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COVENANTING SANCTIONED BY THE DIVINE
GOD's procedure when imitable forms a peculiar argument for duty. That is made known for many reasons; among which must stand this, that it may be observed and followed as an example. That, being perfect, is a safe and necessary pattern to follow. The law of God proclaims what he wills men as well as angels to do. The purposes of God show what he has resolved to have accomplished. The constitutions of his moral subjects intimate that he has provided that his will shall be voluntarily accomplished by some of them. His own example presents what must be willingly done. It affords a complete reason for doing what is besides variously urged. The law of God is his will diffused among his moral subjects. His revealed purposes are his determinations to be carried into effect by means, many of which are beyond the sphere of the willing endeavours of his creatures. The constitutions of his obedient subjects are an instrumentality worthy of the glorious moral character of Him who, though independent of all, acts according to the principles of eternal rectitude, and who in infinite wisdom can cause immortal beings, bound by immutable laws, to act so as freely to perform his holy will. His own example is the direct operation, not of creatures, nor of laws, nor of dispositions, but of the I AM himself, as the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Spirit, presented to the creatures of his power, for their guidance and direction.
I. God himself has entered into Covenant engagements. The dispensations of God in Coven
ant are peculiar to Himself.
No change whatever is produced on him when he transacts with his creatures, or on their behalf. His relations to them are constituted wholly by his doings that affect them; He himself is immutable in his being and purposes. When he acts, he is not moved; when he accepts, no transformation of character is produced upon him; any new relation in which he stands comes wholly from the effect accomplished on the creature. He makes known his will, not as due to the present, but as the same from eternity. He acts in creation and providence; but his creatures alone are affected. He becomes engaged to some of them, not by any alteration being produced upon his views or enjoyments, or state or character, but by the manifestation of what he is. He accepts of those as united to Him-viewed by them through his grace as possessed of a certain glorious character. From eternity his sovereign purposes regarding the salvation of man, were, but not by any change in the Trinity, or in the Unity of the Godhead, defined in Covenant.
First. The Eternal Three-in-One entered into confederation in the Covenant of Redemption. We are warranted from Scripture to receive this Covenant as a fact. It might not have been ; but according to God's will, it was. The purpose of God to save sinners is from eternity. The covenant is due to that. In an order of nature wonderful to contemplate, the former precedes the latter. God willed that the Father should be the God of grace. God willed that the Son should be the Mediator between God and men. God willed that the Holy Ghost should dispense his influences for carrying into effect the purposes of mercy. These purposes stand from eternity-the fruit of the Divine sovereignty-the conscious resolutions of the Eternal-the conditions of a sure Covenant. The reasons for the fulfilment thereof
are the sovereign purposes, and the purposes approved of by each person of the adored Godhead, in an economic character.
Secondly. God entered into covenant with man in innocence. The Divine character was made known to the gifted immortal. The will of God claiming obedience and the offer of definite good were presented before his mind. He acquiesced, and God was engaged to him and to all his posterity in covenant. One ground on which He was to bestow the blessings of the Covenant was his own purpose; His making, before his creature, and by and before Himself, a promise to confer it, was, according to the principle of eternal righteousness, the other.
Thirdly. God enters into covenant with men in Christ. He says to them," I am the Lord thy God."1 Believers are taken into GOD's CoveHe made with his people a covenant that shall endure. All the promises of God are offers made on HIS part to enter into covenant with sinners. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made."4 And, therefore, when these are accepted by men, the Lord is to them a God in covenant. The Lord hath on some occasions sworn to his people, and by his oath made a covenant with them. The Lord brings sinners into the bond of his covenant, and accordingly makes with them a covenant. And he keeps, and hence he must have entered into, covenant with his people.
Finally. The Lord Jesus on earth illustrated in his practice the duty of Covenanting. In such a manner as none other than God himself could do, he gave it recommendation. Possessed of the nature of man, and being true God, he Covenanted with men, as the Head of the Church of God him1 Exod. xx. 2. 2 Gen. xvii. 2. 32 Sam. xxiii. 5. 4 Gal. iii. 16; see also ver. 15, 17. 5 Luke i. 72, 73. 6 Ezek. xx. 37.
self, and also as a member thereof; and as the Father's servant, in Covenanting acknowledged Him. He recognised his disciples as his friends and servants; he spake peace to them, and explicitly Covenanting with them, saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you," to them he made precious promises, which he gave them grace to receive." Waiting on the ordinances of religion at Jerusalem, about the close of the Old Testament dispensation, unquestionably along with the people of Israel, he engaged in various exercises of vowing, and especially in the use of the Psalms, so full of holy vows to God; and after the last supper with his disciples, two of whom, by the Spirit that dwelt in all of them, enjoined the exercise of singing these precious compositions, singing a hymn or psalm, he at once sanctioned their use in the worship of God, and gave countenance to the deyout making of the Covenant engagements which they contain. And in those exercises of religion in which none of his people could hold communion with him, prayer to his Father was accompanied with his own recognition of his engagement to fulfil his will. The psalm, a part of which, at least, we know he repeated on the Cross, and which is prophetic of his exercises there, and his intercessory prayer, contain at least one instance of the making or renewing of Covenant engagement on his part, not to be forgotten. 10
II. The Lord, in entering into Covenant, provided an example for imitation. By this it is not intended that any are called to engage in acts of this nature precisely corresponding with those in which he engaged. It would be impossible, as well as impious, for men to imitate the making of the Covenant of Redemption, or of that of Works. Nor is it meant that men, as perfect beings, are to Eph. v. 19. James v. 13.
7 John xvi. 23, 24.
9 Ps. xxii; see ver. 22.
10 John xvii. 26.
follow the pattern in this set by the Most High; but it is to be understood, that in making a promise of good in truth and sincerity, and in taking Himself to witness, he is to be imitated by his people in Covenanting, while they depend on grace afforded by himself.
First. It is possible for his people, after some manner, to imitate God in Covenanting. They cannot imitate him entering into covenant as a self-existent, independent Being; nor can they imitate him as in this providing benefits which of himself he can bestow; but in some respects, by his grace they may. He holds intercourse with those with whom he enters into covenants in truth. His people ought to do so with him. He makes promises. They ought to do so too. He swears by himself. They ought to swear by him. He swears that He may give assurance of his intention. They ought to swear for the same reason. Because of his hatred to sin he entered into covenant. They should enter into covenant with him in order to show their hatred to it. He necessarily loves himself, and he loves those with whom he Covenants. By love to him-the origin of love to all others, as well as to themselves—they should enter into covenant with him. He promises in order that his people may have the security of good. They are called by Covenanting to accept his promise, that they may have the security afforded by believing his word. In entering into Covenant, God honours his own character. Imitating him in Covenanting all are called, and they ought, to glorify his name.
Secondly. It is desirable to imitate God in Covenanting. He draws near to his people; and should they not draw near to him? God is waiting on men to take hold on his covenant. He has entered into covenant with others who sought to imitate Him; He offers to do so with us.