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parents are ready to say when a child is born or baptized as Samuel of Eliab, surely the Lord's anointed is before him, this is a lovely child, I hope this may honour God in his day, but the child grows up, and degenerates, answers not expectations, but grows depraved and hopeless, old in sin though young in years; and now the pious parent's hopes are dashed and impaired, he is put to a stand, and knows not what to think or say, but concludes sadly, with the two apostles in another case, I trusted that he would have been one that should have been an honour to God, a comfort to me, and a blessing in the church;† but oh how am I disappointed! he proves the greatest affliction I have, oh what is become of the covenant? have I not some reason to question either God's faithfulness, or mine own interest? This was the temptation of holy David, with whom the covenant was made expressly and immediately, Psal. lxxxix. 20; God even gives him all the assurances imaginable, his word, his oath, ver. 34, 35; yet ver. 49, he saith, "Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?" A sad expostulation, as if God kept not his faith with David; why, what is the matter? the reason was, because providences ran counter to promises; crosses seem to make void God's covenant, ver. 38-46; "but thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed," &c. Alas, David, where is thy faith? But so it is, sense prevails in the best saints above faith at some seasons; but most of all in this case, when the children of the covenant cross the purposes of the covenant? and no doubt this becomes a great grief of heart to a believer, when he is thus sadly nonplust; till the light of the covenant rightly understood un
+ Luke. xxiv. 21.
1 Sam. xvi. 6.
riddle this mystery, the poor Christian is in great perplexity. David had a promise by Samuel that he should be king, yet saith in his heart, I shall certainly perish one day by the hand of Saul.* Why so? why, his present danger seemed to be incompatible with the performance of that promise, and though he said in his haste all men are liars;† yet when he came to himself, he would undoubtedly fret and vex himself, that he should so wrong himself and Samuel, yea, and cast such an unworthy reflection upon God himself, as though he were unfaithful to his promise. Thus will a good man do at last, but at present he is upon a strange rack, tortured betwixt hope and fear.
NATURE OF THIS COVENANT, AND WHAT THERE IS IN IT TO SUPPORT THE CHRISTIAN.
THIRDLY, It would be superfluous to say much of the nature of a covenant, yet take this short description of it.
A covenant is a voluntary, mutual compact between two parties, containing benefits to be enjoyed, and duties to be performed.
1. It is a compact between two parties, for though a single person may make a promise, yet a covenant is between two or more, and parties formerly at a distance: this is the case between God and man, so Gen. xxvi. 27, 28.
2. It is a mutual, reciprocal compact, both parties must be engaged, therefore it is called the bond of the
* 1 Sam. xxvii. 1.
+ Psal. cxvi. 11.
covenant, Ezek. xx. 37; because though they were free before, yet now they are under obligation.
3. It is a voluntary compact, both parties were free before they were obliged by covenant. Covenanting is an elective act, God is a free agent; nothing but pure love induced him to covenant with man, Deut. vii. 7, 8; and though man was not absolutely free, being God's creature, and therefore bound to his Creator, yet his actually entering into covenant is a voluntary act, Psal, cx. 3, "Thy people shall be willing or volunteers in the day of thy power."
4. Between those who have entered into a covenant engagement, there is mutual obligation to confer benefits, and perform duties, called the habenda and the agenda, things to be conferred by God, and received, by man, and duties on man's part if he expect any benefits from God, Isa. i. 19. "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land."
Yet in the covenant of grace between God and man, there are two things peculiar:
1. There is an interposing mediator, our blessed Jesus, the days-man that lays his hand on both.* Now, saith the apostle, a mediator, is not of one, but God is one, Gal. iii. 20; that is, his business is to reconcile parties not only distinct but different.
2. This mediator is also surety or sponsor, to undertake for both parties, that is, to perform what is necessary, both what concerns conferring benefits on God's part, and performing conditions on man's part; not formally, as though Christ did believe and repent for us, to save us the labour of repenting or believing, but meritoriously, purchasing these graces for us, and efficiently working them in us, thus Jesus is made a surety of a better testament, Heb. vii. 22; he brings in everlasting *Job ix. 33.
righteousness, and makes God at peace with us, and all his attributes favourable to us, and employed for us; working also gracious dispositions and virtues in us, which are the conditions of the covenant, so the whole lies upon Christ, and "he is all in all ;"* he is responsible for God and man, being alone able and capable, as God and man, to fulfil necessary engagements on both sides; thus God promises what he requires, and gives what he promises; Jer. iii. 19, “But I said, how shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the host of nations? and I said thou shalt call me, my Father, and shalt not turn away from me." Thou shalt, here is God's undertaking, to give a filial disposition and perseverance. O infinite condescension of divine goodness and free grace!
An eminent divine observes,† that the gospel relating matters of fact, is a history-declaring terms on which God will be served, is a law of grace-discovering promises of life conditionally, is God's covenant-and as accepted by man, is a mutual covenant between God and man. This law and covenant of grace, which was obtained by Christ's death, is that legacy he left to the world, dispensed by his ambassadors, and effectually conveyed to the legatees, or heirs of promise, by his grand executor the Holy Ghost. This then is the great security of man's salvation, "That God worketh in us, both to will and to do; that we are kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation." This is the excellency of the gospel dispensation of the new covenant; the old covenant laid all the stress on the shoulders of mutable man, and therefore it is judged, that the covenant of God made with Adam in innocency, was peculiar to
* Col. iii. 11. + Mr. Baxter's Directory. Phil. ii. 13. 1 Pet. i. 5.
him in that estate and went no further, and that it is not continued in any force since the fall, for "if there had been a law given, which could have given life, then righteousness had been by the law," Gal. iii. 21; but it is by the gospel covenant that we are justified and saved.
Perhaps it may be said, what is all this to the purpose? All this seems to be personal, not relating to posterity, but you told us, that there were grounds of hope for children from the covenant. How come children to be interested in this covenant?
This leads me to the fourth thing premised, namely, What is there in the gospel covenant, that is ground of encouragement to parents on the behalf of their
I answer, in general, parents and children are legally one party, and in civil contracts they usually stand in the same circumstances; so in the first covenant Adam being a public person, represented all his posterity, for "judgment was by one to condemnation, even upon all men;"* we suffer for Adam's sin. And under the old testament dispensation of the covenant, God saith, Gen. xvii. 7, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations." And afterwards in the days of Moses, when God renewed the covenant, he saith Deut. xxix. 14, 15, "Neither with you only do I make this covenant, and this oath, but with him that standeth here with us this day, before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day," that is, with their posterity, and so the people understood it, Deut. v. 3, “The Lord made not," that is, only, "this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us who are all of us here alive this day." And in the new testa