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God's covenant is the Covenant of Redemption ; or the Covenant of Grace; or a covenant with God, made in the actual exercise of Covenanting.
A covenant with God is a form of expression that will be applied only to the last of these cases.
It must be admitted that the formal exercise of Covenanting is not indispensably necessary in order to the attainment of an interest in the Covenant of Grace. Through God's free favour, and not because of any service, however dutiful, that could be performed, are any brought into this relation. Many go the whole round of religious services, and yet remain uninterested in the benefits of salvation ; while others, whose external privileges are by no means so abundant as the privileges enjoyed by those, may be enabled to cleave to God's cove.. nant. It is God's prerogative to make efficacious what means of
he will ; and when and in what measure he will, to give them effect. The types and symbols of a former period were blessed to the souls of men, as well as the fuller revelations of succeeding times. And ordinances which in due time were to pass away, were, during the term of their appointment, to be acknowledged by the extension of his grace to those who waited on them, as well as the institutions to follow in their room. And sinners in every variety of circumstances have been brougbt into covenant with God. When the gospel is preached to the young—unfitted to apprehend for the time being the nature or design of some institutions of Divine grace—the Spirit of God may lead them to accept of the offered Savi
Or when the glad tidings of salvation are proclaimed, not merely to those favoured by the advantages of education and christian society, but even to the most untutored and degraded of the family of man, a willing mind may be vouchsafed from above to rely upon him. Then the blessings of his covenant are apprehended and accepted.
And though many who profess to seek these good things, may, by reason of unbelief, fail to obtain them, they will afford to such objects of sovereign mercy, as the chosen of God, increasing reasons of gratitude and joy. Only they who are without Christ, are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise. All who are in him, though once like those, who were sometimes afar off, are made nigh by his blood. It is by faith in Christ that men become the children of God. While waiting on any of the means of grace, elect souls may, for the first time, be enabled to exercise it; and then, even at that time, becomes theirs the inheritance of the promise.
God's covenant may, for the first time, be entered into in the exercise of Covenanting. It cannot be entered into at any time but by faith—an element essential in covenanting. But it may be primarily laid hold upon in some instances in the formal performance of that exercise. An individual may
wait on the ordinances of Divine being in covenant. He may have been plied by the expostulations of the servants of Christ, because of continuing regardless of the offers of mercy, not having acceded to them. The exercise of entering into covenant with God may have been pressed upon his attention. He is doubtful whether or not he has received the Lord Jesus. In reality he has not acted faith upon him. He studies the subject of Covenanting, endeavours to examine the claims which the exercise has upon him. He is convinced of sin, but has not been converted. He feels himself acted on by the fear of wrath, and drawn by the desire of good to cast himself upon the care of the Redeemer. He
the work of preparation. God is leading him on by the common operations of his Spirit, though still he is in darkness. He endeavours to bring himself up to the resolution of giving himself away to God.
Corruption within, however, opposes
purpose. Yet he is urged forward to an exercise which, if performed in a proper spirit, would be accepted, but which, of himself, in his present condition, notwithstanding all his fears and desires, he cannot enter upon aright. He attempts to pray and make supplication--yea, even he endeavours to perform the service. Strength is given him to do it with acceptance; and, through marvellous grace, he stands among the children of the Covenant! He might have been still left to himself; his promises might have been insincere, and the covenant which he professed to make with his lips he might have profaned. But though at the commencement of his exercises there was no gracious emotion felt by him, he was led by an overruling Providence to adopt means of seeking Divine favour which God should bless. He was brought from the dream of desire to the reality of enjoyment; from the state of one in darkness, groping his way, to the light to which, by his own efforts, he could not have come; from the paralysis of moral imbecility to the strength which enabled him to stretch out his hand and take hold on God's Covenant.
Or, when the people of God may direct their faces to the work of renewing their covenant engagements with him, some who might formerly have been far from God may be led to the use of preparatory means, and, when the time of Covenanting arrives, find themselves, for the first, gifted with strength to pledge themselves to his service, and thereafter feel themselves associated by ties indissoluble to his people, and blessed with the covenant heritage of those who fear his name.
Such are not mere suppositions. They are consistent with the ordinary procedure of God in extending grace to those who wait upon his ordinances, however unworthy they may have been before. They are in harmony with the spirit of
the expression to take hold upon the Covenant of God—which obviously implies, according to the state of those to whom it is applied, one or other of two things :-to engage to the service of the Lord by covenant; or to renew such an engagement; and are warranted by such statements as the exhortation, “ Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten.” Such an address may be made either to the wicked or to the righteous.—To the wicked, that they may, with their whole heart and soul, depart from the evil of their doings, and give themselves to the Lord ; to the righteous, that they may so give themselves again; to the wicked, that they may prepare their hearts to seek Godbut not by any effort of their own in a legal spirit, to commend themselves to him, and then to enter into his covenant; and to all, that in a becoming frame of mind they may take hold upon it. Whether or not many are brought to God in such circumstances it may not be easy to decide ; yet it cannot be affirmed that none in this manner are joined unto him. To engage in the exercise of Covenanting with the hope of being converted, is to act under a misapprehension of its design; but who can say that God does not, when this is practised, bring to himself ? None could have any encouragement to perform the service, were they satisfied that they would not act sincerely in it; but to perform it they are not the less called to make preparation. None can be accepted in the exercise but the covenant children, but the most abundant reasons there are why all should attempt it; and who can tell what God will do in a season of grace ?
In Covenanting, if God's covenant has been laid hold on before, it is then again solemnly acceded to or renewed. It is the people of God, not the wicked, who covenant. “Unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes,
or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?"9 The wicked, as in the former case, may be brought, in the use of means, to attempt the exercise, but if in that they are accepted, in the character of new creatures they perform it; but if the change produced upon the state and character does not take place at the moment of Covenanting, but before it, then the exercise is a renewal of the covenant. When, therefore, those who have been, for a period long or short, the people of God, engage in this, they transact a renovation. The young believer who performs the exercise does this, though his
grace may not exceed a few days or hours of the blessed life. This, the Christian who has long been in progress towards the inheritance above promised in the covenant, going into that performance, effects. This renewal all the saints of God do make, when in any circumstances they draw near to him to consecrate themselves and all that concerns them to his service.
A vow falls to be considered in connection with the subject of Covenanting.
“ A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone ; and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.” 10
A vow is made to God alone. sages of Scripture, it is said explicitly to be made
9 Ps. 1. 16. 10 Confession of Faith, chap. xxii. 5, 6.
In various pas