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there will I open to thee the hidden emotions of my heart, and lay before thee the tokens of my hidden affection: there will I give thee my heart, which thou callest for,* and I am sure is thy due, and my duty to give; there will I give thee my all, to thee shall my soul be united most closely in the strictest bond of a sacred
But take a caution; let it not be enough to be found sometimes alone in a secret place; see you be sincere there, a croaking frog of hypocrisy may creep into the privy chambers, even into the bed-chambers of kings,t and Christians themselves. One observes, that though the place where the duty is performed be secret, yet some are like the hen, which having deposited her egg publishes the circumstance to all around: let it be enough for thee that God is witness of thy solemn proceedings.
3. The next thing is the manner in which this personal covenant must be made. I speak not here of what is essential to a right covenanting, as that it be done with understanding, a divorce from other objects, consent of the will, a humbled heart, holy resolution, right ends, and prayer for counsel, sincerity, and strength to perform it: these were enlarged upon before when considering the preparatives to a covenant engagement: by manner here I mean, the mode, or signs, or means whereby we may testify the inward consent of the heart; these are either, professing with the tongue, or subscribing with the hand.
(1.) As it respects profession, it is fit our tongue, which is our glory, should manifest the free consent of the heart; this is an avouching the Lord to be our God: O my soul, saith David, thou hast said unto the Lord, "Thou art my Lord," and again, "I will pay * Prov. xxiii 26. + Exod. viii. 3. Deut. xxvi. 17.
thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul."* It is true, there is a language of the heart, and God understands it, therefore our most solemn professions are not to inform God, but to awe our own spirits, to a reverential observance, by the solemnity of an oath verbal professions are oft necessary before men, "For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation;" all the question is whether a man may use his voice in solitary and personal covenanting? I say to affect a man's own heart, or when out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, if the place be remote enough from the ears of mortal men, it may not be unfit to utter a man's words and vows before the Lord, as Jephthah did: for a Christian may sometimes find his rising affections run over into expression, or from his experience judge it needful to move his inward feelings with his lips, and work on his dull heart, or raise his dead or drooping spirits by the affecting use of speech: or when a man desires that the due sense, lively impression, or lasting remembrance of this engagement may be preserved upon his mind, in such a case he may express his covenant with an audible voice: this I propose as matter of expediency, not of necessity; for God understands mental vows, and may accept them, and you therein.
(2.) It may be expedient that this covenant be testified by writing, according to Isa. xliv. 5, "One shall say, I am the Lord's," that is, verbal profession," and another shall subscribe with his hand, unto the Lord." This is a prophecy which refers to gospel times, and it follows on a promise of an abundant effusion of the Spirit, ver. 3, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, * Psal xvi. 2. lxvi. 13, 14. Lam. iii. 24. + Rom. x. 10.
and floods upon the dry ground," which elsewhere the scripture interprets of gospel gifts and grace, so then, neither the gifts nor graces of the Spirit do hinder, but rather promote this ratification of the covenant.*
There is also a gracious promise of fruitfulness, ver. 4, "They shall spring up as the grass, as willows by the water courses." This subscription then is an effect or sign of fruitfulness: for suppose a man cannot speak, he may signify his mind by writing, as Zecharias wrote when he was struck dumb;† and it may be convenient for you to prepare and transcribe the principal parts, and terms of the new covenant, or take what others have collected and drawn up for you, and then subscribe your names with your own handwriting, and for these reasons:
[i.] That thereby you may testify your willingness to enter into this covenant; you are volunteers, and do it [lubentes et ex animo] with a free-will, and cordially; behold your hand writing shews that you are not compelled, nor dragged to it against your will; thus it was with those mentioned, Ezra x. 19; they gave their hands, that they would put away their strange wives. Whether this giving the hand was by stretching out the hand, or subscription, is not material, it was undoubtedly a token of voluntary consent, in covenanting; for the people wept very sore, ver. 1, and being under powerful convictions, they cried out, as "thou hast said, so must we do," ver. 12; yea, they were under a sense of guilt, ver. 8; and of God's wrath, ver. 14. Now, they were as glad to be free from those strange wives, as formerly they were fond of them; therefore they voluntarily gave their hand; this shews they were in good earnest, they were not
* Isa. xxxv. 7. Joel. ii. 28. John vii. 38. + Zecharias, cùm loqui non potuit, scripsit.
Act. ii. 18.
compelled but were glad to do it; it was their free choice.
[ii.] Subscribing with the hand is for sureness and certainty; we are accustomed to say, let me have it under your hand, I will have it in black and white, and then we think we are sufficiently secure, This is the reason why men write deeds, and indentures, and bonds, and subscribe them, as it was done by Jeremiah, when he purchased of Hanameel a field in Anathoth, I subscribed the evidence, saith he, and sealed it,* This men do for greater assurance of their honest intentions to perform articles, and confirm a bargain. Thus the field in Machpelah, was made sure to Abraham for a possession; whether writing were so antient, I dispute not, but now-a-days writing, witnesses, and seals, are all little enough for men to secure their rights, especially when they have to deal with slippery customers; and such are our hearts, that play fast and loose, especially in soul concerns; we had need to bind them fast, God gives a caution, "take heed to your spirits that you deal not treacherously," twice together, in this very business of covenanting; Neh, ix. 38, "Because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it, and our princes, Levites and priests seal unto it;" the words are very emphatical, covenant is not in the original, but may be implied; the words may be thus read, we strike or engage our faith and fidelity, or secure a certainty, that is, we give the best assurance we can of keeping our faith, or fidelity God-wards. Hence some serious, pious souls have thought fit to subscribe their names with their own blood instead of ink, which I will neither commend nor condemn; but
see that you be deliberate, humble and self-denying in this great business, and be not too confident of shedding your blood for Christ, as Peter was, but learn to exercise faith on the blood of Christ for pardon, strength, and acceptance. It is true, some symbols may be given, as the nobles of Bohemia, when the creed was read, drew out their swords half way, shewing their readiness to hazard their lives for the faith. But let us beware of carnal confidence, and superfluous inventions.
[iii.] This writing, may be useful for plainness and intelligibleness. When a man doth but hear or utter a thing transiently, he cannot take such a full view of every matter or circumstance, as when he hath it before him, hence Hab. ii. 2, "Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." So then writing a thing legibly is the way to make it more perceptible, and intelligible. A visible writing gives advantage for more fully understanding all its contents and branches. Writing the terms of the covenant gives us leisure to view it fully, to comment upon it, and go through it from article to article, and so asking ourselves individually, what sayest thou to this? is this warranted by the word? is this thy duty or not? wilt thou consent or not? deal ingenuously, consider of it, take advice, speak thy mind, or subscribe with thy hand, as thou feelest the frame of thy heart. Thus writing may be useful.
[iv.] For perpetuity or continuance. When a thing is written, recorded, or engrossed, it becomes a living testimony to many generations. We say, any thing that is written doth remain, thus Job saith of the articles of his faith, Job xix. 23, 25, "O that my words were now written! O that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and * Litera scripta manet.