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lead, in the rock for ever!" what words? "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" and thus the covenanting soul would write it down as a perpetual monument, because he would have it an everlasting covenant that shall never be forgotten;* Josh. xxiv. 27, "Behold this stone shall be a witness unto us, for it hath heard all the words of the Lord-lest you deny your God, saith Joshua:" that is, subjectively or passively a witness. So may you say to this table, this chamber, these chairs, be you witnesses; this paper, this bond under my hand, shall bear witness for me, or against me another day; let this be produced against me if ever I turn my back upon my God, and his ways. O what terror would this strike into you upon your defection from God! what tears would you drop upon this violated bond! what an awe will it beget in you to induce you to walk circumspectly! and if God assisted you in close walking, and keeping covenant; what joy, what secret solace, what grounds of thankfulness will it produce! what admiration of free grace that hath assisted you hitherto! As an antient reverend minister,† (now with God,) looked over a solemn engagement, which he entered into at Cambridge in his younger days, and which he again subscribed, reviewing with comfort such a day and year, above forty years before when it was first subscribed. Thus it may be
a witness for you in time to come.
A worthy divine in a letter to me signifies his thoughts thus: "The life of this great duty, as to its practicableness, lies in pressing the great expediency and necessity of this subscribing, where it can be done; though it be not essential and absolutely necessary, it would be worth while to learn to write, if it were but their name, or they might cause some special friend to + Mr. J. A.
* In perpetuam rei memoriam. Jer. 1. 5.
write that contract for them; and they might either touch the pen, or have the hand led in writing their name, as they do in other cases. The more arguments you can produce for this practice, the more effectually you set home the convictions of this great truth and duty for men's hearts are deceitful above all things, especially in this important transaction, and will make the most frivolous and insufficient sign of their consent satisfy, as hath been often the case with parents, even Christians, engaging and covenanting for the education of their children at baptism, to give a nod with their head, when they should have fully and freely expressed their consent with their mouth. Such arguments as these seem to call for this subscribing :
1. The Lord hath done this in his word often in reference to us.
2. This hath been the practice of the saints in scripture, as David not only consented in his heart, but professed, Psal. xvi. 2, and pledged himself with an oath, to keep God's judgments, Psal. cxix. 106.
3. This hath been the practice of the saints in our time.
4. Isa. xliv. 5. seems to be a prophecy of what was to be practised under the gospel, on the out-pouring of the Spirit.
5. This hath been Satan's way with some, that he hath engaged to him, as the young man in Luther's time.
6. Outward signs in civil and religious transactions have been used in scripture, both with the Lord and with men.
7. This puts persons upon the devoting of more time for it.
8. This makes them more serious and accurate in observing the nature and conditions of the covenant.
9. This will be the greater witness for or against, and occasions a more lively impression of its obligation, and drives the deeper conviction on the conscience, and makes it more vigorous in its actings, having that standing witness.
10. This is a more permanent example to their posterity and friends." Thus far my reverend and dear friend. You may take this practice as a consideration for your furtherance in this serious engagement, though I dare not lay too much stress upon it. All allow a liberty to persons in private, to use the best helps they can to consecrate themselves to the Lord, and (though this act of subscribing may admit of disputes,) this is all I have in view.
4. The next consideration is the helps and means to furnish us with matter and words for this transaction of personal covenanting: I shall briefly direct your attention to these four things, reading the scripture, hearing sermons, meditating on the sacraments, and Christian conference.
(1.) Let him that would be furnished with matter, words, and method for this solemn affair, study the Bible, where the covenant of grace is contained; the whole scripture is the old and new testament, or covenant, because therein the covenant is displayed under various dispensations; as the Mosaic pædagogy: and the Evangelical revelation; the Messiah promised in the former, exhibited in the latter. Wherever you find any branches of the new covenant laid open, single those out, write them down, and put them into method, and thereto subscribe your hand; as for example, when you read a promise, that a "virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,”* you may subscribe to the truth and importance of it,
* Isa. vii. 14.
and say, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation," that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; this is a subscribing to the truth and goodness of the general proposition, then add personal application, putting down your own name, "of whom" said the apostle "I am chief."* So when you meet with a precept, you must not only receive the good will of God,† but approve of it as acceptable to you, and consent to the law of God, that it is holy, just, and good,‡ and it is fit you square your life and actions by it; adding, by God's grace I will walk according to this rule and to help you herein you may find it hath been practicable by believers; study threatenings against transgressors, promises to the obedient, directions for walking holily, &c.
(2.) You have plain and practical sermons and good books that may much help you in this serious transaction. There is never a sermon grounded upon scripture, but it contains something of the covenant, Isa. lv. 3, "Incline your ear, come unto me, hear and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you"-death came in by the abuse of the ear, and life may come in by that organ well disposed and attentively engaged; yea, the grace of faith, which is our consent to covenant terms is usually conveyed by hearing the word preached :|| "God hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel,"§ therefore my advice is, if you would enter into covenant with God, you must carefully attend, labour to understand, and * profitably improve sermons: be sure you remember the design and scope of every sermon: reduce what you hear to some head of divinity: what truths were there in this sermon to which God requires my assent?
Rom. vii. 12, 16.
* 1 Tim. i. 15.
+ Rom. xii. 2. § 2 Tim. i. 10.
What duties are to be practised? What sins to be avoided? What promises to be embraced? Every duty is in some way a branch of the covenant; as even the releasing of servants is called by this name of covenant, Jer. xxxiv. 13, 14. So good books, sermons, treatises in print, of which you have great store; and some purposely, discourses on the covenant, some have even made à collection of the promises; view those, and select what you find proper to your present undertaking, and (if you can) transcribe and then subscribe it, with hand and heart: or at least speak over what you there read, as your own sense, and the very language of your hearts.
(3.) Study the sacraments or seals of the covenant. They have been called sacraments from the oath that the soldiers took when they were enlisted in the emperor's service: these seals are visible representations of the invisible grace communicated to us, and badges of our fidelity to God in covenant: go from one act to another in baptism, and the Lord's supper, make scriptural comments upon, and believing applications of every part thereof: learn something from the water in baptism, the action of the minister, the polluted state of the baptised, his purification, his admission into a new relation to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the privileges conveyed, the duty of the baptized to be the Lord's, &c. And so for the Lord's supper; O learn to discern the Lord's body: remember what is signified by the elements, bread and wine, named Christ's body and blood; follow all the sacramental acts in your thoughts; when the minister consecrates the elements, think how God sets apart his Son for the work of redemption: when the bread is broken, so Christ was bruised for our iniquities: when the minister gives, and you take the elements, thus God offers Christ to