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are, and it is an absolute, unconditional command. Says the Psalmist, “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God.” Again, “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.” Nothing but depravity of heart can prevent any who live under the light of the gospel from knowing and feeling that it is their duty to make the mutual covenant with God, which he has proposed and commanded them to make.
2. All men have a right to enter into a mutual religious covenant with God upon the terms which he has proposed ; because the terms which he has proposed are perfectly reasonable. They are such as his infinite wisdom and goodness moved him to propose. He knew the relation in which mankind stand to him, and the relation in which he stands to them. He knew what was right in the nature of things for him to require them to do, as conditions upon which a mutual covenant between him and them ought to be established. And he has required no terms but what are right in the nature of things, as terms of the covenant on their part and on his. It is right in the nature of things, that all men should love him supremely, and obey him perfectly and perpetually. Accordingly, he has required men to love him supremely, and obey him perfectly and perpetually, as the only proper terms upon which he can consistently enter into a mutual religious covenant with them. It is right in the nature of things, that God should approve and reward those who love him supremely, and obey him perfectly ; and if he please “show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed by an oath. That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold
upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” Men may and ought to enter into the strict covenant between them and God, because the terms of it, which he proposes, are perfectly right and proper on his part and theirs.
3. Men have a right to enter into a mutual covenant with God, because the terms of the covenant which he proposes they are able to perform. They are as able to love as to hate him, and they are as able to love him supremely as to love him at all. Their having once hated him, is no reason why they should not love him supremely in time to come, and forever : nor does their past hatred throw any natural difficulty or impediment in the way of their loving him supremely and perpetually. So that they are able to perform this condition of the covenant.
And they are as able to obey any command of God, as to disobey it. And if they are able to obey one command of God, they are able to obey every command of God. And if they are able to obey the command of God at one time, they are equally able to obey his commands at all times. They have a right, therefore, to bind themselves by the solemnity of an oath to love God supremely, and obey him perfectly. The terms of the covenant are no stricter than their duty; and surely they may bind themselves to do their duty. I shall conclude with one
What gratitude do all professors of religion owe to God, for his graciously condescending to enter into a mutual covenant with them, and promising to be their God! This promise, which he has confirmed by an oath, comprises all temporal, spiritual, and eternal good. Sit and meditate upon this promise, and you will find it to be good to be at the table of the Lord, and find that peace and consolation which the world cannot give nor take away.
1. It appears from the nature of covenanting in general, and from the nature of covenanting with God in particular, that the making of a public profession of religion is a very solemn transaction. It implies a mutual covenant between God and man, and mutual obligations to each other, sanctioned by the solemnity of a mutual oath. The mutual covenant made and sealed by blood and by oath at mount Sinai, between God and his people, was certainly one of the most solemn transactions that was ever seen upon earth. The mount that burned with fire, involved in blackness, darkness, and tempest; and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, were so terrible, “that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. Under these extraordinary and affecting circumstances, nearly two millions of souls bound themselves to love God supremely, and obey him perfectly and perpetually, by the strongest moral obligations in nature. This was an astonishingly great and interesting transaction. But though no such great adventitious circumstances attend the profession of religion at this day; yet the very same mutual covenant between God and man is made and ratified by the solemnity of an oath. When any make a public profession of religion, they make a mutual covenant
with God, and avouch him to be their God, “and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and to hearken unto his voice :" while God on his part avouches them “ to be his peculiar people," or cordial friends, and engages to be their God. This obligation of professors never can be dissolved, whether they are sincere or insincere. The bonds of the covenant, in their full force and obligation, lie upon them. It deeply concerns all who have made a public profession of religion, to remember the bonds by which they have bound themselves to love and serve God perfectly. And it deeply concerns those who are about to make a public profession of religion, to realize the everlasting bonds by which they are about to bind themselves to be what God requires them to be, -perfectly holy and obedient.
2. We learn from the terms of the mutual covenant which God requires men to make, who can sincerely make such a solemn covenant with him. We have seen that the terms of the covenant are supreme love to God, and perfect and perpetual obedience to all his commands. These terms alarm many, and they dare not solemnly engage to fulfill them. They say that they imply more than they can perform, or at least more than they have any ground to expect that they shall perform, if they should engage to do it by a public profession of religion. They are conscious to themselves that they are weak, impotent, depraved, dependent, mutable creatures, and cannot expect to be otherwise as long as they live. They ask, how can we, or anybody else, make a public profession of religion, and sincerely promise to love God supremely, and obey him perfectly, constantly, and perpetually? This question may be fully and intelligibly answered. Those who really love God supremely, and really desire and intend to obey him perfectly, may sincerely profess and promise to perform the conditions of the covenant which God proposes. God knows that they are able, and ought to perform the conditions of the covenant which he proposes and commands them to perform; and they know that they are able, and ought to perform the conditions which he requires them to perform. Why then can they not, and why should they not, sincerely and solemnly engage to do what God requires them to do? If they sincerely love God, and sincerely desire and intend to love and obey him forever, why can they not sincerely engage to do it? David felt no difficulty in making such a resolution and promise. He said, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise unto God while I have my being.” And he repeated the same resolution and promise. “While I live will I
praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being." No man can sincerely promise to do what he knows he has not natural power to do, because he cannot sincerely intend to do it. But any man can sincerely promise to do what he knows he can do, and really desires and intends to do. David had no reason to expect that he should always love and obey God, for he had often failed to love and obey God perfectly; yet he could sincerely engage to love and obey God perfectly, when he actually desired and intended to love and obey him perfectly. Just so, those who do really love God supremely, and intend to obey him perfectly, can sincerely covenant with God, and engage to obey him perfectly and perpetually. All really pious persons, therefore, can sincerely make a public profession of religion upon his own terms, notwithstanding their known and acknowledged imperfection. Paul was undoubtedly a sincere professor of religion, though he knew and acknowledged that he had not attained to sinless perfection. He knew and said, “ To will is present with me'; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” But yet he declared, “I delight in the law of God, after the inward man.” While he was conscious of loving the law of God, and actually desired and intended to obey it constantly and perpetually, could he not sincerely say so, and solemnly promise to do so ? And this was all God required him to say and do when he publicly professed religion ; and this is all that God now requires men to say and promise, when they profess religion, and take upon them the bonds of the covenant. The scriptural terms of admission into the church of God, though very strict, are yet very plain and practicable. If men were willing to do their duty constantly and perfectly, they would be willing to bind themselves to do their duty constantly and perfectly, by the bonds of a solemn covenant with God. The mutual covenant which God has proposed and required men to make, in order to attend divine ordinances, has always been the same from Moses to Christ, and from Christ to this day. But mankind, who are naturally unwilling to be bound to do their duty, have taken great pains, either to curtail this covenant, or to set it entirely aside. We in this country, for more than . a hundred years, curtailed it, and modelled it into a half-way covenant. We allowed men to enter into the covenant, without engaging to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, if they would only bring their children to baptism. But some have been disposed to enjoy more freedom, and have set the covenant entirely aside. They allow and invite persons to come to all the ordinances of the Lord, without owning or
making any covenant at all. This is a very criminal departure from the original purity of the professing people of God. But there are some who are more orthodox in theory, that are less orthodox in practice. They believe that God does require his friends to enter into a mutual covenant with him, and solemnly bind themselves to love him supremely, and obey him perfectly; but yet they view themselves as sincere, pious Christians, while they are living in allowed neglect, from year to year, of all the special ordinances of God. All these theoretical and practical errors are principally owing to some misapprehension of the nature and obligations of the mutual covenant between God and man, which we have been considering. There is hardly any subject of more importance to be clearly understood, than the duty and qualifications for attending the special ordinances of God.
3. Since professors of religion are under solemn obligations to do their duty to God, they must be under similar obligations to do their duty to one another in the same church. At the same time that professors of religion lay themselves under covenant obligations to do their duty to God, they lay themselves under covenant obligations to do their duty to one another. For they not only make a mutual covenant with God, but also a mutual covenant with their brethren; and their covenant with their brethren, as well as their covenant with God, is sanctioned by the solemnity of an oath. While standing in the presence of God, and before angels and men, the professor makes a covenant with the Church, in substance similar to this, saying, “I submit myself to the government of Christ in his Church, and to the regular administration of it in this church in particular, and promise to attend the worship of God and the ordinances of the gospel in this place, so long as I am able, and God in his providence shall continue me here.” To this the church, in substance replies, saying, “We will faithfully discharge the duties of that relation, which now subsists between us." Now does not such a mutual covenant between the members of a church, create the same solomn obligation to discharge their duty to one another, that their mutual covenant with God, creates to discharge their duty to him ?. Their covenant with him runs in this form : “ We do now in the presence of the heart-searching God, and before angels and men, choose the Lord Jehovah for our God and portion, and heartily accept of Christ for our Redeemer and Saviour, as he is freely offered to us in the gospel : solemnly promising that we will yield a cordial and universal obedience to all the divine commands, and renounce the vanities of the