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we shall but die ;"* so must you make a bold venture, not with a may-be, and who can tell? there is ground enough from scripture promises and precedents for faith to rest upon; God will bear you up, and bear you out as one of his followers: go on, soul, as Moses did, who when he was grown up, or great enough to make his choice, or when he was come to years," so we read it, "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer"t-he was forty years of age, and had often pondered it, and had laid the weights of all the important circumstances on both sides in the scales, he had counted the cost, and knew the best and worst, and still was determined, as Ruth to follow Naomi, or as a woman in love with an individual, who says, I must have him, and will have him, though I beg with him; so must you say, waving, all opposite persuasions, I must enter into a covenant with the Lord, I cannot live, I dare not die, without a relation to him in covenant.
6. Propose right ends to yourselves in personally engaging in covenant with the Lord. In all your particular duties, your ends and aims must be right, or you mar the success of your undertaking, and lose acceptance with God. It is true, it is lawful for a man to look to his own safety, in a secondary and subordinate way, but this thou mayest do, and yet fail, if self be thy chief end; a man taken in a storm may be forced under the pent-house of his greatest enemy for shelter, without any change of heart or better thoughts of him, as David's enemies yielded feigned or forced subjection, or as "the kings that served Hadarezer when they saw he was smitten, made peace with Israel;" so some for a shift, will make a covenant with God, to save themselves from hell, and as Balaam, wish to die as the + Heb. xi. 24, 25. 2 Sam. x. 19.
• 2 Kings vii. 4.
righteous; others think by this means to merit or purchase something at God's hand, but heavenly treasures stand not upon sale, you may purchase hell, not heaven; "The wages of sin is death, but the gift God is eternal life:"* what God sold to Christ he gives to us; if you claim any thing by your own righteousness, you shut out his; this covenant engagement is not a trucking affair, you mistake the nature of the gospel, if you come to barter or bargain. You will say, what end must we propose in our covenant with God? I answer, no other end than that for which you came into the world, namely, to glorify God and to enjoy him.
(1.) Your chief end must be to perform your homage to the King of heaven; in swearing fealty and taking this sacred oath of allegiance, to signify that you hold your life and being from him, and depend on him for your subsistence, and ascribe and return all back to him: "Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name give glory for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake," mercy in making, truth in keeping covenant with thy people; this is God's end, and must be ours. God will have his name sanctified by all that thus approach to him; surely God is more glorified in our covenanting with him, than in our being condemned by him. In communicating grace to sinners lies the greatest revenue of his crown, and one single act of sincere faith glorifies God more than any other act of obedience or performance.|| Abraham's faith glorified God more than offering his son; O sirs, you can never come with encouragement, unless you principally keep in view God's glory, as well as your good, in your covenant engagement; yea, you must have respect chiefly to that order and method whereby God raiseth a monu
• Rom. vi. 23.
+ Psalm cxv. 1. Mic. yii. 20.
ment to his glory, that is the satisfying of justice by the blood of Christ. Carnal, ignorant souls, saith one, are just like prisoners at the bar; "my good Lord, have mercy, spare me, pardon me, right or wrong, legally or illegally," what care they, if they only escape punishment in whatever way it be? but another considers the equity of the law, the honour of the judge, and would sue for his pardon in a legal way; so must you, chiefly consult God's glory.
(2.) The enjoyment of him. This is the highest act and end of a rational creature, God hath connected it with his glory, and the Christian in this work must not separate them; deliverance from punishment serves not the turn of a good subject, but he would be taken into favour, and come into the presence-chamber, "Let me see the king's face, saith Absalom; let my fellowship be with the Father, and the Son," saith the believer.* This engagement is made in order to gain intimate intercourse with God, as well as reconcilement to him; the Christian in a good frame wants from heaven tokens of love, and communications of divine grace; this union is in order to communion: he lies under the descending influences of the Holy Spirit, holds the King in the galleries, and waits for mutual intercourse, which is an antedating of heaven. O for seeing the face of God, and deriving influences of grace and comfort from him!
7. Ply the throne of grace with believing prayer; without this all the former will be insignificant; you must pray before and on entering into this holy covenant; "with weeping and with supplications," saith God, "will I lead them." This work is fittest to be done upon our knees, this whole work is of God, and he alone must manage it from first to last. Do you + Jer. xxxi. 9.
ask, what must we pray for when we are going about this work of personal covenanting? I answer, for four things:
(1.) Entreat the Lord for counsel and guidance in this important affair;* ask the way to Zion, when you are proceeding to form the engagement; it is an unusual course, and the Christian unacquainted with the road, knows not how to set about it, and therefore weeps and seeks the Lord his God: Lord, this concern is too high and hard for me, it is dangerous to miscarry in it, the act is soon done, but not so easily done well. God hath no pleasure in fools, in their persons or vows; I am inore destitute of knowledge than any man, Lord, "make me to understand the way of thy precepts," but especially "shew me thy covenant;"+ unveil covenant mysteries, display covenant mercies, and open to me covenant duties; Lord, manifest the terms, let me not stumble in the threshold, or miss my way in the end. Lord, there are secrets in thy covenant which thou dost impart to them that fear thee; teach me now in the way that I am choosing; natural reason knows little of these things, flesh and blood cannot reveal them, sometimes "thou hidest these things from the wise and prudent, and revealest them to babes ;"‡ these covenant concerns are of special institution; Lord, take me by the hand and lead me in the way of truth, teach me the good way wherein I must walk,|| keep me from stumbling, or wandering, for thou sayest, that wayfaring men, though fools shall not err therein. §
(2,) Beg of the Lord sincerity and uprightness, that your deceitful hearts may not mock God and deceive you. Ephraim of old set not their hearts aright, nor was their spirit stedfast with God, and so kept not the
* Jer. 1. 4. + Eccles. v. 4. Psalm cxix. 27. xxv. 14. Matt. xi. 25, 26. 1 Kings viii. 36. § Isa. xxxv. 8.
covenant of God. * O sirs, beware of this, lest you flatter God with your mouth, and lie unto him with your tongues; therefore as you must take heed to your spirit that you deal not treacherously, so must you pray earnestly to the Lord, in this strain: Behold, Lord, thou desirest truth in the inward parts, in the hidden part do thou make me to know wisdom; unite my heart to fear thy name;† this heart of mine hath oft given me the slip; now Lord, bind this sacrifice to the horns of the altar; circumcise my heart to love the Lord my God; make my heart sound in thy statutes, thou knowest the way I am now taking, Lord, search me, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way within me, let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know my integrity; § I am loth to be deceived, Lord, stop my hand, if my heart go not with it, let me not subscribe to an untruth, or go on with a lie in my right hand, let my heart and life harmonize with my mouth and hand-writing, I have a base heart and am apt to say as that perfidious son, I go, sir, but went not; O help me to bring this heart along with me to the work, let integrity and uprightness preserve
(3.) Plead hard for renewed strength and assisting grace to stand in this covenant, thus: though I see the right way, and have a sincere desire to walk in it, yet I cannot step one foot before another without assisting grace; yea, I cannot reach out a hand to take hold of the covenant; I cannot hold the pen except thou hold my hand, without thee I can do nothing,
* Psalm lxxviii. 8, 10.
+ Psalm li. 6. lxxxvi. 11.
Deut. xxx. 6. cxxxix. 23, 24.
Matt. xxi. 30.
** Psalm xxv. 21.