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I am married unto you, and I will take you," &c. yea, "I will heal your backslidings," ver. 22. The ground of this is antecedent religion, covenant grace, and what say they? "Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God;" there is the foundation of their hopes, and then you find these backsliders renewing their covenant, renouncing carnal confidence, owning God as their Saviour, confessing their sins, resolving upon other practices, which is the substance of a covenant engagement, see ver. 23-25, something similar you have Hos. xiv. 2-8, after this manner the backsliding soul returns to God: O Lord, I have broken the first covenant in my original progenitor, I have violated my baptismal covenant, I have broken that solemn engagement made to thee at my first conversion, I have failed in keeping my frequent occasional vows, and still feel I have a backsliding heart; I am not worthy to be received, yet still my heart is working towards thee; I am not content to be at a distance from thee, O that now I could bind this treacherous heart with double bonds, to walk more closely with God; though I have done iniquity, I will do no more, I will not offend any more;* God forbid that I should return unto folly; Lord, say thou that word not only preceptively, but efficaciously, Sin no more; let the will of God be my sanctification, let Satan make no more inroads upon me, set thou a watch over my heart, before my lips, and on mine eyes, make the strongest fence where the hedge is lowest. I am aware where the fault was, God make me more watchful.
(3.) Under pressing afflictions; then is a fit season for renewing covenants. It is natural for persous to make large promises to God in their troubles, that
on condition God will deliver them they would do so and so, yea and for this cause God brings men into straits, that falling under the rod they may be brought into the bond of the covenant;* God chooseth his people in the furnace of affliction. Manasseh was caught in the thorns, and bound in chains in Babylon, that he might know Jehovah was God, and that he might bind himself to better conduct, and do no more so wickedly. God binds us in cords of affliction, that we may open our ears to discipline, and commands us to return from iniquity. David's lips uttered his vows, and his mouth spoke them out intelligibly, when he was in trouble; so will the soul say, I am now in misery, my sins have reduced me to straits, I cannot help myself, the creatures cannot help me, God will not, till he be reconciled to my soul, reconciled he will not be, till I return to him by faith and repentance, and renew my covenant with him. O Lord, my help is only in thy name, be propitious to me in Christ, receive my soul, sanctify thy rod with covenant love, and then use thy pleasure for removing it or continuing it upon me; art not thou my covenant God? send auxiliaries from above, rid and deliver me from these mighty waters, bring my soul out of prison that I may praise thy name, let it be known that thou art my refuge and portion in the land of the living, though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me, the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me, forsake not the work of thine own hands. **
(4.) Under lately received deliverances. When God hath set us at liberty it becomes us then to bind ourselves to him with stronger bonds; thus the mariners
Ezek. xx. 37. + Job xxxvi. 8-10. § Psal. lxvi. 13, 14.
+ Isa. xlviii. 10. 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11-13.
that is, largely.
.. Psal. cxxxviii. 7, 8.
Jonah i. 16, when the sea ceased from its rage, and they had escaped drowning," then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to Jehovah, and made vows;" and indeed a due sense of mercy will engage an ingenuous spirit to duty;* former deliverances put holy Ezra on solemn covenanting for future obedience; when David is consulting "what to render to the Lord for all his benefits," he resolves to give up himself to God by a fresh deed of gift, “O Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid, thou hast loosed my bonds," Psal. cxvi. 12, 16; a double obligation calls for a double self-dedication. Omy Lord, (may the soul say,) all I have is from thee, to thee I return all back; "thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling, therefore I will walk before thee in the land of the living;" this signal mercy is one of the cords of a man to draw me nearer, and a bond of love to unite me more closely to my God, ‡ when I am paying my old vows I will make new. O my soul, vow and pay unto the Lord, thy God, bring presents, (even thyself,) unto him that ought to be feared; this is the best testimony of my due gratitude, yea, this self-surrender to the Lord is my mercy as well as duty, these tokens of his love to me must be answered with this return to him.
(5.) When persons are entering upon difficult services. If you be called to undertake any work that has the appearance of being too hard for you, then renew your covenant, that thereby you may put yourselves into God's hands, and engage him to be for you; thus did Jacob when he hoisted up his sails, and launched forth into the ocean of a wide world, he com+ Psal. cxvi. 8, 9.
* Ezra ix. 13. with chap. x. 19.
Psal. lxxvi. 11.
mitted the care of his vessel to a heavenly Pilot, and arrived at his desired haven; "Jacob vowed a vow, saying, if God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go-then shall the Lord be my God."* When Jephthah was to engage in battle against Ammon, he uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh, Judges xi. 11; which the Holy Ghost interprets to be his vow to the Lord, ver. 35, 39; upon a similar account did Abraham lift up his hand, that is, vowed to the most high God:† thus did Asa and others when they set about church reformation; and thus must thou do in managing any considerable affair for God, or for the good of thy soul. Now, Lord, you may say, I am adventuring upon a difficult and hazardous undertaking, and shall be foiled in it without special assistance from above; thou, Lord, art not engaged to help any but such as are in covenant with thee, I am thine, save me, I am now actually putting myself under thy wing, and resorting to thy glorious attributes by personally renewing my covenant with thee, and if God will be for me, who can be against me? this engagement is beyond my strength, but I fear neither men nor devils, if the omnipotent God will appear on my side.
(6.) When Christians are going about any part of God's worship, or any thing that relates to it; then is a seasonable time to renew their covenant with God. Before David made an arrangement for the ark, “he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob," in these terms, "I will not give sleep to mine eyes, till I have found out a place for the Lord;" he resolves to be restless till God's ark be at rest. Thus if you be to attend upon God in any duty
* Gen. xxviii. 20-22.
2 Chron. xv. 12, 13.
+ Gen. xiv. 22, 23.
or ordinance, you must stir up yourselves to take hold on him, and excite all the powers of your souls to wait on him by explicit and implicit covenanting; this is the proclamation God makes, when he had spoken of the governor and nobles, whom he caused individually to draw near, he shall approach unto me; who shall approach? then comes the character of a true worshipper; "for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord;"* as if he had said, those who actually put themselves into a prepared frame, shall come near to me, others worship afar off; the more recently renewed the covenant, the more free is admittance to the Lord. Actual covenanting produceth actual communion; the business will go on best when our hearts are in a good frame, when our spirits are most warmed, melted, quickened, and newly devoted to God, and lie under the sense of our relation to him; I told you this is a covenanting with God by sacrifice, now, if you be for gospel sacrificing, you must engage to do it, and engage in it, thus saying: Lord, I am about to read or hear thy word, as thou commandest,† so dispose me to do; as thou holdest out mercy in a promise, so let me embrace it; I am going to seek God by prayer, O Lord, hear my vows,‡ and prayers mixt with vows; in this duty I would declare my dedication to thee, and expectation of all good from thee, Lord, communicate thyself to me by intimate communion in a covenant way.
(7.) More particularly, you must bind yourselves to God by a personal covenant when you go to partake of the Lord's supper; for in that sacred and solemn ordinance, you are to set your seal to God's covenant, as he seals it to you. This," saith Christ of the cup, “is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many
* Jer. xxx. 21.
+ Ezra x. 12.
+ Psal. Ixi. 5.