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• Isaiah iv. 3. Psalm xxxvii. 37.
that you may be reconciled; to you strangers, that you may be brought nigh, and be of the household of faith; I call you from a curse to inherit a blessing— from enmity to friendship; from Satan's drudgery, to perfect liberty-from wrath to love-from hell to heaven: is not the design good and highly rational? what can you object? is it not an easy and honourable way of inheriting all things, to give your consent? what can you do less? is there any thing unreasonable in the conditions? what can you say against it? what excuses have you now, that you would dare to plead in the solemn day of reckoning? can you answer all the arguments I have produced for it? give your conscience leave to act, speak like men, what say you? shall the God of heaven, or the devil your sworn enemy have your consent? I bind you not to words, but to the thing; do it in what form or manner you think fit, only do it seriously, and scripturally; give God your heart, profess it with your tongue, subscribe it with your hand, that you will have none but him, that you will belong to none but him. 1. As you would be and be called saints, and "be found written among the living in Jerusalem,"* which I am sure will signify more than to be enrolled saints in the pope's calendar. 2. As you would have the privilege of saints, and would have the benefit of this new covenant charter, reconciliation, adoption, justification, the promises of this life and that to come. 3. As you would be found of him in peace when you come to die; even a Balaam will desire to die the death of the righteous, for the end of such is peace.† 4. As you would have your persons accepted, your prayers heard in trouble, or as you would have Christ to mingle his incense with your + 2 Peter iii. 14. Numb. xxiii. 10.
oblations, or have God to speak peace to you.* 5. As you would have God's purpose of grace, or Christ's purchase cleared up to you, for such as God chooseth, do sincerely choose him, and all that the Father gave to Christ to redeem, come to him in this way of personal engagement. 6. As you would be blessings to your † families and all about you, O make a covenant with the Lord, that his fierce wrath may turn away from you and yours; if you turn to God, your brethren and children may find compassion, hath not God's wrath lain long and heavy on us? is this an expedient to turn it away, and will you be so cruel as not to take this course to remove it? 7. As you desire to have your souls bound up in the bundle of life, with the Lord your God, and not to be gathered with sinners; as you would be the Lord's when he maketh up his jewels, and be set upon his right hand at the great day along with the sheep, || I beseech you make this covenant : on which hand would you be found at that day? 8. And as you would be admitted into heaven, as you would have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city; observe it, in that text covenant relation stands between obedience and recompence; you cannot do God's commandments, and you shall never enter into the celestial city, except you have right to the tree of life, but this title comes by a covenant engagement. §
You see then the matter is of moment, it is as much as heaven and hell come to. Everlasting salvation and damnation depend upon it; mistake not, I mean not on the form of words, but upon the substance of
* Psal. lxxxv. 8. Rev. viii. 3.
2 Chron. xxix. 10. xxx. 8, 9.
|| 1 Sam. xxv. 29. Ps. xxvi. 9. Mal. iii. 17, 18. Matt. xxv. 33. § Rev. xxii. 14.
+ 2 Pet. i. 10. John vi. 37
this personal covenanting; heaven hath its proper heirs; of the Lord you shall receive the reward of inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ;* observe it, inheritance is only for children, natural or adopted, God gives not heaven as wages for work, but God makes men heirs, and so provides an inheritance for them. There is a necessity both for a real and relative change, and thus God makes all his children meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, and God is daily working them up to this self-same thing by his Spirit in ordinances and providences; † the foundation is laid in covenant relation; there is not one mansion above prepared for an uncovenanted soul; the covenant is the chariot paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem,‡ none go to heaven but they that ascend this chariot; this is the causeway leading to the bridge of Christ's merits, which will carry you over the gulf of God's wrath; if you go the lower way of the old covenant you are swallowed up, and drowned, and lost for ever. Ah sirs, you have been once cast and undone by its violation, trust not to it again, cast not off gospel grace, ruin not your souls by wilful impenitence.
You will say, no, God forbid that I should again reject this covenant, I am willing to lay hold of it, but I know not which way to proceed, I want some one to lead me by the hand into and through this important affair.
I answer, cast your eyes back on the foregoing directory, consider the preparatives to it, labour for the things that are essentially necessary to the due performance of it, as knowledge of the gospel terms of the covenant, breaking off a confederacy with all competitors, a will submissive to give entire consent, an humbled Song. iii. 9, 19.
Col. iii. 24. + Col. i. 12. 2 Cor. v. 5.
heart, a holy resolution, right and sincere intentions, and lying low at the throne of grace in prayer for counsel and purity of motives, for assisting grace, and gracious reception; study also the circumstantial furtherances, in reference to time, place, manner, and helps; and then read over the scripture pattern for giving your consent, both in point of acceptance and dedication, if you have a real disposition towards the engagement, you will be glad of this method, and fall immediately to practice; and indeed what are sermons, and treatises for but for practice? If you approve the design, set about it, defer not one day, after conviction hath seized on thy conscience.
I shall only add a few more directions in this case. 1. Deal faithfully and effectually in searching your hearts and state. Self-ignorance will be the great impediment of personally entering into a covenant to be the Lord's; if you be ignorant and know not how things are with you, or partial and unfaithful in your search, you will go hand over head about this matter, and you will make nothing of it. Tradesmen cast up their books, and see how they stand, before they go to their chapmen, to make new bargains; so must you, keep an audit in your own souls, that you may set things in readiness for the great assizes; take a true account and estimate of your state; know for certainty what covenant you are under; you will never much care for the new till you be worn and wearied out with your old ruined state; "we are kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed," Gal. iii. 23; the words are very emphatical,(ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρόυμεθα,* συνκεκλεισμένοι) they áre military terms, and signify a strong guard set upon the sinner, after he is condemned by martial law, and * Opovpɛlobal, Est præsidio custodiri.-Poli Critic.
must be brought forth to execution; or it relates to a schoolmaster shutting up his scholar for correction, it is the same with the law being a schoolmaster, ver. 24, keeping a person under severe discipline; both are imperious and rigorous; the soul then is under the rigour intended here, not only really, but sensibly; when the poor sinner lies under such apprehensions of his sad condition, and is kept in with dread of legal punishment, as a slave in the gallies, then and never till then doth he desire and prize liberty. O that poor souls did duly consider the lamentable state they are in under the old covenant, then they would never be at rest till they had struggled from under that yoke, and got into gospel bonds. Simon Peter tells Simon Magus, "I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness, and bonds of iniquity," and this startled that grand hypocrite, and made him solicit prayers; it is a dreadful case, for poor sinners to be on the confines of hell, and not know it; the knowledge of a disease is the first step to a cure: well then, deal faithfully with thy own soul; what have you the candle of the Lord for, but to search into the inmost parts of the belly? not like some crafty constables who ought to present misdemeanors, but bring in all well, or are loth to find the thief they pretend to search for. Passing a false judgment on yourselves, may cost you your souls; it is dangerous to stumble on the threshold; it is ominous to lay the first stone wrong; you must dig deep if you will build high; you must search the wound if you expect a perfect cure, a sore may seem a little matter with a small orifice, but may be hard to be cured, because of its being difficult to find the bottom: thus it is with the soul, thy heart is deep, Satan is subtle, thy eyes are dim, the matter is intricate, there Acts viii. 23, 24. + Prov. xx. 27. Luke vi. 48.