« PreviousContinue »
When those persons who were baptized in infancy do proper ly own their baptismal covenant, the meaning of it is, that they now, being become capable to act for themselves, do professedly and explicitly make their parents' act, in giving them up to God, their own, by expressly giving themselves up to God. But this no person can do, without either being deceived, or dissembling and professing what he himself supposes to be a' falsehood, unless he supposes that he in his heart consents to be God's. A child of Christian parents never does that for himself which his parents did for him in infancy, until he gives himself wholly to God. But surely he does not do it, who not only keeps back a part, but the chief part, his heart and soul. He that keeps back his heart, does in effect keep back all ; and therefore, if he be sensible of it, is guilty o£ solemn wilful mockery, if he at the same time solemnly and publicly prosesses that he gives himself up to God. If there are any words used by such, which in their proper signification imply that they give themselves up to God; and if these words, as they intend them to be understood, and as they are understood by those that hear them, according to their estaba lished use and custom among that people, do not imply, that they do it really, but do truly reserve or keep back the chief part ; it ceases to be a profession of giving themselves up to God, and so ceases to be a professed covenanting with God, or owning God's covenant ; for the thing which they profess, belongs to no covenant of God, in being ; for God has revealed no such covenant, nor has any such covenant of God any existence, in which our transacting of the covenant is a giving up ourselves to himn with reserve, or holding back a part, especially holding back our souls, our chief part, and in effect our all. There is no covenant of God at all, that has these for its terms; to be sure, this is not the covenant of grace. And therefore although such public and solemn professing may be a very unwarrantable and great abuse of words, and taking God's name in vain, it is no professed covenanting with God.
One thing, as has been observed, that belonged to Israel's swearing into the name of the Lord, was the Lord liveth ;
thereby they professed their faith in God's allsufficiency, immutability and faithfulness. But if they really had such a faith, it was a saving grace. They who indeed trust in the allsufficiency of God, he will surely be their allsufficient portion ; and they who trust in God's immutability and faithfulness, he surely will never leave nor forsake them. There were two ways of swearing Jehovah liveth, that we read of in scripture ; one we read of, Jer. ii. 2.“ Thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth in truth, in judgmetit, and in tighteousness :" And the other way is swearing falsely, which we read of in the next chapter, ver. 2, 3.“ And though they say, The Lord liveth, yet surely they swear falsely." (And certainly none ought to do this. It follows; “ O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth ?" i. e. God desires sincerity of heart in those that profess religion. Here a gracions sincerity is opposed to a false profession; for when it is said; “ O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth ?" the expression is parallel with those, Psal. li. 6. « Behold thou desirest the truth in the inward parts." 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “ Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Psal 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 conversíon 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 you or Judah was charged with doing in the foregoing chapter, ver. 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 added 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 right. eousness;" they said, the Lord liveth as David did, Psal. xviij. 46. “ The Lord liveth and blessed be my Rock.” And did as ? the apostle says he did, I Tim. iv. ,10. “ We trust in the Vol. I.
LivingGod,who is the Saviour of all men, especially 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
profession of a saving faith that he speaks of: His words plainly imply it ; “ If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath rais. ed 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 saying 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, Isa. 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 grace with Christ, or into the relation of that covenant to Christ. All that they do at present, is only a speaking fair ; they 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 license 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 doctrine 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 neighbors, 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 what is future (though that is not excluded)-but a professing what is present, as it is in the marriage covenant. (Though indeed it is true, that it was chiefly on account of the promise or vow which there is in the covenant, that it is called swearing.) For a woman to promise, that she will hereafter renounce al 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 as though 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, and 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 doce trinal 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, accordo ing 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 solemy covenant transaction between God and the people on the plains of Mo, ab, 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 shouldst keep all his commandments." The people, in avouching God for their God, professed a compliance with the terms of the covenant of grace ; as the covenant of grace is summarily expressed in those words, “ I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my peón ple.” They that avouch the Lord to be their God, do 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 arouch Christ to be their Sa