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precious donations—Mary's better part shall never be taken from her ; worldly riches may be lost, but spiritual mercies are durable riches. God, the Author of these mercies, is immutable, with him there is no variableness nor shadow of change; he is subject to no variation from the contingent events of second causes. “ The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it hath pleased the Lord to make them his people,” i Sam. xii. 22: he hateth putting away, he will not disinherit his children for misdemeanours, he knows their frame, sees and pities their weaknesses, raiseth them out of falls, and heals their backslidings. Christ Jesus, the purchaser of these mercies, is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness ;” “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever ;” “ mighty to save, a merciful and faithful high-priest;" can pluck them out of his hands; he will lose none of those that his father hath given him ;” “ he will save to the uttermost.”* This our Joshua will bring his people to the Canaan of eternal rest. The principle of grace, and these mercies themselves, are of a durable nature; grace is an immortal seed, a never-dying root -principium continuativum. “ He that believeth in me,” as the Scripture hath said, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”—John vii. 38. Though grace is loseable in its own nature, yet not in the issue, because God upholds it. “ The house built on the rock shall stand immoveable; the righteous is an everlasting foundation: he that doth the will of God abides for ever; † yea, he hath eternal life abiding in him.” But may not they depart from God ? no, not totally and finally, “ for God hath put his fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from him.”—Jer. xxxii. 40. They may sin and provoke God to withdraw the sense of his love, they may lose their standing, comforts, and some degrees of grace, but never be stripped naked wholly of these sure mereies of David; God hath secret hold of them, and they have more hold of him than others have; they are restless and dissatisfied till they enjoy God, and till these mercies be clear to them. This golden chain stretcheth itself from everlasting, it begins in a purpose of grace, and ends in final salvation ; " whom he predestinates them he calls, justifies, glorifies,” &c.—Rom. viii. 29, 30. It is sacrilege to pluck one link from this golden chain; God is the finisher as well as the author of faith. It is not within the compass of any finite being to rob a gracious soul of the love of God, or stop the course of his free grace to those in covenant with him. Paul can make a bold challenge, Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39, “Who shall separate us from the love of God ? and he makes a sufficient enumeration of all things that were likely to conquer the believing soul, and yet concludes, that in in all these things “ we are more than conquerors through Christ; there are in the word sweet promises that may answer all cavils and unbelieving fears concerning perseverance, which many able champions have produced and managed with dexterity and suc
* Rev. iii. 14. Heb. xiii. 8. Isa. Ixiii. l. John x. 28, 29. xvii. + Prov. x. 25. 1 John ï. 17.
* See Mr. Prins on Perseverance ; Dr. Prid. Lect. 7. De Persev. Sanct.; Dr. Ames Coron. Artic. 5. De Perseverantiâ.
THE MANNER IN WHICH COVENANT MERCIES ARE
III. The next thing intended is more particularly to shew in what way these covenant mercies are confirmed or made sure. Now there are several steps of making a thing sure amongst men, and God hath used the same means, (and even done more) to make these mercies sure to the children of men.
1. Men are wont to pass their word. When they promise any thing upon the word of an honest man, they expect credit; and among men this is current, and the God of heaven is worthy to be believed upon his bare word, (if I may so speak) for he is a God that cannot lie nor deny himself : “ yea, let God be true and every man a liar :" even a Balaam is convinced of it, and must profess it, Numb. xxiii. 19.“ God is not a man that he should lie-hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?” The unchangeable God hath engaged his word in the new covenant : the patriarchs of old gave credit to all that God spake by dreams, visions and revelations, as in the instances of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
2. Men use to give stronger evidence by subscribing their names, and putting their mind and promise into writing ;* hence the expression and practice of giving letters of credence, and we use to say “men are mortal, give it me under your hand, that will abide.” + Well, our gracious God hath condescended to subscribe his promises under his own hand, the hand of his blessed • Hence Neh. ix. 38. “ We make a sure covenant, and write it.” + Litera scripta manet, VOL. II.
Spirit; the word of God is upon record, “ therefore whatsoever was written, it is for our learning, (I may add satisfaction) that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” Rom. xv. 4: he hath given assurance to us of these things in the word of truth—“ for this cause was the gospel written, that we may know the certainty of these things,” Luke i. 4. “ and that we may believe," John xx. 31. Who dare now dispute or doubt of the truth and sureness of gospel promises ? since “ heaven and earth may pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”—Matt. v. 18.
3. Men use to call in witnesses for further confirmation. Some important business requires several witnesses; it is a standing rule,“ at the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established.” Well, the God of heaven hath confirmed the gospel to us by twice three witnesses; there are three in heaven, the glorious persons of the blessed Trinity, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one, one in essence, though three persons, 1 John v. 7, these bear record of Christ's Godhead ; and there are three that bear witness on earth, verse 8. these testify of Christ's manhood—the Spirit, that is, say some, his breathing out his soul and spirit in his giving up the ghost, and water, and blood, that came out of his side when it was pierced with a spear, which shew he was real man, and that he did really die ; Aretius f interprets these three latter of the Spirit in the ministry of the word, the water of baptism, and the blood signified by the wine of the Lord's supper in which Christ's meritorious sacrifice is represented, and
* Deut. xix. 15.
+ Hanc sequor sententiam hoc loco, nec puto aliam posse adduci veriorem.Aretius in loc. See Marlorate in loc.
still this interpretation further confirms the gospel covenant, and consequently the mercies of it.
4. Men use to give assurance to others by affixing their seal; hence the practice amongst us of setting a seal to bills, bonds, leases, purchases, letters patent, and this seal hath usually a person's cognizance or coat of arms, or some impression upon it, and leaves the impression upon the wax. The God of heaven adds his seal; there is the broad seal of the new covenant, baptism and the Lord's supper are given and appointed purposely for the confirmation of our faith, and assuring our hearts of the truth of the promises, as circumcision is called the seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. iv. 11; for by these seals both the grace of God is confirmed to us, and holy impressions made on the hearts of believers. There is also a privy seal, the seal of the blessed Spirit in our hearts; * Eph. i. 13, “ -sealed with that holy Spirit of promise:" hereby God's children are distinguished from wicked men, and confirmed in the truth of the gospel ; yea, it beareth witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, Rom. viii. 16. This is an elegant similitude, for all civil charters and testaments become valid by the addition of a seal, and the seal in former times was the note in letters by which the author was known, and a seal is the mark whereby genuine things are discerned from counterfeit: all these are the uses of the Spirit's sealing, to confirm our hearts in the truth of God in his promises, against all the temptations of Satan; this blessed sealing is more prevalent for our confirmation, than all philosophical reasons or demonstrations.
5. Another way to create assurance among men is a solemn oath ; "and we know an oath for confirmation
Eph. iv. 30. 2 Cor. i. 22.