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individually and solemnly engage to devote themselves to God. And though this particular appropriation and personal application do render it so far distinct, yet for substance it is the same covenant which parents entered into for themselves in behalf of their seed; namely, the covenant of grace described in scripture, so that it is no new covenant, or another that I am pleading for, but a personal owning and accepting of the terms of the covenant of grace, which is called a taking hold of God's covenant, Isa. lvi. 4, that is, personally embracing, and faithfully performing all the conditions of this covenant with sincerity and perseverance; and this is a laying hold on eternal life;* as if it were said, this covenant is for me, this promise is mine, this happiness I reach and stretch out my heart and hand to get possession of; it is a common salvation, but O for my share in it; "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, therefore of mine, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am one, though chief;"† I take out my share by personal application. Suppose a man sat at dinner where there is variety of dishes; though they be common to all the guests, yet he saith there is a dish for me, not excluding others, (for christianity knows no monopolies) he makes a long arm, takes hold of it, and eats freely; thus the gracious soul takes hold of that holy covenant, puts his name into that general grant; this is personal covenanting.
Once more let me state, that this covenanting personally is initial, and then faith is plighted at the soul's first conversion to God, or renewed upon some special occasion. I exclude neither, but shall take in both afterwards.
For a general proof of this practice, and a remark+ 1 Tim. i. 15.
• 1 Tim. vi. 19.
able specimen of it, I shall once for all produce a single text, it is that extroardinary passage, Isa. xliv. 5, "One shall say, I am the Lord's," &c. The text may be denominated Christ's muster roll, or rather the oath of allegiance, by which our Lord's volunteers and subjects swear fealty and fidelity to their King and Captain.
(1.) "One shall say, I am the Lord's," that is, the Gentile converts shall singly and socially flock in, saying I also will be a soldier in Christ's camp, a servant in his family. Poor sinful worm, I have been a wretched wandering prodigal, have spent my patrimony in a foreign country, am brought to husks and penury, see my folly and frenzy, and at last return to my father, and though I deserve not the reception of a child, yet, Lord, make me as one of thy hired servants; the worst place in thy family is better than in princes' palaces; let me be as a retainer in thy family, let me have an interest in thy care, eat bread at thy table, be under thy discipline, and enjoy thyself, this, this is my exceeding joy, and transcendent reward.
(2.) "Another shall call himself by the name of Jacob;" it is true, (saith the believing Gentile,) I am not Jacob's natural offspring, but I do so prize the gracious qualities of that ancient patriarch, that my soul longs to be like him. Oh that I could imitate him in plainness, piety, devoting myself to God, especially in wrestling with the mighty God of Jacob! this is the generation of them that seek God first, then Jacob, and unite with the genuine sons of Jacob. O happy souls that are ranked and reckoned in this holy society!
(3.) "Another shall subscribe with his hand, unto the Lord" the soldiers of the Roman empire had the emperor's name written in their hands, whereby they Psal. xxiv. 5, 6.
testified their acting and fighting for him; in the same way antichrist's slaves have a mark in their right hands and foreheads,* thus declaring themselves on his side, Oh (saith the sincere convert,) for the blessed name of my dear Lord being inscribed upon my heart and hand! Would to God I were cast into the mould of the word, to receive a new impress, my soul desires to fight for him, and the scars and wounds I receive in his cause shall be as marks of my Lord Jesus, wherein I will glory;† such scars are richer than pearls: or the text alludes to the manner of ancient musters; they dictated and wrote down the soldier's name: let me be enrolled and my name be written among the living in Jerusalem. I do solemnly testify under mine own handwriting, that I do belong to the Lord.||
(4.) "And surname himself by the name of Israel:" still the believing Gentile expresseth his honourable esteem of church membership; he rejoiceth in that mark of honour, as the choicest figure in his escutcheon, of greater value than ever Alexander gained by his splendid exploits. The word elsewhere signifies flattering titles, and honorary appellations:§ but if I may choose my title, saith the convert, I would be called an Israelite: O that I were indeed a prince with God! Would to God I were "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile ?"** I know "they are not all Israel, that are of Israel;"†† there is a sort of blasphemy of some, "that say they are Jews, and are not, but the synagogue of Satan.”‡‡ God deliver me from that criminal arrogance, to take to myself a title that appertains not to me. The name,
Rev. xiii. 16.
+ Gal. vi. 14, 17.
Isa. iv. 3.
|| Syngrapho manu propria exarato testabitur se Domini esse. Titulum honorificum significat.
Gen. xxxii. 28. ++ Rom. ix. 6.
* John i. 47.
‡‡ Rev. ii. 9.
Christian, is a title of honour, and however at Rome among Pseudo-Christians it may be a name of reproach, and used for fool or dolt, would to God I had a principle to bear it out, and a practice to honour, and not to blemish this worthy title. May some precious ointment drop down from Christ our head, and new-testament Aaron, let it run down to me, even to me, the lowest skirts of his garment,* that I may be sanctified with the nature, as well as dignified with the name of Christ this new name shall be my greatest honour, and this divine nature shall be my greatest comfort.
INSTANCES OF THIS PRACTICE OF PERSONAL COVENANTING, AND REASONS FOR IT.
II. WHAT I shall next insist upon is the proof of this proposition—that personal covenanting is essential to saintship; that those, and only those are real saints, who make a personal covenant with God.
Understand that I am here speaking, in the first place, of a real, sincere, and upright saint, a regenerate soul, thoroughly sanctified, not one that is accounted so by men only, but by God here, and who will be accounted so at the last solemn day, not nominally, but really a saint. And secondly, we are considering him here in his personal, not relative capacity; though it cannot be denied that a saint's personal covenanting is not without special influence upon his posterity also, Isa. lix. 21, and whether that text, Ezek. xvi. 61, "but not
• Psal. cxxxiii. 2
by thy covenant;" mean that the Gentiles must be understood as being only under the old covenant, which was violated, or not by thy own covenant, that is, only redounding to thine own advantage, but thine shall fare better by it; and observe it, the more public any person is, the more persons will be interested; as when a magistrate, or minister, others have the benefit of their example and influence; yea, though the Christian do this work in secret and privately, by himself alone, yet others are concerned therein; as when Jacob in a solitary place, at one time, covenanted with God, at another time, wrestled with God, yet these acts had respect to the whole church of God for many generations: so saith that text, Hos. xii. 4, "he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us." Jacob's offspring was much interested in those peculiar passages betwixt God and their pious ancestor many hundred years before. This may be an encouragement to do it, who knows who may be better by it? And even in more solemn, public covenants with God wherein we unite with others, which is that way of covenanting most taken notice of in scripture, yet a man doth nothing except he make personal application; as in all public ordinances, when we join with others, we must improve them for our own personal benefit, so in covenanting with others, our own case must first be regarded. But I confess I have found it difficult to find examples of this private personal covenanting with God; yet some I shall mention. My proof of this point then consists of two sorts of arguments, namely, instances, and logical conclusions; the former prove the fact, the latter show the reasons of the fact or obligation.
In commencing with instances, I shall briefly select witnesses to prove this truth.
1. Adam. He being created a perfect creature, while