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viour. To avouch God to be our God, is to profess that he is our God by our own act ; i. e. That we choose him to be our chief good and last end, the supreme object of our esteem and regard, that we devote ourselves to, and depend upon. And if we are sensible that we do not this sincerely, we cannot profess that we actually do it; for he that does not do it sincerely, does not do it at all : There is no room for the distinction of a moral sincerity and gracious sincerity in this case : A supreme respect of heart to God, or a supreme love to him, which is real, is but of one sort : It would be absurd, to talk of a morally sincere supreme love to God in those who really love dirt and dung more than him. Whoever does with any reality at all make God the object of the supreme regard of his heart, is certainly a gracious person. And whoever does not make God the supreme object of his respect with a gracious sincerity, certainly does not do it with any sincerity. I fear, while leading people in many of our congregations, who have no thought of their having the least spark of true love to God
in their hearts, to say, publicly and solemnly, that they avouch , God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be their God, and
that they give them selves up to him, we have led them to say they know not what. To be sure, they are very obscure expressions, if they mean any thing that a carnal man does, under the reigning power of sin and enmity against God.
Here possibly it may be objected, that it is unreasonable to suppose any such thing should be intended, in the profession of the congregation in the wilderness, as a gracious respect to God, that which is the condition of God's covenant, when we have reason to think that so few of them were truly gracious. But I suppose, upon mature consideration this will not appear at all unreasonable. It is no more unreasonable to suppose this people to make a profession of that respect to God, which they had not in their hearts now, than at other times when we are informed they did so, as in Ezek. xxxiii. 31. “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people :" [i. e. as though they were my saints, as they profess to be] “ For with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after covetousness." So in the
apostle's time, that people professed that to be in their hearts towards God, which was not there. The apostle is speaking of them, when he says, Tit. i. 16. “ They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” This was common among that people ; God declares them to be an hypocritical nation, Isa. x. 6. And it is certain, this was the case with them in the wilderness ; they there prosessed that respect to God which they had not ; as is evident by Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37. “ They did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue ; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." In owning the covenant with God, they professed their heart was right with him, as appears, because it is mentioned as an evidence of their having lied or dealt falsely in their profession, that their heart was not right with him, and so proved not stedfast in God's covenant, which they had owned. If their heart had been right with God, they would have been truly pious persons ; which is a demonstration, that what tbey professed was true piety. It also appears that if they had had such an heart in them as they pretended to have, they would have been truly pious persons, from Deut. v. where we have a rehearsal of their covenanting at Mount Sinai. Concerning this it is said, Ver. 28, 29. “ And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me ; and the Lord said unto me, they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever.”. The people were mistaken about their disposition and preparation of heart to go through the business of God's service, as the man in the parable, that undertook to build a tower without counting the cost. Nor Beed it seem at all incredible, that that generation who covenanted at Mount Sinai, should, the greater part of them, be deceived, and think their hearts thoroughly disposed to give up themselves forever to God, if we consider how much they had strongly to move their affections ; the wonders wrought in Egypt and at the Red Sea, where they were led through en dry ground, and the Egyptians were so miraculously des
troyed; whereby their affections were greatly raised, and they sang God's praises : And particularly what they now saw at Mount Sinai, of the astonishing manifestations of God's majesty there. Probably the greater part of the sinners among them were deceived with false affections ; and if there were others that were less affected and who were not deceived, it is not incredible that they, in those circumstances, should wilfully dissemble in their profession, and so in a more gross sense flatter God with their lips, and lie to him with their tongues. And these things are more credible concerning that generation, being a generation peculiarly left to hardness and blindness of mind in divine matters, and peculiarly noted in the Book of Psalms for hypocrisy. And as to the generation of their children that owned the covenant on the plains of Moab, they not only in like manner had very much to move their affections, the awful judgments of God they had seen on their fathers, God having brought them through the wilderness, and subdued Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan before them, Moses's affecting rehearsal of the whole series of God's wonderful dealings with them, together with his most pathetical exhortations ; but it was also a time of great revival of religion and powerful influence of the Spirit of God, and that generation was probably the most excellent generation that ever was in Israel ; to be sure, there is more good and less hurt spoken of them,than of any other generation that we have any account of in scripture.* A very great part of them swore in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness : And no wonder, that others at such a time fell in, either deceiving, or being deceived, with common affections; as is usual in times of great works of God for his church, and of the flourishing of religion. In succeeding generations, as the people grew more corrupt, I suppose, their covenanting or swearing into the name of the Lord degenerated into a matter of mere form and ceremony ; even as subscribing religious articles seems to have done with the church of England;
* See Numb. xiv. 31. Deut. i. 39, and viii. 15, 16. Josh. xxii. 2, and verse 11, to the end, and xxiii. 8. Deut. iv 4. Josh, xxiv. 31. Jude ir, 17, 22. Psal, 1xviii, 14. Jer. ii, 2, 3, 21, and xxxi, 2, 3, Hos. ix. 10.
and as it is to be feared, owning the covenant, as it is called, has too much done in Newengland ; it being visibly a pre. vailing custom for persons to neglect this, until 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 : And 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 like ir: regularities, though very wrong in themselves, 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 until the time of reformation should come, which the Messiah was to have the honor 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 covepanting with God, or owning God's covenant : As to the promises, which are herein, either explicitly or implicitly, made ; the making these promises implies 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 in the covenant of grace, as external duties ; and in some res. pects 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 have we not warrant 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 neighbor 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 ;" their promise implied, that as they professed to know God, they would in works not deny, but own and honor 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. So, 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 peo-, ple 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 Chron. 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 or 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 selflove, 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 if he does so, this is, not the promise of the covenant of grace. Men may make, VOL. I.