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an absolute promise, if the conditions take place. So that all consistent promises are always binding, and can never be violated without guilt. In this respect they entirely differ from mere declarations.

And now it is easy to see that a covenant is essentially different from both a declaration and a promise. For a covenant is a mutual contract, agreement, or stipulation between two or more parties, upon certain conditions. These conditions both or all parties are mutually bound to fulfill; nor can either party dissolve the mutual obligation without the consent of the other. If one man makes a promise to another, the person to whom the promise is made, may if he pleases, dissolve the obligation of the other, because it can never be supposed that releasing a man from an obligation can do him an injury. But in a mutual covenant, all the parties are bound to each other, and consequently cannot dissolve the covenant without mutual consent ; for if one party should presume to dissolve their own obligation without the consent of the other, the other would feel themselves to be injured, and have reason to complain. This is the general nature and obligation of a covenant. I now proceed to consider,

II. The nature of a religious covenant between God and man. According to what has been said under the preceding particular, it appears, that a covenant between God and man must be of the same nature as a covenant between man and

It is a mutual contract, agreement, or stipulation between God and man, upon certain terms. Though the covenant between God and man be a religious covenant, yet it is of the same nature and obligation as any other covenant. God has a right to command his people to enter into a mutual covenant with himself, and to propose the mutual terms of it. He commanded his people Israel, at Mount Sinai, to enter into a mutual covenant with himself. He also proposed the mutual terms of the covenant, and commanded the people on their part to comply with the terms he proposed, and graciously promised to fulfill the covenant on his part. He revealed the terms of the covenant to Moses, and directed him to write the terms in a book, and then directed him to read the book of the covenant in the audience of all Israel; and when they heard and understood it, they solemnly promised before the all-seeing, heartsearching, and visibly present God, to comply with the terms which he proposed and required them to comply with. So it is expressly said.

" And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

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And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrified peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord.' And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the

. people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning these words." This transaction between God and his people was precisely the same, as à mutual oath between them to fulfill the terms of the covenant. The people swore, and God swore to keep the covenant faithfully. So Moses explains this covenant transaction in the twenty-ninth chapter of Deuteronomy. “Ye stand this day

. all of you before the Lord your God, that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day : that he may establish thee to-day for a people unto himself, and that he

may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." The first time God entered into covenant with Abra. ham and promised to give to him and to his seed the land of Canaan, it is said, he sware unto him, and confirmed his oath by sacrifice. See Genesis xv. 18, and xxvi. 3. Just so, the mutual covenant which God made with Israel at Mount Sinai was a mutual oath or covenant sealed by the blood of a sacrifice, which was sprinkled on the book of the covenant, and on the people who bound themselves by a solemn oath to fulfill the terms of the covenant. These mutual terms we find plainly expressed, in the twenty-sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses says to the people, “ This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments; thou shalt, therefore, keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments.”

Now, in the view of the covenant transaction of God with his people Israel, we may easily learn what are the mutual obligations between God and his people in their mutual religious covenant at this day. As God commanded Israel to enter into a religious covenant with him, so he commands men at this day to enter into a religious covenant with him. And as he com

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manded his people Israel to love him supremely, and to obey him perfectly, as the terms of the religious covenant with them, so he now commands men at this day to love him supremely, and to obey him perfectly, as the terms of entering into a religious covenant with him. Here then I would observe,

1. That God requires those who enter into a religious covenant with him, to love him supremely. He certainly required this as a term of entering into covenant with his people at mount Sinai. His command runs in these words: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord : and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” He required the Israelites to exercise true love to his character, and become cordially reconciled to him through faith in the promised Messiah: or in other words, he required them to be sincerely pious, in order to enter into the religious covenant which he proposed and commanded them to make. It was not, as many have supposed, a mere external, political covenant, but a holy, religious covenant, which could not be complied with by any who did not love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their might. And this same supreme love to himself, God now requires of all who at this day make a public profession of religion, and enter into a religious covenant with him.

2. God requires those who enter into a religious covenant with him at this day, not only to love him supremely, but to obey him perfectly. He certainly required this in his covenant with Israel at mount Sinai. Moses said unto them, “ This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments; thou shalt, therefore, keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Ye shall observe to do, as the Lord your God hath commanded you; ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live.” It is perfect obedience God enjoined upon Israel in his covenant with them. And he enjoins the same perfect obedience upon those, who at this day make a public profession of religion, and enter into a religious covenant with him. Perfect obedience implies cordial obedience, universal obedience, and constant or perpetual obedience. To yield perfect obedience to God, men must obey him from the heart, they must obey all his commands, and they must obey them constantly and perpetually. Nothing short of this is perfect obedience, and nothing short of perfect obedience does God ever require of any of mankind. Such perfect obedience does God require of all who enter into a religious covenant with him. And he requires them to promise to love him supremely, and to obey him perfectly, under the solemnity of an oath. When they covenant with God, they swear to perform all the terms of the covenant which he has proposed ; and he, on the other side, swears by himself that he will fulfill his promise to them to be their God, if they fulfill the terms of the covenant on their part. Both he and they bind themselves to fulfill their obligations. The public profession of religion at this day is as solemn and important a transaction as it was at mount Sinai, because it necessarily implies à mutual covenant between God and man, sanctioned by the solemnity of a mutual oath, which creates the strongest moral obligation to fidelity that can possibly exist between God and man. This naturally leads us to consider,

III. Whether men have a right to enter into such a religious covenant with God. If this covenant has been truly and

properly described and explained, it appears to be extremely strict and solemn. It contains mutual promises and obligations of vast extent and importance, which are ratified by the highest possible moral sanctions. This has led many to doubt whether men have a right to enter into such a strict and extensive covenant with God. All men, without a single exception, are weak, dependent, mutable, and sinful creatures. How then can it be consistent or right for them to promise to love God supremely, and to obey him perfectly, universally, constantly, and perpetually, as long as they exist in this world, and in the world to come, and seal their promise by the solemnity of an oath? This question has been thought to be of difficult solution, and different methods have been taken to solve it. Some have thought that there is a condition to be understood in the promise on man's part. Accordingly, some have inserted a condition in their church covenant, and required the professor only to say, "I will, by divine grace, or the grace of God assisting, walk in all the commandments of the Lord constantly and perpetually." But we find no such condition or reserve in the covenant which God required the children of Israel to make at mount Sinai, and for this good reason, that such a condition and reserve would have destroyed all the obligation of the covenant with respect to the great majority of those who entered into covenant on that' solemn occasion. At the time they made their public profession of supreme love and universal obedience to God, he implicitly called in question their sincerity, for he said to Moses when he mentioned their prompt and universal profession of obedience, “O that there

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were such an heart in them !" And after Moses had led them out of Egypt through the Red Sea and through the wilderness to the borders of Canaan, he plainly told them that God had not given them grace, or caused them to fulfill their promised obedience. “ The Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive,

and ears to hear, unto this day.” Who can suppose that they did not break their covenant promise, because God did not give them grace and assistance to fulfill it? But they would not have broken it, if they had made it upon the condition, that if God should give them grace and assistance to obey his commands, they would obey them: but inasmuch as God did not give them grace and assistance to obey, they did break their covenant promise. It is, therefore, unquestionably true, that no such condition or reserve was contained in the covenant they made. And no such condition or reserve ought to be made or understood in a church covenant at this day. But there is another objection against supposing that the covenant between God and man is so strict as has been represented. It is said, God knows that all men by nature have not the love of God in them, and are under the dominion of a carnal mind which is entirely opposed to him ; how then can he consistently propose to enter into covenant with them upon the strict condition of their loving him supremely, and obeying him perfectly and perpetually. He must know, that if they promise, they will not fulfill. This creates no difficulty on his part; for though they promise absolutely, yet he promises conditionally. They are bound, whether they fulfill their promise or not; but he is not bound to fulfill his promise, unless they fulfill theirs. The question, now returns, Have men a right to enter into a religious covenant with God, and absolutely promise to love him supremely, and to obey him perfectly? I answer, they have a right to enter into such a strict and solemn covenant with God, for the following plain reasons :

1. Because God commands them to enter into such a strict and solemn covenant with him. He commanded all the con. gregation of Israel at mount Sinai to enter into a solemn covenant with him, and bind themselves with an oath, to love him with all the heart, and to obey him perfectly and perpetually. And he commands all where the gospel comes at this day, to make the same strict and solemn covenant with him. This command authorizes and morally obliges all men to enter into the mutual covenant which he proposes. They are as really bound to obey this as any other command of God. It is clothed with the same infinite authority as all other divine commands

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