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desirest truth in the inward parts.” 1 Sam. xvi, 7. “ Man
6 looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Psalm xi. 7. “His countenance doth behold the upright." But these texts speak of a gracious sincerity. Those spoken of, Jer. iv. 2, that “sware, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and righteousness," were gracious persons, who had a thorough conversion to God, as appears by the preceding verse, “ If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me;" i. e. Do not do as Judah was charged with doing in the foregoing chapter, verse 10- “ Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly.” Do not do thus, * but if thou wilt return, return unto me.' And then it is add. ed in the second verse, " And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth,” &c.; that is, then your profession of religion will be worth regarding, you will be indeed what you pretend to be, you will be Israelites indeed, in whose profession is no guile. They who said, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment,
. and in righteousness; said the Lord liveth, as David did, Psalm xviii. 46. “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock." And as the apostle says he did, I Tim. iv. 10. “ We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." And as he would have Timothy exhort rich men to do, chap. vi. 17. “ That they trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God.”. When the apostle speaks of a profession of our faith in Christ, as one duty which all Christians ought to perform, as they seek salvation, it is the profes. sion of a saving faith. His words plainly imply it : “ If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." The faith which was to be professed with the mouth, was the same which the apostle speaks of as in the heart, but that is saving faith. The latter is yet plainer in the following words : " for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Believing unto righteousness is saving faith ; but it is evidently the same faith which is spoken of, as professed with the mouth, in the next words in the same sentence. And that the Gentiles, in professing the Christian religion, or swearing to Christ, should profess saving faith, is implied, Isaiah xlv. 23, 24.—“ Every tongue shall swear; surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength :" i. e. should profess entirely to depend on Christ's righteousness and strength.
For persons merely to promise, that they will believe in Christ, or that they will hereafter comply with the conditions and duties of the covenant of grace, is not to own that covenant. Such persons do not profess now to enter into the covenant of
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grace with Christ, or into the relation of that covenant to Christ. All they do at present, is to say, they will do it hereafter; they profess, that they will hereafter obey that command of God, to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, But what is such a profession good for, and what credit is to be given to such promises of future obedience ; when at the same time they pretend no other at present, than to live and continue in rebellion against those great commands which give no allowance or licence for delay? They who do thus, instead of properly owning the covenant, do rather for the present visibly reject it. It is not unusual, in some churches, where the doc. trine I oppose has been established, for persons at the same time that they come into the church, and pretend to own the covenant, freely to declare to their neighbours, they have no imagination that they have any true faith in Christ, or love to him.
Such persons, instead of being professedly united to Christ, in the union of the covenant of grace, are rather visibly destitute of the love of Christ ; and so, instead of being qualified for admission to the Lord's supper, are rather exposed to that denunciation of the apostle, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ ; let him be Anathema Maranatha."
That outward covenanting which is agreeable to Scripture institution, is not only a promising which is future (though that is not excluded,) but a professing what is present, as it is in the marriage covenant. For a woman to promise that she will hereafter renounce all other men for the sake of him who makes suit to her, and will in some future time accept of him for her husband, is not for her now to enter into the marriage covenant with him. She that does this with a man, professes now to accept of him, renouncing all others; though promises of hereafter behaving towards him as a wife, are also included in the transaction. It seems the primitive converts to Christianity, in the profession they made of religion, in order to their admission into the Christian church, and in their visibly entering into covenant, in order to the initiating seal of the covenant in baptism, did not explicitly make any promises of any thing future. They only professed the present sentiments and habit of their minds, they professed that they believed in Christ, and so were admitted into the church by baptism; and yet undoubtedly they were, according to forementioned prophecies, admitted in the way of public covenanting. As the covenant-people of God, they owned the covenant before the seal of the covenant was applied. Their professing faith in Christ was visibly owning the covenant of grace, because faith in Christ was the grand condition of that covenant. Indeed, if the faith which they professed in order to baptism, was only an
historical or doctrinal faith (as some suppose,) or any common faith, it would not have been any visible entering into the covenant of grace; for a common faith is not the condition of that covenant ; nor would there properly have been any covenanting in the case. If we suppose, the faith they professed was the grace by which the soul is united to Christ, their profession was a covenanting in this respect also, that it implied an engagement of future obedience ; for true faith in Christ includes in its nature an acceptance of him
as our Lord and King, and devoting ourselves to his service. But a profession of historical faith implies no profession of accepting Christ as our king, nor engagement to submit to him as such.
When the Israelites publicly covenanted with God, according to the institution in Deuteronomy, they did not only promise something future, but professed something present ; they avouched Jehovah to be their God, and also promised to keep his commands. Thus it was in that solemn covenant transaction between God and the people on the plains of Moab; which is summarily described, 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 his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments." The people, in avouching God for their God, professed a compliance with the terms of the covenant of grace, as summarily expressed in those words, “ I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people.” They that avouch the Lord to be their God, profess to accept of Jehovah as their God; and that is to accept him as the object of their supreme respect and trust. For that which we choose as the object of our highest regard, that, and that only, do we take as our God. None, therefore, that value and love the world more than Jehovah, can, without lying, or being deceived, avouch Jehovah to be their God. And none that do not trust in Christ, but trust more in their own strength or righteousness, can avouch Christ to be their Saviour. To avouch God to be our God, is to profess that he is our God by our own act; i. e. that we choose him to be our chief good and last end, the supreme object of our esteem and regard, to whom we devote ourselves. And if we are sensible that we do not do this sincerely, we cannot profess that we actually do it: for he that does not do it sincerely, does not do it at all. There is no room for the distinction of a moral sincerity and gracious sincerity in this case. A supreme respect of heart to God, or a supreme love to him, which is real, is but of one sort. Whoever does with any reality at all make God the object of the supreme regard of his heart, is certainly a
gracious person. And whoever does not make God the supreme object of his respect with a gracious sincerity, certainly does not do it with any sincerity. I fear, while leading people in many of our congregations, who have no thought of their having the least spark of true love to God in their hearts, to say, publicly and solemnly, that they avouch God the Father, Son, und Holy Ghost, to be their God, and that they give themselves up to him, we have led them to say they know not what. To be sure, they are very obscure expressions, if they mean any thing that a carnal man does, under the reigning power of sin and enmity against God.
Here possibly it may be objected, that it is unreasonable to suppose any such thing should be intended, in the profession of the congregation in the wilderness, as a gracious respect to God, that which is the condition of God's covenant, when we have reason to think that so few of them were truly gracious. But I suppose, upon mature consideration, this will not appear at all unreasonable. It is no more unreasonable to suppose this peo: ple to make a profession of that respect to God, which they had not in their hearts now, than at other times when we are informed they did so, as in Ezek. xxxiii. 31. “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people:" [i. e. as though they were my saints, as they profess to be, [“ For with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness." So in the apostle's time, people professed that to be in their hearts towards God which was not there. The apostle is speaking of them, when he says, Tit. i. 16. “ they profess that they know God, but in works they deny him."
This was common among that people; God declares them to be an hypocritical nation, Isaiah x. 6. And it is certain, this was the case with them in the wilderness; they there professed that respect to God which they had not; as is evident by Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37. “ They did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant." In owning the covenant with God, they professed their heart was right with him, because it is mentioned as an evidence of their having lied or dealt falsely in their profession, that their heart was not right with him, and so proved not steadfast in God's covenant, which they had owned. If their heart had been right with God, they would have been truly pious persons; which is a demonstration, that what they professed was true piety. It also appears that if they had had such a heart in them, as they pretended to have, they would have been truly pious persons, Deut. v.; where we have a rehearsal of their covenanting at Mount Sinai: Concerning this it is said, verse 28, 29. “And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto
me; and the Lord said unto me, They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep allmy commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever.' The people were mistaken about their disposition and preparation of heart to go through the business of God's service, as the man in the parable, who undertook to build a tower without counting the cost. Nor need it seem at all incredible, that the generation who covenanted at Mount Sinai, should, the greater part of them, be deceived, and think their hearts thoroughly disposed to give up themselves for ever to God, if we consider how much they had strongly to move their affections. They saw the wonders wrought in Egypt and at the
Red Sea, where they were led through on dry ground, and the Egyptians miraculously destroyed; whereby their affections were greatly raised, and they sang God's praises. And particularly they now saw at Mount Sinai, the astonishing manifestations of God's majesty. Probably the greater part of the sinners among them were deceived with false affections; and if there were others less affected and not deceived, it is not incredible that they, in those circumstances, should wilfully dissemble in their profession, and so in a more gross sense flatter God with their lips, and lie to him with their tongues. And these things are more credible concern ing a generation peculiarly left to hardness and blindness of mind in divine matters, and peculiarly noted in the Book of Psalms for hypocrisy. And the generation of their children, who owned the covenant on the plains of Moab, had much to move their affections; they saw the awful judgments of God on their fathers. God had brought them through the wilderness, and subdued Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan before them. They had heard Moses' affecting rehearsal of the whole series of God's wonderful dealings with them, together with his most pathetic exhortations. But it was also a time of great revival of religion and powerful influence of
а the Spirit of God, and that generation was probably the most excellent that ever was in Israel. There is more good and less hurt spoken of them, than of any other generation that we have any account of in Scripture.* A very great part of them swore in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. And no wonder that others at such a time fell in, either deceiving, or being deceived, with common affections; as is usual in times of great works of God for his church, and of the flourishing of religion. In succeeding generations, as the people grew more corrupt, I suppose, their covenanting, or swearing into the name of the
* See Numb. xiv. 31. Deut. i. 39. and viü. 15, 16. Josh. xxii. 2. and verse 11 to the end ; and Xxüi. 8. Deut. iv. 4. Josh. xxiv. 31. Jude ü. 17, 22. Psal. Ixvii. 14. Jer. ii. 2, 3, 21. and xxxi. 2, 3. Hos.is, 10.