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legal edition of this gospel covenant, but a later, larger, clearer dispensation of it, in this time of reformation; nor will I trouble you with the difference between promise and covenant, or how absolute promises may be called a covenant, as God's preserving Noah from the deluge, as that the world should not be drowned again;* as that Abraham should have a seed, and that they should inherit the land of Canaan;t these are called covenants. So in spiritual things, the promise of the Messiah, that Christ should come out of Abraham's loins; that God would settle gospel ordinances, and bestow converting grace, Jer. xxxi. 31, 33, 34. Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27; though these be absolute promises, yet they are called by the name of covenant. But the covenant that I mean is a mutual stipulation between God and man, wherein God propounds and promises some blessings upon man's voluntary acceptance, and performing such and such conditions.
The covenant then is reciprocal; the gospel holds forth the terms; God promiseth to justify, pardon, accept and save such as repent, believe, and sincerely obey; man's consent to these terms completes the engagement. The word of God contains the conditional promise and grant, or act of grace, and so is called a testament, wherein glorious legacies are bequeathed to souls; but it is not a mutual covenant imparting the blessings thereof into man's bosom, till he do freely and sincerely accept of the terms propounded; still it is of free grace, and the efficacious operations of the Spirit assist man in performing his part; he that commands and requires faith, repentance, and new obedience, undertakes to work them. Thus God in infinite wisdom hath linked the [agenda] things to be done on our part,
"Gen. vi. 18. ix. 11. + Gen. xv. 18. Gen. xvii. 19.
Gen. iii. 15. Gal. iii. 8, 16. Ezek. xxxvii. 26. || Heb. viii. 10.
and the [habenda] things to be enjoyed by us, together; when he performs the absolute promise, of writing his law in the hearts of his people, and putting his Spirit in them, &c. and then draws forth the graces of his Spirit into lively exercise; thus repentance and remission, faith and justification, obedience and salvation are connected together.
My chief business is to explain what a personal covenant is; for that, I suppose, is here meant; the persons are called saints, being scattered in all places, and ages of the world, and now to be gathered together on giving this commission. By a personal covenant, I mean, a covenant which is entered into by a man's own single person, between God and his own soul. I call it personal, to distinguish it from a twofold covenant which I find in scripture: first, social, and secondly sacramental: the former is with others; the latter is for or by others; for others as parents covenanting for their children, or by others, as children did covenant by their parents.
1. There is in scripture frequent mention made of social covenanting; and this is either, civil or sacred.
(1.) A civil or political covenant, which is a mutual compact or agreement between prince and people, binding themselves to each other by the sacred tie of a covenant, to perform the duties of their respective places: thus king David made a league with the elders of Israel in Hebron, 2 Sam. v. 3, whereby David obliged himself to rule according to God's laws, and the people promised fidelity and obedience to him: thus Jehoiada, that good old priest, made a tripartite covenant, 2 Kings xi. 17, that is,
[i.] Between the Lord and the king.
[ii.] Between the Lord on one part, and the king and the people on the other, that they should be the
Lord's people, both king and subjects, these two were religious covenants.
[iii.] Between the king also and the people, this was a civil covenant, or, as we call it, an oath of allegiance, called elsewhere the oath of God:* because, though it be made between men, and that in civil things, yet God himself interposeth as a party therein, to reward the keepers, and revenge the violaters thereof: thus we find, Ezek. xvii. 16—19, Zedekiah king of Judah had sworn fealty to the king of Babylon, as his vassal, but his rebellion was a breach of God's oath, and God's covenant, and must not pass without punishment. It is true, all may be personally involved in such a cominon bond but this is not the covenant of which I am speaking.
(2.) There is a religious covenanting, social or together with others, which concerns sacred duties Godwards and I find this course God's servants have adopted upon various occasions, sometimes under some remarkable threatenings or execution of judgments, sometimes after great decays of religion: thus, did Asa, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah,† and so it was done in the days of Ezra, and Nehemiah,‡ as scripture history acquaints us. The nature of this covenanting we find distinctly described, with the persons that entered into it, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18, "Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes and his commandments -and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people." It was the whole community of Israel, consisting of many families, united in one church or commonwealth, as a theocracy; and between God and them there was a mutual declaring, professing,
Eccl. viii. 2. † 2 Chron. xv. 12, 15. xxix. 10. xxxiv. 31, 32.
owning and avouching a peculiar relation: the word is emphatical in Hebrew,* "Thou hast exalted or magnified the infinite and eternal God above all, and art solicitous to be united to him, planted in him by covenantrelation, (for the root imports the highest branch or bough of a tree,†) that thou mayest derive sap and virtue from him, thou liftest him as high as thou canst in thy estimation and affection, and he doth advance thee by way of recompence." Such a social covenanting even of cities and kingdoms in gospel times is predicted, Isa. xix. 18, "In that day' shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts."-[in jurando invocabunt Jehovam] renouncing idols they shall solemnly call on God with most earnest protestations and obtestations of resolution to adhere to the Lord; therefore he doth not say they shall swear by, but to the Lord, which imports covenanting, or solemn dedication to the Lord; and so it is the same with vowing a vow unto the Lord, ver. 21. "So David sware unto the Lord," that is, "he vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob," Psal. cxxxii. 2, which also imports covenanting. Doubtless that notable chapter, Ezek. xxxvii. refers to gospel-days, wherein Judah and Ephraim shall be one stick in the Lord's hand, ver. 17, for God will make a covenant of peace with them, ver. 26. See Jer. 1. 4, 5. I shall not now enumerate any more mutual covenantings; because this is not the subject I am to insist upon.
2. There is a sacramental covenanting, when parents covenant for their children, and children are engaged to God by their parental covenant; yea, sponsors, sureties, governors that stand obliged for those that are under their charge, as Abraham for his children, and all under his charge, was bound to give them the seal of the co
.את יהוה האמרת * .Germen supremum in arbore אמיר +
venant, namely, circumcision, Gen. xvii. 2, 4-12, so he is the head of the covenant, or he by whom the covenant-right, was conveyed to all his natural seed, and afterwards to the spiritual seed, all Gentile believers; "for the promise (saith St. Peter, that is, the covenantright) is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off;"* the covenant-relation continued, though the seal was changed from circumcision to baptism. And that some persons may represent others absent or future, the following text proves, Deut. v. 3, "The Lord made not the covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day," though some of them were infants, others unborn, when it was made; therefore elsewhere he causeth them all to be assembled, men, women, and children, to enter into the covenant;† hence it is, that parents keeping or breaking a covenant, hath such blessed or malignant influence on their children, Exod. xx. 5, 6. And hence it is that when a people return to God by repentance, God is said to remember his covenant with their ancestors; for God folds up parents and children in the same bond of the covenant: especially whilst children, till they personally and actually renounce it when at age. As this is a personal, so it is a successional covenant, which concerneth the seed of the faithful, both in point of duty and privilege: certainly there is such a thing as federal right and relation, and consequently a federal holiness of the children of godly parents.||
But though this covenant relation stand them in some stead, in their infant state, yet when they come to maturity they are bound to stand to the terms of this covenant, in their own persons; and this is what I call a personal covenant, whereby particular persons + Deut. xxix. 10-15. xxxi. 12.
• Act. ii. 39.
1 Cor. vii. 14.