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but by grace strengthening, I shall be able to do all things;* I cannot think any thing as of myself, all my sufficiency is of God;† did I not hope for grace assisting, I durst not engage, for I should certainly break my covenant. Be surety for thy servant for good; Lord, I am oppressed undertake for me,‡ concern thyself with my affair, undertake for performance on both sides, to help me to perform the conditions, as well as to make good thy promises to me; the work I am about is thine, let the strength to manage it be from thee, in thy name I set about it, be my patron to defend me, my helper to uphold me, and be my exceeding great reward to satisfy me; by thy grace I am what I am. ||
(4.) Believingly plead for acceptance and favour with God through Jesus Christ: you are accepted only in the Beloved;§ alas, by the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified, I am cast by the covenant of works; "there is none righteous, no not one," not the boasting philosopher among the Gentiles, nor the precise Pharisee among the Jews, nor the holiest saint among Christians can stand before the tribunal of justice; my resolute promises of future reformation will not make a compensation for former offences: "enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." ** God hath nailed up that door, and opened a new and living way; thus you must enter, or be rejected: the old way is like the northern passage to the Indies, whoever attempt it are sure to be frozen up before they get half way. Lord, (must you say) I renounce mine own righteousness, and flee to Christ; thou biddest me take hold on thy
* John xv. 5. Phil. iv. 13.
Psalm cxix. 122. Isa. xxxviii. 14. § Eph. i. 6.
Rom. iii. 10.
+ 2 Cor iii. 5.
1 Cor. xv. 10.
** Psalm cxliii. 2.
strength, to make peace with thee; in the Lord alone have I righteousness and strength; it is not my covenanting, but Christ the covenant of the people, by whom and through whom I hope to be accepted; † his work is to confirm the covenant, and to bring in everlasting righteousness; he by his death and sufferings brings souls to God,|| my poor endeavours to covenant with thee is but to get a title to thy favour, and all that Christ hath purchased. Lord, put me not away from thee in displeasure-thou biddest me come, and hast told me, "that those that come to thee, thou wilt in no wise cast out." § Let my heavenly Joseph lead me into the King's presence; "He is thy beloved Son in whom thou art well pleased." I confess thou mayest reject me, not only because of my meanness, there being a vast disparity between an infinite God and worm man, but also because of my guiltiness, there being a contrariety between a holy God and a polluted sinner; but I come to thee through a mediator-let me who have been far off, be made nigh by the blood of Christ; he only is my peace, to reconcile God and sinners; ** taking hold of him, I may entertain hope; thou canst not strike the soul that relies upon him; I bring the Lord Jesus with me, O look on me in the face of thine Anointed,
Isa. xxvii. 5. § John vi. 37.
+ Isa. xlix. 8.
Dan. ix. 27. || 1 Pet. iii. 18. ** Eph. ii. 13, 14.
SHOULD FORM AN INDUCEMENT TO ENTER INTO A COVENANT ENGAGEMENT WITH GOD, AND WHICH ARE FAVOURABLE TO THE DESIGN.
IV. I PROCEED now to give an account of the outward circumstances convenient for the better management of this serious and important concern; and though I shall not lay too much stress upon these, yet because all actions are clothed with some circumstances which render those actions both seasonable and more easy to be done, and also more pleasing and useful when done, I shall say something respecting them; Solomon saith, "A word fitly spoken," in the Hebrew upon its wheels,* "is like apples of gold in pictures of silver;" an allusion to a charioteer, or coachman, who hits exactly the right turn: O how pleasant and profitable is such a word or work! for a thing in its proper place is done with great facility, success, and expedition. Fit circumstances wheel a man's business apace towards the desired issue and end. Now in this affair of personal covenanting there are four circumstances to be observed, namely, time, place, manner, and assistance.
I shall very briefly advert to all these in their order: 1. For the time when this covenant is to be made or renewed: all duties are to be done in time, but there are proper and fit seasons for particular things, which are usually called opportunities, "He hath made every thing beautiful in his season, saith Solomon, and man hath his time and proper season, which, because men
Verbum commode דבר דבר על אפניו .11 .Prov. xxv
vel rotunde dictum, i. e. observatis debitis circumstantiis.
know not, they are as the fishes and birds, caught in an evil net and snare."* In general, the time of life is the only time for entering into this covenant with God, for when death hath parted soul and body, there will be no making peace with God; there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave;† hell is full of good wishes, and fair promises, on condition of those lost souls living again; but all is in vain, either now or never, you must "Seek the Lord while he may be found," touch the golden sceptre while it is stretched out, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish from the way;"|| now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation, "To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts ;"§ yea, take up a resolution this very instant, I cannot assure you of another offer to-morrow, you may outlive the day of grace, God may shut up his office of mercy and strive no longer with you; yea, "He may justly swear in his wrath you shall never enter into his rest:"¶¶ I do solemnly require and conjure you, that you take the first opportunity to enter into this covenant with the Lord.
But besides this time of life in general, there are some particular seasons that are very proper for this solemn and important transaction; I shall mention these seven :—
(1.) At the sinner's first conviction and conversion to God, when the thundering alarms of the law have laid him under dreadful apprehensions of God's flaming wrath; then he is pressed under the intolerable load of multiplied sins, he is holden in the cords of his own iniquity, and is just on the point of being dragged into the pit; what can he do? whither can he go? flee he cannot, abide these flames he is not
• Eccles. iii. 11. ix. 12 || Psalm ii. 12.
+ Eccles. ix. 10.
+ Isa. lv. 6. Heb. iii. 18
able, resist God he cannot, perform the conditions of the old covenant, that is impossible. What shall he do? while the soul is musing on its perishing state, behold our blessed Ebed-melech lets down into this dungeon of despair the blessed cords of another covenant,* softened and lined with tender love, putting them under the armholes of perishing Jeremiahs, of God-fearing souls, and by the blood of this covenant sends forth these prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.† This method of divine grace is clearly described in Job xxxiii. 14-31, wherein God's grace finds a ransom for the perishing sinner; when sinners find themselves lost, then covenant grace is a blessed line that leads them and binds them fast to God; now Christ is welcome, when the door of hope is opened in this valley of Achor; our Lord having drawn the bewildered man into a wilderness, speaks to his heart, and thus he expresses himself: And is there any hope that the circumstances of a ruined bankrupt can be retrieved? May a poor condemned malefactor have a pardon? Is it possible that an outlawed traitor may be received into the Prince's favour? Yes, the new covenant encourages me, I will make the experiment, who knows but I may find acceptance? O for a heart to accept these gracious and equal terms of the gospel covenant! (2.) On violating previous engagements. It is very rare for any child of God to continue so stedfast in the observance of incumbent duty, but at some time or other a corrupt heart betrays him, and he falls into sin or security, to God's dishonour and the wounding of conscience; and it is by virtue of this new covenant, that God accepts a returning prodigal: Jer. iii. 12, 14, "Return_thou backsliding Israel—yea, turn, O backsliding children," children still, though revolters, "for
• Jer. xxxviii. 12, 13. + Zech. ix. 11.
Hos. ii. 14, 15.