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place, this is none other but the house of God; this is the gate of heaven, I will call it Bethel; here will I erect an altar, and will call it El-Elohe-Israel." * In this place, at this time I have taken hold of God as my God, and I have made a deed of gift, and subscribed to it; I have given seisin and delivery of all I am and have to the Lord, I am resolved to adhere to this engagement. Lord, remember this day, help me to remember, that from this day the vows of God are upon me, I will produce these covenant tokens in the day of my fears or of God's anger; as familiar as God and my soul are now, a time of distance may come through my fault and folly; alas, my depraved heart, which is bent to backsliding, may again hurry me into a pit of darkness, these vapours that ascend from my polluted heart may darken the sun of God's blessed countenance; though now I think my mountain stands so strong that I shall never be moved, yet God may hide his face and I may be troubled; though now his candle shine upon my head, that candle may be extinct, and I may walk in darkness;† indeed "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant;" but presently the same David saith, "I am desolate and afflicted, the troubles of my heart are enlarged." Thus it may be with me, covenant scourges may be consistent with covenant love; but I will then bring forth the tokens of this virgin love, and solemn transaction, and will say, Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth; when I am troubled I will call for the book of the records of scripture and conscience, and consider the days of old, the years of the right hand of the Most High,|| and see if I cannot pro
• Gen. xxviii. 16–18. xxxiii. 20. Ps. xxv. 14, 17. lxxxix. 32, 39, 49.
+ Psalm xxx. 7. Job xxix. 3, 4. || Est. vi. 1. Ps. lxxvii. 10-12.
duce some broken ring, some passages of love between God and my soul, that may evidence former kindness, then I will conclude for his present faithfulness; for having loved his own in the world, he loves them unto the end, and he is faithful who called me, who also will do it; when I am brought forth, and sentenced as Tamar was once, to be burnt, I will produce the pledges of former intercourse between God and my soul, and say, Discern I pray thee, whose are these? Lord, was not thy grace the cause of these transactions? and was not thy glory the end of all my proceedings?
5. Take the first opportunity to get this covenant openly sealed, and to give some testimony of your ratifying it. When these sacred indentures are drawn and sealed by you in private, then lay hold of the first opportunity which presents itself, for sealing them solemnly at the Lord's supper: privy seals have passed reciprocally between God and thy soul, now look out for the broad seal: David recounts his personal actings of faith in private though with hard strugglings, Psal. cxvi. 10, 11, and then resolves to "take the cup of salvation," ver. 13, "and to pay his vows," ver. 14. But where? Why, " in the presence of all his people," which he repeats and adds also, "in the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem," ver. 18, 19, as if he had said, what I have been doing privately in my closet, I will own publicly in the congregation of his saints: I am not ashamed of my engagement, before many witnesses will I confirm this covenant, “with the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation."+ Augustin speaks of Victorinus, a famous rhetorician at Rome, that being converted to Christ in old age, he
• John xiii. 1. 1 Thess. v. 24. + Rom. x. 10.
came to Simplicianus, a godly minister, saying secretly in his ears, dost thou know that I am a Christian?* this holy man answered, I do not believe it, nor reckon thee among Christians till I see thee in the church of Christ; at which he smiled, saying, do those walls then make a Christian? Thus they contended, the one saying he was a Christian, the other disowning him to be so without an open profession, for indeed Victorinus was afraid to offend his great friends, worshippers of devils, being yet but a young convert; when he had got establishment by reading, that if he was ashamed of Christ, our Lord would be ashamed of him before his angels, he was sensible of his guilt, in being ashamed of that which was his greatest glory, the word and sacraments, but had gloried in diabolical sacrifices;|| suddenly and unexpectedly he comes to Simplicianus, saying, let us now go to church, for I am resolved to be a Christian; and there he was initiated in the sacred ordinances of the church, gave up his name to Christ, Rome wondering, the church rejoicing, the proud saw it and were angry, and being to make a solemn profession of faith, the Presbyters offered to indulge him with secrecy, as they used to do with the timorous; he refused, saying, there was no salvation in rhetoric, which he had taught publicly, now, therefore, he would publicly own the gospel of salvation; and when he made profession of his faith, the people echoed with a congratulating acclamation, Victorinus, Victorinus! and were quickly silent, that they might hear him pronounce the true faith with holy confidence; they open
Aug. Confes. lib. 8. c. 2.
Noveris me jam esse Christianum? + Non credo, nec deputabo te inter Christianos nisi in Ecclesia Christi te videro. Ergone parietes faciunt Christianum? Depuduit vanitati, erubuit veritati.
§ Eamus in Ecclesiam, Christianus volo fieri.
ed their hearts to receive him, they embraced and laid hold on him with the hands of love and joy: this story is pregnant with many important instructions, which the intelligent may improve. You must openly own what you have secretly done, upon a due call; only observe, confession of the mouth without faith in the heart is hypocrisy, and a pretence of faith in the heart without confession, will prove cowardice, and end in apostacy. My advice is, that you wait on God in the sacred ordinance of the Lord's supper, which presents the cup of the new testament in his blood; thy covenant transaction formed thy union, let this be the communion of the body and blood of Christ: when Hezekiah had made a covenant with the God of Israel, he ordered the celebration of the passover; the like did Josiah; and those were both non-such passovers: thus must you get this covenant sealed, and pay your vows, and bring presents to your covenant God, yea, defer not to pay your vows, while your hearts are warm and graciously inflamed, this will be a demonstration of integrity; thus Asa performed an act of great self-denial immediately after his covenanting, 2 Chron. xv. 12, 16, the work will go forward best now when thy spirit is raised by the solemnity of the affair; but if Jacob forget to make good his vow presently, he will quite forget it till God roundly put him in mind of it.†
6. Answer all temptations with pleas brought from this covenant engagement. This is your panoply, fetch your weapons from hence against the devil: when Satan, the world, or the flesh shall solicit you to sin, you may put in this caveat, of a precedent right, and antecedent title that another hath to you: I am not my own
• Matt. xxvi. 28. 1 Cor. x. 16. 2 Chron. xxix. 10.
to bestow, nor is any thing that I have; I have given over my soul and body to the rightful owner, you come too late now to woo me for mine affections, I have made my choice, and am married to another; and what have I to do with any but my dearest Lord and husband? I cannot serve two masters;* my Maker is my husband, I see no cause to repent or revoke my choice; whither else should I go? "he hath the words of eternal life;" as Saul said, "can the son of Jesse give you fields and vineyards, and make you captains?"† So I may say, can the world give me grace, or pardon, or heaven? What can the creature do for me to recompense the loss of God's presence by gratifying a lust? Shall I leave my fatness, received from the true olive, to be promoted over the trees? Should I forego my sweetness and good fruit? Shall I forsake the true vine Jesus Christ, for being promoted over, or profited by the revenues or fruits of these poor trees in this inferior world? God forbid; all the treasures, pleasures, and preferments on this sorry dunghill, will not compensate the loss of communion with God one hour; there is satisfaction enough in God, I need not seek to eke out my comfort elsewhere; having drunk this old wine of divine grace, I desire not new, for I am sure the old is better; "better are the gleanings of the grapes of Ephraim, than the vintage of Abiezer,"|| the worst of Christ is better than the best of the world; "I would rather suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Get thee hence Satan, though thou offer me the whole world, and wert able to perform thy promise, I scorn the proposal, thou bidst me lose, I have made a better engagement, I can
* Matt. vi. 24.
+ John vi. 68.
1 Sam. xxii. 7. Judg. viii. 2.