Page images
PDF
EPUB

!

[ocr errors]

violate their covenant bonds and engagements. In this case they are threatned that their iniquity fhall be visited with the rod. God testifies his displeafure by hiding his face from them, fulpending the comforting influences of his spirit, exposing them to shame, subjecting them to the rod of church discipline, and also visiting them with fore outward afflictions. In such ways he chastens them for transgressing the covenant, though he takes not his loving kindness from them.

But there are much more awful and vindiétive judgments threatned against those who reject the covenant, and break its bonds in such a manner as to cut themselves off from an interest in its blessings, that God will avenge the quarrel of his covenant, not only by destructive outward judgments, but by giving them up to a blind deluded mind, a reprobate conscience, a hard heart ; that the external privileges of the kingdom of heaven shall be taken from them; and that in the world to come they shall be punished for all their sins, and particularly for rejecting or perfidiously breaking covenant, by a sentence of final excommunication from the congregation of the saints, and suffering the pains of the second death with hypocrites and unbelievers.

If it be enquired, who are bound to obey the precepts of the gospel covenant, and whether all such may be said to be in covenant and under its bonds ?

I answer, all to whom the covenant is proposed are required and bound to consent to it, accept of it, voluntarily come under its bonds, and so perform the covenant duties therein prescribed. It has the authority of a divine law, and needs not our consent to give it a binding force. Some precepts of the gospel are immediately directed to all to whom the call of the gospel is fent, and demand present obedience. But others are immediately directed to those who are in or under the special bond of the covenant, and cannot be regularly obeyed by any but those who are first admitted into the number of God's people, by a restipulation or consent.

The call of the gospel requires all who are favoured with it to give a serious attention to its proposal, to receive the divine testimony on those sufficient evidences with which it is confirmed, and cordially consent to the gracious covenant which it reveals and offers to the children of men, When they have thus taken the bond of the covenant on them, there are further duties imvediately injoined ; duties which belong not to those who are not in covenant while such, particularly using the special ordinances, which are appropriated exclusively to the church. Brief. ly then, though the proposals of the covenant are of important concernment to all mankind, especially to those, who have offers

of

of divine grace made to them, yet a rejected tender of the covenant does not give one an interest in it. And though the call of the gospel lays a bond of duty on all to whom it is fent, yet the bond of the covenant, as the expression is commonly understood, properly lies only on those who have come under vows or engagements of obedience, either by their own personal act, or by the restipulation of those who are authorised to act for them. When those who are not under covenant bonds disobey the call of the gospel to them, requiring their consent to its proposal, they are guilty of refusing the covenant. But when those who are under covenant bonds violate them, they are guilty of perfidiously breaking the covenant. A circumstance which inhances their disobedience.

To finish this section. The gospel contains precepts which are immediately directed to, and binding upon the conscience of those who are not in covenant, even all to whom the word of faith is sent. But it has also precepts which prescribe special duties to those who are in covenant, who are under special obligations to perforın these and all other covenant duties. And this special obligation arising from their special relation and engagements to God, is, I conceive, what is to be understood by the bond of the covenant.

SECTION II.

Of the Grants or Promises of the Covenant. Its visible and invisible

Privileges. Its external and internal Administration.

AS the christian law contains our whole duty, so all the blessings we need are contained in the covenant, grant and promise to the people of God. There are blessings pertaining to the life which now is, and that which is to come. Without attempting to give a detail of particulars, let it suffice to say, the blessings, granted to the church by the covenant, are partly invisible gifts which are connected with, and issue in the salvation of those who receive them; such as a saving union to Christ, pardon of fin, reconciliation to God, and reception into the number of his chil. dren by regeneration and adoption, the gift of the holy Spirit to abide with them as a vital principle, by whose influence they are endowed with the graces of sanctification, and made mete to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. All who receive these gifts and blessings of the covenant are true saints, members of the invisible church, and heirs of the kingdom of glory. But there are also outward and visible blessings, of vhi the new covenant contains a grant or promise. Such are the common gifts of Prova

vidence,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

idence, and especially spiritual privileges, the word of God, the outward ordinances and instituted means of religion.

But the great question with some is, who have a right to these external privileges, the grant of which is contained in the covenant ? and whether they belong to all true saints, or to them only-To which I would say, that the new covenant, I conceive, contains no grant or promise claimable by any one till he is first in and under it.

But yet many who are not in covenant, have a lawful and good right not only to receive, poffefs and use the common bleflings of Providence, but also some of those spiritual privileges which the covenant promises and grants to the church. The outward means of conversion, the ordinances appointed for this purpose, and a special blessing to render them effectual, are covenant blessings, promised and granted to the church : Nor have any who are not of the church a covenant-right to them; that is, they have no right arising from or founded in a covenant grant or promise to them. But yet God in sovereign, unpromised bounty, grants these outward blessings and spiritual privileges to many who are not in covenant; yea, and grants a special blessing with them, whereby they become the effectual means of bringing them into the church and covenant. When the call of the gospel is fent to those whc are without, it is not only their right but duty to attend on those ordinances, whether public or private, which are the ordinary means of conversion ; such as the reading and hearing of the word, and prayer. And churches of the saints, in which thefe ordinances are statedly administered, should admit all who desire in an orderly manner to attend on the means of instruction. But it is the church only to whom these ordinances are granted by covenant. God has not promised this privilege to any others; or that he will continue it another day; or that the means of grace shall be blessed for the saving good of those to whom, in uncovenanted favour, they are vouchsafed. - The means of conversion

may

be granted to those who are not in covenant. But the church does and shall enjoy the ordinances. They are a part of its inheritance, secured by a covenant grant. The oracles of God are committed to them: They are the keepers of them. They are the candlesticks in which the light of the gospel is set up, whence it shines abroad in the world. It is in the church alone that the ordinances appointed for the conversion of unbelievers, as well as those which are to be used only by the people of God, are statedly administered. And as these outward means may be granted to those without, so they may be, and we have reason to think usually are blessed for saving good to some wherever they are sent; though this special blessing is an uncovenanted

favor

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

1

of the world. And ever those privileges in which those who are not in covenant are allowed to Mhare with them, the church holds by a {pecial and firmer tenure, even a covenant grant or promise, But some are entitled to, and endowed with more ample and inportant privileges than others. For instance.

Every true saint is undoubtedly interested in the covenant ; a member of Christ's myftical body; a partaker of those blessings of divine grace which thall issue in his eternal salvation. But if he has not, or exhibits not such evidence of godliness as the gospel rule makes necessary to give one a right of admission and access to the privileges of outward communion in an instituted church, he has not then a covenant right, nor can regularly or warrantably come, or be admitted to them.

Again, the minor child of a regular member of an instituted church is confeffedly in covenant, a member of the church, and according to the gospel rule is a proper subject of baptism, with other fpecial privileges : Yet we have no reason to think that all such children are the subjects of spiritual regeneration, or entitled to the promise of eternal life. And however we may hope charitably concerning individuals, yet they may not be admitted to full communion till they appear to be regularly qualified for it; tho' their right of membership remains, till according to gospel rule they are cut off and uncovenanted.

As every true faint is not entitled, according to the rule of the gospel, to the external privileges which belong to regular members of instituted churches ; so the members of instituted churches are not all entitled to the peculiar privileges of true faints. Not is there a necessary connection, or implication of the respective qualifications, or privileges which according to the covenant belong to each respectively. Tho' all covenant blessings, external and internal, are granted or promised to the church, yet every member is not entitled to all. There are special privileges which belong only to the members of instituted visible churches as such. There are other gospel blessings which belong only to the invisible or mystical church. Though every true faint is in covenant, and of the church; yet many such belong not to any visible instituted church; and so have no right to use the special ordinances which are appropriated to visible faints. And though every visible saint is in covenant, and has a right to special external privileges; yet many such are not true saints, and so belong not to the invisible church of true saints, nor are entitled to those special and important benefits wbich are granted or promised to such alone.

The evangelical charter, which forms the church, contains feveral articles or branches. Some of the privileges it grants are outward and visible; others are inward and invisible. The form

« PreviousContinue »