cautiously, and as an ordinance of God. Take we heed therefore, 1. To the manner. 2. To the matter. 3. To the consequence.
I. To the manner. See that it be done; 1. Cheerfully. 2. Religiously.
First, Cheerfully and willingly; for so did the people of Israel in their covenanting with God: “They swore unto the Lord with a loud voice, with shoutings, and trumpets, and music, and they rejoiced because of the oath.” God loves a cheerful giver, His heart is toward those that willingly offer themselves to the work of the Lord. And here, let me not conceal the mercy of the Lord to us, in the work now in hand; for why should not the Lord have the glory of all His favors? God hath directed our hearts to this duty, cheered up our affections to this engagement. Who almost sees not His hand in all this? This cheerfulness and forwardness I now call for, I did, I do, I hope, I shall see.
ist. 1 did see. Which of us, brethren, hath not his heart yet rejoicing, but even to think upon this work, this last Monday in this place? Here was cheerfulness: who was not glad to see it? Who was not encouraged to it? Here was a willing people freely offering themselves to be bound to the Lord. Here was rejoicing; 1. In the performance: The like duty was never seen in our days within this land. It was, I am persuaded, the very birth-day of this kingdom, born anew to comfort and success; our hearts were then so elevated, they are not settled yet. 2. For the performance of such a duty, in such a manner, by such persons. You might here have seen the Hon. House of Commons, unanimously with hearts and hands lifted up to the heavens, swearing to the Most High God. Here might you have seen our dear brethren, the noble and learned Commissioners of Scotland, willingly coming into this covenant of truth, as the representatives of, and a pledge for the whole kingdom. Here might you have seen the grave and reverend Assembly of Divines, forwardly countenancing others, willingly submitting themselves to this bond of the Lord. What I then saw, and now rehearse, most of you can attest. Ask your fathers, consult with the aged of our times, whether ever such a thing were done in their days, or in the days of their fathers before them.
2nd, I do see; and believe the like now: I have ground to be persuaded, that you also come with alacrity to this .service, 1. The order for the taking, honors you with this, that you were desirous of yourselves, without compulsion, to take this upon you: blessed therefore be you of the Lord, and blessed be the Lord for you. 2. The fullness of this present assembly, called only for this end, for this duty. The nature of your persons. Nobles, knights, gentlemen, submit themselves to the yoke of the Lord. Colonels, captains, officers in the army, soldiers; even these also stand not off from, but close to, and for this work in hand. Those of the Scots nation within this city, by their willingness, do give a check to this cavil raised by some, who have nothing else to say, yet say this, perhaps the kingdom of Scotland will not take it. We can instance in none, none that I know here. The ministers of the Lord, that have refuged themselves to this little sanctuary, both increase and honor the number of them that swear, their own callings, and themselves. All these, as they have forwardly offered, so doubtless will earnestly repair, in their lot, the breaches made in the Lord’s house. Here is cheerfulness.
3d, I hope, I shall see and hear, the next Lord’s day, or the next convenient time, all our people readily coming into this bond; that so, both English and Scots, parliament and assembly, nobility and city, may all rejoice together.
Second, Religiously: godly works must be done in a godly manner, that the act done for God’s glory may be sanctified with God’s presence. With what serious humiliation, and hearty prayers did Nehemiah begin this duty? What a number of able men did Josiah collect together? And how reverently did they read in the Scriptures, and speak of the nature of the covenant? Both Nehemiah]by praying, and Josiah by reading, desired in this holy anxiousness to approve themselves followers of holiness in the sight of God. And at the last taking in this place, who was not touched with that feeling prayer, made by that man of God (Mr. White or Mr. Nye); that godly exhortation, which followed from another! that pithy relation by that man of name (Mr. Henderson or Dr. Gouge); that soul-affecting thanksgiving, wherewith a godly doctor closed the day? and, that no less piety and love of God might appear in you, after you resolved upon the work; you desired that the ordinance might be sanctified to you by the word of God and prayer; you moved me to this employment, and got it ordered accordingly: and now, I doubt not, but in the action, you will do it with such reverence of God’s majesty, such awfulness of heart, that in lifting up your hands to the most high God, He may be pleased to accept the sacrifice, and make it comfortable. Thus to the manner.
II. To the matter. For the matter, that it be lawfully warranted by the Word of God. To examine these particularly, in all and several parts thereof, were the work of a volume, not of one sermon that will be done by others: but to do something, and what we may for this time; it is not difficult to parallel from Scripture this covenant in all the parts of it. The lawfulness of covenanting, I suppose not questionable, as a furtherance and help to a spiritual progress; we find it oft used: the New Testament affords but rare instances, the church then in its infancy having little occasion, and as little need of such combining, fasting and days of prayer, which are of the same nature, we find often; and the angel “lift up his hand, (a covenanting gesture) and swore by Him that liveth,” (a covenanting act,) but the Old Testament is full. Take then this as granted, and come to the particular materials, and in every part, for every article, we can find an instance. The articles in this covenant are six: the preamble sets forth, 1. The occasion; their aim at God’s glory, their enemies aim at their ruin. 2. The pattern; the commendable practice of those kingdoms, and the example of churches in all ages. The close containeth their resolution against all impediments that may either stop the taking, or disable the keeping of this league, their own sins. The body of the covenant contains the articles; the lawfulness of which seems thus to be warranted.
The first is the reformation of the false, and the preservation of the true worship of God, and the uniting of all the kingdoms in that truth thus reformed. Such a covenant took Asa, and his people. The first is for the reformation of religion decayed. He purged away all the dross, and removed all the defects. He repaired the altar of the Lord, the main part of their ceremonial covenant. Then for the uniting of the kingdoms in the embracing of this truth. Asa gathered all Judah and Benjamin, this was his own people, the subjects of one kingdom; and with them the strangers, that is, the inhabitants of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, these were the people of another land. So here are the persons covenanting, the matter covenanted to. The persons, the subjects, two several kingdoms; the matter, reformation, and to seek the God of their fathers; to this they all swear, like as the inhabitants of England, Scotland and Ireland, meet all in one duty, even a covenant, and that to one end, to seek and serve God in the purity of His ways, after the purity of His will; to this, as Asa and his people, we swear.
The second is the extirpation of idolatry and wickedness, and all things contrary to truth, not according to godliness, the proper and perpetual matter of all covenants. So did Asa, so did Joash, so did Josiah, so did Nehemiah. 1. Asa took away all abominations. He was impartial, ‘sparing neither sin, place, nor person: not sin, he removed all abominations; not place, from all places, towns of his inheritance, and of his conquest; not person, he deposed his mother, or rather grandmother from her state for her idolatry. 2. Joash, or his covenanters. Indeed the people of the land, (for such usually are most zealous) they ruined the altars, house and all. They broke down all the monuments of idolatry, all to pieces, thoroughly, to some purpose, priest and all. They slew Matthan priest of Baal with the sword. 3. Josiah purged the whole kingdom: and Nehemiah with zeal, extirpated the strange wives Here is a covenant that rooted out idolatry, popery, the Baalistical prelate Matthan, and all his prelatical faction the Chemarim, and all this, for this end, that the Lord might be one, and His name one.
The third is, the preservation of the liberties of the kingdom and the king, for matters merely civil. Such was that covenant that Jehoiada established, after their engagements for spirituals to God. He made a covenant between the king and people, that he should preserve their liberties, they his authority, and both each other mutually.
The fourth, for the discovery and punishment of malignants, that increase or continue our division. Without a covenant such a discovery did Mordecai make of Bigthan and Teresh, the king’s eunuchs. Such a discovery made the Jews of Sanballat, and his fellows to Nehemiah. Josiah was not without his informers. But with a covenant was the punishment of such varlets settled. Whosoever would not seek the Lord (loci of their fathers, should be slain without sparing, be he whom he would be, small or great, man or woman. For why should not every one value the public above the private, the common good before his own?
The fifth, the preservation of the union, and of the pacification between the two kingdoms. This is the matter of all civil leagues. Such a league made Isaac with Abimelech, Jacob with Laban, David with Hiram. But chiefly such a pacification doth God promise to make between Israel and Judah. They should both live under one king, so do the English and Scots: and both dwell in one land, so do the English and Scots: they shall have the same ministry and religion; so do labor the English and Scots: and a pacification will God make between them, and that by covenant, and such a covenant, as should never be forgotten or broken; such a thing are we doing now, and then God’s sanctuary shall be placed among us, the sanctuary of His presence, service, protection, which is our expectation and our hope.
Lastly, The firm adhering to this covenant, and continuance in the same notwithstanding all opposition, contradiction, dissuasion to the contrary whatsoever. All the people stood to the covenant. This was Josiah’s care not only for himself, but for his people; “He made all that were found in Judah and Benjamin to stand to it; so all his days they turned not back from the Lord God of their Fathers.” This is the covenant, and this is a general view of the general matter; this is according to the aim of those that made it, take it, swear to it. Who but an atheist can refuse the first? who but a papist the second? who but an oppressor, or a rebel, the third? who but the guilty, the fourth? who but men of fortune, desperate cavaliers, the fifth? who but light and empty men, unstable as water, the sixth? In a word, the duty is such, that God hath ordained; the matter is such, as God approveth; the taking such, as God observeth; and the consequences such, as God hath promised. And in them stands my third caution, to which I now come.
III. To the consequences. For the consequences, and issues that do or must follow upon the taking, be also cautious; take heed that after this heart-engagement to God, none start back like a broken bow. See that you neither, 1. Falsify the oath; or, 2. Profane the oath. •
I. Do not falsify the oath, making the actions of the outward man contrary to this action of the heart. An oath is one of the two immutable things, wherein it is impossible that God should lie; not fitting, that man .should. The people’s aforementioned example teaches constancy, they stood to it. The covenants ordinary epithet [everlasting] implies continuance: neither can God, nor should man play the children, say and unsay. All our covenants in Him should be yea; not yea, and nay. If we prove loose, we prove false, and lie unto God that made us. Take heed to your covenant. This stone, these walls, these pillars, these seats shall witness against you, that ye denied Him: to falsify the engagement, is to deny our God; His power, His revenging justice, His word, His presence, and the like; if you willfully falsify this oath wherewith you are bound, as much as in you lies, you make God any thing but a God. Keep truth and fidelity forever.
II. Do not profane it by a slight esteem, by an irreverent taking, by an unholy life.
First, By a slight esteem, as a matter of no moment. Can that be a trifle, which is the fruit of the judicious consultations of the agents of both kingdoms, as the only means to perpetuate the union? Can that be a trifle, which was produced by such, who had merely the glory of God before their eyes as conducing much thereto? Can that be a trifle, which is published as the main and sole preventive of all the bloody plots of God’s enemies against the truth? Can that be a trifle, which is now cleaved to as a means more effectual, and a degree above supplications, remonstrances, protestations, to preserve ourselves, and our religion? All this and more the preamble speaks,
Second, By irreverent taking. It was resolved on after mature deliberation. It is a lifting up of the hand to the most high God, and a swearing by His name, and God’s name must not be taken in vain: such will God not hold guiltless. But of this before.
Third, By an unholy life. Such a thing would mar all we have done; though defiled with former sins, yet now sin. no more: our covenant forbids it: our state now stands thus.
Either by our sins we shall make a breach into our covenant, or by our covenant make a breach from our sins. In the close of the covenant, we resolve on the endeavor that this covenant may have its desired fruit. Wo desire to be humbled for our own sins, the land’s sins, undervaluing the gospel, neglecting the power, and purity of it, no endeavor to receive Christ into our hearts, no care to walk worthy of Him in our lives. Such and the like sins a godly covenanter must shun, lest he profane it. Let us then prize it as an effectual means of good, take it with a reverend fear of God, honor it in holiness of life for ever. Let us both verify it, and sanctify it by continuing to stand in it, by endeavoring to live by it to God’s glory, that this taken covenant may be for the name, the honor, the praise of the great Jehovah forever.
II. Hortatory. These cautions being observed; come all, and let us enter into an everlasting covenant with the Lord; come on, and let us engage our hearts unto our God: we have a propensity to keep off; let a covenant keep us close: our hearts would be wandering; let a covenant bind them. Will you trust yourselves without a. tie? Do you know yourselves? Come to this work, with a heart, with a heart lifted up, as well as a hand, as high as a hand; “Let us lift up our hearts to our hands;” let the ardency of our affection raise up our spirit to meet the Lord, to whom we adjoin ourselves for ever. To you I cry, to whom the order speaks, to every one of you I call, come engage your hearts.
First, Nobles, both greater and lesser, think not the duty below you, too mean for you. There is but one way to heaven for all. Scorn not to join with inferiors in this work. In Christ there is neither male nor female, no respect of persons. The same way that the soul of the poorest is refreshed, is the soul of the richest. Poor men pray, and princes must pray; common men humble their souls, and repent, and crowned kings must do so too. The people of God, they walk aright, and all men, great and small, must follow them alike: the eye of every ordinary man must be towards the Lord. So as the tribes of Israel are, and the same way must Tyre and Sidon look, though they be very wise. No largeness of parts, greatness of place, eminency in gifts, of wisdom, learning, wit, not amplitude of rule, nor any high thoughts can exempt; but he must subject himself to the condition and courses of the lowest sort. Heaven regards not the goodliness of the person, looks not as man looks; for God regards the heart.
Second, Soldiers, for you also are engagers. This says, you have a noble pattern; but I hope I may say, you outwrite your copy. They came to John Baptist, and to the place, where he baptized. You come to the presence of God, and the place, where the heart is to be engaged. They came to be directed what to do; you to do what has been directed. Ride you on prosperously in this righteous truth. It lies mainly upon you to be holy, yea, more than upon others. Your adventures are more hazardous, your dangers more probable; yea, your deaths perhaps more near. Therefore, 1. You must remove from you wickedness, and wicked men. Wickedness from your hearts, wicked men from your armies. Let both your persons be holy, and your companies holy. God Himself commands the former, the prophet from God the latter. “When the host goeth forth, then, and then chiefly, thou shall keep thee from every evil thing.” When Judah’s king marched out, assisted with Israelitish auxiliaries, which were idolaters; let not (saith the prophet) “the men of Israel go with thee, for God is not with Israel:” if thou do, thou shalt not prosper. If there were no evil sin in your hearts, no evil man in your hosts, God would be with you, with a shout, even the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
And 2. Your success depends on God’s presence. When thou seest multitudes of armies encircling thee, fear not, for God is with thee, and God is with thee to save thee; He walks with thee to fight for thee, and to prosper thee. We shall be cast back, yea, quite off, if God go not forth with our armies; or, in our armies; the word bears either: when God goes not in our armies, rules not in our hearts, lives, conversations, by holiness; then He goes not forth with our armies by victory and success.
3. The want of godly agents, to manage a godly cause, a great lamentation. “Help, Lord, save, O God, for the godly fail, and the faithful cease from among men:” were there any such in being, they would bear rule with God, and be faithful for the saints, their persons and prayers would gain prevalency with God, their endeavors and constancy would show fidelity to the saints, and then in Judah, our land, would things go well: and as once Ezekiel of the scarcity of fit governors to rule, so we of fit men to fight, when corruption and looseness hath so possessed the hearts, and lives of our men of war, that there remains no sanctified and godly man to make a soldier; “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.”
4. What ground have we to expect good? When the sons of darkness go to cast out the prince of darkness, is this possible? Can Satan cast out Satan? It is a satisfactory answer, that we rest in, and stops the mouths of all not incurably blinded, when we hear of protestations, and promises to maintain the protestant religion and laws of the land; when we see, that the effecting of the one is by the sword of papists, of the other, by the hand of delinquents; except we should think, that man can (as God) work happy ends by contrary means. For we say, how can Satan cast out Satan? So to ourselves, ’tis not very likely, that, if Satan keep the hold he hath of our souls, you should dispossess him of that strong hold he hath of our land, lint you know so much, and therefore by engaging your heart this day to God you first endeavor to expel Satan out of your own consciences; and then shall you see clearly to drive him from our kingdom.
Third, Our brethren of Scotland, come you, and enter into this sure covenant. Lay the foundation of such an eternal league and peace, that the sun shall never see broken: all your countrymen, your kingdom are not here. Let your forwardness to this work tell us, what they would do, if they were. Some having nothing else to say, yet cannot withhold to question, whether the Scots will enter into it or no? As the question is without any ground, so shall it be without any other answer for the present, than this; all of that nation in town have been ready to this great work. Can you instance in any that have been backward to swear unto the Lord? If in none, then put away prejudicate thoughts, and entertain in their place earnest desires, that this covenant now by both kingdoms entered into, may be like Ezekiel’s sticks, which resembled the divided houses of Judah and Israel; which, as the prophet held them, became one in his hand, So this national covenant taken into the hand of God’s merciful approbation, may this day, this year become one, and for ever remain one: so that (as Israel and Judah after this typical union in two sticks) England and Scotland after this religious union in one covenant, may for ever be one people in this island of Great Britain; and that one king may continue king to them both; and that henceforth they may no more be two peoples, nor divided into kingdoms; that our religion be corrupted no more, as of late; but being cleansed, we may be the Lord’s people, and He may be our God for ever: that Jesus Christ may bear rule, and we both may have one ministry, and enjoy that truth, which Christ, when He ascended up on high, gave as a gift to men, during our days, and the days of our posterity; we, and our sons, and our sons’ sons, from this time forth, and for evermore: that the Lord would plant His sanctuary among us, and make these two people His dwelling-place continually: that this covenant may be a covenant of peace, and a covenant of truth, and a covenant for everlasting. And let all that desire it, daily pray for it, and now express it, and with cheerfulness of heart say, Amen, Amen.
Fourth, You, my brethren of the ministry, your hearts are to be engaged too, that you also may gain God by the engagement: be not you behind the very forwardest of the Lord’s people; you are not an inconsiderable party in this land. The joy and happiness of Israel was because of the Levites that waited, that were diligent in their duties, and diligently attended upon the Lord. “I will cause the horn of Israel to flourish, saith God:” by what means? “I will give thee, Ezekiel, an open mouth.” That God may give you a heart to teach knowledge, come, engage your hearts as a gift to God. O, saith Moses, “that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” O, say we, that all this land’s people had prophets, but prophets of the Lord, that might feed them with wisdom and understanding, that they all might know the Lord, from the greatest to the least of them! But ah? Lord God, the eye of this kingdom is distempered, dim, and dark; and then how great is this darkness! our prophets have prophesied lies, and our priests have pleaded for Baal, and they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them? Instead of standing for God, they have stood against Him; and instead of being the best, they are become the basest: the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. If God should come, as once, to seek for a man, that should stand in the gap, and make up the breach; among these He would find the fewest: in this respect our state may be like that which we find described. Christ comes to make a perfect description of His church, and so consequently, a comfortable expression of Himself to His church: and whereas the eyes are the chiefest seat of beauty, and therefore likeliest to be stood upon, he begins thus. “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me.” By eyes, understand the ministry; I come to speak comfortable things to My people, but set away the ministers out of My sight, for they have overcome My patience, and filled Me with fury: now these being removed, the description doth lovingly go on. Thy hair, thy young professors, are like a flock of goats; thy teeth, thy civil officers, like a flock of sheep; thy temples, thy ordinary and common Christians. All right but the eyes, the eyes I cannot endure. But let none of us provoke this complaint, nor hold off any longer from the Lord that invites. What say you? Are you willing to this engagement? Will you bind yourselves to the Lord? Let me extend my speech to all, and dispatch the remains of this point, and my meaning thus: that you may be encouraged to engage, consider two things.
First, The seasonableness.
Secondly, The success of such engagements.
First, The seasonableness: there is a time for all purposes, and every word and action is beautiful in his own time. A public engagement is then seasonable, 1. When a land hath been full of troubles: God by such troubles prepares a people for Him in this duty. “I will cause you to pass under the rod, and so I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” And we know, we feel God hath chastised us sore of late; but in them He hath not given us over to death, that by them He might prepare us for Himself. When a land hath been full of corruptions, and a shrewd decay hath been in spirituals: by a covenant hath such a people recovered themselves, and regained their God. After the great apostasy by Athaliah, Jehoiada renewed their interest by a covenant. When Manasses and his son had suffered destruction from God, and advanced idolatry with or above God; Josiah purged all by a covenant. Our decays are evident, our corruptions destructive; our covenant therefore seasonable. ‘Come, let us engage our hearts to approach to God. 3. When the enemy begins to fall, and God begins to shine upon His own. Asa returning from a victory, called his land to a covenant. When Athaliah was slain, the league was sworn, by Joash and his kingdom. Since this motion of a covenant is come among us, God hath, as it were, begun to draw near, in the siege of Gloucester raised, in the success at Newbery, gained. God is worming out His and our adversaries, which He will do by little and little, till they be consumed. The covenant is seasonable. Second, The success. Come and see the works of the Lord, what wonders He hath wrought, when a people hath thus bound themselves to be His. 1. A king injuriously put from his right by an usurping hand, after such a covenant was re-established, “He sat him down on the throne of the kings.” 2. A land miserably put from its peace, after such a covenant, was re-settled, peace was re-obtained; and that as a fruit of prayer, and so acknowledged, “Israel had sworn, and sought God; God was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about.” 3. Religion craftily, and wickedly put from its purity after such a covenant, was reformed; after such a reformation continued. The engagement being made, “all Josiah’s days they returned not back from the Lord God of their fathers.” 4. Rebels and rebellion, basely and bloodily backed and managed against the Lord and His ways, against His people and their practices; after such a covenant, have been overthrown and subdued, “I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” Then I will sever from among you the rebels; I will chase them from their own land, and hinder that they shall not enter into the land of Israel. The Lord give this success concerning Ireland, sever out the rebels there from true subjects; chase them from their own land; and yet keep them from ever entering into our land, the land of the inheritance of the Lord.
Now these successful effects of covenanting well minded,
First, May hint to us a satisfactory reason, in case peace comes not presently. God hath some more adversaries to overthrow, to worm out; His sword hath not eaten flesh enough; neither are His arrows drunk with blood yet; with the blood of such earthly men, whom He hath appointed to destruction. The hearts of the Philistines were so hardened, that they never sought after peace, “For it came of the Lord, to the intent that they might be utterly destroyed.” Who knows, whether our peace hath been denied; our propositions cast out; our treaties fruitless, for such an end as this? It was of the Lord, who hath a purpose to destroy more. God lays afflictions on His people, and they continue upon them; but in the mean space to quiet their spirits, He teacheth them out of His law, that these troubles must stay only “till a pit be digged for the wicked.”
Second, May encourage us to go on. You have now armor of proof, such armor as is not ordinary, armed with a covenant: Go, saith the angel to Gideon, in this thy might. Go (say I, to every one) in this thy might, the strength of this thy covenant, and the effect will be such, as is not ordinary. When the Philistines perceived that the Israelites had brought the ark of the covenant into the battle, they cried out, “Woe unto us; for it hath not been so heretofore: woe unto us; who shall deliver us out of the hands of these mighty gods? “When your enemies shall perceive, that you come armed with the armor of a covenant with God, I hope they, struck with amazement, shall cry, “Woe unto us; we were never so opposed before: woe unto us; who shall deliver us out of the power of this mighty prevailer? “If it will thus daunt, take it with you, be strong. Again, I say, Go in the might thereof, and God shall prosper thee for ever.
III. Satisfactory.—-According to the condition of the person, such is the nature of the objection. One out of the malignity of his spirit, cavils against the work; another out of tenderness of conscience, scruples the taking. I shall briefly touch upon one or two, and wind up all in a few words. The queries I have met with, are such as these: two objections when I was designed to this service, were sent me in writing, which, when thoroughly viewed, I perceived nothing at all to concern our case, or covenant.
Obj. 1. Whether by any law, divine or human, may reformation of religion be brought in by arms? Ans. 1. What is this at all to the covenant, where there is no mention of arms at all? 2. What is this to our present condition, where reforming by arms is not at all the question? For if reformation of religion be the case of our affairs; then either the parliament are they that do it, or the cavaliers: not the cavaliers, for they are on the defensive: witness all their declarations. Not the parliament, for then the cavaliers will be found fighters against religion, and resistors of God. 3. I answer negatively, it is not. The sword is not the means which God hath ordained to propagate the gospel: “Go and teach all nations;” not, go and subdue all nations, is our Master’s precept.
Obj. 2. Whether to swear to a government that shall be, or to swear not to dissent from such a future government, be not to swear upon an implicit faith? Ans. 1. This is nothing to the covenant, neither can I see upon what ground any should raise such an impertinent scruple. 2. It is, he that so swears, swears upon an implicit faith: for one reason against the articles of the prelates was, that they forced us to swear to the homilies that shall be set out. But these things are extravagant.
Other objections by word of mouth have been propounded, some whereof I will here touch upon.
Obj. 3. One would make a stand at the phrase, [in our callings,] as if some politic mystery were therein involved, and would have it changed, [according to our callings, or so far forth as they extend.] There is an identity in the phrase, an action enjoined to be done in such a place, every corner, as far as that place extends, is that place, and no other. All is one.
Obj. 4. How if the parliament should hereafter see a convenience in prelacy for this kingdom, were not this oath then prejudicial, either to the parliament’s liberty, or kingdom’s felicity? Ans. This objection supposes,
First, That the most wicked antichristian government may be a lawful government in point of conscience.
Second, That it is possible, that this prelatical government may be convenient for a state or kingdom. When as 1. They have been burdensome in all ages; what opposites in England have they been to our kings, till their interests were changed? 2. All reformed religions in the world have expelled them, as incompatible with reformation. 3. They have set three kingdoms together by the ears, for the least, and worst of causes, which now lie weltering in their own blood, ready to expire. 4. Experience now shows, there is no inconvenience in their want; either in Scotland, or in England.
Obj. But what, if the exorbitances be purged away, may not I, notwithstanding my oath, admit of a regulated prelacy? Ans. 1. We swear not against a government that is not. 2. We swear against the evils of every government; and doubtless many materials of prelacy must of necessity be retained, as absolutely necessary. 3. Taking away the exorbitances, the remaining will be a new government, and no prelacy.
Obj. For the discovery of all malignants, all that have been; whether, if I have a friend, that hath been a malignant, and is now converted, am I bound to discover him? Ans. This his malignity, was either before the covenant, or since; if before, no. For then this league had no being, and a non-ends can have no contrariety. If since, the discovery must be at the first appearance of malignity, whilst he is so.
Obj. What if one make a party to uphold prelacy, whilst it stands by law, must I oppose him, or discover him by virtue of this oath? Doth the oath bind me to oppose legal acts? Ans. 1. Quer. Whether there be any particular law for prelacy? 2. Quer. Whether the making a party be legal? 3. Quer. Whether any thing, the extirpation of which is sworn by an ordinance of parliament, can be said to stand by law?
These are some queries I have met with. I heartily wish that the same tenderness of conscience in all things may be seen, which if not, it will hardly be called a scruple of tenderness, but a cavil of malignity. What now remains but only prayers, that the great God of our judgments and consciences, would so clear and satisfy our souls in these leagues and bonds, that without reluctancy we may all swear to God, and, having sworn, we may have a care to keep the oath inviolable; that as once Israel, so all England may rejoice because of the oath: and God may be established, and His kingdom settled; that His presence may dwell among men, and His protection among the sons of men; that He may be near in our covenanting, found in our prayers, and give us rest; and that we being engaged, may live to Him, and not to others, henceforth and for ever.