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TO ALL CHRISTIANS WHO HOPE AND DESIRE TO STAND FIRM, UNDER THEIR BAPTISMAL OBLIGATIONS, TO THE END,GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE, FROM GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY GHOST.
DEARLY BELOVED IN THE LORD,
IT is the transcendent design of infinite grace, to restore fallen
man. All the persons of the sacred Trinity perform their peculiar parts in this blessed undertaking; and a line of love runs through the whole transaction. God the Father humbleth himself to behold the things in heaven and on the earth; God the Son took the form of a servant, and became obedient even to death; God the Holy Ghost as the gentle wind, that bloweth where it listeth, breathes spiritual life into dead souls, and fits them for heaven. What is this insignificant creature called man, that God should thus concern himself for him? he was not at such charges for the fallen angels, there was no stop in their fall from the highest heavens to the lowest dungeon of hell. But God remembered man in his low estate, "because his mercy endureth for ever." The flaming sword in the hand of the cherubim, is turned into a pastoral staff in the hand of the angel of the covenant,
Psalm exiii, 6. Phil. ii. 7, 8. John iii. 8.
the guard to prevent entrance, is a guard to secure the enterers ; the bloody path is turned into a milky way; the old death-producing course is turned into a new and living way; a causey is raised up, a blessed bridge, whose foundation is the corner-stone which the builders refused, to carry the traveller to Zion over the gulf of God's wrath; yea, a chariot is paved with love to convey the daughters of Jerusalem swiftly, safely and easily to heaven. The veil of Christ's humanity being rent, the veil of the temple is rent, so that poor Gentiles that stand afar off in the outer court, may look upon and enter into the holiest of all, and be kindly entertained in the presence chamber.* It is God's kindness and Christ's office to reveal this method of salvation to the sons of men. The sealed book, yea, the temple of God is opened in heaven, gospel grace is tendered, sinners are invited to lay hold on this life, but all would be in vain except the Holy Ghost should make a particular application of all that rich grace which was in the heart of the Father to bestow, and of the benefits which the blood of the Son purchased; this he doth by working in the soul the saving grace of appropriating faith, by which all things communicable become the Christian's by present legal title, and eternal possession. Faith is a personal grace and brings in personal gains; hence it is said, "That the just shall live by his faith," not another's. Every man must have a faith of his own, we cannot be justified or saved by proxy. The scripture passes great encomiums on the grace of faith, faith is the captain grace, other graces fight under its standard; "Faith overcomes the world, purifies the heart, works by love," produces gospel repentance; it is that first link in the golden chain of graces with which the rest are connected; the leader in this virgin dance. All the graces, like Solomon's virtuous woman, "have done worthily, but faith excels them all;" it is as the moon among the planets; "by faith we stand, by faith we have access to God, by faith we are saved." And though love hath the preference in point of duration, yet we apprehend by faith, that we may enjoy by love. Faith conquers on earth, that love may triumph in heaven. But
Heb. x. 19, 20.
Cant. iii. 9, 10.
+ Hab. ii. 4.
xii. 10. 2 Pet. i. 5.
Eph. ii. 8.
• Gal. iii. 26.
there is no act of faith whereby it becomes more glorious than this of uniting the soul to God, "for we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, we are justified by faith, Christ dwelleth in the heart by faith."* As our Lord Jesus is the blessed ligament to unite God and man, so faith is the bond which joins Christ and the soul, this it doth as receiving Christ; Christ is the enriching treasure, faith is the hand that receives it. Our Lord Jesus dischargeth the debt, faith accepts the pardon, and pulls off the seal from the cancelled bond; Christ is the robe, faith puts it on. The infinitely wise God chose faith as the instrument to justify sinners, because fittest to secure the glory of his free grace, by excluding boasting in man ; ‡ God chose this grace of faith to stand so near him, as that with which he could best trust his honour in the justification of a sinner; It honours God, God honours it; it comes with an empty hand, yet fills the soul. This grace maketh us poor in our own sight, rich in God, as it strips the sinner of the impure rags of his own righteousness, and clothes him with the spotless robe of the righteousness of Christ. I may say of it, as the apostles of themselves, "as poor yet making many rich." The true riches consist in being rich in faith. O happy soul, that hath this merchant ship, which bringeth food from afar, this indeed brings in succours, supports, supplies, and abundant satisfaction. Happy man that hath this heavenly plant growing in his garden! Happy the man who with the hand of faith, can turn all it toucheth into gold! All creatures, as one saith, are as bullion, but faith in the covenant sets heaven's stamp on them, and so makes them current to us. I may also add, that all our duties are dross and counterfeit, unless they come to God with the impress of faith in Christ upon them, "for without faith it is impossible to please God."§ Now what is believing, but a taking hold of the covenant? This, this is the proper work of faith, it hath two hands, by one it receives God, by the other it gives itself to God, both these make an entire faith; if either be wanting the soul is lame, and hath nothing to do with the covenant or the promises. O but, say you, my hand is weak, if not lame; I ask, is it the hand of faith, ac
+ John i. 12.
Eph. iii. 17.
Rom. iii. 27. § Heb. xi. 4-6.
cording to scripture description? then it receives the offered gift and proper object. Cruciger dying, said, "I call on thee, though with a weak and languishing faith, yet notwithstanding a sincere faith;"* this grain of mustard seed, shall become a flourishing tree; this bruised reed shall be a strong staff to support thee on thy journey to heaven. There is nothing the devil envies and tempts God's children so much about, as this faith, and there is nothing so fit to quench his fiery darts, as the shield of faith, and this must be used above all other graces, as the chief grace. And yet there is no grace, the sincere believer doubts the truth of, or fears a defect in, so much as faith. How oft doth the Christian cry out with tears, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." And what pains have pious ministers taken with doubting souls to satisfy them, and comfort them concerning their faith? Now I am verily persuaded that this solemn personal covenanting with God would be an effectual cure of all those jealousies; for as a Christian's relation to God is made up by this, so the frequent renewing of it, and due reflection on sincerity in it, will give a person a prospect of his good circumstances God-wards, for what is a covenant engagement, but the renewed exercise of faith? and frequency of the exercise, both strengthens and evidences the habit. It hath been said that the Christian must repent till he know that he repents; and love God till he know that he loves God; and also he should believe till he know that he doth believe. Many walk in darkness and disquietness for want of understanding, or considering the terms of the new covenant, or not conceiving what that faith is which contracts or carries on this covenant relation; thou canst not but say, there have been special seasons of the out-goings of thy soul to God, and breathings after union with Christ. Many a time hast thou purposely set apart for conversing with thy best friend, taking him as thy God, and devoting thyself afresh to him; and what is this but covenanting? and what wilt thou call this but the exercise of faith? they are equivalent; canst thou not truly say as Pellican, “ I desire my Jesus, how glad am I when I find him? how happy
* Invoco te quanquam languidâ et imbecillâ fide, sed fide tamen.— -Melch. Ad. in Crue. pag. 197.
+1 Thess. iii. 5. Eph. vi. 16.
Mark ix. 24.
am I when I hold him ?"* If you say, but I lose my Lord, I ?”* answer, but thy Lord will not lose thee. This covenant relation is strongly maintained by the Lord of life, and thy business is frequently to renew thy repentance, to exercise faith, and pledge thyself again on renewing thy covenant with that God who hath promised to heal thy backslidings.
It is the design of this Treatise to bring souls into covenant with God, to keep them in it, and make it clear to them that they are within this blessed bond of the covenant. I had a private call to this public effort, and for a season took not much notice of it; I thought there was great store of printed treatises upon the covenant betwixt God and man, ten or twelve I have seen which are useful: but amongst them all, I never met with any upon this subject of personal covenanting, and was desirous to try what might be said for it; partly because several worthy men have given intimations of its necessity and usefulness, and partly because I perceive some well meaning persons have earnestly desired such helps, and have eagerly improved the short forms of covenant engagement which they have met with in print. And indeed, as due entering into covenant with God is essential to Christianity, so the frequent renewing of it and satisfactory reflections on our sincerity in making, and constancy in keeping it, are great means of our comfort; for God is faithful who hath promised, and though he may withdraw his comforting, or even his quickening presence for a season, yet he will not cast off for ever. He thinks good to correct our sins, and rouse us out of sloth, but he will turn again, he will have compassion upon us,† so that the covenanted Christian may say with Bucer, "Let him chasten + severely, yet he will never, no, he will never cast off: God forbid that now at last I should not taste the sweetest consolations." Fear not, Christian, thy comforts may ebb and flow, but thy covenant state is fixed and remains firm, and thou needest not fear what devils or men can do; they can but kill
Jesum meum desidero, quam lætus cum invenero! quam fælix tenuero! -Melch. Ad. in Vit. Pell. pag. 548.
+ Mic. vii. 19, 20.
Castiget fortiter, abjiciet autem nunquam, nunquam abjiciet: absit, absit, ut nunc consolationes dulcissimas non experirer.—Melch. Ad in Buc. pag. 220.