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take shame to ourselves, and be really humbled. shall not repeat what I have elsewhere fully enlarged upon, their bargaining and compounding about these mercies; their not living upon, or not living up to these mercies; their living unholy and unsteadily, which you may see dilated upon, in the Treatise entitled "Sure Mercies of David," 418-431.
I shall but briefly glance at some few faults relating to this point.
(1.) God's dear children have not so solemnly set about this engagement as they ought; even those that have occasionally done what is implied, have not made it their business, to manage it; it may be you have owned your God in prayer, in hearing, or at the Lord's table; but then you have not set apart time for a due transacting of this. How few Christians have made this their chief concern? How few ministers have made it the subject of their preaching, when without it all our preaching signifies nothing? What are we better if we could get people to attend on all ordinances, and to comply with all God's commands, if they be not joined to God by a personal covenant? You make conscience of praying, reading, hearing, and partaking of the Lord's supper,and why not of this? If this be to be united and mingled with all other duties, yea, if they be in some sense but subordinate to covenanting and communion with God, why may you not, nay, why should you not, set some time apart purposely for this transaction? Is there any thing more necessary? Why may not the lines of your devotion be reduced to this as the centre? since all you do signifies nothing. without it; God forbid that Christians should do this, only by the by; you should say, I am the Lord's, profess your subjection,* yield yourselves to the Lord,
Isa. xliv. 5. 2 Cor. ix. 13.
avouch God to be yours, and yourselves to be his; what reason have you to be so averse and backward in binding yourselves to the Lord? are you ashamed of him, or are you afraid of being too good? I am really ashamed when I read how many in former times devoted themselves to a monastic life. Mr. Speed tells us of Ino king of the West-Saxons, who resigned his kingdom, went to Rome, professed religion, and there died. Sibba king of the East-Saxons, turned monk. Offa likewise put on a cowl and went to Rome, Osith wife of king Sighere, and Keneswif wife of king Offa, took upon themselves religious vows. Yea, he saith, that no less than eight kings of the Saxons gave up the world, and became devotees. How may their zeal condemn our slackness? It is a sad thing, that men should be more forward in unscriptural superstition, than God's children in complying with a divine institution. The Lord awake our spirits, to set ourselves more solemnly about this work, and humble us for indifference of spirit about it.
(2.) God's children have not exactly and resolutely performed their vows and covenants. God convinceth and shameth the people of Israel, because they had not obeyed his call and commands, when the Rechabites had resolutely complied with their fathers' will, "to drink no wine, nor build houses, nor sow seed;"‡ shall an ancestor's impositions have more authority than God's injunctions? Alas, that we should have more regard to men's requirements, and that too in indifferent things, than to God's commandments which are absolutely necessary to salvation; but this is our case, yea and our sin is more aggravated when we have laid ourselves under vows, and do not make conscience of per
* 2 Chron. xxx. 8. Deut. xxvi. 17, 18.
+ Speed's Hist. pag. 309. VOL. IV.
Jer. xxxv. 6, 14. 18.
forming them. Rich Jacob forgot what poor Jacob promised: it is an ordinary fault; "they like men," in the margin, like Adam, "have transgressed the covenant, they have dealt treacherously against me," Hos. vi. 7. Alas, that regenerated Christians, who have the image of the second Adam, should so resemble their old father Adam! how inconstant are our spirits, we have cause to complain that "our righteousness is as the morning cloud or early dew;" alas, we are as a backsliding heifer, and have reason to fear that "an enemy shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because we have transgressed God's covenant and trespassed against his law."* Heathen constancy may shame our instability: M. Attilius Regulus, a Roman, being taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, was sent by them to Rome, to treat of peace and exchange of prisoners, being charged to return which he promised to do; when he was at Rome he counselled the senate to continue the war with Carthage, and though he infallibly knew a cruel death awaited him, if he returned, yet he went back to perform his promise, affirming that faith was to be kept with an enemy, and being returned he was put to a severe death; they placed him in a kind of chest driven full of nails, whose points wounding him, did not allow him a moment's ease either day or night; they cut off his eye-lids, and other members; so that by pining, by pain, and by being kept for ever awake, and at last nailed to a cross, he died.† O how may this instance of fidelity condemn the slippery spirits of professed Christians in matters of greater moment! How little do we make conscience of the promises we make to God? Are not some of us diverted from duty with threats? Are not some drawn to sin with men's fair words? Have not profits, pleasures, honours of this
Hos. vi. 4. iv. 16. viii. 1. +Sleidan's Com. lib. i. p. 17.
world bewitched some of us, and at least slackened our motion heaven-ward? O sirs, see to it, "take heed, lest there be in any of you, an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God;"* be afraid of it, lest any "of you fail of the grace of God," + lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled, "for if any man draw back, my soul, saith God, shall have no pleasure in him;"‡ I will utterly disclaim him; let me therefore solemnly charge and require you to make good your vows, as ever you expect help from God in your next straits, lest God upbraid you as he did Israel, and threaten, "that he will deliver you no more;" || or as he threatens, Jer. xi. 9, 11, "Because they had broken his covenant," God threatens "to bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape, yea, though they cry unto the Lord, he will not hearken to them;" nothing renders God so inexorable as covenant breaking, and nothing so covers our faces with shame, and stops our mouths under new fears, and in new straits, as slipperiness of spirit in keeping covenants made in former straits. Look therefore to it.
(3.) Another fault which persons who have taken upon themselves the bonds of a covenant are usually guilty of, is calling in question the reality of their engagement and title to God, upon every failing, rising of guilt, or temptation of Satan. I confess, if a person fall into gross enormities, or a course of decay, he may justly call in question his sincerity and dig into the very foundation; but that the soul should be daunted or disquieted by every undermining surmise, suggested by a malicious enemy to disturb its peace, or obstruct + Heb. xii. I5. Μὴ τις ὑστερῶν ἀπὸ
Heb. iii. 12.
TNS XÚρITOS TOυ Оɛoυ, i. e. fall from the grace of God.
its progress is insufferable. For as it savours too much of a legal spirit, so it is an indication of a soul's forgetting the terms of the gospel covenant, and hankering more than is meet after the covenant of works. What would a husband say, if his wife, instead of expressing her delight in her present husband, should day and night do nothing but weep and cry, thinking of her former husband that is dead? "Ye are become dead to the law," saith the apostle, "that ye should be married to another;"* the law as a covenant, is dead to the soul of one under the new covenant; now, "thy sorrow for defect of thy own righteousness," saith a good divine," which hinders thy rejoicing in Christ, is but a whining after thy other husband, and this he takes unkindly, that thou art not well pleased to lie in the bosom of Christ, and have thy happiness from him, as with your old husband."+ Mistake me not, I do not say, you should not grieve for your faults and defects; nay, thou art not sincere if thou do not, yet thou errest in calling thy state into question because thereof, and robbing thyself of that joy in the Lord thou mightest have. Alas, the joy of some troubled spirits runs quite out at the crannies of their imperfect duties and graces; they cannot believe so firmly, pray so fixedly, walk so exactly as they desire, as God requires, as others attain to; and therefore they are no saints, no children. It is not possible that ever a child of God had such a heart as they have. Thus they sit languishing and desponding, and forget the privileges of the gospel covenant, which admits of sincerity and covers infirmities. I would ask thee, soul, whether thou didst not seriously, deliberately, and understandingly at first give thy consent to the terms thereof? Didst thou not count the cost, and reckon upon dif+ Gurnal's Spir. Armour, part i. p. 294.
· Rom. vii. 4.