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Lord degenerated into a matter of mere form and ceremony; even as subscribing religious articles seems to have done with the church of England; and as, it is to be feared, owning the covenant, as it is called, has too much done in New England; it being visibly a prevailing custom for persons to neglect this, till they come to be married, and then to do it for their credit's sake, and that their children may be baptized. And I suppose there was commonly a great laxness in Israel among the priests who had the conduct of this affair. There were many things in the nature of that comparatively carnal dispensation, which negatively gave occasion for such things: that is, whereby it had by no means so great a tendency to prevent such irregularities, as the more excellent dispensation introduced by Christ and his apostles. And though these things were testified against by the prophets, before the Babylonish captivity; yet God, who is only wise, did designedly in a great measure wink at these, and many other great irregularities in the church, till the time of reformation should come, which the Messiah was to have the honour of introducing. But of these things I may perhaps have occasion to say something more, when I come to answer the objection concerning the passover.
Now to return to the argument from the nature of covenanting with God, or owning God's covenant. As to the promises which are herein either explicitly or implicitly made, these imply a profession of true piety. For in the covenant of grace universal obedience is engaged, obedience to all the commands of God; and the performance of inward spiritual duties is as much engaged, as external duties; and in some respects much more. Therefore he that visibly makes the covenant of grace his own, promises to perform those internal duties, and to perform all duties with a gracious sincerity. We have no warrant, in our profession of God's covenant, to divide the duties of it, to take some, and leave out others: especially to leave out those great commands, of believing with the heart, of loving the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. He that leaves out these, in effect leaves out all; for these are the sum of our whole duty, and of all God's commands. If we leave these out of our profession, surely it is not the covenant of grace which we profess. The Israelites, when they covenanted with God at Mount Sinai, and said, when God had declared to them the ten commandments, "All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient." promised, that as they professed to know God, they would in works not deny, but own and honour him, and would conform to those two great commandments, which are the sum of all the ten, and concerning which God said, "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart," Deut. vi. 6.~~
And when they covenanted on the plains of Moab, they promised to keep and do God's commands, "with all their heart, and with all their soul," as is very evident by Deut. xxvi. 16, 17. So it was also when the people owned their covenant in Asa's time, 2 Chron. xv. 12. " They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart, and with all their soul." We have also another remarkable instance, 2 Kings xxiii. 3, and 2 Chronicles xxxiv. 31.
Now he who is wholly under the power of a carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, cannot promise these things without either great deceit, or the most manifest and palpable absurdity. Promising supposes the person to be conscious to himself, or persuaded of himself, that he has such an heart in him; for his lips pretend to declare his heart. The nature of a promise implies intention and design. And proper real intention implies will, disposition, and compliance of heart. But no natural man is properly willing to do these duties, nor does his heart comply with them and to make natural men believe otherwise, tends greatly to their hurt. A natural man may be willing, from self-love, and from sinister views, to use means and take pains that he may obtain a willingness or disposition to these duties: But that is a very different thing from actually being willing, or truly having a disposition to them. So he may promise, that he will, from some considerations or other, take great pains to obtain such a heart; but this is not the promise of the covenant of grace. Men may make many religious promises to God some way relating to the covenant of grace, which yet are not themselves the promises of that covenant; nor is there any thing of the nature of covenanting in the case, because although they should actually fulfil their promises, God is not obliged by promise to them. If a natural man promises to do all that it is possible for a natural man to do in religion, and fulfils his promises, God is not obliged, by any covenant that he has entered into with man, to perform any thing at all for him, respecting his saving benefits. And therefore he that promises these things only, enters into no covenant with God; because the very notion of entering into covenant with any being, is entering into a mutual agreement, doing or engaging that which, if done, the other party becomes engaged on his part. The New Testament informs us but of one covenant God enters into with mankind through Christ, and that is the covenant of grace; in which God obliges himself to nothing in us that is exclusive of unfeigned faith, and the spiritual duties that attend it. Therefore if a natural man makes never so many vows, that he will perform all external duties, and will pray for help to do spiritual duties, and for an ability and will to comply with the covenant of grace, from such principles as he has, he
does not lay hold of God's covenant, nor properly enter into any covenant with God. For we have no opportunity to covenant with God in any other way, than that which he has revealed; he becomes a covenant-party in no other covenant. It is true, every natural man that lives under the gospel, is obliged to comply with the terms of the covenant of grace; and if he promises to do it, his promise may increase his obligation, though he flattered God with his mouth, and lied to him with his tongue, as the children of Israel did in promising. But it will not thence follow, that they ought knowingly to make a lying promise, or that ministers and churches should countenance them in so doing.
Indeed there is no natural man but what deceives himself, if he thinks he is truly willing to perform external obedience to God, universally and perseveringly through the various trials of life. And therefore in promising it, he is either very deceitful, or is like the foolish deceived man that undertook to build when he had not wherewith to finish. And if it be known by the church, before whom he promises to build and finish, that at the same time he does not pretend to have an heart to finish, his promise is worthy of no credit or regard from them, and can make nothing visible to them but his presumption.
A great confirmation of what has been said under this head of covenanting, is Psal. 1. 16. "But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?" This term, the wicked, in the more general use of it in Scripture, is applied in that extent as to include all ungodly or graceless persons, all that are under the reigning power of sin, and are the objects of God's anger, or exposed to his eternal vengeance; as might easily be made to appear by a particular enumeration of texts all over the Bible. All such are in Scripture called, workers of iniquity, the children of the wicked one, Matth. xiii. 38. All such are said to be of the devil, 1 John iii. 8. And to be the children of the devil, verse 10. The righteous and the wicked are, in a multitude of places in Scripture, evidently opposed one to the other, and distinguished as saints and sinners, holy and unholy, those that fear God and those that fear him not, those that love him and those that hate him. All mankind are in Scripture divided by these distinctions, and the Bible knows of no neuters or third sort.
Indeed those who are really wicked, may be visibly righteous, righteous in profession and outward appearance. But a sort of men who have no saving grace, and yet are not really wicked, the Scripture is entirely ignorant of. It is reasonable to suppose, that by wicked men, in this psalm, is meant all that hate instruction, and reject God's word,(Psalm 1. 17,) and not merely such as are guilty of particular crimes mentioned, verse 17-20.
stealing, adultery, fraud, and backbiting. Though only some particular ways of wickedness are mentioned, yet we are not to understand that all others are excluded; yea the words, in the conclusion of the paragraph, are expressly applied to all that forget God in such a manner as to expose themselves to be torn in pieces by God's wrath in hell, verse 22. "Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.' We can no more justly argue, that because some gross sins are here specified, that no sinners are meant but such as live in those or other gross sins, than we can argue from Rev. xxii. 14, 15, that none shall be shut out of heaven but those who have lived in the gross sins there mentioned; "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city: For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." Nothing is more common in Scripture, than-in the descriptions it gives both of the godly and ungodly, together with their general characterto insert some particular excellent practices of the one to which grace tends, and some certain gross sins of the other for which there is a foundation in the reigning corruption of their hearts. So lying is mentioned as part of the character of all natural men, Psal. lviii. 3, 4, (there called wicked men, as in Psal 1.) "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies; their poison is like the poison of a serpent," &c. So it is said of the wicked, Psalm x. 2, 3, 4, 7. "His mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." This the apostle (Rom. iii.) cites as a description of all natural men. So it is said of the wicked, Psal. cxl. 3. "They have sharpened their tongues as a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips;" which the same apostle, in the same place, also cites as what is said of all natural men. The very same gross sins which are here mentioned in the fiftieth Psalm, are from time to time inserted in Solomon's descriptions of the wicked man, as opposed to the righteous, in the Book of Proverbs. Particularly, the sins mentioned in the 19th verse of that Psalm, "Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit;" are thus mentioned, as belonging to the character of the wicked man, Prov. xii. 5, 6. "The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit. The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood; but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them." Nevertheless it is plain, that the wise man in this Book, in his distinction of the righteous and the wicked, means the same as godly and ungodly. Only reading the two foregoing chapters will be enough to satisfy any of this. Observe chap. x. 3, 7, 16, 20, 21, 24, 28-32, and xi. 3, 5, 9, 11, 18-23, 30, 31, besides innumerable other like texts all over the Book. In chap.
i. 16. it is said of sinners, "Their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood." This the apostle, in Rom. iii. 15. cites as belonging to the description of all natural men. So in the description of the wicked, Prov. iv. 14-19. it is said, that "they sleep not unless they have done mischief; that they drink the wine of violence," &c.; and yet by the wicked there is meant the same with the graceless man; as appears by the antithesis there made between him and the just, or righteous, whose path is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day.
As a further evidence that by the wicked in Psal. 1. 16. is meant the same as the ungodly or graceless, it is to be observed, here is a pretty manifest antithesis, or opposition between the wicked, and the saints, that shall be gathered to Christ at the day of judgment, verse 5. There God, speaking of his coming to judgment, says, "Gather my SAINTS together, those that have made a COVENANT with me by sacrifice" And then, after shewing the insufficiency of the sacrifices of beasts, implying that it is a greater sacrifice by which these saints make a coVENANT with him, it is added, "But to the wicked [that are not in the number of my saints] "God doth say, What hast thou to do, to take my cOVENANT into thy mouth?" Approving of the covenanting of the former, but disapproving the covenanting of the latter. As to the gathering of God's saints there mentioned, if we consider the foregoing and the following verses, it is evidently the same with the gathering of his elect, when Christ comes in the clouds of heaven, Matth. xxiv. 30, 31; and with the gathering of the righteous, as his wheat into his barn, at the day of judgment, Matth. xiii. And therefore there is as much reason to suppose, that by the wicked, which are opposed to them, is meant all graceless persons, as there is to understand the doers of iniquity, Matth. xiii. as opposed to the righteous, which shall then "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," verse 43.-And there is one thing more which still further confirms me in my construction of Psalm 1. 16. which is, that the plain reason here given against wicked men taking God's covenant into their mouths, holds good with respect to all graceless men, viz. because they do not comply with, but reject the very covenant, which they with their mouths profess to own and consent to. Verse 17, "Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee:" as much as to say, "thou rejectest and hast a reigning enmity against my statutes, with which thou declarest and professest a compliance." And this is the spirit and practice of all who live in the sin of unbelief and rejection of Christ; they live in a way that is altogether inconsistent with the covenant of grace; for against the sum and substance of the condition and engagement of that covenant every